I have seen so many “I am thankful for _______” posts in the past month that it got me thinking: What would I put on such a list? Of course the normal things came up: my family, friends, health, home, safety, freedom, love, Jesus, faith, the World Race, America, clean shaven men, hand-holding, soft rainstorms, mountaintops, laughter, joy, hugs, kisses, smiles, frozen Greek yogurt, technology, fuzzy blankets, cold weather, bonfires, music, snuggles, accents, books, education, ASU, random acts of kindness, God-following men, letters via snail mail, and the list goes on and on.
Then, I got to really thinking and decided I was missing two important things: heartbreak and failure. Yes, at first I argued with myself. “Heartbreak? Failure? Those aren’t so pleasant. Why should I be thankful for them? I usually try to avoid them. It makes no sense at all to be thankful for having had a broken heart or having failed.” Oh, but it does!
You see, we are all naturally inclined to be thankful for the pleasant things, the things we want more of and hope to never be deprived of. I am among the world’s worst at simply trying to avoid unpleasant or uncomfortable things/situations/people. Someone breaks my heart? That’s fine, I’ll just move on and try to pretend it never happened. You know, avoid those memories like the plague. That’s totally acceptable, right? Unfortunately, no.
I believe a part of growing up is accepting that life is not always a series of pleasant, enjoyable moments that come together perfectly as long as you “do things right.” Things are going to happen. Despite perfectly executing that “next step” agenda that we are taught to strive for (college, career, marriage, kids, etc.), there will be unpleasant moments. There will be broken hearts. There will be failed attempts, plans, ideas, and relationships. That’s part of the process, and really, it’s one of the best parts if you think about it.
I happen to love the metaphor that places God as an artist and we, as people, are His masterpieces. Instead of thinking of us as paintings or sculptures, I like to think of each of us as mosaics. Each tiny piece has been broken off from somewhere, rearranged, fitted into the whole, and is an integral part of the big picture. Each time your heart has been broken, whether by a friend, a partner, a family member, boss, or even a stranger, those pieces are scooped up, rearranged, put back onto the canvas, and fitted into making the big picture beautiful. Same thing goes with every failure. Every failed test, failed relationship, failed plan, failed job, failed idea – it’s all used into making your big picture beautiful.
A song out right now by Casting Crowns that I have grown quite fond of states:
One day I’ll stand before You
And look back on the life I’ve lived
I can’t wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit.
On that day, I do believe I will be seeing the most beautiful picture of my life – my life’s very own mosaic masterpiece crafted by God Himself. Each heart break, each failure – it’s all working together along with all of the joy, the love, the excitement, the adventure, the pleasantness of this life.
So, nestled on my list of things to be thankful for you can find “heartbreak” and “failure” somewhere amongst the others, probably hanging out somewhere between “traveling” and “men wearing ties.”
It is an honor to be accepted into a good law school.
It is an even bigger honor to be given a scholarship to law school.
I have been honored, but more so blessed.
I finished 1L Orientation week last Friday, which means a week spent at the law school 9am-4(ish) being “broken in.” Mock classes, real classes (just Legal Research and Writing), lots of networking, case briefing, listening to speaker after speaker, being given a ton of new things (mailbox, locker, passcodes for material, class lists, etc.), and anything else you can imagine to go along with an orientation for law school. It was a good week, sort-of like “law camp.”
I learned that law school isn’t as scary as people try to make it sound, or at least it doesn’t seem like it. I found that going through orientation I am even more confident that I could succeed in law school. (Please don’t mistake this confidence for arrogance.) I learned that as pretentious as a lot of law students are, there are still the good ones in every class. I think I found those “good ones”, too. I now can say without a shadow of a doubt that I know I am capable to get through law school, and probably even enjoy almost all of it.
