Twenty-Nine.

My Grandma Esther (affectionately called “Mee-Maw” by me and my brother), always told people that she was “twenty nine and some months.” I never really understood why she chose 29. It didn’t hold any traditional significance like 16, 18 or 21. It just seemed like a random number.

Mee Maw

Looking good for 29 and some months, Mee Maw :)

Mee Maw had both the sparkle of youth and the matter-of-fact wisdom that comes with time. She always told it how it was. There was no wondering whether the precious gem of truth she just shared with you was actually true. You knew it was because she was confident in who she was and there was no pretending otherwise. I  treasure the letters my mom saved between the two of them, kept safely in a pretty binder on my desk. I laugh out loud reading her words, remembering her personality as it shined through her writing:

“While I’m on my soap box – I hate shopping – for clothes, for food, for furniture, anything – and it seems your Dad loves it but likes me to tag along as if I have a say in whatever he’s looking for.” (I totally get it, Mee Maw.)

Maybe she was onto something with this whole 29 thing. Young enough that you can still fully embrace your girlish, youthful tendencies. Old enough that you start to understand why it REALLY doesn’t matter what other people think.

So here we go twenty-nine. I’m ready to let go of what the world thinks of me and just embrace the life I’ve been given.

Mee Maw, this year’s for you.

An Unknown Future

“What do you do?”

It’s one of the first questions we get asked when we meet someone new. For better or for worse, vocation is how others place us into context: where do we spend the majority of our time? What have we chosen to pursue with our talents? Ask any college senior what his least favorite question is and he’ll tell you: What are you going to do after you graduate?

I’ve always had a plan. Ask my friends and they’ll probably tell you, Becky knows where she’s going, she always has.

I decided early on in high school that I wanted to go to the University of Richmond. I had my application in before the first day of senior year (early decision, of course) and was one of the first in my class to know where I was heading after graduation.

My plans after college weren’t quite as concrete when graduation rolled around but I knew I was going to work abroad and then get my Master of Public Health. I already made a plan with one of my best friends to move back to Boston. I turned my application in for grad school on the very first day submissions opened and found out while living in Tanzania that I had been accepted to my first and only choice: Boston University.

When graduation came for the third time, I thought again that I knew exactly where I was headed. I even had the organization picked out. But doors started to close, one after the other, and I soon found myself questioning whether I was even going to stay in public health.

Three years later, I am working in a good job at BU. I have a wonderful boss who is an unbelievably skilled manager and we work with a truly incredible team.

But let me be honest with you, because as I said in my last post, we really have a lot to gain from each other by sharing these deep truths about our hearts:

I have no idea where I’m headed.

How is that possible? With a master’s degree and a history of planning and goal-setting, I should be steadily chugging along toward professional success. But I just don’t know anymore. Despite my limited experience interning and volunteering with a few organizations, the 8-5 grind is not what I thought it would be.

Or I guess maybe I’m not what I expected to be.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve let my heart become jaded. It’s not that I don’t recognize the importance of my work or that I don’t appreciate the challenges within an organization. i just find it too easy to become discouraged or disenfranchised with the system.

And then I start questioning where I fit into it all. Even back when I was planning and working toward specific goals, I never felt confident in what skills I had to offer. I’m not a finance person, an artist, an engineer, an athlete, a data whiz, a scientist… I thought for a minute that maybe I could be a teacher but that doesn’t really seem to fit either.

Even in my current job, what do I put on my LinkedIn profile? Am I in higher ed or public health? Do I consider my work student services? Curriculum development? Program management?

And where do I go from here?

There’s so much pressure these days to have it all figured out. I’m not looking for a new job right now but don’t you feel like you need to know what is coming next? Someone said in a meeting the other day that everyone wants to be a generalist yet employers are looking for specialists. I see students scrambling to get skills so that they can get jobs. I actually asked a student once if she even wanted to have that skill. Do you REALLY want to do that skill in your next job or are you grasping at it because you just want a job?

We are expected to change careers, not just jobs, several times in our lives. So where does that leave us? How do we plan? Aren’t our careers supposed to be fulfilling? Don’t we have unique gifts and abilities that we have a responsibility to share with the world?

