Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Human Improvement


Photo: www.abintraphoto.com

A few weeks ago, I was doing some home improvement work on our new house. My do-it-yourself undertakings included spray painting some doorknobs. Turns out, spray painting metal takes some finesse. Finesse that I was not born with. My first try was a disaster. The paint basically looked like it was melting off of the knobs. The struggle was real. Not to be so easily defeated, I broke out some sandpaper and decided to try again. In the hours of grueling sandpapering that followed, I had a realization. Those knobs represented my life. Not because I'm "dumber than a doorknob," but because like them, I have to be refinished over and over and over again.

I screw up all of the time. Stupid little things, devastating big things. Mistake after mistake. I'm far from complete. I'm just one giant melty looking doorknob. Gross and untouchable.

But, also like those knobs, I can be refinished. It takes time, and hard work, but my messy life can once again be a thing of beauty. God is my craftsman. He takes the mistakes in my life and refines me  (Psalm 66:10). He uses my screw ups to make me new. He carefully scrapes off the residue of sin from my life and layers on a new coat of grace.

The process isn't easy. It hurts to have your mistakes smoothed out and fixed. This refining often exposes your flaws, leaves you vulnerable in ways you'd never imagined possible. It's painful, but it's worth it.

God is doing what is best for us. He takes an area of life where we fail, and he slowly changes that area into something that glorifies Him. He takes our ugly and makes it ok. He brings beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

In the end, we can be His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Through the fire and pressure, we come out a glorious new creature. Flawless in His eyes because of the sacrifices of His Son. To the world, we might not seem perfect (just like my doorknobs). They can still see our flaws, our painful blemishes. But in the eyes of the Master Craftsman, we are spotless and forgiven, pure and whole.

Welcome the sandpaper into your life, in time it will heal your soul.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Battle Within



In the interest of continuing the transparency of my last blog, I'm wanting to share a little more with everyone. I'm struggling. Struggling hard. A vicious depression has dug it's claws into my soul, and is having a hard time letting go. I've spent the length of this summer battling a deep depression. To be completely forthcoming, I often dreamt of the release of death. Hoping with every passing day that some insane driver would swerve into my lane and end my misery. I had no desire to remove myself from this life, but I wanted someone else to do the courtesy for me. It's been a trip.

I'm just hitting the point in which I'm starting to enjoy myself again. The goofy, joyful, bubbly Jaci is slowly returning, she's winning the battle, but it's a brutal one. Today I found myself dancing and singing to my Spotify playlist while cleaning our place. It's been a while since I've cared enough to do that.

In conversation with a wonderful friend (kindred spirit???) last night, we discovered a similar struggle. After being hurt by people over and over and over again, it's easy to fall into an indifferent mindset. We don't want to meet new people, we don't want to put the effort into new friendships. It's too hard to pour yourself into someone else, only to be stabbed in the back for trying to help. It's happened too many times in the last few years. To pile that on top of the number of friends and family members I've lost recently, it's safe to say this depression was a long time in coming. These last few years have contained so many wonderful moments, but the space between those grand times have been filled with countless tragedies. Betrayal, death, abandonment, heartbreak. It's a wonder we, as humans, are able to survive the emotional mess that is life.

Here's my point. Depression is real. It's widespread. It hits the people you would least expect. It is not shameful. When someone you love is depressed, they will do their best to push you away. They don't want you to hurt them any more than they are already hurt. But pushing you away ends up breaking them even more. Please, please be there to stand by them during their struggle. Be the strength that they need to face the next day.

Some of us are very good at hiding our struggles, some of us are not. Pay attention to those you love. If they're showing signs of depression, don't just give up on them. Don't treat them like they're an exile. Love them more every day, and do what is best for them. Show them that they really do have allies in this life. It's hard to feel alone, harder than some of you might know.

I understand that people get caught up in their own lives, but this summer has made me wish that some people would focus a little more on the world around them. I understand that my depression is my own, but other people's actions can make it just that much harder. I wish some had been gentler with my feelings. Pay attention to the people in your life. If someone is acting weird, maybe they're not just being a brat. They might be battling demons in their own lives, reach out to them.

Always,

Jaci

Saturday, September 12, 2015

On Being Lonely



I'm a very lonely person. I feel the chill of it most days. I'm a part of the world, but the world doesn't truly understand me. I feel as though nobody fathoms me. It's like being lost in the ocean, surrounded by millions of life rafts with people on them, just out of reach. I'm close to people, but I'm not a part of them.

I've always been this way. My whole life. I tend to be a very busy person. There's a reason for that. I can't be alone and not doing anything, because the ache of loneliness sets in most profoundly when I'm immobile. Activity helps me to forget.

But reality always sets in at some point. I can't remain mobile indefinitely. I will always have a few spare moments to remember how alone I am.

I thought getting married would be a great fix to the loneliness. Having another person around 24/7 would surely keep me from getting depressed. That's not the case. If anything, marriage reminds you how different the other person is. How little we understand of each other. Nobody can completely understand another person. We are alone in the world. Not one human being can be there for you 100% of the time.

That's where faith comes in to play. When other people might not care about me, might not want to be around me, might simply tolerate me. God cherishes me. He understands me. He wants to spend time with me. He choses me to be His own (1 Samuel 12:22). He has so much love for me, it's astounding. His love knows no bounds.

Lately, I've felt like I've been attacked on every side. Things have been hard at work, at home, at church. I feel rejected. I feel stomped on. I feel, generally, like a loser. But then God changes things up, just a little, to remind me of my importance. He puts people in my workplace who tell me that they believe in me, even when I feel like I'm failing. He nudges my husband to remind him to thank me for making dinner.

Even when everything else is breaking at the seams, God holds us in His arms and comforts us. He lets us know that we are loved. That even if nobody can see our value, He does.

