Dreams, Callings, and Following Christ

A friend recently asked a question in a community I’m a part of: when and how did I know the career/dream I’m pursuing is my calling? This was my response:

I think that finding a career you love is often a result of seeking God, actually pursuing and working in that career, and discovering the joys of it. There wasn’t really a moment when I realized “Academic Librarianship: that’s my calling!”. I *did* learn a lot about it before pursuing it, and figured out that it fit with a lot of my interests and talents. But my love and passion for it came from being a part of it; it came *after* prayerfully choosing it.

Honestly, I think it’s possible to find joy in any field, and have it become a passion with dedication. Of course some fields fit certain people better than others – but even when I was working as a Sales Associate at OfficeMax (not my ideal field), it was still possible for me to find joy in that; and I believe that serving people in that position did become my calling for those 2 years of my life. That’s where God placed me at that time, and I became passionate about it while I was there. That calling then prepared me for other callings, which prepared me for where I am now.

I’ve of course had dreams at various times in my life that have not happened – being a professional upright bassist, going back to CZ as a missionary, opening a tea shop. These are things that I did feel a calling for, and I still have a place in my heart for each of them – maybe they’ll happen someday, maybe they won’t. In the end, with much prayer, I made the choice to pursue other things instead, at least at this time – and I fully believe I am where God wants me right now, even though perhaps I’m not “pursuing my dreams”. I am confident that God’s plan is greater than any of my own dreams. I believe that wherever He has me at each moment of my life – which city, which field, which community – *is* my calling. And, I will constantly strive to discover the wonder and joy that exists within that calling, and thus develop a passion for it.

Really, what all of this comes down to is listening to Christ and following Him. My choice of career came through lots of thought, but also lots of prayer. My choice to not pursue music, embark on international missions, or start a tea shop at this time in my life also came through much prayer. Even though I still have these dreams, I do not want to pursue them if God is not in them. If and when He calls me to them, then I will pursue them. In the meantime, I want to always listen to Him and make every decision based on His will for my life. I know that wherever He leads me now will prepare me for His future plans and my future callings.

Now, I’d like to expand on this a little further, and give an example. In addition to my smaller personal dreams, some of which I mentioned, there are other greater dreams I have that I do believe are directly from God. One main one, is my dream to raise a family. Since I was little, getting married and raising a family has been one of my primary callings. This is a dream that has not yet come to pass – but I do still believe I am called to this; just, in God’s timing and way. Some people, when discovering where I am in my career, state that I must be incredibly dedicated to my work to be where I am at my age. However, it’s not my call to my work that was my motivation (even though I love my work and believe I can and should be worshipping God through it daily) – rather, it’s primarily been my motivation to raise and support a family that has given me the drive to work extra hard in my career.

Through my work, I am preparing for what I believe is my future calling – even though it may be far in the future. And, because working at MNU in Olathe, KS is where God has placed me at this time, this is my present calling – and I take great joy in it, knowing that not only is this good, but that it is preparing me for something even better. Someday, if I do get married and start a family, that calling will be fulfilled – and at the same time, that and the rest of my life will continually prepare me for something even better still: an eternity with Christ.

My main point is, that I don’t believe God gives us one singular calling in our lives that He wants us to achieve right away. I believe He often calls us to small things first, in preparation for greater things. He often asks us to give up our dreams in the process, so that we will look to Him first. The whole point is for us to listen to Him, trust Him, and follow Him, above all else – and when we do, He will lead us down the best paths for us. I have no doubt that if I fix my eyes on Him and follow wherever He leads, that He will fulfill every true calling and dream He’s placed on my heart. In the meantime, I need to recognize that where He’s placed me now is where I am called. Through this present calling, He will teach me, change me, and make me more like Him – in order to prepare me for future callings and the fulfillment of the dreams He’s given me.

