changes

Change is the Place Where Joy and Grief Mingle

Here are some things I’ve learned about change.

Sometimes you don’t choose the change.

When my father-in-law had a high count of white blood cells, it was a change that we didn’t choose. It would take a few weeks before the doctors confirmed his leukemia diagnosis. It would be only a few weeks before we said goodbye to him. This wasn’t a change anyone would have chosen.

When my dad woke me up with a phone call to tell me my brother was gone. Tragically, my brother chose this change, but I didn’t. I would never have.

When someone’s bad choices throw our life into a tailspin, we have no choice but to adjust. Sometimes people make a choice that isn’t necessarily bad but it causes ripples of change to your life too.

Change brings grief.

It is obvious when the change we are considering is a death of a loved one that grief would be involved. What about when it is a different change that isn’t death? Sorrow comes in every change.

Change can also include trauma.

My adopted son’s life had traumatic changes that were out of his hands. His little brain and heart hold those experiences deeply. Last week we had a good change in our life. An extremely kind friend gave us a van. It’s a hand-me-down, but it feels like we won the lotto because it’s so comfy and nice.

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Having nice seats for you and your people to ride in around town is really delightful. I am thankful for this new car, people who enjoy blessing others, and these silly boys who think it’s cool that the back seats can swivel and face backwards, “limo-style.”

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We were all having fun taking the car for our first spin. We drove my husband back to work to drop him off. After we got back home, I was getting my youngest out of his car seat, and he busted out crying — not whining — heartwrenching tears. “I want daddy,” he said. I knew instantly the source of his anxiety and grief wasn’t dropping off daddy eight minutes earlier. The grief was the change. Change is scary when a change has undercurrents of past trauma. I reassured him the best I could that he was safe in his family even with the new car. We talked about the new car and hugged for a long time.

I know this feeling. After my brother’s death, I panicked every time I heard a phone ring. If that phone ring was late at night or early in the morning, I was on edge for hours. It took me years to get past that reaction. It has been almost 9 years, and I still catch my body tensing at a ringing phone.

Sometimes you choose the change.

Not all change is bad, like the new van. Sometimes we choose the change. We decide to change homes, schools, churches, friendships, food intake, habits, clothes, hobbies, or hairstyles. The change might be new, exciting, and fun. That doesn’t mean there isn’t something lost.

Even when you choose the change, grief still exists in the change.

Every change big or small, good or bad, brings a measure of grief. We lose things. Even when the change is your choice, you still are allowed to let yourself grieve explicit and implicit losses. Comparison has no function in this grieving because grief does not follow reasoning. It is not kind or healthy to shame yourself for your feelings. God is good. The gifts of the change are good. Our feelings cannot change that.

We are complex, and grief does not steal my gratitude. Ingratitude can definitely steal my joy, but I can hold my joy, sadness, and thankfulness up to God in shameless honesty without worry that He will not get it. God is much more complex than me. My complexity isn’t confusing to Him. I’m thankful He joins me in the place where mourning and celebration mingle without hesitation. I have this stupid habit of letting my brain blurt out silver linings like they will outshine the grey. Only The Light can push the darkness away. Silver linings are just circumstances that get put in the pro column. I am not loved and liked by the pro column. I am loved and liked by the Son. You are too.

We all have some measure of change in this life or we are not alive. This is what I’ve learned about change: changes are sometimes chosen and sometimes not, but all change brings grief.

What are you learning about change?



I like to include a song for you every now & again. Here’s a new one. I might like the acoustic version better.

Unfamiliar Changes Are Harder Than Time-Consuming, Familiar Changes (Why Taking A Walk Is Hard)


March is here, and I am still thinking about my goals for the year. That’s not an unusual thing for me, but if sticking close to your goals is hard for you, may I recommend Powersheets?

I won’t list out all my goals for you, but I want to tell you what I’ve learned from two of my goals for this year. I decided I wanted to take more walks and read more books this year so I came up with this cute goal. It’s Instagramable and Tweetable.

200 books

200 walks

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Isn’t it adorable?

So how I am doing two months in?

I’m right on track on my reading goal.

200 books divides out to 17 books a month. I read 17 in January and 17 in February. I’m right at 34 books read.

200 walks divides out to 17 walks a month.

Ummmmm.

I didn’t take 17 walks in January or February.

I didn’t take zero walks though.

So there’s that.

I took 5 walks in January. (Single digits, y’all.) I took 8 walks in February. (The tiniest bit better.)

So I am not on track with my walking goal. I’ve done 13 out of 200. That means I still have 187 walks left in 2019.

187!

Here’s the puzzling thing about these two goals. I am not demanding about these walks. A 30 to 45-minute walk is great. I’m not speed-walking these things. A stroll counts.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

On the other hand, it takes hours to finish a decent book.

