I didn’t wanna write this, but I’m glad I did.

Duck #99

If you’ve spent nearly any amount of time with me, you’ll know that I get excited about things very quickly. It doesn’t take much for me to elicit an overly exuberant response or find something humorous enough to literally knock me over. Laughter is genuinely my number one favorite thing to do. I know I’m not alone in this, but I’ve realized recently why it is that I love laughing so much. It’s because of how deeply I am “feeling the funny.” When I’m especially tickled by something, it’s common for me to be “taken” by my laughter, and usually will be rendered speechless for a bit too long. Admittedly, it’s quite a site and a ridiculous one at that, but I can’t help it. I just feel the funny in my bones and succumb to its vibrancy. It’s nirvanic. (That’s not a word, but let’s pretend nirvana can be an adjective, cool?)

I wish, though, that “the funny” was the only thing I felt deeply… The weather in Pennsylvania, while not extremely winterous (again, not a word. but let’s keep pretending), has been predominantly cloudy. Now, if you haven’t lived in a place where sunshine severely lacks in the winter, consider yourself fortunate. Sporadic gray days are fine, I think we all need them–they remind us to slow down and be still–but too many in a row can really take a toll on your mental health. Because the sun and I haven’t hung out as much as we did in the fall, I’ve had more time to think than I’d probably like. It’s okay, though. Thinking is inevitable and feeling your thoughts is important, sometimes. But man! It sure does feel like these clouds are just wringing me and my feelings dry.   Consequently, it is through this drying process  that I’ve begun to learn a thing or two…about my self, about the Lord…

Fear is familiar and it’s an easy camping ground. 
There is a false sense of security that being afraid gives. It tells you to worry because then you’ll have control. It tells you to hide because then you can’t be seen. It’s comfortable. But the gospel is bigger than that. The gospel says, “I see that you’re afraid, but you don’t have to be. I’ll take your fear.” In Luke  5, Jesus calls his first disciples. After Jesus finishes preaching to a large crowd, he tells Simon (a fisherman) to put his net back into the water.” Mind you, Simon and his fellow fishermen had been trying to catch fish for HOURS and even after fishing through the night, they’d come up short. Immediately, Simon says, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (v5). I love Simon’s response because it’s shown me that in the midst of my fear, there is still a call for obedience. Leaving my fear is uncomfortable, because it requires me to trust someone other than my self, Jesus.

The Lord’s faithfulness is both self existing and self sustaining.
One of RUF’s presuppositions is “God is at work.” At first glance, it seems so simple and operates as obvious. However, in ministry, it’s really easy to doubt this truth. When I say the wrong thing, when girls don’t come back to RUF, when students have really hard stories, I too often blame myself for the “catastrophe.” But God is at work. He’s always at work. His love is steadfast and all his work is done in faithfulness (Psalm 33:4). The beauty of this reality is that my fear, doubt, confusion, worry, and lack of trust cannot thwart or alter this aspect of God’s character. And yet…this faithfulness is for me, with mercy that is new every morning. God’s faithfulness isn’t contingent upon me or my understanding of it. (Praise Him for that!!)
“Give yourself permission to be where you are.”
My counselor has been telling me this for months. I don’t do this well. I love to analyze and figure out why I am the way I am or why I am feeling the way I’m feeling. But If I try to always figure everything out, I don’t leave any room to be still and know that He is God (Ps 46:11). Breathe. This too shall pass, but if I don’t acknowledge that my “thing” needs to pass, it won’t.  I won’t give it undeserved credit, but I need to let it know that I see it and hear it. But it also needs to know that I don’t have time to be overwhelmed by it.

Fight like h*ll.
Daily, my flesh is out for blood. My mind is hungry to give into unhealthy behavior. I have to pray. In this incredibly individualistic society it’s far too easy to be threatened and offended when my comfort level is in danger. The gospel calls me out of comfortableness into the arms of Jesus. I have to pray. I really, really don’t like big change but I can’t give into the fear and anxiety change brings. Giving myself permission to be where I am doesn’t mean that I won’t have to move eventually. I have to pray.  After Simon put his nets into the water again, he “left everything and followed [Jesus] (Luke 5:11). He fought the urge to remain a fisherman and instead became a disciple of Christ. I have to pray.

Gratitude is a beautiful antidote, say “Thank You.”
It’s really difficult to be angry and thankful. It’s also really hard to complain when you’re making a list of blessings. For some reason, I find it really easy to keep thanksgiving to myself, but such an attitude isn’t like pride–it should be proclaimed. Gratitude should be shared and celebrated. It produces humility and I’ve found that it’s begun to open the caverns of my heart that are closed off to trusting my Savior.

