:: gird your loins ::

Every now and then, I have to have a big girl talk with myself.  (Some would call this self-assessment, but I prefer the more kitschy term.)

Today is one of those days.  Today, I got a C in one of my grad school courses.  If I make another C, I’m out of the program.  I’m struggling with things at ______.  I’m struggling with things at _____.  None of them are unmanageable, but I’m not doing the best job at managing them, and my frustration, my frailty, my weakness is telling me to take a step back and get my crap together.  

I want to bail.  I want to walk away from the things that are not necessary and excel at the big things.  You know, like the $25,000 thing I’m investing in.

But in the middle of my pity party at the carwash (this is real life, y’all), I suddenly remembered something I’d put on Instagram as my motto for 2016.  PROVE.  THEM.  WRONG.  And in a flash, I realized the magnitude of my pity party and that I have to make some changes.  The first change is that I can’t quit anything.  I will not stop; I will excel.  I can do this.  I’m going to do this.  I need to prove to myself and the people in my life who think poorly of me that I can do this and then some.  

I can’t help but be reminded of a scene from the Devil Where’s Prada, where Stanley Tucci’s character is talking to Anne Hathaway’s character and he says in a dramatically snarky tone “gird your loins”.  This is my buck-up or shut-up day, so I’ve got to dig deep or I give everyone the capacity to think that I’m incapable of handling this.

Here are some declarations that I have to remind myself of:

1)      I cannot change how people feel about me if my actions are mediocre.

2)      I cannot change how they feel about me any way… only God can.

3)      I do not have to be so frustrated at everything; life is too short to be perpetually bent-out-of-shape.

4)      I must stick to my lists and be direct.

5)      I must be intentional with my time.  More so than EVER.

6)      Regardless of the frustrations I feel, I have two people that love me no matter what.  They have my six.

7)      I can do this.  I am smart enough. I am talented enough.  I am capable.  I am enough!

I can do this.  And I can prove them wrong.

xo,

Jenn


wild streak

I'm not sure why, but as I grow older, I identify with a rebel's heart.

If I'm being honest with myself, I've always identified with the weirdos.  I have never in my life been a cool kid.  As much as I cried myself to sleep in my teens years wanting to be that, I wasn't.  In a rebirth opportunity in college, I still wasn't.

I am different.  I am weird.

But at 37, I'm choosing to embrace that weird and be unapologetic for who I am.

I have shrunk back more times that I can count because I feel a need to be less than so others don't have to, but that total garbage,

It's okay to be weird.

It's totally okay to not be cute and petite, but to be the random accountant who wants an entire tattoo sleeve of the transformation God did in my heart.  It's okay for my hair to be any one of 97 different colors even at the same time.  And it's okay right now that I'm letting the color fade out because I can't pick any of the aforementioned colors.

In my heart, I know Jesus was a weirdo.  He's part divinity and part humanity.  Just him.  Any of what I imagine a thousand times, Jesus could have changed the course of the people in his life, and yet he was selective.  He picked the rare.  He picked the special.

He loved the weirdos.  He loves the rebel hearts.

Even me.

Bobbie Sue.

A few years ago during a heart procedure, I had this fear that I would one day be called to eulogize my grandmother.  I didn’t necessarily panic, but I felt wildly inadequate at the thought of having to do so.  Thankfully, my family didn’t ask me to, but because of who I am, I need to write down just a smidge of who she was to me. 

I don’t know how to love small.  I love big and fast and wild.  I love as though my heart will never be broken, with reckless abandon, and I get attached.  And after this weekend, I really get why.  Because of Her.  During her funeral this weekend, I felt weird.  It really felt like she was asleep and I just wanted her to wake up and offer her commentary on the whole event.  I can hear her say my name, “Jenn”, with a slight rasp and sweetness that I will never hear again, and I imagine her throwing her head back at all the people who wanted to just stop by and see her.  I could imagine her getting tickled and annoyed at the antics.  Her eyes would twinkle, and she would have said “Bless their hearts” a bunch, because she said that often, and meant the full southern-ism of the word.  If only we’d had a whole bunch of pound cake and coffee at the funeral home.  She would have welcomed everyone in with a hug and that sparkle of a smile and said, in that sweet tender voice, “come sit down a while”.

