chrysalis1

 

There is so much in me to share right now. My journey has been wildly wonderful over the past ten years. Perhaps we will begin with a little dance through time as I briefly recap a decade of adventures with Jesus …

In 2005, I found myself at Rock bottom, meaning I was at the bottom, and I found my Rock. In August 2005, I began to seek answers. I needed help. I was desperate, broken, and lost. I was a mess, to put it lightly. Snippets of my testimony are scattered throughout my blog, but suffice it to say that I was in the valley of decision. God needed to prove He was real and give me a reason to live … or I was on my way out. I truly saw no other option in some of the darkest and weakest moments of my life.

I was raised Catholic and watched my Mother’s unwavering faith over the years, so I had an opportunity to hear the name of Jesus in my home and school. Unfortunately, however, my heart was hardened and my eyes were blinded for 31 years. It took a personal crisis for me to fully recognize and acknowledge my need for God. I never knew Him. I wasn’t even sure “He” was real. I struggled with the intellectual aspect of “faith,” and I simply could not believe in a God I could not see. Furthermore, if He did exist, why would He care about me? Yet, something deeper, something bigger, compelled me to reach out to Him in my greatest time of need. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? It still blows my finite mind to consider how this infinite God draws each of us to Himself in His own way and time. Miraculous, mysterious, wonderful God … I love you.

I accepted the Gospel as truth in my life and was baptized on November 27, 2005. The biggest and best decision I have ever made took place in apartment #911 in Columbus, GA (just across the river from my hometown of Phenix City, AL). God was saying, “This is an emergency, Jodi. We have work to do.” In retrospect, there was no way I could have known what the next decade of my life would look like, but when I said YES on that fateful day, everything changed. Everything.

I will never forget the electricity that surged through my mortal body as I rose out of the baptismal water … a new creation in Christ Jesus. I felt it with every fiber of my being. I was shaking like a leaf. One cannot accurately describe with earthly words what happens in such supernatural moments. I can only tell you that I knew I was changed. I knew with a knowing I could not explain that my life would never be the same. I cry even now as I reflect on that memory and moment. He loves me. He loves me so much.

Friend, I should not be here writing to you today. I should not be permitted to share a story of grace and forgiveness with you. I do not deserve to be able to share His Word and do His work on a daily basis … yet He chooses me … over and over again … He chooses me. Without a doubt, I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine (Song of Solomon 6:3).

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. – Colossians 3:13

I would say the one word that has defined my history in the Lord is LOVE. His love for me, His love for others, and the revelation of what it means to allow Him to love others through me. Love was my greatest struggle for 31 years. A child of divorce, I looked for love in all the wrong places. I desperately sought “completion” from others and tried to fill a hole in my heart with anything and everything I could find, always coming up empty and more broken than ever. As I reflect on ten years with my Jesus, I am able to see His goodness in a way I would easily overlook if I did not slow down and take the time to remember who He is and all He has done.

Never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed that a relationship with God would alter every aspect of my life. Forgiveness towards those who hurt me began the moment I received the forgiveness Jesus died to give me. I suddenly had an understanding of being washed clean and released from my sin and darkness. How could I possibly hold others captive when I had been set free?! I immediately made phone calls and paid visits to those I needed to ask to forgive me and those I needed to forgive.

That was 2005. Fast forward to 2015, and I can tell you that a tapestry of love and forgiveness is woven so deeply into my story that it is impossible to deny the reality of a living, loving God who died for me. He cared enough to loose my chains. He saw my bondage and determined He would stop at nothing to deliver me. He gave His very life so He could be near me. This is our beautiful Jesus. I can never look back. I press on toward a higher calling. He died so I may live. And live, I shall … for His glory.

 

thereyouare

 

I have truly known what it means to be alive over the past ten years. I had no idea just how dead I was … I mean, how could I? I was blind. I was deaf. I was numb. I was broken. I was scared … oh, how scared I was! Even now, I think back to how I was imprisoned by fear. I played the game well. I looked the part. But my spirit, soul, and body were in a constant state of chaos and pain, and I had no idea how to escape it … so I ran … I ran hard … and fast … and I tried to outrun my fear. But I never could.

