August 29, 2016

just like that

Last time we chatted (and by chatted, I mean I typed and you read), I shared how God was moving in my life and I felt drawn to walk away from something known, comfortable, and good because sometimes I am a crazy human. When I made the decision to step away from my last job, I had no idea what would come next. My worst case scenario plan was to just pick up and move back to California. I'd live with my parents and look for work. The only thing about that situation that would be a worst case scenario is the bed in my parents guest room. It is the worst. Everything other than that would be totally fine because my parents rule, have cable, make delicious food, and live in a beautiful place. 

To understand how I ended up exactly where I am, we need to rewind to January of 2015. I had found myself at the part of my graduate program where I had to do a clinical internship. I applied to a couple of different agencies, interviewed, but one day drove past this little place that piqued my interest. It was an organization centered on recovery so I called the number on the sign outside and met with the clinical supervisor. I found out that not only did all of their programs center on recovery (which I care very much about), they had a program in which they contracted with the federal government to provide services to inmates in transition (another thing/population I care a ton about). Insert all the heart eye emojis here. You know that's my jam. I spent roughly nine months working with the most unique individuals and had some triumphant moments and truly devastating moments. Several months into my internship, I was offered a job upon my graduation. I wasn't interested. Thanks but no thanks.

When I started to feel the nudge to leave the university, that offer was in the back of my head but I didn't really want it. I remember telling a friend that it was flattering, but I wasn't interested. I started to look at jobs all over the world essentially. I looked at a school counselor position in Seoul, South Korea, a case manager position in Nashville, a slew of different jobs in Seattle and California, and a job at a school in Washington DC. After applying to the job in DC, I received a letter that they were going in a different direction for hiring and thought to myself, "Uh okay, nice try but you're a small little Quaker school so you'd BE so lucky to have me there." A couple months later, I found out that was the school that President Obama's daughter went to. I take it all back, I would have gone a different direction too. No hard feelings, little Quaker school. I even pursued a couple of positions in Boise, but had my heart set on Seattle or California. Slowly but surely, everything I had pursued failed to pan out the way I wanted it too. 

Meanwhile (I know, I know, I should have seen it coming too), the agency I had interned for started mentioning again that they'd love to have me if I was interested. I politely refused again. I'm not sure why I kept refusing. I'm not sure if it was pride or fear, but whatever it was, it kept me thinking that I needed to continue looking elsewhere. Things kind of clicked in mid July when I thought back to a conversation I had with a dear friend as we were walking at Lake Lowell months prior. I said to him, "I think I'm being called to work with the incarcerated population and that scares me a lot." He asked me why it scared me and I told him, "It's really hard work. I want to be called to something more gentle, something easier, a population more receptive..." As I thought back to that conversation, I realized that my next step had been right underneath my nose since January 2015. A few days later, I asked my supervisor there if they were still looking for someone to come on staff and he said yes. I asked if I could be considered and was given the job right away. I started two weeks later. 

I told my roommate the other night that I keep waiting to hate my job because I've had a few people tell me I wouldn't like it full time or that I'd get burnt out so quickly, but everyday, I leave loving it. Don't get me wrong, it is hard work. It is messy, emotional, and can sometimes seem hopeless, but for some reason (hey Jess- it's probably because God is good and ordained this and loves you so maybe just lean into that, ok?) I come back excited and grateful every single day. I don't know if this is something I'll do for the rest of my life or maybe it's just for a short season, but here I am. 

As I type these words, I'm overcome with gratitude. It is in not lost on me that I have been given such an incredible opportunity to pretty much run my own program and oversee my own clients. I have flexibility, a supervisor who believes in me and trusts me, and clients who trust and respect me. When I think about whether or not I earned this or deserve this, the answer is a resounding no. Of course I don't- there are probably people who are far more qualified than I am or smarter, but again, here I am. Obedience has had an incredible way of opening my eyes to blessings and creating a strong sense of gratitude in me. 

I'm confident that there are tough days to come, days where I probably wonder if I made a mistake by leaving my own job, days where I cry and don't want to come back the next, or even days where I contemplate cashing out my savings and driving straight to Mexico to start a new life (yes, I have entertained the thought before..). Even if, nay, even WHEN those days come, I hope that I'm able to remember all of this and see that I have been so incredibly blessed by God's providence. 

August 15, 2016

when i move you move

This is a hard post to begin because I have so many thoughts about so many things and want them to be well formulated and eloquent, but I'm not sure how well that will work at this point in time.

