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 to Support Someone Who is Hurting

I can be a bit of a handful. I was talking to one of my guy friends from college on the phone a few weeks ago, catching up and swapping stories about life (he told me if he ever makes my blog, he wanted me to use the alternate name “Crosby*” for him.

*name has been changed to protect identity

We both had a lot going on and share many similar  personality characteristics, outgoing, highly communicative, and I busted a gut laughing when Crosby said to me,

“Jenna, whoever ends up loving us is in for a wild ride.”

You’re right, Crosby. It will be fun and adventurous and exciting , but it will be a wild one.

From befriending random strangers at the airport, to the ups and downs of functioning in everyday life (struggling to remember the rules of driving, facing my daily battle with portion control), my life is truly an adventure.

On more than 15 occasions someone has said to me, “I feel like this is only the kind of stuff that happens in a movie.” (You can read about such events in my book coming out in *unconfirmed* but most likely year of 2020.)

I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my life, specifically about relationships, but I found the bumpier my life is, the shakier I feel, the more I forget those lessons and tend to make the same mistakes. Ones that I swore I wouldn’t make again. Ones that I learned painful lessons from.

The last month or so has been challenging for me. I have been wrestling with God, struggling to trust Him,  feeling stuck in old patterns and in a sense, feeling like a hypocrite as I am failing to take my own advice of “closing the door” and “getting out of the past.” Day to day it changes, feeling shaky in one moment and solid in another.

I am usually not one to shut people out, but I have found myself building up walls to hide my own insecurities.

I’m a tricky one.

But any time I have gone through hard seasons in life,  I have been wrapped up in so much love and support. There are no words to emphasize the importance and difference a close “tribe” of family and friends makes.

Today was a rough day for me, and a friend made a joke to me about needing to have someone there to emotionally support me (this used to be a full-time position, but now it is more seasonal and on-call/as needed shift #progress).

I said that all I needed was arms, ears and Starbucks.

And over the past few weeks and in every tough season of my life, that is exactly what my amazing support system has been for me.

I don’t pretend to know true suffering. I make that a point to say consistently as I talk about pain or heartache. My circumstances are microscopic in comparison to what millions go through, but to a lost or hurting person, pain is pain.

So what do we do for those who are hurting? How do we support the people we love when they go through tough seasons?

I think I have the answer to this huge question, solely because it has been demonstrated to me in amazing, unbelievable ways:

Arms, Ears and Starbucks.

Arms that welcome openly, without judgment.  Arms that protect with strength but  are gentle in grace. Arms that don’t push away, but pull in. Arms that hold tight, support and even lift on occasion.  Arms that let go when space is needed, but squeeze tighter when it’s not. Arms that carry in the darkest, heaviest times, and nudge you forward when it’s time to start walking again.

I’ve had so many literal, and figurative arms around me in every tough season of my life. Since my last post about struggling with my faith, I have received SO much support and love from more people. Without judgment. Without condemnation. I’ve had the arms of friends around me as I cry on their shoulders. What is more beautiful than that?

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One of my favorite pairs of steady arms.

 

 

And then there are ears.

Ears that really listen. Ears that hear what is being said and allow processing before responding. I have been blessed with incredible listeners lately, who listen to my questions about God (or read, as I am known to send about 17 texts in a row) and just be there. Who don’t respond in order to hurt, or belittle, out of anger or bitter resentment, but out of grace and love.

I have seen the power of listening lately. To my huge questions about God, there really aren’t any answers that I haven’t heard. So my mentor listens to me. My small group leader lets me vent. My mom lets me wonder. My friends acknowledge and validate my questions.

I need to learn the mastery of a  good set of ears. I’ve got a mouth that works like I have two of them, (math has never been my strong suit), so I know what I need to work on.

So often I have much to say to “fix,” but am in awe at the way people have listened to me and all that has meant.

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An example of a ‘conversation’ I had today about my wrestlings with my spiritual mentor and close friend. This is commitment people.

And then there is Starbucks.

Again with the literal and figurative symbolism.

