Friday, November 28, 2008

post script

i want to clarify a frustration i expressed yesterday. right now i am SO excited about my relationship with my sister. i finally feel love and affection for her, and even better, i feel it back from her. a lot of you have prayed for me in this relationship, so i wanted to let you know that God has been so faithful there between us.

no, the frustrations i expressed, the desire to "give up" on certain relationships, those feelings derive mainly from the males in my immediate family. a near-future post will elaborate on this depravity of solid male relationship in my life....

Thursday, November 27, 2008

thanksgiving thoughts

today was rather mundane. i'm sure those of you who spent the day with countless family members, fighting for elbow room at the table and for the last piece of pumpkin pie, might think i'm crazy for saying this, but i crave those big family gatherings because i so rarely experience them. and this was my year at the house where there's no bustle in the kitchen and no traditional family recipes. and there's cursing around the table (and every other second of the day). i know there's families a lot worse off than mine, and there are many people who can't afford a Thanksgiving meal, home-cooked or not, but sometimes my heart breaks within me and other times my anger seethes within me because i'm so uncomfortable and crave something more, er, wholesome, for lack of a better word. wholesome we are not and the whole living-by-example thing is not working for my family. all i ever come off as is the holier-than-thou black sheep. sometimes i just want to pull the plug and give up on these relationships...
i have never once ventured out of the house on black Friday--and tomorrow i have to retail. i'm not scheduled until 10am, thank goodness, but i'm still rather dreading it.
this morning, as is traditional for me personally, i watched the macy's parade, or at least had it on as background noise. the theme for this year, apparently, was 'believe'--as in, believe in Santa Claus. all magical and whimsical and reminiscient of childhood, no? meh. even as one being quite distant from motherhood, i'm conflicted about whether or not to even instigate this deception with my own children. maybe some would argue that it is a great way to build faith in young hearts--but this story ends without a hero. spoiler--santa isn't real. why, why, WHY should we encourage our children to believe in something false? why should we lie and set them up for disappointment? especially when that lie is one of the key offenders in the secularization of Christmas. but i guess today macy's decided that was the message they wanted to send to millions of people--belief in something false. anyone up for making christmas about belief in something Real? i think that may have once been the point...

okay, enough anti-cultural banter here for one holiday. and the generally negative tone of this post. i hope your thanksgiving was blessed.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I will begin this post by quoting my dear, wise friend Kristen:

Shame" says, "there's something innately wrong with me," "I have failed, I have let people down, I have not lived up to their expectations, they must see me as a failure, I am not enough."

What a serendipitous statement to read this afternoon as I've been pondering how to compose a blog post on the same subject. Because, you see, those exact feelings have been haunting me the past several months.

The odd thing is, I made my peace with God about my failure. God spoke to me almost immediately, using what I counted as loss as an example of His unconditional love for me. And that was something I realized, truly realized down in my gut, for the very first time.

But I've been unable to shake the feelings of shame because I believe that my failure let other people down. The expectations I (or they) set for myself? Completely shattered. And yes, perhaps too the fact that my untarnished Christian-girl image has a big smeary blotch right down the front has been hanging over my head.

Unending choruses of "what will they think? what will they say? what will they ask and will my answers be enough?"

you see, this post is not only about failure and shame. it's about demons. i've begun to think that they still exist. we create our own demons out of our idols (which we also create). recently, i picked up this book off the bargain rack at Borders. It's about Mary Magdalene, and the author fictionalized her early life based on the short phrase in Luke 8:2 describing the seven demons which Jesus cast out from her. In this book, Mary first opens herself up to the demons by her possession of a literal idol figurine. As time goes on, she is incapable of destroying the figure, even when it becomes clear that it is the source of her pain and grief.

is this not what we do? a failure or a shortcoming or a flaw becomes a fixation, which becomes an obsession, which takes our attention away from God, and thus it is an idol. and we let it torment us to within inches of our very sanity, at which point we are finally faced with the fact that Jesus Himself, God incarnate, is the only one able to drive those demons away.

how blessed am I that my church offered a healing service yesterday. a chance to be anointed with oil and prayed over by a pastor and group of lay prayer ministers. physical, emotional, and spiritual brokenness was challenged and claimed in the name of the Trinity.

not your typical Sunday morning--I know. but the Spirit of God was truly among us and I believe God was there with me in that moment ready to cast out my demons.

this is what I've realized since then--God is always willing. but I am the one who must let Him free me. how tightly we can hold on to that which hurts us! freedom can be uncomfortable at first, and scary, and different. but it's freedom.

