honest.

As my college experience comes to a close, I’ve decided to wipe the dust off the ol’ blog and give it a go once again. Not that I think I’ll really have the time to post consistently. But I’ve been so inspired to pour myself into the things that bring me joy and purpose, and I’m learning that writing from the heart is one of those things. So even if no one reads this junk, whatever. It’s for me, after all.

I like to journal when I listen to sermons and when I’m reading my Bible and praying, and I recently finished a journal that encompassed roughly the past 6 months of my life. I decided to read the journal in its entirety. It’s always interesting to step back in time to the thoughts of Less-Mature Jos, and see how far God has brought me.

I soon discovered that Less-Mature Jos was actually not necessarily less mature. As I look back on some of the things I wrote in my journal, I am struck by their honesty and trust. “I love being Yours, Father”, I wrote, struggling but still trusting in the midst of the loneliness of singleness I was feeling on October 1st.

How convicting, to read your own writing and remember that you used to get it. I actually was in a place where I trusted what God was doing in my life. I dwelt in the identity given to me by God – daughter – and in response, I sweetly thanked Him for His love.

What happened? Why do I read those 5 words and sigh?

Because that doesn’t seem like enough anymore. I love being God’s, sure, but I still long for other things too, like security, clear direction for my future, and especially to be in a relationship moving towards marriage. Oh boy, I want that so badly.

Well, God, You put these longings here, I say, frowning at the ceiling. It’s Your fault that I want more. If You gave these things to me, then I could learn to trust You.

Ick. How ugly, to give God ultimatums concerning my love for Him. I hate seeing that in me; I’d like to ignore that it isn’t there. But this blog post is entitled ‘honest’, so I would be robbing myself of this opportunity for vulnerability if I wasn’t completely honest. And that icky thought is there, even when I ignore it.

I can offer no answers, friends. All I know is that my life is not going the direction I wanted it to, and maybe that’s okay. Actually, I know it’s okay. It hurts and it sucks and I’ll probably cry a lot in the next few months and frown some more at the ceiling in self-pity, but I’m still here. God hasn’t pulled me off this Earth yet, and I rest convinced that it’s for a good reason or two.

So, I will offer this instead: in the midst of my tears and pain, God was and is faithful to give me purpose. He gave me and gives me every day opportunities to be kind, to speak truth, to love. On top of those eternal, valuable things, He gave me my dream job, which involves serving people practically and being thanked by little kids (and adults too) as they shove chocolate muffins into their mouths. He gave me a voice with which to sing and fingers that can play and the ability to turn my heartache into songs that remind me of His goodness and kindness and faithfulness. He gives me beauty every day, in the cliche places like sunsets and flowers and all that crap, but also in hot cups of homemade coffee and in the new drawing pens I just bought and especially in the way my friends serve and love me, despite my ugliness and stubborn heart.

And above all, He gives me grace. Because if I were God, I would have smote Joslyn Ann Vargas after the hundredth time she sank into that place of self-pity. But I am glad I am not God. I am glad that He is in control, not me. I am glad that His mercies are new every morning, and that His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:23).

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. This blog post has been cathartic, and even if not a single person ever reads it, I feel better knowing that my heart is out there. If you have questions about my situation, or if you find yourself in a place of frowning at the ceiling, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I cherish the thought of hearing your hurt and praying for you.

Search and pray for purpose, friend. God is faithful to answer prayers that are in alignment with His heart, and I know that His heart for you is to live and thrive in His best. Believe me when I say this: you have eternal importance. God has called you His.

Honest.

last gss update

GSS is almost over! Today (Monday) I have my last one-on-one with my team leader, Caroline, and then we have our last Bible study in Galatians 6. Tomorrow (Tuesday), we are debriefing with our teams, and then heading to Santa Monica for the day to enjoy each other’s company. Wednesday, we have to deep clean our apartment, and then we are all dressing up and going to dinner for our final meal together as a group. We have to be out of the apartments before 9 AM on Thursday, so Wednesday is when we are to officially say goodbye.

Me and the team at church. Casual.
Me and the team at church. Casual. L to R: Me, Caroline, Andi, Mariah, and Koos.

I’m pretty sad GSS is coming to a close. God has really met me here, not only in my personal walk with Him, but also in friendships, work, and experiences. I have seen Him answer tiny prayers that honestly didn’t matter that much, but He chose to provide anyway. I’ve also seen Him answer big prayers, in the kinds of situations in which all I could do was literally fall on my face and beg for Him to do something. In my last post, I talked about the idea of faith as a muscle. I’ve been asking God lately to show me what that looks like, and He has certainly delivered. I’m just so blown away with it all.

