How Am I Handling This? A Few Quarantined Thoughts

Duck #124

I groggily drag my feet from bed and make my way to the bathroom. As a chronic over sleeper, mornings have never really been a time of slow or stillness for me. There is something about the morning sun that beckons me to move at a glacial pace, to notice the way the light reflect off of apartment surfaces through a dirty window. It’s lovely.

And yet, morning by morning, I turn from one side to the next and ignore the call that asks me to rise, to come play, to sit, to begin. Later and Tomorrow are friendly foes I know well. They found me at a young age and have been faithful to stay close. As I grow, however, I Right Now and Today are strangers with whom I hope to become better acquainted.

Time, the precious and precarious little pest seems to be irrelevant these days. In the wake of the ever changing reality that is living through a global pandemic, so much of the ticking against the clock feels both everlasting and rapid. There seems to be a tacit pressure in the air–one that urges me to become more productive than before, one that pulls me to practice downward facing dog until I’m blue in the face.

Admittedly, as someone who struggles with what is technically diagnosable as an anxiety disorder, this time has been weird. Surprisingly, the beasts of panic attacks and heart racing haven’t come to visit much during this period of quarantine. I would be a fool to say that there were not times when “this all” felt like too much. That is to say, whatever “this all” is, in its unprecendence, has caused me to feel more sad and angry than I would like to admit.

I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to hang out with my chosen family here in Atlanta in the ways and regularity I was used to. I was angry at the ways President Trump was generally answering questions during his press conferences. I was sad that there are so many of my friends that are worried about family members with compromised immune systems. I was angry that I was being told that I effectively wasn’t allowed to leave my home. I was sad that arguably one of the best events that my job puts on was being cancelled. Sad and angry, angry and sad. Over and over again these emotions slap against each other as the morning sun playfully sings my name and my bed sheets seductively whisper for me not to move.

How am I handling all of this? It’s hard to tell. I’m afraid I won’t know until “living through a global pandemic” is a phrase of the past, and touch isn’t illegal. I like to dream of what that will be like, the time to come, the what’s next of it all. As a follower of Jesus, my heart and my hope thinks of The New Heavens and The New Earth.

I think of the words sung by Phill Wickham–“when we arrive at Eternity’s shore/ where death is just a memory and tears are no more / we’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring / Your bride will come together and We’ll sing, “you’re beautiful.”

I think of the father–dancing and running towards his prodigal son–eagerly awaiting the feast that will soon be prepared to celebrate his love’s return.

I think of Jesus boldly and joyfully saying, “Let the little children come to me.”

Shifting in position as I sit on the carpet, I let the blood circulate in my legs. I stare out the window and watch the trees converse in the wind. I wonder what Later and Tomorrow are up to. I remember to pay attention to Today and Right Now.
Everything has shifted at such a rapid pace. So much is relative. Perspective feels just out of grasp. How do we get used to the different?

I’m not sure.

But God.
But God.
But God.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Has has been kind and will continue to be. His character is immutable. His mercy is new every morning. His love is everlasting. He is working to make everything sad come untrue. His promises never fail. He sees. He hasn’t forgotten. He is sure, we don’t have to be.

Being Human is Hard

Duck #117

A constant phrase that I say among my friends is “being human is hard.” Simultaneously, it is fun and exciting and beautiful. The former does not negate the latter and vice versa.

As of late, the difficulty of being human has felt extra…human.  Have you ever felt this way? It’s not that anything in your life is wrong, you can just feel the weight of your humanity more acutely. It’s like your’e so aware that you’re…alive. Maybe this is dramatic. I don’t mean it to be so. There’s something about the juxtaposition of sun and rain, seeing the moon in the middle of the day, laughing because Atlanta traffic is actually THAT bad, or crying because you have friends that believe the gospel when you can’t that’s so incredible. It’s in all these oppositions where I find myself asking for help.

…but I really don’t like asking for help. For as long as I can remember, I have found pride in being able to figure things out on my own. I love knowing exactly what I’m feeling and expressing clearly why I am feelings those things. The Lord has blessed me with the gift of communication and I so desire to use that gift well. When I can’t…when everything starts to jam as I sift through my thoughts, I get worried. Shame comes knocking, and Fear begins to set the table. Doubt pours everyone a glass of wine and Lies raise a glass, making a toast to Uncertainty.