And you know what? He is enough for me. His love brings me back to the surface. To give me the will power to keep struggling through each day. To throw my head back and prove to the naysayers that I am better than they think. That, even if I am not worthy of their time, I am worthy of His...and His opinion matters more than theirs.

Just remember this: sometimes, when people act like they have it all together, they don't. We're all broken, just in different ways. Think before you judge someone too harshly. When you have a problem with someone, before trying to ruin their standing in your circle, remember that they're fragile. The things you say could prove to destroy them. I was almost destroyed. The things that people were saying, doing to me made me want to curl up and die. I didn't want to keep going. It's been a months long struggle, but God is helping to pull me out of the hole I've been thrown in.

God is faithful. He'll be there to show me the way. Always.
Always.

Jackelyn Stange

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Addiction - Part 4



It's time. Time to wrap up the blogs about addiction. My fourth and final thought is this: addiction comes in many forms. It's not just the three heave hitters: alcoholism, drug abuse and pornography. Addiction is anything you allow to control your life. It is whatever you invest your time in, the things that take precedence over everything else.

Addiction is your favorite pastime, your cherished possessions, your pride and joy. It can manifest itself in something silly and small, like a set of markers. It can show up in your love for another person. It can be anywhere: cell phones, cars, money, education, work, games, friendships, shoes, exercise, etc. Anything that consumes your time, takes your focus away from God and your relationship with Him. Good things can become addictions: church, generosity, cleanliness. Bad things certainly be addictive: lying, cigarettes, theft.

An addiction is anything that takes the place of the truly important things in life. It makes the people close to you feel unloved. It creates a wall between you and what is God's Will for you life. It takes away from the time that you have to create cherished memories.

I have a confession. I haven't written anything in quite some time, due in part to one of my addictions. Books. I've neglected my blog because I wanted to read fabulous fiction. When I am in the mood to read, nothing can get in my way. Books are my life source. I've gone so far as to call in sick to work when a particular new book was released. When I was a kid, I would get in trouble on a regular basis for reading my enjoyment books when I was supposed to be finishing school work. Fiction has been a love of mine for most of my life. Now, is that a bad thing? Absolutely not! Being a book lover is absolutely fine. The problem comes into play when I start to ignore the rest of my life, because I'm so caught up in my books.

Always remember: prioritize. You don't have to give up the things you love, just don't let them control you. Remember to follow up on your responsibilities. Make time for the people in your life. Worship God in everything that you do, especially when participating in the activities that you get the most caught up in.

You are God's child. You are not your own. Remember that. Live each day to please Him. When you find yourself falling back into habits that make you push Jesus out of your life, turn around and reach for Him. He will always be there to pull you back into His arms. He will never leave you, He will never forsake you (Deut 31:6), no matter what you find yourself addicted to. God is well-versed in forgiveness. Simply go to Him in repentance, and He will help you change your ways.

God Bless.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Addiction - Part 3



We've come to the last of the big ones: porn. Last, perhaps, but certainly not least. This addiction is the most prevalent in our society. There are staggering statistics surrounding the use of porn, most of the boom in those statistics branching from the development of the internet. But I'm not here to talk about statistics. I'm here to talk about the lasting pain that porn addiction can leave. To quote the extraordinarily insightful catchphrase of the Fight The New Drug movement: Porn Kills Love.

Pornography alters the brain. It changes the way people see others. It objectifies human beings. It demotes a person from an equal to a subject. Porn makes it easy to believe that others are on this planet simply to please you. To do as you command. To serve you. It steals humanity.

An addiction to pornography makes you treat people differently. It promotes rape culture. It cultivates superiority complexes. It breaks trust. It destroys wedding vows. Seeing others as objects makes it easier to cheat on your spouse. If you condone seeing images of sexual infidelity for long enough, you can convince yourself that anything flies. 

It's hard to trust someone after they've betrayed you in this way. I once caught an ex-boyfriend using MY laptop for such purposes. It was the source of bitterness in our relationship until it's ultimate demise. See, the thing is, I never fully trusted him again. He had been lying to me, even lied to my face when I caught him. That's the thing about addiction. It beckons you to follow. It calls you into its shadows. It convinces you that what you're doing is ok. That nobody needs to know. That you're better off lying to everyone around you, as long as you get your next fix.

But real life doesn't work that way. You can't hide forever. Eventually, someone WILL find out. And when that day comes, you will have hurt the ones you care about the most. If you love someone, you won't lie to them. If they love you, they'll be there to hold your hand through the battle. If they don't love you enough to stand by your side, they clearly aren't the right person for you. You need to stand up for yourself, guard your heart against the poison of pornography. Protect those around you from the inevitable pain of your addiction. Let people help.

Contrary to popular belief, this addiction is not strictly a man's battle. The aforementioned statistics claim that a staggering percentage of women also struggle with porn. In example, when I was moving into an apartment in college, the girl who was vacating my new room had stacks upon stacks of Playgirl Magazine. Women objectify men just as much as men objectify women. We see Channing Tatum in the movies, Ryan Reynolds on the cover of a magazine, the "perfect" face, "perfect" physique. Then we expect our boyfriends, husbands to look and act like those men who are playing parts in a fictional story. We moan and complain when our man doesn't jump out of an airplane shirtless, displaying his six-pack abs, with a dozen roses, only to land at our feet producing a diamond ring strapped to the collar of a puppy.

Real men fart (my husband literally just did, FYI). They forget to take out the garbage. They stink when they sweat. Only gym rats have washboard stomaches. Only millionaires buy flowers once a week. Men are wonderful, simple creatures. They are humans, they have faults. They also have amazing redeeming qualities. We need to look at them as people, not pictures.

