Monday, July 16, 2012

"So...what's next?"

Things couldn’t be more different than they were just 5 short months ago.

Miss Texas week has come and gone, the job search has rebooted, I turned 22, my Keurig is humming, new desserts have been baking, and voila! I’m officially ready to say that the blog is BACK. I hope you have a cup of coffee curled between your hands, because I plan on picking up right where we left off a few months ago - with a few Miss Texas pictures, a nice deep talk and a yummy recipe thrown in at the end for good measure.

Miss Texas meant taking a break from blogging. And the kitchen.

Mmm. Conversation, coffee, and carbs. My three favorite things, back in one space again. It just feels right!

Although I put my blog on hiatus, I never stopped writing - I just changed the format. Private journaling took the place of public blogging, giving me the time and energy I needed to produce publishable material as an intern at D Magazine. (Missed my articles? Feel free to check out a few here, here, and here).

It’s hard to believe how many things can happen in a relatively short span of time. How many thoughts you can think, dreams you can dream, people you can meet, and plans you can make…then change. As I was flipping through my journal at church yesterday, I realized I’ve been living in a highly controlled, laser-focused whirlwind. Like a test tube tornado, if such a thing existed. But although my focus has been razor sharp, the focal point of my frenzied activity has been something of a shape-shifter.

Cheesin’ at the judges reception with my new friend Christa, Miss Texas Panhandle

An athlete I met this spring at the Special Olympics

So what does that mean, exactly? Well, something like this: what I want keeps taking different forms, morphing from becoming a published novelist to owning my own business to getting my PHd to being crowned Miss Texas. So varied, I know. But I think I’ve realized that there is a common thread somewhere underneath all of those ambitions: they’re all kind of…impressive. Resume builders. Bullet points sure to show people I’m made of promise. That I haven’t just done cool things in the past, but that I’m going to do even cooler things in the future.

Just dance! Talent competition

Don’t get me wrong - there’s nothing wrong with ambition, or achievement. But it can become a dangerous thing if we become consumed by the story we’re trying to tell. When all of our energy goes into accumulating experiences that make the most interesting plot twists, or keeping our (Facebook) audience guessing about what fantastically exciting adventure will unfold in the next chapter of our life.

Christa, myself, and Victoria (Miss Fairview) before shooting our video introductions

I think a lot of it’s normal. We want to see things, do things. Big things. We fear running out of time, being left behind, not living loud enough to be heard. We’re scared of blending in. Afraid we can’t keep up. Maybe we feel the need to control our future, to try to ensure our future happiness or security by surrounding ourselves with a cushion of life experience. But I think what we (or at least what I) tend to forget in the middle of the me-vortex is this: we’re not meant to be the star of our story. That role is reserved for our Lord and Savior alone.

Sometimes, I think I get so caught up trying to be a scene-stealer that I forget what I really am: a vessel meant to be filled by Christ. A mirror that reflects His love. An arrow that points to the saving power, the mercy, and the grace of the cross. The shiny bullet points on my resume? Those are extras! Gifts of opportunity the Lord has used to teach and refine me, and to reveal more of Himself. Ultimately, it comes down to this: there is no lasting worth in accomplishment for the sake of accomplishment. Because give an earthly victory a month…heck, give it a week!…and it goes stale. Not only does it go stale, it leaves you hungry for something else that’s new and fresh.

If the pressure to continue racking up accomplishments doesn’t come from within, it will certainly come from without. Just weeks after graduating college, and literally hours after Miss Texas ended, I was already being bombarded with that killer question of all questions: “So…what’s next?” And I know I’m not the only one to get hit with the question. My newly married friends, for example, get this version all the time: “So…how soon are y’all planning on having kids?” No pressure there, right?

Reading a sweet birthday poster that my pageant sisters made for me!

I get the intent. We’re being supportive! We’re excited about what lies ahead for our friends! And often times, we’re just plain curious. But we’re also pushing ourselves and our friends out of this moment in anticipation of the next. We’re just trying to make conversation. But in doing so, we need to consider the possibility that we’re diminishing the value of the present by bullying our way into the future before it’s time to live in it.

That being said…in my own life, I am so excited for what’s next! But here’s the deal: I have no idea what “next” will look like. I have a few ideas about what form it could take. A lot of dreams about writing books, places I’d like to go and people I’d like to meet. But here’s what the Lord has been so faithful to teach me: I don’t have to see it all in detail for Him to bring it to life.

Right now, my prayer is that the Lord will refine my vision, and change my focus from what I want to what I have that the world needs and He can use. And I know He’ll be faithful to do it, because every dream I’ve ever had has been revealed to be just a dusty sketch after He’s painted over it in technicolor. My life has become a million times more brilliant with His touch, and my most carefully constructed plans have crumbled under the greater weight of His perfect will, providence, and timing.

Arrival ceremony

Jammin’ out during opening number

Christ is always faithful to reveal the truest version of the men and women we were created to be when we call upon Him, and I believe that He longs to give life to the desires of our hearts. The catch? We have to stop looking in the mirror for long enough to fix our eyes on Him.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

And now for that recipe I promised:

PB Choco-Chip Cake Batter Blondies!

I just made this gem for a coffee date on Friday, and you better believe the pan has long been licked clean. Find the yummy recipe here on one of my favorite blogs, Girl Meets Life.

Until next time! xo

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