And there I am, in all my humanity, stuck inside myself.

Jayna, you have friends that love you.
Jayna, you have parents that are for you.
Jayna, you have a job that you’re good at.
Jayna, you have a church that’s safe.
Jayna, you have a God that is holding the universe together and also intimately involved in every detail of your life.
Jayna you have a soul that is secure.

That is the truth.

Yet in the hardness of my humanity, the words that dance in bold somewhere in my heart are “not enough.”

I am not (in shape) enough
I am not (hard working) enough
I am not (diligent) enough
I am not (creative) enough
I am not (responsible) enough
I am not (generous) enough
I am not (kind) enough

Those are the lies.

I sit and I beat myself up because I am sure that I am enough. Not because of what I have to present to the world, to my friends, or to Jesus, but because my King is interceding on my behalf before the Father. What freedom. What a gift.

And so, in the midst of all this human hardness, I say “thank you.” I repeat the antidote that will be a balm to a trembling, overwhelmed, selfish heart. I sing songs of worship to the God that is big enough to handle my rejection and tender enough to hold me as I cry and complain. I look up at the face that smiles back and whispers, “Oh love, you are Mine.”

Psalm 86:4 says, “gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”

Lord, would you gladden my soul? Would you gently remind me that because YOU are enough, so am I? Would you return to me the joy of your salvation? Forgive me. I love you.

This is a lesson I will be learning until Jesus returns. I kind of hate that, truthfully. But also…isn’t it so kind that the Lord is patient to reteach us? Isn’t it generous that he is faithful to remind his children of truth? If, at the end of these extremely human moments, I become increasingly more dependent on Jesus…well, then….so be it.

Black & Proud

Duck #105

 

“I am dripping melanin and honey…”
___

To Whom It May Concern:

When hate is spewed like venom from the mouths of serpents, the very skin I’m in is threatened. Words and actions pierce the dark color that protects my bones—I cry. My insides tremble and my blood boils. I am hurt and I am angry and I am sad, but I am proud.

When violence shoots forth from the hands of bears, the very skin I’m in becomes a target. Fists and bullets bruise the rich chocolate that covers my chest—I scream. My hands sweat and my heart races. I am hurt and I am angry and I am sad, but I am proud.

When ignorance spills from the minds of fools, the very skin I’m in is attacked. Idiocrasy and bigotry slip over the negro soul that holds my hopes and dreams—I pray. My thoughts run to the King of Kings, my Creator. I am hurt and I am angry and I am sad, but I am proud.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because I know to Whom I belong.
I come from a history of perseverance.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because my identity is engraved in the palms of my Creator.
I come from a history of resilience.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because I am of more value than many sparrows.
I come from a history of discovery.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because those who look to Jesus are radiant and their faces will never be ashamed.
I come from a history of invention.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because God made me who I am and who I am is BEAUTIFUL.
No qualifications.
No modifications.
No adjustments.
Dark skinned and curly haired.

I refuse to let the media tell me who I am.
I repel the notion that I am anything but beloved.
I reject voices that attempt to refute my dignity.
I rebel against the narrative that tells me I am still a slave.
I refute the racist lies that are antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

When love is poured out like water from a stream, the very skin I’m in will relax. Songs of charity warm the dark color that protects my bones—I cry. Anxiety subsides and worry flees. I am known and I am wanted and I am joyful and I am proud.

When peace grows strong like a tall oak tree, the very skin I’m in will be healed. Hands and arms embrace the rich chocolate that covers my chest—I laugh. My lips curve upward and my breathing steadies. I am known and I am wanted and I am joyful and I am proud.

When wisdom is sought after by the minds of the hungry, the very skin I’m in will not be feared. Understanding and empathy cover the negro soul that holds my hopes and dreams—I pray. My thoughts dance before the Maker of Heaven and earth, King Jesus. I am known and I am wanted and I am joyful and I am proud.

With all sincerity,

Jayna Duckenfield

___

“…I am black without apology.”