Quite literally, I have had friends put Starbucks (& Biggby, equally as loved) in my hand during seasons of pain. There is little that cannot be made at least a little bit better with Starbucks. It doesn’t fix everything. But it doesn’t hurt anything.

What  coffee is to me could be a million different things, and is different for every person. Little pick me ups, thoughtful text messages, reminders of prayer, surprise gifts from coworkers- these “little things” make SO much difference to someone who is going through a tough season. It’s not enough to make everything better. No coffee is that strong or powerful (still perfecting the water to beans ratio), but it’s enough to make SOMETHING better. Even for a moment.

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I think we all naturally want to fix everything. Fix each other. Fix the hurt. Fix the situation. Right the wrong.

But sometimes life sucks and people hurt and we just need to be there for each other- with arms, ears and Starbucks.

Thank you to my “tribe” who has been all of those things to me and more for my entire life. I am blessed beyond words.

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

 

 

 

Heart on My Name Tag

Some people wear their heart on their sleeve.

I wear my heart in bold on a name tag.

I am certain no one has ever looked at me and said, “I just wonder what she’s thinking.” They already know. Sometimes I forget the  proper social order of things and announce how I feel before even greeting someone.

“I AM SO DEVASTATED RIGHT NOW OMG. Oh, hey Em, good to see you.”

For awhile, I went through a phase where I wanted to be super mysterious. I wanted to be the quiet, mysterious girl that kept to herself and everyone wondered about. It didn’t last very long and my tongue hurt from biting it so much. It was a health risk.

I live my life as an open book. The surgeon who removed my wisdom teeth was up to date on my girl’s weekend that I was about to have, I have announced breakups at staff meetings and I love sharing my life with other people. I write long notes to waitresses and have met more friends in a grocery store than I care to admit.

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Would have missed out on a short-lived, but full relationship with Zac Efron if I wouldn’t have put myself out there.

There are amazing benefits to living life with your heart open and exposed to the world:

1. Simple things in life are richer: errands around town turn into short but sweet conversations with strangers that leave you smiling. Why would you stand in the check out line silently when you could compliment the girl’s bag in front of you and get to know her? I try to talk to a stranger a day. Terrible advice for children but great advice for trying to make the world a happier place

2. Relationships are deeper and more fulfilling: I don’t have any surface level friendships. To me, what’s the point? My friends feel comfortable being vulnerable with me, because I am open and vulnerable with them. I have 25 best friends, but not because I am the coolest person ever, simply because each and every one of my friendships are deep and meaningful. Work friends, church friends, school friends, gym friends; what an amazing blessing I have because of my willingness to be open. I have most likely cried into the arms of 20 of my closest friends.

3. It’s more fun: I love my job. I am incredibly emotionally invested in my job. When my students succeed, I cry. The students don’t even react anymore. They are used to it. I love them so much and I am bursting with such joy when they do amazing things, I just cry. The emotional rollercoaster is good for them (actually, I really don’t know, ask my friend Aimee, the Social Worker). Laughter is deeper and conversations are richer. Life is amazing out here.

4. You don’t have to spend your life wondering: I don’t have anything, not ONE thing, I could look back on in my life and wonder, “What if…?” What if I would have told him? What if she didn’t know how much I loved her? I take chances when many people would let fear of being hurt stop them.

I would rather live with the sting of rejection than the sinking feeling of never knowing what might have been.

As incredible as it is out here with my heart on the line, I would be a liar if I said there weren’t any negative implications to this life. It isn’t for everyone, and if you tend to live life a little more closed-off and guarded, I would not advise diving head first into this world I live.

As I get older and experience more in life, I am learning that there are times I need to retreat a bit. Contrary to my previous beliefs,  not everyone NEEDS to know everything about me all of the time.

While most people have to learn to open up and let people in, I am learning that I have to, in a sense, keep some people out.

I wouldn’t trade this way of life for anything, but living your life out in the open is so, incredibly risky. For me, the benefits outweigh the bad, but I know that some people just couldn’t handle the hurt that comes along with being so emotionally vulnerable.

