• Jenni

In this process I'm in, I've discovered that there are two things which really make it or break it for me.

1) "let your yes be yes and your no be no"

2) pour out, bless, encourage others

This month I've been struggling to meet the goals I've set for myself, and I started to wonder, what's going on? Of course I know I'm human, and I'm definitely not like intentionally punishing myself for not performing well enough. I just realized like, "Hey, things aren't working as well as they did before. Why? Did something change?" -- and the answer was yes.

In my super fancy Ink & Volt Planner you have a lot of pages for goal-setting, and also a place where you can choose a "challenge" for the month. Last month I chose to give up refined sugar (which I still continue to do though the month is over) and I succeeded in that. The rest of my goals also went pretty well for that month.

This month I chose to focus on drinking enough water. So far, two weeks into the month, I haven't succeeded at this at all. Not a single day. I got an app on my phone and I know everything I need to do in order to succeed, and I totally could do it-- but I'm just not doing it. I realized that this attitude was flooding over into other areas of my life too. Like last night as I was tinkling around on Garageband, in my mind I told myself I will stop at 9pm so I could spend some time with Wim. Well, 9pm came around and instead of closing my computer and spending time with my man, I was like... hmmm, I'm just gonna do one more thing... and then one more thing... and I finally got to bed at like 10:30pm and Wim was already sleeping.

Like I said, I'm not obsessive about this process, but I'm curious. What can I learn from it all, how can I pick up new habits and tools that work and help me to succeed in life? I realized that by not being faithful to my "yes", I welcomed a lot of feelings: not being in (healthy) control over myself / being a victim, overwhelmed, insecurity, failure, passivity & apathy. And it started to influence other areas of my life in a very quiet and silent way. Just enough to (try to) derail me, but not loud enough that I really realized what was going on until I intentionally thought about it.

(I also became aware that when I gave up sugar, there was a friend who also said, "hey I'll do that with you!" and while we didn't communicate much about it, just knowing that she was also doing it gave me support. But that's something for another blog, otherwise this'll get way too long... hehe!)

Secondly, I've come to see how I'm wired to encourage and love on people. I actually need to do it in order to be fully "me". This is something probably more specific to my character, but it can also be a general thing that would benefit everyone. It's like they say about the Dead Sea: it's dead because it has no outflow; it's stagnant. And I've seen that when I take time to just write encouraging cards or give gifts (as the Holy Spirit inspires me), as I pour out of what I've received from God (love, hope, encouragement, etc), I feel alive. This probably relates to my recent post about how encouragement kicks butt. But I see I have to choose be intentional about this. (And why not? It's fun, seriously!)

So, I've decided that I'm going to process this whole experience not as as a failure, but as a learning point. It's like that quote from Nelson Mandela, "I never lose. I either win or learn." And I'm definitely learning. :-)

If you're feeling still stuck, even after praying and asking God to help you, try to remember: did he give you any directives or show you anything to change in your life? Have you done it? And also, are you loving on other people? Is there someone you've felt led to encourage somehow? Go for it!

Grace and peace in your process! It's all for GOOD!

  • Jenni

A few months ago I was lying in my bed, thinking. I felt overwhelmed by my messy house and all the unfinished tasks that seemed to hang on my shoulders. I didn't feel like a failure, but I felt like a non-successful person. Someone who always gets halfway and then stays there or moves on to the next thing. Finishing things was not my strong suit.

You could see it in my messy house. I would take something that needed to go somewhere else and because of laziness mostly, I would leave it somewhere halfway where it would sit in eternal thing-purgatory, never reaching it's final destination. I had a trillion dreams and ideas, but felt like most of them were impossible because of my lack of finishing ability. I would feel guilty after eating 17 cookies because I was overcome by my appetite and lack of self-control. Somehow I felt like I should be able to be victorious over these things, but I just didn't succeed again and again. I was 'surviving' at life and I was tired of it.

I don't remember my exact words, but that night in bed I prayed something like, 'God I know that discipline and self-control are some really weak points for me. And I have no idea how you're going to do it, but please help me out here.' I offered up my weaknesses to God and invited Him to help me. It's interesting that when we hide our weaknesses out of fear of rejection or criticism, we're actually keeping ourselves bound to that weakness. Because if we had the power to get out of it or grow out of it, we'd have done that a long time ago. And by refusing to let God (and others) into that area, we refuse the only thing that will actually help us. Shame and fear are big liars guys, let's be real here.

