2015-Its been a good one-for He is good

I sit here in my living room, my most favorite room in our home- very accurately where most of the magic happens-we are a few hours to the new year and I am finding a moment to write some words I have been pondering over all week.  This year has been a year full, most years are, how they differ is mostly separated by circumstance and experience but what I have reflected on in the last week is how each year is actually quite the same.  As we are guided and grown by a Father who remains the same from one day to the next, His love and His identity does not change from circumstance to experience rather His longing and vision for us remains steadfast in His longing for us to experience fullness and joy in him.  

This year has been full of a reminder that I have not infact evolved much.  I am much the same as I was the year before, my struggles and sin still get caught on the same nail and I am once again reminded over and over that I can not in fact do any of this on my own.   This year has been the year of a reminder that there were in fact nails needed for my rescue, that my sin does cause pain and suffering but even so I  am welcomed back in my confession to be received and restored, loved and washed clean.  And with that cleansing hope I can move forward knowing that my God, my Jesus will not only rescue me but sustain me and when I need to be moved He has the ability and the strength to carry me. There is a verse in Isaiah 46 that says ; I will be your God throughout your lifetime-until your hair is white with age.  I made you, and I will care for you.  I will carry you along and save you. Essentially not only did He create us but He will carry us, He will sustain us in our weakness and He will rescue us.

This year I have needed this truth but knowing what I was given eyes for this year I know I will also need it in all of the years to come.  I have caught myself on more than one occasion assuming my old ways, full in my flesh and comfortable in my sin claiming that these truths were made for those around me but surely not for me.  My struggle to determine my own worthiness will forever be my downfall no matter how much knowledge I have in the gospel because my heart is easily swayed by my mind and the disconnect between the two quickly falters when I notice my flesh.  I am most steady when my eyes remain on the cross and what He intended for me in it, when I focus on what He has said He would do and the gift of the Spirit He has left me with while I wait for His return.

This year I had times of great joy as I experienced the creation of His beauty as it surrounded me in deep and narrow canyons, mountains made of sand stacked high above me that allowed me to feel so small that I knew with complete wholeness that the only place I could truly rest was within the largeness and mighty power of His hand.  I saw the ocean and marveled at the wonder of the waves and questioned the mixture of awe and fear that I feel when I am placed on it shores, I slept in the trees of the forest and felt the wind move the bed I slept on and knew that it was His hand that made the wind and Him who allows it to move me.  I have experienced a full home and as a result of that a full heart as God continues to grow our heart for family outside of how the world sees it. I looked into the face of my children as they laughed and cried, I was given the gift of being able to cheer them on when they soared and was able to pull them close and remind them of what remains true in their disappointment.  I too experienced disappointment in my health, in my marriage, in myself, in my longings in my hopes but each and every time He has met me, He has reminded me that I am not in fact alone and that even when I feel the farthest from Him He never once has removed His eyes from me.  And in than knowledge I realize most of my disappointments can be translated into longing for Him and in that even further learned that great sorrow holds the deepest potential to experience the deepest of joys.  

Us Jagers are far from perfect, but I believe that we are being further welcomed each day to experience further contentment in Him and as we allow Him to show us how that works and we simply ask for more, more of Him.  I know that at the end of the day that is all we actually ever need.

I could sit here and write off all the great things we have done this year, I could tell you about how cute and brilliant our children are, I could tell you how handsome and wonderful and successful my husband is or how I love my family and being a wife and mother. But more than that I would love to tell you every time Brian and I pray together or reflect on our day to day we say, yep more off this, more of you Jesus our hands are open wide to not only receive but for you to remove what is unworthy, we are here and waiting and thankful and humbled.  We are broken but not forgotten forever in need of chiseling but softened in the light of His eyes.  

I walked into this past year knowing much of His grace but nothing of His mercy and I am walking into the next knowing that my life is a gift and there will never be anything I can do that would justify what I have been given.  There is so much peace in knowing that for all of the years I spent trying to earn I can now simply grip onto His robe and fall flat on my face knowing that that is not a sign of my unworthiness but a sign off my belonging to a high king that did not come to destroy me but restore me.  

Not Alone

I think there is a myth or a lie that can easily be created in Christian understanding.  The lie is one that is rooted in our own need, a need for a savior, a need that I find myself fighting against even though He is the only thing that holds this mess together.   The part I forget so easily though is He is the only one that is allowing this mess to fall apart too.  The myth is that in our belief we shouldn't struggle because we have all that we need.   

Well I'm here to destroy that myth today.  Actually I'm here to tell you that Jesus destroyed that myth some time ago. We are free to struggle and we are free to claim Him in it.

