Failing Forward 2012: Embracing Myself Part 1

Complicated Me
I've always really loved people... hearing their stories, being present to their journey, watching them become more of themselves... growing closer to Jesus with them. It's one of those strange things I cannot totally explain. I can honestly say I've never met anyone I haven't loved. Really. I'm not saying people have never gotten under my skin. I'm just saying there is an innate desire in me to love people. I see them as they are and as who they are becoming.  Watching life unfold for people is so thrilling.

On the other hand, if I am not spending adequate time alone, I get overwhelmed with compassion and empathy really quickly. I recharge by myself. Me, my journal, my Bible and (most recently) a cup of coffee. Sometimes, I like to be outside and just BE... to sit and soak up the world around me... Or Ill pick up a good book and get lost in it for a while (the funny thing is that I tend to make friends with the characters and it's hard to let go of them at the end of the book). My dearest friends and family know that I am a verbal processor ... so after my alone time, I usually begin to crave quality conversation with like-minded people. I always love/hate these moments. I love them because I feel known and I am able to re-connect with reality through processing everything I'm experiencing. But I hate them because I often feel guilty and like I've overwhelmed the person who is listening. I am a deep thinker and sometimes, even the people who know and love me best just look at me with these looks of "Huh? You lost me ten minutes ago."

Meanwhile, I enjoy being creative. Writing has always been something I just do. People tell me I'm good at it...urging me to do it more, to write books and blogs. I've often had the desire to do it for a living...but never felt good enough. I love to cook and create new ways to make food. I've pushed that away with the excuse that there is no one to cook for... I enjoy singing and being a part of musical experiences... but my sister is the real singer...I've dabbled in painting but...my brother is the artist... I enjoy knitting and making things... but I am not a crafty person... I like making things for people...

The Journey that led me to here...
All of my life, I've been an all or nothing person. I've had very high expectations for myself and I have pushed really hard. Yet, I have often been frustrated. You see, when I was ten years old, I heard Jesus speak something very simple and personal into my heart. He asked me to feed and lead His sheep. I said yes. And for the past seventeen years, I have been trying very hard to figure out how that works out practically. When I heard the Lord speak to me so long ago, I knew that I was called to pastor... Over the years, I have worn the children's pastor hat, the youth pastor hat, the women's minister hat, the missionary hat... all of which were great in season. But, I just could never seem to feel quite ... "at home." I studied ministry in college. I obtained ministerial credentials. I served in all the areas for which I felt passionate, paid or unpaid, I tried to be noticed... I waited for doors to open, for direction, for favor... for a sense of arrival...a sense of approval. But, it never happenened. I always ended up working as a secretary to "support my ministry habit" (working full-time and doing ministry in all of my spare time) and feeling deeply frustrated...eventually burning out.
My mom always says..."You are a natural teacher. Be a teacher... Women never get paid to be in the ministry..." But the thought of spending thirty years in a public school setting feels like a life sentence to the penitentry. I know there is something to what she is saying. I am a teacher... I teach all the time. But, I don't want to teach reading, writing and arithmetic.

When I gradutated college, I had a dream. I was going to go to cemetary...ehem, I mean, seminary, someday. In fact, I almost went straight out of undergrad (probably should have) but I decided to go home to Kentucky... well, actually God led me there, I never would have gone back of my own volition. I told myself I just needed some ministry experience and I would go in a couple years. I even attempted a few times to go to seminary at home. I was accepted and signed up for classes twice, but didn't follow through for one reason or another.

In Kentucky, I began to see my generation...full of potential, a fresh, creative soul with wounds so deep... and a passion for everything real... a generation longing to be connected to the Creator of creativity and the Father to the fatherless... My heart began to cry out for my generation and look for ways to pastor the heart of this generation...

Well, last February, almost six years later, burnt out for the third time in five years, I decided it was time. I was accepted to my dream seminary... Fuller Theological Seminary... I was moving to California...as far away from Kentucky and all of my perceived failures as I could possibly go. I was finally pursuing my M.Div... finally someone would take me seriously! I was so excited about the possiblities of being immersed in studies on the sunny West Coast, surrounded by diversity...

But then, God stepped in. He reminded me about the school I oringally planned to attend. It was in no place exciting...land-locked, extremely humid & hot in summer and icy cold in winter... the people white, inbred and with A/G on their underwear... (please do not be offended... this was my perspective). At first, I had no interest, but then I knew...this where I need to be. I began to get excited. I visited this smaller midwest college town, had two interviews and two weeks later...I moved here in the dead heat of summer.

Um, yes, I did. I started working full time and it barely paid the bills. I was a secretary again. I was miserable. But, hey, at least I had insurance ... and most of my co-workers were Christians. And, they said they would work with my school schedule.

Over the summer, I became involved in a community of Christians...young adults specifically. It is everything I had been praying for God to develop back in Kentucky...but is was here, in the center of the A/G universe and I was completely shocked. Did I fail to mention I tend to see people and everything else through the lens of prophetic potential? I see them as they are becoming...and so it makes loving them as they are so much easier... I fell head over heels for what God is doing here... and it soon became all I could think about and pray for...

Enter my first semester of seminary. I am pretty stupid and idealistic sometimes. Who thinks they can go to seminary... work forty hours a week...study Greek in a distance course... be SUPER involved in a church community/ministry...have a social life...hang out with international students...lead a small group... and sleep?? This girl right here...silly old me!! EPIC FAIL.

Long story a little shorter than it actually is. I chose to engage this community first. I was working and trying to study and enraptured with deep thoughts of what God is doing here... I began to get sick. Something that is a classic sign that I've overdone it... BIG PROBLEM when you have a probationary period for work. Over six months of work I missed 2.5 days due to sickness... and I lost my job ... never had that happen before...ever... let's talk about humble pie.

To make things more complicated, this semester made me really begin to question my motives for going to seminary. I did not enjoy one moment... well, except for the class on Gender & Culture...but I was frustrated about not being able to engage it enough. Most of the time, I felt completely frustrated with the entire process... and disconnected from seminary life... and felt like I was an orange in a basket of apples. When the spring semester class list came out, all of the course times conflicted with my work schedule. I decided that I would take a semester off and pray about my seminary investment. Registration ended on a Friday, I lost my job on the following Monday.

So, suddenly I find myself in a town I tolerate with nothing to show for the past six months but a great group of friends and an epic failure in the rest of life. That brings us up-to-date...

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