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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If We Knew the Plane was Going Down

For Christmas last year, my sister got me a great new chair for my desk at work. The instructions to put it together were moderately easy, but like with most things that come with a packet of directions, I gave up before I even tried. #inspirationquotes

My dad put most of it together, but couldn’t finish it because it wouldn’t fit in my car (my dad’s worst nightmare: halfway completing a project and entrusting me with the end result. He had little confidence).

Before I left for Grand Rapids, he repeatedly tried to explain the steps to successfully put the  parts together. Clear instructions.

I listened to 0% of his explanation. I saw his mouth moving and arms flailing (Dad talks with his hands) and thought about other things. Probably food.

Later, I arrived to work with half of my chair, left it like that for a week, and then followed just one direction my dad told me to do, and got someone to put it together for me.

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My dad’s confidence in me is simply energizing.

Multi-step instructions have never been my cup of tea. No patience for them.

Speaking of my lack of patience (my boyfriend is working with me on this, along with perseverance in adversity), I was on a plane a few months ago flying to see my sister in Florida. I was gazing out the window,  probably fidgeting recklessly and daydreaming about snack food, when the flight attendant began her safety presentation.

Conversations continued, people kept their headphones in, and almost no one was paying attention, including me.

I have sat through probably 100 explanations of how to tighten the oxygen mask around my face, but honestly, I rarely listen. Due to my  inability/unwillingness to think critically and problem solve and my less than impressive attention span, it is clear that my odd of survival are dismal in an emergency situation. Hope I’m sitting next to an engineer or someone from the show LOST. They have been through it all.

While the chances of a plane going down are incredibly slim, the information the attendants give us really is life or death.

How casually we chat with the person next to us, as the voice of a stranger calmly and robotically tells us where to find our life preserver in case of a crash landing into the ocean.

The irony of it struck me. While I try to get a sneak peek at the Flight Attendant cart, trying to identify if this is an airline that gives snacks or not, there are simultaneous instructions on how to not die.

Like I said, the chances of a plane crashing are tiny.

But what if we knew for sure the plane was going down?

How much differently would we behave during that demonstration?

I would be hanging on their every word, taking notes, and preparing myself as best as I could to not only save my life, but to help save the lives of those around me.

As morbid as it seems, this life we live is a plane that eventually is going down.

Not one of us is getting out alive.

My heart has been breaking more than ever as I observe and read about the world around us.

Yet, amidst the heartache and trials and tribulations, I have hope. I have confidence. I have peace.

I can float through life refusing to put together any sort of furniture and end up fine.

I can ignore the directions while making Snickerdoodle cookies, and while disappointed and inexplicably surprised, mediocre cookies aren’t that big of a deal.

Truly, there is only one set of instructions that I need to listen to that matter at all: it’s the set of instructions that graces the pages of my Bible. The Gospel.

Because my plane is going down. Will I be ready?

I have no idea when this world will end nor when Jesus will come back again, nor when my last day on earth will be. Prophecies have been being fulfilled for two thousand years, and it could be another two thousand more (for the end of the world, not my life span). But whether Jesus comes back in my lifetime or not, it is my job to do everything I can to point others to Him in this life.

I dove into the book of Revelation last year. The study of the end times. I wish I could tell you it’s all going to be okay.

But if there is one thing I took away from that confusing, many times frightening book, is that unless you know Jesus, it’s not going to be okay. 

Fortunately for us, He is a patient God, who wants all of us to know Him and be known by Him.

I’ve searched and I’ve looked for other ways for it to be okay. I’ve studied other religions, different interpretations of our Bible and at times, even wished that I was wrong about my faith.

Because if I was wrong about my faith, then I wouldn’t have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I wouldn’t have to ache for the people who don’t know Jesus.

I left that study with a feeling of urgency.

My life, at times, has been a really poor example of that Biblical set of instructions. I have failed more times than I can count. I have made some decisions that I am ashamed of. I have hurt others with my words and with my actions.

Sometimes I am scared to  loudly proclaim the name of Jesus because the last thing I want to be is a hypocrite or a poor representation of His name. I want to wait until I have that area of sin under control, until I don’t struggle with anxiety or until I have every question answered and everything figured out.

But there is no time to wait.

And that’s the amazing thing about grace.

In my weakness, in my imperfection, in my failings and shortcomings, I can still proclaim the name of Jesus.

Because it isn’t about me.

It’s about Him. While my life can be a living sacrifice, I shouldn’t be pointing others to me. I should be pointing others to Him with my life. My messy, imperfect life.

I don’t deserve it, yet it is freely given to me.

I can’t imagine being next to someone on a plane, knowing it was going to crash, and withholding the information necessary for them to survive.

So why do I sometimes cower in fear over sharing my faith? Why do I sometimes neglect to say anything, when all I was supposed to do was say something?