This isn’t one of those posts where I tell you that guess what, I finally figured it out! I have not. And that’s part of the reason I signed up for Threshold this year because it’s really overwhelming to try to figure out what I want to do + what the job market is looking for + what my experience prepares me for. So I’m giving it to God to see what He has to say about it because ultimately, I want to be what He calls me to be, whatever that entails for me in my career(s).

And I’m sharing this with you because even though it’s risky to put it out in public where my co-workers will see it (and I know some of you will read this – maybe even my boss!) and it’s difficult to admit that I don’t have it all together (as I’d love for you all to believe)… I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone on this.

Am I right? Anyone else? Bueller? Bueller?

So that’s my #ShareSomethingReal for today – what’s yours?

Radical Trust

During our small group meeting last week, our group praised God for the radical trust we can have in Him. Trust that He is in control. Trust that He will work things out for good.

Life rarely works out as we think it will. Yet we clutch tightly our little plans, don’t we? Perfect little plans that we believe will equal happiness and contentment. If we just do x and y, we will get to z. We think we can figure everything out on our own, if we can only just come up with the best plan.

Tyler and I have both held onto plans for most of our lives. Organized steps and planned achievements. 5 year plans, 10 year plans. We put our trust and faith into our abilities, believing that reaching our goals will make us complete.

But in clutching these plans, we have to let go of God in some way. It’s like saying, “Thanks for offering us the best life possible God, but I’m going to keep doing it my way because I can see my plan, step-by-step. I can’t see Your plan so how can I possibly follow it?”

Cancer was not part of our plan. Three rounds of chemo and many missed days of work were not part of our plan. Seeing fertility doctors to make decisions about our future family was definitely not part of our plan. A sudden, unexpected change can thwart all of our careful planning in just one moment.

What do you do when your plans fall through? Without an anchor, a storm sends us swirling into the unknown. We drift, grasping at whatever is in front of us.

God offers to be that anchor for us:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

In a culture that denies God at every opportunity, we are choosing to lay everything down at His feet. He has already won this battle for us, we don’t need to take it on! Instead, we must choose to lay down our plans and our fears:

of not being able to have our own children,

of not being able to withstand pain,

of losing our provisions,

of losing each other.

Radical trust is staring straight into these fears and declaring that they have no power over us. It’s a choice Tyler and I struggle to make every day. It’s so easy to fall back on our abilities and accomplishments or to start focusing on our own plans. When something works out or when things start getting better, we have to remind each other that it wasn’t because of something we did.

Radical trust is not naivete that everything will turn out as we want it to in the end. It also doesn’t mean living irresponsibly or irrationally. It’s confidence that His plan is victorious and it is so much better than anything we could come up with on our own.

When I am afraid I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

Unfailing Love

We live in a broken world where poverty, sickness and suffering infect every neighborhood, every street, every home. I can’t think of anyone in my life who has escaped some version of brokenness. It is just the reality we live in.

When Tyler was diagnosed with cancer six months into our marriage, many people lamented the tragedy of it occurring during what should be our happiest, most carefree time. We, too, were devastated. I’ll never forget the shaking fear between the two of us, sitting in the exam room as the doctor read the results. It was absolutely surreal. Cancer was never part of our vocabulary. How could my young, vibrant husband be so sick?

Fortunately, we know that hope and restoration do exist in the brokenness. Through the mourning of our “honeymoon phase”, we have drawn nearer to the God we have both come to know since we were children. In our anxious trembling, we find comfort and peace. When fear overcomes us, we hold onto each other and declare that God is with us.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10

The Bible mentions God’s unfailing love at least 40 times in the Old Testament. It never fails.  Never. Isn’t that amazing? God has never left us through this time. God has revealed so much to us in this trial that while I never wish our experience on anyone, I pray that when you do experience brokenness, that you come to know the Creator who has never failed those who live by His Word. That unfailing love is available to anyone.

I named this blog “Heights of Love”, borrowed from the Stuart Townsend song “In Christ Alone”:

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

Tyler and I both feel called to share experiences from our marriage that reveal more of God’s character. We hope that our marriage, and this blog, will be a reflection of the heights God carries us to with His unfailing love, in spite of the brokenness that will always be with us on this earth.

Those who know and follow Christ are not exempt from suffering. Rather, in the deep valleys of life, we know that His heights are endless and He will always carry us through.

Thanks for reading :)