I have a history of living life in tomorrow. I’ve learned to not dwell in the past, but it’s equally dangerous to be focused so hard on the future.
When I get there…
When I have this…
Once this happens…
Then what? I’m pretty sure I used to think THEN I’d be ok. However, by always looking to the next week/month/year, I missed so much of what God had for me in the here and now and the opportunity to be ok in the present.
Leaving it all behind
Ten years ago this week my dad flew out to California to bring me back home. We packed up my rear-wheel-drive Jeep Grand Cherokee with everything I owned. Over the last year, I paired down to make moves easier. Before we hit the road, I had a few stops to make in the desert to say last minute goodbyes. My last words to friends included that I’d be in Omaha, NE before long and that they could come visit me soon. And then we headed east.
For the first leg, I blasted my latest CD mix, allowing myself to feel all the feelings and reminiscing over my summer. I belted out every word. Before long, tears streamed down my face as the reality of my recent breakup set in. The sadness quickly turned into shame as I became overwhelmed by feelings of failure. A year ago, I’d set out to make a home in California and, by my standards, I failed. As we sped down the highway, my tears turned to sobs and wails. My poor dad quietly sat next to me, holding on for dear life; his driver an emotional female speeding down a busy 3-lane freeway during rush hour.
Burying the feelings
When we finally stopped for dinner outside of Las Vegas, my dad asked how I was doing. After almost 3 hours of crying, screaming, and singing until I was hoarse, I had a much more optimistic view and could better articulate my feelings. Or so I thought. I now know I was just burying the emotions and trying to move on to the next thing.
I told him about all my plans for the coming weeks. And boy, did I have plans. My plans would land me in Omaha because no part of me wanted to be in my hometown. That’d just be more salt in the wound of my failure. I was confident finding a job would be simple, I have two bachelor degrees. There was enough money in my bank account to get a simple, small apartment. It was going to be great! A new life in Omaha was weeks away, I could feel it.
I remember him smiling and nodding along, saying something simple like, “Well, maybe we should just get home first.” At the time I’m sure I rolled my eyes; in my mind, I was already home and on to bigger and better things. As I remember back to that moment at that table outside of McDonald’s, I wish I could put my hand on my arm and say “Jessi, this is a big change. Just enjoy the drive home and relax.”
Focused on “Tomorrow”
But that’s not how I operated. So, rather than cherishing the precious 22 hours in a car with my dad, I kept my eyes on “tomorrow”. It was my dad’s birthday weekend and I was unable to be fully present in that time with him. We did have some laughs and it was a memorable trip, but for most of it I was busy in my brain daydreaming about the life I would soon have in Omaha.
Once we arrived back in Lincoln, and I was living back in my old room at my parents’ house, I became desperate. The bulk of my energy was spent on the computer researching jobs in Omaha and sending resumes. The rest of my time I was texting or talking to friends in California. I was unwilling to just be where I was, unable to call Lincoln home for now. When I ran into old friends around town, I even told them I’d be moving to Omaha soon! Really, with no job? Nice Jessi.
Forcing His Will
Interviews came and went. Money was running low, so I was grateful to pick up some hours at the cafe I worked at in high school and college. Having a place to go a few hours a day seemed to keep me sane and helped pass the time as I waited for returned calls or emails about jobs. Days in Lincoln turned into weeks. My eyes were still on a life in Omaha and I kept pursuing any lead that would get me there. I just KNEW that was the next chapter for me.
As leads for positions in Omaha started to slow down, and 2nd interviews were ending with no’s, I started to get desperate. I found myself applying for jobs I was either overqualified for or things I’m sure I wouldn’t really enjoy. I was getting good at talking myself into anything if it would get me what I wanted.
One night after a long day at the cafe, I sat on the stoop of my parents’ house with my dad. I vented and cried about things not going my way, as I’ve done with him so many times. He said something that made me so angry at the time… “Sometimes we just have to be where are hands are. Did you ever think maybe you are exactly where God needs you to be?” What the heck does that even mean?! Where else could I be?? How dare he say that. It couldn’t be true. I knew God had a life for me in Omaha, I just needed to figure it out. However, it was clear “force” was a better word for what I was doing.
Missing the Journey
While I spent my free time doing everything I could to build my life in Omaha, a life was forming around me in Lincoln. Old friends were coming back into my life and I was meeting new people and discovering the beauty of my hometown. It wasn’t as bad as I had made it in my mind. Within a few months, I moved in with a friend and was working regularly at the cafe. It wasn’t my dream life, but I was enjoying it. Some days I was embarrassed to not be “successful”, but now I see success is all relative. As weeks turned into months, I’m thankful God kept His answer about that life in Omaha consistent. No.
That fall of 2009 was such a sweet time in my life. Very few responsibilities and a clean slate. And I was unwilling to just be in that place. Unwilling to be where my hands were. To just be where God had me in that season. My dad’s advice over the years still made me crazy and rang louder as my forcing was not heeding results.
Be Where Your Hands Are
As much as I hate admitting when my parents are right, and they’ve been right more times than I can count, my dad hit the nail on the head that night. Here I am, 10 years later, sitting on the front porch of our house that we own, in Lincoln. Yes, I’m back in my hometown I ran from all those years ago. I never did make it to Omaha.
Lincoln is where I met my husband, where I found community, where my baby girl was born, where I met Jesus again. Lincoln is my home. It’s where my hands are. Those early months back here taught me that I don’t always know what I want in life. Now, looking back, I can clearly see how lovingly God helped me ease into His plan for my life here. Although it’s not always easy and I don’t do it well, that advice from my dad seems ring true: Be where your hands are. Because when you do that, you really experience the journey!