About the Author

Jen encourages women to embrace both the beauty and bedlam of their everyday lives at BeautyandBedlam.com. A popular speaker, worship leader, and author of Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, Jen lives in North Carolina with her husband, five children, and a sofa for anyone...

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  1. I commute between my island and the mainland way too often. I’ve spent so much time on my island over the years that at times I forget how to do mainland living.
    I retreat to my island when relationships start to deepen, the very thing that would keep me from the island drives me to it.
    Over the last few months I’ve been challenged by Psalm 27, ‘the Lord is the Stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? ‘ I can live lonely and afraid on my island, trying to protect myself or I can choose to live in the Stronghold, on the mainland, the place that looks and feels so scary and unfamiliar but a place where I can go deeper in community and in communion with Him.
    This year I am intentionally packing a bigger suitcase for longer stays on the mainland. Who knows? One day I may move there for good.
    Xx

  2. Wow! I never realized this was me until a couple of weeks when during my time of fasting, I could hear The Lord calling me to leave my “island” (as you so brilliantly describe it!) which I’ve created over the past decade. I can hear him saying it’s time to be a contributor and not just a body in the pew. I’m sticking in more than one toe! When He calls I’m ready to throw my whole self into that ocean and see what He has in store!

  3. I can truly rekate with this message. I’m still trying to identify how I got here but am trusting God to help me move through this season even if I can’t figure it out. I love the verses you shared as I’ve prayed Psalm 62 so many times. I think I’ll write them all out together when I’m needing a strong dose of truth. There is also so much comfort in knowing others understand the struggle. It’s a blessing having sweet sisters in Christ even tho we’ve never met. Thank you!

    • Yes, Melanie –

      Writing out those scriptures and clinging to them when we need truth spoken in our lives is key. My desire is to be much more diligent with that this year.

      Even though we haven’t met, you know that so many understand and we are here.

  4. Thank you. I needed this today … I’ve been needing this. I keep waiting for others to extend hospitality to me, buy I need to invite them onto my island.

    • Yes, Sarah, yes and honestly, in my pity party state, that is where I was. I was tired of all the inviting. I wanted to sit comfortably on my island and have them reach out, but where in scripture is that ever ok? IAnd yes, it was a painful reality, but so glad the Lord didn’t require that of me and that he pursued and pursued.

    • Yes, Sarah, yes and honestly, in my pity party state, that is where I was. I was tired of all the inviting. I wanted to sit comfortably on my island and have them reach out, but where in scripture is that ever ok? And yes, it was a painful reality, but so glad the Lord didn’t require that of me and that he pursued and pursued.

  5. This is me. For most of my life I have been this island. Occasionally reaching for the mainland but mostly content to stay. Lately the Lord has been showing me that it is not good for me to be alone so much, but this step of faith comes hard for me. I will admit to fighting with Him on it. I don’t want to be the one to reach out, but at the same time if I am not the one reaching out then nothing will change.

  6. I am also a worship leader. I also go about my Sunday mornings in a state of supposed purpose, but feel very isolated at times. But I love it when someone genuinely reaches out – not small talk, heart talk – and if I love it, won’t others? Challenging. Thank you.

  7. Jen this spoke so clearly to me, the one who believes the lies that I am perfectly happy on my own island even if no one comes to visit.

    Thank you for your transparency, I needed to hear this today.

  8. God’s timing is perfect. I really needed to know other people struggle with this too. Thanks for sharing

  9. I can relate. My husband has cancer and I have isolated myself as his caretaker and feel on my own island at times ! I to struggle and don’t want to be transparent ! Thank you for the post !

  10. Thanks for these timely words. A year ago we moved to a new ministry after 15 years at a former one. I really have struggled with wanting to stay on my island, my haven. Not only that, but it is so easy to get caught up in the thinking that someone should be inviting me to the mainland – that its up to them, not me. How selfish that thinking is. Thanks for the encouragement!

  11. I can relate to your thoughts this morning and I am glad you have voiced them out loud, but I am wondering what specific actions you have taken to “stick your big toe in”? Just curious…

    • Linda –

      I think that just may need to be my next post. I wish I would have asked that at the end of this post, so I could have incorporated everyone’s answers.

