Answering, “What’s Next?”

I remember the day in 2014 when my parents and I attended the spring open house at my college. The coordinator briefly mentioned capstone, the major final project of the PR degree program. Walking out of that classroom and knowing in my gut that this program was for me also meant that capstone hung over my head for four years.

Two weeks ago I completed that final project of my undergrad. Weeks of alternating between two outfits, hibernating in my house, closing myself off from any form of social life, staying up until 4 AM, multiple breakdowns, 54 pages, and one presentation later… capstone was over. Hearing my prof say “congratulations, you passed” remains in my memory as an out-of-body experience.

Technically, I have been completing school every September-June, and September-April in college, for 15 years straight. That’s insane to me.

The Game-Plan

Truthfully, my game-plan was to work on capstone and apply to jobs. Ha! There was no time for applying to jobs, nor was my mind capable of even thinking about next phases when it felt impossible to get through the one I was currently in. Similarly, my game-plan for capstone was very different than how it all actually went down.

It was not my plan to have to text my mom two nights before my presentation, “can you please come downstairs?” It was not my plan to have her sit on my bed consoling me as I cried like I’ve never cried before. The tear-marked face, the running mascara, the greasy hair, the exhaustion – not part of my plan.

It was not my plan to feel in my gut that I had to re-do the part of my project that was worth 50% the day before my presentation. Not my plan to miss church the day before, not my plan to miss the concert I was supposed to go to, none of it was my plan.

But I will honestly, genuinely, and enthusiastically say amen and hallelujah to all of that.

Praise God that my overly optimistic and self-dependant little plan was squashed into a million of little pieces, because I wouldn’t have learned anything if it was that easy. Sure, this project challenged my knowledge in PR, but that honestly pales in comparison to what I learned about God through it all.

That kind of situation and that kind of pressure brings you to your knees. Having our own game-plan destroyed before our eyes and a completely different plan play out instead is humbling. Knowing that you have absolutely no strength of your own, but that God is sustaining you through it all brings a peace I’ll never forget.

Darkness to Light

Truthfully, when looking back on capstone, I see it as a very dark time for me. I see the stress I experienced that made it feel like an elephant was sitting on my lungs every day for two weeks. I remember the anxiety I experienced that I never had before. And yet, in midst of the darkness, there was and is light.

I knew that I was being prayed for daily by my family and friends, I knew that God was for me not against me, and I knew that no matter the outcome – pass or fail, God is brilliantly intentional, far greater and higher than to let any of it go to waste.

Exodus 14:14 was an anthem for me in this time. “The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to be silent.”

After what feels like a lifetime, all of the work and time put into this project had led to its completion. Despite all my worries, did I trust that having done my part, the Lord was going to carry me the rest of the way? Was my faith greater than my fear? Was I willing to be silent, still, and confident in the Lord, and let Him do the fighting for me?

I remember very little about the morning of my presentation, but I do remember the encouragement spoken over me and the celebratory moments that followed; and that is like remembering the victory of the battle without the sorrow of the fight. It’s like getting to experience the most rewarding, satisfying, humbling, and thanksgiving-filled moments of your life without any darkness dimming their light.

It’s like redemption.

This six-week period of my life felt like a mini-lifetime all on its own. I feel like God continues to reveal truths about this experience as each day passes, which is ultimately why it’s taken me two weeks to write this post. But more than anything, God redeemed the darkness of capstone by bringing it all together so beautifully, just as He redeems the darkness of my story, the darkness of your story, and brings it all together to glorify His name.

There is no tear-filled night of helplessness, no sorrow, fear, shame, regret, weakness, temptation, sin, loss, hurt, or brokenness that God cannot redeem. And this, loved ones, is why I am forever in love with my Saviour, my Lord. I come to the throne of grace unworthy yet desperately placing my faith in Him, and by His love and through what He did on the cross, I am saved. I am redeemed.

The culmination of four years of hard work all boiled down to a rocky path and big challenge. Despite all the difficulty along the way, my college experience shaped me in more ways than I’ll likely ever be able to acknowledge. What my life looked like going into college, the girl I was and the goals I had, is drastically different than who I am today – and I am so thankful.

What’s Next?

People naturally ask this question all the time now. What’s next for me? Do I have a job? Where do I want to live? What do I want to do? All the questions get asked. Here’s my answer:

I don’t know, but God does.

It’s truthfully that simple. I don’t know what God has planned for me next. My life is nothing like what I thought it would be at 21, and although that’s not always an easy reality to come to terms with, I’m actively placing a greater trust in the Lord than the desires of my heart – knowing full well that He sees every dream I have, and He has not forgotten me.

Rest

I’m trying to give myself permission to rest, and not call it laziness. I’m trying to put aside the fear of judgement from other people when they ask, “what’s next?” and I don’t have a specific answer. I’m learning that the enemy tells us a lot of lies that are subtle and easy to believe, like the idea that rest is bad and a waste of time. I’ve been having to remind myself that rest is a gift from God and that in this season, in the unknown, there is so much beauty in resting, especially after 15 years of schooling.

Desperate Prayer

In prayer, we often ask God to reveal to us what job to take, or we pray over an application trusting that God will open the door if it’s meant to be, and while I agree with those prayers and that God will answer them – I do think there’s a bigger picture that we tend to miss.

My “what’s next” is really about being where God wants me, when He wants me there, in order to share His love with others. When my focus shifts from the job title, the company, and the location, to the much grander and greater things God will achieve through it all – all the little details fade into the background and it’s all about surrendering to God’s will.

I may petition and ask for specific details that my heart desires, but ultimately His ways are higher than my own. In light of all that He has done for me, in light of His saving grace covering me day in and day out, I will submit my feeble heart and finite mind to the will of the Creator, Saviour, and Redeemer of the world.

I will desperately ask for His guidance and help. I will desperately declare my confusion and uncertainty, trusting Him to be my clarity and light. I will desperately pray, knowing full well that my God hears and answers prayers.

Right now, I plan on praising Him in the wait. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for His provision and protection, His grace and mercy, and His everlasting, incomprehensible, and eternal love. I know that He’s got this, He’s got what’s next – and that’s all I need.

One thought on “Answering, “What’s Next?”

  1. So the Momma bear shows great restraint in not responding to every post Oliveah makes because really who wants their Mom to leave a comment on their blog, but I can hold back no longer. I am proud of her giftedness and God-given talent in her writing honestly and encouraging us all with her vulnerability. The struggle was real! What mother could read that particular post and not respond??? To watch Oliveah persevere throughout her “capstone” moment was intense. Most important to me was her endeavour to stay strong spiritually and see the Lord’s faithfulness throughout the process. For this, I am humbled and truly grateful. I am thrilled that she now sees the need and the blessedness of finding rest and not feeling guilty for the opportunity. Well done, Oliveah and so excited to see where the Lord will lead you and pray you will continue to encourage and minister to those around you! Love you so much! Mom xoxo

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