Retracing Jelly Beans

Life is full of jelly beans.

I know this sounds funny, but if you’ve ever heard any childhood story about a character tracking their path through a forest by dropping the chewy treat behind them as they go, you know what I’m talking about. We didn’t get where we are by accident…little events throughout life led us here.

I call these things jelly beans.

Some of these jelly beans can be painful and they have to be retraced, picked up, examined, and thrown away in order to get back on the right track, but others lead us to the right place – the place we need to be.

This is how trust has played out in my life.

Right now, the mister and I are in a season of planning. We are examining what we want to do after business school, where we want to be, and what we want things to look like in 2.5 years. The problem is I hate planning. I enjoy plotting out my day and looking forward to the week ahead, but I despise planning out the long-term. (This is probably due to the fact that things always change and plans typically evolve into new plans, but regardless of how I feel about it, sometimes, you just have to do it.) For some reason, it tends to bring out the worst in me. I am always fearful of making the wrong decision and therefore try to not make one at all.

This state has led me to examine my jelly beans…

Jelly bean one: Giving In

I’ll go into this story more in future posts, I’m sure, but this jelly bean was dropped the summer before my senior year of high school.

I was drunk at party and was sitting on a balcony overlooking the crowd below me. I examined my life and longed for something more. I knew various bible stories, was baptized at a young age, and even had the desire to follow God, but other things had always seemed more appealing (my social status, my ambitions, my own comfort, etc.). After years of refusing to listen to the Lord, I finally gave in.

I decided to trust Him with my life, and things, though still hard at times, have never been the same since. 

Jelly bean two: The Break-up

This jelly bean was awful.

My sophomore year of college my boyfriend and I broke up. (Something I thought would never happen.) I remember walking down the hallway of my college dorm wondering if I would ever get over it. I was too sad to eat, too confused to think straight, and was utterly disappointed in how the cards had fallen in my life. I remember looking at the doors of all of the other rooms wondering if the people inside were happy. Were they satisfied with life? Or were they, like me, heartbroken? Was I alone?

The Lord led me to two verses that guided me during this time:

“The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” – Romans 8:6

AND

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

 I rehearsed these verses every day for almost a year. As I walked around campus, drove to events, or ate in the dining hall, I repeated them in my mind.   

I had a choice. I could focus my thoughts on things I didn’t know or I could focus on the things I did. I didn’t know all of the answers behind my situation. I didn’t know what the Lord was going to do in the future or what He was in the process of doing in the present. All I knew was the truth – He was good, and He never acted without purpose. 

Each and every day for a year-and-a-half consisted of burdensome pain, and, at times, doubt. “Did I make the right decision? Am I doing the right thing? If I am, why is it so hard?”

In the end, it all boiled down to trust.

 No part of it was easy, but with the help of my sister (who I called at least 3 times a day), the patience of good friends (who allowed me to cry at inappropriate times and talk the issue into the ground), and God’s grace, I healed. The Lord taught me to trust Him – and He walked me through it tear by tear until I showed up on the other side.

That was seven years ago.

There have been other jelly beans along the way, and they have all communicated the same thing: God is aware of what’s happening, He is good, He is able to provide, and I, therefore, should trust him. Through the death of a close family friend, to the hurt of feeling judged because of my past, He has proved faithful and has reassured me that He’s working in the midst of hard or unfortunate circumstances. Wherever He leads me is the best place to be.

So what do these jelly beans have to do with my current situation?

Today, as I type, I’m confused. I don’t know what I want to do, I feel frustrated, and I am tired after a long few days of school. (In fact, this past month has just worn me out.) I don’t want to plan. I don’t want to move to move again. (From Midland to Boston and then from Boston to…) What’s going to happen to my friendships here in Midland? What’s going to happen to my friendships in Boston and Dallas? Am I ever going to have deep community again?

This morning, I opened up the Word and read in Psalm 139 (where I typically go when I’m fed up with myself):

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (vs.1-3).

Even when I’m confused about who I am, how I feel, or how I fit into some picture, God knows. He knows me. He is aware of my ways – my habits, my thoughts, my hurts, and my activities. I’m never as lost as I think I am.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (vs. 7-10).

Even if I feel alone, I’m not. I never am. He is always with me and his Spirit will guide me – if only I listen.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (vs. 13&16).

God created me (and you). He formed my body. Piece by piece he put together my personality, the bed of my emotions, and my natural abilities. He knows where I am going and how He is going to use me there. He sees the big picture – even when I can’t see anything.

I’m not sure how my current situation is going to play out, but I know the jelly beans in my past remind me to trust Him.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23&24

I don’t know where you are or what’s going on in your life, but I know you have a trail of jelly beans behind you. Where have they led you? What have they shaped you to believe?

If you’re struggling, keep fighting. God is worth trusting. He promises to give you life, even though it may not always be easy. Rely on Him. Look to Him. Pray…

“Lord, see where I am and help me! Examine the parts of me I cannot see and lead me to repentance. Help me walk with you. Renew my heart so that I’m not focused on the negative in my life but on your grace which is the greatest gift of all. Change me. Make me more like you. Lead me to a place of trust – for I know you are faithful.”

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