“So, gird up your loins, Sweetheart!”

Duck #118

You know the phrase, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”? People often forget the rest of it…or at least what I believe the rest of it should be–“without him.” God doesn’t give you more than you can handle without himWith God literally anything is possible. Without him, just about everything feels impossible. It’s a kindness that life doesn’t absolutely crush us, I think. He gives himself to us in so many forms. Recently, I’ve been able to find Jesus in the form of 80 degree weather, ocean waves, conversations with friends, a playlist made for me 6 months ago that I didn’t listen to until this week, Olive Garden alfredo sauce, running, cuddling with a dog on a couch…and my dad. Treasures along this weird and lovely road.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? Life is a weird and lovely road. Sometimes people you love lose their babies. Other times, some of your favorite people get married. Sometimes, your aunt dies of cancer. Other times, thousands of dollars are given to someone in need. Sometimes anxiety attacks in ways that are unexpected and utterly overwhelming. Other times you laugh until you can’t breathe and dance until your knees hurt and you stand in the sun and thank God for just being God. Sometimes a friend of yours is carjacked and shot multiple times. Sometimes that same friend miraculously survives and is getting stronger every day. Sometimes, you simultaneously question and trust Jesus and feel some typa way about it.

The lack of mutual exclusion between emotions is so jarring for me. I love to live in the gray, the purple, the green, the orange. If there’s a mixture of colors where you can be a bit of both/and, sign me up! I want all the colors and I wanna run the line, teetering on an edge what feels full because that’s where the magic is. Deep joy sparkles in the night. Gut wrenching sadness shines in an alley. Dangerous Hope gleams when you tilt your head. Wild Fear is lit, running on a road of unknown and curiosity.

“Feel what you to need feel. God created those feelings.”

I’ve had so many people tell me this over the years. I’ve heard it a lot this week in particular. I’ve said it myself, to other people. And I mean it. Yet sometimes, I don’t want to believe it. The joy and the sadness and the hope and the fear feel like they must be mutually exclusive and I get lost. My anxious loop starts. Turtles all the way down.

My prayer? Jesus, you’re here, but where are you? I believe, help my unbelief. 

The safety I found in the mix of colors suddenly feels incredibly unfamiliar.
What do I…What if I…Why can’t I…When will I…I…I…I..I…. My anxious loop picks up speed. Turtles all the way down.

So I called my dad. My sweet, endearing, kind, sensitive, understanding father. I open my mouth and approximately 3 minutes into the conversation, I burst into tears and start cry-screaming. Are my words intelligible? Who’s to say, really. But how does my sweet Popsicle respond?

“Mhmmm. Mmmhmm.”

He listens. He doesn’t shame me. He doesn’t belittle. He just listens. In the midst of my uncontrollable tears and incessantly repetitive and muddled thoughts, he listens to me and gives me the space and freedom to be completely honest. He mixes the colors and allows me to add in whatever mess of a rainbow I am. He validates my emotions. He encourages me and then lovingly points me back to Jesus. Over and over again. Not in that way that just slaps Romans 8:28 on a Jeremiah 29:11 journal. For nearly two hours, he just shows me who Jesus is. And after having felt heard and seen, my father reminds me that I can’t do anything alone.

I was never meant to. Neither were you. He reminds me that Jesus wants to give me his easy yoke and light burden. He reminds me that the Enemy is real. He kindly calls me to humility and says “So, gird up your loins, Sweetheart!”

We both laugh.

He’s right though. Life is weird. People are a**holes. God is BIG. So, gird up your loins. Run to Jesus. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. If you can’t crawl, just lay there because Jesus was always going to come meet you anyway.

Before we hung up the phone my dad said, “Sweet Pea, the older I get, I mean seriously…the older I get the more I am convinced that God’s word is true. It’s the only truth.”

But let all who take refuge in You, rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For You bless the righteous, O LORD; You cover him with favor as with a shield. -Psalm 5:11-12

Sometimes it’s hard to believe the truths of Scripture. Other times, it’s not. All the time, God is kind and faithful. So, I’m gonna gird up my loins.

