Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Project!

All right guys, the project I described in my previous post is up and running! Check it out if you so desire. :-)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coffee Stains on the Paper

I love to go to coffee shops and sit by myself and write. It's something I don't do enough, and something I definitely want to make more time for. And something I did today.

And it sparked an idea in me for a blog or something similar... a project, kind of, that would also force me to allow time to be alone (which I love and thrive on but often give up to help out friends and family), at least once a week, if not more, and also plays very nicely into my love of traveling to new places.

So I may be starting another blog - this one with a theme. :-) But I'll just be writing whatever I'm thinking about, about my life, issues that are relevant at the time, and sharing. I wrote my first one today... but this is a great time in my life to be doing this, because I'm going through a ton of transitions... mainly typical young adult stuff. But that also means relevance.

I'm kind of excited at the prospect of having a writing project again.

Anyway, I think I'm off to create the new blog. I'll probably still write on here (I like to write), and 'two are better than one' as the scriptures say. (I know I'm taking that terribly out of context - don't condemn me).

Later, all,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Selling Out :-D

A List of Several Things I Used to Scoff at:

1) Farmville. That facebook game that takes over people's lives, and they become compulsive about organizing their lives around the times that their crops need to be harvested. It's not even real! Why spend so much time playing?

2) Disney Channel Shows. Hannah Montana. The Suite Life. Wizards of Waverly Place. Lame Lame Lame. It's bad enough that kids and teenagers are so obsessed with such poor entertainment - why do so many college girls love Hannah Montana?

3) Domesticity. Women should find other things to love than 'housework'. Oh those poor poor females who spend most of their time cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc.

4) Dogs. I like cats. They are smart. Dogs are dumb and slobbery and gross.

5) Top 40 Radio. Who listens to popular music? Not I! Nothing good to be found there.

6) Highway Driving. Why take the interstate when you can take back roads? Much simpler, much nicer to do the country driving.

7) Art Majors. Why would anyone go to school to get a degree in art? It's not like they can actually use it, or earn a living from it. So impractical!

8) Those Kinds of Couples. Who spend hours on the phone each night, talking to each other. Who email back and forth in between the phone calls. Who text each other little things about their day. All of that communication is clearly unhealthy and obsessive. There's no way anyone could possibly just enjoy talking to each other that much.

9) Talking on the Phone. I don't like talking on the phone. So impersonal. Talking in person is way better, and I do not like spending more than a few minutes on the phone. I will email someone before I will talk on the phone with them.

10) Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets. Gross. Gross gross gross.

A List of Things I Have Come to Enjoy in the Past Year:

1) Farmville is actually fun, and even though I only joined after my mom and boyfriend joined forces against me, I very soon started to love it. It's so pretty! All the different colored plants and trees and animals... don't judge if you've never played. I learned my lesson.

2) I recently spent many hours watching Disney Channel Shows with an 11-year-old girl that my friend Rachel babysits. And... I was not just pretending to laugh for the sake of the child.

3) I've spent a lot of time being domestic this summer. I've been keeping the kitchen clean and organized for my mom, helping to clean and organize various rooms in the house in general. Baking a little. Cooking a little. Mending / Altering clothes a little. Budgeting. Making a wardrobe. Doing laundry. Folding clothes. And I like it.

4) I love Samson. He is the best dog ever.

5) I also spent a lot of time while I was in St Louis with Rachel, listening to Top 40 Radio. There were some catchy tunes on there... I might have even listened to the station on my many-hour-long drive home on Thursday... and as I passed through different parts of different states, flipped through different stations until I found another one playing those songs. I can admit it.

6) Highway Driving and Cruise Control are the best! Fast! Clean! Efficient! Easy! No cows on the road!

7) I am an art major.

8) My boyfriend and I started dating three weeks before the end of the school semester. We've talked to each other a lot over the summer. I love talking with him, and we haven't actually run out of things to talk about yet. Ever. I miss him - I can admit that. :-) We have spent many more weeks apart than together since we've been dating. Recently as we were talking on the phone, we noted that perhaps we had become on of those kinds of couples.

9) *See number 8*

10) Yeah... hot pockets. Tasty.