So, I think that’s where I’m at. Somewhere between inevitably “feeling the funny” and also feeling everything else. But I’m learning and the Lord hasn’t left me. So I’m okay… 🙂

[Dear Jesus,
Thank You for your patience, for you love, for you understanding. Help me to trust You…]
❤ Amen

Now That I’m Older: An MLK Reflection

“You’ll understand when you’re older,” feels like one of the most overstated, yet underestimated phrases of a young person’s time. I don’t dare to count how many times such a phrase, or one similar, was told to me as I was growing up. I remember that this phrase was used when I didn’t understand why I couldn’t participate in or have something my childish heart desired. I don’t, however, remember hearing it when my parents heavily encouraged me to study or read Black History and I begrudgingly complied. I’m thankful for their prudence in not using words of shame to force an understanding I simply would not grasp for several years, but now that I am older, I’m beginning to get it.

Today we celebrate what would’ve been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 88th birthday. Today we honor a man who fought boldly for a deserved justice withheld from people of color. Today we remember the sacrifice Dr. King, and the many people that supported him, made in an effort to secure a long awaited freedom. Today I get it.

When Dr. King orated his infamous “I Have A Dream Speech,” my father was 7 years old. Too young to understand the full gravity of the time in which he lived, but old enough to be sincerely affected by his surroundings, my father experienced the regulation of integration firsthand. He was one of the little black boys that Dr. King hoped would be able to join hands with one of the little white boys and stand as brothers.

I re-watched Dr. King’s speech this morning. I sat at my kitchen table, at the house I can rightfully live in and cried. I sat, wiping my face, shortly after my white roommates had left for work and cried. My tears, I realized, were shed for several reasons. My watermarked cheeks were due to the passion in Dr. King’s voice. His diction was powerful, precise, and penetrating.  I shook my head because some of Dr. King’s dreams haven’t come true. Sometimes people choose to see my skin color only and ignore the content of my character. I continued to cry because some of Dr. King’s dreams have come true. I live with two white girls and not because I’m their maid! I wept because for the first time, I realized Dr. King wasn’t talking entirely about having dreams of freedom on earth. Due to his strong foundation as a believer in Christ, I believe the fullness of freedom Dr. King dreamt of is the fullness of freedom that awaits us in Heaven.
A fullness he is now joyfully experiencing…

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream

Maybe this is far too obvious. Probably. But I don’t think I had a category to understand this when I was younger. When I first learned about Dr. King, I was probably around the same age my father was when Dr. King first gave his speech. At 7, I didn’t have a space in my mind to contemplate injustice, death, or racism. Now, at 23, I’ve grown to understand these three evils; however, I’ve also grown in my understanding of the gospel and the hope I have in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

What Jesus did on the cross, mediating between God the Father and man, has secured a way to the Promised Land, full of freedom and love and a peace unimaginable. It is in this truth that I resolve to put my hope. In light of unwarranted gun violence, in light of hostile riots, in light of hateful speech, in light of gross misunderstanding, I wait for the freedom of Heaven. This truth holds for opposing situations as well. In light of integration, in light of protective laws, in light of upheld constitutional rights, in light of moves toward racial reconciliation, I long for the freedom of Heaven.

Dr. King, you paved the way. You paved the way for a movement that swept the nation and had a ripple effect. You lead by example and showed our country that boldness is nothing without love. You demonstrated the necessity of action and the grace needed to withstand stupidity. You taught the Word that reads “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24). At 7, I didn’t understand the gravity or importance of your movement, I didn’t understand how deeply your dependence upon the Lord was, I didn’t understand that the hope you inspired was the same hope you also clung to. I didn’t understand…

But now at 23, I do. At least, I’m beginning to. You fought fearlessly because you recognized that your identity was one of dignity. You marched mercifully because that’s exactly what your Savior did. Our country has come a long way since the 28th of August in 1963, and it has a long way to go. I hope, Dr. King, that as I grow older I can fearlessly participate in the fight you started, armed with the faith that kept you grounded.

 

Thank you.

Finding Contentment Among my Students

Duck #96

“Oh my gosh, you’re gonna be great. Everyone will love you!”
Maybe, if you’re an extrovert, you’ve heard sentiments like these before. Maybe you’ve been encouraged not to be nervous about entering unfamiliar situations. Personally, I feel like these are words I hear a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful–they’re assuring , kind and remind me to be confident–but I am flawed. Over the past year and a half, I’ve had to learn to be okay with both living up to this phrase and falling short of it.

The first time I met my current Penn State students was May of 2015, at RUF’s annual Summer Conference. I was awkward and stiff and far less friendly than I usually am. I was considering not moving to Pennsylvania and didn’t want my students to like me, or I them, because I wasn’t going to see them again. It’s easy to look back at this time and laugh considering where I am now. My students beamed with excitement, were genuinely interested in getting to know me, and greeted me with the most genuine of spirits. I didn’t deserve it then.

