#SheReadsTruth : Nehemiah 1:1-11 [A Heavy Heart for the Body of Christ]

My heart is really heavy today.

The plans for today's post were to write about a super exciting announcement for Jitney's Journeys
but that announcement will just have to wait until tomorrow.

Instead, I would like to share with you the things deeply pressing my heart.

I started the She Reads Truth (Nehemiah) devotional this morning and I began thinking of my friends who are currently "living in Jerusalem post-walls."

The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire. (vs.3)

I can't imagine that devastation but a few of our friends have tasted it lately; in fact, some have gotten a big ole' overwhelming mouthful of it.

The friends JD and I walk with on a daily basis, their lives have been destroyed by fire. By unbearable loss. By hurt. By pain.

Their walls of hope have been consumed by destruction.

I'm gonna get real with you here...
JD and I have yet to face the situations our friends have. In the past two months, God has shown us how great He is and yet how broken this world can be. By that, I mean we've never even been remotely affected by these circumstances. Neither of us have known anyone to suffer through the way our friends have been nor have we experienced these things ourselves. Loss, miscarriage, death, divorce. It is everywhere we look.

To be honest, we had no idea of what to do when we received news of these various devastating, life-altering events.
Except pray and go.

We prayed, wept and mourned for our friends. They are God's children. They are the body of Christ. They are our community. They are our sisters and brothers, and we love them. We ache with them.

We have compassion on them.

And if you have ever studied compassion, you will quickly find that compassion compels you to action.

So we went. We've picked flowers from the garden and wrote letters. We've prayed and asked for understanding. We've read scripture and held tight to God's truths. We've hugged and cried and sat there in silence. If the time called for it, we've participated in meaningless, light-hearted, completely necessary conversation.
It's devastating to walk in community sometimes. It's heart-wrenching. It's ugly.

But that's also the beauty of it.

Through those ugly events, we grow closer to one another. We walk together. We get real with each other. We spill our guts out to one another. We encourage each other in Christ. We remind one another that our hope lies in Christ, that we who have fled for refuge (because our walls and gates of protection have been destroyed by fire) might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us (Hebrews 6:18). We carry one another's burdens and pain so that it doesn't all have to lay heavily on one person to the point of absolute devastation.

We love genuinely and with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor; act zealously and press on fervently in spirit; and we serve the Lord together (Romans 12:9-12). We rejoice in hope, stay patient in tribulation, and constantly abide in prayer (vs. 13). We rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (vs. 15).

It is my prayer that I may never be calloused towards pain. That I may never grow numb towards the hurt my brothers and sisters are suffering through. Because that numbness and callousness could happen. And it does happen. Way too easily and consistently. We too often forget the hurt because it doesn't directly affect us. But it should.

Nehemiah's prayer penetrated deep to my bones as I read it this morning and thought, Okay. I've prayed and cried for my sisters and brothers before but Nehemiah wept and mourned for his city for days. Father, may my prayers for Your people be this sincere. 



As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, 

and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 
And I said, 
“O Lord God of heaven, 
the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love 
with those who love him and keep his commandments, 
let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, 
to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray 
before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, 
confessing the sins of the people of Israel, 
which we have sinned against you. 
Even I and my father's house have sinned. 
We have acted very corruptly against you and have not 
kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules 
that you commanded your servant Moses. 
Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, 
saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 
but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, 
though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, 
from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, 
to make my name dwell there.’ 
They are your servants and your people, 
whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 
O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, 
and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, 
and give success to your servant today, 
and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

Nehemiah 1:4-11


Though we do not share most of our friends' stories with y'all, we would like you to pray with us for one family, in particular, by name. Please pray for the Browns. We don't know this amazing family but our neighbors know them super well. I can't imagine how deeply our neighbors are hurting for them and I certainly can't imagine the pain that the Browns are feeling. You can read their story and donate, if you feel led, to cover medical, food, gas and other costs here. More than anything, please join with us in lifting them up in prayer. Let us not be numb or calloused to the unbearable pain they are feeling. 

Dwell

"Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16

Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly...

What a bold and beautiful statement Paul has made here!

I've had the blessing of joining with a group of wonderful ladies on Thursday mornings to walk through the book of Colossians led by Karen Burke, a sweet friend and also the wife of Dave Burke (i.e. the leaders of our small group).

