Finding Contentment in Traveling

Duck #95

There’s a common theme in the guilty pleasure, romantic, dramedy movies that I love to watch: travel. The Yellow Handkerchief, Tallulah,  and The Fundamentals of Caring all share (at some point in the film) an adventure of getting from point A to point B. And you guessed it, the magic isn’t in the destination, it’s in the “in-between.” How does that cheese fest of a quote go? “Life’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?” As I fight against my gag reflexes, I shudder because over the past year and a half I’ve realized that this quote holds more truth than I want to admit. I’m not ready to be there yet and have grown to be okay with the traveling in between.

Rather than detailing all of my highway and sky high experiences, I’ll just say that for an extended period of time, living out of a suitcase felt all too normal. It wasn’t all bad. Sometimes I found my self accidentally half packed for my next trip which was nice because packing and I have a strong hate-hate relationship. I was a nomad. I had places to be, people to see, and nothing stopping me…

…it got old after a while, though. Rather, it became routine. There is an independence I’ve found in my ability and freedom to travel without needing to consult other people–I’m not married and without children, so my life is mine. This makes deciding to travel simple, but it’s forced me to remember to be intentional about experiencing my journey, to think. I’m not always thrilled about it, but there’s not much I can do to change my circumstances. This means I have two options: gripe, complain and argue with myself about not thinking because I’m angry, or make the most of my solitude.

Admittedly, making the most of my solitude is difficult because I’m often scared of what I’ll discover about myself. But the funny thing is, some of the sweetest moments I’ve shared with my Savior have been in solitude on the highway or in the sky. I don’t say that because I’ve mastered the art of traveling alone and talking to Jesus, I say that because I think the opposite holds true. I say that because I know the Lord knows my difficulty in being alone for too long. I say that because He has not left me by myself. I say that because I need reminding.

Without other people in the car or with unchatty strangers on the plane, I’ve had time to think, even reluctantly.  I’ve thought about myself, my job, friends, who Jesus is, who I am because of Him, this weird season of life I’m in, music, stories I want to write, the future… I’m sure that I could think about these things at any time, but for some reason traveling is my consistent time to do it. So, as my grandma used to say, I’ll “keep on keepin’ on” this journey until I’m there.

Just Beyond the Clouds

Post Grad Duck #13

I always forget how much I love writing, until I start to do it…
Yesterday, I spent 12 hours in travel as I made my way back from Georgia to Pennsylvania. There were car rides, plane flights, and layovers leaving me with more time than I wanted to think, to process, to write, to pray. It was exhausting, but it was good. As my good buddy Ben Rector says, “…sometimes we can get lost living in the here and now. sometimes it takes the sky to see what’s on the ground.”

Like I said earlier, I spent yesterday traveling. I had just spent a few days in Atlanta at a mid semester training session. I love RUF trainings because I get to spend time with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in addition to being reminded of how God is continually at work. He is at work in my life, in the lives of my fellow interns, and in the lives of our students across the country. It’s amazing; a fact that I feel as though I shouldn’t forget, yet often find myself struggling to remember.

As I was sitting roughly 30,000 feet in the air, I looked out the window like anyone would while in an airplane. I watched the clouds become much bigger than I’d see from the ground, and I watched the houses and roads below shrink to Monopoly size. We were leaving Baltimore and heading to Pittsburgh. The sun was making its descend and everything started to get heavier; however, from up in the sky everything was still bright–the sun was gold, the clouds were white, the sky was blue. Then we started to land. Suddenly, the clouds were gray, the sun went away, and the sky’s color became a blur.

Wait, what? No. Why is everything changing? It’s so beautiful up there. Why does it look so bleak down here. Just beyond the clouds, there is the sun. It’s bright and everything seems to be dancing. Just beyond the clouds…

And that’s when it hit me: Not everything is meant for me to know; at least, maybe not right now. Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out several things. I’ve been trying to figure out why my job is simultaneously really hard and really good. I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel like i’m becoming more introverted. I’ve been trying to figure out why everything that I once knew seems so far away? The list could go on, although I’ll begin to get exhausted all over again. But there in the clouds, just above the view that people could see from the ground, I was reminded that the sun does exist even when skies are gray. I was reminded again of the fact that God is at work even though I can’t always seem him working. I was reminded of the fact that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

In State College, Pennsylvania, I’m in a place surrounded by so many people that seem to be so different from me. That’s really good. I don’t know why these people are different or why I feel like they’re so different, but I do know that beyond the clouds of confusion there is a Son that’s shining and will surely rise every new day, illuminating even the bleakest of times.  This means that I can both rest and work and cry and laugh and speak and remain silent. Why? Because my sight doesn’t determine the might and power of the Father. How silly of me to think otherwise.

