Thursday, June 27, 2013

THOUGHTS | surrender & stuff

alternately titled: I don't always have deep thoughts, but when I do, they come in bucketloads.

I wanted to write on a deeper level some of the things that happened at National Convention (and since), not only externally but also inside me.  You see, NC was a strange week for me.  Oh, it was a good week to be sure, but...something was different.  I've tried to explain this to multiple people and the best way I've come up with is that it was just realer.  More grounded in reality.

I went to NC three years ago, after my first year as a TeenPact student.  18-year-old two-time-staffer Jenn is a lot different than 15-year-old first-timer Jenn was, turns out.  I feel like camps like this (and for me three years ago, this is definitely true), so much of it is a "camp high."  So much of what you learn is theoretically great ideas about serving Christ and living for him and loving other people and sharing the gospel and so on and so forth.  But what felt realer about this year was that everything was more practical, more applicable to me.  It wasn't like "oh yeah that's a great, mind-blowing concept" but more like "wow that's actually exactly what God's been doing in my life over the past one...three...six months."  It was real life stuff.

And honestly that kinda stunk, because those real life things hurt and are really hard.  I realized about halfway through that I went to NC with the wrong attitude--I went to escape reality.  And instead, God brought me face-to-face with it.  Because not all my problems are going to get fixed with a camp high.  And instead of that camp high, NC turned out to be more of a continuation and confirmation of things God has already been showing me, things I've been grappling with for quite awhile.

Let me give you an example.  When I staffed my TeenPact state class, Jesus showed up in, well, subtly big ways (he can do that, ya know).  I remember talking to my mom on the phone at one point when she called to check up on me and saying, "This is the first time I've been happy in...weeks."  One of the passages God showed me that week, and that he has continued to press on my heart since, is Philippians 3:7-9.
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him..."
The very first night at NC, during I think pretty much the first speech, what does the speaker read?  Philippians 3:7-9.  I mean, I have to laugh.  Good one, God.  But stuff like those verses--it's so easy to be excited when hearing that in a theoretical sense, like "yay I'd totally be willing to give up everything for Jesus!" and yet much, much harder and much more profound when the rubber hits the road and you can point to your own life and say "and this is what I've lost for the sake of Christ, this is what I've had to give up for him."  Because it's rarely (ever) pretty or easy, and it makes you decide whether your faith is actually real.

Also, I can't even express how utterly humbling it is to be asked to a position of leadership, small as it may be (being a dorm leader), feeling so personally unqualified and yet recognizing that God doesn't need any qualifications from me in order to work.  It's not about me, it's never been and never will be about me (thank goodness).  Seeing the way God prepared me to serve in that capacity at NC even through my state class was incredible.  I am reminded again and again and again, most gratefully, that God uses broken vessels.

So yeah.  Did I miss having a camp high?  Kinda.  It's funny when people all around you are like "WOO JESUS" and you're like "guys no, why don't you understand, this is hard stuff, man, this is real life, don't you get it, are all your lives easier than mine, what am I doing wrong??"  But Jesus met me right there.  And I mean, right there.  It took a lot of prodding for me to open my eyes to it (because if I'm being honest, a lot of times it feels good to sit and throw a nice ol' pity party for myself), but it turns out he was there all along.

It's really been since NC that I've been able to process more of what God was showing me that week and loosen my grip on some things I was still unwilling to lose for him, unwilling to let God have control of.  Remember back when I told you all that I was Jonah?  I can't tell you how many times God has pointed that out to me, how every time I want to be angry because I've had to lose things for Jesus (this is a theme in my life right now, if you couldn't tell), he whispers, "You're yelling about a plant that isn't even your plant."

