Until Then: Some Thoughts from a Young Black Woman

Duck #89

“Come Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee…”
This song and these lyrics have been on my mind a lot recently. Today, in particular, they’ve been my prayer.  Before reading the rest of this post, I encourage you to listen to the song, maybe even look up the lyrics.

______________

Until Then: Some Thoughts from a Young Black Woman

What are you doing?
What are you doing?

What are you doing when you walk into a corner store?
What are you doing when your car comes to an unexpected halt?
What are you doing when you’re in the halls at school?
What are you doing in the pews at church?

Are you living in fear and acting out of it, or are you going about your day, unaware  of (maybe ignoring) certain realities?

What are you doing?
What are you doing?

What are you doing when the news says another husband and father has been killed?
What are you doing when inappropriate comments are made in jest?
What are you doing when you feel pulled between your ethnicity and your religious beliefs?
What are you doing when you think, “be polite and no one will assume the worst of you…”?

Do these questions resonate with you?

What are you doing?
What are you doing?
Are you looking for injustice or seeking justice?
Are you seeing what you want to see, or listening to the truth?
Are you loving your neighbor that doesn’t look, dress, or act anything like you? What about your neighbor that does?
Are you thinking before you speak, or are you joining the cacophony?
Are you asking the Lord for wisdom, peace, guidance, mercy, understanding, or do you not have time?

Have you thought about this?

You’re right. It’s not always about race, but race is an undeniable and inevitable factor. Black lives matter because all lives matter, but right now there is a community of people that do not feel included in the “all.” There is a community of people worried about getting pulled over or having car trouble. There is a community of people angry and confused and unsure of how to express their feelings constructively because they are tired. There is a community of people that needs Jesus, and not as a pithy phrase said by those that don’t really care. This community needs Jesus because it is in and through Him that true peace will come. But, to those of us that consider ourselves his followers,  are we not his hands and feet? This community that I am proud to be a part of and still learning how to care for is not big, or bad, or lazy, or insubordinate–as a whole–we are strong, beautiful, resilient, intelligent, and proud.  That’s what I was taught when I was growing up. We forget that at times, but can’t we all see why? Have you not at once forgotten your identity, where you came from, what the Lord has done for you?

If you are a white believer, what are you doing to encourage your black brothers and sisters in Christ? Your black brothers and sisters, period? And if you are a black believer, what are you doing to encourage your white brothers and sisters in Christ that are trying to understand? I know, I’m angry too, but responding out of such anger isn’t getting, nor will it get us anywhere. We know this.

Right now, being black in America (personally) feels both empowering and often terrifying. It’s beautiful, yet brokenness is in our midsts. I love being black. I love that I’m learning what that means to me. I hate that I’m ignorant of certain issues encumbering my own people and that I may even make excuses for that ignorance. But I hate even more that what I’ve seen in the media and what I’ve heard from certain people has been the epitome of negative: shame, fear, death…

We need to see each other.
We need to hear each other.
We must love each other.
Division is literally killing us.
All of us.

Things are far better than they once were, but that does not mean all of the mending has been done. We still have a long road to walk. But the Lord began a good work among the black community, years ago, and I’m confident that He will one day bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). One day, we will feast in the house of Zion, friends. We will sing with our hearts restored! All of us–Black, White, Latino, Asian…together!

But, I ask you, as I have recently and repeatedly been asking myself, what are you going to do until then?

Progress, Patience, and Perseverance: Thoughts on Racial Reconcilliation

Post Grad Duck #21

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.” -Ephesians 2:14-15

I’m hesitant to write down my thoughts. If I were to say everything that I’m thinking, I am confident that I would receive backlash and a variety of opinions. However, I am trying to be more confident in myself, and who Jesus is calling me to be, and so as I type, I pray that the Lord’s grace would fill in the gaps where I fall short and ultimately cover my words. Let me also say this, these words are meant for readers that consider themselves to be followers of Christ.

This past Monday was the day our country recognizes as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is a day—that I think—first is meant to celebrate and remember Dr. King’s life and work in the Civil Rights Movement, second to celebrate the racial reconciliation that has happened in our country over the past five and a half decades, and third to pursue change in light of what has already been done.

Almost 56 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave one the most memorable speeches in American history. It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that the infamous words “I have a dream…”, associated with equality between blacks and whites, entered the world. As a young, black woman, of course I am both thankful and inspired by Dr. King’s words. His delivery was didactic, his purpose was poignant, and the legacy he left was one marked by love.