Men and women, we're destroying each other. Our addiction to the perfection of the human body is causing such horrible psychological side effects. Why do you think eating disorders are on the rise? Why is there a gym on every corner? Why is 80% of Pinterest packed with "healthy eating" and "fat burning workouts?" We've created a complex. None of us is flawless, but we can't be happy in our imperfection.

The next time you see a sexual advertisement, watch a movie with nudity, grab a "scandalous" magazine, or go online to browse through porn, think of the person inside that body. A real person with hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, feelings, habits. Let's stop seeing others as objects and start seeing them as brothers and sisters, tangible human beings.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Addiction - Part 2


I think the topic of addiction is so deeply important that it deserves multiple blog posts. It touches so many lives, hurts so many people.

There are a multitude of forms of addiction. People can be addicted to all different unhealthy practices. Alcohol, drugs, porn, these are the heavy hitters, the major offenders. But there are others, the ones that seem small, that can quietly destroy us. Money, entertainment, food. If we give things the power to control us, even if they are perfectly innocent in small doses, they can tear us apart from the inside.

Addiction is selfish. It stems from our need to put ourselves first. Porn and food addicts put their mental cravings above that of their mental and physical health. They seek pleasure over stability. Alcoholics and druggies are simply searching for escape. They don't think they can handle their lives, so they do everything they can to forget them. They're selfishly ignoring the world around them, the people out there that need them, so that they can forget reality. They don't take into account that their actions could hurt the people who care about them.

I have someone I love dearly who is currently doing what he can to overcome an addiction to heroin. I've known him since he was little. He was so innocent. So happy. I remember the joyful light in his eyes when he was 7, and had been at an event with face painting. When he came to see me, his face was painted like a zebra. He was the cutest thing. We spent the day hiding in a closet, pretending to be secret agents. He was so full of life. He was so beautiful.

It's been 14 years since that day. He's been hospitalized on multiple occasions for overdosing, he's been homeless more times than I can count, not a soul in this world trusts him. He's bitter. He's hard. He's lost himself. He's paranoid. He thinks everyone is out to get him. Even me. It kills me. I love this kid. I want nothing more than to help him. To be there for him. But I can't. He thinks I'm the enemy. The years of drug use have rewired his brain, he has a long road to recovery.

His need to escape into drugs was a rebellious response to losing his own mother and brother to their addictions. Their selfish actions started a domino effect. Every choice you make can have an impact on the world around you.

You're not alone. There are people out there that care about you. Even if you've lost your family and friends and feel alone. This world is filled with compassionate hearts that bleed for those lost in addiction. We care. We love you. We want you back.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Addiction - Part 1



Addiction. It's something that infiltrates all of our lives. It has an impact on everyone.

We've all seen it. We've all dealt with it. It's everywhere.

People with addiction problems think that they're only hurting themselves. They couldn't be more wrong. Addiction hurts us all.

There are so many forms of addiction. People can be addicted to all different unhealthy practices. Alcohol, drugs, porn, these are the heavy hitters, the major offenders. But there are others, the ones that seem small, that can quietly destroy us. Money, entertainment, food. If we give things the power to control us, even if they are perfectly innocent in small doses, they can tear us apart from the inside.

Have you ever cared about someone that was destroying themselves? Watching them suffer is as bad, if not worse, than suffering yourself. Standing by helplessly while they tear themselves apart, while they KILL themselves is heartbreaking. It's crushing.

Addiction kills. It destroys lives. Physically and psychologically. 

Alcoholism is one of the most common addictions in our society. So many people drink their lives away, we've all come into contact with our fair share of alcoholics.

Too many of these people think that their choice does't have any impact on the people around them. They think they're the only ones affected by their actions. They don't realize what they're doing to their loved ones.

A woman I cared about deeply gave in to her addictions and it cost her life. For years it chipped away at the things that could have brought her happiness. Her unquenchable need for alcohol kept her from investing in relationships with her family. Her children that were once her life source were pushed away and left feeling unwanted. She kept them at an arm's length, gave up on having a relationship with them. It drove her from the things that once brought her joy.

She lost several jobs, she stopped searching for her purpose. She was content with drinking every day, to forget the pain of loss. She forgot how to live without a protective barrier of inebriation.

This continued for years, and eventually drinking took her life. Her death was caused by the very thing that had been chipping away at her. Her health deteriorated after years of drinking, and her untimely death came after a long weekend of bingeing. Alcohol stole her from us.

Addiction isn't a game of solitaire. It changes the lives of everyone around you. It tears apart families, breaks children's hearts, destroys livelihoods.

Look around you. Don't give in to the temptation. It's not worth it.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Monday, June 8, 2015

Find Your Calling



Some people confuse the act of sacrifice with the act of obedience. Obedience is following God's path for your life. It's discerning the will of the Lord, and following. Obedience is not simply giving up your time and money. You can volunteer all you want, but if you're not following the plan God has set for your life, you're not practicing discernment.

Doing something just because nobody else has stepped up to the task doesn't always produce the results God is looking for. In fact, immersing yourself in tasks that you aren't cut out for can cause distraction in your life. Spending all of your time doing something that isn't your calling takes away from the time you could be obeying God's will. 

Focus on what you are meant to be doing. Don't fill your plate with things that you aren't cut out for. Our purpose is to excel at our calling. To be the best that we can be. If our attention is divided and not focused on God, we're not serving Him, we're serving ourselves.

Sometimes we get so self-focused and self-important that we think things will only function if we're the ones in charge. Like the entire world will come crashing down in flames if we don't step in and take charge.

Guess what? There will always be someone around to step up, eventually. And maybe stepping up is what you're called to do. But if it isn't, don't get too caught up taking over everything for everyone and miss out on what's meant for you.

