Tuesday, August 26, 2008

job update!

hello friends!

well, after weathering an emotionally-draining storm of despair this weekend, i'm on a bit of an upswing. in one day i went from zero jobs to two! okay, well only one of them is official, but still! after a month of nothing much, i am very much encouraged!

the official job is this--the half-day pre-school. for awhile i was considering not taking this job (if it was offered) since it was only part-time & sounded like as much babysitting as teaching (more to come on what that ratio actually will be....). but then i decided that beggars (even those with college degrees) can't be choosers, and in all honesty, if i'm headed towards a career in children's ministry, working with children at a church will be good experience. and i already know that i thrive when i work with kids, so i think it will be enjoyable and rewarding. also, i don't expect to fall heavily under a lot of mental strain from this position, so it won't leave my life consumed by job-related stress (hopefully) and i'll have time to ponder my future and pursue God's heart.

i have two days of training at the church this week, then we have an open house next week, and "class" starts in two weeks. i am with older twos/younger threes :)

the second job is working at the Christian bookstore. this weekend i decided that i would call the store on Monday because i submitted an application awhile back & hadn't heard anything. so i call & talk to the manager, who said i didn't receive a call from him because i indicated on my app. that i was looking for full-time work. so after explaining to him that i was starting this other half-day job, he said that they'd probably be hiring within the next month & he would give me a call in the next couple of weeks.

last night when i left the YMCA i had 3 missed calls, 2 of which were from the bookstore number...but no message. hmmm, odd. then, at precisely 5:51 am this morning, my phone jangles and i groggily pick it up. it tells me i have a "new" voicemail (it must be on reverse Beijing time or something?! the Olympics are over, little pink phone!), which was from the store manager. he said that he talked with his assistant manager, and they'll be able to offer me a position right now after all! so i'm going in on Friday morning for an interview :)

God is faithful. these jobs aren't world-changing, but they're both at least vaguely ministry-related, and will give me purposeful work for the next 6 months to a year while i figure out my next step.

now that the unemployment weight has been lifted, the only ache that still lies on my heart is the notable absence of my Carolina community. all my beloveds and the school itself. that, i know, will not be a problem solved in one day like seemingly the job situation was. but i'm hoping these two work environments and hopefully the choir i'm auditioning to join (tomorrow night!) will provide my first dose of post-college friendships.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


a poem given to me by my mentor, that has given me a good deal of encouragement:

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.

I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate,
and the Master so gently said, "Wait."

"Wait? You say wait?"
my indignant reply.
"Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is Your hand shortened?
Or have You not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming Your word.
My future and all to which I relate
hangs in the balance,
and You tell me to wait?
I'm needing a 'yes,' a go-ahead sign.
Or even a 'no,' to which I'll resign.
You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
we need but to ask and we shall receive.
Lord, I've been asking and this is my cry,
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply."

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
as my Master replied again, "wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
and grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting..for what?"

He seemed then to kneel and His eyes met with mine,
and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.
I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.

You'd not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.
You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
you'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
when darkness and silence are all you can see.
You'd never experience the fullness of love
when the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
but you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
The glow of My comfort late into the night,
the faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask
from an infinite God who makes what you have last.
You'd never know should your pain quickly flee,
what it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
but, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.
So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
that the greatest of gifts is to truly know Me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still 'wait.'
--Russell Kelfer

"Herein lies the battle of faith--to hold on and keep believing God despite what our natural senses tell us" --Jim Cymbala

Into marvelous light I'm running...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

no niche

i am all out of sorts. this life-after-college thing is hard, especially since i "don't know what to do with my life." how did i get here? and where, oh where, am i going next?

yesterday i traveled to App State with my mom to get my brother settled into his dorm room for his first year of college. my heart was rather heavy just walking around the campus, sensing the familiar sights and sounds of college life. i am excited for what the next four years hold for my brother, but it was an ample reminder that my four years are up. i get kind of sad when i think about carolina. about how nostalgic i would feel even now, a couple months out, walking across campus. about how other people are living in my dorm rooms and filling my leadership roles and taking my favorite classes.

i think it was easier to define myself at unc. i am a senior, i am a religious studies major, i sing in the women's glee club, i co-lead a small group with Intervarsity, i live in Ram Village, i am a basketball fan, i am a Tar Heel.