Dr. King dreamt of a world where injustice would subside and freedom would ring throughout the country. He dreamt “…that one day this nation [would] rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.” He dreamt that his “…four little children [would] one day live in a nation where they [would] not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It was these words, spoken with such conviction, that landed deep within the hearts of many and continued to spur change in our country during a time that change felt impossible. It was these words, and the perseverance of a passionate, brave, and intelligent black man that gave the Civil Rights Movement a momentum that has led to much of the progress in America today.

And that’s just it. There is progress in America today. Hear me when I say that I am not naive enough to believe that racism doesn’t exist anymore. Believe me when I say that I think our country still has much room to grow in terms of racial equality among peoples across the color spectrum. But please, don’t ignore me when I say that I am thankful for where our country is in comparison to where it was. Don’t take lightly the fact that I was able to receive a good, university level education not only as a woman, but as a black woman. Don’t pass by the beauty in my being able to not only sit at the same table as white Americans, but work with, and live with them as well. Where freedom was once beckoning to be rung, it is now in the middle of being heard.

Yes, it is in the middle. I do not believe that freedom has met its full potential, nor do I believe that America has reached capacity when it comes to loving and respecting those that are different, marginalized, oppressed, or forgotten. But Praise the Lord, that the situation at hand 56 years ago is not the same that is at hand today!

I think that we as a people have slightly forgotten what progress looks like. I think we as a people have forgotten what patience feels like. I think we as a people have forgotten what perseverance sounds like. Progress looks like the safety in men and women of different races and nationalities being able to sit in the same room peaceably and discuss a pressing matter. Patience feels like waking up every day waiting on the Lord and asking Him to maintain working in our country and in our own lives as we continue to endure unjust actions or slanderous comments. Perseverance sounds like hope and thanksgiving.

But it’s hard. How can we rejoice in progress when young black boys and men are still being killed in the streets? How can we be patient when we are tired? How can we persevere when it seems like our country feels more divided than unified as of late?

In short, we cannot.  The road to racial reconcilliation is long and hard. I believe Dr. King knew that when he was in the midst of fighting for such a reality, but I also think that he knew arrogance was not a tool of change powerful enough to carry in his arsenal. Arrogance is far too easy. Apart from the grace of Jesus Christ, apart from the narrative of the gospel, true and full racial reconciliation is futile, indeed it is selfish.

I tread these next verbal waters carefully because I realize that some people in the back community may not agree with what I have to say, which is this: I feel like sometimes we are too selfish when we seek after what we are claiming as racial reconciliation. I recently went an event where at least 97% of the people in attendance were black. The purpose of this gathering was to be an evening of celebration in memory of Dr. King. Overall, I enjoyed the event, but I found myself struck with pangs of disappointment at various moments throughout the evening. I sat, waiting in anticipation for an actual celebration to commence. I was disappointed when a performance that I thought should have inspired hope, evoked more feelings of hate—hate for what has happened in our society and for what has yet to happen. I was disappointed when the keynote speaker commented on her lack of forgiveness and several members of the audience began to cheer for her, as if to communicate, “Yes! Good! Harboring bitterness is just fine!” I was disappointed when I felt like time was not taken to honor the man for whom the black community, and America in general, owes so much.

But then this question enters my mind, why would the oppressed educate the oppressor? Is it their obligation, their duty? Maybe not. But as believers do we not serve a King that was oppressed and beaten and despised and mistreated, yet continued to educate and love those who inflicted so much pain on Him? I am well aware that there is much to swallow and even more to digest, but I believe these are things to think about. We must look at where we have come from in order to see where we are going, where we want to go. It does no good to hold on to deep resentment, ridiculous stereotypes, and years of pain in an effort to pursue real and genuine change. We must remember and move forward. remember the bad and learn from it; remember the good and thank God for it; then, we must keep walking, walking in love. Don’t you agree?

We are committed to collectively, lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people. As we forge our path, we intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting (#BlackLivesMatter on Restorative Justice).

I know this is weighty and that there are several layers to unpack. So, I will end with these words from Dr. King, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

 

[Dear Jesus,
take these words and may You become big and I small.]
❤ Amen

…yet

Post Grad Duck #10
More often than not, when people ask me a question, I almost always want to have an answer. Even if I’m unsure of what to say, I will almost always come up with something to say. I think this stems from my desire to be accepted by those around me.  Sometimes when I don’t have anything to say, I feel compelled to give some type of response because in that moment saying nothing seems ridiculous. But it’s not. There’s nothing wrong with silence. There is wisdom in waiting. It’s quite all right to say “I don’t know.”

