May is for Superheroes: The Teacher Homestretch

I’m exhausted.

Last week I had a student ask me if he could play me a song on his nose.

Befuddled, I nodded. They didn’t teach me how to answer that question in college.

He proceeded to place a finger on the side of his nostril and create a rattly humming sound as he “played” me a very unique rendition of Jingle Bells. I stood there in the hallway, questioning my life, and listened. Listening turned into singing as I joined my student in the medley. There I stood in the middle of the hallway, performing a nostril duet to a Christmas song.

Tomorrow is May 1. The official start of the homestretch (according to the calendar based on my opinion and perspective).

Like most teachers, I am looking ahead to the last day of school like it’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A shining beacon of hope that calls me to keep walking as the days feel impossibly long and the list of spring commitments grows impossibly more extensive.

I have reached the point where I would rather pull my hair out than say “Bummer” one more time.

Yes, Timmy, it is a bummer that you tied your shoelaces together and now you can’t walk.

I probably say “bummer” as many times as I hear my own name in one day (70,000).

I’ve reached the point where I have heard about so many lost teeth that when they tell me they lost a tooth, I tell them “I hope you find it” and laugh hysterically at my own joke.

It’s the time of the year that I’m questioning everything:

Can I do this? No, like seriously; is this actually possible?

Will I make it until June 14? Will those around me make it until June 14 having to deal with me?

Am I actually losing my mind or does it just appear that way in every facet possible?

I am so tired. Everything in me wants to auto-pilot the next 30 school days, getting through them with caffeine and a prayer. And while I will use both of those things in excessive amounts over the next month or so, I really want to fight the urge to mentally check out.

As summer break draws near and even as the curriculum winds down, those kids still deserve the best version of me. I think it’s possible to still look forward to summer yet live mindfully over the next 6 weeks.

In many classrooms in my district, we have been focusing on mindfulness with our students. With so many distractions, being present in the current moment is now something that really has to be taught, especially to some of our children who struggle behaviorally.

If I am going to practice mindfulness over the next few weeks, I am able to still be excited for summer, however I can’t be living there.

I can look forward to the pool time without inflating the floats and sleeping on them nightly.

The kids in front of us in May need us as much as they did in September. It may feel like we have nothing left to give: no ounce of creative energy, no ability to write another learning objective, no patience to respond kindly when a student still hasn’t learned an appropriate time to ask to use the restroom.

But the month of May is where the inner-super-hero comes out. Somehow we do it, year after year. We make it until the last day of school, sometimes with sanity hanging by a thread, but we do it.

We are going to make it. We are. The goal I am putting in front of myself is to not wish away each day, because the days go fast. The year has been like a  movie roll: month after month changing the calendar in the front of the room wondering, “How did we get here?”

I don’t want to wish away the years of my life, looking only forward to the next chapter (no matter how needed or well-deserved it is).

Even the day that feels the longest flies by and the years whiz past right along with them;  I don’t want to wish them away.

The weeks that are left, as exhausting as they will be, still have little moments that are going to feed my soul. They will have giggles and “aha” moments and new discovery. They will have dry markers, broken pencils, squirrelly behavior and probably some tears on my end and the students. But we are going to make it because that’s what we do.

Finish strong, stay in the moment and caffeinate regularly. Recommended dosage is 4 cups a day. Superheroes need their fuel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Engagement

This past week is a difficult one to describe, because the last 7 days showcase the amazing, redemptive, sovereign hand of God that carried me through the 26 years leading up to them.

The hand that knew He had so much better for me, and no matter how many times I tried to take it into my own two, saved me from myself.

But that story is for another day. Because I can barely process the events of the past week; I can barely accept that this is truly my life. When I think of what I have been through and the journey that has brought me here, I am overwhelmed with the goodness of God. It’s like I did everything I could to try to have my life go my way, according to my plan and based on what I thought I wanted. Two years ago when I thought my life was over and I would die of heartache, God knew it was only the beginning.

The past 7 days have been a roller coaster of emotion. Change has always been hard for me, even amazing change, so processing being engaged has been an experience in itself.