Quote by Upile Chisala

 

[Dear Jesus,
thank You for who You are and thank You for making me who I am.]
❤ Amen

 

 

 

 

sustenance

 Duck #100

It seems that in our culture following certain principles of Christianity are more than acceptable, as long as Christ remains in the background. We want unrestricted freedom, but our very nature is restricted–we have limitations. Consider the Lord’s prayer in Matthew chapter 6, “…give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” 

Give us. Forgive us. Lead us. Deliver us. We need the Father to sustain us. We need him to keep us alive, keep us healthy, take away our sins, and keep us out of harms way. The beauty of the gospel is that what we need has already been bought for us. What we can’t do on our own, Jesus has done. All he’s asking is that we honor and love him in return. But we’re deceived into thinking that we don’t actually need what Jesus has done on the cross, so we tend to take his principals, but don’t take him…

For example: I will be kind (if the person I’m being kind to can help me climb a social latter). I will love (those who love  me first). I will forgive (if it’s convenient and doesn’t cost me too much). I will go to church (as long as I don’t have (school) work to catch up on or I’m not too tired). I will pursue holiness (as long as that means I can still date who I want and do what I want with my body). I will pray (as long as God gives me what I ask for). All of these things are good, but going about them conditionally is just morality, which by itself is not the gospel. Morality points to our ability, it doesn’t point to Christ. We are more sinful than we realize and are therefore incapable to do anything good apart from Jesus. Without Jesus we cannot honor the Father. 

This is no easy task. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given into particular sins because I genuinely felt like following Jesus or pursuing holiness wasn’t worth it. But then I read Psalm 34:10- “The young lions suffers want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” 

I firmly believe that my generation loves authenticity. We love the idea of pursuing (seeking) something so true to oneself that nothing can stand in the way of going after our goal. We love it when what we’re doing or pursuing gives us a sense of fulfillment and is ultimately satisfying. So what do I do with this truth: Jesus is the most satisfying. 

Initially, that’s a little scary because there A LOT of really satisfying things out there and sometimes Jesus feels so far away, so wispy, so tertiary. But in fact, He is central, sustaining everything good we could ever experience. You see, I think a lot of the reason we want Christianity and not Christ, the reason we want good things, and not the one who gives us good things, is because we don’t know how to properly look at Jesus. Further, we don’t know how to look at the Father, the giver of the beautiful gift we have in Jesus. We are afraid of what we may see, and even more so, we are afraid of what will happen if we give up “control” of our lives. 

Even though I know it’s not true,  I too often tend to believe that Father is out to get me, seeking to punish me. As His daughter, the opposite holds true. Luke chapter 12, verse 32 tells me that I don’t have to fear because “it is [my] Father’s good pleasure to give me [His] kingdom.” Ephesians chapter 2 tells me that even when I was dead in my sins completely ignoring God, He saved me and made me alive with him because he is RICH in mercy and loves me with a GREAT love. Romans chapter, verse 4 tells me that  “God’s kindness is meant to lead me to repentance.” So you see, the Father isn’t out to get me at all, He’s not out to get any of us. He wants us. 

We can’t have Christianity and leave Christ in the background because Christ is the very gift the Father has given us as a means to live out the principles of Christianity. Jesus is our example of how to love, how to pray, how to forgive, how to worship,  and how to depend fully on the sustaining power of the Father. We need Jesus in order to have access to the Father. We need Jesus because we are too sinful to stand before the Father on our own. We need Jesus because with Him,  we have something we cannot lose; we have something that is strong enough to gratify our deepest of longings: to be loved.  We need Jesus because with Him, the Father looks at us in delight and says, “My beloved child. You are mine. I love you…”

[Father, thank You for the gift of your Son. Thank you for loving me enough to send your Son so that I might forever be united to You. It was a costly gift that has brought me to life. I don’t deserve it, but you are a good, good Father. Jesus, thank You for being everything I could ever need or ever want.]
<3Amen

We Will Feast

It’s official. I have been graduated from college for just over a year now. For this reason, I’ve decided to go back to counting my ducks in my original format. So, including all of my “Post Grad Ducks” this post makes “Duck #81” Wow!

