What are you doing with your life?

So I graduated from college. You know what that means… I get asked 278,342 times a day what I am doing with my life.

Every time I get asked that I want to turn to sand and blow away in the wind. Or shake the person and ask them what they are doing with their life. I want to say several different things like, “having this conversation with you” or “if I told you I would have to kill you.”

But the reality is that right now, I work in retail. At first, I was really ashamed. It isn’t fair to be ashamed of my job, great people – thousands of people, have jobs exactly like mine. When the question inevitably pops up in conversation, I would feel like I was letting the interviewer down, even if they were a complete stranger. I felt like everyone expected me to do something really great right away. After all, not everyone graduates from college at 20. Surely, if anyone was going to start off as a CEO right away it would be me.

Friends, family, that right there is some nasty, toxic pride. In a way, I think God very intentionally placed me where I am right now because if I am being honest, I have let people judge me by my performance since day one. It worked for a long time, too. You could ask me about what was going on or how I was and I could provide a three minute explanation of how busy I was with so many great things.

I was doing great things, but too often, for the wrong reason.

I thought the only way that I could serve God was if I did everything, perfectly. Jesus would have gotten the internship with the non-profit that saves babies right? He would have immediately been promoted to Director? He would still sleep eight hours and get coffee with his friends and followed the Whole 30?

First of all, no.

True, Jesus did amazing things, but his life wasn’t so extraordinary that the kings felt inferior compared to his resumé. (He was also the perfect son of God and I am the daughter of a navy nuke guy.) Jesus served God by the way he lived. 

He took time for people, he prayed, he taught, he celebrated others, he made time for family and disciples. He did not compare himself, brag about miracles, turn loving others into a start-up with a cool logo, forget about his Father.

Jesus and his disciples model a life that reminds us that fisherman or tax collector, the most important thing about your life is how you are living it. That is something I missed in my busy-all-star-greatness. I am not saying that I was an all-together garbage person the past three years, but there was an undue anxiety to prove myself as a worthy servant of Christ.

Jarod Noel said at the Focus conference when we humble ourselves in our communities, we are able to focus on God’s will being done instead of whether or not God is using us. Humility doesn’t keep score. Along that same line, Tim Keller said in Every Good Endeavor, understanding work as being the hands and feet of Jesus “elevates the purpose of work from making a living to loving our neighbor and at the same time releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves.”

Do I need to say that again? Understanding work as being the hands and feet of Jesus releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves. 

When we frame work that way, it becomes clear that every detail of our ordinary lives adds up, and should ultimately paint a much bigger picture. Work proves that Jesus loves our neighbor, not that we can do great things. We then have the opportunity to make room in our lives for the pieces that the world may not value as much as our Creator does. Learning these lessons in my post-grad season may not have done much for my resumé, but has helped heal me and brought me a new peace I am excited to take into the next season.

I have hope that God does have a bigger plan for my life than the answers I can give you right now. I hope that He will make me a teacher and wife and aunt and mother and bridesmaid and secretary and so many other things. But through it all, it is so important that I remember the most important title I can ever adorn is “loved daughter of the Heavenly Father.” The works I carry out due to my faith in God are the most important and most valuable.

Enough is Unattainable

One of the words that I hate most is enough.

Enough feels like a chain around my ankle that keeps me from coming up for air.

I will never be beautiful enough. I will never be smart enough. I will never be funny enough. I will never work hard enough. I will never be loved enough. I will never have enough energy, money, or time.

Sometimes, the weight of the pressure to be enough for myself – not even for others – is crushing. It is always present when I walk into a room of new people or even when I sit down around a table with my friends. When you factor in the expectations that I perceive that others have for me it will always be a losing battle and I will never be enough. If I have to be enough, then I can look forward to a lifetime of getting home and feeling sick as I analyze every part of my day to see where I didn’t measure up.

Because recently I realized that for me, enough isn’t even perfection. Enough is being better than the absolute best. It means comparing my worst parts of myself to the best of others. It is collecting all of the good things I hear people say about others and working day and night to make sure that I go above and beyond to make sure I can be more than that.