Let's go back four years to the spring of 2012. I was living in Korea. I found myself in a place where I knew that my teaching contract would be ending soon and I'd need to figure out what came next. The whole notion of "what comes next?" has always stressed me out. I wish I could convince you that I'm one of those free spirited, go with the flow gals, but anyone who knows me knows that I'm a not so secret control freak. I don't need to have absolute control over everything, but I like direction, planners, consistency, and comfort. I received an email from Karen Pearson who is the Director of Residential Life at my alma mater. She was looking for someone to fill a graduate assistant/internship position in Student Development. I had found my direction. I would spend the next year learning/living alongside some wonderful people while beginning to work on my graduate degree. During that year, two Resident Director positions opened up. There was a long period of unknown where I had applied and interviewed, but was waiting to hear back from the big dogs (bow wow). When I was hired and given the official stamp of approval, I was ecstatic. I had a plan. I knew what I'd be doing. I had direction.

I've spent the last three years of my life living alongside anywhere from 130 to 175 freshmen woman serving as the Resident Director for Ford Hall. This position has been the most incredible, difficult, beautiful, and growing experience of my life. In three years, I have had the pleasure of journeying with young women who are experiencing everything imaginable. I should have started writing down these moments long ago because some of them are so peculiar that I don't think anyone would believe me. There are sentences I've had to say with a straight face that I never imagined ever having to say. It has been a wild job- in all ways imaginable. I am so incredibly grateful for it. As these freshmen woman have grown up during the year they've spent inside of these brick walls, I have also grown up alongside them. My capacity for empathy has increased, I've learned to balance gentleness and boldness better, and I've become far more patient than I was several years ago. I've also learned so much from the people that I've worked with. The Student Development team is the best team I think I'll ever be a part of. It is a strange little family- one that I'll forever be grateful for.

In December of this past year, I was writing about how I felt like this chapter of my story might be coming to an end, but I wasn't sure why I felt that way. I wasn't dissatisfied with my position, I loved the people the that I worked with/for, and the year had been going so smoothly. This feeling didn't make any sense and I tried to ignore it. Why was this happening? I couldn't make sense of the nudging. I communicated about things with my bosses, but ultimately decided to stay. I tried to ignore these strange feelings and committed to another year. I picked a new team, seven fabulous young women who I was incredibly excited about working with, and started dreaming up what the next school year would hold. I had the opportunity to accompany a group of twelve students on a trip to Europe in the spring and while on that trip, realized that the nudging I felt wouldn't go away regardless of how many times I tried to ignore it. It seemed as though the plans I had laid out for myself, however pure my intentions were, were no match for responding to the nudging of the Lord. I'm not a person who can distinctly say I've heard the audible voice of God, but I've felt his nudges. They start out very gentle and the longer you ignore them, the more intense they get. Basically, that had been my last seven months. What started out as a faint whisper (side note: I hate whispering mostly because my mom tries to do it and it's so loud just like when my Grandma tried to whisper plus it's usually so breathy and warm and I'm just getting the gross chills thinking about it not that my mom is gross or anything sorry mom.) turned into a steam roller. Thanks Jesus, you know I'm not one to be in tune with subtlety.

Even when the steam roller came, I still tried to discern if it meant what I thought it meant. Oh, it did and it was terrifying. I'm a creature of habit. I crave being known and understood. I decided one morning that the day had come and I needed to resign from my position. There was no other position I was going to, I wasn't sure what I would do or where I'd go, I just knew that I couldn't ignore these feelings any longer. I called my mom and filled her in on what I was about to do. She was incredibly supportive and so I went to go tell my boss. I got to her office and several other coworkers were there so I totally chickened out. I am many things but brave is not one of them. I mustered up the courage and came back later that day. I knew that every moment I waited, it would become increasingly difficult to do what I knew needed to happen. My boss was both incredibly gracious and encouraging which helped make me more comfortable than I could have imagined. I was able to tell my VP that day as well. He thought I was crazy and I don't blame him because I felt crazy. There was no reason to leave other than "I think it's time and I have no idea why because I'm not unhappy but I know if I ignore this feeling then I will die a little inside." Side note: My inner monologue frequently communicates in run on sentences. That whole experience was a blur. It's almost like I wasn't in control of my body, like I was watching this calm, cool, and collected human make such a big decision. But, I did it. Well, the Lord did it. He drenched me in peace and gave me the calm I needed in order to leave something good and step out into the unknown, having to practice what I preached about trusting God (isn't that the worst when you have to do that???).

So that's the story of how I became a crazy person who trusted God. I'll have more to share about where He led me but that's enough for now.

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