HOURS!

Why am I flying through this time-consuming reading goal while the walking goal that demands so little of my time gets pretty much ignored?

I think it’s because I was already reading a lot last year, and bumping up to reading a little more wasn’t as big of a change.

I was not exercising with any amount of regularity last year. Even though taking a walk has a literal phrase that means easy — “walk in the park” — I can’t seem to get it done.

It’s a bigger change, not because it takes more time, money (it’s free to walk), or equipment (I have legs, headphones, and shoes.) It is a bigger change because it hasn’t been a habit in my life.

Reading takes lots of time, some money (God bless the library and Ben Franklin for suggesting it), and I think it may be ruining my eyes (ain’t gonna stop me though.)

Googling “how long does it take to form neural pathways,” tells me this:

Now 66 days is the average and there are always variances. Some people can form deeply ingrained habits in as little as 18 days while others can take well over 200 days to form a habit. The ease and convenience of the habit also has a large part of how long it takes to form a habit.

So basically, it may take all 200 of my walks this year to change my brain to make walking a habit.

What does this mean? Give up? No!

It means I have to celebrate my progress. I have to be proud of my 13 walks in two months. It might be more walks than I took in the whole of 2018. I wasn’t counting.

People often ask me how I stay so motivated and energized. I could tell you I try to eat healthy foods and sleep well at night, but the real answer is grace.
— Lara Casey, Cultivate

It means I have to push myself to do something that doesn’t feel natural.

It means I have to stop listening to my excuses.

I never make excuses not to read, but I can think of 15 excuses why I can’t take a walk right now, the first one being I would have to put real pants and shoes on. Ugh. Who can be bothered?

But when I realize I’m not just taking a walk, I’m changing my brain, I can tell myself I am doing a hard thing that needs extra babying and celebration. I can pep talk myself into creating pathways that think walks are a normal part of a healthy day. I can tell myself that 2020 Jennifer will find walks easy peasy.

What about you?

What changes have you found hard to make because they were new and unfamiliar to your life?

What small numbers do you need to celebrate?

Marking Changes By Changing my Instagram Name

Changes are coming.

How do I feel?

Do I feel excited? Yes, because of the possibilities.

Do I feel scared? Yes. I don’t want to feel hurt again.

How can I know it will be different?

I’m different.


This year is going to be full of change for me. We are walking fast towards changing cities, changing ministry jobs, changing homes. We are going from dry to humid, from comfortable to new, from local ministry to global ministry at Wycliffe Bible Translators, from Texas to North Carolina, from Amarillo to the JAARS headquarters near Waxhaw.


It seems fitting to make a simple change to mark these changes. I am changing my Instagram name because AmarilloJennifer doesn’t fit what God is telling me about who I am or what God is calling us to.

How did I get here, to such massive changes?

It started with pain as all new things do.

Childbirth.

Pruning.

Turning over a leaf without pain isn’t realistic. Is the leaf removed from the tree, in the process of dying, crackling even with your gentle touch?

It’s a common refrain in this Christ-following life: church hurt.

I was in a season feeling out of control (as if we are ever in control.) In Annie Down’s book Remembering God, she said the place she wanted to be when she felt church hurt was an old, sturdy, reliable cathedral.

When I read this, I laughed out loud because I realized this is exactly what I did to respond to my church hurt. I asked my family, cleared it with my pastor, and we started attending a very traditional, early church service. We went and listed to their pipe organ, choir donning robes, hymns with obsolete words, high ceilings. I felt safe in those pews.

We did those early services for about three months, and God met me there.

God met me in other ways in those hard months when everything about my life felt as if it had forgotten about gravity and was hovering and threatening to crash down.

I was asking God, “Are we suppose to leave?”

I realize now I was asking God the wrong question. In Jen Wilkin’s book In His Image, she talks a lot about being in God’s will. She says this:

For the believer wanting to know God’s will for her life, the first question to pose is not ‘What should I do?’ but “Who should I be?”
— Jen Wilkin, In His Image


I was asking “DO” questions, but God in His loving way was answering my unasked “WHO” question. In every good thing He was putting in my path meant for my healing, He was telling me who I was.

I started therapy around the same time I was finding solace in that unchanging church sanctuary. Over months of talking through feelings shoved in corners, patterns emerged. God showed me that I could ignore my past hurts not allowing them to come into my thoughts, but they were going to drive my brains reaction to every current hurt whether I acknowledge them or not.

I saw that hiding in the bathroom during times of stress or feeling ignored was directly related to experiences I had as a child. I saw that my urge to run away when I felt like I wasn’t measuring up to other’s standards was directly related to my flight responses. I saw that my anxiety to enter situations had everything to do with fears of rejection.

I began to turn those fears, anxiety, and hurts on their head. I looked to Christ. How does He feel about me?