To all of the beautiful friends I made in that one week: I barely know you but I know you have a BIG future to walk into. Each one of you is going to go on to do great things, either as a lawyer or as something else. You hold a place in my heart and I will be praying for you all as you go through this law school journey. You have a good community in the U of A Law School Class of 2016 – take care of one another (especially of my dear friend and roommate, “T”). Friendships are never by chance, so know that God above put each of you in one another’s path for a reason.
I asked my Heavenly Father to let my law applications find favor. He did. I asked Him to provide – He did. But then I asked for something else: I asked for Him to give me complete and total surrender to Him and His plans for me. I asked Him for direction. I asked Him to use me right now where He knew I could shine brightest for Him.
It’s true what they say: “Don’t ask for something if you don’t want it.”
I wanted God to give me what I asked for: a surrendered life, obedience, direction, guidance, which all comes down to: a calling, His calling for me. Right now. In this moment at this exact second in life. Every single day. Every minute. Every moment. That’s what I wanted and that’s what I continue to ask for.
The thing is, after I started asking God for that which is listed above and truly meaning it, something changed. My carefully laid out plans didn’t seem quite as significant as they once had. In fact, I couldn’t help but think there was something BIGGER planned for me, if only I let Him do the planning.
That’s when I realized: law school isn’t the biggest plan for my life right now. Read those last two words again. Right now. I have no doubt that God gave me a passion and capabilities for the law. I have no doubt that God set everything up for me from my inquisitive nature and natural inclination to persuade to placing me in undergraduate classes that taught me basic skills needed for law school success like how to read court cases and brief them (thank-you, Dr. Hacker). I sincerely do not doubt that at some point in my life I will go to law school and become a lawyer.
However, the question is when. I have been struggling for weeks with the decision to go ahead and attend law school or not. It’s hard when you have an amazing opportunity and confidence in yourself to fulfill the responsibilities therein, but yet you don’t feel at peace with going through with it. It’s hard to willingly exile myself from this community of beautiful, big-hearted, wonderful people I just barely became a part of. It’s hard to leave something I enjoy and am capable of doing. But guess what?
Faith is hard.
If I truly have the trust and faith in my God that I claim to have, I will trust in His plans for me and confidently hand over my own. Yes, I have a lease that I signed for a year in Fayetteville that I either have to pay or get someone to take over (if you or someone you know is interested in an awesome apartment, let me know — please!). Yes, I have no job lined up, especially here. Yes, my savings are getting smaller and smaller since I haven’t been employed since May. Yes, it’s scary to give up your careful and well-made plans for uncertainty. But that’s what faith is. I can’t see the future, but I have faith in God to provide for me to follow the path He has laid out for me. I don’t know what is going to come my way, but I trust that God does and I have faith He will carry me through it.
Now, let’s talk about what faith does. Faith moves mountains. Faith heals the sick. Faith overcomes death. Faith makes change. That’s who I want to be: a world changer, with the most literal definition possible.
I wear a ring every day that says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Pretty simple, right? The change I wish to see is people treating one another with love and respect and genuine care for their neighbor. I wish for people to look for justice in the right places and lavish mercy on one another. I wish for people to know that there are second chances. I wish for people to know that it doesn’t matter what you “can” do – it matters what you are called to do. I wish for people to know that there is a mighty God who loves them more than anyone or anything ever can. I wish for each person to know that they are important. I wish for people to know how precious each one of them is, a preciousness that is not contingent upon their past, what they have or have not done. If I embody those wishes every day and spread that to the lives I meet, I think the world would change – at least for some people.