I should be urgently, out of love, pointing others to the cross. In my words. In my actions. With my life.

The challenge to myself and to all believers is to live boldly and live loudly for Jesus. Don’t hide the life changing knowledge you have. Wear it. Live it; not  in judgment and arrogance, pushing others away in isolation, but in a way that draws others in with gentleness and love.

Sometimes it is planting seeds. It doesn’t mean standing on a street corner shouting about eternal damnation. Sometimes it is laying the foundation for someone to notice something different about your life. I fully believe that one day we will all see the amazing intricacy that is God’s plan, and how all of our actions were woven together to fulfill his purpose.

I’ve got a lot of work to do. We have a lot of work to do. Times are scary. But our God is big. Let’s get started.

Blessings, not chins

Jenna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Heartbeat is My Favorite Sound: A letter to Sami’s baby

Five weeks ago, I wrote this letter on my lunch break with no intention of ever publishing it.

It tells a story that isn’t mine to tell.

It was the day before her appointment. The appointment. The appointment that would tell my sweet friend if her baby still had a heartbeat.

After multiple losses, deep heartache and a long, painful road, there was a lot of fear heading into the doctor’s office that day.

So many prayers.

So many tears.

So much heartache leading up to that morning.

And then Baby’s heartbeat was 175. Loud and Strong.

God is good.

I didn’t give Sami this letter until days after her appointment. I was planning to give it to her either way, but the nature of news dictated when I thought it would be appropriate to have her read it.

I was hoping she would tuck it away and years down the road share it with her child as a testament to God’s faithfulness and love.

She didn’t know I was fasting that day. That is also part of the reason I didn’t want to publish this letter; I didn’t want to draw attention to what I did and deflect attention from her beautiful story. But the story itself is too beautiful not to share, and when Sami told me I should publish the letter, I chewed on it for awhile.

Should I tell her story?

What would I  call it?

What if something happens to the baby?

After weeks of thinking about publishing it, I was on a run tonight praying about it and trying to think of a title for the post.

The baby’s heartbeat kept coming to mind.

I kept thinking: “Your heartbeat is my favorite sound.”

This was frustrating because at that point, I hadn’t actually heard the baby’s heartbeat.

I had smothered her stomach with my face and hands. I had prayed over her belly. I had forgotten where I was and rubbed it in socially inappropriate situations, but I hadn’t heard the heartbeat. I couldn’t name it that.

I got back from my run and I looked down at my phone.

Sami had just then sent me a video of her new Pocket Doppler heart rate monitor picking up the baby’s heartbeat. She was able to hear it at home for the first time and was sending it to me to hear for the first time, too.

What incredible timing.

That was about an hour ago. It was my favorite sound.

I hope, if anything, this letter points you to a Creator who is bigger than our pain, greater than our circumstances, and faithful through every valley.

There were many times I questioned God’s goodness as I watched my friend go through heartache after heartache, but He is faithful. Although we don’t understand His plan in the present, my heart is full of peace knowing someday we will. And it is good.

Here is the letter to Baby DuVal:

 

4-13-16

Dear Baby,

I am fasting for you today. When my stomach starts to pang with hunger, or my head feels light, I pray for you. I pray for your heartbeat. I pray for your little body and your little legs and your little arms. I remember the first, second, and third time your mom told me she was pregnant.

Each time it was equal parts incredible and terrifying. She thought she lost you, too, but you held on longer. I felt you yesterday; it is just the tiniest of bulges, but enough where your mom had her pants unzipped on the sides for most of the day. #dramatic

Tomorrow your mom has a really important appointment. She will get to see you and hear you. So today I fast.

Today I am relying on God to sustain my body and to save your life. Because I love you.

I have caught your mom’s tears in my hands, and cried along with her over the past year.  I have questioned God’s goodness and His plan as I watched your parents walk a painful, confusing journey.

They want you so badly.

It has been an emotional 12 weeks. Trying not to get excited at the possibility of meeting you, but at the same time not being able to help it.

I think you are a boy. If you’re not, I’m really sorry, but me and your mom already have a tour circuit planned to tell our stories across the country; (we may be getting ahead of ourselves.)

I’ve walked with your mom on this journey, and she does the same for me. We have different circumstances, but both live a life full of hope for the future of God finally fulfilling the deepest desires of our hearts.

You are your mom’s deepest desire.

Your mom is a funny one. You will have your hands full, but you are going to love her. She will be obsessed with you, but that’s okay because I will be, too.

She sometimes thinks the parking garages are going to collapse onto her head, she has an irrational fear of condiments and other people’s dishes, and she is the biggest homebody I know.

I am sure you are going to teach her to relax about some things, but other things she will get even more stressed about. I hope your favorite food is ketchup just to stretch her boundaries a little. She hates ketchup.

