As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Where I've Been

For the very few of you who follow this but don't follow me on Facebook, the past two months have been full of growth.  God ripped open doors for Beggar's Daughter that I never anticipated, and I have been devoting much of my energy to growing that ministry.  Because of that, I decided not to apply to the sex trafficking ministry this past April and to pray about it more and wait for God to lead. 

Instead, I have been focusing on writing and, as I said earlier, growing Beggar's Daughter.  There was a site upgrade (that I am still getting used to) and a lot of writing for my first book.   I have spent the last three weeks researching agents and publishers and getting in touch with my contacts in the ministry/editing/publishing worlds.

I spent the last week of April casting out hooks for freelance articles and will be published this fall in a Christian magazine for teen girls and will be published at some point in a magazine for Christian women- neither is officially confirmed so I cannot announce them. 

That same week, I was contacted by a missions organization in Canada asking me to come speak to their female missionaries.  I agreed and then was offered to speak at a women's breakfast the same weekend... this weekend.  I am actually currently in New York at a host home waiting to drive in to Canada tomorrow afternoon.   I am staying at a lovely farmhouse and went out to visit the cows this afternoon (this country girl still has some spunk left in her!)  Cows: 1  My laundry:0

I will speak tomorrow evening and then again on Saturday morning.  If you know anyone in or around the Ottawa area, please send them over!

A couple days ago, the door opened for one of the largest ministry partnerships Beggar's Daughter has had to date.  It is a big deal and will give huge exposure, clout and opportunity to this ministry.  It is stretching for me as well.  I will be addressing a different aspect of this ministry: talking with male youth leaders about how to approach the topic of purity with their teenage girls.  Phew!  There are alot of details in that, but I am excited about the opportunity and grateful for another partner in this ministry.

God is doing big things over at Beggar's Daughter, so if I am not over here much, swing over there. 

Prayer requests for now:

For guidance in this book-writing process.  If anyone out there thought this was easy, think again! Navigating the rapids of agents and publishers and guidelines is not for the faint of heart.  It is exhausting, frustrating, and full of disappointment.  I already have three agent rejections!

For open doors in ministry.  There are a few potential outlets for Beggar's Daughter in development and I am excited to be able to spend the summer working on them.

Monday, March 28, 2011

To the Broken

The past year has been full of God pushing me from my comfort zone.  It was about a year ago that He called me to give up my Sunday School class-- a Sunday School class that was two hard years in the making.  I wasn't even there a year when I felt Him call me away.

I was so confused.  It broke my heart.

Since coming to know Christ, ministry is all I've ever known.  All I've ever felt; the only life I can possibly imagine myself living. 

As I let go of the Sunday School class, He opened a door for the unchurched.  I began working at a local crisis pregnancy center.  Nothing describes ministering to the broken in that way.  Nothing describes feeling God give you words and watching as His Spirit literally chisels into the heart sitting across from you.  In 10 minutes, I know more about that young woman than most others in her life.  I have watched her cry; I know her fears; know her dreams-- not because I am some fantastic interrogator, but because I serve an Awesome God who trusts I'll know what to do with that information.  In the past year, I have dropped the ball many times.

At the beginning of this year, as I finished up my time in Canada, I looked ahead at the 12 months in front of me, and had a growing suspicion that this would be the year. I am still not exactly sure what the "the" is, but since the first day of this year, I have known God was going to work mightily, and He has.

In January, He called me to walk away from my church.  Say what?! But the message was fairly clear, "Your ministry is done here." 

I was confused.  But I tried to trust.

I began attending a new local church.  A big local church, with a great youth ministry.  The first Sunday I was offered a position as a Jr. High girls Bible Study leader.  I was also offered a position on the church's sexual addiction recovery team.  I jumped on the latter, before I applied for the former.

A few weeks later, I found I had been accepted to the youth leadership team.  And I've had to force myself to go to any of the meetings.

This weekend was a weekend of change, and I knew it was coming.  About a week ago, I had sensed I was on the threshhold of something, and had prayed that God would give me the faith to get through it.  On Saturday, as I sat in an inservice at the pregnancy center, I felt so passionate.  I stood up and gave a testimony of how I have a heart for teenage girls and college-age women.  And the words felt dry.  They felt empty.  They felt fake.