      For me, it was getting my eyes of myself and going back to what the Lord put in my heart- reaching out, WITHOUT the expectation that it would meet my needs. I have some practical ideas for that that I’ll share, but again, I think it will be different for everyone based on just how attached to their “island” they’ve become.

  12. Thank you for your honesty. I am still trying to identify what keeps me there, but am thankful for friends who call me out and send me a buoy to help me recognize the hazards I’ve placed without meaning to. Thankful, too, for a God who meets us right where we are and helps us step out in faithfulness. Now I have a new prayer. Thank you.

  13. Yeah, the island seems like a great option at times – maybe even the only safe option – but the illusion of safety we’re drawn in by leaves us without a healthy dose of perspective about our situation. I learned this after retreating to my personal island following devastating circumstances in my marriage that left me feeling hopeless and different from most of the other married women in my church.

    Thank God for the friends who dared to take the ferry to my island and drag me back to the mainland for coffee or lunch and conversation. These friends could hold out hope for me when I couldn’t do it for myself.

  14. What if you love your island.? What if your not lonely? What if it is when your the most content and the most happy? Am I deceived in thinking that it is good? I am an introvert. My island seems natural and right to me. But is it? You have described me to a perfect T. Yet, that is the way I desire it to be. I do love communion with those who love The Lord and speak of His greatness at work in their lives. At the same time I like the oneness of being alone with my Heavenly Father and family more.

    • Sindee – you hit on some important points and this analogy will be different for everyone. Islands can be a wonderful place. A place to rest to rejuvenate and share communion with our Lord, but I don’t think we are meant to camp out there forever secluded.

      Jesus modeled for us that great balance of retreating, yet then also going back and ministering among the people. It sounds like you may have that good balance. Only you can know.

  15. But, I love isolation with JESUS. Some of the time. Honestly, we all need space just to be alone some of the time.

    • Absolutely, and what a joy to have isolation with Him. That alone time in meditation, prayer, worship etc is critical. That’s why there’s nothing wrong with staying on our island for some of the time, but then He calls us to share this with others too. Balance is my desire.

  16. I agree with Sindee. I look at those times when I “feel alone” to draw closer to The Lord.
    I can relate to what you wrote as sometimes I feel so alone but also I often feel like my energy is zapped when I may try to hang out on the mainland and long for my island. I try and use balance with the realization that I do love my island best.

  17. I so feel this. I was a stay-at-home-mom for 14 years. This past September, I applied to be a substitute teacher. I am so used to being at home and by myself that I often cringe when the phone rings and it’s a sub job for the next day. I have my own little path and the things I want to do or not do. I’ve isolated myself and it’s gotten to be a burden.

  18. My Island is my depression…I am tempted to just stay awhile convincing myself I just need a little rest or I am too anxious to handle the next task. But then I am trapped on this small piece of land all alone…discouraged and isolated and trapped. And the devil truly takes advantage of this! Those passing by usually can’t tell I am helplessly stranded so they wave and smile and cruise on by…when really I need a caring soul to throw me out a life preserver a line of encouragement a message of hope! Because on my island of despair I feel no hope and I find it hard to connect to my anchor My Lord and I even feel forsaken at times by my God. Thank you women at incourage keep doing what you’re doing and pray for those of us who feel trapped on their islands and not by choice

    • oh Christine –

      I wish I was there in person and could give you a huge hug. That island of depression can be a place that is so hard to get off. Is there someone at your church that you can reach out? Let them know you need that life preserver? I know though that is and of itself is so difficult.

      Please let us know if there’s anything we can do. Praying for you right now in NC.

    • Christine,

      Prayers for you today! Sweet Christine May God cover you with His healing touch. I pray you feel His warmth, love & mercy covering you all the time!!!

      Reach out to your pastor or his wife. Perhaps they would be willing to listen and throw out the life preserver you need!