When we take over tasks that aren't meant for us, not only are we redirecting our own focus away from what we are meant to do, but we are also taking away opportunities from the rest of God's people. When I try to force my way into a leadership position in Kid's Ministry (which I am clearly not cut out for), I take that position away from someone who is truly called to be in it.

Spend time praying about what you're doing in your life. Make sure that you're following God's plan. His path is the only right path. He knows what is best for you. He knows what you're capable of. He gives you tasks that only you can handle.

His ways are always right. His desire is that you will follow Him, obey Him.

Do what you're called to do.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

No Other Gods

Photo: pixshark

There's this part of the Bible. It's called the Ten Commandments. Within those commandments is this: You shall have no other gods before me.

This is something we all struggle with every day. We love our smart phones, our cars, our money, ourselves. But here's a surprising candidate in the pool of things we place too much importance in:

CHURCH

Now, let me be clear. Church in a Christian's life is of utmost importance. Fellowship is where we learn how to deal with sin, where we find mentors, where we grow in Christ with like-minded Christians. Church is vital, it's important, it's necessary.

But when humans place too much honor, too much significance on their own individual church, this is where problems arise. The church is not something that is to be held in higher regard than Jesus Himself. The church is simply a conduit through which people worship Jesus Christ, it should not be worshiped itself.

This pedestal that we put churches on can be formed in so many ways. Sometimes it is the church itself that pushes it's own superiority. Things like a church claiming that only the people who attend their specific church will go to Heaven, or insisting that their brand is more important than any other church. An example:

My church organizes small groups throughout the year. Those small groups have a specified curriculum that we have to stick to each meeting. That's totally fine, completely normal. We're meeting in a group with the church name in the title, the church has the right to choose what we study.

Now, if my church stepped in and told me what I could and could not study in my women's Bible study, which has no affiliation with the church itself...that would be crossing the line.

In that example, the church would be thinking more highly of itself and the brand that it is publicizing than the spiritual growth of the people in it. It is not the church's place to dictate what I can and cannot do in my personal life. As a Christian, I should be making wise and godly decisions. As a leader in church, I need to be an example for those around me, otherwise the church would have every right to ask me to step down from my roles. But it is my choice to live my those guidelines. It is no one else's place to decide the outcome of my life.

Sometimes it is not the church as a whole that is corrupt, but a select few of the leadership. One bad apple ruins it for everyone. These are the people that take things to an extreme. Their church says white shirts shouldn't be worn on stage, because the reflections of the lights will be blinding? This leader decides to kick anyone who ever wears white off of the worship team. Legalism at it's finest. These people are so important to weed out and quickly get into corrective action. If you don't take care of the weed in your garden, it will grow up and choke everything else out.

As church leaders, take care that you are not putting the desires of one above the souls of those lost in sin. Our ultimate goal is to reach those who are perishing. To be a witness. To love the hurting. If a non-believer saw you being so rigid, would it turn them off from the church entirely?

Often, the idealism of a church is simply created in one person's mind. An individual can elevate their status within a church to something of greater importance than it actually is. Be careful not to think too highly of yourself. A while ago, I asked someone if they were a volunteer at their church. The individual got EXTREMELY offended and said, "Of course not, I'm on staff." As though being a volunteer were some sort of insult. I would say this person was glorifying their church, as well as their standing within the church. As though being a staff member gave them some special social standing. It should never be looked down upon to be a volunteer. The church is held up by the effort of volunteers. Being a staff member does not make someone more elite than anyone else, and responding the way that person did is overtly pretentious.

Get off your high horse.

Climb down and hang out with us, the normal, "boring" people.

We're working to glorify God.

Make sure that's what you're doing too.

Worship God, not the church.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Own Worst Enemy


Photo: Promise Photography

Who is my biggest rival? Who hurts me the most? Who do I despise regularly? Myself. Always myself. My biggest enemy is me. 

A good friend pointed out the other night that I have an tendency to beat myself up over trivial things. I let stuff get under my skin, I let it fester, I let it grow out of proportion. Then I tell myself how much I suck, how much of a failure I am, how much nobody likes me. I dwell on my faults, I rip myself apart from the inside.

Why? I honestly have no idea. Probably because fear of failure is my biggest fear. I don't want people to see me as inadequate. So when I do anything wrong, anything at all, I get extremely frustrated. I tell myself that I suck and I'm not good at ANYTHING and I should just give up.

Because of this, it's so very hard for me to accept criticism. Most of the time, I already know I've made a mistake. I've probably been mulling over it, smacking my forehead with my palm, and generally hating myself the entire time. Then, when somebody steps in and takes it upon themselves to point out my faults, I suddenly have all of my fears and frustrations confirmed. I do suck, I am stupid, everybody does hate me. If they didn't think all of those things about me, why would they be telling me how much I failed?

Having read Crash the Chatterbox, I know these thoughts are just Satan, trying to derail me. He knows these things about me, knows how hard I am on myself. He helps manipulate situations so that my silly brain will careen off into self loathing. He knows my weaknesses.

God promises that He will give strength to the powerless (Isaiah 40:28-29). He is my rock, my fortress (Psalm 62:6). When I start to feel down about myself, I can look to the Creator of Heaven and Earth and know that He believes in me. He doesn't think I'm useless or a waste of space. He knows what I'm capable of, and He knows what He has planned for my life.

God has a path laid out for each and every one of us. If you feel like me sometimes, take heart! You are precious and loved. No missteps that we make can change His mind about us. He sees beyond the human nature and into the soul. His love can set you free.

Sometimes, life is hard. For everyone. Be careful with people. Even if they seem strong and carefree, they're still fragile. Take the time learn about them, to lift them up rather than tear them down.