Dude--the perspective that gives me.  Who am I to complain and be angry when God kills a plant that isn't even my plant in the first place?  I somehow thought that going to Nineveh gave me rights to that plant, but that is so completely selfish and self-centered and blind.  And in that case, my whole life is a plant that doesn't belong to me, and who am I to tell God off for doing with it what he pleases?  Because ultimately, my purpose is to bring him glory, and goodness knows he knows more than I how I can be used for that end.  And ultimately, anything I do outside of his will is so terribly empty and meaningless.  And because of realizing all that, I can honestly say that I am content with where he has me.  I feel like it's nonsensical or almost wrong of me to be content in situations where the world says I should be still throwing that pity party, but I don't need anything but Jesus, and that has become more real to me now than it's ever been.

I'm not saying it isn't still really, really hard, and that being content isn't often a difficult choice, a daily choice, that I have to make (and one I still fail to make a lot--I'm writing this on a good day, obviously, hah).  Surrender isn't a one-time thing, I've learned, and I still sit sometimes, tapping my fingers and wondering when it will stop being hard, when it will make sense.  There's a quote, the source of which I am completely uncertain:
"There are two types of waiting. There's the waiting you do for something you know is coming, sooner or later--like waiting for the 6:28 train, or the school bus, or a party where a certain handsome boy might be. And then there's the waiting for something you don't know is coming. You don't even know what it is exactly but you're hoping for it. You're imagining it and living your life for it. That's the kind of waiting that makes a fist in your heart."
I can't tell you how many times I've raised that fist at God and shaken it because I'm sad and confused and lonely and angry.  And lest you mistakenly think I have it all together, there are times when I have to set down my phone and hide my hands in my lap so no one sees that they're shaking from an emotion I can't even identify, and there are times I have to slip away from the crowd into the bathroom to get out a little cry, and there are times I come home alone, alone, late at night and fall on my floor in tears and shout that I just want to understand.  Almost daily I feel super friendless and experience an achiness deep down that you can't get rid of just by taking a deep breath.  Sometimes I have to repeat truth to myself over and over and over even if it's hard to believe it in that moment.

That's another thing that hit me at NC.  You know that verse that is repeated to us often at difficult times when people are trying to give comfort about God being in control?
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11
One of the things that I was confronted with at NC is that I simply didn't believe that verse.  I was like "nope God, you don't know what you're doing, this is definitely harming me, how is this giving me a future, you're wrong." (hi my name is Jenn and sometimes I have a really bad attitude.)  And so many of the things I've had to overcome in finally surrendering my hold on things involves asking myself the question, "do I really believe God is who he says he is?" Because he says he's good, and he says he's love, and he says things work for the good of those who love him, and he says to delight in him and he'll give me the desires of my heart, and he says he knows the plans he has for me, and that they are good plans.  And it's funny, because most people don't take the time to read the rest of Jeremiah 29, which is God saying he has plans for the Israelites while they're in exile.

How about Job?  It's not like he ever understood why and it's not like he didn't have pressure all around him telling him to cave in and it's not like he didn't lose everyone and everything dear to him and it's not like even after things were better, anything could exactly replace what he'd lost.  But what is his response?
"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him." Job 13:15
Like, gee.  I don't know, that may sound depressing, but sometimes encouragement comes in unexpected places.  And sometimes peace and joy and a deeper realization of Christ comes through circumstances that are at last dire enough to wake us up to how helpless and broken we are without him, and how wholeness can never, ever come apart from him.

I hate that it takes being in the hardest place of your life to make theoretical head knowledge like this into real, living, breathing, soul-searching, heart-pounding, life-giving belief.  I hate that it takes some of our biggest failures, our biggest weaknesses, our desperation at the end of ourselves, to finally, finally come to Jesus.  But I am blessed beyond measure that Jesus has been there waiting for me and loving me the whole time.
"The gospel enabled me to see that:
because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak;
because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose;
because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one;
because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary;
because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail."
-Tullian Tchividjian
Jesus is so good to me.  I have literally nothing in life to complain about.  Life is good, and when life isn't good, God is good, and I'm learning and clinging to the fact that that's all that matters.

