I bet a lot of you clicked on this solely on the fact that “F***” is in the title.
Well, folks, it’s not what you think.
Go free yourself.
Almost always we are our own limitations. We place ourselves within made-up parameters so that we never go very far. So many times we, as humans, are so afraid of failure or rejection that we put on our own shackles, just to hold ourselves back to a level far below our potential.
Don’t be like that. Unlock those shackles you clasped around your own feet. Break down those invisible walls. Reject those parameters.
You were made for beautiful, wonderful things. Big or small, you are filled with purpose. You are full of life. You have been given talents and passions, dreams and capabilities to make a difference, to be a help.
What are you waiting for?
“You are not limited by us, but you are limited by your own affections.”
(2 Corinthians 6:12)
“For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.” (Galatians 5:13)
“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
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.
Have you ever felt like you were part of this big huge love story and you wake up one day, realizing it’s not a fairy tale but the reality of your life?
My love story isn’t about me and a boy who I think is just the IT to my everything. Truth be told, I don’t know if I’ll ever think of someone as the IT to my everything. That number one spot is already taken.
So what is my crazy, beautiful love story? Who does it involve?
I wake up every morning and no matter what evils try to invade my thoughts or whatever tries to sneak into the crevices of my heart, I get swept up all over again in a beautiful love story where my Creator (the Almighty God) wooes me with every starry night, every sunrise, every overcast cloud, every breath I am given. God, my precious Father in Heaven, shows me redemption, forgiveness, mercy, love, joy, peace, and hope every single day.
Is that not the best love story you’ve ever heard of?
I recently was talking with a friend who lives hundreds of miles away from me now. He asked what stories I had for him since I always have stories that can entrance him. That really made me think — do I really always have stories? Fact is: I do.
My life is just one big string of stories that I cannot wait to tell and share with others. Why? It’s not just that I talk too much (which I know, I probably do) or I think I’m that entirely interesting (trust me, I’m not). I tell stories from my life because my life IS my love story.
I romanticize my life because it’s my love story. When you have a crazy, incredible love story you want to tell everyone. When you are in love, you can’t contain it. You cannot simply keep your love story to yourself, because love is like a fire — you want to consume everyone else in it.
I find myself telling people about my life and the amazing hand of God in everything — the good and the bad. There is no love story that has never had “rough patches” or trouble, and there are no great love stories without grace. I get through the “rough patches” through the grace of God, the Creator of all. If that isn’t the greatest love story you have ever heard, I’d like to know what you think is.
I invite you all to share in my love story. The secret is out: YOUR greatest love story rests in your relationship with God, just like mine. Pursue it. Grow it. Wake up daily entranced and consumed with God and the life you two are doing together. It will completely change your perspective. Live out the greatest love story….it’s waiting for you.
“‘Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ says your compassionate Lord.” -Isaiah 54:10