Darn near thirty…. I have heard this phrase and have used this phrase several times over the past year. For those of you who don’t know, I am indeed darn near thirty. In fact, twenty-nine to be exact. So I guess you could say that I have done a wee-bit of thinking and contemplating over my twenties as a whole as I soak in this chapter. Come reminisce with me my tipsiness…
I remember the day that I turned 20. I was a sophomore in college. Great roommates, boyfriend, friends, and big improvement on my grades, all attributed to getting my freshman year out of my system and actually starting to take my life seriously. I was more adjusted and settled into the college groove as I devoted my time to studying, even though my grades reflected someone who didn’t care about their academics. But that is absolutely not the case with me. I legitimately tried my hardest. Paid off tutors. Gave up part of my social life. Skipped meals. Developed majorly poor eating habits in the process all because I wanted to measure up to my older brother who literally could walk in the day of his chemistry final and ace the junk out of it. On the other hand, I would study for hours on end by highlighting major points, making up note cards for memorizing, and saying my prayers before bed believing that God would bless my efforts by giving me at least a “C” on the test. Even with my tutors, parents, and friends cheering me on, I would get the test back with a whopping, fat, red and capital “F” on the top of the test. With extreme insecurity, I would flip the test back over and put it under my notebook for no one to see. I would look around to see and hear my classmates vent over the one or two questions they got wrong and fought back the tears that were stuck in my throat. Test after test, class after class, failure after failure. Test anxiety is a real thing, and I exhibited it at its finest. Age 20, everyone. My struggles were insecurity and comparison for sure.
I remember when I turned 22. I literally had my life planned out. I was eager to get engaged to my hilarious, talented, god-fearing boyfriend whom I was love struck with at first sight, maybe even before I actually met him in person if I am 100% honest with you. I was excited to land my first job in my teaching career. I retook the ACT to get a qualifying score to simply stay in my major, and by God’s grace, obtained the score needed to and walk on graduation day. My plans were working out great. “My” being the key word. I was trying to fit God in the tiny little box labeled “Janelle’s Happy Ending”. Little did I know that my plans would be thoroughly wrecked in the blink of an eye. The dream of me and my littles waiting by the window to see their daddy pull up in the driveway and running out to smother him with kisses at the end of a long work day quickly vanished as Jordan pulled up in his car in front of my dorm and said to me the words that are forever in my heart, “Janelle, I just can’t do ‘us’ anymore. Something’s not right, and I can’t pinpoint it.” Just like that, I was left with a broken heart, and I literally felt like everyone could read the word “Reject” on my forehead as I crumbled and cried in the corner. I was hurt beyond words as the life we dreamt of and were moving towards was suddenly ripped from underneath me. As these circumstances continued to shake the ground I walked on, I closed the chapter of college on an ugly, bitter and discontent note of what my life should have looked like upon graduation. Age 22, still insecurity, low self-worth, and depression began settling in.
Turning 25, quarter of a century, was a highlight year for me. Being a special education teacher has it’s own set of problems that we encounter. I feel like this was one of the hardest years of my career professionally; however, during this year I developed some of the most special, long-lasting friendships whom I hold very near and dear to my heart. These are those friendships that have lasted over the years. We’ve seen each other at our worst and still couldn’t imagine life without each other. I was involved to an intense measure in a college and 20’s ministry downtown Greenville, and it was there that God ripped all legalism (and continuing to do so) out of my mindset. I learned who God was and it pushed me to walk in His ways. At this point I was still single, wondering if God was going to bless me with a man who loves and pursues God so much and in turn does the same for me. I would say my mid-twenties was filled with the desire and longing to be loved, to be known, and to be chosen. I really struggled with understanding how to find my true contentment in God and shifting my perspective to building God’s kingdom and not my own. This season definitely had me shopping for bridesmaids dresses and attending more weddings than I can count which always kept me wondering when it would be my turn. I would leave these ceremonies in tears for a couple of reasons.
- I was really darn happy for the couple and
- I felt like I was wasting away, and God was holding out on my from my happy ending that I have always desired and wanted.
After dating wrong guy after wrong guy with no prediction of their disrespect and manipulation of me, I kept wondering what I am doing wrong and why does this keep happening to me.
Age 25, continued insecurity, low self-worth, depression, and comparison. So I naturally bought a dog. OOOF. I literally won the jackpot with Milo. Literally the best dog in the world. You may beg to differ because we are all partial to our own pets, or essentially our kids, but I would definitely fight you on this one and 100% win. So yeah, there’s that.