So you feel like the Joker now
No more Aces under the table
You try to hide to hide your broken pride
But you know that you're not able

So you're a Queen without a crown
And your beauty ain't what it used to be
You try to hide behind a broken smile
But your tears keep falling right into the sea

So hold on for now
I know you'll make it somehow
So hold on for now
I know you'll make it somehow

So you failed
So you failed, now get up
Cuz history happens to the best of us
Of us
I know you can
So you failed, try again
Cuz brother, it happens to the best of us
Of us
Hold on, hold on
So you failed, now get up
Cuz history happens to the best of us
Of us
So you failed, try again
Cuz brother, it happens to the best of us
Of us
-The Best of Us The Rival

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Monday, April 27, 2015

One Day At A Time

Photo: Trish Dare Photography

There's this girl. She's so very special to me. She's experienced a lot in her life. Loss, betrayal, heartbreak. So may things that could easily bring a person down. But it's not the trials of her life that amaze me. It's the triumph.

Through all of the pain, she has remained strong. She's a bright light of joy in my life. She's beautiful, hilarious, and loving. She attacks each day with zeal, and doesn't back down from a challenge. She's an inspiration, really. She has so many reasons to be sad, to be angry. But she's not. She's a fighter.

Yeah, she has her down moments, who doesn't? But she doesn't let those few days determine the rest of her existence. She understands that one minute doesn't determine the entire outcome of your life. So what if something is difficult? Tomorrow is a new day, a chance to find joy.

Too many people let their feelings determine their experiences. They let their selfishness decide how they treat everyone. If things don't go their way, they throw a fit and try to make people miserable. They forget about anything except for themselves and their little problems.

I know I get that way sometimes, how about you?

Here's a new idea. Wake up and realize that there are people out there going through pain that is so much worse than anything you've ever felt. The things that you think are a big deal might not be. Look at the world through the eyes of someone else. Your life is probably a cake walk compared to the lives of others.

Do you have food on the table? Do you have clothes on your back? You're already several steps ahead of a large portion of this planet. Don't take these things for granted. Don't lose sight of the potential of this life.

There are so many things we could be doing with our lives, things that don't include pining away for that specific new car we want, or mourning the loss of the guy we never actually dated. Man up. Step up. Take action.

Follow the lead of an incredible girl. Take each day as it comes. Don't predetermine the outcome of a moment before it's even arrived. The only way to make a difference is to live one day at a time.

Always,

Jaci

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Making Moves

Photo: Jessica Dobbs

When God calls us to do something, what do we do? How often do we hesitate? How often do we say we need to pray more about it? That we need to finish something else before we begin the new task?


When we are called to serve God, we are called to step out in faith. To make moves, not to make excuses. In essence, when we doubt God's calling and remain stationary, we are disobeying Him. If He places a calling on your life, DO IT!!!!! He doesn't want to hear why you don't think you're good enough, or about how unprepared you are. He wants you to obey Him.

He wants you to be His good and faithful servant, and instead of questioning His motives, He wants you to say, "Yes, Lord" and follow Him. No matter what He calls you to do in this life, however crazy it may sound, He will never leave your side. He will always be there to guide you, just as long as you follow His path.

Burn the bridges behind you when you make a move of faith. Don't give yourself an escape plan from your mission. Dive in head first. Trust God and all He has planned for you. He doesn't make mistakes. Don't have a backup plan when you're following God's path. Put your heart and soul into it, and don't look back.

God will reward you for your faith. He will store up crowns for you in Heaven. But you must follow Him wholeheartedly. You mustn't shy away from responsibility. Never allow yourself a safety blanket. Keep moving forward. Stay on the path.


God chose YOU for whatever it is you're being called to do. Nobody else. You. He believes in you. He knows you're able to complete the task.


You're capable of more than you think you are. Don't doubt yourself. Take the next step. One foot in front of the other.


Always,


Jackelyn Stange

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Burn Out



This life. It can be so busy. There's so much to do. Work, school, church, reading, gaming, sports, whatever your interests are. We all have things that we are passionate about. It is passion that drives us from one day to another, keeps us moving forward. What are you putting your energy towards? 

Sometimes I feel like my energy is being split so many different ways, it's often hard to catch up to myself. I like it that way. I don't like being bored. I always need to be doing something. The things that probably take the most focus in my life are my faith, my husband, and my job. All good things, all time consuming.

Let's be real. I don't have a lot of spare time. The spare time I do have is often thrown into writing or extra Jesus-related activities. Our church is starting a Saturday night service now, so we'll be there a healthy amount of every weekend. We have a small group at our house on Tuesday nights, and I have a women's Bible study on Friday nights. We often hang out with the kids from our small group on other nights as well. It's important to me to pour myself into the people in my life. I love the people in my life.

I have a passion for my church, I want to witness lost people being found. Fresh Life has the most amazing focus on outreach, and it's brilliant. Being plugged in and serving my church helps keep the fire burning in my soul. I love it.

Why? Why spend so much time doing things like running cameras and computers in the back of the church? Why befriend and feed a bunch of teenagers weekly? Why give up Friday nights for a room full of Jesus-loving women?

Because it's what we are called to do. We are to be servants for the Lord (Galatians 5:13). We are to reach those who are lost in sin and introduce them to the Father (Matthew 4:19). God doesn't want us to sit in our living rooms night after night vegging out and watching the latest episode of The Voice. He wants us to use our gifts to reach others for Him. My gift is NOT walking up to people and telling them that Jesus loves them (that's a gift my friend Amanda Smith is VERY blessed with). My gifts are being OCD and organizing things, being techy and running equipment, being nerdy and writing blogs. So maybe they aren't traditional missionary gifts. But doggone it, I'm going to use them. And I'm going to spend all of the time I have available using them.

