Monthly Archives: May 2014

The summer of 2013

Sometimes peace and trust feel so overrated.  Back in February of 2013, after six months of sheer frustration in my job, my husband and I decided that I would leave said job in April and begin working on my Masters in May.  It felt so wrong and so right simultaneously.  We knew I was supposed to go to grad school and when we found an affordable option, we decided to jump on it.  But not working just felt plain irresponsible.

I relished the thought of leaving my job.  I truly hated it.  The experience was one I will never forget.  I truly grew in an aspect of leadership that was uncomfortable yet necessary.  Looking back, it was exactly where I was supposed to be.  On my last day, I was all smiles.  I sent out final emails and forced my replacement to run the office.  I made jokes with the student aid that had worked for me whom I grew to absolutely adore.  I drove away that afternoon, after turning in my parking tags, and felt complete and utter excitement.  I had 3 weeks before I started my first class and I welcomed the break whole-heartedly.  I spent those three weeks eating ridiculously fattening food and becoming best friends with Ina Garten and her many luscious recipes.  I took naps in the middle of the afternoon and had lunch dates with friends who I just hadn’t had an opportunity to see in too long.  But in this moment of bliss, I knew I was avoiding myself.  I had been trudging through so much mud without washing it off that I was caked in layers and layers of job filth that were so thick that I was unrecognizable.  I was like the great swamp thing of bad experiences that I never dealt with.

It wasn’t until June that I began to work through my identity issues.  Who am I without a job?  It’s a difficult thing to realize.  It’s hard to feel like you’re not contributing to life, but it’s even more difficult to realize that your self-worth had somehow become tied to it.  Little by little, I began to shed the weight of the things that had happened in the last 6 months, and then the year before that, and the five years before that.  Then, little by little, I began to look like me again.  I found myself through long walks in my neighborhood, listening to Alexi Murdoch and breathing in the heat that comes with a July afternoon in Tulsa.  I found myself as I worked on schoolwork, reading chapter after chapter of homework next to our neighborhood pool.  Most importantly, I was being reminded why I was created, who I was and Whose I was.

I will forever remember the summer of 2013 as the one I learned self-discipline.  I began to focus on my personal health in every aspect of my life: physical, mental, and spiritual.  In 18 weeks, I had shed 40 pounds of weight through exercise and swapping hamburgers and malts for lettuce wraps and smoothies.  I learned so much through each and every one of my grad classes.  More than anything, I have learned to be me again.  To be content with where I am, to understand that life will have frustrations, but that social media is not the place to broadcast them.  I learned that it’s ok to be me; even and especially when it means I’m not like anyone else.  I have grown so much; I have become “me” again.

Stories and Fictional Friends

I love the way literature can connect two complete strangers.  I love how characters can become alive on page and as real to us as family.  I love the way they come alive in our lives can connect us to another person; talking about fictional characters as if they are a common friend.  Elizabeth Bennet can become an inspiration of love to a shy fourteen-year-old girl as much as she can become an inspiration of boldness to a thirty-year old.  Fictional characters in popular books give us courage to pursue our dream in the same way a close friend whispers encouragement in times of desolation.

I often think about how certain characters have been able to withstand the tests of time.  How long has Captain Abraham’s voyage been troublesome?  How long will old Moby continue to be toilsome?  These fictional characters will far outlive our lives.  One day, most of us will be forgotten.  Friends and family will remember, but once they have passed, then who will?  I begin to understand the writers need to put words on a paper.  They can live on through their characters.  They will continue to be remembered, to bring strangers together, to be the old friend that introduces generations to love, bravery, trial and error.  How great it must be to create such a masterpiece.

I can’t help but wonder how I will leave my fingerprint on this world.  Every person has made a difference in someone else’s life; whether it be good or bad.  I have encouraged several to pursue their dreams.  I can list a hand full of people whom I have had the opportunity to speak boldness in their lives, to tell them that they are capable of greatness.  I can’t help but wonder when my time will come, what that will look like.  The pressure of success seems to be ever-present.  I force myself to step back and remind myself that I am only in my twenties.  The world is still set before me, my life is still before me, I should not allow false pressure to dictate my dreams.  But it’s as though I am standing at the beginning of an endless road, with a map with no directions.  I see the vast horizon before me, the twinkling of a sunset waning in the distance.  I know it’s time to start walking soon, but I don’t know where my destination is.

