The writing has slowed down.
You may or may not have noticed.
My summer in Clarkston is coming to a close and I feel like my heart has somehow decided to close itself, too.
No more, God. I’m done thinking. I’m done praying. Let me just stop and breathe for a minute.
I know life is meant to be filled with growth and change and learning. When any of those stop happening, we might as well be dead. Or so I’ve heard.
But growing and changing and learning sometimes hurts. And even though we’re told that we need to press on because it’ll be so worth it, that you can’t have gain without pain… well, I just don’t want to do that right now.
I don’t WANT to press forward with all I’ve got because it’s just super, super hard.
Doesn’t that sound so pathetic? But it’s the truth.
Right now I just want to sit. Forget carpe diem. Forget Paul’s running the race with endurance. Forget YOLO.
I want to curl up in my bed and sleep. Or stare at the wall and not even think about anything in particular. And then when I get up from my bed, I want to drink coffee, sit on the couch to stare at the wall some more, and ignore everyone who tries to talk to me. And maybe I’ll write some. But maybe I won’t.
Of course, my life right now doesn’t offer that “luxury”. I have a week left in Clarkston, and with being in Clarkston comes priorities and people relying on you. I can’t afford to just lie on the floor for hours on end (although I have been giving myself at least an hour of exactly that for the past few days). I can’t just “check out” and silence the world.
Life still happens, whether I want it to or not.
But what I have a say in is (and no, I’m not going to say any of that cheesy “you can choose your attitude” Pollyanna-esque stuff) whether or not I receive what is offered to me.
I know God wants me to grow. And change. And learn. He’s offering me things, I can tell. The doors are there. And stepping through one of those doors could mean the difference between wallowing in my self-pity and finding true freedom and joy.
But if I’m going to step through that door, I’m going to need to take my time. And I think He understands that. God is patient, you know.
He knows I’m not ignoring Him. He knows I’m not giving up. He sees my heart, how much it truly longs for Him and all the gifts He’s offering to me after all this time. It may be difficult to pray, but I still say hello. It may be tough to communicate with the world, but I still let myself be a friend to others. And it’s hard to call myself “happy”, but I know how to find joy in the little moments He brings.
It takes time for babies to learn to walk.
And I’m just a baby. I’ve been carefully putting one foot in front of the other for some time, but I haven’t let go of the ottoman just yet.
It’s okay, Jessie. You can do it. I won’t let you fall.
I know, Daddy. I’m getting there. I just need a minute.
I know I’ll get there. I know it because I have within me a spirit that is yearning for far too much to stand still for very long. It looks like I’m not doing anything right now (and you may be right), but what you don’t see is that every hour I spend in solace and silence makes my soul a very restless one indeed. And when the conditions looks a bit more favorable and I am able to get out of this bed, I will charge through that very same door I’ve been staring at for years. I know this because God loves me too much and I love God too much to stand still forever.
I’m not going to feel bad for not pursuing Jesus as hard as everyone else right now. I AM pursuing him, and HE is making up for the rest (and then some). This is not hide-and-seek or tag. This doesn’t even feel like a race.
No, this is a long and challenging stroll on the beach.
And as we’re walking hand-in-hand, looking out at the horizon, I sometimes get so overwhelmed that I just stop and have to take a minute to look down at the sand. It’s too much. But after a little bit of time, he lifts up my chin, gives me that understanding smile, and helps me take that next step. In some cases, he even carries me. And when I pass by people who are also struggling to take that next step, I’d like to take their hand and walk with them, too.
Before I know it, we’ll be at that boardwalk. That little speck in the distance that I thought (and still sometimes think) I could never reach.
And in that moment, I’ll know that it didn’t matter how long it took me or how many times I had to stop to catch my breath.
All that’ll matter is that I arrived and I didn’t let go of his hand.
How I Wish My Day Would Go:
Wake up without an alarm, feeling completely refreshed and ready to face the day.
Have a heavenly breakfast: sunny-side-up eggs and buttered toast.
Sit down to have my alone time with God– a fresh cup of coffee in one hand and my journal in the other.
Blog about all the cool things God is teaching me.
Look up at the clock… time for lunch.
Eat leftover Chinese food in bed while watching Gilmore Girls.