So what I'm saying is... it's okay to change your mind about things. And perhaps in the future, I will form much less strong opinions about things that I have never tried or experienced. :-)

Try something you've always made fun of today.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Time stopped for me this past month.

Granted, I needed it to stop for me four months ago:

But that wasn't possible - I tried, and my mind tried even harder than my body, but it could only stop for a couple of weeks before I could no longer get through my classes without thinking about the work, so I wrenched my mind back, shut off my heart for a while the best I could, and put it on hold.

I somehow forced through the semester (even without losing my scholarships!), and there were even some nice surprises sprinkled throughout. :-) And maybe more concentrated toward the end. I did see Fantastic Mr. Fox during finals week for the first time; that was a definite high point.

Okay, I've had my Wes Anderson reference; I've fulfilled my 'cool white kid' duty for the week.

But really, I always try to do too much, and God still managed to answer my prayers and meet my needs despite my best attempts to keep going without. My summer hasn't turned out like I've expected, but this past month of June, time didn't just slow down for me. It essentially stopped. I had zero responsibilities aside from taking care of myself. And just now, as I'm finally starting to feel refreshed and closer to back to normal, I'm picking up little things again, like a starter lap before school starts again in August.

I really shouldn't make sports references that I don't understand. I don't even know what a 'starter lap' is, or if that even exists. It just sounded vaguely appropriate. :-)

And as to being 'back to normal'... I think the definition of 'normal' changes after someone you care about passes away. And that's okay. Every experience we have in life changes us, if we let it. And this is one that I think should.

I still feel my eyes tear up, and my throat begin to burn, when I think about him. Maybe that will always happen; I don't know.

It's not that he was a saint - neither of them were - they were teenage kids. But they maybe had more good motives than bad, and some great qualities. And I saw how much care he invested into making the plays run smoothly, technically speaking, and how much pride he took in a smooth performance. And how much he cared about my sister, and how insistent he was to make things right after she'd been hurt. And how he really did respect his parents, and love his sister.

I guess his accident was really bad. He may not have even known what was hitting him before he was gone. Maybe he didn't feel a thing.

And it still feels empty. There was an empty seat at graduation (3 actually, for the three classmates that have died), an empty spot at the tech table during the last play, an empty spot in the pew every Sunday. Especially this Sunday, with the singing of both "I'm So Happy" and "God Save the Queen". :-) So it's not just empty; it's silent.

And maybe my tears are for his family too, who feel the emptiness and the silence much stronger than his friends.

For a while after the accidents, the events of that day and that week played through my head constantly, images of the viewing and funeral and grieving community interrupting my thoughts and playing constantly when I didn't want them to. And now it's not an uncontrollable thing, but I'm beginning to want to think about them, and remember the lives that were lost.

And so I know I'm healing. And God is walking me through it with all the love and care He possesses.

And so the things I know about God now?

God exists.
God keeps his promises.
God is powerful.
God is love.
God meets my needs... whether I want Him to or not.

:-) Happy 4th. (through the tears brimming in my eyes)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wisdom from the Kitchen


One important part of the American way of life is to really like a potential president while he's campaigning, vote for him, watch him get elected and sworn in, and immediately stop liking and supporting him after he's been in office for a year or so and hasn't solved all of our problems. Usually this is followed by statements such as "Yeah I knew we shouldn't believe all the hype." or "When something's too good to be true, it usually isn't."

As if we had any idea how to run the nation.

Of course, this pattern happens throughout life in many other situations. From new college courses, to new authors, to new soul mates, to new diets.

We're a culture of immediate gratification, easy ways out, and a victim of circumstances complex.

Nothing good comes instantly. Look at mashed potatoes.

Would you rather have the kind your grandmother spends all morning making? Peeling the potatoes, mashing by hand, adding sour cream and butter, and cooking over the stove? Or the 'Just add water!' kind that you find buried in the pantry, pour from a box, stir a few minutes, and serve? We all know which tastes better.

And for those of us that have spent the time peeling those potatoes, know the kind of satisfaction that comes from knowing and experiencing each step of the process. It is much more gratifying to me to know I am being complimented for a job well done than for knowing how to take shortcuts and still achieve a semi-positive outcome.