I have always desired to live in another country, to learn the culture of a group of beautiful people.  I long to learn the way they live, to connect with them on a personal level.  I want to learn their hopes and dreams and aid in their pursuit of their goals.  But how am I supposed to get there without a map.  What if I never make it there?  What if what I always expected to be my story will never make it to the page.  I will never connect with those people, to encourage them, to inspire them, to show them their utter worth.

I know the author of my life will never stop writing.  I know that this chapter is the preface to a really great chapter.  I know that this is the kind of chapter that when you get to the end, the anticipation of what happens next is so exciting that you just have to keep reading.  The euphoria experienced when something great is about to happen to the character whom you have grown to love so much is utterly exhilarating.  The best stories are the ones that force the reader to sit back in awe and say “I didn’t see that coming!”  So as I sit in my impatience, as the author writes my story, I revel in this chapter, knowing that it is setting me up for something different, something great, something I would never be able to accomplish on my own.   Knowing it will connect me to new people in the future and intensify the relationships of my present.  My “I didn’t see that coming!” moment will arrive soon enough.  My map will become clear, and the path will be illuminated.  But until then, I wait.

 

Jumping Right In: Things I am Learning and Trying to Learn.

Life is not a competition.  Contrary to everything that has been taught throughout every book, story, movie, tv show, or lecture; life is not about being in competition with one another.  Well, at least, according to the Bible, life isn’t about competition… but then again, the Bible is meant to live in stark contrast to the rest of the world, right?  I have spent far too much time comparing my achievements (or often lack thereof) with that of others (which by the way, the Bible blatantly tells us NOT to do- oops).  But life isn’t about trying to live up to the achievement of others.  Life is about living to accomplish what God has set us up to accomplish.

Last August, I began to learn the importance of praying for others who are doing mighty things for the kingdom that *ahem* I wish maybe I were doing.  Yes, it’s true.  I envy the ministry opportunities of others every once in a while.  I see the creative ways and the impressive leadership of others in ministry and find myself wishing “if only”.  So after some deeply rooted and possibly slightly disturbing talks with God, I realized that I needed to start praying for these people rather than praying to be these people.  What’s interesting about this is that I stopped wanting to be them.  I realized that I would never truly be satisfied by living out the call of God on someone else’s life.  I had to realize that these people are doing things that I am not specifically called to do.  They are reaching people that I am not called to reach.  They are being people I am not called to be.  I don’t want to live out their calling, I want to live out mine.  I have learned to appreciate my own journey, my own calling, and the people I am responsible to reach.  The kingdom of God is not about competition, it’s about being obedient to what I am called to do and encouraging others to be obedient to what they are called to.

All this being said, retraining my brain to not see others as a threat is, like, super hard.  Ministry circles can start to feel like high school really fast.  There are the “popular” ministers, the “smart” ministers, and the ones who are just there to make everyone else look good.  There’s nothing really inherently wrong with this.  I kinda imagine the apostle Paul fit pretty well in the cool minister crowd, though I highly doubt that he put up with such trivial labels.  Nevertheless, the problem with “Ministry High” mindset is that I was really bad at high school.  Not like I flunked out or was a bad kid or anything, but I did not approach high school with a very “biblical” mindset if you will.

 

You see, I wanted too entirely badly to be one of “the cool kids.”  Strangely, at my high school, the “cool kids were synonymous with “the good kids.”  For the most part they were nice, friendly, as stylish as one could be in uniform, and overall they demonstrated a love and passion for God that was severely lacking in my previous high school experiences.  What it boils down to is this:  I wanted to be around the cool kids because I thought that was the only way that I could gain the influence I needed to make an impact on those around me.  Complete bull when I look back at it now.  I spent far too much energy brushing off the incredibly amazing people who I did have influence with because they were not “cool enough.”  I missed so many opportunities to build relationships because I was concerned with becoming part of a crowd I was not meant to be a part of.
The moral of this story: I don’t want to be in competition with the cool kids.  I want to appreciate them and what they are supposed to do.  I don’t want to become consumed with a gross desire for recognition that I miss the people who are sitting in the corners unnoticed and undeveloped.  I have made those mistakes before, I won’t do them again.  Why?  Because the kingdom of God isn’t about being the cool kid.  It’s not about being at the forefront, having a defined leadership role or even about notoriety.  It’s about being obedient to my call, being conscious about the people I am supposed to reach, and loving God with a passion so deep that my number one goal always remains to see His kingdom fulfilled.