‘A person’s a person, no matter how small’ … or different than you

Having been on vacation this week, I really should have taken a break from my computer, disconnected like I said I would. But my family is kind of incapable of letting go of our digital lives in favor of our real ones. I’ve opened my Twitter account one too many times to see how the stuff I scheduled is working out.

So far I’ve discovered that it’s not in my favor, and I can’t help but think of “Horton Hears a Who”: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

It was the pro-life mantra that Christians jumped on when the Dr. Seuss movie hit theaters and then it’s various disseminating products. It was simple and beautiful and captured the core of what Christianity is: That no matter what a person was like, that he or she deserved for the love of Christ to be shown.

But then Twitter happened. And then some people did some things that Christians didn’t like or people who are professed Christians did things that the world didn’t like, and now everyone’s being thrown under the bus because we like to hide behind the Internet.

I used to think things like Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets were hysterical, but not so much anymore, not that it’s happening to me.

I wonder if some of the people who commented on my post opening up about my depression would say those same things to my face?

I don’t have a thick skin, and I was opening up for the sake of reaching out to other Christians who may be struggling with the same issues and just wanting to find God to be the anchor point so we can grow closer to him. Instead, I’m told that I’m being affected by the devil, that what I have is a first-world problem supported by the money-hungry pharmaceutical industry.

What I want to know is, why are my fellow brothers and sisters attacking me? How are they speaking the truth in love? How are they showing me in word and deed that all they say is for the glory of God?

Guys, if this is how we treat one another, how are we expected to impact the world for the Kingdom? How are we supposed to show the love of Christ is a cause worth living and dying for if we hide behind our computers and attack those who are trying to minister?

Am I saying to tiptoe around feelings? Not necessarily. Sometimes we need a hard word to get us back in line. But there are far more productive ways to advance the love of Christ than taking to social media to bash those we don’t agree with.

Sometimes our words are based on the familiar ideas we’ve heard in sermons and not on the Bible. I’m afraid that cultural habits and non-Scriptural attitudes have led us to believe that something is the Truth, and that is causing us to harm other children of God without allowing us to truly dive into what the Bible says about emotions and sin and how to deal with it.

Why are we afraid of discussions? Why are we standing on only our opinions without taking a step back to consider how different people may have different perspectives, and that they may–gasp!–not be sinful?

Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s of the devil or that someone is being influenced by the world or demons. Yes, spiritual warfare is a very real and relevant thing, but there is not a demon behind everything we’ve never understood.

What I ask is this: Pursue God. Pray that his Truth above all else will be revealed. Think before we speak (or post), and do everything as though it is worshipping Him. Then all else will fall into place.

About Christians and Movies

There’s a movie that comes out this month, and every time the trailer comes on, I have to turn the channel.

My stomach churns, and trepidation creeps along my spine. I honestly believe that if I leave the trailer on, it affects my spirit and will open my heart and mind up to dangerous things.

Kids could see this trailer and start asking questions; what if this trailer (which comes on reasonably wholesome channels?!!?) opens up their heart to things before it’s time?

Do you know what movie I’m talking about? If you said “The Lazarus Effect,” you’re right.

We Christians have been all up in a tizzy about movies coming out this month — but I haven’t read one blog post about the negative effects of horror movies promoting demonic activity on mainstream family channels.

It’s really bugging me — and has been for some time — why we Christians freak out about sex as a dominant sin (cultural pun not intended) above all others — including exposing your heart to evil through demonic activity?

I’ve always been particularly susceptible to fear, especially when it comes to spiritual warfare (demons, witchcraft, that sort of thing). I don’t know when my heart was opened to this, but I remember feeling the spiritual elements of watching the old-school cartoon “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.”

But was I taught about these elements in Sunday school or youth group? Not really. Do I see them on top blogs or Christian magazines in the country (my current job excluded, because they kind of rock it when it comes to dealing with spiritual warfare)? Nope.

What do those sites talk about? Yoga pants. Modesty. Sex.

I still don’t understand why we Christians fight harder against sex than anything else. (Also, to be fair, I do understand some protests against certain movies have to do more with stopping abuse against women and not about sex, but I see more people fighting against the pornography aspect than the abuse aspect … but I also haven’t thoroughly researched it.)

To me, there are equally dangerous slopes that affect my spirit — and horror movies are one of them. I’ve quit watching many TV shows over their inclusion of witchcraft (RIP, “Vampire Diaries” and “Reign” … You still give me nightmares).

This is the virgin in me talking, but I still don’t see why sex is a bigger deal than opening your heart to demonic activity. Personally, one of them seems to affect my spiritual life more than the other.

Am I saying we Christians should obnoxiously protest all movies that aren’t sugar-coated goodness? No. We could split hairs all day over the morality of movies and throw our TVs out the windows and move to the wilderness to become monks.

