Thursday, March 27, 2014

Even when I drag by the knees.

I am always learning more about myself.

Funny how that works. I think I know all I that I need to know about my current situation, and then something happens or someone says something that grabs me by my hoodie sweatshirt and reels me back in where I should be. Usually God simply plucks me off the ground and sets me down, but other times He allows me to drag my knees on the gravel first.

The problem with letting my knees drag along for a while is that I don't have the sense to stand up and walk beside Him. I've mentioned how I want to run with Him forever, but often I forget to walk for a time. It's pretty dumb of me, I know, but it still happens.

The crazy thing is that He always sends me someone to help bandage my battered knees. No matter how bloody and bruised my body becomes, God has never failed to point me in the direction of a person or a group of people who will hold me when I am sprawled face-first on the ground.

I let myself walk the rocky part of the path barefoot this week. Actually, I think I left my shoes at home and headed out. That was my first mistake. But what hurt me far more was the moment when I tripped and didn't have the sense to stand up again before sliding down the hill. I tumbled and smacked the bottom of the slope with the force of a broken, life-sized doll. Whups.

The beautiful part is that, like every other time, God sent me someone...some people to bandage me up. First someone to hold me when I first let myself fall, then several to hug me during encounters in the cafeteria and the dorm, and finally one very specific person to stay up and listen to me until 3 in the morning.

So I shall continue to learn. And I shall continue to stand back up again.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Running till He has to breathe breath into us.

Wake up.

Stand up and worship with an abandon that cannot be pretended.

Don't leave behind your pain when you meet with the Body of Christ to praise His Name.

Acknowledge the pain and bring it to the foot of the cross, then bask in the peace that cannot be understood.

I have such a dissatisfaction with the complacency that I witness on my campus. I would love to point out the exceptions and talk about how much they encourage me, but the reality is that I feel spiritually drained at Northwestern for the majority of my time there. Yes, there are passionate Jesus followers there. But where is the giddy excitement about this Man we call Christ? I cannot find it nine times out of ten.

All I typically hear is talk about loving my neighbor. And how is this done? By accepting all people as they are; never judging, even if it is to judge a tree by its fruit. If I were to make a statement that was not 100% in favor of social justice, women's rights, homosexuality, equality of race, etc., arrows of disdain would zip through the air and pierce my lips. And those arrow heads are always engulfed in flames.

Questions are not only encouraged; they are insisted upon. If I am confident that I believe a certain thing about God, the world, or my own spiritual journey, I am told that I have not thought about it enough, that I am too closed-minded. I may live in a conservative area of the state, but if I were to agree on any level with the older residents of Orange City, then clearly I have not spent enough time actually investigating what my beliefs are. Because all Red Raiders know that you cannot be a liberal conservative. *dodges more arrows*

What if I love my neighbor by quietly listening to their cries of pain and simply choosing not to leave them when everyone else does? What if I think that the best way to conquer racism is to throw the jerks who practice it into service projects that lead them to quality time with the amazing people who look different than they do? What if I am a woman who believes that equality and justice cannot always be the same thing? What if I live in fear that my lack of passion to end sex trafficking will be labeled as apathy?

What if all of these things are true?

Does that change how I make a mark on Northwestern College? I believe that the Class of 2016 has been called to trample stereotypes and build a new foundation for future Red Raiders. I have seen the Class of 2017 and I have confidence that they will help carry out this calling. Perhaps my RED411 videos will pave the way for me to find ways to encourage others on campus to be more intentional.

I said before that I am not satisfied with the complacency I have seen on campus. I stand in chapel and P&W six times a week, but rarely do I see very many Jesus lovers truly getting excited about the God we claim to follow. All we talk about is how to love people.

GUYS. The Creator of the Universe has been tugging on our hands, whispering in a thunderous voice to run after Him. And when I say "run," I mean RUN till our breath is labored. He is the very air we breathe. He will breathe that breath right back into our lungs. He will sustain our souls. But we have to run.

Why is it so hard to scramble after Him? Every time I try to run without preparation when I am excited, I nearly fall flat on my face. I mean, Jesus doesn't walk that fast. He just has longer strides than I typically choose to take. In the all-too-rare times that I am eager to trip along behind Jesus, I have found that He never fails to reach back and take my hand so that I can catch up with Him.

When people tell me that we should share Jesus by simply living as He did, a large part of me silently aches in protest. How can I refrain from saying, "Jesus is totally the greatest Guy to ever exist. Here's why." A good number of Psalms shout out that we have to proclaim the glory of God because if we don't, the rocks will instead. That's crazy. It's also amazing.

If you don't live as Jesus lived, you are spouting false testimony. But if you don't speak true testimony, then the way that you live could easily be interpreted as "Wow, what a nice kid. The end."

