Following a Deeper Call

I didn’t really want to leave.
In fact, it didn’t make sense in the slightest.
It was a job I really liked. I got to do meaningful work, and I was good at it.
It paid well.
I had job security and an opportunity for growth.

A more practical person would have stayed.

They would have made the “safer” choice.

But, I did not. I could not.

I feel a deeper call.
Barely a whisper most times. From some well deep inside.
It is not loud. It rarely becomes a shout, scream, or command.

But it is constant.

Nudging me, not with a push or shove, but with a gentle shoulder tap.

Consistently encouraging surrender.

On a whim one day, I applied for a part-time job with another organization.
I’m not 100% why, because it didn’t make sense.

For someone who prides themself in always moving forward, this was a step back, a lower salary, fewer benefits, and less time.

I didn’t think it would go anywhere.
Then when it didn’t, it would just solidify for me that I needed to stay where I was.

I nailed the first interview.
Then the second.
Then I got an offer.

It all happened so very fast.
I hesitated.
But this organization pursued.

The first number they offered me was so low that I said I would have to think about it. They came back with a higher number.

I agonized over the decision. What about my family, our savings goal, cost of childcare?
But deep down the urging from the well tapped and I knew.

I knew from my heart, but not yet from my head, and they wrestled.

They still wrestle.
But I accepted the offer
Resigned from my “safe” job.
At the start of a potential recession.

I’m shifting my focus to seminary and diving in. I’m using the extra hours to pray, study, learn and take in what God has for my family and me here.

As someone who did not grow up with much money and by the grace of God clawed my way to the middle class this has been terrifying.

I have no idea how this will all turn out, but I’ve followed God into the wilderness before, and it has led me to exactly the right place for me, at the right time.

I know that I could ignore it, and choose the safer option, but I won’t.
I believe that there is something for me here. A lesson, a skill, some wisdom I need for the next season. I don’t know, but I have faith that it will be fine.

Faith is funny like that. Thriving in the space of contradiction and uncertainty.

For me, in this season I think taking a step back, may actually be the way forward.

Maybe I’ll find out soon.

“Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
When he delights in our way;
Though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,

For the Lord holds us by the hand.

I have been young, and now am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken

Or their children begging bread.
They are ever giving liberally and lending,
And their children become a blessing.”

Psalms 37:23-26

Sit Down on the Ground with Your Friends: The Ministry of Presence

“So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.”- Job 2:13

I’ve always loved this scripture.

I remember when my Dad passed away just over 10 years ago now. I was walking in a bit of a cloud for a while. Grief is strange like that. It can make you feel everything and feel numb at the same time.

It’s heavy.

Both of my best friends were out of the state when it happened, but God in his sovereign will, and them in their love for me, had their family members or friends come by and check-in.

One brought pasta salad, a huge bowl of perfectly cut fruit, and chocolate cream pie.

Another brought flowers and a card.

One brought bottled water.

Though I was grateful. It wasn’t the things they brought that mattered. That only gave a reason for the visit, and to be honest I didn’t even know them all that well.

But, it didn’t really matter that we weren’t close. Each time they came, they sat for a bit and held the grief with me for just a moment. Lightening the load.

Then people who I hadn’t seen in ages, showed up for the viewing and the funeral and they collectively shared the grief and lifted the burden for a brief time. Enough for me to catch a breath before continuing on.

I’ve seen quite a few people on my timeline dealing with the death of family members and grief in other forms and it was really weighing on me.

Then I read this passage this morning and was reminded of this simple wisdom.

The power of “The ministry of presence” cannot be understated.

Everyone is at a different stage of life (I have a 2-year-old who has my phone disabled 75% of the day so I know), and “presence” may look a little different.

But if it is in your power, “sit down on the ground” with the people around you who may need a little break from carrying the burden of grief. A short “drive-by” hello, text or phone call can do amazing things.

How Often Do You Think About God?

white cloud and bright blue sky for background

Once a month I meet with a Spiritual Direction advisor. If you have no idea what a Spiritual Direction Advisor is, your first thought probably went to some sort of “Guru.” Mine did too, initially.

Prior to attending seminary, I had no idea what a Christian person in that role did. In Hinduism, a Guru is a spiritual teacher with this deep knowledge that can lead to spiritual liberation. You don’t necessarily have to have a guru to reach “enlightenment,” but many Hindus believe that it is easier to reach with one.

For Christians, spiritual direction advisors, don’t claim to hold any “special knowledge” but in some way, they help believers listen and watch for the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives and discern the right path. Similar to Hinduism, you don’t necessarily need a spiritual direction advisor to hear the Holy Spirit, but when life gets complicated, and you may be unclear about where God is leading, it helps to have someone listen with you.

