the created

Duck #87

Have you ever met the artist of a painting, or the potter of a carefully crafted ceramic dish? What about a fashion designer? They create for a living (part of the reason I have such respect for art majors). They create so other people can enjoy. But there’s always that painting, that dress, that bowl that’s not for sale. Why? Because the artist can’t bare to part with it. It’s too beautiful and precious. All they want to do is admire it. They want to admire what they’ve made. They love it and want to look at it and show it off to everyone they know, but it’s not for sale…

 

In the three weeks before the fall semester started, I took a break from most social media. In my last post, I talked about this a bit–at first, it was really, really hard. Being unconnected from what I typically was so connected to proved to be quite the task for me. However, eventually, I fell into a rhythm of being unconnected and…I loved it. Sure, I was still curious about what was going on in the time vortex otherwise known as the internet, but those curiosities remained just that…curiosities. And because I was curious, and wasn’t using my phone to look up answers or search for the latest trends, I came up with my own answers. Rather, I carried my thoughts further than normal because there was no foreseeable end. I could just think and think and think and it wasn’t exhausting–it was freeing.

But you see, at the expense of not being “in the know” socially, I because very “in the know” personally. As a believer, and someone who has grown up in church, the following phrase is not news to me: You can’t really know yourself, until you know who the Lord is. It’s true, but what I discovered during this three week social media hiatus was that I didn’t really know either side of the sentence. In theory I knew who I was and I thought I knew God was, but I found that both my Father and I are far more than I dared to imagine.

This was terrifying and also really exciting. I wanted to know more about the character of God and in turn learn more about myself, but the depth of what I discovered in those three weeks was more than I bargained for. I didn’t have other outlets to distract me or shallow my thoughts when I was burrowing too deep; I was on a break, remember? I had no choice but to think and to pray and to read Scripture. I started to become uncomfortable.
God is personal? He wants to know me? He’s revealing my sin to me because He loves me? The Lord is kind and merciful and just?  Jesus loves me. These thoughts weren’t necessarily new to me, but I was giving myself time to really think about them, time that I hadn’t given myself before and it was…weird…and good. Slowly and painfully–yet somehow beautifully–I was becoming aware of how wretched I am, but how much more the Lord loves me and delights in me because that’s just who He is. A lover and a delighter.

I wrote this in my journal on August 18 at 10:00am:

So how can I walk in this confidence that the Lord is ravished by my beauty? That my beauty moves him? That he looks at me in awe? That he is enthralled with my thoughts? He created me and is overjoyed and elated with what he created. He said it was very good. He said I was very good. I think what I often forget to remember is the fact that I was created. I was created for good works that I should walk in them.

…like the painting, or dress, or ceramic bowl, I too was created to be enjoyed by my Creator, my Artist. Jesus looks at me, at his creation, and enjoys what he sees. But unlike the created inanimate objects, while Jesus is lovingly admiring me, he is also using me. I’m not being used to the effect of wear and tear, but so that I can be better–much, much better…for his glory.

What really bothered me about this deeper understanding of being created was that I didn’t ask for it, to be created that is. I also couldn’t do anything to become more beautiful. My voice doesn’t matter, except it does because God created it and he cares so deeply about what He created. But his love for me isn’t contingent upon my voice. God’s love for his creation isn’t contingent upon his creation, it’s contingent upon himself–extravagant, perfect, beautiful God. I can’t really know who I am until I know who the Lord is. So, who are we? He is the Creator and I am the created. He is love and I am the beloved.

[Lord,
Thank you for creating me. Help me to be who you’ve created me to be and to confidently love others because you first loved me.]
❤ 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

 

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

Discovering Beauty in THE PEOPLE

Post Grad Duck #17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering Beauty in THE TOWN

Post Grad Duck #16

The semester is about to come to a close and as it does, I’m going to attempt to put into words what it is exactly that I have been doing these past few months and what I have learned. This is no easy task. I’ve blogged about happenstances, sure. I’ve told you about hardships I’ve faced, yes. I’ve even mentioned the faithfulness of the Lord through it all, but I still feel like it’s all just been snapshots of what life has been for me during the first semester of my internship.

