grad school and social work

I’ve been needing to sit down and write this for a while. Mostly for me. To get my thoughts down, to prepare for admissions essays, and to document this shift in thinking… this major shift in the course of my life, really. And it’s becoming a theme in my life: Praise God for perfect timing and plans far bigger than my own.

So, I should tell you: I’m applying to graduate programs to get a master’s in social work. Hopefully, next fall, I will be attending Loyola University, Washington University, Boston College, the University of Pennsylvania, or the University of Maryland. And I am so excited about this possibility!

In November, I was feeling completely discouraged and unexcited about my future. I had started to look at job possibilities related to journalism — magazines in particular. Not excited about the duties of entry-level jobs, I looked at the sorts of jobs I could have 10 years down the road. And they were gross. Not fulfilling. Lacking anything I’m passionate about. Without personal purpose. This was the tipping point.

Backing up… In the weeks before this week of realizing, I had been struck by verses, quotes and songs all to the same tune of standing up for the oppressed, listening to urgings from the Lord, and doing something filled with passion. I thought it peculiar, but I did not devote time to processing or praying over any of this.

I realize now that my initial attraction to journalism was the classes I would take at Iowa State. They were easy and interesting to me. I quickly found I was good at writing, editing and doing Web stuff. So I fell into the easy rhythm of taking classes, getting internships and honing those skills. I know now that getting more clicks to a Web site, or more readers of a magazine, just is not something I care about at all. And while I can, I’m going to control where I’m headed.

So in these weeks of discouragement, I began to sit in silence and write down my thoughts. What came out was this: I want to be interacting with people. I want to spend my days doing something I truly care about. I want to do something that has an impact on the quality of a person’s life. I want to positively impact the community I live in. I want to stand up for the oppressed — poor, orphaned, widowed, ill. More specifically, I want to strengthen families and children.

I cannot tell you why I hadn’t considered this before. Maybe the “real world” had seemed too far away and my college life was too comfortable. I think, though, that this is what God does to me. He waits until I have made plans in my mind of what I will do and where I will live. Then he steers me another direction. [It happened the first summer I decided to go to New York. I had lined up an apartment and had almost accepted a job in Minneapolis. Then I felt a tug to go where I wasn’t comfortable.]

He tells us he will do this.  James 4:14-16 says: You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” … In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.

And the last verse is the very essence of this decision. I see how I can be used. I’m choosing to accept that. My life is not my own. It’s His. I exist to glorify Him, not myself.

And luckily, I’m overjoyed with the ways he will be using me.

I’m so thankful for the ways my communications background can be used for this. So in awe of the ways He was shaping me for social work even in the first years of high school. So glad for the opportunities I’ve had to work with children and families to know now that this is the right choice. So encouraged by the kind words of people who know me well and people who don’t know me at all.


4 thoughts on “grad school and social work

  1. Natalie, it’s exciting to see how God has been leading you. It sounds like you have the right motivations, which is huge. One thing I’ve been learning lately is to keep the gospel at the center. Jesus and him crucified. That way we always have the strength to help those who are hurting because we’ve died with him and he lives in us. Blessings!

  2. I am so grateful for the way God is working in your life. I am refreshed each time I read a paragraph describing your insight and conviction. God is pleased with your responses and I’ll continue to pray for His guidance.

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