Maddie Tallman, who completed an internship with Utah Advance this year, recently posted these reflections. It’s worth taking a minute to read! This describes very well what our internship program at Utah Advance is all about.
Ever since I graduated high school in 2012, the question that has lingered in my mind has been “What are you going to do with your life?” That’s also the question that I got from friends and family almost every day that I was out of high school, but also not in college pursuing a degree. According to Myers Briggs, my personality type is the most likely to struggle with finding or deciding on a long-term career.
I know I am not the only one who has struggled with “finding my niche” or even just the next step in life. If you are unsure of what to do with your life, I pray that my story will encourage you in a new way, and that you will be able to find hope in God’s mysterious plan for your future.
A year ago today…
I was scared and I was hopeless. I was a month back home from living in Europe the whole summer doing ministry, and in the time it took to fly back home, I suddenly went from fulfilled and purposeful to “I am as self-sufficient as I was the day I was born.” I was deeply missing my friends from the summer internship and all I wanted to do was go online and re-apply to go back next year. I was jobless and anxious and I didn’t even know where to begin looking for my next life step. Nashville seemed to be burned out on me, which made me burn out on it. Not a single inquiry for portraits, no new job opportunities, and the large community of friends I once had was now a dry desert. I felt like I had nothing to offer the world anymore. I was stuck in limbo.
A year ago today…
My mom and I were getting on a plane to Salt Lake City to attend the Doterra Essential Oils convention. Yeah, I know, we are dedicated essential oilers. I put aside all of my self pity and worry about my future and decided to have fun out west. It was my last hurrah of the summer before I had to hunker down and really work at building a life and career for myself, whatever that would look like.
I had no idea that God was about to completely flip my world around.
Immediately, I mean walking-to-the-baggage-claim immediately, I was struck with the reality of how different the religious culture is in Utah from everywhere else. I drained my phone battery by noon the first few days just from googling questions about the Mormon religion every few minutes. I just wanted to understand. I wanted to grasp the weight of it all.
“How many people here are actually Mormons?”
“Wait, how many people here are Christians?”
“Mormons are known for knocking on doors, but is anyone here knocking on theirs?”
One of our days at the convention, my mom and I set out to find a store before the morning session and stumbled upon Temple Square. I had never heard of Temple Square, but as soon as we walked up to it we knew we had hit something big. In fact, I think the words “Oh my, we hit the motherlode.” came out of our mouths.
I forgot for a few minutes that we were originally looking for a store. All I could think of was how the whole summer in Slovenia, we were brushing shoulders with Mormon missionaries on the streets. As far as I know, they were the only other “religious group” in the country trying to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, their Jesus is a lot different from ours. And here I was, standing in their capitol. I was finally realizing the reality of this widespread religion of idolatry and deception, and the kingdom that darkness has built for himself here in this square in the middle of the city.
And so began the relentlessly nagging feeling in my soul that I had to come back.
I should mention that I am not the kind of person who typically claims to hear specific instruction from God. I usually just do something that sounds good, and pray that God can somehow use what I do to bring glory to Himself. I’ve always been more of a thinky than a feely when it comes to spiritual revelations. But this was different. This feeling that I needed to come back to Utah was unmistakable and persistent.
Long story short, God opened the first door I knocked on (Haha get it? Cause Mormons?) which just so happened to be an internship working with the largest evangelical Christian church in Utah.
The plan was to come out here in February, and go back to Tennessee in May. At the end of May, thinking about going back to Franklin seemed so premature. I wrestled with the idea of staying longer, and as friends and family grew more supportive I began to pray hard about what God wanted me to do. God continued to pave the way for me to stay in Utah. All I needed was a full time job and a place to live, and both of those things pretty much just fell into my lap the week I started praying for them. I took that as a sign that God still wanted me here.
It’s now been one year since the first time I stepped foot in Salt Lake City and felt the calling to come back.
A year ago today…
I didn’t know that only 2% of Utahans are evangelical Christians. I didn’t know that God was about to break my heart for Mormons, or that I would soon be calling Utah home.
I didn’t know that I would be working at 2 jobs that I love, and surrounded by a community of people who are genuine and fun and challenge me to pursue God fully. Praise the Lord. Good community is hard to find.
And if you had told me that in exactly one year I would be celebrating 3 months of dating my dream guy, I would have cackle-laughed at you.
I think the best part though, is that a year ago today God knew exactly what He was doing. As unexpected as this year was for me, it was just another year in God’s eyes. I find comfort in knowing that nothing surprises God. I think that most of the time God likes letting us choose our own life steps, as long as we are still putting Him first and not compromising our values. But, it has been exciting to also experience the unfolding of a very specific calling according to His will. He has been so evident in this past year, and I am still just in awe of how beautifully everything was orchestrated.
I frequently wonder what I would be doing right now if I had ignored that pull in my heart to return to Utah. I would have missed out on the incredible opportunities, relationships, and growth experiences that God had ready for me.
I love reading this verse as a reminder that life really is about abandoning my own agenda and saying “yes” to whatever God puts in front of me.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25 ESV
God is the only one in the universe that is able to give you a truly fulfilling life. It’s not our natural instinct to deny ourselves, but I’ve learned that once you begin to take small steps in obedience, God’s fulfillment in your life just grows from there.
If you are stuck in a rut, trying to figure out what to do with your life then please send me a message. I would love to pray for you!
Also, please take a look at the resources I have put below:
One of my new positions is editing videos for www.pursueGOD.org. If you want to watch a great video (It even includes discussion questions!) on the topic of “Did I Really Hear From God?” check this one out: www.pursuegod.org/did-i-really-hear-from-god/
If you are interested in learning more about the Mormon culture in Utah take a look at this video, and many more in the Mormonism section of pursueGOD. www.pursuegod.org/whats-the-difference-between-mormons-and-christians/
And this is a good one for those who don’t feel like they have a specific calling right now, but want to continue living for God wherever they are. www.pursuegod.org/following-the-path-of-the-righteous/