This week I submitted my first application to seminary. I feel reeaally old. Like how am I already graduating college? It seems like I just started looking into Birmingham-Southern. But here I am, sitting in front of a computer screen, stressing over how I’m going to explain to Candler the call God has placed on my life. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how much I have grown over the years. Not only have I grown into a woman who is confident and sure of herself, but I have grown into a woman who is confident in God’s love for her. God has helped me to take ownership of and be confident in the story They have given me. It’s been a long and tough one and my story is still continuing. But I have this story for a reason, and it is to tell it. I pray that through my story, people who are in a pit of depression know that it is not okay to walk that journey alone. That it is okay to be angry and confused, but you can’t carry your burdens all by yourself. Jesus was a man of many sorrows and He is strong enough to help carry the load. I pray that people who are insecure and resentful of the way God created them, learn to accept their uniqueness as beautiful and special. It may feel like a burden sometimes, but maybe God created you for a time like this. God does not want you to hate who you are. God wants you to see yourself as God sees you, to value yourself as God values you, to love yourself as God loves you. I wish I could write so much more, but alas, there was a four page limit to Candler’s autobiographical statements. Candler read it first, but now you can right here on my blog! So… here’s my story.
“This is my story this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”
As I have grown into a woman of faith, I have experienced many roadblocks along the way. While these hardships often caused me to doubt what I believe, they ultimately made me a stronger person. They have tested the strength of my faith, my understanding of myself and of my relationship with God, and my view of the world as a complex place that God loves and cares for. Reflecting on these experiences, I find comfort that God brought goodness and growth out of such difficult times. These experiences have shaped me into the person I am today, including how I discern my call to ministry.
An important journey I have walked for years is coming to terms with my sexuality. During a two year long relationship in high school, I considered myself to be “waiting until marriage.” It seemed normal that I wasn’t having sex because that is what God wanted me to do, right? When I got to college, I soon realized that sex was an important part of everyone’s lives. My classmates talked about their hookups the night before, my sorority sisters told me about their relationships, everyone seemed confident in their sexuality. I wasn’t even wanting to have sex. I didn’t think it was evil and I wasn’t making a conscious choice to abstain, I just simply had no interest. It was abundantly clear to me that I was different than everyone around me.
At this time in my life, I was working for a youth ministry that had “The Christian View of Sex” classes for middle schoolers. They assumed every boy and girl was bursting at the seams with curiosity. Conversations I had with church leaders made it clear that marriage was the goal for a Christian woman and sex was a beautiful gift from God. Before I knew it, the way I understood how God created me was insecure and self detrimental. I questioned God daily about why God had made me so different and odd. I wondered why God would give me a desire to be with someone in a romantic way but not physically, because no one would want me. It seemed that God was taking away the desires of my heart and making me bear burdens I could not carry.
After I had an honest and beautiful conversation with my Mom when I came out to her as asexual, I started to realize that I was not a disappointment to my family and I was not invaluable to God. I may be different, but through my sexuality God has given me the ability to love and understand people in a more emotional way. I now am more accepting of people who are different than me. I have empathy for people of all sexualities, races, genders, and life experiences because I am learning that we are all beloved children of God. I am also now more confident in myself and I am content where God brings me in my relationships with others.
Another experience that has greatly impacted my faith journey is the loss of people close to me. When I was in ninth grade my world was rocked when Malorie, Karen, and Greg Ezell died. Malorie, a ball of laughter and yellow daisies. Karen, a lending hand and joyful light to everyone around her. Greg, a mix of Christian rock jams and cheesy jokes. They were my family’s closest friends, and I didn’t know how to wrap my head around them being gone. For a while, I cried before school in the mornings and came home to a grieving family, trying my best to be strong for them because it seemed as if they had more reason to be sad.
I had a strong faith for someone who was just entering high school. I was involved in my youth group, I led worship, I answered all the questions in Sunday school. But I had never experienced something like this that made me question my faith. So of course I asked all the typical questions that accompany death, loss, and grief. Why did God let this happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? If everything happens for a reason, then what the heck is the reason for this? When my mom’s friend suddenly passed away soon after, and another year later when one of my favorite people in the world committed suicide, I had to go through the grieving process all over again. Why God are you letting my family hurt so much? Why couldn’t you save them? I grappled with these questions over and over again. I yelled at God and I blamed myself; I searched for meaning in meaningless situations. God was patient with me and in time, taught me that I needed to stop driving myself crazy trying to put reason to every bad occurrence. Instead, I needed to focus on the blessings in my life, the kindness of the people surrounding me, and the goodness that God was bringing out of a terrible situation. I came to discover that while a lot of things in the world are evil, God always works to bring good out of them. Since learning these lessons, I have had the ability to counsel people who are experiencing similar things to me and who are struggling with their grief. I know that we are not strong enough to face grief on our own, which is why we must lean on our Savior and on people close to us.
When my mom’s friend Erin died, I had the privilege of singing at her funeral. I so badly wanted to bring comfort to her family through the words I sang, so I decided on the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. It includes a lyric that has since become the cry of my heart and my anthem in life’s struggles: “All around hope is springing up from this old ground. Out of chaos life is being found in You. You make beautiful things out of the dust.”
As I stated earlier, I was very involved in my youth group in middle and high school. It was my sanctuary. My place of rest. It was also a place where extreme growth took place and where I first felt the call to ministry. Naturally I decided to be a Religion major in college where I have taken classes in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Douism. Most importantly I have taken classes focused on human rights, social justice, the social gospel, and Christian ethics. When I learned about these topics in an academic sense and I reflected on my own hardships, I realized that I have a passion for bringing justice to hurting people. During my junior year I added Human Rights as a minor so that I could pair my faith with social action. I also did internships where I could get practical experience in ministries and I attended Passion Conference in Atlanta where I discovered my passion for helping human trafficking victims.
Candler excites me because of the practical but also vulnerable and challenging experiences I would be guaranteed to have. Being placed somewhere like a homeless shelter or an abused women’s shelter, I would be in close proximity with God’s children who are hurting and suffering. I would be living out my call in a way that is most accurate to Jesus’ ministry on earth. Being placed in a church, I would be able to explore my passion for speaking, teaching, and counseling people. I believe that God has given me a gift of discernment and encouragement, and I would have the opportunity to use these gifts to shepherd a congregation.
After graduating from seminary, I would like to continue on the path to ordination. Due to my own experiences, I know that teenage years can be some of the most difficult but crucial times in one’s walk of faith. I know I have the gifts and abilities to make a difference in young people’s lives, whether that is comforting students through a time of grief or helping students through their insecurities so that they view themselves as valued children of God. Even though I have a special care for youth, I do not want to put myself in a box because God has called and equipped me to minister to people in all walks of life. Being a young white woman, I may encounter instances when people do not respect me or view me as capable. But once people get to know me and understand the struggles I have experienced, they will realize that I am capable of counseling and ministering to people of all ages, genders, and life experiences.
Specifically, I have an interest in becoming the head pastor of a church. I love speaking about God and my experiences with God’s grace and provision because I can feel the Spirit speaking through me and impacting lives. Whatever ministry I lead, I desire to have a focus on community outreach and social justice so that we can use our own redemption stories to impact others. It is important that my ministry does not stay inside our church doors, but lives out the social gospel by helping the least of these.
My experiences with grief and struggling with personal identity, along with my academic experiences at BSC, have made me passionate about helping people see their true potential and worth in Jesus Christ. Whatever type of ministry God brings me to, I want to help bring spiritual nourishment, encouragement, and justice to people through my ministry.