stop being comfortable

Once I graduated from high school, I stepped outside of that Christian bubble that I had been sheltered by all of my life. I started meeting people at Uni and work who didn’t know God and I was often the only one who did.  It took me a while to understand that this difference facilitated a space for powerful opportunities to take place.

I have realised over the last few years that knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him is important, but keeping it to yourself has very little impact. I have decided that this year, this is something that I want to change. I am a firm believer that neither your presence nor your absence within the church defines your relationship with God. Rather than solely focus on building and maintaining my current relationships, I want to actively and intentionally seek opportunities to create relationships with people that may not know God yet, so they too can find Jesus.

Personally, I find it easier to talk to strangers about my faith than to my close family or friends who do not share my beliefs. We tend to not only receive more judgement from those who we surround ourselves with on a regular basis, but we also value their opinions so much more. We have always been taught that ‘sharing is caring’, but how come we are so hesitant when it comes to sharing our faith?

I want to challenge myself this year to stop being satisfied with my current position; stop being comfortable. I want to challenge myself to reach beyond my comfort zone. It takes courage and a whole lot of faith, but if I can conquer that fear, then I am sure that amazing things can and will happen.

Keep smiling. x

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blink and it’s over.

You just have to turn on the news to realise how messed up and corrupted this world has become. This can’t be it. Why would we live to work, work to make money, make money to pay bills, pay bills to live comfortably and survive, then one day we never take another breath? There HAS to be something, someone, greater than all of this ‘temporary’ stuff.

I have always respected people who are open-minded and are willing to listen and be challenged – in general, but particularly in regards to religion. For me, my faith is my rock. The stability and strength that I find in believing in something greater than I could ever imagine provides solace when I am drowning in the waves that life is throwing.

“I would rather live my life as if there was a god and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is” – Albert Camus.

After a lot of back-and-forth contemplating and excuse-making, my boyfriend and I decided to meet at our local park and attempt to do some exercise. For me, ‘exercise’ isn’t even in my vocabulary, so needless to say, getting my lazy butt off the couch this afternoon to walk further than just to the fridge or my bed, proved difficult. Despite the heavy breathing that I experienced while developing a stitch after my first lap of the oval (I know what you’re thinking, tragic), one thing happened as we walked back to our cars an hour later that made those (poor-excuses for) push-ups completely worth it. I turned around and the sky was painted with strokes of bright colours. Sunsets are 100% my weakness and God wasn’t playing any games tonight!

Of course, I had to take a photo. By ‘a photo’, I mean multiple. And in typical Jess fashion, I drove home thinking that perhaps life is like one huge sunset; breathtakingly beautiful, but blink and it’s over. We are blessed in countless ways and the most obvious blessing is life itself. I think we too often take that special gift for granted. Make sure your sunset is worth watching.

Keep smiling. x

presence.

It has taken me a while to acknowledge the fact that it is actually Christmas again. Like what just happened? Did I not wake up from my food coma of Christmas 2014 and just skip all of this year or something? Please tell me I’m not the only one. 
Even with all of the Christmas carols, the candy canes, the tinsel, the corny Bon Bon jokes (which I really appreciate, mind you), the fake snow, the lights and the omnipresent Santa Clause that can magically be at every single shopping centre AT THE SAME TIME – childhood ruined; even with all of these things surrounding me, I just couldn’t convince myself that it was Christmas.
But this morning, in the spirit of Christmas Eve, my sister and I decided to sit down and finally watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas for the first time (cue eye rolling, gasping and an exaggerated chorus of ‘whaaaat!’), yesssss I know, first time, pathetic right? Needless to say, it was so worth the wait. And also, sidenote: how did parents show their children that movie? That big, hairy, green thing is pretty scary. However, amid all the wonderful puns, the hilarious innuendos and the cringe-worthy noses on those Who’s in Whoville, the underlying meaning is so, so much more.
Working at a supermarket, it is so clear how commercialised Christmas has become. It is all about those things I listed above – the commodities and the superficial things – you know, the things that don’t last; those things you like this year, but are “sooo 2015” when you are writing your new list the following year.
Presents are great, don’t get me wrong. It’s fun giving and receiving gifts, but we need to recognise and acknowledge the reason behind why we are celebrating. This world is a broken place; it’s not difficult to see that, because unfortunately it is everywhere we turn. Yet if we turn to Jesus, he sees through all of that. He came into our broken world in an attempt to create a beautiful mosaic of all our shattered pieces. That’s the best gift of all.
So this Christmas, I encourage you to remember the reason why we celebrate and for me, the Grinch has reminded me that rather than focusing on the presents under the tree this year, I am going to focus on being present in the lives of those I love instead. Spending this time with family is something so special and we often take it for granted. It is through connecting with the people closest to us that we have the potential to share the love of God with others. Trust me, you’ll find a lot more joy in relationships than you will in any materialistic thing. Presents. Presence. You choose.
Keep smiling. x

win/win

“Granddad, who is God? Where is He?”
“God sits in a house, a massive house, far beyond our imagination. This house has an infinite number of windows…infinite means that when you think they are finished, there’s always another one and then another one again. Each person on Earth looks through a different window, seeing God in a slightly different way from a slightly different angle, but they all look at God.”