Your mom has a huge heart. And a huge mouth- which I mostly love her for. Sometimes it gets her into trouble, but most of the time she uses it to uplift and love and encourage. She is an incredible friend.

I’m scared, baby. I am scared we are going to lose you. (No, I am not your father, but please get used to the pronoun “we” referring to your mother and I).

I am scared I won’t ever meet you.

But God is in control.

When I don’t understand His ways, He is in control.

When I worry about your little life, He is in control.

You are loved. Loved by me and your parents and by a great God who formed you perfectly. No matter what happens, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I cling to the  faith that I will hold you in my arms in 6 months.  That one day you will read this letter and know how very special you are.

So today, in honor of you, I pray instead of eat. I might be cheating because I am drinking some protein smoothies, but one day when you meet me and know just how important hourly snacking and occasional binge eating is to my life, you will know the sacrifice I am making with a liquids only diet.

I love you.

Auntie Jenna

 

Your parents are adorable.

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One Year Later: When You Don’t Look Back Anymore

A year ago, I spent many of my lunch breaks in one of my closest friend’s classroom sobbing to her, wondering how I was going to make it through the day.

I remember being crumpled on the floor of my little one bedroom apartment, begging God to let me have my way. To give me what I wanted.

1 year ago, I wrote one of the most emotional posts I have ever written called When You Have To Look Back. I hurt everywhere. The only way I could keep moving forward was to continually look back.

I remember arriving in Mexico for a work trip, and being so overwhelmed with grief and sadness that I laid down in the back seat of an empty van and wept.

I had my life planned out in my head with a corresponding timeline: the timeline I held onto and clung to as a sense of security.

In my pain, I thought I knew what was best for me.

I just wanted to stay where I was, to keep going on the track I was on, and live the life I had imagined for myself.

But He told me to walk away from it.

He told me to grieve and hurt, but then to get off the floor and move forward. He had nothing for me that I wanted myself.

Those were some of the scariest steps of my life.

Looking back, one year later, almost to the day, when I was faced with a decision to stay or to go, my heart simply cannot contain the gratitude I feel for what He saved me from.

He pulled me out of a broken, destructive relationship that I was lost so deep inside, I  never could have gotten out of it on my own.

God broke my heart to save my life.

He destroyed my plans before they could destroy me.

I was broken long before God led me to walk away. I had been losing pieces of myself slowly, without even realizing it.

One year ago, I had to look back, because the future was absolutely terrifying.

I was so afraid of God’s will, that I preferred my own dysfunction because that  was what I was comfortable with. It’s what I thought I deserved.

I was so scared of His plan because it wasn’t my own. At least my own dysfunction was certain; as broken as it was, there was certainty in the brokenness, and uncertainty in the path God was trying to take me on.

I knew He promised good for me, but there were days that wasn’t enough.

I didn’t trust God enough to look ahead toward a future that He promised would be better than I ever imagined.

I walked forward, but somedays I did it backwards. Physically moving forward but keeping my eyes glued longingly on the past.

I followed God but found myself reluctant to face a future I couldn’t design myself.

And here I am.

One year later.

He is faithful.

As much as I desperately wish I could tell you that over the past year, I followed God with such devotion that I stayed on the path He had for me never wavering, I cannot.

Even as I sought after God, I made some terrible mistakes.

I wavered.

I let people down.

I fell.

There were days and weeks that I decided I wanted to choose my own way again.

And sometimes, He let me, and each time, it led to destruction, but EVERY TIME, He welcomed me back into His arms.

He is gracious.

The smoke has cleared and the pain has faded and I have healed. He saved my life.

What was I afraid of?

God is good.

Over the past few recent months, I have struggled in other ways. While my heart is completely healed,  I have questioned areas of my faith and wrestled with doubt more than ever before through the study of Revelation.

I still don’t have any of the answers. There are days I am so frustrated I could scream. I don’t understand God.

But I have faith one day it will all makes sense. Maybe not in this life. But one day.

Because one year ago, I was a shell of myself, scared of the future, and utterly confused as to why God was doing the things He was doing in my life.

So, as I wrestle with my faith, worry about the uncertainties that still linger about my future, I am confident that I don’t have to understand a thing right now.

I have nothing to be afraid of.

What if things don’t work out the way I want them to?

Then one day I will understand why they didn’t, and most likely, things will turn out even better.

I remember a year ago I thought I knew what I wanted.

And God knew better.

In this life, I will never know the answers to some of the questions I have about God and about my faith.

But one day I will.

I’m not afraid to look forward anymore, even if looking forward means seeing a future without the things I may want right now.

One year later.

So hang on. Through the pain. Through the heartache.

He will fix it.

He is faithful.

Blessings, not chins,

Jenna