As many of you know, I have moved from the southeast to the northeast. In many ways, it feels like I’ve left one world and entered another. Southern hospitality came to a halt as did the humidity I’ve grown to associate with home. Bojangles is long gone, Cookout is but a fond memory, and “y’all” is phrase of scarcity. And my reaction to it all? Well, I don’t know.

Now, here me when I explain. I am neither miserable, nor sad. The community I have entered has been nothing short of welcoming and full of love, but things are different. What routine I had established has been reinvented, slowly trying to find pattern. Habits native to the south are now only enjoyed via social media. I’m a little fish in a big pond. I’m learning how to swim on my own, away from the shores of biscuits and ‘bless your heart.’ There’s been a shift in my life and I’m discovering what it looks like to be Jayna in Pennsylvania.

What does it look like? Well, I don’t know…yet.
What I’ve known to be true about the culture of the people around me is different now. And that’s okay, it’s beautiful actually. There’s a loveliness in the air of the difference. My surroundings are different, but the ground upon which I stand is the same. And because of that, I can confidently say, “I don’t know.” I don’t have to know because Jesus does. Standing on the truth of His Word gives me the freedom to live and learn and try and fail and laugh and love and everything in between.

I write these words for myself, but also for anyone else that struggles to be patient. Transition is weird and sometimes it’s really hard. I write these words for anyone that is used to having a handle on things and being the one with answers. Confusion is real and it’s not fun. I write these words because there is so much to see and learn from the newness of your environment and from the people around you. I write these words because as Flannery O’ Connor once said, “I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

Take heart, it’s okay not to know and wait on the Lord for the answers. You’re not alone. We can adventure together!

[Jesus, thank you for newness and your promise to always be constant]
❤ Amen

Waiting

Post Grad Duck #6

The older I get, the more I begin to realize that I’m not as patient as I thought. I’d like to think that I’m good at waiting, but I realize it’s never been one of my strong suits. One time, when I was about 10 years old I was decorating a mirror to put in my locker at school. I had finally reached the age where I could have a locker and I was so excited! I stayed up late one night decorating and put the mirror the closet in my bedroom at home. I was going to take the mirror to school the next day and show it off to my friends. Well, the mirror fell from my closet shelf and I accidentally stepped on it. I wanted to salvage the decorative piece I had put at the top of the mirror and glue it onto a new mirror. Promptly, I asked my dad if he could remove the decorative piece. He said, “Not right now, Jayna. It’s too dangerous to try and pry it off. I’d cut myself. If you wait until the morning, I’ll put it on the stove and melt it off. Don’t try to pry it off yourself, just wait until morning.”

I thought that was ridiculous. He was going to make me wait until MORNING?! In my eyes, it would take just the right about of leverage to get the piece off of the mirror. It looked something like this:

now, just imagine that one of the pieces has a wooden star glued to the top, but the sharpest edge of the mirror isn't covered by the star.
Now, just imagine that one of the pieces has a wooden star glued to the top, but the sharpest edge of the mirror isn’t covered by the star.

I figured that my dad was just too tired to help me get the star off. In reality, I just really didn’t want to wait until morning. I wanted everything to be organized and ready and in place before I went to bed so that i wouldn’t have to worry about it. I took my ten year old hands and began to pry at the wooden piece. I bet you can guess what happened next. I applied pressure and my thumb slipped. And just like that, I had a decent sized gash in my thumb. I panicked because it didn’t hurt right away, but it was bleeding. I knew that this was exactly what my dad didn’t want to happen. But I was impatient. I ran to the bathroom to try and stop the bleeding, but to my surprise it didn’t slow in the slightest. (FYI: fingers bleed a lot. I mean…A LOT). I didn’t want to tell my dad what happened, but I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop, so I needed his help.
I grabbed some toilet paper, covered my thumb, went to my dad (at this point I was sobbing) and said “I’m really sorry, I was disobedient!” It’s kind of funny to me that I said those exact words, but I knew I was wrong and I had deliberately  and impatiently disobeyed my father’s instruction. There was no going around it…

Psalm 46:10 says this, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
If you’ve read my last few blog posts, you may have noticed that I’m learning a lot. I’m in a season of waiting. I think I have been since the summer started, but I didn’t realize that until now.
I’m waiting for the funds to come in for my internship.
I’m waiting for a new car. (Roofus was totaled. RIP, buddy!)
I’m waiting for reconciliation amid certain relationships
I’m waiting for answers to specific prayers not only for myself, but others as well.
I’m waiting to move to Pennsylvania & start building relationships with students
I’m waiting...

