What taming wild cats taught me about the nature of God

Born wild, lived loved.

Born wild, lived loved.

Come near to God and He will come near to you. James 4:8

The first time I tried my hand at being a cat tamer, I was just barely a year old. His name was Archie and he belonged to my grandmother. To this day she answers my phone calls with “Meow! Jennifer, leave the cat alone!”

Fortunately for me, Archie was (apparently) a pretty easy-going cat. He’d allow me to harass him until he had enough and would then jump out of my reach. Of all the stories I’ve heard, I don’t recall being told I got smacked. Which is probably what led me to believing all cats would love to be my playmate.

As I got older I became bolder in my attempts, moving from the domesticated to the feral. My arms still bear a few long, slender scars as proof. I grew up in the country surrounded by trees, blackberry bushes, waist-high grasses, and shrubs. There were also seasonal and a year-round creeks nearby we regularly played in. We never worried about bears or any other dangerous beasts, but hidden in the foliage were plenty of adorable (and extremely wild) kittens.

I honestly have no idea what possessed me to claim every single miniature feline that crossed my path. I had domesticated cats at home who snuggled up with me in bed every night, tried to share my ice cream with me in the summer, and who loved playing with me. But that wasn’t good enough for me. There was no way I could rest easy at night knowing there were so many starving baby kitties shivering outside in the dark.

I took it upon myself to save them.

Through a process of trial and error I discovered that I couldn’t just run up to them and scoop them up. They were fast. They were scared. And if I managed to get a tenuous grip on them, their claws and teeth were sharp. So I took a play from Wile E. Coyote’s book and put out a trail of food to draw them to me. Then I learned to wait.

At first I’d set out a pile of food and leave all together. After a couple of days of the food disappearing, I started sitting a distance away without moving and watched the white, ginger, or speckled baby creep to the food bit by bit, stopping to sniff, darting away if it sensed danger, and returning to accept the offering. Every day after that I’d move a bit closer. Eventually the cat would allow me to make a small move (so long as it wasn’t towards her) without disappearing into the brambles.

I fully believed that if I was patient long enough, the cat and I could be friends. Through each process, however, I learned I couldn’t force myself on the animal. I could offer it food, protection, and shelter. I could lavish it with love and companionship.

But first the cat had to accept me.

Some never let me near, others allowed me no closer than arm’s length, but a few trusted me enough in time that I eventually took them home to parents who accepted my eccentricity.

I can’t help but draw a correlation between my cat-taming adventures and how God deals with us.

He saw us in our wild form and knew how desperate our life would be if left alone. He saw the injuries we’d sustain and longed to clean and bind them for us. He knew we were starving long before we realized it and offered us a place at His table. Like me and the feral kitten, He waits for us to come to Him. Once we make that choice to come to Him, He waits for our return each day. He never once forces Himself upon us. That’s just not His way.

Come near to God and He will come near to you. What an incredible and unbelievable invitation!

Lord, I thank you for how You have chosen to interact with us. I thank you that even though you offer all we need You never grab us and force it upon us. I love that while You go out of Your way to assure me You’re safe to approach. You leave it up to me to determine how close we become. Come near to me today, Lord. I want to be near to You.

- Jen

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Life, Spirituality


Tags: , , , ,

The start of something beautiful

The Mary Kay Name and Logo are registered trademarks of Mary Kay Cosmetics.

The Mary Kay Name and Logo are registered trademarks of Mary Kay Cosmetics.

A lot changes in eight years.

That’s a fairly obvious statement, I know.

However, it’s amazing looking back and realizing you didn’t realize just how much time has passed between one moment and the next. Even more incredible is looking in the mirror and recognizing that change has been for the better.

Eight years ago I was still relatively fresh out of college. I was still paying my dues at my first job in a field I hoped would be my life-long career. I had recently purchased my first brand-new-off-the-lot car, and I was living in my first apartment.

It was also eight years ago that I was invited to my first Mary Kay party.

Up until that point I had no idea what to do with makeup. My mom didn’t wear it much and the girls who tried to show me what to do left me looking like I’d been in the oven five minutes too long. Add to that was the fact I didn’t care much for what I looked like, so long as I was more or less invisible.

Eight years ago that began to change.  Thanks to that one party I was introduced to several women who not only showed me how to properly apply makeup in a way that accentuated my natural beauty rather than change my looks, but who also started me on a path that would finally cause me to face and reject so many of the lies I’d come to believe about who I was and who I was destined to be.

Fast-forward eight years.

I no longer work in the field I began in, though my passions haven’t strayed far from it. I have moved into and out of two different apartments and had to move back to my parents while trying to find my footing in an economy that can’t decide if it’s going forward or backward. I still have my car and I still love it as much now as the day I drove it off the lot.