now? okay, i am a college grad, i am a 22 (rapidly closing in on 23) year-old, and i am wandering rather aimlessly through life right now. and though i know it's not true in the deepest sense, i have no direction and no purpose.

in the words of John Mayer and my dear friend Ann, this is one heck of a quarter-life crisis.

it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. and i'm letting myself slip away from God when i know i need Him most. as if it's His fault i'm in this mess. as if He's discarded me and left me to stifle so I won't give Him the time of day.

i'm ready to do something. and it's frustrating as i realize that my major isn't too terribly practical (unlike the two i switched out of--journalism and education). it's frustrating when even the silly jobs won't call you back. (is this a symptom of the job market or my own shortcomings?) it's frustrating when the one lead you have isn't so much "teaching" as it is babysitting four mornings a week for only a few hours.

it's frustrating when you can only talk to friends over gmail chat or facebook wall posts or even phone calls instead of over dinner or on the couch, face-to-face.

i'm in a slump and i want to know desperately who i am and what i am doing here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the smallest blessings

okay, honesty check. i've been feeling pretty down on myself lately. half of it is stupid superficial stuff--after spending the weekend at the beach with four beautiful girls, my body image has been on the way low down, being the acne-ridden, pasty skin, still-holding-onto-that-freshmen-10 person that i am. it has been so stinkin hard for me to love myself since my acne came back. but today God told me that part of my understanding His great love is to love myself. prayers for that please. it's not easy.

the other part of my down-in-the-dumps feelings are, of course, coming from the series of days i've spent doing pretty much nothing. all those big "what are you doing with your life" kind of questions swirling around at breakneck speed while I check my email every other hour to see if I've gotten an email back about a job. and should i be doing something more in a career-oriented direction? and where is mr. right? and UGH, i'm not moving back to Chapel Hill this weekend with all those lucky ones who still have more time at Carolina.

on top of all this, of course, i decide to take a few days off from hanging out with God in His Word. which somehow i inevitably do when i need His guidance the most. back at it this morning though after a weird dream--after praying last night for the strength to draw near to Him. not the first time i believe God has communicated something to me through a dream. hmmm. thoughts?

so i returned to my morning meeting with the Lord, and read in 2 Peter 1: "Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" Okay, so the grace and peace part is nothing out of the ordinary. But I stopped short at the second half of the verse. The very knowledge of God and His salvation act in Christ our Lord should so fill us with grace and peace that we are full to bursting.

Lately, I hardly think I've been tapping into this abundance. Peace is the last thing on my mind when I feel so ill at ease over the aforementioned aspects of my life. So then who the heck am I? Certainly not one who has been touched by the very hand of God. Or not living like one, anyways.

Perhaps now is my time to learn how to live each day in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Even a life lived simply can be a witness for the Lord--no great and earth-shattering ministry is required for others to see the Lord's work in me. But what must be evident always is the effect of the Gospel on my everyday life--the effect of God's love, grace, peace, and hope.

and so i thank Him for the smallest blessings, the traces of the very hand of God on my life. the fact that I'm enjoying precious time with my siblings, laughing & enjoying their company before they head off to college. the opportunity to lead a small group of middle school girls at my church, with hopefully many more venues to serve to follow. a job interview on monday! the chance to do Disciple Bible study this year. the motivation to encourage spiritual growth within a very important, close relationship. the assurance that being back here was the right thing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

the scenic route

it's been an eventful last few days. i just returned from the beach and, for quite possibly the first time ever, i did not get sunburned! it was a lovely last weekend with one of my dearest friends before she jet-sets halfway across the country to Chicago for an immersion experience in inner-city ministry. and for the second time, i had to say goodbye to her.

i also spent the end of last week catching up with some old friends. wednesday night was a carolina grad get-together. i felt utterly grown-up as we grilled ice cube beef patties (read: beef nuggets) and talked about the "old days" in college. i lost grandly at scattergories, though i managed to successfully draw 'tokyo' in pictionary.

