Friday, August 30, 2013

God's Best

Sometimes I don't think we even realize how truly amazing God is, and how much He loves us, and what beautiful things He has planned for our lives. If we were able to fully realize it, I believe we would be living with tremendous joy on a day-to-day basis, knowing that whatever comes around the bend next is truly God's best for us. There is nothing that comes to us that hasn't been filtered through His loving hands first. And we should be getting very excited, because He has plans for us to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future.

Y'all. I want God's best for my life. I refuse to settle for anything less than that. Wanting what's simply good is settling. Even wanting my best is settling. Why would I want anything less than God's best for my life, to live in the center of his plan and pursue exactly what He wants for my life? This is what I want for my life. I want to be a woman who goes where God leads and obeys and is willing to get out of the boat and walk on the water in faith.

As some of you know, as a student in my last year of law school, I am beginning to search for a permanent post-graduation job in earnest--my first real "big-girl job," if you will, at least in the sense that it's for the long haul, and not just a summer or part-time position. And this process is admittedly scary and stressful. It's easy to get overwhelmed by it and to not even know where to begin, and to be tempted to switch into panic mode when yet another friend secures a job and you feel like everyone has a job lined up but you (which is exactly how I feel right now even though I know that's not true and the people who already have jobs are actually in the minority, but just happen to comprise about 90% of my friend group).

I have prayed long and hard about my future career and where I need to be job-wise, and I need to just keep praying until genuine trust fills in all those spaces in my heart where anxiety tends to reside. Trust that I serve an incredible Redeemer who knows--and will DO--what is best for my life. Trust that my Savior has my name engraved on the palms of his hands and has had a plan for my life long before I was even born. I need to dedicate this time of job-searching and considering what my life will look like next year entirely to the Lord. You know how life somehow never works out quite the way we plan it in our heads? (And looking back on my life, even three years ago I could never have guessed that I would be where I am now and doing what I'm doing now). As soon as I think I know what I'm doing, God finds ways to surprise and delight me with things I couldn't have even thought of myself. That's why even though I know what I want to do and where I want to do it--I want to do family law litigation in a small firm (15-20 attorneys, or fewer) in a particular city--I want to be open to all the possibilities, all the permutations that the Lord may have in mind for what I do after I get my diploma and (hopefully) pass the bar exam. I want to be willing to go anywhere and do anything according to God's best plan for me. And somehow I sense that no matter what I have all planned out, God has something a whole lot better in mind.

I really can't possibly know what amazing things God has in store for my life, plans to give me great hope and a joyful future, and I really can't wait to see what He has planned. It amazes me all the time that He loves us so much that He's willing--and eager--to guide each step of our lives into the wonderful things He has prepared for us.

My friend texted me today: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. How amazing is that?!" Yes, it is pretty amazing! We should be living our lives with an ongoing sense of holy anticipation, knowing that the Lord is in the business of continually surprising us with His grace.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Christ Is Enough

This morning I was thinking that I just need to hire a personal assistant . . . someone who can do my laundry, wash my dishes, run all my errands, order textbooks, check over my degree audit to make sure I'm going to graduate on time, send all my emails, return my library books, gather references for my bar application, and find 150 attorneys willing to serve as judges for the Moot Court competition. With all those practical tasks done, I might actually have time to prepare for classes, edit manuscripts, job search, and have a social life--tasks I can't exactly delegate. That would definitely make my life easier, I feel like.

All that said, it is truly a relief, and a joy, to be back in a place where I am surrounded by friends, where I know the ropes and know what is expected of me and am capable of meeting my expectations, and where younger students look to me for help and advice. It makes me really happy to feel needed, and so I love it when 1Ls and 2Ls stop me in the halls to ask me questions or get advice on things. One of my biggest goals for my last year of law school is to be a good mentor to them.

And finally, on this beautiful Sunday morning, I want to share with you all the song I've been listening to on repeat every single day for about a month now: Christ Is Enough by Hillsong Live. I love, love, love the message of this song. In all the uncertainties and hectic hustle of my life and everybody's lives, Christ is truly enough, and we can always rejoice in His utter sufficiency. He is the hope that is the anchor of our souls. And, as the song talks about, we can and should decide right now to follow Jesus without turning back--the cross before us, the world behind us, following Him completely and obediently.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rainy Saturday

It is a very rainy and gloomy Saturday here. I normally am not a big fan of rain, but on days when I don't really need to go anywhere or be anywhere, I pretty much love the rain. This is perfect weather for what I need to do anyway: deep clean my apartment. There's something very homey and comfortable about washing dishes, vacuuming floors, and organizing my closet while the rain pounds on the windows. And then I plan to top off my cleaning with some sitting on my couch watching the Andy Griffith show, because I've had a major craving lately. Maybe I'm just weird, but that is my plan for the day! And I hope to get to the brand-new coffee shop that just opened downtown sometime today too.

