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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Summer Break Acceptance Speech

Greetings to all who read this.

I am used to having an audience of about 27 little humans, so being here on stage to accept this award does not faze me in the slightest. When you have asked  students to tell you if you have chocolate on your face or not, it takes a lot to feel embarrassment anymore.

Summertime is here.

I can tell you that there were times I didn’t know if I would make it. I didn’t know if we would make it.

Specifically towards the end of October. And then March. And then again today.

Yet we have reached the end of another school year, and entering summer break with this acceptance speech is my utmost honor.

I have many people, food items, and inanimate objects to thank for reaching this point.

Let me begin with the most important. First and foremost, I would like to thank coffee for everything it is to me and everything it will be.

You might be thinking, “Jenna, as a devout Christian, shouldn’t you being thanking God first for helping you through the year?”

God made the coffee. And He and I have it worked out. He understands. God is everywhere. Even in an elementary school. He knows.

Not only would i like to thank coffee, I would like to thank everyone and everything associated with coffee.

Thank you to the coffeemaker in my kitchen that rings a sweet glorious sound when the coffee is ready. Thank you to the filters for allowing the water to run through it in a way to make the coffee juice taste good without getting grounds in it. Thank you to all the workers at Starbucks and Biggby who have my order memorized. Specific shoutout to the worker who poured me a new coffee when I spilled mine all over myself.

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notice the coffee spilled on my desk. and the general mess.

 

Thank you to every colleague who has brought me coffee in moments of distress, or out of sheer kindness. Thank you to the coffee farmers in every remote area of the world. I love you and I thank you.

Now I would like to thank the Lord. He heard my 1pm prayers and 6:50am cries as getting out of bed became harder and harder every day in May. He got me up. He reminded me at the perfect times why I love my job. He brought amazing people in my life that makes the job even better. He made coffee. And it was good.

Next up is the Teacher’s Lounge. A resting place. A time of solace, laughter, or sometimes silence because it’s only Tuesday and it feels like Friday a 4pm.

That brings me into my teaching family. From the amazing staff who clean my classroom each day, to my teaching partners,  to parapros to secretaries and lunch staff. We are a family. Sometimes a dysfunctional one, like families can be, but we love each other in the mess and we make the best out of it. So much love to you people.

You have saved the day and covered for me so I could go to the bathroom.

You have brought me kleenexes when I am having an adult meltdown.

You feed me snacks.

You people are some of the best parts of my job and I genuinely love you.

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Next, I would like to thank bandaids and water fountains. Bandaids and water fountains cure 95% of all student ailments. Magic.

“My head hurts.”

“Okay honey, why don’t you try a drink of water and see if that helps.”

“Ms. Wiley, I’m bleeding”

*uses magnifying glass to find microscopic speck of red*

“Okay here is a bandaid.”

Bandaids and Water fountains- the MVP’s.

 

 

I would like to extend a thank you to each of my fabulous little students. We have our moments. They give me grace. I give them grace. We laugh. We cry. We learn together. It’s a great gig. Thanks for everything guys. I loved *almost* every minute with you. It was awesome but now teacha needs a break. Thank you for bringing in Hawaiian leis and celebrating the end of the year with a Karaoke Party in my room yesterday after school. Kids rock.

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Karaoke Parties are the best way to celebrate the end of the year.

 

Thank you to the yoga balls on which my students sat this year. You let them move and wiggle and bounce and be all hyper while letting me still teach. I got a little motion sickness at first, watching the ups and downs in rhythmic form. But I got used to it.

 

Thank you to my friends and family outside of work. The ones who understood if it was a “bad day” and listened to me vent as needed.

Thank you to my Spring Break vacation. I needed you.

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Me and my nephew enjoying a relaxing dinner in Florida. Turns out caring for an infant isn’t vacation.

Thank you to the substitute teachers who literally saved my life by filling in for me on days I was out.

Thank you to antibiotics for the 2 times I got bronchitis.

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Thank you to the teacher I share a classroom with one day a week. Your healthy life tips are appreciated. I am a hoarder. Thank you for dealing with my piles everywhere.

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You could have played iSpy with the stuff I found in there.

Thank you to the people behind “treat days.” Seeing random treats in the lounge for no reason at all gives you a perfect excuse to binge eat the stress away. Carb loading on donuts did come with a few consequences, but in the end, totally worth it.

It was an amazing year.

An exhausting, happy, emotional, fabulous, insane year.

As you see, I never could have done it alone. So with great joy and little to no pride (I have none left after some of the  lessons I have taught this year), I accept summer vacation.

Congratulations to all who made it. Your trophy is sunny and sandy.

