September 24, 2015

Grace For When.

If I've learned anything at all over the last five years of blogging, it's that the flow of words can be finicky and inconsistent. Sometimes they come like rain, refreshing and plentiful and full of life, and then sometimes they just don't. Like the tide that brings that ocean waves up onto shore and then takes it away, the ebb and flow of words, stories, and lessons in my life fluctuate, and these last six months have been pretty dry. There hasn't been much laid upon my heart to share in this space, which at times has been both disheartening and frustrating, and yet in this I am learning grace.

Grace for when there are no words.
Grace for when the stories aren't all that exciting, and life is a little mundane.
Grace for when God has you in seasons of quiet and stillness,
and grace for when all you feel like doing is running away.
Grace upon grace upon grace, because Jesus died for you to both have and give grace.

So grace has been a lesson these last few months, and while it's taken me longer to realize it than I care to admit, it is something I believe I will be diving deeper into. I have found I am not only quicker, but more willing to give grace to others than I am to myself, so I anticipate continuing down this path of learning more and more grace for when I am stupid hard on myself.

And grace for this space, when the words and stories abound, and when they don't; when I have too many things to share and when I can hardly form one sentence; when the words fall like rain and when I am dying for just a drop.

Grace. Upon grace. Upon grace.

July 30, 2015

Being Single & Walking on Water.

*mic check* Hey friends, it's been a while since I've written anything of much substance here, huh? While I don't regret taking time to focus on other things, I want you to know that I am by no means done writing here, and will probably post sporadically for the next few months. But I digress.

Earlier this month I spent almost two (glorious) weeks back in my home state of California for a few different events, including a wedding, VBS at the church I used to work at, and to see friends and family. On one of my final days while I was staying in my hometown in the Bay Area, I decided to take my rental car, plus some sweet Spotify playlists, and drive the Pacific Coast Highway down to Big Sur. My view as I drove alongside sandy beaches, curving cliffs, and towering redwoods was both spectacular and refreshing, and that day away to reflect and process and pray was exactly what my little soul needed.

See, I had just come off of the high of attending my fourth wedding of the year thus far (two more to go!), and found myself really struggling with contentment in this season of my life... I mean, where the single ladies/fellas at? Because I feel like most of y'all can relate with this struggle that is all too real. It was actually a pretty weird thing for me, though, because 80% of the time I'm completely cool with where God currently has me: as a young woman in my mid-twenties, working my butt off at a great job (plus extra gigs to help pay off student loans), going on fun adventures with my girlfriends, mentoring teenage girls, teaching kiddos at church, and *gasp* being single. Yes, I am saying that far more often than not, I actually enjoy this season, which for some odd reason seems to take a lot of people off guard.

"You mean, you're not looking for a spouse?
You don't want to date?
You want to be single forever, probably with lots of cats?" 

Well, yes, not necessarily, and no.

  1. Yes, I am not looking for a spouse, because I wholeheartedly believe that God will bring that person into my life when He wants to, so I don't feel the need to be actively looking. Does that mean I avert my eyes to men? Of course not. On the flip side, does that mean I flirt or seek out close friendships with men in order to get attention or feel some sort of validation? Heck no. I don't need a man's attention to feel special or loved, and neither do you. Christ kind of already took care of all of that on the Cross, and, you know, by pursuing an intimate relationship with us every single day. I hope and pray you not only know, but believe that truth. 
  2. Not necessarily. I have no problems with dating, and if someone were to ask me out on a date tomorrow I may just say yes, however I strongly oppose the idea of dating just to date (aka settling and/or leading someone on, aka the worst thing in the world to me). I mean, what's the point of that? To feel wanted or special? To not feel lonely? To get a free meal? Please, stop. Check your motivations, check your heart, talk with God about these things. "But how will I know if this is or isn't God's will if I don't go on a date with him? I don't want to miss out." Hold up, wait a minute. I'm pretty dang sure God doesn't need us to try to figure out anything (as if we could). He is completely capable of making His will and His plan clear to us. Ya know, since He omniscient and omnipotent and all. *mic drop*
  3. No. First, I am allergic to cats, so that's definitely not an option. And also, I don't really want to be single forever (uh, does anyone?). There are some days when I really do long for another person to partner with me, to adventure through life and do work for God's glory with, but at the same time, I firmly believe that if God has called me to a life of singleness, He will equip me to walk through it. Does that mean that either calling is better, or easier, or more holy? I don't think so, bro. Both have their own unique challenges and blessings attached. So basically, if God has it in His plan for me to be married, awesome. If He doesn't, and has made this vessel for a life of singleness, okay. I just want to be where He wants me, so whatever that looks like, I hope to walk in and by faith through whatever He's got in store for me this side of eternity. It's ultimately all about His glory anyway, ya dig?