When I am not enough I am a failure.

This practice of measuring up is not only unhealthy, it goes against everything I am actually trying to be according to the gospel. When you have to be enough there is no room for humility. There is no grace or gratitude for your gifts or others. Instead of seeing the kingdom all I can see is my own perceived brokenness.

I believe lies in the “enough competition” like “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” actually means “If you are doing enough others will do unto you”. I believe God stops fighting for us when we don’t sit down for a Instagram worthy daily devotional. I believe that I have to be an invaluable member of the team in order to take part at all.

But all of these beliefs are lies. They are standards that can’t be reached and they prevent us from hope, joy, and love. They breed competition and insecurity. They make it impossible to be the person I really want to be, a person with faith and hope for the future.

I wish I could tell you that it is easy to just stop the “enough competition” with a simple prayer or just being aware. But it’s a fight that takes everything you’ve got. Prayer and awareness certainly help. Vulnerability is a key player. Gratitude can go a long way. The most important thing is that we keep fighting together. I still don’t have an easy fix for you but I promise to be vulnerable along the journey.

I hope that is enough for you.

A Guide to Your First Adult Summer

It sort of sneaks up on you, but someday you will find yourself unlocking the door to your apartment.

That’s right, your apartment.

One day I walked into my apartment after work and went to my room. This very first time, I took a minute in the threshold of my room and thought to myself, is this really happening? Am I really paying my own rent and living in this place? I knew for weeks this moment was coming but it still managed to sneak up on me. There is just something so unexpected about the first day you really feel like an adult. It is a pretty simple day, nothing extraordinary, but at the end you’ve worked and provided for yourself. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still not completely independent (Love you Mom and Dad) – but I am taking care of business this summer.

And I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s hard work, but it’s so worth while. I believe in what I’m doing. I feel fulfilled. It’s a dream come true.

So I thought I’d share this experience, some things you need to know about what it’s been like spending this summer in conference rooms and making cold calls. The summer you learn to stop thinking: I’m just a kid. 

Adult Diet

If you think “man cannot survive on apples and coffee alone” YOU ARE WRONG*!! My number one concern the first half of this summer was that I would be hungry or tired at work but this diet has proven to be excellent. I keep apples scattered through out my office, car, purse – I am basically the Easter Bunny of apples. The only exception to this diet is that every Monday I get a $5 burrito because

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*Disclaimer: Don’t worry, I actually eat like a normal person but I do have apples and coffee for breakfast everyday and it is great. I probably wouldn’t survive if that was all I ate.

Adult Exercise

I have found the secret to finding that summer bod you’ve always dreamed of! Follow these simple steps and you too can be an adult office goddess like myself.

Step One: Spend as much time at your desk as you possibly can. Only move if you feel like your soul will leave your body should you spend one more moment at your desk.

Step Two: Take the stairs. ESPECIALLY if there is a threat of having to be in the elevator at the same time as another human being. It does not matter if it is your best friend or a complete stranger. There is something about workplace elevators. Small talk and silence are equally uncomfortable in that tiny box of social anxiety.

Step Three: Are you familiar with a dollie cart? Well let me tell you, that baby is going to be your new best friend. Try pulling that beauty all over campus with as much stuff as you can possibly squeeze on that bad boy in one trip. My top two dollie experiences were taking two corn hole boards across campus and when I used it to get 3,117 pieces of candy up to our office.

Step Four: Wear clothes that are appropriate for the workplace, but not appropriate for the 104 degree heat index. Don’t try to tell me not to wear corduroy pants in July because I won’t listen. The sweating will help you lose any water weight you might have. Also a piece of your sanity.

Step Five: At this point you should be pretty toned and fit, but just in case you aren’t, try keeping your supplies in a storage that is anywhere but your office. It could be another building, in a trailer, maybe another zip code. Bonus points if you have to climb stairs to get there. You’re going to be so fit.