And I still use Mary Kay every day.

It’s not just because I love the product — and I really do! — it’s also because of the community that I’ve found in connection with the product. In every event I’ve been to I’ve found myself surrounded by women encouraging other women. It’s not just about complementing looks. It’s about inspiring other women to reach out for their dreams, whatever they may be, and to discover who they were specifically created to be.

Last week I wrote about beginning a new venture to help me pay for my schooling in Dallas. This is it! At first it seemed a bit silly, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I could do this, and I would learn a lot from it.

So this week I’d like to announce the opening of my own Mary Kay business! For anyone interested, my digital boutique can be found here. For those of you who are within driving distance, I’d be more than happy to meet with you in person. And, if you have any questions about Mary Kay or about my schooling, you can always reach me via the comment section here.

Every day is a day for new beginnings…

It’s taken me nearly eight years to realize that I have an irreplaceable role to play in each day that dawns. What that role looks like is up to me. I can be active or I can be passive. I’ve done passive; frankly it’s no fun and rather empty. I fully believe that my Mary Kay business will not only help me cover my living and tuition costs while I pursue my studies in linguistics, it will also provide me with skills that can be used to break the chains of emotional and physical bondage that are holding women, and men, captive all over the globe.

God has already given me several opportunities this past week to speak words of hope and truth into the lives of a couple of young women through my Mary Kay business. The most amazing thing of all is that as I spoke to them, He used the same words to speak to me.

The start of any new adventure begins with a choice. And I’ve made mine. I am very excited about this new piece that has been added to the puzzle that is my life and am looking forward to seeing more of that final picture emerge in the days to come!


Leave a comment

Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Life


Tags: , , , ,

I Yield

All my hopes. All my dreams.
I give them, Lord, to you.
The things I love. The things I hate.
You can have those, too.

Tears. Smiles. Laughter. Rage.
In all, Lord, be my shield.

My treasures. My debts.
Take them. They aren’t mine.

With all these things. With everything…
I yield, Lord. I yield.

Every moment. Every breath.
I give them, Lord to you.
When I succeed. When I don’t.
You can have that, too.

Joy. Peace. Heartbreak. Loss.
In all, Lord, be my shield.

Beauties. Imperfections.
Use them. Make them shine.

In anything. In everything…
I yield, Lord. I yield.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 11, 2014 in Creativity, Life


Tags: , , ,

A Tale of Two Sunrises

I’ve woken to two different sunrises in two different cities in as many days. This time tomorrow, I’ll greet the sun from my own window again. That is, if the chickens don’t beat me to it!

Sky on Fire

©2014 JELindsay

Yesterday my window faced east and the fiery glow was breathtakingly blinding as the light enveloped everything it touched. Even though it’s been bone-cold and dreary the past few days and the clouds still swirled and coalesced like bullies flexing their muscles, they didn’t seem quiet as menacing when measured against the golden band stretching over the horizon.

Although it wasn’t long before that small patch of sky was filled again, being able to see the sun even for a brief moment was enough to make my Friday feel bright all day.

Shades of Grey

©2014 JELindsay

Today I face west. The light is more diffused than yesterday’s, but I am enjoying the subtle lightening of the surrounding greens and greys. And I’m amazed by the details that are just now beginning to pop out of the darkness – like the bits of moss growing at the peak of the roof across the way and the terminal buds on the trees along the sidewalks that are even now waiting to burst out in blossoms to announce the coming of spring.

These little details are all things I wouldn’t have been able to see while staring indirectly into yesterday’s brilliance.

There are so many parallels I can draw from these two mornings. So many metaphors I could turn them into. But as I lay here in the quiet considering both, I simply can’t bring myself to do anything more than enjoy them for what they are.

The busyness of the holiday season is drawing to a close and life is returning to it’s regular rhythm again. With that comes daily schedules and complaints about monotony and longings for the weekends. But the tale of the two sunrises is a reminder that no day is ever meant to be dull. Each one is a gift.

No matter what the struggle, no matter what the fight, every day is masterfully designed to be brilliant!



Posted by on January 4, 2014 in Life


Tags: , , ,

How do you define “Blessed”?

How do you define "Blessed"? Is it something based on external circumstances, or do you consider it something more?

How do you define “Blessed”? Is it something based on external circumstances, or do you consider it something that goes beyond skin deep?

Someone once told me that “to be blessed” is to be happy to the point of bursting — to be so full of joy that no speck of anger, jealousy, or bitterness can find a spot in the heart to mar one’s sense of peace — no matter what your circumstances may look like.

Growing up, if I were asked to define the word, my description would have been much different.

I thought someone was blessed if they were well provided for financially. Someone who was of considerable standing in the community. Someone whom trouble never seemed to touch.