In Christianity when someone hears a “call” it basically means an unction or nudging from God to do or be something for Him. People can be “called” to a lot of things, and I believe we are all “called” to do something.

I’ve felt a Call from God to do various things over the course of my life and followed through on some, and probably ignored others. I’ve been called to seminary and maybe ministry, but it’s sometimes a little unclear what all that means. I’m also a wife and the mom of a potty-training toddler (send all the prayers!) and I’m a student who works part-time. With all of the noise from those things, hearing that still small voice of God can be hard. Much of the time, there is some lingering doubt about whether I’m even doing the right thing or if this is even what God wants.

My spiritual direction advisor is helping me to wade through the noise to discern where the Holy Spirit is at work and where God might be leading.

In our sessions, she often has me think back to when I felt my first sense of “call” and asks questions to help guide me in those thoughts and sometimes dispel the doubt. One of the things I have been thinking about lately when doubt rises, is, “How often do I think about God?” I cannot discount my sense of call when I ask myself that question. I think about God all of the time.

When I wake up, I pray first. I think about God.

When I’m brushing my teeth, I think about when I will have time to read a few scriptures.

When I’m getting my toddler dressed and, she is difficult, I pray for help in getting her out the door.

When we are driving to preschool, we sing along to gospel songs.

When I’m looking for a parking spot at the store, I ask God for help.

When I come out of the store and am tempted to leave the basket in the parking space, I think about what God would want me to do, then I promptly put it in the right place (thanks Joyce Meyer!)

When I hear some big political news, I think about how God might see the situation.

When I see an accident on the road, I ask God for the safety and peace of the people involved.

Before I take a zoom call, I sometimes pray for a good meeting.

I pray about what to cook for dinner

I ask God if I need to call a friend that crosses my mind.

When I see really beautiful fall foliage (especially since it takes so long to happen in Texas!) I think about the goodness of God and the beauty of His creation.

etc. etc.

For me when I write down how frequently I think about God, it is pretty clear that He is pretty important to me and that seminary is the right place. The doubt about my sense of call disperses.

But that question made me think about where everyone else is on that spectrum.

How often do you think about God? How do you feel when you think about God? Where do you sense God the most? Has that informed the life decisions you make in any way?

Has that informed the life decisions you make in any way? Has that sense of God in your life led you to make different career decisions, or led you to a friendship that has made your life better?

Asking myself these questions often has helped make decision-making easier and led me to do things that have blessed my life and hopefully the lives of others around me. If you need some clarity or help to make a decision about something, just ask yourself and see where it leads.

Wait For it

Field of Flowers

My husband and I take our daughter on walks most evenings.

On our walks, we typically take a route that allows us to walk by this big open field near our neighborhood, where the owners mostly let the grass grow wild.
They mow it periodically, but the mows are few and far between because this field grows the most amazing Texas wildflowers.

Towards the end of February after the last cold hurrah of Texas winter, we walk past and the field glitters with Pink Evening Primroses.

Between March and April, those typically subside and make room for the beautiful budding Bluebonnets that everyone loves— until the heat from the emerging summer sun chases them away.
Then from May to around late July the Texas Firewheels with their fiery centers and their yellow crowns illuminate the field to match the mid-summer skies.

And finally, finally, the Wild Sunflowers that have waited their turn all year eagerly jump up in early August and bloom through the start of fall.

The thing we love about this field is the fact that it’s not just a field of Bluebonnets all year long. Different flowers bloom in different seasons and every flower gets its own few months in the limelight. As the months’ pass, they patiently wait for their time.

This year, I guess because of the milder spring, the Bluebonnets lingered, and it seemed like they would be there all summer, and the Firewheels would never get their turn, but we waited patiently and sure enough, this weekend we walked past the field and there were the Firewheels, blooming brilliantly.
Just because the Bluebonnets sprung up before them, even in the exact same field, didn’t mean their time in the sun wouldn’t come.

I picked just one flower for my baby girl because I know there is a lesson there that she might need one day. I’m sharing because maybe all of us need it too.

YourSeasonIsComing #WaitForIt

Wrap Up! My First Year of Seminary

Last week, I wrapped up my first year of seminary. It was both a beautiful and challenging year. 

I worked full time during the week…then wrote Hebrew Bible Exegesis papers until 2 am.

Alvan and I took Aria to visit parks and birthday parties on the weekends…and I read essays on Paul and Womanist Theology on Saturday nights.