Is this entire blog a rambling mess? Maybe. Did I rant too much at once? Quite possibly. Did all of this stem from the All Sons and Daughters Night of Worship and the fact that I am going back to school tomorrow? Absolutely.

God loves me, and God is enough.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Thoughts...but I am not saying them."

There is a statement I have found myself making on a fairly regular basis lately.

"I have thoughts in my head, but I am not saying them."

That might very well make a few (or more than a few) of you laugh at me. If you've known me very long, you could even be scoffing. In reality, though, I do choose not to speak on many occasions.What does this have to do with anything? To be honest, I do indeed have plenty of thoughts in my head that I will not be saying tonight. Nevertheless, I am blogging so there must be something to say, right?

I'm currently on spring break, for those who were not aware. It came at the perfect time (which is probably quite obvious to anyone who read my previous post) and I am pretending to catch up on sleep that I have been missing since, well, October or November. This break has given me time to think about several things that have been weighing me down for a while. As has been the case on other occasions, I will leave it at that.

What I will say is that things are changing. Fast. God has continued to show me His faithfulness through conversations with people who love me more than I deserve. He has chosen to reveal truth in ways that I would not have chosen to experience, but these experiences have stretched me. My heart aches and my head hurts, but His love endures forever and His plan is flawless.

So as God continues to cover my mouth with one Hand and point me in a different direction with the other, I will yet again choose to remain vague. Please pray for me if you are willing to do so. I'm willing to elaborate, but you'll have to ask me first.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sliding Around the Corner

Oh look. I am writing in the middle of the afternoon for once. Remarkable.

Welcome to the latest episode of Justine Has a Mental Breakdown. Gotta be honest, people have put up with a remarkable amount this week. Pretty sure I haven't been the most enjoyable person recently. All of the things are happening at once, which has been a wee bit stressful.

This week has been filled with movement yet again. Whether it has been the physical movement of class and class and meeting and class and meeting, the mental movement of homework and video work, or the emotional movement of my sleep-deprived brain, I have not stopped for more than an hour outside of sleep at night. Not that sleep has actually been hugely a part of this process.

There have been benefits to this never-ending motion. I am learning so much from both types of design classes (Sound Design and Layout & Design) and these are helping me make better videos. I figured out that I actually can do graphic design, and my journalism profs have officially corrupted my way of looking at text anywhere.

Some cool things are happening very soon. I will reveal them eventually. Until then, let me just say how grateful I am for wingmates and close friends in Steg who have been holding on to me, even when I feel unlovable.

If you have hugged me, prayed for me, listened to my cynical rants, booed a supposed injustice, laughed at my jokes, lived with me (yes you, Brianne), or sat up with me until 3 a.m., thank you. I couldn't have gotten through the past four weeks without you. You know who you are. And I love you all.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Buy a Ticket Next Time

I should be in bed. I should be asleep. I am so tired. I feel like crud. But my mind is spinning.

I'm halfway through my second school week without a roommate. In case you aren't aware, Brianne has been doing many fantastic theater things so far this semester. She's doing what she loves with people she loves, and I am a fan of that. The room has been very lonely at night, but she'll be back next week for the long haul and we will be able to catch up on life. I'm pretty pumped for that, too.

While sitting in my once-a-week Sound Design theater class today, I felt dead. I love the professor and I enjoy my classmates, but physically, I felt terrible and that affected how I interacted with others. As I sat in a fog and fought to keep up with the banter, I realized how ridiculous I felt. My mental process went a bit like this:
"They're laughing. You should at least smile. What he said was funny."
"But I just can't. My head hurts. I want to go home and lay down now."
"Too bad. You've got stuff to do lat--agh, there's another funny thing that you just missed. Come on, Justine. Pull it together."
"Fine. I'll try. But do I have to laugh?"
"I suppose not. But really, make a bit of an effort."

Doubt me if you wish, but I promise I actually had a conversation with myself about this for the first five minutes of class. Even when sitting with two of my closest friends, I still hated existence at that moment and wanted to be anywhere else. When we moved to a different location to work with sound equipment, I pushed myself to function, but it was miserable.

At one point, I looked around the room and laughed at myself. The reality is that I am the only non-theater kid in a theater class. While my four closest friends at school are all theater kids, that doesn't mean I always "fit" well. A fair amount of the time, I have a dialogue in my head about what it would be like to fit. I've never figured out what it looked like.

I'm not saying that I am dissatisfied with my life here. Quite the opposite. But I'll be honest with you...standing outside of a box called a stereotype and watching everyone else interact inside the box can be painful. I am not a theater kid. I never will be one. That's fine. It's frightening to be boxed out, though. That space I have been occupying is getting rather lonely. My roommate loves theater. My best friends love theater. My brother is heading in that direction. And then there's me.

