Tag Archives: calling

One Life – Live it Well

I’ve alluded to the faith stretching journey God has taken me on over the last year, but it seems like the right time to share about it in full. Just over a year ago, I left counseling fulltime to teach at Central College. (You can read about that decision here.) I accepted a one year position, which means I have spent a good portion of the last year applying for jobs (explaining my lack of posting new blogs!). My friends and family fasted and prayed for God’s will throughout the process, but we were all a bit biased. We all wanted for me to be offered the tenure-line position opening at Central. I had felt specifically called to Central and I had worked there in some capacity for the last six years. Central College had my heart and Pella was the community I felt called to remain in. So I continued to work on believing God is the giver of very good gifts. He is the good, good Father and so why wouldn’t He work all things out so I would remain at Central? However, I had to balance that with knowing nothing is guaranteed and God may still have something different in mind. So holding those two truths in tension, I continued to apply for other positions while still praying into and leaning into where I believed I was being called – Central.

As I suspected, I loved everything about teaching fulltime. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to plan lessons and create learning opportunities and build relationships with students! And as my love of teaching grew, my desire to earn a tenure track position – ideally at Central grew as well. The waiting was so difficult. And then in the midst of the applying and waiting and interviewing and waiting, I received my word from God for the year – FAITH. Let’s be honest, this did not feel like a great word to receive. I knew if God gave me exactly what I wanted – that tenure line position – it wouldn’t grow my faith in the same way as if a different scenario played out. So I had a sneaking suspiscion God was up to something, but I also found myself beginning to believe – truly believe – God’s way really was going to be the best.

We continued to wait…and wait…and wait some more.

Answers began to come. First, I was indeed offered a tenure-line position, but at a different institution. I seriously considered accepting the offer. On the surface, it looked like a potentially really great fit. However, although I was intrigued by the opportunity, I wasn’t excited by it and I never felt called. Faith…do I trust an opportunity at Central to come to fruition or settle for the one before me? Ultimately I turned it down but I remained mindful that you cannot simply “fast and pray and get your way” with God. But I believed I was being obedient and so we continued to wait…

The day came…an email from the academic dean’s office and a meeting scheduled. My tribe and I braced ourselves – trying to temper our growing excitement at what this meeting might mean. I sat down across from the dean and heard these words, “I cannot offer you a tenure track position.” Somehow my mind went blank and began to race all at the same time. Here was confirmation of the sneaking suspicision I had that God was going to choose to grow my faith in someway. The permanency I so desperately longed for, that I believed would be provided by a tenure track position was not meant to be. In its place was an offer to continue as a lecturer for an additional three years. At this moment I had to choose to trust God or not. Can God still be a good, good Father who gives very good gifts when we don’t get what we want? Even when we believe what we want is in line with God’s will!? YES!!

It took time, but I now know without a shadow of a doubt that the offer to teach for three years as a lecturer is a MUCH better situation for me than being offered a tenure line position ever would have been. It was a hard, long year, but it was ripe with growth and lessons learned. Here are just a few…

God REALLY is faithful. It is His VERY NATURE to be faithful. And as we take small steps of faith, He reveals more and more of his faithfulness to us.

God longs to be WITH US. He is EMMANUAL – literally God with us. His Spirit desires to lead and guide, to comfort and empower. God wants to relate and walk alongside us.

NOTHING is more satisfying OR freeing as stepping into God’s call on your life. No matter what the cost! I had a wonderful career as a counselor and I will always be honored and humbled that I was able to walk with so many as their therapist for over 9 years. However, it was not God’s ultimate will for my life and because of that I was absolutely exhausted by the work. I believe I am just as busy teaching as I was counseling, but I feel energized and alive. And it is because I am where God wants me to be. And though I don’t have the permanency I thought I wanted, I’m very content with the unknown!

Switchfoot has a song called, “Live it Well”.  One of the lyrics says, “Life is short, I want to live it well. One life, one story to tell. Life is short, I want to live it well. And You’re the one I’m living for.” I have one life. You have one life. We must choose to live it well by living only for God. And sometimes (a lot of times) that means taking steps of faith – terrifying and sometimes confusing steps – but steps that lead to incredible freedom, contentment, and joy. Live it well friends. Live it well.

