From the Basement

May 21, 2010

“Traveling”

I’ve been traveling, I suppose. It’s something I had to do. What appears to be listless time sitting at the breakfast bar to my mother has been, at the core, a very important time in my life.

I’m in transition. In transition toward purpose. Toward something. I don’t know what. While my peers are still in class, I’ve had two blessed (and equally rocky) months at home, sprinkled with visits and conversation, but on the whole, a time of solitude and reflection. I’ve taken two months off from the “real world,” as it were; in spite of all the job applications, it’s been months of journeying into myself, wondering, questioning.

Characters in books do it all the time. Jessie, the protagonist of Susan Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair (which I’m currently reading), returns to Egret Island off the coast of South Carolina to care for her mentally ailing mother and ends up staying for an indefinite period of time. She rediscovers her love for art, takes a hiatus from her marriage, uncovers revelatory and shocking information about her father’s death, and has an affair with a monk who is months away from taking his final vows.

Notwithstanding the monk and marriage parts, I can relate to her hiatus. I’ve unearthed a deep love for reading and especially writing, a love buried under the dirt and grime of academia and banal to-do lists. I’ve rediscovered how much I love my boyfriend. How desperate I am to strike out on my life. Also, how bad I am at waiting on God. (Some days are better than others, and the last few days, I have been racked with an impatience that is sometimes angry, sometimes bitter, but never pleasant.)

“Traveling,” is what a character in The Mermaid Chair calls it. A spiritual journey into your soul, into yourself. Figuring myself out, though the last few months have posed more questions than answers. The only thing that has strengthened has been my relationship and reliance on God, in spite of the toddler in me that throws tantrums in the waiting room – he remains the constant that ties the threads of my life together. He’s the only thing that makes things make sense.

A part of me wants to apologize to the friends that are reading this blog – it may feel monotonous at times, the same concerns – the waiting, the job hunting, reflecting on the transient state of my life. But the truth is, even though this is public and numerous friends have been directed toward it … it’s for me. All my life, I’ve processed by writing. My prayers are almost always written; I get distracted by shiny objects and a need for coffee otherwise. And writing this blog has been an indescribably wonderful source of support over the last month. So really, I just want to say that I appreciate my friends’ dedication and patience, and that you are welcome to tune in whenever you like. And in the meantime, I’ll keep writing, reading, processing, praying.

“Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says–‘I cannot stand anymore.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith.” – Oswald Chambers

“We work in our darkness a great deal with little real knowledge of what we are doing.” – John Steinbeck

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.”

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