I have been so lucky to not have grief like this in at least 7 years.  Grief that is palpable and present and unwelcome.  Grief that wants to invade my dreams, and my smells, and my random unexpected moments.  Grief that embarrasses me and makes my vulnerabilities known.

A few hours after the funeral, my brother and I had a chance to go to the grave.  I had a camping chair.  It was odd and surreal, but I sat there for a few minutes and I allowed myself to feel some of the grief for the hole that it’s in my heart.  And then I got tickled thinking about my grandmother, so I did the Bobbie Sue thing to do, I made sure to re-introduce her to her new neighbors.

I have barely skimmed the surface of knowing what it will be like without her.  She was a Force.  Not that she was loud or dramatic, but she was this huge presence in my life.  She was the glue for our family.  She was the backbone, and the prayer warrior, and the caretaker, and the love -- all rolled into a 5’6” woman. (Who I discovered this weekend used to be closer to 5’9”.  This gave me hope that I’ll be daintiER in my old age. )

 Her pastor spoke at the funeral and nailed it on the proverbial head – she was the Proverbs 31 woman.  

A wife of noble character who can find?   She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

I can go through each of these twenty verses and tell you a story about Bobbie Sue because she embodied them all.  I fall into verse twenty-eight.  

At thirty-seven, I know that there were things my Grandmama could not do.  But at ten, and at twenty, and even at thirty, I was unaware of most of that.  She could do it all.  She could make you a dress, or make you a cake.  She was salve for wounds, either by her touch, or by something in her cabinets.  She worked hard, and didn’t sleep all that much. She prayed hard for her family, and God honored her prayers. There were many days that she waged spiritual warfare on behalf of her family and her church and friends. It will be extraordinarily hard to carry the mantle that she did.  Most of the time, she carried it as though it was weightless.  The older I got, the more I knew better.  That mantle wasn’t easy or light, but she never - not one time - resented carrying it.  She knew its weight and the power of that calling on her life, but what she knew more, was its reward. She knew that Heaven was sweeter than we could fathom or dream.

I wrote this on Facebook shortly after her passing, but it’s still just as a true -- Friday wasn’t just Good for her.  It was glorious.  In my finite brain, I imagine that in that instant after death, she opened her eyes and walked into the expanse of glory.  Her body restored and her hair bright red.  Family and friends met her and welcomed her.  Because I know her, I know that her arms were high rejoicing Her Savior and she was excited.  I can’t even begin to imagine the excitement of getting to see loved one that she hadn’t seen in years.  Her last brother, my Uncle Jr passed away just a few years ago and in my head, I think he’s the one that met her with a big hug and a “Hey Bob!”.

What my grandmother got, and what my grandmother instilled in my family and in me, was Jesus is everything.  From the stories she would tell about her childhood, to being a living testament of God’s grace and healing and provision, she loved The Lord.  And more importantly, she lived it.  If I’m being truly honest, she lived it with some sass.  She loved Jesus and served him up until her last breath.  She loved to worship, throw her hands in the air and praise The Savior for his deep, incomprehensible love for us. I remember shortly after I graduated from high school, twenty years ago, that my grandparents went on a mission trip to Mexico.  I remember thinking how silly that was that my 65 year old grandparents wanted to serve in Mexico, but that trip personified her character.  And while she never took another official mission trip, she treated everyone as though they were her mission.  She had a lot of yard sales, and worked hard to raise money for those who served all over the world.  She gave and gave and cooked and baked and gave some more to make sure that those who were doing what she could not, could do so well. I can’t even begin to tell you how many care packages and meals she made for people.  There was a span of a year that she took in four of us at different times after we had our wisdom teeth out.  She sat with the broken and dying and sick, and loved.  So unabashedly.  So deeply.  She prayed into the wee hours of the night.  She interceded for so many people and for her family.  She went to prison to visit a few.  She got up early and stayed up late.  (And according to every story I have ever heard or been privy to, she made a lot of biscuits.)

I don’t know that I will ever be able to adequately describe how much I loved my Grandmama, and how thankful I am to God for allowing me to be a part of her life.  (In spite of my joking, it was always her world, and it was a divine privilege to be a part of it.)  But I am not sad for her.  She lived an amazing life.  She was the best.

