Sunday, March 30, 2014

merci à toi

Dear Brooke, thank you for coming up to me at random times just to say "I love you!" in that funny cute voice of yours.

Dear skirts and leggings, thank you for being there on those days I just really can't make myself wear pants.

Dear TeenPact, thanks for the ways you've impacted my life.  Thanks for the opportunity to impact others.

Dear tea, thanks ily.

Dear OHR, thanks for being great when I handed in my resignation.  I didn't feel at peace with the decision till then.  I'll miss you, but I'll be back.

Dear bed, thank you for always welcoming me back no matter how long I neglect you.

Dear Grant, thank you for giving me your outgrown-for-you, oversized-for-me sweaters.

Dear theatre friend, thanks for buying me food in the middle of the week because you knew I didn't have time to eat.

Dear Oklahoma, thank you for staying put so that holey moley I get to see you again this week.

Dear little princesses, thanks for letting me direct you for a little bit.  I love you, you precious kiddos, and I could not be more proud of the show you all put this weekend.

Dear time, thanks in advance for SLOWING THE CRAP DOWN A LITTLE?!

Dear theatre, thank you for the thrill you give that's like nothing else.  Don't think I'll ever get over you.

Dear midnight showers, thank you for existing and what would I do without you.

Dear friends who moved across the world/country, thanks for coming back.

Dear Jesus, thank you for being the only thing that gets me out of bed some mornings.

Dear packing, thanks for getting done eventually even though you stress me out.

Dear heart, thank you for feeling so deeply.  I know sometimes I think I can barely stand how much and how strongly you feel, but deep down, I am glad of it, you silly dear little thing.

Dear life, thank you for being the craziest, busiest, weirdest, most wonderful adventure.

Monday, March 24, 2014

stepping off the cliff

"I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature." -Jane Austen
From Northanger Abbey.  Me me me me me.  It's not always a good thing, but if I'm in, I'm all in.  It's backfired, because when you're all in, it's a lot harder to backtrack.  But when my heart is in something, I'll give you all I've got.

"Worry is like the smoke alarm that tells you, 'You have taken ownership of things that don't belong to you. Give that back to God.'" -author unknown
I was never good at decision-making.  I keep it on the down-low, but when I'm stressed, I feel my stomach clench up in knots and I can't shake the feeling that I'm running out of time.  My mom always challenges me--"do you feel at peace about it?"--because Jesus gives peace and it's real.  And surrendering is something I have to do all the time, not just daily, but hourly--because it's obvious when I keep trying to take back control of things I've already given to him.

"When deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." -Mary Karen Read
Forgiveness is a road I didn't expect to be so hard to walk down.  Mostly because I'd only ever expected to have to forgive people for wrongs they'd done directly against me.  I never thought about having to forgive for things people didn't mean to affect me, to forgive for things people did because of me, to forgive myself.

"Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken..."
-Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116
I've always loved this sonnet.  Learning a lot about what love is (and isn't).

"To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda or even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery; it means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist." -Emmanuel Célestin Suhard
One thing I've noticed is that when you follow Jesus, there may be absolutely no one on your side.  People might think you're mad.  It's radical.  If I'm living a life that would make sense without God, what and who am I really living it for?

"People often want the benefits of a low-commitment relationship with a conveniently distant God...however, how you see yourself mirrors exactly what you believe about what Jesus has done." -Aaron Dailey
Amen amen amen.  It hurts me to see people who hit on their own self-worth when Jesus already paid the ultimate price for you because he thinks you're worth it.  We push God away because we feel unworthy.  Here's the thing: if you feel inadequate, it's because you are.  Here's the other thing: Jesus is not.

"It's not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What's hard, she said, is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about." -Shauna Niequist
This is the crossroads I'm at.  Choosing what I want to strive for, and marking well the sacrifices I will most assuredly have to make to get there.  It's terrifying and exhilarating and I can't believe sometimes that I've been trusted with the responsibility of these decisions for myself.  Little old me.  And that just goes back to that first quote.  Because being willing to go the whole distance for something or someone you care about--that's the choice you have to make.  Empty every bit of your heart out, step off that cliff.  That's what counts.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

only the beginning of the adventure

Back in the beginning of January, a little Jenn was rushing around like a madwoman trying to figure out her life.  The next semester was quickly approaching, and low and behold, said Jenn didn't know if (gasp) she was going to school.  (As my friend Aubrey put it, "you dropped out? you're a drop-out? YOU'RE MY HERO." um.)

Through a host of last minute and thankfully God-directed decisions, I ended up deciding to take the semester off, booking a flight, and landing on Oklahoma soil all in the matter of...about a week.  It was crazy (and I'm bad at decision-making, ya'll).

So, the question you may very well be asking yourself right around now is...why?  You may have seen my visits with Carlotta and Petie, but that is not, in fact, the sole reason I went to Oklahoma.  I headed out there for staff training for an organization I've been involved with for--wow, five years now.  And that is (tadaaa) TeenPact.

Back in 2012, I staffed my first TeenPact class.  I'd attended the class for two years as a student and simply loved it, but as a staffer...well, I was still trying to get my footing.  My focus wasn't necessarily on the wrong things, but I still had a lot to learn.  We had a tiny class and my brother was there and our intern team was made of some of my favorite people.