[Lord, I don’t really know how to do that. Help me. Hold them up. I’m a mess. I love you.]
<3Amen

Excited. Expectant. Unafraid.

Duck #113

Have you ever re-fallen in love? With a person, a thing, a season, a song? I feel like that’s where I am right now. I find myself re-falling in love with charms and treasures of this life that had seemed to lose their…shine. Truth be told, they were still just as shiny, I was just scared. And when looking at anything through the lens of fear, all you see is dark and gray. It’s quite miserable.

But the thing about the human body is that it is capable of far more than you think–even when it comes to the unpleasant. For nearly two and a half years, fear and I had become good pals. The glasses it shoved on my face, while heavy and uncomfortable, just became a part of my normal routine. Every where that Jayna went, fear was sure to follow. Much of this fear took shape as my unwanted partner in crime–anxiety. In fact, my last blog post (written over 6 months ago) was the aftermath of a panic attack. It has been so hard for me to blog since then because there’s been so much swirling around in my head. I wasn’t much able to get a grasp on my thoughts. My counselor has since told me that it’s called obsessive thinking. I just called it the loop. And I thought it was normal. It just happened. A lot. But like I said, the human body is capable of far more than we think. So I would just obsessively think myself into a panic. Often.

Shortly after I had written that last post, I got tacos (my favorite) with a friend. I was trying to explain to her how I was feeling and what was going on in my head. I kept saying, “I can’t tell what’s the Lord’s voice and what’s the enemy’s. They sound so similar.” It was unbelievably isolating. The friend I was sharing with has become a safe haven for me in Atlanta. I can’t thank the Lord enough for her. As I cried and spilled my fears to her and explained how absolutely horrible I had been feeling (for the past 2 years), she met me where I was. With kindness and love. What a gift it was to let a bit of my burden go.

….and after that everything got better. I never had another panic attack. And all my fear dissipated!!!!

 

 

 

 

FALSE.

I had a panic attack two weeks ago. On my birthday.

And that brings me to the meat of this post. My birthday. Number twenty-five. For the first time, in a while, I have great anticipation and expectation for this upcoming year. I’m looking forward to what’s next, not because I need the previous year to be over, but because I’m excited and I’m not…afraid. Like I said, i’m re-falling in love.

On the eve of my 24th birthday, the Lord clearly told me that I was going to be entering a year without fear. This absolutely terrified me. Fear and I were basically best pals, remember? I didn’t really believe God. My argument? I wasn’t worth the time. It was too much to remove fear from me. I was convinced that if God was going to remove fear from me, the way he was going to do it wouldn’t be kind and it wouldn’t be loving. It would be full of suffering and surprises and “see, I told you so’s.”

So for about 11 months of my 24th year, fear gripped the mess out of me. My anxiety was manifesting in new ways (yeah, apparently that can happen) and I was overwhelmed.  Throughout these 11 months, I would kind of snidely bring up to God that promise He’d made me. Where’s this year without fear, huh? I’m almost 25, Lord? Where you at? 

His response. “Right here. As I have been all along.”

Over the summer during a worship night that a friend invited me to, I prayed a prayer. A bold one. Why? I don’t really know. Call it desperation, call it the prompting of the Holy Spirit. But I prayed. Lord, I need you to show me who I think you are, who you really are, and how the two are different.  Almost immediately, my prayer was answered. If we meet for coffee, I’ll be happy to share with you the specific answer.  (It’s intimate, so I’d rather save it for a face to face convo. Plus, I’d love to get coffee with you!) In sharing this with my counselor, she said, “…I don’t even know what to say. That feels too holy to step on.” I wept. The answer the Lord had given me was completely uprooting my categories for him. It was rearranging “truths” about his character.

Part of what he told me was, “I’m so proud of you. You’re safe with me.” I wept. Again.
What I hadn’t realized is that so much of my fear and anxiety stemmed from a belief that God is not safe, that he couldn’t be trusted. I had no idea how far down this belief went.

