Archive for the ‘Calling’ Category

I started running after my sister died. Well, running is a little ambitious to describe it. Let’s just say someone walking at a very brisk pace could lap me repeatedly. I always thought I hated running, but somehow–right now–it is the only thing that seems to make sense to me. When I’m running, I feel like I’m right where I am supposed to be, doing exactly the right thing. I don’t have mundane things over my head like ‘I should be unloading the dishwasher right now,’ or even meaningful things like ‘I should be sending thank you cards to people so they know I’ve appreciated their kindness during my sorrow.’ Both of those things are important to do, and both feel like insurmountable tasks sometimes. I may not be able to do them, but I CAN run.

I was trying to figure out what is it about running that feels right, and I wrote this in my journal on Tuesday after I came home from the gym:

Running and stretching open me up. I feel creative and alive and connected to myself. I like the feeling of being present–I’m all there when I’m running. It’s like meditation: focused but loose–and I feel released and peaceful afterward. The rock-huge boulder that holds my mind back from motivation is rolled away. I feel worshipful. Joyful. Open.

I’m intrigued by this joy I feel in spite of my sorrow. I don’t know how connected to running it is, but I am experiencing something I never understood before. That I can be mourning and grieving, but underneath know deep joy. Not happiness, necessarily. But a right-ness. Peace that passes all understanding, perhaps?

The sun and the beauty and leaves and the smell of wood stoves and the crisp fall weather–even the pinecones on the tree in my backyard–they are all trying to tell me something. Being in this place, connected to these people at this very time–all of it feels like God is saying: I’m with you. I love you. This grief is not forever. I have plans for you. Look around! See my hand. I am here.


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So it’s just the oddest thing. The way God changes things. I have this vivid memory of sitting in Dan’s office at Houghton in 1997, digging up anything I could find about Siloam Springs, the town we would be soon moving to. I couldn’t surf the web at home, all we could access there was text only. Isn’t that funny? A little over ten years ago, images on the Internet were much harder to come by. Our home computer didn’t have enough memory or ram or the right card or whatever to see images. So I had to use the internet at Dan’s office.

Anyway, I was so hungry to see what my town was going to look like. I imagined my life here, and how much better it was going to be. I wanted to be anywhere but Houghton, and fast. Lots of things I had no idea about waited for me here in Arkansas: a psycho dog, totally cool artsy friends, therapy, graphic design, writing, having a baby, post-partum depression, a breaking down and a building up of my faith, independence, an uncanny ability to grow basil, and the realization that happiness doesn’t just appear when you move away from a place. I have grown so much in eleven years. But never did I think that we’d be heading back to Houghton. Never.

But crazy. Seriously. Even with all of the knowledge I have of that little corner of Western Ny, of the cold and the grey skies most of the time, and the endless winter, and the miles and miles of, well, nothing, I. Want. To. Go. I can’t explain it. It can only be God. And here’s the other thing. I really like my life here. It’s not like I was just aching to get away. I had plans. I really liked my job. I love, love, love my friends. I felt like I needed to escape Houghton before we came here. I wanted to run away to happiness. (Note to self: the problem with believing that I’ll be happy when is that I bring my inner blackness with me wherever I go…moving doesn’t fix the problem) (I need to remind myself of this every once in a while…)

I don’t want to escape Siloam. Truth be told, I want to go to the Aquatic Center this summer. I want Sadie to go to the sports camps at the First Baptist church. I want to see Dana’s baby. I want to be here when Ellen gets famous. I want to go to Shan’s house for coffee and laugh till I am crying at something Trish said. I want to hang out with Tab and talk about boobs and the Holy Spirit and house renovation all in one conversation, while gesturing wildly and guffawing. I want to be a girl scout leader with Deanna and talk for hours. I want to see how our Sunday school turns out. I want Sadie to go to Allen Elementary next year. I want to be around when downtown Siloam finally gets cool.

It’s hard to think about life going on with out me. But I want to feel the loss, you know? I don’t want to just think about what’s ahead, and forget about what is great right now. Because that would be the easier thing. To shut down and move on. But I can’t. I have to feel excited AND sad. Both at the same time. And grateful too–for all of the gifts God has given me here. But also hopeful for the things He is going to do in my life in this next chapter.