While this is my normal mindset, in that moment a few weeks ago, I was not experiencing any kind of contentment. At that wedding, I was asked many, many times - with good intentions, I am sure - about my current relationship status**, most often after having just heard friends talk about how great (and hard and fun) their new marriage was. It's hard not to feel like you're missing out in some way when there is something that big, that prevalent, that you just cannot yet relate to. The thought - ahem, the LIE - that took root in my mind was,

"wow, I'm totally being left behind. 
Everyone else  is moving on, 
and I am still stuck here, at a lower level." 

What the what. These things are not true, I know, but in the moment it was hard to separate the truth from the lie, and I found myself extremely discontent and upset with my current season. Truth be told, I had to walk away during part of the reception to have some alone time with God. While it probably helped that I had already had a glass of wine (goodbye inhibitions!), I let it all out with Him... why was there such tension between what I knew and believed (see above) and how I was feeling? am I weird for liking the season that I am currently in? well, wait, why don't I get asked on dates? is there something wrong with me? how will I ever meet someone? etc, etc, etc. It was one of those ugly cry kind of moments, and after all of my questions were out in the open, I heard God whisper, "G, do you trust Me?" Well dangit, yes of course I trust You, Lord, but... but. but. but. Isn't that always how it goes? I went back to the reception with no answers, no aha, come-to-Jesus moment to share, just a gut instinct that I needed to trust and I needed to wait.

Fast forward a week: as I was cruising the PCH, I began praying specifically about the tension and the feelings of discontent I was struggling through (and I mean strugggggling), and in that mess God very clearly spoke to me. Not with words, but with a picture from Matthew 14...

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after He had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."
And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly, you are the son of God." (v.22-33) // 

I saw myself as Peter, walking on the water toward Jesus with my eyes completely locked on Him. The things is, He called me out of the boat a while ago, and I feel as though I am just now finally beginning to get the hang of keeping my feet above the waves. But in the picture He gave me on that drive, the voices around me were louder than normal. Their questions were audible - their concerns for my singleness, my job, my future, etc. - and I saw myself begin to focus in on their words. My head began to turn in search of their voices, and not soon after I began to sink. Why? Because my attention - my eyes and my mind and my heart - had moved from Jesus to others.

Maybe this is not the most profound thing you've ever heard, and honestly I'm cool with that. But I have to tell you that, for me, it has been huge. God reminded me that when I am consumed with Him, I walk on water. Boldly. In faith. But when I give my attention to what and/or who is around me, I sink. Really, it makes complete sense if you think about it. In the Bible, Jesus told us to follow Him, and thus to trust that He knows where He is taking us. If I am that concerned, or give that much of my time and attention, to others - be it their questions or opinions or through just downright comparison - I cannot truly be fully fixed on Jesus. And yet, when we turn our faces and lock our eyes with His, we walk. on. water. Ain't no sinking when we're looking right to Him.

As I sat on a bench overlooking the pacific ocean and this picture of walking on water came together in my mind, I laughed. Out loud, because God is funny like that (and I really believe He loves to make us laugh). At the wedding, He told me to wait and to trust, and then a week later He reminded "me of little faith" not to doubt, but that if I wanted to keep walking on water (which I do!), I needed only to trust and lock eyes with Him. I felt as if He was oh-so-gently reminding me that this season of singleness, however long it may be, is full of opportunities and purpose, things that will present themselves so long as my eyes stay on Him. And in that moment after the laughter? Peace. Peace with who I am and where He has placed me, and peace in knowing that seasons change, but our God does not. He is always going to beckon us into deeper places of trust, places where our eyes must be locked on His. Single or not. At a current job or not. In good health or not. Dreaming or doing or dying, or not. His request is quite simple: "Trust in Me, child." 

