How to even begin?
I started senior year, and thus, not a lot got pumped out by the writing machine. I never really was much of a writing machine anyway–more of a writing creature. I do, however, need to keep the creature in check or it goes wild. It’s sporadic. It does nothing or everything. It’s done dumb things in the past.
What a pessimistic look: no conscious and doomed to do wrong. I may be unconscious, I may have sinful nature, but when I get frustrated with my lack of growth, I really haven’t been giving it into God’s hands, after all, have I? I am angry because I’m not going at my intended pace. Trusting God means going at His pace, which may not be the pace I prefer, since often it’s the pace that reveals I need Him and can’t do stuff myself.
As someone I love often reminds me, “We are not powerful enough to ruin God’s plans. Don’t give yourself too much credit.”
I do do wrong. But I am also deeply afraid of doing wrong. And I’m so tired of it.
So. Senior year.
It’s different for everyone I’m finding. Some hate it, some love it, some say it’s stressful, some say it’s the most fun year of their lives. For me, it’s a “this is alright” mixed with stress and fun. I’ve been able to balance my schedule for the most part.
It’s not even always a busy schedule with watching kids at church for work, meeting people, and doing school. I feel busy because in general, I’m finding I busy my mind with placing the unnecessary savior complex onto my back–often when people around me didn’t ask for it. I had one week in particular though, where God said “Enough for now,” clearly to me.
On one Thursday or Friday, I’d been unable to make it to some plans last-minute because one couldn’t make it, I was exhausted, and my school was still unfinished. I had to stay home and felt guilt for not meeting the one friend still able to come. I dramatically pouted over algebra 2, showered while praying God forgive my somewhat lazy cancelling, and thanking Him I had time to rest that night. After school, I felt better, despite guilt, and somehow was able to go to my favorite restaurant to eat my favorite thing after a long while of not having gone out to eat.
Every day had had something, including Saturday, where I was working an extra day to watch toddlers at church. I love my job, since the kids make me laugh, and the only hard part for me so far is waking up early (Plus, goldfish crackers are my favorite childhood snack. I may or may not steal some while I’m working). They remind me of being little and running around with my tiny best friend. They remind me of what it was like to live without too much fear. They have their faults, but also give me peeks into a lavish courage and a joy in simple things.
But, if I don’t have energy, I don’t really feel fully present at things. A week of extroverting (even as an ambivert) and little sleep with all the things to do had worn me down. I went in, watched the kids with a team of sweet people working with me and my frayed patience. Then it was home for lunch, a 15 minute nap, and back out into the world (or at least my friend Kara’s car) to help with a middle school girls’ mother-daughter craft night. I ran already on 5 hours of sleep from the night before and no caffeine, so needless to say, I was tired to the point of crying and pretty sure this is what it meant to spend myself too much.
Another friend’s words from earlier in the week rang in my ears:
“Be careful with stretching yourself too thin. I learned that lesson the hard way.”
I sat in the passenger seat, by my pregnant mentor and friend. Piles of art canvasses shuffled and mason jars of pens and brushes clinked in the backseat. We chatted. I expressed my fatigue.
And, somewhat surprised by myself as I thought aloud, I expressed my wonder.
Going to my favorite restaurant, and that restful evening watching a sermon from my Slovak church in my pajamas on Thursday or Friday was a wonder. I woke up each weekend morning, exhausted still, but God mercifully pulled me through with the idea that I didn’t deserve to eat good food, watch a good sermon, go to bed, or sleep well. They weren’t just nice things anymore to make me happy. They were images of His grace.
I’ve been looking daily at God as my scary boss in the sky, and seeing trials as the only way He teaches. When all along, He’s been telling me He is gentle and abundant. My heart hungers for so much good. Good for myself, for others, and I pressure myself to fix everything, be there for everyone, and bear the burdens as training my heart. I was pushing to become better so much. I was given gifts I’d desired so long, and still hungered for better. I desire so very much to be better.
And I hated that I’m not. And now I’m starting to love it. Because God’s teaching me how to go at His pace instead of mine–in both sin struggles and in sweet ministry.
I am a work in progress. I am not superman. I am not Jesus.
He’s able to teach me by being gentle? By being kind? By letting me eat barbecued shrimp, refreshing me in my small group and with friends over coffee? By running in the rain with people I love, by letting me laugh at weird childhood stories over a video call?
By wanting to be with me?
I’m allowed to see Him as giving me something that makes me happy? I’m allowed to see Him giving me happy things as a way of showing me He’s enough?
I imagine Him smiling at me and nodding as I bolt for the playground, and when I’m sleepy and tired and going home, giving Him big thank-you hugs. Or being a selfish toddler, saying I want to stay playing. Either way, He takes me home. He lets me have what time I do because He loves me. Either way He doesn’t take His eyes off me. Either way, He’ll teach me.
I arrived at the mother-daughter craft night, and immediately saw another high-schooler friend of mine there, ready to help. She smiled and hugged me. I spent the next two hours laughing with girls and moms, eating sweets, and creating something purely for the joy of creating–no pressure to give it to anyone, or art challenges given to myself. Just the words God used. I walked outside with everyone on a sunny evening, to the hostess’ large, farm backyard to see their pet goats and smile remembering Slovak petting zoos and folk farms from elementary school fieldtrips. I pet a farm cat, giddy at its friendliness and soft fur.
God has to open my eyes, mind, and soul to wonder in the small things of grace. My youth pastor’s wife told me she found God’s grace in prepackaged, pre-sliced, pre-peeled apple slices at the grocery store on sale–it just meant she didn’t have to cut, peel, and pack them for her kids’ lunches herself. I find it in a refreshing shower, a nap, and/or a good cup of tea; in a soul-replenishing conversation with someone close, and when things click in my Bible with my heart. When I can act like a child and do something crazy like run around with a stick for an hour with a Kan Jam can as a suit of armor.
I’m amazed I can enjoy abundance, where my heart is hungering for things that in the end won’t sustain. I sometimes get what I desire and still yearn because I’m needing filling with the best right now. And the thing is, that just shows I can’t enjoy things apart from God, because they aren’t the best. He is. I can enjoy things with Him, but apart, they don’t fill. I need to recognize the good blessings will pour out into others by HIS hand. It’s okay. He can teach me to breathe. He can fill me with Him on the nights I’ve felt lacking and missing of things I’m hoping for and the days when I don’t know why I feel joy and worry it’ll vanish. I can ask Him without being scared He’ll scold me for even thinking of asking. On a walk when I asked Him how He’d sustain me exactly, He whispered, quite clearly, this:
He sees you too, frens. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, He is on the playground, keeping an eye on you and desires to be with you, to push you on swings and catch you at the bottom of slides…and to bring you home in the end.
Special thanks: Kara, Danette, my parents, Caleb, and many others for speaking truth into my heart over the past few weeks. Whether you meant to or not. God is using all the words.
- 1 Kings 19 (God’s gentle character and calling to Elijah to take hope and find sustenance with Him helped me so much the past few weeks)
- Rain by Kings Kaleidoscope (I am enough because of Christ. He is enough because He is GOD. I came across this song just before some stress overwhelmed me. It felt like something God sang over me [little wonder].)
- Willow by Arcadian Wild (He’ll carry us when we’re weary. He gave me this diddy and this band’s sweet music on a hard night of need [little wonder].)
- A talk on spiritual food with ya boy Joe (I love his talks much–they always find me when I need them [little wonder]. And this really gives me a good metaphor to keep in mind.)
- Something that makes me happy (Owl City, oreos, the words, memories of looping this thing again and again when I was 13 and smiling the whole time.)
- This post by my friend, Bethany:
“Here, friends, is something lovely. Everywhere in my life that God has moved me, He has given me a red tree outside my thinking window. Its like His gift to me. ‘I know this is your favorite,’ I imagine Him saying. ‘so I’ll set it right here where you gaze when we chat or when you’re thinking about hard and beautiful things.’
When we moved here to Wisconsin, this summer, I thought how good it was that He’d made the move clear to us in so many other ways since I just had this little green tree in my front yard. So imagine my delight when the leaves began to change…”
[Today, as I write this first draft, I not only happened to discuss the story of Nehemiah in a time of prayer and study with a friend, but she never knew I’d been studying it by myself on a whim. I also managed to get enough school done yesterday so I could take a 45 min nap, shower, and finish work so I could write this.
Little, blessed wonder.]
Keep on keepin’ on, frens, and don’t fight alone because you’re not alone. You got others and most of all, God is guarding you.