whew. the end.
xo, Jenn

ps--you guys are great to put up with all my deep thoughts, but life is weird (what is life) and this stuff is like whoa to me, and it's stuff I can't keep quiet about.

pps--I met at NC these two really sweet and wonderful and awesome girls (Anna and Abi) who I had previously only known over the interwebs. how cool is that? pretty cool, I'd say. I've said it before and I'll say it again--TeenPact people are the best people (blogging people are pretty rad, too).

ppps--I just want to throw out there that if any of this resonates with you or if it stirs something inside you or if there's deep struggly things for you too, shoot me an email? I'd love to pray for you, like you don't even know, or just talk or whatever because trust me, you're not the only one. if this is you, just remember it's me too. let's be clueless together. kthanksbye.


  1. Beautiful pictures lady! NC is my favorite place..

  2. This really really stirred my heart.

    Not that I'm really at any hard place right now, because I'm not. But just reading your words, and seeing the beautiful heart you have for following Christ, and seeing God's amazing goodness a little clearer THROUGH you is.. a blessing. and convicting too.

    THANK YOU for writing this.

  3. Wow, I love what is on your heart...beautiful, interesting and inspiring thoughts!
    Lovely pictures too by the way :)

  4. "...feeling so personally unqualified and yet recognizing that God doesn't need any qualifications from me in order to work."

    You know what you said up there about finding encouragement in unexpected places? Mine happens to come from this great blog I visit sometimes. That's the exact thing I needed to hear tonight.
    I'm glad you shared all of this. It touched on a lot of things that I think have been bothering me deep down. Weird, annoying, nameless things. It's made me think. So thanks for that.

    I'm praying for you, and I hope you'll do the same for me. I'm realizing that I have a tendency to get caught up on the little problems and insecurities I have and I just need to move on sometimes.

    Wow. Gee thanks, Jenn. Way to make me get all emotional and stuff. Haha!

  5. yes yes yes. thank you so much, jenn. i needed this. i'll probably reread this next time i have a meltdown which, judging by the way my week has gone, it should happen tomorrow.

    Sometimes I have to repeat truth to myself over and over and over even if it's hard to believe it in that moment.

    i've been struggling with this. over and over i have to repeat truth. and i feel like i'm mocking myself or whoever said it because i.dont.believe it.

    i'll be praying for you. it's be amazing if you could do the same.

    so yeah. just. wow. thank you for sharing your heart and opening my eyes up.


  6. I've struggled with similar feelings in the past... wanting those "highs" but getting reality -not necessarily bad!- instead. God's been teaching me that my Christianity isn't all about happy feelings and being pumped up, but about truly serving and glorifying Him, even when I don't feel all religious or like life is good, you know? Sure harder than I thought, but hey, He promised that His power is perfected in my weakness.

    Very encouraging, well written post. Thanks so much :)

  7. this post is so full of honesty and wonderful truths.. thank you for opening your heart and reminding us of such beautiful God breathed words.

  8. Oh my goodness, how much I needed this. You have no idea. I'm so thankful God put these words on your heart. Thanks, Jenn. I may just send you an email soon.

  9. AHHHHHHHHHHH. THIS POST WAS SO FLIPPIN MUCH OF WHAT I NEEDED RIGHT NOW. this is the part where I go and email you.

  10. Thanks for sharing your heart. This was so encouraging because I've sort of been struggling with some of the same things. It is SO nice to know that I'm not the ONLY one who has been going through those things. ;) Makes me think of a verse: For He knows the way I take, when He has tried me I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10 :) Thanks again!!

  11. Hey, love your blog, and I especially love this post. It came at a good time. I just thought I'd let you know that I nominated your post for Yet Another Period Drama blog's "I'd Like to Share" :)

  12. AHHHH LITERALLY JUSSSST SEEING THIS! Love you sweet girl. My NC story is very similar to yours. I didn't get a high that week, but it has steadily carried over into my normal life. Miss you! Good gosh why does Ohio have to be so far away?!?


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