To be a fraction of the woman she was…is ten times the woman I am now. What a goal.

weak

More often than I ever share, I hate being weak.  I can’t really explain what happened to my brain around the age  of 19-20, but something fractured for me, and there are things about me, burdens that I carry that I will keep tight to the vest.

The last few months, I have cried myself to sleep with regularity.  And it sucks.  It is hard to carry a burden that you can’t do anything but cry out to God about.  (Sidenote: this is the part of being single that COMPLETELY BLOWS and any married person who tells me otherwise deserves to publicly apologize to their spouse for basically being a douche bag.  And YES, I said it.)  I have cried out to God A LOT.  I have begged, I have pleaded, I have praised, I have prayed.  I have sought more earnestly and more fervor than I think I ever have in my life.  I had a thought the other day while I was thinking about how I’ve prayed more this year that, it’s supposed to be that way.  Each year will force you to dig deeper into Jesus.  To want to be completely enveloped in the grace, not as some divine Calgon, but because you know it’s the only place of peace.  

And since I’m just being ridiculously transparent, I don’t burden my friends with this because I honestly doubt that they’ll be praying for me. 

I have lots of night where the magnitude of what I carry feels like an elephant on my chest.  

And what triggered my random crying spell at work today was something really stupid.  My brother is having a hard time finding NYC lotto tickets, which is part of our Christmas tradition.  And then I got the wind knocked out of my thinking about all of the changes that this Christmas will bring, and TEARS.

The kind of tears you can’t fight off.

The kind of tears that burn and sting and are full.

Because they’re heavy with a burden.

The only thing I can do is pray for a deep breath and cling to God’s promises.  He is Good.  He is FOR ME.  HE HAS NEVER ONCE FAILED ME.  AND I CHOSE TO TRUST HIM A LONG TIME AGO, even with my broken, hot mess life.  

I will bless the Lord at all times.  My lungs will expand with His Praise. Psalm 34:1 MSG

testing...

I have to wonder if this thing still works... Hmmmm....

:)

:: grace ::

One of the things that I have not done in far too long… is write.  For reasons that either sound too silly or sound too pretentious, I have not made time to write.

Actually, that’s a lie.  I just didn’t want to anymore.  At least not for a while.  I wanted to live my life.  To be present and engaged and all the other words the cool kids are saying.  So I did.  I have lived and laughed and loved and been on dates and felt feelings I forgot I could feel.  It’s all magical, except not actually magical.

But something clicked in my head the other day and I had the urge to write.  Not feel profound so much as just write what’s on my heart. 

The only thing I know to write about has been the exciting season I’ve been in for about the last eight months.

But before I can tell you how awesome this season has been, I need to talk about the nine months prior.

Last January, I felt God telling me to do something.  While I know better, I disobeyed.  I argued with God.  I neither listened nor acted.  I was a sullen teenager to God who has proved Himself over and over again although He does not have to do that.  Flat out, I just did not want to do what He was telling me to do. And the festering began. 

Disobeying God in any shape or form comes with consequences.  For me… I can best describe what I felt as being toxic.  Spiritually toxic.  I wanted to go to church and dreaded it in the same breath.  I found myself, silly as it sounds, just wanting to punch people.  (For the record, I have never hit anyone in my life, save one guy that tried to kiss me.  He’s happily married with 3 kids.  I lose.)  I digress.  The smallest things annoyed me.  Compounded on my disobedience, I was actively telling God that I didn’t want to do what he was telling me to do because I couldn’t see any good for me in the process. (HOW SELFISH IS THAT? I AM DUMB.)  So, I fought him for nine months.  I wish that my toxicity was limited to just time at church, but of course it wasn’t.  It bubbled over into work.  Into friends.  It tainted relationships.  One Wednesday night in mid-August, it got ugly, and for the first time… I really started to see the dark.  The ugly.  The festering.  

And for one last month, I told God no.  I was gonna do it my way.  (Which has worked out so well, right?? Good grief.) I wrestled and prayed and cried.  I didn’t want to be obedient.

I am not too proud to say that my humanity is frail, weak, and pretty stupid.

So one Friday in September, I heard the Lord (not audible) tell me to stop running and listen.  And I did.  I resigned in my heart that I could not keep on keeping on.  Mostly because I was going to decimate all the good things in my life.

