JenniferSienes.com http://www.jennifersienes.com Wed, 09 Sep 2015 17:27:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Battle-Grounds http://www.jennifersienes.com/battle-grounds/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/battle-grounds/#comments Wed, 09 Sep 2015 17:27:07 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=1024 battlegroundOver the weekend, my husband and I saw the movie War Room. We weren’t sure what the theme was, but we’d heard it was a very good Christian film. Much to our surprise, Priscilla Shirer played the lead character. In case you’re unaware of who she is, Priscilla is an inspiring speaker, author and women’s Bible study teacher. But who knew she could act? Apparently someone did, and in my opinion, she does it very well.

But I digress.

Have you ever been amazed at how God orchestrates events in your life so that there is a definite theme? You know what I mean…you open your Bible to a particular scripture that speaks to a struggle you’re having. Then, you attend church and the pastor is speaking on that very issue. Or, you open up a devotional and it directs you to that same passage. I don’t know why I’m always so awestruck when God speaks to me—that He so intimately knows my heart and struggles as well as my fear and failures. That He will continually answer prayer, bring comfort and lead me in a direction that honors Him.

Sitting in a somewhat crowded movie theater watching War Room was one of those God moments. We’d attended church that morning and the guest speaker brought to us an inspiring message about discipleship and how we’re called, as Christians, to be discipled by Jesus and then, through His Spirit, disciple others. But there was another theme to this movie that struck my heart and soul—the importance of prayer in a world that is under spiritual attack. Namely, Satan.

We are a culture quick to judge others and defend ourselves. We find ways to justify our actions because our needs/wants/rights aren’t being met. It happens in marriages, parent-child relationships, careers… in any and every circumstance where two or more people are involved. And yes, it’s statistically shameful how often it happens in the church.

And although I’ve been aware of this for some time, there was still an “aha” moment as I watched a powerful scene in this movie. Elizabeth Jordan (Priscilla Shirer) realizes under the tutelage of an older, mature Christian, that her fight isn’t with her husband, but with Satan. John 10:10 states, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” And he will use any means to do so. So, she renounces Satan aloud, banishing him from her home, from the hearts of her husband and child and from her life. She and her family are under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

If this country is to have any chance of pulling out of the mess we’re in, we need to come together and fight the enemy—and he’s not our neighbor or our spouse or our co-worker. He is Satan, the author of lies. See him for who he is and know he will do anything to be lord of this world. And as hard as it is to hear, we are slave to one or the other—Jesus or Satan. It is the lie of the enemy that leads us to believe we are our own.

It is the second part of John 10:10 that is the promise, “I (Jesus) have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.

Unless we’re intimately connected with Jesus, we won’t see the blessing of this promise. I can work shoulder-to-shoulder with my husband day in and day out, but without the face-to-face communication, intimacy cannot be retained. It’s the same with Jesus. Unless we are connected through prayer and discipleship, we cannot retain a lasting intimacy. And without intimacy, the battle cannot be won. It starts with a prayer.

The battle-ground has been drawn. Which side of the war do you stand on?

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Divergent Paths http://www.jennifersienes.com/divergent-paths/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/divergent-paths/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 17:30:12 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=1018 IMG_0204Back in February, I stepped into what I thought was a temporary position (no more than two months) at my husband’s office. I was nervous because I didn’t know if I would be more help or hindrance. Running the front desk at a busy chiropractic practice wasn’t exactly one of my goals in life, nor did I think I’d be qualified for it. However, I did feel a deep sense of joy and certainty that God was doing something big there. I just didn’t think I’d be an active part of whatever it was.

If you are a subscriber to my blog posts, you know that this is the first I’ve written in over six months. The temporary position didn’t turn out to be temporary—God had another plan all along. Had I known that from the beginning, I doubt I’d have been so quick to volunteer my services. This is why God only gives us a small glimpse, rather than the whole picture. However, that deep sense of joy and certainty was not misplaced—God has definitely been at work in my husband’s practice.

These last several months have been one of the most difficult and the most joyous seasons I’ve been through. When the Lord decides to purge and refine, there is always collateral damage. Challenging circumstances define who we are—or Whose we are. What I’ve learned in the last six months:

  • There is complete joy when serving others that we cannot receive when serving ourselves.
  • We don’t learn much worth knowing in isolation.
  • Emotionally unhealthy people will always make excuses and/or seek a way to blame others for their failures.
  • Payroll taxes aren’t as complicated as they seem.
  • It’s important to admit when you don’t know something, and then be willing to hire competent people to teach you.
  • If you’re a good steward of the resources God gives you, He will continue to give you good resources.
  • Working long days with your spouse can actually be fun and fulfilling.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • It is possible to connect with everyone you meet. It just might take a little longer with some than others.
  • Don’t give up on people even when they’ve given up on you.
  • Dreams don’t necessarily die; they just get put on the back burner until God’s perfect timing.
  • A smile and a kind word have the power to change a person’s day—be it the giver or the receiver.
  • God is the author of your dreams—trust Him to use them in ways that far exceed your expectations.
  • Attitude matters.
  • True character reveals itself over time.