I have felt pretty much every emotion on the spectrum of human feelings. The main ones are shock and total disbelief. Is this really my life? I have barely been able to believe it, let alone move forward in wedding planning.

I have felt utter joy. I have been scared- let’s face it, change can be scary. I have sobbed in Max’s arms out of pure relief and thankfulness. It was like 26 years of tears that came out in one hour. My body shook as I told him I never thought I would get a happy ending. I have been stressed. I have felt unworthy- I don’t deserve this. I have been giddy. I have been anxious. I have been excited. I have been overwhelmed. It hasn’t always been pretty- but it’s me. I have felt guilty for feeling ANYTHING other than happiness, but I have quickly learned that my story is my story and it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s (also because I have asked approx 16 people and they say I’m normal-ish).

Every.Single.Emotion.

With all my shifting feelings, there are two things I am sure about. God’s faithfulness and Max. I guess those are the only two things that matter, right?

I’m feeling more settled now, but I have also learned not to get too dependent on how I am feeling, and instead anchor myself in the things I know to be true.

So with all that said, here are some pictures of the day I got one of those things on my hand that I have been trying to get since I was the legal age of marriage.

We were in Port Huron and to be honest, I had been in a mood all week because I was convinced I would never get engaged as long as I lived. I had actually told Sami the day before that I was never painting my nails again as a sign of my mourning.  I had been confident all week he was going to propose the coming weekend, but Max had convinced me he didn’t have the ring, so I was in grieving.

I ate two coney dogs and a side of fries on Saturday so between that and my overall depressed mood, I actually told Max on the day he was going to ask me to marry him, “I thought you were going to propose today but I’m glad you’re not because I don’t feel like myself.” Poor, poor Max. This is such a typical Jenna story.

Like a champ, Max let it roll of his back. I say many things in the course of a day. He has this unique talent to decipher which things I mean and which things I am saying just to get them out into the air to see how they feel.

We had planned to go out to dinner with our friends Taylor and Eric, so they picked us up and drove us toward downtown. Taylor filled the air with forced and awkward words, not finishing any story she started. We passed the restaurant and kept driving and everyone kept filling the air with words and I was confused as to why we didn’t go to the restaurant.

We pulled into this lot down by the water and Eric made a comments about getting out and taking pictures.

This was weird. Eric HATES pictures.

I started to get a feeling something was going on and I grabbed Max’s hand as we stepped out into the cold.

Taylor and Eric didn’t follow us, and to be sure of what was about to happen, I side-hugged Max *aka body slammed* him to see if I could feel a ring box in his pocket.

I could.

I’m the worst.

At this point, the memory gets fuzzy.

How does the body and mind react to all your dreams coming true in a moment of 10 seconds? And then remembering you told him not to propose that day.

Well my body couldn’t handle all of the emotions, so I pretty much just shut down. I didn’t black out, per say, but I was so nervous and shocked, I barely remember it.

Max walks me down by the water where there are blankets and candles, as the snow gently falls.

He pulls my hands into his and says something about loving me and church and then gets down on one knee and asked me to marry him, (I’m assuming).

My friend Kendall was hiding in the bushes taking pictures and captured every moment so well they looked posed. They truly look unreal. I think that is an amazing symbol for me and Max. I spent a lot of my life posing and trying so hard, but with him, I don’t have to anymore. It just works.

Then, if I wasn’t overwhelmed enough, we head back up and a caravan of cars arrive all at once. All three of his sisters step out, his parents, my parents all smiling and coming toward us. I was in pure shock. (#missedyouEli)

Then I look to the left and I see my little Floridian sister running to me and I lost it. She had booked a flight to be there. She and Kristen ran up to me and I just couldn’t even.

We went to a restaurant for dinner. I didn’t touch my food. If you know me, you understand the depth of my shock.

Afterwards, there was a big engagement party back at my house.

I kept looking around at signs like “She said yes!” and I kept thinking, “Who did?”

“Who are we congratulating??”

When I say I didn’t believe it, I truly mean it.

