Here’s the welcome mat for this post: usually the titles are song lyrics or something off-the-cuff that I’ve managed to come up with right before posting, but this one holds a little more significance. For some reason, it was written as a chapter idea in my journal somewhere back in January or February this year. There’s a lot of boldness in this statement (for me) because later in the semester, I just thought, “Do it. Ask for the cup of coffee,” (not even thinking back to the journal entry) and then boom, I asked for the cup of coffee, got it, and had some pretty solid and inspiring conversations come out of it. It was like a little stepping stone into more courageous and bolder steps. That cup of coffee was a feeble attempt at me being courageous, but it was my little way of saying, “No Jenna, you’re going to learn to be bold and ask for what you want, even if it doesn’t result in anything that moves your world in another direction. You wanted the coffee and conversation and you asked for it and you got it.”
There’s a Maya Angelou quote I read a few weeks ago that says:
“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.“
And if I could sum this past semester into one quote, it would probably be along the lines of her words. My constant questions woven into ask, my rediscovery of my passions and desires looped in and out of want, and the different hardships and sorrows and joys and celebration all packaged into prepared in order to move into a new season.
The past few days have been processing days. A lot is changing. And it’s hard as hell. We’ll start with that and go from there.
I tried for a while to conceal it, package it up and make it feel prettier than it is. Just stay busy and keep making plans, but as an introvert, I hit my wall on Saturday afternoon. It was time to sit down and really think about what was going on. So I listened to “Landslide” 17 times and went for the first run I’ve gone on in weeks, because what else do you do when everything in you wants to burst into tears but your exterior keeps saying no? There is beauty in knowing when to say when or when enough is enough, but I guess I don’t know that beauty yet because my only words have been “go” and “run.” So I made myself stop.
But it was the rarest, sweetest of times. I was alone, like really alone, for the first time in a really long time. There was no one I could call to hang out with and no assignments that needed to be completed, so I just sat and thought and ran and thought and slept and dreamed. This semester was a wild one. There are things that happened in the past 4 months that I’m realizing I never really thought about when they were happening. I did some big things, prayed some bold prayers and made some courageous moves, and as much as some of it hurt, the joy was so much greater than the shortcomings and the sorrow. I coped in ways I shouldn’t have. I wrote things that cut to the core of how I felt. I fell in love with people again, but this time it was with their laughs and the way they lit up when they talked about their passions and the way they sipped their coffee. Not one specific person, but the world around me. I learned how to dance inside of moments I never thought I would make it to, and that is something I can celebrate now. I put myself around people that reminded me why I was in love with what I was passionate about: writing. I guess what I’ve found interesting and finally found the ability to put words with is the way I think. The way that photographers see the world around them with a different perspective and in different stills and the way that videographers see the world around them as different scenes and cuts and whatnots, I see people in metaphors and words on a page and words to a moment. I don’t know about you, but I quite enjoy learning new things about myself, so there’s a little tidbit for you. I encourage you to think about the way your mind works too
I’ve kept one journal in the past four months, and it’s almost full, but it encapsulates this entire semester in a way. It shows the hurt, desires, talks with God, experiences, crushes, bold moves, mornings with coffee, to-do lists, quotes, reflections, tears, mountains and valleys. I thought I would come to the end of this semester and be frustrated that there were conversations I had left undone or situations I had been too awkward in, but I can honestly say there is peace in the ending of this certain season. I see it time and time again throughout this journal, frustration and fear and anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got a lot of fears and anxiety, but I hold them a little further away now. I wish I could make that make more sense or adequately put it into words, but I guess you could say I’ve slowly taken things out of fear’s control and placed them back into God’s grasp.
There’s one verse within the first few pages though that stops me whenever I thumb through it.
“He has been with me everywhere I have gone.” // Genesis 35:3
What a promise and a beautiful truth.