Although, considering typical human nature, I am probably just being complimented for the pleasant effect my potatoes have on the consumer's stomach, and the fact that he could achieve instant gratification by having the food placed in front of him instead of having to put in the time to make it himself.

It's a hard life.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Growing Up

My little sister is going to college this fall.


She and Kevin and I were all in the kitchen yesterday, milling around and making our dinners, and talking to Mom, and I had several flashbacks of the same picture, at different stages.

Kevin, Sarah, me, lined up at the kitchen counter, playing with tupperware and things, Sarah still a baby in a high chair, while Mom was on the other side, cooking...

Kevin, Sarah, me, lined up on our barstools - Kevin and me turned toward the center, sticking our feet on Sarah's chair because it drove her crazy...

Kevin, Sarah, me, teenagers, all too tall to sit at the kitchen counter to eat, all still doing it out of habit...

Maybe it's a weird thing to think about, but I was definitely struck by how different we looked in different stages... but there is a sense of similarity about it too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Gambler

Last thing I learned from my summer internship:

Know when to quit.

Or, as the poet Kenny Rogers might say, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run."

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my church. I love the internship. I love the people I was working with, and I'm excited about the relationships I've begun to form.

However, I knew from the beginning that I needed rest more than anything this summer, and I hadn't quite thought through and accounted for the depletion of emotional resources I always feel at the end of a school year, the intense emotional exhaustion I had gone through this year in particular, and my extensive solitude needs as an introverted individual. For me, it basically came down to either:

a) finish the internship and go into the next school year with no more resources than I ended it with, which is something like -9,000%.


b) quit the internship, but finish school.

Naturally, I chose option B.

So now I'm at home. I'm resting. I'm writing. I'm playing with my brother's 6 month old, 65 pound puppy. I'm going through my stuff and attempting to part with more of it (because I don't need most of it nor do I really have room for it in my dorm room...). I'm cleaning and doing stuff around the house. I'm helping my mom in the church nursery. I'm reading a whole lot of Sherlock Holmes stories. I would highly recommend them to the emotionally drained. There is absolutely zero emotion in Mr. Holmes. He analytically solves mysteries - the only person he cares about is Watson, and that sentiment even only presents itself in the most subtle ways in the stories toward the end of his life. Dear Watson. Kudos to him for not needing any indication of his best friend's affection to be assured of the importance of their friendship to him.

I'm also doing a lot of thinking, and believe you me, it is incredibly freeing to have time just to sit and think and pray and process. I have a lot of mixed emotions about the past school year to sift through, but I intersperse those processing times with Holmes and internet chess, so I am indeed, slowly beginning to recharge.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Paradoxical Beauty (pt 4)

Recently, I told the God of the Universe that I didn’t have any reason to trust Him.

I didn’t do that eloquently. No, no, no. I was curled up in a ball on my bed in my tiny, hot dorm room, on a Sunday afternoon, silently screaming because God kept insisting that He loved me, and kept sticking people in my life who also insisted they loved me. And I just didn’t believe it.

“I have no reason to trust them… people say all kinds of things they don’t mean, just to get what they want… I don’t want to trust them; better to go it alone… no chance of getting hurt if you stick to yourself and don’t let anyone in… oh God, wait… I feel this way about You too, don’t I?”

Brief pause.

“God… I don’t want to let You love me.”

Half-second pause.

“Oh my word – did I just tell GOD that I didn’t want to let Him love me?”

And then I recalled the scripture “I have promised never to leave or forsake you.”

“Well yes, you promise that, but how do I know that you’ll keep your promises?”

Another half-second pause.

“Oh my word – I just told GOD that I didn’t trust Him. I don’t trust Him! Can I say that? That’s awful! How can I say that or think that or… but I do!”

And as I calmed down, I began thinking about Old Testament stories, how God led the Israelites out of Egypt and captivity and to the Promised Land… and then I thought about Jesus. I thought about it in a new way though. My next statement was much less angst-filled, and more surprised…

“God… you impregnated a young teenage girl from the bad part of the country just to keep Your promise to Your people to bring them a Savior. Now… people probably had a lot to say about that… probably thought You went about it in a weird or bad way… thought that maybe it didn’t make sense… maybe even criticized you. Do something more socially acceptable… but You risked all of that. ALL of that. To keep Your promises to Your people.”