And to anyone who thinks it’s unfair that teachers get summers off:

actually, never mind. I honestly don’t even have the energy to debate with you.

Happy Summer

xoxo

Jenna

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things We Can All Agree On in a Time of So Much Arguing

Online arguments are the bane of all human existence. They are also like a train wreck; no matter how much you know you should look away, sometimes you just can’t stop reading long comment threads of people fighting and debating and laying their dignity on the line.

To my knowledge, approximately zero people have changed their minds due to someone on social media lending a countering opinion. I have read a LOT of online arguments, and not ONCE have I read,

“You know, Steve, all of your statistics and sarcasm has totally changed my outlook on immigration, so I agree with you now. Thanks, friend. ”

Have you?

Listen, I am all for healthy debate. I am all for freedom of speech. But people, stop yelling at each other online. If you want to post your opinion, fine. I think it’s great that people have an outlet to express themselves, but when I see some of the people I hold SO much respect for get into it on Facebook, even Pastors, I just can’t look at them the same.

People are reading.

People are watching how you’re treating and the way you are talking to others.

So, in attempt to unite us all during a time of intense political division and varying opinions about the circus that is currently happening in our society, I have compiled a list of things upon which we will ALMOST all universally agree.

1. Burning your tongue is terrible

The pain of burning your tongue both as it happens and after it happens is terrible. Once I burnt my tongue on Hot Chocolate the MORNING of Thanksgiving. That is like spraining your ankle the day before the Olympics. I had to go through the whole day barely tasting the food on the biggest day of eating of the whole year. I have never met a person who enjoys having a burnt tongue.

2. It’s so weird when you take a drink of something and it’s not what you
expected

You know what I am talking about. You go to take a huge chug of water and it’s your sister’s Sprite. All of a sudden it’s like the equilibrium of the world is off. You don’t know anything for a moment. There are so many confusing sensations happening.

3. Leaving work on Friday is the best feeling

I love my job. But that sweet freedom of a Friday afternoon might rival the high of recreational drugs (do not know this from experience.) It’s a spring day, the sun in shining and you just walked out of work and the weekend awaits you. Tell me you don’t like that.

4. When you unexpectedly run into someone you know at the airport- it feels like worlds are colliding

Traveling is an exciting experience, and people watching during traveling is even more exciting. I have often observed groups of people run into each other unexpectedly at the airport and EVERY TIME it’s like this incredible reunion with shrieks and hugs. Even in “real life” if those people aren’t necessarily close, the airport makes you vulnerable and connects you.

5. People with accents are cooler 

We are pretty much all intrigued by people with different accents than us. Yesterday I was on the last leg of a five hour drive, and this woman with a thick Irish accent was doing a broadcast on the radio. I couldn’t turn it off. Her voice was so beautiful and different and I hung onto her every word. I also decided I am going to learn to speak with an Irish accent.

6. Your song sounds better on the radio

You might have bought your favorite song on iTunes and listen to it obsessively every waking minute of your life, but when it comes on the radio unexpectedly, it is the best 4 minutes of your life.

7. You probably have googled “Is it normal…”
Maybe you haven’t googled it, but you have thought it

8. Puppy bellies are the world’s best texture

If you disagree with me on this one, please just delete me from your life.

9. You do really embarrassing things when you’re alone

No need to get into details. You do. And I do, too.

10. You have your opinions because you think they are what’s best.

We all have views and opinions based on what we see is best. We can’t all be right. But we all think we are right.

Chances are, you’re wrong about some things. Chances are, you are also right about some things.

None of us knows it all. None of us is right about everything.

Let’s stop arguing over everything that’s different, and remember that at the end of the day, we all want what’s best and we are all in this together.

Blessings, not chins

Jenna

Faith like Hope: I’m not there right now

I love to write sentences that make everything sound a little more beautiful (some call this exaggeration, I call it wordplay), but words can only do so much when you have things to say that just aren’t pretty. Buckle up for some raw Jenna.

It’s been a roller coaster couple of weeks in the area of my faith. There have been some really high highs, and some really low lows. Cue pounding the table at Small group and attempting to lead a small revolt. Cue long conversations about the Bible over brownies and ice cream on work nights. Cue obsessively reading books trying to figure it all out.

But,  I have been wrestling with God. The type of wrestling where you go around and around and exhaust yourself to the point you give up and fall asleep because you are getting nowhere.

I actually do own a WWE championship belt, ironically, and approximately 45 of my students think I was a professional wrestler in the past, but that’s another story for another post.

One of the most common (and most appreciated…keep it coming 😉 ) things people say to me about my blog is that I have such wisdom and that they wish they had faith like me when they were my age.

But it isn’t always like that. I’m not always wise, faithful and strong.