And last, but certainly not least, when we trust in God, He is faithful to be trustworthy.

 

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Metaphors http://www.jennifersienes.com/metaphors/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/metaphors/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 13:22:44 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=1004 thI truly love how the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God. When I hear comments that it’s an ancient book that has no bearing on our lives today, I’m stunned. Those who can make such claims surely haven’t delved into the rich history, divine guidance and timeless lessons that can be gleaned each time its tissue-thin pages are opened. And what I love most is that God speaks to me in a unique way that always gets to the heart of my circumstances—whether I need encouragement, direction or comfort.

So as I opened up the story of Gideon this morning, as led by Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study, I was again in awe of God’s message to me. In the midst of yet another of life’s trials, I needed the assurance that honoring Him in how I conduct myself will always pay off in the end. It may not be in world riches—money, power, or success—but it will pay off in divine riches. The first is temporary, but the last is eternal.

Priscilla writes this: Seeking God and His will must remain our constant desire and aspiration, even after we’ve begun seeing His strength demonstrated in our lives. Otherwise, we will be submerged beneath the momentum of human approval, momentary convenience, personal desires, or misplaced ambitions. And although these words bring to mind those times I’ve forgotten who it is I’m here to glorify (spoiler alert—it’s not me) at this precise moment, it’s a loud and clear reminder that we are often victimized to some extent by others that have forgotten who it is they should be honoring. And when we can count the footprints of those climbing up our backs in order to achieve their own success, it’s important for us to remember our own failures. 

And lest I forget how it is I should conduct myself in these trying times, Priscilla has this to say: Prayerfully consider what’s happening in your life right now and then make a commitment to remain consistent in your conversation with and dependence on God. The courage, direction, and divine favor you’ll receive from an ongoing fresh relationship with the Savior is exactly what you’ll need to stay on track.

Obviously, she’s using Gideon’s story as a metaphor for how quickly we can go from divine direction to selfish ambition. How quickly we can forget our pleas for God to see us through a circumstance only to run with a blessing in a less-than-God-honoring way. Gideon, who believed himself to be the weakest member of the weakest tribe couldn’t understand how God could use him in a mighty way. But as soon as he gained some fame and respect (because of how God strengthened and blessed him) he believed his own press and sought retribution rather than justice. And the end result wasn’t pretty.

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Stepping Out http://www.jennifersienes.com/stepping-out/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/stepping-out/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 18:16:46 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=1000 IMG_5446Although many of my friends find it hard to believe, I’m an introvert by nature. I think most people don’t understand what constitutes introversion and extroversion. It’s not that an introvert sits huddled in a corner, unable to socialize and an extrovert is a party-hardy type. Rather, an introvert regains his/her energy by being alone while an extrovert is energized in the company of others.

So, the fact that I’ve spent the last seven years working from my home (in the midst of twenty—very quiet—acres) has been a blessing. It’s not only comfortable, but preferable. Aside from the characters in my book, there is little conflict or need to be diplomatic. Life is pretty much my way, which is only a short trip to Entitlement. If that isn’t scary enough, we all know it’s nearly impossible to grow in comfort. And although this career has not always been “comfortable” and I’ve learned much about the writing process and the precarious publishing world, it’s hasn’t stretched me much in other areas.

Lately, there’s been a sense of dissatisfaction for which I immediately feel guilty. How could I possibly be dissatisfied when God has blessed me so abundantly. How many people are able to quit their careers to follow their heart’s desire? How many people have a godly, supportive and encouraging spouse to champion them every day? So to be dissatisfied seems…ungrateful. And although I am grateful, that dissatisfaction has continued. What is it all about? That’s what I’ve been asking God.

I’ve discovered over and over again when things seem “off” it’s Him preparing my heart for something. My prayer over the last several weeks has been to know what that something is. I can’t imagine not writing, so I don’t believe He’s calling me away from that. But instead, He’s allowing me a season away for reasons that have not yet been revealed. Rather than being tucked away in my quiet office, I’m down at Chris’s office working with people for eight or more straight hours a day. And it’s been a blessing.