Since that moment of clarity over the summer, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have been in cahoots to capture my heart. I know, I know how cheesy that sounds. I just honestly don’t know how else to describe it. Purposefully, passionately, and persistently I am becoming more of who the Lord is calling me to be. I have stood up for myself, I have stayed quiet when I would normally feel the need to speak, I chased a BIG dream and published a book, I let myself be seen by my friends and let them know it means the world to me that they see me, I have apologized, I have repented, I ran a 5k (lol. I consider this a big deal), I started to believe that God is who he says he is and not who I had formerly thought him to be. And oh, am I so thankful. He’s good, y’all. And kind. And BIG. And loving. And hilarious. And adventurous. And faithful. And EXACTLY who Scripture says he is.

Never before had the lyrics of “I asked the Lord” made so much sense to me. In my begging and pleading with the Lord during my deep fits of anxiety and fear, I didn’t realize that what needed to happen was that I needed to see the depths of my heart. I needed to see what I was projecting on the Lord. I needed to see my need to find my all in Him, not who I thought of Him to be.

…I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”

“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

I’m still learning. I’m still processing. But I am so excited. I am expectant. I am re-falling in love with Jesus and with myself and with this life that He’s given me. I’m no longer a slave to fear. Sure, I know that I will again be afraid, but I also know that fear is not my God. Hallelujah for that!

All right year 25, let’s get it!

 

[THANK YOU, JESUS!]
❤ Amen

“If you’re not done working, God, I’m not done waiting”

Duck #112

When I was in high school, the idea of allowing myself to cry over just about anything seemed ridiculous. I allowed myself to play into the ideology that tears made you weak and being perceived as weak was a fate worse than death; therefore, no crying. Granted, in high school I didn’t feel like I had much to cry about. I remember sometime during my junior or senior year standing in the kitchen with my mom. She was making dinner and I was standing behind her, probably dancing, as that is the primary purpose for kitchens (cooking is a very, very close and immediate second, though). With a smile on my face, I looked at my mother and said “Hey,  Mom…do you have have those moments where you just stop and think, ‘man, I just love my life!’?” I’m not entirely sure what I assumed her answer would be, but I remember being disappointed with what she said. At sixteen or seventeen, everything in my life felt…good. I loved my friends, I loved my church, I might have even had a boyfriend at the time. I was playing sports, I was involved in the arts, I was well liked. My understanding of how I related to Jesus (while tender and earnest and beautiful) was a bit naive, but it was good. I had no category for suffering.

Now, six to seven years later, I find myself asking the same question, only this time I’m not in the kitchen. My mom isn’t standing in front of me cooking. I’m not dancing. I’ve gotten over the idea that tears equal weakness and I’m laying on a yoga mat in the middle of the floor in child’s pose. Sobbing. “Jayna…” I think to myself, “Do you have those moments where you just stop and think, ‘man, I just love my life!’?” My answer furthers my tears and aches for the bliss of my high school optimism. This is not to say I am unthankful or unhappy with my life. Quite the opposite holds true. However, there is something that happens as you begin to settle into the bones of adulthood. You see things you might not have been privy to as a teenager.

Suffering moves from this fictional monster to a tangible beast. You can’t prepare for the attack. You’ve never doubted his coming, but each time it feels like an unexpected blow to the gut. He shape-shifts. He sets up camp and stays for a few weeks, maybe even a few years. Sometimes he just passes through and leaves you with a minor scratch. Other times his wounds are so deep it seems like that’s all people notice when they look at you.

Romans 5:1-5 says this:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that but we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Last week at my church’s Sunday gathering we sang a song with these lyrics–“the only words my soul can find to sing are ‘hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah my King.'” As I stood among the body of believers, my church family, the people with whom I’m one in Christ, I wept. I wept because I couldn’t find the strength to believe the words on the screen. As the voices around me swelled with earnestness, doubt washed over me.