      God Bless you my dear! 🙂

  19. I am tired. My soul feels tired. I retreat to my island often. I am not lonely there. Sometimes it refreshes me to light and joy. Sometimes it pulls me into the black hole. My life is full. I am available for the needs of others. I do all things for my loving Mother who needs me. I am there for my adult children and my grandchildren. I have friends that want to see me and spend time with me. When I am with them, I am blessed by uplifting them, and they me. All I have to do to is reach out and I will be blessed with and by others. But I resist it. I look at most things as commitments not desires. But I also I feel that I walk on eggshells. I feel that my words are not heard, so why share. This is the real me, the natural me. I need to constantly go back to God, to Jesus, to fill me up. I want to transformed once and for all. I pray for that. I know that life is a journey. I know that I need to daily, minute by minute reach out to Jesus. I pray for the Holy Spirit to lift me up, and He does. It is true. It does work. Then why am I tired, why do I retreat. The struggle is real. You have helped me put it into words….

  20. Thank you for this it really spoke to me. The isolation is difficult at times but so is the rejection…
    Sometimes we are so isolated for so long we don’t know how to get out…. We step out and take a chance and get hurt… I have been alone for 14 years and finally thought that I don’t really want to be alone anymore, I allowed myself to really care and am afraid that my heart will be broken……. I keep saying to the Lord..”I trust You, no matter what happens I trust You”… I want to enjoy the last part of my life it has been a hard life but I have had many Blessings too, but I know that God wants me to be happy too… so whatever happens I will trust Him…

  21. Thank you for the candor in sharing your heart. I am not on an island right now but am tired from pursuing and inviting all the time. It seems like people’s lives are too full for friends or fellowship in community or one on one. Thank you for spurring me on. I will keep on trying. Blessings to you!

  22. Jen – You described me to a T. My husband died of Parkinson’s in 2006. My caregiving had me on an island. Then I began caregiving again for a dear girl who had been badly abused all her life, We have been living together since 2005 and she nursed me through a second round of breast cancer and mastectomy surgery and follow up chemo for a year. That island is narrow. I feel so isolated even though I have friends around who care. They don’t know of the struggles to keep family relationships going, then deliberately breaking them by listening to the lies of the one who tries to keep me here on this island. My prayer is that I can open up again to His leading. My life has taken many turns, but I seem to have gotten lost in these later life turns. Somewhere He is leading, I pray I can find out where is to be. Thank you Jen for your words. Today opened up my heart today.

    • oh Virginia –

      I am touched that anything I could say would open your heart because I can’t even imagine what you’ve gone through these last years. I know that we could learn much from you, but now, in this moment, I pray that your narrow island begins to widen and you listen to where He calls.

    • Virginia,

      Prayers for healing of your heart. May God swoop down, tenderly touch you & give you the healing you so desire! I pray you feel His love, grace, mercy & strength surround you all the time!

      God Bless!! 🙂

  23. Everything you say here holds truth, and I’m glad you said it. I’m in a place myself of learning to step intentionally into community again, learning to hold myself trustworthy there and not fear that the expectations of others will erase or devour the person God made me to be

    I’d like to mention, though, that sometimes the reason for isolation is so that healing can take place. I wouldn’t be able to step forward now if I hadn’t had two or three years where I withdrew from service and even from community, to a quite place where I could I learn from God to believe that even when I wasn’t serving I was still worthwhile, where I could learn to see myself as more than how other people see or judge me.

    The journey leads back to community, to the beauty of being seen and seeing others, but oh, the journey–even in its loneliness–was beautiful, too.

    • Sarah,
      Thank you for your January post. Here it is March, and wouldn’t you know it…”ta da” timing moment from God…when I am searching for “somebody to GET IT”….and there you are.
      thanks for your honesty and sharing…waving big at you from the other palm tree!
      AM

  24. Thank you for your post. For majority of my life I’ve always felt like an outsider, like life is happening all around me & I never got the invitation to the party. I go through my seasons of going to my island (as you put it). However this time I feel like its the longest I’ve been on this island. My emotions feel all over the place all the time..one minute I’m up & the next time I’m down. I’ve never faced anything like this before. I feel like I’ve walked closer w/God now then I ever have. Your post described me to a ‘T’! I believe God is doing some kind of work in my life right now. I have yet to pinpoint it but I know the closer I get to God the more my fears and worries fade away and I feel so much better. Thank you for God inspired scriptures, I’m writing those down and studying them.

