Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Word at Christmas

Most of us have heard the Christmas story from Luke many times. I know I have--one of my favorite Christmas memories from all through the years is our family setting up the Nativity while Pop read the story of Jesus's birth from Luke. If you haven't read it in a while, I suggest you take a look at Luke 2:1-20 for a reminder.

In John, though, we get a little different view. John doesn't tell us about the manger, the star, the shepherds, the angels, or the wisemen. Here's what he says:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

"There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

"He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1-14

The Word (Logos), present at the beginning of time and through whom the universe itself was created, became a lowly, insignificant. feeble human and made His home here among us.

How unimaginable is that?

At the same time, though, His creation didn't know Him. He came as the Light, but His creation chose to turn from the light and live in darkness.

How unimaginable is that?

 May you recognize the Word and know Him for who He is this Christmas...
 
Merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine :0)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

where else would we go?

This morning at church, I was reminded just how big a fan I am of Peter.

Pastor Don was talking about how we have two natures, the physical and the spiritual, and how mixed up it is that we spend the majority of our time and attention focusing on the physical nature.

In Genesis we are told that God formed man from the dust of the ground (our physical side) and then breathed into him the breath of life (our spiritual side). Our physical side is temporary--we came from the dirt and one day we will all return to it.

Our spiritual side, though, is eternal. God's breathed His Spirit into each of us at birth, and that spirit is the part of us that cannot be destroyed. How mixed up are we that we spend our time, energy, and money trying to satisfy the desires of our physical nature, so often at the expense of our spiritual nature?

In John, Jesus is preaching to a huge crowd of approximately 5,000 men. That's not even starting to take into consideration all the women and kids that were there, so it's probably safe to say we can double that number. This is the story lots of people refer to as the story of the first boyscout, the little boy who gave Jesus his lunch of 5 small barley loaves and 2 small fish. Jesus went on to bless the boy's lunch and then used it to feed the entire crowd--and there were even leftovers!

We're told that the next day the people went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. When they found Him, Jesus told them basically that they were searching for Him because they had had their bellies filled.

He then went on to talk about one of those weird sticking points for some people: He told the people that they were worrying about the wrong food, and that they wouldn't be satisfied until they realized that He is the bread of life. He even went so far as to say, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:53 & 54)

Needless to say, this idea was a bit hard to swallow for some of Jesus's followers (see what I did there--"hard to swallow"? Okay, maybe I'm a bit cheesy...or just easily amused) and they started grumbling.

Verse 66 says that many of His followers turned away then.
I mean, come on--here's this guy who's telling them they need to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Wouldn't that have creeped you out a little bit?

Other people were abandoning Him, so Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked them, basically, "Don't you all want to run away, too?"

So, here's where my first statement comes into the story: I'm a big fan of Peter. In Matthew we get to see him jump out of the boat and walk on the water to Jesus...and then we see him start sinking when he takes his eyes off Jesus. He comes across as fiercely loyal, stubborn, brash, outspoken, quick-tempered...and here in John he is the one who speaks up to answer Jesus and say what everyone else was probably thinking but didn't want to say:

"Where would we go?"

Peter doesn't say he's not thinking what everybody else is thinking. He simply says, "You may be a bit out there, but You tell the truth. Where else would we go?"

Sometimes, I have no idea what God is wanting me to do. He confuses me and He doesn't give me the nice, neat, straight answers I so often want.

The thing is, though, like Peter I know that He is Truth.
Where else would I go?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I have no words...

  • Charlotte Bacon, 6, (F)
  • Daniel Barden, 7, (M)
  • Rachel Davino, 29, (F)
  • Olivia Engel , 6, (F)
  • Josephine Gay, 7, (F)
  • Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6 (F) 
  • Dylan Hockley, 6 (M)
  • Dawn Hochsprung, 47 (F)
  • Madeleine F. Hsu, 6, (F) 
  • Catherine V. Hubbard , 6, (F) 
  • Chase Kowalski, 7, (M)
  • Jesse Lewis, 6,  (M)
  • James Mattioli, 6, (M)
  • Grace McDonnell, 7, (F) 
  • Anne Marie Murphy, 52 (F) 
  • Emilie Parker, 6 (F)
  • Jack Pinto, 6, (M)
  • Noah Pozner, 6, (M)
  • Caroline Previdi, 6, (F)
  • Jessica Rekos, 6, (F)
  • Avielle Richman, 6 (F) 
  • Lauren Rousseau, 30, (F)
  • Mary Sherlach, 56, (F) 
  • Victoria Soto, 27 (F)
  • Benjamin Wheeler, 6, (M)
  • Allison N. Wyatt , 6 (F)

    ...there are no words.

    "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." ~Romans 8:26

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

the beauty of now

I'm a music fanatic--through the good and bad times in my life, it seems there has always been a song that just somehow fits.

For a little background (and to make an incredibly long story short), I'm in one of those places right now where I'm not really sure what's going on. I'm in grad school and looking at the fact that if I'm going to make it through this program I'm going to have to shift my priorities. I've been wondering if this is what I need to do and praying for clarity and peace about whether or not I've made the right decision in being here. I look back and keep saying, "What if I had..."