Lord, I’ve been battling with anxiety for the past four years and it seems like it’s getting worse. I am scared all the time. I worry constantly. My friends have been raped. Family members have died. People I love have lost children. I’m exhausted. I feel like I constantly have to prove my worthiness to you. Your word says that I am justified and free and so loved, but I can’t seem to remember that long enough to believe it for myself. Why do I feel like you’re not who you say you are? Why can’t my faith be strong enough to trust that you are good and kind? HOW THE HELL CAN “HALLELUJAH (PRAISE THE LORD) be the ONLY song my soul finds to sing?

And then the Holy Spirit whispered, “because it is…”
For a moment, it felt like my soul and my flesh separated. It was like my soul said to the rest of my body, “it’s okay, little one, I believe these words. You are okay. Let me sing for you. Let the body of believers around you sing and believe for you.” Tears stained my face and laughter filled my lungs. It was weird and lovely.

So here’s the thing: I don’t know a thing, but I believe that God is good and that even if I struggle to love my life, I know that He loves it. Suffering in its various forms are not a waste. A promised monster, though it may be, a victorious one it will never become.

 

[Dear Lord,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, my King.]
<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

Too Short

Duck #83

Flannery O Connor once said something along the lines of “the hardest part of writing is the sitting down and starting.” I like to think that Flannery wasn’t just talking about the hurdles she had to jump over to produce some of her great stories. I like to think that she was talking about life, too. Well, that’s what I’m talking about, anyway…

*****

Fill in the blank. Life is too short to _____.

*****

Over the past few days, I’ve been able to have some throughly enjoyable conversations with friends and family that I haven’t seen in a while. I really do love talking to people that mean the world to me. I was talking with my mom not too long ago and I asked her a question, something about when she was younger. As she paused to answer, she tilted her head to the side and her eyes looked  like they were playing through memories of her teenage years–she was trying to pick the right one to talk about. In that moment all I wanted was to jump inside her head and see what she was seeing. I was getting frustrated and excited at the same time. I had to remind myself to make sure my face was engaged so my mom wouldn’t think I wasn’t paying attention to her, because I was. I was just so curious about what her eyes were seeing that I wasn’t. I’d never really talked to my mom like this before, it was great.
A few days later, I was visiting one of my favorite people in the town where we met. We were driving down open roads and passing trees green enough to make you forget that winter exists. Per usual, music we both loved was screaming through the speakers. The car was thick with melodies, orchestration, and our occasional added harmonies. I felt…weightless. (I know, I know…how cheesy, right? But I genuinely don’t know how else to explain it.) I really wish I could buy that feeling in a bottle at Walmart and take a sip whenever I felt sad or lonely, I wish everyone could. 

I bring up these two moments because while I was so enjoying what I was experiencing, I found myself overthinking them, going in and out of really being in them. I love and hate when this happens. Sometimes when I analyze a moment I’m experiencing, I smile because it’s like I’m reading a book or watching a movie about my life. Other times, I get frustrated because I feel silly for feeling that sort of stupid happy to be talking to my mom or listening to music with my best friend, as if these moments aren’t real or something. But they are. They are real and I can soak them up. I don’t have to make them real by making sure that I participate in the fullness of them or lessen their importance by over analyzing them.

Why?

Because life is too short. Life is too short not to have fun and scream your favorite song with your best friend as you drive around in the middle of the day. Life is too short not too learn from your parents. Life is too short not to ask questions. Life is too short not to soak up the moments that make you feel happy you’re alive and that make you want to sit and smile and be thankful to have a heart that beats. It’s not that I suddenly realized that I haven’t been living my life or anything, it’s just that I want to remember to keep starting to live my life. I don’t want to forget the beginning, the difficulty in standing up when you’re down and how amazing it can feel once you’re up.

