Discovering Beauty in THE PEOPLE

Post Grad Duck #17

This post should be much easier to write than the last, but for that reason I may find it harder. When I finished writing about the town, I wanted to immediately start writing about the people, but I decided to give it some time. I’m glad I waited, because in the days that followed I had such lovely interactions with so many people here–I felt more inspired to organize my thoughts. I want to write about them all, but I only want to share a few; and that is exactly what I will do.

Before I even crossed the Pennsylvania state border, I felt loved and encouraged by so many people that I hadn’t met yet. From states, and hours, and miles away I felt…wanted. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all want to be wanted. Many times, that’s much of the reason that we like helping other people–it’s a good feeling to be wanted, to be needed. While I was finishing up my time in North Carolina, that’s exactly how I felt by my unmet students, unmet boss, unmet friends, and unmet church family in Pennsylvania.

“Jayna, I can’t wait to meet you!”
“We’re all so excited that you’re coming!”
“It will be so nice to have a female intern again!”
“It’s such a blessing that you’ll be here!”

It was phrases like these that compelled me to take a leap of faith, despite my fear, and move to a place where I literally knew no one (trusting that my feelings of  wantedness actually translated into actually being wanted).

Well, here I am 4 months later and I was right. I am wanted. That feels a bit weird to type. I am wanted. My gut reaction is to assume that I sound prideful and arrogant, but I promise that I say those words with the utmost humility. I am honored to be wanted. And, dear ones, you are wanted right back.

Regardless of my fear of getting too attached, my heart has done just that. It’s made its way into the various lives of so many here and started to create a home. As a result, there is now a piece of one of my most vital organs that beats for those I’ve gotten to know during my first semester here. When I first moved State College, I tried to keep my heart locked away. When I started to feel deeply, as I so often do, I tried to ignore what was happening. But the people here are stronger than my feeble attempts to play a game of keep away–My Heart vs. Their Love & Kindness.

A quote that I love from a book I love goes like this, “I fell in love the way you fall asleep, slowly and then all at once.” How true those words are. I’ve fallen in love with the people here and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was teetering on the edge and before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the cliff. The landing wasn’t harsh, and the fall was less scary than I imagined.

At the bottom of this fall I have found these three: understanding, joy, and perspective. All under the umbrella of love, I have been met in ways so personal.

Among my friends/roommates I have found understanding. I have found people who want to get to know me for who I am and have pushed me to be me. It’s simple, but true. Moving to Pennsylvania meant that I left some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. There is a huge part of me that resolved to believe I wouldn’t find anyone like them here. And I was right. The friends I have back home are one of a kind, but that did not mean that I wouldn’t find people with whom I could be myself. The relationships here are different than ones elsewhere, but what a winsome adventure its been. I have been understood and gained understanding at a very basic level. Things don’t always need to be complex. New people means new experiences, and leaving my comfort zone is good.

Among my students I have found joy. The undergraduates with which I spend my time are so different from those at Appalachian. Because of such stark differences, I was afraid that it was going to be really hard for me to fit in.  An no, it was not the easiest transition, but over time I gained my balance. I wish I could explain how much my students make me laugh or how encouraging they are. They are talented, and beautiful, and kind, and passionate, and ambitious, and hard working, and loving, and wonderful. They accepted me with open arms and haven’t thought twice about whether or not they made the right decision in doing so. Their stories are beautifully broken and the potential they hold is so bright. I feel so loved by them and simultaneously feel like I don’t deserve them. They are changing me and growing me for the better.

Among my church family I have found perspective. Initially, I was anxious about getting to know members of the congregation that are not in my same walk of life–I had never really done that at my previous churches. However, I have learned of new ways to serve, new ways to share, and new ways to give. No place is perfect, but I have enjoyed seeing the ways in which this body of people does excel. What a joy it is to know people in my church that are years older than I. What a treat it is to be greeted by such compassion and wisdom. What an honor it is to meet weekly in Bible study with such beautiful women to discuss Scripture and pray for each other. What a blessing it is to see the importance of serving the local church and communing before and after service. Oakwood Presbyterian is like an ecosystem of sorts that both feeds and pours out to the congregation and the community. Such a way of living is necessary, not optional. I’m seeing this firsthand.

I’m left in awe. With each people group that I’ve gotten to know, my first reaction was to shield my self with fear. On the contrary, each people group has shown the character of Jesus: love. I’m thankful, humbled, and–although only for a short while– at home.

IMG_9780.JPGSo here’s to you, people. Thank you.

[Dear Jesus, what a gift it is to be surrounded by so many of your beautiful children. Thank you for sharing them with me.]
❤ Amen

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