Recently, I received a message from someone who is going through a similar experience I had the past few years.

She said to me, after sharing her story and seeing the parallels between our two lives, something that brought me to tears (not a hard task, I will admit).

She told me that through my experiences, I have wisdom beyond my years and that it is beautiful, but she knows that that many beautiful things come with a price.

Beautiful things come with a price. The fact that she found beauty in my broken parts was enough to make me sob. It makes it all worth it.

There are times I am wise and strong and faithful.

And there are times, like the past few weeks where I am confused, weak and unsure.

I am in a Bible Study that is intensive and has been focusing the past 6 months on the book of Revelation.  This is not your typical, let’s sit in a circle and talk in Christian clichés and feel good phrases. This is a group of 14 of the most incredible women I have ever met sitting and digesting the Word at its deepest level. We are currently studying the judgments of God and His wrath that is coming. (#funtimes)

Oh, how I wish I could say to you that I trust Him so fully, that I can read these things in Revelation 15 and know that God is love, and somehow, in my confusion, in my lack of ability to understand, that I still follow him with certainty.

But sometimes I am unsure. Right now I would rather push things out of my mind and run from them instead of face them with confidence.

I am doubting.

I wonder about the compatibility between God’s wrath and God’s mercy.

I hurt for the evil in the world and I obsess about the purpose of life.

I am taking small, baby, steps, then running backwards.

My faith is weak right now.

Last week, I flew to Florida to see my sister. I was standing in the security line minding my own business (okay, not technically since I am always eavesdropping on surrounding conversations looking for funny things to tweet) and I noticed an emotional goodbye happening between an older woman and her family.

They were all speaking in Spanish through tears, as they said goodbye and parted ways. The woman looked confused as the Security guard approached her to ask her something, so being the outgoing, bilingual social butterfly I am, I marched right up and asked her in Spanish if she needed some help.

That’s when Esperanza and I became friends . She was saying goodbye to her grandson and great-granddaughter. She was Guatemalan and had been visiting for two months.

IMG_3817

My sweet friend!

Coincidentally, Esperanza and I were on the same flight to Chicago. We went through security together. I led the way, interpreting for her and helping her communicate with airport officials.

She trusted me fiercely.

This in itself is so incredibly ironic, because I am literally the WORST at directions of anyone I know. Yesterday, I was borrowing a friend’s house to nap in because it’s close to my work, (normal, right?) and had to use my GPS because I got lost in the neighborhood. Again. I have been there a million times.

Hot mess. The residents of that house didn’t bat an eye. Typical Jenna.

Anyways, Esperanza followed me. She tried to carry my bags for me, all 4 feet 11 inches of her. She was trying to show her appreciation to me. It was my pleasure.

We boarded the plane and flew to Chicago, and prepared to part ways as I showed her where her flight number was on the giant screen and explained in Spanish what to look for.

I pointed her in the right direction and was hoping to fade away and grab an overpriced soft pretzel and relax at my much closer gate. She seemed confident as she headed off alone, but after a few steps, she turned around and looked at me helplessly. So we walked.

We walked approximately 40 miles through O’Hare together. I pointed, she followed. I said turn left, she turned.

She trusted me, a total stranger to lead her in the right direction.

Some would call that absolute ignorance and helplessness (especially if they knew my track record with directions and basic life tasks in general).

Some would call it blind trust and faith.

In the story of my and Esperanza’s big adventure in the airport, I recognize that metaphorically and allegorically speaking I portray the “God” role of guiding and leading her. I almost didn’t share the story because that is honestly the absolute LAST message I am trying to get across here.

I don’t want the focus to be on me in that story. God used me (it was all Jesus because on my way home, I was in the wrong security line and had to do the walk of shame after waiting 20 minutes). Girlfriend can’t keep it together.

I want the focus to be on Esperanza.

I want to have faith like her. Not in myself. Not in my talents. Not in my directional abilities (I promise, I have tried and they do not get me far, figuratively and literally).

I want to follow Jesus and not kick and scream.

But right now I am kicking and screaming.

I am yelling and questioning. I am running away, then crawling back.

I am tired. I am weak.

There are turns and there are alleys and instead of walking forward in faith, like I have preached and wrote about for years, I am planting my feet. I am staying put a little bit.

Esperanza means Hope in Spanish.

One day I want to have faith like Hope.

Right now I don’t. And I want this blog to be real and genuine and authentic, so I am sharing that piece of my heart with you. Sometimes I am okay with not having all of the answers, and sometimes my faith is strong enough to carry me through those seasons. But right now, it’s not.

 

Here’s to faith that is one day just like Hope’s.

Jenna