God comes 99% of the way. He has all the power to defeat evil, and He has already triumphed over it once and for all. but I believe He requires of us a small "yes" in order to cast out our demons, smash our idols, and set us on our way in freedom. our fingers must uncurl from what we clutch so tightly so that we may be handed the gift of grace. it comes down to the familiar saying, "let go and let God".

if we are to be people of faith, if I am to be a woman of half the faith I claim, we must know what it means to let...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

like a kid on christmas

last night i found a package on my doorstep that i thought i would have to wait far longer to receive. after doing a little happy dance on the front porch, i shoved the box inside to open later and headed off on my way. what patience--for when i returned i ripped it open and excitedly thumbed through each brand-new, FREE book i received from Zondervon, the Bible publishing company. finally i have a job with perks! for completing a Bible sales training program, i received a hundred dollars of free goodies, plus a free Bible. so, as i was saying, i was as happy as an eight-year-old (or my eighteen-year-old brother even still) on Christmas morning. i was practically salivating over my big, thick, delicious, free NIV Bible dictionary--I may never need wikipedia again.

and in the midst of all the excitement, I thought to myself, "yes, I need to be a seminary student"

if drooling all over a Biblical dictionary doesn't qualify you for div school studies, i'm not sure what does.

fortunately for me, my pastor was willing to meet with me today and discuss a few options for schools, and thoughts about degree tracks and vocational oppourtunties. He was advising the MDiv over the MTS (master of theological studies), advice which I think I will take. More options, more ministry-oriented goals. He also tuned me in to the benefits of one particular city, Boston (KG--here I come?!?) which has a network of eight theological schools. Pretty sweet resources, no? Boston U. is a Methodist institution, so it's definitely worth looking into. And speaking of Boston (which is where he studied), he encouraged me to think about going to school further away, in a exciting big city. Now's the time to do it, and I can settle roots back in NC one day, if that's where I end up. And hey, if that's one more legit reason to put a 'con' on the Dook list, I'm all for it ;)

(I'm going to have to stop making those jokes soon if I apply there...who knows whether admission reps are into checking facebook pages and blogs these days. )

And perhaps the most encouraging thing of all was the fact that my pastor himself entered div school with a completely different career goal in mind. That sure is something that spoke peace to my heart. I think I'm narrowing down my focus a bit more (teaching Bible to secondary schoolers is still high on the list) but who knows what could come out of left field? Maybe God Himself is waiting to speak a clear path to me until I dig into the course work and experience the ministry internships. He certainly spoke in that manner (with a resounding 'no') this summer with my false-start job in KY.

so now the work begins again. admissions essays and reference forms, campus visits and scholarship searches. but I have such peace that God will make things right in His time, and I'm so thankful to be along for the ride!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


the theme for our weekend at regent seemed to run along the lines of listening for God's discerning voice. it makes perfect sense considering that the audience was a group of (mostly) young adults facing serious career decisions. but nonetheless i felt many times as though the speakers were talking directly to me even as they stood in front of a crowded room full of people.

one particularly poignant devotional given at the start of our saturday morning: the speaker was a woman who had an amazing list of credentials (encouraging in and of itself) and the man who introduced her promised that she always preached a timely word. he was right. she began by giving us a list of Biblical methods, if you will, of following God's will in decision-making. These were all based on the book of Acts. Some included direct communication from God (if only we were all so fortunate...or could open our ears and eyes a little wider), the prophetic word, a door opening or a door closing, and so on. I appreciated this list, and hope I can recall it as I move forward.

But her words that really spoke to my heart were not about discerning God's voice, but trusting God's voice. Our speaker pulled out a GPS that she had borrowed from a friend--the kind you stick on your dash in the car. She related a time when she had used the GPS to travel to visit an ailing relative. Not owning one herself, it was the first time she used it. The night before her trip, she felt the need to additionally print out directions from mapquest in order to know each step and where she was going. We all laughed, and as she asked, "who else of you would do the same thing?" I immediately identified with this action and knew I would want the same assurance. She told us how our husband chastised her for not trusting the reliability on the GPS. Instantly, of course, her point became clear: God is our GPS!He knows the whole network of highways and back roads and shortcuts and detours--how to get us to our end destinations and what paths we'll take along the way. And yet I scramble around trying to find directions for each step of the journey, needing to know for myself which way I'm going.