The compassionate heart I’ve prayed for is being fed. I see joy and pain and inspiration in the faces that come and go. It’s an opportunity to see my husband’s gift touch others and understand why, even at a stage in his life many others retire, he isn’t. It’s a chance for me to learn the business end of things so I’m able to step in and help where needed. And, it’s a chance to replenish my story ideas, because everyone who walks through that door has a story. Like the couple who’ve been married for over sixty years and are still so heart-meltingly in love. Or the old man who hobbles in with a grin and a wink, despite being riddled with pain. Tears of joy and tears of laughter—both touch my heart in a different way. And I can’t get that while squirreled away in my quiet, cozy office.

And although I come home at the end of the day with my energy depleted to face chores that still need to get done, there is a sense of satisfaction in a day well spent. Is it my calling? No. I still believe God calls me to write. But it’s a season—one I’m grateful for. Because when I’m back at my computer, my characters will be richer for the experience.

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Detours http://www.jennifersienes.com/detours/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/detours/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 22:01:29 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=996 DSC01671“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” James 1:2.

I love the book of James, although I will admit the above verse has confounded me in the past. Joy when facing a trial? Is that even possible? I believe it is, when we have the right perspective—and it isn’t ours.

Less than two weeks ago, my husband and I had a little “discussion” about an issue down at his office. I’ve said in the past that I tend to be more old testament—law; and he tends to be more new testament—grace. So, when I think something needs to happen now, I can let my emotions get the better of me. Rather than allowing God to work out the details, I become a little god in our household. After this “discussion” I texted an apology to Chris with the suggestion that it might be best if I pull completely back from his practice. Not that I play a big role, but I take part in the staff meetings and spend some time handling bills and learning the business end of things.

Bless my husband’s grace-filled heart, he disagreed. He said he depended on my ears and eyes and my wise counsel, even if I get “passionate” about things. My prayer for the past month had been to let go and let God—to trust that He has a handle on the issues at hand and trust that Chris is listening to His guidance. Then last weekend, it became clear God had a plan in the midst of all this. Rather than have me pull away, he put me smack in the middle of things—full-time. Chris and I both know it’s temporary, but I knew the minute we made the decision to follow this nudge, God was at work—from the beginning.

It’s easy to look at the challenging circumstances in our lives and think it’s all about us. However, when there are others involved, be it family, friends or co-workers, we should remember that it’s really not all about us. It just may be that God is working in someone else’s life through our particular circumstances. Or, maybe, He’s stirring things up with a total shift in mind. That’s what I believe is happening in this season Chris and I find ourselves.

Normally, my response to this would be panic. “What do You mean there’s a change coming? I don’t like change.” But in this instance, there is an undercurrent of excitement and joy—like a child awaiting Christmas morning. Because if I’ve learned nothing else the past ten years I’ve been walking with the Lord, I know He’s always faithful to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. How? I don’t know. What will the end result be? No clue. But it doesn’t matter, because He’s at work.

So, for the next few months, I’m putting my full-time writing career on hold, not that it’ll matter all that much—Francine Rivers, I’m not. I’ll continue posting weekly blogs, but I won’t have six-plus hours a day to immerse myself in characters. Instead, I’ll be immersed in the practice, serving my husband in whatever capacity God deems fit. It’s time-consuming, exhausting and exciting juggling the new work responsibilities with the ongoing household chores. And when everything shakes out, who knows what life will look like? But, I can hardly wait to find out.

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Cheap, Plastic Beads http://www.jennifersienes.com/cheap-plastic-beads/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/cheap-plastic-beads/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 01:13:03 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=991 beadsLast year, my husband and I did a couples’ study of Romans 12 with Chip Ingram. In one of the DVD’s he told a story of a little girl who vacationed with her family at the beach. Around her neck, she wore cheap, plastic beads, which she treasured. There was an old fisherman who noticed her love for these beads. So, he gathered oysters day by day until he had enough pearls to make her a necklace. But when he tried to trade the cheap plastic beads for the beautiful pearl necklace, she refused to let go of them. Chip’s point was that we often do this in our lives. We’re so caught up in what we have in hand, we don’t see the blessings God has in store for us if only we’d release the trivial long enough to achieve His best.

In the Gideon study I’m doing with my ladies’ bible study group, Priscilla Shirer asks the question, “Is there something you’re holding onto that you need to release?” Because this is a women’s study, I don’t think I’m going out on a ledge here if I say most women (dare I say most people) tend to hold onto a portion of their lives, rather than surrendering everything to God. I would hazard a guess that this comes from fear—which is a lack of faith.