My wonderful mom is a fantastic mother. She worries about me. That's what moms do. She's worried I'm going to burn myself out. But that's not what worries me. I'm more worried about reaching the end of my life and knowing I could have done more.

Because what if tomorrow never comes?

What if this is my last chance?

How would you live if you knew there was no tomorrow?

Would you serve others and see them led to the Lord?

Or would you focus on serving yourself?

Live every day as if it's your last. You never know.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

This Hope We Have

Photo: Cath Schneider

Too many people cling to the hope that they might be good enough to earn Heaven. My hope is different. My hope is an anchor that holds me through the storm, strong and secure. Not a hope that I will be good enough, but a hope that springs from knowing that I am forgiven enough.

No matter what may come my way, my hope will keep me standing strong in the midst of the darkest times. This hope has been tested and tried. I'm here to tell you it's the real deal. Through some of my worst fears, my faith has brought me through.

I know where I'm going when I die. Do you? Are you sure? Because if you think that you'll be good enough to get there, you're sadly mistaken. Nobody could ever do enough good to outweigh the sin in our lives. We're ALL sinners, not just some of us. That sin is exactly what cuts us off from Heaven (Romans 3:23). The ONLY way to Heaven is through Jesus (John 14:6). We can't ever work hard enough to get to Heaven on our own, it's just not possible (Titus 3:5).

That's what this time of year is all about. The anniversary of Jesus' death and resurrection on the cross should remind us of how little we can do to deserve the free gift of grace we receive from Christ. Jesus gave up His life so that we might live. His sacrifice guaranteed our place in eternity. But the only way we can claim our place in Heaven is to accept His gift. It's like at the movie theater. Pretend the person in front of you bought your ticket. The only way you can use the ticket they bought you is if you take it from them and present it to the attendant. You can't get into the movie without receiving the gift given to you.

Heaven is so much better than a movie. And it cost so much more. Why not accept the invitation waiting for you? You'll never make it on your own. Thinking you can get into eternity on your own merit is simply foolish. It's also a slap in the face of our Savior. If we could get to Heaven by ourselves, that would invalidate His selfless sacrifice. No. Jesus didn't die for nothing. He died for everything. He IS the Way. The only way. Take Him or leave Him, but quit pretending that you could ever be good enough to be in the presence of a perfect God and King. The blood of Jesus cleanses us and makes us perfect in God's eyes. But that is the ONLY substance that can wash the sin from our lives.

Don't believe me? Find a solid, Bible believing church to go to this Easter. If they're the real deal, they'll spell it out for you. You're welcome to check out Fresh Life at one of our many campuses or online. Your soul will thank you.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Surrender All

Photo: Erika Thorness

Remember when your head was filled with bright, wonderful dreams for your future? When the world was this great big place filled with possibility? You could do anything, be anything. Your whole life was laid out in front of you. Did life bring you the wild and wonderful desires of your heart? Or did it deliver you into a reality filled with ups and downs? 

Don't fret. You still have time. Too many people dwell on the past, on what they could have been, what they gave up. Some people try to re-live that past, to be young again.They submit themselves to surgery, start partying like a college student, lose themselves in romantic flings. 

Don't get trapped in wishing for what could have been. It could kill you, literally. Dissatisfaction with your present situation can send you into a dark place of no return. Whether it be depression, drugs, drinking, it can consume your life. Trust me.

It's never too late to take a hold of your life and allow yourself to find joy in your present circumstances. So maybe you don't work from home, like you always dreamed you would. Maybe you can't have kids, no matter how hard you try. Maybe the responsibility of adulthood feels like too much to bear. All it takes to find peace with the present is surrendering your circumstances to God. This action is so hard sometimes. Developing an attitude of surrender takes practice and patience. It takes determination. But if you truly desire to be happy, only you can make the choice.

Why give it to God? Because He wants to take care of you, He loves you, and He says to cast your problems on Him (1 Peter 5:7). You can trust Him. You can trust Him more than you can trust anyone on this earth, including yourself. Sometimes, the things that your brain and heart tell you to do are the dumbest things you could possibly do. When you surrender your life to Jesus and follow His Will for your life, you can't go wrong. The path He has for you is perfect. It's exactly what your brain and heart need (Jeremiah 29:11-apparently I really like this verse, I use it a lot).

I defer to a selected few stanzas of an old classic:

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dare To Be Different


Photo Credit: Pinterest

Life is strange. It has so many twists and turns, so many different paths. Keeping up with it makes us all a little crazy. Anyone in their right mind is going to eventually lose their mind. It's inevitable, why not embrace it?

Too many people are so obsessed with being "normal." It sounds bogus to me. What kind of fun can you have spending hours preening in front of the mirror to attain perfect hair and makeup? How stressful it must be to worry constantly about what you say, afraid people might find you strange.

We're created to be different from each other, no two people are exactly the same (1 Corinthians 12:12-25). We all have unique abilities, strengths, and personalities. Embrace those differences. Be proud of who you are. Don't let social norms hold you back. Be the person that God created you to be. He has a plan for you (Jeremiah 1:5), He has placed a calling on your life. Don't let that go to waste, simply because you are afraid of what other people might think of you. Who cares about what those people think? Do they know your heart? No!

A Stepford world—in which everyone you meet is the same as everyone else you already know—sounds outrageously boring to me. We weren't meant to be cookie-cutter people, we were meant to be individuals.

It's hard, as women, not to compare ourselves to other women. I'll admit, the "perfect" ladies out there make me uncomfortable. I have one girl out there that I've known for quite some time that never ceases to disrupt my mental health. She's one of those that is always very polished looking, professionally dressed, super skinny, heavily made up, etc. She's educated, has a career, flirts with the men I date, so on and so forth. This kind of stuff gets under my skin a bit. Here I am, wearing sweat pants, rocking the unwashed hair, trying to lose a few pounds. I often feel my insecurities bubbling to the surface when she is around.

