Jolene Underwood

Jolene Underwood
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Jolene Underwood is an emotional health warrior, and soul care mentor. She writes from a place of compassion for wounded Christians to encourage and equip them in a life of spiritual growth with emotional health. She draws upon her personal experiences, her psychology background, and a passion for Christian counseling to help others cultivate a life well-lived no matter the circumstance.

Jolene writes regularly at JoleneUnderwood.com. She also leads a community of writers called Rise Up Writers. Her tool, Unleash : Heart and Soul Care Sheets, has helped hundreds experience greater freedom. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her enjoying the journey by laughing with loved ones or adding to her collection of vintage glassware with a 70s flair.

Connect with her online via YouTube/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.

How Spiritual Pliability Transforms Brokenness Into Beauty

A heated exchange between two people and suddenly the entire atmosphere changes from casual, calm opportunities for connection to postures of defense ready to shield from further attack, or postures of offense making sure we attack strongest.

We’re seeing a lot of this on Facebook and other social media feeds these days. I presume it’s also all over the TV outlets too, though I don’t have reception. I’ve seen it in my own life, especially as signs of PTSD and anxiety began to grow, and I’m guessing you’ve seen it in your life too.

A threatening word or body posture can be all it takes. The brain fires off signals affecting how our bodies respond and how our minds are limited in responding well. Three years ago, when I heard a loud voice or something drop and clang, my whole body went tense. Nerve endings seemed ready to pop anywhere and everywhere.

Many of us have strong reactions caused by different triggers and for different reasons. It doesn’t have to be a physically evident moment to spark this kind of reaction, nor does it have to be intensely felt. Whether subtle or obvious, our tendency to attack or resist attack can be a sign of something within us in need of the Father’s touch.

If we want to stop living stuck and start living well, I pray we pay attention.

Choose Pliability

There are times when God speaks to us through his word, through an event, through another person, or through what we sense internally and we have a similar reaction. Even though it may be to a lesser degree. Our bodies may tense up. Our mind is ready to explode and our hearts race.

It may not be the person or event we’re reacting to at all. God is often the one our souls fight against when we need him most. Resist the enemy who hates you, not the Maker who loves you.

When God speaks, our hearts are quickened to respond. Will we deny it? Will we accept it? Will we get angry at God and staunchly defy him, allowing our hearts to become hardened? Or, will we let anger work it’s way through while honestly struggling then choose to put our hope in him anyway?

Earlier this week, when I felt God tell me to step back from sharing this series on my Facebook profile, I struggled. While I didn’t freak out, I did wrestle through a quickened heartbeat and a sense of fear as I prayed. I had a choice: continue resistance and try standing on my own way of things, or allow the resistance to settle down and trust God’s way.

In this case, I chose God’s way and felt peace settle in.

What God uses or allows in our lives to bring about a life well-lived can be painful and hard. Our natural inclination is to resist the change. We resist what is being cleared away, making room for new growth.

God turns our brokenness into something beautiful.

If you’re anything like me, you tend to firm your resolve as if it’s needed to prove something. We might think we already had it all figured out. It’s our plan or no plan, because we assume we have it right.

How dare someone say we are wrong? Yet, when God’s Spirit is convicting our hearts, if we do not choose to let resistance fade, we will remain in the wrong and our hearts will not experience the peace, joy, and freedom desired.

We’re not just resisting God, we’re resisting the very thing our hearts crave and what they need most.

What might it look like to choose spiritual pliability over resistance?

Saying, “Lord, your will be done.” Even when the pain is unbearable, but the process is under God’s sovereignty. Jesus chose pliability of spirit when he prayed through intense pain knowing he was about to suffer in even more excruciating ways. His suffering was a kind which most of us will never come close to knowing.

saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." ~ Luke 22:42

He taught us to say the same when he modeled prayer upon his disciples request.

your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. ~ Matthew 6:10

Our resistance is an outworking of fleshly desires over the desires of God. It keeps us from living well, because it keeps us from living God's best.