And then I sat up.

“God keeps His promises.”

I looked around my room, not really seeing anything, but thinking and feeling this truth in a way that I never had before, albeit hearing it hundreds of times growing up in Sunday school and VBS.

“I can trust You. You keep Your promises.”

It wasn’t anything spectacular or mystical or miraculous. But I know I was praying, talking with God, and He was the one that brought these thoughts to my mind. It had nothing to do with my own doing.

A few months ago, I was down to just this belief: God exists. The rest, I just wasn’t sure of. But now, as I have been honest with God about my doubts, and have been earnestly seeking to discover who He actually is… I have begun to build truth upon truth, that I have always been taught, but now believe in such a more real and genuine way.

Perhaps in order to have faith, I really do need to doubt?

Paradoxical, but then when has God ever made sense?

Trust vs. Understanding (pt. 3)

Christian College Myth #2: I’m going to find the good in every situation, because God makes everything happen for a reason, and God forbid it doesn’t make sense to me – I have to understand it all.

So I may have voiced this one in a little bit of an extreme way – I’ve been a very frustrated girl this semester. Now that it’s summer, and I am off campus, and sitting in the house I’m living in for the summer with the other Mercy House interns (shout out), I’m a little less urgently upset, though still frustrated enough with the attitudes I adopted this past year (and have since discarded) to finish what I’ve started.

Having a positive outlook is not a bad thing. I hold nothing against optimists.

Being instructed to discipline yourself in order to create a compulsion to find (or create) some tiny positive outlook in terrible situations is however, to my mind, destructive.

Feel free to make fun of me enthusiastically for my extreme love of this movie, but in Remember the Titans, there is a memorable quote, which I think is really quite profound:

“Sometimes bad things happen. For no reason at all.”

Or no reason that I will understand in this life. Or no reason more insightful than “There is evil in this world.”

Trust me, I know and believe that God is powerful, and that in the end, He wins, and we have hope in Christ. But I think we often forget the flip side, that Satan has power too, and though God wins in the end, evil can cause a whole lot of harm in the meantime.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

We have a very ordinary desire for things to make sense. It also feels very good to think that we know what God is up to. But God will humble the proud.

Everytime we try to contain God inside a box of our limited human understanding, He’s just going to break out of it again and do something completely unexpected. The minute we think we understand Him, He will blow our minds away. And it won’t make sense any more.

If our faith is based on our understanding, where then will it be? Faith, by its very definition, involves believing without understanding, involves doubt.

So… perhaps the issue is more about trust. Do we trust that God knows what He’s doing? Enough to love Him and pursue Him even if He doesn’t let us in on the finer details of His divine plan?

Do we trust God enough to bring even our doubts to Him?

I’ve found that He’s big enough to handle it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

'Relentless Discovery'

Week 2 of the internship has begun.

A few things I have learned:

* How to correctly install a window a/c unit
* How to stir fry many vegetables to make a tantalizing and tasty asian-looking dish to feed many people
* How to split a jelly doughnut without spilling the innards all over yourself
* Rice makes any dish five times as large.
* Neighbors tend to expect you to talk to them.
* I am used to roughly 30/70 social time vs alone time.
* I am not the only one in the house having issues transitioning.
* As much as I like to think I reacted strongly against certain aspects of my childhood in the church, they still have had an effect on me.

Last Friday, during our second class session, we talked about salvation. And we began by sharing the church environment we grew up in, and what we believe/were taught about salvation. I remember being taught that salvation was a personal choice, come to the altar, be saved from your sins, big moment, type of deal. Which is not in itself a bad thing. For some people, it is.

I remember when I was young seeing a play about the fires of hell that was intended to strike fear and guilt into you, in order to convince you of your need for a Savior, and to come to Him. I know the intentions of the church were good, but I reacted very strongly against that idea later on. I don't think that we should begin a relationship with Christ out of fear for the alternative. I think it should be out of love for and curiosity about the God who loves us and saves us.

