Now that I’ve shared with you the highlights of my year, I want to get real with you: this year was hard. Let’s be honest, every year seems to have its significant struggles now that we’re getting older. Relationship dynamics become more complicated. People we love break our hearts or move away and sometimes they die. Hard things are always bound to happen… I just didn’t expect my first year of marriage to coincide with an extremely frustrating year of coming to a standstill in my career. I was so happy in one aspect of life, while deeply broken in another. For most of the year, I wasn’t able to move much past the place where I found myself stuck in April.
The biggest reminder I think I walked away with in 2011 is that I am made for more than my job. Even though our society’s values tell me otherwise, my job does not actually define my worth. We walked through a series on Purpose at Hoboken Grace this fall, and yes, you guessed it, we read through Purpose Driven Life together as a church. When I first heard that we were doing this series, I thought: Meh, whatever. I did this book in 2004, but maybe it will be a good refresher course. As I began reading and having this discussion about purpose in my dinner group, it struck me that while I may have already known the content, it was still completely relevant to my life in 2011. My struggles are different, but still very much the same.
The first time I read the book as a freshman in college, I saw endless possibilities lying just ahead. I had the world at my feet. I was figuring out what I wanted to pursue as a career, and hopeful about finding someone who might be worth spending my future with. These two things – my future profession (but even more so) the thought of my future husband – claimed almost all my waking energy. I would spend hours daydreaming and journaling and praying about my future. I wanted to know so badly how my story turned out.
As I read PDL this fall, the reality of how much energy I had poured into dating and trying to decipher who was “the one” for at least 10 years dawned on me. I got engaged right before I turned 24, and married this past year. Now that God, in his infinite mercy and love allowed the question of who my spouse is to be answered, I realize what I have been struggling with since the end of all things wedding has been this deep nagging question: what now?
Where do I pour my thoughts and hopes and dreams? The natural progression was to pour myself wholeheartedly into my goal of landing an editorial job. After all, that is what I moved to the NYC area to do. I got the love story and amazing guy I had been waiting for, and it seemed high time I got the job. But life doesn’t always work that way. God doesn’t often lay our next great life milestones out on a silver platter. And with each passing month working a retail job and spending less and less time pursuing my passions, I became more and more bitter. I can’t tell you how many times I broke down in tears, wondering if God was ignoring me or just being spiteful. I wondered why he brought me to NYC just to leave me hanging. I do not truly believe that is his character, but that is often how I felt.
One of the simplest but most profound discussions I had this year was with a dear friend and mentor from my home church in PA over Thanksgiving. She asked me if I was still working at the cupcake shop, and answered, shamefully, that yes, I was. Her response was, “That’s ok! You’ve been building a marriage!” It was so freeing to hear her speak those words. I knew she was right. Maybe God’s priority for me this year was to focus on learning to love Nick and build a home. I still don’t know yet why God had me spend 14 months serving cupcakes, but maybe I don’t have to know. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
In a somewhat crazy turn of events and connection through a friend, I interviewed for a part time office management job in December, was offered the job soon after, and I started this week! It is only part time, so I won’t be making all that much more than I was at the bake shop, and it still is not editorial, but the fantastic blessing out of this is that it provides me with the time to do what I love. I write because it is what I am compelled to do, and as I write, the truth of what I’m sharing sinks deeper in to my own soul. The work of writing might be unpaid right now, but it is still important.
As I consider God’s purposes for me and what role I will play in telling a broken world about the one who binds up my wounds, I know He has got much bigger things in store. I have a growing desire to make a tangible difference in the world, to become less self-absorbed in my own pain and unfilled dreams and help others begin to heal reach for their own goals. I don’t know how that is going to play out, but He knows what He is doing, even when I don’t. This is an exercise in faith. This year I am going to cling so tightly to this truth David shared in Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” I am only 26. There are still many stories to tell and chapters left to be written. He is not finished and I know He will be faithful to complete the good work He started in me (Phil 3:6).