Fake!?  How is this fake!?  I hate being fake!  Why was that fake?

What is happening to me?

Sunday morning, I went to church, and dreaded the thought of going to housegroups that afternoon.  As we left, I saw the teens emptying out of a room upstairs.  I hadn't realized they were having youth group (since we had changed locations on Sunday).  I turned to my mother, "Man! I didn't know they were having youth group!"  But as I said it, it felt... fake.

What is going on? What is wrong with me?

I immediately figured I was off spiritually.  Certainly, I must not be praying hard enough or reading enough because this isn't making any sense.  A year before, I wept as I felt God pulling me away from my girls.  I love... loved... them.  Now, I felt distant. 

Where did my heart go and run off to this time?

I spent Sunday afternoon sleeping.  Maybe I was just tired and that was making me apathetic, though I wasn't really being apathetic.  I had worshipped passionately that morning and listened enthralled as the pastor pulled truths out of Jesus' talk with Peter (you know, the "Feed my Sheep" one).  I remember rejoicing in the grace and love He had shown me and thinking how much my life reminds me of that story.  Then, two minutes later I'm walking out and shrugging off the fact that I missed youth group. 

Last night, I went to the young adult group (part of the same church).  I've always felt connected there.  Maybe I would feel better.  Maybe I was bordering discontent.

Enter Cindy.  I'll never be able to tell her this, but God used Cindy in a mighty way last night.  Cindy works with sex trafficked women.  Cindy is going to India to work with sex trafficked women.  She leaves next month, but for the past couple years, she's been working in DC.

Say what?

When I think of sex trafficking, I don't think of DC.  Just being honest here.  As she spoke, I was captivated.  I listened intently and finally heard the name of the ministry she worked with.  I logged it away, and then sat through a message on the Great Commission.

A highlight from the sermon:

John:  God, I've been praying for someone to come share you in my workplace.  I've been praying for a light and a witness to come and share the love of Jesus Christ.  I hope they come soon.

God: They're coming tomorrow, and they're named "you!"

John:  No, that can't be right; I have to pray some more.

(to listen to the whole thing, you can go here:

It's starting to click for me.  Again, I am still struggling to grasp 100% what 'it' is.  But I woke up this morning thinking about the hookers on the street.  Seriously, that was the first thought that popped in  my mind.  I checked my Facebook and saw pictures of a brand new baby girl.  The fifth one I have welcomed this year.  The message was clear to my heart, "Change is coming.  Your ministry is growing."

I just looked up the ministry website.  They deal with teenage girls (ages 11-17) who are unloved, rejected and at risk of becoming sex slaves.  They have a street ministry, where, like Jesus, we go out on the street and find the prostitutes and tell them God loves them.  That they are worth more.  What's more.  They are accepting applications in April.

Do you see the connection? Do you get it? The girls Beggar's Daughter seeks to reach become the women on the street. Those women on the street become the women across from me in the pregnancy center.

When I graduated from Bible college, I was all about discipleship. My job was to minister to the saved women, to the girls in church, not the girls out there. But God has been slowly pulling me away from that. Looking back, I think I am actually a bit of an idiot for thinking that God would pull me away from one church-based teen ministry just to put me in another one (duh Jessica!)

Somehow, I found myself in full-time sex ministry and have no clue how that happened, and definitely never intended on that happening. Ever.

But one thing I know for sure.  Nearly 7 years ago, I knelt at an altar and told God He could have it all- my plans for my future, my hopes, my dreams, everything.  He has never left me hungry, or in need.  He, my God, is so faithful, so great, and He has given His love away so freely.  He gave His life for me, giving mine up to Him is the least I can do.

Friday, December 17, 2010

On This I Stand

I just finished reading a beautiful post by a photographer friend of mine.  Julie and I met my last summer of Bible college.  Our interaction was brief and limited, but I remember Julie.  January 1, her life will change, and today, I stumbled across her last blog before becoming Mrs. Johnson.  In it, she talked of a little picket fence and how God had brought this chapter in her life full-circle, literally. 

Two years ago, as she- a young single woman- stood on the edge of seeing her dream career take flight, she came upon this picket fence.  It was a backdrop for her first 'professional' photo session.  God is so amazing in His providence, because it was also the backdrop for her last 'professional' photo session before she gets married and moves to Japan.