Upon deciding officially to move, I let myself get excited about working on Penn State’s campus. I told myself that I would fit right in and that everyone would like me…
It’s true, I have found kindred spirits among many of my students, but that has taken time. You see, when I first got to campus I did not fit right in. Several of my students are studying engineering or something in the sciences; I graduated with a BA in English. A lot of my students have type A personalities; I very much live in a B type mindset. I spent the majority of my time in undergrad hanging out with friends; my students spend their time studying for exams weeks in advance.

I think I spent the first few months in Pennsylvania intentionally reminding myself of how different I was from my students as some form of justification for why we weren’t deeply connecting. I remember one conversation I was having about Pennsylvania versus North Carolina mountains and one of my students (jokingly) said, “Okay, Jayna. Get off your Blue Ridge high horse!” She said it in jest, but she was right. If I wanted my students to trust me, I needed to show them that they could. I needed to meet them in ways that interested them. I, like Jesus does with us continually, needed to meet them where they were instead of forcing them to find me.

So although we’re very different, I love my students. I wouldn’t trade them if I had the option and so appreciate their kindness toward me. I’m humbled by how welcome and at home they’ve made me feel in their northern world. My students have helped me to appreciate the beauty that exists in difference and have shown me characteristics of Jesus that I hadn’t noticed before. I’m truly content and truly thankful.

Finding Contentment in Traveling

Duck #95

There’s a common theme in the guilty pleasure, romantic, dramedy movies that I love to watch: travel. The Yellow Handkerchief, Tallulah,  and The Fundamentals of Caring all share (at some point in the film) an adventure of getting from point A to point B. And you guessed it, the magic isn’t in the destination, it’s in the “in-between.” How does that cheese fest of a quote go? “Life’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?” As I fight against my gag reflexes, I shudder because over the past year and a half I’ve realized that this quote holds more truth than I want to admit. I’m not ready to be there yet and have grown to be okay with the traveling in between.


Rather than detailing all of my highway and sky high experiences, I’ll just say that for an extended period of time, living out of a suitcase felt all too normal. It wasn’t all bad. Sometimes I found my self accidentally half packed for my next trip which was nice because packing and I have a strong hate-hate relationship. I was a nomad. I had places to be, people to see, and nothing stopping me…

…it got old after a while, though. Rather, it became routine. There is an independence I’ve found in my ability and freedom to travel without needing to consult other people–I’m not married and without children, so my life is mine. This makes deciding to travel simple, but it’s forced me to remember to be intentional about experiencing my journey, to think. I’m not always thrilled about it, but there’s not much I can do to change my circumstances. This means I have two options: gripe, complain and argue with myself about not thinking because I’m angry, or make the most of my solitude.

Admittedly, making the most of my solitude is difficult because I’m often scared of what I’ll discover about myself. But the funny thing is, some of the sweetest moments I’ve shared with my Savior have been in solitude on the highway or in the sky. I don’t say that because I’ve mastered the art of traveling alone and talking to Jesus, I say that because I think the opposite holds true. I say that because I know the Lord knows my difficulty in being alone for too long. I say that because He has not left me by myself. I say that because I need reminding.

Without other people in the car or with unchatty strangers on the plane, I’ve had time to think, even reluctantly.  I’ve thought about myself, my job, friends, who Jesus is, who I am because of Him, this weird season of life I’m in, music, stories I want to write, the future… I’m sure that I could think about these things at any time, but for some reason traveling is my consistent time to do it. So, as my grandma used to say, I’ll “keep on keepin’ on” this journey until I’m there.

Finding Contentment in State College, PA

Duck #94

“Jayna, you’re not able to go to VCU anymore. It looks like you’ll be at Penn State.” These are the words that my campus minister at App told me after large group one night in the middle of February 2015. These are the words that derailed the picture perfect vision of what I thought my life was going to be like after graduation. These are the words that I didn’t want to hear, but ended up needing more than I could’ve known.

I didn’t want to move to State College, but I couldn’t be more thankful that I did. You see, State College is a place that begs you to be apart of it. Whether you’re a student, a faculty member, or someone that owns a shop downtown, it’s kind of impossible not to…notice where you are and be a part of the town’s rhythm. Upon moving, I didn’t like this. I thought to myself, okay, Jayna. Two years and you’re out. Do what you’ve gotta do, but keep yourself at arms length. This town is weird and there’s no point in getting attached. Suffice it so say, I moved with the wrong attitude, but slowly (reluctantly) began to find myself changing.

I loved leaving both high school and college feeling like I was on top of the world. I am a small fish in a big pond in State College; it’s humbling. I love knowing people well and having them know me. It was not until about 2 months ago that I really felt like the relationships I’d built in State College had fully settled; I’ve had to be patient. I enjoy being in control and understanding what I’m doing without asking for too much help. I’ve gotten lost, said the wrong things on the job, and been blindsided by life too many times to count in the past year and a half; I’ve had to give myself grace.