But I have to ask myself. Why does she spend so much time and energy on her perfection? What on God's green earth could drive someone to that level of self-sculpting? Insecurity. The very thing that she instills in me. She is so darn insecure, she has to prove to the world that she is Super Woman. What a concept!

The people who try so hard to pretend that there isn't anything weird or abnormal about them are doing so because of how little they think of themselves. They don't have enough self-confidence to simply be themselves, so they have to imitate what they think society expects from an ideal woman. They're incapable of letting it all hang loose. They just can't do it.

Don't be that woman. Don't be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). Don't focus on what society says about you. Be different. Be unique. Be FUN! Nobody wants to be friends with the "perfect" version of you, everyone wants to be friends with the "real" you.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Just Like You


Photo: Stephanie Beaty

It's complicated, sometimes. Trying to figure out how to live our lives, how to be a faithful Christian. There are too many options. Should I do this? Or should I do that? Will other people judge me for this? Will anyone appreciate that? In our Bible reading last night, I came across a new way of thinking for me: Live a life worthy of imitation.

In 1 Corinthians 4:16, Paul is urging the Christians in Corinth to follow in his footsteps. To act like him. To copy him.

When I was a kid, I had a really hard time with the copy cats in my life. I really struggled with giving someone grace when they "stole my idea." My mom reminded me that imitation is really just a form of flattery. That person thinks that my idea is so good, they want to claim it for themselves. Granted, it's still hard to watch someone else get credit for your genius, if that's the way things go. But it does help to know that when someone copies you, it's because they appreciate your brilliance.

Not all imitation involves stealing ideas, there's also copying the way someone dresses, acting similarly to the people you spend the most time with, decorating a house the same as another, etc. We all imitate things we see every day. That's why Pinterest is such a popular place. Everyone loves finding ideas and making them their own.

I've come to realize that people imitate those they want to be like. We who are in a leadership role within our church should take a lesson from Paul. We should be an example to those who look up to us. Our lives should reflect the Holy Son of God, so that the people in them can see Him through us. We should strive to be more like Jesus, so that those we influence will also be more like Him. The more Christ-like we are, the better the world will become.

We all have a sphere of influence. Let's saturate that area of our lives with the love of Jesus. We'll all be better people for it.

Always,
Jackelyn Stange

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Follow Up

This is going to be a follow up on my last post. Hurting people. It's a big deal. We all do it. We all do it A LOT.

Here's something that a lot of us often forget: even if we don't mean to hurt someone, even if we don't know we're hurting someone, it's still not okay. I understand that our actions which cause pain aren't always intentional. But if someone does get hurt, maybe we should have acted differently.

I think a lot of us need to be more observant of the world around us. Rather than rushing around only worrying about ourselves and what's happening  in our lives, we should slow down and be aware of the people around us. Our careless actions can easily hurt someone else if we aren't careful. We can be doing exactly what we think we're supposed to be doing, but if our choices impact other people, it is so easy to unintentionally hurt them.

Hurt can come in so many shapes and sizes. Including small things, like an off-handed comment about a bad hair day, jumping into someone's place in a group, taking someone's regularly appointed seat, anything really.

It's hard to apologize if you feel like you've done nothing wrong. Even harder if you don't know what it was that offended the other person. But maybe it is important that we do apologize for these things. Because maybe it's the best way of showing God's love for the world. If we can't own up for our actions, what kind of witness can we be?

I love sarcasm, but I have a variety of new people in my life that don't seem to pick up on it quickly. I've learned that I need to tone it down around them, because my words can easily be misinterpreted.

When somebody in your life is hurting, be careful with them. People are fragile. The things you say and do can have a lasting effect on them. True friends should be there in a time of need. They shouldn't force those who are hurting to be a certain way or act a certain way. We need to be aware of what the people in our lives are going through.

Tred lightly. A person's life can resemble broken glass. We don't want to crush the fragments. We should be there to pick them up and fuse them together.

Always,
Jackelyn Stange

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What's Love Got To Do With It?

This world is a sensitive place. There are so many different personalities, such a variety of tempers out there, it's hard to keep everyone happy all of the time. Impossible really. But something we need to remember is this:

If you're hurting other people you're doing something wrong.

I understand that when people are angry, or sad, or stressed, they often respond without thinking. It's to be expected. Humanity is selfish, we want everyone to do things our way. It's so easy to forget that not everyone thinks the same thoughts as we do. But we need to remember not to sin in our anger (Eph. 4:26). Don't harm someone else simply because they don't understand you.

It's so hard to be nice to the people that we don't like, the ones that have a personality that clashes with ours. We don't have to like them, but we do have to love them as brothers and sisters in Christ (Mark 12:31). God loves them unconditionally, and we are to love them as He loves them. That means not putting them down, not talking behind their back, not setting them up for failure. We should be kind to them, encourage them, welcome them.

We don't have to torture ourselves and spend every waking minute with these people, just show them God's grace when they're around.

My biggest problem is momma bear syndrome. When someone hurts a loved one of mine, I will jump down their throats. Did you make my best friend cry? I will hunt you down and... well... pain, lots of pain! I'm so protective of those I love (I do blame you for the fact that I inherited this, mom.) When they hurt, I physically feel the pain. It's a writer's problem. A great man (Austin Hummell) once said: "Writers feel so much more than anyone else." While it might not be specific to only writers, it is accurate in my case. When someone I care about is hurting, I want to straight up destroy anyone who might have caused even a bit of that pain. In the most eloquent description: I will cut you.

