It’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life.
One time when I was first starting college, I remember asking my sister Trisha how she knew what she wanted to major in. Her reply still sticks with me today. She said “Jaclyn, I am 30 years old, graduated college years ago, and I still don’t know what the hell I wanna major in.” Guys, she makes such and important point.
Maybe you have a major, or a career path, that is solid and unshakable. If that’s you, allow me to applaud. However, I think for even the most confident person there is always some doubt.
And you know what, that’s a good thing.
It is good to have flexibility, to have a backup plan, to be unsure. God never intended us to be on an easy linear path of certainty. Life isn’t easy and it won’t be until someone invents a time machine and yanks that piece of forbidden fruit out of Eve’s hand.
When I chose Health Care Administration, I was certain. As a second semester junior, I am still certain that it is the right major for me. But does that mean I will most certainly become a Nursing Home Administrator someday? No way! Does that mean I will never decide to switch it at some point in the next year and a half? Who knows, I’m not a fortune teller. The fact is, life is a bunch of steps. My dad says it’s just a big process (but dad, I hate processes).
You choose a major in college because you need a direction, but that is so not set in stone. Nothing in life is. Got goals? That’s awesome, but you need to have flexibility too.
For those of you out there who feel like they’re wandering a bit aimlessly in college, all I have to say is me too! And I have basically been in this major since I was undeclared freshman year. I know people who switch ten times. It’s all totally okay.
This also applies to someone who is in the workforce. So, you thought that your career was perfect and now you are being led a different way? That is not a failure my friend, that is spiritual growth. So, you hate your job, go get a new one. Unemployment is at 4% (did you hear?) everyone is hiring.
God’s plan for us doesn’t look how society says it should. For most of us we aren’t going to graduate college in four years knowing since high school what to major in and work at that one perfect job until we retire. Life just doesn’t work like that. Also, how boring would that be? We may hate change, but it is so necessary.
Many of us put ourselves in a box at eighteen and label it in permanent marker (“Jane Doe, double majoring in physics and biology, pre-med, student body president, will never get a tattoo, Virgo”). What happens then when we realize that the box we are in isn’t the right box? We slowly tip toe out guiltily when we realize we suck at physics, have more Capricorn like traits, find hospitals disgusting, and now have a Chinese proverb tattooed on our ass.
If that doesn’t make God chuckle, I don’t know what does.
Stop trying to find the perfect career that is going to make you happy. The fact is: our happiness does not revolve around what we do. It is about who we are. It is okay to not know. We are going through life with the lights off, but God’s got a flashlight and that tiny little bit that it allows us to see should be more than enough if we are willing to trust Him.
So, take the jump and trust him. Declare the major. Try out the job. Make a big change. Because at the end of the day, you are you and God is God and it’ll all turn out okay.
Sometimes it makes me chuckle to realize that someone could talk for hours about their job or their college major and you could walk away knowing practically nothing about who they really are as a person.
I think we are all made for a little more than just going to school, getting a job, paying the bills, and retiring. I mean, what fun is that? There is so much in this world to discover, to recognize, and to embrace. We were all created to do this in different ways and that's what truly makes up our unique personalities.
As I grew up, I began to focus all of my time and energy on school and on making money because I wanted to be useful and secure in the future. I would hold lemonade stands and bake sales, later getting a job as soon as I turned sixteen to save for college. Everything was about being practical, every move I made needing to be justified in some way.
Now, after this approach backfired as I lost sight of my priorities and gave it over to nervousness and perfectionism, I am relearning how to just chill out again. As strange as it might sound, it was hard at first for me to do the things I love. It was almost more difficult to discover what I liked to do for recreational than to just continue working working working all the time.
When I did find a few hobbies that interest me like writing, painting, knitting, and playing guitar it became frustrating to allow myself to learn how to be good at them. The fact was, I had become an expert at being constantly productive and efficient and I lost the ability to just try new things and be bad at them at first.
