the innerworkings of my mind

Honestly, I have no idea if I’ll end up publishing this post or not. Seeing as how I “broke up” with my blog nearly six months, it’s a little awkward to just start writing again in true Jessi fashion…

I had a pretty stark realization Friday morning. I was with my students at Club 121, and our agenda for the morning was to spend time praying together. We sat in a circle in a dimly lit room, and together entered the throne room. As the students were praying, I began to ask God to reveal things to me. I’ve been at a… disconnect with myself for quite sometime, and a few weeks ago, I finally made the decision to begin fighting for my spirit. Things have come up, closets opened, my heart laid bare, and the other night I began to realize that I was sad- just sad. And I didn’t fully know why. I’ve been trying to be nakedly honest with God in all this- no more pretending, because that doesn’t get either of us anywhere. So I told him I was sad. And I told him again at Club that I’m just sad. And I don’t know what to do with it. For the first time in a long time, I heard a response. The still, small voice said, “You’re mourning the death of your expectations…”

I don’t remember the last time a word “stopped me in my tracks” like this. I had no idea- no idea that this is what’s been underlying for such a long time. Here I am, sad in my selfishness, because the expectations that I had for myself haven’t been met. And that’s not a bad thing- it’s just the truth. I have a good life- a great life, and I really mean that- but I had ideas, plans, hopes… and for the most part, those have gone unmet, unrealized. I didn’t see that my spirit has been mourning them, refusing to allow them to die so that new ideas, plans, and hopes can be built and realized. And this morning, it hit- I need to mourn the death of my expectations to allow myself to fully engage in what the Lord wants to do now.

So, I will be sad, I will mourn, but I will survive. One of the biggest things that I have learned in life is that we have to go through the winter, allowing things to die, so that we can more fully experience the rebirth of spring. So I will go through the winter in expectation that the Lord has great plans for the spring.

It’s good to know I serve the God of life abundant…


In August last year, I attended the pilgrimage with my church, Jacob’s Well.  It was a time and place set aside for us to seek the Lord, both individually and corporately.  In the month leading up to it, I was so excited to go.  I even postponed my Korea trip so that I could attend.  Then, a few days before, I started dreading it.  I absolutely didn’t want to go.  I guess I knew I had some things that needed to be dealt with, even though I didn’t know what they were, and I knew it would be hard.  And I was right.  At the end, during the closing service, I stood up and shared, through tears, what the Lord was doing.  For a long time, I had been “maintaining” the tower that I’d built called my life.  I had been filling in cracks that showed up, pulling up weeds, putting things back where I thought they belonged when they fell…  And I realized that weekend that the Lord was calling me to step away from the tower and into His arms where we would watch the tower that I had built with my own hands crumble into the pile of rubble that it should be.  And we would then start again, only this time, He would be the builder.  At that point, all I could do was stand in His arms, look at the destruction, and cry. 

Then I left for Korea.  Then I came home and had a bunch of photography things to take care of.  Then I started teaching.  Then my cousin died.  Then I enrolled in masters classes.  Then D-Now season with No Longer Quiet started again.  And then came March 10th

I spent the weekend in Jefferson City at a D-Now, leading an amazing group of 10th grade girls.  The theme was “Gimme God” and we talked about what it means to stop trying to run from God and what it looks like to trust Him.  Saturday night, I gave my testimony of the last few months and the things I’ve been going through with Abbie’s death.  I talked about how after her accident, I wanted nothing more than to flip God the bird and tell Him that I wasn’t interested anymore, but how He was so patient, so faithful.  I read Psalm 73:26- My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.  And I told them the truth- we will fail, but God will be our strength.  I shared my story because someone there really needed to hear it.  And again, I shared through tears.  Only this time, the tears didn’t stop.

After the service, I sat and talked with Melissa and Chris, and fought.  I fought the tears.  I fought the exhaustion.  I fought the emotions that were desperate to be released.  I fought allowing myself to feel what I’ve needed to feel for 7 months.  I kept saying, “I don’t want to do this!” 