I am essentially always vulnerable to rejection and being hurt. Whether it is someone not receiving your nice words at the grocery store the way you wanted them to, or someone not reciprocating the same feelings you have shared with them, there is incredible risk to the open life I live. The safe thing to do is not tell the stranger what an amazing haircut she has, or to keep your feelings to yourself. It’s so safe. No risk.

This blog is a risk. While I certainly censor the details and really personal information about my life on here, I do share my heart and my feelings with the entire world. 99% of my experiences with this have been the most amazing blessing of my life.

However, that other 1% is tough. I recently received a string of text messages attacking my blog, my character and my relationship with God from a person who knew me for less than a moon cycle. Although in my heart I know vengeful words say more about the person saying them then they do about me, it is still hurtful to not be liked and to be judged by someone who doesn’t truly have any idea who I am.

It’s hard when someone has a problem with me.

It bothers me when someone doesn’t agree with me.

It hurts when someone doesn’t feel the same way.

But, living out here in this world, you learn to bounce back quickly.

I never stay down for long. My heart is a little elastic rubber band. When it hurts, it hurts deeply for awhile. I feel it, I let it happen, and then I bounce back.

I am not saying that my way is the best way. In fact, it’s probably not. But I would encourage anyone who tends to live life closed off to open themselves up to trying parts of my world (Not all of my world; remember I have had 25 years of training being myself. The Surgeon General warns against immediate immersion into this lifestyle)

I love people. I love connecting with them and loving them and hurting with them and understanding them and walking alongside them. If I leave one legacy in this life, I want it to be about the way I love and how I put myself out there, unafraid.

The way I take the love Jesus has for me and turn it into love for other people. The love I am able to give doesn’t even come close to the perfect love given to me, but darn it if I don’t spend my whole life trying to imitate it.

Blessings, not chins

Jenna

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Chose this picture for this post because it shows me at my most raw, real self. Air dried hair, not a drop of makeup, in my dad’s baggy sweatshirt and forcing my nephew to watch the musical I wrote for him over and over. Jenna in all her glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything I Had Wrong About Closure

I can’t tell you how many times I have opened old wounds for the sake of ‘finding closure.’

 

I’m an over-communicator by nature and an over-talker by choice.

Naturally I have this deep need to understand others and be understood by everyone around me. I was born like that, but the fact that I never stop talking is a choice I daily make. My mom says I had an “extensive vocabulary” by 9 months and this is surprising to no one.

I absolutely love to talk. Talk about feelings, talk about what I am thinking about my feelings, talk about what I think he could be thinking about what I am thinking I am feeling.

Due to my excessive need to analyze and communicate and talk through things, I have struggled to let go and move on from various things in my life, because there are always more answers I could get. I could always try to understand it just a little better.

When a chapter of the story ends in my life, big or small, I want to be able to punctuate it with a neat little period (or exclamation mark if necessary). I want it to wrap up neatly, and I would like to have a section for footnotes at the bottom with detailed explanations of the whys and the hows, preferably from both parties amicably.

It could be facing a disappointment, walking away from a job, the end of a friendship, a breakup, moving on from a deep hurt; anything that requires the ability to let go of the past.

No matter the loss, big or small, I have struggled with exactly that.

Things come and go from our lives, and some leave before we are ready to let them.

 

I have experienced loss a number of times in my 25 years. Nothing earth shattering compared to the actual scale of human suffering, but I have felt pain, and I know what it feels like to want something you can never have.

I may not have experienced valleys of unimaginable tragedy, but I have loved and I have lost and I know the kind of sadness that settles deep inside your bones.

In almost every way, I have lived a privileged and “easy” life, but 5 years ago, my life felt anything but that as I went through my first breakup and realized that ‘first love’ isn’t always the right love.

I was the worst at breaking up. It was my first one, and it happened in a Taco Bell parking lot. Cut me some slack.

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19 year old me in Ecuador clutching the lifeblood of my first relationship- Slugger the Bear. Took me an embarrassingly long time to get rid of him. Actually, Taylor, do you have him still?