Writing, by far, came the easiest to me. I began writing the book that was forming in my imagination for years and I started this blog.
Painting and guitar, well, they were really difficult. My first paintings looked like blobs (see photo above) and frankly they still do. And the guitar? Well I can play a "C" chord but I think I've already forgotten everything else I learned.
When life gets hard, it becomes a reflex to drop these important pass times. I sometimes get stressed and immediately stop working out, stop the hobbies, and begin to come home and immediately turn on vegetable mode. This is when our job/career or school becomes the most important aspect of our life, because it is what we commit all of our energy to. But what about our loves ones, our passions, our own bodies and minds? What are we gaining by giving all our energy over to money and stability?
When we get burned out, we must keep our pity parties in perspective. Listen to your body, know what it needs to regain focus and trudge forward to regain that balance. Don't slip in to the wake, work, eat, sleep routine. Fight passionately for your right to live as God called you to live. In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
When we stress ourselves to the max, concerned only with money and performance, we become like robots with our fuse almost blown out. Jesus says it is better to be like little children. Remember when you were a child? I always enjoyed horseback riding, picking wildflower bouquets, looking at marriage announcements in the paper, watching butterflies, getting my hands dirty, reading and socializing. I lived for the discovery and the wonders of life. I was relaxed and analytical, I was completely me.
Although we now have more responsibilities they don't have to take over at the expense of our souls. You can still be you and I can still be me. It is a choice.
What does this look like for you?
It’s finally January. The days are shorter, yet our list of self-improvements become longer.
The New Year always seems to involve “fixing” your body, or your personality, or yourself in general. Our culture has made it so easy to see life as one big self-improvement project, a cycle that is difficult to recognize and nearly impossible to overcome. Although I believe that resolutions can be great tools, they also can be harsh condemners. The pressure of making a tangible change in your life can go from a nice intention to a huge disappointment.
Of course, some lucky few can keep their resolutions, shed fifty pounds, perfect the keto diet, and join a book club. Yet, others of us may have forgotten to stay consistent and are left with a big pile of unmet expectations to clean up afterwards.
I have no issues with a nice resolution, per se, but I do wonder about our perception of ourselves. We seem to think of important pieces of our journey as negative and in need of repair. The subpar can be anything from how white our teeth are and how our butt looks in the mirror to how depressed we feel and how to fix that seemingly eternal fatigue.
What if we looked at each unsatisfactory aspect of our lives as something else altogether? What if we recognized that if God isn’t taking the thorn out of your side maybe he is teaching you to live with it?
Of course, I would never suggest that God wishes for us to live out our days with no goals or resolutions. In fact, if these resolutions were put on our hearts by God, he will certainly use them well. However, what is most important is for us to resist focusing on our perceived lack and turn our eyes up on Jesus.
When we love Jesus, we automatically take care of ourselves. All those stereotypical “resolutions” can become more automatic of daily living. We wish to fuel our bodies in ways that is life sustaining and not toxic, we wish to move in order to maintain healthy muscles and bones. It becomes not for appearance but as a means of worship to the Lord.
In Ecclesiastes 2:22-23, Solomon said “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.” When we try so hard, anxiously, to achieve the forms of perfection that we have contrived in our minds we begin to set goals that are too heavy to accomplish. It morphs from an act of worship to an act of obsession. We illustrate detailed strategies to have our lives “together” all the time. We read articles over how to make our lives better. We stay of late with worry, wondering whether we got it right.
But God called all of this meaningless and futile.
In times of fresh start, like New Years, we must take time to discern what our purpose is.
Ecclesiastes, if you have not had the pleasure of reading it, is quite confusing for us on earth. You see, we like having our lives mean something. We like to think that we are living life “to the fullest” (whatever that means). But Ecclesiastes teaches us, through Solomon, that “Everything is futile, a pursuit of the wind” (1:4), as for possessions “there is nothing to be gained under the sun” (2:11) and it even warns “do not be excessively righteous and don’t be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” (7:16).