I feel so totally loved.

It has been a week and I have settled in. I have had a chance to process the night, process my current stage in life, and begin to accept that this is reality.

I truly never thought it would happen for me. That there would be a person who so fully understands me and loves me and cherishes me in his words and his actions. A man who is patient, steady and waits on the Lord for His timing. A man I can follow the rest of my life and know with total confidence I am following the Lord in doing so.

I would do it all over again if it meant having this great love find me.

Every lesson, every tear, ever heartbreak. In the end, they brought me here. God is so good.

Thank you to everyone for their amazing support! We are so overwhelmed and excited for the future.

xoxo

Future Jenna Maxwell

 

 

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Photo Credit: Kendall Sattleburg

Thank you!

The Old Has Gone

 

On rare occasion I get into the type of mood that can only be described as the “Perfect Storm.” I am overly caffeinated and faced with a large chunk of time to myself (which is why this is so rare) , when suddenly it’s like all the clutter around me becomes unbearable.

All at once, instead of seeing specks of dirt, I see mountains of grime and skin cells and coffee rings. The crumbs on the floor come to life and speak to me, taunting me for eating pretzels in bed again. The laundry I haven’t put away turns into accusing shouts that I am the worst person in the world because I own FAR too many clothes and wear none of them.

The piles around me begin to close in and the room spins and traps me in my own personal nightmare (not to be dramatic).

95% of my life I live in the land of piles.

Piles in my bathroom. Piles in my car. Piles in my classroom.

Piles are THE BEST because you can make things look neat and organized, but truthfully under the stack is an old kleenex, a magazine for 2007, last year’s tax return and 30 days worth of junk mail. Piles are the perfect tricksters to make people think you have things under control.

Every 2-3 months, my roommate will gently move my beautiful piles into my room, forcing me to confront the issue.

Tonight, in that mood, I decided it was time to get rid of everything and anything I didn’t need anymore.  This was project 1 of many, as I simultaneously texted Max that I wanted to open a new credit card and then rearrange the furniture in my room. He is trained to recognize and talk me down whilst in these moods, so he lovingly told me I needed to focus on one thing at a time. So I went after the piles with a fiery vengeance.

I started shredding mail that was lying around, filling up garbage bags of trinkets and broken phone chargers and sticky notes.

It felt so good to get the clutter out- the stuff I just didn’t need that was taking up so much space.

Then I went into my closet and stared at a pile that has been bothering me for awhile.

On the top shelf of my closet sat eight colorful journals, pages filled with the documentation of my life up until about a year ago.

I haven’t journaled much this year; maybe a few pages, and ironically, the last 12 months have been the healthiest, most life-giving, blessed, beautiful redeeming months of my life, yet I couldn’t bring myself to open the pages and begin to write.

They are the stories I have waited my whole life to tell- full of love and growth and laughter and grace- but I didn’t tell them.

This year was the result of surrendering my life to God and submitting to His plan for me. This year was beautiful. But I didn’t write.

This year, I couldn’t bring myself to journal because I didn’t want to remember where I had been.

Those old journals are pages filled with self-doubt, cycles of sin, destructive relationships, life crippling  anxiety, body image issues and wrong decisions.

Part of me thought that opening those pages again would somehow erase the work God has done in my life the past year. I feel SO totally different than the person I used to be, that even the same process of journaling was too close of an association.

So I kept them hidden.

Seeing them up there would many times trigger a physical anxious response in me.

Opening them meant re-visiting a me I wish I never was.

They have been a pile haunting me for awhile.

Those journals represent darkness, but that’s no longer where I am.

I am walking in the light.

Tonight I decided it was time to let them go.

I stretched up to the top shelf of my closet and I lowered the heavy pile of floral journals.

I thumbed through a few pages and immediately regretted it as I flashed back to situations and memories I wanted to forget. I put them next to each other and I began to reflect on who I am now and from where He has brought me.

He brought me from brokenness and restored my heart.

He showered every dark situation from my life with his beautiful, bright light and forgave me and changed me and made me whole.