Well, on my drive to class this morning I was listening to an old cd I found in the glove box yesterday. It was SheDaisy, and the song, "Now" came on. The first verse says,

If I could be 13 again
To live with no regret
I could still be president
And I could feel my 
dad as he's holding me
In his arms not in my dreams
And I could not wait to
Be something at 23...

Man, I can't tell you how easy it is to look back to that time when I could look forward and see my future all laid out before me. As a teenager, there was no limit to what I thought I would be able to accomplish. My plans were all made, and when people asked where I would be in 10 years I knew exactly what my life would look like...

Funny thing is, my life today looks nothing like what I thought it would when I was giving that description 10 years ago... or even 5 years ago, for that matter.

The chorus of that song goes on to say,

But now I've got the sun
To clear away the clouds
So why look back when there's a
Stunning
Blazing
So Amazing now!

When I listened to that this morning, something clicked for me. It doesn't matter what might have been. I have an incredibly challenging but amazing life right now, so why do I keep looking back and wondering where I would be today if I had made different decisions?

I can honestly say that I can't think of a single big decision in my life that I haven't consulted God about, then made my choice based on where I thought He was leading me. I have, in good faith, followed wherever that path has led.

I'm in no way saying I know where I'm going now, or exactly why I'm here in grad school. The obvious answer would be to say that I'm here to get a PhD in Medical Physics, but I've learned through the years that the obvious answer isn't always God's answer (in my life, actually, it has seldom been the case).

I have to confess that I haven't been talking to God or listening to God nearly as much as I should have been lately, which most likely explains why all these doubts and fears have taken such a hold on me. That being the case, when I wanted to go to the Scriptures this morning to get some perspective I didn't have a daily reading plan that I've been following. In the back of my Bible, though, there's a plan for reading through the Bible in a year, so I looked up the passage for today.

It's funny how God works things out for us sometimes. The passage I read this morning was Philippians 3:7-14. I won't write it all out here because it is pretty lengthy and would add to this already too long post, but here's the gist of it:

As a Jew, Paul had every credential imaginable. He could essentially be held up as the good Hebrew poster child. When he encountered Christ, though, his life was turned on its head and he realized that all that stuff didn't matter. What mattered was Jesus Christ, and Paul realized that he would give everything he ever had as a credit to his name if he could just become more like Christ. He, like all of us, had been called to chase after Christ, to do everything in his power to become like Him.

He summed everything up with a phrase that I'm going to borrow from the Message paraphrase: "I'm off and running and I'm not turning back."

This may seem like an odd connection to some of you, but that passage made one thing clear to me--now isn't the time to look back and try to figure out what might have been. Now is beautiful, or as SheDaisy said, "stunning, blazing, so amazing"! Now is the time for me to forget about the past and just work on following Christ in this moment, and for me right now that means working my hardest to juggle all the amazing opportunities in my life at the moment: a husband, kids, grad school, writing, calligraphy, crochet... all the good stuff, and the crazy hard stuff, too!

What makes your now "stunning, blazing, so amazing"? 
 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Physicist and Dreamer

What do you do when you're totally level-headed, feet planted firmly on the ground,
     but your heart wants to fly?

I've always been a realist. You know the type--always saying things like, "That would be great, but it's just not plausible." I'm in grad school for physics--good grief, how much more realistic can you get?

When I get my degree in a few years and go back out to the real world, I'll have lots of doors opening for me. There will be good pay, regular hours, and everything that goes with those.
My kids will be well provided for,
my husband will finally be able to pursue his dreams,
I'll be doing something that I know helps people,
and I'll finally be able to pay back, in some small way, all those who have given so much to get me to this place.

My brain sees all those things as good (well, duh--why wouldn't it?). The journey is all mapped out, and all the steps lead across solid ground. Sure there is the possibility for things to go wrong along the way (it seems that is always a major possibility in my life), but for the most part it is a safe, comfortable path.

So what's the problem?

Though I've always been a realist, someone who has to analyze everything and come to the most logical conclusion, deep inside lives a very different person:
a dreamer,
a romantic,
a girl who looks at the world around her and sees the magic that is lurking just under the surface.

A writer.
Wow, that's a hard title for me to claim...

That girl inside wants to throw caution to the wind and ask, "Why not take a leap? Why follow a path when you can take to the air and soar above it?"

I can feel her inside, desperately trying to spread her wings. When I'm working on physics problems, my mind full of numbers, I feel her stirring my heart, trying to get my attention. She makes my fingers itch for a pen, uses words to paint pictures on my soul.

She laughs when my brain starts in with, "But it just doesn't make sense..." She throws her head back and breaks free, her wings stretching wide as she takes flight. She twirls through the air, leaving airy phrases spinning in her wake. She pays no attention to the rest of the world, content in her play.

She doesn't notice the rope around her ankle until it is pulled taut. Then, as it always does, the logical, realistic part of me reins her in--it wouldn't make sense to just let her go free, after all. She's held in check for a while, the rope wrapped around her.
 
Little by little, though, she works free of the coils holding her wings still. She is anxious to fly again, to dance and laugh and skip across dreams.

For now, these two sides of me will just have to continue to coexist, the analytical side working on physics while the creative side etches out a little bit of writing time now and again.

