Tag Archives: calling

When God Closes a Door but Doesn’t Open a Window: Hali’s Story 2.0

Being a mentor to students has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. There is no greater blessing than having a front row seat to the journey from awkward and insecure middle schooler to graceful and confident young woman. I’m so honored to call so many of these ladies friends and to be a part, even if ever so small, of their story. Today I’m pleased to turn the blog over to one of these young women, Hali. I shared part of her story a few weeks ago in a blog entitled Hali’s Story: Obedience, Pursuit of Passion, and God’s Calling. Today you get to hear her version, with a little update on what has occurred since. Though the story begins with pain and confusion, it ends with hope and assurance and it is a story we all need to hear. So, here’s Hali’s Story: 2.0! ~Karen

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Moving backwards…inadequate…lacking skill…behind…disappointment…failure…shame. Words…these words specifically, are words that have been circling through my thoughts for the past couple of weeks along with the emotions that come with them. I’m an achiever, through and through. But recently I withdrew from school…again…which has made me feel like anything but a success.

Most people don’t know that I’ve been enrolled in three different colleges since graduating from high school three years ago. As a senior in high school I was planning on being a physical therapist or a physician, but the door to the school I wanted to attend closed. Next I thought nursing was what God was calling me into, but it only took one semester to realize it wasn’t my passion either. Most recently I enrolled in a ministry program, which made perfect sense. After a year with YWAM and two years working at a church, it seemed to be the perfect choice, but it didn’t come to fruition either. I now faced another closed door with no obvious open windows.

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Growing up I was pretty good at a variety of things. I was a varsity athlete and a good student. I was fortunate to succeed in a lot of what I pursued. So my natural thought coming out of high school was that I would go to college, then graduate school and live life for Jesus in the midst of a fulfilling and successful career. But that was my plan, not God’s. He had something different in mind, something that would refine me and challenge what I was finding my worth and value in. You see, I like to do things well, and I like to excel in everything I do. Those aren’t necessarily bad things. But it becomes problematic when I start to place my worth in my achievements. My plan was to succeed according to worldly standards. But God had different things in store. As a matter of fact three times now God has had different things in store.

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God has different things in store…those words, as awesome as they seem, are hard for me to swallow. All around me people are doing what seems to be “something” with their lives. My peers are graduating college this year (if they haven’t already), going to graduate school, finding a “real” job and succeeding. Everyone seems to be doing what most people do when they are 22 – embarking on the beginning of a journey towards significance and doing things that will make a difference.

I observe these things, and it irks me inside. I begin to compare my life with everyone else’s, and I feel behind or like I’m doing something wrong. When I look at myself, I see a failure. I see someone in a constant state of limbo. I see someone who went from having a lot of potential when they were younger to someone who HAS to do something to prove they are worth anything at all. Bottom line, I’ve got a problem people, and it may be a problem that some of you have as well. I’ve believed lies, and I’ve let them into my thoughts and heart. Here’s the thing though, these lies bring confusion instead of peace, sorrow instead of joy, despair instead of hope, and doubt instead of faith.

But these lies have no right to plant themselves in us, they have no right to cause us pain, not when we are sons and daughters of the Most High. No way! Psalm 139 tells us that God knit us together in our mother’s womb, He knew us before we were born, His thoughts about us are precious, He is with us where ever we may go. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says He has good plans for us, that when we pray He will listen. He hears us and He sees us. We are approved by Him, there is no greater thing in life than to be His son or daughter. And if that is all I ever am, that is enough. The LORD will work out the details in our lives. My story is not MY story for MY glory or satisfaction, it is HIS story for HIS glory.

In Matthew 14 the disciples are caught in a storm, and Jesus comes to them walking on water. Peter tells Jesus to call for him to come if it is truly him, so Jesus calls Peter out of the boat. Peter, with faith and courage, gets out of the boat and he walks on water (so sick) towards Jesus. But the second he takes his eyes off of Jesus, he starts to sink. Jesus says to Peter in verse 31b (paraphrased) “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?”

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“Why did you doubt me?” Why do I doubt Him? Why do I focus on the storm around me instead of my Savior in front of me? Why do I put my worth and value in worldly things when I have a Father who loves me enough to send his Son to the earth to die for my sins? I’m a broken human being, I’m a sinner, but I am not a failure and I do not have to cower or succumb to the lies that are thrown at me…and neither do you.

My worth is not measured by a degree, my worth is measured by my King. If following Him means giving up achieving the ways I think I need to achieve then I’m going to come to terms with it (no matter how long the journey and with the help of the Holy Spirit I am sure). I’m learning to lay down comparing myself to the world and those around me. I’m learning to lay down achieving for worldly approval. I’m learning to lay down my fear so I can learn to better focus on Jesus and walk on water with him in faith like Peter did for those brief moments. It sucks sometimes and it hurts sometimes, but dang it will be worth it in the end. I don’t have to force open a closed door or crawl through a broken window. I just have to faithfully follow where the Holy Spirit leads me and trust He has the key to any door that I’m called to walk through.

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So what do you need to lay down that is causing you to focus on the storm and not Jesus? What lies are you believing right now? Where are you comparing where you don’t need to be?

393628_10150574449565490_1776402262_nHali is keeping her eyes faithfully on Jesus while following where the Holy Spirit leads, trusting the right door will open in time. She’s a rock star EMT, loves farm life, is my personal Su chef, and prefers “love punches” to hugs to show affection. Thanks for sharing your heart Hali!