Clean my room to a pristine condition.
Go to the mall to buy myself a new outfit to be worn later.
Talk to best friend on the phone for two hours.
Meet up with a friend at Starbucks– or better yet, one of those off-brand coffeehouses.
Have lively conversation about life, philosophy, and God.
Go home to get ready for a hot date. Get to take a bubble bath with plenty of time to shave.
Have my hot date (A.K.A. my boyfriend) pick me up and take me out for sushi.
Coldstone Creamery afterwards. Duh.
Beautiful walk around the neighborhood, holding hands.
Say goodnight and part ways.
I climb into my familiar bed with my dog snuggled beside me.
Fall fast asleep.
Rinse and repeat.
How My Day Really Goes:
Wake up by an alarm, feeling like I could sleep for another twelve hours.
Break my sunny-side-up eggs in the pan.
Sit down to have my alone time with God and realize that I actually only have fifteen minutes.
Get so stressed out by the time constraint that I can’t even focus on what He and I need to be talking about.
Have an awesome blog idea come to me that I forget about later.
Look up at the clock… class awaits me.
Leave class wondering what on earth I just sat through.
Have lunch in isolation. No Gilmore Girls.
Come home to dishes in the sink, laundry to be folded, and an unmade bed.
Try to schedule a phone call with my best friend, but it doesn’t work out.
Ask friends out for coffee. No one can go.
Realize I’m broke anyway.
Get ready to go out on a hot date. Hair not cooperating. Break out into a sweat just trying to pick out what to wear.
Have my hot date (A.K.A. my boyfriend) come to pick me up.
I’m inexplicably moody. Total buzz-kill.
Eat and feel bloated.
Date interrupted by reminders of having to wake up early for work and mother wondering when we’ll be home.
Say goodnight and part ways, not really wanting to leave.
I climb into my familiar bed, dog nowhere to be found.
Have trouble sleeping.
Regretfully rinse and repeat.
What I Gather From This Information:
Life does not go the way I want it. Eggs crack, schoolwork gets burdensome, and moods shift quicker than I have time to adjust to.
I don’t feel like I have enough time for myself or the people who matter to me. I certainly don’t feel like I have enough time for God.
Everything is rushed. Stressful. Unnecessarily difficult.
But every day is different. And that means there are new opportunities to find beauty and joy. New opportunities to make the most of hardships. New opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. New opportunities to seek God and His will.
It’s okay that life doesn’t go the way I want it. It’s normal, expected.
And every once in a blue moon, I do get that ideal day. It comes and it goes, but I enjoy it nonetheless.
I’m waiting for the next one, but trying not to ignore the good stuff in my other days, too. Which is easier said than done.
But hey, time goes by a lot faster than we realize. And the hard day today could become a beautiful one tomorrow. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
God’s showing me more and more of what it means to be content and fruitful even in what looks to be the crappiest of days.
So here’s to trying again in the morning.
Being in a relationship is hard, guys.
I’ve known this for years, yet I still feel like I’m punched in the gut with that truth again and again.
I have no idea how to be someone’s girlfriend.
It’s a daunting task: to be the person they run to, the person they want to pour their love into, the person they want to support and appreciate wholeheartedly.
Because when you are that person for someone, there’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, But I don’t deserve it. And there’s no way I could be that lovely, loving person for them in return. At least that’s how it is for me.
I’m too selfish, too emotional, too messy, too prideful, too insecure, too bitter… how could I rightfully treat this man with respect and love when I hardly know how to love myself? How can I support and encourage this man when I can hardly support and encourage myself?
And he claims he’s a mess, too. Everyone’s got issues, he says. Baggage. But often times, I can only see my flaws and his strengths (or in my prideful moments, it ends up the other way around). And sometimes that makes a relationship one of bitterness or insecurity.
You have it all together. And I’m just… me. Awful, messy me. You should find another woman to love. Someone who doesn’t cry when things don’t go her way, someone who doesn’t pick fights for no reason other than her stupid insecurities.
Someone who always says the right things and does the right things.
It’s hard to remember that that someone doesn’t exist.
The other night, my boyfriend and I had this realization that we call ourselves a team, but we haven’t been acting like one lately. And my first reaction was, It’s my fault, while his first reaction was, It’s MY fault.