So I thought that concept was completely out of my thinking, until Matt, our pastor, has us role play a conversation between a nonbeliever and a Christian about our faith. I was the second person to be the 'Christian', and I entered into it with the intention of making it a conversation, and asking the 'nonbeliever' as many questions as he asked me, which did work to an extent, but I also found myself going about it with the concept of "well you need Jesus to help you forgive yourself... there must be something you feel guilty about... come on..."


It just really impresses on me that everything in my life has influenced me to some extent, whether I recognize that or not.

This may just be a summer of discovery. 'relentless discovery' if you will. Haha... oh Taylor... I actually couldn't remember where that phrase came from for a moment. See? Everything influences you... including the giant TU billboard on I-69.

I'm feeling very positive this week about prospects for this internship and this summer. I think it will be way different than what I'm used to for my summer, but I think that will be a good thing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Brief Hiatus

It is summer.

I am drained. I didn’t even have time or energy to realize how very drained I had become until a few days after I left campus for the semester. And then I couldn’t identify it, because no matter how in tune with myself I like to believe I am, I am very much not.

But I’ve figured it out.

Burnout. I am experiencing ‘burnout’. I have a whole lot of energy and resources too. I’m not sure that I ever have experienced burnout. But I am now.

I am currently in Anderson, IN, sprawled out on a lovely dark green couch in the living room of a house occupied by seven other people, and we are the Mercy House interns, phase five. And I am excited to see what is in store for us.

But I am also tired. I’ve always maintained a busy schedule, and this year was more intense than even the others, because of my decision to be a Taylor University PA, and then a series of unexpected life events that sapped all of my emotional resources away away.

Although, through everything (and there are a ton of things God was teaching me / reminding me of…), this is reminding me of one crucial thing. I can’t handle things on my own.

And rest is a gift.

I pulled out Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God this afternoon, which our English Hall PA staff was supposed to read together last semester, but I actually didn’t open once, because, ironically, I was too busy. The book begins by his defense of maintaining the Sabbath.

I have always been skeptical of this command. It seems like an outdated tradition, and very unpractical in my busy world. A very stressful addition to the other things I have to do.

Buchanan suggests that we think of the Sabbath like liturgy, which he describes as a unifying, connecting thing. A suggestion of practical action for a scriptural concept, one that you can follow as closely or tweak as much as you would like. He described it like choreography. I think of it like jazz.

Jazz music has a basic melody line that everyone follows, a sound structure that everything revolves around and builds on, but each line is very open to improvisation and experimentation.

This is our freedom in Christ.

All the different instruments have their own variations to the main melody, based on their abilities to create different sounds, and different instruments are prominent at different times, but all follow the same basic melody and fit together seamlessly to create a unified sound that is beautiful, sometimes jarring, sometimes smooth, sometimes unexpected, but always beautiful.

Which I think is actually a nice picture of the Church, and our unity in Christ.

But that’s just what I think.

I’m still working through my thoughts on what God has begun showing me about my flawed thinking in a Christian college environment, and I’ll be continuing to write and think about that this summer, but I think interspersed throughout will be my thoughts as I read this book, which has definitely reappeared at a perfect time, as I’m realizing how very tired I am, and willing to give God, and His ideas about the Sabbath and rest, a listen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fool Me Twice... (pt 2)

Christian College Student Concept #1: "I’m going to shut out negative emotions, because I want to encourage everyone around me, and there’s no way I can do that unless I’m cheerful and pleasant."

(If you are tagged in this note, it is because you are a part of the story, and I want to thank you for the influence you've had in this step of my life. The list is by no means all inclusive, just the ones that stand out in my memory of the events recalled in this particular portion I've written about. I'll only tag you once, in the series of notes I'm writing, but know that your influence carries on - it's just going to be a LOT of writing, and I don't want to clog up your facebook wall. So, yes, thank you.)

(Also, if you want this to flow more cohesively, go back and read pt 1)

The funny thing is… I can go right back to that way of thinking. Why is it that we can learn something so profoundly and genuinely… and forget it so quickly? Human flightiness? Perhaps.