Then I quit fighting.  I let the things that I didn’t even realize were inside out.  I finally gave up, and I realized that for 7 months, I’ve been standing among the rubble with the pieces still in my hands, scared to walk away.  When Melissa asked me what I felt like God was asking me to move towards, I realized that I didn’t know, which is why it seemed easier to just stay where I was, holding onto what no longer existed, but what I had known for so long to be.  Turns out it’s not easier after all.

Now it’s time for the journey to begin to a new land with a new Builder.  I still don’t know where we’re going, and I still don’t know what He’ll build, but I know that now, at least I can turn away from the pieces and begin to walk.  It may be a slow journey in the beginning, but my traveling partner has all the patience in the world… 

Welcome to the land of the overwhelmed.  In the land of the overwhelmed, people fill their plates with much more than they can handle, and they bite off more than they can chew.  Living in the land of the overwhelmed leads to many “enjoyable” experiences… 

For example, one barely has time to do what one really enjoys doing, like talking with friends, blogging, working out, spending time with family, having a general social life, having a general any kind of life, and instead is allowed to revel in the exciting world of work, school, homework and responsibility.  One doesn’t know how to fit into one 24 hour period all that “needs” to be done and still sleep, so nothing gets done the way it should and sleep is found to be an elusive concept.

But what of the times when the person feels the effects of this land?  That’s when emotional breakdown occurs because of words said in a cross manner, or assignments that aren’t understood, or a student that smarts off, or boy that calls an hour later than when girl thought he would which must mean he’s completely uninterested because that’s the only “logical” conclusion, or emotions that resurface from the still-occuring grieving process.  That’s also when one realizes that priorities need to be re-prioritized, because things are all discombobulated, but one doesn’t know how to go about the process…

Who wants to join me?  Anyone?…  anyone?  I didn’t think so. 

Can anyone get ME out?…

I was sitting in the library today during first hour when I overheard one of the librarians talking about a wreck that happened involving three students from LSW.  One of them, a 16 year old boy, was killed.  I was shocked at how quickly everything came back- everything, and so vividly.  My immediate thoughts went to the family and what the next week will bring for them.  The phone calls, the funeral arrangements, the cards, the emotion.  I thought I had a grasp of what dealing with death looked like, but after Abbie’s death, I realized that I had no idea- none.  It’s one of those things that you’ll never know until you’re in the situation.  Even then, you still don’t know what to do.  It’s been over a month now, and I keep thinking, when does it stop?  Truth be told, I don’t think it does.  It just gets easier… hopefully.  The past week has been hard for some reason.  Tuesday night I was driving home from yoga and the Rascal Flatts song “My Wish” came on. As I was listening, I knew I knew the song, and I knew it was associated with something sad, but I couldn’t place it. When I finally put it together, I lost it. At Christmas, we watched a picture DVD that a family friend had put together of pictures of Abbie, and “My Wish” was the last song on it- they said the song was Abbie’s wish for us. Next time you hear that song, listen to it with that as your thought… yeah, it’s a little overwhelming. The more I thought, the more upset I became. I’ve been asking the why questions lately… Why did a friend of mine have an accident almost identical to what happened with Abbie, yet they both walked away fine? Why did I let so much time pass without spending time with her? Why did it happen? Why, why why?… And I know that it’s not my place to question God- who am I? It’s hard not to be mad, not to ask. And it’s hard not to feel like I could have and should have been more involved in her life.  It’s just… hard.  And still so fresh.  So, now, I’ll pray for Tyler’s family, for the things they’ll have to face, for the grief and healing process that they’re going to go through, and I’ll pray knowing that there aren’t words, but the Lord still knows what I mean…

grief is selfish… and that’s totally okay.

nothing can prepare you for watching your uncle pick out his daughter’s burial outfit.

we’ll never understand how or why some things happen.

the Lord really can bring beauty out of ashes.

you don’t really remember what people say or what people do. it’s the fact that they’re there, and they care that you remember.

my co-workers are so amazing. i wouldn’t have made it through in one piece without them.

my family is one of the most important things in the world to me. and this is only affirming that.

when you think there’s no more tears left, chances are good that there are.

small towns provide an amazing support system.

never leave a family member without saying “i love you”.

saying goodbye is hard when you don’t know how.

memories and emotions hit you when you least expect it.

no one is exempt from tragedy.

life really is too short.  live while you can.

