I have a love-hate relationship with lists. While they can be quite handy when it comes to remembering what I still need to do or buy, they can also loom over me with a mocking sense that I will never accomplish everything on the list.
My first year out of high school I was studying down in Texas. As the year was coming to a close, I was faced with the decision of what the next year could hold. So I made a list, and on that list, I wrote out every possibility even if it seemed far stretching of what I might do the next year. I then calmly prayed through all my options and selected the next step. Or the truth might be that I went back and forth in a such a panic that I’m surprised I didn’t end up with an ulcer. I was so desperate not to miss out on what God might have for me. They were all good choices, and at the last minute I made my choice and packed my bags.
I tucked the list away in my journal. I had made my choice and set my path.
This last month I backpacked through Europe. Sitting outside of a small chapel on the top of a mountain in northern Italy, I could not help but feel overwhelmed by where God has taken me. In that moment I was reminded of the list I had written so many years ago. It dawned on me while sitting on the top of that mountain that I could now cross everything off of that list.
This list wasn’t my bucket list it was simply a list of all my options that I had for the next year. At the time I thought I could only choose one and let all the others go. Yet God answered all of those desires (even the really far stretching ones!). Where I thought I could only have 1 item off of the list, God gave me everything.
It didn’t happen in my time frame, and I had even forgotten about some of the desires I had written down. But He remembered.
It’s time to dream again.
When I became a Christian, there were 2 things that I knew. One that I was called into full-time ministry and two that I was going to be in ministry alongside my husband. Not much detail to those. Seemed pretty vague and simple. The first one I told everyone about openly and the second one I held tightly to my heart. I thought everything would fall into place so naturally and wonderfully that I would not have to worry about a single thing.
So when I suddenly found myself heartbroken and holding a diploma that said that I was a credentialed to be a pastor by the age of 22, I was uncertain of what I was supposed to do. Most of my friends were still enjoying the legality of their drinking and the final years of their undergrad. And here I stood, alone, as a Pastor.
I found myself at a place I had never imagined I would be. The path before me did not light up as I had hoped it would. Mr. Right was nowhere in sight. Instead, I found myself in the murky waters of being a single woman in ministry. So this man had not appeared I still had my promise. If you’ve been a single woman in ministry, you’ve probably realized how quickly you hit that glass ceiling. I was offered jobs to be a children’s pastor….in Iowa. A youth assistant in North Minnesota. Or best yet a worship leader in some Podunk town. “You can play the piano right?” And suddenly I started to question this calling I had felt in my life.
It has been years since I heard that promise from God. Years of trying to make the pieces fit together on my own doing and timing. I have sought to force open doors of ministry, and I have also tried to force relationships that were not right because I wanted to make sense of everything.
There has been a quieting in my spirit that has come through surrender. Daily surrendering my idea of how those promises should look and not settling because something looks close enough. This path doesn’t look like I thought it would. I never thought I would find myself standing at this place, never thought I would have any reason to write anything like this. But here I am, having walked through a shattered dream still holding the pieces and trusting the author and creator. Trusting that I did hear from Him. That maybe those two things will someday be intertwined, but for now, it is me on this journey.
He never said it would be easy. This journey I am on has had so many twists and turns, but He is preparing me for the ministry that He has called me to. I wasn’t there when I was 22. I wanted to be, but I chose to say “Lord, I surrender all.”
SO I walk through the doors that God opens before me. I let go of trying to have my calling fit into the box of what others think it should be and trust His plan and timing.