These teachings are highly countercultural today.
What do you mean, fitting into a size two my whole life is… futile?
Jokes aside, I think that these ideas are incredibly freeing. The idea that our life on earth is futile means that our worldly possessions and money just don’t matter. In fact, nothing would matter on this earth if it weren’t for God. Because of him, our lives on earth might be meaningless but the life we are building in eternity lasts forever and is of the greatest importance.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul says “Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’”
Can you imagine that? This is Paul, one of the most prominent teachers of the gospel. His life on earth, the clothes he wore, the food he ate, was futile. But God used him through this futile life to turn others toward Jesus. And even this guy, who God used in so many great ways, had a thorn in his side—perhaps a sin—that he could not shake although he pleaded with the Lord three times.
If Paul was on Earth today, maybe his resolution would be to get rid of this thorn. But God said “no” time and time again. This thorn was a weakness sent to remind Paul to rely on God and only God. Maybe God has allowed thorns to enter our lives to help us turn towards him.
So, this year, make your goals and resolutions. I hope and pray that you keep them all. But for you who are reading this and thinking of something you just can’t shake, whatever that is, allow God to shed his forgiving light on you. HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU. It is enough for me when I am being a worry wort, it is enough for you when you accidentally skip a week of exercise, or commit a sin, or have a bout of depression (etc.).
He will show up for you this year, even in the doubt, even with the thorns.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not one for running. I may have the “runner’s body” but that’s where my running talents end. And believe me, I’ve tried. To this day the idea of running a mile causes my heart to start racing even before I take a step.
My best friend is the complete opposite. She runs every single day, sometimes ten miles, or eleven, or twelve. Running a marathon for her wouldn’t be too big of a deal. A little training and some spaghetti dinners and she would be all set.
Sometimes every day can feel like a long run and a sprint all at the same time. We sprint from bed to work or school and then to meetings and then home to do more work. And throughout the whole day, although we feel that we are going as fast as possible it never seems to end. It is a long and drawn out marathon. It is hitting the afternoon lag and pushing through, it is getting home from a full day only to do more work, it is never feeling that you have a second to breathe or even eat. So often we pride ourselves on this behavior. We are always encouraged to take on more. To multitask. To prove that we are hard workers.
Well I say let’s all chill out a bit.
What really matters in our lives?
This question is so hard to decipher. Of course, what we are doing every day matters. Or at least I hope it does, if not we have a different issue. What you are spending your time on serves a purpose, work is to make a living, school is to learn and provide for your future, taking care of your children is to teach them how to be good human beings. There is a point for it all.
But what do we do when all the hats we are wearing start to topple over? We have stacked them on for so long. We are a friend, a daughter or son, a sister or brother, a cousin, a student, a worker, a Christian, a girlfriend and boyfriend, a wife or husband, a mother or father.
It can be so difficult to balance these roles.
In life we must decide to stay on the rat race or to get off the bandwagon. Now I don’t mean quit your job or anything similarly dramatic. The point is, Jesus wasn’t rushing around. He took his time, he would withdraw and pray. He knew what the future held, he knew that he would make the ultimate sacrifice, but he didn’t plan out everything on the way. God knew the people Jesus would touch, but Jesus was simply following God’s plan and timing.
Jesus was a son, he was a friend, he was a leader, he was a cousin and a brother and a worker and a student…he was the Messiah, the Savior of all mankind. Talk about a lot of hats.
But what he was mostly, entirely, was Jesus. He was himself. He had his personality and his features and his spirit that still dwells inside believers.
That is who we are too. You are you. I am Jaci. I have flaws and imperfections that I dwell on way too much. But still, I am Jaci and I have my personality and my features and my spirit that God uniquely gave me.
