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A Year of Reflecting

I hate cliches, so I’m going to skip all the “new year, new me” and resolutions list. Instead, I’m going to get straight to the point. If you read last year’s New Year’s post, you’d know how I felt going into 2017. You’d know I was heartbroken, and excited, and confused, and wondering all wrapped into one. And, you’d also know that 2017 was not my year, and I didn’t actually expect it to be. And I feel the exact same about 2018. You may also have noticed this “New Year’s Post” is a few days late, but, that’s because just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean it’s not a new me, so, procrastination is still my greatest strength. But, despite the procrastination, here is a review of my 2017 and an expectation of my 2018.

January 2017 I got my wisdom teeth out, thereby effectively losing all hope of ever being wise. I made lots of jokes, hung out with friends, and laughed a lot. I was forced to really face my heartbreak head on for the first time. I started healing– from both my wisdom teeth and my heartbreak.

February 2017 I tried a new restaurant whose servings are the size of a small child but whose breakfast is out of this world. I laughed some more, and probably cried a little. I tried forcing myself to move on from my heartbreak and talked to him again, and then stopped because, as much as I missed our incredible conversations, I missed my own happiness more. I gave a speech and informed my class about the love of my life.

March 2017 I celebrated pi day in style, and enjoyed the snow storm. I went on some dates with some wonderful friends and tried to get over my heartbreak. I went to my first hockey game (and cannot wait to go to another one I might add), and enjoyed the fights most of all (sorry not sorry?). I watched my youth pastor, a man I admired even if I was never super close to, leave to take a new job as a head pastor. I laughed more, cried some more, took some meme worthy photos. My quizzers bribed me with food, and I (started) a road trip to West Virginia.

April 2017 I finished that road trip and the Quiz tournament that caused it. I hung out with some friends, saw some plays, and wore more dresses than usual because why not? One Sunday, I heard exactly what I needed to hear to finally accept the heartbreak– not completely get over it or finish healing, but accept it. I celebrated Easter and probably ate too many cookies. I went to my church’s garage sale and only bought 4 books (instead of, you know, all of them). I stayed up too late studying and watched my favorite football team score the perfect draft picks.

May 2017 I celebrated a birthday, and shared one with my mom as always. I stayed up too late studying (again), and finished my finals, mostly successfully. I traveled back to my high school for the first time since graduating and watched my former teammates on the Synchronized Swimming team perform. I watched my cousin play his last high school soccer game, and I spent too long looking back on my favorite memories. I cried and laughed and talked too much. I finally watched The Bible t.v series on Netflix and pointed out the fact that the actors were too white and nails could not actually be placed through Jesus’ hands (it’s all in the wrists– take a Biology class people!). I introduced new friends to Quizzing, whipped my Quizzers into shape for Conference Finals, and let the social media world take a look into a night at our practice.

June 2017 I returned to one of my favorite places ever since I was a child and Quizmastered at Conference Finals. I reminisced about all the weeks I’d spent at camp there, and the weekends I’d spent at Quizzing. I remembered all the tears I had cried a year earlier as I watched it all ending and smiled at all the joy I’ve experienced as a Quizmaster and coach. I laughed a lot. I burst with pride for my Quizzers and hurt with sadness for those graduating and leaving it all behind. I video chatted my roommate as we counted down the days until Nationals and we could see each other again. I celebrated some birthdays, some graduations, and a wedding.

July 2017 I celebrated some holidays. I went to Nationals and cried, and laughed. I Quizmastered in a different division than I had been in all year and didn’t struggle as much as I thought I would– I rediscovered and reaffirmed my greatest passion in life. I felt amazing pride and sorrow. I shared part of my Quizzing story.

August 2017 I was beyond excited because football was back, and I was beyond in denial because I had to start school again. I wrested with my purpose in life and desire for my future. I laughed, and had one last family get together before my cousin went off to college. I baked– a lot. I saw the solar eclipse and managed not to go blind (or rather, more blind). I moved back into college and began my second year.

September 2017 I cracked open a cold one with the boys (or, rather my roommate, sister, and our friend went out to Friendly’s and couldn’t decide on an Instagram caption). I got stressed and stayed up late and had a rough time. I watched my head pastor preach his last sermon before retiring. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and was constantly questioning if I was making the right choices. I started helping in the 7th grade girls’ Sunday small group because I thought I needed more to do? (Or because 12 year olds and I are best friends– since I am actually 12).

October 2017 I had the first Quiz tournament of the new season and got to meet new friends and see all my old ones again. I officially changed my major and freaked out because I didn’t (and still don’t) have any clue what to do. I enjoyed more laughs and tried Indian desserts for the first time. I went to a theology conference and learned the names of some trees. I saw some beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I watched the Bills lose too many football games.

November 2017 I hung out with friends and wrote some papers. I studied too hard and not hard enough. I saw the first snow of the season and smiled so big. I celebrated Thanksgiving, and ate too much. I bribed my Quizzers to learn a 77 name genealogy by promising candy. I cried, and laughed, and quit one of my jobs. I set up our Christmas tree.

December 2017 I welcomed 2 new pastors to our church and tried to introduce myself without being too creepy (which probably failed, because, let’s be honest, I’ m awkward and creepy). I was attacked with hugs from a bunch of 12 year old Quizzers and I loved every moment of it. I enjoyed more snow, got into the holiday spirit, studied, and mostly succeeded at my finals. I bought and wrapped presents and I celebrated Christmas. I laughed too much. I stopped breathing for a good half hour as I watched the Bills make the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. I cried tears of joy.

And now, it’s 2018. I’m going to party like it’s 1999 (or at least until Sunday). I’m less than a week away from starting a new semester. And, in May, I am going to Brazil as part of my classes. I’m going to laugh more, and cry more. I’m going to cheer on my Bills, and my Quizzers, and I’m going to cheer on my friends. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life still, but I’m reaching out to God and begging Him to allow me to surrender it all so He can do whatever He wants. I’m reading books, and I hope to read more. I’ll celebrate another birthday, and celebrate with others’. I’ll Quizmaster and coach and encourage and receive high fives and hugs (at least I hope). I’ll start what I hope is my final year of college, and I’ll definitely still be confused about what I’m doing. I’ll laugh and cry and break and heal. I survived 2017, and I know I will survive 2018. Because it may be a “new year, new me,” or it may not be. But it will always be a new year, same God. And I gave God 2017, and on the days I didn’t feel safe I fought so hard to allow myself to surrender it to Him anyway, and I survived it. So, here’s to 2018 and all the surviving, God-giving, loving, and surrendering it brings.

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Finding The Love of my Life

This is not another post about how being a Quizzer impacted my life, (or at least not exactly). However, if you would like to read some of those posts, (and/or posts about my Kenya trip and its impact on my life) those can be found here. This is a reflection on my first year not being a Quizzer. Because it was more wonderful than I ever could have imagined.

Honestly, I was a bit doubtful about coaching after I graduated, but I had promised the Quizzers– two in particular– that I would come back and help them get to the next level. The more I thought about it, however, the more I thought I couldn’t do it. How could I help these Quizzers compete well and reach their dreams of winning the Alpha and Omega when I couldn’t even do it myself? I mean, my study strategies included memorizing all 4 chapters the night before a tournament and not prejumping questions because, quite honestly, I was terrified of taking chances. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was a good Quizzer. I may have even been great– I was consistently top 15 in the nation for my division all 7 years I quizzed– but, I was never an Alpha and Omega winner or a national individual finalist, and give these kids a year or two and they could easily out Quiz me.  So, I doubted that I’d ever be able to help them reach their goals. And, I didn’t think I’d make a good Quizmaster. I thought I’d be too harsh, or too nice, or that I wouldn’t be comfortable enough or confident enough in myself to do a good job. I didn’t think I’d be an effective, or even a good, Quizmaster. I wasn’t sure where my place in this family I had found 7 years ago would be, and I was terrified I wouldn’t have one. But, I never imagined I’d feel even more at home as a Quizmaster and coach than I did as a Quizzer.

