Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Seminary Diaries: impeccable timing

The backstory: As an upcoming grad student, I was looking for a job that would be fulfilling but easy; I needed so many hours a week, with a certain amount of flexibility, and the capability to focus most of my mental capacities on studies.  Found one with 25 hours and a "yes we can" attitude about my upcoming crazy two years.

Fast forward 6 weeks.  I'm asked by my supervisor and manager to "stop being compassionate and nice to people".  If you know me at all, this is never going to happen, and, when it didn't, the reprimands and backlash were unreal.  Unless, of course, you're a 2 1/2 year old... in that case, there's a good explanation for the reaction. (See the "Things You Need To Know podcast...)

Fast forward again 2 weeks. I've decided it's in my best interest to leave this "great job".  My safety and well-being may or may not have been in question, but either way, I did not feel like playing with fire.  On the same note, I hate quitting things. Jobs, relationships, hobbies, paintings.  I linger and hang on to them at the edge of a cliff (I almost spelled that 'clif' like the bar because my nutrition and diet have gone to packaged little goodies that fit in my backpack...) like they're Leonardo DiCaprio or something.

Regardless, I decided this was the right move and I prayed (pleaded) for an answer, a confirmation, or a solution.

That night: I walk with my new partner (Heyyy, Lisa) and we discuss the complexities of jerks in the workplace and jerks in relationships and the ease of which other people take advantage of nice people.  Lisa aids me in my decision, as does my supporting husband and his constant willingness to make my life a little easier.

The next morning: I recently went in to meet the new owner of our local painting class store.  We had latt├ęs and talked about the importance of following our passions.  For some reason, I went in to see her and this is how it went.

Me: Good morning! You probably don't remember me and this is a strange request; do you need anyone to sweep floors, or clean paint, or answer phones?

Her: (face falls in hands, cheeks get red, and resemblances of tears begin to form) My assistant just quit this morning for a full time job and I am beside myself on what to do.

Laughter and astonishment fills the whole room as we fall over at how timely and peculiar this seems.

I rush home to tell Lisa and Alex who both say, "I'm glad I brought the pain store up!". Which, let me tell you, none of us remember saying anything out loud, so we don't remember how it came about, but the timing was impeccable.

The point is this; what are you waiting for God to do? What do you keep asking Him for or keep looking for or keep worrying over?  I'm telling you, His timing is impeccable and His plan and power is indescribable.  Most of the time we are simply asked to follow in the path He has already begun, already walked through, and already put together.  Sometimes, all you have to do is let Him fight for you.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Seminary Diaries: the importance of being humble

Ahhh so this is what my blog looks like.  I *literally* haven't seen this end of the internet in what seems like months and years.  For good reason, probably, since my spare time should not be spent entertaining others with menial information via cyberspace.  I'm a graduate student, you know.

And that's just it; I should be studying for the quizzes I have tonight and tomorrow; I should be finishing up the book that has a report and summary due next week, and I should be preparing my interview questions and notes for the important "Theories of Development Examination" I have on Thursday.  But, alas, I cannot come up with a single sentence or question, or focus on a single word.  I figure maybe if I just get it all out there, I'll have some space cleared up where new stuff can fill it again.

About four months ago, it was just very cool that I was going to a local Seminary to pursue a degree helping others overcome grief and strife.  One, it's a world-renowned school with leaders, professors, and speakers from every genre and field you can imagine.  Two, most people just don't like listening to others' problems and trying to solve them.  Well, let me assure you, I tried to take the easy route with a different school and I have no intention or ability of "solving" anything.

Regardless, I was sometimes even praised for my ambitious goals and dreams and, occassionally, may or may not have allowed those praises to seep into crevices of my ego and self-esteem.  Then, it all came crashing down with such epiphany and revelation...

I'm sitting in orientation with about 200 other students--not all in my focus, but still--and each of us has the same deer-in-the-headlight, whose-idea-was-this, look on our face, and I realized this ambition, this dream, this passion and career that lies ahead is the same for at least 60 other people.  And the majority of these other people also have their professional casual attire with fashion-forward shoes, perfectly groomed hair, summer-peach lip gloss, and fake glasses (to look studious, of course).  The truth of it is, there are 59 other students just like me.

I am no longer an exception, no longer a one-of-a-kind, no longer The Student of the family or group; I now sit among 59 other people just like.  As we answer questions about our life stories, our future goals, and counseling paths, we sound more like robots and less like individuals.  We have each been called here for specific and beautiful reason, but we are no longer exceptions.

Chances are, I could be swallowed up in this Sea of Students.  Chances are, my stellar grades, my unique personality traits, and my witty sense of humor could go unnoticed by faculty and staff alike, because now there are multiples of me.  But, just as I sink into the abyss of Multiplicity, I remember, "what God uses for good, the enemy tries to use for bad". (No idea where I've heard that, by the way).  Sure, I could become depressed and saddened by the fact that I'm no longer a stand-out, but I could also realize that God is doing something big here. Like, something out of this world, hidden behind spiritual curtains, big.

It's called humility.

It takes humility to accept that I'm not the only counselor out there; it takes humility to realize I'm not the only person called by God to help others; it takes a dose and a half of humility to realize that there are hundreds and thousands of us.  It also takes humility to realize I cannot do this alone; I will be swallowed up by fellow students, the weight of the work, and the hurts of this world unless I understand it has never been about me or my strengths.  It takes humility to understand that God knows me by name, walks beside me daily, and has my planner already in hand.  It takes humility to realize that it's not the stuff I know, it's the God I know (that one came from a fellow student).

All in all, Seminary is full of roller coaster emotions (like that's anything new for a female like myself) but it's also about accepting God's gifts and lessons in those peaks and valleys.  So, I'll gladly spend precious seconds and minutes writing my thoughts out to cyberspace, because, well, chances are I will not remember this gift when mid-terms come, when my first client comes, or when my first bad grade comes.  I'll need a reminder that humility is not defeating, it is encouraging.

The truth is, Growth is continuous, God is everlasting, and Graduate school is only temporary...supposedly.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


The past couple of weeks have rocked our household.  Alex had a seizure which made us question his health and fear our future.  I saw the doctor and he told me there was a 20% chance I had skin cancerous cells on my back.  Somewhere in the midst of all the chaos, I forgot what day and month it was, how to cook a decent meal, and how to stop and enjoy little moments like I used to.

But today, April 10th, the sky is clearing a bit.  Alex's test results came back completely clean and the doctor removed questionable spots and said, "No need for the lab, nothing's happening here".  And so, we're breathing a little deeper and feeling a little more normal.  Of course, everyone says 'God is good' and He absolutely is, 100%, but our friend Fear is also reliable and sits quietly in our living room, I assume for a while longer.

However, somewhere in the middle of it all, I reconnected with an old high school friend (via Facebook, of course).  He now lives down the street and I can't tell you how excited this makes me.  The memories I have of this friend are very fond ones; high school prom (which could've sucked horribly if we didn't have each other to make fun of the crazies we were with), our choir trip to New York, hundreds of hours in musical practice, and countless nights of cleaning up drunk friends, watching movies, or joyriding with some of our favorite bands.

But there's something more to reconnecting.  I was never the person who kept track of everyone on Facebook after high school.  In fact, I'm the one who disappeared and erased myself from the record books.  So talking to this old friend is sort of like reconnecting with Alyssa back in 2004, 2005, and 2006.  It's kind of like saying 'hello' to her after much in life has changed.  So much has changed that she is like an acquaintance, 'somebody that I used to know', a distant memory.

There are lots of pictures of her smiling, with her friends, at various activities, and in a cheerleader uniform (not a costume...do NOT say costume).  There's a few from prom, a few from the football games, a few making weird faces, and even a few with braces (no rhyming intended).  She was a ton of fun and she lived up those high school years.  But now that I'm meeting her again, there are lots of things I would say to her.

1) Don't cry over that boy.  Your heart is hurting and that's okay, but don't cry because you think it's your fault that he's the Biggest Jerk in the World.  It's absolutely not.  He'll continue to be a jerk regardless of who he's with and you'll continue to be beautiful, loveable, and wanted.

2) Don't be afraid of making the wrong decisions about your future.  Sure, be cautious about big decision because they have ripple effects, but don't worry that you'll screw it up or that you'll choose the wrong place and it will be irreversible.  Just take the next step.  Just move forward.  Life has the most amazing way of working out and leading you in the best direction.  Take it easy, let go.

3) Value those friendships but don't give in to peer pressure because you're afraid you won't have those friends anymore.  Be who you were made to be, but also discover who you were made to be.  All of those influences and words are not who you are; they are only words.  The real you lives deep inside and, once it feels confident and safe, will flourish and grow in ways you never expected.

4) Take more risks.  Not like, drinking and driving risks--that will always be a bad risk. Try out for the team, do the audition, wear that skirt that isn't "in".  It's these risks that will make your more confident, more secure, and happier.  Sure, they'll scare the shit out of you today; your heart will pound, you'll sweat like a man, and you'll feel like every eye is on you, but that's okay.  Do it and then laugh at yourself, or cry out the anxiety, or pat yourself on the back.  These risks will get easier and the rewards will be great.

5) Listen to your parents and have faith.  They actually do know what they're talking about because they have lived it.  Once you start to grow up, the world hands you bigger and bigger plates.  In an amazing way, you grow stronger because of the load you carry.  All of the stuff you love about you now, you'll love even more when you get older.  And you'll be handed bigger things which will make you even stronger yet.  And when your parents give you a warning, listen to it.  They have had their share of heartache and they only want to spare you the same.  You won't be spared.  But you will be glad that you had parents who loved you enough to care.  And P.S., they'll love you when you don't listen and they'll love you as you grow older, but you'll continue thinking you know better, at least for a little while.

I would have a lot more to say to that girl and I'm sure ten years from now, I'll have even more to say.  They say that time heals all wounds and I don't believe that's necessarily true.  There are still wounds today that no amount of time will "heal", but that time has given me a new perspective on, a deeper appreciation, and a greater love for self.  Some of those wounds don't need healed; sometimes it still feels good to mourn or feel the things of my past--they just help me to reconnect with the person I was, the person I am now, and the person I anticipate to be in the future.

Reconnecting with old friends is like reconnecting with self.  You can’t ever possibly have it all figured out, but it feels so good to know you lived and survived it, because it gives you hope and gladness for your future. 


Thursday, April 3, 2014

expected and unexpected change

I was sitting in the office with the Director and my former supervisor when I looked at them and said, "I think I'm going to experience change soon."  I couldn't explain what it was or how that change would come to be, but I'd felt for a few weeks that something in my life was going to shift.  Almost like looking into the horizon and seeing that the route I was taking wasn't going to be available any longer.  Almost like the ship I'd been sailing would soon begin to steer itself and I wouldn't have a say in where it was going or how fast it would get there.

That was in January.  Right before the holidays I had applied to Denver Seminary for a graduate degree I never thought I'd want.  Actually, after my brief entanglement with college after high school, I was sure I'd never go back. I'd be one of those folks who didn't go to college but was mad successful anyway, because I'm stubborn, work at everything 100%, and simply don't fail.

So then I got my acceptance letter a few weeks after the conversation about looming possibilities.  "Congratulations, you're accepted.  Your whole life is about to change--lots of homework, 12 hours of class each week, Master's level reading, and an entire shift in the way you think."  Still, though, I felt change on the horizon.

Then Alex applied for a different job position at the same institution.  Travel required, hours beyond 40 expected.  Still, not the change I knew was coming.  I even tried to write about the change I felt looming, but didn't have any concrete words or thoughts to piece it together. 

Then the call came.  "We think your husband has had a seizure. He's on the ground, unresponsive.  Has this happened to him before?  We need you to speak to the paramedics and give his name and birth date for the emergency room."

Never before had I experienced such horror, fear, worry, and isolation.  All at once I was in the wrong place and needed to be somewhere else right away, but couldn't move. Experience with seizures? Yes, for all of my early life.  Experience with terminally ill family members, even death? Yes, a couple times.  But never before had I been in a place where I felt my husband was in extreme danger, all alone.  My skin still shudders at the memory of the voice on the other line and the dark avenues my mind raced to in seconds.

A few hours in, there were still no answers, but Alex was alive.  All of his extremities were moving, his voice was clear, and he knew who he was.  A couple days later he was walking around, speaking in slow, monotone stutters, and sleeping soundly at home.  However, that wasn't my husband.  That man who lived with me for a couple of days was not the easy-going Alex who typically laughs at mundane jokes (or says them himself), cuddles with his dog children like a big bear, or talks baby-talk to get his way. I was now isolated with a stranger.

A few days later, Alex had returned--slowly but surely--and we were trying to find our new normal.  It was in those moments that I realized I had arrived at my destination.  Our ship had sailed head-forward into change; change was knocking at our doorstep.  Suddenly, my usually even-tempered husband was showing emotion.  He was crying in fear, yelling in anger and worry, and talking out loud about questionable faith and what really matters in life.  Suddenly, I felt extreme pride and honor to be Alex's wife.  I was honored to be trusted with him and his life and well-being; I was proud to be the one near to help him through something that would rightfully scare any grown man.

We have the same address, the same jobs, and the same life path.  But much has changed.  When I think back to the impending shift I knew was coming, I knew it would affect our finances, our faith, possibly our health or lifestyle and truthfully, I still don't know what has changed or is changing.  We're still walking in our post-emergency fog, waiting for some of the smoke to clear.  But I do know this: it was more comforting to know that God was with me before and during the change, than it was scary to look down the road and see an unknown change.  It's more comforting to know that our lives are changing in amazing ways than it is scary to not know what happened or if it will happen again.  It's true that change can be embraced and when we allow all the ripples of the change to shift us for the better, we grow in ways we never thought possible.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, You

A really cool, fellow-blogger "friend" of mine, recently wrote herself a letter on her big day.  I couldn't think of a better way to remind myself what today is all about.

Hello, You,

Happy, happy birthday.  You like this day.  Actually, you really love this day.  Sure, Valentine's Day (or Overrated Hallmark Silly Day) is over and spring is around the corner, but today has always been your day.  It's also Michael Jordan's (a fact you found incredibly fun when you were little. You've still got the signed letter from his secretary.)  But, in your world, it's kinda your day.  When you were 16, you got your gall bladder yanked out (rocked that, btw); at 17, you got a belly-button ring and sang karaoke (way rocked that one, too), and, at 18, commemorated Adam and Krista with a tattoo on your left shoulder. 19 was Rascal Flatts and a Build-A-Bear (her name is Charlotte, and yes, I was the oldest kid in the joint), 20 was another tattoo and 21 was memorable and forgettable all at the same time...Beer pong with your mom was involved. 22 was great.  You sang 'Don't Stop Believing' at the top of your lungs, surrounded by new friends in Colorado. Since then, your husband has planned brunch and dinner, you've been on trips, you've celebrated.

So, here we are, a few years later, and those young-twenty-ish years seem somewhat behind you and almost far away.  However, we all know that doesn't mean we stop celebrating or brushing off these birthdays like they're nothin'. No, no--you've seen so many young people leave this earth before they reach their 20th birthday, so these extras always seem like gifts to you.  This year...

Someone told you 25 was the greatest year.  In fact, it was not.  You got nothing you wished for this year, but a lot of other great things.

You found a pinch of bold and a splash of gumption and told someone 'no' without explanation.

You got the best adult Christmas you've had to date.  Your dad came to town, toting loads of great gifts, food, and flowers.  Your parents celebrated with you, together.  Then, he took you downtown to ice-skate because it was one of his favorite childhood Christmas memories.  You also rode a train with him and your husband and ate real roasted chestnuts.  There were lots of jokes and laughter this holiday season.

You fell in love with a little puppy named Sophia.  She's a handful, but she has really mended your broken heart.  Though she'll never fill the hole that Phoebe took with her, she softens the edges and soothes the scar.

You and your husband went on a road-trip, went to some stellar eateries, saw some baseball, basketball, and hockey games.  Oh, and you bought a house.  You're a big girl now.

You got a new job playing with Smalls all day and you got accepted into Seminary.  That dream you had a few years ago to help people in the world is slowly coming true right before your eyes. You're graduating in a couple months with a degree you said you'd never get and the 4.0 you aimed for two years ago.

So, you pondered lots on how to celebrate today. You got a little sad about the people who forgot and you sat in some stinky-wallowing for a bit.  But then, you remembered.  You love these days you get as gifts because you know they allow you to see God's beauty and grace in your life and in others.  You love these days because you get to be God's love to others.  You know your days are numbered so you work hard to make them count.  You cherish your moments because you know they'll go too fast.

So, stop wallowing or worrying.  Enjoy this year, being 26 and being all the things you can be.  Be your best and look forward to many more little "gifts" that allow you to do even greater things next year.

Celebrate you, not because this day is all about you (it really isn't), but celebrate because you've been abundantly blessed.

Monday, February 10, 2014

it's-a comin'

Last week at church we were filling out a form that asked about our demographics.  You know, the area we reside, if we're visitors or not, and also, our "age group".

Choice 1: 18-25
Choice 2: 26-32

I only have seven days left to be in Choice 1...so, that seems silly. Plus, I hate paperwork, so I don't want to have to re-do it in a week.

By default, I just made my way into the '30's group a week early and without notice. 

Rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, and nervous sweats may have taken place.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

a constant tech crew

There are times in my life when I am sitting still, resting, doing nothing, or motionless.  I'm not working on anything, planning any trips, or progressing towards a goal.

But our God is just not that way.  Our God is always moving, always working on something, always in motion.

In high school, I was not one of those kids who starred in the musical.  I didn't have lead roles or very many lines.  Typically, I danced in a few scenes, walked around as a townsperson, held something above my head.  So, I was also typically close with the tech crew.  After all, we spent our "free time" in the same area and sat in the audience while the leads practiced the same line 40 or 83 times.  And I have to tell you, the tech crew does not stop for much.  They are always working on something--moving a prop, preparing the next scene, gathering up actors, or repairing broken lines, pulleys, and sets.

God is this way.  Things in your life might look stagnant.  You might have just returned from a great trip, recuperated from a holiday, or finished up a degree or promotion.  So now you just relax, rest, or wait.  Perhaps you've been praying for something to change or have become a little bored. The crowd is quiet, the curtains are drawn, and the music has stopped.  Just so you know, God is doing none of that.  For no part of your life is God resting or recuperating.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that God has not taken a day of rest since the beginning.  After all, God rested only after everything was done and everything was perfect.  Today, we are far from perfect and there is far more to do.

I have a tendency to plan my life around the next holiday, our next trip, my next final, or the Next Big Thing (which, apparently, is found at Samsung).  I'll save money in the budget, plan the days to take off, buy gifts, make lists, cook food, or update my wardrobe.  Then, after it's over, I'll stop for a while or I'll start planning again.  I'll pray for something to come or something to go away, I'll meditate on His word or seek a friend, and I'll attend church or find my pastor.  But, in the in-between, I'm at rest.

In these times of rest, it becomes easy for me to think that God is taking care of other things.  "Well, Alyssa's issue is solved, so I'll move onto Africa".  When I'm not asking Him for something, I think maybe He's somewhere else. 

But the truth is that He isn't.  God is always working in everything.  God is like this all-knowing, all-powerful. all in control tech crew behind the curtains and scenes in my life.  For the most part, His work goes unnoticed and unrecognized until 'WHAM'!--something in my life or heart is different and I notice.  Until I've noticed that I feel differently about this or I expect something different about that, His work could go unnoticed.

Unless we recognize that He is always working.  Our God is not at rest because there is much to do.  There are hearts to heal and lives to fill; there are great big needs and little, important needs, that He works diligently to meet. God is not resting because the perfection of Eden was lost, and the road to retrieve it is a long, broken one.

God does not rest, He is not relaxing.  God is powerful, moving, and working.  God is your tech crew that is doing insurmountable things you may not notice or recognize until the next big thing in your life, just happens.