There are so many facets to what I’ve been learning, so many various parts of this job that I could talk about. Breaking them up and giving them each their proper respect seems like the right thing to do.  I ask that you bear with me, maybe you’ll discover something in my jumble of words that you find worth while. At least, that’s what I hope.

So let’s get started. Here’s part 1. The Town: State College, Pennsylvania.
As it turns out, it’s harder to write about the town than I thought. I’ve typed several paragraphs and found that they didn’t quite satisfy exactly what I wanted to say about this town. And truthfully, what I come up with may still not be exactly what I want to say, but I’ve got to say something…

It’s been said that you can’t define something by explaining what it’s not. For example, if I was going to describe a cup, I wouldn’t say “It’s not a bowl, nor is it a plate.” That doesn’t really give you a depiction of the cup; however, in the case of this quirky little town called

1) State College, it’ll have to do.State College is not a city. It doesn’t have large buildings, or bright lights, or a skyline.

2) State College is not a place privy to a lot of ethnic diversity. The bulk of the diversity comes from the international students on campus, and even still it’s not that great of a number.

3)State College is not very big. You can get anywhere in town from almost any spot in town in about 10 minutes or less. The only reason it would take you longer to get from point A to point B is because of traffic downtown. (And with so many pedestrians, the lights can only stay green for so long or else no one will ever be able to cross the street).

4) State College is not very loud. This could be interpreted as being a place that doesn’t really have much going on (*spoiler: that’s not true.)  The college students in the town most certainly can be quite noisy, but if you don’t live close to the university things are pretty quiet.

5) State College is not a place that I would choose to visit, at least not at this age. It’s a town that draws a certain type of person, typically  younger married couples, or those with children.

Now, I say all of these things a) because they are true, but b) because the juxtaposition of me and State College is kind of funny. I’m so attracted the bigness and the lights of the city, I’m black, I’ve already done the “small town thing” while in undergrad, I’m young and sometimes enjoy a little extra noise, I am neither married nor with children.

I am out of my comfort zone. I am wandering around a place that is unfamiliar and desperately trying to make it recognizable. But it is in this town filled with loyal Penn State fans, characteristics I could do without, strange laws, and the most 2-way stops I have ever seen within a 10 block radius that I have found Jesus.

1) State College is not a city, but it holds a community of people that have shown me the kindness and compassion of Christ in more ways than I deserve.

2) State College isn’t that diverse, but it ’s not a place that I feel uncomfortable or ashamed of who I am (as a young black woman and a daughter of Christ). I have the opportunity to move towards change and cultivate something different!

3) State College is not very big, but the number of times I have seen the faithfulness of Jesus revealed in various parts of this town has FAR exceeded my expectations. I’ve seen him work even in places like the salon where I go to get my hair done 🙂

4) State College is not very loud, but the stillness and quiet has allowed me to  be more sensitive to the presence of my Savior.

5) State College is not a place that I’d like to visit, but it is the place where I currently live and I am really thankful.

I told someone recently that moving here was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done and settling in has been one of the hardest feats I’ve had to conquer. But I also told that same someone that if I had to do it all again in order to know what I do now, to see Jesus work in the ways that I have, and to experience such sweet moments of joy, I would.

So what has the town taught me? Well, that Jesus is here and that He is at work. It’s also taught me to look for beauty–it exists even in places where we don’t always want to see it.

Yes, State College, you’re growing on me 🙂 Here’s a (mediocre) picture of one of the main streets downtown. The sun decided to make a quick appearance after days of being absent. IMG_9718.JPG

[Jesus, thank You for this little town I live in.]
<3Amen

 

How Deep, How Vast: Our Need for Community

Post Grad Duck #12

A lot has happened in the past week and a half. I like it. For the first time since moving to Pennsylvania, I’ve felt like my life is all over the place and I’m losing track of time and the things I have to do. Granted, this isn’t necessarily something that I should celebrate (feeling frazzled), but this sense of unorganization indicates that I’m starting to settle into this new place. State College is becoming home. It’s weird, but I’m happy.