—–

It’s been almost 2 days since I’ve returned from a three week vacation/work trip and I feel…wispy. I’m not sure how else to explain it other than that. Well, I guess saying that I’m homesick would work too. But the funny part about this feeling is that I’m unsure of where “home” is right now. My parents’ house has become just that, my parents’ house. My college town feels more and more like a memory. State College feels like the planting pot that won’t let me grow roots because I know I’m going to be transferred to the earth nearby in a short while.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this, this desire for permanence, for home. In fact, a friend of mine wrote a beautiful article about this topic that you can access here. The truth is, we all want a place to belong. We all want a place, a feeling, a group of people to call home. I really think that in this life we get glimpses and pieces and teasers of home. I think home sounds like the eruption of laughter that ensues when you catch up with dear friends. I’m sure home feels like the hug from a parent or sibling just because you’re happy to be together. I bet home looks like your favorite spot that makes you feel giddy whenever you’re there, whether that be a coffee shop, movie theatre, tree by a lake, or house near the beach. But what does home taste like? I mean, I bet it’s similar to Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies or Mom’s thanksgiving turkey; but in actuality, home tastes like something better. It has to. I bet the taste of home isn’t just a taste–it’s a feeling, a sound, a sight all wrapped up into one…

Sanda McCracken writes:

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

If you haven’t heard this song, I highly suggest you look up the lyrics and read them as you listen to it. It’s beautiful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these lyrics recently. As a believer, I can rest in the assurance of a glorious feast that awaits me. A feast with my Father in our Home; I’ll be joined by my brothers and sisters and there will be dancing and laughing and singing and rejoicing.

I can’t wait…

Up until recently, I thought I could wait for Heaven, for Home.  And I mean, physically I can wait, but I’m excited! Everything that is sad will become untrue! Lusting for approval from other people won’t be an issue. Rape and assault will cease. Tears will end. Orphanages won’t be necessary. Cancer will be eradicated. Death will be no more. To stand in victory with Christ will taste so sweet…and salty and savory and perfect.

It’s hard, though…to keep this in mind, I mean. We will feast. We’re not feasting yet, even though we’re so hungry, salivating for a love, a place, a Father that can satiate and satisfy our strongest of cravings. That’s why we need each other. We need to remind each other of what’s coming, of what we have left to do while we wait. We need to carry each other when we succumb to the cravings, and dance with each other when we get glimpses on earth of what is to come when we go Home. Let us use what awaits us to shape what is before us now.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory, beyond all comparison, we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen…”
-Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

[Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.]
❤ Amen

Walking in Confidence

Post Grad Duck #20

I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but there are three or four times throughout my day that my thoughts really seem to…come alive–right before I fall asleep, while I shower, when/if I go for a run, and when I’m driving. I don’t mind this onslaught of thought because sometimes things just seem to click. I come up with ideas or I figure out puzzles I perviously wasn’t able to conquer. What’s so great about these times is that I’m not trying to consciously think–I spend the rest of the day doing that–my thoughts are just free. They can form and flow and deconstruct and create without worry or caution. Now, this is not to say that I live the rest of my life with cautious and hesitant thoughts, but I would definitely argue that they are vastly more calculated.

Why? I’d like to argue it’s because there is a part of me that is afraid of my own confidence. Well, rather, I am afraid of the God given confidence within me.

In two movies that I probably will never get tired of (Akeelah and the Bee & Coach Carter) these words by Marianne Williamson are used:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us it is in everyone and as we let our own light sine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I’ve always liked this quote. I think it’s beautifully written and challenges a part of us that we often like to ignore. I recognize that Williamson’s words are hard to digest because they can seem to go against the brokenness and total depravity we have as humanity. It almost feels like she is praising man and using God as a caveat to do so. But I don’t think that’s it at all. Rather, I think Williamson is arguing that as a child of God, a born again believer, there is a certain confidence and enthusiasm within us that is meant and proposed to be released. As a daughter created by the King, how foolish it is of me to think that I should make myself small and diminish the gifts and talents God has given me, resolving not to glorify Him, out of fear! Williamson’s words are not prideful, they are not heretical, they are confident. There is a recognition in her words, of the power of Christ and the potential of that power within us, His children.

