I just wanted to take a moment to thank you that things haven't turned out as I planned. You know I was such a serious type-A child, with my binders and to-do lists, and plans. I was a nerd before it was cool, and I really can't blame my classmates who just barely tolerated me. I had my life all figured out by third grade. I imagine you got a chuckle out of that! I wanted to be a marine biologist (thanks for the trips to Sea World, Mom), and wasn't even phased that I was a terrible swimmer (in spite of the yearly swim lessons...sorry, Mom). I discovered the College of William and Mary early on and set my sights on this dream school. That part of the plan actually took.
But as my plan shifted to become a medical researcher, things began to fall apart. It was a struggle to get the grades in biology and chemistry that had always come naturally, and as my identity had gotten tied up in achievement, I was at a loss. Relationships fell apart, and I think I kind of lost you in there somewhere, too, although I know you never left my side. I was allowed to question you for the first time as that had not been part of my fundamentalist background. I started to see shades of gray where at first there had only been black and white. It was exhilarating...and a little terrifying. Although I couldn't see or feel it at the time, I know now that you were carrying me through that dark and confusing time.
Most of all, you celebrated with me when I finally came to the place of realizing and accepting your calling on my life. I felt your joy and peace as my own for the first time in years. I got a big laugh out of the fact that not only did you give me a call to ministry (as a Southern Baptist WOMAN at Liberty University, no less), but you also finally answered my prayers of a wonderful partner who has the last name Call (two Calls in one, leaving me forever reflecting on the gifts of Call in my life).
God, I would never want to walk through that dark valley again (although I have, repeatedly), but I'm so grateful for what these journeys have taught me, and for the light you have brought out of it. Every day I have students come to me, broken, as they've lost sight of who they are and what they are meant to be and do. Each one feels so isolated and thinks she's the only one struggling. And each one is amazed that I can understand and put myself in her shoes. After all, I was in that same place 14 (gulp) years ago. I am so grateful for the ways you have spoken to me these years, loosening my grip on my image of how things "should" be and opening my heart to what is and what can be. I thank you for the ways you've connected me to unlikely people who have opened doors for me and allowed me to minister out of my past brokenness and witness to the healing you have brought. I thank you for the unknowns, the uncertainties, that have helped me to appreciate your awesome mystery and to find my strength and trust in you. Thank you for growing my faith when I didn't even have the strength or motivation to ask for your help.
Thank you for calling me here and reminding me every single day of the brutiful (brutal + beautiful) journey to get to this place. I could have never have imagined it. In the words of the "prophet" Garth Brooks: "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers".
Thanks be to you, God. Amen.