How it must delight our Savoiur's heart to pour out such blessings on His children.  We truly can never know where His plans are leading us.  What we can do, is be faithful to follow. 

A few weeks ago my contentment was threatened.  I can't tell you how much these people annoy me.  People who think they have God's will for my life figured out and have been ordained as His messengers to relay it to me.  I stood face to face with one of the biggest threats to my faith and heard, yet again, "Life isn't going to come to you here."

I am so grateful for other women who stand with me on this truth: that God is enough, and that "life" only exists in following His guidance. 

I think of women like Annie Wesche, who left home to become a little-known graphic designer in Colorado but is so overflowing with love for her Saviour that it is crazy.  I think of women like Katie, a 22 year old girl who forsook the American dream and moved (not traveled, not went on a missions trip-  MOVED) to Uganda where she now is mother (yes, mother) to 14 beautiful little girls.  I think of Julie, who bucked the system and devoted her talents to the One who gave them to her, and in turn felt the joy and fulfillment of using her talents to demonstrate the love of Christ.

I think of women, years ago, who sat with me and declared, "Jessica, you will never make it unless you go to college."  I didn't listen.

Life wasn't supposed to happen for any of us.

Yet, it has, and in more abundant and overflowing ways than ever imagined.

I think of Julie, who on January 1, will marry the man God only recently brought into her life.  We started our 'ministry careers' right about the same time.  In fact, Beggar's Daughter was Julie's first comissioned work.  And on January 1, Julie will say "I do" 24 hours after I hold my first international speaking engagment.

Life wasn't supposed to happen for us.

If "life" is the boring and mundane process and procedure we have come to know as living, then it hasn't.  If "life" is living up to the cultural status quo and following the American dream, then it hasn't.  If life is marriage, a white picket fence and tons of kids, then it hasn't.  If life is becoming great, then it hasn't.

But that isn't life.

Life is Christ.

And for those few people who understand that-who embrace that- life, in fact, does happen, in every moment of every single day- life happens.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Everyday Birthdays

In the past year or so, I have come to ascertain that my 'love language' is a close tie between quality time and words of affirmation. Birthdays are fantastic for both of those, and I have received them in excess today. My love tank is well beyond full.

My favorite moment of the day was a series of moments spent with my mom. We went dress shopping, and, for the first time ever, I own a formal gown. It was quite a sight, me trying on a dress in the middle of a thrift shop while trying to be modest. I love how all of the women around immediately become your best friend when you are trying on a dress- "Oh! well, if you let out a little here" "Oh, that looks perfect on you!" "Oh, that's nice." It was quite the comical experience.

We followed that by a little Christmas shopping and then a nice dinner out -- just the two of us. (For you locals, I highly recommend Mama Lucia's Veal Chesapeake- amazing!) That was followed by shopping for our church's AWANA ministry. On our way home, we swung by my boss's house, where a beautiful white chocolate raspberry birthday cake waited for me. We brought it home, and I savored a piece before slipping upstairs to try on my dress again. I feel like a princess today.

But it begged the question- what happens tomorrow?

We often encounter similar situations in life, especially spiritually. There are days when God is just so real and we just feel so close, it's as if we could reach out and touch Him. Within days, we feel lost- wandering adrift on the darkening sea.

Has anything changed? Not for the most part. It's just another day. God is still God, still loves us, still wants to be with us. Maybe what makes our lives fall apart is our own expectations.

We just can't have a birthday everyday. Not saying that we have to have a bad day everyday, but if we are expecting nonstop texts, calls, e-mails, cards, messages, hugs and well-wishes everyday, we will be disappointed.

My boss and her husband came by just a few minutes ago to sample her amazing cake handiwork. As they left, he swung his arm around me and pulled me tight in a hug. "Happy birthday!"

That will be the last birthday hug I get this year. I have 364 days til I can have another birthday hug. In those 364 days do the people around me change? Do they love me any less because it isn't my birthday? Of course not. The same is true with God.

He doesn't change, and though there are days full of intense spiritual relief and joy, there are still others full of pain and sorrow. Unlike any human being, He knows exactly what we need, exactly when we need it, and promises to stick tight through it all.

Friday, November 26, 2010

So Many Blessings

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? I did! That was, of course, after God taught me a lesson I have been teaching others. I hate it when that happens. When you preach something (in a loose use of the word: preach) and God looks down and says, "Oh. Really? Let's see how well you do on this."