I explained it to a friend this way,

I think that I’m trying to protect myself from getting hurt if [certain things don’t happen] by saying “if this…then this…” or “i hope it happens…” It’s twisted logic because the Lord not providing [for me in the exact way I want] wouldn’t be Him hurting me, because His character has proven to be good and kind and faithful. I’ve seen that in my life. But still, I’m convinced that if I maintain control, I can keep myself from disappointment or somehow feel like I have a hand in God’s sovereignty. In reality, I’m doing more damage by holding on to my fear and trying to use what’s wounded (me) to protect myself from what’s healing (Jesus).

At RUF Intern training they tell you that hope is not a strategy. I think that when that was told to me I heard “Don’t hope!”
Hope is not a strategy because faith without works is dead, but hope is also not a strategy because works without faith is dead. Throughout the scripture we are told about the blessings that come to those that wait on the God of Salvation*. We are told about renewed strength that comes to those wait for the Lord.** We are told to be patient in tribulation.***
I think that the difference between hoping and waiting (at least as it pertains to me right now) is that waiting requires a certain level of expectancy that hope does not. I wait and I’m still because I know that He is God. As a daughter, I don’t have to hope that Jesus is who He says He is.

I want to be obedient in waiting on & for my Father. I don’t want to cut my thumb this time.

[“Be still my heart and know, (He) is God alone. Stop thinking so much & just let go.
Be still my soul & rest. Humbly I confess, in my weakness, (Lord) your strength is perfect”]
-Be Still || Steffany Gretzinger <3Amen

*photo cred: http://imgkid.com/broken-glass-shards.shtml
*Micah 7:7
**Isaiah 40:31
***Romans 12:12
Mirror Story Conclusion: My thumb bled for 4 hours and when we went to the doctor the next day, they told me that my cut was too deep for stitches. Yes, too deep. So they wrapped it up really well and I was left with this white scar.

Photo on 7-2-15 at 12.03 PM

I Think That I Know

Post Grad Duck #2

I think that I thought that once I got older I wouldn’t care as much. I think I thought that once I graduated there would be certain things that wouldn’t bother me. I think I thought that when I got to a certain point in my life I wouldn’t think the same way that I used to. I think that I thought a lot of things…
I’m currently sitting in the hallway outside of my hotel room. It’s a weird location and a lot of people have walked by giving me interesting looks, but ya gotta do what you gotta do, ya know?
I’d really like to categorize how I’m feeling, but I’m not entirely sure. There are a range of emotions racing back and forth inside my head as I type. I’m both thrilled and nervous. I’m simultaneously confident and wary. I share joy and fear. Its good, to feel that is. It reminds me that I’m alive and that my insides work (the abstract insides). But while I’m all too well reminded that I’m alive, I’m also reminded that I’m a mess. We all are.
For the past week, I’ve been spending time in Atlanta, Georgia, getting both trained and oriented as preparation for my new job in the fall. I’ve met some crazy rad, super cool, beautiful people and I seriously cannot wait to see what we all have coming next! It’s been a really good week, really good; but it’s also been really hard. I’ve been a lot more challenged than I thought I was going to be. I knew going into this training that I was going to learn a lot, but I wasn’t expecting my pride to be thrown up against the wall; I wasn’t expecting my jealousy to shine on display; I wasn’t expecting my tendency to play the comparison game to be fully charged; I wasn’t expecting my fear to cripple me inwardly; I wasn’t expecting my doubt to cloud by vision…
Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting Jesus to work. But the Lord is too kind, He is too good to not work. So, this week I saw my sin and I saw it in neon, flashing in that obnoxious pattern that you can’t ignore once you’ve noticed it. Almost like the way mannequin eyes follow you around a store as you shop–once you find them, there’s no going back (Here’s to looking at you, Old Navy). Yet in the midst of all this exposure, I was met with love and grace and gentleness.

Why? Because I needed it? Well, sure, of course!  But that’s not the reason. You see, it’s not about me. It’s never been about me. Love and grace and gentleness would exist and abound and freely flow in spite of, yet still completely for me.  And that’s what’s really cool about all of this. Because none of this is about me, there’s nothing I can do to ruin what the Lord has established. It’s impossible. But you see, it’s taken me all week to come to this conclusion. I’ve known it, but I needed to be reminded. The reason I didn’t expect the Lord to work this week is because I’ve been so focused on myself. This job, what I’m doing, what I will be doing has little to do with me–it won’t ever have much to do with me. It has everything to do with the gospel, it has everything to do with love, and grace, gentleness, and goodness, and kindness, and faithfulness, and self control, and joy, and trust, and peace, and all the things that I can’t be or obtain without the Father.

