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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Replacing One Word Changed So Much

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend said to me, “I feel like you’re just anxious about being anxious right now…”

And I replied, “Welcome to my brain. Please stay awhile.”

When I told him that I would love to try out his logical, structured, factual engineer brain for a day, he responded, “Does that mean I would have to try yours?” (he wouldn’t last an hour anyways, most would fall due to exhaustion).

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Bless his heart.

Anxiety has always been a part of who I am. It is not WHO I am, but is is a part of me.

My brain is awesome, but it can also be terrifying.

My family tells stories of me as a 6 year old, standing in the corner wringing her hands as we were dropping off my sister at summer camp.

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Baby Jenna had constant anxiety that her stomach rolls would actually eat themselves.

My dad had to physically carry me (and as you see in the above picture, that was no easy task) into my first day of 1st grade, my first tennis lesson and my first time ice skating. I’m actually surprised no one contacted authorities over the amount of times I was transported into activities against my will (but for my own good).

( In my parents’ defense, I would BEG for them to sign me up for these events, have them register and pay for me and THEN refuse to go once I got there. I was a joy and a breeze to raise.)

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Jeff and Beth. The MVPS of 1990-2008 when I lived with them.

Every major disruptive change in my life (good or bad) typically results in some level of an anxious response.

While “certainty” and “known” are my favorite words, “uncertainty” and “unknown” are my worst enemies.

There are times that fear and anxiety absolutely control my life.

Not to discredit all the “worrywarts” out there who  get moderately stressed or nervous on occasion, but I am talking about deep, paralyzing anxiety that stops you in your tracks.

Anxiety and fear that envelopes you and sometimes you don’t even know why.

Panic and dread that come over you and make it hard to breathe, let alone explain how you’re feeling.

A racing mind that only slows down enough to find another thought to become obsessed with.

If you have never struggled with anxiety, you are probably reading this thinking I am absolutely crazy (no argument there).

If you have struggled with anxiety, you’re reading this in relief saying “Thank the Lord I’m not the only one.”

Everyone’s anxiety is different and manifests itself in different ways and with different triggers, but most anxiety is rooted in uncertainty and losing control.

If you’re bored one day and feel like messing with an anxious person’s head (that is a psychotic thing to do and if that sounds appealing to you, please stop reading here), there are two surefire words to spiral them into a frenzied panic:

What if

 

A few months ago, I was struggling through an intense time of anxiety and had gone home for the weekend to be doted on by my loving parents (because I’m still 12). On my way back to Grand Rapids, I spent my time wrestling with my thoughts WWE style.

Fear  was attempting to take over as I obsessed about the what if’s of an unknown future.

What if

What if

What if.

But then I felt God say to me, in a way that was so much different than the voice of anxiety and so contrasting to the emotional ups and downs I was experiencing:

Why are you so afraid of my plans for you. What do you know about me?

I need you to get to a point where EVEN IF I lead you into unknown territory and EVEN IF your plans are not my plans, you trust me, because you know I am good.

This world is full of uncertainty. I wish I knew exactly what God wanted from me and my life every moment of every day, but I don’t.

The “what if” game has no certain outcome. It has limitless answers and the wilder your imagination, the longer you can play. (Spoiler alert: this is a game where everyone loses).

What if leads me down a road of uncertainty and turmoil.

For example, let’s play this game for kicks and giggles with a pretty shallow what if question:

What if I left my curling iron plugged in? LET’S PLAY.

My apartment could burn down.

I could lose everything.

I would have no where to live.

I would live out  of my car and drink river water.

I could be found alone on a street at night sleeping and be kidnapped and forced to work as a gardener (the worst job I could ever have).

I would work long days in the hot sun with no contact with the outside world, harvesting radishes and using my tears as a watering device.

Wasn’t that fun? I started with a curling iron and ended up working as a kidnapped gardener.

So on that car ride, I felt God remind me of His faithfulness. I changed the word “What” to “Even.”

Even if.

Even if leads me down a road, although maybe unknown, still certain.

Even if forces me to fall back on what I know. Not indulging in my disturbingly vivid imagination of every possibility that could happen.

Even if someone I love abandons me.

Even if that candidate wins the election.

Even if all of my friends have babies that are in seventh grade by the time I get married.

Even if I lose my job.

Even if my apartment burns down.

Even if His plans are different than mine.

What do I know about God? What has He shown me in 25 years that I have rest in?

That He is faithful.

That He has picked me up from ashes before and He would do it again.

That He is sovereign over this world and sovereign over my life.

That He is in control.

That He has placed the best support system on planet earth in my life and I would never be alone.

That He works everything out for my good, regardless of the pain it takes to get me there.

So even if the worst case scenario happens to me in this life, even if I lose everything, I know for certain that He is faithful and His plan WILL come to a beautiful place of redemption that tells a story much bigger than the one I was planning on telling.

There have been seasons in my life of deep grief and heartache. Times where I was so broken I didn’t know how I could ever be restored.

Yet faithfully, He put the broken pieces back together and created something more beautiful than I could ever imagine.