Part of this happiness stems from the fact that I’ve made friends; we’ve even nicknamed our band of misfits “The Herd.” We’re a group of humans that you probably wouldn’t group together if you were to see us on the street. We’re a motley crew that doesn’t belong together, except for the fact that we do.

The Herd needs each other because we’re people–broken, but together reflecting a greater image of the Father. Although we’ve only known each other for a short time (some longer than others), that doesn’t matter. The Lord is not defined, nor confined by time. I’m excited! Good things are happening! This doesn’t just apply to my current situation, but to the ones that I’ve had in the past and the ones that I will have in the future. Community shouldn’t be selective in the sense that it is vital to our existence.

I really began to recognize this in college, but I’ve noticed even more so how important it is to be in community with other people. I’ve learned how necessary it is to share your life with others. I’ve accepted the fact that this life and everything that comes with it isn’t meant to be lived alone.
So, in light of all these lessons, I’ve been asking myself some questions:
What is is that brings people together?
What is it that keeps them together?
What is it that stirs that ache in us that can only be satisfied by person to person contact?Is it vulnerability?
Is it mutual interest?
Is it kindness?
Is it laughter/joy?
I believe the answer is yes; but that yes is also synonymous with the love and grace of Jesus. I believe that it is a love so deep and grace so wide that allows us to share stories that make us laugh and make us cry, share hobbies that we enjoy, and encourage one another through words and through silence. The grace of Christ invites us to join in His suffering (2 Timothy 1:8-10), but also in His celebration (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). The grace of Christ invites us to do our best as we work through the tasks before us (1 Corinthians 10:21), but also allows us to rest in what has already been done (Exodus 14:14; John 16:33). The love of Christ sits by us in our despair (Jeremiah 31:25), and sings over us in our joy (Zephaniah 3:17).

Recognizing the strength of such a love and the magnitude of such grace, offers us the freedom to share our lives with other people. It allows them the opportunity to do the same and gives everyone a foundation to stand on. How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure. But on this side of Heaven, that love and grace doesn’t always feel as tangible because we’re not physically walking beside, talking to, or being held by Jesus. When life gets really, really hard I can’t run into the Lord’s arms and ask him to hold me. Even still, when life goes really, really well, I can’t invite Jesus over for dinner to celebrate with me.  That’s why we need people, we need Christ’s body (the church, the community) to be His hands and feet for us, while we serve and do the same for them. It’s a give and take of necessity.
None of this is easy. Friendships, relationships, love…it all requires sacrifice and a level of humility we’re often not willing to surrender. But what I’ve found is that even though it can be uncomfortable, it’s always worth the risk.

[Father, give me the strength and courage to take risks in love. Grant me the grace to be a friend and accept friendship. Thanks for being so kind to your children.]
❤ Amen

Forgotten

Yesterday, my cousin Jonathan asked me if I was still writing. I told him that I was, while knowing that it had been a while since I had written something for other people to read. Well, without further ado:

Post Grad Duck #9
________________________________________
I’ve heard stories about you
And I thought they’re too good to be true
But I wanna believe in something

I saw the way that you moved
Your life, it blows me away
It touched me down deep inside
& I’m changed

I like the way that you call me
The way you say my name
It breaks down all my fear and shame

But that’s when I don’t get, I don’t get your face
You stay by my side when I’m out of place
You promised me that you won’t let go
But doubting’s too easy, and I forget what’s true

I don’t always see what you see in me
But something pulls me toward your love
That captures me forever; I am free
Because you haven’t forgotten me.

