I love to write. As a child, I wrote random stories about fictitious characters who seemed to have the "happy ever after" thing down pat. I kept journals off and on through middle and high school. Then, in college, I began to dialog with God endlessly. He took me on an unexpected path. I never left home and hated leaving my family. I traveled to places far from home where I ultimately met God in a new and intimate way. I wanted UNC. I ended up choosing Baylor...a school I knew little about in Texas. I wanted to live in Texas for the rest of my life and figured I would marry some guy down there and live next door to my college roommates. I am back in Raleigh and head over heels in love with a born-and-bred North Carolinian. So far, my plans haven't exactly turned out the way I originally, well, planned. Probably because, as that man I love often says, my arms are too short to box with God.
Perhaps I should provide some background. I can sum it up fairly easily...I pulled my first "all-nighter" to study for an exam in 6th grade. From an early age, I was a perfectionist. I performed, literally, everyday. People have always dubbed me the vulnerable and extroverted one, when in reality I have journaled night after night about how lonely I feel. I guess no one ever picked those things up. Odd, really, because I left them in fairly accessible locations. Desk drawers...nightstands...I even remember walking in from class one day to find that I'd left it on the coffee table from a journaling session earlier that morning. Anyway, tangent over. Back to the point.
In college, I wrote everything resting on my heart. I wrote the things I loved. I wrote the things I despised. I wrote the things I had planned for my life. And somewhere in the middle, I threw in some requests to my Heavenly Father to make the good things better, the bad things vanish, and the planned things happen....and happen fast. Well, He nudged His way through those pages an obliterated the portrait I painted for my life. When I didn't learn my lesson and started painting again? Well He spray painted right over those, as well...just like He's doing now.
Ultimately, I ended up so confused as to why God wasn't blessing my plans. I mean I obviously loved Him, right? I was heavily involved in my church growing up and in college. I attended multiple Bible studies a week. I led Bible studies for girls in and out of college. I read scripture. I prayed. I had that whole "Christian thing" to a science...almost disgustingly so. I talked it well. I seemingly walked it well. Yet all along, deep down, I knew I had it backwards. I basically stared Him in the face (ok, clearly not literally) and said "I don't really think You're going to pull through in the end, so I'll just go ahead and make this choice. Open and close doors as You see fit." Decisions first. Pray later. And in the middle? Please, perform, and perfect. Nothing destroyed me more than disappointing someone. Nothing became more routine than displaying the perfect life to the outside world, regardless of what my heart might say. And nothing pleased me more than fixing something...either a situation or a person. I wanted to be the dependable one. If I was dependable, I was needed. And if I was needed, I would never be abandoned.
I should back up again. I definitely was not abandoned as a child. I won't go into my entire family history, but I grew up in a loving, Christian home. I have two wonderful parents and a phenomenal sister. All three are God-fearing believers and constant encouragers. However, as a product of a driven and goal-oriented family, I fell into a pattern of conditional love. When I succeeded, I was praised heavily...not just praised really, but celebrated. Voice recitals, awards at school, confirmation...each supposed milestone in life deserved a dinner at the Club or family gathering at someone's home. In my home, birthdays were and are bigger than Christmas. There is nothing like celebrating life and/or achievements.
It is often difficult to discern someone's tone in writing. I think I need to step in and clarify that I so enjoyed my childhood. My sister and I were not only supported and celebrated, but also deeply loved and encouraged by everyone in our lives, including extended family. I only paint the picture in the aforementioned paragraph, because I believe it provides some background as to how I began to fear failure and independent choices. My family has been a part of everything. I have consulted them on every decision....and I mean every decision. My obsession with pleasing them/fearing them went so far that in high school, I tasted a mixed drink at a college party. When the clock struck 1:00 a.m., I phoned my parents in Lexington and confessed my action. Keep in mind..I had a few sips...not even an entire drink. And I was nowhere near tipsy. Yet I feared their response and felt so much shame for my actions that I had to immediately vindicate myself and beg for forgiveness. This pattern became the norm, and ultimately I went to my family and friends for everything. People became my go-to, my source of information, my calm from the storm, and my voice of reason. That voice of reason eventually became hundreds of voices. I plugged so many people into my life that the voice of God was nowhere to be heard.
So that's how I got here. Again, disclaimer: I have an amazing life. I live in a beautiful city. I had a steady job (I'll get to that in a second). I am surrounded by wonderful friends. I'm a member of quite possibly the greatest church in America (yes, I'm partial). I am in love with one of God's great men of this earth. My family is healthy and happy, and, assumedly, I should be too. Somehow, along the road to pleasing the rest of America, I began to lose pieces of myself. The perfect picture I've described is incredibly close to perfect...it's just missing something...me. I have tried for months to wake up and "count it all joy." My best friend called a few weeks ago and reminded me of everything for which I can be thankful. She was spot on in her conversation, and yet I still could not pinpoint the dissatisfaction. I kept trying to fit more square pegs in a whole bunch of round wholes. I've applied to graduate school for business, something I thought I wanted since college. I have pursued a fairly laid out career track in marketing...something everyone told me I could do, since I apparently sold jelly beans to strangers at age 5. And yet, I know in my heart....this ain't my song. Why might that be? My guess? I took the sheet of music from the Songwriter, and tried to pick out some random notes on my own.
I guess that is the best place to wrap up for tonight. I am taking a break from pulling notes out of thin air. The song just wasn't sounding too pretty...it had a few good lines every now and then, but the remnant of a melody was lost in a myriad of flats and sharps that distracted the listener from enjoying the song and stole the songwriter's joy of living out the process. So here I am...finally turning over this sheet of music to the One Who created my heart to rejoice and my voice to sing. It is time I put action to thought and truly take a leap of faith.
"(He) set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God." Psalm 40: 2-3
The context of that scripture is amazing. I think parts of it are descriptive of our past, and the rest is a promise for our future. This journey is one I actually started some time ago. However, just as He is urging me to put action to words, I am encouraged to write the words of my actions.
Step 1 on this narrow and uncertain road: letting go. I had a path. I had a plan. I had a job. Now? I let go. I love love love the people with whom I work. However, it was time that I let go of my own plan and hand my heart over to the One Who made it. He had it anyway...I was just trying desperately to keep all things normal. In my effort to maintain control of my life, I lost it all completely. Finally, my heart is softened to hear His voice. I pray He instills His words into the depths of my heart, and that my life may sing a new song...a song of praise to Him...a Heartsong.