thursday night i went to a little concert that an old friend put on. he shared a handful of songs he has written on piano and guitar, and they were all really quite good. a lot of his spiritual songs seemed to revolve around issues that i am facing--seeking the Lord's will and trying to find a path and a purpose at this crucial juncture in life. one song in particular developed around the idea of God being the driver of our lives as long road trips. in the back seat, too often we yell "are we there yet?" and, as we get older, we try to take the wheel. and then you're swerved off-course, taking what is affectionately referred to as "the scenic route". aka--I'm lost!

i thought that was a pretty good description of what my life has been like over the last few years. a longer, out-of-the-way route that may involve a few more twists and turns, but is it ever worth it to learn from the sights along the way! and i trust that the destination remains the same.

a poignant moment of God's sovereignty: this past week the youth minister at my church in Charlotte was let go due to budgeting constraints. clearly, however, the need for youth ministry does not go away with her. in the upcoming months, a new infrastructure of volunteers will be established to help the existing staff cover the responsibilities of effectively ministering to the youth. i'd like to be a part of that team. it seems to be a clear opportunity to serve my church community and my God. one of the many reasons i believe He has brought me home for such a time as this.

job update! this morning i got a call from a Christian preschool (where I'd submitted a resume) to come in and fill out an application. the church is close to where I live & certainly my previous experience supports a position such as this one. they'll be calling soon for an interview and the job would start at the end of the month. but also, last night i was doing some more hunting online and came across some openings at the Charlotte History Museum. Being the dork that I am, I think that would be really neat! I sent in a resume...I'm not sure how qualified a person they're looking for, so we'll see! I think I'd be good at it :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

life (still) imperfect

an addendum to my previous post:

i have always been baffled by the paradox presented by Hebrews 10:14--
For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy
there is this gap between justifying grace & sanctifying grace. we are described as both having been made perfect AND in the process of being made holy. though we are made perfect through Christ our intercessor in the eyes of God, He is still working in us to sanctify our lives & make us more like Himself.

God saves us and then, by the immeasurable vastness of His love, He displays patience and sacrifice enough to walk with us as we seek to become more holy. to let Him work His sanctifying power. to become more Christlike.

amidst this, we stumble. we sin. we mess up. royally. often.

and is this not the very place where we are called to humble ourselves before our Lord? painfully aware of the difference between our desire and our actualization to be Christlike--here we are knocked over by the constancy of His grace, the depths of His love, the expanse of His faithfulness. here we reckon with Him face-to-face, as He shows us the marks of our sin etched into His hands and then stoops to kiss us on the forehead, dusts us off, and sets us on our way with a reminder that living up to His calling is not an obligation but a act of worship.

brokenness meets repair. sin meets redemption. imperfection meets holiness.

and how very personal this juncture should be. God and His child. God and His beloved.

recently that personal conversation with God regarding my continued failure to live in a Christlike manner (and His utter acceptance of that) was interrupted. i was sent reeling in a state of confusion over why someone i thought i could trust would presume upon my own, very personal reckoning with the Lord in this emotionally delicate period of my life. in this period where my first colossal failure was beginning to show me that God really means unconditional when He says "I love you. "

i feel betrayed. and confused. and thankful for the Christian community that has nurtured me in trust, compassion, and intentionality to which this stands against by contrast. a community that understands how often each of us fails to be Christlike and urges an intimate encounter with God in those places of imperfection & failure. encourages those moments as periods of monumental personal growth and understanding of God's character.

but mostly i feel hurt and saddened. hurt by the image of my own imperfections reflected for me to see, distorted and magnified, as if i hadn't already been staring at them myself. hurt by the need to itemize wrongdoings and angered by my own impulse to retaliate.

saddened that where Christ seeks to heal, make whole, and soften imperfections, we, as ever, get in the way.

Monday, August 4, 2008

life imperfect

the wedding this weekend was absolutely lovely. the bride was stunning, the service was poignant, the company was delightful, and the dancing was a blast.

the one qualm several of us had with the service: the minister made a comment about the bride and groom being two practically perfect people coming together from two perfect families. i think his intention was to complement the character of both the couple and their families, but that choice of wording caught me off guard. made me sit up and think how imperfect i am by contrast. how imperfect my family is. how unlikely it is that i will meet a guy with a perfect family.

let me qualify all this by saying that in no way do i believe the bride & groom consider themselves perfect and walk around flaunting it in everyone else's faces. they have simply been blessed with one another and with families that are uniquely whole.

