Everyday Victories / by Sarah Schwartz

Remember when I used to blog?

I promise, I'm not done writing, not even close. These last 6 months have been among the busiest of my life, and that has meant writing has gotten the short end of the stick, but I'm hoping to have more space for the-stringing-words-into-sentences-thing this fall.

I must confess, I've hesitated to write about my recent good news, dear reader, as it feels almost irreverent to do so in the midst of the tragedy and chaos that has marked 2016, both locally and across the globe. I live a life of privilege in so many ways already, that I wondered if it was right to celebrate my own small victory with the backdrop of such tremendous suffering.

But maybe that's when the darkness wins, when we stop telling our stories about the light, even if they seem small in comparison to the monsters in our midst. Maybe it's possible to hold the tension of all that is hurting and broken, with that which is good and right and beautiful. Maybe it's more important than ever to give thanks for everyday victories.

***

My Grandfather died earlier this year, and my family and I often caught our selves saying things like, "Well, he had 90 good years, so there's not much to complain about." We had to take turns reminding each other that being grateful for his good & long life did not mean we were not or could not experience grief, and that experiencing grief did not mean we weren't grateful for his life.

Grief and gratitude can, and in fact, must, coexist.

So here is my small miracle, the candle I'll light in response to the darkness. Here is my answer to many moons of prayer.

***

I've written before about how I have not cared much for my early twenties—they have not been kind, or, frankly, anything that I have wanted them to be. They have not been all bad, to be sure, but I have wrestled deeply with feelings of inadequacy and discontentment, overwhelmed by the sense of being "behind" in life, both personally and professionally.

These feelings started eeking out rather undeniably around Christmas, when my best friends and I gathered to exchange gifts, and I dissolved into sobs about how I was never going to finish my masters degree (and that it didn't matter anyway because what the hell are you supposed to do with a masters in Theology), and that I was alone and broke and unhappy while the rest of them were pursuing their fulfilling careers, getting married, and all around "succeeding" in life.

I whimpered about how maybe it was stupid of me to think that the Spirit had led me to seminary, and that my grand ideas of completing school and advocating for women in faith communities were little more than naivete. It was time for me to grow up and decide on some more realistic goals.

I had a similar episode a few months later when I turned 25, a number that seemed to mock me and fill my head with thoughts of not having much to show for my life thus far. I started to wonder if the reason I couldn't get a new job or make any necessary changes to my life was because I was a failure.

(I know. The above paragraphs are all kinds of messed up, and dripping with first world white girl privilege, but humor me. These feelings, however unfounded, were very real to me at the time.)

My birthday came and went, and I wrapped up another spring of working full time and going to school, not sure if I was doing anything right.

***

And then, last month, as I was preparing to return home to Oregon for a few weeks, an old and dear friend approached me and offered me a part time graduate assistant position with a program I worked for (and loved) as an undergraduate, which would allow me to dedicate more time to my masters program, as well as gain valuable experience in the field I ultimately want to pursue.

Oh and I would get to work with some of my very favorite people on the planet and love on college students and still pay (some) of my bills.

As you can imagine, I lost it.

This all may seem small to you, and that's ok. But it was—and is— a game changer for me.

***

One afternoon last year, after yet another failed attempt to make things change, my best friend Katie & I were driving to the beach, when she turned to me and said, "You weren't supposed to get that job. You'd be great at it, don't get me wrong. But it would distract you from what you are supposed to do."

And this position? Not only is it going to be something I love, but it's allowing me to focus on school, that thing I'm "supposed to do", that thing I've been worried is impractical and silly and naive.

Who am I, to think I can study theology and advocate for women and change the world?

And yet that mysterious Spirit nudges me forward, making a way where there once was none, reminding me to heed that improbable still small voice that first called me to this work.

And as if He hadn't shown off enough with this unfolding of events, I then received an email from the dean of my school, outlining the changes being made to reduce the number of classes in my program, allowing me to complete my M.A. much sooner than anticipated.

***

So here is my small candle in the darkness, lovely readers. Here are the ways God's goodness and mercy have pursued me as of late.

Your girl has a new job, and will be graduating with her Master of Arts in Theology in December of 2017.

After that? Who knows. But if this latest provision is any indicator, I think I can trust that the path will be cleared before me.

Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I've come.