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The Final Destination

Over this past week, I’ve gradually decorated my new office – to the point that it now finally feels “my own”. It’s been a lot of fun filling the shelves with my own books, the walls with my own diplomas and pictures, the desk with my own supplies, etc. It still has more work to be done (you will see below that some bookshelves are still empty) – but it’s certainly coming along quite nicely! Here are some pictures of what it looks like so far (it’s difficult to capture everything due to the shape of the office!):

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I’m glad that I’ve finally gotten this mostly done – since I’ve now been in this wonderful new position for nearly a month! It’s been one of the best months of my life so far – which honestly feels a bit weird to say. This isn’t where I expected to be, and yet, it’s so much better – God has blessed me in so many ways. And, for the first time in a long time, I feel that I’m in a place that I’m going to be for a very long while. This may, of course, change – who knows what God has planned. But right now, everything is pointing to this position being very long-term.

This, too, feels a bit weird – simply because I’ve been thinking about “the next thing” for so much of my life. From grade school, to college, to graduate school, to internships and fellowships… everything has been about getting to the next step. I’ve always known that where I was and what I was doing was not permanent – that it was just a passing phase (even if a good one, and an important one), as I was preparing for something better.

Of course, even now, I know that this is still really a “passing phase” (one that may last for many years, but still, it shall pass). From future promotion possibilities, to getting a PhD, to teaching new classes each semester – my job here will continually change and grow. And, at some point, I expect God will call me somewhere else entirely – whether that’s in the area of library directorship, or educational leadership, or maybe something completely different. But this still isn’t exactly what I mean, because even once I’m in the final position of my lifetime, that too shall pass. I cannot pretend to know where God will lead me, but I do know that anything on this earth is temporary. Everything on this earth is simply preparation for something else – something infinitely better.

This is such a valuable truth to dwell on. While I was in high-school, I worked to prepare for college. While I was in college, I worked to prepare for graduate school. While I was in graduate school, I worked to prepare for my first professional job. But through all of this… I should be working with Heaven in mind. I should be working on growing closer to Him; becoming more like Him; loving Him and loving others, more every day. After all, eternity is the final destination – all the rest of this is just temporary.

As I continue on here in my work (here at MNU, here in Olathe, here with my family and friends, here in all of the places God’s called me right now) – I must always keep my final destination in mind. Hopefully, this will significantly affect the daily choices and decisions that I make. Hopefully, this will help me become more like Him.

Words vs. Images

I am increasingly troubled by our culture’s preference for images over truth. This is especially apparent in the way we try to create images of ourselves – through social media, in how we talk about ourselves, and even just in our own heads. We try to craft ourselves as being as interesting and admirable as possible, regardless of the truth of who we actually are. We all want to be liked and appreciated – and so we create images of ourselves (often false ones) that will be liked and appreciated by others.

This obsession with our own image does stem from our culture, which is already image-obsessed. While there are many wonderful things about films, television, and other forms of media, there are also definite problems that can be associated with an oversaturation of these things. I believe that these problems are heightened when we do not read enough, and even more when we don’t spend enough one-on-one time with actual people. There is a big difference from chatting to someone online than there is from talking to them face-to-face. There is also a big difference from viewing images of a person (how they appear) versus actually understanding a person (how they really are).

Reading is a great tool to curbing this issue. It helps teach us empathy, and to understand people better. It helps show us that what we see is not necessarily the truth – in fact, it usually isn’t when it comes to something as infinitely complex as a human being. When we read a story, we are able to see into characters – books are portals that help us see inside people’s hearts and minds, and thus understand them a bit better. The fact that a character is fictional does not take away from this truth – when we read from the perspective of a fictional character, especially a well-written one, we are still experiencing a different life from our own, and a unique perspective. We can see what these characters are really feeling, what they value, and who they actually are as people. The written word helps to show us that this (the truth) is what matters – not the way we or others appear. Reading Between the Lines: A Guide to Christian Literature is a wonderful book that talks about this in more detail – I highly recommend it. Reading can help us empathize with others, and thus learn (or start learning) to not judge a book by its cover; or a person by their image without knowing their unique backgrounds, thoughts, and hearts.

