Lately I wonder how adequate my growth has the potential to be, if my vertical communion is limited and the majority of it is not initiated by me. Is spiritual growth separate from the other kinds we experience as humans, like the mental or emotional species? Does any class of growth happen separate from God? I do not imagine it is out of Satan’s desire to promote certain areas of growth if ultimately it draws me out of communion with God, so I suppose it is possible to grow as a person in “good” ways in my unimpressible state.

This is my fear! I barely communicate with God through intentional prayer lately, as I am still grieving for Pam and spiritual apathy is like an anvil on my soul. But I can’t deny all the ways I am experiencing growth and “good” change in my life since. Has God found ways to reach my squashed spirit, and subconsciously I to him? I find myself these days with emotional responses that are (relatively) mature/rational, with more sincere regard for my friends and family, an infinitely more genuine personality and optimistic, focused point of view. Up until recently I palpably lacked all these things, that was easily observed, especially by myself. I am excited to pursue things now for my own fulfillment (read: healthy hobbies) and I understand now that my goals are to simply find what I love and do it, and what is purer or sweeter than that? Such a revelation, such an embrace of the genuine person that I am is like taking in a cool glass of water after a season of drought.

A part of this sort of mental clarity comes from a realization I had a couple of weeks prior, while I read an email I wrote sometime my junior year of college. It was to a friend that I was losing and I was, to phrase it mildly, entirely obsessed with and determined to put things right between the two of us. On the surface, my words are sickly sweet, imploring, too simple to suggest intrigue. My true feelings behind them were depression over the state of our friendship, morose really, confusion as to why we were growing apart and inwardly wondering if it was because of me, because there was a part (or all of) me that she didn’t like. The latter idea terrified and tortured me. Looking over this email three years later, it’s astonishing to see how affected and blatantly fake I was! In the email I exuded happiness and cordiality and passive interest as if those were natural components of our relationship, but never scratching the surface as to why we grew apart or otherwise being sincere in any way. The tone the letter is so unlike me, it was unsettling to read. It made my stomach turn, thinking of how much my friend’s reception of me mattered and how I let that shape me… even more so, I remember that I was completely oblivious to my hypocrisy, only writing in order to gain her friendship and trust again.

It kick-started something in me, mentally and emotionally, and it changed in me the way I approach most things. Life. I think my disgust at seeing something so insincere and fake, and realizing that this permeated most of my character in college & since, has rerouted my perspective and personality into something more healthy and real.

I never realized it at the time, but returning to school as a newly converted Christian imparted a lot of very real pressure on me to glory in prudishness, to be the ideal Christ lover, to be spiritually mature enough to lead others to Him. I wanted approval from my family in Christ and everyone else, so I hid my sins, becoming all the more insincere and plain fake, rejecting my old self, genuine personality and all.  I realize this now, and though it haunts me to think of the friendships I lost or ruined or the people I may have led astray because of my deeply rooted insecurities, I am still ignited to be completely the opposite. Perhaps God is influencing all of this, perhaps vertical communion is still happening, perhaps my soul found a way to connect to Him that my mind does not realize yet.

Perhaps the mere thought of prayer, or the simple desire to be known by God, to be a better and more genuine soul, is prayer itself.

There were so many times in the past three months I wanted to blog, or had an inkling of a profound idea for one, or had a lot on my heart that could have been shared…

But even though my life for the past three months was a cornucopia of wonders, hardships, contentment & confusion, I don’t have a lot of pretty words bubbling over to pour out into a post right now. I thought I might just bullet-point the bigger goings-on in my life.

  • My favorite thing to do as of late is READ. Not just anything, though. My sister found a box full of my old paperbacks in our attic, gems like Sweet Valley High, Fear Street & Gary Paulsen. I read about five R.L. Stine books in the past few weeks, they’re like candy to me. I read them like I did when I was in middle school, under the covers with my small lamp on, straight through or until my eyes involuntarily clamp shut (out of sheer terror, or exhaustion).
  • My little sister & I are growing closer. I love it. I know she cherishes me for who I am & gets my quirks. I am super comfortable & happy to be myself around her. Our relationship has grown a lot, she is super precious to me & our mutual respect is something pretty neat.
  • I am working three jobs, neither of which are satisfying or nurturing. I tutor approximately zero science students at a community college & I have two retail jobs. Each still require work ethic though & I’m saving up money so it isn’t all unproductive.
  • I am gaining a little confidence, one week at a time, about making future plans. About what my life is going to be. “What the heck am I doing with my life?!” with varied tones of exasperation, clarity & conviction, is my mantra lately. These next few months I feel are some of the most pivotal of my life — the next job I land might be the one that lasts half my life (something a friend lovingly shared last week).
  • I am thinking about going to grad school. Not for science though, for counseling. I had a fruitful experience in Minnesota working with at-risk youth last year; it may be a calling? Who knows about these things? So wherever I move this year, that’s likely (or not, perhaps, maybe) where I am staying in order to go to a good school, in state, to get a counseling certificate. There’s a chance. Or I might move to Boston to live with my older sister. Or I might move to Baltimore to be a part of an intentional community & teach children about gardening & environmental friendliness. MAKING DECISIONS IS NOT MY FORTE.
  • I miss my friends. Edit: I NEED MY FRIENDS. There are not many at home anymore & since I am out of the instant community of college or a volunteer program I seem to have become a social recluse. A little bit. Turns out I have some social anxieties I didn’t know about before, because there’s never been a time when a friend wasn’t a few minutes (or a few doors) away.