Anyways, after praying that prayer I had a dream. I won't go into details, but it was something like a marriage ceremony with a person who was very disciplined and organized. Of course I didn't take it literally, I'm married and I love my husband. But I felt like it was a sign that God heard my prayer and he was going to help me, bring me into covenant with discipline and self-control. Because it felt so impossible and I knew it was not in my strength, I really left it to God like, 'please do your thing, Papa.'

Now fast-forward a few months. I don't know how to explain it totally, there were several stepping stone processes along the way. Some directives that I had to embrace and choices I had to make. But seriously guys, I'm becoming a disciplined person with self-control. No like, for reals. I set goals. I meet those goals. I clean up my house when I don't feel like it because I know it's good to do. I also rest and go to bed when I'm tired because I know it's good for me. I gave up refined sugar and I read my Bible and have intentional time with God (almost) every day. And many more things.

Three months ago that all felt impossible, truly. And now it seems to flow with little effort. Of course I continue to make choices and resist things, but I have found a new strength to choose and resist. I feel like that strength is a present from God to me and I'm so thankful! I still don't always wake up early enough or have the best attitude. But my success rate has sky-rocketed and I feel like a successful person.

And you know what the secret behind this success is? You want to know how you can also be successful and conquer the things that have been dragging you down for way too many years?

Get real with your weaknesses. Realize that you don't have the power to fix them, because otherwise you wouldn't be weak in that area anymore. Open up with the right people and most important, open it up with God. Invite Him to teach you victory. He longs to! He's like, 'Come on guys! You don't have to be defeated anymore! I have all you need for victory, just invite me in and take my hand and I will lead you out of the desert to the promised land.'

It's for real. His promise is real and true: I can, 'do all things through Christ who gives me strength'.

  • Jenni

We're back in The Netherlands! The first thing I thought when I walked into my house was: "I LOVE MY HOME." Seriously. We had a couple days together battling jet lag, and then I headed off to Amsterdam to take part in an International Songwriters Retreat. By the way, Wim is an amazing husband and dad, because I basically abandoned him with two irregularly sleeping children while he was also exhausted himself...

Anyways, back to the retreat. So I arrived, also jet lagged, and pretty overwhelmed by all the new people. I used to think of myself as an extrovert, but in these large (and new) social situations I'm not so sure. I just found my safe place, back to the coffee bar counter and chatted with a few fellow English speakers. After a few hours, the tension started to ease and I felt more relaxed. I started to meet some of the people in the group and enjoyed hearing their stories. In the evening there was an open mic and I got to sing one of my songs. People liked it, which was awesome and felt great, and I went to bed satisfied.

As a musician, and I think most musicians can relate to me here, one of my biggest enemies is comparison. Whether it's comparing myself to someone I deem to be better, or "worse" than me. Fittingly, the day I arrived to the retreat I saw this photo on Facebook...

So the next morning before I left my room, I had to put off comparison, pride, judgement, insecurity and chose to go and be a blessing to those around me. I love and am learning to see the "gold" in people and call it to the surface. That morning as I ate breakfast with my fellow participants, I listened and observed and shared what I saw. And people were encouraged. YES! Exciting, I love it. I kept doing my best to follow in that pattern throughout the retreat, and it was pretty successful. I found that applauding the talents, gifts, positive things in others is probably the most deadly tool to counter insecurity. Cause you take the focus off of yourself. I heard a great teaching that said something like, 'True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's just thinking less often about yourself'. True dat.

By the way, little newsflash: I do think there is a difference between flattery and encouragement, and I try to stay on the encouragement side. I would say flattery is just saying stuff to get people to like you, and encouragement is sharing what you've observed or what God has shown you about a person with the intention to build them up... them liking you can be just a byproduct of encouraging, but it's not the goal.

One of our retreat speakers was Graham Kendrick. You know, the guy who wrote a ton of deep and famous worship songs? Shine Jesus Shine... Knowing You Jesus... Amazing Love... The Servant King... yeah that guy. :-) Anyways, I was so impressed with his singing voice the first evening when he sang for us, and I wanted to share that with him. I told him I felt like he has a special tone in his singing voice that really reaches deep into the hearts of those listening. And you know what? He was encouraged and said he still needed to hear those kinds of things. WHAT?! I had thought that after you achieve a certain amount of success, you get pretty solid in your gift and don't need much encouragement from others. But I was wrong. (Graham, if you ever read this, I think you're awesome and a humble example of excellence!)

So what did I learn from this whole thing? Quite a few things about songwriting, of course. But also that encouragement kicks butt. Seriously. It counters insecurity, builds people up and everyone feels good afterwards!

Oh you know, just me and Graham Kendrick, master songwriter of all time, taking a photo together.

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