graduate school admissions essay

It's been a while. Studying for and then taking the GRE was more all consuming than I had anticipated. But, It's finally over. I did live through it. Now that the application has been sent, it's out of my hands. I hate waiting. I feel like I've been waiting a lot lately. Last week I spent a whole day waiting for the Gas Company. Today, I will be on jury duty... waiting for my turn to go home. I know, I know it's my civic duty... but you know what I'm talking about when you got that summons in the mail.

Actually, the admissions essay really had me stumped for a while. The question was purposely vague. It turned out to be a good exercise. It's actually 2 different questions that had to be double spaced and fit within 3 to 4 pages. Most writers write whole books about the subject. After much writing and deleting, I came up with a rough draft. Really rough. After sending it off to friends who are smarter and have much better grammer than I, we came up with something that sounded more like me and less like I was trying too hard. Thank you, editors!

Well, here it is:

Describe your development as a writer and as a person of faith:

“Hi, I’m Amie, the wedding coordinator here. Today’s your big day. Congratulations. I’m just going to clip this microphone on you. It goes up high, just under the knot of the tie like so.” I clip the microphone in place and quickly slip the rest of the microphones battery pack into the groom’s breast pocket. “We can hide the rest right in here. It is on, but muted. I am the only one with control of that button. This means you do not need to touch it, just forget it’s there. Please don’t touch it. Only the parts of the ceremony where you are expected to speak will be amplified for everyone to hear.  I promise. I’ll be standing right here the entire time. As soon as it’s over and you walk back down the aisle, I’ll come take this off so that it won’t be in all the pictures. Ok? Any questions?” In two years as a wedding coordinator, I gave this speech to more than four hundred grooms. It sounds like I’m exaggerating. I’m not.

I find one of two things when sliding my hand inside a grooms’ breast pocket. Either it’s hot like a sauna and his heart is thumping like a rabbit or, it’s freezing inside and there is almost no movement at all, which leaves me wanting to check for a pulse while I’m in there.

After giving this speech to one groom in particular, on a hot July afternoon, his face went white. He was one of the cold grooms. As his groomsmen were toasting him with flasks and joking about his last few minutes of freedom he looked down at me and whispered, “This thing doesn’t record thoughts, does it?”

“Of course not. It amplifies them,” I shot back. Maybe it was the extreme heat or the intense stress to get this couple married on time, either way, I had temporarily lost my filter, my patience and this groom looked like he might lose his lunch.

“That was a joke. Obviously it wasn’t funny. Not funny at all. I’m sorry. Why don’t you have a seat,” I waved the minister over and checked my watch. “Would you sit with our groom for a minute while I get him some water? He looks like he might pass out.” I hurried toward the kitchen for a bottle of water and a minute to myself. I reached in the fridge, took a few deep breaths and grabbed the water for our faint groom. As I hesitated to leave the air conditioning for the heat of the lawn where the guests were taking their seats, I asked God a loaded question, “Every groom acts like his wedding is a big surprise, like he was tricked into doing this by a woman who needs this marriage more than him. Are you this nervous about me?”

My faith came at an early age. My mother became a Christian in the delivery room, waiting for me to be revived. We were both given life that day. My father followed suit a few months later and as a child of five, I prayed the sinners’ prayer from my bunk bed. Secretly, I’ve always associated salvation with the smell of clean sheets. As a wedding coordinator, the concept of the Church as the Bride of Christ was not lost on me. My problem was I hated weddings. After four hundred nervous grooms, my concept of God was considerably smaller than I’d care to admit.

A few minutes later, I took my place at the audio board, the ceremony began, the bride walked down the aisle and the guests stood up to watch. I kept my eyes on the groom. I watched his pale face flush pink as he realized that she was there for him alone. Somewhere in the middle of “The Wedding March,” I heard God’s voice rushing in like wind in the trees, “I am never nervous. I want this more than you can know. I always have.” If salvation smells like clean sheets, redemption sounds like the “Wedding March” and this is why I write.

I’ve been writing ever since I could wield a crayon. It’s how I make sense of my funny little world. Writing reminds me that the earth is round and I am on it, not the center of it. As a child, writing was my escape, a way of using big words when my own small voice didn’t feel like enough. As an adolescent, writing allowed me the space to ask those angry questions of God and search for His answers. Now, as an adult, writing is my way of recording the faithfulness of God and giving others the space and vocabulary to tell their own stories. The Bible tells us that our language has the power to give life or take it away. In either case, the ways we choose to express ourselves have the power to change the world. I plan on being a part of that change for a long time.

So, here I am. I climb up mountains. I run down sidewalks. I walk to work. I sit in traffic. I knit. I take pictures. I plan girls’ nights and art days. I cook, although cooking is used loosely, it’s more like inventing. I instigate the fun at church, at work, at home with friends. I email. I blog. I pray. I paint furniture. I sweep the floors. I lock my doors. I speak. I listen. I read. I write everything down. I make myself at home. I’m learning to love. I have issues. I am a work in progress. I continually try to do more than two things at once. Sometimes this is calamitous. Sometimes it’s genius. Always, it’s an adventure.

This adventure has not come without a fight. Balancing out what I understood to be God’s call on my life, my love of storytelling, with what the church recognized as ladylike behavior has been a dangerous and sometimes lonely road. Over the years, one thing has remained constant and clear, God’s love for his people is not an exaggeration. A few years back, I wrote down this prayer. I find myself returning to it again and again.

“Father, the business of living out my faith is a call to action, not to mention, a gift. And you are taken with this chase. You pursue me, hem me in and there is nothing in me dark enough that you aren’t already intimately acquainted with. Even when I fall on my face and learn my lessons the ‘Karate Kid’ way: I say, ‘Make me strong’ and you say, ‘Gee, my car needs waxing. Here’s how I like it, Wax on, wax off…’

Even when I stop sleeping and proceed to wonder why I’m so exhausted. Even when I ask too many questions and don’t listen to your answers. Even when I start thinking that you can’t possibly be right about me. Even when I expect the whole wide world from everyone, including myself, and nothing from you. Still you are unchanging. Still you are wooing me over miles and miles of unpaved roads and where it all leads, only you know. And yet, against all common sense, I’m still breathing and fully aware that even my breath is a gift from you. In you, I have been given everything I could possibly need. Like the Psalm says, ‘nothing is beyond you.’ Even me.”

I’m not exaggerating.