Maybe one day, though, that rope will slip off the ankle of the dreamer, and she'll be free to soar.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

smiles that make me happy :0)

So, school is crazy right now and I have so much physics I should be doing. I have a Modern Physics test  at 8:30 in the morning tomorrow, Quantum Mechanics and Classical Mechanics homework due Friday, a Classical Mechanics test I'll start Friday, Modern homework due next Tuesday...

In true Mandy-style, then, I'm procrastinating.

I realized it has been quite a while since I posted pictures of the most beautiful kids in the world, so I figured it must be time for picture overload!

 A while back we took a trip up to Cabela's to show the kids where Nathan works. As you can see from the picture above, Raiden was her usual girly self and Conan was super excited to be going... oh wait, half of that statement may have been a bit sarcastic...
 Once there, they were both pretty excited to see the giant grizzlies fighting over the antlers.




So above we have the "before" Halloween picture. I was escorting Snow White and Batman this year. Below is the after--I think the candy may last us a while (assuming I can stop taking a piece every time I walk by...)!





This is how Raiden spends most of her time anymore. She loves anything that has to do with art and is asking for art classes...
This is where Conan spends most of his time...at big sister's elbow, trying to be right in the middle of whatever she's doing.


Raiden's latest creation, her playdough mermaid. If you look closely you'll see that Raiden's front two bottom teeth are both missing. She lost the first one at school and the other at church.

Last but not least, my baby boy looking very much not like a baby anymore!

Friday, November 9, 2012

questioning

"God works in mysterious ways."
"It must have just been God's will."

How many times have you heard those statements? I know I have; too many times to count. Most of the time they're said in response to a tragedy or when something else terrible happens.

It seems like so many times as Christians we are told that we aren't supposed to ask questions. We are supposed to take everything at face value without ever trying to dig any deeper.

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus tells us that we should have child-like faith. Most of the time this is equated with simplistic faith (which is partly why so many of my peers in the science world have such a hard time with Christianity). People point to children's faith in their parents as an example. Though there are obvious exceptions, most of the time children don't have to wonder if their parents love them. Children trust their parents to take care of them, and they have no doubt that their parents will live up to those expectations.

With that in mind, though, think about spending any amount of time with a child. They are constantly asking questions:
"Why can't I wear my plastic high heel princess shoes to school?"
"What is gravity?"
"Can I have candy for breakfast?"

"Why do people do bad things?"
"Why is the sky blue?"
"How can they put the electric lines up without getting shocked?"


Their questions cover everything from the mundane to the extremely complex (and yes, Raiden and Conan have asked me all those questions. The high heels one was this morning). Sometimes, in those moments after something has happened that they don't like, the tone of their questions changes:
"Why are you being mean?"
"Why did you let me get hurt?"
"Can't I ever do anything I want?"

"Why do you always get to be the boss?"
"Why was she mean to me?"
"Don't you love me anymore?"

When kids ask questions, does it make their parents love them any less?
Of course not!

Sometimes Raiden asks questions I can't answer in a way she will understand. As a scientist I love it when she asks me about things like electricity and gravity, but the textbook answer wouldn't mean anything to her right now. Sometimes, it's even good for her to ask me the heart-wrenching ones, too, because they give me the chance to wrap her in my arms and tell her just how much I love her.

Sometimes, though, the answer has to just be, "Because."
Didn't you hate getting that answer as a kid? "Because I said so!"

Matthew 7:11 says, "As bad as you are [...], you're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?" (The Message). Though that verse applies to asking God for what we need, I think it can apply here, too.

We are imperfect people, but we still love our children. Them asking questions, even the tough questions, doesn't make us love our kids any less. Why is it, then, that we think we can't ask God the tough questions? Is it going to make Him love us any less? If we in our imperfection won't be swayed in our love, what makes us think God in His perfection will be?

Sure, sometimes the answer is going to be like the one Job got. Sometimes our questions come out of an attitude of thinking we know more than God, and then we are put in our place.

When we ask genuine questions out of a God-given curiosity or out of heart-wrenching pain, though, I think God uses them as a chance to take us in His arms and show us how much He loves us. Sometimes we get exactly the answer we are looking for. Sometimes it is simplified because we just wouldn't quite understand the full answer. Other times we get the "Because I said so!" answer.

No matter the answer, though, and no matter my question, I don't think God loves me any less for asking.
 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

believing in the silence

Sometimes it's easy to feel like our prayers don't go any higher than the ceiling.

We don't feel like God is hearing us, and we definitely aren't hearing anything from Him.

Have you ever felt like that? If you're honest, I imagine you'll say you have. I know I have.

You know what? You aren't alone.
Mother Teresa, a woman know the world over for her faith, told those close to her that her heart was broken because she felt like she was living silence for somewhere around five decades.

Seriously. 50 years feeling like she wasn't hearing anything from God.

Numbers vary, but Noah and his family were cooped up on the ark for somewhere around a year. I can't say for sure, but I imagine it is safe to say that they felt like God was being pretty silent there for a while.

I don't know about you, but when I feel like that I just want to quit.
I get this thought in my head that apparently God doesn't care about what I'm doing because He's not giving me any input. Like David, I cry out, 
"How long, O LORD
Will You forget me forever? 
How long will You hide Your face from me? 
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? 
How long will my enemy triumph over me? 
Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. 
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; 
my enemy will say, 'I have overcome [her],' 
and my foes will rejoice when I fall." (Psalm 13:1-4)

Those 50 years of silence in Mother Teresa's life? They were filled with the work she was doing for God's children who had been discarded or shunned.