Choosing spiritual pliability over resistance means allowing the master to create beauty from our brokenness. By choosing pliability, resistance is reduced and hearts are supple to the ever growing shape of God’s design. Purposes come to light and uncertainty no longer threatens our livelihood. We become more of we were meant to be.

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~ Isaiah 64:8

CULTIVATE: Ask God to show you any hidden areas where you may be resisting his good work in you to accomplish His beauty.

Note: This article first appeared on joleneunderwood.com as "When Resistance Keeps us From Living Well {Choose Pliability}

 


What You Need to Help You Sustain Faith Beyond Mountain Top Experiences

There are times in many a believer’s life when they have what is referred to as a mountain-top experience. Maybe it happens during a church service, or at a retreat/conference/event as loads of excitement generates, or through worship and prayer as hearts are set on fire. Where ever it occurs, it’s generally climactic and perspective shifts.

Whereas life may have been dull or painful before entering in to this moment, suddenly all is wonderful and beautiful. Anything is possible. The things of this world grow small and dim while the grandeur of God is close and all consuming.

In this experience our understanding of who God is expands and hearts are ready to live with bountiful feelings of peace, joy, and freedom. We've been given a glimpse into something beyond our ability to comprehend.

But then.

It doesn’t last.

Eventually, sometimes very quickly, the believer comes down from the mountain and everything shifts once again. What was once seen as conquerable is now impossible. What God revealed is no longer apparent. A moment comes and goes like a flash and our minds are quick to forget all the goodness we temporarily took in.

Our hearts need to see what our eyes become blind to.

Choose Remembrance

How can we hold on to the goodness of God when we’ve descended from the heights and begun to walk the valleys again? How can we not lose hope when the winds howl and the rain pours?

We choose remembrance so we can know that we know that we know God is good, even when what we see tells us otherwise.

Like when someone we love has just been diagnosed with a serious illness, or a tragedy comes on all of a sudden, or a marriage crumbles, or a child makes choices which could harm themselves or others, or when a friendship fails. There are so many ways in which our present reality becomes an overwhelming threat to our hearts’ assuredness of God’s very real glory.

No matter what. God never changes.

Who he is doesn’t change. How he operates doesn’t change. His love never stops. His ways never cease to be good.

Choosing remembrance is choosing to recall the ways in which God showed his presence in times past. It’s choosing to reassure ourselves of the truths He’s spoken and revealed throughout history.

When our hearts are shaky and uncertain, choosing remembrance ushers in a sense of peace we can’t manufacture.

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, ~ Psalm 105:5

You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. ~ Deuteronomy 8:18

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” ~ Luke 22:19

Joshua chapter 4 records God’s command to his people to choose twelve stones, one for each tribe of Israel, as a stone of remembrance. They were to be a reminder to them and their children of how God stopped the waters so they could cross into the Jordan, a rather momentous occasion.

After decades of wandering in the desert and forgetting every good thing God had down for them, God knew their hearts would need a reminder again.

During their wandering, Moses spent much time with God on the mountain, receiving the commandments and other instructions. When he descended, he had not forgotten his mountain-top experience when he saw the golden calf and how the people turned their hearts away from God.

Moses remembered. He also remembered God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. He reminded God of what he remembered and God “relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing his people.”

God wants to hear from his children that not only do they remember, but they believe in his goodness to the point of reminding him what he already knows.

Because I tend to be a person who forgets this. And I've often been too afraid to ask God for anything, believing he didn't really want to give it to me. I have wrestled to hold on to kingdom glimpses.

Even so, God is good and he does not change.

When we cannot see what we need to remember, we can ask the Spirit to show us. Then wait, watch, and listen.

When you see the goodness of God in a moment, and then you descend from the heights into the challenges around you, choose remembrance.

CULTIVATE: Do a study on remembrance in scripture. Consider keeping a journal to record moments of God's goodness so that when you can not see them, you can remind yourself of what you've already known. (I have a purple notebook just for this purpose called "Kingdom Glimpses".)