I know that when I observe someone, I do not really see who they are. All I see is a small, outward glimpse of that person, and there is so much more within that I will never truly know. I have wrongly judged people based on their outward appearance way too many times; it’s something I think all of us have to intentionally try to avoid. Even when I talk to someone and start to get to know them, I have to understand that the words they say and the way they behave may have a completely different truth behind them than the way I interpret them. Spending enough time with any one person can help with this – when we spend a lot of time with someone, we start to realize that they are infinitely more complex and multidimensional than we ever thought. In order to truly get to know someone, we have to spend enough time with them – but, we have to also be willing to attempt to see things from their perspective instead of our own. Getting to know someone is an active endeavor, not a passive one. It’s entirely possible to spend years talking to a person and never actually know them. Understanding a person takes time, effort, and the willingness to see things in a new way.

Knowing that our culture values images as much as it does, it’s still often tempting to try to project an image of ourselves for other people to see – as opposed to just being who we are, and trusting God with the rest. However, I believe that the latter is what we must do if we are to follow Him fully – we will never truly follow Him if we are preoccupied with ourselves and how we appear to others. He calls us to love Him, and love others – not to create false images of ourselves in order to look good.

When we create false images of ourselves, we are really just putting on a mask. We are not being who He has called us to be – instead, we are pretending to be what others want us to be, and how we ourselves wish that we were. Ironically, the only way to reach our full potential and become beautiful as God made us to be is to give up all pretense of being in control over our images… and to surrender ourselves and how we are viewed totally to God. Will we still encounter people who misinterpret our hearts, and choose to see only our outward appearance? Of course. Will we also have those who deride us for choosing to follow Christ instead of enhancing our own images? Absolutely. But if we truly want to become more like Him, and become who He planned for us to be, it is essential that we surrender ourselves anyway, regardless of what others think. We must forsake false images, and instead choose Christ. And, through His power and love alone, we can see past the masks people put onto themselves – and see the true beauty that is underneath.

His Presence Alone

This will be a short post, written in an attempt to capture something that I learned yesterday. It is inspired by the message given at MNU’s 2017 faculty convocation.

In Exodus 33, Moses meets with God in the form of a pillar of cloud in the tabernacle. Verse 11 says that “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
Moses asks God to bring up his people, the Israelites (who are still wandering),  and to show them His way. The Lord responds, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

This is not God saying that He will bring His people out of wandering, or show them the way. It is simply Him saying that He will be with them through whatever is to come, and that His Presence will bring them rest. I think this is profound. How many times in my own life have I asked God to rescue me from my trials? To lead me to the right path, so that I know I am going where He wants me to go? And, more times than not, He does not answer as I expect – but He does always answer, just in similar fashion to how he answered Moses. Regardless of what happens in our lives, no matter what trials and temptations we go through, no matter how much we wander in the wilderness without knowing the way… He is always with us, His Church, in the form of the Holy Spirit. He will always be with us, and so we can always have rest.

Is this enough? This doesn’t mean that everything will happen as we wish it would. This doesn’t mean that the path will always be clear to us. This doesn’t even mean that our wandering will cease. But, it does mean that we are never alone – and it means that God, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, our Father and Savior is always with us. And thus, we can have constant, true, unshakable peace and rest in Him.

Going back to Exodus 33 – how does Moses respond? He says simply: “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.

This line is striking to me. Of course, Moses wants with all his heart for the Israelites to be brought out of their wandering. He wants to know the way God has for them. But when Moses asks God for this, and His response (while significant) is not perhaps what Moses wants to hear, he responds that if God is not with them, then there is no point in being brought up out of the wilderness at all. It is His presence with them that matters, and that is ALL that matters. Moses recognizes and understands this – I want to understand this, too. Trials may befall us, and we may wander without knowing the way – but through everything, it is only His presence with us that matters. God’s presence is ALL that matters. The Israelites need God, and nothing else. God alone is infinitely better than having everything else without Him.

How would our lives look if we realized this truth daily? What if we prayed: “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us happiness, or wealth, or success. If Your Presence does not go with us, do not fulfill our callings or our dreams. If Your Presence does not go with us, do not rescue us from hard times or show us the way you’d have for us. Because You are ALL that matters, and You alone. If You are with us, we have everything – and if You are not with us, then we have nothing.”

After Moses responds, the Lord says: “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.

