Each Tuesday the NCC students and staff gather for chapel at 11:00AM. It is a wonderful and warm time of worship and teaching, especially to this newbie. I _love_ that this is part of my "job" and I'm so glad that I work on Tuesdays so I can join. This year they asked each of the new faculty members to offer a "get to know you" message-- a little about yourself and how you ended up at NCC, and what God has been doing in your life. Sounds simple enough, but we all know it's not! And for some reason, anytime anyone asks me to do something post 32-weeks pregnant, it feels bigger than it is!
Never-the-less, I did want to "get to know" the students better as I have so few in my two classes. I am one of the first female faculty at NCC, and I am very proud of that. I was thankful for an opportunity to talk to the student body, especially the women. So here are a few highlights:
First, the "get to know" you section-- I included several pictures of my parents, my roommates at NCC, baby R2, Dekker, and Dave and me. I made a joke about taking a cruise approximately 34 weeks ago, and it was particularly funny. Here are a few of the pics I showed and talked about...
The second half of the message was "What has God been doing in my life and how did I get to NCC." Here is that section:
To begin, let me say this: I have never quite felt like I fit in much, especially in the Christian culture of women. I don’t sew or sing. I don't knit blankets or booties. I will bring you a meal, but it won't be fancy. I don’t particularly enjoy helping with big crowds of children—I have never been the VBS volunteer of the year (or day, or hour-- because I'm not there). I work part-time by choice. I am simultaneously reading a book by Michelle Dugger, and Tina Fey. I like Lady Gaga and Husker football...
My first week of class at NCC I remember sitting around in the dorms and the question was raised “What is your dream car?” I went first, and I said that I wanted a shiny, new, dark purple/almost black 4-door BMW with leather interior. I was quite proud of my answer. The person next to me said that she wanted a used mini-van full of kids. This illustrated in my mind exactly the way I was feeling in my heart-- what's wrong with me? Why can't I want that? Why can't I be more crafty? Why do I forget the tuna in my tuna casserole? Why do my cupcakes always stick to the liner? This started an unhealthy trend in my life, bouncing back and forth between being secure in how God made me and the unique ways He has wired me up, and feeling constantly insecure that I didn't “meet the mark” of my "more Christian" female friends. So, I started praying that God would change me and help me be “right” like a Christian lady should be. And it has been exhausting journey, both mentally and physically.
My story, and what God is doing in my life, is that He is helping me understand that He made me a unique, and wonderful being—and that embracing that brings genuine security. The Word I have received from God over the last few years, and even particularly this last month and week... is this:
God is more interested in my being, than my doing. In other words, it's not what I'm doing, or not doing, but who I am.
See, part of my wrestle the last several years-- and really most of my adult life-- is over the “doing.” I have measured myself on a scale similar to the one Pastor Cahill talked about last week. Except that instead of “I'm better than you are”... the scale I sang was “She's more spiritual than I am.” I looked at women around me who have amazing talents to do things like sewing and knitting and running 14 kids around looking calm and collected while they simultaneously made fancy meals with crafty center-pieces. And I thought-- “They are surely more spiritual than me! Get it together!” And here's the kicker-- “That's how Godly women act! What's wrong with you, Stefanie!”
But then God started teaching me less about what I do, or don't do, and focused my attention on my being. On who I am on the inside. I'm fairly certain that God could care less about my precious cleaning lady, Bibi, (who drives an Esclade by the way)-- or my Schwan's meals paired with boxed mac and cheese, and my un-craftiness. Yes, He is much more interested in my spirit (my being)-- my gentleness, patience, graciousness, courage, self-control-- the way I receive my husbands leadership, and the way I grow in my faith and understanding of God. I'm learning that my highest calling in life is NOT to be the ideal wife or mom, to somehow try to have it all together, or to try and fit a mold that I never will. My highest calling is to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. This is my true security-- not what I do, but who I am.
I also want you to know that sometimes I look in the mirror and I see things about my being that I want to change. For example, for some time I prayed that God would make me less selfish, that He would give me opportunities to practice selflessness, and point out to me my error. So we got a dog and I learned a lot. And then I became a Mom-- and I began to understand the joy of emptying out myself for someone else. I couldn't imagine loving parenthood, but I do, even on the hard days.
On another occasion I prayed to God that He would give me a desire to open up my house more—not in a Betty Homemaker, Better Homes and Gardens way—but in the spirit of true hospitality. My husband and I leaped out and started a small group, who, six years later we now consider extended family.
Again, my focus is not on “doing” here-- but rather my focus has been on my being, on who I am as a woman of Christ. These are both examples of things I have done, but as an overflow of God's great mercy and grace and power changing me from the inside out.
My goal is to be more like Christ, not more like the ladies in the magazines, or at the park, or on the internet.
Finally, I started praying that God would help me find fulfillment at work. I was lonely at my private practice. I missed co-workers and staff meetings and being a part of a team. I admitted this to my friend Troy Backuus, who introduced me to a friend of his from Grace, who generously asked me to teach a class in the counseling department. I loved it. And that started a trail that ended with Dr. Krause in my counseling office casting a vision about NCC, and its incredible students. Friends, I am humbled to be here. I sometimes feel unqualified. I am very much still learning my way. And when President Milliken stood up at Faculty Orientation and said that we were all here in God's perfect timing I wanted to shout “Not True For Me!” But I am learning to trust that that IS true. God is writing the next chapter of my life, even if it sometimes feels like an awkward and very pregnant chapter!
Can I say this again? God is interested in your being! When we align our being up with the qualities He seeks of us in His word, our doing is a natural overflow-- but is not identical. Your doing might look different than your roommates, your classmates, or your neighbors, coworkers, family and friends. That's okay. We each have wonderful, unique gifts and abilities. This life is not about 'doing' in some perfect, manuscripted way-- its about each of us striving to become more like Christ every single day.
It's so interesting to me that after my message I had several women come up to me and say, "I'm just like you!" Which pretty much seals the deal to me that so few fit the "mold" of a "traditional" Christian woman. I thought to myself-- where did we get this picture of sewing and knitting and crafting and dozens of kids? Why have I thought in my mind for so long that that was particularly more spiritual than my gifts? I'm not sure, to be honest. Maybe I made it up in my head. But I'm not alone. And Praise the Lord, I've been freed to be the woman God made me!
My other fear was that women who do fit that mold, or particularly like to sew or sing or something I mentioned, would somehow feel less valued, or that their gifts aren't just as wonderfully important, impactful and unique. That is just absolutely the opposite of what I am saying. I also wanted to throw out a picture of my boot lamp-- in all its crafty glory-- but I just couldn't find a way to fit it in!
Finally, I had a few staffers and a few students stop in my office and tell me that this message personally made a difference in their life in very specific terms. If for no other reason, that made it totally worth it.
On the journey,