As the program wraps up, we are being asked to process what this summer has looked like for us, in terms of our walks with God and personal maturity. I think one of the bigger things I’ve been processing lately is the true mystery of the Gospel. I have been praying (I’ve been praying a lot, if you couldn’t tell haha) that we as Christians would never lose sight of how marvelous Jesus’ sacrifice was, that it would never cease to be amazing. Lately, God has really shown me just how powerful it truly is. We sincerely DO NOT have to do ANYTHING to earn favor in God’s sight. We already have it because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All the brokenness, sin, weakness, impurity, everything was covered. There is absolutely NOTHING in the cosmos, nothing that ever was or ever will be, that can separate us from God (Romans 8:38-39). Once we accept Him into our hearts, He is faithful to stick with us, to carry the work until completion (Philippians 1:6). All we have to do is call on the name of the Lord and acknowledge we need Jesus to be our savior (Romans 10:9, 13). Seriously. That’s it. If that doesn’t blow you away, you need to dwell on it some more.

As humans, we will continue to turn away from God, looking for fulfillment in other places, seeking to “find ourselves” and “be whoever we want to be.” But God calls us to so much more – He calls us to sonship, to inheritance, to adoption as His children, and to love us and take us back every single time we fall down at His feet, whether that’s 7 times or 70 times or a million times (Ephesians 1:18, Luke 15:20-24). He does this because He knows that we are weak without Him, that we need His sacrifice to become whole. Before we even accepted Him, while we were still in our sins, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

It just blows me away. He is so good, so worthy of praise. This is why we praise His name – not because it is required for salvation, but because He is good, He is glorious, He is unfailing.

He also likes giving us good gifts, which I would consider GSS to be. I might have said this before, but if you ever get the chance to do a similar program – set aside time for God and growth and fellowship – you must do it. It might be painful at times, but it will be so worth it. God will use it to glorify Himself through your life and your circumstances, and even to glorify you. 2 Corinthians 4:17 – “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Suffering in this brief, passing lifetime to prepare within me eternal glory seems worth it, at least to me.

Still very much in progress,

Jos

Candid laughing with my homegirl, Akosua aka Koos. God has seriously blessed me with amazing friendships.
Candid laughing with my homegirl, Akosua aka Koos. God has seriously blessed me with amazing friendships.

PS – if you wanna get together after GSS to talk about it/just talk/just be friends, please get in touch. PLEASE.

gssstp weeks 3+4 (?!?!)

God is so good. So, so good.

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When God reassures you with floor decals

God would be good, regardless of the circumstances of my life. And granted, some of the circumstances I’m currently facing are not easy or necessarily joyful. But He has seriously blessed me recently. I look around at GSS and I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the amazing, Christ-seeking folks that I get to call my dear friends. I’m blown away by late night talks, spontaneous trips to new places, sharing my wardrobe with with some seriously cute gals, always having a bouquet of flowers on our coffee table, and having some very sweet alone times with God.

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Taking hip pictures of my Bible and my drawing and a plant

That being said, this week has been interesting. Since I last posted, I lost the job I had, because the hiring manager didn’t realize I was seasonal (only available till July 27 oooops). I don’t think that counts as being fired, but it was still difficult because I was suddenly unemployed again.

BUT – literally the next day, I received a call from a high-end women’s clothing store that I had previously interviewed at, and the lady wanted to hire me and two other girls at the program for part-time positions.

I remember feeling so relieved. The first job seemed so superficial, and I knew that I didn’t fit in with their aesthetic. I was, and still am, so grateful to not be working at the first place.

However, I had my first day of work at the new job yesterday, and it was stressful. Like, I almost cried at one point, when I accidentally charged a lady three times for her purchase. THREE TIMES. That’s what happens when they expect me to be able to work the register for the first time in my life for a customer who was in a hurry. *cries*

I know it will get better with time, but it’s still so easy to get overwhelmed. I work my next shift on Monday morning, so we’ll see how it goes. Ultimately, I’m only working for a couple weeks, so even if I’m awful at it, I can move on with my life afterwards. And that’s definitely something to be thankful for.

Also, THANK YOU to everyone who gave to help me be here. Your contributions have seriously blessed me and I would not be able to be here without your gifts and your prayers.

If there’s one thing that God is showing me while I’m here, it’s that prayers are so very powerful. From big things like providing funding, to little things like losing our room keys (hahahaha), God has provided. One of the guest speakers, Tom Yeakley, compared faith to a muscle – the more we exercise it by asking things of God, the more able we are to ask for bigger and bigger things as we grow stronger in faith. God has delivered on some pretty surprising things this summer, and it’s really been encouraging to see how some things turned out differently than I thought they would. (forgive me for the cliche verse, but it’s relevant):

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13, ESV

Seeking God with all my heart has been the greatest decision and the greatest period of growth of my life. Try it. It’s pretty sweet.