I am where I am and life is happening the way that it is. In this, I have two choices: cling to dissatisfaction, or find contentment. Psalm 34:10 says, “the young lion suffers want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Seeking the Lord in State College doesn’t mean that I am promised everything that I could have had while in Richmond on VCU’s campus. Seeking the Lord in State College means that I won’t lack any good thing. Period. What I’ve found in State College–humility, patience, grace–has helped me to be content with where I am because what I’ve found is what I needed. No, I don’t have what I wanted originally, but what I have now is good. So, so good. The Lord has used this quirky little town to teach me what it looks like to be present where I am and to seek Him regardless of circumstances. I’ve fallen in love with what I have in State College and I’m continually grateful for how Christ has met me there; I’m home.

winter

Duck #92

It’s finally starting to get cold. There grass wakes up to a blanket of frost and warm beverages are in high demand. The air feels thin and sharp and sets out to pierce your lungs as you inhale, forcing you to pay attention to the quiet and listen to what it’s saying. This is my favorite part about winter, when the wind is hushed and traffic slows, the cold seems almost bearable and listening feels like the most important task you can do.

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately. To music, books on tape, voices of characters on Netflix, friends, family, more music, more characters on Netflix. I’ve been doing so much listening that I can barely hear anything, and so I’ve asked myself…where is the voice of the Lord in all of this?  Why am I not listening to it? It’s there, I’m sure– still, constant, steadfast, kind. It’s so, so kind. Kind and tender. It’s everything I need and nothing I want. I don’t want to ponder or respond, I want to fly and react. I want loud and distracting and exciting and summer, but the Lord is offering soft and gentle and calm and winter.

The winter’s quiet makes me think and forces me to listen, yet for some reason, right now, I’m afraid of what I’ll hear. Do you ever feel that way? Have you ever been so curious that you’re practically paralyzed, incapable of finding the answer? I heard in a sermon once that we operate out of what we believe, not what what we know. I think that what I believe and what I know will converge in winter’s silence. I think they will have an all out brawl and that I’ll be forced to watch. It won’t be loud or messy, that would be far too easy. It will be intentional and deep. I think I’ll have to acknowledge their misalignment and I don’t want to. I think that fear offers a false sense of security and worry tricks you into thinking it’s a cheaper, knock off brand of freedom.

God has not given you a spirit of fear…

Fear not, for I am with you…
Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing…
His steadfast love endures forever…

Enter the stillness.
Sit in the quite.
Remind yourself of the truth.
Listen for His voice.
Let it sink in.

 
Winter comes every year.

 

The Complexity of Womanhood

Let me preface this, first, by saying that my words are filtered through my belief in the Bible and understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Secondly, this post is by no means definitive, but rather extremely explorative…

Duck #91

 

“Hey! Did y’all know that it’s a presidential election year?” is something no one has said in the past few months because, unless you literally live under a rock, it’s practically impossible not to escape the bigness of this year’s political frenzy. I don’t actually want to write anything about politics–I make it a habit not to really participate in too much governmental banter because, quite frankly, I don’t know nearly enough to engage in what I would consider to be a fully well rounded debate/discussion; however, this year’s candidates have brought attention to a particular group of people, a group of which I strongly identify: women.

I’m a millennial, and so among the seemingly endless list of categories that my generation doesn’t fully understand and is frantically redefining, womanhood seems to be a bright thread woven through today’s social fabric that I cannot ignore. What is a woman? Does she have a definition? How much does biology have to do with her makeup? She is complex, is she not? Is feminine an adjective that consistently rides piggyback on womankind? Can she be strong and independent, yet meek and servile? I don’t have all the answers to these questions, and maybe I don’t really have any, but I believe such questions will ebb and flow in a river of curiosity as our world continues to develop. And because these questions will continue to exist, I think it’s important to at least attempt a discovery of their answers.


When you think of “woman,” what comes to mind?  I think there are two categories people would generally* choose. Let’s call them Snow White and Olivia Pope. Snow is meek, soft spoken (serious question: does anyone actually like her voice though?!), dainty, and participates in all things melodic and woodland creature. Whether directly or indirectly, Snow’s character represents purity (I mean, just read her name), and a sort of helplessness that needs rescuing only by the aid of a prince. In a lot of ways, Snow White hints at the perfectly acceptable idea of need that women (but inclusively people in general) need other people. However, because Snow isn’t presented as the most self sufficient of characters, there’s this undercurrent of inadequacy that runs in her story.
Conversely, Olivia is the HBIC**, powerful, strong, independent, intelligent, quick witted–her catch phrase is, “it’s handled.” While Olivia has proven for season after season that she does not need a man to be whole, viewers are shown that men–two men in particular–are her kryptonite. The funny thing is, she is always calling the shots. Her lovers are putty in her hands. She tells them when to jump and they say, “how high?!” She gives in to their enticing sexual bait, but not out of selfless love, rather because she, quite frankly, is horny and knows she can get what she wants. Unlike Snow White, comparatively, Olivia is far from pure.