This calendar date is the hardest for me to face every year.  It never fails that I wake up faced with feelings of doubt, abandonment, anger, fear, longing, I feel unloved, a lack of purpose, I feel alone.  Those feelings are not easy for me to admit.  It is especially difficult to struggle through it because I simply do not want to.  I simply do not want to relive the hurt every year.  But evenmore than that I dont want to ask anyone in to help me out.  I find it hard to even pray about it because with these emotions also comes shame for even feeling them at all.  And in that emotion it feels down right scary to tell anyone what I have/am experiencing.

So this morning happened I woke up, attempted to distract myself with the usual...pinterest, blogs, facebook, instagram, my messy house.  I tried to think through all I had to be thankful for, I mean the Pollyanna method has a way of working from time to time.  And about that time I got a text from a friend saying, Yo, you home?  Yep.  And then I realized I have a poor excuse for pajamas on, no bra, haven't brushed my teeth, hair is special at best, and I thought well this is as good as it gets.  I should take a second to say here that we have an open door policy in our home, that means y'all can stop by whenever you feel the spirit move.  However, this does not mean we keep our home tidy and perfect all the time, in fact its rarely that, so my heart very often rests in, "It is what it is. Welcome." 

I had no idea why my friend was stopping by.  She showed up in my doorway with a card and some candy and said, "Love you."  I was oblivious still as to why.  This day is not one I share with anyone.  In fact it's a day that holds so much emotion that I stuff it as deep as possible.  Allowing even a small sliver of it to open would be risky. But in her card she said in more words,"I know and I love you. You are not in fact alone."

As I mentioned in the last post I have been redeemed.  I am free to have a past and a future and I have no need to hide.  This is really hard for me, the learning curve feels a lot like death.  Perhaps the most confusing part is that in my freedom to struggle I often experience moments of sweet rejoice.  Apart from Jesus those two emotions together can feel like a direct pointing to our need for some psychiatric help.  But in Jesus we realize that our struggle and our longing is most always met with the promise of a hope that is much bigger than we are.  And that is all the proof that we need that as Christians we are indeed free to struggle, we were created with a savior in mind, God knew we would need Jesus to set us free from our shame.

I had let a piece of my past slip out with my friend last night, in that moment I thought much as I think about our open door policy, "It is what it is. Welcome."  But her reaction to what could have been seen as trivial from someone elses standpoint was what blessed me. She not only listened, but related, she did not run (which is my fear, most times) in fact she did quite the opposite, she stepped in and reminded me of who God is. She reminded me that with my salvation came a great inheritance, access to family which isn't just available but needed.  We need Jesus and we often need one another to remind us of that.   And with the knowledge that I am not in fact alone on even a day like today with enough hurt and lie to kill an elephant comes a knowledge of great hope not a lie of great despair.  That is a gift, something to rejoice in.






This evening as I sat amongst my missional community/family we discussed how the  gospel is good news in light of the death and the resurrection of Jesus.  As soon as the question was posed a million things rang through my mind.  However one struck most clear.

I grew up in a small town.  A small town full of churches.  About half of my group of friends in school was made up of pastors kids.  In telling you this I must also share that I did not come from a Christian home.  We did not go to church on Sundays or fellowship with believers. In fact my parents very much left it up to each child to choose what they would believe and to follow it in their own way.  My friends knew this and their parents knew this and because of that many of them were not allowed to come to my home.  Most of them were quite honest as to why they couldn't hang out in our home or come for sleepovers.  

As it turns out my parents not being Christians was not the only skeleton in my closet.  I had grown up with much brokenness and hurt and sin.  And when I learned that my parents lack of faith alone could keep my friends from me the need to hide the rest of my secrets was evident, at least to me.  

About this same time I became a believer.  However the behavior and belief of what I had to do was set to the tone of shame, and with the shame came doubt.  Doubt of worthiness, doubt of my ability to receive forgiveness, doubt of my belonging and doubt of my true identity.  But I was pretty sure that if I wasn't worthy of it on my own right I could earn it.  And so began a long road of trying to be someone I was not, trying to keep an appearance of perfection, participating in all of the "right" things, and dating the "right" people, and overall just trying not to bring any sort of negative light upon myself, to mask what was really true. 

This was my gospel, work hard to earn, work hard to prove, work hard to belong and maybe, just maybe I would have a shot at an eternity in heaven.  And I was failing everyday.  I would go to bed pleading for forgiveness, pleading for a second chance and pleading to simply be saved.  

Fast forward about 10 years and you will find a tired, ragged woman who was doing real well at holding it all together, but was still praying that same prayer every night as she laid her head upon her pillow, God I know I'm failing, please forgive me, please give me a second chance, I promise tomorrow will be better, I'll do anything to be with you.  I was exhausted.  