God has been doing some ravaging work in my life as I read through His word in our "homework" for the week. When we started the study, Karen asked us to list semester goals from a spiritual aspect. I wrote down, "to dwell in Christ and His word."

And as I study the homework, Paul says right there in Colossians 3:16, "Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly."

- - Hello, Whitney! - -

I love when God affirms that our hearts are lining up with His desires. I'd like to say this happens on a super consistent basis but it doesn't happen often enough.

The continuing of this verse encourages a deep level of intimacy within the believers' community... teach one another, admonish one another in all wisdom; sing together; be thankful together in your hearts to God. We need community. We need one another. It's the desire that God has created within us. When we first dwell in Christ, His love is an outpour - an overflow - into our communities. We are called to let the words of Christ dwell in us richly as a life-giving command for ourselves but also as a life-giving command for others. His words dwell in us and in return, pour out from our lips as truth to another as a form of accountability, love, wisdom and worship.

This is dwelling.

This is community.

This is worship.

So, today, I challenge you to "let the words of Christ dwell in you richly."



Side note: I'd love for you to join in on the study with us! You can listen to the lessons, go through the homework, etc., on the 4 One Purpose website. Click here for the link to the lessons. Browse through the site and be in awe of all that God is doing within and through the ministry all over the world.

Jitney's Journeys : Joys of the Job {Working with Scripture}

My favorite part of the creative side of Jitney's Journeys is having the opportunity to envision really cool pieces with inspiration from my friends. Judy asked me if I could make a couple of Christmas gifts for her in December. One being a heart piece for Emma, personalized with "Emma... God's words for you"and Jeremiah 29:11-13; and the other being a diamond piece for Kim, personalized with "Kim, you are worth far more than diamonds" and Proverbs 31. With Judy's enthusiasm and inspiration, it didn't take much more for me to design these pieces...

It's such an encouragement to design custom work with scripture. I haven't even had the pleasure of meeting Kim and Emma but they have been poured over in prayer in the hours worked on those pieces. The words of God have dwelt deep in my spirit and settled gently into my heart. It is my prayer that God's words will penetrate their hearts in the same way. Working with scripture is a constant reminder of God's love for us, His mercy and His longing to know us.

I need that reminder.

Constantly.


Jeremiah 29:11-13






Proverbs 31








DIY Todd Nest : Hymnal Banner {Come Thou Fount}

After we took down our Christmas decorations, the front entryway seemed so bland. 

Solution: Banner across the glass block wall (can you tell I'm really embracing it these days?)

I wanted to make a banner that would fill the entire wall so it needed to be a phrase with either three words of similar length or three phrases that could be made into one. 

Micah 6:8 stuck out to me. I could have one banner with "act justly", one with "love mercy" and one with "walk humbly with your God". I got super attached to this idea but it wouldn't work out the way I had planned. 

Next idea. Mama E sent us home with a box of old books and hymnals when we came back from our Christmas visit. "Come Thou Fount" had just about the same number of letters, it's one of our favorite hymns and it was the first hymn in sight when I opened up the book. It's a song of redemption and Christ seeking us out while we were but strangers.

It was the obvious choice. 

My original plan was to feed the hymnal pages through the printer but they looked like this (two examples on the left) when they came out. The color didn't hold well and the printer devoured the top of the page (see the wrinkled ink-blotted top). Instead, I decided to print each letter off on cardstock and trace the letters onto the hymn. Time-consuming, yes. But so worth it.

Supplies:

Hymnal Pages (I used 14 pages since I made a flower for one)

Pencil

Black Marker (or whatever color your heart desires)

Hole Punch

Jute

This is the pen and pencil I used...

I printed two letters to one page since the hymnal page is about half of an 8.5" x 11".

Then I went old school and traced the letter silhouette using a sunlit window.

After you have traced your letters, fill them in with a brush pen or marker.

I like to put a decorative paper on the back for more support and to give the banner a finished design. Hole punch the tops and string jute through. If you use only the hymn, be very gentle in stringing the jute!

The banner is a lovely complement to the three palette frames my dad made us!! I still need to put some photos in them but I'm also kind of okay with them being empty for now. 

I used the actual "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" hymn for the first flag and added a paper flower onto it.

What is your favorite hymn?