While Noah was on the ark, maybe wondering from time to time if God had forgotten about him, he was taking care of the smelly, loud, frustrating animals.

Sometimes we feel like we are living in silence. We can't hear God and we don't feel like He hears us. Genesis 8:1, though, says (in part), "God remembered Noah," and I have faith He will always remember each of us, too.

In the meantime, we should continue with the work and make the rest of that chapter from David be the cry of our heart:
"But I trust in Your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
for He has been good to me."
(Psalm 13:5-6)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

my belief statement

So, I told you that once I finished my homework I would post it here for you to see. Well, here you go!
*****
I believe that God is the Almighty Creator, the One who spoke this complex yet somehow incredibly simple universe into existence out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3), through the power of His Word who is Christ Jesus (John 1:1-3).

I believe that God made us in His image (Genesis 1:26&27), but through our sins we have fallen way below the bar of perfection that He set for us, and in ourselves we are incapable of pleasing Him (Romans 5:12, 8:8). Despite all our failings, though, He still loves us. In fact, He loves us so much that He gave us His Word; both through the Scriptures which were spoken by God (II Timothy 3:16&17) and have the ability to cut us to the quick to reveal the true thoughts of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12); and through the Son, Jesus, who left His seat next to the Father and took on the fragile, weak, humble body of a man who would be slain as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (Isaiah 53:5). What's more, He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), when there was nothing good in us.

I believe that in ourselves we can do nothing, and therefore we must accept the gift of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8&9). That faith is in Jesus, our only way to the Father (John 14:6). All who believe in Jesus Christ are given the gift of eternal life (John 3:16). Through Him all our sins are forgiven, removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and forgotten.

I beleive that God keeps His promises and expects us to do the same by loving Him and loving others (Matthew 22:37-40), remaining faithful to His commands (Deuteronomy 7:9), and living a life that is worthy of our new role as His children (Ephesians 4:1).

I believe that all power and wisdom belong to God (Psalm 147:4&5), yet He is still a "father to the fatherless [and] a defender of widows" (Psalm 68:5) who hears those who cry out to Him (Psalm 55:16&17). Though God is the Creator and Ruler of all--from the stars to life and death to wild animals to lightning to the behemoth and the leviathan (Job 38-42)--He still takes the time to quiet us and sing over us (Zephaniah 3:17).

I believe that God has given us everything we need to be able to live according to His purpose. He has laid out the requirements in the Bible (Micah 6:8), given us teachers to explain the Scriptures to us (II Timothy 3:14&15), and sent us the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of our sins and leads us to the truth (John 16:5-13). Though it is impossible for any of us to please Him on our own, in Him we can do all things (Philippians 4:13), for His power is made perfect in our weakness (II Corinthians 12:9).

I believe we are called to become like Christ. We are to learn from God by imitating Him (Ephesians 5:1), in the same way that children learn by imitating their parents. We are to become like Him in both life and death, dying to our sinful self and to our sins so that we can become like Him in a new life (Philippians 3:10&11). We are to look at things from God's point of view, focusing on what is eternal instead of the unimportant, temporal things of this world (II Corinthians 4:18). At the same time, we are called to go. We are told to spread the good news of the gift of salvation to all people, teaching them as we have been taught (Matthew 28:19&20).

I believe that as followers of Christ we are His witnesses here on earth (Acts 1:8). As such, we must act in a way that supports the message we profess (Philippians 1:27). God promises to be with us always, even through the worst we may face (Romans 8:35-39).

I believe that God loves all those He has created and wants everyone to come to Him. If we don't tell others, how will they know about Him (Romans 10:13-15)? Like Isaiah did, when God asks for someone to go we should say, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)


...what about you? What do you believe?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

an apology and a challenge

Okay, so first an apology to those of you who actually look for me to post--I haven't written anything on here since the middle of the month.

Ouch.
So I guess that whole consistency thing went out the window there for a while, huh?
Sorry about that.

Now, since I haven't written on here in so long it makes perfect sense for me to ask you to do something, right?

...Well, we'll pretend like that's not a totally crazy assumption on my part and I'll give you a challenge, anyway :0)

So here's some backstory:
Nathan and I have been looking for a church home since we moved up to Toledo in July. We tried out a few places first, but hadn't really found a fit.

It was one thing trying out churches back when it was just the two of us. We could just find out what time the service started, walk in, and sit down. The biggest struggle would be trying not to sit in anybody's spot (you know what I mean...somehow it seems like we all end up with assigned seats at church...).

With kids, it's a totally different story. 
You have to get there early enough to figure out where the kids go during the service, 
then try and find said classroom, 
then pry a very shy toddler off your leg while convincing him that he'll have lots of fun with all these people he has never seen before (completely contradicting the "don't talk to strangers" lessons),
then get big sister to her class where she proceeds to act like she has never seen another child before in her life (for example, hiding in the corner and not speaking to anyone through the entire service)...
then you finally get to make your way into the sanctuary (or big church, as you explain it to the kids).