This past spring semester, a lot of people near me have passed away. It was weird and awful and somewhat dumbfounding. My frequent thought was, “Really? again?!” It felt like it all was happening back to back to back. These deaths were a lot to handle and I think the sadness I felt made a home somewhere in my heart. It was a sadness that was not without hope, but it was deep nonetheless. It wrote unfinished sentences all over me, a series of ellipses that had no conclusion. I think I’ve been longing for something good. I’ve been wanting a tangible experience of such joy that reminded me of God’s goodness. That everything is going to be okay, that I’m going to be okay.  The conversation with my mom and the drive with my friend reminded me of that. I can accept the good with the bad and not worry it away. I don’t have to overthink every moment I’m in, I can just be in the moment. But it’s hard, to remember that, ya know?  Flannery was on to something, the hardest part really does seem to be the act of starting, doesn’t it? However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Life is too short not to. 

I by no means have mastered this, obviously, but if anyone else can relate to how I feel, even just a little bit, know that you’re not alone.

[Dear Jesus,
Thank You for Your character of goodness. I love You and ask that you help me to live with a heart full of love and not of fear.]
<3Amen

Love It

Duck #82

Does anyone actually ever read the FAQ section on websites? I wonder…if enough people checked that section, would the questions have to change because those Frequently Asked Questions wouldn’t actually be up to date Frequently Asked Questions?

If I had an FAQ section for my life, right now, questions 1-3 would be the following?

  1. So, you work at Penn State, right?
  2. Where is that again?
  3. How do you like it?

Honestly, the third question is the one that I’ve probably heard the most since moving to Pennsylvania, especially now that the school year is over. I’ve struggled to answer this question for several reasons: a) I want to be truthful b) I feel like the answer everyone wants to hear is “Oh, it’s great!” c) Does the person asking actually care about my answer or are they just being polite?
After weighing these factors, I usually say something along the lines of “Ya know…it’s interesting! I’m really glad I’m here, but it’s been interesting.” Bait. Depending upon the person, I’ll either receive a response of “Good, good.” or “Oh, really? How so?” Hook line & sinker. (Side note: I don’t really know what the phrase “hook line and sinker” means because I don’t fish (does it even have to do with fishing?), but it seemed appropriate to type here). Then, from there I can go into more of an explanation about how I feel about Penn State.

But here’s the thing, I’ve decided I don’t like my typical response. I think it’s been wrapped up in fear. All year long I have been afraid to let myself be completely a part of the culture here. I’ve been afraid to share certain parts of my heart with the people I now “do life” with. I have been afraid to fall in love with this beautiful, messy, wonderfully hard thing the Lord’s allowed me to be a part of.

I am continually being reminded that the life I’m living up here has little to do with me. The mix of lovely that I’ve found here was not new because I showed up, it was already up and running long before my North Carolina license plate passed the “Welcome to State College” sign. I’ve been blessed enough to be welcomed with open arms and loved by a community that also needs to be loved.  Y’all, a lot of hard things have happened this year. There has been a lot of suffering and there will continue to be. Parents have passed away, grandparents are no longer with us, babies never took their first breath on this earth. Jobs decided to move in other directions, internships have fallen through, and battles of depression and anxiety made school almost unbearable. We are certainly living in a world of brokenness. But we are not living without beauty. Couples have been joined together in marriage, young lives have been brought into this world, funding for projects has been provided. New friendships were formed, safe communities to share and be vulnerable were built, and there has been enough laughter to fill a cathedral.

In this tension of beauty and brokenness, already but not yet, I have found love. I am learning to grow where I am planted, to be where I am. I want to let my heart get so deeply attached to this small town and the people here. I want to grow fond of the way the particular mulch at the bottom of College Avenue smells. I want to spend too much money on lattes at Saint’s Cafe because they are just that good. I want to continue to get lost on the trail behind Sunset Park and get caught in the rain miles away from my car. I want to let the women in my Bible study and the friends I regularly hang out with know that it means the world to me that I’ve found a safe place in their company and that I’ve learned so much from each of them.

How do I like Penn State? Truth be told, I love it. I’m not talking about the school or the town, or even my church necessarily. Rather, I’m referring to all the parts of the school and the town and my church that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of. The Lord has been kind and I have been cared for in ways that I didn’t even know I needed.

