When You Realize Your Own Insignificance

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I woke up with a jolt.

Something wasn’t right.

I sat up in bed and surveyed my surroundings. Pale blue light seeped lazily through the slats in the vertical blinds, and my husband slept, undisturbed, next to me. No children stirred down the hall, no bird welcome the day with his song.

I’d heard something. It was a pop. Or a bang. Or a…I don’t know. But now all was silent. All I could hear was my own heart pounding in my ears as I became aware of the cool beads of perspiration lining my forehead.

I scanned the room, the doorway, and listened.

Nothing.

I looked at the clock. 4:00 am.

All was silent, but for the gentle rise and fall of my husband’s breath as he slumbered beneath the covers.

I eased myself back onto the pillow and fell into a fitful sleep.

Later that morning while scanning the news, I was made aware of what had roused me.

Photo by: Deibel Photography

Photo by: Deibel Photography

A large asteroid had entered earth’s atmosphere, causing a sonic boom and hundreds of meteorites to scatter all over central and southern Arizona.

A strange feeling washed over me when I read that. Kind of like that feeling you get just after the roller coaster clicks over the crest of the tallest drop.

While I had spent the previous week working, cooking, folding laundry and playing with my kids, this massive rock had been on it’s own journey. It had hurtled towards earth with God-only-knows-what speed, and God-only-knows how many others could potentially join it.

I could suddenly see in my mind’s eye the vast expanse of outer space and all the magnificent goings on that would steal our breath and bring us to our knees in awe if we were to witness them firsthand.

A feeling overwhelmed me. A feeling similar to when I had awoken to the news that our friends halfway around the world had experienced a large earthquake. We were going to the grocery store and talking about schooling for the fall, while their livelihood was being threatened in a dramatic and violent way.

Or like the feeling I got standing on the end of the pier looking down in the dark depths of the Pacific Ocean, imagining all the amazing and wondrous creatures stirring below.

I spend so much time focusing on my momentary and immediate wants and needs, and so little time considering the vast enormity of everything else.

Suddenly I feel like that beloved cartoon character standing beneath the expansive night sky shouting, “I’m significant!”

Except I know that I’m not.

In no universe, other than my own, am I the center-point. There’s no version of this story of humanity in which I am the fulcrum about which the rest of creation swings.

It’s in these moments — these momentous, yet altogether mundane moments — that the severity of my insignificance smacks with the full force of a thousand hurricanes.

In the grand scheme of things, my plans, my agendas, my purposes, don’t mean a single solitary thing.

I am utterly and completely insignificant.

Not in a self-deprecating, I-have-nothing-to-bring-to-the-world sort of way.

No.

I’m insignificant in the most gloriously significant way.

When I see my true place in this majestic, glorious, chaotic and dangerous world, it is then that I am truly free to fulfill the deeper purpose for which I was placed here.

It’s when I realize the petty nature of my shallow desires that I am released to pursue the dreams and callings of eternal significance.

When I remove any claim — albeit a false claim because nothing was ever mine to begin with — of control of my surroundings, I am empowered to reach out with love and compassion to my fellow brothers and sisters traveling this sod of earth alongside me.

I hope to never lose the wonder, and terror, of moments like I had the other night. I don’t want to forget the awe and trembling of the unfettered realization that there is something so much bigger, more powerful, more wild and dangerous, yet more compassionate at the helm. And that He owes me no explanation.

And while I walk along the daily to-do’s and want-to-do’s and passionate-to-do’s of this life, I never want to lose the awareness that there are infinitely more things, people, heartache and joy happening all around me than what I can see with my feeble eyes.

And I never want to stop being grateful for the opportunity to realize my own insignificance.

The Exquisite Ache of Learning Something new

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I started a new job last week. And after a decade of living the non-traditional expat lifestyle, I can tell you the learning curve was steep. Not just the learning curve, but the mental energy stamina.

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve used my brain in this way.

Oh, I’ve learned new stuff while we lived overseas, sure. Languages, cultures, how to parallel park on a busy European street with cars flying by.

But this…its stretching me. Its awkward and humbling and it stings as the proverbial muscles in my brain stretch and torque in ways they haven’t had to for the largest portion of my working adult life.

And I’m loving it.

The Ache of Learning Something New

Oh sure, I’ve had to go to my boss, red-faced and sheepish to admit when I messed up. A lot. It’s not totally dissimilar to learning a new language. Just like when we moved to Vienna, I wanted to be able to have all the complex conversations by day 2, I found myself the second day on the job frustrated at myself that I couldn’t remember all the myriad responsibilities that accompany my job, and unable to independently navigate the databases I had never seen until the day before.

Sometimes we shy away from learning new things because it’s uncomfortable and hard and awkward. We wobble around like Bambi on his newborn legs, and hope no one notices when we slide, limbs akimbo, across the ice.

But the thing is, the struggle makes us so much stronger. So much more flexible. To quote the incomparable Tom Hanks from the movie A League of Their Own, “It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Though my feet are more firmly planted in my new role than they were last Monday, I know that I will still wobble and slip for awhile yet. But I’m really loving the feeling of accomplishment at the end of my day. The delicious mental exhaustion that reminds me that I’ve used my mind, struggled, and overcome.

So, I ask you dear reader, what are YOU going to learn new his week? This month? This year? Are you shaky-legging it in some new venture? Or are you sitting on the sidelines, worried about falling flat on your face? Let me encourage you, to get out there and wobble, Bambi-friends! I’ll be right there beside you.