 

A word for graduates, a lesson for all of us

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Graduation season is upon us. It’s that weird season of both endings and beginnings, of both tears and smiles, and of both sadness and excitement. I must admit that I teared up as I stood outside the field house and watched past students exit in their caps and gowns with their degrees in hand and their future before them. I remember these times in my own life vividly. I am not someone who likes change and yet graduation was such a tangible symbol of the previously unseen work poured into exams and assignments the previous four years. Each commencement was filled with such an intense mixture of bittersweet emotion – joy and pride at the accomplishment, excitement for what the future held, and sadness at having to leave the place I’d called home for so long. Some of my peers experienced only sweetness as the previous four years had not been as kind to them as it had been to me and the day it was all over with simply couldn’t come soon enough.

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It’s also the season of, “What are you doing after graduation?” A question dreaded by all but by none more than those who just don’t know yet. I guess I was one of the fortunate ones. I always had an answer to this question. But having an answer is much different than being confident in the direction the answer is taking you. And as I work with high school and college students, that’s the sentiment I hear expressed most often. Students ask me, “How am I supposed to know what to do when I don’t even know who I am?”

The field of psychology often talks about “identity development”. I’m more interested in character development than identity development. Identity isn’t developed, it’s discovered. Your identity has already been imprinted on your heart by God, your Father and Creator. It needs to be discovered because over time our identity is buried – buried by our own sins of greed and pride, buried by fear, buried by others’ expectations of us, buried by pain – just to name a few. In the midst of trying to discover my own identity, a professor told me, “Decide what you are passionate about. Identify a need in the world around you. Then find the point where those two intersect. There you will find your purpose and calling in life.”

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Those wise words changed my life. I began to realize that my passions and preferences are part of what makes me uniquely me. And it is true of you as well… follow your dreams as they are likely God given! So often fear and insecurity cause us to make practical choices, the safe choices, but not always the God-ordained choices. We follow our head and our fear instead of our heart and God’s lead. And we are left uninspired and unfulfilled as a result.

So to any recent or future graduates longing to uncover your identity and God’s plan (or really anyone experiencing a holy discontentment with their life), may I urge you to first be bold and courageous. Forget convention and do not give into fear. Stop worrying about what you are “supposed” to do and focus only on what God is calling you to do. Want to know your true identity? Ask the Creator. He knows each and every detail of every masterpiece He’s ever made. He knows how to uncover the places that have been covered. He knows how to make the dark areas part of the beautiful whole. He knows how to make your heart sing and soar. He knows you inside and out and if you trust Him and follow Him, you’ll not only discover your own God given identity, but you’ll also find God.

“I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17 NIV

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Throwback to graduation from Fuller in 2008. Finally, Dr. Cleveland, YES!

Today I walked away…

There are defining moments in everyone’s life – decisions that determine the very course of your life. Several months ago, I made one of these life defining decisions, and today I took the first step down the path determined by this decision.

Today I walked away from one career to start another. After 9 years, I officially left full time practice as a counselor at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, an organization I respect, that trained me, and took me from a scared, insecure graduate student to a (mostly) confident and competent professional. Today I left coworkers I love, admire, and consider family. In so many ways it could be a sad day. And honestly, in some ways, it is. But the sadness is tempered by two things.

1. Pine Rest is going to let me stick around a few hours a week to keep my clinical skills sharp and to make sure my coworkers don’t miss me too much. So it’s not really “good bye” or even “see you later” as much as “see you less”.

2. I’m leaving a career, but I’m moving towards a calling.

I’m following a calling to teach and so Monday I start what I hope to be a long career in academia. And it starts as a visiting lecturer at Central College. And you see, a “visiting lecturer” is just that – “visiting”. It means I have a full time job for exactly one year. So today I walked away from the security and predictability I’ve enjoyed for the entirety of my adult career. Today I walked away from the known and into the unknown, from the certain to the in between.

But…

Today I walked away from doubt and towards belief that God is good.

Today I walked away from fear and towards faith.

Today I walked away from holy discontent towards peace that surpasses understanding.

Today I walked away from defiantly being in charge towards relinquishing control to the Lord.

Today I walked away from the comfortable and towards the courageous.

Today I walked away from settling towards living in God’s sweet spot He’s called me to.

Today I walked away from the good, in fact the very good, in order to walk towards God’s promise of great.

If you’ve been following my most recent blogs, you’ve been on a journey of learning about Jesus as our Good Shepherd, a trustworthy shepherd that protects, provides, knows us intimately, and loves us deeply. His voice is calm and steady. His guidance is certain and secure. He has my best interest always in mind. And he promises following him leads to a rich and satisfying life. So yes, today I walked away from a lot, but I also walked towards my Shepherd’s voice…

Is Jesus asking you to walk away from something and towards His voice? What’s holding you back? What is keeping you from following the Shepherd’s voice? Maybe today is the day to walk away from all that keeps you from walking towards Jesus.

And of course…Go Dutch!! 😉

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