In the Light of His Presence

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
they celebrate your righteousness.
For you are their glory and strength,
and by your favor you exalt our horn.
Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
Psalm 89:15-18

I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate in Threshold this year. I remember hearing the facilitators describe the experience at a workshop last year and thinking, wow, I would love to do that.

To explore some of the most challenging questions in life with a small group of people who are learning how to say yes to God’s big plans for our lives is a true treasure. In the three short months we’ve been together I have learned so much about the rich diversity of stories God is telling in us.
Stories of redemption, promise, and hope.

Each of us has a unique set of experiences and gifts that God is weaving together in a much larger story. We may never know or understand how our individual lives connect but I believe in the great purpose He has laid out on the path ahead.

I feel the light of God’s presence each time we meet, piercing the darkness of the world and inviting us into a better way. A brighter path.

Thank You Father for the opportunity to connect in this way, especially during this season of transition in my life. I ask for Your blessing upon each participant and on our facilitators. I pray that we would each increase in our courage and boldness as we uncover Your deep purpose for our vocations.

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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?

Sunday Thoughts

It’s hard to believe summer is over and another academic year has begun. What a whirlwind the last two weeks have been. This time last year we were one week away from becoming husband and wife and now we are getting ready to celebrate our one year anniversary. Praise God for another year!

1. You know those few moments in your life where it feels like a scene in a movie? I had one of those this weekend. It was our first session of Threshold, a small group program about discovering God’s calling for your life. As each person went around the room and introduced themselves, I just had this sense that we were about to embark on a big adventure. I’ve never been in a class where I’ve had to share my hopes, frustrations and vulnerabilities within 10 minutes of meeting my classmates.

Yet there we were, eight strangers looking ahead to the year with one common question:  What part are we going to play in the greater story of life?

2. I feel like there have been so many barriers and obstacles in my race training and had even started to wonder if I’d be able to finish the race at all. With the pressure of fundraising and making such a public declaration of intent, I have been feeling really discouraged. How can I get through 13.1 miles if 3 feels like an eternity?!

I was having the exact thought about running and perseverance when I opened this post by a sweet blogger who happens to be the younger sister of one of my dearest friends. In the post, Elise makes a comparison between the difficulties of training and the struggles we encounter in other areas of our lives. She highlights Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

What a great statement! Just throw off the things that hinder us and fix our eyes on Jesus. It makes me feel like I can breathe in deeply and power ahead, no longer held back by injury, doubt, or fatigue.

I ran six miles this morning and it felt incredible. I wasn’t gasping for air or doubled over with cramps. Tyler even told me to slow down at one point. At the end, I actually could have kept going. I NEVER feel like that after a run. Thanks for the encouragement, Elise!

Oh and Tyler ran NINE miles. My husband is a rockstar.

3. On another running note… thanks to an awesome outpouring of generosity, we have reached our fundraising goal! Thank you, thank you to our incredible donors. We are so excited to run our race knowing the Cancer Community Center of Maine has a little more support behind it.

Back to regular posts later this week. Thanks for reading!

Cheers to a blessed week!

Sunday Thoughts

Just a few thoughts and an anecdote from this weekend…

1. “I believe there is a writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness” – A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller

I’m reading this book as a “pre-class” assignment for a 9-month program I’m starting in September called Threshold. The program is about discovering God’s calling for your life and a portion of it focuses on the story we tell with our lives. I can’t wait to start exploring the story God wants to write with my life.

What story are you telling?

2. Once a month we deliver food to Iraqi refugees on the North Shore of Boston. It started as a one-time interfaith project between our church and the Islamic Society of Boston but we’ve stuck around to continue our route. We’ve gotten to know some of the families over the months and learned that many of the parents held high-ranking positions in Iraq as doctors, lawyers, professors, etc. They assisted the US during the Iraq war and because of their assistance have had to flee Iraq. These hardworking families are struggling to make ends meet in rundown communities with few resources and connections.

Yesterday marked the end of Ramadan with the celebration of Eid al Fitr. We were fortunate to sample some traditional cookies baked by one of the families. One of the delivery days, we ended up driving the two older children from the mosque back home. They were helping to put the food boxes together and it wasn’t until we arrived at their home that we realized their family is one of the recipient families. These two teens study hard, volunteer at every opportunity and help out at home. Last month they were in New Orleans rebuilding a home with Habitat for Humanity. They greet us warmly each month, often asking us to sit and visit with them and now sharing in their celebration with us.

And as it is usually true with service, we feel like we are the ones who received something at the end of our route.

3. “So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?” Galatians 4:9  

The sermon in church this morning talked about the religious rules that we cling to when what God really wants for us to have is “risky faith”, as Pastor Dave calls it. In Galatians, Paul is speaking to a group of people who have received the Gospel but are insisting on going back to their “religious ways” as a means to determine their rightness with God.

Do you feel like this is still true today? Sometimes it feels like the Christian culture begs us to engage in a certain set of behaviors and opinions that will prove that we are godly. But we are not godly. We sin and fail and the only way to be right with God is to cling tightly to HIM. When we start taking pride in our behaviors and habits, we give the enemy the perfect opportunity to steal our confidence in God. We begin trusting in our actions and not having courage to believe that God will come through in the things that really matter.

4. We sang this song today and my heart just felt like bursting.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul. 

The story of the songwriter is so inspiring. I pray that we would all experience complete peace in the face of hardship and tragedy.

5. Thank you to our generous donors! The Cancer Community Center sent me an email saying they were grateful for the fundraising efforts so far. If you’d like to contribute, feel free to check out our fundraising page: http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=207888

Cheers to a blessed week!