Isn’t that so silly? We both were so quick to take the blame.
And we could’ve just left it there. We both could’ve silently come to the conclusion that we’re messy, stupid people who don’t know how to be a good boyfriend or a good girlfriend. Beat ourselves up further and resolve to be better.
But that’s not what I want for him and that’s not what he wants for me.
So what’s a couple to do? Baby steps, my friends.
I asked how he was doing and he shared– open, honest communication about his week, his fears, his struggles. And I listened. I tried offering advice, but didn’t know if it was what he needed. I do think he appreciated the effort. But our conversation didn’t really last long. He had to be up early for work and I was pretty tired myself, so we said goodnight and went our separate ways.
And despite how I felt at that moment– wanting to storm into every room of mess and misunderstanding to set everything bad on fire and leave only the good, perfect, lovely things– that small, honest conversation was a good start.
I’m realizing you don’t have to hash everything out overnight. Every single issue, weakness, and insecurity doesn’t have to be laid out there on the table from day one. You don’t have to fix, fix, fix until both parties are dead tired and there’s nothing left to say.
There’s always going to be something left to say. We’re always going to have bad days and stress. We’re always going to have secrets we hold onto until someone pries us open. We’re always going to have moments of utter weakness that we beat ourselves up over for days.
You’re not going to make a perfect team overnight. You’re not going to make a perfect team over A LIFETIME.
Relationships are hard for everyone. Even the loveliest, sweetest of seasons in dating/marriage are eventually followed by hardships and messes.
We are messy people.
I’ve heard it said that a perfect relationship is just two imperfect people who don’t give up on each other.
I think that’s only partially true. What should be taken out is the “perfect relationship” part because there’s simply no such thing.
No two people can have a perfect relationship because no two people are perfect. No commitment is perfect. Promises are not always perfectly kept. Support doesn’t always come at the perfect time and in the most perfect way.
There’s no such thing as perfection in relationships because there’s no such thing as perfection in life.
The only perfect thing we have is a perfect God, and He’s the only one who can make our relationships into the beautiful, supportive teams we desire.
And even then, they can only be so good. Never perfect. That’s just the burden we live with until we go home to heaven.
So here’s my take on relationships right now: you do what you can with what you have and rely on God to do the rest.
I can show love to my boyfriend in the ways I understand love– kind words, warm affection, gifts and sacrifices. But when I’m stuck in my pride or my foolishness and I don’t even WANT to be loving or kind, I can ask God to strengthen His love in me so I can see past myself and forego my selfish ways.
I can offer wisdom to him when he needs advice or counseling– wisdom I’ve gained from experience and study. But when I don’t know the answers and I’m just as lost as he is, I can lean on God to show us both the right thing to do and the right thing to say.
I can be a sweet, fun, caring girlfriend– when I’m in a great mood or things are going great in my life. But when I’m angry at God, depressed for no reason, and feeling insecure in every area of my life, I sure as heck know I need the grace of God and I can ask Him for that, too. Lord, help my boyfriend deal with me. Because I’m crazy.
Asking God for help in these areas doesn’t mean He’s going to mold me into the perfect girlfriend. What it means is that I recognize my inability to be that perfect somebody for my ever-so-forgiving boyfriend and his inability to be that perfect somebody for me. And in recognizing that, God has the opportunity to heal me of some of my fears and insecurities, offer grace in areas I so badly fail at, and show me how to love in difficult moments. It reminds me that I can’t do it all, and that’s okay.
All I can do is baby steps.
Particularly because I can only predict my mood at this very moment. I can only guarantee I’ll feel nice and loving for the next hour. I am messy and unpredictable. I don’t think that’ll ever change. So I must take just one baby step after another, and believe that it can be enough.
The other night, my baby step was just listening. His baby step was offering nuggets of his life.
Tomorrow, my baby step might be apologizing first. His baby step may be relying on God through prayer instead of trying to fix things himself.
This is what I think relationships are mostly about. Not who will do the right thing first or who will do the right thing better. Certainly not how to be that perfect partner.
Just simply: when will I take that next step, be it ever so seemingly small?