He gave me a new standard for living, a new understanding of His word and His law, and transformed a heart hardened by fear into one overflowing with His love.

Back then, I wanted instant change  and relief from my struggles, but instead the past  year I  have begun to understand the slow, steady,  painful process of sanctification.

I’m not sure why I kept those journals. I guess I never even considered the idea of getting rid of them. It was my past and I am stuck looking at it and being reminded of it- the punishment fits the crime.

But I am not who I once was. I struggle still and I have hard days. I battle insecurity, but no longer do I live in bondage and fear. Visiting those pages was like reading the words of a stranger. I do not need to keep those memories as proof of God’s redeeming work in me.

The proof of His redemptive work is in every breath I breathe.

I will sing of His glorious transforming power until the day I die, but I don’t have to live  in the past anymore. I don’t have to punish myself with flashbacks in order to measure my growth.

I loaded up the bags of trash to take out to the dumpster. Typically one for pomp and circumstance, I usually would want some dramatic ceremony to celebrate being free from the past and this giant step in moving forward.

But God’s work in me was not flashy. It wasn’t always pretty. It usually didn’t feel like a celebration. It worked into the top layers of my heart until it penetrated the innermost parts of my soul.

I took a deep breath and I flung the bag of journals into the dumpster.

And I walked away.

Thank you Jesus for setting me free.  I’m never going back.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. 

Jenna

 

 

 

**Also, if you are in a junkyard and happen to find a bag of flowery looking journals, please either burn them in a bonfire or turn the plots of the journals into a made for TV movie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus For Breakfast

Most everything about me is complex, except how I take my carbs.

The simpler the carbohydrate, the higher the pleasure.

It is a directly proportional relationship. As the carbs get more complex, like a sweet potato or a lentil, my attitude, overall mood, and level of satisfaction drops steadily.

Hit me with a piece of white buttered bread, a warm apple fritter or a store-bought cupcake, and see me be the best version of myself.

Snack food may be the only area of my life I would describe as simple. I love snacks.

A few weeks ago, all of humanity was talking about the super moon. In all honesty, I was comfortable on the couch, so when Max asked if I wanted to go outside and look at  it for a minute, I agreed  but was less than enthused. I would have been fine googling it.

As we pulled on our shoes and headed outside, I grabbed a bag of Kettle cooked chips from the a cabinet.

We walked down the midsize driveway and we stood under the moon and I crunched on Salt and Vinegar crips. We were out there for approx 2 minutes. There is no occasion too short to bring snacks.

It is obvious I love food by the amount I feed myself.

A few weeks ago during a lecture at Bible study, our speaker asked how many of us go a day without eating or drinking.

Like most in the room, I couldn’t think of a time I didn’t eat at least a small amount of food and drink. In fact, I rarely even allow myself to get hungry. I feel the teasing of a stomach pang coming an hour in advance and grab a piece of string cheese or a full size donut to hold me over until my next meal.

If I can help it, I don’t even let myself get mildly hungry, let alone go a day without eating.

My body needs sustenance for energy and to work properly. I depend on food to fuel me to complete the job before me each day. Food gives me the ability to perform physically, a clear mind to be actively engaged in relationships and be an overall pleasant person.

When I am not fed, I am a dark type of evil.

Our speaker brought us back to the Bread of Life. She brought us back to the only means of full satisfaction on this planet.

Jesus is the absolute only thing that can satisfy our soul.

So why do I starve myself?

Why do I go days and weeks without feeding on the Word of God and saturating my mind with Holy words.

To saturate means to satisfy fully, to treat, furnish, or charge with something to the point where no more can be absorbed, dissolved, or retained. #MerriamWebster (It’s 2016, do hashtags count as citations?)

So often my soul is hungry, longing for a source of satisfaction and peace, yet I negate to turn to the one thing that can feed and replenish my very being: the Bible.

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Jesus refers to the action of eating His body and drinking His blood again in that chapter, and while that mental picture can at first be incredibly disturbing, we all know Jesus was not meaning it in this literal way.