But, the fact of the matter is, confidence and depravity are hard to reconcile. Maybe I should clarify, *personally, my confidence and depravity are hard to reconcile. As I get back into the swing of my job and re-navigate my way around Penn State’s campus, I find this to be true. How can I be both bold and broken?

In our culture, a confident woman often comes along the connotation of a four letter word that I’ll refrain from using at the moment. A confident woman can be rude, abrasive, hard, cold, lacking compassion, ruthless, etc. It is almost as if a confident woman is a threat to society and therefore we cannot have her. No wonder there are so many women, of all cultures, in various roles of stature trying fervently to break down that stereotype. There is a false i”f, then statement”associated with being a confident woman. The result, typically negative.
If I outrun the boys, then I won’t get asked out on a date.
If I ace this test, then I won’t be invited to the party.
If I want a career more than a family, then I don’t have a heart.
If I don’t like to cook and clean and I am okay with it, then I am not really a woman.
If I am outgoing, then I am a flirt (and other girls won’t talk to me).
The list goes on and the quotient is a room filled with beautiful, talented, driven, curious, athletic, intelligent scaredy cats dressed as women.

The problem? Well, I believe there are several, but I think part of it (at least, for me) is the misunderstanding of where I place my confidence.
If I place my confidence solely on my elf and my abilities, then I cower. I become acutely aware of my flaws and believe that I am incapable.
However, If I place my confidence in the God of the universe, the very hands that designed every part of me, the Savior that knit together my talent and ability, then I can make manifest the glory of God that is within me.

My confidence is not my own. I believe that the more I begin to know Jesus Christ, the more my fear of confidence will diminish. To be confident is not synonymous with being prideful. Through the lens of the gospel, my confidence should be evidence of my sanctification because, “I am not in darkness…for I am a child of light” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Jesus commands us to love, to rejoice, to pray without ceasing. He does not ask us to try, no! He tells us to boldly approach His throne and to confidently do His work because it is not through our power, but His that these things can be accomplished.

So, what am I saying? Dear daughter, child of God, walk forward and don’t be afraid to be confident.

 

[Dear Jesus,
thank You for who You are and for the gift of confidence you so graciously give. I thank You that I did not have to earn it, and I pray that You would help me to grow in it and glorify You as I do so.]
❤ Amen

 

 

 

 

A Conversation Over Coffee & A Lesson On Maturity

Post Grad Duck #3

“People don’t change, but they do mature.”
These are words that a friend of mine told me this morning. He’s a good one and I’m so excited about what the future holds for him. When he said this though, at first I paused, but the more that I thought about it, the more it began to resonate with me. Change is a funny word. When it’s used in reference to people, you often think of someone becoming completely different than they once were. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve struggled to believe that in full. People are who they are, and they always will be. Overtime though, due to certain life circumstances and situations, there is a level of maturity that takes place in all of us. I’m not becoming someone totally new, I’m maturing into the person I’m meant to be.
It’s the pace of maturity that we often have a problem with, though. When you’re five years old, the lens through which you look at life is specific to bubble gum, jumprope, hide and seek, and popsicles. When you’re fifteen, your lens changes, you probably still love bubble gum and popsicles, but you don’t see the world through the lens of those things anymore. (For me it was the Jonas Brothers and purple eye shadow). But at fifteen, it was okay if someone found me when we played hide and seek. As a five year old, I may have thrown a tantrum. Did I change? No, not really. I was still unhappy to be found, but I was mature about it because I understood the rules of the game. However, sometimes it’s hard to remember being five when the person we’re playing with doesn’t understand as much as we do. The five year old doesn’t need to change, the five year old needs to mature—and they will, eventually.
Eventually…
That’s another funny word. It’s a word that requires patience, perseverance, hope, and more patience. We all mature at different levels. Sure, I’m way more mature than I was 5 years ago, even 5 months ago, but I still have more growing to do. And I’m sure there are people that I frustrate because my maturity level is not quite to the level of theirs. That happens. But a part of this inevitable but eventual maturity process is realizing who I am. There are certain parts of Jayna that will always be, parts of me that will always exist. That’s not a bad thing. By the grace of God I am what I am, but that doesn’t mean that who I am is meant to be stuck in one place. The parts of me that are impatient need to mature towards patience. The parts of me that are prideful need to move toward humility. The parts of me that are insecure need to stand confidently. I can’t change the fact that I struggle in certain areas, but I can move towards maturity and recognize how to lean on the Lord to guide me when things get hard.
I think that maturity is knowing when to say I’m sorry. I think maturity is recognizing that you need help. I think maturity is knowing that it’s not all about me. I think maturity is knowing when to stay, when to go forward, and when to walk away. I think maturity is knowing that sometimes you just don’t know. And we can have hope in the fact that we will mature. The Lord loves us too much to leave us where we are. Sanctification is a process. Maturity is a process. Living is a process, but we have to participate.
Don’t get me wrong, being five was pretty sweet and all, but I’m really jazzed that I graduated from kindergarten 😉
[Jesus. I believe that You’re good, help my unbelief. Thank you for the ways that you’re growing me and maturing me. Give me grace when it’s hard.]
<3Amen