Moses understood that God’s presence with them was all that mattered – and in turn, the Lord chose to give Moses what he asked for anyway. This doesn’t mean that He will always give us what we ask for if we recognize that He is all we need – but it does mean that He sees our hearts, and that He will always respond in perfect grace and love. I need to constantly remind myself that He is all that matters, and that if I simply embrace this truth, everything else will follow. He desires the best for me, and He has a plan for me – but the way to come into that plan is to let it go, and to simply follow Him and embrace this one simple truth:

His presence alone is enough.

On the Unexpected

Today I’m going to write about some recent unexpected happenings in my life.

Two summers ago, I wrote my very first blog post – “On Adventure“. In that post, I said:

True adventures are messy, rarely easy, and hardly comfortable. On an adventure, there’s no telling what will happen, but most likely it will be unexpected. Adventures require planning, but they also require knowing that your plans will change.

How true. This especially resonates with me now, after the unexpected happenings that I mentioned.

Some important history for later: When I initially wrote that first blog post, I was traveling with my brother in the Czech Republic. During the trip, a posting for a job went up at MidAmerica Nazarene University, for an “Evening Library Assistant” – and, since I was planning to begin graduate school in library & information science that fall, I decided to apply. I got the job, and I worked at MNU for nearly two years in the position – the entire duration of my time in graduate school. I loved every moment of my work at MNU, and I am fully confident that getting that job was entirely God – it was perfect for me during that time in every way, so much so that only God could have planned it.

Fast-forward to a few months ago, when I left Kansas to move to North Carolina. I’d been offered a position as a Reference & Instructional Librarian there – and more importantly, I felt that God wanted me to move there for other reasons. It took me some time to really get settled (adjusting to a new state and a new life is hard), but I learned a lot during this time. God taught me so much about loving selflessly and being joyful in Him alone – and eventually, I started feeling that I was really going to enjoy living in North Carolina.

I didn’t expect the unexpected.

About a month ago, a posting went up for a new faculty Librarian at MidAmerica Nazarene University. Initially, I didn’t think twice about it (other than slight disappointment that MNU wasn’t located in North Carolina!) – after all, I’d just begun my new position, and I believed that this was where I was supposed to be.

But then, suddenly, the reasons I had to be in North Carolina unexpectedly fell through. I wondered why God had called me to North Carolina at all – because now, I had no reason to be there besides my new job. I began strongly wishing I was back in Kansas, among my friends and family. So, in the midst of this, I began to more seriously pray about the position at MNU. Every aspect of the position seemed perfect for me. I already had experience at MNU from my previous position. I knew the staff and the community. I also had all of the exact qualifications, even to the point that one of the “Preferred Requirements” was “experience as a Reference & Instructional Librarian” – the exact phrasing of my current job title (and it’s not a common way to phrase it!). Was God in the timing of the new job opportunity? It seemed too perfect to be otherwise. What if all along, coming to North Carolina and everything He taught me there was preparation for this new position at MNU and a life back in Kansas?

I applied, and within a few days, I had an interview scheduled – coinciding with an already planned trip to Kansas for a grant project. The timing was incredible. I interviewed, it went remarkably well, and I enjoyed seeing my former colleagues again. Overall, it was a very encouraging trip. Finally, I returned to North Carolina to wait upon God and see what happened next.

This is always the hardest part – waiting. I’m not going to lie, those couple of weeks waiting and not knowing what was going to happen were very hard. I desperately wanted to return to Kansas, not just for the position but also to be with my friends and family there. But, I knew that not getting the position was a very real possibility. It would be competitive. I knew that getting or not getting the job was entirely up to God – and so, I prayed, nearly nonstop for those weeks.

These days seemed so much longer than they actually were – not only because I was waiting, but because of how many lessons God taught me during that time. At first, I prayed ceaselessly that He would give me the position in Kansas – but as day after day passed by, I began thinking that it might have been offered to someone else. I still knew that if He wanted me to have it, then I would get it – and that if He didn’t, then there must be an even better plan for me in North Carolina. In the end, I gave it up to Him, to the point that I was honestly alright with not getting the job and expecting not to. The day after that, I received the call offering me the position.