And for a moment, all hell broke loose.  Things got ugly. My step-brother was hospitalized in a coma. The state was asking me to adopt the kiddos.  I felt alone. 

But right in the middle of the chaos, God gave me a Ezra 9:8 moment.  A peg in the wall.

Mid-January I was talking with a very close friend.  In the middle of our conversation, I realized that all those feelings I was having about church – they were gone.  Like gone-gone.  Like “I didn’t know they could disappear so fast” kind of gone. It was crazy.  Billy was dead.  I was out of the kiddos lives. Everything was upside-down and awesome all at the same time. 

But a very seismic shift had occurred.   

And then I went on a date with this guy and felt feelings and it was weird because I forgot I could feel them and wait my heart isn‘t broken and I’m not hideous and all these things.  LOTS OF FEELINGS.  And yes that giant run-on sentence was exactly how I felt.  And whatever clicked in my head caused me to grow a backbone where I’d been spineless.

And then crazy stuff started happening at work.  It was WILD.

In the last six months, I have seen grace in a way that I have never seen in my 36 years.  And because I’m at a loss for words… It has honestly been the coolest thing ever.  Specifically over the last three weeks, I have been reminded daily that grace is amazing. And scandalous.  And mind-boggling.  And too big for my finite brain to understand. And I’m good with that.

And I’m so excited to see what’s coming next! 

xoxo,

Jenn

:: footballs and afros ::

I’m not going to lie… I am EX.HUAS.TED as I type this.

The last few days have been so busy, but so much fun.  Friday night, I went to a nail-biter of a football game.  A family from church has two boys that played for one of the local teams (one a freshman, the other a senior).  As such, I’ve become an honorary member of the family attending most of the games this season. We were the visiting team (they played another local rival), and coupled with the drop in temperatures that our area has seen lately, we were all chilly and anxious.  The team played a less than steller first half, but came out of the locker room with a vengeance an in the last minute of the game, they took the lead.  Sadly, the defense couldn’t hold off the other team, and we lost in the last five seconds of the game.  

(The upside and probably completely unimportant detail to note is that because of the wins/losses of locals teams, three teams  -- including the two from Friday night – were forced to play this weird little Monday play-off game.  Our team came out the winner and now advance to region playoff.) It is important to note that this is the first time in 28 YEARS that this team has been more than 5-X in wins and regional playoff berth.  So exciting!

Saturday was my college homecoming and sorority’s 50th Celebration weekend. The older I get, I have anxiety about these kinds of events. I am generally excited until the day of then I’m covered in dread worrying about pettiness between old college acquaintances.  Sometimes my 35-year old anxiety resembles my 21-year old anxiety; it’s so attractive.  Sweetly enough, I had a good time.  My little group of girls had good seats and we managed to get tickled even during the most important parts of the dinner.  Thank you Lord for laughter!  Plus, it was really good to see some people, including a tap sister that I haven’t seen in nine years.  

Sunday, I headed back up to Cleveland for a reunion breakfast with friends.  This was the event I was most looking forward too.  We had a blast at breakfast for nearly two hours.  Good food and sweet friends are the perfect combination. 

Monday was work and while it wasn’t boring, it was work.  Last night after work, I picked up the girls to take them home.  Turns out they had a school event at one of the local McDonald’s.  They called it McTeacher’s night.  I will heretofore refer to it as: McWasteofMyTime.   There was a little Dia de Los Muertos face painting, balloon animals, and sundaes. Basically I saw a bunch of short people painted as skeletons carrying drippy ice cream sundaes holding balloon swords. BLESS.

The girls and I went home, ate dinner, and then made some paper turkeys.  I asked the girls what they were thankful for and Lyric gave me 47 things.  I’m not sure Lanaya even answered the question, but based on the colorful turkey feathers, I think she was thankful mostly for markers.  (Good choice!)

After bath time, I was picking out the girls hair.  Lyric has this MASSIVE fro for a six-year old, but it’s beautiful.  Sadly, her family doesn’t think so and they tell her often.  I told her that God gave her special hair, just for her, and that it was beautiful. 

I am just as guilty as anyone for letting the negativity around me skew the image I see in the mirror – to drive me to believe that I’m not enough in different areas of my life. Seeing her have this insecurity as six hurts my heart.  Jesus be.

xoxo,
Jenn