 

The biggest lesson I have learned from loving and losing, and one I am able to apply to every loss I have experienced since then, big or small is this:

 

I don’t need all the answers to move on.

My college roommates probably shudder when they hear the word closure, thinking of me  listening to my Country playlist and sobbing, thinking that I ‘just needed closure’

I chased around this idea of having “closure” thinking one more conversation or explanation would finally make it feel okay.

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the reason I made it through 2011-2012. Second to Jesus.

Ohhhh, 20 year old Jenna.

Let me save you a few years of heartache.

There is only one thing that can heal you.

No one else can give you the closure that you aren’t ready for or aren’t willing to accept.

Closure is not hearing an apology from the person who hurt you most.

 

Closure is about finding the strength though Jesus to let go, regardless of the words and actions of another person. It’s about being able to move on even if you never hear the words “I’m sorry.”

Because an apology is nice. It can be helpful.

Sometimes one more conversation makes it easier to shut the door.

An apology can help stitch up wounds, but anyone who has been deeply hurt knows that the real work is done separate from the person who has hurt you.

It is done privately, in the trenches, praying and hurting, and hearing “I’m sorry” might be a step in that process, but it certainly doesn’t fix it.

The issue with seeking closure is that we often put the power in the other person’s hands.

The wrong person’s hands.

In our minds, they hold what we so desperately need: the answer, the apology, the explanation of how they could have hurt us the way they did.

We reach out to others, or accept the invitation of others under the assumption that they have the key to locking the door behind us, and without their words or their tears or their apology, we are stuck.

But this assumption is totally wrong. We aren’t stuck.

Because a lot of times, we don’t get apologies.

We don’t get explanations.

The person who says they are going to change, doesn’t.

The person that has treated us so badly has a beautiful boat and a gorgeous house and life isn’t fair.

The person who has wounded us opens their mouth to speak and begins to hurt us even more.

People let us down.

Chasing closure from other people just takes you back through the same door that you’re trying to shut. When you peek your head back inside that room, you are opening yourself up to every emotion you experienced when you lived there.

Closure happens when you make a choice to move forward independent of the words and actions of someone else.

We can’t control other people and we can’t make them apologize and we can’t make them feel bad for how they treated us.

Sometimes you just have to leave it at what it is, accept that you have no control over another person, and leave it be.

Not all of the chapters in my life have ended with neat punctuation with detailed footnotes. Actually, most haven’t.

The closure I have been able to experience from loss has all come from time for healing, and a whole lotta Jesus.

The advice I would give to younger Jenna is this: Stop looking to other people for closure and start looking to Jesus.

He will heal your wounds in ways no apology or serious conversation over coffee ever can.

I promise.

( I will need this reminder by Tuesday of this coming week. You on it, Sami?)

 

Always blessings, never chins

Jenna

 

 

 

Die a Happy Woman: When You’re Waiting For Something You Don’t Have Yet

A few weeks ago,  I was eating lunch at my desk listening to the  hit country song,  “Die a Happy Man” on repeat because  love music is my kryptonite and silence makes me uncomfortable. If you are not familiar with the song, please click here and enjoy the best 4 minutes of your life.

Lunch that day was leftover baby back ribs that I made myself in the crock pot on Sunday. They were delicious and I ate them all.

I also had brought mashed sweet potatoes that day, because apparently I was feasting like a queen, but realized as I went to start on them that I didn’t have a spoon.

One option would have been walking down the long hallway to the staff lounge and getting a spoon. That option was not going to work for me. The second option suddenly became clear, like an enlightened idea: the curved bone of a single rib.

There I sat, using a rib bone as a spoon for my mashed sweet potato, using the curved end to scoop and eat. Covered in barbecue sauce, and utterly happy.

And I thought, someday, someone will be observing me doing this from another room in the house, and think to himself, “How did I get so lucky?”

The song “Die a Happy Man” is literally the cutest thing I have ever heard in my 25 years. I am pretty sure I just keeled over and  instantly passed out the first time I heard it, but once I came back to life, I was never the same.