I am wonderstruck by God’s remarkable goodness and perfect timing. When I moved to North Carolina, I did so believing He was calling me to do so – and I still believe that, even though the ending of that adventure was unexpected. Through coming to North Carolina, He changed me as a person – hopefully, to be a little more like Him. Through it all, I was forced to rely fully on Him – and I was taught the importance of giving up every aspect of my life and every one of my plans to Him. I learned to trust His plan – and that even when it is not my plan, it is so, so much better.

All of the lessons were ones I needed to learn – and I wouldn’t have if all of this didn’t happen. I am overjoyed to be returning to Kansas – but even more, for everything He taught me through this adventure. Perhaps one of the most important lessons I learned is the absolute beauty of His plan. Though I will never know His full plan for my life, I believe the mystery of it makes it all the more beautiful. Even so, I do think that sometimes, God lets us see small fragments of it, in order for us to see how perfectly He has worked everything thus far – so that we can fully trust Him in the future, no matter what.

I’m so thankful for so much right now… primarily, for God and His infinite wisdom and goodness. Even though things didn’t work out as expected; even though my plans in North Carolina fell through; even though these last few months have been hard – I trust God and feel His love for me more strongly than I ever have before, to the point that it’s impossible to describe with words.

In that first post “On Adventure“, I said:

“Going on an adventure will change you. You do not return from an adventure the same person you were when you left.”

Assuredly, I am not returning from this adventure to North Carolina the same person I was when I left. And, I’m so excited for whatever happens in these next chapters, even though I don’t know what will occur. What I *do* know is that through both the expected and the unexpected, I can always trust His plan and His perfect love for me – whatever comes.

Why I Am A Gryffindor

30688813-704e-4b0e-86df-462b8d07f76cFor those of you readers who might not know, “Gryffindor” is one of four Houses (living and learning communities) within Hogwarts – the magical school of the Harry Potter series. Students of Hogwarts are placed into one of the Houses based on the qualities they value most: Primarily, Hufflepuff values loyalty; Ravenclaw values learning/intelligence; Slytherin values ambition; and Gryffindor values courage. There are more intricacies to the Houses than that and other traits that can be used to describe them – but I believe these traits sum them up best.

While the Hogwarts Houses are obviously fictional, I find it incredibly interesting to learn about which House people say they would fit into. I do not believe that any one House or one trait is at all better than the others, or the “right choice” – rather, I believe the traits of each House can be represented selflessly OR selfishly. Every person has a different perspective on the Houses and what they mean – which is why I sincerely enjoy discussing the Houses and hearing which Houses my friends fit into and why.

So, in this post, I am going to explain not why I think Gryffindor is the best House (I don’t think that), but why I personally am a Gryffindor – and then I’m going to ask some questions to you about your House choice. I would love to hear your perspectives!

I Am Not Naturally Brave

It’s true – courage is definitely not something I was born with, which has made me value it all the more. When I was younger, I was scared of everything that was new to me – from little things like riding a bike and roller-coasters, to bigger things like moving to a new country or speaking in front of a room full of people. However, every time I actually did the thing I was scared of, I realized that it wasn’t actually scary at all – and  in the process of realizing that, I came to not only be unafraid of that thing, but actually to love and enjoy it. I now am a huge fan of riding a bike, roller-coasters, traveling to new places, and even public speaking (really, it’s fun!).

I guess the point of mentioning this is to point out that I am in no way a Gryffindor because I am naturally a brave person. Perhaps I’ve learned to become more brave – now I do love new experiences and the unknown – but that’s something that has come through learning and experience. At this point in my life, after facing so many challenges and experiencing so many scary things, I’ve come to love and value the action of facing my fears – because it always leads to something new, exciting, and beautiful. So, really, I am a Gryffindor because I am NOT a naturally brave person, not the other way around. Courage is the most challenging of the four traits for me personally, and thus it leads to the most growth – and for this reason, I value it most. 

I’m Not A Typical Gryffindor

Also true. Based on my personality, I don’t think most people would peg me as a Gryffindor. I am not particularly showy or daring – and I have no desire for pointless heroics. True, I sometimes post obnoxious pro-Gryffindor comments on Facebook and sing annoying pro-Gryffindor songs after winning muggle-Quidditch games – but I promise, I only do that because I know the “Gryffindor rules” attitude is a stereotype of Gryffindors, and so I’m trying to be funny (I apologize).