The Safety Net of Silence

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This has always been a very safe place for us, friends, hasn’t it? We’ve always been able to talk freely, and be vulnerable with one another. We’ve talked about everything from parenting funnies to spiritual constipation to culture shock to hair styles. And we’ve always been there for one another, lifting each other up, encouraging one another.

That’s why I love it here so much; why I work so hard outside this space to connect with you whether it’s sharing snippets of life through photos, sharing incredible words from other amazing writers and leaders, or using humor through 149 character quips slightly dripping with the sarcasm I so freely offer.

my voice

Its also why it’s been such an odd time for me here lately. The last three years have been…a strain for our family. I’ve not known exactly how to convey the depth of our experiences, but also been afraid to say too much. Be too transparent. So I’ve opted, instead, for the safety net of silence. However, I fear that perhaps my lack of transparency has given the impression that the past three years have been spent in utter despair. When in truth, these years, while painful and raw in many ways, have also been beautiful, eye opening, and have lead us into a deeper understanding of the Truth, of the goodness of our Father.

I recently wrote about my journey as a writer – of finally being able to call myself Writer without feeling like a complete and total imposter. In that post, I asked you all to fill out a survey about what you’d like to see more of in this space. The survey is still open, so if you haven’t taken it yet, I’d love for you to! Your comments there have been so kind and encouraging to me. Thank you!

However, the results of that survey so far leave me at a bit of an impasse. Most of what you all say you’d like more of are more of my own spiritual journey, and more about my life as an expat.

The spiritual journey thing, that I can do. I simply need to put my big-girl pants on, sit down, and share.

However the expat part…I have spent over a decade either being an expat, or preparing to be one. A large part of what I have shared here has been our experiences of finding our way in the rushing waters of culture and language acquisition. And many you are here for that very reason – you, too, are in a land not your own, and there’s a camaraderie to be found among us.

But now, I find myself with the title of Former Expat, and I’m not sure what to do with that in this space. I hope to always be a source of encouragement and insight to those still living that gloriously chaotic lifestyle. However now, you will see our experiences of re-entry into our home culture. A lot has changed, you know!

My point to all of this is…I don’t know if I have approached our time of transition and loss the right way or not, in regards to this blog. However, I know many of you are also struggling with how much to say. How much truth do you truly share in the circle of chairs in Sunday School, or to the friend with the kind eyes over a cup of coffee.

My advice is this: you don’t have to go into nitty gritty details, but I’ve come to discover that community is planted in the midst of vulnerability, watered with the flow of conversation, and flourishes in the warmth of encouragement, support, and gentle admonishment.

But share, dear friends. Open your hearts to one another; to me. We have so much to learn from one another, and we were not meant to walk this journey of life and faith alone. Even Christ fueled up with intense time alone with the Father, and then joined the community he had painstakingly worked to build.

So, friends, I’m working to untangle myself from the safety net of silence, and rejoin the warm waters of community here. Are you with me?

How I Curl My Hair: Beachy Waves

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Ok, guys. Yes, I’m about to do a post about my hair. I don’t normally do “beauty” posts, and certainly not tutorials on it, but when I posted this pic on Instagram:

Jen's Beachy Curls

You all went crazy for it (thank you, by the way!!) and kept asking how I did it.

I came across this style sort of by fluke. I was searching YouTube for easy ways to curl hair (I’m a child of the 70’s/80’s and I LOVE curly hair and was bored with my usual methods). So, when you guys asked how I did it, I searched high and low for the tutorial, but to no avail.

I was beginning to worry that I was going to have a film a tutorial myself but, believe me, nobody wants that. Ha! Finally, today, I decided to give it one more good ole’ college try. And I found it!!

I love this video because it’s easy, Kayley Melissa is super relatable and totally adorable.

I will say, there are a few things I did differently than Kayley.

  1. I didn’t use any product before styling. Mostly because…I don’t have any. I might spray a fine mist of hairspray afterwards, but that’s it.

2. I use a normal curling iron, I just leave the clamp closed. I suppose you could remove the clamp but since I use my curling iron for more than just this method I leave it on and it works great! I’m using a Remington, that I believe is 1″. If your hair is resistant to holding curl like mine is, you want to keep the wand size 1″ or under. However, I wouldn’t go below 3/4″ or you might get way tighter than you’re hoping.

Remington

3. I didn’t pin the curls like she does. I just don’t have time, and it works fine for me without it.

4. I don’t do the head flip. I just let the curls cool completely. Usually I will curl it, then put my makeup on while they cool. The key for me is don’t touch/tussle the curls while they’re warm. That is just asking for curls to immediately fall out. I just let them cool while I do my makeup and then gently tussle my hair at the roots with my fingertips.

So, I hope you enjoy this, and if you try it post a pic and let us see!!

 

Stepping Into the Fire

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The Christian life is often one lived in the tension between promises given and promises fulfilled. We find ourselves, perhaps more than we care to admit, in circumstances which frighten and threaten to shake our faith.

Between the And's photo

I’m delighted and honored to be sharing over at (in)courage today, talking about that tension. About how sometimes we have to step into the fire to see which direction God wants to take us. I hope you’ll join me.

And I hope you’ll take some time to read some of the uplifting, encouraging, hope-filled posts at the wonderful community that is (in)courage. In fact, all the better, sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!