Tag Archives: spirituality

Living in the middle of the story

It’s always easier to write about completed journeys.

And I love reading about them! Ben was sick . . . now he’s healthy. I was miserable . . . now I’m happy. I was querying my novel . . . now I’m published and a movie of my book is being made AS WE SPEAK (not).

I was . . . now I am.

But when you’re in the midst of something, sometimes it’s hard to even know how to talk about it with others–or even to yourself. There’s not always a particular lesson you can share. A particular feel-good point you can make. There’s definitely no satisfying conclusion. So how do you talk about journeys you’re in the middle of?

I think it requires a particular kind of vulnerability to say, I haven’t arrived. There are no guarantees I even will. In fact, the arrival point may have been a mirage to begin with.

But I find that when I can be honest about where I am, there’s a kind of freedom.

Because, isn’t that life? A story that’s never complete? A story with twists and turns you can’t see around?

Does the road straighten out ahead–does it dip, or climb? You just don’t know.

I want to get better about talking about that–the uncertainty, the lows, and yes, the sometimes sadness.

After all, who am I keeping up appearances for?

Myself, maybe. At the root of it. There’s a version of myself I happen to really like–confident, creative Jenna. The Jenna who’s getting stuff done, making healthy meals, finishing manuscripts, putting herself out there, connecting with people at heart-level, eating sushi, crying when a good song plays and devouring incredible books. And overall, having energy for it all–for my family, my friends, my creative projects. That’s the essence of it–somehow who’s overflowing with abundance at a soul-level.

Is that me? Yes.

The true me, at least. The me I was made to be.

Is that me today? Doesn’t feel like it.

I suppose there’s a fine line between keeping up appearances and striving to be your best self. Between being true to ourselves and honest about our particular point in the road. Between not questioning the essence of who we are–but allowing ourselves to be complex and nuanced and messy and unresolved humans.

Without God in the picture, this is where my thoughts devolve into a big mush.

Thankfully, God.

Which I think leads me here:

Ultimately, I am a work in progress–His work. Which I participate in every day. He has made me new–but I am not perfect. He has given me an essence–creative, an enjoyer of things, a lover of people–but I will not realize that fully every day. Ultimately, that’s okay. Because though I am weak, He is strong. Though I am lost, He is not. Though I can’t see the path, He can. Though I can’t see the purpose to feeling stalled-out, He has promised to make everything purposeful for those who love him. I am convinced that He will waste nothing–not a single tear or stalled-out minute–but will use it all (even my imperfection) to wind my story more tightly into His. Which is a story of salvation, redemption, beauty after ashes, strength in weakness. A story that ends around a dinner table with aged wines and delicious, rich food, laughter instead of tears, happy faces and full stomachs. With family.

So I’m on a path. I have no idea what life holds for me–or even the next hour. But I do know how the story ends, and the One who’s guiding it.

That’s the arrival point. Not feeling happy again (though I hope to), not getting published (though I hope to), not achieving this or that . . . but ending it all around that table where I’ll look into the eyes of the One who loves me best and say, ‘here I am.’ The place I was headed all along, even when it felt like I was sitting still.

It’s okay that I’m sad right now. It’s okay that I’m hitting bumps in the road with my creative process. I don’t know what part it plays, but I have a God who turns the otherwise pointless, the sad, and even the tragic into something new.

And I can’t wait to get to his dinner table.

Though I plan on enjoying all the dinner tables on the way there.

Just as I Am

Driving to work this morning, husband and toddler at home, window rolled down to enjoy these first warm days of spring and the blue sky filling the windshield, I was transported back to a moment.

A moment with my sister in the late summer of 2013, ambling through the town of Eagle River while on vacation, just the two of us under the warm August sun. As we walked the tree-lined neighborhood streets, bells echoed out from an old church.

Just as I am, without one plea
but that thy blood was shed for me
and that thou bidst me come to thee
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

“That’s was Poppop’s favorite hymn,” said my sister, and I silently thought about our grandpa and his life on Shellpot Drive, where I knew him as the quiet man who ate a sandwich for lunch every day, trimmed his toenails in the den bathroom, and played Scrabble, all while believing that Jesus would come back in glory before he died. Someone played Just as I Am at his funeral.

The church bells echo around us with this tune, maybe mournful, maybe joyful.

Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt
fightings within and fears without
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

There are moments in life when, unexpectedly, with no warning, beauty hits you. You didn’t plan on it, or seek it out, but there you are in the middle of your day, maybe driving somewhere, maybe walking, maybe looking out a window, maybe hearing that song that dovetails with the moment like they were predestined for each other–and suddenly time is suspended and your heart is filled to bursting.

A melody–the warm orange of the sun against your closed eyelids–the friendship of a sister–the knowledge that death comes to all–the strange ache of hope disappointed and hope fulfilled.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thy love unknown
hath broken every barrier down;
now, to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.