“Even if” changed so much for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have devoted years of my life to learning to live with anxiety and this one phrase was not the magic cure. It helped to change a pattern of thinking, yet I am very aware that anxiety is much deeper and can be much more severe.

God has supplied me with many different tools, people and support to live freely and joyfully. If you have any questions about my journey with anxiety, I would love to talk with you. I am so open on my blog, but there are obviously personal details about my life and my journey that I keep private, but if you are someone who struggles with anxiety and wants more of my story, email me any time 🙂 My dream is to start some kind of anxiety support group 😉 #forrealthough

jennawiley@yahoo.com

Blessings,

Jenna

Blessings,

Jenna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life As a Dreamer

If I were filthy rich, I would employ a carefully selected therapist to be sitting by my bedside every single morning so that I could have a counseling session the moment I woke up.

She (it would have to be a girl because I feel like a male psychologist letting himself into my apartment every morning for our sessions would be breaking all kinds of counseling rules) would have a special chair in my room.

Her chair would be really homey and comfortable, situated right by my bed, because who knows what time I will sleep in until on the weekends and I want her to be able to relax while I sleep. (This is my hypothetical therapy scenario  and I am super rich so ‘time is money’ means nothing to me).

I am usually pretty unpleasant upon waking, so I would pay her to bring me coffee, as well.

After the caffeine began to soak into my veins and when I am able to connect strings of words together to form sentences, she and I would begin a therapy session about my dreams the night before.

I have always had the most vivid, intense dreams as I sleep.

I once was so fed up with my crazy dreams, I threatened to create a twitter account solely devoted to documenting my dreams: @jennasdreams *not an actual account and I am also not sure who I was threatening

In my highly scientific and thoroughly researched opinion (aka I have announced this a few times in front of various people and no one has corrected me), I have deducted that there is a strong link between a high anxiety brain and highly emotional, clear dreams.

Along with an anxious and emotional brain, I also have a scarily good memory, which allows me to recall a ridiculous amount of detail in both dream life and real life.

I actually freak my friends out on a regular basis with the minute details I am able to remember about them. My best friend Brit has like 7 aunts and uncles and about a month after meeting her,  I was able to name them all. I am actually surprised we are still friends.

That combination of memory, emotion and anxiety makes for some very emotional mornings as I wake up and need to process my dreams. Hence, the therapist.

I often talk about donating my brain to science, because the intensity of the emotions I am able to feel while dreaming cannot be normal.

In real life, I am highly emotional and anxious, so I would appreciate if Dream Jenna could just be this carefree, chill, relaxed human. But no, I don’t even get a vacation from this brain in my dreams.

People I haven’t seen in years come back to me in dreams so vividly that I can remember the way they walk.

Relationships that I have let go and moved past visit me in dreams so that when I wake up in the morning, it feels as if I have to let them go again. That sounds really romantic but it’s actually rather exhausting. Like going through a breakup over and over again.

Living with me is going to be exhausting, because whoever I marry is going to need to dedicate about 20 minutes each morning to hearing about my dreams and how I am feeling about my dreams. Unless he is going to pay for the bedside therapist, but I have doubts about that.

There are a few schools of thoughts about what dreams really are.

Some say they are just random firings of synapses and neurons or something like that. Honestly I am too lazy to look it up, but the point of it is that dreams are totally random with no meaning.

Others say that dreams are our subconscious trying to work through things.

I think it’s a little bit of both.

Anyways, I am a dreamer. I always have been.

My mind never stops running and moving and spinning and jumping, even when I’m asleep.

I’m tired.

But the dreams when I am asleep are so different than the dreams I have while I am awake.

My dreams and ambitions for my life have always been pretty safe.

I have always been a goal-setter, but my goals were never crazy or impractical.

I never genuinely thought I could be famous, though I loved to sing and serenade my family on the saxophone, I knew there were people way more talented than I.

I was good at sports, but I knew the limitations of my talents and never thought I would pitch at a big school. Until I threw out my arm, I had my sights set on playing for a small, private school.

My goals were realistic and obtainable. I am a very, very practical person.

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Some of the journals I have filled up over the past 5 years. Full of safe dreams.

But lately, I’m turning into a big dreamer.

I am for the first time, starting to set some goals that are a little wild. That are maybe a little bit impractical. Maybe even unrealistic.

This year, I came alive again. I had to start over and set new goals and ambitions for my life, and I have to say, I’m dreaming big.

I am scared to set big goals or say my big dreams out loud, because what if I fail?

What if I never become the writer or speaker that I dream of being?

What if no one reads the words I have to say?

Or worse, what if people read them, and don’t like them?

What if I am not good enough?

I have always been a safe dreamer. It was too risky to set a goal that could be out of my reach.

But this dreamer is growing out of her old dreams and needs to stretch herself further and trust in a plan bigger than her own.

Dream with me this year. I want to be done with ordinary. Here is my commitment to dreaming big in 2016. When I figure out exactly what those dreams look like, I can’t wait to share them.

And if I accomplish them, let’s celebrate together.

And if I don’t, we can cry and drink coffee.

Bring on the extraordinary.

Count your blessings,

Jen

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