Steppin' Out of Mah Zone

Here I go, spilling what's going on in the Janie-noggin'... 😅😁🙈

So if you didn't know, I'm going to be a sophomore this year at Saint Louis University. And I will just say, I am going into this school year with a completely different feel than last year when I was literally traumatized to even leave my house on move-in day to my dorm. Lots has changed over the course of 1 year, and I seriously am overjoyed about that and where God has brought me spiritually and mentally. 

I am however stepping into something new this year that is totally outside of my comfort zone and has all of a sudden made me super anxious inside just in the past couple of days especially. I'm no perfect human being by any means. I still struggle with anxiety, including both social anxiety and situational anxiety (super broad I know, but hang with me here).  Although I've come far in my trust in Jesus, I still falter every single day big time. And right now, not going to lie, I just feel plain out-right scared. 

This year I have committed to being on the leadership team with an on-campus interdenominational Christian organization/group called Chi Alpha (XA). Being on this leadership team means that I will be leading a small group (community group) and diving into God's word with other girls and discipling them as we walk through these college years together and growing in our faiths with Jesus.

As excited as I am to do this and to see how God is going to orchestrate this year, I am also somewhat paralyzed with anxiety right now (as I write this at 2 a.m. in the wee hours of the morning unable to sleep during this overnight leadership retreat). A lot is running through my head right now, but it just feels good to write it all out to help my brain process, whether it makes any sense or not!

Paralyzed with anxiety...right. Ok back to it! So I wasn't actually too nervous for coming back to school and going on this retreat and seeing everyone again. But for some reason, even as I drove there to the retreat/camp site, I began to feel the creepin'-in-anxiety that I am very much acquainted with from experiencing it many-a-time over the past handful of years. "OH CRAP NO PLZ GO AWAY!!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEEEEEEASE don't come into my feeling-box right now, Mr. Anxiety. You are not welcome. All you do is make things worse. Like pretty please, go take a hike...and never come back. That'd be great. Yeah thanks a bunch. Hopefully see ya never." 

As much as I wish Mr. Anxiety had gone on his everlasting hike, he didn't listen to me. Gosh darnit. I'll have to work on my firmness I guess. Maybe if I call myself "MASTER JANIE STEELE" that would give me a little more power and scariness. Next time :)

Whether it was just overwhelming for little introvert Janie being with so many people all of a sudden or what, the anxiety starting growing even more when I was in the midst of these people -- these people who I love and want to get to know more and who love Jesus. Dude, like these people I get to lead with and who are a part of this whole XA group are amazing human beings. What was up with this social anxiety inside of me? Seriously, this social anxiety takes over and paralyzes me, and I can't seem to get out of my own head.  These the people I should be most comfortable with and just let loose. But when I get anxious like this, it takes away my freedom to be my free, fun-loving self who seriously does want to talk to all these people and make conversation and get to know them more. 

Social anxiety seriously is AWFUL! I am experiencing it all of a sudden which I haven't been used to for a while now, especially all summer. And then right when we came together as a large group being surrounded by all of these absolutely wonderful and happy and hyper XA leaders, who I love and who are thrilled to be back, I got flooded with all sorts of unwanted anxious emotions. I'm going to keep saying this: Let me tell you again, these are FANTASTIC, Jesus-loving people who are just plain awesome, I'm not kidding! And sure, I had some great conversations with a few people, but with so many others, people both in XA and outside of XA at SLU and elsewhere, I just don't know how to connect with them. I feel so distant, and it seems to me like I am just so incredibly different from every single person out there. 

I feel another type of barrier again -- this barrier between me and most people where there's no clicking happening these days. As much as I want it and attempt to make something click between others and myself, I don't feel that happening. I'm not sure what to make of it or what to do honestly. 

Doing this XA leadership thing also scares me to pieces in ways. I am genuinely excited to see God at work on SLU's campus in the near and far future, yet I am also genuinely scared about this upcoming year all of a sudden just being at this retreat, which should be the opposite shouldn't it? Shouldn't I be getting more and more excited and free being in a room with these like-minded people, as we are about to begin a new chapter in pursuing Jesus more, meeting new people, and discipling them through the roots of the Gospel? 

