31 Days of Sojourning {day 1}

I didn’t intend to join the 31 days challenge this year. I am quite pregnant (36 weeks), so there is a great likelihood I won’t write every day. Even when I began to think ‘Well, maybe…,’ I had a completely different topic in mind.

But…sojourning is my heart. It’s my life, the daily reality of my faith. And I realized I don’t write about it much, even though I titled my blog The Reluctant Sojourner.

For the month of October, I will attempt to write consistently, to share the heart of this sojourner…the journey, the trials and joys of two realm living, following a promise that can’t be seen, a citizenship etched in the heavens.

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Who is this Sojourner?

I’m Jessicaa common name wrapped in the wealth of grace.

The daughter of two active duty Marines, I had a passport by the time I was a year old. I’ve lived in 5 states, 2 countries, 11 cities, and–I think–18 houses. {and counting} Life has always been a journey.

I’m a wanderer, a nomad, tied to no place in particular, but I am not lost.

I am a sojourner on my journey home.

***

I have no home, no permanent dwelling. No place to call home.

For years, this bothered me. It made me feel like I don’t fit in…that I’d never be like the others.

But this I know, long ago He spoke to me that this world is not my home. And this life of transition I’ve lived and continue to live is to be my constant reminder.

Don’t get comfortable here.

And yet, there are days I desperately want the settle down life.

I still battle discontent and calling.

But more than that?

I long for home.

***

This journey is as much yours as it is mine.

We’re all on a journey home, whether our physical address reflects that or not. We each have a story, a place the Lord is calling us to. Each a promise to be accomplished in Him.

We may not know what and it’s not always easy, but a life of faith is lived one day at a time and I am a reluctant sojourner.

Join me?

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When You Feel Nameless…Remember

We’ve hit the one month mark until Baby #3 is due. We don’t have a name. We have two names. If you think I’m one of those women who thinks it’s precious to go 9 months without knowing the gender of her child, you can stop right there. I’d love to know if this babe is a boy or girl…I have plenty of cutesy, craft projects awaiting this gender reveal. But Baby had a different idea. So we wait. And while we wait, I keep pondering if we’ve picked the right name.

***

I’ve lived with a name so common much of my childhood it rested in the top 5 and 10 most popular girl names. From kindergarten through 12th grade, I was Jessica O. I’ve always thought a name should (or will) set you apart, but I was just one of many…more common than a plain Jane.

I remember asking my mom why she picked Jessica for me, hoping there was some great story or deep meaning. Her reply was “I thought it was pretty.” (And, of course, at the time my parents knew of no other Jessica’s.) I was disappointed.

A few years later I searched my name’s meaning and was met with “the grace of God”
or “the gift of God.” I felt vindicated. My name had some meaning, it was tied to grace. Since then I’ve heard it means “wealth” and the first English record of a Jessica was in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

I have searched for meaning by my name. Some connection that would make me special, unique. In high school, I’d sign my name Jesika and in private I adopted the Hebrew from, Iscah.

But, I discovered something new. After talking with a friend about baby names I decided to look up my name again.

“He sees.”

The Hebrew Iscah translates as “He sees.” How did I miss this?

Me. The recovering perfectionist, people pleaser. The one looking {hunting} for affirmation and praise. The sojourner who longs to be known.

“He sees.”

Immediately a verse popped into my head, “You are the God who sees me.” I remember it from a Bible lesson I taught years ago, though I couldn’t recall the reference. I typed in a Google search. Genesis 16 surfaces. It’s a woman on the run,

“And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Genesis 16:8 

The angel of the Lord tells her to return to Sarai, but he blesses her and leaves her with a prophecy. In turn she names the Lord,

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Genesis 16:13

He sees.

He beholds.

{ra’ah}

 ***

You are the God who sees me.

The woman named forsaken is seen by the Almighty. My mind races with stories of the lowly God has seen.

The girl-woman exile made queen. The little tree made to light her people’s way.

The barren who pleaded as though drunk. The one who saw God’s favor in her sacrifice.

The small town girl pregnant out of wedlock. She who birthed my Savior, treasured a sea of wonders in her heart and tasted the bitterness of the cup.

The first, though unwanted, wife wearied by favoritism…she by whom the promise was carried.

The foreigner so faithful a companion she was grafted into an eternal, royal lineage.