At that point if you saw me from the outside you would see a fit, busy, mom of two with a white picket fence, a dog and a hardworking husband, dozens of friends and a  Volvo...I mean thats the american dream right? My kids went to a Christian school, not only were we in church every Sunday but we led things, we full on ran things, my kids were well behaved and well mannered, we were teaching them to serve-thats we would tell people.  However unintentionally what we were really teaching them was how to earn, and how to behave according to how people desired.  And that breaks my heart.  We would tell people how well God was providing for us, I mean look at all we had, but really we were very good at making things happen, not so much good at praying and asking God for his leading, and so although I know how incredibly he was covering us in that time, we were really just using his name to justify our livelihood.  

In that time I was not aware that there was another way.  In fact I thought that was the way.  I looked around at people who weren't their belief out in the same way and I thought to myself, must be nice.  Self righteousness was my propeller and my fuel.

A few years ago God so very painfully yet gently began to show me something different.  The difference was Jesus.  All those years I was real good with who I had made God to be, but I knew nothing of a loving, caring, provider, who sent His son to die so that I may be freed from all that I had been trying so hard to earn.  The death and resurrection of Jesus allowed me to put all of that striving to rest.  The death and resurrection of Jesus allowed me to be free to enjoy the world around me because my salvation had already been won and provided for me, through the sacrifice of a king, the very king that shed his perfect blood to cover my nasty sin.  The death and resurrection of Jesus began to heal the heart of a very scared and sad little girl. And when He looks at me He sees me amongst the mess and says you're beautiful, I love you, and you don't have to live like that anymore.  It frees me from the shame that I've felt for more than 20 years and in that He gives me an inheritance I can not only be proud of but proclaim without fear because he is a good Father that protects me from all fear and condemnation. 

For 31 years I lived blinded by own sin and the sin of others and for almost 2 years I have lived in full forgiveness and truth.  And that is what blinds the past 31.  I can look forward without looking back because I am redeemed.

As you move forward towards the weekend, I pray that you would allow the events in which we celebrate and remember to really mean something to you.  I plead with you to find Jesus in the remembering, forget about you ham and scalloped potatoes and Easter eggs.  And instead focus on the cross where real and true blood was not only shed but shed for each of you.  Where a sacrifice and suffering was made so that you wouldn't have to.  Thats the true hope of this coming weekend.


Why here? Why Now?

Looks pretty different around here.  

You may ask why the change?  Why not continue to write over at the family blog where I have been writing for 8 years? And I can tell you times have changed. My heart has changed.  I have desires and hopes for my words to be shared in new ways.  I also have felt more and more lately that when I share something outside of motherhood I am tainting a space that was meant for my kids to have as they grow older.  My personal thoughts and feelings and experiences are not a reflection of theirs.  I want them to have the space to have their own, to develop their own story and to live out their lives privately as they struggle to see Gods purpose and plan for them.  

I have also found myself wanting to write about so much more.  I want to share the story God has given me to be a part of.  I want to share stories of his grace and mercy. I want to write in a way that reflects his goodness and ultimate existence in this world.  I want to write bits and pieces of my heart and its experiences.  

The older I get the more I realize that these stories and experiences really don't belong to me but were meant to be shared. My words are perhaps one of my greatest gifts.  I love to write, in fact I have loved to write for most of my life, in junior high it was poetry and short stories, in high school its was papers and journals, and in the last almost ten years it was mostly on our family blog which is a treasure to me. God has given me so much and yet none of it really belongs to. And that is a symbol of my freedom and my opportunity.

Five years ago I started to write a book.  I have deleted and edited and rewritten 25 pages over and over.  The fear of putting it out there is what keeps it the depths of my computer. But the more years that pass the more I realize that it would be troubling to me to not follow the call of finishing it.  I am not sure what that all means or where it will go. I certainly do not have dreams of the NYT best sellers or anything.  Perhaps it will be something I take to kinko's and spiral bind 10 copies of and hide again. But I am open to where it leads.  Over the next 12 months I am subjecting myself to a deep submersion into the word.  I am studying and reading and writing with others, in effort to better understand the gospel and what it intends for us.  And simultaneously I hope to write here.  When the year is finished I hope to throw my words into book form and it will be called, Not My Own.  

In addition I pray that this will be a place for questions and conversation.  A place where others can share as well.  My inbox is always open jessjag@gmail.com, feel free to drop me a line anytime.

You will also most likely notice the beautiful photography on the pages of this space.  My husband, Brian, has allowed me full access to his ever growing catalog of photos.  Please respect them.  If you are interested in any of the images you see he sells digital images and prints at a reasonable price and would be happy to share.  So we ask most kindly that you do not use any of these images without permission.