    • Treva – It’s a difficult place to be, but I KNOW that he is calling you to some amazing work. I will join with you in prayer that He makes your way clear and that any worries/fear that you may experience will be immediately halted.

  25. Hello! Have we met? I feel as if you know me exactly. The first line of your blog got me–You walk with purpose so as not to feel alone. I, too, attend a big church and I feel this way always. I live on an island also, taking trips over to the mainland occasionally. I love what you say, community is a place where your heart is at home, and you’re cared about in the little things. I so much desire this but do not have it. I care about everyone else but it’s not recipricated. It’s very lonely feeling this way. You also say that it’s in the being truly known, heart known, if only by a few. Wow! Exactly!! Life stages for me have been hard, especially when my husband left me to raise a 2 & 4 year old. Our friends didn’t know what to do so they abandoned me as well. After my children grew up, I made myself venture off the island onto the mainland. I am an introvert so this was a great feat for me! For awhile things were really good. I was making many new, single friends, joined a Lifegroup through my church. Then, to this day, don’t know what happened but I lost all my friends. So back onto the island I retreated. As you state, I hunkered down where fear of rejection, hurt feelings, misunderstanding, loneliness and unhealthy comparison abounded. Psalm 38:9 is just what I needed to read. Oh, Lord, all my longing is before you: my sighing is not hidden from you. Getting back off the island again at my age is so difficult for me especially since I am an intorvert. Everytime I try something new, it just seems to fizzle and go no where. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. Thank you for this! It’s good to know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

  26. THANK YOU FOR SHARING I FIND MY SELF ON THAT INLAND MANY TIMES I WOULD BE IN WITH PEOPLE I KNEW AND THEY KNEW ME AND I WOULD DO JUST AS YOU DID UNTIL I REALLY UNDERSTOOD HOW MUCH GOD LOVED ME AND CARED ABOUT ME, AND I COULD GO TO HIM WITH ALL MY CARES <AND HE WOULD LIFT MY CARES FROM ME AND GIVE ME PEACE.

  27. Excellent reminder that we are created for fellowship with Him & each other. A lot of times am made to believe I can succeed on the island. Thank you for bringing this to rememberance, I have made up my mind to stay on the mainland & enjoy the sweet fellowship. Psalm 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
    Shalom

  28. So beautifully well written! I love it when you talk about light not being able to penetrate in isolation. This is when I find myself at my weakest. I shut myself off from the world, telling myself that I just need a “rest” from the chaos. But all the while my heart knows the truth and I can’t get away from that. This is where the enemy likes to keep me so that my self-confidence is shaken and I am less effective in serving my Creator.

    It is reminders like these that give me the boost that I need to stay in community. To keep on encouraging and being encouraged.

    I so appreciate your words. This one is going to stick with me a long time… Thank you!

  29. Wow, I can so relate. I spent the last two days painting a bathroom at my home and basically hibernating from everyone else. Thank you for reminding me God calls us to live in community.

    I am reaching out to some friends today!

  30. Stabbed me in the heart- such a bittersweet pain. How does (in)courage find people like you? You described my journey, but I am learning that I may feel alone but my loneliness is lessened when I reach out to others. When the “others” do not understand I’ve learned to cry it all out in Jesus, ask Him to heal me, and go out there and stick myself out there again., and again, and again. I’ve found a deeper “something”, something more stable, as I reach out again.

  31. Jennifer,

    I know exactly how you feel. I have been to “big” churches. Yes you worship with many people, but you don’t get to know a lot of them intimately.

    Once I got married we went to a small country church, scary at first for me. Now I just love it because I know most of the people there and have shared in their lives. I can pray for them and do things for them and be in community with them and it is wonderfully refreshing.

    Blessings! 🙂

  32. Yep!! I have been on that island for years now….. On and off and on and off and back on again to the point where I have become destitute and so inward focused, selfish and turned my back on god – turned my back on the person god was wanting to use to reach out to others, to love them, to nurture and care and show Christ love and compassion- my heart is so cold and bitter- have repented tonight and thanking god for this amazing devotion!! Bless you x

  33. Such good stuff! A year ago I thought I knew what God meant when He gave me my One Word for 2013 – “silent”. However, I had no clue. Tomorrow will mark 1 year on my island of grief and mourning (following my dad’s sudden death). God has been clear every day of 2014 that my One Word for 2014 is “healing”.