So what does this mean? It means that I am not the center of the universe and neither are you. And y’all, that is GREAT news! It’s so beautiful because the One that is at the center of the universe has been holding it together since the beginning and will continue to do so through the end of time. It means that we’re free to fail. It means that we get to be vulnerable without shame. It means that we are imperfect that’s okay. It means that Jesus can use us and He chooses to use us regardless of our sin because it’s not about us. What a privilege and honor it is to be used by our Savior even when we’re so undeserving. How lovely it is to be told “You’re mine. I love you. I forgive you. I want you.”

I think that I thought a lot of things, but I know that I know that Jesus is good; He is sovereign; He is kind.

[ Father, I’m sorry for not trusting You to show up and doubting that You would do work this week.Thank You that despite all of that Your plan is still being accomplished. Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me…restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
-Psalm 51:10 & 12]
❤ Amen

Penn & Paper

Have y’all ever had those moments where you had planned for something to go a certain way and then nothing goes how you planned it? That’s currently where I’m at right now, in more ways than one. For those of you that don’t know, I graduated college a little over a week ago. (I’m typing this blog post from one of the open access computer’s at my school’s library because I forgot my laptop at my apartment. It’s weird). I had planned to wake up early enough (LOL) this morning to drop my car off at the shop for an oil change by 8am and then I was going to use the remaining 2 hours before work to write this post and get a few things done. I had gone to bed pretty late, but I thought I’d be able to force myself out of bed.
Well, just because I graduated doesn’t mean that I suddenly learned some new skill about waking up early. When my alarm went of at 7am I ignored it at least 4 different times and ended up rolling out of bed around 8:15. I got my car to the shop a little before 9, but then realized I had forgotten my laptop, thus why I’m typing this at the library. Needless to say, my plan for the morning was been foiled and in my mind “put me behind” in regards to where I thought I “needed to be.”

And that, ladies and gents is a great way to lead into the topic of today’s post: Where I need to be.
So, here we go, Post Grad Duck #1…

I’m moving to State College, Pennsylvania, in just a few short months. Yup. I will be living in the college town that surrounds Pennsylvania State University. The reason for this northward movement is because I’ve been accepted for a position with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) as an intern. I’m actually REALLY excited about this adventure for several reasons, but that wasn’t always the case. Remember how I asked if you ever planned things and then basically had your plans cave in on you? Well, not only did that happen to me this morning, but it also happened to me about 2 and 1/2 months ago. For all of January and the majority of February I had been planning and was expecting to go to a different campus other than Penn State, but due to certain circumstances and I was re-placed up north. I had been planning to go to a location that was closer to home, more urban, a bit warmer, and had some friends and family throughout the area. I had a plan, but then things changed. And if I’m being honest, I wasn’t excited about the new plan. I wasn’t excited because I didn’t plan it. I wasn’t expecting it, it was different, and certain things had changed in my life that now made this new transition even harder. So, for the remainder of my last semester I was pretty anxious and distraught.

Anxiety and stress and even a bit of depression played a bigger role during the month of April than I would have liked. Sadly, that became my plan–worry and fear. How am I supposed to do this? It’s so far away! What about all of my family and friends back home? I don’t know anyone up there. I’ve never even heard of State College, Pennsylvania. I don’t want to go. It’s gonna be too hard. It’s not what I signed up for. Maybe I’m not supposed to be doing this internship anymore… Thoughts like these swirled around in my head for days on end and as a result I lost a lot of sleep and shed a lot of tears. But then I made it through April, graduated college, and went to RUF’s Summer Conference in Panama City Beach, Florida.

When I got there, I was still anxious and nervous and scared and all feelings opposite of peace. Ya know the kind of nervous that makes it hard to pay attention? The kind that has you on edge, irrationally looking over your shoulder for the monster that doesn’t exist? Yeah, that’s where I was. Truthfully, I don’t even remember many of the details of the first two days I was at PCB because of how distracted I was. For those first two days, the plan that was ringing in my head was to not proceed with the internship. I had mostly made up my mind, but was still sort of open to continuing the pursuit, sort of. I had talked to several different friends about how unexcited I was and how I didn’t want to continue moving towards going to Penn. I was told “Jayna, if you really don’t want to do this, you don’t have to.” And that’s true, it still is. But you see, deep down, what I wasn’t allowing myself to fully embody and what I wasn’t telling anyone was that I still wanted to do the internship. I was comforted by the fact that I didn’t have to do anything (I hate being forced or manipulated into things), but I wasn’t comforted by the fact that I wouldn’t be working for an organization that I loved, that shaped and helped my college experience, that taught me so much about myself and the Lord, that brought me so many amazing friends… I wasn’t comforted by the fact that I wasn’t going to be using the gifts that I know I’ve been blessed with in an area where I know they could flourish, be used, and be grown.