______________________________________________

Every now and again, inspiration strikes and a tune pops into my head. Shortly following are random words I try to put together in order to form a coherent sentence. When everything’s done, I guess what I’ve created is somewhat of a song…or a poem. It depends on how you look at it. This sequence has happened 3 times over the past 3 months and the words above are lyrics to the 3rd song I’m working on. It’s been the hardest one to complete. I think this is because it’s a personal experience that I haven’t quite finished experiencing yet.

Let me explain. And to do so, let’s go back in time the pre-teenaged years. Around this time, birthday’s were full of excitement (I mean, they still are, but a child like excitement is often unparalleled). Between the ages of 7-13 we were promised party hats, balloons, presents, games, and cake! I remember the first birthday I had after my family and I had moved to North Carolina. I was really excited and nervous about it. I had only been in the state for a few short months and was worried that no one was going to come to my party. I invited several of my new friends, but I was still afraid that no one was going to show up. Super excited that my mom was letting me have a party, I spent a long time making invitations and trying to think of fun things for us to do. After all, you only turn 12 once!
As it turns out, the party was a huge hit! It was supposed to be a sleepover party, but not everyone had planned to stay the night. As the party started to rear its end though, there were a few girls that called their parents and asked to stay and several girls that wished they had planned to stay the night because they were having so much fun. It was probably one of the best birthday parties I’ve ever had 🙂

I bring up that experience because it’s easy to talk about. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. I can look back and think about exactly how I felt because of what happened. That day has not been forgotten from my memory because I was not forgotten on that day. But let’s imagine that my parents didn’t help me plan anything. Let’s say that my mom didn’t make food for the party and my dad didn’t help with the games. Let’s pretend that none of my friends showed up to my house that day. Everything would be completely different, would it not?

I feel like often times, as we go through certain circumstances in our lives, we feel like the little girl at her forgotten birthday party. We feel as though Jesus is ignoring us or that the stars are just not aligned in our favor. I know that’s most certainly how I feel. Usually, I feel like it’s my fault. I think, “Okay, Jayna. You’ve gotta fix this. Ready? Journal more! Pray more! Read your Bible more! Stop thinking so much! Do this! Do that!” If you’ve been there, you know that this mentality is fruitless and doesn’t help at all. We think that if we do a particular list of things and then avoid another list of things, we’ll be able to achieve the peace we so desperately crave. But we always fail, do we not? Why? Because those actions of ours completely ignore the beautifully painful aspect of grace.

There is a reason that Paul, the author of the majority of the New Testament, opens all his letters with “Grace and peace to you…” First comes grace and then comes peace. There is an order, an order devoid of our erroneous actions. It’s beautiful because grace removes us from the picture, but it’s painful because we so desperately want to the focal point of that picture. But we’re not, Jesus is.

Okay, Jayna. I get that. But what about the times when I’m trying to remove myself from the picture? Sometimes I still feel like the Lord has forgotten me, even though I know he hasn’t. I know it’s not about me, but that’s not always easy to remember.

Reader, you’re not alone in that. Honestly, I’m not sure what to do with those feelings because I have them too. I have them currently, to be frank about it. There are things I’m waiting for that aren’t here yet. There are relationships I want reconciled, but aren’t yet. There are dreams I have that have not been fulfilled yet. And in the midst of it all, I often say, “Father, where are You?” It’s hard. But take heart in the fact that you are not the first to feel these things. Even the apostles doubted Jesus and they literally hung out with him on a daily basis.

In a way, it’s beautiful that we’re still asking Jesus where He is. We’re still asking because I believe that deep down we expect Him to answer. Philippians 1:6 says that He who began a good work in you will complete it until that day of Jesus Christ. So, ask away. He hasn’t forgotten you, He’s working for you because He loves you.

[Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.]
❤ Amen

…to dream again

Post Grad Duck #7

Do you remember what it was like to be in elementary school? Remember what it was like to finish math, eat lunch, and then rush outside for recess? Remember when pine cones were bread, rocks were plates, and trees were our homes? Remember when just being outside was enough entertainment to last all day? I think because I’m getting ready to move out of my college apartment and say goodbye to Boone, I’ve been doing a lot of childhood reflecting. I was such a dreamer in those days.  My imagination was deep and my thoughts seemed to run for miles. At the age of 5 I was naively optimistic and that’s okay when you’re 5, but I remained in this mindset at least until my 20th birthday. Since then, it seems like my optimism turned into a cynicysm that I never thought I’d have. I still dreamed, but far less. I still found entertainment outside, but more so when I was accompanied by my phone.

I didn’t like this change. I recognized that my naivety was maturing and that was good, but I felt foolish for dreaming. I felt silly for having my head in the clouds. I started to compare myself to those around me. If person X is really organized and sees things in straight lines, then maybe I should do the same? And well, person Y reads books by authors with names I dare not attempt to pronounce, so maybe I should look into that? Oh, person Z is only listening to obscure bands with lyrics that you discuss with people in a dimly lit room while sipping black coffee and smoking cigars, so maybe I should just give up my Demi Lovato binge days?

For the past two years, I thought that growing up meant that I had to give up so many things I loved for the sake of proving that I’m an “adult.” Recently, I’ve learned that being an “adult” doesn’t mean that I can’t dream–quite the opposite holds true.
“When you learn to pray, you learn to dream again,” says Paul Miller, the author of A Praying Life. As adults, prayer is hard. Miller makes the point to express the fact that as we age the more critical and cynical we become–we lose our child like faith because the logic of it all is so much less.

For example, as a child I would often ask my dad if he would bring home Auntie Anne’s pretzels from the Galleria Mall where he worked as a sales associate at the Verizon store when we lived in New York. I asked because I never believed that my dad would say no. I asked because the pretzel store was not far away from where my dad worked. I asked because I wanted a pretzel and I was confident in the fact that my dad would get it for me. Why? Because he was my dad. That was enough reason for me to ask my dad for anything.

Now, “because he’s my dad,” is not a good enough reason. Now, my response would be “So?” “He’s just a person.” “He’s flawed.” “Other factors could interfere.” “Let’s test it out to make sure that he can come through.” Critical and cynical.  My childlike belief has vanished and with it, so has my dreaming.
Miller puts it this way

The second thing we must do in learning to pray is believe like a child. Children are supremely confident of their parent’s love and power. Instinctively, they trust They believe their parents want to do them good. If you know your parent loves and protects you, it fills your world with possibility. You just chatter away with what is on your heart. It works the same in the world of prayer. If you learn to pray, you learn to dream again. I say “again” because every child naturally dreams and hopes. To learn how to pray is to enter the world of a child, where all things are possible. Little children can’t imagine that their parents won’t eventually say yes. They know if they keep pestering their parents, they’ll eventually give in. Childlike faith drives this persistence.

At 21, I have the rest of my life ahead of me. Lord willing, I have years and years and years to dream and hope and believe. As I press into the heart of my Father I can take on the role of daughter and act as a daughter would. Growing up doesn’t mean that I have to lose my sense of wonder and curiosity. Because the fact of the matter is, even as an adult there is still so much that I don’t know. I have to ask my Father because as His daughter there is so much that He has yet to teach me. There is a great difference between being childlike and childish. Maturity, growth, and even adulthood is an understanding of the difference between the two.
I like how Miller uses “again” when he talks about hoping and dreaming. It’s a return, a return to the likeness of a child. We must return to the dependency children have upon their parents when it comes to our walk with Jesus. The older we get, the more we should see our need for a Savior.  Our sin becomes more immense, but so should the immensity of our God. And in such immensity is fullness of joy, unbelievable hope, unfailing love, immeasurable grace, and endless dreaming.