Maybe it’s that I’ve never been in a relationship that dealt with the pressures of sex and how it affects us, but why is it a bigger deal if I wear running pants in public than if I binge on hours of “American Horror Story”? Why am I a stumbling block to my brothers if I wear a two-piece, but not if I read Stephen King novels?

I just want to know — and I’m not sure if this is a rhetorical question or not — why people are out to protect my heart against sex, but not against other things?

When reality TV was a good thing

Ichrisley have a slight addiction to reality TV. It’s bad, y’all.

So bad that I only know five channels for my cable: TLC, E, Bravo, HGTV and the CW (cause “Arrow”).

As I write this, I’m procrastinating going to the grocery store and binging on “Chrisley Knows Best.” It’s truthfully the first time I’ve watched it, but I’m a fan. A big fan. I may have actually sniffled in the last five minutes.

Setting the scene

So Daddy Chrisley (Whose name I have yet to figure out … OK, Google told me it’s Todd. Moving on) is all up in a tizzy because his daughter is having her sweet sixteen and wants to wear a party dress and get her hair did and look hot.

But when Daughter Chrisley (Savannah) comes down the stairs all done up, Daddy’s words aren’t about her dress being too short or hair too high or even that she looks beautiful.

“Does what you’re wearing make you feel confident?” came out of that sickly Southern mouth.


I had a moment. Because when was the last time we saw someone we love look awesome and instead of commenting on how awesome the outside was, we asked how they felt on the inside?

Daddy Chrisley was so genuine, he didn’t even have to think about it when her high heels hit the bottom stair.

Not critical. Not taken aback. Not focused on his own opinions. It was all about her — in the best way. Because it is her sweet sixteen, it is her time to shine. And Daddy Chrisley knows this, and knows that the best memories come from feeling awesome about herself.

So next time your best friend is rocking it, talk about the inside, not the outside.

Coming home


That singular word can bring up pain or delight, allow you to recall times of joy and community or excommunication and loneliness.

It’s a focal point of Christianity, going beyond a building or weekly attendance, but a group of like-minded (for the most part) people who stand around you to watch you grow. It’s a place where you can humble yourself and learn the importance of service; but it’s also a place where people feel isolated and dejected when they don’t fit a cookie-cutter norm.

Fortunately, God’s grace extends especially to his people. We all screw up, say the wrong things, act one way because we believe it’s love and instead shut down someone’s heart who was searching for God. Church is commitment to building relationships to grow closer to God.

And when that’s the true heart of a church, you can go anywhere in the world and know you are with people who get it.

A few weeks ago, I discovered this when I walked into The Vine here in Orlando. When I introduced myself to the pastor and (briefly) explained how I moved to Orlando and I was a Vineyard girl born and raised, his answer let me know I was in the right spot:

“Welcome. You’re among family here.”

The moment worship started, I knew I was, and I knew I had found a home hundreds of miles away from where I grew up.

The people were friendly, but not falsely so. They welcomed me, taking the time to talk to me, remember my name and some of my prayer requests weeks later. While I’d been going to a church I liked since I moved, this was the first one that really clicked.

And that’s the beauty of the church: the ability to know you are in the right place at the right time with people who get how your brain is wired because they are all there for the same reason — to take your life, your talents, your heart, your desires, your worries, your everything and pour it into God.

I seriously love that. And it makes all the difference when you just want to go deeper into relationships.

Real-life Pinterest projects

A new year brings fresh resolutions, swearing to yourself you’ll change your life for the better. But what do you do when the past three months has been nothing but changes?

Moving across the country (my roommate says this is being overly dramatic since I really only crossed a singular state line and technically stayed in the South … ) has given me the opportunity for a fresh start in more ways than one.

Life in Florida has become one, giant DIY project: rehabbing the old Jessilyn into something fresh and vibrant. First it was gutting out the depression by recognizing the sovereignty of God and replacing the yucky-ness with a bright coat of gratitude. Then it was evaluating the woman I wanted to be: How I would act, how I would make friends, how I would destress, how I would pursue God in a time of plenty.

It’s easy to be a Christian when life is going well, and it’s also easy to forget the pain when you see how God came through for you in ways you never though possible. It’s hard to not be distracted by the literal sunshine and blue skies. But I want to build in fail-safes for when life goes south. It’s not that I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, it’s that I understand that life is a balance of joys and sorrows.

The month before I moved was one of the most difficult in my life and really forced me to look at my heart and how I wanted to get out of the mess. The thing is, though, that God was always a part of it, inspiring my life projects as I tried to sort out my next step. That’s the one thing I did right in this process — turning to him through thick and thin, and I was greatly rewarded.

It’s kind of like Pinterest projects, where you think you’re doing one thing, but your project looks nothing like the picture, so you decide to make something else, and that actually turns out pretty well.

Now I have the chance to be me — to not really reinvent myself as to make myself all nice and shiny and be the person I want to be.  Six months ago, I envisioned ski trips with my new church group; now, I’m looking forward to sandy beaches.