We navigated Covid closures and daycare isolations… and I processed the fact that there are multiple theories of atonement.

We cared for a baby with RSV, and then a stomach virus… while I wrote a paper on Gustavo Gutierrez and Liberation Theology.

We hosted Christmas, Easter, and a Birthday party at our house….Then I studied for Greek verb conjugation quizzes.

I cooked countless meals, (that my toddler threw on the floor)…then reviewed Hebrew vocabulary flashcards.

On our way to daycare dropoff, Aria and I listened to songs from Encanto… and on the way home, she heard my Christian History textbook on audible, and learned the history of the Nicene creed and the stories of the early church martyrs.

I missed spending time with some old friends… But gained time with new friends who have easily become “my people.” 

I lost some orthodoxy that I’d held on so tight to…but gained a deeper sense of the vastness of God and His kingdom.

I’ve learned that we can believe scripture is true, but need to regularly be reminded that it is not simple.

My faith was shaken, but “the things that cannot be shaken, remain.”

At some point during the year, I began to think that all of this was crazy and that I should probably stop and do something more reasonable….

And the next day a received notice that the faculty awarded me with a fellowship that would pay for the remainder of my MDiv. 

It was a beautifully challenging year, but God is still good, and I am grateful. 

Looking forward to next year!

Salt and Time

This past Sunday (yesterday). Alvan and I decided to take our brunch adventures, back to a place we have been before. This particular spot in Austin is called Salt and Time.   Now, this may not sound that unusual, but for us it is.  Why?  Well, we typically like to try a new place every Sunday, however the food at this place was so amazing the first time we visited, we actually had to try it again just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Turns out that it was not a fluke and this second time around the food was absolutely amazing again.

The interesting thing about this particular restaurant is that it is a somewhat unique eatery.  It happens to be both a butcher shop and a restaurant.  Of course, first and foremost they are a butcher shop and because of that, the meat is amazing and fresh. But they also serve brunch on Sundays which happens to be delicious.   As we ate the melt-in-your-mouth biscuits and gravy, porkchop and eggs, I had a chance to discuss what God has been dealing with me about and how it was reinforced at church that morning.

Lately I have been in this weird season of uncertainty. I recently finished grad school and have been on the hunt for a new job, but to be honest I haven’t felt led in any particular direction. I know that I’m finished with the classroom and I want change, but I’m not sure what is next.  In addition to that I made a promise to myself that I would work on my writing business this summer and have missed my personal deadlines on several writing goals. Mainly because I’m just overwhelmed by where to start.  There are other smaller decisions that I have been trying to hear God about, but I have not been getting answers. I suppose this has sent me into a sort of frenzied impatience.  I’m applying for jobs all over the place, reading about entrepreneurs and working my summer job off and on.  All of this doing at a breakneck pace, only multiplied by the comparison game I like to play by reading the daily Facebook posts.  I know I’m not the only one who gets caught up in all the success that just seems to be bursting from your top 500 friend’s daily social media updates right?

I’d been trying to get some direction and just find out what I need to do to be just as great as all the other Facebook users out there. Just this week, I’d asked God again for next steps, and instead of hearing that answer, He started dealing with me about comparing myself to others and judging both them and myself based on what they are doing and what I am not.  I mean, it was a great message, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Finally, yesterday it hit me.  And it was exactly the topic of the message at church that morning.  Maybe God hasn’t given me answers about what I should be “doing” because He is more concerned about me “being” and becoming.  Our Associate Pastor preached yesterday and what she said rocked me.  She said “Don’t worry about what you should be doing, just be and the “doing” will emanate from your being. Sitting in the restaurant I began to think. I mean seriously what makes the restaurant so good? It occurred to me that they are just busy being a butcher shop and using what they already are and what they already have to create good food.

Taking a look at the menu, I noticed that everything they serve is either meat or a meat by-product. Which makes perfect sense, because in essence “meat” is what they do best. It’s who they are. And they only start there.  Then they season their food so perfectly and different than anything that we have had at any other brunch.  The seasoning is so good that it stands out.  It made me think, why am I so worried about doing something big, like I think every else is doing?  Why am I begging God to tell me what to do so that I can be someone important?   My job is to just be.  He already has a purpose for me, He has already ordered my steps. Maybe he is just taking me as I am, as He created me to be and He is seasoning me so uniquely that when it is time to put me on the table in front of the world, I’m flavorful and perfect.  I just have to focus on becoming who He already knows that I will be and allow Him to get me to to the right place.  Guess I just need a little Salt and Time myself.