Adult Free Time

When I come home from a long day of work, I really just want to clean. There is something so nice about being able to get in the kitchen and fix a problem so quickly without having to think about it. It’s like, oh, this dish is dirty. Well, now it’s not! Bam. Done. I never thought that I would long to clean a bathtub but here I am.

But cleaning is not all I do. I also watch movies because sometimes I will have two entire hours with nothing I have to work on. Or I will write. Or pray. Or paint. I am learning to play the Ukulele. I have nice candles that I burn while I plan for SLC. It’s incredibly relaxing to not have somewhere to be all the time. I spend all day doing something and then that is it. I get to go home.

But the sweetest of all of these is when I have company. I love hosting people in my home so much. I love making pancakes for breakfast. I love being able to catch up at night with friends over a cup of tea. People being here is still my favorite treat. It’s honestly a little nice being alone, but I still miss my friends and family terribly.

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Adult Job

I honestly never thought I would enjoy working. Think about it, it’s work. But this summer has proven me wrong. I managed to find two jobs – well honestly they found me – that I really love. I have learned so much about the community, my school, the future, what it all is really like. Some times things feel a little slow or ridiculous (like when you have to call the city of Chattanooga about bamboo) but I am loving every second of this field and the people I work with.

If you ever get the chance, work on campus during the summer. It is so cool to be a part of the community when it is just you and staff. We all joke around and get to know each other with out the pressure of thousands of students. Plus, the parking is A+.

And if you ever get the chance, apply to be a VISTA in the AmeriCorps Program. It has completely changed my life and my aspirations. I love being able to help people in a way where I essentially try to work myself out of a job. Connecting with volunteers and clients is the coolest network of people. You will look back and see the difference you can make in such a short amount of time. I can’t wait to take my boss’s job someday (you heard me Mike, you better get ready to take this thing nationally because I am going to direct the Ocoee Region).

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So get ready guys, it will be here before you know it. It will be glorious. You will love it. Congratulations son, you’re a man now.

 

Two Weeks

A reflection on growth from a Summer Honors alum.

If there is one thing that hasn’t changed since 2013, it’s my love for the song Two Weeks by Grizzly Bear. Ironically, since 2013 my life has changed two weeks at a time.

In 2014 I went to Summer Honors for two weeks for the first time. In 2015 I went again. Two weeks at a time I met my best friends, my future sponsors, my future campus leaders. To say that Summer Honors had an impact on my life is truly an understatement. I know this must be getting old, me talking about SH all the time, and if you are getting annoyed then I have good news for you:

I did not go to Summer Honors this year.

For two weeks it was simple. Work. Dinner. Bed. My schedule was incredibly ordinary. I didn’t go to a Braves game or hear Mike Hayes preach about resisting apathy. No devos or break through moments.

But at the end of the two weeks I went to the last chapel for Summer Honors after getting off work early Thursday night. When Jill stood at the podium at the front of the chapel she told the students,

“I hope you have had your life changed by one degree of trajectory.” 

One degree of trajectory? I looked back at the past two weeks and thought about what had happened without Summer Honors.

The work earlier mentioned, two incredible, fulfilling jobs. One with the office of Alumni Relations where we organized an entire picnic for hundreds of people. I had so much fun over the past two weeks buying hundreds of drinks and thousands of pieces of candy. Another with the ANDOR Project where I serve as a full time volunteer building sustainable programming for children facing poverty.

Dinner over the past two weeks was never boring or typical. I ate with my family in celebration of my brother’s birthday, my best friends, at a boy scout roundtable, and with my housemates.

Bedtime was interrupted twice by visits from Ashley, Nik, and Christian. Friends I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for Summer Honors.

The past two weeks have been incredibly fulfilling. I worked really hard, saw a lot of my favorite people, and learned a lot about what I want to do in the future. I think it is safe to say that this summer my life has had more than just one degree of change. I think this summer has taught me a lot about the possibilities that exists outside of the changes brought on by my initial two-week-one-eighty.