It’s freeing to come to terms with my own feelings. So, I’ll end with this: Don’t be afraid to really be where you are and love it. Playing it “safe” isn’t really helping anyone. We have to learn how to commit and live with conviction. We have feelings, own ‘em. We have places to live, love ‘em.

 

[Dear Jesus,
May I live and love not just in word, but also in deed]
<3Amen

 

The Gradual

Post Grad Duck #25

I’m really thankful for friends. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling either. Since graduating college, my definition of friend has had to change. I wasn’t thrilled about it, and i’m still not necessarily super excited about it, but it’s been good. This new definition occurred because making friends post college is way different than when you’re in college. It’s a slower process. It’s more…gradual.

 

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts or know me personally, you’ll know how important it is for me to spend time with people; you’ll understand how much I value it; you’ll know that my friends mean the world to me. Now that I live in a different state than the majority of my friends, I’ve recently found myself wishing to be reunited with them. I long to sit in a lamplit room under the background of our favorite musical artists coming through the speakers, talking and laughing about whatever our minds wish. I miss driving around the familiar streets we all came to know and love so dearly. I ache for the moments where we all yelled “YOLO” because we decided to participate in a spontaneous activity that usually meant we were putting off our academic responsibilities. Everything was fun and fast and bright. We were thinkers, but only because we wanted to be, not because we had to be. It almost seemed like life happened too quickly to really think about it fully. Maybe we just thought quickly? I don’t know. Either way, my years in college were good ones.

Those were the days—”were” being the operative word, here. It’s past tense, referring to something that used to be. Bringing about feelings of nostalgia that are thick enough bite, the days of were are helping me to be thankful for the days of now. Soon enough the days I currently find myself in will be the days that I look back on and long for. It’s weird to think about, but it’s true. Isn’t it?

The change that took place in college felt so real at the time, but now that I’m no longer in college it’s all starting to feel nebulous in some ways. What did I know of a reality where I wasn’t surrounded by thousands of people my age doing the same thing as me all the time? I had a friend tell me once that college is kind of fake in the sense that the experiences you have are so specific to college (mostly) that post grad life hits you so much harder than you’d expect. Honestly, you actually don’t know how to handle it as much as you thought before graduation.

Currently, I’m living in the days where small change feels like big change, paying rent hurts more than it should, cooking a good meal feels like winning the lottery, and solitude is easy to come by. Mmm..solitude. I never thought I would value being alone as much as I do these days, especially considering how much I adore being around people. But in that same vein, I didn’t think that I would value intentional time set aside to talk with friends both near and far as much as I do now either. Both are good for the soul.

I was talking on the phone to a dear friend earlier today and he was explaining to me all of the exciting things that are happening in his life right now. “Gosh, so much has happened since we last talked…”he said as he tried to catch me up to speed on his latest news. He’s still in undergrad. I listened to his detailed list of occurrences. How wonderful to hear of the new opportunities that lay ahead for this friend of mine, how fortunate of me to be on the other end of this phone call. It’s exciting to share excitement with friends.

 

But I didn’t have the same news to share.

Are exciting things happening in my life? Absolutely. But it’s different than I’m used to. I remember while I was still in undergrad, my campus minister said “life slows down after you graduate.” The rate at which you experience and learn and grow while in college is not nearly as quick post graduation. I thought that was the weirdest thing because college felt so normal; however, here I am almost a year out of school and I find his words to be true. While my job involves spending time with undergraduate students and spending a lot of time on a college campus, my own life is not nearly as fast paced as theirs; it’s not nearly as fast paced as it used to be. I’m learning and experiencing and growing, but way more gradually.