On the Wednesday of Summer Conference I talked to the intern counselor, Casey, and here’s what she said, “Jayna, I really think you should do this. I get and fully understand why you’re scared and I don’t blame you, but I promise you that you won’t regret doing the internship. Your gifts point so clearly towards ministry, this experience is only going to help and grow you. It will make you a better wife and mother one day. I think you need to move past your fear and take the plunge and do it. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I don’t think that your calling has changed. I think that deep down you still want to do this, but you’re not excited because your circumstances have completely changed and so it’s hard to reorient how you feel. But I really think you should do this. I don’t want to guilt trip you or push you, that’s not what I’m trying to do, please hear that, I just know this would be good for you. You’re gonna make a great intern.”

Y’all. I was blown away. Casey met me with grace and love and patience and was able to see me. I don’t know how she could tell what I was thinking deep down. I wasn’t mad at what she said at all. Sure, it was hard to hear because I’m essentially having to get over myself and just do it (#Nike), but that’s what I wanted. It’s hard to explain the peace that I felt after that conversation. It was almost like I had been wearing sunglasses for way too long, took them off and realized how much better I could see without anything in front of my eyes.

So here’s where I am, just having finished the wildest emotional roller coaster. The ride was scary and exhilarating and weird and confusing and fast and had a few unexpected loops and twirls, but my train has stopped moving and I’m really really excited. While I was at PCB I was able to meet several Penn State students, the current campus minister, and 2 former interns. I have never felt more welcomed and loved and appreciated so quickly in my life. It was overwhelming, but it was beautiful. I couldn’t escape Penn, but as the week went on, I realized that I didn’t want to. Y’all, I’m really really excited to move to State College.

(I know, this blog post is already getting really really long, so I’ll try to wrap it up shortly…)

As I’ve thought about, prayed about, and written about this subject for the past 6 days I’m beginning to realize more and more that Penn State is where I need to be. I truly believe that our country and more specifically our church (as a whole) is moving towards cross cultural community. As a young woman of color, I believe that I’ve been given and called to a really unique opportunity to participate in this movement in Pennsylvania and I’m jazzed about it!  Of course, I’m still a bit wary, but the excitement and the peace the Lord has given me as of late is inexplicably, positively overwhelming and it feels so good.

This new plan isn’t mine, but rather the Lord’s– that’s why I feel good about it. I want to go to Penn State because I feel like the Lord wants me there. I want to go to Penn State because I want to challenge myself. I want to go to Penn State because of the people I’ve already met that go to school there. I want to go to Penn State because I want to be transparent about my struggles and my thoughts and maybe, just maybe, be able to help someone that finds themselves in a similar position to mine. I want to go to Penn State because I refuse to let fear stop me.

And so that’s that. I don’t know exactly what this journey is going to look like and logistically I can’t get there on my own. In order to move to Penn I have to raise 85% of $30,000. It’s a crazy amount, but I know that if I’m supposed to be there, I’ll get there. However, if you’re interested at all in helping me along the way whether that be just by sending me positive vibes, prayers, or being willing to support me financially, I would more than appreciate it! There’s a link to give at the bottom of this page; just type my name in the search box.

If you have any questions or just want to talk about my story in general, feel free to give me a shout! I’d love to chat. I’ll also be blogging throughout the summer, so keep an eye out for more posts. 🙂

[God, You’re really good, too good. And I’m so thankful. Pave the way for me to move to Penn State]
<3Amen

https://www.givetoruf.org

Ready, Set, Know

Duck #48

Another spring break has come and gone and of course there is a pain felt around the country as college students have already returned to their rigorous schedules and mounds of academic work. It’s safe to say that I’m not ready for school to resume. Let’s just skip to summer, amirite?! As sad as I am that my last spring break as a student has come to an end, I’m thankful for it and for the fact that this is the last year i’ll have to get over the “SB2K1# Depression.”

Anyways, let’s skip any more formalities and get to the heart of today’s blog. I’ve been trying to write this one for a few days now, but every time I’ve sat down and started to write, I could only get so far. But, I had a counseling session yesterday and after talking through things, I reached a conclusion.