Then there’s the matriarch of Israel, Sarai turned Sarah, the bane of Hagar’s woes. A promise guaranteed though the natural world laughed.

According to Jewish tradition, Sarai is Iscah.

Iscah, He sees.

He has seen all of these woes, He has met every need. He holds the ledger giving account of his marvelous deeds.

And yet…so often I feel forsaken, forgotten, and forlorn. Just one of many, no distinction.

But I am seen by the Lord.

Me. The one who struggles with how all can be lavishly loved and prized as precious.

{the recesses of my darkness doubt and whisper, “how am I unique if everyone is unique?”}

I really am Gomer, the unfaithful and confused betrothed.

He sees me and I miss it.

I fail and I flounder and I float in my own misgivings. My long faithfulness is wrought with holes. I cannot see the end from the beginning (though I long to).

I hold the promise in my hand, I carry it in my heart, but—like the matriarch—I grasp for its fulfillment.

In all this,

He sees.

He sees.

He sees.

 

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Making the Inside Come Out

I say it all summer, “I want to dye my hair purple.” I beat around the bush and back again until my sister says, “Just do it.”

So I did it.

***

Purple is my freedom color. My hold tight and don’t let go of hope color. Since Lucy tumbled down that hill in the Italian countryside, meeting George Emerson in a tangled heap at the bottom, purple has been my color.

I hide my passion in drapes of purple. That heart on my sleeve, the one I keep covered up, it’s etched in purple.

I can feel the emotion swell inside of me. I’m good at keeping the lid closed, the boiling neatly under control, but sometimes…sometimes I want to let it spill over. I want to make a mess and let this colorful, wild and crazy, out on the limb climbing, wonder of a woman come out. The woman who can’t be compartmentalized because she’s too intricate, too diverse, that’s me.

{and that’s you too}

No, that’s not my grown-up duck face. It’s my “What if people at church think I’m crazy?” face.

I’ve lived in a lot of fear and still find myself crawling out of its webs. I worry what people will think of me…if I say, wear, or do the wrong thing. If I’m too excited or not excited enough. I want people to like me {I want to be included} so I keep the boat steady. It’s a nervous place to be.

And whenever I think I’m gaining ground, hitting fear in the face—being brave, I fall back again. It’s humbling…and annoying. I wonder when this little girl will grow up and have the final “I don’t care!” break through.

{I do care. I’m tired of caring about someone else’s, ever changing mold.}

***

There are women that inspire me…one’s that laugh out loud, let their hearts bleed into words, and look ridiculously amazing in outfits that’d make me afraid of being noticed. They are confident in their uniqueness, in their beauty, in their vein of self.

I look at them from a distance and feign between admiration and envy. Their freedom, their vulnerability that dances on the outside…I want that.

{you don’t realize how much fear controls you until you desire to be different}

Maybe this was my first step.

I’m quiet, reserved, and all too often apologetic. Perhaps the blast of purple will shed my own barrier.

It just might make the inside come out.

***

I’m joining the synchroblog at SheLoves/Magazine.com for the first time. The theme for September theme is Awake.

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A Letter to My Teenage Self

Dear Jess,

I know you’re not going to like this letter. You’re not going to like the way your life turned out. At least not from where you stand. That plan you worked so hard on, the transcript you perfected…one day you might just ask, “Why?”

I know 25 was the deadline. The ‘have to be accomplished or I’m nothing’ deadline. It passed. We haven’t finished college. We didn’t get that teaching position in England. {But we did visit for a week, thanks to your little brother.} There is no Masters in Education. That screenplay you started in 11th grade…the one with Ophelia’s name? It’s still a draft. The novel? It’s a current work-in-progress.

{You are married to a wonderful man who shows you more grace than you’ve known and you have two beautiful, full of life, wild boys and a surprise on the way. Your life is good. It’s just not the good you think of now.}

I remember those days. I know how you walk the halls at school holding your breath, thinking at any time everything’s going to drop from underneath you. How people call you “perfect” and you just smile. I know how on the inside you’re tearing yourself to pieces covering yourself in words like stupid and worthless. I know you think you have to do it all to prove you’re enough, that you’re special.

Can I just tell you one thing and press it hard against your tired and lonely heart? You are not what you do. All the accomplishments, all the dreams, all the failings…they do not make you. Underneath that plastic smile and buttoned-up bravado, you’re dying inside to be free. To hear you’re beautiful and loved and enough.