I have a bad record of not passing these tests the first time around. At all.

Last Friday, I got to go hiking. It was a field trip, so I had to go out in the beautiful fall sunshine, in perfect hiking weather and hike the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls. Shucks. Can I just say right now, how much I enjoy my job!

Of course, there is always that one student bent on making a perfect day a miserable one. And, of course, this teacher has to stay with said student and practically drag them through the trail. It was tedious. He didn't like dirt, bugs, the thought of snakes (regardless of how many times I told him it was too cold for snakes), water, leaves, rocks, heights... we still have not determined why he even went on the trip. Needless to say, after about an hour of his incessant whining, the student who had stayed back to help spoke the words that I, in all of my teacherly political correctness, could never speak. "Would you please just shut up and stop complaining."

Took the words right out of my mouth.

So a couple more hours passed full of gentle and not-so-gentle prodding and encouraging. At one point the other student actually grabbed this particular slow student by the front of his jacket and drug him over a rock. I couldn't figure out if it was appropriate to laugh.

His whining and attitude were making it a miserable trip for everyone near him. It's hard to enjoy the dirt, bugs, water, rocks, leaves, heights, and such when someone is fussing about them. As we neared the end of the trail, I decided to use a teachable moment. I'm trying to work on spotting those.

"Now look," I said, "you were going to get here either way. You could have made this trip a lot more fun if you had just tried to enjoy it instead of complaining about everything."

Funny. I didn't remember those words the next day when my boss scheduled me to work all day Thanksgiving. In fact, I kinda threw a fit (not really). I am a teacher. These are my only days off school. How dare he make me spend time away from my family and force me to not only work Thanksgiving but waitress, of all things. I haven't been on the floor in months. This is ridiculous. This is unfair. And then he was going to try to force me to wear a tie *pause for outburst of hysterical laughter from those who know me well*  That wasn't happening.

Oh, I had a list. I was hot. I was so frustrated and disappointed and felt so used. The money didn't really matter, it was the fact that I couldn't spend time with my family and that I had to work during my vacation (which after last Friday, I figured I deserved).

My mother offered a bit of encouragement. "We'll just have Thanksgiving dinner when you get home." I wasn't scheduled to get home until about 7 or 8. Feeling a little late for Thanksgiving dinner. I will confess, I woke up yesterday morning with a bad attitude. Yes, I had a bad attitude on Thanksgiving. One of those, "God, I am grateful for everything except for the fact that I have to work today. Everything but that."

I got to work and the first words were, "Thank you so much for coming in. We're going to try to get you out of here as soon as possible. You are first off." (Meaning when things die down, I would get to go home first). I was feeling better then. Maybe Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't be at midnight after all. Hours before expected, we were cleaning up and resetting the room when my coworkers' morning coffee must have worn off. Meanwhile, I'm being pulled into the office to do stuff and being told that as soon as the room is reset, I can go. Well, the room isn't getting reset while said coworkers are sitting around staring at each other. Frustration level rose again.

We lit a fire under them and got them going, but I still ended up resetting the room by myself, more out of bitterness and anger than teamworking. I finally got the room reset and ran back to the office to finish up a last-minute printing. My poor mother had been waiting outside for an hour and a half, while our potatoes boiled dry on the stove (true story). As I tore around the office, my boss handed me an envelope and said, "Here, for you. Just so you know how much we appreciate you." It was a holiday bonus. Like a bigger bonus than the tips I made going in yesterday.

Do you know how much of a jerk I felt like?!?

It wasn't until I got home and sat down to eat my turkey and smoked mashed potatoes (they were actually pretty good!) at 7:30 that I remembered those words I had said a week ago, "You were going to get here anyway, you could have made it more enjoyable."

When we develop a me-focus, we become easily frustrated.

I am learning that. If my student had focused on the beautiful weather and the fact that he is well enough to hike such a trail and that it is actually kinda fun, that field trip would have been very different. If I had shut up and stopped complaining long enough to be thankful that I have a job this holiday season and that I can cover while some of my coworkers travel to visit their families, this week would have been so different. I would have made it to today either way. I go back in tonight to work a late party and then back in tomorrow to work office. Not the vacation I had planned, but you know what!? It's OK. I am blessed.