NOTE: This post originally appeared on joleneunderwood.com as "Beyond the Mountain Top Experience {Choose Remembrance}

 


When You Need New Dreams to Breathe Life Into Your Soul

Of all the choices marked down in my journal, and the few days I have left to complete this series, I’m drawn to a choice I’ve yet to pen. It’s one which makes our hearts beat wild with excitement and fear all at the same time.

Could we dare? Would we dare? Do we dare?

Yes! With all that is within me, I am jumping up to dance with you & say, yes!

Whether you think it’s possible or not. Even if you think it’s too late or too hard, your God sees you. He knows where you are today, whether you are stuck or living well, and He has so much love to shine upon you. If only we could see a greater portion of what he sees today. If only we sought his face, putting our trust in the Father, and asked for more.

Out of streams where living water never ends, there is always more of God to see and explore.

Choose to dream, dear one.

Choose to Dream

Dream of living fully seen, fully known, and fully loved. Dream of living well and living free. Dream of seeing hearts and lives transformed around you. Dream of breakthroughs the likes of which you have never seen.

Dream of mountains moving and the earth shaking at the sound of a mighty God. Dream of demons running and hiding at the mention of Jesus’ name.

Dream of being so uniquely created and divinely purposed that only you can carry out the very thing God has put in you to do. Dream of how amazing that road to living well can be when it is paved by the One who leads you with love.

Dream, because these are the kinds of things made possible by the God we meet on the mountaintop. May the dreams we see with him in those moments, when we’re feeling good and full, be held in remembrance when we’re feeling empty and listless.

Have you given up long ago? That your dreams could come true and your life be made new?

Most of my life I’ve resisted living well because maybe that was for other people, not for me. I lived in fear. I’ve let my dreams suffocate for decades, until I realized that it was God who put those dreams within me. When I’ve allowed the breath of new life to resurrect dreams long dead, and they haven’t turned out like I thought they would, I’ve found the sweet spot of surrender so those dreams could be reshaped.

Where our visions become all about us, dreams are choked in selfishness. Whereas, surrendered dreams help us know His vision which changes everything. When our hearts find solace in the hands of a mighty Creator, dreams are reborn.

In elementary school I dreamed of acting. I saw posters go up for auditions in a nearby town and should have felt excited and nervous. Instead, I felt rejected. My dream hadn’t even stood up inside of me before being knocked down with lies of, “Who do you think you are?”

Eventually, I realized how the enemy was hard at work. He knows a soul who follows hard after God is one whom God uses to let his glory be seen.

Our dreams are life givers and kingdom builders. The enemy will always try to thwart them and lead us towards death. When we no longer dream, we no longer see the unique imprint of God in our lives and we have no motivation to let God’s light shine through us.

May we close our eyes and ask God to speak to us in the moments of quiet. May we take steps of activated faith when our hearts are nudged to move towards a dream. May we surrender the clenched cords of control when dreams become more about us than about Him.

When the enemy is digging his claws into our hearts and minds, find the crowbars of truth to dig lies out. May our dreams bring life into tired places and help us see the grandeur of a God who dreamed so big, we could be saved.

God is breathing new life into your heart today, friend. He has dreams for us beyond our wildest imagination and he gives us what we need to keep dreaming.

The welcome of a dream is like new life breathed into depleted souls.

CULTIVATE: Have you prayed about your dreams lately? Ask God about them and choose to keep on dreaming with the hope of his best come true.

NOTE: This article first appeared on joleneunderwood.com as "When You Need New Life Breathed Into Your Soul {Choose to Dream}

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About Jolene Underwood

Jolene Underwood is an emotional health warrior, and soul care mentor. She writes from a place of compassion for wounded Christians to encourage and equip them in a life of spiritual growth with emotional health. She draws upon her personal experiences, her psychology background, and a passion for Christian counseling to help others cultivate a life well-lived no matter the circumstance.

Jolene writes regularly at JoleneUnderwood.com. She also leads a community of writers called Rise Up Writers. Her tool, Unleash : Heart and Soul Care Sheets, has helped hundreds experience greater freedom. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her enjoying the journey by laughing with loved ones or adding to her collection of vintage glassware with a 70s flair.

Connect with her online via YouTube/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.