So yes, I love being single. I love it because I know He has given me this gift, this season of focusing solely on Him and trusting Him to work out the details. Does that mean it's not hard? Of course not. But does that mean I am "less than" or "incomplete" or that I must be "unhappy" because I am alone? Definitely not. And if we ever think that another person will complete us or make us happier or whatever, we will be sorely disappointed in marriage, because no human being can do those things. Only Christ brings true joy, and only Christ satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts and souls. Christ, and Christ alone.

And instead of being so concerned with his and her and their dating lives (or lack thereof, holla), how about we just keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and trust Him to give us what He wants, when He wants, regardless of whether or not that includes marriage? And, possibly even more importantly, will we still believe that He is good and - dare I say - enough, even if He does not give us a spouse? Hmm...

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! // Psalm 27:14

With no shame, this is me:

Hey, I'm Gennean. I'm twenty-five, I love coffee and adventures, I have a pretty sweet 8-5, I'm a fan of dance parties, and I am single, and I am happy with this life. But more than anything, I love my Jesus, and I am waiting on Him. Not waiting for a spouse, or waiting for the next thing to come. Just waiting on Him, to provide and lead and speak and, ya know, be God. I am learning to walk on water with Him, and He is showing me that He is always abundantly more than enough.

Now, tell me, who are you?


**May I touch lightly on those "people"? You know, the ones who ask you if you're dating, and if not, why, and all of those other probing relationship questions that feel like nails on a chalkboard to most single peeps. Hear me out: I believe that most people's intentions are good, and typically quite innocent, but why - dear God, why - is there such a fascination in our culture (and particularly within the church) with our relationship status? Sometimes I just want to shake people and say, "it IS okay to be single. It's okay, I'm okay, we're okay. A relationship does not equal more happiness or a better life or whatever. And I. am. okay." But that's not the most socially appropriate thing to do, so we smile and laugh it off and hope to God no one else asks us if we're dating anyone. Right? Right. Can't we just let our relationship with Jesus be enough? Because it is. 

April 16, 2015

Social Media + Jesus.

"You know us in secret and You know all our secret places.  What we do to benefit Your Kingdom will not be lost if it is not seen by others, for You see and You reward according to Your grace and mercy.  Strengthen us to do good works, visibly or invisibly, always in Your name."
-G.K. Chesterson

I feel as though I have seen more articles and had more conversations around the topic of Christians on social media over the last few months than ever before.  One blog post in particular caught my attention recently, at a time when I had already been intentionally thinking and praying about my standing as a Christian with all of these social platforms, and it really helped affirm quite a few of my thoughts.

Social media is just an interesting concept in general.  It's a platform that gives everyone a voice and place to share their opinions and feelings, which can be a good thing, though that's not always the case.  If we're honest, having access to such tools as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, I think we can agree that most people work really hard to put forth a highlight reel of sorts: the good, the exciting, the adventurous.  But what about the hard, the boring, and the mundane?  I mean, how many selfies have you seen of a no-makeup face taken at 6am?  Not so much.  No, we take care to purposefully choose what we want others to see of our lives - plus we add a filter or two - and, in turn, we see only what others want to show us of theirs. which leads to quite a distorted reality... a reality that we end up comparing our everyday lives to.  And I think that we all play into this game in one way or another, through comparison or blatant self-promotion with ourselves, and through judgment, gossip, or questioning the motives of others.  This is quite the rabbit hole, because with a lot of comparison can easily come feelings of discontent, inadequacy, jealousy, and judgement.  And farther down the rabbit hole we go.

I get it, I really do, and because of that I feel compelled to a place of confession with y'all.  For me, and particularly with my Instagram account, I want you to know there are some mornings that I really do drink black coffee and a well lit table with my Bible and journal open, and then there are mornings that I don't.  Sometimes, yes, I really do snap a picture; sometimes I don't.  There are also moments when I sense God download wisdom to me through time spent with Him or a conversation with a friend, and sometimes I feel led to share it on instagram, or on this blog, or both.