So, long story a bit shorter, we've started attending a church just down the road from us called Washington. We've been there for about 3 weeks now, and we're in the middle of what they call "Washington 101." It's a class for new people (well, maybe not "new people" as much as "people new to Washington" since most of us have been around for at least 25 years or more...okay, bad pun, I know) so we can get to know what Washington Church is all about.

That brings us to my challenge for you.
On Sunday, we were given a homework assignment for next week, the last class of Washington 101. They asked us to write out our personal belief statement.

I don't know about you, but I've never been asked to do that before. I've written out my testimony many times, but this is different.

Writing my testimony is one thing. It is based completely on what I have experienced, so when I've written out my testimony in the past it has never included any verses or anything like that.

Just to clarify, I'm not saying anything against writing out your testimony. In fact, I think it's a great thing to do because it really makes you think about what all God has done for you. That's just not my challenge for you...although, feel free to do that, too :0)

This belief statement, though, is making me think in a completely different way. Yes, I'm still looking at what God has done for me (there's a lot...part of which you can read about in the posts that start here). What makes it different, though, is the fact that I'm thinking about what I believe, what makes up the foundation of my faith, and searching out the verses that are the foundation of that foundation.
(Okay, so if anybody knows what that would really be called besides "foundation of the foundation," I would love to know!)

I've started working on it, but I've still got a bit to go before I'm finished. When I do, though, I'll post it. So far, it has been pretty neat to actually see on paper what I believe and why I believe it, followed up with chapter and verse.

Okay, so maybe that brings me to my challenge for you. Let's forget I said that about 6 paragraphs ago...have I mentioned I get a bit carried away with that whole writing thing? My challenge to you is to do the same thing. Take the time to write out what you believe, with the verses to back it up. It doesn't have to be long (although mine is kind of getting that way. People I've just met don't know what they're getting into when they ask me to write...). When you get it finished, come back and let me know what you think. I would love to hear about it!

To be fair, we were given some questions (which, in true Mandy fashion, I've since lost) so we had something to go by. I can't guarantee I remember all of them, but here's the biggest part of the list:
1. How do you see God?
2. How does God see you?
3. Who is Jesus Christ?
4. What has God done for you?
5. If everything else was stripped away, what is the core of what you believe?
6. What is God's purpose for your life?
7. What is God's purpose for the world?
8. What is the Gospel and what are we supposed to do with it?

Okay, so I never said they were easy questions...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

lessons from 2x4s...

I just got a 52% on my first test in modern physics (which, by the way, was also my first test in my grad school career).

How painful is that?

The crazy thing is, I'm not totally devastated by it like you would think. I know, pretty surprising, right?

I think it goes back to when I went back to school in 2008--my first undergrad test in physics was, coincidentally, my first test being back in undergrad. It was in Dr. Hemmati's Physics II class, the first semester of electricity and magnetism stuff. I got something like a 43% on that test, and I questioned everything I was doing.

I remember telling Nathan I needed to just drop out of school and find a job flipping burgers because there was no way I would make it through.

This time, though, things are different.
Yes, that 52% hurts (a lot).
Mostly, though, it gives me something to overcome.

I have this trait of wanting a fight, wanting something to push me into being better.

Hmm, maybe that's why God has to use a 2x4 to knock some lessons into me...definitely food for thought!

Let me tell you, a test grade like that (especially when it accounts for 25% of my final grade) does more than give me a push.

It's more like a kick in the seat that sends me sprawling into the dirt.

The convenient thing is, when you're face down on the ground, the easiest place to get to is your knees!

Friday, October 12, 2012

something that has tugged at my heart...

Things are crazy right now.

Classes are insanely hard (when Dr. Musser told me grad school would knock me off my feet, he definitely knew what he was talking about...).

Nathan is sick, and has been for about a week.

Kids are just plain crazy, as would be expected of a 3 year old and an almost 6 year old (hard to believe my baby girl is going to be 6 in 2 months!).

 I crochet anytime we're watching t.v. (in part because it keeps me awake).

When I get a spare minute, I try to write on the second part of my Sons of Tundyel story.

I'm attempting to put together query letters and submissions to send out the first part of my story.

     As an aside, according to his biography on Acheivement.org John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by 28 publishers before being given a chance by an unknown publishing house. It sold 5,000 copies. His next book was The Firm and it sold more than 7 million copies and spent 47 weeks on the best sellers list!
Map for my story--Nathan painstakingly transferred my hand drawn one to paint!

In the middle of all that, though, I've started working on something else.

Yes, I know I'm crazy. I know there's something called having too many irons in the fire. I know all the arguments against it, believe me--I've argued most of them to myself.

The thing is, though, there's something that's been tugging at my heart for a while now.

I write to work through emotions. I always have, and I imagine I always will. Actually, I write to work through everything. My Bible is full of notes written in the margins because when something sticks out I have to make myself a note or I'll forget it. I've tried having notebooks reserved for that, but they get lost. The notes in the margins stick around a lot better, especially if you're as unorganized as I am!

This blog was the first step in me living faithfully, trying to step out in faith to do what God wants me to do. The next step, apparently, is writing down my story.

I have so many conflicting feelings about doing this. The biggest part of me is saying, "Why in the world would anybody want to read a story about your life? What makes you think there is anything in the story of a 28 year old girl's life that is worth other people reading?"