I’ve had many friends say that based on my personality, they think I would be a Hufflepuff. I’ve had colleagues say that based on my career as a librarian, they think I would be a Ravenclaw. However, I do not believe that Hogwarts Houses are *ultimately* decided based off of personality, talents, or interests – rather, the final result takes into account what a person values most in him or herself. This, I believe, is the reason why within the Harry Potter series, Harry, Hermoine, and Ron were all sorted into Gryffindor – even though they each display many primary traits of the other Houses and aren’t what I’d think of as “typical” Gryffindors. Ultimately, they valued courage most, regardless of which other traits came naturally to them.

All of this being said, it is also true that my friends and family are more important to me than anything else (apart from God). So then…

Why Am I A Gryffindor and Not a Hufflepuff?

Being a Gryffindor means that I value courage in myself more than I value loyalty in myself. But, being a Gryffindor does not mean that I don’t love my friends most. In the Harry Potter series, Harry (a Gryffindor) chooses to sacrifice himself *because* he loves his friends most. Any of the four Houses have the potential to value other people first and love others sacrificially. Loyalty, learning, courage, and even ambition can be selfless. Some would argue that ambition can’t be – but I think that while ambition is perhaps the most difficult to make selfless (hence, lots of corrupt Slytherins), it is possible to have a selfless ambition that is purposed towards God and others.

Also, I love my friends, but of course that sometimes means standing up to them. I believe it is my responsibility as their friend to stand up to them when I believe they are hurting themselves and/or others or confident that they are making a wrong decision. This is very difficult for me and takes a lot of courage to do – and, it’s another reason why I am a Gryffindor and not a Hufflepuff. My friends are incredibly important to me – I just value the courage to stand up to them when necessary (which is hard for me) more than I value the ability to loyally support them (which is easy for me). I often fail at this – but it is important to me, and I am learning. Again, this goes back to the fact that I am not naturally courageous, even though I highly value courage. If I were naturally brave enough to always love when it’s hard and stand up to my friends when I should, I doubt I would be a Gryffindor.

What About You?

Again, I know that my reasons for personally being a Gryffindor do not make it in any way the “best” House. So, my questions for you are:

1. Which House did you choose and why?

2. Is there another House that you could almost be placed in? If so, which one and why?

I look forward to your comments!

Life After Graduation

1370738959078.jpgObviously, life after graduating is the goal (we aren’t meant to be in school forever!) – but, that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging. For me at least, the transition out of school (in my case, graduate school) has definitely been the hardest thing about it. Of course there are initial challenges that often come with graduating, such as hopefully finding a relevant job; however, in this post, I’m going to look at other challenges – ones that occur even after finding that perfect new job.

1. Independence

More independence can be a good thing, but it can also be very hard. During graduate school, I was constantly surrounded not only by friends and family, but also by fellow students who were pursuing the same career that I was. Even as an online student, I regularly interacted with other library school students, collaborated with them on projects, and shared ideas and experiences – and of course, I was involved in a variety of internships. Since graduating, my life has been different – primarily due to the fact that I moved to a new state for my new job. Thus, I am no longer around those communities of people – and it’s been challenging. However, while difficult, this time away has also already been very rewarding. Normally, there are certain parts of myself that only exist when I am around other people. To quote C.S. Lewis:

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” (Lewis, The Four Loves)

Thus, spending so much time alone has been difficult, in that it can feel like I have “lost” certain pieces of myself – those pieces that are only activated when I am around certain people, in certain groups. I love this quote, and I think it is very true.

While it’s true that I am not enough to bring out every piece of myself… God is. During this time, God is teaching me how to be fully myself, fully who I am meant to be, in Him. After we graduate, especially when we move away from our communities, it can be a time of identity crisis. Who am I, when I am not with the people who know me? Yet, through these crises, it is possible to more fully find our identities in Christ – and thus learn to always be our true selves in Him. When our identities are fully found in Christ, we will never be able to lose them – even when we are on our own.