So what do we have here? We have two characters that strongly oppose each other. Cast against one another, there is an obvious difference. However, Snow White and Olivia Pope are tied together because they are both women. Regardless of how apparently divergent these ladies are, their womanhood unites them intricately. The same holds true for non-fictional women as well. Do  you not identify, even partially, with both Snow White and Olivia Pope? I know I do.  The woman is not one or the other. She is both/and. I believe that the reason there is so much tension between these two groups of women is because society recognizes the complexity of the woman, but has not created a safe space for her to be both, at least not in a way that she so chooses. For example look at the Lil John’s lyric we all shout in Usher’s song Yeah!: “I want a lady in the streets, but a freak in the bed.”
In another song, called Good Girls by Nick Jonas, this same idea plays out. Big Sean says, “What I really want is a bad girl tonight, but a good girl for life.” You see, the woman is calm and fierce, she is reserved and assertive, she is prudent and rash.

Okay, cool, Jayna… The woman is a lot of things. She’s a both/and. But so what?
Dear reader, I’m glad you asked. We can take heart in the complexity of our womanhood, both the delightful and destructive aspects, because it points to the complexity of our Savior. That is not to say that our destructive aspects are a reflection of Jesus, but rather that he as the power and capability to transform our brokenness. We are women, created in God’s image, designed to bring him glory.  But truly, the only place we can reconcile and be free to explore the both/and, the immense complexity of our makeup, is at the cross and in the presence of Christ.

Take a moment and look at Proverbs 31:10-30. In churches across the country, this passage is looked at often when trying to understand what it means to be a woman of God. However, when I was younger, I wasn’t necessarily thrilled about this passage because I thought 90% of it’s content didn’t apply to me. As I’ve gotten older though, what I’ve come to learn is that this passage does apply to me. The description of this Proverbs 31 woman is not a set of standards that you must meet in order to be a true woman/woman of God. If you look at it that way, you’re going to fail.  At least, I will. I have failed several times today, already.
So what if we shifted our perspective? What if we looked at this passage as a measure for the capacity and the capability of a woman of God. I mean, just look at how many verbs there are in these 20 verses–I count at least 23. This woman is not just docile, nor she is not just servile. She is committed, determined, strong, creative, intelligent, respected, but most importantly she “fears the Lord” (v. 30).

This is something that I personally struggle with, fearing the Lord with all that I am. But as an image bearer, I realize that in order to be all of who I am, I must look to the One in whose image I was created. In Psalm chapter 34, verses 5 and 8-10 read like this, ” Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed…Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man (woman) who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord , you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lion suffers want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

I’ve been camping out in this Psalm for the past few months, because the Lord is kind and gracious, but also because he doesn’t want me to be stuck in my same twisted mindset forever. It’s been good for me, as a child of God in general, but specifically as a woman, because that is what I am, to be in this passage. Here’s a list of reasons why I need to read the above four verses every single day, in no particular order:

  1. I am constantly comparing myself to other girls.
  2. I don’t want to write this list.
  3. I want a boyfriend and eventually a husband.
  4. I want to have sex.
  5. I don’t want to talk to people.
  6. I watch Netflix more than I probably should
  7. I overeat.
  8. I under-eat.
  9. I want attention from guys and girls.
  10. I don’t want to write this list.
  11.  I want a career.
  12. I want to be a mom and have a family.
  13. I’m jealous.
  14. I’m selfish.
  15. I wear things so people will compliment me.
  16. Writing this list hasn’t gotten easier.
  17. I’ve been hurt before, by guys and girls.
  18. I’ve been taken advantage of.
  19. I’ve been made fun of.
  20. I like being the center of attention.
  21. I don’t always want to speak up.
  22. I don’t measure up to standards set by other people, as well as standards set by myself.
  23. I’m not good at saying no.
  24. I want to delete everything I’ve written so far.

The list could go on and I’m sure that you have your own list. Maybe some of our items are the same, and maybe they’re not, but honestly what’s on the list isn’t  what’s most important. You see, what really needs to be noticed is the fact that everything on my list (and probably everything on yours) points back to a fundamental disbelief I have in the fact that seeking the Lord means I won’t lack a single good thing. Don’t miss this or pretend that you too don’t struggle to believe this. I too often think that “just Jesus’ isn’t enough. This list shows my flaw of not recognizing the image of God that I bear and desiring something other than that image, an image I did not earn, cannot lose, and is wrapped up in my DNA as a woman.

At the beginning of this post, I asked, “what is a woman?” And now that I’m at the end, I still don’t really know. At least, not enough to give a catch-all, confident answer, but I do know that a woman who is to be praised, is a woman that fears the Lord. Indeed, there is a uniqueness to being a woman, but our uniqueness shouldn’t be a hinderance in seeking the Lord, nor should it be an excuse not to seek him. So, I believe that in order to explore our womanhood,  in order to explore our personal identities as women and the security we can have in our Savior, we have to start with where our womanhood comes from…Jesus Christ.