A fellow believer in my Bible study group had the most amazing word picture for the metaphor of eating His flesh.

She reminded us that eating is an action; we cannot become full and satisfied by simply looking at a delicious dinner. We must put forth the effort to actually eat the food. That is the only way we will become full. We can stare at the food. We can talk about the food.  We can prepare the food, but unless we eat the food, we are not satisfied.

There have been many times in my life where I turned to other things in attempt to satisfy my soul.

Relationships.

Success.

Attention.

Food.

My job.

My appearance.

And maybe momentarily, I was satisfied. Things of this earth do have the ability to satisfy for moments in time, but never at a soul level.  As soon as they seem to fill me up, I found myself on empty, chasing the next thing that would fill my stomach temporarily.

What an exhausting cycle. It left me hungry.

What an amazing reminder from our speaker that day that we do not have to starve.

What if I approached the Bread of God the way I approached my physical eating?

I barely even allow myself to feel hunger pangs, let alone the feelings of starvation.

What if I was so proactive about feeding my mind, heart and soul with His word, that I never even got to the point of feeling empty? How much richer and fuller would life be?

He alone can satisfy, so why do I continue hitting the arrow on the Netflix queue as if that will somehow relieve my stress at a soul level?

The past 3 mornings, I have woken up and put my face into the Word of God.

I have grabbed my coffee, *spilled my coffee ,* climbed back into my cozy bed and opened my Bible. Nothing crazy or extensive, just a chapter or two, but just from ten minutes of morning food, I have found that it has shaped the way I think, behave and even the topics of my conversations during the day.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I do find that when I eat a big breakfast, I yearn for food more and more throughout the day. My metabolism gets roaring and I imagine the endless possibilities of food I could potentially eat that day.

Reading my Bible in the morning has gotten my metabolism going.

I want more during the day. I’m hungry but not in the empty way- in the way that I long for more knowledge and more of the food that satisfied me in such an authentic manner.

It takes a lot longer than 3 days to form a habit. I have many more morning of coffee and Jesus before I can claim this is my “thing.”

I always loved the idea of spending time in the Word before work and before my day, but never put it into motion. Now that I am publicly announcing my intention, I am hoping to be held accountable by all of you.

I don’t want to go another day of my life without eating. Without the Bread of Life.

Jesus for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.

 

 

 

 

Ps. Bread is a carb.

 

 

The Next Four Years

 

Four years ago, I was 22 years old and had my life totally figured out.

I was in my second year of teaching and could cook a one course meal using a frying pan.

Curiosity killed the cat, as they say, and my roommate Kendra and I blew out the pilot light on our gas fireplace. It appeared to be a safety issue, but once we realized we were mistaken, we had to call our landlord. (Seriously, how were we supposed to know it stays on?).

I also forced Kendra to hide my snack food on me because I had no portion control (still don’t) but then after awhile she refused to do it because she says I got too aggressive when begging her to tell me where she stashed it.

Life was most certainly an adventure.

So I may be using the phrase “totally figured out” loosely, but I made it and am a fully (read: mildly) functioning adult today.

The last four years have challenged me, excited me, devastated me, taught me and changed me.

I’m not the same person, or even close to resembling the person I was 4 years ago.

So with the election looming, okay stalking, all around us, it has me thinking about the next four. What will I do with them?

In four years, I will be 30. Hopefully married, (please, Lord) maybe with a babe or six, and probably a much more mature version of myself.

Looking back at how the years have flown by, I know in the blink of an eye it will be here. 4 years will have come and gone.

4 years that potentially (this is purposely written before the election to leave out any names or political stances #strategy), hold someone in office that does not represent the values or the morals that I hold dear to me.

That leaves me with this question: even if the outcome of this election scares me and hurt my soul, what do I want the next four years to be about and what can I do to make it happen?

Do I want to make it obvious the next four years how I think the election should have gone and where it all went wrong?

Do I want to argue points endlessly about controversial issues?

Do I want to add to the broken relationships that have weathered too many storms over the election season?

No.

