The last several months have been difficult and yet I've been enormously blessed through the pain. I've seen two of my close friendships end in the span of six months. Both were very painful experiences and they left me hurt, battered, and broken. One in particular has been very challenging for me to endure. Accusations have flown about my character and I felt as though that person was permitted to emotionally abuse me while mutual friends just sat there and observed, doing little or nothing to stop the abuse. I know the goal of the mutual friends was not to contribute to that pain, yet they did unintentionally. I've also learned that there were times when they did defend me from the abuse, I just wasn't made aware of those situations until later. They stepped in between us at great risk to themselves and I'm grateful for their love and support. The entire situation has been painful and unfortunate, on all sides. The ending of that friendship deeply shook my world and has altered most of my other close friendships.
Through God, those altered friendships have grown deeper and richer; which was not my former friend's goal. And those friends have become a huge blessing in my life. I continue to be amazed at how God takes an incredibly painful situation and turns it into something of beauty. Through the loss of those two friends, I've drawn closer to Him and to others in my life. He has continued to take down walls that I built years ago. He has used those deeper friendships to help tear down some of those walls and I'm learning to lean on others in times of pain and joy. He has made something new and marvelous in this process.
In the midst of all of this, He started asking me how much I trust Him. Trust seems to be the area God works on in my life the most. It constantly comes up in various ways.
This time last year, while I wanted to eventually be married and have a family, I believed I was too damaged and broken for those blessings. A complete lie and one I believed for years about myself. Thankfully, God has changed that this year.
Also, around this time last year, I ultimately wanted to work as a university archivist. At many (or most) universities, that would require me to go through the process of gaining tenure. This often requires 60 hour work weeks for at least 5 years, often longer if you start out in a lower ranking job where you have to climb the ranks. At the time, this didn't really bother me; I was living with the lie that I would have little to no life outside of work, so I might as well put all of me into work. Again, that is no longer true.
While I would still love to be a university archivist, I'm no longer willing to spend the amount of time it would take to achieve tenure. Also, I believe God will bless me with a husband and family someday. He's reshaping the vision for my life to match His and while I'm excited for that, it also leaves me a little uncertain about how this all fits together.
As I was accepting those altered plans, God started asking me if I would really follow Him, to possibly live in a foreign country and serve Him. To be honest, I didn't really see that question coming. For weeks, I struggled to discern if it was really God's voice in my life. Once I determined it was, I had all kinds of questions and excuses to pose before Him. However, in the end, I agreed that I would follow wherever He leads me, even to a foreign country. I have no idea what that would look like. Would I be there as an archivist, as a missionary, or in some other capacity? Is He asking me to go soon or in several years? What does that mean for library school? The only answer I have is that I need to finish up library school. I have no answers to the rest of these (and other) questions.
I've never been on a mission trip in my life, let alone one to a foreign country. In fact, the only foreign country I've been to is Canada - once when I was 6 and again when I was 18, on a band trip. I'm not experienced at sharing my faith with others. I often feel completely incompetant in just about everything. I don't have many Bible verses memorized. The list goes on and on of how I know I'm not prepared or qualified for such a calling.
I've always wanted to travel around in Europe and at one point wanted to study abroad for a year. However, I've never had the serious desire to live in a foreign country long-term. This is a huge shift for me because that seems to be where He's gently leading my heart right now. And while I trust Him, there are moments of absolute confusion about all of this and days that I spend a large amount of time asking Him to tell me more about His vision. So far, He's been silent beyond just asking me if I'd go (and that I need to finish my degree).
One friend's cautionary advice is that God may not be calling me overseas at all. He could just be testing me to see how much I really do trust Him with His vision for my life. Or He may be working on another area of my life and I'm not seeing it yet. And while I've had the same thoughts over the last several months (on several occassions, I've actually hoped for this to be the case); the idea of living overseas continues to come up. And I have increasing peace with the idea even though I have absolutely no answers to serious (or frivolous) questions on the topic. Which, I will admit, drives me crazy!
I believe the opportunity for me to go to Cologne later this month is part of this process. Granted, I'm going as an archivist with a small group of other archivists, not on a mission trip. Yet, I have no doubt this was completely orchestrated by God and He is at work here.
I just finished reading Captivating. In it, John and Stasi Eldredge spend some time discussing how God invites us to join Him on His journeys and adventures. They use the Cinderella fairytale to illustrate the amazing things that can happen when we accept His invitation, one that may be completely unexpected. They do a much better job explaining this, but here it is in a nutshell: Her life was set on a specific course and she accepted it dutifully. Then one day, an invitation to a grand ball arrived and at great risk, she attended. Later, even when she was punished for her actions, she again accepted the invitation to try on the slipper. Her willingness to accept the invitation forever altered her life and the kingdom's, in a positive way.
Right now, I feel like that's what He is doing in my life, gently inviting me on a journey I've not seriously thought of taking before. I have friends and family members who have felt God calling them to serve Him in foreign countries, in various capacities. And while I have enthusiastically supported them, I have never really felt God calling me to that. I have no idea how it will play out, what His vision is for this. I do know that I trust Him with my present and future, wherever He leads me.
P.S. I felt led to blog this morning and share some of what's been on my heart of late, but this is not what I planned to write. I have kept these new revelations mostly to myself, only sharing them with my closest friends. I'm a little apprehensive to share them with those of you who don't talk with me daily. Apparently, God had a different plan for what He wanted me to share today.