I came back to school the day after the funerals. And I knew that I had a reputation – I was smiling Bethany, who always had a lighthearted comment or encouraging remark, totally focused on cheering up the people around her. (Friends – this is by no means your problem. It’s all on me). I couldn’t do it at first. I could barely even think, let alone feel anything. It became a problem academically. One of my professors summed it up like this:

“Everything seems pretty trivial now, doesn’t it?”

Yes, Professor Bouw, it certainly does.

And then I was advised (by a different professor) to engage in school once again by training my mind, again, to look for the good in those situations, to understand God’s purpose, to see what I was gaining out of this situation, so that I could once again have a cheerful outlook and be able to encourage the people around me.

And I tried it. Because I am an idiot and never learn a lesson the first time around.

I was still sad. But not nearly as often. In fact, I was pretty happy for a couple of weeks straight through. And then I dipped down again, and was very unpleasantly reminded that grief is not something that can be taken care of quickly, or that can be ignored.

But I still didn’t see any connection to the way I was trying to deal with it. And really, it was very effective most of the time. When I was only thinking of pleasant things, I did tend to have pretty positive emotions.

And then, the night before I was to leave for spring break, I received a text from my hall director, telling me to be in her apartment in 15 minutes, with the other PA’s (RA’s for non-Taylor people). And when I arrived, I was told that our housekeeper, Amy, who I had known and had many conversations with and enjoyed immensely, had been taken hostage and then killed by her estranged husband that day. I was stunned. I was feeling my own very real, raw pain again, and then also thinking of Amy’s daughters, one of whom is a student in our hall…

And… the memory is hazy… I honestly don’t know if I was expected to do this by other people or if I put this expectation on myself, but I got the impression that I, as a PA, was supposed to be walking around the hall, comforting and encouraging the students.

And I couldn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t. My pain was too real, and that new pain was also digging up the suppressed pain I still had for Brandon and Amanda.

And then the next day, a professor who I hold in very high regard, gave a lecture. About cheerfulness. And how it was the mark of a mature Christian.

And I argued with him. For the first time. I was offended. I asked what he could possibly see in the situation with Amy and her family, that he could be thankful for. And he said that I should think about what I could gain from the situation. Look for long-term positive effects in how God would use that situation. I was told by various members of the class that I needed to recognize God’s ultimate control over the situation, and that this was all a part of His plan. And that I needed to look longer at everything, so that I could see positives.

I felt a little bit like I was in the middle of The Stepford Wives… or in Camazotz, for those literate in Madeleine L’Engle. I still argued – the idea of concentrating on what I could gain from others’ pain seemed completely self-centered. My professor argued that the Bible instructed us to think that way, and I asked for scripture references to look up.

And I did. And I read some more scriptures. Within one of the references he gave me, there was a verse that said to “grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to morning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” My professor also gave a list of verses in the Psalms, singing praises to God, as support. But when I looked at the Psalms, there were also a huge number that began “Hear me, O Lord, as I voice my complaint…”

So now I’m here. This concept of continual self-constructed cheerfulness doesn’t feel right, doesn’t follow logically, and isn’t supported by a cohesive view of scripture (as far as I can tell).

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

So now I’m done. I still have that joy. I can still feel it. But I in no way am going to go back to this idea of needing to train my mind to be constantly cheerful. Or believe that I cannot be an encouragement to people around me if I am not cheerful.

I came across an article I wrote as a senior in high school, which seems like ages ago, but I know is not actually that long… in which I prompted this question.

“So which is better then? To present a front that you don’t feel any pain so that you won’t burden others? Or to show that you’re just like them and that you feel?”

A teacher asked me about it. If I had an answer. I didn’t. Of course. I had no idea. I was 18 and hadn’t experienced anything significantly painful, to have to choose one of the two ways to act.

Now, at the wise, wise age of 21 (she said tongue-in-cheek), I have a little more of an idea. Pain is universal. Human. Every single person experiences pain of some kind going through life. Why put so much effort into pretending it doesn’t affect you? Shared pain creates a bond of understanding – a connectedness at a deep level of humanity. I don’t believe there is any greater satisfaction to be had from being superhuman, untouchable.