It is absolutely adorable.

What makes it better is that the music video for the song is Thomas Rhett’s ACTUAL WIFE IN REAL LIFE. (fall over again).

The lyrics talk about how he could never accomplish all the huge goals he has for his life, seeing the Eiffel Tower, building a mansion in Georgia, and he would still die happy because he has her great love. Swoon. All he needs in this life is her crazy love.

I find myself in the opposite situation, but recently have found overwhelming peace.

My dreams and my goals are taking off. I am writing and people are reading and I am teaching and students are learning, but one giant thing is missing for me. At 25, I thought I would be married, and maybe even starting a family.

I thought the ring would come first, and then my life would fall into place, into neat little pieces that fit together perfectly, after my heart’s desire had been met.

But it hasn’t worked out that way.

So, while Thomas Rhett sings of contentment with his wife, even if that means he achieves nothing else, I must learn contentment in God alone even if that means it’s all I will ever have.

Not as flashy- the song would probably not be a smash hit.

But, I don’t want to spend my life wishing and waiting for the next thing.

I don’t want to spend the one life I have in fear of not getting what I want, or consumed with anxiety that tomorrow doesn’t hold what I hope it holds.

For me, it’s marriage, but for others it could be a  career, a baby, a dream job since childhood, a friendship, traveling, or ANY desire of our hearts that we don’t have yet.

I have struggled with contentment since I can remember, but recently I feel as if God has spoken to me loud and clear about where He has me.

While I have spent much time anxious and afraid of never obtaining my desires, in fear of being alone, I have forgotten one key thing:

“…be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”

(Hebrews 13)

If my lot in life is nothing like I planned.

If I never achieve the things I want to achieve.

If I never have a family of my own.

If I have to mow my own lawn the rest of my life.

Could I die a happy woman?

Like, I said, this would not be a popular song. It goes against EVERYTHING we naturally are as humans. It actually sounds a little depressing.

For others it might be:

If I never get the job I want,

If I never lose the weight ,

If the relationship never mends,

If I never get a ring,

If the disease never goes away,

If the cancer comes back,

If I never fix everything that’s broken,

If I never have the baby I so badly want,

Could I die a happy human?

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A gratitude journal I started at the beginning of the year to take the focus off what I don’t have.

Because we are not alone, our steps are ordained, and our hearts can be content in knowing there is a greater plan than our own.

The absence of what we so badly desire feels lonely. But we are not alone in the waiting.

It is hard. It is a daily surrender. It is not natural to go against my selfish desires and simply be content.

Philippians 4:11-12, Paul writes:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

If you are like me, and are living in want, remember that those desires are not wrong. But there is a secret to living a life of peace and contentment: and that secret is finding your joy in something that no one on earth can either give or take away from you. His love and His satisfaction.

It’s a lesson I will continue to learn over and over. Some days will be better than others, but let us encourage each other to find our contentment in one thing alone.

So if all I got is His hand in my hand,

Then I could die, a happy woman.

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Blessings, not chins

Jenna

 

 

 

 

For everyone trying to lose 10 pounds this New Year: Love yourself first

I have cried over the number on the scale.

I’ve lied about it, too. (Even to treadmills at the gym. It’s almost 2016 and machines totally have the ability to judge us).

I have Googled the number and stressed over the number, desperately wishing it were different.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to lose 10 pounds. A lifelong diet, if you will.

The number on the scale has always been an issue for me.

I am not considered heavy by any means, and if you looked at me you might even roll your eyes that I even struggle with this, but due to a muscular build and a wider, athletic frame, I have always weighed a lot more than I would like.

 

I have learned a lot from being on a lifelong diet. I am still a work in progress, but have come a long way since crying over the number on the scale.

Here are some things I have learned from always trying to lose 10 pounds:

  1. Maybe this is the way my body is supposed to be

We are all made differently and no matter how many times I stare at a picture of a supermodel, or no matter how many times I choose broccoli over brownies, I am simply not going to look like her. My body was not designed to look like that.