Since none of those things applied to my own family it was easy to joke that we were cursed. Unfortunately, it was a joke I eventually came to believe, and as a result I was marred by a spirit of bitterness and developed an unhealthy view of who I was. In my mind I was doing everything right. So why was everything still going so wrong?

I recently asked several of my friends what came to their minds when they heard someone referred to as “blessed.” I discovered a near-even divide between those who spoke of material things and those who pointed to contentment in all things — especially the hard things. This surprised me, because I honestly expected the answer to be more one-sided.

King David had his own definition:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. Ps. 1:1-2 (NIV)

As I read through that first Psalm, I was reminded that David was considered a blessed man despite being prone to making foolish choices. He was also no stranger to danger, trouble, or the ill-will of others. So what was it that made him blessed?

I am convinced that it was because his relationship with the Lord was so secure he had a peace that could never be shaken by any of life’s twists or turns. It doesn’t mean he liked going through the hard things and didn’t grieve over society’s troubles — subsequent psalms prove otherwise — it simply meant he knew exactly where he stood and why because he’d taken the time to seek and know God.

So who is blessed, and who isn’t?

I’ve been mulling over these two particular verses for a couple of months now and during that time I’ve come to see that they talk about two types of people: The one who is blessed and the one who is not.

If I take the literal wording in the verse to define one who is blessed, the opposite would be true of who is unblessed. In this case, the individual who walks in the council of the wicked, stands in the way of sinners, or sits in the seat of mockers.

If I’m not careful, I could easily conclude that the shepherd king is telling me to cut myself off from such unsavory people. This is something as Christians we tend to do all too often. When I look at the life of Christ, however, I can quickly discount that as the correct interpretation. Had Jesus avoided the wicked, the sinners, and the mockers of the earth, he would have avoided the earth all together. Where would that leave me?

I considered who David was and who he was entrusted to lead. That’s when I realized it’s not “people” David warns are dangerous, it’s choosing to live in a manner that would rob us of the fullness of God’s presence that he cautions us to avoid.

As Israel’s early leader Joshua neared the end of his life he called on the children of Israel to remember the God whom they served, and in turn He would remember them. But, he warned, if they chose to walk away, to serve other gods, and to embrace the lifestyles of the neighboring cultures they could expect God to remove his protective hand from them, and they would have to face the natural consequences of their actions.

Like any good parent, God isn’t going to reward bad behavior.

In Israel’s case, God’s blessings included a lot of tangible proofs in the form of land and wealth, but the truth of Joshua’s words still remain: When my focus is on God himself, when I’m seeking a close, constant relationship with him, it doesn’t seem to matter what happens in my day. I still feel the pressure of each struggle, but my outlook is one of hope rather than anger or fear.

But, give me a few days on my own and those ugly thoughts and old habits start rearing their nasty heads. Instead of being able to celebrate a friend’s good fortune, I slink off and wonder, “How come that never happens to me?”

Instead of being thankful that once again all my needs for the day have been met, I look through magazines and store windows and think, “If only I had more money, or could travel more, or look a certain way, I would finally be happy.”

In moments of self pity I feel anything but blessed.

How thankful I am that no matter how many times I throw temper tantrums, without fail, my Daddy is waiting right there with outstretched arms when I’ve finished. Just like the amazing parents I see who snuggle up with their kiddos once they realize they’ve been misbehaving and apologize, the matter is completely dropped and forgotten.

I think the biggest thing I’ve taken away from my time mulling over these verses is that my friend was right. It’s not the tangible that blesses or curses. It’s something better than anything I can see, smell, taste, or touch. When our center is in Christ rather than on self we are filled with a joy beyond bursting, and He covers us in such a way that no power in heaven or earth can rob us of our joy and our peace.

That’s a blessing indeed!



Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Life, Spirituality


Tags: , , , , ,

Learning to listen to the council of the HEART

bigstock----New-Year-Digits-52222105I will praise the Lord, who councils me; even at night my heart instructs me. Ps 16:7 (NIV).

Three thoughts came to mind when I read this passage today. First: I can’t think of a more apt verse to begin my year with.

Today marks a moment we spend looking forward to the future with hope and anticipation. The troubles of yesterday are truly a part of the past. It’s a time we choose to believe anything can happen, and what will happen can only be amazing. I often wonder why I don’t keep that perspective year round.

Then it dawned on me. If it is the Lord who councils me and I choose to listen and respond to his voice, I can!

Second: If I were writing this song of praise I’d capitalize the word HEART.