And although I know this, it’s pretty easy for me to get caught up in the attitude that if everyone just did things my way, the world would be a better place. Somehow, I don’t think that’s the message God is trying to convey in this season He’s allowed me to live through. In fact, may I suggest that it’s quite possible His message may be the exact opposite! And I have to say, it’s a very thin line between control and nagging—at least when it comes to women and marriage.

I think the issue at heart is one of trust. Do I trust enough in God to let things go and have faith that He has a handle on my life? That I can take the submissive role in my marriage and know that He is guiding my husband? If I’m caught up in seeing things done my way, the obvious answer is, “No.” This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. We can’t have it both ways—say we trust God on one hand while metaphorically slapping someone for not doing things the way we want with the other.

If I truly let go, what do I have to lose? When I think back over the years, the reality is this: the biggest losses in my life led to the greatest rewards. And these rewards didn’t come to pass until I let go and let God. Because that’s truly who our God is—he’s bigger than our earth-bound plans, bigger than our trivial materialistic needs, bigger than life itself. Yet, how easy it is for us to forget.

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To Snipe or To Serve http://www.jennifersienes.com/to-snipe-or-to-serve/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/to-snipe-or-to-serve/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 18:49:35 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=987 thIt was on Sunday, during the first session of a Bible study my husband facilitates on marriage, that it struck me—I am a nitpicker. The book we’re studying is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. His premise is that God created marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy. Nitpicking is definitely not an attribute of holiness. And, of course, my husband receives the brunt of my A-type attitude.

I arrived home Sunday afternoon convicted. Although much of my nitpicking is internal, Matthew 12:34 says “For the mouth speaks out of which fills the heart.” And isn’t it our hearts that concerns God? So, I decided to change my attitude. Rather than be irritated by Chris’s shoes left in the living room as a tripping hazard, I’ll put them away or move them aside. Lights left on, closet doors left open, water splattered all over the kitchen counter takes only a moment to rectify without comment or heavy sighs. How much simpler is it to serve than to snipe—even if it’s internal sniping? It didn’t take long for me to discover there was a side benefit to this—joy.

Then it happened. An off-hand comment Chris made this morning, that had nothing to do with me, pushed a button and the snarky attitude reared its ugly head once again. I was ashamed. How quickly I can revert to that old sin nature, and for what—a perceived hurt? It made me wonder how many other times my response to any given situation had little to do with outward appearances, but instead, was a reaction to some deep, hidden hurt or insecurity.

When discussing disagreements in our group on Sunday, I commented that often, what a couple is fighting about has nothing to do with what they’re fighting about. Instead we react to some imperceptible issue or pain that we most likely thought was a thing of the past. But some wounds run deep—so deep, it would take a CAT to dig them out. And how do we work through our issues if we’re not even aware of what they are?

I will be the first to admit, I have it pretty easy. Chris takes to heart Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church…” No, he’s not perfect, but in this, I see how he strives to be a godly husband. Maybe he’s got some internal sniping going on, but I rarely see it reflected in his tone or attitude toward me. I realize there are many couples that have some serious issues that aren’t easily resolved with an attitude adjustment. But I love how Gary Thomas highlights some of the most difficult marriages in his book and points out how God used those difficulties to prepare one or both for something truly amazing. We are honed—as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (or spouse) Proverbs 27:17.

Each of us is a flawed, sinful individual. None of us is perfect—not even my sweet husband. But God chooses our spouse (or allows it, if you were not led by Him into your marriage) for a specific purpose. I’d like to see each difficulty or struggle as an opportunity to strive for holiness rather than seeking my own. And when that snarky attitude rears its ugly head again (as I’m sure it will) it’s a reminder that God still has a lot of work yet to do in me.

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The Art of Wasting Time http://www.jennifersienes.com/the-art-of-wasting-time/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/the-art-of-wasting-time/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 05:00:48 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=983 UnknownMost people who know me see me as a disciplined person. I spend time in the Word each morning, work out every day, and aside from the occasional chocolate indulgence, eat healthy. I’m not making this claim to toot my own horn—believe me, some of these practices come from psychologically unhealthy motives. But I want to set the stage, so to speak.

There are so many distractions in the world today, it’s a wonder anyone can stay focused on what’s truly important. And contrary to popular opinion, it’s not Facebook, or endless hours of television, or surfing the Net—none of which are my default zones. No, mine is computer Solitaire. It’s amazing how one game becomes two, then three, then… hello, wasted time! I find this is especially true when I’m suffering from writer’s block. It’s much easier to focus on some ridiculous game than the real issue—the fear of inadequacy.

