Finding Contentment in State College, PA

Duck #94

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penn & Paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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