For the next four years, I want the world to see how I feel about my Jesus, not my President.

For the next 48 months, I want to point others to the cross, not to the latest headline.

(Maybe I should also brush up on my multiplication facts during this time, because I had to google 12  x 4)

For the next 1,460 days, I want the light that lives in me to shine bright in a world covered in so much darkness.

I could keep going into hours and minutes, but I think you get the point and I don’t want to patronize you.

We are called as believers to fight for justice and stand up for  the truth that is found in  the Word of God.

But we are not God.

We cannot fix the brokenness by ourselves.

It’s not our job to fix the brokenness.

We can fight for change and speak out against injustice.

We can pray and we love and we cry out for the help we so desperately need.

That is our calling. To do His work.

This calling does not have to include the tearing down of other people.

I’ve got to think that God cares more about how we treat and love  neediness of people, than he does about how we feel about the President.

When I stand before Him one day, will He say to me,

“What is your perception of the political situation in America from 2016-2020?”

or will he more focused on the ways I was His hands and feet to those who needed Him most?

We can stand strong in a way that honors God in word and action.

The next four years, and truthfully, the remaining time until Jesus returns, will not be easy for followers of Jesus.

When I am almost 30 years old, on the eve of the election of 2020, I hope those around me can say that I spent these precious years loving Jesus, serving people and striving to be more like Christ in a world that needs Him more than ever.

In four years, maybe I will own a house that has a garage door opener. #dreams

Maybe I’ll finally cut back on excessive amounts of processed foods and sugar.

So much can happen in 1,460 days. There is so much we cannot control that happens around us, but what we can control is how we respond and react to the chaos we see and we feel.

Love wildly for the next four years.

 

 

 

 

The Knowns and The Unknowns

Nothing is easier for me than getting stuck in a cyclone of “I don’t knows.” I spin around and around until I am totally exhausted and have gotten no where.

I don’t know why people get into debates on social media. I really can’t wrap my head around this one. To my knowledge, approximately zero people have changed their minds due to someone on Facebook lending a countering opinion. I have read a LOT of online arguments, and not ONCE have I read,

“You know, Steve, all of your statistics, links to other articles and sarcasm have totally changed my outlook on this candidate, so I agree with you now. Thanks! ”

I never know how my laundry will turn out. I have made it this far never separating colors and whites  or paying attention to what the buttons say, and I love the rush of adrenaline of mixing them and hoping for the best. #wifematerial

Half the time, I don’t know what I’m doing. Today, I drove off from school with a tub of scissors and a tray of papers and books on top of my car. Feeling fresh in my 2013 Honda Civic, windows down and going a smooth 14 mph, I see a student sprinting after my car screaming my name. As soon as a maintenance truck signaled for me to stop, the student reached my car and breathlessly said,

“I just knew it was you! I didn’t even have to see you! I told everyone, “Oh that’s just Ms. Wiley….she always does this.” (A good reputation is worth more than gold).

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More seriously, I don’t know the answers to some of the deepest, most profound questions in the world.

I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. I can’t answer that for you.

I don’t know everything about my faith.

In fact, there are times I feel like I have more questions than answers.

 

I don’t know how I have done some of the things I have done in my life. Even as a mature believer, I have made choices, said words and gone down paths that led to destruction. I can’t explain how, with Jesus living inside me, I am still capable of choosing darkness over light.

 

I don’t know what will happen if *fill in the blank* gets elected. I’ve read a lot of opinions on this in Facebook threads, but I just don’t know.

There is so much I do not know.

Being a follower of Jesus but having a broken, anxious mind over unknowns is something I have been trying to reconcile.

Much of my time and energy is spent balancing what I do know with the feelings of doubt and uncertainty  relating to the unknowns.

I live in this space between certainty and uncertainty. The pendulum swings back and forth, constantly battling for weighted space in my brain and heart.

The known and the unknown.

They wrestle tirelessly.

Which will get the upper hand in this moment?

Which will I allow to speak into my life louder today?

The known or the unknown?

There are so few things in my life that I can count on as ‘knowns’, because almost everything in this life is out of my control.