  • The week of Thanksgiving, my cousin’s husband decided to kill her. He committed suicide after. They left behind their daughter who is about to graduate high school. The entire experience, for everyone, is completely & utterly horrific. Pam was her name. She was young, beautiful & sassy. The kind of grief we experienced/are experiencing is sometimes blinding, it’s so painful. It completely stuns you, the shock & the sadness of it, to a point where speaking is hopeless & your mind races with convoluted excuses & sorrows for weeks on end. There isn’t a time since the funeral that I don’t feel heavy & empty when I think about losing Pam, or wonder about what it’s like for her daughter, or my aunt, or her sister.
  • God has not been a part of the picture, at least not much, since Pam’s funeral. My sadness, I think, has overrun my desire to let God be a discerning part of the grieving process (or my life, frankly). I was never belligerent, but I did put up defenses around my heart like Fort Knox & refused to let any vertical communication persist. I stopped caring about the Gospel, or God’s perspective. It means nothing to me that God might understand or sympathize with our pain; the idea made me laugh more than once. Hysterically. Deep down, though, my soul is always stirring for Something more & I hope that His sympathies might mean something, someday.

That is the reason I didn’t post anything for three months. It is the biggest thing that happened in my life since. How could I write about anything without considering Pam? Such an experience is impossible to process into a coherent blog, or words at all. In any case, I had no idea how to approach it so I just stopped trying to write. Lately though, I think I am beginning to look objectively at things… I talked openly with a friend about it this weekend & that encouraged me to blog a little. It’s not that I’m finished grieving for Pam & my family but maybe God could be a bigger part of the picture now that emotions/defenses aren’t wreaking havoc?

I think that, apart from God’s Good Word, no book helps clarify my understanding of God’s and my character, than My Utmost for His Highest.  It is a beast of Truth that is also nearly a century old.  It’s words seem to me an act of God since its good effects are large and lasting for many.

This morning I read today’s devotional, entitled “The Trail of Faith” in which he quotes Matthew 17:20

If you have faith as a mustard seed… nothing will be impossible for you.

These superfluous statements from the Bible seem borderline extravagant and are the hardest to understand, am I right?  That is, only if I look at these kinds of phrases in a literal/legalistic way… but if I look at these words figuratively, as if I were annotating prose for its literary devices, I see Jesus’ purpose more clearly.  He is purposefully extreme when he says, “…you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”  It’s like a huge, red flag has popped out of the verse and started waving itself at me.  I’m drawn to it because it’s so outrageous, which makes me want to dig further into its meaning.  In context, this quote comes after Jesus rebukes “this generation” for being “faithless and twisted”, for not placing their minuscule faith in something higher and more substantial.  I feel that God, indicative of this passage, wants us to have real faith that, even if small, stands firmly in impossible circumstances and believes when there is no opportunity for belief.  Imagine the amount of faith I would need to defy the laws of natural physics to move a mountain even a millimeter!  It seems ridiculous to ask us to have faith in such an idea, yet this is what God desires.  The bar is so high that it seems incredibly unfair.  At the same time I innately feel that as I seek Him, I inevitably and exponentially grow with His help, and as nothing is impossible with God, this is much less discouraging than it ought.

Chambers also clarifies that faith is not a means to an end, but it is the means.  He writes

But we do not earn anything through faith — faith brings us into the right relationship with God and gives Him His opportunity to work.

And the gem of the entire devotional

Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him — a faith that says, ‘I will stay true to God’s character whatever He may do.’