And you know what? That’s okay. I said earlier that I miss my friends and the things that we used to do together, but I don’t want to go back to those days. If I could repeat them, I honestly don’t think I would. At least, I hope not. I do have my days where I’d give anything to be back in undergrad, but those are lessening as times goes on. Right now and right here is where I’m supposed to be—in the slow, the often mundane, the less exciting, the gradual…

I want to enjoy the beautifully unexpected conversations I have with my roommate when we both get home from work. I want to soak up the frustration of feeling like I always have to go to the grocery store and the gas station. I want to sit in the tension of being happily (for the most part) single and spending time biweekly with married women in a Bible study. I want to smile during the random hours I spend listening to music alone thinking about my week. I want to remember the diligence behind my scheduled gym visits. I want to roll my eyes and laugh at the fact that I’m STILL not good at folding my clothes and putting them away as soon as they come out of the dryer. I want to become more of a morning person and realize that 7am can actually be a wonderful time of day. Like I said, things are gradual… 😉

I hope to look back on these days and think fondly of them. I even hope I long to return to them. But I also hope that when I reach these future days, I’ll remember writing this blog post and be encouraged to keep moving forward. One of my favorite Bible verses is Ecclesiastes 7:9-10, which says, “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. Say not,’Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

I love the fact that I got to catch up with a friend today, and I love that the resulted feeling after the conversation was thanksgiving.  I’m thankful for our continued friendship and the friendships i’ve maintained post graduation. I’m thankful for where I am. I’m thankful for where I was. I’m thankful for life’s current pace. I’m thankful that all of the feelings I have are okay to have.

I mean, life is hard, y’all, but life is so good.  Keep going.

[Jesus, thank You for this beautiful life. Thank you for where I am now and how You’re working even still, even in the gradual. You’re a good good Father]
❤ Amen

both/and

Post Grad Duck #23

I’ve been wanting to write down my thoughts for the past few days, but sadly I haven’t quite been able to categorize them. It’s been said that the hardest part about writing is actually sitting down to do it. Truer words have never been spoken. As a writer, expressing my thoughts is usually something that comes naturally. As an English major, my professors would constantly tell me that effective communication skills (and good writing) is one of the main attributes I could bring into the “real world.” (*Side Note: I’m still not convinced anyone is actually living in the “real world.” It kind of seems like it’s this forever far off place that we’ll all inevitably get to, but no one really knows exactly when they’re there). Anyway, back to this idea about expressing thoughts and things…

This past week I went on my first mission/service trip as an RUF intern. It was good and hard and frustrating and loud and bright and hilarious and heartbreaking and encouraging and smelly and delicious. As 12 students, my campus minister, and i roamed through the city streets of Washington, D.C. I did what I always do in urban settings and tried to soak up the DNA of the city. I begged my eyes to take in the heartbeat of this world hub and reflect on its history, its current state, and where its going. It was difficult. D.C. is a unique place in the way that it juxtaposes obtuse power and acute poverty. Not too far away from the Capitol building are several men without homes wandering the streets in need of a shower and a place to sleep at night. No more than a short drive from The White House is a crisis pregnancy center that literally sees thousands of young girls per year in need of help as they try to navigate what to do with an unexpected life suddenly growing inside of them. The ironic thing is the scary fact that it’s really easy to ignore both sectors of D.C.. Our group spent a significant part of the week in the more impoverished areas of the district, keeping ourselves busy, and not really paying attention to the fact that important decisions were being made in the Supreme Court House. On the other hand, when we were doing the typically tourist thing and taking in the magnificently crafted monuments and museums, it was really easy to pretend like this “other part” of D.C. didn’t exist.
Reality is that both beauty and brokenness exist in the world and both beauty and brokenness exist in Washington, D.C.
So what do we do with that? Is it worth thinking about? How do we reconcile such opposing sides?
Friends, we must look to the cross. It was on the cross where Jesus died that the most beautiful reconciliation of beauty and brokenness took place. The cross breaks down inequalities and unites us as one under the Father. The cross conquers our fear and ignites hope and peace amid raging wars both seen and unseen. The cross lets us see that we are utterly broken in sin, but so beautifully redeemed.
We are not permitted to ignore the unsightly nor the stunning in our world, for both are acknowledged in the sight of Jesus.
I don’t write these words because I have a practical lesson to share. I don’t even write these words to lead a story of a life changing experience I had while in D.C.. I write these words because I think we all need to be reminded to not live life in ignorance. Regardless of where you live, may it be a big city or a small town, I urge you to find both the beautiful things and the broken things around you. I beg you to seek ways in which God is at work to reconcile both sectors of where you are. I challenge you to acknowledge your ignorance and step forward in wisdom as the Gospel opens the eyes of your understanding. This is a business of both/and not either/or. Man, I need to remember this, too…
Somebody far more important than I once said, “Everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to do the dishes.” I think that’s a good reminder and I also think that it connects in some way to reconciling beauty and brokenness—something about this idea of acknowledging the world around you not being a glamours activity. However, like I said at the beginning, I’m having trouble organizing my thoughts. So, I digress…
Thanks for reading 🙂
[Jesus, help me to acknowledge the world I live in, the beautiful and the broken parts. I love you.]
❤ Amen