It’s exciting, though, even for a planner like me. Anything can happen, and I find that thrilling. New year, new projects, new Jessilyn. I think it’s going to rock.

Some spiritual lessons from life in the tropics

In my three weeks (I know, I’m practically a native) here in Orlando, I’ve had two thoughts floating through my brain.

OK, maybe a few more than that — but these two keep coming to the forefront and warming my heart as much as a good cup of coffee.

  1. Proverbs 3:5-6 — “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”
  2. The story of Elijah trying to find God in the storm, but God was in the still, quiet voice after the storm.

It didn’t hit me until yesterday how the two are related.

Guys, my life before Florida was a giant, broken, heart wrenching mess for no apparent reason. Despite being surrounded by family and friends, I was in a pit of depression and would sob for days on end. I felt empty and alone, miserable in a life that by all technical standards should have made me happy. I was running hard core after God, but that just left me feeling even more alone when I didn’t have the joy I thought other Christians had.

It is so incredibly difficult to sort out why you feel so alone when you know you are doing everything “right,” and you just have to wait for God.

I know my time of waiting was not that bad compared to some, but it felt like an eternity while I was in it. Having stress-induced depression didn’t help, either. I remember talking to a friend months ago who reminded me of Proverbs 3:5-6, how I really felt close to God for a week at a time, and then I would spin back into a place of darkness.

Now, I’m reminded again of how the desires of our heart can manifest themselves. When your heart is pure, and you are truly acknowledging God in all your ways, he really will direct your path — to places you had no idea you were ever going to go.

It’s easy to look back now and say, “Oh, there was God!” when I think of what specific people or certain statements, but while I was in it, I thought I was in a melodramatic hell. I didn’t understand why a formulaic life wasn’t fulfilling. To be on the other side, I’m ecstatic and content. It feels all warm and fuzzy to know that I matter to God, that he directed my path and rewarded my patience.

I don’t mean to sound pretentious or all-knowing; I’m just grateful for some moments in the sun (both literally and figuratively — whaddup Sunshine State!).

I’m writing this now so that in a few months, I can look back and be reminded of how God can work in ways we do not expect, how he can move us if we are willing and truly open to adventure.

As 2015 kicks off, I’m exactly where I supposed to be, even though it was totally different from what I expected earlier this year. Where are you?

A dream is a wish your heart makes

A few months ago, dear friend Kelsy Black wrote a deeply thought-provoking piece about when dreams die. I remember reading it and feeling my heart break along with hers; a sense of empathy surrounding the situation enveloped me.

How do you move forward when everything you’ve hoped for is right in front of you and you realize God is telling you no? How can you accept that there’s “something better” or that “God has a plan” when it seems like you are utterly alone?

But what about the flip side? What about when you hope and pray and listen and wait and finally get to move forward in your adventure?

At the end of the summer, I truly believed God had revealed to me my next step: Pack everything up in January and move to Colorado. I called a friend there and made arrangements to start over, provided I visit first. I remember standing in the shower in Denver, washing my hair with my eyes closed and realizing that what I thought I was going to do — move to the land of mountains and unlimited potential — wasn’t the next step.

“This isn’t it,” I told myself, slowly feeling the realization sink in that my plan — what I thought was God’s plan — wasn’t going to happen.

Three months later, I’m sitting in my new apartment in Orlando, the active participation in an adventure I didn’t know was in my heart. It’s unfolded slowly and then quickly, with God orchestrating events and people to allow for a move that I believe is the start of a new life, a chance to become the woman God has in his plan.

It’s fatalistic, almost, that God will do his will no matter what. If you had asked me over the summer where I thought I would be come Christmas, I can guarantee you that Florida would have been the furthest thing from my mind. Yet, here I am, open and willing to do what God wants me to do.

There’s something powerful about a dream coming true, especially a dream that was hidden in your heart. And something, er, interesting when that dream reaches fruition in the world’s most magical place. There’s also something simplistic — an acknowledgement that an dream isn’t always thrilling, sometimes it’s just moving on to the next step. You look up at the clouds, at the sun and the rain, and recognize you have no idea what you’re doing, but it’s where you’re supposed to be.

By definition of Cinderalla, a dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep. To articulate this, my dream was to become my own person, to live on my own in a city, pursuing happiness by way of following God. The past 18 months have taught me that following God certainly isn’t a happy-go-lucky ride of rainbows and sunshine, that it can be painful and lonely and full of sorrows.

But somehow, God prevails. And when your heart is in the right place, you can trust that God really does know the deepest desires of your heart and will grant them to you.

Until then, turn to Psalm 116, and let it wash over you.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the Lord when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
11 in my alarm I said,
    “Everyone is a liar.”

12 What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord;
    I serve you just as my mother did;
    you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
    and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord
    in your midst, Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord.