Struggle Bus

There’s a phrase circulating popular culture known as the “struggle bus.” It’s used when someone is having a rough day or just can’t get things right.

Struggle Bus [struhg-uhl • buhs] noun – a metaphor for a difficult situation, used when things aren’t going your way

Sentence: Man, I’ve been riding the struggle bus all day long; I haven’t been able to get anything right!

Well, folks, not only am I riding the struggle bus, I am driving it. I have wrecked it (literally) and I have popped it’s tires (literally), yet I just can’t seem to get off.

I don’t know what God’s trying to teach me in this “real job-less, boyfriend-less, kinda lonely, car destroying, soon to no longer be living on my own” phase of life, but I wish He’d just go ahead and teach it to me already.

Tonight, I am just so tired. Of uncertainty. Of waiting. Of unexpected problems. Tonight, I want to know why I can’t get my life together or why I can’t seem to drive a car.

Yes, I know God’s timing and will are best. Yes, I know that He is good and I trust Him. I am far from losing my faith, but I still can’t help being frustrated.

In April, I wrote about how I was broken into pieces. In August, I wrote about how I was rejected. Today, I am struggling.

 

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Rejection

Last week, I found THE internship that would make my dreams come true. It was in the perfect place. It was in the right field. It even came with the possibility of a full-time job at the beginning of the year. (It was even paid!) I didn’t apply for the internship; they approached me. I had nowhere to live, but the perfect place with great amenities came along (and the move in date was even the right date).

I thought that maybe, just maybe, God was finally putting everything in place for me to move from this season of waiting. I thought that maybe He was finally turning this time of “what-ifs” and “I don’t knows” into something new and exciting.

But today, I was rejected.

I am discouraged. It doesn’t seem to matter how many jobs I apply for, how out-of-this world my resume or cover letter is, or how qualified I am for the position: the answer is always “no.” That’s disheartening.

I’m not the only one who’s faced rejection, though. On my way home from work, I was reminded of an article I read a few weeks ago by my favorite author, Robin Jones Gunn.

When Robin was my age, she wanted to be a missionary. In fact, she applied for a full-time missions position as a laundry supervisor in Kenya.

She was rejected.

Instead, she worked with the girls in her church’s youth group. It was there that she met her husband AND was inspired to write a book, which turned into several books, which turned into The Christy Miller series, which turned into several series.

I have personally seen how The Christy Miller series had an impact on my life, my best friend’s life, and even the life of a dear friend who is currently serving as a missionary overseas.

When I was in middle school, I devoured Robin Jones Gunn’s Christy Miller series. I didn’t just read these books once or twice, either; I picked up them up again and again. In fact, this 22-year-old college graduate still picks those books up from time to time. Christy, Katie, Todd, Doug and Tracy were much more than just characters — they were role models and friends.

My friends and I aren’t the only ones whose lives were impacted by Robin’s books. Robin tells this story in the article:

As a result of writing so many books I was invited to teach at an international writer’s conference in England. At lunch the first day I met a young woman named Wambura. She quietly told me that she had read the Christy Miller books when she was in high school.

“You did?” I was intrigued. “Where did you grow up?”

“I’m from Nairobi, Kenya. Your books were very popular with the girls at my school.”

My eyes grew wide. “You’re from Kenya? I have to tell you something. When I was your age, I applied for a position as a Laundry Supervisor in Nairobi.”

“So you have been to Nairobi.”

“No. I was turned down for the position. I was crushed. I thought that was the best way I could serve God.”

Wambura smiled. She spoke a truth over me that day that changed my life.

“Robin, you did not need to come to Africa to wash our clothes. God sent your stories and they have washed our hearts.”

I may never write an award-winning Christian young adult fiction series, but I do know that He has better plans for me, just like he had better plans for Robin.

So even though I am discouraged, I am encouraged.

I know that God has me where I am right now for a purpose. He will use me in HIS way and in HIS timing. His plan is far greater than mine.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Broken pieces

This semester, I’m taking a photography class. During one of my weekend excursions to Raleigh, I grabbed my friend, Bruce, and drug him to an old (slightly sketchy), abandoned warehouse for a photo shoot. Not to be outdone, he insisted on taking some photos too. We found this smashed mirror on the ground, and got some really good pictures with it.

This is one of my favorite ones that he took of me. Not only is it a decent picture, but it also symbolizes my life right now.

Broken Pieces

Like this mirror, I feel like I’m broken.

I’m tired — no, I’m exhausted. I’m too busy. I’ve had too many late nights with not enough sleep. I have a million things to do, between school, work, my internship, applying for jobs, putting together a portfolio, traveling and (sometimes) attempting to throw sleep in there.

I’m worried and stressed. I graduate in 17 days, and my life doesn’t look at all like I hoped or planned it would two and a half weeks before graduation.

I have no job — I don’t even have prospects on one. Most of my friends have accepted job offers or have their plans for graduate school all lined up, but me? Nope. I’m the lame-o that’s moving home indefinitely after graduation. I have big dreams, and I don’t know if I’m shooting too high for a new college graduate or if I just need to be more patient.

Not only that, but the Christian university mantra of “ring by spring” didn’t work either. No husband. No fiancée. Nope… not even a boyfriend — and, yet again, no prospects. It seems like every time I turn around, so-and-so got engaged and so-and-so is pregnant and so-and-so finally started dating that boy she’s liked for months. While I’m incredibly happy for each and every one of those friends, it’s hard not to accidentally let the big green jealousy monster creep into my heart from time to time.

I feel like a failure: I’ve fallen short of practically all of my goals, I’m an awful person and my pride is broken.

I’ve allowed these failures to cause me to worry. I’ve turned my attention inward and begun focusing on selfish desires. The worst part is, I’ve let all these things choke out my time for Jesus.

Now, any good blogger’s next paragraph would read something like this:

Over the past week, however, I’ve really worked to realign my heart and mind with Christ. It’s a process, but I’m coming along–slowly, but surely. Throughout all this, God has shown up and saved the day. I may not know what lies ahead, but He’s completely turned my attitude around and everything is hunky dory.

However, I’m going to be perfectly honest: I HAVE really worked to realign my heart and mind with Christ, and it IS a process… a very slow and sometimes not so steady. I’m still tired. I’m still worn down. I’m still worried.

Something I have always struggled with is the difference between having a “head knowledge” and a “heart knowledge” of all things God-related. For example, I know He is [fill in the blank with your favorite “God adjective:” sufficent, sovereign, good, etc.], but often times, I don’t feel that way.

I’ve been listening to  Together for the Gospel Live II on repeat for the past few days, and there’s this one verse in “I Hear the Words of Love” that really sticks out to me.

My love is ofttimes low,
My joy still ebbs and flows,
But peace with Him remains the same,
No change my Savior knows.

Even though I change, Jesus doesn’t. So, even though I’m fighting that same inward battle once again, I’ve made the conscious decision to cling to my never-changing Savior with every fiber of my being.

It may not seem like it now, but just like Bruce used the broken mirror to create a creative and beautiful work of art, I know that God will create something beautiful out of my brokenness. Until that happens, I will wait and trust in Him.

Thoughts on the election — Who are you trusting?

America is a beautiful place. As citizens, we have the privilege to take an active part in our government. We, the people, put our leaders into power. We have a Constitution that protects our freedoms. We can even run for office.

But sometimes our involvement in our nation blinds us to what’s really going on. We put too much emphasis on our government, society and country. We expect our laws and policies to correct injustice.

We forget, however, that our our government and our country are comprised of fallen and sinful humans with limited knowledge and understanding.

So, instead of relying on our government to be the solution for everything that’s wrong (or in other words, our “salvation”), should we not trust the God who knows all things, created all things and controls all things?

We cannot save ourselves. Government cannot save us. Laws cannot save us. God saved us.

Who, oh Lord, could save themselves,
Their own soul could heal?
Our shame was deeper than the sea
Your grace is deeper still

You alone can rescue, You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us, led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise

You, oh Lord, have made a way
The great divide You heal
For when our hearts were far away
Your love went further still
Yes, your love goes further still

~”Who alone can rescue,” Matt Redman

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
~Jeremiah 29:11-13

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of those verses that I tend to gloss over. Having gone to private, Christian schools throughout my entire life, I know Jeremiah 29:11 about as well as I know my ABCs. It’s the verse that gets pulled out in every turning point in life, as well as every tribulation.

However, as much time as I have spent pouring over verse 11, the rest of the chapter often gets left out. It’s part of a letter written to the Israelites while they were living in captivity in Babylon.

I particularly like verses 12 and 13. I feel like they complete verse 11.  Verse 11 shows God’s goodness and his provision for His people. However, the next two verses outline our response to Him.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Our response to God’s plan for us is to come to Him and to communicate with Him with “ALL your heart.” Also, it says, “You WILL seek Me and find me.”

Earlier I mentioned that this is a verse I tend to gloss over. If that’s the case, why did I just write five paragraphs about it? Well, sometimes God takes those things that you gloss over and shoves them right in front of your face so you can’t ignore it any more.  Well, that pretty much happened tonight.

You see, I’m kind of at a place where I don’t really know what God’s plans are for me. I kind of do… at least I know the basics of what I feel He’s called me to do. But the details are fuzzy. Let me tell you, I hate fuzzy details. I like knowing where I’m going, when I’m going, what I need to wear and what will be served for dinner a month in advance (okay, maybe that’s a slight exageration), but I love knowing details. Just last week, a friend and I were supposed to go to his family’s lake house for the Fourth of July. The problem was, he didn’t know when they were planning on leaving until he woke up the morning of (only 20 minutes before they decided to leave, might I add). Boy did that ruffle my feathers! And that was just plans for one day.

Sometimes I’m tempted to get frustrated with God and cop an attitude with Him. This is when the last two verses kick in. Rather than being angry, I must choose to pray and to search for Him with all my heart. And then, and only then, will I feel peace. Not necessarily peace that comes from knowing what His plans are, but peace that comes from steady, enduring trust in Him.

His plans aren’t always what I want them to be. Oftentimes, I find that hard to understand. Sometimes so much so that I cling tighter to what I want, making it more painful when God has to pry it from me. But God knows far better than I.  In fact, as Garth Brooks said, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

“Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.”
~Garth Brooks, “Unanswered Prayers”