Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don't Buy The Lies...

I wish I'd remember this a little more often...Love the "And you were MADE WITH SUCH CARE your skin, your body, and your hair are perfect just the way they are..." part.

I pray that I would have a heart that fears the Lord, and that I could stop obsessing with the world's view of "beauty". God has done so much recently to show me how beautiful EVERYONE is, period. Now, I've just got to listen when He tells me the He loves me...and that I am beautiful to Him...because that is all that matters!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Neighborly Love...

As I’ve started getting ready to move into my new house I’ve spent some time working in the yard trying to get things cleaned up and have had the chance to meet a handful of my neighbors, one family in particular. Michelle, her husband, her three kids, and her new granddaughter all live next door. I’ll admit I am excited to be in a neighborhood and have “real” neighbors, but it’s certainly going to take some getting used to. Being in an apartment the last three years have made it all too easy to shut myself off from other people – things are already changing. I have a feeling God is getting ready to teach me a whole heck of a lot about loving my neighbor…literally.

The Bible describes love like this:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Patience. Tessa, Michelle’s youngest daughter, has already shown me the importance of patience – and I’m sure God will continue to grow my ability to love people with patience through this relationship. The first day I came down to the house to work, Tessa popped her little head around the fence and asked if she could come help. So, she pulled weeds and dug up dead plants with me for a little bit. Laura (my best friend – who is awesome and has already been a HUGE help with this “re-vamping” project) and I were trying to put together a list of what I needed to grab at the store and Tessa ran over and said “Can I go with you to the store!” I’ll admit it was cute, but she is only 9 years old – when I was 9 I would have been scared to death to ride in a “strangers” car. I told her I wasn’t going until morning, so not this time. A little later she blurted out to Laura and me that she hadn’t taken her medicine – and she named it, but I couldn’t tell you what it was or what it was for. I looked at Laura (who happens to have some medical knowledge, since she is an RN…) and she told me it was pretty much for ADD. It’s kind of sad that a child has to be medicated because she is “hyper” – makes me wonder if it’s just an easy out for some parents? Something a little more patience could have solved? Later on Tessa told me she was glad I was moving in and was excited to have someone to spend time with – and that is exactly what she said “spend time with”. Interesting. It will be neat to see what God does with this situation. I’m certainly praying about it.

As far as Michelle’s son and other daughter, I’ve not had a chance to learn a whole lot about them. I know R.J. likes to skate and K is a new mommy. Hopefully I’ll have opportunities to learn more about each of them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rude Awakening...

Over the last few months I’ve become involved with a great organization here in Indianapolis called Tear Down the Walls Ministries. TDWM helps a number of homeless men and women as well as inner-city youth; so far the street outreach to the homeless is what I have been most involved with.

Coming from such a small community I had never had the chance to encounter someone begging for money, let alone someone who actually LIVED on the streets. My only insight came from my family and friends, and maybe the media. A lot of the time I heard things like “There are so many jobs in that big city, they are just lazy…” or “It’s their fault they ended up where they are…they must have done something wrong…”. So naturally, when I passed by a person who was panhandling, my first instinct was to NOT make eye contact and maybe even walk a little faster.

After being in the city for about a year I was lucky to have some friends who were not so frightened by these situations. We went out one night and just talked to and spent time with some of the people shaking cups and sleeping in doorways. That helped open my eyes to the fact that they were people, no different than me and my friends. After that I went out every once in a while to talk to the homeless folks around town, we even made sack lunches a couple times to take and hand out.

Over the next year God just really began to tug at my heart and I knew that I had to do something. I started doing small things on my own and I was really glad that God was able to use me, even if it was something as little as handing a note or a couple snacks to the few people who would stand at the end of the off ramp I drove down nearly every day.

So, that is kind of how I got to where I am now. I got involved with TDWM after looking for an opportunity to serve with my small group. After the first night of street outreach I was hooked.

When I showed up at the DAT House that first night, we were told that we could walk around downtown to pass out food and visit with the homeless people or we could drive to the camps and do the same. I was curious about this whole “camp” business. Since I had walked around downtown plenty of times doing similar things, I wanted to check this out. That night we visited Davidson Street Bridge (also known as Dodge City), Pine Street Bridge, some people living on the porch of an abandoned house, a guy living in a random bus stop shelter, another guy living in his car, and about three camps along the banks of the White River. Wow, did I feel ignorant…well, actually, I felt A LOT of things after experiencing each of these place and all of the people. I had seen things like that on the news and in movies, but that didn’t happen in Indiana, did it? I mean, I can see Chicago, New York, and LA…but, Indiana? Driving home that night I could not say a word, I couldn’t even open my mouth to sing along to the radio. I lied awake in bed trying to take in everything that I had just seen. Honestly, I was silent the next morning as well. It was such an eye-opener; something I certainly needed to see.

After a couple weeks I feel like things started to fall right into place and I began developing relationships with the people we were serving each week. It is unreal how positive and how much faith some of these people have. I’m so lucky to have met so many great people with fascinating stories and lessons to share. I just pray that people will see that not every person they pass on the street is a “lazy, drug-addicted, alcoholic”. They are real, living, breathing people with hearts and feelings just like you and me.

