why i stayed.

part 1:[written december 14th, 2013]

when i first set a countdown to graduation, there were 864 days on it. this was at a hard time in my life when i just couldn’t deal with school on top of everything else going on. it seemed like an eternity away.
this is the part where normal people would say “and then i blinked and that day was today,” or maybe, “but it flew by before i ever realized it.” but i’m anything but normal.
to me, it felt like four eternities.

for real.

normal people would then say, “now i’m so sad it’s over.” again, i don’t do normal.
i wish it had ended months ago.
mentally, my semester ended on october 21st. that was the day everything that meant anything ended.

friday night after graduation, my friend came up to me at work and asked if i was sad to be done, and i said “no, i’ve been counting down for over two years.” he replied “then WHY did you stay? i mean, why was it even worth it to finish?”

that’s a valid question.

honestly, college was four years of disappointment punctuated by occasional happy surprises. that’s not me being negative; it’s just the truth.
but you know, not all good things are easy.
i stayed because God wanted me to finish.
i stayed because there was no other way for me to learn everything i learned.
i stayed because too many people had either outright claimed or just implied that i couldn’t do it, and the rebellious child in me wanted to prove them wrong.
now that it’s over, i can look at it objectively enough to realize that it’s okay that it was so hard. because even though i hated it, it was exactly what God needed it to be in order to get me where he wants me to be.
i’m really not bitter. i know college is supposed to be the best days of your life, but i got my best days early; high school was the happiest i’ve ever been. i should have known better than to expect my whole life to be as good as that.

part 2:[written today]
i honestly and truly HATED college, with every fiber in my being. i’m not being dramatic, and since i’m saying this two months later, i’m definitely not just saying that because i’m in the middle of a hard week of classes. people told me i would miss it after graduation. they said once it was all over, i’d realize it wasn’t as hard as it felt at the time.
nope. i hated it. i still have nightmares about it. it really was my hell on earth.
but i also honestly and truly believe that that’s how it was supposed to be.

i’ve always needed to learn things the hard way. nothing sticks in my brain unless it’s been ground into it with as much pain as possible.

of all the lessons God used those hellish four years to teach me, i’ve finally pinpointed the most important one.
when life is good, i forget to thank God for it. college was what he needed to break me of that.
i made it have to be that hard. he gave me chances to take the easy way out. he constantly gave me good things, put good people in my life, then i’d worship the things instead of him and depend on the people for my fulfillment instead of him.
and so he’d take the gifts away to test if i’d learned yet…and i’d fall apart. every time was worse than the last. each time when things got good again, my Jesus high would last a little longer than the one before it, but it would always go downhill eventually. i was only excited about him because he was giving me good things.

in the calm before the storm that was november 2012, i read this devotion from Jesus Calling.

Though I have brought many pleasures into your life, not one of them is essential. Receive My blessings with open hands. Enjoy My good gifts, but do not cling to them. Turn your attention to the Giver of all good things, and rest in the knowledge that you are complete in Me. The one thing you absolutely need is the one thing you can never lose: My Presence with you.

now i knew what i was supposed to be learning. the lesson was in my head; now it would take 15 months for it to settle into my heart.
from then on, i tried every time things got bad to remember that i needed to be turning to God instead of to people or grades or sports or my car. but he still kept letting things happen.
i wasn’t really trusting him; i was telling him i trusted him, saying the magic words so that he’d let me keep what i thought would really fix my life.
when all along i’d always had everything i needed.

i’m not sure when i learned it; i’ve only realized in the last week that i did.
i thought about how my post-graduate life is nothing like i expected or wanted it to be...
-i’ve only gotten two donations to my World Race fund in the past six weeks.
-it took me seven weeks to get a job, and i spent those seven weeks feeling restless and frustrated and just not happy. watching tv for 12 hours a day isn’t as satisfying when you’re only doing it because you have literally nothing better to do.
-and i don’t love my job. i don’t hate it; i actually like it a little bit. but i don’t get sad when i wake up on my day off, and that’s weird to me because i’ve never had a job that i didn’t absolutely love.
…and i found myself more fully content than i’ve ever been in any time that things happened just how i wanted them to.

so then i wrote this, which got me processing exactly how i got there…and now we’re here.

the only thing i need is the only thing i’ll never lose.
he is perfect, and he’s totally worth every bit of suffering i had to go through to get to the point where i understood that.

every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.~james 1:17

delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.~psalm 37:4

i really am thankful.

“What if all you were left with today when you got up was what you thanked God for yesterday?”

that quote that everyone’s read twenty times was on my friend’s facebook status this morning. i read it and thought about it.
i’d have my car, and its radio and heater would still work, because i specifically thanked him for both those things on my way home from work.
i’d have my job, and all the same people would work there, because i thanked him for each of them by name.
i’d have all of the blankets on my bed, because last night as i was falling asleep, i didn’t thank God for the bed itself, but i did thank him that i had more blankets that i needed; so maybe by definition, he’d let me keep the bed too.
and i’d still be going on the World Race.
that isn’t much. and if we’re getting technical, i wouldn’t be able to drive my car because i didn’t thank him for my license, which means i also couldn’t get to my job. i couldn’t even have my mom drive me there because i forgot to thank God for her. really i couldn’t go anywhere because i didn’t thank him for clothes or money…so i’d just be living in my car, wrapped up in my blankets.

but as i came to the end of that thought process, i laughed at myself and realized, i don’t care what God takes from me as long as he doesn’t take himself. the only thing i’d be somewhat devastated about is not having my Bible.

all my life i’ve been afraid to lose things and terrified to lose people.
but somewhere along the line, in the last few months, he’s finally become enough. or, i’ve finally realized that he’s always been enough. if i woke up tomorrow with only him, i’d be okay.
i can finally 100% mean it with every bit of me that he means more to me than anything or anyone ever has or ever will, and that’s the most freeing feeling in the world.
and i’m thankful that he understands my ADD heart well enough to know that i AM thankful for all the other things, even if i don’t always verbalize every single one of them every single day. he’s given me too many good gifts for me to remember them all at once. =)