You know the line:
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Well, sitting at my desk in the Deaconess house at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, you can rest assured that I did not have this program in my personal chocolate box.
You also may know this line:
“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” -Proverbs 16:9 NLT
But God had this program in His chocolate box for me.
Deaconess. Why Deaconess, Holly? What exactly is a Deaconess?
These are normally the responses I now expect when meeting new people, whether it be a fellow Seminarian Master of Divinity (Pastor) student or at a church I’m visiting with a fellow Deaconess sister.
Truthfully? I’m not 100% certain, as I’m just now beginning to understand what kind of impact I can have on the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Church worldwide. All I know is that I have heard and felt God speaking to me, loudly by the way, for several months to pursue this position.
If you would so graciously give me leeway to flash back to this previous year, perhaps I could assist you in understanding the call I have felt upon my very soul.
I am beginning my senior year at The Florida State University, looking to double major in Music and History, with expectations of graduating in April 2012. As I move back into my apartment (with my new kitten!!), I have begun to form vague plans of applying to several Historical Musicology graduate programs, with hopes of eventually earning my PhD with a specialization in Russian late 19th/early 20th century music. My mom and I begin to set a basic timeline, of which I am to follow immediately.
Oh the typical culprits are included: raise my GPA, assemble a portfolio to submit to the various admission councils, and obtain several professor recommendations.
Luckily for me, I have been allowed to take a graduate music history course on 19th century music (GREAT stuff by the way…). And again, one of the professors from which I need recommendation is teaching the course. Great! I’m on my way, right?!
Well, kinda sorta, not really.
Everything is going according to plan: I received a B- on my first project/paper, and was participating enough to remain afloat in such an intimidating setting.
But, somewhere in late November, about the time that I should be sending in my full application to the selected schools, I find myself greatly hesitating on completing even the school application, let alone asking for recommendation letters. Somehow, somewhere, my heart had begun to change its mind. I did not truly desire to enter grad school for musicology, but in my mind I resigned to follow through with what I had already planned years for.
Then December and Christmas Break happened. Once again, I was dragging my feet on beginning the long process of applying. But, it still didn’t sit well internally, in my heart of hearts. Repeatedly I kept telling myself, “You’re expected to do this. Just do it.”
But, I didn’t. So, in the end I made the emotional decision to wait a year and reevaluate my desire to attend graduate school.
The following months were some of the most difficult that I have yet experienced in my short life. I’m one of those people who like to know what is planned for every hour of vacation days, so for me not to have finite plans in order following FSU graduation was very trying.
I felt lost, confused.
“Wasn’t this what I wanted to do?” I would ask myself. “This is what you’re good at, passionate about!” I would berate myself at night.
So, I began to make plans with my family to move back home and look into substitute teaching or teaching certification in history. There. Now I finally felt a little better about life after FSU. But, deep down, I knew that I was not made for this. There was something else out there.
Where are we now? February? March? To tell you the truth, those two months are such a blur for me, its difficult to decipher when it was that I came to that conclusion. But, again I had resigned myself to go through with this plan and see what lay ahead for me.
“Leave it to God,” I would say, but not really submit all of my trust, clamoring to desperately hold onto some semblance of control my selfish heart craved. Trust is something I constantly struggle with, and most likely will always. I was so shaken mentally that I would hear a song on the radio and suddenly begin to cry. I’ve always connected with music on a basic level, and soon I began to feel that God was trying to tell me something. Something huge. Life changing. But I continued to plod along in my schoolwork, all the while still attending the same church I had been for most of my FSU career. I soon realized that I had begun to plod along in my relationship with my Creator as well. I had ignored Him, pushed Him aside, trying with my human logic to reason out why my life was going the way it was.
And slowly I began to feel the desire to help His people. More so than just being a kind and loving neighbor.
One night, my iTunes played the hymn “Here I am, Lord.” That really broke the remaining barriers. I remember singing the verses with tears streaming down my face, surrendering my life into God’s more than capable hands.
Being born and raised Lutheran, I had grown up with knowing Jesus as my Lord and Savior and never truly lost that truth, even through those months, but I was spiritually spent. Depleted. It was like knowing your friend was your friend, but not taking the time to strengthen your bond of companionship and simply expecting them to be there for you.
Well, while that hymn played I told God, “I’ll go where You want me to go. Where You need me. Just lead me there.”
Fast forward several weeks, two weeks left to go in my undergraduate career! It’s Monday, and I’m sitting in a Colonial America History lecture writing my notes and getting amped up to finish strong! It’s about 10:35 AM and all of a sudden a quickly, but loudly uttered statement flashed through my thoughts derailing all thoughts of Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin.
“You should look at the Deaconess program.”
That was it. That’s what flew through my brain. To be frank, I had never even really considered being a full time church worker, and was confused with the concept of Deaconesses. But I knew that I had to take at least a few minutes and research it before discarding it wholly. As class ended, I quickly called my mom at work, and together we poured over every available website in regards to Deaconesses and what they provide for the Church. While it all seemed a little vague, I was filled with a peace that I hadn’t experienced with all of the research I did with musicology schools. It was overwhelming, but at the same time it was a solid ground to stand on.
It was God smacking me upside the head and telling me what I had been yearning for. Who was I to ignore this?
As I completed my final weeks at FSU, I kept researching and investigating the seminaries that offered what I was looking for. I immediately was drawn to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, for reasons I did not know. Again, I believe that God was telling me what and where, even though it happened so quickly and suddenly that only months later can I look back and see.
My family soon gathered in my tiny apartment for my graduation ceremonies, and the inevitable question of “What’s next?” soon began. I told them honestly that I was looking into becoming a Deaconess. And all of the family there immediately supported my decision to investigate more and encouraged me to apply. I truly have been blessed with a loving family, both immediate and extended. And I strive to thank God every day for them, for without them, this important decision could have had vastly different results.
I’ll speed up the story now…
The following months of May, June, and July saw me call the Seminary, apply after many deadlines, have district interviews, receive my acceptance call, and take any pre-Seminary tests. Suffice to say the past summer has been both extremely fast and slow for me, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
So, that’s my explanation on how I found my way here to St. Louis. It’s been very overwhelming to think about all that I have done in the last few months, from applying in June to moving in August to begin a whole new journey. What I hope to accomplish with this weekly blog is simply this: that you get to know me and together we can learn just how Deaconesses can make a Godly impact in His Church and for His people. I will pray for you, if you pray with me and my fellow Seminarians as we daily struggle with temptations and that we may grow to know God more and more each day.
Over 1500 words later and what do we have? Obviously, a Seminarian student who writes way too much!
Joking aside, what I garner from my own story is that while you think you know what you want, God truly has your heart in mind as He works daily within our lives.
Just as Proverbs 16:9 tells us.
Be at peace, and love the Lord, for that is all we can do.