This means that we aren’t tied to who we are as a student, a worker, or so on. Our striving and endurance in this marathon of life do not make up our identity. We all have a place here, one’s strength is another’s weakness—just like my friend is better at running and I can write blog posts. And this truth is what makes up the intricate patchwork of each one of us as God’s created beings.
The Holy Spirit is within us, leading us along and fixing our paths. But when we rush and add so much unnecessary noise and pressure onto ourselves, we are doing nothing but complicating and overwhelming our brains.
Jesus hates how the world gives us so much baggage to carry. The world is complicated and there is so much separating us from the simple truth and purpose that the Lord has for us. In Matthew 23, Jesus is extremely angry with the Pharisees, the Jewish teachers of the law, and says “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
So often it can feel like heaviness is upon our shoulders and it is up to us to keep it all together. However, as Jesus stood up for his people then, he stands up for us now. He is here to help us run this marathon. In Hebrews 12: 1-2 the bible says just that: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
So, let’s run this race with Jesus and throw off the heaviness that the world is placing on us.
Picture this: I am at a restaurant with my cousin. Our mouths burn with the taste of buffalo sauce, waiters and waitresses bustle around with activity. Booths filled for, of all things, a University of Iowa football game. Stephanie and I are chatting, about life, about food, about friends. Our night is free and we ramble, at our own pace, eat nachos, wraps, and sweet potato fries.
Suddenly, I feel something graze my collar bone and look down to discover that the chain of my necklace had broke and the pendant was no where to be found.
Of course, it is a necklace only, a material item, and it wasn't a huge deal. However, the necklace had sentimental value. My sister had bought all of my siblings and me the same one, with a personalized engraving that read "trust your journey." This necklace had been around my neck through some of the most trying months with respect to doing just that, trusting my journey.
Stephanie and I looked around our table and her apartment when we got back with no trace of the "trust your journey" pendant.
Today, I returned home. As I unpacked my bag, always an arduous task, something caught my eye. There, in the side pocket of my weekend bag, was the pendant. This bag, which had been in Stephanie's apartment the whole time mysteriously contained what I had lost, I assumed, at the restaurant.
Now, it very well could be that the pendant fell off, into the side pocket of my bag, while I was at her apartment. Then, we walked to the restaurant, all while the broken chain magically dangled by one side down my shirt, and we ate half of our meal, until I eventually noticed.
Or there's a God.
Honestly, I have always found the Rolling Stones kind of overrated. Mick Jagger is a little too eccentric for me, Keith Richards... what's up with the pirate look? However, they have this one song that my mom always used to sing to me when I was being a little brat when I was younger.
"You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometime you just might find
You get what you need"
This now makes a lot more sense than it did back then, and I'll probably be singing it to my kids someday. As a twenty year old girl, I have some questions. Who decided that we always have to get what we want? Who decided that at twenty years old I am supposed to know exactly what job I want someday, where I want to live, how many kids I should have, what color scheme I want for my wedding, the list goes on and on.
At eighteen, we have to decide what college to go to or what career to jump into. We are fresh out of high school, and pressured to make these huge life decisions with basically no experience to go off of. And honestly, most "young adults" or even "non-young" adults are never told that its okay to change their mind. There is so much pressure to say I am going to this school for four years, majoring in this field, so I can graduate in precisely four years, so I can get a job, make a nice living, get a huge house, and marry at 26 so I can have three kids and a golden retriever, and retire to the south at 65.
Woah, that's a lot to have "figured out" at eighteen... or twenty... or thirty...
What if we didn't try to have it figured out? What if it was just okay to transfer schools, or to change your major, or to graduate and go into a different field than what you got your degree in?
If we knew, at eighteen, exactly how our entire life would shake out all the way to age 100, that would be pretty boring. Don't you think? Yet, that is what all of us seem to be striving for.
We are scared, we want security, so we try to plan and stay safe in our comfort zone.