Discovering Beauty in THE MUNDANE

Post Grad Duck #18

One of my favorite singers has this lyric in a song that goes “Life is not about the mountain tops, it’s the walking in between…” He’s right. Of course life is full of moments of amazing highs and sometimes all too depressing lows, but so much of life is just…flat. It’s the day to day, the in and out. To put it frankly, life is not always exciting.

When I was a kid I would definitely have labeled myself as a day dreamer. My head was constantly in the clouds. I genuinely thought that all of my dreams could come true and that I could do anything if I believed hard enough. I loved waiting for moments to happen. Ya know, the ones that you read about in books and see in movies? The music is just right, the lighting makes everything in the scene glow, and the main character is experiencing something so amazing that everything seems to slow down, even life outside of the film. If I didn’t experience these moments in my own life, I’d create them. And if that didn’t work, I’d imagine them in my head and pretend they were real.

I liked this view that I had, but sadly it was distorted. In reality, life wasn’t like these moments I created and imagined for myself. I didn’t know what to do with the moments of time when I couldn’t think of something exciting, the moments that were just that…moments, strung together in a sequence. The result: my mundane life.

The mundane isn’t bad. It can be difficult to endure sometimes, but there is beauty in it, if we resolve to find it.  Typically, an average day for me in State College looks like this:
-Wake up
-Drink coffee/read my Bible
-Get ready for the day
-Meet with students
-Exercise (I try to make this a regularly thing)
-Eat Dinner
-Relax
-Go to bed
-Repeat
There are variations here and there depending upon the day, but if you were to stack my weeks against each other, they would look strikingly similar. The routine is good. Familiarity is comforting; yet sometimes  it’s easy to forget why I’m here and why my routine is good work. Where is the beauty when my absent mind can’t seem to uncover it?

It’s in the slow, but sure process of building relationships with people. They don’t often happen over night because of one moment; it takes several conversations, several moments to build trust.

It’s in the repeated drives to and from campus that have helped me learn my way around town, making this place feel more like home.

It’s in the habit of carving out time to spend with Jesus again and again, slowly beginning to understand more of His character.

It’s in the asking my students the same questions that I (will) finally get the answer to.

It’s in the waking up every morning and thanking God for another day of life.

It’s in the going to bed every night, praising my Savior for a place to rest my head when I’m weary.

It’s in the way the sun sets behind the trees down town.

It’s in  the busy, hard working atmosphere on campus.

It’s in the smiles and laughter of my students as they catch up with each other at large group and other RUF events.

It’s in the sitting at my computer, typing, thinking, reading…

It’s in the little things.IMG_9807.JPG
As you can see, the beauty in the mundane isn’t anything spectacular, it doesn’t have the perfect music, nor does it have the perfect lighting, but it exists. It is in the mundane that I have found the character of Jesus to be true, to be consistent. Our God is faithful.
Every now and again, I’ll catch myself dreaming of moments like I used to when I was younger. I’m more keen and less afraid to let these thoughts go now. I don’t have to imagine beauty where I am, I get to stand in it and enjoy.

Dear Jesus,
[Thank you for not leaving me in the mundane and allowing me to say how lovely it can be.]
<3Amen

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