As I am sitting here, I am wondering if longing for something is healthy at all. Some longings heavily based on reminiscing seem dangerous. Dwelling on the past can be borderline sinful, something that’s concrete, at least for me.  It clearly is not God’s desire to dwell on what once was a part of my life & things or experiences I am missing. Longings. But have them I do so maybe blogging about them will help keep my thinking from clogging.

  • Volunteering.  I miss the support that being a part of a program provides.  I miss the deep encouragement of knowing that I had friends to live with & love 24/7, a job to keep me purposeful, a roof & amenities that I did not have to worry so much about.  I worry about all of those things now.
  • Minnesota.  I miss it for the above reason, but also for the warm neighborhoods, gorgeous gardens, “Minnesota-nice”, all the state pride, frozen lakes, feet of snow, the joy of returning spring, Viking-mania, Lake Woebegone, the Beaver Island Trail for biking, the parks & the tater-tot hotdish.
  • Living within walking distance of 98% of my closest friends.  College creates community.  Really good community, too, even when it includes many people you do not care for.  You realize this as soon as you are out of college & suddenly you do not know any of your street neighbors & your best friends are more than an hour driving distance away.
  • City life.  I feel drained when I am not in the city.  Maybe that is because of all the people, all the agendas, all the possibilities for good friends & growth.  Out here past the suburbs where it is not quite the country but the nearest theater is half an hour north, I do not see people unless I need to spend money.  We drive everywhere.  There is little community.  No one is ever outside, which is the worst part.  If I lived in D.C. I would find parks & benches & patches of grass for lunch or anything else I could get done sitting down.
  • Having a sincere, big-picture purpose.  In college, I did not need to think a lot about what my life’s goals were, or understand my genuine motivations for life, or determine my purpose.  In the short term, even though I grew to not enjoy my major, I knew my purpose was to go to school, do my work, pass courses, do things with friends, eat, call home once in a while, etc.  As a volunteer, a lot of what we did was dictated by the program.  Sure, there was more wiggle-room for figuring out my long-term purpose than in college, but when we were not working, meeting, eating or retreating, we were passed out in front of “How I Met Your Mother” reruns… my point is now, without much else giving me purposeful shape to my life, I feel restless, sometimes listless, unsure & doubtful about what happens next.
  • My own coffee pot.  I share morning coffee with my folks now.  This is extremely petty of me, but they like their coffee a certain way & at different times with varying degrees of mess.  I sincerely miss being able to make a pot of coffee to my taste & not have to worry about it all being drunk in ten minutes or a big coffee/cream/sugar mess on the counter top.  I have to safe-guard the pot when I make coffee nowadays.  But coffee is one of my prime worldly comforts so it is not that big of a surprise that I am so irked.

Also: I entirely deleted both Facebook & Twitter last week.  It has not been long enough for me to know if that was the craziest thing I have ever done, especially about the former.  All those connections lost, especially considering my aforementioned “community” longing, makes me think yes.  But they are both huge distractions while I job search & are two things I care way too much about for God to be impressed.

This week I was denied from a Cleveland volunteering position I worked really hard for, since the opportunity first opened up. There is no funding for me. It is understandable, to be sure. However, also most significantly to me, this makes a handful of potential placements I was rejected from this year.

I am convicted about this year of service. Truly. Which makes each rejection painfully confusing. If there is a plus or satisfying side to all this, each interview or placement I was denied has not passed without a sincere lesson etched on my heart.

For one, I know I often need a dose of reality when it comes to pursuing spiritual matters and I always need accountability. God is graceful to me in that he does not sugar-coat any wisdom he imparts or dim the reality of my sincere foolishness. These past five or so months I have realized in my heart that I am slowly turning to reliance on myself and worldly connexions and rather denying further dependence on a sovereign God’s provision.  That is a dear thing to realize.  Sometimes it takes a good shakedown to be able to sincerely see what is already being revealed.

For another, each of these denials offers priceless humility. It seems that learning to be humble and find a sturdier footing is a life long lesson for me. I have species of pride that are rooted and grow feverishly if they’re not checked, that was obvious from the moment I converted. So I am not surprised anymore by this particular pruning, that has lately come from all these denials.  Though to my chagrin, that doesn’t quite take the sting or confusion of rejection and I confess I am tired from this  ‘sanctification’. A genuine slice of humble pie is sour, not sweet. Humility isn’t or shouldn’t be delicious.  I understand, but on a human level, that doesn’t make the experience any less gross or tiresome.

What encourages me the most, through all of the chagrin, is the obvious peace that is fighting bitterness to win my heart. It is proof of God’s continued furnishing in my life that I see joy winning more and more in response to these circumstances. As frazzled as I am about nomming my dozenth slice of pie this summer, I’m also satisfied that through my learning humility and footing in a steadfast Lord, God is glorified, and that is the point, the only thing worth it! That is my joy and reassurance.