Just sitting at the bus stop, waiting for a bus to pick me up and carry me away from this insecurity.

Too bad I forgot to buy a ticket before the station closed for good.

The bus isn't coming tomorrow, kids. Have fun learning on your own.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I am Frozen.

I've seen the movie Frozen twice now. I've never been a huge Disney freak and I didn't grow up with the classics like Lion King or I can't judge the movie against those. So unlike many other people who loved Frozen, I am not going to write about the strengths of the female characters or the unique twist of true love. Something else about the movie affected me deeply, and I want to focus on that today.

The character Elsa lives with a magical power that causes her to create snow and ice with very little physical effort. Because she hurt her little sister with this power when they were small, she lives in fear of people finding out that she is different, and so she shuts the world out. Besides having an incredible alto voice (my favorite), Elsa sang about letting everything go and being herself without any worries of what others might think about her secret.

The movie wasn't even halfway over before I was struggling not to cry. I sat absolutely still in my theater seat, completely overwhelmed by emotions that I had avoided experiencing since the day I gave my Tourette's speech. The concept of being totally free of the one thing I will never be free from attempted to grab me by the throat and pull me under the icy water.

When everyone else stood up after the movie and began raving about how great the characters were, I had to leave and be alone for a minute. Days later, I still carried my unspoken thoughts in my back pocket, waiting for someone who would listen and understand. The second time I saw the movie--two nights ago in a theater packed with my fellow students--I was able to sing parts of the song with my friends, but I still could not move. The irony of this stillness is that my tics don't like for me to stop moving. The more I move, the better I focus. And yet this was necessary.

After the second viewing, I had the chance to talk with three wingmates about my Tourette's. It will never be easy to describe how my disorder affects my life, but I honestly couldn't have felt any safer than I did in my friends' lowly-lit dorm room with the door closed and three pairs of eyes and ears pointed towards me at 1:30 in the morning. At the end of the conversation, my R.A. placed a hand on my knee, looked me in the eye, and said, "We all love you, and that will never change."

That is why Frozen is now my favorite Disney movie. The mix of positive and negative emotions while absorbing the story of a girl trying to hide something she can't learn to control...that made it great. If you haven't seen Frozen, go watch it. If you have...look at it through my perspective once and then talk to me about it. I want to hear your thoughts as well.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

All of the Things

Less than two more days before Christmas break comes to a close. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t excited to go back to Northwestern. Break has been lovely—perhaps the most restful one I have experienced—but I miss my roommate, wingmates, and close friends at school quite a bit.

It’s been an interesting almost-month at home; I had no idea that the game of Nertz could be played so many times in a day. I have watched more than 15 movies and several episodes of a BBC series that I love. I have taken in far more episodes of MeTV shows than I ever wanted to see. I learned to crochet in less than three days and finished a large project as a present for a friend at school. Yes, Justine did something domestic. You may all pick your jaws off the floor now. That has been the extent of it.

The annual Johnson Christmas gathering proved to be as chaotic as usual—34 people total, 5 of whom were close to toddler age. We played musical beds, chairs, and tables, and that made the experience more fun and unique. Not that we needed it to be unique, since we hold our festivities in our heated garage. We went through numerous buckets of ice cream, many jugs of milk, and more containers of lemonade than what is healthy for 14 kids to drink. Daddy made semi-regular trips up to Grandpa’s with a tank of water for the well—thank God for my father and his hard work. Some of us went to see Frozen on New Year’s Eve, and fewer of that number stayed up till at least 4 a.m. playing Headbandz, drinking pop, eating cold leftover Pizza Hut pizza from earlier that night, laughing hysterically, and watching Despicable Me 2.

And so with all of those lovely things still lingering fondly on my mind, I am beginning to prepare for a chilly departure on Monday morning. What does this semester look like? It holds loads of potential, I’ll guarantee that right away. I will be starting my work study (dream) job as the editor of campus news videos as soon as I get back, which excites me beyond words. I’ll be working with Michael and some awesome friends each week to produce two videos before Monday morning.

I’m taking two journalism classes and a sound design class, but I’m only taking one writing class this semester. I’m a bit wary of this tactic, but this is where God has directed me so far and I need to trust Him in that. I’m pumped to take Sound Design and learn more about one of my favorite aspects of filmmaking.

To be honest, though, I am most looking forward to building closer relationships with people this semester. Having Michael with me has been such a blessing and I have enjoyed watching him become more and more like Daddy every day. I thought he was my best friend before, but going to school with him has improved our friendship by leaps and bounds. I also love my roomie and my wing, and I am blessed to have women living with me who truly care about me as a person. The relationships that I am going back to in Steg and on campus in general are helping me to heal. That is a beautiful thing. God is truly so good.

God loves me, and God’s love is enough.