I have said it time and again, you cannot run from yourself. The past decade has taught me so much about ME. God has replaced (and continues to replace) a broken, wounded, fragile identity with the truth and beauty of His holy Word. He has spoken to the deepest places of my soul (mind, will, and emotions), revealing His plan and purpose for my life. He consistently releases truth to my heart and banishes the lies that have prevented me from experiencing true freedom and wholeness. He shows me daily that I am His, and He whispers His love to me when I need it the most. Don’t get me wrong … I am not where I want to be … but I sure am glad I am not where I used to be. I know WHO I am, and I know WHOSE I am. Even when I fall or forget, He is always there to pick me up and remind me … I am His.

I marvel at the goodness and faithfulness of God. Ten years gives Him a good bit to work with. Although He had a clean slate when I fully surrendered my life to Him in 2005, one thing I have learned is that it takes time for the natural mind to be renewed. It does not happen overnight. Like the caterpillar, there is a deep knowing that we are created to soar, to fly, to be beautiful and free. But there is a metamorphosis that must occur before that transformation can be realized. Consider this … a caterpillar spends most of its life crawling on – and devouring – its food source. In other words, it is focused on feeding its flesh. But when “it’s time” to become an adult, most caterpillars start to wander away from what they’ve been eating to find a sheltered, safe place to transform. Interestingly, after wandering for a while, something inside of a caterpillar instinctively knows when “it’s time” to “crucify” its flesh so it can be broken down and recreated. Then comes the season of attachment to something stable so a stillness and birthing can occur in the secret place. (Read that sentence again and meditate on its implications in your own life).

This most significant season that leads to true transformation occurs in the chrysalis … the “cocoon.” In that quiet place, there is a wrestle that happens. The creature that was once grounded and hungry with a seemingly insatiable appetite for the things of the world actually begins to experience the sensation of purpose … “I was created for this,” I imagine the caterpillar thinking. “I cannot see how it will come to pass, but I know I will fly someday … I just know it.” God places that same knowing inside each of us.

What happens inside the chrysalis is fascinating. It blows my mind every time I think about it or watch it. It is the perfect indication of the reality of a brilliant, beautiful Creator. Much of the caterpillar’s body breaks itself down into imaginal cells, which are undifferentiated – like stem cells, they can become any type of cell. The imaginal cells then put themselves back together into a new shape.

Wow.

At the most basic, cellular level, there is complete renewal and change. Then after this time of transformation – metamorphosis – recreation – birthing – a brand new creature is released into the world. A new purpose is defined and revealed. A very different vantage point and perspective are experienced. Flying becomes possible because a once hungry caterpillar knew when it was “time” to change, mature, and move forward into its destiny. Beloved, this is my story … and it is yours. You will know when “it’s time.” You just know. What you do with that knowing determines the course of your life. What would happen to the caterpillar if it never created the chrysalis?

 chrysalis2

 

According to research at Georgetown University, butterflies may remember some of their lives as caterpillars. It’s true. We remember where we came from. We know who we were before our transformation, and we are familiar with our weaknesses. That is important. There are many things the Lord has wiped from my memory and enabled me to forget from my past (praise Him for that!), but there are certain memories that remain – almost as if to say, “Never forget what I have done for you.” I am grateful that He knows me best and allows only what will ultimately cause me to look more like Him with every passing day.

In ten years as a believer and follower of Christ, I have witnessed and experienced a life I never could have dreamt possible. I have had the blessed opportunity to live in beautiful places and meet the most amazing people. I have seen the love and presence of God heal people – spirit, soul, and body. I have witnessed reconciliation, gotten a glimpse of the miraculous, and seen the seemingly impossible come to pass. I have walked where Jesus walked and learned to love as He loves. I have fallen. I have risen. And I have fallen again. He always lifts me and loves me through the tough times. He has never failed me.

Countless hours of introspection, meditation, and contemplation have helped me discover ME. I have done the hard work of digging deep and looking within. I have learned the beauty of simplicity and the power of purpose. I am more hungry and thirsty than I have ever been. My fire has been kindled, and it burns with relentless passion for the One who pursues me every second of every day. My life is not perfect, and I love it that way. I still have to wrestle, and I am grateful for that. I am fully aware of my daily need for the Lover of my soul. Apart from Him, I am nothing. My hands are empty, and my heart is full. I wouldn’t change a thing. Every success and every failure … they each serve a purpose. Without the caterpillar, you cannot have a butterfly. Without the wrestle in the darkness, the wings cannot form. This life is not meant to be flawless … it is our brokenness that makes us beautiful. It is our need for Him that makes us whole.

