Decisions, Decisions

A most beautiful and mighty storm rages outside my window. It started a few hours ago as the winds picked up and provided respite from the long hours of heat. As could be expected, the sun crept down shooting rays of color along the skyline. Darkness replaced the skies and with a flash, literally, the storm began. Lightning crackled like strobe lights and danced as if to Chopin scherzo no.1. As could be expected, no rain followed, even as the winds increased and thunder joined the show. But finally, it came down. A steady blowing of rain (but really) and our dry hard ground finally gets a taste. It's long long that I'm not sure the ground can even absorb it like it needs to. 

Yesterday I sat my last final and in less than three days, four years of undergraduate study come to an official close. It hasn't fully sunk in yet. For the last couple of months though, I have been trying to draft something to post. In the works is a Guide to Grad Schools: Applying, Applying, Applying or something of that nature. But that can wait. 

In the fall I begin graduate school, Lord willing. It's exciting to finally know where I'll be and what I'll be studying for when people ask. Having a plan, while still amendable, has been a great feeling, allowing me to move forward. Since August I have been working through the grad school process, amongst other decisions and life lessons. It is surreal that at least part of this chapter has come to a close.

Everything- figuring out what you might want to do so that you can at least roll with something, researching programs and faculty, taking the GRE, selecting and beginning applications, finding all the necessary information in order to complete applications 
(requesting transcripts from every institution that you have taken classes at, discerning and requesting and providing everything necessary for letters of recommendations from individuals you selected to tailor your application towards the things a program is looking for, waiting on those references *often working through technical glitches on online applications...)
and double checking that an application is complete-as some require more than one application (one to the graduate school and one to the specific program), writing essays, tailoring resumes, mailing on documents on time, looking into scholarships and fellowships, touching bases with programs so they know your name, filling out the FAFSA...all in addition to the regular course load, two jobs, and a social life. 

It all builds up to a day where you decide that you have to decide. Really, that's what I meant. Deciding to decide carries the weight of all that has been endured and makes it feel so insignificant. And in a morning, 1/7 of all your work over two semesters is the only bit that counts. A career field, a new location, and new adventures await. 

Most people probably don't think this is a huge deal. And to be honest, I've learned it really isn't. Regardless of what you or I decide, we are given the choice to choose anything and how we will respond to whatever comes our way. It's just hard to see that in the moment when the monstrosity of all the work and all the changes that will come about seems to overshadow everything. 

Throughout this process, and with many other things I decided upon this semester, I learned though, that wisdom and counsel are necessary for making decisions. We must surround ourselves with people who know us and people who don't, and be willing to listen to what they might have to say. Listening does not equate accepting, and that must be remembered as well. But if we can understand the expectations, motives, and perspectives behind each person's thoughts, we can weigh their considerations appropriately. Seeking counsel from only family or only friends is dangerous. A monogamous voice or theme can present itself and obscure other wonderful possibilities. A blend of input is healthy and should also include people who are not particularly close to you, but who have valid considerations (professionals, the sweet man in Baltimore at the church I contacted, my boss). We have to learn to balance the voices of the people who love us the most and of those who may not, but are in a position to speak wisdom. I realized during this time that God can use unlikely people to get our attention. 

Pulling God into the equation is essential, but goes with clarification. I believe we ultimately get to choose what we do, where we go, who we serve, how we spend our time, and whether or not we will obey the one thing that we shouldn't get to choose- who we will love. We are called to love regardless and that can be done anywhere, amongst anyone, doing almost anything. Our lives are scripted but we get to hold the pencil for a lot of the details. God will provide direction, but rarely do I think He gives a burning bush answer for things that have multiple options that will please Him. 

He who has been entrusted with much, much will be expected from him. The expectations of us are high. After the wind and lightening of it all has built up, we must decide what the storm will do. I believe in waiting and patience but I have found that I also believe in initiative and pursuit. Making decisions requires the wisdom to know when to do each and not becoming apathetic and doing nothing in the name of waiting or becoming so rigid in the security of a plan. Neither seem to be righteous pursuits. Pursuit must occur, direction is needed, and steps have to be taken. Pursue, take a risk and chase after something, resting in the assurance that doors will open and close in their season. Some things we may never know unless we try.

And ultimately, that decision is ours and ours alone. 

The security of pleasing society, educators, parents, and friends is not what we are after. We should not denounce them, but we should take their thoughts into consideration and then take time to independently work through it all. Sometimes what we need or would like to do is not what society would deem fitting. My friend's decision to marry while still in college has met a lot of criticism, another small town girl friend's decision to move across the world to work with the least of these upset her parents, my growing interest in social work and administration didn't seem to please my psychology professors as I am asked what I plan to do. The reality is, sometimes we have to deny the voices of those influences and follow where we think we are being led. If their love and interests are truly for us, given time, wherever we go and whatever we do will be respected. If not, we must decide anyways. 

I'm not sure what all I am trying to say but these are just a few thoughts that my friend (nearest, dearest, and longest friend while down here these last four years)  and I discussed over lunch a few weeks ago after she called her mom seeking advice, or really just unrealizingly, wanting someone else to decide for her. Her mom's response was something my mom told me once, something to the effect "do you not trust yourself? I believe in you, and you should too. I will always be here to listen, but part of growing up is making a choice for yourself and if necessary, braving and going for the ones that may not be what I would choose).

Decisions are nerve wrecking, but the silence after the storm is wonderful. A professor my freshman year provided guidelines for making deacons. I cannot remember them all but two are: I will trust God not only with my decisions but in in them and I will not regret any decision.

My research mentor had this to say when I asked for input: The right decision is already inside you. God's Spirit speaks to our Spirit directing us for His purposes. God has a plan for us that may not follow the logic of men...Follow what drives you inside and never look back.


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