And yet I know that God sees every moment, whether it is documented for others to see or not.  I struggle with and pray about these social platforms often, because I want to be as authentic as possible with my friends and followers.  Above everything else, I want Jesus to be ultimately seen and glorified above myself.  And shouldn't that be the aim of every aspect of our lives: for God to get the glory?  That has always been my personal goal in both my inner and outer life, so it only makes sense for that to be true of the social platforms that He has has given me.

My prayer with all of this social media business is that we would rest knowing that, whether or not something is tweeted or posted, God is actively looking at what 140 words or a well edited picture can never truly capture: our hearts.  And that's way more important than how many people like (or don't like) a picture on Instagram, anyway.

For further Scripture reading, please check out: Psalm 91, 1 Samuel 6:7, Jeremiah 17:10

April 7, 2015

Travel: New Orleans.

My trip to New Orleans last weekend was everything I wanted it to be and more.  It was my first legitimate vacation in almost two years, so it was definitely good to my soul.  My roomie (Kat) and I decided to make a roadtrip out of it, so we left Nashville at an ungodly hour on Thursday morning with a bomb playlist, a bag of dark chocolate and larabars to snack on, and a car-full of excitement.  Eight hours later we arrived in NOLA, and y'all, it became one of my favorite cities real quick.  There is just so much life in that place, with all of the music, food, people, and yes, crazy.  I loved every ounce of it.  I got to eat authentic Cajun and Creole dishes, experience the insanity that is Bourbon Street, explore the French Quarter and Garden District, and I even got to take a little break from the city to explore Oak Alley Plantation, which was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  I also ate beignets on beignets on beignets... #noregrets.  Kat and I had a really great time and loved (almost) everything we got to experience in the 3 short days we were there.  I already can't wait to go back!  In between all of the photos to follow are some of my recommendations and tips if you ever get the chance to visit New Orleans:

  • Bourbon Street -- fun, fun, and crazy.  Many people I talked to made this area out to be terrible, but I actually really enjoyed it.  Located in the heart of the French Quarter.  Our hotel was only 2 blocks off of Bourbon, so we walked through it at least once a day.  With that, I will say that Bourbon is better to explore on a weekday and earlier in the evening.  Be warned: the later it gets, the more uncomfortable it gets (think catcalling, less clothing, and more pungent smells).  
    • Pat O'Briens -- a tourist hot-spot, but if you're going to get a Hurricane this is the place to go.  Warning: these drinks are strong.
    • Music Legends Park -- jazz music. beignets. what more could I want in life? 

  • French Quarter -- tourist central, but for good reason.  There are so many fun shops, restaurants, art crawls, and street performers.  If you're planning on eating in this area on the weekend, definitely make a reservation.  Also located here were some of my favorite spots:
    • Cafe Beignet -- home to my absolute favorite beignets! 
    • Carousel Bar -- every bit as cool as it sounds: it's a bar that is also a rotating carousel. What.
    • Jackson Square -- great park to picnic, read, and people watch.
    • Cafe Du Monde -- you kind of have to hit this spot, but there are crazy long lines during the day, so I went at 9pm when there was no line.
    • Spitfire Espresso -- living in Nashville has turned me into a #coffeesnob
    • Cafe Amelie -- go here for the most serene outdoor-garden eating experience. You will feel miles away from Bourbon Street even though you're just a few blocks up.
    • Sylvain -- swanky local spot.  We only found out about this place when we got on a pedicab with no destination in mind, and our driver brought us here.  It's a classy little hole in the wall restaurant, and while we sat at the bar, the food looked and smelled amazing.  We were told that celebrities are often spotted here, and we actually ended up sitting next to actress Malin Ackerman. #awesome

  • Frenchmen Street -- where the locals go.  Kat's trainer is from NOLA, so he recommended that we head north of the French Quarter to this sweet little nook of New Orleans.  We made the 15+ block walk around dusk to grab dinner in that area, but note that there are some sketchier spots along the way.  Here we stumbled into the Frenchmen Art Market, a quirky outdoor market with treasures and trinkets sold by locals.  Also:
    • El Gato Negro -- super yummy mexican food!
    • Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro -- this place came highly recommended by a close friend, and while I wasn't able to check it out on this trip, I definitely plan to next time!