As I was leaving my staff meeting this afternoon, I noticed that my mom had called and left a voicemail. After listening to it, I knew that this was a call that needed to be returned immediately. She didn’t say much, just “Hi, sweetie- give me a call when you get this.” But I knew. And I knew the moment she answered my return call- something was wrong. My Papa had a stroke about a year and a half ago, and I automatically assumed it was about him. Instead, I heard my mom say, “Abbie’s gone.” My only response was, “Abbie Hartley?…” Abbie is my 17 year old cousin. She’s a senior in high school, drop dead gorgous, and MY GIRL. Since the day she, and her sister, Sarah (who’s 15), were born, they were my girls. We’d have them spend the night, we’d stay up too late playing silly little games, we’d make cookies, and I’d try to be a good example for them. I’d make her say her name over and over when she was little, because it came out “Abeedale Elithabef” and I thought it was the cutest thing ever. They didn’t have a choice- they were my girls. When they moved north, I didn’t get to see them as much, but I think we all 3 still knew- they were my girls. I’ve never been more shocked in all of my life. Abbie died this morning in a car accident on her way to school. We don’t have many details at this point, other than she’s gone. She’s my girl, and she’s gone. It’s not supposed to happen to my family, to one of my cousins, to one of us, but it did. My Granny’s death I can make sense of. This? I can’t. She’s gone. I’m sure this one’s going to be a long one to process through… and I’m not looking forward to it. But I don’t have a choice. It happened, and for the first time in my sheltered life, I’m dealing with a death where I didn’t get to say goodbye. And quite frankly, it sucks. But all I can do is put one foot in front of the other and hope that soon, healing will come for all of us, especially my uncle and his family. Life is just so… fragile. It seems like I’ve been confronted with that reality in a multitude of ways lately. I think I’m ready for a week without a tragedy or near tragedy here soon…

This has been potentially the most unnerving day of my life.  I’m sitting here almost numb, unable to really compute what’s going on or what to think of it.  Yesterday morning, a student was taken into custody for possession of a firearm at my school.  Thanks to a tip and our amazing administration, there was no incident, no threats were made, but a student brought a gun to school.  We didn’t know any more than that.  Today before 1st hour, I began to put two and two together.  The student taken into custody was one of mine.  He was taken into custody 3rd hour… I have him 2nd.  I have the student that might have provoked him 1st.  Yesterday in class, I tripped over his backpack sitting in the aisle.  Could I have accidently triggered something if the gun had been in there?  He brushed me as he came in late.  Was is in his coat?  There was a gun in my classroom.  In my classroom.  In my classroom…  Some areas you consider to be sacred, safe, untouchable.  My school is one of those places.  Thank God for a tip and a fast acting administration that kept it safe.  But something like this still changes things…  I can’t help but think of all the what ifs.  Is there something I could have done differently?  Were there warning signs that I didn’t catch, or ignored?  What if something had happened between the two classes?  One of the worst things is I can’t get the thought of one of my students pointing a gun at another of my students, whom I happen to adore, out of my head.  What is our world coming to?  Who decided it was a good idea to resolve things with a gun?  Why can’t there be anything sacred any more?  I’m fully aware of the “answers” to these questions, but… it’s just different when you’re face to face with something like this.  I want to be able to go to bed without having thoughts of the day running through my head, without feeling like I’m constantly on the verge of tears, my sense of security rocked.  I want to wake up and go to work thinking that nothing could happen at MY school.  I want to feel safe in the halls, to know that my students are safe, to know that my co-workers are safe.  But, right now, I just… can’t.  I know my perspective will eventually be regained and that rationality will once again take root, but right now, it’s hard.  So, tomorrow, I’ll go to work, with a little bit more fear than normal, but amazingly still loving what I do, and I’ll try to take more notice.  I’ll try to love on these kiddos a little more.  And I try to let Jesus be Jesus through me, reminding me and showing the kiddos where our security comes from.

What a day…

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