1…2…3…Strip!

Duck #47

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I wish I could say that it’s because I’ve been super busy, but that’s not the case. Especially this past week–I didn’t have a single class. Every single one of them was cancelled because of the crazy weather we had. I really can’t complain; although, this week affirmed the fact that I need routine. I love the spontaneity and possibilities that can arrive from not having plans, but I can only have that for so long, ya know? But let me stop there and get to the heart of what’s on my mind at an hour that I clearly should be sleeping.

Per usual, there’s a lot swirling around in my head, but let’s see if we can narrow things down a bit, shall we?

There’s this great song by Jessie J called ‘Strip.’ *If you haven’t heard it, take a few moments and go listen to it.* I really like the song because it’s not only super catchy, but it’s super honest.
The chorus goes:
Show me your love, let’s stay up all night
Tell me your secrets and not your lies
Take it all off, what you got inside?
Baby, strip, strip, strip, strip, strip, strip
This could be love if you blow my mind
Ooh, don’t you dare give me your disguise
Take it all off what you’ve got inside
Baby, strip, strip, strip, strip, strip, strip.

So, one day while I’m listening to Jessie kill it vocally as I walk across campus, it hits me–we need to strip! We need to take everything off! It’ll be so much more freeing!

PAUSE:
-That’s illegal, Jayna.
-Public nudity is a crime.
-How inappropriate!
–I know! Not literally, metaphorically…
GO!

As I’ve been in college, I’ve noticed a few things. (I should probably change a ‘few things’ to ‘a lot of things,’ but ya know, I don’t graduate until May, so…).  One of the major things I’ve noticed is this condition that has been in existence for as long as I can remember. I’m going to call it “The Layers.” Because I go to school in the mountains, wearing several layers to class is not uncommon, it’s actually highly suggested. The problem with wearing so many layers, though, is that when you finally get from point A to point B, you’re sweating like a dog. So what’s the typical response? Take off all the layers. It’s logical. It would be so uncomfortable to sit through an entire class bundled to the nines. (I know that’s not how the phrase goes, but I’m gonna use it). But let’s pretend you don’t have to sit through class, you’re just popping inside to get a coffee before heading home. That endeavor should only take about 5-10 minutes max, right? Maybe even less. It would take so much effort to take off all of your layers, hold them, order your coffee, pay, get your coffee, add cream and sugar, put the coffee down, put all of your layers back on, pick your coffee back up, and leave. So what’s the typical response in this situation? Leave the layers on. Waiting in line is only temporary in comparison to the more permanent setting of sitting in a classroom.

But you see, I don’t think “The Layers” condition that I mentioned above has anything to do with actual clothes. However, I think it has much to do with pride, anger, bitterness, selfishness, insecurity, shame, fear, worry and any other layer that we put on to try and protect ourselves. I think we each have on so many layers in an attempt to keep our hearts from the cold, to not expose our skin to the air beyond our control. I know I have them. I think we put on the layers because we’re convinced deep down that whatever “it” may be is only temporary and we can handle it on our own without the help of anyone else.