The Best of Etsy, Huntsville Edition : Why It Fueled Us

You would’ve thought that Jitney’s Journeys had been announced as the Top 100 young businesses to watch. We were that excited. The honor was basically the equivalent for us. As far as we know, this is the first list (outside of Etsy treasuries) that someone has recognized Jitney’s Journeys in some form or another for our products. [We should really put a marketing strategy in place for 2014.]

AL.com included Jitney’s Journeys in “The Best of Etsy, Huntsville Edition” earlier this week. We were one of twelve companies featured. Even though we’re the last photo in the list, our placemat photo headlined for the article when the author posted to Facebook. That counts for something, right? We wouldn’t have even known about it if it had not been for my sweet friend Rebekah who texted me with, “Jitney’s Journeys was featured on AL.com!!!!” Haha!

This announcement fueled me.

I began writing out 2014 goals (personal and for business), class lists, mixed media ideas, even Christmas products for next year’s line, all in the midst of finishing current orders for Christmas.

Encouragement fuels us to move forward faster and with more stamina, a clearer mind.

I keep a file of encouraging letters and emails from past customers (doesn’t everybody?). 
Those letters and emails fuel me.

You know why?

Because those letters and emails… and even this article… they’re not about us.

The majority of the letters and emails include gratitude, not as much about the placemats or the actual product. The words of gratitude are targeted toward the small piece of cardstock we include in every package with a peacock feather on one side and a verse on the other:

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. - 2 Corinthians 3:16-18


It is so not about us.

This article... that was Jesus. As far as we're concerned, Jesus led her to our page and that's the only explanation of her finding us in order to announce us as a "Best of" candidate. 

Jitney’s Journeys was featured.

While, yes, it is “our” company; it’s first and foremost Jesus’ company.

That’s the reason we can boast (1 Cor. 1:31).

It is not about us, has never been about us, and never will be about us.

It’s about Jesus and bringing glory and praise to His name.

If we ever lose focus of that, it is our daily prayer that He will take it away from us.

He’s the reason we have what we have - from talent to skill to creativity to tangible materials to accolades.

He’s the Creator, the Lifeline, and the Sustainer of our marriage and our business.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.

To Him be the glory forever and ever. (Romans 11:36)

An Adoption Story : Journey to Ethiopia with the Long Family

Meet our friends, Andy and Bethany Long. They have two awesome kids, Carter and Piper, and are currently awaiting the arrival of a new addition from Ethiopia. As they were introducing themselves to some new friends in our small group last week, Bethany said they had three kids but one just happens to still be in Ethiopia. 

I love that. 

Their anticipation and excitement for the child they haven't even met yet encourages faith and hope in everyone who hears their story. 

Get ready to have your world rocked by Jesus and the amazing things He is doing across the nations. 

{photograph by Ginny Webb @ Sleepy Fox Photography}

{photograph by Ginny Webb @ Sleepy Fox Photography}


This is their story:

Our story starts the same as any other family's really. We wanted a baby. We had two children and we wanted another child. We had been trying to get pregnant for about three months before we stopped and reassessed the situation. Something didn't feel right. We weren't excited. We were nervous and unsure. This was not the way we had felt with our first two children. So we decided to take some time to think and pray. As we did, the question came up: What about adoption? 

I had a lot of reasons why we should not adopt: I was not a super mom. Only wise godly parents can adopt and I was not in that camp. I was scared. There were too many things that could go wrong. Even with all my objections, my husband and I could not let the question go. We kept talking and thinking and praying. Over the course of the next 6 months or so, God began to take away all of my excuses. 

He began to show me that I didn't need to be a super mom. In fact, there was no way that I could be. I am a sinner. I will fail my children. My hope for parenting any of my children has to be Jesus because He will never fail them. I did not need to be scared because I am not in control. I am also not alone in this task of parenting. Jesus has given me His Spirit. And so slowly everything I had been pointing to and saying, “See, there is no way we could do this,” slipped away. On April 11th, 2011, it dawned on me, that after my fears had been stripped away, all that was left was a little boy who didn't have a mommy - a little boy who needed to be loved. In that moment, I knew that I wanted to love him. It was that simple. There was no turning back then. 

I did not say yes to adoption because I became the mom I thought that I should be or had because I had no uncertainties, but because I saw that Jesus would be enough. My fears didn't need to control me. 

Jesus was bigger than all the “what if's”. 