I would love to tell you all the stories about all the awesome people I’ve met and some of our crazy adventures, but this might get really long – so I’ll save those for another time. However, I would like to tell you about Spanky. He promised that was his real name, so as far as I know, Spanky really is Spanky. We bumped into him tonight on Meridian Street. He told us he dances in front of the bars and sometimes that is how he earns money; he was actually dancing when we approached him tonight. He definitely got a smile out of all of us. What really bothers me though, is what happened to him and his friends last night. Spanky and his friends sleep in a parking garage downtown and he woke up last night to someone kicking him in the side, once he realized he wasn’t dreaming and that someone had really just KICKED him WHILE HE WAS SLEEPING, they did it again. He told us he asked them why they were kicking him, but that is about as far as he took it since he is a pretty small guy and he didn’t want to get into a fight. Then he told us he was really scared about things going on in town this weekend. He mentioned that in the past years, during this same weekend of festivities, he has had other homeless friends both SHOT and STABBED, for no other reason than hatred. I’m really uneasy about all of that. I’m not sure how someone can have the nerve to kick a sleeping man, let alone stab someone just because their lifestyle seems strange or bizarre. And this sure isn’t the only story I’ve heard about violent acts being carried out against the homeless people of this city, but this is just fresh in my heart and in my mind.

So, if you would, please just pray for the safety of our friends that have ended up in situations that are less than ideal and in sleeping arrangements that aren’t extremely safe.

Doesn't Get Any Better...

The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
-Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)

Thank you, Lord for loving everyone...even me...unconditionally! Help me love like you do! :)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Here I Go...

Well, I’m going to guess that most of you reading this already know me and bits and pieces of my life and my story…but, just in case you don’t, or you are interested in knowing a little more…

I’m Jena! The first and probably most important thing I’d like to share with you is how my life has been dramatically changed over the last few years…

In the past, I defined my life and even my worth by things like friends, clubs/organizations, parties, sports, boys, grades, looks, or any other thing that I thought would somehow gratify me. My mind was wrapped around questions and a constant search for fulfillment. Near the end of my senior year of high school I was at an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meeting and a friend asked to play a song before everyone left. The song was “Awakening” by Seven Places – which was more of someone speaking than someone singing, but nonetheless, it spoke right to my heart. I quickly dismissed a lot of the things I mulled over after that by assuring myself that I was okay…I mean, I grew up going to church and Sunday school, I knew some Bible verses, I prayed every once in a while, and it’s not like I ever really did anything THAT bad.

It took some time for me to finally come to grips with the fact that being “good” wasn’t the point, and I actually wasn’t as “good” as I had imagined anyway. A few months into my first year of college a couple girls knocked on my door and asked me if I would be interested in checking out a discussion group. I still didn’t know too many people, so I figured at the least I could meet a few new girls that lived in the dorm. I honestly couldn’t tell you anything we talked about; the only things I remember from that night are hearing the story of how God had changed one girl’s life, seeing something called the bridge diagram, and A LOT of tears! The funny thing is I had seen that illustration and heard similar messages a million times before, but this time, it all “clicked”. (If you’ve never seen or heard of the bridge diagram, it pretty much shows the distance between man and God because of our disobedience, but explains that Jesus died on the cross to “bridge” that gap). God quickly opened my eyes to show me how far away from Him I had strayed and how all my seemly good actions had missed the mark, and my life would continue in the same direction without Him.

That night I heard something that was an entirely new concept to me…a “relationship” with Jesus Christ. God had always just been this big, distant, mysterious…thing…not really available for any sort of relationship?
Over Christmas break I was invited to attend a retreat in Nashville, TN. The week was full of new friends, sightseeing, very little sleep, and some very encouraging stories about college, about God, and about life in general. After everything I had heard, seen, and especially felt over the last few months, I finally knew what I needed; and the last night of the retreat (which happened to be New Years Eve), I decided to surrender my life to Jesus Christ. I don’t remember what I said, but I’m sure it wasn’t an elaborate prayer, and it didn’t need to be – God already knew everything I wanted and needed to say.

My heart and desires were radically changed, almost instantly. I could see how my attitude and behaviors were mean and hurtful, the pleasure I used to get from walking all over other people to build myself up was gone and I was heartbroken and ashamed of what had become second nature to me. But thankfully I didn’t have to worry about the past anymore, everything was gone…my slate was wiped completely clean.

Now, every day I do my best to live my life for the One who gave His life for me. It’s been about three and a half years since my Savior so graciously rescued me and I’m know I’m not the first to admit it’s not always easy, and I’m not even close to being perfect, so of course there are struggles. But, every time I’ve fallen down or wandered away, God has been right there, reaching out to pick me up and put me right back where I belong – beside Him.

So there's an introduction or maybe update for some of you :)…Oh, and the entries prior to this one are all old randoms from MySpace, just FYI...