Perhaps being healthy and average is what my body was made to be. I love to push my body physically, but even in the best shape of my life, I am only going to look like the best version of myself. No one else.

     2. Celebrate what my body is, instead of what it isn’t

I have stood in front of a mirror for too many wasted hours in my life.

I could pick apart a dozen things I would change about it. Over the years, I have learned to re-focus that criticism to reflect and celebrate the things my body is. I have strong legs that run and squat.

I have wide hips that will someday make child-birth possible. I have a body that does amazing things every second of every day.

When you look at your body for what it is, an incredible machine, it takes the focuses off the things you consider imperfections.

    3. Just eat the cookie- The broken pieces still count as calories

I am the ultimate grazer. I won’t actually sit down and have a piece of pie, but I will wander into the kitchen with a fork and take a few bites out of it every twenty minutes. I am known to skim the top of the carton of ice cream with a spoon (seven times a day).

I’m a smart girl, and I don’t know who I think I am fooling doing this. I have these little rituals that prevent full enjoyment.

I could sit down with a beautiful piece of cake (yes, beautiful is a totally acceptable word that describes cake) and enjoy it. Talk with family, lick the frosting off my lip.

Instead, I deprive myself of the experience, and then get a cheaper, less fulfilling version of it through sneaky bites.

Those calories still count. Just sit and eat the cake.

    4. Life is too short

It really is. I am an absolute advocate for healthy lifestyles and everything in moderation (though I don’t always take my own advice), but living a life  of constant restriction and fear of gaining weight robs you of so much joy.

I can’t tell you how many times I ordered a small salad while my friends enjoyed a nice dinner out, and instead of being present in the moment, I was obsessing about the food I was putting into my body…and stealing fries and onion rings from my friends’ plates.

When you struggle with eating issues, food has a way of taking residence into every part of your mind.

Once, I was so deep into my unhealthy, low-carb diet that I struggled to even take communion at church. I wasn’t supposed to eat carbs and that small wafer was certainly not on my food list, and don’t even get me started on the sugar in the grape juice.

It’s a joy stealer. Be present, order a meal that you love, and enjoy it.

Life is too short to obsess over every calorie you put in your body.

5. Unconditional Relationships don’t change

As far as I know, my mom still has extravagant love for me even when my pants fit a little tighter.

My best friends don’t see “gross” or “fat” when we are rolling on the floor belly laughing over something we heard on TV.

Despite how you may feel about yourself, the people that love you in your life don’t see what you see. They don’t. And even if they did, they would love you the same.

 

    6. If you don’t love yourself 10 pounds heavier, you won’t love yourself 10 pounds lighter.

I have been ten pounds heavier than I am right now, and I have been ten pounds lighter than I am right now.

My clothes fit me differently, but how I feel about myself at the core does not change.

It doesn’t.

If you don’t love yourself how you are in this very minute, I can promise you won’t love yourself ten pounds from now.

You might look a little better in a bathing suit.

You might have a few less rolls.

But losing ten pounds will not make you love yourself.

You have to love yourself exactly where you are right now.

Learn to love yourself now and make your decisions for your body from a place of love, and not a place of self-hate and criticism.

I am not saying that trying to lose weight is a bad thing. In fact, after this holiday season, most of my pants don’t currently fit me, and it is time for me to start watching what I eat again. However, what I have learned trying to lose 10 pounds is that the condition of your mind and heart is everything.

Like millions of Americans, I am going to try to make healthier choices this coming new year, but unlike my mindset for most of my life, I am not doing this to impress others or finally accept myself. I love who I am right now, bulging pants and all.

I am doing it out of a place of love for my body and a desire to feel good about how I am treating it.

So, if you’re thinking about losing a few this new year, please keep in mind that you are beautiful and accepted no matter what that scale says. If you succeed and totally dominate your resolution, be proud.

But your worth does not change based on what you weigh.

You are beautiful on January 1, and you are beautiful on February 17  if you throw in the towel and head for the cheese fries.

Count blessings…and calories in moderation.

xoxo

Jen