I'm nervous and scared right now as I think about how to go about being a leader (which I've never really done before...ever...), being a disciple, and being a small group discussion facilitator who puts together lesson plans. This shouldn't be my biggest concern and worry, but I won't is quite a bit daunting to me coming up with these long lesson plans in the midst of an already stressful and busy college year 2.0. I've never done something like this, and it is definitely out of mah zone of comfort!!! I so want to get out of my own head and keep letting Jesus guide me through all of this because it is HIS name that I'm lifting up, not my own. The Bible is God's words to us that he's given to us to know him more and to help guide us in how to live for Him.  I know deep inside me that the Holy Spirit will stir in my heart as I read and pray and prepare lessons this year. I mean, this is so not about me whatsoever, but I feel so much pressure right now. I know that a lot of other new leaders are somewhat fearful and hesitant about leading a group for their first time too. I wish this gave me some more comfort, but even knowing I'm not alone in this scary feeling doesn't do much to help. 

All I can do, at this moment, dealing with this social anxiety and leadership anxiety, is whisper Jesus' name in the dark of the night right now. When I don't know what to do or say or think or how to get rid of mean Mr.Anxiety, I am learning to whisper Jesus' name because His name alone holds so much power and glory and love and peace. 

My prayer tonight: (or this morning because it's now like 2:25 a.m.)

Father God, work in me by the power of your Holy Spirit to do this XA leadership and discipleship for YOU and YOU ALONE. Because you ALONE are our Lord and Savior and God. Forgive me for wanting to please others and do it for my own glory. Keep shaping and changing my heart to do everything, including discipleship and caring and leading other girls this year, to lift up and glorify your name, not my own. Make yourself higher and make myself lower. Please make these words and prayers genuine coming out of my head and heart. God, you alone can bring people to know your son Jesus to keep growing to know you more. I am your instrument God. Please help me and my fellow XA leaders this year remember this and listen to you through your Word, through prayer, through creation even, and through other people with open ears. And give us the push and the strength and the determination and the love to move. To move forward and to keep in step with where you want us to go, who you want us to have a conversation with, what you want us to say. God, this is in your hands. Fill us with your strength and love. We cannot do this on our own. Humble us and bring us to our knees every single day raising our gaze to you. I'm scared and do not know what on earth is in your plans and what's going to happen this year with leading a community group and with discipling other girls, but you DO God. You know, and your ways are perfect whether we see it or not right now. I pray that you will work in big and small ways -- ways that we don't even realize sometimes. You know how this year is going to go down...and the next year.........and even the year after that. God I pray that you will fill us and charge our souls with your peace and comfort and faithfulness. Strengthen our trust in you in unbelievable amounts this year. And when our eyes start to wander off and go straight to our own selves, please PLEASE protect us and lead our gazes back to you and your mission for us and what it means to be leaders in this XA Christian Fellowship group at Saint Louis University. Forgive us when we do stray away. Keep pulling us back when we falter, Jesus. Don't let go of anyone's hand. We love you Jesus because you first loved us. We can love others because you first loved us. We can even love ourselves because you first loved us. We do ALL of this because of your deep deep unfathomable love for us...which I can say, but I do not even understand a tiny fraction of what that looks like. That's okay though. God, please teach us more of your love everyday. Pour out that deep love through us, your instruments, who were made in your image (#WOAH 😱💙), onto freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and even teachers this year. Everyone. LOVE THROUGH US! Even on the hardest of days where all else seems to fail and we have little earthly strength and energy left. Even then. Love. Dwell in our hearts and point us and others to you continually. God, you are our Father. Let us approach you as a Father with all of our worries, anxieties, sadness, excitement, joy, anger, frustration, confusion, questions....everything. Help us remember that you are there for us. ALL THE TIME. Like that's no joke. Drill this into our noggin's!!! Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.