I don’t like to think about leaving. Every once in a while I get this flash forward of us pulling out of our driveway for the last time, and I turn the channel QUICK. But I can’t pretend it isn’t going to happen just because it is going to be hard. Sometimes I wish I could just fly to NY in a blink and not have to deal with it. Skip any kind of closure and dive into our new life–as if the last eleven years didn’t happen. But how can I? It’s pretty crappy, this moving.

But deep down, I know we’re supposed to go. And that helps.

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Here’s the REAL reason I haven’t been blogging lately: I’ve known since January 31st that there was a possibility that we might be moving to New York State because of a job that Dan was interested in. For three months now, ALL I have been able to think about is moving back to the Northeast. And I couldn’t talk about it until we were certain that he had procured said job. As I am a verbal processor, all I really wanted to blog about was the waiting, the excitement, the dreams, the possibilities of moving closer to both of our families, and going back to our Alma Mater. (The job Dan got is the Executive Director of Alumni and Church Relations at Houghton College ). But I was sworn to secrecy. So now it’s official. We’re moving to New York state in June. And just to clarify, we will be living in Western NY, NOT the city. New York is a big state. Here is a map.

It’s totally bittersweet. We’ve been here in Arkansas for 11 years, and have people we love so much around us. But it has been hard, especially since Sadie, to only see our families once or twice a year. The minor holidays have been the worst. I get why some people feel depressed around holidays.

So as you can see by my header we’re selling our house. All the work we did over spring break was in preparation for this, and it killed me to not be able to say it. But we’ve painted and rearranged and de-cluttered and you should see our new floors. So tell your friends and spread the word. We need to sell ASAP. We’ll be traveling up to Houghton next weekend for a house-hunting trip (Sadie is beside herself with excitement…she so wants to find a house with an upstairs 🙂

I’ve learned A LOT about waiting these past months. And trying to live in the moment. But that is for another post. Right now, I have to straighten the house in case we get a call. I just wanted to give a quick update.

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I found a quote in Reader’s Digest (one of the many that I filched from the free table at the library…) that I loved so much I ripped it out of the book:

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

What makes it so poignant to me is who said it: Jim Carrey.

I erroneously think that something outside myself, some accomplishment or accolade or new house or a trip to Europe (etc.) will make me feel fulfilled. I get antsy at the life and means that God has given me–as if I’ve received the short end of the stick, or He’s looked at me, sniffed, then decided to give the cool stuff to more interesting people.

How is that Jim Carrey, who may or may not have a relationship with the Living God, knows this, while I, who have known God lo these many years, still paddle around in the quagmire of discontent and comparison?

I used to tell  people that by accepting Jesus as Savior, that hole in their heart would finally be filled.  You know, the God-shaped vacuum and all that. But here I am, a Believer, and I see in my own life that Jesus hasn’t done what I said he was supposed to do. My hole is still there. And He hasn’t magically come in and filled the space. It’s rather disappointing, actually.

But here is what I think I’ve been missing: the fact that God has given us the gift of choosing Him. Not just once for salvation, and then it is over and done with. But a daily choosing. An every-moment kind of choosing. A decision that I can make to a) compare myself to the rest of the world, and believe the lie that this or that will make me happy; or b) decide to trust in the Big Plan of God and see everything that I have or that I am or that I have experienced is exactly right, because the God of the Universe knows me intimately and loves me and wants the very best for me.

I still believe that Jesus is the answer. But the means in which He works that fulfilment into me is more like the process of making bread (all the kneading and rising and time and waiting and then punching it down and kneading some more…)–and way less like putting a quarter into a gumball machine and out pops instant happiness.

I’m just so thankful for the patience of God–who hears my ungrateful complaining, sees my childish behavior, and yet still, quietly, leads me back to His bigger truth. He reminds me again of His grace, and shows me His love.

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So I’m thinking about graduate school. Thinking about it A LOT. My big worry is that I’ll look back and say ‘yeah, I got that degree, but I missed years of Sadie’s life.’ Because I’m not that good multi-tasking. I can be somewhat (ahem…) all or nothing. Balance is hard for me to come by NOW–and I only have a 10 hour a week job. What if I were enrolled in a graduate program? Would I disappear altogether?

And then there are my motives. (Must I always examine those pesky things??) Do I want a degree because I’ll feel like a more valid person? Do I believe it will be the answer to the proverbial What Am I Here For, Anyway question? Like Oh, NOW I know what I want to be when I grow up. Having an advanced degree, much like the idea of publishing a book, should, I believe, fill the vacuous hole inside me that begs for affirmation, and, well, worship. There I said it. I will be worshipped if 1), I publish a book; Or 2), obtain an advanced degree.

Somehow wanting to be worshipped seems wrong to me. Didn’t someone get booted out of heaven for that?

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There’s this guy at church who plays the drums. He’s from South America, and according to his roommate, he never stops moving. Even when he’s not playing, he’s playing. He is Rhythm. During the songs, I watch him, mesmerized. He’s all there–fully engaged and attached to what he is doing–not even noticing that there are hundreds of people out in the congregation. The drumsticks are his arms and the big bass drum is an extenstion of his leg. Playing the drums is breathing to him. He looks like he is doing what he was MADE to do.

Watching him play makes me think about God way more than the worship songs do. He is beauty, and motion and rhythm and life. The guy has this gift, and he is using it exactly the way God seems to intend–pointing the way back to Himself. I’m blown away by this example of God giving us gifts and then using them for His purposes. And I’m hopeful that God does indeed have something that He’s given to me–something that I do or maybe will do that seems like breathing.

I want to live there–in the place where I’m doing what I’ve been made to do, and it doesn’t matter who’s watching.  I wonder sometimes if God is using me at all, or am I just waiting until I find my ‘calling.’ I think, maybe He’ll use me if I go to grad school, or volunteer at the homeless shelter. Maybe He’ll use me when I write a book or start a Bible study. What feels like breathing to me? What are the effortless things, the activities or ways of being that I’m fully engaged in, or that I love?

And then I think, God is probably using me behind my back. I bet He is sneaky like that. I mean, this guy was just playing the drums, doing something he obviously loved, right? I’m sure he has no idea that I’ve been thinking and thinking about God and calling and vocation and gifts just because he helped out with the worship band. He doesn’t know that watching him made me want to be closer to God and to serve Him with the best things I have in me.

Some people seem to have GIFTS, you know? It is obvious what they are supposed to do. But maybe it isn’t so obvious to them. Maybe lots of people feel like me–wondering, comparing, hoping for something good to do for God, and we’re already doing it and don’t know it. Maybe it’s not about gifts at all, but being faithful in the right now, doing what is in front of us.

What I do know is that God made us and prepared us for the good work He has for us to do. I just wonder what that work is.

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I’m working part time. I LOVE it. After 4 loooooong years of stay-at-home-dom, I’m out in the productive world again. Yes, yes, I know that being home with your child is productive (and oftentimes grueling) work, but I must say that it is nice to be doing something un-momly. Granted, I’m just clocking 10 hours a week at the local university doing administrative assistant kind of work for a professor, but WOW. I feel alive again. It’s so funny, when I was working before Sadie was born, (10 years, full time) I couldn’t wait to stay at home. What a life, I thought. Like being on summer vacation all the time. So much time! And how I would float through my clean, organized house and bounce my little one up and down with a satisfied smile on my face everyday. Maybe being a stay-at-home-mom feels like that to some people, but my experience was just about, um, the OPPOSITE. I’m glad I did it. I know it was the best thing for our little family. But that doesn’t mean I liked it.

And I’m finally giving myself the permission to say IT’s OK that I didn’t like it. That it WASN’T the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. That I may be a mom AND something else. I’ve been beating myself up for years because I couldn’t seem to fit into a certain kind of mom mold that I saw around me. What was wrong with me that I only wanted ONE child or that I didn’t want to homeschool? It is so hard to find yourself in a place where it seems you don’t think exactly the same way as the majority around you. I know I have friends who understand where I’m coming from–and ones who choose a different way and don’t judge me, but living in the Bible Belt is just so frickin’ hard sometimes. I love Jesus and I love being Sadie’s mom, but motherhood will no longer define what kind of a Christian I think I am.

All I know is I’m alive when I’m at work. And I wonder what God is going to do with me from here.

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