So, six months of paperwork and 22 months of waiting... here we are. We have had ups and downs in the process. It has taken much longer than we had hoped. But during that time I have seen Jesus provide money through people who love us. I have had to trust that God is good even when it feels like He has forgotten us and our son. I have had to believe that He is working even when I can't see anything happening. Even though it has been hard, it has been a rich time. Hopefully in the next couple of months we will get our referral; which is an email that says “we have matched you with a child”. It will have a file with some facts and a couple of pictures. It may not seem like much but I have dreamed of that moment for 28 months. It will be the moment I see my son for the first time. All the paperwork, all the waiting, will be worth it. I am not going to pretend that adoption will be easy. I have read too many books to be that naive. But I am convinced that this is what I want to do. I want to walk alongside this boy. I want to weep with him over the brokenness of this life. I want to love him. I want to be his mommy. 

And that is the story of our third child. It is different than I imagined it would be. It is a bigger plan than I dared to dream on my own. God is weaving our family together. I know it will be beautiful, not because we are amazing- we are just normal people. No, it will be beautiful because Jesus is doing it.

-Bethany


{photograph by Ginny Webb @ Sleepy Fox Photography}

Jitney's Journeys has created a set of chatter tiles to express the story of their hearts with the scripture of their choosing that has carried them through the adoption process. Half of the proceeds from each chatter tile purchase will be donated to the Long Family as they continue to follow Christ in obedience and come closer to bringing their child home.


We recommend buying a set directly from us (via email) or from Andy or Bethany. However, you can also purchase a set from our Etsy shop here which we had to bump up in price because of fees and shipping costs. However, if you live in Huntsville or are friends / family of the Long's, you can enter coupon code JOURNEYTOETHIOPIA and receive free shipping [in other words, you can pick it up from them or The Todd Nest (the in-home Jitney's Journeys "boutique")]. 

Phoster : In Love's Service, Only the Wounded Soldiers Can Serve


Did you get the free Phoster app two weeks ago from the iTunes store? 

I've been waiting to use an awesome quote and this one seemed pretty amazing. John Piper has a daily devotional app {John Piper Daily Devotional} that you should check out if you haven't already. This particular devotion was actually from March 6th but still wanted to share it with y'all.


The eternal God is your dwelling place and 
underneath are the everlasting arms. 
(Deuteronomy 33:27)

You may be going through things right now that are painfully preparing you for some precious service to Jesus and to his people. When a person strikes rock bottom with a sense of nothingness or helplessness, he may find that he has struck the Rock of Ages.

I remember a delicious sentence from Psalm 138 that we read at our breakfast devotions last Saturday: “Though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly.”

You cannot sink so low in despairing of your own resources that God does not see and care. In fact, he is at the bottom waiting to catch you. As Moses says, “The eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Yes, he sees you trembling and slipping. He could (and often did) grab you before you hit bottom. But this time he has some new lessons to teach.

The psalmist said in Psalm 119:71, “It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” He does not say it was easy or fun or pleasant. In retrospect, he simply says, “It was good for me.”

Last week I was reading a book by a Scottish minister named James Stewart. He said, “In love’s service, only the wounded soldiers can serve.” That’s why I believe some of you are being prepared right now for some precious service of love. Because you are being wounded.

Do not think that your wound has come to you apart from God's gracious design. Remember his word: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god besides me. . . . . I wound and I heal” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

May God grant a special grace to you who are groaning under some burden. Look eagerly for the new tenderness of love God is imparting to you even now.

“Only Wounded Soldiers Can Serve”



We hope this has been an encouragement to those who have been wounded, those who have hit rock bottom and those who are living out the precious service of love in the midst of healed wounds.

Viva Las Vegas : In-N-Out Burger vs. Five Guys


If you live on the West Coast, surely you've been to In-N-Out Burger, right?

Chase brags about how phenomenal it is every time he would come back from visiting Jackie's family in California. 

JD and I were pumped to try it out first hand. Thus, we decided to make it a priority in our Vegas Venture. 

The entire family kicked it animal style... or Wild Animal Style, as I like to say... from their Not-so-Secret Menu



The Verdict?

In-N-Out was delicious. We were digging the scripture on the wrappers and the 50's style vibe.

BUT, we decided that we still choose Five Guys and Fries as the Nation's Chain Burger Champ. The fries are perfect and the burgers. Yeah. Period. That's the best way to describe them. The burgers cannot even be adjective-ized. 

We've made our choice, but what is yours?
Which burger chain is your fave?