With love, Jos

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Smiley and flowery at the Anaheim Packing House

stp: week 2

This week has been a whirlwind.

On Monday, while searching around the mall for more places to apply, I received a call from a popular young adult clothing store that I had previously applied to online. I accepted the offer for an interview, and so I went in on Wednesday. The interview was a group interview, with two other girls and one guy interviewing along side me. Oh dear, I thought. I’m not gonna get this job.

At one point in the interview, after hearing my fellow interviewees answer multiple questions in a way that noticeably pleased the hiring manager, I felt pretty discouraged. I reminded myself that if God intended for me to get this job, then I would get it. I remembered the verse in 1 Peter 4 that talks about speaking with the “utterances of God”, and I prayed that God would give me words to say for the next question. Even if it was not God’s plan for me to get this job, I wanted to come out of the interview feeling like I tried to the best of the abilities and that I had used the resources God has given me.

The next question was a scenario: what would you do if you found out that a friend and coworker was stealing from the company?

Prior to this point at STP, we had discussed the importance of having integrity. We want our potential employers and coworkers to take note of and admire our commitment to living an honest and transparent life, and thus maybe see the light of Christ.

“Integrity,” I blurted.

“Hmm, I’m gonna stop you right there,” the hiring manager said sternly, staring straight into my soul. Oh no, I thought. Goodbye, employment. At least I tried.

“Integrity is my biggest thing,” she said. “It is so incredibly important. If I can’t trust you and know that you are a person of integrity, than I can’t have you working for my store.” She smiled at me, for the first time in the whole interview. “I love that answer. Great answer.”

I shed an internal tear of joy.

The interview went on, and she had us describe why we were wearing the outfits we chose for the interview, and then she instructed us to “sell” her the keychain that she had around her neck. After we had negotiated potential pay, she paused.

“Well, I don’t normally do this, but I want to hire all of you.”

WHAT.

All things considered, I should not have gotten this job. I’m not fashionable enough to work here (i.e. still pretending that mid-rise jorts and v-necks are cute). I was not qualified at all – I’ve never worked in retail ever, unlike the 3 others in my interview. Yet God is one who answers prayers, one who is full of grace and gives people things that they don’t deserve. Not that I’ll get everything I ask for, and that I will always get what I don’t deserve, but there are times where God answers those prayers and gives those gifts. Feeling so humbled and blessed by this job.

Ultimately, me getting this job is just a picture of grace. I went into this interview unprepared, clueless, completely unqualified. I did not deserve to get it. But God’s grace is just that – it is a free gift, as Romans 6:23 so beautifully reminds us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ESV) We deserved the death, but God gave us life. God thought of us, created us in His image, and sought out a two-way relationship with us. We fail Him every single day and we will never be worthy of the love that He showers upon us, but He gives it anyway.

Man. Every time I feel guilt over the things I’ve done, all I have to remember is this truth, and I’m overwhelmed. My debt has been paid.

If you don’t know this truth, I would encourage you to think long and hard about what you do know and what you want to know. There is fulfillment in Jesus Christ that is beyond anything that this world could provide.

Plus, the community is pretty cool, too.

My gorgeous team: Andi, me, Akosua, Caroline, and Mariah.
My gorgeous team: Andi, me, Akosua, Caroline, and Mariah.

P.S. Consider praying for Kuwait, France, and Tunisia. Prayers are more powerful than we could ever know.

Love, Jos

golden state summer update

Hey y’all! I’m currently in Fullerton, well into the first week of the Summer Training Program in Fullerton, California. It’s sunny and beautiful here, and not a touch of humidity in sight! (sorry Oregon. I still love you.)

It’s been a crazy few days, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve only been out of Oregon for 6 days. It seems like ages. I flew out last Friday and stayed with the lovely Squire family in Trabuco Canyon. Erica then graciously drove me out to Fullerton on Sunday afternoon, and I’ve been at the program since.

It’s been exhausting, to the say the least. Orientations, meeting new people, job hunting, sleeping on foam that is pretending to be a mattress… But God has graciously provided me with the opportunity to get to meet some new, amazing people, and reconnect with some girls I met on our Spring Break trip to Sacramento. It’s been tiring, but so fruitful.

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Akosua, Melissa, me, and Sadie at Downtown Disney for fireworks. Thinking about you guys cause I love you all!