So, here we go…

While in Chattanooga last week, I learned a lot. That tends to happen on missions/service trips, ya know? I learned a lot about myself and about other people. I learned about looking outside of myself and with that, the phrase of the hour is “know your worth.” I met a young woman while in Chatt that emulates everything I want to be in life. She is confident, bright, loving, kind, bold, confident, confident, and lastly, confident. She has an air about her that is both striking and tender. It stops you in your tracks and simultaneously draws you to her. The Lord shines so richly through her, it’s beautiful. It was an honor to meet her.
In a conversation with a dear friend about what it is that is so stark about this young woman, I was told, “she know’s her worth.” After hearing this, I talked to her about it. I asked her what it was that helped her realize her identity in Christ and not just accept that for herself and internalize that truth, but to outwardly express it. And ya know what she said?

“Gratitude keeps me low.”

What I find especially ironic about this is that the young woman who is so completely thankful and low (humble) is so brilliantly confident. That’s hard for me to reconcile because when I think humble, I usually and immediately think of someone who is quiet and in the shadows. And when I think of someone who is confident I usually and immediately think of a pompous  prick. (Yes, both of those examples are extreme and not necessarily true, I recognize that).
But you see, the young woman I met was neither shy nor full of hubris. SHE KNOWS HER WORTH. And as a result, she was able to less heavily focus on her self, walk in who the Lord made her to be, and positively affect others.

She can look outside of herself because she knows herself.

And so, here’s me. A girl that’s trying so hard to be the best she can be, but struggling because she’s still confused as to what she’s worth. I’m a girl that looks for affirmation based upon the outward things that I do and appreciates, but struggles to accept the inward qualities that people highlight in me. Why? Because I don’t know my worth and because it’s way easier for me to complain and question rather than to be grateful.

I know that the Lord has blessed me with certain qualities that He’s grown overtime and they’re good ones. But ya know, sometimes I ignore those things that I am and focus on those things that I’m not. It’s stupid, I know. Yesterday, as I was talking my counselor I brought up my boyfriend (oh yeah, i have one of those now :P). He’s great for many reasons, but one of those reasons is because he constantly reminds me of those things that I am. It’s really sweet actually, and I didn’t realize how great it is until recently. At the root of it all, I’ve been deceived into thinking my worth is found in what I look like and what I do. However, my boyfriend has continually seen past that, he’s seen my worth. He saw it even when we were just friends, now that I think about it. In almost every conversation I have with him, somehow one of my inward qualities is highlighted. I don’t know if he means to, but it happens. Sometimes it’s hard to hear because I don’t always believe him, BUT It’s humbling because what he sees is the opposite of what I’m trying to do. I’m thankful the Lord is using Stanley to to help me see my worth. He’s seeing Jesus in me because that’s where my worth is found. What I’m trying to do is diminish that and selfishly and foolishly try to come up with my own definition of who I am.

But I’ve already been defined.

What I saw in the young woman from Chatt was Jesus. But the difference between us is that she saw it too, was thankful, and then resolved to walk in boldy in that. As she walks, gratefully knowing her worth, she is free to love herself and to love others without inhibition.

How beautiful it would be if we were less wrapped up in who we’re not and started thanking God for who are. How lovely it would be if we walked not only confident enough to stand up for ourselves, but to also stand up for others. Proverbs 17:22 says A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Basically, a thankful heart that knows its worth is a beautiful thing, but selfishness and doubt is life sucking.

It’s not an overnight process. But I don’t want to be in the dark anymore. I’m ready to know my worth. I urge you to join me and know yours too. 🙂

[Jesus, You’re really cool and really patient and I’m just really thankful.]
<3Amen

The Dots

connect the dots

Duck #40
Last week my friend lost his water bottle. Stick. That’s the name of his water bottle. He bought a new one and named it Gene.

The definition of the word connection, according to Google is: “a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.” As humans, we’re wired for this definition. It’s in our DNA. Sometimes, it propels us forward. Sometimes it holds us back. And it always motivates us.

A week or two ago, I was thinking a lot about this word. Tonight, I’m doing the same.

Let’s take a journey. Into the wonderfully intricate and over analytical mind of Jayna Duckenfield.
So here’s the premise: Humans are wired for connection, like I stated before. Think about it. That’s why we name inanimate objects. It’s why my car’s name is Roofus, my water bottle’s name is Wade, and my pillow pet’s name is Turtle. By naming those objects we feel connected to them. It’s like we’re transmitting some of our life into/onto something that cannot have it. We own it. It belongs to us. (Not in a creeper, stalker type of way). In some sense, it gives our life purpose.

What?! Jayna! Are you saying that we live for naming our inanimate objects because if we don’t then our life is meaningless?!
No, dear reader, that’s not what I’m saying. Let’s go deeper, yes?