I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago and I was explaining to her that some things in my life needed to change, but I didn’t really want to do anything about it. I said, “I know that I would be so much more comfortable if I took off this jacket, and my scarf, and my hat, and my gloves, but that takes a lot of effort, and I’m scared. And it’s a lot easier to sit here with all my layers on and be miserable.” (I was speaking metaphorically, of course). And there’s the kicker–it’s a lot easier.  Yes, to sit in my shame and insecurity and hide what’s really going on is a lot easier than to expose the truth or to even make a grand gesture in the name of confidence. I know my layers, I understand my layers, I can control my layers. And as long as I’m wearing them, I can keep everyone at a distance. I can fool everyone because they can’t see what’s underneath. I can appear as though I don’t need any help, when the fact of the matter is: I do. We all do.

At RUF a few weeks ago, our campus minister talked about sanctification. He pointed out that we often think that the Lord is more concerned with our behavior than anything else; but we’re wrong. 1 Samuel 16:7 talks specifically about how the Lord looks at our hearts. Jesus sees us. He sees our mess and he says, “You’re beautiful.” He sees our struggle and says, “I want to make you holy.” He sees our insecurity and says, “Don’t worry, you’re mine.” And how beautiful it is to be truly known, fully exposed, totally seen, and still immeasurably loved by the Lord!!

It’s easy to live with The Layers, but it’s so much more free to shed them.  I’m with Jessie, “…don’t you dare give me your disguise, baby, strip, strip, strip, strip, strip, strip!” And I don’t know, but I think there’s something really…staggering, something really wonderful about being able to share your heart with someone else and have them do the same. There’s wisdom in knowing who to share with, but I fully believe it’s worth pursuing.

[Lord. It’s really hard to be honest. It’s also really hard to be vulnerable. Would you show me the beauty in shedding my layers and allowing you and others to love me? Give me the strength and wisdom to be who You want me to be.]
❤ Amen

Brave

Duck #44

I’m pretty good at several good things, and one of those things is being struck. I’m fascinated and intrigued by much, polka dots, the sound of a car driving on a gravel road, the various laughs of the world, The Great Wall of China… I can look at a row of coffee mugs, listen to the most beautiful song, or enjoy a breathtaking sunset and be moved deeply–differently, but deeply nonetheless. It’s cool and it’s weird, and I like it. But sometimes, I’m struck negatively and then I get scared. And when I get scared, I want to runaway. It’s really easy and I don’t actually have to go that far. I run into my head–a gorgeously dangerous place to be.

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you know that I spend a lot of time in my head. I’m a thinker, and often an over thinker. And well, over the past 3 weeks, I’ve had plenty of time to think and think again and then think some more. It’s been good and strange and hard and cool and so many things. I won’t bore you with the minute details, but if you want to know more we can chat over a cup of coffee sometime.

So here’s the preface, the prologue of my recent thoughts. We’ll call it, Running Scared.
At this point in my life, I’m in a season of waiting. I was waiting to turn 21 (that happened, check!), I’m waiting to go back up the mountain for my last semester of college, I’m waiting to see my friends again, I’m waiting to hear back about post graduation plans, I’m waiting to graduate college, I’m waiting to meet “the one” (but let’s be honest, I’m only 21, I can chilax on that one a bit), I’m waiting… And as I’ve waited (and continue to wait) I’ve done 2 things: I’ve worried and I’ve run. And quite frankly, I’m over both of those things. My worrying and running hasn’t sped up the process, nor has it changed it. But like I said before: sometimes I get struck and I get scared.

Truthfully, I don’t think I realized how much fear I had until this break. And no, I don’t mean the fear that comes from watching      a scary movie, the kind that makes you want to watch every pixar movie ever before you go to bed. I’m talking about the anxious fear that the Bible talks about in Philippians 4 and Romans 8. As a child of God, I did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but instead received the Spirit of adoption by whom I cry out, “Abba Father.” In that same vein, I don’t have to be anxious (or fearful) for anything, but instead can make my requests made known to God so that the peace that passes all understanding can guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. But I so easily forget that. I so easily doubt my identity in the Father and take matters into my own hands–and that’s a messy place to take matters, y’all.