Last year I went into my week of staffing TeenPact as an absolute wreck.  I don't mean this in a cocky way at all, but I've never really struggled with insecurity--yet I went into that week feeling more inadequate than I'd probably ever felt in my life.  My fists were almost clenched in disbelief that God could use me in this state, but wow, did he ever.  Jesus worked in and through me that week in ways I never would have anticipated or expected.  I remember talking to my mom on the phone and crying a little bit and telling her this was the first time I'd been happy in weeks.

I know, enough with the melodrama, but all that to show that TeenPact has had a huge impact on my life.  I always say TeenPact people are the best people, and it's true--I am never more inspired and encouraged than when around these passionate, humble people who are in love with Jesus and come together simply on the common ground of serving him.  (I'm like an awkward TeenPact fan girl, can't you tell?)

At this point in time you may well be wondering what TeenPact is exactly that I adore it so much.  I affectionately refer to it as government and Jesus, but a more thorough description would include that it's a hands-on, interactive, engaging class/camp to teach students about their state government, the political process, and having a Christian worldview in the midst of that--as well as the ability, opportunity, and responsibility that we have to be involved and be leaders, even now as young people.  If it sounds dry, no.  It's actually incredible.  We as staffers are often close to the age of the students, which is so humbling that God chose me to be in this position (trust me, I'm so under-qualified).  And that's cool because it means it's not about what I'm able (or unable) to do, but about what God can do with/through/despite me.

Anyway.  When I applied to staff this year, it was kind of on a "we'll see, who knows" basis.  I didn't know if I'd get accepted again, mostly because I'm getting old as far as TeenPacters go.  When I got my acceptance letter back in November, I was pleasantly surprised.  It wasn't until about a week later that I opened the letter again and saw I'd also been asked to travel staff.  Which means, instead of just doing the class here in my own state, I would travel to multiple other states to staff those classes as well.  Needless to say, I was thrilled, but there was also no way I could do school and be gone sporadic weeks, plus it also entailed getting to Oklahoma for staff training.  I kind of wrote it off until Christmas break, when my mom asked me if I'd for sure decided not to travel staff.  "Sigh. Yeah."  "Are you going to regret that?"  "...YEEESS."

So we all know how that story ended, thus the crazy trip to Oklahoma (GUYS I REALLY LOVE OKLAHOMA) and the college drop-out (not really, because although I love what I'm doing now, I'm also so pumped to go back to school in the fall because I love what I'm studying).

Staff training itself was an interesting week, it being my first time but my third year staffing.  I was sick the whole time which was rough and made me anti-social, but I also got to reconnect with some of the greatest people and meet a lot more from all over the country, which is cool because even though I won't staff with the majority of those people...we're a team.  I love knowing more TeenPact people this year than ever before.  And I don't think you'll go anywhere else to be trained for a position and be told that you are nothing, because Christ is everything.

My first class was a few weeks later in February, in Virginia.  Virginia has two classes, and I got assigned to the first one.  At first I was kind of bummed, because I knew the majority of staffers on the second week.  Turns out God knows better than me, go figure, because I wouldn't have traded my team for anything.  Richmond is where the TeenPact main office is, so people from the office came to see us/the class during the week, which was nerve-wracking as well as exciting.  The first week was also the smaller one, so it was less stressful logistically.

There were challenges including deathly untalkative students (makes it so hard to connect!) and smelly lodges (seriously bro) and some awkward transitions, but man oh man.  What a week.  I don't think I've laughed so hard in a long, long time.  Our staff team had so much fun together, and maybe it's me being older and more comfortable as a staffer back for year three, but I clicked as friends with my staff team in a way I never had before.  So, so grateful for that wonderful, hilarious group of people.

my Virginia team

My second class was the first week of March in Missouri.  Mind you, I've been driving to these classes (without a smart phone) and boy oh boy have there been adventures.  I had to get to Jefferson City a day early because of impending doom (aka an ice storm), which was so sweet because it meant an extra day of hanging out with my team (even if I did miss half of the swing dancing event I was at, sniff).

This team had my heart, man.  And the class  I've never before seen students come, day one, so eager and ready to learn, not just from the class, but from Jesus.  They were so earnest, that's the word I keep coming back to.  While, again, there were challenges and undeniable rough patches...God was incredibly present.  I've never seen a class with so many stories of God meeting people and making himself known, and that was incredible to be a part of.  And my staff team--oh, heart.  They inspire me a lot.  I was the oldest one and yet felt like I had so much to learn from each one of them, and saying goodbye was the worst.  It's funny, because Missouri was another class I was just so-so excited about (what's even in Missouri?), but those people...they did good things in my life.

my Missouri team

RANT TIME: having friends all over the country and saying goodbye with an attached "I don't know when I'll see you again" is theeee worst.  So rough.  Dang.

So.  Yeah.  That's the first half of my season.  I have at least two more classes, maybe three, and I'm so so grateful this is where God has me during this part of life--it's seriously the best decision I've ever made.  I can't wait to see how he continues to work, and I'm so glad this adventure is for and about him, not me.  And this is only the beginning.

Peace out.

(photos from staff training, VA1, and MO, in the most confusing order ever.)
(my post title is also the title to an epic song on the Narnia: LWW soundtrack.)
(bless, praise be, bro, God bless America, oh my joodness. there I said it.)