I’ve been thinking long and hard for months now about this thing called the World Race. Some of you, if you know me well, know about The World Race. I mentioned it several times between last winter (or late fall) and now. For those of you not acquainted with The World Race, it is a mission trip in which you go to 11 countries in 11 months spreading the love of Jesus. This can be seen in a lot of different ways – prison ministry, helping build or rebuild homes/churches/schools, playing with kids who often feel unimportant and unloved, caring for and helping widows, teaching English, etc. It’s an all-together amazing ministry. If you have time and would like to, check out the website: www.worldrace.org
I know that following God’s plans for our lives and living like He wants us to is not always found in mission trips. I know that ministry is found everywhere: in an orphanage in Romania, at a church in Turkey, in the slums in Thailand, or even somewhere like the classroom of a law school. There are no parameters to where you can minister to people in action. I mean, we see from the Bible that Paul even made prison a place of ministry. I want you to be clear that I’m not saying that I could not spread the love of God in law school or that doing so there is less of a ministry than on the World Race or any other mission trip. It’s not.
But, and that word is such a “changer” in and of itself, I believe God calls us to our ministry wherever it is and it’s high time I start listening to that calling. To illustrate, there is a fantastic woman that I worked for all through college named Linda. She not only became like a second mom to me, but she was (and still is) a spiritual rock for me. I have no doubt she is for others as well. Linda isn’t a preacher. She isn’t in some forgotten, impoverished community sitting down with people who never heard of a man named Jesus and telling them the Gospel for the first time. Linda works on a college campus at a science research facility. She lives the Gospel everyday by loving those she works with, works for, and those who work for her (like me). She prays diligently for those that intersect her life. Her calling is there. She knows that. She lives that. And trust me when I say, it’s a beautiful thing to see and be a part of. (Thank-you, Linda!)
I want to be like that. I want to live according to my calling. I want to be able to act with love and patience daily to those I encounter. I want to feel the divine calling of God with each person He places in my life and each step I take, whoever and wherever that is. For me, I think my calling is the World Race. Right now – not five years from now.
Now, the World Race is a process: you have to apply and be accepted into a Route. Then, you have to be properly vaccinated, get a passport if one is not already had, acquire the necessary gear, and the big thing – come up with the funds. The World Race is not free. The monetary cost is $15,500, without figuring in travel insurance or any “spending money” during those 11 months for things like shampoo, soap, socks when what you bring wear out, and other things. That’s a lot of money for a just-graduated-college twenty-two year old like me. The government will give you loans to go to law school, but not to fund an 11 month mission trip.
So here we are: I have withdrawn from law school to pursue my calling to go on the World Race. I have no job (I’ve applied places, I promise), I live 4+ hours away from my family and all the people who love me, and I am stuck with this lease until July 31, 2014. I want to leave on a World Race route in this upcoming year – 2014. I’m going to try to be that change I wish for in 12 countries – starting with this beautiful place I call home, the United States of America. But until I embark on the World Race, you will find me not in law school.
Ending note: I sincerely apologize to all of you who may feel disappointed in my choice. To every classmate, friend, family member, and past professor – I can only hope that you can support my calling as you have my plans that I had made for myself. I can only pray that each of you who may feel some sense of betrayal (trust me, I almost feel like I’m betraying myself) can realize that God has bigger plans for me than either you or I could dream up – and I want those bigger plans. Also, don’t give up on me being a member of the law community. Just because I am not starting my law career (which begins as a 1L, per the words of orientation speakers) this year does NOT mean I won’t in a future year. I hope as much as many of you do that my future will include law school. If any of you want to hear a more detailed account of things, just let me know and we can discuss it all. For all of you who have been generously supportive of law school, thank-you. It means a lot to have so many people believe in you. Truly, it does.
My nephew is only 4 years old, but he’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Honestly, kids teach you as much as you teach them. But kids don’t teach you how to find the square root of a number or how to calculate the CPI. No, kids teach you lessons about life.
My nephew Mason is 4 years old, but has more wisdom than he knows. In fact, I’m not sure at his age he can even grasp the concept of wisdom. Sometimes at 22, I’m not sure I even get it. Honestly.