I’ve been needing to pack up my dorm for a while now (this ties in, I promise). And I’ve been the most reluctant to pack up the easiest things, the decorations on the walls. Whether it’s the quotes in calligraphy or the verses on watercolor or the prayers on sticky notes, I’m not ready to pack them away. I think this is a tangible way to show you my reluctance in change and transition. I navigate my life with the way I feel, and when I’m moving through transitions and trying to road map change, I don’t know how to feel or I feel too many things at once, and I think that’s why I hate it so much. But then I keep hearing God whisper, “Hey J, I’m ready to teach you a new thing.” And there’s the comfort that comes over me. I have no idea what that thing is yet, but there’s comfort in knowing that He does know, and that He has been with me everywhere I have gone and He will be with me everywhere I will go and that will never cease to be true.
Another verse that I continually came back to this past semester:
“He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” // Psalm 18:19
Even after the heartbreak and fragility that was the first couple months of this semester, I kept thanking Him for His kindness. Because He delighted in me, I praised Him. I’m getting sad now, but only in small increments. It hit me today, sitting behind a chicken sandwich like the ones we have at staff meeting and realizing that I’ll never sit around one of the tables at the mall with the exact same group of people ever again. It hit me when I took all of the stuff off of my walls. It hit me when I listened to “First Defeat” by Noah Gundersen (multiple times). It hit me when I laid down to go to sleep last night and couldn’t fall asleep for at least an hour because my mind was moving a million miles an hour thinking about everything under the sun. It keeps hitting me in the littlest ways, but just enough to really hurt. Change is hard. And transitions hurt.
I haven’t read the Chronicles of Narnia books (yet), but I imagine transitions and season changes are a lot like a story my boss pulled from one of the books about their cousin, Eustace. There’s this really awesome article on Desiring God that goes into a lot more detail than I’ll go into right here, but essentially, Eustace, this really rotten kid, receives a large fortune, falls asleep with his treasures, and when he does, he wakes up to find that he has turned into a dragon. However, he has this gold bracelet that he fell asleep wearing, and now that he’s a dragon, the bracelet is restricting one of his legs and it’s this awful, indescribable pain. Along with the physical pain, he also experiences the pain of being alone, misunderstood, and cut off from humanity, until Aslan shows up. He begins to shed these scales, Aslan walks with him to this well that will help the pain subside, but Eustace is not content with just shedding one layer at a time. He is ready to be completely washed clean and transformed, and basically Aslan tells him he can do it, but it’s going to be painful, that much transformation in such a short period of time.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. . . .
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .
After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me . . . in new clothes.
And I have to believe this is why the transitions are so difficult. God isn’t in the business of making us go through intense periods of pain for no reason or causing hurt just for the sake of hurt. He will not allow something to be taken away without giving way to a good, better thing, even if that’s not the way we see it (Isaiah 66:9). God is in the business of constantly making us new because He loves us too much to leave us where we have been, whether that’s in seasons of self-destruction or intense transformation or celebration. He has been with us everywhere that we have gone. The darkness is not dark to Him. The tears are nothing He has not shed. He speaks in victory dances and in the darkest nights of the soul. He knows us, deeply. Through and through. Our minds may confuse us, but they do not confuse Him.
So whether you’re in the midst of a season of intense change and wondering if you’ll even be close to the same person you are now when you come out on the other side, or if you are jumping for joy and celebrating because you recognize that new thing that God is doing in your life, we can find comfort in knowing that He is steadfast in our wavering. Something I find myself needing reminders of about this stepping out in courage that I’ve mentioned a lot in the last few posts is that we can’t just be bold for the sake of being bold or be courageous for the sake of our own strength, but we must be bold in ways that are pleasing to Him and bring His Kingdom closer to us and the people surrounding us. There is something to be said for being a good steward of the things God provides for us, and I think that my being courageous should be beneficial to me and to the people God allows me to encounter. I can be bold knowing that the conversations I have will be fruitful. I can be courageous in conversation in order to watch people’s passions develop further and remember the gifts God has provided them with. I can be encouraging in reminding people that what is practical or logical is not always desirable or what God has paved before us. In fact, I’ve realized that the logical thing to us is rarely the footsteps God has us walking in.
As I behold Your beauty with unworthy eyes, the only song my soul can find to sing is hallelujah.
Now, I realize this was a lot. I had a lot to say. But if I could leave you with three things, they would be these:
- Goodbyes are hard.
- A clear head is hard to come by, so when you feel it, savor it.
- Make the courageous moves. Keep asking for the coffee.