There is a verse in the Bible, James 4:13-16, that reads "Come now, you who say, 'today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.' Yet, you do not know what tomorrow will bring--what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead you should say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil."
Wow, we are all arrogant boasters, aren't we?
I don't mean that in a condemning sense, but isn't it interesting to see how mainstream society puts us in boxes and teaches us to think and act in exact defiance of this Bible verse?
When I decided to transfer from UMD to UW Eau Claire I thought I had failed. What were all those hours of research for the perfect college if I just transfer anyway? What will people think?
When I didn't get any of the internships that I originally wanted, I thought I had failed. What did I do wrong? Did I wear the wrong jacket? Did I say something?
These are all thoughts that come from thinking I need to have my life all figured out. And the truth is, God's plan for you is not a straight line with all these perfect little milestones along the way. It is a twisted, curly cued, mess and that's the way he likes it. He has so many people he wants us each to touch, so many experiences he wants us each to have, and if it were up to us we would never begin to look in the directions that he wants us to look.
So, whether you're fifteen, or twenty, or forty, or sixty, or one hundred, I challenge you to stop making a five year plan. Stop trying to control your life all by yourself. Start trusting God, even when it is scary. He may lead you to a wide abyss that you don't know how to get over and you never thought you would come to, but there is certainly a reason for all of it. Take it day by day, God won't let you down.
Patience. It's this new strange concept that I have been learning a lot about lately. I used to think that patience was a some people have it - some people don't sort of phenomenon. I figured that I could probably get through life without it. It could be fine to push through life holding onto the reins with a tight fist. Waiting for something to happen? With enough trying, you could make it happen earlier. Waiting for an answer? Enough communication and you can get it right out of them. Waiting for the summer? Turn on the Beach Boys, light a coconut candle, and crank the heat.
Recently, however, I have learned that in the real world (dun dun dun) there are certain times that it doesn't matter how hard you try, or push, or prod, you're just going to have to wait.
And it is not fun.
You see, waiting means slowing down. Waiting means that no amount of perfect effort on your part will change the outcome or make the news come faster. God knows all about my hidden trick to evade being patient, and he knows yours. He sees, fingers flying, as we send that text trying to get more information now. He sees how many times you have checked for that email today. He sees how many times you have casually brought it up in conversation, hoping to gain information about what the outcome might be.
God sees that you are uncomfortable with the unknown. But he doesn't call us to be the ones who know. He didn't create humans to know everything right away or to try to control every situation. He created us to fulfill his purpose, and because of this we can find beauty in our waiting.
There's an old song that I always liked but never really understood until it came on the other day, in the midst of my tight fisted waiting.
"Said woman take it slow, and it'll work itself out fine
All we need is just a little patience"
Well if that isn't a call to slow down I don't know what is. Now I am not saying that Axl Rose's song necessarily has some sort of divinity to it, but I know that it speaks truth.
All we need is to slow down, to have patience, and to let God work it out. Because it is not our job to make sure that everything works out okay. It is merely our job to have faith that God will make it work out. With God, everything simply is going to be okay. Regardless of what the outcome of your waiting game is. Around every corner is a question mark, and instead of trying to fill in the blanks learn to let God do that. There is nothing more powerful than being along for the ride; the ride that he created you for.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Our brains can be our biggest asset or greatest downfall. The choice is all ours. Whether you believe our brain is a piece of matter created by some abstract science or an intricate piece of functional art created by God, the fact still remains that we may never understand fully the very organ that enables us to understand in the first place. Try to make sense of that one for awhile, phew.
The fact is, our brains are complicated and I often wonder about the vast amount of power and information that we are unable to process, recognize, or use.
I'm no expert, but I am starting to learn that your brain can control you unless you choose to control it. We must take responsibility for controlling the way we think. There are so many aspects of this life that cannot be understood by us, because God doesn't wish to reveal it. In fact, the Bible hints several times at a spiritual realm, in which angels and demons are in warfare on earth, that we are completely unaware of. This may seem like a fantasy, but if we as a society can accept the presence of other "invisible" ailments, it is easy for me to imagine that this could be the affect that this invisible warfare is having on our spirits.