 

monarch

 

Like Jeremiah, the Lord said to me years ago, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (Jeremiah 1:7). Without hesitation, I can say that this has been my assignment and mission since 2005. I have lived a life of crazy faith. I have followed Him, even when it made no sense to my natural mind and when it made me look foolish in the eyes of others. I have trusted and believed there is no safer or better place to be than in the perfect will of God. I missed it at times. I disobeyed. I rebelled. I had to re-evaluate and reconsider. I questioned, struggled, and resisted. I am human. He is not. This is where the relationship gets crazy, for real. But with every trial, every victory, every step, I grew stronger and more able to persevere. This is the beauty and paradox of love. Through it all, I have truly learned the value of prayer and worship as it relates to nurturing my relationship with God. It is priceless to know I can communicate with my Creator and praise Him in the midst of every storm … simply because He is.

This weekend, I transition yet again, for the thirteenth time in ten years. This time, I will be returning to my hometown of Phenix City, Alabama. As much as I would like to say it is for the long haul, experience tells me I will remain there as long as He allows. As I write this, I am sitting in my prayer chair in Grandview, MO looking at empty boxes and considering yet again how the Lord will cause things to fall in place over the next few weeks and months. I love my life. I would not want it any other way. My calling as a missionary and minister of the Gospel over the past decade has prepared and equipped me for what lies ahead. In Phenix City, I will spread my wings and fly. I will plant my ministry headquarters in my hometown and establish a house of prayer and worship – by His grace and with His help. I have known for years that this would be part of His plan, but I never knew when it would be His perfect timing … until now. Just as the caterpillar knows when “it’s time” to become a butterfly, so it goes with each of us, and so it is with this season of my life.

I am excited to move forward in the plans and purposes of God. I am beyond blessed by the vision He has given me, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude by the way He chooses us to represent and reveal Him. There is no greater honor or privilege, in my opinion, than to share the love of God with a broken and hurting world. I praise Him for waking me up each day and granting me new mercies to do His work for as long as I am blessed to be alive and able.

There is no place like home. Although home is where the heart is, and I have learned to call many places home over the years, there is typically one place that truly feels like “home” to most people. For me, it’s Phenix City, Alabama. There is something special stirring in Alabama right now. I have watched the Spirit of God moving in hearts and lives in a unique way over the past couple of years. You will hear more from me about what God is doing in my hometown and home state, but for now I will leave you with this … please pray for Alabama. More specifically, pray for Phenix City, Alabama. God has shown me that He is already stirring hearts to be a part of what He is doing there. Mark this word … make a note … save this link … you will want to refer back to it down the road sometime if/as He leads. A fire is being kindled in Sweet Home Alabama. A movement is being birthed. A revival is taking place. An awakening is coming to our land. An entire city will know Jesus. A rushing river is flowing in our midst. Phenix City, Alabama and the surrounding Chattahoochee Valley will be a basin of hope and restoration for people around the world. LOVE will live there. Healing will happen there. Freedom will abound there. Truth and justice will prevail there. Vision, strategy, implementation, and progress will be birthed there. This is not a little trickle of His glory, friends. This will be a tsunami of power that washes over an entire region and floods the earth. The Lord delights in choosing the most unlikely people and most “insignificant” places to make His glory known. I have full faith and eager expectation for what He has shown me over the past ten years regarding my hometown. I believe He hears and answers our prayers, and I am excited to meet and greet the ones He is calling to participate in His plan.

 

It’s time to fly. 

 

The butterflies are being released all over the earth. When I returned to Kansas City last week to pack and prepare to move, one of my housemates informed me that she was “raising Monarch butterflies” in our dining room. I have watched these caterpillars grow and prepare for their transition from the ground to the air. Beloved … we will intuitively know when “it’s time.” Can you feel it? In the next three to six months, you will break forth and break out of your chrysalis. Do not despise the transformation. Do not fear the unknown. Trust God in the secret place and prepare to soar on the wind of His Spirit as He releases you into your destiny. I am praying for you, and I am so grateful to be on this journey with you.

Blessings, Peace, and Love.

 

Below are some previous posts about Alabama that I have shared over the past few years. I truly believe God will begin to pierce hearts and reveal His will to those He is calling to this Sweet Home. Praying for all. :)

Destination Phenix City: Beauty From Ashes

Heaven’s Gate: Need For Speed

5/25 – Whitewater