 

[Dear Jesus,
Thank you for creating me as a woman and for the complexity that comes with it. I don’t understand everything about you, or myself for that matter, but I’m thankful that you are patient and desire to grow me into a woman who fears you. Give me the the grace and strength to do that.]
<3Amen

 

*The research I did, though not extremely extensive, lead me to believe that these two categories (or combination of the two) are what a lot of people think about when it comes to women. From the Bible: The Book of Ruth, Esther, & Luke 10:38-42; TV/movie celebrity (Sophia Bush, Shonda Rhimes) social media responses to Donald Trump’s comments about Hillary Clinton being “Nasty”; Lucy Elizabeth Christopher’s stream of conscious poetry via her instagram account.

**Head B*tch In Charge. Olivia and her employees have used this term on the show to relay the idea that OP is not someone to be messed with.

…such happenings

Duck#90

 

The car was crammed and I think we were all laughing about something. Probably. We were probably laughing, or singing along to Taylor Swift as one of her songs played through the speakers. He spoke a bit louder than the laughter, louder than the music. Just enough so that we’d pay attention to what he had to say–“Selfishly, I wish that woman hadn’t sat down and talked with us…because now I’m thinking about her, ya know?” He shook his head. “Like if I pretend that she’s a character, I don’t really have to think about her, but I am because she’s not a character…she’s a person.”

“Yeah…” was really all I could think to say.


The food was delicious. I make it a point to get Pad Thai every time I go to a new Thai restaurant because it’s the most basic entree on the menu and I like comparing different flavors of the same dish.  With sleep dragging my eyelids farther down my face, I was trying to concentrate on the noodles and peanut sauce–admittedly, I wasn’t in the mood for deep conversation. We kept talking and I jokingly made a comment resembling, “Well, I told God this is how it was gonna go…” I had naively kind of told God something, but I’m old enough to know that He doesn’t operate according to my demands. (Consequently, it’s astounding how quickly I forget this.) Everyone laughed and then she said, “I mean, the Lord is out to ruin our lives.”

“Honestly, yeah…” was all I could really think to say.


 

Connection and Interruption. These are the two things (I’m kicking myself, because I can’t think of a better word than “things” right now) that the above stories have in common. I’ve come to realize that I have an issue with both. Why? Well, because both interruption and connection leave me exposed, open to the elements, naked in front of the people I’m with, vulnerable, defenses down. The part of me that wants to pretend she’s gotten a hang of “this-whole-life-thing” would rather not talk about my erratic fear of exposure, the irritation in interruption, or the clamor of connection. But I don’t have things figured out, and I’m growing as a person, so here we are…

Last week I spent time in Atlanta, Georgia for RUF intern training–one of my favorite weeks attached to this job. It’s a beautiful week of the following: good teaching, belly laughter, a few tears, and quality time with some other really awesome interns. I love it. I say it all the time, but it really is impossible to leave an RUF training and not be reminded of the fact that God is at work–not only that, but that He is for you, that He loves you, and is desperately trying to pursue and change you to be more like Him. It’s wonderful. I’m back in State College now, and I’m trying to process the week–what I loved about it, what I learned, what stuck out to me, why I feel like a part of me is lost in the middle of the Westin lobby, sitting on that sculpture that’s not actually meant for sitting, but always manages to be used as a bench anyway. I think it has to do with the two words I mentioned in the previous paragraph: connection and interruption.

If you talk to friends from college that know me well, I’m pretty sure they’d tell you that I love having conversations with people, and I really love when those conversations turn into deep conversations and accidentally end up lasting far longer than anticipated. I had a good handful of conversations like this while in Atlanta. My love for such conversations still remains, but something I’ve learned about myself since graduating is that I love my time. It is far more precious to me than I thought (which can be a good thing), but I also love talking with people on my own time, when I want to talk with them. I realize how terribly selfish this is. I don’t intentionally try to do this, but I think that sometimes I walk around desiring to connect with people, but nobody can tell because that desire is covered up in the same way that my eyes are covered up when it’s sunny. I can still see the sun, I can still let it touch my face, but not enough to burn me.

In the Lord’s humor and kindness, he’s beginning to rip off my sunglasses so that my face is exposed to the sun. He’s allowing human connection (with “friend-terns,” friends in State College, and recently just people in general) to interrupt my life and ruin my plans–as if my life is really mine to plan. I want to know people and I want them to know me, but only so much so that if something goes wrong, I have the upper hand and will have preserved enough of myself not to feel crushed. As you can imagine, I’ve been hurt a number of times before because of the close contact I’ve had with people. But I can’t live in a bubble.  I was created by Love, in love, to pour out love. I need my life to be drastically interrupted and I need to connect deeply with other people, especially other believers. I need my plans to be ruined because the design I have for my life is a mere stick figure in comparison to the Lord’s Sistine Chapel.