Okay, so we name inanimate objects. We like owning things and having things that belong to us, things that are connected to us. And remember, those things can’t talk back or relate to us. Let’s move on to people. We ask questions, we spend time with each other, we hug, we share stories, we laugh. Why? Because all of these things make us feel important, they make us feel validated, like we belong. And let’s face it, we all need to belong. Brene Brown, a social worker and well known ‘TED Talker,’ says, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong…” 

All right, Jayna. I mean yeah, you’re right. My car has a name and I do love hanging with my friends, but what’s your point?
Reader, reader, reader…I’ll get there. I always do, don’t I?

Recap:
Humans are wired for connection.
We (sometimes) name inanimate objects to feel connected
We (always) make connections with people to feel like we belong

What’s the common theme here?

It’s us. But not just that…it’s us doing things. It’s me.It’s me doing things in order to constantly affirm my connection, to incessantly assess my sense of belonging, to reassure that I have worth.

I’d like to generalize my next few thoughts, but I can’t because I can’t truly speak for anyone other than myself. I’m an earner. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ve probably gathered this. I try really hard to understand and give reasoning to the things that I have. Grades, friendships, awards, looks, compliments…everything. It’s often really hard for me to take things for what they are without trying to find the root behind it all. So, when it comes to making connections, I can’t just allow them to be. I’ve got to search for them, go after them, capture them, manipulate them, stick them in a jar, feed them, give them water, and incessantly check them to make sure they don’t die or fade. And if I’m not doing that, then I immediately begin to question the strength of the connection. Because once the connection is made, sometimes I don’t trust it. I can know the strength of the connection, I can understand the depth of it, but if I’m not monitoring it daily, is it even really there? If other people can’t see me working on the connection, does it truly exist? If I can’t do anything to earn it’s strength, did the connection even happen in the first place?

And here’s what’s really behind all of this: There’s one connection that was made that has and will withstand the test of time. There’s one connection that is stronger, deeper, brighter, and more beautiful than any other connection that has ever been made by me or anyone else. It was the connection that was made when Jesus died on the cross. The connection of love that was made, was a connection that gives me life, joy, hope, purpose… And you see, the beautiful thing about this particular connection is that I didn’t have anything to do with it. Because really, my overly zealous attentiveness to my connections is often what weakens them.

I’m treating my connections like a rubber band. It’s sturdy, yes (to an extent), and meant to stretch. But if I keep testing it, making sure that it still has elasticity, pulling and probing, it will eventually pop. I’m treating my connection through Christ like a rubber band. I think that the connection He made for me on the cross was pretty good and overall is able to help me out and hold things together, but I don’t think it’s quite strong enough, so I’ve gotta add some stuff to it. And by add some stuff too it, I mean remove the rubber band and replace it with my fragile piece of thread. I take my thread and wrap, and wrap, and wrap it around so many aspects of my life until it’s all gone. But because it’s so fragile, so thin, it’s still not enough. And I’ve removed Christ’s rubber band, so now what?

PLOST TWIST.  

There was never a rubber band to begin with!! The connection that Christ made for me on the cross is the tightest and strongest chain. It can’t be cut, it can’t be removed, it can’t be weakened. So it’s kind of funny that I try to remove it and make my own convoluted connection, isn’t it?

Hmmmm…so what exactly ARE you saying, Jayna? Are the connections you and I make bad? Should we only be concerned with the connection Christ made?
Okay, reader. Here we go…

Connections are a good thing. Jesus wants us to have connections. He delights in them. BUT they are not to replace, overpower, or mitigate HIS connection. The connection He made is one of everlasting love, it’s one of new life, it’s one full of meaning. It’s the connection that reminds us that life is worth living. It’s the connection that saved us from the pit of hell and said “No, you’re mine! I want you with me.” It’s the connection that that paid for our sanctified perfection. It’s the connection that gave me a new identity and replaced my label of earner with rewarded. It’s the connection that knows me so deeply and chooses to love me anyway. It’s the connection that affirms me and whispers, “You rest. I’ve got this.” It’s THE connection.

So, Jayna. Stop trying to earn and manipulate these connections then. The human connections you make can and should point you to and remind you of the ultimate connection through Christ. Rejoice that you don’t have to earn that. Rejoice that you don’t have to worry about its strength. Rejoice because everything that THE connection holds, in all of its beauty, is 100% yours. Rest in the fact that you can’t break it because you didn’t make it.

Thanks, reader. You’re exactly right.

[Jesus, thank You so much for the connections You allows us to make on earth. Thank you for the ways that you allows us to feel connected. But ultimately, thank You for the connection that You made and thank You for being so patient as I slowly but surely lean into that.]
❤ Amen