Other life updates:
  •  A bunch of my classmates are taking the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination--basically the lawyer ethics test that's required for the bar) today, and it reminds me that this bar exam stuff is the real deal and coming up fast. I'm not taking the MPRE until the November administration, but it's beginning to hit home that this is all coming together. I need to email some old professors and employers soon to start pulling together a list of willing character references for the bar exam, too.
  • Draft of the legal ethics Moot Court problem is totally finished and in my editors' hands! I've already heard some good feedback on it so I'm really excited.
  • Law review orientation is done and went so incredibly well this week. We have an amazing group of 2Ls joining law review and I've gotten to meet and spend quality time with, well, all of them after spending both of the last 2 days together. What excites me most about being a law review editor is that I have the ability to set the tone, in many ways, for how the staff relates to each other. My biggest goal is to break down the barriers that always seem to exist between the 2L and 3L classes--I mean, I remember when I was a 2L on law review, the 2Ls and 3Ls never really mingled with each other or talked to each other. I am determined to change that this year. I made a point to talk to every single new 2L staff member and get to know them at orientation, and I want them to know that I--and hopefully every other 3L board member--is available to them for any questions and concerns they might have. This is my opportunity to be a mentor and set an example, and I want to embrace it, because that's basically why I wanted to join the editorial board in the first place.
  • I enjoyed some wonderful Indian food and catch-up time this week with another friend that I hadn't seen all summer. As usual, it wasn't long before we were talking in depth about everything from school, to jobs, to dating, to qualities we look for in men, to race relations, to subtle sexism in the workplace. I LOVE our crazy conversations.
Well, that's all for now, I hope you all are having a great weekend!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Law School Bucket List

So I just got back a little while ago from this joyful, laughter-filled catch-up coffee date with one of my best friends, who I only saw once all summer as we worked in different cities. I feel like every time we get together, the conversation is full of ridiculous and hilarious stories dating from our childhoods to the present, lots of confessions that start with "so I've never really told anyone this before, but . . . " and hopeful discussions of all our aspirations for the future. We moved from Starbucks over to Panera for dinner because we literally talked for about 6 hours. She was going to use some of the time to study for the MPRE exam next week, but, oh well, that will have to happen another time! I am feeling so blessed right now to have such a great friend in my life.

We started talking about everything we want to accomplish in our last year of law school, because our time here runs short as we see graduation on the not-so-distant horizon. We came up with SUCH a great 3L bucket list/ goals list. Some of them are her ideas, some are mine, and some of them (#1 and #3, anyone?) are never going to actually happen. But they might. So here's our list:

1) Go skydiving. I mean, there's a place we can do it that's only an hour and a half away.

2) Volunteer at a local soup kitchen.

3) Join the local all-women's roller derby team.

4) Volunteer at one of the local Habitat for Humanity events.

5) Take every advanced skills course we can possibly take (I'm thinking advanced litigation drafting, advanced civil procedure, tort law seminar, pretrial practice, and divorce mediation. Now that I'm pretty sure I want to do trial law and domestic relations/ personal injury work, I have a much better idea of the classes I need to be taking).

6) Go to trivia night at the Mellow Mushroom. This is what all the cool people are doing.

7) Invest significant time and energy into building strong friendships with the 1L and 2L students, and into mentoring them, giving them advice, and ministering to them. Be one of those people that the younger students look up to, trust, and confide in.

8) Go regularly to high-intensity training and Zumba classes on main campus.

9) Get up early and go running downtown on a regular basis.

10) Volunteer at the local adoption agency/ crisis pregnancy center.

11) Keep getting as much job experience as possible. We decided that developing practical lawyering skills was a lot more important than grades, although ideally, we'd do well with both.

12) Go to local bar events and network without being awkward. (This is going to be hard, because we are two of the most awkward people EVER.)

13) Get in shape and become those people who can do, like, 60 pushups in one minute.

14) Run a half-marathon.

15) Embrace leadership positions in various student organizations that we're involved in.

16) Go to her family's lake house for a weekend.

17) Actually look cute and make an effort when we're on campus. There have been times when I go days on end without wearing makeup/ doing anything with my hair, especially during finals, but this year, I just kind of want to look pulled together!

18) For me: ask the cute guy I met last week out on a date already.

So that's some of our ideas for the year ahead . . . I'll keep you all posted if we make any progress on this list!

Stop Avoiding Hard Things.