With that said, I am still in need of financial partnerships. I am so grateful for those who have already given, and I promise that ‘thank-yous’ are getting sent out and you should receive them soon. But I am still about $1000 short of what I need to raise for the program. If you are still considering giving, there are a couple of ways, but the easiest way is:

  1. going to www.navigators.org/donate,
  2. selecting “Choose Staff or Projects”,
  3. typing in my Navigators ID number in the search bar: 23826593,
  4. and filling out the donation form.

Every little donation counts, and it is greatly appreciated. Along with donations, it would be so appreciated if you kept me and the rest of the students and staff of the program in your prayers. We are all here to seek God, no matter where we are in our lives: school, the business world, and even unemployment. Pray that God would reveal Himself to us in big ways and encourage us to keep pressing into Him. Pray that we would continue to dive wholeheartedly into His Word and into the circumstances that He places us in. Also, all of us are searching for temporary jobs, and most of us are also still fundraising. Pray that God would lead us through these potential sources of anxiety and do a great work within us and within Fullerton.

Thank you for caring for me and for the circumstances that God places me in. I’m so blessed to know all of you and I am so grateful that you have stuck with me this far.

So much love,

Jos

Job hunting at a cafe with Jules, Melissa, Nancy, and Sadie cause there is no WiFi where we are living.
Job hunting at a cafe with Jules, Melissa, Nancy, and Sadie cause there is no WiFi where we are living. Pity us. 

some good things.

Despite being very busy with schoolwork (only taking 12 credits but still drowning in work and my own tears), I still manage to find time to do other fun things. For instance, the other day, I made a cake. This was no ordinary cake, mind you – this was a gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, magical-filled carrot cake made entirely from scratch. Like, I shredded those carrots myself. (But the icing was normal cream cheese icing with tons of powdered sugar so…)

Now, before you judge and tell me that it was probably gross for not having ‘normal’ ingredients, I would like to say that I served it to multiple college students who all had no idea that it was not a ‘normal’ cake. And they all loved it.

This is the greatest cake I’ve ever eaten.

-Randi

People went back for seconds. It was my pride and joy. Now, we have two pieces left and we’re probably gonna eat them tonight.

Aside from that, I’ve also had the motivation to create things. While I’ve always identified as more of a musician than any other kind of artist, I’ve recently found so much joy in drawing and painting. I even made a necklace the other day. (except noodles and water-based paints are not a good idea – the noodles will absorb some and then crack. Learn from my mistakes, children).

God gave us passions for a reason; we don’t necessarily have to be good at them to still enjoy them. I am personally not very good at making oil pastel drawings that don’t look like a 5-year-old’s first encounter with Crayola crayons, but that’s part of the fun!

If you’re stressed, doodle a flower (they’re all the rage right now). Paint some noodles and make a hip version of a macaroni necklace. Sew a bag out of an old shirt that you never wear but don’t want to get rid of. Take a picture with your phone and edit it extensively. Invent a dance to your new favorite song (which obviously should be this song).

Lastly, a list of good things in my life right now:
God
Randi
That carrot cake
2 weeks left of school
Getting rehired at the Y in Medford for August
God
Getting a new, pretty Bible (courtesy of Nicole <3)
Nicole
Everyone in Navs
My church, Ekklesia
Summer
You! 🙂 Thanks for making it this far. You rock.

Here's that macaroni necklace I was talking about. And a sample of the special 'thank you' card you will get if you donate to my STP ;)
Here’s that macaroni necklace I was talking about. And a sample of my special hand-drawn ‘thank you’ cards you will get if you donate to my STP.

now and next.

It’s official! I’ve been accepted to the STP! (Technically I’ve been accepted for like 2 weeks now but I haven’t written about it hehe). Soon my letters asking for friend and family partnerships will go out to the masses. If you want one, let me know. Due to a printing mishap, I ended up with 160 letters, which was twice as many as the 80 I intended on printing, which was still more than I planned on sending out. Seriously. If you want a letter, let me know. There is no shortage.

Planning for the STP is hard while still trying to be active in classes. I have something huge in all (3) of my classes due on Monday, and I want to get my letters out by Monday also. And applying for jobs in the Fullerton area, which is crazy. I have applied for *drumroll* 17 jobs so far. SEVENTEEN. Only two have responded: a no from the Fullerton South Target, and a possible part-time job at Payless in La Habra. But I can’t be certain about that until I actually get to Fullerton and interview for it. Talk about overwhelming.

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Staring dramatically into the Oregon coast sunset, dreaming of getting hired at In-N-Out because their starting wage is $11 an hour. 

The hardest thing for me is keeping focused on God when so much is happening. Fortunately, I tend to feel God when I’m loving and being loved by friends, and I have had many opportunities lately to feel that. Women’s retreat last weekend, random hangouts with friends, going to the coast last night just because.

Life is good. Enjoy each moment.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17