As I neared twenty-six or twenty-seven (I couldn’t actually tell you when because I have one of THE worst memories in the world- true story – people call me Dory), God began doing a stirring in my heart. I felt that God was calling me out of my “normal” to do something different. To this day, I cannot describe what was taking place in my heart. I just remember starting to feel withdrawn in the circles that God had placed me in. I remember sitting on my front porch with dearly loved friends with tears running down our faces, telling them that God is calling me out and I have no idea where he is leading me. It was one of the hardest conversations we had, but I still knew that there is a calling the Lord has for me and it just wasn’t at my current location. And sure enough, just like that, God provided a job in Wisconsin near my parents house. Just like that, I packed up my car, left my heart with some of my favorite people in Greenville, SC, and began the 13-hour long trip home. My twenty-seven year old self struggled with proving to the world her calling, that she was hearing from the Lord rightly, and still, experiencing lies of insecurity in who she was in the Lord.
And here we are! Twenty-nine! Twenty-nine has sure brought a lot of changes and disappointments for sure. I landed a job in Wisconsin in hopes to make it my next ten years. Again, putting God in the “Janelle’s Happy Ending” box. With this job came a lot of tears, frustrations, wounds and devalued me as a person. Fear was used to elicit more production out of me when I was already at the end of my rope and begged for support. I was devalued by my administrator as he listened to unfiltered gossip and faulted me with untruth. I lost trust in that relationship as these tactics were a means to an end of unethically pushing me out of the environment. I lost all passions to be relational and communicative. Unknowingly, I began to shut down, close off and retreat. I slipped into unhealthy eating patterns and dealt with anxiety and depression after I took off my mask when I left school at the end of the day. I was just scraping by until the end of the year not even realizing or maybe acknowledging the hurt so that I could essentially deal with it head-on. On top of that, I began dating someone who threw it all away and cheated on me. Completely blind-sighted and wrecked, I felt as if I would never recover. And if it couldn’t get any worse, I had to go to the emergency room for a virus I had contracted, and I accrued close to $5,000 for out-of-pocket bills. Awesome. BUT… yes there is a but here, I will say this. God has brought me through it all and has engraved such a deep faith that I have never experienced before. A faith that is genuine, holding my hands open to him saying, “Anything, God”. A faith that I can honestly hold fast to and believe that God will provide for me and meet my every need. I am starting to believe and truly accept that “Janelle’s Happy Ending” does not look like it did back when I was twenty-two. I am currently single, living back at home with my parents awaiting to embark on a new adventure with God. Also, a couple of years ago, He placed a desire in my heart to foster and eventually adopt. Because I have had the desire to do so for a while now and these desires only intensify, I will be taking steps towards getting certified as a foster mom by the end of this year. I desire to see racial reconciliation, and I am currently stepping out by reading and learning how these differences impact people’s lives. I desire to support single mothers in their process by coming alongside of them and caring for them, practically and spiritually. For those of you who have been walking through these passions and desires with me, it is to you I am forever grateful for. I am terrified of this calling, but thankfully I know a God who is put in us a love that casts out all fears.
The other day I was on Instagram scrolling through, and I came to a post from Bob Goff. It said, “In the wait time, God gives you friends.” TRUTH. PRAISE HANDS. CHURCH. If there is one thing that I choose to see as I look back over my twenties, it’s not the fact that I had trials and was placed in some intense and upsetting situations; rather, I choose to see that God blessed me with people so I didn’t have to go through any part of it alone. I ALWAYS had people around me who chose to walk through this ugly thing called “life” together.
When I was younger, and about every year on my birthday, I believed that I will become stronger and figure out my calling on my life and really kick these struggles in the butt and kiss them goodbye. And I stand before you today to tell you that I am darn near thirty, still trying to figure it out. I have no clue what I am doing and okay with that. I feel that one day I will become braver and say “yes” to the one thing I am afraid of. We are all in this together. Sure, we have life experiences that cultivate us into who we are today, but that doesn’t mean we have it all figured out more than the next guy. I think of Joseph in the Bible. He had no clue how God was going to use him someday in a big way for just being faithful in the little. Little did he know that “what man meant for evil, God meant for good.” Maybe you are like Joseph in the story. You don’t know what your happy ending is. A friend said to me the other day that “God is asking us to open our hands up so that we can receive what He wants to give us and grasp onto something new.”The thing is, when Jesus is in it, he will see to it that peace will be enveloping you in the process, and the enemy will fight it hard to plant fears in you to scare you out of your calling. Let’s learn together how to stop comparing ourselves to others. God has created each of us to walk different paths. Be confident in and true to yourself, what YOUR desires are and not living out your friend’s. Run the race that God has called YOU to run and run it well. Just like Joseph, and just like the Father did with His own Son, He sees us through.
“ He sees me through like before. He is Lord.” – Elevation Worship