2. Free Time

You’re probably thinking, “how can free time be a challenge??”. Well, for me at least, it’s been quite difficult getting accustomed to so much down time – and I do think many other recent graduates face similar challenges.

Now, my case is perhaps an extreme one – during graduate school, I was taking a full load of graduate-level classes AND working approximately 55 hours a week (that’s including my internships/fellowships). This meant that Monday through Friday, I was always either working or completing school projects. On my weekends, I dedicated all of my time to friends and family, church, events, and activities. I used my breaks to travel and visit farther away friends. I’m sure that all sounds exhausting – and it especially was for me, since I thrive on spontaneity, not on rigid schedules – but I got used to it, and it become the norm for me. I learned to create spontaneity and see adventure within my crazy schedule, and God taught me many lessons in the midst of my busy life.

Fast-forward to now, and all I have is one full-time 40 hour a week job as a librarian – and no school.  I have all of this free time… but how do I spend it? I know that sounds like a really lame problem to have (because everyone wishes they had more free time!). But I’ve realized that it really is a serious challenge to go from constant activity to a much slower, less defined pace – I constantly feel like I am wasting my time, and that I should be spending it on something more valuable, even though I know a 40 hour work week is plenty and the norm. Honestly, I think a lot of this comes down to pride – we like to have busy paces, full of important activities, and places where we are needed – because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Right now, it’s much more difficult for me – but also much more humbling – to live a slower paced life. This isn’t to say I at all regret being so busy while I was – that, too, was necessary during that time in my life. I believe God calls us to have different schedules and priorities at different times in our lives, depending on what He has to teach us.

Through all of this, I’ve been learning the value of not being so busy. I’ve been learning how to rest again, and that it is not wrong to have free time. These empty spaces in my schedule have still been really hard for me, but they’ve also brought me so much closer to God. In the midst of a full schedule, it’s easy to put Him to the side, due to the constant activity and ever-present distractions. Now that I have more empty space in my day, I have learned to better hear God’s voice and recognize His constant presence in my life.

3. Less-Defined Goals

While in graduate school, I was constantly secure in the knowledge that I was working towards something that would directly benefit my future life and career. Really, all the way through my life I have had that security – from grade school, to college, to graduate school. Of course, now that I’m finished, I still want to be continually working towards something – I don’t want to remain stagnant. But, I’m learning that we do not always have to have a big goal to be working towards – just striving to love others more each and every day is enough.

Of course, I do have future career goals to work towards – eventually, I plan to get a job at a full university, get free tuition towards a graduate degree in management, and then eventually become a library director. However, these goals are currently in the future, and it’s hard not knowing how or when they will come to pass. Through this, I’m learning to have so much more faith in God and His plan – because I don’t have a plan of my own. I’m so used to always having a plan for my life, a schedule of what I will complete when and what I will do next, that I’ve not had to fully trust God with every aspect of my future. Now I have to, and it’s been so good for strengthening my faith in His plan and timing.

Just living every day with the intent of becoming more like Christ and forming a deeper relationship with Him is not only a worthy goal – it’s by far the most important goal of all. As humans, we like to be constantly improving in terms of earthly status – better career, higher education, greater pay – but what is the point of those things in the first place, if it’s not to use them to further God’s kingdom? Regardless of where I am in terms of earthly goals, my ultimate goals will always be the same and unchanging – to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind. To love others before myself. And to spread the Gospel unto all the Earth. The purpose of other earthly goals in my life is simply to further my capacity for doing these things.

In Conclusion

Dealing with these challenges and adjusting to life after graduating has been difficult, but also so important – and I am incredibly thankful for everything God has been teaching me these past few months. Through all of this, I have been reminded that my education doesn’t end here – and that even after I’ve completed my last degree, it won’t end then. The knowledge and training we gain in school is only one type of learning – and God has an infinite amount to teach us about Himself. So, in this time after graduate school – when I’m often on my own, I have an abundance of free time, and I’m in a break between career goals – I am welcoming the opportunity to fully dive into whatever He has to teach me. More than anything, I want to grow ever closer to Him. Further up and further in.