As my mom says (who is older even than 21 and actually is much wiser), "God created us with a whole spectrum of emotions... and I think He is big enough to handle any of them."

Myth busted? (I’m such a nerd.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

That Small Seed (pt 1)

Christian College Student Concept #1: "I’m going to shut out negative emotions, because I want to encourage everyone around me, and there’s no way I can do that unless I’m cheerful and pleasant."

(If you are tagged in this note, it is because you are a part of the story, and I want to thank you for the influence you've had in this step of my life. The list is by no means all inclusive, just the ones that stand out in my memory of the events recalled in this particular portion I've written about. I'll only tag you once, in the series of notes I'm writing, but know that your influence carries on - it's just going to be a LOT of writing, and I don't want to clog up your facebook wall. So, yes, thank you.)

I smile a lot.

Which is fine, yes. It’s much easier to smile than frown, I’m told. Maybe I just have really wimpy facial muscles.

But it’s one thing to smile often and have a generally cheerful disposition, and quite another to train yourself to only process information in ways that create positive conclusions, and thus, positive emotions. I was recently taught, by a highly respected professor, that only if I am living in this state of continual intentional cheerfulness, is my faith in Christ mature.

I thought about this (for perhaps a fraction of a second), and then tried it out. And it seemed to work out quite perfectly! This state of eternal optimism was a pleasant place to be. It felt amazing – things that would normally be disappointing or upsetting just slid right off me. If someone was having a bad day, I was a bottomless well of cheerful outlook on the situation. And the best part was, every time I had a positive comment, I was moving closer to God. My faith was stronger – this was easy! Endless series of mountaintop experiences simply because of how I was training my mind. “Oh the cleverness of me!”

Do you see the problem? Well several problems, actually.

The first being that old friend of mine, PRIDE. Look at what I was doing to increase my faith. The scriptures tell us that it is by grace we are saved – we don’t do this by our own merit. And even when we are told to continue to ‘work out our faith’, it is with ‘fear and trembling’, to sum up – humility.

The first big problem that I was hit with though, was when my happy little version of reality around me crashed, and crashed hard.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010. I had just finished my morning class, and saw that I had a voicemail from my mom. I wondered why she had called when she knew I was in class – perhaps she was coming to visit, or my little sister had received good news about college applications. I wandered into the hallway to look at the printmaking projects while I listened to her message…

And that moment is locked in my memory forever, hearing her recorded voice start to shake as she told me that there had been an accident that morning… and one of my sister’s best friends, also a friend to me, a boy we had grown up with in our church and in our school, was gone. Later, I would learn that another student from their group of friends had also passed away that morning, in a separate accident.

As I heard her words, “one of the students… Brandon Replogle… didn’t make it…” I froze. The white walls and ceiling and tile floor around me all seemed to pulse as reality hung suspended in time. I deleted her voicemail as soon as it finished; I didn’t want to ever hear it again. But deleting the message in no way changed the reality of the situation.

I was in shock – I started screaming and crying in the empty hallway (was it empty? It was empty to me...). I didn’t know what to do or where to go. My phone started vibrating again, and I looked down to see my sister was calling me. And she was crying and screaming too, and in shock. And I made a quick decision. I was going home. As soon as I could.

And this was a conscious decision. I could have stayed at school, removed from the situation, in my happy little world on my happy little college campus, that I had created in my mind. But I knew, more than anything, that I needed to be in the middle of everything. I needed to know that it was real. I needed to be fully engaged in the midst of the pain, and the suffering, of my family and community.

And somehow (the prayers of friends and professors at school had something to do with it, I’m sure…) I made it back home, and instead of stopping at my house, I continued in to the high school, scared out of my mind of what I would see when I got there, but knowing I needed to be there. My sister was there. Her friends, and my friends, in her class were there. Our drama directors were there.

The school was in a state of shock too. I passed my old principal in the hallway – his eyes were wet, and he was staring blankly down the hall. Students were wandering through in the hallways, though it wasn’t a passing period.

Overwhelmingly noticeable though, was the silence. 700 students. Teachers. Administrators. Present. But not speaking.