If you know me, you know how much I keep to myself. You know how incredibly painful this blog has been for me at times.
Which means you also know how hard it is for me to say yes to writing my story down.

I'm not saying that it is going to be something that I try and get published or anything like that. Most likely it will simply be something my kids can read one day when they are trying to understand the crazy woman that is their mother!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

awesome!

How often do you hear people say that something is awesome?

It seems everything is awesome these days:
pizza
the weather
a t.v. show
books
the new quarterback
a rollercoaster...
The list goes on--just about anything and everything is described as being awesome.

There's even a cheer:
A-W-E-Some, Totally Awesome!

Are those things awesome, though?
What, exactly, makes something awesome?

Webster says that awesome means "inspiring awe."
Thanks, Web, but that definition doesn't do us a whole lot of good. Digging a little deeper, then, what is awe?

awe: n. fear mingled with admiration or reverence. synonyms: fright, wonder, reverential fear

Looking back at that list, how many of those things actually inspire awe?

I used to use "awesome" to describe all the things I listed and a whole lot more. A few years ago, though, I heard somebody talk about the true meaning of "awesome." They argued that we should rethink the use of the word, reserving it for things that are truly awe inspiring.

Namely, God.

I don't know about you, but when I eat a pizza, no matter how good it is (and we've found some great pizza places here in Toledo--one of the best things about a big city!), it has a hard time inspiring reverential fear in me.

Since that day I've tried to be a lot more conscientious about my word choice. Awesome is now a word I do my best to reserve for God.

God is wrathful yet merciful.
He is our judge, yet He lets us call Him "Abba."
He is all powerful and rules the universe, yet He listens to our prayers and counts the hairs on our heads.

Those are definitely reasons to both fear and revere someone in my book!  
 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

just one of those moments...

Have you ever had one of those moments that make you question everything you're doing?

I'm in the middle of one now.

This is one of those times where I start questioning why in the world I ever thought I could get a PhD in physics. My homework grades are pretty dismal (in the classes I've had homework from), and I'm not understanding half of what's being said in class. This morning, I couldn't even do a few simple derivatives...

To top it off, I haven't been able to write since Friday.

The (possibly incredibly telling) thing is, what I'm the most frustrated about is the fact that I haven't been writing--probably not the best thing when I'm attempting to get a PhD in physics, huh?

I'm a bit stressed at the moment because I really don't like the idea of not being able to do something...and that's what I'm facing right now with this degree.

Guess I'll just hang in there and wait and see what in the world I am doing in Toledo...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

compassion

Dear Diary,
They told me I got a sponsor, some family from the United States. The workers at the center seemed really happy, so I guess I should be, too, but I really don't know what to think. What in the world is a sponsor?

They say this family cares about me, that they want to see me go to school and stay healthy. The question I want to ask someone but don't really know how to is this: Why?

Why does someone on the other side of the world care what happens to me? What does it matter to this family whether I eat today or not? I mean, I've never met these people--why did they choose me?

My parents were so excited when they found out. They started hugging everybody and smiling really big. They told me that this is proof that God is watching out for me, that He cares about my future.

Can that be why these people have sponsored me?

Maybe they are God's way of showing me that He knows the hard times my family is going through right now, and that He has a plan for the future with a role only I will fill. Maybe that dream in my heart, that dream of going to college and doing something big with my life--that dream I've never told anybody--maybe that dream is more than just a dream. Maybe it is a desire God has given me.

I don't know these people, but the workers at the center say I'll get to know them. They say I'll start getting letters from my sponsors soon. I hope that's true. I have a friend who has had a sponsor for almost a year now, and he hasn't gotten a single letter. I hope my sponsors aren't too busy to write to me. I've read some of the letters the other kids have gotten. Sometimes they have bookmarks or stickers or pictures in them--that would be really great if I could get something like that.

I wonder what my sponsors look like. I don't know anything about them, not really. I have their names, but they aren't like anything I've ever heard before so that doesn't really tell me very much. Do they look anything like me? Do they know how to pronounce my name, or does it look as strange to them as theirs do to me?

I wonder if I'll ever get to meet them. Some sponsors came to our center last year, and some of the kids got to actually see and talk to their sponsors. Maybe mine will come visit some day. Maybe they'll want to really know me--wouldn't that be neat?

I'm going to be writing a letter to my sponsors next week at the center. It is going to be really strange writing to somebody I've never met. What should I tell them? What kinds of things do they really want to know about me? Should I tell them that my favorite color is green because it reminds me of how God takes care of us when He brings the crops? Do they care that my goat just had a kid? Do they want to know how I'm doing at school?

Do they care about my dreams?
******
This post , if you didn't notice, is a work of fiction. As part of the Blog Month for Compassion, I was asked to write from the perspective of a sponsored child...this is my idea of what that might be like.

If you aren't familiar with Compassion, you should really check them out. They are an organization dedicated not only to taking care of children physically and mentally, but spiritually as well. We started sponsoring a boy from the Philippines named William earlier this year. To be honest, I just wrote our first letter to him last week after reading a few posts on how important letters are to sponsored kids.

If you want to help make a difference in the life of a child--and the rest of his family--consider sponsoring a child through Compassion.

 

Friday, September 21, 2012

what I've learned this week...