A few days ago Mason and I were playing in the backyard. I was pushing him on his little swing tied out from a big tree branch. Each time he would say “higher!” I would push his swing just a little bit harder and listen to his gleeful little squeals of excitement. (Seriously, that little man will capture your heart.) After a little while I was ready to join the rest of the family who were around the old wooden picnic table in a different part of the yard. (In the countryside of Arkansas, a “yard” can be a very expansive plot of land, just so you know.)
Instead of just telling Mason I was going to join the rest of the family, I asked him if he wanted to come with me to see what everyone else was doing. His response was a very quick “no” with demands for more swinging. So then I said, “How about I teach YOU how to swing on your own? That way, you can still go higher and higher, but you won’t need me to stand behind you and push.” He looked at me with unconvinced eyes, but he didn’t say “no.” I quickly went to telling him how you simply kick your feet while holding on to the rope. I even moved his legs in the way he would need to move them to be able to swing himself.
After the short tutorial, little Mason slid down off the swing onto his feet and started slowly walking towards everyone else. His facial expression was….disappointed and defeated. I walked beside him and asked why he didn’t want to swing. That’s when he started saying, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it!” He had zero faith in himself. I encouraged him with, “Well, why don’t you just try? Come on, bud. I’ll stay over there until you get the hang of it.” He shook his little defeated head and said, “No, it awright (all right). I can’t do it.”
How in the world does he know he can’t do something that he has never tried? I know he can learn to swing by himself. He’s a smart, strong little man – and it’s just swinging. But he didn’t have any confidence or faith in his own abilities. Of course I told him, “Of course you can do it, Mas! You just have to try. I know you can do it. Come on, just try. I’ll show you again.” Of course, that just frustrated him because he just KNEW that he couldn’t do it and was bothered with me asking so much of him. His response was another “I can’t do it.”
Finally I looked at him and said, “Okay, well WHY can’t you do it?” I mean, what was his basis for claiming that he couldn’t do this task that I know he can? This is what got me. His response was the most genuine and honest and simultaneously heartbreaking and eye-opening sentence. He said, “Because I’m not perfect!”
Oh Mason, if only you knew what a perfect little teacher you are! This showed me EXACTLY what I hide behind – my imperfection. So many times I don’t try something because I have already made up my mind that I failed at it. Time and time again God asks me to “try this, daughter” and I walk away defeated and disappointed in myself because I have no confidence or faith that I can do it. Well, I am half right here – I can’t do most things. But yet, I can. If it were just me – Mary Elizabeth Bailey – I couldn’t do the bulk of what God asks me. But it’s not just me. I have the Holy Spirit within me. I have the Son of the Living God as my Savior. I have the God of ALL creation watching over me every single moment. It’s not just me. It’s never just me.
My God has equipped me with abilities that He KNOWS I can use. My goal is to not walk away saying “I can’t do this because I’m not perfect.” My goal is to hold on and do what God asks knowing that I CAN because my SAVIOR is PERFECT. God doesn’t ask anything of me that He doesn’t first prepare me for, one way or another. Trusting in that is one of the hardest things for me to do, but when it comes down to it – it’s just a matter of faith. *Oh Father, let my faith be much!*
I can’t wait to explain this one day to Mason. I can’t wait for my nephew to embrace the love of the Heavenly Father. I can’t wait for him to live out Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”) I cannot wait for Mason to be old enough to understand that there is a mighty God who is going to do great things through him. I can’t wait to one day share with Mason the lessons he so freely teaches me.
God used my 4 year old nephew to speak to me. Who (or what) is He using to speak to YOU right now? Listen to Him. Embrace His direction and guidance. Seek Him. You will find Him, I promise. And TRUST in your Creator. He knows what you can do because He knows what He can do.
“For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11
An ending note: To my nephew and the rest of the little ones out there, the Bible says in Luke 12:32 “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” Don’t be afraid to do anything that God asks of you. Don’t be afraid of your imperfection. Your Heavenly Father has it covered (with the blood of a perfect Savior), and He just wants to give you the kingdom. 🙂