Saturday, December 5, 2015

What's Next?

December is often a time for reflection. The year is ending, so it is time to take stock of the last twelve month's inventory of activities. It is also a time to look ahead. What's the next adventure? This is something I have been asking myself for the past year, but before I can delve into "what's next," I have to look back. Waaaay back.

1996: I am born.

Okay, not that far back.

Forget normal careers like ballerina, veterinarian, or president. When I was a child, I wanted to be a paleontologist. That is, until I started learning about the Egyptians in history. After that, I wanted nothing more than to be an Archaeologist. I'm not sure if watching Indiana Jones fueled this passion or destroyed it (I'm not too keen on being run over by giant rocks, having my heart pulled from my chest, falling into train cars full of snakes, or meeting weird crystalline aliens).
As a child, I dictated stories to my parents. When I learned to write myself, I started writing "books," which consisted of paper stapled together. When I was about twelve, I decided that the only viable career option would be an author.
I started singing on our church worship team when I was fifteen and quickly decided that I was meant to be a worship leader. This was followed by the urge to become a youth leader so that I could reach out to the shy kids (like myself at the time) and make them feel like they belong and were loved.
The dream of becoming a youth leader lived for several years: up until August of 2014. That's when the hardest year-and-a-half of my life so far started.
Our only female youth leader in our mostly-female youth group left with her husband to pastor a church in Hawaii and no one stepped up to fill the void. Myself and one of the other girls in youth group decided to lead a girl's Bible study. I quickly discovered that I was not meant to be the friend-to-all, secret-keeper, shoulder-to-cry-on type of youth leader that I had dreamed of being. Some women are capable of being a mentor to many emotional teenagers at once. I am not. I probably could be if I dedicated my entire being to youth ministry; but if I did that, what would happen to my music and writing? That's the question I faced last August. After much thinking, I realized that I'm not meant to go into full-time ministry. At least, not in the foreseeable future.
This realization has been very hard to come to terms with.
After all, since I was fifteen, I had been planning on going into full-time ministry in some capacity. Also, I had to realize that "writer" isn't a less righteous career than "youth leader." God doesn't care whether I'm picking up trash for a living (*cough cough* what I'm doing now *cough cough*) or if I'm entering seminary to become the next Billy Graham. God only cares that I'm doing everything to the best of my ability for His glory (see Ecclesiastes 12:13 and 1 Corinthians 10:31).

I'm still reeling from the realization that I'm not meant to go into full-time ministry. If you'd asked me last September what the next year-and-a-half of my life would look like, I would have said: Get great grades in my AP classes, have a fantastic senior recital, have a fantastic graduation, and go to college in the Fall. Eventually, this would lead to having many great friends, amazing grades, a husband, some amazingly well-behaved and homeschooled children, and a house with a white picket fence (okay, maybe not... but it was quite utopian in my brain).

Without the goal of becoming a youth leader, my whole future fell apart. What was I supposed to do with my life? Write, perhaps, but I wasn't getting much of that done at the beginning of 2015. My two AP (Advanced Placement) courses and preparation for my senior recital were so exhausting that every spare moment was spent on either Netflix or Youtube. On Fridays, I had choir, and on Sundays, I had church, but other than that, I didn't really go out of the house. This fueled a feeling that has been a persistent fiend since I became a teenager: the feeling of aloneness. The feeling that I will never have a Frodo to my Sam, a Geordi to my Data, a Sherlock to my John; that I will never have someone who shares my interests, encourages my passions; someone that I can share intimate struggles with and who will have deep discussions with me; someone who will let me into their life as deeply as I want to let someone into mine.
This has been my secret dream since I was thirteen. After six years, I've still not made that deep, cerebral connection that I seek. I don't even know if that kind of closeness is possible. Maybe it's manufactured and exaggerated for entertainment purposes in movies, TV, books, and Youtube personalities.

An unclear direction in life, loneliness, and being swamped with studies led to some depression earlier this year. It still returns sometimes when I start thinking too closely about my life. I suppose it has reappeared a bit in the last few weeks. I finished my fantasy story, which left a void in my life. I've been filling that void with unproductive things. Every few hours I return to the same question: "What's next? Where can I go from here? What should I do?"