Literally anything can happen.

The knowns are precious to me. The knowns are my saving grace when the what if’s are circling and the unknown spin cycle is on “heavy load” (and a mix of colors, whites and hand wash only).

A few things I do know:

  1. The Word of God is true

The words of the Bible bring life.

I have seen it with my own eyes and felt it in my spirit.

My soul can only be deeply satisfied by one thing alone.

If His Word is true, then God is good. God is faithful.

I cannot explain exactly how He will use cancer for good. Or how He brings light out of our darkest places. But He will. And He does.

Because He is good. And amongst the death and fear and heartache, I know He is good.

I’ve tried being cynical. I’ve been intellectual about it. I’ve doubted and questioned and cried.  I’ve been logical about it.

But there is nothing logical about the love of God. And the love of God is the message of the Bible.

Because all the things I do not know or understand about God are microscopic compared to the vast, glorious love and immeasurable grace I come back to every time.

If you don’t know this love, find it in His arms. He is good.

2. God can and will turn my messes into masterpieces.

I have made some giant messes in my life trying to be in the driver’s seat.

Instead of obsessing over every hardship, decision or past mistake, what about throwing my hands up and understanding that He WILL have His way in me. No matter how much I think I am messing it up. If my heart is turned over to Him, I can’t mess it up. He will make sure of that.

God has redeemed my messes and used my failures. I have been humbled before God as I, once again, lay down what I thought was best for me and allow Him to pick up the pieces gently and lovingly.

He has used my story, my mistakes, my weaknesses to point others to His love through the ability He has to restore them in His faithfulness.

3. This is not all there is

This pain. This heartache. This brokenness.

This is all temporary.

When I put into perspective that this life is just a drop in the ocean, my priorities seem to fall back into place. For those who love Jesus, there is better and there is more and there is hope.

Hang on. Press forward.

There are ten trillion unknowns in this world. So much uncertainty and fear.

But if what God says is true, if you truly believe the promises of His Word- the promise that He loves you and He will fight for you and He will let nothing snatch you from His hand- how small, even if large in number, do those unknowns become?

If I believe the Word of God is true, His strength can shine through my weakness, and that this life is not all there is, what uncertainty even stands a chance?

The love that I know is more than enough to go to battle against any unknown that fights for brain or heart space.

I just know it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What God Does in the Discomfort

Patience and perseverance are not two of my strongest qualities.

Unlike some of the Olympian greats, I prefer not to work hard, push through tough circumstances or wait extended periods of time to arrive at what I want.

I prefer instant results with the least amount of work and discomfort possible. (Someone write this on an inspirational poster.)

Max and I have been working out together lately, and I am fairly certain he has started to realize that getting me from the parking lot of the gym to actually being inside the gym requires much more emotional and physical energy than the workout itself. The 100 yards from the car to the gym doors require a mental toughness and the patience of a practicing Monk.

The monk and me in happier times.

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Last week, we had to run into the store before working out, and I told him I wished I would get caught shoplifting and taken to jail so I didn’t have to work out.

*Disclaimer: I do not steal and have never stolen. This simply illustrates the emotional turmoil I experience the minutes before working out and the lengths, in that emotional state, I feel I would go to avoid it

I came up with many ideas of things we could do besides work out: eat, snack, lay around and watch TV; all of which sounded much more appealing than the gym and would feel much better in that moment.

On the walk from the car to the gym, I can come up with 10,000 reasons not to enter it.

I’m too tired.

My brain hurts.

I have other things to do.

I hate it.

Sadly, there have been many times I literally arrive at the gym, pull in the parking lot, park and then turn around and go home. No thank you.

But Max held firm to our scheduled work out, knowing full well that in one hour, when the workout was over, I would feel energized, happy and proud of myself for being physically active. It would be worth it for me.

We get into the gym, change in the locker room, and I meet him by one of the machines to begin the experience of physical activity. After just a few minutes, I whisper

“How much longer until this is over?”

Max just looks at me.

