My Favorite Workshop

unnamed.jpgA few days ago, I returned from the 2017/18 OYAN Winter Workshop – and already, a few days later, there is so much I want to do.  I feel inspired to write, build relationships, pursue various opportunities God has given me, and seek Him more through it all.

However, work started back up again for me the same day I left the Workshop, so there hasn’t been a lot of time to spend on non-essential activities. Still, I know God is working in me in cool ways, and that I have a lot to do in 2018. He taught me so much about Himself in 2017, and I’m looking forward to 2018 being a continuation of those themes and the beginning of new ones.

It’s fitting that the OYAN Winter Workshop takes place at the bridge of 2017 and 2018 – because in so many ways, I felt it tie up the loose ends of what God taught me in 2017 while also connecting those things to new lessons that I’ll need to learn in 2018. I’m so excited to do so, even though the Road Through will assuredly be difficult. I’m excited because He’ll be there through it all, walking with me.

Of all of the OYAN Workshops I have attended (and there have been many, summer and winter) – this was my favorite. I’ve been thinking about why this is, and I think I’ve mostly realized it: This was the very first Workshop where I went in with no selfish expectations, and no intention to get anything for myself out of going. Instead, this was the first Workshop that I attended solely for the purpose of being there for others, praying, and serving.

I’m not saying that this Workshop was perfect or that I did all I could – I still wish I could have done more, and spent way more time with each person. I also often caught myself  having selfish thoughts and had to prayerfully refocus on loving those around me. But my focus and experience at this Workshop was definitely different – and that was only possible due to God’s sustaining power, which was evident from the very start.

The week before the Workshop, I was discouraged – I’d been dwelling too much on some discouraging personal issues, which made it hard to focus on others. I believe this discouragement was spiritual, an attempt to distract me from what God had laid before me to do at the coming WW. The night before the Workshop, I saw The Greatest Showman in theaters – and, God used this story and music to encourage me, and to refocus me. He reminded me that my purpose in going into this Workshop was not for myself – it was to love others, spread joy, and pray without ceasing. Thus, I went into the Workshop with new inspiration and determination.

I had some health issues on the first night of the Workshop – bad enough that I wasn’t able to get a wink of sleep. Lack of sleep affects me quite a bit, so I was worried that this would affect my behavior for the rest of the Workshop. So, I did the best thing I could do – I prayed. And, I asked others to pray, for God’s sustaining energy and joy throughout the Workshop, and for the health issues to go away.

God provided. Though I was physically tired throughout the Workshop, I felt the tangible power of the Holy Spirit in me all throughout the week, providing me with joy, energy, and strength – and, my sleep improved. I’m so thankful that those issues happened on the first night, because it forced me to rely solely on God throughout the week, instead of foolishly thinking that I could do anything apart from Him.

This set the tone for the rest of the Workshop for me. Sometimes I was overwhelmingly tired, sometimes I was emotionally struggling; but God was with me through it all, and somehow he miraculously empowered me with energy every time I needed it. And He provided joy in so many ways, joy that wasn’t about myself but was about others – helping my critique group have a good experience, praying for others with my family, making coffee for my friends, facilitating games, and talking to the people that God told me to talk to throughout the week. What made the week so cool, was the fact that I was able to ask God where I should be at any given moment, and then go there – so that I knew I was where He wanted me to be, even if I wasn’t where I’d normally choose to be. To quote The Greatest Showman, this is where I “want to be”; I want to always be wherever He want me to be.

I want to conclude this Workshop post with something seemingly wholly unrelated to the Workshop. The day after the OYAN Workshop, I attended our January Faculty Workshop at MNU. Our theme for the year is “To Know as We are Known” – realizing the fact that students who come to us want more than knowledge; they want relationship. This specific workshop had a diversity focus, and we discussed the value of different perspectives and the importance of diverse unity. We talked about the fact that Jesus was a boundary breaker and a line crosser himself – he broke boundaries in order to reunite the divided lines of creation. As believers, we are called to peace and unity – a diverse unity that brings together what is now divided. We are called to Shalom, and we cannot follow Christ fully and entirely without embracing this call.

The other reason I loved this OYAN Workshop this winter was the fact that there was such diverse unity there. I’ve had some discouraging conversations with friends in the past year, who see dividing lines in OYAN and believe there is an irreconcilable “generational gap” within the community. But this Winter Workshop showed me otherwise – it showed me that when we treat each other with humility, forgiveness, and patience, and when we find common grace, there is no disunity. There is Shalom. I loved the diversity at OYAN this year – different ages, different perspectives, different stories. But, we were all unified not just as writers and OYANers, but as the Church and as God’s children. The sense of unity was tangible and beautiful.

One of the themes at this Winter Workshop was the importance of letting God walk in every aspect of our lives – He should be a part of our writing, our work, and our daily choices. To quote something one of my colleagues at MNU said yesterday, “Church is who we are, all the time”. At MNU, we are the Church at the work of education. At OYAN, we are the Church at the work of story. Regardless, God is a part of it all. All of my various callings are interconnected, all a part of my ultimate identity and vocation as a part of the Church. I am called to Shalom, I am called to love, I am called to walk with God day in and day out, in good times and in hard times.

Ultimately, the theme of this Workshop for me was that when we walk with God through life, when we focus on Him and others instead of ourselves, and when we intentionally seek after love, peace, and humility, there is so much abounding joy. And, this is our calling as the Church – to walk with Him and live life not for our sake, but for His sake.

I don’t know what’s going to come in 2018 – but I know God will be walking with me through it all. I’m so thankful for this Workshop, and for everything it taught me about the beauty of giving my life away for Christ’s sake. And, I’m so thankful for all of the people there, who displayed a unity in diversity that I think, in a way, might slightly reflect what Heaven will be like.

One thought on “My Favorite Workshop

  1. Pingback: Return to Addison’s Walk: Part Two | Adventures of a Christian Librarian

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