  34. Thanks for sharing your heart on a difficult sin! I can be an island due to pride! I isolate myself and raise myself up above others. The Lord has used warnings in His word many times to correct my heart!

    Our church just published a book that we did as a congregation called “uncommon community” and it really lays out what biblical community should look like. Chapter one – you’re not an island 🙂 the memory verse from that chapter is below. It’s done so much for me in replacing the lies of the enemy with the truth of God! I certainly don’t want to seek my own desire and not The Lord’s or break out against sound judgement! This verse is The Lord saying to me – “When I say don’t, I mean don’t hurt yourself. I love you, I know better than you!!” I am wise to heed his warning 😉

    Proverbs 18:1 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

  35. YOu described me to a tee. My two oldest children have been in college for the last five years ~ well one for five years, one for four. Both are graduating in May. In an effort to earn some extra money to help with college costs, I have had a job at home. I have had other jobs at home but they always allowed me to go out to another office and be around other people. This job has not and I have become an island. It really hit me this year just how isolated I have become. I finally made the decision that after they graduate, I will no longer be doing this job. It has allowed me to be the stay at home mom for my son who is still in school but the costs has been high for me personally. I can find other things that I can do that allow me to be with other people, serve other people and get out of myself some. As a fairly independent person, I mistook my independence and introversion with isolation and becoming an island. Jen, one thing you said that really hit home for me was that how self centered I feel. I seem to concentrate on my own problems, my own feelings and my own hurt. Everything I am unhappy with seems magnified. Just last week, I sat with a friend and my husband and we talked through this island I have become. I confessed to the Lord where I am. I have a plan and the scriptures above will be so helpful. Thank you for your honesty. You blessed me today. And I will be on the lookout for an island all alone.

  36. I have NEVER been an island-dweller! I’m an extrovert and need people, but two years ago I started being a caregiver for my dad, who died Easter Sunday of 2013. Because I work full-time, caring for him when I got home at night, completely drained me. Trying to keep both his house and ours going, cooking meals, doing both laundries, etc, just took all my energy. No one from church seemed to realize what I was going through, maybe one or two who each sent one card, but no offers of help, or love, or care otherwise.

    I quit small group, choir–all the things I was involved in, because I needed to be with Dad, who had stage 4 kidney cancer and congestive heart failuer-88 years old when he passed.

    Now, it’s just hard to get back in the swing. It’s hard for me to even go to worship on Sunday mornings, and I don’t know why because I love it when I get there. I used to sing on worship team occasionally, but haven’t for a long time. Haven’t sung much in choir because of a bad hip & knee, but I miss all of it, and I miss my friends, but can’t seem to get off this island. My husband doesn’t know how to help me, and I don’t know how to help myself.

    Thanks for this! I needed it, and now I understand somewhat where I am and what’s going on. But I still need more. ;0)

    I see now that I have become somewhat self-centered, but truthfully, I think I deserve it after 45 years of marriage, taking care of my husband, two kids who are grown & one on his own, but one still living with us because of health issues. Sometimes I even feel like I want to run away from home, except take my dog. I LOVE my family, but I’m tired of the responsibility of them! Tired from my job, which is very stressful, tired of being tired.

  37. I never realized until just now how much time I spend isolated on my island. I mean, I know I spend A GREAT AMOUNT OF TIME alone, turning down invitations, etc., but this post made me realize how much I’m alone and how much I shouldn’t be. I have a lot to give & I cannot understand why I hide & hold so much of myself back from others.

  38. Sometimes we live on the island because it is something that nurtures us. Being able to be there and create, rest, revive and rejoice in the peace and quiet is a God-given treat. In this world of so much “connection” it’s a blessing to be quiet. Perhaps it depends on what stage of life we’re in. With children still at home one can’t have much time alone. But once they are gone…psst! Big secret…it’s a treat! And if you have gone through a divorce and finally learned how to enjoy your own company? Yum.