I still have a long way to go. I’ll never win that trophy for best girlfriend of the year. But I can win the heart of the man I love day after day as I become more of the woman– messy and imperfect as she may be– that God is shaping me into.
Relationships will still be hard, but I think I’m learning.
Oh, here’s a photo of me with my wonderful boyfriend, Grant, right before we went on our first Valentine’s Day date. This stud took me to Waffle House (yes, I shamelessly picked Waffle House over every other restaurant we had to choose from… jealous?). Grant is very sweet and understanding of my strange, crazy oh-my-gosh-is-she-even-sane ways. He calls it part of “my complexity”, which makes it sound rather romantic. Oh, and he loves nerdy things, God, and me. So obviously we’re just right for each other.
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston right now even if I tried.
It’s not because this place is better than home. It’s not because I enjoy my roommates’ company more than my family, boyfriend, and hometown friends. It’s not even because the food is better here (which it is).
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston because it feels like God has me here. Not in a forceful, “thou-shalt-forever-remain-stuck-under-my-command” kind of way, but in a loving, powerful “hey-you-know-that-I-have-you-here-for-a-reason” kind of way.
While reading Psalm 139 this afternoon, I was drawn to verse 5:
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Guys, God has hemmed me in. And it’s one of the most relieving feelings to know that in this moment I’m in the right place. I can’t speak for tomorrow or the day after that, but I can certainly speak for today.
His hand is upon me here. I can tell because I’ve been struggling against it. Some might take that as a sign that it is NOT God’s will for me to remain in Clarkston, but I know myself well enough to realize that the times I’ve fought the hardest against where I am are the times I’ve belonged the most in those places.
I think back to how badly I wanted to run away before starting my freshman year of college. I imagined hopping on a plane and spending the rest of my life sipping Arabian coffee with my new Henna-adorned Muslim friends in a land far away from suburbia.
And then I recall how much it hurt to be turned down from my dream internship a year later, the internship that would’ve taken me away from the most painful and eye-opening experience I have had in my almost-twenty years of living. The last thing I wanted was to spend a summer in my friend-forsaken town, but I did and it changed me.
And most overwhelming of all is the constant nostalgia-like longing for the future, to the days where I am no longer just an “I”, but a “we”– someone’s wife and mother. Never do I feel more of a calling on my life than when I think of the baby-nursing, diaper-changing, marriage-protecting days I believe are coming.
Time and time again, I have felt stuck, just longing, DYING, to leave my home and the life I’m currently living. God, please just let me fast-forward to a different time, a different place. I’d give anything.
But looking back, I can see now that God had purposefully hemmed me in. His hand had been upon me in the places I had felt forsaken. And though I wrestled against these many circumstances, I eventually found a way to surrender. Surrender doesn’t come easily to me, but freeing things in life rarely do.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been wrestling against being in Clarkston. For reasons I’m not even sure I understand fully, I often think of leaving. I picture myself spending these summer days at home, sipping coffee and writing meaningful blog posts as I rest against my pillow-filled chaise, my dog resting against me. That’s where I belong, I think.
But God thinks otherwise.
I know this because He’s been opening my eyes to Him and to beautiful things while I’ve been here. I’ve been so busy wrestling for the past month that I’m sure I’ve missed some of what He’s been trying to show me. But I’m starting to see more clearly.
His presence asks me to remain present, so I will dutifully stay.
There is a beauty in being hemmed in. It feels like maybe the place I am in is covered in grace. Even I am covered in grace. And I don’t want to miss these beautiful, grace-filled moments anymore.
These are my thoughts for right now on why I am here. It’s still going to be difficult to make this place my home, but where God leads I have committed to go. And right here is where I’ve been led.
I’m hemmed in.
P.S. I know I’ve been so vague on what exactly is going on here in Clarkston. I promise I am working on sharing more testimonies and stories with you. I have plans on writing more informative pieces in the next couple of weeks so perhaps the pieces will fall into place for my curious readers on what is happening here. To tell you the truth, I’m still a little lost myself.
But here’s some information I can offer for now: people are falling more in love with Jesus in Clarkston– missionaries and refugees alike. There’s still a lot of work to be done among these unreached people groups, but we’re witnessing how small moments of faith can result in great opportunities.
Keep an eye out for blog posts to come.