“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
-Colossians 1:19-20

[Dear Jesus,
Thank You so much for Your sweet reminders & the funny ways in which You choose to remind me. I love You and I’m so thankful for where You’ve placed me because You know exactly what You’re doing. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of something bigger than myself, a part of furthering Your kingdom while I’m at Penn State. You’re SO good to me!]
❤ Amen


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]

Go Ahead, Ask…

Duck #43

Traveling is really fun. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s inspiring. My current location is Dallas, Texas. I was really excited to visit Texas because I’d never been here before–and on my list of states that I want to visit, Texas was next on the list. Next up is Oregon, but I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to get there…

Anyway, back to Texas. Everything here is so…big. I guess “they” were right when they said, “everything is bigger in Texas.” It really is. There’s so much. In addition, everything is so flat. When you drive around, you can literally see for miles without interruption. Sure, there are buildings and a few trees, but nothing like the mountains of North Carolina that I’m used to. Because of the vast amounts of space, I feel like anything is possible. The sky is the limit, and that seems ridiculous because of how much bigger the sky looks here. It’s not, in fact, bigger; but when you look up and there’s nothing to break up your line of sight, you feel really small. That’s a good way to put it–Texas makes me feel really small. Not necessarily unseen, just small.

I like feeling small. I think most girls do. (Insert feelings of insecurity or something along those lines.) It probably has something to do with wanting to feel protected. That feeling is probably also why I sleep with the covers almost completely over my face. Because I feel protected, and because that’s the most comfortable way to sleep (in my opinion).

But feeling small isn’t really what I want to talk about, maybe another time, but not now.
Right now, I want to talk about questions…

I’ve been asked quite a few questions on this trip. I’ve stayed with 2 families. (1st: my pseduo aunt and uncle, and then my real aunt and uncle + their children, my cousins.) Both families haven’t seen me in a while. The first since I was 5, and the second has seen me sporadically over the past 6-7 years, but not long enough to really spend much time with me. And what’s the best way to get to know someone? To ask them questions.

I’ve been asked easy questions, hard questions, open ended questions, close ended, and questions that lie various places in between. I’ve liked it and I haven’t. I want to be known, but I don’t always want to be exposed. I want interest to be taken in me, but I want to be selective with what I share. The questions that I’ve been asked have been acute, specific, detail oriented. They’re like this because there’s so much ground to be covered in a short amount of time. Nothing has been forced, quite the opposite, just direct. I like it, but it’s weird…

At school, we talk and ask questions all the time. My best friends know what to ask and when and why. Their direct, straight forward, minute, detailed questions don’t bother me, they’re welcomed…regularly. Why is that? Probably because I’m around them so much, probably because we do life together. My aunt and uncle and cousins are a part of my life, but they’re also apart from my life. So, when the deep questions get asked (which I love) it makes me nervous at first because I know that the only “follow up” that will ensue, will only really happen while I’m here, with them in the flesh. Not to discount the age of communication we live in, but it’s way easier to keep in touch in person, is it not?

Questions are good, but they’re dangerous. They allow you to get answers, but once you get those answers, you have them. In that same way, if you’re the one giving the answers, once you’ve given them, you can’t take them back.

So I write this post not to say that asking and answering questions is bad. Because it’s not, it’s good, really good. Instead, I write because I want you, reader, to think about the questions you ask, the way you ask them, why you ask them. I want you to think about the answers you give to the questions you’re asked. I want you to appreciate good conversation, I want you to appreciate the beauty of yes and no, sharing and holding back, pondering and blurting.

Ask questions. Answer them, too. Don’t be afraid to go deep, but don’t shy away from the surface level dance that may need to take place. Sit in silence, laugh and listen in the loud. Talk and think. Along the way, learn about other people, appreciate them for their similarities and love them for their differences. Know yourself and learn even more.

I’m learning this too, and what a cool lesson this is.

[Jesus, thank You for the mind you given me and for the beauty of conversation. Teach me how to talk and listen and learn and love like You.]
❤ Amen