Not only is there spiritual warfare that is unseen, but we are each fighting wars of our own all the time, invisible or not. Whether these are mental or physical struggles brought on by life and our world, we must stay vigilant in realizing that satan is always looking to capitalize on our weaknesses by turning us away from God.
This is true for a cancer patient who begins to doubt their worth in the world, who falls into deep resentment towards God for the disease that ails them. This is true for the person recovering from an intense surgery, like my grandma, who find it hard to believe that their tiny bits of improvement each day will ever amount to full healing. This is true for people like me, who still wonder every once in awhile if they will ever win the battle against anxiety, or any other kind of mental illness. It is true for the teenage girl who doesn't know her own worth. It is true for everybody.
These negative thoughts and worries are not from God. They are from satan. "And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). the devil and his demons will fight and go to war to get you to believe their lies as truth and turn you from God. Once you begin believing this, your brain molds to these lies. Now, not only are external factors causing these negative thoughts in your brain but the mind itself begins to perpetuate and believe the thinking. The lies are strong, play on our weaknesses, and infiltrate deeply... if we let them. If we don't fight against the lies that we believe every day, we are allowing feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, sickness, depression, etc to sneak into our soul like the serpent in the garden of Eden. It’s all about training your brain to believe truths and positivity.
As I learn and practice this, I have began to do a cheesy little exercise for whenever I am believing satan's lies ("negative self talk" for those of you who like to follow buzz words). I take the lie I am believing, put it into words, and tell it the truth. Look at it like you're correcting that annoying person at work or in class who is always wrong but thinks they’re right.
Okay, lets try it. I guess I'll use my own lies I believe as an example since no one else seems to be volunteering ;)
This is my challenge: think about what lies you believe in your life and how you perpetuate your own reality. What is the truth? Write these lies down and tell them the truth. If you want to comment them below or text me with them I would love to talk about it.
Lesson learned: never underestimate the expertise of a grumpy disheveled man with a cigarette sucked down to the ash hanging out of his jutted bottom lip. His white T-shirt may be greasy, he is a man of few words, but when you are vacationing in South Dakota just about to drive into the mountains, and your car decides to go kaput, he is your best friend.
We drove up in our Acura, loose ball joint wobbling and visions of tow trucks and rental cars swirling in our heads. “Uncle Milt’s Alignment” loomed ahead in all of its rusted, faded signed glory. To the left a dog yapped in a decrepit trailer park and the man sauntered out of his shop to take a look at the car. My dad assisted as the rest of us waited patiently for his diagnosis.
“Pull the damn thing in, I can’t see shit ou’ here” the man grumbled.
We pulled the car into his shop and got out, thankful he was willing to take a look. This is the point where most people would wonder about their safety and would begin questioning the qualifications of this chimney smoking old man. Knowing it was our best bet if we were to make it to the mountains that day, we set our hope in him anyway.
My Grandpa Bob always says, "Life is nothing but a series of decisions." Apparently, I really took this simple outlook to heart. I remember a time while I was living in Duluth where I stood in Walmart with my friends and stared at the shampoo and conditioner, trying to figure out the right ones to buy. This one had a great smell, but that one had the right price, and the other one was supposed to make your hair grow longer... and of course the longer hair the better in my book. I couldn't make sense of it all. I truly was trying to pick the perfect option as if there was one. My friends were awesome and patiently waited for me, finding it funny.
Looking back, I realize that I pretty much treat all decisions in my life this way. From the meager ones, to the important ones, I am constantly over analyzing. I scrutinized over where to go to college for months and it was on my mind just about every other thought. The funny thing is, I still ended up transferring and choosing somewhere else even after all that time making sure UMD was the "right" decision.