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you… for my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should My name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” — Is. 48:10,11

This week I started to feel strongly that I should never, ever forget my time as an FCV and relish in the memories, the lessons and joys.  I am actually thinking about my volunteer experience every day now and hindsight has brought loads of clarity to me.  Hindsight is marvelous.

The more I reminisce the more fond I am of all of it and the smaller gems of communication with the children themselves.  I keep reminiscing about particular conversations I had, or games I played, or activities I led and remembering vividly how I felt, from nausea and sweaty palms to calm clarity and steady hands.  Having been allowed a full month to take a breath, to step out of the overwhelm of it all — which I never did truly get over through the entire year — and to have God continue to reveal His promises and purposes through retrospect, I am quite keen to return to my coworkers and the children.  My supervisor always told me that after I left, I would miss the place terribly and I usually felt to awkward to be honest and deny it.  But weeks later, I feel the way I never felt after leaving my university: sad.  As anyone would feel after saying goodbye to the dearest of friends.  It makes sense really, because the entire year seemed to revolve around a lesson on sincere relationships (see posts from August 2009 to June 2010) and I suppose I learned, because there is some tangible void in my heart now that the experience is behind me and so many who shared it with me are out of my life.  To me, although I am sad in leaving them I rejoice in making good, real, sincere relationships.  This is the way it is supposed to feel when a life is plainly, genuinely shared with another.

If this was the only purpose for being in Minnesota, to intimately learn the value of our relational qualities as created persons, I’m incredibly satisfied.

Aside from my newest fascination with all that was and is Jane Austen, there are some neat things going on during this transitional period of my life, like living back at home and thus becoming closer to my family, learning more about myself from being around them twenty-four/seven, and pursuing other volunteering gigs when not occupied by the former two.  The latter “neat thing going on” is not going so well though, and that is discouraging, because I would like to have these things ironed out months in advance.  The title to my post is owing to the rejection and upset I experienced with most things pursued these past few years, i.e. Campus Crusade for Christ, LVC, botany & all else related to my science degree.  I won’t lie and say I am never depressed over these facts, but I am simultaneously reminded to stroll gracefully onward and keep working on placing my trust in God.  God commands the impossible-ist things.

This week I received a letter of refusal from another Catholic program that would place me in D.C., where I might work with youth by way of tutoring, mentoring, teaching and leading various programs.  It might have suited me well, considering this past year at the Children’s Home and that I am wanting to pursue a teaching certificate in the near future possibly, perhaps, who knows — ?  I thought it a perfect match as my conversation with them went well (actually, stellar) and I thought I aced my application, so I was at a loss over the rejection.  My mom recommended I call just to ask, but since they did not return any of my emails or calls beforehand about my acceptance, instead ignoring me and choosing to inform through some bland rejection letter, I imagine history would simply repeat itself.

Then I thought about what my application gave away that stifled my chances, and I immediately thought it was because I am not Catholic, which failed to come up during our stellar conversation.  It makes sense; I did a little digging (via a single sweep through the FAQ provided by the program’s website) and found that they are not only founded on Catholic principle but are exclusive to Catholics, distinctly asking for ‘Catholic adults seeking to further their spirituality through service, community, etc.’  Yikes.  That is a pretty important pre-requisite, and I admit that if I were a volunteer coordinator for such a program I would assume that all those who apply are not Protestants — why would anyone other than a Catholic want to be a part of a Catholic program?  So I get that, but I suppose I was making an assumption based off of FCV, which although it is founded by a religious order of women, is entirely an ecumenical program.  After reading the letter and giving some thought to it, I am grateful to be led away from a community that probably would have hindered rather than allowed much flourishing growth, if the goal of the program is to particularly foster Catholic spirituality.  At least as an FCV, I had room to stretch my Protestant feet.  I would rather be situated among others that shared basic theology and feelings similar to my evangelical roots which is, let’s face it, many facets away from Catholicism.  So while I am bummed to be snubbed, no less ignored for a couple of weeks beforehand, I am thankful because God is sovereign over it and my faith perspective leads be to believe that it is a good thing, even perfect for me,  since it is a door closed by God Himself.  His designs are best.

There are two more programs in waiting, each in two different states.  But I am not done searching and I am still encouraged.  This year is a gift of discernment and I know where my heart lies, with children and the needy, and I am convinced God wants me to be with and serve them.  What more motivation and direction to I need?