You are beautiful. You are loved. And, precious girl, you are enough.

It’ll be a few more years before someone will sit down with you on a picnic table one Japanese fall night and tell you that Jesus loves you…that he really, truly loves you and it’ll begin to break your rock hard exterior.

I know that seems trite now. You’ve heard it all your life and you don’t feel his love. But he’s there. He’s always been there. And as I write to you from the beginning of our 30th year, I can only tell you there’ll be a time you’ll weep humbling, thankful, sobbing tears at the realization of how close He’s been. He’s there.

Just breathe. Take a deep breathe and let it all go. You don’t have to hold the world together. You don’t have to hold your life inside you. Let that Lucy Honeychurch falling in purple hills on the Italian countryside come out. There is so much beyond the view in your room.

Be free. 

Love,

Jess

***

Emily Freeman, author of Grace for the Good Girl, just released her new book Graceful {for young women} this week. I haven’t read Graceful, but Grace for the Good Girl was everything my good girl, perfectionist, people pleasing heart wanted/needed to hear. To celebrate the new book Emily’s invited her readers to write letters to their teenage self.

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Learning What Enough Is

I think somewhere in the last year I prayed this prayer. I probably wasn’t really paying attention to what I was saying. I probably wasn’t thinking what enough would truly be. I probably wasn’t aware of how hard the stripping of material comforts and excess would be. Shaun Groves said it was a dangerous prayer.

Here I am learning what enough is.

I’ve never been truly poor. Growing up in the military, my parents weren’t exactly rich. {You’re never really paid that you’re worth in the military.} I remember having an awareness that we didn’t have money like other people did. We were never lacking. We always had food and a roof over our heads.

But, I remember McDonald’s was a special treat and how we’d always get a new outfit when we went to visit grandma. Years later I was told those shopping trips were a bit more out of necessity than pure fun.

***

I’ve always had enough, more than enough. I’ve lived quite comfortable, not opulent, but not pressed for money either.

{And isn’t it money that we so often see as giving us what we need?}

***

We moved. We’re still in transition. My husband has yet to find a job, even though he’s been applying to 2 – 4 a day. We’re living in my parent’s garage. We have a roof over our heads, but our money is dwindling. Dwindling fast. In my adult life, I have never had as little money as we do now.

To be absolutely honest, it’s unnerving.

I’ve considered myself a person who hasn’t held on too tightly to worldly possessions or sought stability in my bank account. But, oh…I am. That has become glaringly obvious.

I’ve cried many a tear this summer over feeling like we don’t have enough. I’ve been embarrassed at explaining our situation to the new people we meet. Moving without a job, living with my parents…all things we prayed about and felt the Lord telling us to do. That he’d provide…now I’m thinking of the land we’ve gone out of and asking, “Did we make the right decision?”

I’ve worried and cried over grocery money. I’m trying to have my children adjust to not having the plethora of snacks their use to. I’m looking at my growing almost 4-year-old boy and noticing how much he’s grown over the summer and how it better change to fall soon or he’ll be out of clothes that fit him. I struggle when the offering plate is passed and we can’t contribute. {We made a commitment to two children in Ecuador that we want to continue to follow through.}

I’m weighing the drive into town with the cost of gas. I’m uneasy talking about my salted caramel mocha without emphasizing it’s bought with a gift card. I’m still getting use to how a meal out every now and then is no longer convenient, but excessive.

I’m being humbled.

I remember hearing story after story of friends who’ve seen God provide when they didn’t know where the money was going to come from, when there wasn’t a job in sight, when a need was about to go unfulfilled. I’d see their faith grow and be encouraged. I’d sit there, in my more than enough state, and think, Wouldn’t it be neat to see God provide like that?

Well, I’m there. I haven’t yet seen God provide, but I’m learning.

I’m learning how much I put my stability in what I possess and what my money enables me to do. I’m learning how I’ve looked to money for provision and satisfaction, when my mouth has said, “All things come from God.” I’m learning that to be poor by the world’s definition is not to be poor in the Kingdom.

I’m learning to pray for enough, to be satisfied. I’m learning to lean into God and trust his provision even when I can’t see it. I’m learning what Paul meant when he said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.” I’m learning to be patience. I’m learning to be poor in spirit is a good thing.

I am learning what enough is.

 

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Image: Enough printable from Shaun Groves

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