But in all seriousness, this is a real problem. I have the burning desire to cause people pain if they do something to harm my friends and family. Here's the issue with that...Two wrongs don't make a right. Me hurting another person does not make the pain of the past go away. It just creates more anger and aggression and hurt.

I'm slowly learning how to hold my tongue, how to be more pleasant, how to do something constructive rather than something detrimental. The most helpful thing I've learned along this journey? The first thing to pop into your head is probably the worst thing you can say aloud. Never EVER go with your first instinct when you're emotionally distraught. It will only make things worse. And always keep in mind, the people around you are human too. Their feelings are just as fragile as yours. Would you want someone to treat you the way you're treating them? Be gentle, be kind. That's what love is (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Battle Within

Self-esteem takes years to build, and only seconds to destroy. It's such a fragile thing. So easy to lose. Our society is not known for making confidence an easy thing for women to grasp. We're constantly being compared to the models on TV, the "power" women in business, the supermoms. We don't have a chance against the perfect, make-believe women that are pushed on us from all sides. Their lives are wonderful, their skin is flawless. They don't deal with depression or anxiety, they stay thin without trying. They make six figures, they own three houses. They are perfection incarnate. And they aren't real. The women we see in magazines have flaws, they simply don't let anyone see them. Deep down, they're just as insecure as the next girl.

The problem is, we allow our self-esteem to be based heavily on the opinions of those around us. When someone says something negative about us, we begin to question everything we respect about ourselves. The world's solution to this problem is to "believe in yourself." And "don't base your opinion of yourself on what others say, base it on what you think about yourself." There's a HUGE problem with that logic. Our self worth should never be based on what we think of ourselves, and how we feel about ourselves. Our self-confidence should ALWAYS be centered on seeing ourselves the way GOD sees us. We should find our worth in His eyes, not our own.

We can't rely on how we feel day to day to be an indication of what kind of value we have. God is the only one who knows what He has planned for us. He is the only one that values us the way we are meant to be valued. He loves us. He believes in us.

As a child, I did not have very many friends. I was weird, homeschooled, a tomboy. In college I spent all of my time making friends, to prove to myself that I was pretty and smart and fun. I did a lot of things to boost my self-esteem. It took years, but my hard work did pay off. I graduated college with more friends than I had ever known. I felt sexy. I felt smart. I felt valued. Why? Because I managed to convert the attention of others to self affirmation.

But that kind of confidence doesn't last. It worked for me for years. But in the matter of a few short months, it all came crumbling down. Everything I had ever "known" about myself felt like it was thrown back in my face. The world taunted me with "you're not good enough," around every corner. My writing was torn apart and rebuilt without my permission. It felt like my intelligence was questioned by my superior every day. My fashion sense went down the drain when I gained a few pounds. All of my Jesus-related obligations were taken from me. I allowed myself to attach my feelings of beauty to another human, just as flawed as myself. I don't know when it started, but I just lost every shred of my identity.

While wallowing in self-pity, I realized this: it's not about me. What I think about myself is just a bunch of malarkey. What God thinks about me is what really matters. He doesn't think I'm stupid or ugly or a bad writer. I am His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), He has great plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11). Nothing I do or say can change His opinion of me. I am His child, and I am loved. Every step I make should be to glorify Him, not to boost my own confidence. My life should revolve around Him, not myself. It's so hard. But it's so worth it.

I'm revamping my life with a larger focus on Jesus. My abandoned prayer journal has been dusted of and reinstated. My husband and I are reading through chapters of the Bible together, my devotions are now starting and ending my day. The more I focus on HIM, the less I can focus on MYSELF. And that's the way it was meant to be.

Always,
Jackelyn Stange

Friday, February 20, 2015

Negative Encouragement

When I was a kid, I found out that one of my spiritual gifts was exhortation. I've honestly always questioned that result. I'm not complimentary enough to be an encourager. I don't walk around telling people how great they're doing or how wonderful they look. That just isn't my thing. I'm too unhappy all of the time, have too bad of an attitude to be labeled an exhorter. But over the years, I've come to realize that there are different types of exhortation. For some people, it's being bubbly and encouraging all of the time. For me, it's taking my life experiences and trying to help other people find peace in the midst of discouragement. My life is far from perfect. So often, I feel like it is crumbling into pieces, and I feel vulnerable and scared. But each time that happens, I know that God can sustain me, strengthen me, and get me through. That's something I could never do on my own. The more things that happen to me to bring me down, the more of myself I have to share with those who need it. If I can make it through, anyone can.

The last two weeks have brought so much despair and discouragement to my heart. A family member passed away too young. I had to face the ugliness of alcoholism and substance abuse head on. I tried not to collapse as I held a sobbing, breaking grown man together. I felt unwanted on the day of love. I faced an act of betrayal by the person closest to me. I endured criticism from family. I was treated like a child by someone in authority over me. One thing after another piled up, washing away any joy I was able to find. In the days leading up to today, I've just felt empty. Completely empty. I stopped feeling sad and lonely and discouraged, and started feeling nothing at all. My heart took a vacation, it couldn't handle any more.

When faced with heartbreak and pain, I sometimes completely shut down. I can't do it anymore. I want to curl up in a dark corner and simply be left alone. I want everyone and everything that could ever hurt me again to just go away. I want to forget it all.

But I can't do that. It doesn't solve anything. I have to get up and start fixing. My marriage will only get better if I put effort into it. My family will only respect me if I don't lash out. My job will only produce if I take responsibility.

These lessons help me to grow. The hardships of this life have made me as strong as I am today. Without them, I wouldn't have the words to help anyone. I would never be able to tell someone else to keep on keeping on if I wasn't able to do it myself.

Seasons of life bring great joy, and seasons of life bring great sorrow. We can only find joy if we conquer our sorrow.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange