From the Basement

July 20, 2010

Curls, Control, & Contentment: An Essay on Faith

I wrote this back in January (hence the references to grad school), but I really needed to read it today. How awesome is it when God uses us to remind ourselves of His goodness and mercy…

~*~

I’m currently sitting at my aunt’s office desk, and for some inexplicable reason I have a bottle of hairspray next to me. It is extreme hold hairspray. It literally says that. Extreme. It is beyond strong, beyond maximum – extreme (Aussie Instant Freeze). On the front, it says that it “arrests your style.” Seriously? My hair is under arrest! That is the level to which I’ve resorted in order to feel like I’m in control.

Let’s back up. In 7th grade, I cut my budding curls down to a pixie cut. As in, early 1990s Winona Ryder short. My hair, which went from straight to curly during those peachy puberty years, absolutely terrified me. I had no confidence in my ability to manage my curls. So I cut them off until I was ready to grow them back out, ready to deal with them (it took a year).

This is me in a nutshell. I was so scared of this unruly thing in my life (it just so happened to be growing on my head), that I cut it off and kept it at a distance until I was ready to let it back into my life, where I timidly began to think about creative ways to manage it. I am now to the point where I’m perfectly comfortable letting my three (maybe four) day hair be shown in public – or perhaps that’s senioritis attacking my personal hygiene. Who knows.

At the root of this fear is a lack of confidence. I didn’t have confidence in what I was given. I also didn’t have confidence in my ability to manage the situation. But really, I didn’t have confidence in myself (or my Creator). We control-freaks hold things with a death grip, terrified that letting go means falling into the unknown – into the painful truth that we don’t control nearly as much as we think we do. The world does not revolve around our plans and schedules, wants and desires. There are plenty of things that are absolutely outside of our control, and we have to learn to accept that. Easier said than done. I for one am so not there yet, but it’s where my heart wants to be, and I think that counts for something.

As graduating seniors, we are concerned with getting a job, getting into graduate school – things that are decidedly outside of our control. Our conversations abound with negative prophecies and heart-heavy predictions. There are so many unknown factors, things that can have absolutely nothing to do with us – budgets, hiring cuts, smaller acceptance rates. Maybe… maybe… maybe… We love to torture ourselves with fantasies of worst-case scenarios. And to what end? Imagining the future only leads to heartache. It distracts us from the present as well as from the promises of our faith. As C.S. Lewis said, the future is the thing that is least like eternity. When it comes down to it, dwelling on the future merely feeds my lust for control.

It helps to get perspective, and that can come from both good and bad situations. I most recently got a reality-check from the latter. I met a friend for lunch the other day. That morning, I’d completed yet another application and for some reason, the anxiety was shooting through the roof, to the point where I ended up running to the toilet. Proof that all those negative anxieties and fantasies we indulge in affect our bodies.

So I met my friend for lunch. My news – applications (what else is new?). Her news – her cousin, who is around our age, was diagnosed with cancer. Talk about perspective. Now, this is not one of those “it can always be worse” exhortations – that’s not a productive method of coping. Rather, that lunch was a reminder. Even though there is the fundamental difference that I invited my situation and her cousin did not, life remains a series of unknowns for us both and, indeed, for everyone. It takes a lot of faith to get through each day.

The unknowns can bad things we don’t expect. Illness. The death of a loved one. A breakup, a divorce. Arrest. And then they can be things that we do – like knowing we’ll hear back, one way or the other, from prospective jobs, internships, schools. Getting to hold a newborn baby. Going home for Christmas to find the house chock-full of treats baked in anticipation of your arrival. And then, wow, there are the genuine surprises – like meeting the right person at the right time or unexpectedly finding a way to pay for something you’ve needed. The fun chances, the joyful surprises – these happen all around us, too!

We forget that it’s not our ability to predict or expect outcomes that matters. None of us have that kind of foresight. It’s how we handle those outcomes, those journeys. It comes down to having confidence in yourself and not in your trappings or expectations. It’s about trusting who you are. Because we each have worth, we each have value, and no matter what situation we are placed in, those things are sure.

As believers, we are the beloved of Christ, and it is in His eyes that we are made whole and complete. When we find our identity in Him – when we know that Jesus is at our side and that He is our Abba Father who is for us, offering the gifts of peace and joy and grace and love – when we can rest in His loving arms and say “come what may” because all things work to the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose – when we know that if our earthly parents love us and want to give us good gifts, how much more does He want to give! – when we know these things and can rest in them, there is confidence. There is peace. There is light. And it is that light in a difficult situation, that peace that surpasses all understanding – those are the things that mark us as His.

I want more peace. I want to radiate joy and contentment, not anxiety and fear. I have nothing to be afraid of. Nothing! He has hedged me behind and before, and as long as I just crawl up into His lap and remember that, first and foremost, I am a daughter of the King, all is good. Because life with him is good.

I’m reminded of the Niebuhr prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The good news is that He gives us serenity, courage, and wisdom. All we have to do is ask. We should consistently turn our situations over to Him in prayer, but so too should we ask for the character and the mindset that will alter how we see the situation. More righteousness. More Christlikeness – more like Christ.

Christ is perfect love, and perfect love casts out all fear. Lately, my fear has been crowding out my excitement. I don’t always feel like I can choose excitement, and that’s partly due to my internalization of the world telling me that a good student and an ambitious individual should be worrisome, anxious, nervous for their future. But why on earth am I taking their advice? I have EVERY reason to be excited right now. Every reason to have faith that all will work to the good. I rebuke the words that tell me that sitting around every day nervously checking my email and mailbox is a proper way to manage my time. Like my curls, I have no control over what’s growing right now.

Another issue at play here is waiting. Waiting is a blessed time, truly. In the Bible (and in life), it’s a time of preparation. Of prayerful supplication. Of purification. In short, waiting is a process to be embraced.

And I want to embrace this time: the waiting, the joy, and the knowledge that come what may, my Abba has got me on His lap and He’s saying “Wait for what I do next – I’ve got so many wonderful things planned for you! You’re going to love how I have you do My work, the opportunities to love people, to reach people – you’re going to love it, you’re just going to love it.” I want to shuck fear off of me, to slither out of that skin of anxiety and worry, to just be joy. I want that. And as long as my eyes are focused on my Abba, the joy is for the taking.

July 1, 2010

“So… God wants me to be unemployed?”: On Trust, Belief, and Trust

Trust Him. Praise Him.

Those are the encouraging or, alternately,  infuriating, soul-wrenching answers I get when I ask God about his plans for my employment (I hope it’s not too much to assume that I’ll find work?). I have been home since March and graduated since May. It is almost the 1st of July, and I’m still in my mom’s basement. I think many recent grads are in the same boat.

In honor of the classic song “Count Your Blessings,” I’ll count my blessings first. My parents live less than an hour apart and both have opened their homes to me for as long as I need it. I live rent free and occasionally chip in for coffee or pizza with my graduation money. I have no expenses, notwithstanding the Student Loans of Doom that are looming over the horizon.

In short, I’m blessed. I originally wrote “save the whole unemployment bit,” but even with that, I’m still blessed.

And yet, over the last few months, I’ve gone through days where I did not seek him, whether out of spite or laziness it’s hard to say. And then, on the flip side, there are the days that are glorious and praise-full and awesomely productive. And then there are the screaming days. Today was a combination of awesome + screaming.

On days like these, when I go out on my porch and sob and cry and throw a temper tantrum that could rival a two-year-old, I forget that I’ve learned a lot. On days like these, I forget that all things work to the good of those who love him, mostly because I’m too busy thinking that God is planning to use my life as the sequel to Job.

(On days like these, I really hope that Job was a one-time thing and that God’s not planning to do that again.)

In the aftermath of the tears, several truths become apparent. Things I’ve learned over the last few months.

  1. I could do everything right by human standards and still not get hired if it’s not God’s will.
  2. I could do everything wrong by human standards and get hired if God wants me to work there.
  3. God may be keeping me from employment to let me focus on other things.
  4. His name is still Faithful and True.
  5. He is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides.
  6. He is using this time to make me into the woman he wants me to be.

As my mom reminded me today, he sees how these months fit into the span of my life. He knows what I’ll be doing a year from now. He knows the names of my children. He knows the plans he has for me. I see what’s on the screen. He’s already directed the whole picture.

I want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman. In verse 25, it says, she is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. A righteous woman who seeks the Lord’s own heart – she laughs at the days to come. Others flee and cower, but she stands strong. Sans peur. No fear. After all, why should she fear? She knows that her God loves her, protects her, is for her, is not against her. She knows that there is nothing on this earth that can separate her from the extravagant, earth-shattering love of God.

God’s love is shattering. It’s such a revelation every time, and I so often feel shattered when faced with it. So painfully, acutely aware of the reasons I don’t deserve it. So ready with excuses of my humanity, of my proud refusal to believe that he means what he says. And yet he comes and scoops me up and holds me against his chest and murmurs in my ear that he loves me, and that he is enough – he is always enough.

I’ll be gone for the next two weeks visiting family and friends, and this evening, I was freaking out to my mom about how I don’t know what I’ll do about job searching for the next two weeks. Unreliable internet, etc. And she looked at me and said, take the time off! Enjoy the time away! I asked, what happens if the perfect job comes up and I don’t see it? And she looked at me, so loving, and asked if I really thought that God didn’t already have everything planned out and did I think I’d be going away for two weeks if he didn’t have everything under control?

And then I did that whole crying/wallowing thing.

And then something wonderful happened. God picked me up, put lyrics in my head that wouldn’t go away, and gave me the title to my next blog post. He uses writing to take me outside myself, to give perspective, to show his love – his shattering, wonderful love that has given me the gift of a two-week hiatus and more opportunities to lean on him and not on my own understanding.

To remind me that unemployment does not define me. That his plans are so much bigger.

Like sunlight burning at midnight

Making my life something so

Beautiful, beautiful

Mercy reaching to save me

All that I need

You are so

Beautiful, beautiful

– Francesca Battistelli, “Beautiful, Beautiful”

Link to video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbCfyZHSQbE

June 1, 2010

On Graduation & Hope

Filed under: Graduating — jeannablue @ 2:20 pm
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I am a college graduate. Four years of study, thirty-three courses, and endless pots of coffee all boiled down to one finite moment that lasted maybe six seconds as I walked across a stage and accepted my diploma from the college President.

The build up to that moment had been great: a night before spent with my friends and all of our families, packing, laughter, cards, tears, a frantic morning full of showers and my nagging “When are we leaving for Baccalaureate?”, the actual Baccalaureate ceremony, several receptions, and then … Commencement.

(I have, by the way, decided that all graduating seniors – as well as faculty, given their medieval robes – should be provided not only with a Commencement program but also a bottle of water. Or, alternately, one of those airplane drink carts.)

That very busy Saturday was followed by an equally busy Sunday. I attended a college scarcely thirty minutes from my mother’s hometown, and as such I spent my four years in near-monthly contact with aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Since since one of my cousins graduated from high school this weekend, an aunt decided to throw us a joint graduation party (despite my many protests). The party was lovely, frantic, and full of delicious veggie pizza.

Last night, upon our return home, my mother asked me if I had the blues, coming down after such a high weekend, as it were. I told her no, I didn’t – it’s nice to settle back into the quiet, back into routine, after a high-stress, obscenely hot weekend.

Truth be told, I’ve had two months to acclimate myself to living at home, waiting on job applications. I was relieved to be back, to settle into a subdued productivity full of blogging, writing, job hunting, waiting, reading, and occasionally seeing the friends who are still in the area. Graduation was the official mark of the end of an era, but it’s a mark I had already felt (keenly felt, actually) over the last few weeks.

During the Baccalaureate ceremony, and again during Commencement, the college chaplain sought to “anoint [the graduating seniors] with hope.” Hope. That is something to cling to in the quiet days ahead. While ceremonies mark our lives, to be sure, hope is the constant that sustains us throughout our days.

That message of hope is the most precious take-away from this weekend, even perhaps greater than my diploma, for without hope, what is the joy in a diploma? Over the last few days, hope and encouraging exhortations have come from, well, everyone, as well as through hugs, graduation cards, and, yes, the Baccalaureate sermon. Continue to hope. Stay hopeful. Nurture it. Protect it. And pray for it.

May 27, 2010

Graduation

Filed under: Faith,Graduating,Uncategorized — jeannablue @ 10:31 pm
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I’m graduating this weekend, so the blog will be on hiatus until Monday or Tuesday of next week. Surprisingly, I’ve been feeling rather anxious – not dreading it, but certainly not looking forward to it, in spite of the fact that it means seeing friends and professors (not to mention family). I think it’s a natural resistance that’s rising and that will ebb with the tide when I leave for campus tomorrow. This Saturday marks the official end of an era – college – as well as the beginning of a new one (which is, at present, Unemployed).

In the midst of all those strange feelings, the following verses have been laid on my heart:

Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say: rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

While this set of passages is famous for many things, what always strikes me is Be anxious for nothing. It’s a command – literally. We are commanded to not have anxiety over any situation, but rather to pray and receive the peace of Christ. It’s a heady promise, one that I don’t always grasp onto, but I’m holding on to it right now.

Be blessed this weekend.

May 14, 2010

On Waiting

Fact: since I got into college, I have not received or been accepted to any job/school/internship to which I applied. Before every summer, I would be filled with anxiety about where I’d find work, because I’d apply and apply and apply and nothing would come through. So the summer after my freshman year, I waitressed at Perkins, a job I got via my mom’s connections. The summer after my sophomore year, I interned at a regional non-profit in my hometown, also received because of my mom. Last summer, I was the lead teacher for the K-5 kids in a summer program at a local daycare, something I got via my boyfriend’s connections.

God always came through.

And then this year, it was across-the-board rejections at graduate programs. I’ve also been rejected from a fellowship and an internship, and there are several positions that I started to apply for but that were filled before I could finish the application. Right now, I’m waiting to hear from a place I interviewed with about 2 1/2 weeks ago, and I’m also waiting to see if the resumes I sent out to some contacts are going to turn up anything. I’ve submitted my resume online to several job openings; nada.

You know what? God’s still coming through.

I’ve been learning a lot about waiting this past year. I don’t know what exactly this post is shaping up to be, but I want to encourage you – in whatever you’re waiting for – to keep persevering. There’s this great quote from Oswald Chambers that says, “He works where He sends us to wait.” There is work being done in the waiting. We learn so much more through waiting than we do through immediate gratification: patience, trust, and maybe wisdom, too.

This has, thus far, been the least anxiety filled May that I’ve had in the last four years, even though by others’ standards, it should be the worst. I’m graduating in two weeks. I don’t have a job. I didn’t get into grad school. I have few job prospects. Networking has not turned up anything thus far. … and yet God is faithful. He is doing a good work. I can sense it. I trust it.

There’s a reason I am not going to grad school this fall, and I think it has to do with learning to trust God and the gift He’s given me: writing. I am officially taking a year off, and I am feeling called in a powerful way to begin to send out my writing. To keep producing work and to start sending it out. It took closing every door possible to get me to pay attention that voice, that still small voice that’s been nagging at me for years.

In the midst of resounding silence, I’ve found a calling.

But I’m also learning to trust. To not freak out. To know that my Abba will do things in his own way and time, and that I’d just better keep praying and waiting. My dismal record of job applications shows that I’m pretty bad at getting work on my own, and yet He has always brought the perfect thing at the perfect time that taught me just what I needed to be taught. And so I’m trusting that He will find a way to provide for me. A voice of worry says, “You need to start paying student loans back in November.” And I pray, Lord, please help me find a way to pay them back. Trust.

I have grown so much more over the last few months because I’ve been waiting – and I am so grateful. At times, the months were anxiety filled; at times, my head was (literally) in the toilet, my emotions exacting a heavy toll from my physical body. But worry accomplishes nothing. Anxiety and fear accomplish nothing. That voice that says, you could be doing more, you should be doing more, you can do it alone – lies.

Ultimately, my confidence cannot lie in my own abilities. Plenty of people do everything right and have nothing turn out. My professors and various others have expressed fury on my behalf that [fill in the blank] didn’t work out. And you all probably know people like that, or perhaps you’ve been in that position or are in that position.

The good news is, we can have total confidence in the promises of our Savior. That he who begins a good work will be faithful to complete it. That he is with us always. That he gives wisdom to those who ask. That he will grant prayers for patience (oh, will he grant them!).

I’m going through a book by Angela Thomas, and the section for today was entitled Pray & Stand. I started to cry when I read one of the verses; it very much articulates where I’m at, and it is an awesome encouragement.

Ephesians 6:13 – “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

He gives us the strength to stand in the face of adversity, of trial, of desert places, of pain, of brokenness … even better, he is there with us. We can trust that he has a plan and a purpose, that – as “Desert Song” says – “All of my life, in every season, you are still God, I have a reason to sing… I have a reason to worship.”

When I’m unemployed, I have a reason to worship God. When I’m worried about how I’m going to pay the bills, I can trust him. When I’m filled with fear and anxiety, I can invite him in and watch as his awesome love casts everything else out. I know in my heart of hearts that he fights for me, that he loves me, and that even in the waiting – especially in the waiting – he is shaping me into the woman he wants me to be.

Psalm 118:1, 5-9, 13-14 – “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever …. In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper … It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. …. I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

May 11, 2010

Trusting Your Gifts

Talents. Abilities. Instincts. Smarts. Whatever you call them, most everyone has some special talent (my favorite word for it). Whatever your gifting is, my question for you today is: are you walking in it? Are you doing it? Are you practicing? Are you finding a way to incorporate it into your daily life?

I believe that our gifts are given to us for a reason, but too many of us live in fear of them. Perhaps it’s a fear of failure, but perhaps it’s a fear of what will happen when you start walking in the gifting you’ve been given. Maybe you’re just afraid to hope that what you love to do is something that you could walk in every day or even – woah – get paid to do.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about jobs lately. The job hunt, the job market. Y’know – things that are pretty rough right now. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has at some point asked about the fallback, the safety job, survival. When I lead the conversation with the subject of My Writing, the person almost immediately clams up. Or they say “That’s nice. And if that doesn’t work out…?”

All this has me thinking that our culture doesn’t have its priorities straight. We value what pays rather than what edifies and, to be sure, things that are personally edifying won’t necessarily pay the bills. But I can’t help but think that our hope is drowning in our pragmatism. There’s this pervading, latent theme in conversation: it’s not that what we love can’t pay, just that it won’t pay. Too many people seem determined to pass that belief on to others. Don’t even think about pursuing something you love; it won’t pay and you’ll end up disappointed and embarassed, and then where will you be?

I am so sick of hearing that.

We learn early on to disregard our deepest desires, our giftings, our talents. When we’re little, it’s “what I want to do when I grow up!” Have you ever noticed how little kids always have an answer to that question, regardless of their level of talent/ability/opportunity in their chosen career field? But later on in life, we call the things we enjoy “hobbies.” We say “it’s called work for a reason.” And after college, we learn to look for what will pay rather than what we want. What we want might well pay – it’ll just take work and perhaps a thickness of skin that is too much to bear. (Or so we think.) And then we get lazy. We settle into that job or career or industry that wasn’t for us and still isn’t for us, but that pays the bills.

I am determined to not live in fear of my dreams. I am determined to not get lazy. But more than anything, I am determined in my belief that I was given my giftings for a reason … and why would I be given them if I wasn’t supposed to use them?

May 9, 2010

Reading to Write

I get a lot of ideas for stories when I’m listening to sermons, which is admittedly not the most convenient time. But sometimes, I go to a church where I can pretty much guarantee that the sermon will not hold my attention, and so after worship, I let my mind wander …

This morning, my mind wandered to the land of Mother’s Day and all the rich stories that unfold in such a day. There are all sorts of mothers and not-mothers in this world, and when the sermon began this morning, the ideas started flowing for a short story.

Lately, my brain has been on fire, and it’s exciting. I haven’t been this prolific in months.

This burst of creative energy is due to two things, I think. First, I’m out of school, and I’ve been out long enough to get the “it-feels-like-spring-break” schedule out of my system. I’m itching to work on projects. Second, I’m reading again. That probably sounds strange, but I had a difficult time flipping between my academic reading and my pleasure reading (while they can be synonymous, there is a distinct difference between literary theory and murder mysteries).

During college, I forgot how essential reading was (is) to my writing process. To write, you must first read. And read a lot. At the moment, I’m engrossed in one particular book – Interpreter of Maladies, a Pulitzer-prize winning short story collection by Jhumpa Lahiri, who is (in my humble opinion) one of the most talented short story writers living today. Her narratives are subtle and emotionally compelling. But my reasons for reading her work are twofold: I read to enjoy, but I also read to learn. I’m new to the short story craft, and for the last year or so, I’ve been latching onto different short story writers. Lahiri is one; the late Angela Carter is another.

Reading for pleasure and reading to learn often overlap. There are authors I read to learn from, like Lahiri and Carter. And then, frankly, there are authors I read who, while enjoyable, are also great teachers in the school of How Not To. I’m thinking of Grisham, Patterson, Brown. I just picked up Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series this month, and while I enjoy the stories, they don’t intrigue me on a structural level. It’s a lesson in How Not To.

Of course, I don’t write like the authors I emulate, either. I couldn’t write like Lahiri or Carter if I tried. I can only write like me. But that means that I need to spend time with me, reading with me, brainstorming with me, in order to learn to write like me. I can’t go for a month without writing (or pleasure reading, for that matter) and expect to pick up where I left off months ago. This is why writing every day is so wonderful – it helps me find my voice and remember where I left it.

When I’m writing and reading every day, wonderful things happen. Juices flow. Energy sparks. And if I happen to find both my voice and a story buried in a Sunday sermon, well … I’ll take it.

May 1, 2010

Hold the Scotch: On Job Hunting & Hope

After spending too much time on the online job hunt last night, I put in Charlie Wilson’s War for a pick-me-up. Now, you know it’s bad when a movie about the Cold War is a uplifting. Mostly, I spent the time fantasizing about Philip Seymour Hoffman strolling into my room and offering me a bugged bottle of scotch. I don’t drink scotch, but let me tell you, this job market could drive me to it.

I was plowing through sites like mediabistro.com and others that are heavy on editorial and freelance work. Monster, of course, is a must for jobs in my area. College nannies, college tutors, learning centers, legal aids, online copywriters, the CIA, the State Department, Hallmark, the local university – it’s downright depressing. There are jobs out there, often ones requiring experience, and I’m still trying to vault over that limitation. Several people have told me to ignore the “years experience needed,” especially if they only require 1-2 years.

The hardest thing to overcome in this market is, I think, my own level of expectation. The job I want. The job I’m excited for. It just so happens that the summer job that I a) want and b) am excited for is one that I interviewed for this week … and I won’t hear back from them for 2-3 weeks. That’s a long time to hold out when the job market, which is already thin, is about to become thinner with a flood of recent graduates.

So I’m trying to straddle this: my own desires with pragmatism, the part of me that says “This time is good! This time is for writing! And you’re writing! And you’ve interviewed for that awesome TA job, you’re waiting to hear back, you’ve got a great shot at it” – and then the other part says, ” … and what if that doesn’t work out?”

I’ve started work on some freelance articles that would pay either nothing or very little, but they’d be bylines. Also, I’m so excited about them! So excited. Applying for a position as a marketing assistant in the Twin Cities does not fill my tank nearly as much.

So where is that line? Where is that line when we sacrifice what we love for a job that’ll help us survive? At what point do you just have to say “screw it” to worldly wisdom and hold out and wait? Can you find a survival job that will not suck your passion for what you love, i.e. will you not be completely exhausted and worn out when you get home? How how the heck do you find a career doing what you want?*

Right now, I’m just waiting and praying. And drinking copious amounts of coffee. And the occasional dark beer. No scotch yet.

*On that note, this month has gone a long way in reminding me of why I want to go to graduate school. Not necessarily the state of the job market (tho’ that doesn’t hurt), but that there is nothing that excites me more than digging into literature and researching. I’m gearing up to revise a paper and possibly attend a conference (!), a possibility that has me so freaking excited that I think I’ll be reapplying in the fall. Also, I’m trying to keep one of the freelance articles from getting too heavy on the literary theory (Mulvey and feminist film crit). Yet another sign that I’m either a) brainwashed by my profs or b) still in love with the English discipline. Ah, who are we kidding? I’m still in love. Spurned, but still in love.

April 13, 2010

Day One

Filed under: Faith,Grad School,Graduating — jeannablue @ 9:48 pm
Tags: , , ,

This isn’t Day One from the basement, but it’s Day One of this blog. Here goes nothin’.

In the interest of using good manners, even online (especially online), I’ll introduce myself. I’m the girl downstairs reporting from the basement – my mother’s basement that is. Her basement is located in the backwoods of northern Wisconsin, a lovely property that butts up against the woods and somehow got absorbed into a subdivision that sprang up years after this house was here. The reason for my being in backwater Wisconsin is that I’ve completed my classes for this semester. I’m a college senior – was a college senior? – and I’m graduating this May from a notable liberal arts college with absolutely no idea what is going to happen next.

How does a Type A, oldest child, overachieving student end up in her mother’s basement? Pretty darn easily. Let’s just say that I envisioned a different outcome for myself when I applied for Ph.D. track programs this last fall. I anticipated one, maybe two acceptances – that seemed par for the course (or so my professors said). However, in the middle of March, I found out that I would not in fact be attending graduate school this fall.

“Bummer” is probably the best way of appropriately expressing how I felt.

Truth is, by the time the twelfth rejection came around, I was realizing that I had rushed myself. In the midst of juggling class, relationships, and various projects, I had let something slip: the brutal honesty that comes with self-examination. I hadn’t considered the hard questions: what if you don’t go to school this next year? What is your identity in? Where does your confidence come from?  A few months later, I turned around – ten pounds heavier with twelve rejection letters in hand – and finally sat down with a pen and paper, sifting through the rubble in the hopes of finding a treasure.

What if I don’t go to school this fall? I write. I read. I do something that will help pay for student loans.

In what do I place my identity? I am a daughter of God, beloved of Christ. That is an eternal identity, an eternal inheritance. Unfathomable, but equally unchangeable.

Where does my confidence come from? It should come from God and knowledge that he has hedged me behind and before. But I’m working on that. Trust is hard.

When our lives look like a fuzzy TV, God is still in control. He always was, he is now, and all things truly work to the good of those who love Him who are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

In the midst of having my trappings and expectations collapse, I realized that I had not surrendered my dreams of graduate school to the one who put the stars in the sky. I had been consumed by the need to meet my own expectations, to impress others, to have a good response when people asked the ever-terrifying question, “What are you doing next year?”

(Minor aside: that question is the bane of every college senior’s existence, even if they have plans for next year, and asking it will do nothing more than induce heart palpitations. So consider their health and ask a different question – and “And what do you plan to do with [your random liberal arts] major” isn’t much better.)

All this to say, I’ve gone from being the Girl with the Plan to the Girl with No Plan. And I’m slowly coming to realize that that is an okay place to be. His love is enough to sustain me.

I’m job hunting, but I want to take this year to get to know myself again and – more importantly – to rest in the arms of my Creator and enjoy taking life slowly. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that something good will come of this time. This is the blog I’m going to keep on that journey. It may attract some readers; it may not. Regardless, it is my goal to post one thing a day. It may be a meditation or a link to a funny story or an encouragement or a scripture. Who knows? I just want to write and listen. Write and listen.

Write.

And listen.

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