Jenni Barenz

It is exceptionally windy here in Colorado today. I just went outside to check it out and it was positively roaring. The bare trees were whipping around like palms in a hurricane and, as it often happens when I am outside, I thought of God.

I thought of the story of Elijah hiding in a cave from the Israelites and begging for God for mercy. God asked him to stand on a mountain. “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper…then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

Just as I was thinking of this story and wondering at God, the roaring stopped. Just for a few moments, everything was still outside. Perfectly still, a light breeze playing on my face. And I thought, “That was you God, wasn’t it? You heard me and you stilled the winds.”

Some might call it serendipity, chance, Mother Nature running her course. But I call it God.

So many times in my life, I have begged God to speak more loudly – to tell me the answers, to show me the way with a blinding light that leaves no questions or misgivings. I have asked him to simply give me a personality change, to grant me the gift of decisiveness. But so many times, I am just me. I am indecisive, I have questions, I doubt myself, I doubt God, I doubt, I doubt, I doubt…

I remember the day I graduated college, it was one of those moments where I could truly and humbly say that I was proud of myself. I was so full of hope for the future and so grateful for the past. I graduated summa cum laude, I was applying to graduate schools in psychology, I was going to really BE someone, not just me, but someone special.

But that summer, I ended up being unable to find a job in my field (Wahoo for 2008 and the epic crash of an economy that went along with it!). I moved back home, swallowed my pride, and got a job as a Starbucks barista and a waitress. I shuffled myself to work at 5 in the morning, came home and showered off the coffee smell, and shuffled myself to run around filling glasses of wine and serving fancy dinners. I felt as if I was wilting, day by day, slowly doubting whether or not I was still going to BE someone.

I applied to doctoral programs and got into one, very expensive, master’s program that I wasn’t excited about. So I waited. I served more coffee and wine and I waited. I remember taking a walk one day and crying openly out in the countryside of Wisconsin. I just cried and asked God why I wasn’t going anywhere. Why my plans didn’t work out like I wanted. This happens very rarely and when I least expect it, but I felt that God spoke to me that day. And this is what I heard him say, “Jenni, just TRY and I will show you what you can do.” And that was it.

Try? Try what!? I have already tried! That’s what I was thinking.

But try I did. I moved out of my home to Milwaukee with my sister to try being a real grown up. I found a new job waiting tables. And then finally found a job that I loved, working with people who had OCD and eating disorders. And I reapplied to graduate school. I tried again.

This time, I got a few more interviews (which is where I met the lovely Krista!). I got my first acceptance at a PhD program in Kansas and while I was excited, it didn’t feel right. I was still on the waiting list for my number one choice school. Colorado State University. It was my dream school. My test scores were lower than what they wanted and they accept only 6 students out of almost 300 applications. No way Jose…it’s a pipe dream. That’s what I told myself.

But I got on the waiting list. And, after months and months of waiting, the day before I had to tell my 2nd choice school whether or not I was coming, a professor from Colorado State called me and told me, “You’re in.” After hours of jumping up and down and freaking out, I remembered that I had someone very important to thank. The One who whispered to me that he wanted me to try again. To not give up. To stop doubting and throw caution to the wind.

And now here I am. Busy with homework, seeing clients, and writing my thesis. Loving and being exasperated by every minute of academic struggle. Thanking God for whispering to me and for not allowing me to float away in the winds of hard times.

Today while I was sitting outside marveling at the fact that God stopped the wind for a few moments just for me, I also marveled at the fact that I still doubt him at times. That I still think everything might be up to me to fix. That I still wonder whether I am going to BE someone someday. And then, it hit me. I already AM someone because I belong to Someone. To someone who won’t let me get blown away and who will always remind me in a whisper, “Just try and I will show you what you can do.”

Jenni Barenz grew up Lutheran in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin. She currently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado and is a PhD candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant at Colorado State University. She also writes a blog on Happy Body Image.


3 thoughts on “Jenni Barenz

  1. Oh Jenni, This powerfully spoke to my heart today. Thank you for sharing it. Krista, thank you for all the beautiful women you are sharing with us.

  2. Neat thought Jenni. Really liked it. I thought of the poem by
    ee cummings — “i carry your heart i carry it in my heart” — so does God carry us in his and you in mine!

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