Where is my faith?? Why don't I trust that He knows where He's taking me? He knows the route, He knows the destination, He knows the stops, the detours, and the road blocks (all of which I've already experienced several times). And yet I fail to trust Him. What a convicting word she spoke to my heart!

This is a time of grave importance in my life. A time where God is quietly whispering to my heart, leading me, in His own time, where I need to go next. I took a big fat wrong turn this summer, but I now know it was part of God's roadmap. There was something to learn down that misstep. And now I'm at a crossroads, caught between desperately listening for and seeking out the will of God and still straining to find the directions for myself.

I'm learning, too, that it's okay to outright ask God what He wants of me. He may not answer in the way I'm expected or He may not answer right away. But in Jeremiah 33:3 He promises, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." God alone knows the unsearchable. If only we could fathom the true value of prayer, and meet Him boldly in that place.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


as some of you may know, this past weekend i took a big step in contemplating my future. i went to visit the campus of Regent University in Virginia Beach. i discovered this school online while i was searching for a master's program in Christian journalism or something along those lines. what i got was a Christian school offering a MA in Journalism. i have been exceedingly excited about this prospect since i discovered this little gem of a program, but i was somewhat apprehensive about the weekend--what if it just didn't fit? didn't feel right? if that was the case, as far as next year goes, i was afraid i'd be back to square one.

as it turns out, my fears were unfounded. Regent is an absolutely beautiful school with an extremely solid Christian foundation. The campus is only a fraction of the size of UNC, but still evokes a sense of academia and scholarly fellowship. It feels like a college--as opposed to, for instance, my visit to Gordon-Conwell Seminary a year and a half ago. I was super-pumped to visit this school at the time, having heard numerous good things about it. And what could have been a cozy little nook of seminary goodness nestled in the countryside just north of Boston, turned out to be a disappointing, two-building, middle-of-nowhere "campus" that just didn't have that "it" factor for me.

and wow! Regent is a Christian school! not once in my life (if we can discount Sunday School and VBS from the list) have I participated in a faith-based educational institute. i've been a public school kid from kindergarten through undergrad. i wouldn't trade in any of my secular school experiences if i could go back and do it again, but it was really awesome to experience the integration of faith with academics. how radically different from undergrad--my faith practice was strong at Carolina, but it was still a world separate and of it itself. At Regent this weekend, I entered into a room full of people all investigating academic pursuits, and before we settled in for a session of financial aid chatter, we worshiped. together. not just the IVers gathered for Thursday night--but everyone on the campus. Being a part of the secular world is extremely important, but i think i'm ready to experience this kind of Christian-immersion atmosphere, and see where it takes me on my faith journey.

so the pieces are all in place, but i'm hesitant now because of the field of journalism itself. it is ever moving towards the web, towards all things digital. one of the professors told us at an information session, no longer is journalism made up of clark kents, running to the Daily News to file a story. it's all about "interactive media"

but what if I want to be a Clark Kent?

coincidentally, while we were getting ready in our hotel room on the second day of the weekend, the morning news ran a short feature about journalism jobs--and how print journalists just aren't in demand anymore. not too encouraging. or perhaps a nudge from the Lord that this may not be the direction He wants me to move next.

and, after crying out to Him one night last week--speak, Lord! speak, for your servant is listening!--I found a program at CIU that led me to start considering the possibility of teaching Bible at the secondary level. another swerve at the wheel, i know. but the future is still wide open and there's so much out there i could do or explore--so many options to test and eventually discover down which one of those paths my talents and my passions meet and allow me to impact people for the glory of God.

so if you see that road sign, let me know.

while I thank God for providing Regent as a really solid option for next year, still yet I cry out to Him, "speak, for your servant is listening!" Where do I go from here? What's the next step?

ever-listening. ever-trusting. trying to listen better, trying to trust more.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

to be continued...

oh dear, i am so terribly behind and have much to say.

i have about four (yes four!) posts i want to start tonight, all of which will hopefully be filled in by week's end.

much to share, much to ponder, and, as ever, much to thank God for.