Language is amazing, but it can also be quite vague. I’ve grown up with songs and films that tell me to be true to my heart; to listen to what it’s telling me. But, as the prophet Jeremiah wrote so long ago, the human heart is “deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 16:9 NIV)

I can personally attest to the fickleness of my heart. One minute I’m enthralled to the point of obsession with something, be it a song, a show, a book, or an idea. But give it time and that ardor begins to cool. And when it comes to making tough decisions…it could take months of wrestling back and forth with myself before I finally decide to do nothing and let things be.

In truth, the HEART David refers to is the only voice worth listening to. It’s the Heart of the One who loves me beyond measure. The One whom David adores and praises with every stroke of his harp. It’s the Heart of the living, eternal God who will never lead those who seek Him astray.

Third: As I considered that HEART and all He means to me, I remembered a line from my favorite old hymn.

Heart of my own heart whatever befall still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

It’s a refrain I find myself singing anytime I’m feeling lost and confused. With it comes a sense of peace in the midst of the hard things. Especially when things continue to remain difficult. I wonder, did the original author read Psalm 16 before penning those famous words? Or was he simply praising through his pain?

I’m ending the first day of 2014 with a renewed desire to be more sensitive and receptive to the direction and council of my Lord during times of wakeful busyness and midnight sleeplessness — even if it requires going into places where I’m unsure of my footing.

Just as in a waltz with an expert dancer, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going or if I’m going to bump into anything because I have a partner who is watching out for me on every side.

All I have to do is trust as I follow.

Of course that’s easy enough to write. In life, I somehow always manage to tense up, over anticipate, and eventually take over. It’s something the few dance partners I’ve had would agree with, too.

That’s the other great thing about the New Year: It’s a fresh start and I haven’t tripped up yet. As the years past bear witness — even when I do stumble over my own feet all I need to do is get up to start again.

Happy New Year!


Leave a comment

Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Life, Spirituality


Tags: , , ,

From the villages of Uganda to back in the classroom

My friend Shelly and me on our first day in Uganda. Her family has since returned, but God has something different in store for me. ©2012BrukMarsh

My friend Shelly and me on our first day in Uganda. Her family has since returned, but God has something different in store for me. ©2012BrukMarsh

A year ago today I boarded a plane for the most exciting trip of my life — teaching the Word in Uganda. When I returned to the States I prayed about going back the following spring and started making plans. However, the same Spirit that nudged me to sign up for the mission trip called me to stay here instead. It was a difficult and disappointing decision at the time, especially when saying goodbye to other team members who’ve been called back to serve in the villages we’d visited. Despite that, I knew God would not ask me to stay here without a purpose and I continued seeking what that might be. This past summer I felt a prompting to look into graduate school, specifically in the field of linguistics. I’d considered such a program in the past, but never found one that fit what I was looking for, partly because I didn’t entirely know what I was looking for.

While I was in Uganda I learned that the Bible the natives read in their own language was more of a paraphrase. Many of the people were attempting to learn English in order to read the Scriptures in their entirety as well as to find better work to support their families. However, education there is not like in the US. It’s very expensive, and many are lucky to get a primary education.

My purpose in studying linguistics is two-fold: I intend to use it for translation work and possibly teaching English overseas. As many of you know, two of my greatest passions are missions and the written word. I’ve spent the better part of the last few years trying to find a way to combine both; first by applying for work as an editor for missions and aid organizations and, more recently, looking for ways to use my gifts in the foreign field.

My search led me to The Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL) in Dallas, Texas, a school that trains individuals who plan to work with organizations such as Wycliffe and New Tribes Missions, among others. Although my undergrad credentials didn’t quite meet the requirements for admission, I was encouraged by the staff to apply anyway. I proceeded knowing that the only way I would be accepted would be by the grace of God. On October 8th, I received an official letter from the school “whole-heartedly” welcoming me to join them in January 2014.

Apart from posting this as an update on what’s been going on in my life, I am also asking for prayer as I prepare for this next big step. The tuition and other expenses are more than I can pay for upfront, so I am currently searching for grants and other aid. I’ll also be looking for work when I arrive in Texas. My desire is to begin classes in January; however, that is dependent on the Lord’s provision. Because my path leads towards missions, I feel strongly against applying for loans, since that will hinder me from entering the field when I’m done with school. Ultimately, I see this as an opportunity for me to look to God instead of myself, and to inform others of my needs as well. Both are traits I’ll need in the field, and both are difficult for me to admit to on a daily basis.

I’m very excited about where the Lord is leading me and just a little nervous, too. “The road goes ever on and on” and there is no telling where it will take me! If you’d like more information about my program, my plans, or anything else, please feel free to let me know. I intend to send updates from time to time to keep those who are interested in my progress in the loop.

In His Service,


1 Comment

Posted by on October 25, 2013 in Life, Spirituality, Uganda


Tags: , , , ,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 635 other followers