Why? Because I don’t know what I’m doing. Seriously. I want to know so badly. I want to be in charge of my life. I want to have it all together. I want to be strong and independent and successful and all of the things, but what I’ve been pining after has been apart from what Jesus wants, not a part of what He wants.

You see, 2014 was a year of dependence…on people. I was struggling to really depend on the Lord because of specific things that happened during the year, so He was gracious enough to bring so many wonderful people into my life exactly when I needed them, to draw me to Him.
But at the end of the year, I was starting to feel more independent, I was starting to feel better, so I took off and ran with what I thought I knew. But as I started to separate myself from the strong dependence I had on the people around me, the more afraid I became. Because here’s the the kicker, the zinger, the big shabang: I became too dependent on my friends.
I was drawing all of my energy and my encouragement from people and hardly anything from the Word or time alone with the Lord. So, as I started to become less dependent, I felt like I didn’t have any other option other than to run because I’d forgotten what it looked like to depend on Jesus. So, I was just running and that scared me. I was separating myself from my main (people) source of joy and love and I’d forgotten what my true (Jesus) source of joy and love was. I became fearful.

I was running scared because I didn’t know what else to do. I was running scared because stopping would mean that what I was running from would have to catch up to me. I was running because if I stopped running, that would mean I would have to wait idle, still, out of control and I didn’t want that. I was independent. I was changed. I was able to handle things on my own, right? Wrong.

Dependence is okay. Jesus wants us to be dependent on Him.

Y’all. We absolutely, positively need people. We need to be around them. We need to draw energy, support, joy, love from them–Christ call us into community. He delights and smiles over that. But above all, we DESPERATELY, GRAVELY, INTRICATELY, need Jesus.

And the best part is the fact that Jesus is so patient and is willing to wait for me and run with me. And as I reflect over the last year, that’s exactly what He did, because He loves me. As Bethel Music so simply and beautifully put it, “You make me brave, You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way.”

So, I’ve decided to stop running. I don’t need to be afraid, He’s not given me a spirit of fear. Jesus is for me, He is with me. He’s got me. He’s got you too.

[Jesus, thank You for Your grace, Your unending patience, and Your relentless love.]
❤ Amen

The Moon & Music

Duck #43

I really like unity, especially when you don’t expect it. For example, when the moon decides to rear its face when the sun is still out (that happened today). For a few hours, the night and day are together in harmony. But it’s ironic because those light sources are supposed to be separated, they’re not meant to be together. But sometimes, sometimes the gap is lessened because part of the night shows up during the day. I like that.

I think that’s also why I like music so much. Music, with out words, can make you feel something. That’s what it’s supposed to do. It’s beautiful. I was sitting with friends in a coffee shop on campus today and asked, “Do you ever have those moments when you hear music and your body can’t help but to react?” I love that. I love when chords and harmonies and instruments and voices come together and strike something in you that’s always been there, but awakens from its dormant state for a moment or two. Music makes you feel. And then you add lyrics. Lyrics make you think. That’s one of the reasons why I love words so much, they make you think–when you put them together, particularly and acutely, they can make you think about so much in so many different ways.
Thinking and feeling. It’s ironic, again. It seems as though we’re constantly told to separate our head from our heart. We’re constantly told to make decisions more based on thought and less based off of feeling. But songs…songs combine both aspects of life. Songs combine the feeling of music and the thought of words into a beautiful combination, a harmony, a balance, a unity. I like that, too.

In this moment, as I think about everything I need to complete before and by exam week, I’m met with slight thoughts of worry and strange feelings of excitement. I’m met with the opportunity to sit in the tension of the “end” of one thing and the “beginning” of something else. My thoughts and my feelings are mixed up,  jumbled together, flattened, pulled, electrified…  But for right now, I like that they’re together, I like that they’re unified. Eventually, someday, they may have to separate. I can’t necessarily bring both wrapped up together everywhere I go. Sometimes, one (over another) may need to be at the forefront. But in the moments where there is alignment, in the moments where there is unity, I choose to enjoy it. I choose to relish in the space of togetherness. And when separation comes, I hope that I can trust the Lord to guide my heart and guide my head as I learn more about what He wants.

— ❤ Amen.