First Day of School Jitters

Backpack packed with brand new pens and pencils and untouched notebooks and folders. Crisp, clean tennis shoes. Favorite outfit carefully selected and laid out. The anxiety riddled questions of “Will my teacher be nice?”, “Who will I sit by at lunch?” and “Will anyone play with me at recess?” And the anticipation and excitement that accompanies new possibilities and fresh starts. Yes, we have all experienced the first day of school. kid off to school

As students of all ages returned to school, I’ve received a variety of answers to the question, “How was the first day of school?” My favorite response came from my neighbor who eagerly replied, “Junior high is awesome. The teachers treated me like a teenager instead of a little kid. I had a great day!” Love it! However,  it seems that no amount of planning or preparing can predict whether it is a glorious beginning or one that sends parents and student alike wishing there was a redo button. Parents anxiously send their children off that first day and know that regardless of how it went, they will send them off for 179 more.

This got me thinking about my relationship with God. Like a parent sending their baby off to kindergarten, does He get anxious about sending me out into the world? He knows how difficult this world can be. Matthew 10:16 says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” I think most parents have felt like this at times, like they are sending their child out into the world to be devoured by wolves. I know for my father this feeling happened when he dropped me off at college. Until that time, he had the ability to process anything I encountered at school at our dining room table or during a chat before bed in our living room. Now I was away at college and he wasn’t sure what crazy ideas the professors were going to try to put in my head. (Don’t worry Dad, I failed my first college exam because I refused to even learn about evolution. Probably not the most mature way to handle that situation, but seems like it worked out ok.)

Jesus knows we will encounter great trials and difficulties in this world. In John 16:33 He promises that “in this world you will have trouble.” And yet He sends us out anyway. Why? Because just like parents have filled backpacks with new supplies and instill confidence and values in their children’s hearts, God has filled our hearts will His Spirit. We go out into the world accompanied by His strength, power and peace. God knows there will be difficult days, but He knows and holds the future. John 16:33 doesn’t just promise trouble, it also promises peace. Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” And in John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

So like a kindergarten student eager for her first day of school or a college student anticipating their first night in the dorms, we go out into the world with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. But we can go confidently knowing that God has filled our backpacks with all the supplies we will need. He has equipped us for whatever may come. He redeems our past, holds our present, and knows our future. We do not need to fear because we can trust Him.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5:13-16

Hali’s story: Obedience, pursuit of passion, and God’s calling

There are conversations that seem to make an imprint on your heart and simply stay with you over time.  I’m not sure she even remembers meeting for coffee that day, but I’ll never forget it. I met Hali (pronounced with a long A, like Haley) when she was just a shy and incredibly quiet 8th grader. I was her church small group leader and due to her apparent mutism, I called her Hali (short A) for most of the year. (Who am I kidding, I still call her the wrong name more times than not.)

A note Hali wrote me in 8th grade. I like to reminder her from time to time of these sentiments.
A note Hali wrote me in 8th grade. I like to reminder her from time to time of these sentiments.

Now a senior in high school, Hali was facing decisions that loomed large and carried tremendous weight, namely what to do after graduation. Should she do what was expected and go to college like the rest of her peers or go against the flow and do something completely different?

She chose the latter…

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Doing something different takes tremendous courage. Smart, responsible, gifted, and focused, no one ever imagined she’d do anything other than go directly to college. College is the logical next step after high school, especially for someone like Hali. With dreams of becoming a physician, why not take the logical next step? Because something about the logical next step didn’t feel right. In fact, it felt wrong. So maybe doing something different doesn’t just take courage, but also takes obedience. Acts 5:29, “ If we have to choose between obedience to God and obedience to any human authority, then we must obey God.” And obeying God often means doing the illogical.

Hali has always had a heart for missions and so spent a “gap year” overseas with a missionary organization. In that time, God confirmed that Hali had reservations about pursuing medical school for a reason – becoming a doctor was not the next step. But what was? She still did not know. And yet she trusted that God had a plan and a purpose for her life. She believed He would be faithful and she patiently waited for this plan to be revealed in His timing.

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For two years she explored other careers in medicine, including becoming a local paramedic. And she developed ministry skills working with the very same youth group she was raised in and where I first met her so many years before. The passion for missions remained, the passion for medicine began to fade. And overtime a different passion she’d always had grew even stronger. A passion placed there by her Maker. A passion in line with His heart. A passion for those in bondage and in slavery. Hali’s heart is to see captives set free and captors brought to justice. Suddenly Hali’s calling seemed crystal clear…

And so today, my friend Hali moves to Chicago. She’s off to college in pursuit of her passion and in obedience to the Lord she loves. Today she takes another step in living out the calling placed on her life. Faith is still required. God gives us all a lamp for our feet to illuminate the next step, not a headlight to reveal the entire path. But He promises to go ahead, walk along, and hem in behind. He never leaves nor forsakes. And He finishes what He starts. And though I will miss her deeply, I could not be more proud or more inspired. And because she is way too humble to share her story, I felt compelled to do it for her. Because we can all learn from Hali… that following God takes courage to be different. That the risk it takes to obediently follow God is always worth it. That following God is an unbelievably exciting adventure. And that God’s call to serve His kingdom always aligns with the gifts, talents, and passions He gave us when He created us. Imagine that…

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Hali May, I’m honored and privileged to witness your adventure and I am waiting with eager expectation to see where the journey takes you. I have no doubt it will be to places and heights you could never imagine. “All this is why we are constantly praying for you, so God will make you worthy of the great calling you have received from Him and will give you the power to accomplish every good intention and work of faith.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11)  ~Much Love, Karen Ann