I have a list of options ranging from quitting my job to becoming a full-time writer/hermit to going on a mission trip. The most logical answer, however, would be to go to college. In college, I can learn more about God through Biblical studies (something I feel I need), learn more about subjects that interest me (music, music history, writing, literature), and maybe make those deep friendships that I've been longing for.
Only one problem: FEAR.
Most of the reason I didn't attend college this Fall was because I was scared. Scared to leave the protection of my family and friends. Scared to meet new people. Scared of bad grades. Scared of being an adult.
Most of the reason I am still shying away from college is because I am scared of all the above, and also researching colleges, visiting colleges, figuring out applications and scholarships, and retaking the SAT to see if I can get a higher math score. That's a lot of work and a lot of research that I have no clue how to even start doing!

So, what's next?

I don't know.

But I do know that the Bible says such things as:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:11)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13)

Surely someone who created my inmost being has a plan for me. I find comfort in that.

Here's an applicable Newsboys song to end this post:


  1. Thanks for your openness and honesty, Abbey. There are several things you said that I can relate to, however there is one thing I want to share right now. When I was at a certain age (40), I decided that if the ONLY reason for me not to do something placed before me was FEAR, I would do it. That has led to many amazing things in my life. I made a complete fool of myself pursuing piano, but it has led to such fantastic fun times, growth, friendships etc. Going to Mexico was another one which has led me to leading the teams, another thing I was scared of because it entailed telling people what to do and speaking in church - but more growth and opportunity. Backpacking - another fear story which has become a passion. And I'm sure there are other things I did simply because there was no good reason not to do it, except fear. I agree that going to college would be a good thing and taking a variety of courses - whatever they tell you to and what takes your fancy. There will be good times and bad but you will never, ever say, "I wish I hadn't had that experience." And remember your greatest Friend. Keep fueling that relationship. Other friends come and go. There will be times of plenty and times of solitariness, but you will never be alone with Jesus. Give him your best time every day - the one thing I wish I had learned early. Thankfully I learnt it at mid-life (48). Blessings!

  2. I know how you're feeling Abbey! Even though I'm at college (though only for the next two weeks...sniff, sniff) I have absolutely no idea what's next. Writer? Archeologist? Owner of a little shop? Secretary for a missions organization in Europe? (That's a recent idea I've been thinking of). God really has used my time here at Bible school to grow me and make some great friends, who I will dearly miss, and it's shown me that you can have a ministry wherever you are. Not everyone who leaves this school becomes a missionary or pastor (or a wife of one of those two :) though the school has a reputation for that). Trust in God, and He will give you the strength and courage to do what He wants you to.

  3. {HUGS!}

    I've been there, my friend. I have no idea what should be next for you, but I will be praying that God will give you clarity and wisdom. "If any of you lacks wisdom you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5

    Having been in a position recently where all I was doing was praying for wisdom and clarity and direction, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you seek that wisdom and clarity from Him and do not doubt that He will bestow it upon you... you will receive it!

  4. I admire you and your honest reflections. For me a big part of my fear was/is associated with perfection until I realized that perfect is boring. I follow a wonderful Christian artist and her creative advice is to allow yourself the chance to take the journey; keep playing, keep exploring. Putting my little, intrepid feet forward has brought me to unexpected places and people. I think this is good life advice too. Pray into that fear, it will move you to a different place.

  5. In other news, I tagged you in the One Lovely Blog game. You don't have to do it, of course, but if you're low on blog post ideas like I was.... :)

  6. I appreciate you sharing your heart, Abbey. I think you are an AMAZING young lady, with talents up the wazoo! It's funny how these uncertainties in life can stump us, and cause us fear. I feel like it's just the rollercoaster of decisions, life changes and challenges. At my age (old), I still feel like I'm asking the question "what do I want to be when I grow up?" But you are SO right when you say that God just wants us to wake up and give Him our best. It doesn't matter WHAT we do, but it does matter HOW we do it. I will be praying for you!

  7. Hey cousin, looking back, i think my biggest regret is that i tended to take the path of least resistance, and also following what i thought was expected of me instead of allowing myself to dream big! I tended to limit my choices to what was safe and what other people in my life tended to do, instead of thinking outside of that and carefully considering what my true interests were. Now it is a lot more complicated for me to follow my passions (due to mortgage, husband, offspring, etc) of course i won't be giving up on doing that. but it would have been easier to do so 10 years ago, if i hadn't been afraid to change my path to one that would be difficult, full of obstacles and failures, but ultimately more fulfilling than floating around aimless and afraid. The world is your oyster and anything is possible when you're young, unattached and unencumbered by dependents!!! :-) :-) :-)