Three lessons I've learned since last Saturday:
 
1) Having a degree doesn't necessarily mean you know anything.
~I have a Bachelor's of Science in Physics. I was previously under the impression that that meant I knew something about physics. Then, I took the written Qualifying Exam for my PhD program. Yeah, it really was that bad. I can see you out there shaking your head, the expression on your face saying, "I'm sure she didn't do as bad as she thinks; she never does." Well, all I can say is that you'll have to take my word for it on this one!

2) It isn't much fun feeling like an idiot.
~I also took the oral QE this week. Most of the things they asked would definitely be considered the basics of physics, things I remember learning once upon a time. I guess maybe I shouldn't say learning, since apparently I only "learned" them for the length of time that it took to pass the test. I walked out of the room Monday night not sure if I was going to cry or laugh. Luckily it turned into laughing...but I still feel dumb.

3) Rejection always hurts.
~I never really expected my first query letter to get me an agent. For that matter, I don't really expect the first dozen to get me an agent. That didn't keep that first rejection, though it was made very respectfully, from bringing tears. It never feels good to be turned down, even if you're expecting it. Don't worry, though--I'm going to rework my query letter and find the next agent to send it to. If I were someone who let one rejection stop me, I would never have accomplished most of the things I've done in life!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend :0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

dividing myself...

So many times, I get the feeling that I'm trying to split myself into too many pieces. I'm trying to divide myself into different parts:

The Mom--this side of me is supposed to be entirely focused on my kids. This is the part that is supposed to kiss hurts and listen to fears and correct wrong behaviors and ensure order at home. This is the part that is responsible for making sure my kids are bathed and fed and rested and growing and happy.

The Wife--this part is supposed to be supporting and encouraging my husband. This side is supposed to make sure he gets what he needs to be the leader, father, and man God wants him to be. This is the part that is supposed to make sure the house he comes home to at the end of the day is truly a home--safe, comfortable, loving, and a place of refuge.

The Student--this is the side that is supposed to be studying in every spare minute, the part that is expected to hold intelligent conversations with PhDs. This side is supposed to understand and be able to unconsciously spit out the "basics" of physics, like Ohm's Law and Maxwell's Equations and Planck's Constant... and all those others that have some guy's name attached. This part is supposed to be entirely dedicated to learning, questioning, and understanding.

The Writer--this part of me is supposed to be dreaming. It is the side of me that is supposed to see the limits of this world--and overcome them. It is expected to spend every free minute either writing or thinking about writing. It is the part that is supposed to withdraw from the real world in order to create, wonder, and imagine.

When I try to split my day up into sections for each of these parts, it never works out. 

The Mom gets impatient with her kids...

The Student gets frustrated ans slams the book closed because the equations don't make sense...

The Wife goes to bed before her husband even gets off work...

The Writer is allowed only the amount of time between when she closes her eyes and when she falls asleep (usually less than a minute)...

In short, every part of me loses out when all the parts are competing for time.

God has way more roles to fill than I do. 
He is the Father, 
Judge, 
Forgiver, 
Creator, 
Protector, 
Disciplinarian, 
Peacemaker, 
General...
I could go on, but you get the point.

Does God split Himself into separate parts, trying to give each part a little time each day to be in control? I guess it's possible, but I really don't think that's the case. Instead, He is all God all the time, fully present in each form but always filling each role (lucky for us, or else we might be asking for forgiveness from the General, and then where would we be?).

What if, instead of trying to be each of those parts I need to fill, I learn to give myself over fully to one role--His follower? What might happen then if it is not me trying to do all those things, fill all those roles?
Not me, but God?

Hmm... 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"I will take hold of your hand"

I've been reading this book by Beth Guckenberger. In it she talks about having a reckless faith, one that isn't afraid to step out of the boat despite the waves.

This morning before class, I came across a verse she used in her story:
"I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand" (Isaiah 42:6a)

It wasn't really where she was going with the verse in her story, but in my story what immediately popped into my head was the picture of me grabbing hold of the hand of one of my kids.

Raiden and Pa
I'm sure you have a sweet picture in your mind of strolling hand in hand with a child, maybe your hands swinging between the two of you, both heading peacefully the same direction, right?

While that's a wonderful picture, that's not really what popped into my head.

Instead, what I thought of instead was of those times that I've grabbed one of my kids by the hand and they've immediately started trying to tug their hand out of my grip.

Wherever it was that I was leading them, that wasn't where they were wanting to go. It didn't matter that I was focusing only on what was best for them. It didn't matter what danger I was pulling them away from or what amazing thing I was trying to direct them towards.

They wanted independence, not to hold mommy's hand.
(Hmm...guess they are a bit like their mother...)

How many times have I been like that?

How many times have I tried to pull away?

When my own kids try to pull away, I tighten my grip.
Luckily for me, God does the same thing. He doesn't let go of me just because I have this stubborn streak that gives me a flashback to childhood where I'm convinced that I'm independent and can do it all myself.

If you backtrack a bit, you see (from the Message):
"God's Message, the God who created the cosmos, stretched out the skies, laid out the earth and all that grows from it, Who breathes life into earth's peoples, makes them alive with His own life:" (verse 5)

What I see here is God reminding me, before He even reaches out, that He is powerful:
The God of the universe, the One who laid the foundations of the earth and created the cosmos, the One who gave/gives me life, has reached out and grabbed me by the hand.