I am scared of three things: spiders, heights and the ocean. But my biggest fear is making it to Heaven and finding out that the people I love haven’t made it. I think the thing that scares me the most about that is the fact that I could have changed that; that I had the potential to change their mind, to influence them and to show them how much God loves them.

One of the most attractive and admirable qualities of a person, I believe, is being open-minded. Religion can be a difficult topic. Everyone has an opinion and it is how others react to these opinions that possess many positive and negative connotations. This year I started my first year of Uni and working part-time. These new environments have allowed me to surround myself with new experiences in which I have been given opportunities to have conversations with work colleagues or other Uni students about religion. When people ask you questions about what you believe it’s terrifying, but it is also exciting at the same time. It’s terrifying because you feel a sense of vulnerability – your defenses are down and you are sharing a part of you with someone else and naturally, that can create space for potential prejudice. However, sharing your ideas, thoughts, opinions and beliefs with other people can be exciting because you have the opportunity to challenge others to be open-minded and not take their opinions as the be-all and end-all.

For me, believing in God is an obvious choice. When you think about it, realistically it’s a win/win decision. In the end, if it all pans out and God and Heaven is for real, then we get eternal life! And if it turns out that it wasn’t all what is was talked up to be, then what do we lose? Nothing. I don’t know about you, but I know what I’m choosing.

Keep smiling. x

Flying high.

I was sitting at the park by myself the other day (I have friends, I swear). I was about to open up a book to read but was distracted by a little girl laughing. I watched her as she ran as fast as she could to allow her kite to rise off the ground. Once she had reached top speed the kite started to lift itself into the air. A short time later she began to get tired from running and her run turned into a jog, which quickly converted into a walk then a complete stop. Meanwhile, the kite was losing all its motivation to stay off the grass.

Just before the girl collapsed to the ground exhausted, an older boy, who I assumed was her brother, came to her rescue and collected the kite in his hands. He began running at full speed and with a face full of determination, it was clear that he wasn’t giving up anytime soon. The little girl looked at her brother smiling and found the energy to get up and run along behind him. 
If someone was to ask me what I did at the park that day, they probably would think I am a total creep watching children play. All I know is that those kids taught me a lesson. There are things that are challenging me in life at the moment and sometimes it feels like flying my kite is getting tiring and honestly, it is exhausting. Constantly running to keep it in the air can be difficult and just when we lose all momentum and start to fall behind, our kite begins to drop. The best part is that right before we collapse and feel like we will never get back up again, God comes along and picks up the kite in His hands. He holds onto it and never lets go, running full speed and not losing sight of where we need to be.

So if all you get from this is that maybe watching little kids at the park isn’t all that weird, that’s okay (unless you are a middle-aged man, then that’s not okay). The point is, maybe we can learn something from other people and their actions. Trying to keep your kite off the ground gets difficult sometimes, but we need to remember that just before we give up and it falls, God is there to fly our kite for us and He never lets go. We just have to get on our feet again and run with Him, because when it comes to flying kites, He is the expert.

Keep smiling. x

Powerlines

I just got back from a week away serving the small community of Nyngan. Saying it was amazing would be an understatement. It was life-changing. I was able to strengthen not only my relationship with the kids there and those within the STORMco team, but also with God. There were times during the trip where I felt drained of energy and found it challenging to wake up the next morning with a smile on my face. I found that praying gave me bursts of strength and energy that I didn’t know still existed.

A lot goes through your mind when you are travelling on a bus for nine hours. You get a lot of time to stop and think about everything. On our way home on Saturday I was able to reflect on my week away in Nyngan. I realised how much of an impact I made on the children there. Even though all I did was spend two hours a day with them for four days playing tip, throwing a ball, piggy-backing and holding their hand, I had made them happy. One girl asked me if I could stay in Nyngan forever with them and didn’t understand why I had to leave. We had been the hands and feet of Jesus through our actions. Through our service we had shown them God’s unconditional love that He has for every single one of them. We weren’t paid to go over to Nyngan. Instead we gave up our free time during the holidays to go to the middle of nowhere for a week, but seeing the smiles light up their little town was priceless.

Another thing that I realised was that our faith in God is like powerlines. The powerlines stretch out long distances finding a connection where they can reach their power supply. The telegraph poles help the powerlines in reaching the supply and spreading the electricity where it is needed. Our Christian journey and faith in God is similar to this. We are constantly searching for that supply of energy, strength and power that we need to continually grow. God is like the telegraph poles that help us stay off the ground and keep on going. We rely on Him to give us the stability we need in order to maintain positivity and faith in Him.

Once we get to the cross of the telegraph pole, God allows us to continue on our journey, but He is always there supplying us with the strength we need. We have the opportunity to share that with other people wherever we find a need that we can fill. This Easter, I encourage you to remember that God died on the cross for every single one of us, despite what you are going through now or what you have already been through. He loves us no matter what and even through the storms and blackouts we experience in life, He still stands. When we connect together as powerlines and fix ourselves to His never ending supply, we can be the change and light up an entire city.

Keep smiling. x