The key thing about every two weeks is that we let our goals get bigger. We open our eyes and our hearts to see what possibilities lie ahead. We examine ourselves and see where we need to grow. We build relationships that make the next two weeks even better.

It might just be two weeks at a time, but those individual degrees of change help us to set a trajectory for success. And not just self-seeking success, but relational, developmental, sustainable success.

I am proud of my little two weeks that went by so fast. I think for the rest of the summer I will just take things two weeks at a time. Keeping in mind the present and enjoying that. But never forgetting the trajectory that I am setting for myself.

I Don’t Have A Plan

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

That question used to be so easy to answer.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

That question used to be so easy to answer.

Before life became unpredictable, I always knew where I wanted to be in five years. High school. College. Working. Married. The specifics can change, but there is an outline your life seems to follow for the first 20 years.

I came to college thinking I had a plan. But as I look deep into the eyes of my senior year of college I suddenly realize

I have no idea where I am going. 

The thing is I care so deeply about the things I’m doing right now, and I don’t know what to do when I’m no longer doing them. What can I do with a heart for students when I’ll be 20 with a PR degree? Can God still use me to work with college aged students when I’m still college-aged myself? What about PR? How do I implement my degree in the next phase of my life? Will I find a job that aligns with my strengths and training? And what about my friends? What happens to these precious relationships when I won’t be there 24/7 to grab lunch or study?

The next five years are a complete mystery to me. And that is the scariest and most exciting place to be.

I finally don’t have a plan. That means that I get to totally rely on God to open the doors He wants me to open. My life is now a constant prayer where I am seeking Him and His will for my life.

This means it’s time to listen. It’s time for me to close my eyes and practice what I’ve been preaching.

It’s time to trust Him.

For the deadlines, the applications, the opportunities. Knowing that He is in it all and I am simply a vessel. And what a blessing that is! To know that God is in control instead of me, the person who once whole heartedly believed she was destined to be a Disney channel star!

He has done a great job of getting me here. This semester has been a testimony of how great things can be when I let God do the planning. Things always go better when I ask God  instead of tell God. Now all I can do is still my little planning heart and come to peace with the phrase,

I don’t know, but God has a plan. 

Don’t Quit Your Night Job

Don’t give up on your passion just because it isn’t your 9-5.

Here is some practical advice for you: there is a difference between a career and a hobby. It’s not just something your Dad says. It is all too true for those of us entering the workforce. For example, I love to sing. I usually forget the words to the song I am singing. I am amateur and best with harmonies. All around, singing is something that I can do but by no means should I head over to career and calling to change my major to music.

I am great at a lot of things. Many of those things would make great careers. Many of my interests could earn me money. Even my major is a great field to go into. However, no matter how talented I am, how hard I work, and how many times I apply, I can never expect my day job to line up with my perfect, ideal interests and skills.

More than likely, when I graduate from college, I am not going to be living up to my full potential as the Campaign Manager for Beyonce. That doesn’t mean that when I get hired as the brochure maker for a frozen yogurt company that it won’t be part of God’s plan for my life or an essential part of my career.

The jobs we take before our dream job help to make us the best at what we do. The experience you gain from an entry level position is valuable. Just like in relationships and other facets of your life, you have to build in order to be strong enough to handle the next step. God provides opportunities for us to be strengthened. Taking on this perspective allows us to have a positive attitude, even if we aren’t doing what we love.

So how do we get to do what we love? By turning it into our night job. After all, if you do what you love it isn’t really work. Pursue your dreams with patience and practice. Take opportunities to grow and practice your skills. Understand that it takes a lot of time and hard work to turn a profit or to be discovered. Don’t sell out on the thing you love. Keep it special and do it right so that you can have total ownership of your talents.

Starting out is harder than we ever realized. It is essential to have stability in order to keep the lights on and pay off our debt. However, don’t let stability hold you back from using your free time to get where you really want to be. By staying positive and creating opportunities to pursue what you love, you can follow your dreams independently.