So, what I guess I need to say to myself is: It’s okay, Jayna. Go back, dream again. Return to your Father. Ask away…

[Papa, I want to dream again…]
❤ Amen

streamofconsciousness1

post grad duck #4

there’s something really cool about a free write. there’s something really authentic and raw and real about typing and not letting your fingers stop until they’re done. i did that today and here’s what happened.

it’s seems like there’s been a block. something happened inside me that i’ve wanted to ignore, but can’t seem to just shrug off anymore because there’s a piece of my heart that’s grown and torn and ripped and been kicked a little bit and so now its in the process of healing and that’s great because as you grow life does too and your heart expands but it’s not easy it’s often really painful. but i don’t want to hurt, ya know? because no one likes that and when you’ve been hurt before you do everything in your power not to be hurt again and that’s why we put up walls, that’s why we try to act tough, that’s why we don’t say anything because if we speak up, if we falter, if we let our face indicate how we feel inside we’ll get laughed at and we’ll get beaten up a little bit and we don’t want that. but that’s no good either because we can’t live in fear, that’s not what life is about. but i want to protect myself. i don’t want to hurt, but i’m not strong enough to protect myself. i’m incapable of doing it alone and that’s why i need Jesus to save me. and i know that He’s real and i know that He loves me and i know that He exists but sometimes you can just crawl inside yourself and convince yourself that the cracks you see are too wide to fill, you can convince yourself that the bruises are too deep to dissolve and that you can’t be saved. you’re sad and sometimes it’s easy to stay sad even when you don’t want to be sad, but you can’t help it because it takes a lot of energy to move forward sometimes. so you try to scream but your voice is paralyzed and you try to cry but your tears are frozen and you try to feel but your heart is dry and you need water, you need water so badly because your veins are so thirsty for something that’s bigger than yourself. your muscles ache for a type of relief that can’t be remedied by stretching or sleeping because it’s deeper than that, it’s bigger than that. and Jesus is right there. He’s so in love with you and hates that you’re hurting, but it’s so hard to run to Him sometimes because you shame yourself for not believing Him when He’s right there. but He’s patient and you know that and so little by little you step forward because He’s pulling you towards Him. you can’t help but to move because He’s calling and so you have to answer because just maybe when you finally reach Him you’ll be overwhelmed with the love that you thought you could find elsewhere. maybe when He holds you in His arms you’ll feel whole again because He’s the only one that can cover the cracks and aid the bruises and grow a room inside you that’s only meant for dancing and laughing and signing and popsicles and lollipops and flowers. and you know that He’s not punishing you because that’s not His character, but you know the the world is broken just like you and you know that sometimes things get hard but you’re frustrated because i should have seen this coming and i was aware and this time was supposed to be different. so then He whispers and He says that you can’t know everything because it’s not your job and you’re human and I love you and I need you to trust Me because I’m right here and you can rest when you’re with Me. And that sounds great and that’s what i want but it’s hard and i keep saying but because i can’t help it to think of every side of every option of every thought because when your mind goes and won’t stop you exhaust everything. but i wanna feel and i want to cry and i want to laugh and i want to sing and i want to feel and i want lighting to strike inside and i want rain to fall and i want the earth to shake the foundation of my heart because at the end of the day i want to grow and i want to be stronger and i want to move forward and i want to stand up and i ant to admit that i’m not always okay and i want to be okay with that and it’s exciting because i know that you feel that too. i know that sometimes life is really crazy and you don’t understand why things happen or why you get upset or why you’re treated a certain way or why people hurt you or why you hurt people but you’re a beautiful creation and you’re so deeply loved and we don’t have to have it all together. it’s beautiful to be broken because that means that the Lord gets to make us whole because He’s always been whole and He wants to fix those fragmented pieces and mold them into a masterpiece because that’s who He is and we get to enjoy Him forever and glorify Him through our brokenness by admitting that when we’re weak He’s strong and we can say that we believe but need help with our unbelief and that’s amazing because that’s exactly how He wants us to talk to Him. honesty is extravagant and we shouldn’t have to hide even inside ourselves and when we feel deeply we don’t have to apologize, so we can run with blurry vision and exhausted legs and needles in our feet and faintness of breath and say “Jesus, i’m here.”

[…]
<3Amen