And yet sometimes I still start tugging, sure that I can do it myself, that I can figure out where to go and the best way to get there.

Crazy how my human mind, my flesh, still tries to convince me that I know better than God.

 

Friday, September 14, 2012

a quick note...

...and a beg for prayers, actually.

First off, I make my first attempt at the PhD qualifying exam tomorrow. That's not a huge deal, though, because this first attempt is a freebie and doesn't count against me if (read as "when") I mess up on it. I'm still a bit nervous about it, though, so prayers for calmness tomorrow would be greatly appreciated.

Along the same lines, I have my oral qualifier on Monday, so those prayers would be great then, too!

What really has me asking for prayers, though, is what also has my hands shaking as I type (which, as you can imagine, makes things a bit difficult). I just took a huge leap of faith and sent off a query letter for my story. It will be a couple weeks before I hear anything and it is completely out of my hands now, I know, but that doesn't stop my nerves...

This is a huge step on my path to chasing my dreams...I'm both hopeful and scared to death right now, I can assure you. Never in my life have I experienced the mixed emotions that writing causes in me. Craziness, this dream business!

Anyways, I hope everyone has an amazing weekend--talk to you soon!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

dear me...

One of the blogs I follow is written by a guy named Jeff Goins (yes, for those of you who know me, I did originally read his blog because of his last name--but I keep reading for the writing). His latest post in which he writes a letter to his teenage self inspired my own, so here goes...
Dear teenage me,

I know how stubborn you are and how you are convinced that you need to figure everything out for yourself, but I'm going to give you some advice anyways.

See? That stubbornness thing doesn't go away any time soon...

First off, it's okay that you don't always fit in. You have a great group of girls you do fit with, though, and you need to keep them close. Trust me, you'll regret it if you let those friendships slip away.

Take the time to enjoy high school. I know you want to grow up and head off to college and just stop all this "kid stuff," but you need to realize that these days are good. You have been blessed in so many ways that you can't even see right now, and you need to take the time to enjoy it all.

Time for a biggie here--stop worrying so much about boys. It's okay not to have a serious boyfriend in your teenage years; it spares your heart in a lot of ways. There is one time your heart will actually be broken, but trust me when I say it will heal: you'll find that guy soon, the one you'll spend your life with. To let you in on a little secret, you'll get married at 19! Not quite the future as the "crazy cat lady" you expected, right? You'll even have two gloriously challenging children with him, right off the bat.

Don't stress out about what other people think of you. You aren't perfect, and that's okay. No matter what you see when you look in the mirror, you're going to look back and realize that your view of yourself was a bit warped. Your grades aren't the only measure of your intelligence, something you won't realize until you get to college. And you know what? That guy that you're going to marry? He thinks you're beautiful. And smart. And so much more that you don't see.

Despite what you may have thought, your life has been pretty much smooth sailing so far. Everything has been going according to plan, really. Yes, I know not making the cheer squad freshman year was a big blow, but look at how that year turned out. Use these times, these amazing days God is giving you, to build a solid foundation.

I debated telling you how this is going to happen, but I decided against it. It will be pretty obvious and incredibly devastating, but you'll make it through.

I promise (and you know me--I don't do that lightly).

You have an awesome family--grab onto them with all your might. Enjoy the times you get to spend with them instead of locking yourself away in your room. Most families aren't like this. The one you have is pretty darn special. They are all amazing people, and you should take time to really get to know them. You might be surprised by what you find out.

At the same time, though, it's okay to be a bit of a loner. Hide away and write when you get the chance. You may forget about it for a while, but seeing all those words forming on the paper (or screen, once you give in to advancing technology) is a pretty magical thing. It will help you through a lot.

And that secret dream you have that you don't tell anybody? That dream to write? Don't give it up just because it isn't practical and isn't something "normal" people do. Practicality and normalcy are overrated. Be yourself and chase after your dreams. It's not just a waste of time. It's where you'll find your voice and your heart.

Your life is going to take some unexpected turns that you will in no way feel ready for. When you go back to college when you're 23 (life will interrupt the first time around), don't freak out about your first physics test grade. It won't be the end of the world, and you won't need to drop out and find a job flipping burgers. Trust me. It will be hard, but you'll make it through. Even with a second baby being born right in the middle. Grad school will be harder, but I can't give you any advice on that journey because I've just started it myself...

On that note, learn to study and do homework. Really, okay? It would be incredibly helpful to me right now. Oh, and stop procrastinating!

Don't build walls around your heart. Yes, you'll get wounded. Those wounds will heal, though, if you let them. Let people in; you aren't meant to go through life alone.

Above all, seek God. You sometimes start thinking that you have this whole "Christianity" thing wrapped up in a neat little package with a bow on top. You know what?
You don't. know. anything. 
God is so much bigger, so much more mysterious and amazing and magnificent than you can imagine right now. You're going to have some days in the future that make you think He's turned away from you. Realize that you're the one who moves, not Him. Draw close to Him. He isn't going anywhere, and He's waiting patiently for you to learn that.

~Me

P.S. I know how private you are, so just to give you one more taste of what you're in for I want to make sure you realize this letter is posted where anyone and his dog can read it. Kinda painful, huh? I know--still is.