Remember those two stories I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Well, the first was about a woman that came and sat down with a bunch of us on our last night out in Atlanta. It would have been way easier to ignore her and not hear the parts of her story that she shared with us and to not let her connect with us even a little bit. But that’s not what happened. We listened to her for 10 minutes or so, she told us about her children,  we got in the car, my friend made his comment, and I though I probably won’t ever see this woman again I’ve suddenly found myself praying that she would know the Lord’s goodness. The second story happened yesterday at lunch with some dear friends. I don’t even really remember what we were talking about. It may have been dating or marriage (the friends I was with are engaged), but the words spoken to me interrupted a pattern of thought that I’ve had for the last few weeks. The Lord isn’t out to ruin my life because He is trying to punish me, but because He loves me, because he knows that I don’t want what’s best for myself.

I want connection, but sometimes I’m scared of it. I need interruption, but I worry it’ll cost me too much. There’s no life in keeping all of me to myself. I need to find the people that I can intentionally let into my quirky little world, and still allow myself to walk amongst other people with a posture that isn’t overly irritated by their contact with me.
I’m glad that woman came down and sat with us and that my friend couldn’t ignore our connection with her (Okay, honestly I’m still wrestling with that comment because it inadvertently exposed personal sin I don’t want to deal with, but it was good. I’m glad he said something). I’m thankful my friends wouldn’t let me think that I can make plans for my life and expect the Lord to cater to them. I’m learning that often it’s good to be left exposed, open to the elements, naked in front of the people I’m with, vulnerable, defenses down–it is then that I can allow the Lord to wash me with His grace, clothe me in righteousness, and fill me with a love that is meant to be shared. I have been far too loved not to let other people stand in that love with me.

So don’t run away from interruption; allow yourself to connect with people, even for just a moment. You’ll be amazed at what the Lord can do in and through such happenings…

 

[Dear Lord,
thank you for allowing my life and my thoughts to be interrupted. thank You for allowing me to connect with people. help me not to cast off these occurrences as insignificant, but help me to seek to further your kingdom through them.]
<3Amen

 

The Glorification of Busy

Duck #88

During my last three years of undergrad, I lived in an apartment. One summer, I decided to decorate my room DIY style. I found a quote on Pinterest and painted “Stop the glorificaiton of busy” on a canvas. I chose and painted this quote because I wanted to live by its words. I didn’t.

Now, almost 3 years since that painting, those words on that canvas have come to mind once again. The end of last week, and even this weekend, was pretty busy for me. Granted, the nature of my job keeps my schedule–as I described it to my neighbor recently–something like one giant variable. But even with that in mind, I’ve felt like the last five days have been more fast paced than I’d like. It’s a bit laughable because all summer I was expressing how excited I was for things to pick back up and be busier because it was easier for me to manage my time and rest when I had a full schedule. (I’m sure I meant it when I said this originally, but I’m wondering where that overly confident Jayna has gone).

This business of busyness isn’t something that is affecting just me. It’s also affecting the students I meet with regularly. When I ask my students, “How are you?” or “How is your week going?” the answer is almost always, “Busy.” There may be further explanation to assuage the supposed weight of what busy is supposed carry, but busy remains first and foremost. Why is that?

I watched a video a few weeks ago that focused on the concept of vacation days around the world. Apparently (according to the video) several other countries have mandatory vacation days, and not the type of vacation days that are spent doing other work. These days are the kind that are spent at the beach all day, relaxing, napping and eating your favorite foods (aka: cheating on the diet you’ve been meaning to start for the past few months). In America, people often ignore their vacation days and work overtime. Again, this is what the video said. One guy was interviewed and said something to the effect of not having taken a vacation in years because he’s always had work that needed to get done. It wasn’t a matter of not being able to take a vacation, rather it was a matter of him not wanting to. He chose to remain busy instead of choosing to rest.

Because of how “busy” I’ve been the past few days, and in light of remembering this video, I decided–rather rashly–to stop being busy.  I’m not sure if this is a thing that can be done, but I’m choosing to live as though it is. I’m just so tired of how I feel because I’m busy. I hate that I don’t have time, or I feel like I don’t have time, to do things that I enjoy when I get home from work. I’m someone that doesn’t consider herself to have hobbies because I feel like a hobby is something you do often in your free time, and I also feel like it’s associated with a particular skill (cooking, painting, swimming, etc.). But I want to have a hobby, or turn things I like to do into hobbies without them feeling like just another thing on my to-do list. Like this post. I’m writing this blog post yes,  because it’s been on my mind recently, but mostly because I wanted to. I had some time and I decided to use it to write.

