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.

 





Monday, September 10, 2012

seek peace...

"Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." ~Psalm 34:14

seek: to go in search of; to ask for; to try to acquire or gain

pursue: to find or employ measures to obtain or accomplish; to chase

turn from: to direct one's attention away from something


Sometimes I want peace to just "come with the territory" of faith.
I mean, if you know deep down that God is in control and that He will work for the good in everything that happens in your life, peace should just be a given, right?

This verse, though, puts a bit of a different light on things. Peace isn't something we just get by default--it is something we are told to search out, to chase after.

And the first thing we have to do? Make a 180-degree turn from evil, the thing that is stealing our peace.

I imagine just about everybody has something that is stealing their peace.
So in my life right now, the thing that is stealing my peace is worrying about grad school.

Guess that means I'm supposed to turn away from school and focus on the wonderful, peaceful parts of my life. Nice, easy solution. I'll just relax and be at peace all the time that way...

What? It doesn't work that way?
Hmm.

You see, grad school isn't what is stealing my peace--worrying about it is.
"Wyrgan" is an Old English word that means "to strangle."
In Middle English, it became "worien" (do you see where I'm going with this?). It paints a bit of an ugly picture, but this means, and I quote, "to grasp by the throat with the teeth and lacerate." It wasn't until the 1800s that "worry" took on the meaning that it has today, where you are bothered by something.

I think I like the Middle English, worien...although, maybe "like" is the wrong term to use here...

I can't speak for you, but when something is worien me (get it? worrying=worien? Sorry--language puns!), I can't focus on much of anything else.

Peace? Not a chance.
I'm lucky to just get through the day without a breakdown.

So for me, the first step has to be to turn from evil by not letting myself be "worien"ed to death. Only then will I be able to chase after peace, to give myself over to the pursuit of something way more worthwhile than worien.

Another definition for seek, though, is to ask for something. So often I ignore that definition. I start chasing after peace then wonder why I'm getting so worn out by doing just the thing I'm told to do.

I forget the asking part.

I forget to talk to my Father who gives peace to His children (see Psalm 29:11).
from geograph.org.uk
I memorized the 23 Psalm when I was younger, probably the ultimate passage about God giving us peace. It seems like I forget it, though. It's almost like I got so used to reciting the passage when I was memorizing it or participating in Bible Drill that I kind of overlook it.

If you are like me, I encourage you not to recite the passage this time.
Look at it.
Read it.
Like my Classical Mechanics professor tells us to do with our homework problems, savor it. Let it really sink in:

"The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me,
in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."



To sum it up, we have 3 key things to remember:
turn
     ask
         chase

Saturday, September 8, 2012

a big week!

 This has been an eventful week for us...
Tuesday, 4 September, was the first day of Kindergarten for Raiden. She was super excited Tuesday morning--she sat straight up in bed and asked me, "Is this the day we get to go to school?"

They wear uniforms, which was a bit of an adjustment for me but doesn't seem to phase her...


It was also the first official day of preschool for Conan, even though he's been at daycare for a couple of weeks. You can see by his face that he wasn't quite as excited as big sister!

When I picked them up after school, I was all ready to hear what Raiden had to say. I expected something...I don't know, I guess just something.

Raiden's answer? "It was great!"
No other explanation needed, apparently, because she had nothing else to say. Guess I'll just be happy with the fact that she liked it, huh? 




We also got new beds for the kids this week.
They got lofts, which is working out pretty well so far...except that Conan fell off his ladder the very first day, which was completely expected and apparently not a big deal to him. I'm impressed by his reaction to the bed, really, because he is terrified of heights.
Seriously, terrified.

When he stands on his stool at the bathroom sink to brush his teeth, he puts his hands out to get his balance.

Raiden, on the other hand, is pretty fearless. She loves being up high, so the lofts were wonderful to her!


 Raiden took a picture of me while she was sitting on her bed, so you can get a sense of how high their lofts are.




On a bit different note, I took a couple pictures of where I'll be spending the majority of my time for the next couple of years--my cubicle in one of the grad student offices.



 I thought about cleaning up my desk before taking the pictures, but I decided that I might as well show you what it really looks like! In all honesty, this is pretty clean. Plus those are actually textbooks and class notes and homework on my desk, so it looks like I'm really working... If you look closely at the picture of my bookshelf you'll see a couple of my really useful books--Calculus and Physics the Easy Way 
:0)
The rest of those books are all from my undergrad. I'm still waiting on a couple of my books for this semester.

So far we all seem to be adjusting pretty well to school (minus my meltdown). Here's hoping things continue to go smoothly...