However, without fail, as I begin to put in the work, break a sweat and get active, I feel so much better. The endorphins start flowing, and all of a sudden I announce how much I love working out and how maybe I could even train for a marathon or do one of those 30 day cleanses to purify my system so I could be a spokesperson for healthy living.

Again, he just looks at me as I have gone from one extreme, preferring prison over the gym, to sudden motivation to push my body to the highest level of athleticism.  He knows we will go through the same emotional roller coaster together in 2 days. He continues lifting.

If I have learned anything over the years, I have learned that my emotions and my feelings cannot be used as tour guides or directors for arriving at what is best for me.

In the past, some of the best paths the Lord has placed me on felt like way too much work and  and way too painful.  Many of the best decisions I have made were often the most terrifying and the most uncomfortable. Choosing another way would have felt so much better at the time.

Looking back now, Praise Jesus I fought through that pain and held on. His greatest blessings came through my biggest disappointments and challenges that felt horrible.

Look at the stakes in this tree: I bet that tree is pretty uncomfortable. He wants to be free of that discomfort and stand up on his own. All the other trees look big and full and healthy, and these stakes feel as if they are getting in the way of that. But those stakes are designed to support, protect and make the tree stronger in the long run, allowing roots to grow. He will feel full and healthy when he makes it through this. Although momentarily painful- enduring this season is important for this tree if he wants to withstand the winds and storms that are coming his way. His roots have to be developed and strengthened. It’s not his time yet.

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While making decisions based on  feelings may satisfy short term discomfort, like the stakes in the tree, long term joy and fulfillment comes when you push through tough situations, do the hard, but right thing, and hold fast through the discomfort.

Unfortunately, most times in our lives, the results are not as instantaneous as how we feel pre-workout and post-workout.

A lot of times, like the tree, you may have the uncomfortable stakes in place for years before you can see why they were necessary in the first place.

How many times in my life have I thought I knew what was best for me?

I can actually answer that question by saying almost every single day.

Almost every day of my life, I could believe that what is best for me is what would make me feel good at that moment.

What quick decision or step could satisfy this longing, desire or discomfort?

In the case of right and wrong: agreeing with someone and not standing up for something I know is Biblical because it feels yucky and offensive.

In the case of friendship and relationships: holding on to bitterness because forgiveness feels so much harder.

The hard conversations that would be easier avoided.

In the case of the gym: going home and laying down with a jar of peanut butter.

Clearly I am using the gym as a deep and academic metaphor for the times in our life where God is using a little bit (or lot bit) of discomfort to achieve a purpose bigger than us.

Something where you know God has you there for a reason, but it would be super easy to take the escape route to avoid the pain.

 

But what is God doing in the discomfort and the stretching?

What purpose or lesson is God teaching me or using me for in that season?

There are many situations in life that feel so uncomfortable at the time, but prove to be the very things that shape us and grow us and mold us.

Throughout my life, I have done everything in my power to manipulate circumstances to quickly achieve whatever the desired outcome was. God usually takes longer than I prefer, so I have been known to take a step before the path is ready.

The results are usually faster, but never, ever better than the outcome God had waiting for me.

Like clockwork, my premature actions trying to band-aid and quick fix my momentary discomfort results in a messy explosion, me laying my plans at His feet and Him ultimately having His way in me. His better way.

My human tendency is going to always be to try to weasel my way out of discomfort to get momentary relief, or an illusion or cheap substitute of what I want.

To take off the stakes that are supporting me and developing me. To leave the gym as soon as I get there because I’m in a bad mood. To leave a situation before God is finished working on it.

 

I’ve been on a journey the past few years to stop letting my ever-changing emotions make decisions for me.

The walk from the car to the gym can be a long one. You want to turn around and take the easy way out. The stakes might be uncomfortable. You want to remove them.

But I’ve learned, and am still learning, to grow in the discomfort, push through the things that don’t always “feel good,” and believe that when it’s all over, I will look back, stronger, happier, healthier and so very glad I didn’t go home to snack the night away on Schuler’s cheese (with a hint of horseradish) and crackers.