I say all this because, as of late, I’ve been trying to treat busyness as a state of mind. It’s a lot easier said than done. (The next time someone asks you how you are, try to come up with something other than “busy,” even if you do have several things on your plate. It’s hard.) How easy it is to say that you’re busy and leave it at that. Everyone understands what you mean because everyone’s been busy before. It’s easy, short, almost non committal and flippant. I hate it. I mean, I obviously don’t hate it too much because that word is a part of my regular vocabulary, but I’m trying to change that.

I don’t want to be busy anymore. I want to make time to do things that I love. I want to make time to do things that are good for me. When friends ask me to do things that are otherwise inconvenient, I want to respond graciously and kindly because that’s loving them well, but also because what they’ve asked isn’t actually inconvenient. And if it is, I want it to truly conflict with my actual schedule, not the fake one I’ve created in my head–you know, the one that’s made everyday, but doesn’t actually ever get done. What would it look like if we took being busy off of its pedestal and set something else as a priority?

Mark chapter 1 verse 35 says this, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he (Jesus) departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” This was at the start of Jesus’ ministry, which I’m sure was busy and exhausting. Still, Jesus found (created) time to take care of himself and commune with His Father. Busy wasn’t his priority and it shouldn’t be ours either.

 

[Lord, help me not let the busyness of life weigh me down. May I seek to honor and spend time with you before anything else.]
❤ Amen

Some Finished Thoughts

Duck #86

Wanna know something kind of funny? Well, it’s not exactly funny, but it’s interesting…to me, at least. Okay, here it is: I’ve been avoiding my blog. I’ve intentionally been not writing. I’ve been saying to myself that I’m just waiting for inspiration to hit, but every good writer knows that if you wait too long to write, you’ll never do it. Writing is a lot less glamorous than most people think, actually. But honestly, people keep writing about how unglamorous writing is, so you’d think everyone would get the idea by now, amirite?! Anyway, back to the subject at hand…

Avoiding. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may or may not have noticed that I’ve been on a bit of a social media hiatus. Honestly, it’ll be better for my ego if you haven’t noticed, even though I really hope you have noticed. (Jk). (Not really). This hiatus has been really good for me and has probably been one of the better decisions I’ve made this summer. It’s forced me to be present where I am–I’m kind of cringing at admitting this because the idea of “being present” has become so culturally popular within the last few years, it’s almost hackneyed. However, despite the bandwagon popularity that “being present” has undertaken, the heart behind it is solid.

As a proud millennial, I am completely aware of my generation’s rampant use of social media and the ways in which it’s become a device of avoidance. We use it to avoid school work, awkward social encounters, talking to family members, etc. Because of this, I decided to take a break from it, and here’s what I’ve realized: I love to live in such a way that other people will find interesting because who other people say or think that I am is really important to me. I’m a self proclaimed people pleaser, but it’s not so much that I want to please people, but that I want other people to be pleased with me. Maybe that’s the same thing, but it feels different. I mean, what’s the fun in experiencing life if I’m the only person that will know what I’m thinking or seeing, right?

Wrong.

Since taking this social media break, I’ve found myself finishing thoughts (shocker!), instead of grabbing my phone to tweet about what’s happening. I’ve found myself noticing  small things around me because my eyes aren’t glued to the latest celebrity dispute. I’ve grown a deeper appreciation for key changes in certain songs because I’ve been able to soak them in instead of posting about how everyone should go listen to them. (I’d provide you with a list now, but I don’t remember all of the songs I’ve listened to recently…it’s been a lot.)  I’ve been forced to notice where I am, take inventory, and be present. Truthfully, I didn’t realize how much I use social media to distract myself from…myself. I think that’s why I’ve been avoiding my blog, because I’d have to intentionally acknowledge the fact that I became aware of how unaware I was. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that you know less than you thought.

However, as I have become less, the Lord has become more. Now, this isn’t me saying “take a break from social media and suddenly you’re understanding of God will become perfect,” because it won’t. Mine hasn’t, but I am learning more and more that He is far more extravagant than I give him credit. For some reason, this is really hard for me to digest, let alone swallow. With the time that I’ve given to the Lord, instead of social media, I’ve been going through the book of Psalms. What I’ve seen consistently about the Lord is this: He is faithful, his love is steadfast, he is strong, he is powerful, he is just, he is personal, repeat.

You see, even though I’m learning that I continually come up empty handed, the Lord is faithful, forever loving, strong, powerful, just, personal, repeat. Again and again and again. The question that I keep asking myself is, “Do you believe that? I mean, do you really believe that?” I’ve had time to think about whether or not I have been allowing the truths of the Psalms, of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to sink into my heart. Have I been allowing these truths to sink in so deep that I won’t struggle to want to live a life that other people find interesting? Have you?

 

…[Dear Jesus,
I must decrease and You must increase.]
<3Amen