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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Matter Where You Are On Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s 2009: Went to Pizza Hut on a double date, saw “He’s Just Not that into you” and promptly broke off the relationship the next day (got back together 5 days later)

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Brittany and Ryan. And Pizza Hut Pizza. #valentinesdoubledate

Valentine’s 2010: Young and in love- Went to a banquet where no dancing was allowed so we just took pictures

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I had just learned how to curl my hair. Amazing.

 

*As I was going through pictures, I realized that I was pretty much always with my college roommate, Brittany around the Valentine’s holiday. Since I obviously am not going to post pictures from my own relationships, (that is a WHOLE new level of Taylor Swift), I am having pictures of me, Brittany and Ryan tell the stories. I don’t technically have permission to do this but I just group texted them letting them know.

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**Brit just texted back: we are all good

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Valentine’s 2011: Young and in love- celebrating a 2 year anniversary and all things Valentines in Chicago

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Cookies and coffee circa 2011

Valentine’s 2012: Heartbroken, country playlist on repeat for the remainder of 2012

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February 2012 with my roommate. Pretending to be happy but slowly dying inside.

Valentine’s 2013: Still kind of heartbroken, but back in the game

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Starting to feel bad that I spent pretty much every Valentine’s weekend with her….Sorry Ryan #needyfriend

 

Valentine’s 2014: Got into an argument over dessert, made Valentine’s dinner with the peel still on the shrimp so had to spit out the skin onto napkins. Ordered iHop for breakfast the next day to make up for the fight.

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Pancakes fix everything

Valentine’s 2015: Reeling from a breakup 4 days before. Worked in the church nursery, went to Applebee’s at 11pm with a friend. Was in email communication about of buying  $800 hypoallergenic cat to fill the empty spots in my heart

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A picture of the  actual $800 kitten I almost bought myself

 

Valentine’s 2016: Absolutely, totally content 5 days a week. Need reminders about God’s plan and encouragement from friends 2 days a week. Loving and appreciating contentment in this stage of my life. Thankful for amazing friends, the most precious nephew, and an incredible family. Crazy about my job. Happy. On a sugar high from Valentine’s cards from the kiddos:

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Thanks, kids.

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The strongest romantic feelings I have currently are about lipstick. And that’s fine with me.

 

Over the past 7 or 8 years, I have experienced pretty much every emotion about Valentine’s Day.

 

Hating it.

Loving it.

Indifferent to it.

Feelings are temporary. Rough patches don’t last forever. Broken hearts mend,  time passes. God heals, friends encourage.

Wherever you are this Valentine’s Day, take it for what it is. A day in a season of your life. A day. Not a day that defines you. It’s not even a day that says anything about you at all.

It’s a 24 hour period that may evoke some emotions within you, and that’s okay. Because before you know it, it’s over and nothing has changed. This is a moment in the timeline of your life.

I never thought I would be where I am this Valentine’s Day of 2016. But over the years, I have learned that some of my most intense disappointments have been God’s biggest blessings.

It has been a journey of ups and downs: Pizza Hut and cats and Applebee’s and pancake breakfasts. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Happy Valentine’s Day, no matter where you are on your timeline.

xoxo

Jenna