I literally ran into my sister, who guided me to the back of the building, where the drama directors had set up a room for the students to come, with huge sheets of papers laid out for them to write notes to Brandon and Amanda. Pictures of both students laid out. Music playing that they had loved.

I was met instantly upon entering the room, by these students, who I remembered as little kids, who I had performed alongside on stage, and who I loved and cared about so much, all in this shared pain. At various stages of anger, sadness, or disbelief. So many tears.

And we were encouraging each other. Holding on to each other to make it through. There wasn’t an ounce of cheerfulness in that room. I didn’t need to put on a happy face and concentrate on framing my mind in the correct way to be pleasant. None of us were shutting out our painful emotions, yet just this shared presence was in itself an encouragement to each other.

And later there would be laughter - when a humorous story was recalled about one or both of them. But that was experienced as it occurred naturally. It wasn't consciously created by the power of our minds.

I’m not saying that I had no hope – no joy. I felt the deep seed of joy inside of me, buried way down, but still alive, at the same time as I was feeling such pain. But joy and cheerfulness are not the same thing.

My reality had been completely shaken – my ideas and concepts about life. Everything I believed about God… I was down to three things that I believed to be true.

God exists. God is good. God is love.

And that is joy. That is the seed I had inside of me, ever present. It was buried deep… but it was warm. And it was there.

And this was the truest sense of community I had ever felt –

Can I honestly believe, after all this, that I must shut out negative emotions, and be always cheerful and pleasant, in order to encourage the people around me in the way that God intends me to?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thoughts for the Day

(many of them from people much wiser than myself)

“Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you. It will set you free! Be more like the man you were made to be. There is a design in alignment – the cry of my heart to see – the beauty of love as it was made to be.”

God is love.

And He will not betray you, dismay, or enslave you. (my yoke is easy and my burden is light)

It is so easy on a Christian campus to get caught up in the whole Christian college student thing. You know what I’m talking about. If you are a Christian college student or know someone who is. And I’m as guilty as anyone else - I'm completely describing myself right now.

And if you don’t happen to be or know a Christian college student, I’ll lay it out for you.

I may be texting my friends all through chapel, but I’ll for sure be there, closing my eyes and lifting my hands during the worship just in case somebody’s watching (but of course I'm only doing it for a better connection with God...). It makes me feel good.

I’m going to shut out negative emotions, because I want to encourage everyone around me, and there’s no way I can do that unless I’m cheerful and pleasant.

I’m going to find the good in every situation, because God makes everything happen for a reason, and God forbid it doesn’t make sense to me – I have to understand it all, or my faith is so not as mature as that other girl’s.

I’m going to drive myself completely insane trying to figure out God’s exact plan for my life – searching for His will in every tiny mundane choice I need to make. Because there is only one right choice. I need to be within His will, after all.

I am going to give and give and give and give – it doesn’t matter if I have a project due the next morning, or haven’t slept properly in days. If one of my friends needs a listening ear, then I will be that ear. Unlimited. For hours on end.

“Take every thought and make it captive to Christ.”

“Be perfect, therefore, as He is perfect.”

Those are my mantras.

So, are you following me? Do you see where Bethany was a few weeks ago? Do you see yourself in there?

I don’t think I need to address the first point – enough people have addressed the topic of worship – do we do it because it makes us feel better about ourselves or to give to God – what does it mean to worship – etc. etc. Mark Buchanan describes living as an act of worship in his novel, The Holy Wild. Check it out.

(and I still text my sister during chapel if I’m bored. True confession.)

The other points, though, could use some fleshing out. Later though. I have homework. Be prepared – there will be a plethora of notes coming to describe my thoughts/arguments. I’ve been through a lot this year… have played around with different theological concepts. Have adopted some. Have dropped others.

To make a play on the scripture “the grass withers and the flowers fall…”

Theological concepts come and go, but God Himself is constant. The same yesterday, today, and forever.

And it’s way cool that He’s always there.

So get ready for a rapid fire succession of lessons I’ve learned/thoughts and musings. And in the meantime, check out the Mumford & Sons release “Sigh No More”. It’s good stuff.