We all have a tendency to avoid "hard" things, and those things can be hard for any number of reasons: because they're boring, because they're physically challenging, because they're intellectually challenging, because we don't really know how to do them, because they are uncomfortable, because they scare us, and the list goes on. Exercising is hard, resolving conflict is hard, telling people "no" is hard, finishing papers and projects is hard, developing a regular discipline of prayer is hard.

But isn't it true that everything we do day to day was, at one point in our lives, "hard"? When you were first learning to walk, that was hard. When you first began to read and write, that was hard. If you've ever played a sport, the first time you tried it was probably very hard. And as we grow older, the hard things never really stop coming our way--moving by yourself to a college 250 miles from home where you don't know a soul is hard. Starting a new job and learning what's expected of you there is hard. Living in a new city and establishing a new circle of friends is hard. Determining to keep living the way you know God wants you to live in a culture where that lifestyle goes against the grain is very hard.

But if virtually everything we now do every day was once hard, how and when did it become easy? Driving used to be very hard for me, and it's not anymore. Reading case law used to be very hard, and I could now pretty much do it in my sleep. When did the shift happen? Hard things only become easy when we do them, over and over and over, when we push through the discomfort and fear and challenge and do it anyway, and build up our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual muscle in the process. If we never do hard things, those hard things will never become easy. If we want our lives to eventually become easier, we have to do the hard things first, over and over again, until eventually, they aren't so hard anymore. Of course, some things will always be hard to a point--but the more we do even those things, the easier they become over time.

We live in a culture saturated by ease and instant gratification, and maybe our relentless pursuit of ease is exactly, paradoxically, why our lives can seem so hard. If we never do anything hard, we never develop any strength against adversity. Push through it anyway. Do it anyway.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Beach Retreat

So on Tuesday morning, I hopped in my car, turned the music way up, and drove all the way to the coast, stopping along the way for coconut shrimp from Red Lobster. I needed some time alone. I needed some beach time. And most of all, I needed some time alone with God, to process the summer, and to process my life, and to plan for this busy, exciting, demanding year ahead. The year in which I, you know, graduate from law school.

About a week and a half ago I had called to reserve a room for one night at a hotel right on the beach, so that's where I stayed. It was the best. This trip was exactly what I needed. It was the first time I've ever gone on vacation by myself, but this time, I knew that it was the right thing to do and what I would find most relaxing. There are plenty of times when it's so much more fun to go with my law school girls or other friends, but this time, I needed it to just be me, my beach towel, my Bible, and my journal. And it was wonderful.

I spent the better part of my waking hours for two days on the beach. I walked on the shoreline for hours, sat in the sun and pondered my life, swam in the ocean and jumped the waves like a little kid, and even got up in time to see the sunrise yesterday morning. It was beyond beautiful:


Watching that sunrise was pure therapy for me after a tough last few months, and I felt like God had made it just for me. When it was over, I sat in that swing pictured above and read the Bible and felt like, for the first time in an admittedly long time, I was consciously trying to listen to the voice of God--trying to drown out all the other unbelievably loud and chaotic voices in my life and just be quiet and listen. We all have those other voices in our lives--voices of people constantly telling us more that we need to do and be and accomplish, voices from the media and popular culture telling us how our bodies and our minds and our lives do, or do not, measure up, voices from our past that hold us back, and you name it. The thing is, it is harder to seek out the voice of God above those other voices because we have to so consciously and so intentionally seek it out, and we have to quiet our minds and our hearts enough to be able to hear it. But I felt like God was speaking to my heart this: "Don't choose to listen to other voices more than you listen to my voice just because it is easier and takes less effort to do so. Seek out my voice even amidst the noise of your life. And if other voices in your life are telling you anything that contradicts what I tell you, you need to listen to me."
And really, this is part of being still and knowing that He is God, that He will be exalted among the nations, that He will be exalted on the earth. Just because the voices around you are telling you every day that you don't measure up, or that you are not beautiful or smart or successful enough, or perhaps even that you are a failure or incompetent or a loser or worthless, doesn't mean you have to listen to them and internalize their messages. Just because it's easier to hear those voices doesn't make those messages true. Not when God is whispering into our hearts His truth--that He delights in us; that He has called us BY NAME and we are His; that He quiets us with His love and rejoices over us with singing; that we are part of a holy nation and a royal priesthood; that He had a plan and purpose for our lives before the world ever began. That is what's true and real and worth listening to.
I am claiming God's purposes for my life as I enter 3L--my last year of law school. This is a big year of wrapping up all my formal higher education, determining where I want to live and work, preparing to take the bar exam, and just in general, making decisions that will probably affect my life for a long time after I walk across the stage and receive my diploma in May. But the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me, and He is my Redeemer, who teaches me what is best for me and directs me in the way I should go. I will rely on Him. I will trust Him no matter what the world around me says, because He is truly, abundantly, and undeservedly faithful.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pictures from the Summer

For anyone wanting to know a little bit more of what I've been up to this summer, here are some pictures:

Nothing quite like downtown Asheville at twilight! Glad I could make a quick stop here on the way to a family reunion a couple weeks ago.

