Thursday, April 7, 2011

School of Knowledge

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
- Alfred D. Souza

After my recent search for new blog topics, a friend suggested that I write on areas I have grown in the past year.  I have done so many different things in the past year, it's almost hard to compile a list of areas I have grown, yet I keep coming back to the word knowledge.  I feel like in the past year, I have been exposed to more ideas, people, places, and experiences than the entire sum of years spent in school!  This obviously isn't completely true... but the past 12 months certainly served as some sort of school of knowledge, if you will.  I've decided to list some of things I have learned over the past year... hopefully you can relate, or perhaps learn a thing or two yourself.... either about my life, or life itself.

- I can make my own choices.  I know this sounds silly, but as Mr. Souza pointed out above, the obstacles that had always been in my way can be, to a certain extent, pushed aside if I allow myself to make sacrifices, and more importantly, to make decisions that lead to action.  If I stop making excuses, it is amazing how a world of possibilities opens up!

- Despite not having a full-time career started, my own place to live, a large income, or even a huge group of friends to hang out with regularly (all reasons to be frustrated with life)... I am blessed in ways that many, many people may be envious of.  While I don't have a full-time career, I get to do what I love, very frequently, because I have a lot of "free" time.... this includes traveling, photography, visiting friends, spending time with my family, and so much more!  Also, despite not getting paid for my work at the church, I have been gifted with the responsibility of being a worship leader at my church, and as a result I get to lead rehearsals, pick out music, plan services, and practice music... all with a very meaningful purpose!  While living at home has it's own frustrations, my parents have seen it as a small portion of their contribution to ministry... their way of being my "host" family, while I serve in the church and struggle to find a way to make a full-time income... and so they let me live here, rent-free!  And, as far away as my friends may be, that means that almost always, when I travel to other states or even countries, I have a wide-spread network of friends... really good, quality, outstanding, and generous friends... who let me stay with them!  All in all, this can be summed up as this:  I have realized in the past year just how supported and loved I am by my family, friends, alma mater, and church!

- My parents are a wealth of knowledge... and a resource that I have most happily and graciously utilized in the past year as I make serious decisions in terms of career, finances, and even travel!  I definitely have not tapped into that resource enough, mostly because it involves humility and admitting I need help from someone with more experience and more wisdom!  My appreciation of my parents has grown immensely!

- I am a prideful person.  This has not been something fun to learn.  In my brain, I usually fall into one of two mindsets:  either "I can do this on my own, and I don't really need someone else's help (nor do I want it)"  OR  "I don't know if I can do this on my own, or I definitely can't do this on my own, so I'm not going to do it at all".  Yikes, that's a scary thing to realize.  It is especially scary when you realize that a lot of it comes from the fear that because I am a woman, I will not get respected as much as a guy would be, or trusted as much.  I think that fear was started when I decided I wanted to be a musician... and immediately assuming that men would never respect me for my work or abilities as a musician.  As a result, I started putting up a strong exterior, which led to pride.  So then, of course, I am reminded of these verse in the Bible that say,

"A kindhearted woman gains respect..." (Proverbs 11:16),

"Wives, submit..." (Ephesians 5:22... and in many other passages),

"Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words. They will be won over.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight . That is the way the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority..." (1 Peter 3:1-5)

"Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."  (Titus 2:4-5)

So, you women out there may not be like me, but when I hear words like "submit", "quiet spirit", "busy at home", and "subject to"... I cringe.  I never thought of myself as a feminist, but turns out I may be more of that mindset than I ever could imagine.  So, as a result, I am trying to work on this definite issue.  I have talked to friends, family, and even authority figures about this and mentioned my struggle with pride.  It has been encouraging to find out that I'm not the only female who struggles with this.... even some women who I was nervous to talk to about this have shared with me their similar struggles, and how God has had to do continuous work in their lives to keep them humble and selfless.  Encouraged in the testimonies of these other women, I, too, am trying to learn from my own mistaken need to be seen as strong, stable, and worthy of respect.... and instead, act in a manner that is holy and Scripture-based.

- It is OK, even liberating, to not have a "career" that consumes my life.  While some of my friends are concerned at moving up in their company, or pursuing one specific dream that must come true for them to be happy... I have felt the boundaries of those paths lifted, and instead I have found just how much I enjoy being able to involve myself in so many different things!  It can definitely be scary, not knowing how the future is going to pan out.... but right now, I have been able to employ myself in many different areas, and it has been so freeing!  At my paid job, I get to do marketing & advertising, graphic design, photography, event planning, administrative work, legal work in downtown Fort Wayne, and even the occasional delivery or roadtrip.  In my volunteer position at the church as the worship leader, I get to organize & build a worship ministry... one that had fallen somewhat stagnent in previous years!  It is amazing to be involved in that kind of ministry and see such awesome results, and that it involves all sorts of things I love doing!  As a small group leader with the youth, I get to form relationships with high school girls, encourage them, and be challenged myself to live to a higher calling.... and boy, have I been challenged!  Working with youth definitely opens up your eyes to some truths that you tend to forget when life starts picking up pace later in life!  As a "photographer", I get to have fun, and show others just how fun it can be to do photography!  While I'm not a professional by any means, it is something I enjoy a lot, and love sharing with other people!  As a traveler, I have had many, many opportunites to serve others in unexpected ways.  Whether it's helping set up for a wedding, helping someone I don't even know move to a new apartment, or even just be a listening ear to someone who has been longing to be heard.... the opportunities are everywhere!  I'm sad to say that for every opportunity seized to serve someone, there are probably 20 missed opportunities.... but once you are looking for and become aware of these opportunities, they become harder to miss!  One last thing that my life right has afforded me without a serious career started, is that it has allowed me to consider a lot of opportunities as possible realities....  whether it's becoming an assistant volleyball coach, starting an Open Mic Night ministry, recording my first official EP, doing a music ministry trip to Sweden, or a number of other things.... it's been so awesome to be able to look at my current life situation and see possibilities, rather than disappointments! 

- Travel can be addicting.  VERY addicting.  While I'm at a point in life where I can afford to live with a higher level of adventure and risk, God has definitely shown me that I need to be careful that my life doesn't become focused so much on travel.  For a while, it felt like every time I returned home from a trip, the next trip was already being planned.  And while not much has changed as far as that goes, I had found that last year my entire being was focused on TRAVEL.  When I was at home, I wasn't really home... I was dreaming that I was somewhere else.  So, rather than being able to focus on how God wanted to use me at home, in my home church, with opportunities that presented itself at home.... I was continually wrapped up in my own plans for travel.  Even just in the past few months, my mindset has drastically changed, and it is so refreshing to not be so continually focused on travel.  While I am still planning trips and all of that good stuff, I have found that when I am at home, I am MUCH more focused with how God wants to use me HERE.  I've let God in, to show me areas He wants to use me.... most specifically in the church.... but even in my community!  It actually has been exciting to feel a new desire being formed to be used in ministry.... I've realized that so many of my abilities that I use at my paid job, I could also be using in the church, and so many of the skills I use in church, can be used in my community... and so on!  It's been exciting to feel God moving in that way... to feel like I am needed, wanted, and that I have the purpose of a higher calling on my heart

Well, those are just a few of the MANY, MANY things I have learned.... but for now, those are the ones I chose to write about! Just consider it Chapter 1, in my School of Knowledge!

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