but i hardly think perfection is something to strive for. i would prefer the minister at my wedding to stand up and say, "look at these two, how gratingly imperfect they are. let's praise God together that they have found one another & will be able to walk through this life imitating the love our perfect Father has for each one of His imperfect children--forgiving faults, pruning unfruitful branches, embracing necessary confrontation, and picking up after each other's slips and stumbles." and my imperfect family will still be there to celebrate with me, rifts, scars, black sheep, and all.

that's all well & good to imagine, but despite this acknowledgment that perfection isn't something to be attained, still i strive for it. i always have--that's probably a big part of why i got into Carolina. and there i met many more people who were likewise striving towards an impossible goal. thankfully, i met many of these perfectionists within a Christian community that started to show us how deeply God loves us despite our imperfections. that the world may sometimes clamor for us to be perfect, but God never will. He made one perfect Being, and the holiness and perfection of Christ is enough to cover the rest of us.

last year i was sitting on the quad studying with a friend when we were approached by two young women. they introduced themselves as staff workers for campus crusade, and after asking for a few minutes of our time, they proceeded to lead us through an exercise that was designed to help them gauge attitudes on campus and open conversations about spirituality and God. they had a set of postcard-sized images, and asked us to select the images that best represented certain things--our present life, our hope for the future, our understanding of God, etc. when i was searching for an image that best represented my understanding of God, i was struck by one that was extremely unlikely. amid pictures of nature, of human faces, of symbols for love and hope, there was this image of a dusty, broken, antique bicycle sitting disheveled in a forgotten and dark corner. immediately i chose it and said, this is who God is to me. this is who God is because He came down to the broken, dirty place we call earth and He went to those dark corners and dusted off the old and the misused. the worn and the tired. it is there where we see God's incomprehensible love for us. the first part of accepting the Gospel is the acknowledgment that our lives are like that broken bicycle. only then can we fully rejoice in the great measures our God takes to redeem us.

in light of that, i think it has begun to slowly creep into my head that God accepts me, faults and all, and there is nothing i can do to make Him love me more or love me less. perfection isn't going to win me God's love. but still there is something within me that makes me a perfectionist--perhaps a desire to please others, a prideful drive, or a need for self-esteem.

coming home from Kentucky has certainly been an instance of my failing to be perfect--not completing a task, taking one giant step in the wrong direction and having to back up and redirect. that's one reason i can discern for this episode in my life--a glorious opportunity to mess up & find that God (and in my blessed case, my friends and family) did not turn His back to me because i didn't achieve much, didn't impress anyone, didn't accomplish everything. it awes and excites me to get to know more of this real love of God.

something i want to share with everyone that relates to this, and i don't think it's healthy for this to continue to be a silent struggle: after two or three years of glorious clear skin, my rather severe acne has come back, unwelcomed and unexpectedly. this is a part of my self image that right now is far from perfect, and it is something i can't control. i can't eat less or exercise more to become skinnier, i can't go shopping for new clothes to look more fashionable, i can't get a new haircut to look trendier--i just have to deal with it. it's an imperfection i can't control. it's one i hate and feel cursed with and often times i find that it controls me. and i struggle with what it means for God to have made this a part of my life (on and off) for the past 10 years. this go-round i think it's God trying to affirm in me the knowledge that I am one of His created, made in Him image, unendingly beautiful in His eyes regardless of how I look to myself or to others. to urge me to stop comparing myself to friends with china-doll skin and understanding that He made them, yes, but He also made me just as I am. but talking about this in light of the perfectionism discussion helps me see that perhaps this acne is also a way for me to let go of control and perfection and rest in His love. not in the affirmation of others, not in the pleasing of myself, but in Him.

Friday, August 1, 2008


thoughts mostly escape me. i'll try to catch a few for you...

trying to maintain a balance of job-hunting & being patient for the Lord to reveal Himself.

excited to see half the people I know from Carolina tomorrow in Blowing Rock for the wedding of Joel & Meredith. hoping that the jolt of community will be rejuvenating and not ultimately depressing as i capture only a few shared hours with loved ones.

enjoying the fact that more & more people are blogging. reading stories from across the country & the globe, on the edge of my seat ready to see the directions in which people's lives will lead.

remembering how dreadfully hot NC can be at the start of August.