Wine, cheese, and dessert night with my sister . . . so fun

Family reunion in Illinois....gotta love those cornfields

Baseball, fireworks, and friends for the Fourth of July!

Skyline view from one of the highest points in the city

One of the most photogenic buildings.

Great and relaxing hiking trails . . . who knew these were only 10 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of downtown?

Hope you all have had wonderful summers!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

God Is Already There

The following is a passage I wrote in my journal almost exactly 5 years ago, on July 30, 2008:

"I think one of the reasons I'm drawn to Jesus is because He offers peace. True and lasting peace of mind and heart, in a world that knows all too much fear and chaos and disorder. He offers real and perfect peace. Once you experience it, you will know it is supernatural. Nothing in this world could manufacture the kind of peace I experience every day by knowing Christ. It is a peace about my past, present, and future, a peace about my relationships, and a peace about myself. It is this peace that authoritatively demands that fear flee from my heart and mind. It is a comfort, a wholeness, a security, a wellness that runs deeper than flesh and bone. It is the knowledge that God has a purpose and good plans for my life, and that I have riches beyond compare waiting for me in heaven someday and need not fear death. I do not fear life or death. Because Jesus is always there. I don't go through anything that He isn't experiencing right beside me, holding my hand. I do not know what will happen in my future--not 5 years from now, not tomorrow. But God does, and more importantly, He is already there. Time means nothing to God--He is already present in my future, in a thousand tomorrows. Scripture says that He goes before me and fights for me. I can be strong because I am deeply loved by God."

Pretty wise words from 19-year-old me, if I do say so myself. I hadn't re-read or thought about that journal entry in ages, and then I picked it up a couple days ago. It almost gave me chills to read my proclamation then that God would be present IN my future, 5 years from that time, even though I didn't know what my life would look like then--and then to re-read this and realize that, exactly 5 years after I wrote these words, on my last day at a very tough job, God was, in fact, totally THERE. In 2008, God was present in the future I hadn't even experienced yet, in my thousand tomorrows. And I can say now exactly what I said then--I have been able to be strong this summer and in these experiences because I am deeply loved by God. His strength has upheld me and supported me every step of this journey.

And I'm a big believer that God doesn't waste anything--no experience in our lives gets wasted, and there is no trial and no frustration or stress that He doesn't use to work good in our lives. Not a single tear we shed or a single moment of brokenness that we face goes to waste. The pain and difficulties we encounter in our lives are ultimately worth it because we serve a God who brings beauty out of the brokenness and flowers out of the ashes.

That's all a really long and descriptive way to say that I've ultimately been incredibly blessed this summer, in the long run, and I've already seen how the Lord has used my job-related struggles and frustrations this summer for good. For one, I've gained a ton of much-needed confidence. I've learned how to do a lot of things that I would have previously thought were impossible, and faced a lot of fears, and that has been so completely empowering. I've learned what kind of treatment I will, and will not, put up with in the workplace, and that in and of itself is a valuable lesson that I'll take with me into the future. I've loved the actual work I've done, and it's confirmed all the more that law is 100% what I want to do with my life and how I want to make an impact on the world (well, law and writing--but I hope I can always do both). And I've developed very strong friendships with most of the attorneys and the office staff at work--real friendships, friendships that are a lot deeper than most of the friendships my classmates have made with the attorneys at their offices this summer. We're talking about the kind of friendships where we text and Gchat almost every day, where we get together for dinners/ girls' nights/ shopping/ you name it, etc. I love all of them--they've helped me make it this summer, and I know every one of them has my back as I look for a permanent job for after graduation. I'm blessed to have gotten to know each of them, and I feel like they're in my life for a reason.

So I've been blessed. Yes, there are some parts of my life that need to get pieced back together after this summer. Yes, my self-esteem is shot at the moment, for obvious reasons, and I have some residual anger (and tears) over the way I was treated this summer that need to get released. I'm in rest and recovery mode right now, trying to really treat myself right and relax for these next two weeks before school starts. I've spent the summer taking care of everything and everyone else, and so now I'm taking the time to take care of me. It hasn't been easy for one second, but I know that God has been with me every step of the way.