I wonder how many people slip into the Art of Wasting Time for just this reason. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these activities—in moderation. But spending an inordinate amount of time in pointless tasks—with no eternal value or significance—is just another form of self-medication. How much easier it is to zone out than to face life. You might think, So, what? It’s not hurting anyone. I don’t believe that’s true. Wasted time is just one of the enemy’s strategies for making us ineffective.

What is truly brilliant about this strategy is that we can easily fall into it and never realize how impacting it can be—negatively. But every hour that we succumb to apathy is a win for Satan. Do you see how perfect it is? We don’t have to be wicked or rude or disparaging in order to serve Satan. We just have to be useless. When I realized this, it was like a slap in the face. I don’t want to stand before Jesus at Judgment and defend lost time playing Solitaire.

So, because I’m a somewhat disciplined person, I took action. I deleted these games from my desktop, my laptop and my iPad. When I get a Facebook invite to join one of the myriads of games available to play with my friends, I trash the request without responding. If that seems rude, I apologize, but I know my limitations. It wouldn’t take long before I’m sucked into the vortex of catatonia.

Instead, when I need down time, I would rather read an inspiring book, spend some quality time conversing with my children or even scrubbing the shower. Or, if I’m really brave, face that fear of inadequacy head on and prove to myself what the apostle Paul pronounced in Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

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Gideon-Like http://www.jennifersienes.com/gideon-like/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/gideon-like/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 02:21:04 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=977 img_1253643266722_251A couple weeks ago, I started Priscilla Shirer’s Gideon study with my ladies’ Bible study group. Although this character has only three short chapters in the book of Judges, he has so much to teach me! And Priscilla Shirer is a whiz at pointing out the commonalities between this meek, insecure Israelite and those of us walking the earth today.

One of the truths that hit home today is that, like Gideon, I ask all kinds of questions of God when I really already know the answer. I just don’t like it. So many of the difficult circumstances in my life have been consequences of my own stubborn disobedience. Yet, instead of admitting this, I find myself asking, “Why?” when I should be asking, “What? What is it God is teaching me—and will I ever get it right?”

But what I love about our God is that He sees beyond the mistakes we make, our disobedience and insecurities—the Israelites proved this over and over again. Instead, He sees the finished product. As Gideon is hiding out in the winepress, threshing wheat, fearful for his life, the Lord approaches him with these words: “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” Judges 6:12. Gideon appeared to be anything but valiant or warrior-like. It’s a wonder God doesn’t just throw His hands up and give up on us, isn’t it?

Yet, instead, He showed the Israelites mercy and poured blessings upon them even when they were walking in disobedience. Priscilla Shirer is quick to make this point: “…both oppression and abundance can coexist in the lives of God’s people. God’s loyalty does not equal God’s approval.” But is does signify God’s love and mercy for us. This was a key point to me because I could easily assume, since life is pretty good, I’m doing everything right. Wrong!

Every difficult circumstance in my life can be traced back to my disobedience—just like the Israelites. And yet, He gives me a life of abundance and puts dreams in my heart that He somehow plans to fulfill. He looks past my grumbling and grousing, past my self-centeredness and fear, past my…well, past. Can you imagine what valiant warriors for God we could be if we were able to see ourselves as He does? And even more so if we could just get the concept of obedience. I’m just grateful He continues to thresh me like wheat!

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Sitting is Killing Me http://www.jennifersienes.com/sitting-is-killing-me/ http://www.jennifersienes.com/sitting-is-killing-me/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 01:41:02 +0000 http://www.jennifersienes.com/?p=975 Tread Desk ImageFor a lot of us, sitting is an occupational hazard–and I do mean hazard. More and more research is coming out about the health risks of sitting for extended periods of time. When I was raising my kids, this wasn’t an issue. When I worked at my own housecleaning business, this wasn’t an issue. When I taught school… You get the point.

But now that I’m a writer, my health is at risk. It doesn’t matter that I work out almost every day or that I spend much of my weekend on my feet. It’s those hours in front of the computer that put me at risk. Dr. Mercola is a much better resource than I, so I urge you to read his article, Sitting Less May Be Key for Maximum Longevity

My solution? I finally broke down and ordered a Tread Desk which will be here at the end of the month. This will allow me to walk while I work. Sounds a little bit like patting my head and rubbing my tummy, but I’m hopeful I can get the coordination down. I’m not planning on winning any marathons–just a nice, steady one mile an hour. It won’t get me in fighting shape, but it’ll keep me off my tush, which is the whole point.

What can you do to maximize your health?

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