  • Oak Alley Plantation -- like something out of a dream.  Truly one of the most beautiful and ethereal places I've ever seen, and well worth the 55 minute drive from NOLA.  This old sugar plantation right off of the Mississippi River is surrounded by southern oak trees that were planted in the 1700's, the most stunning of which line the walkway up to the front of the house.  Take the house tour, grab a mint julep, and stroll around the grounds as long as you please.

  • Garden District -- a must.  This area of NOLA is so, so cute, offering lots of fun shops and restaurant options.  It is quiet, charming, and a great place to walk around and admire the beautiful houses, trees, and even the cemeteries.  Kind of creepy, but they are seriously beautiful. Haha.
    • Sucre -- macarons and chocolate, need I say more?
    • Commander's Palace -- go here for some bananas foster, whose birthplace is New Orleans.
    • St. Charles Avenue -- stunning in every way.  Take a ride on the streetcar if you can!

So yes, New Orleans was magical and I totally fell in love with it.  And yes, there is definitely some darkness in that city with all of its voodoo and whatnot, but I prayed before and during that trip that God would give us opportunities to be a light and be vessels of His love.  Even with all of the amazing things we saw and did (and ate) while in NOLA, the best part by far was being asked, "Why are you girls so happy and joyful?"  Jesus, y'all.  He is just so good.

I hope you all get the chance to visit this vibrant city at some point.  I know I'll be back again!

March 24, 2015

Springtime + Calvary.

Happy Spring, friends.  I am seriously so happy that winter is finally over and everything is beginning to turn green again... it's a little silly  how much the weather really do affect my mood and attitude.  Winter is fun for a bit, but then it's just cold and dark and all I want to do is snuggle up with a blanket and a glass of wine and not see anyone #introvertedmuch.  But then Spring comes along, with its sunshine and warmer temps, which puts a serious pep in my step and all I want to do is walk around with a basket full of fresh-baked cookies and meet all of my neighbors.  I see you, vitamin D, and I appreciate you. Okay, springtime tangent over.

As I have been working through the current She Reads Truth Lent study, I have been oh-so reminded of my fragility as a sinful human.  It is just too easy for me to choose _____ (insert idol of choice) over the Lord, and that realization really breaks my heart.  The other day, I came across this prayer and - no joke - I'm pretty sure I cried through the entire thing.  It reminded me that I am not alone in my desire to purge my life of idolatry sin, which continues to include scraped knees from falling short, and that all joy and redemption and completeness is found only at the Cross. Thank you, Jesus. And springtime and Calvary have something important in common: fresh starts and new beginnings.
So I wanted to share that prayer here, with you, because each time I read it I find it sweet to my soul and refreshing to my spirit, and I pray it does the same for you.

Heavenly Father,

Thou hast led me singing to the cross where I fling down all my burdens and see them vanish,

where my mountains of guilt are leveled to a plain, where my sins disappear,

though they are the greatest that exist, and are more in number than the grains of fine sand;

For there is power in the blood of Calvary to destroy sins more than can be counted
even by one from the choir of heaven.

Thou hast given me a hill-side spring that washed clear and white,
and I go as a sinner to its waters, bathing without hindrance in its crystal streams.

At the cross there is free forgiveness for the poor and meek ones,
and ample blessings that last for ever;
The blood of the Lamb is a great river of infinite grace
with never any diminishing of its fullness as thirsty ones without number drink of it.

O Lord, for ever will thy forgiveness live that was gained on the mount of blood;
In the midst of a world of pain it is a subject for praise in every place,
a song on earth, an anthem in heaven, its love and virtue knowing no end.

I have a longing for the world above where multitudes sing the great song,
for my soul was never created to love the dust of earth.

Though here my spiritual state is frail and poor, I shall go on singing Calvary's anthem.
May I always know that a clean heart full of goodness is more beautiful than the lily,
that only a a clean heart can sing by night and by day,
that such a heart is mine when I abide at Calvary.

"Calvary's Anthem", The Valley of Vision