  • I know I am seen. I am never ignored by God, and He hates being ignored by us.

  • I know that I am known. God takes pleasure in knowing me.

  • I know that I am chosen. I could never be rejected by God because we are forever family.

  • I know that I am loved. God first loved me, and His pure love for me cannot be matched.

  • I know that I am liked. God sees and knows me, and His opinion of me is that He likes me.

  • I know that I am friended. God calls me friend, and He lets me know what He is doing.

  • I know that I am included. God never pushes me away; He always draws near.

  • I know that I am commissioned. God has given me all authority of Heaven and earth to make disciples in His name.

When I look at my current Instagram name, AmarilloJennifer, I think of me three years ago before I was graciously showed who I was. I was looking for identity in my role in ministry here in Amarillo. I saw what I was doing for God in my outreach, church, service, and good works as who I was. If you asked me to tell about myself, I couldn’t get through three sentences without mentioning my ministry in Amarillo.

I am not AmarilloJennifer.

As we pursue this calling to join Wycliffe, I have learned some lessons. I know I am not WycliffeJennifer. I cannot define myself by the temporary or what I do.

I can only define myself by the permanent and what Christ did.

Which brings us to the new Instagram name:

KnownSeenLiked

I am KnownSeenLiked.

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You might wonder why I picked out these three truths. You might be especially wondering why I would choose liked over loved.

My pain centered around being misunderstood. I wanted desperately to explain myself to all parties involved and the world at large in a way that would end in everyone’s approval. I wanted to be known.

We all have this longing deep inside us, and I believe this longing is good. What is not good is selfish ambition and bitter jealousy. It is hard to separate those good motives of sharing myself with others from the motive of wanting approval from this world.

God meets this need to be known and understood on the deepest level. He knows me better than I know myself. When I get brave and be honest with God, when I let down my false selves that I can easily hide behind, when I allow sharing of my true, real thoughts and feelings with God, I feel that need to be known by others slip away. I understand now it was an unattainable goal that would never give me any satisfaction.

In my pain, I wanted to be seen. Feeling ignored sends me to a very dark place very fast. I do not mean failing to be recognized or not applauded for doing good. What I mean is feeling like I have been hurt and no one notices or cares. This feeling that I am on my own, left to bandage my wounds myself causes overwhelming feelings of distress and anxiety in me.

Others sometimes do God’s work in showing me love, they show me that they care about my life — the good and the bad. More often, others are too busy with their own life to notice valleys or mountains in my life. God sees every step. He is never too busy to see me.

Why liked instead of loved?

One of those healing, good things that God put in my path was Sonscape Retreat. Sitting in front of printed out results of online tests I had taken before we arrived and a couple who was there to counsel, mentor, and guide us toward healing from ministry burnout, I was faced with some truth. I was confronted with the fact that I was not objective in my thinking. I had the tendency to illogical and self-absorbed instead of fair-minded when it came to thoughts about myself and how I was perceived by others. My surveys had also revealed the fact that I had a big problem with negative self-talk. These things together pointed to a deep-seated hurt in my past that had not been dealt with. I was advised by these wise guides to listen to a sermon. The sermon was delivered by Brennan Manning.

I had never heard of Brennan, and like the overachiever I am, I took notes. I wrote these quotes in my notebook.

  • God loves you intimately. His love reaches into my dark places.

  • God loves you uniquely and reliably.

  • God loves you tenderly. God likes you. Do you believe it?

  • I dare you to trust that God loves you as you are because you’re never going to be as you should be.

  • Self-love is a profound act of faith.

This sermon challenged me in a way I had never been challenged before. I began the work of accepting that God liked me just the way I am.

These words were not new. They had been drilled into my head as a child from the television set. I had let shame and untruths cover over this beautiful, childlike truth that my friend Mister Rogers had told me over and over every time we met in my living room.

You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.”
— Mister Rogers

What I didn’t know as a little girl is that Fred Rogers had trained at seminary and had been ordained by the Presbyterian church to minister to children through the medium of television. He was telling me how God felt about me by modeling our loving God in his words and actions.

There is something about knowing we are liked that feels so much more intimate than the overused word love. I feel a deeper connection to this God who wants to commune with me. God would have never sent His precious son to earth to die for my sins if He didn’t not only love me but like me also. And Jesus died not for some idealized version of me. Jesus died for me, the sinner - just as I am - me. I am His handiwork. He called His creation good. He made me, and He likes me just as I am.

I am KnownSeenLiked.

The best part of this new Instagram name is that it is you too.

You are KnownSeenLiked.

These truths about me are true for you too.

How amazing to try to avoid this trap of selfish ambition on this social media platform and instead speak truth to all of our hearts from a place of pure gratitude to our God?

I want you to know this joy of being known, this relief of being seen, this deep appreciation of being liked.