The things I love the most about Quizmastering and coaching are the same ones I loved as a Quizzer, but they are so much more beautiful viewing them from the other side of the table. I love watching the joy on the Quizzers’ faces when they win a Quiz. The excitement mixed with disbelief when they answer a question correctly for the first time or quiz out for the first, or even the 50th, time. When they’re excited, my heart is filled with joy. When they’re sad, I break inside. And, as much as I love my church and our Quizzers, I view every single Quizzer I have ever Quizmastered or coached as my Quizzer. My friend. My little brother and sister. And I love them all so much. My heart fills with love and joy when I see them come into my room excited and smiling. “Hi, fun Quizmaster!” they say with bright smiles, as they reach for a piece of candy, a high five, or a hug. The sadness on their faces when they find out I won’t be Quizmastering them that day, or when they realize they won’t be in my division the next year, breaks my heart. I love being able to watch them grow up over the years, and even over the course of a year.  I am so incredibly proud of them– every time they answer a question, get a prejump, win an award, or have a fun time. When New Hope won the Alpha and Omega, I felt that I had won it myself. When other Genesis Conference Quizzers succeeded in finals, or their teams won, I was beyond joyful. When the Pearce teams did well, I felt their joy and their heartbreak in their losses. And, when the ones I’ve Quizmastered all year, or even all week, accomplished something, I couldn’t wait to give them a high five and tell them how proud of them I was, even after they eliminated Pearce from the tournament. And I am filled with joy because I know that they are committing themselves to learning the Word, and they will become servants of God, thoroughly equipped for every good work. And that is what Quizzing is really all about.

That’s why I continue to help with Quizzing and can’t imagine walking away. It’s watching the Quizzers discover who they are. It’s giving back to a ministry that has given me so much– a ministry that has impacted, and in some cases even saved, so many lives. It’s watching these incredible young people learn and memorize the Word, knowing that will lead them to amazing places. It’s hanging out with them and writing ridiculous stories that make no sense, three words at a time. It’s reading the longest joke in the world every time we go on a long road trip. It’s listening to the testimony of a shy, quiet young rookie who said she was so glad her mom made her do Quizzing because she was so excited and impacted by it. It’s hugging the young Quizzer who’s sitting behind you, whom you’ve coached, Quizmastered, and quizzed with, when he breaks down in tears. It’s kneeling at the altar with your teammates, friends, and Quizzers. Hugging them all as you leave. Talking to a Quizzer who knows your name and your story, even if you didn’t think anyone knew who you were or remembered your story. Finding a group of girls, from all different churches, praying for each other, and going over to pray with and for them, as a coach, Quizmaster, former fellow Quizzer, and most importantly a friend. Feeling incredibly honored when young Quizzers ask for your autograph and do a cool handshake with you. Offering the Quizzers a high five, a “great try,” and a piece of candy. It’s about finding your best friends, who live next door, or who live hundreds of miles away– whether they’re 12, 22, or 52.  It’s about igniting a passion for God and His Word that you didn’t even know you were capable of having.

It wasn’t until I went to Kenya and experienced Quizzing there that I realized just how important Quizzing really is. It wasn’t until the charge given to us at the coaches’ meeting to expand Quizzing to our neighboring churches, whether Free Methodist or not, and I almost stood up and said “Send me anywhere and everywhere. I’ll do it.” that I realized how huge my passion was. And, now, here I am, hoping to spread that passion to others. In fact, I am seriously considering and praying about going back to Kenya next summer, and all your prayers for me in this process would be greatly appreciated too. But, honestly, I’m just hoping to spread my passion to anyone who’s willing to catch it.

And that is what I have learned the most this year about being a Quizmaster and coach. I may have been terrified of messing up, I may not have been confident enough in my abilities, I may have thought I wouldn’t be good enough, or I may have thought I’m too much of an introvert to be a good Quizmaster. But, I have learned that anyone can be a good Quizmaster. Anyone can read questions in a loud, clear voice, look up the passages in the portion, and make a wise and fair decision about whether or not an answer is correct and worthy of 2o points. Anyone can know the rules– when to re-read, when to throw the question out, and how to handle appeals. Anyone can say “that’s correct,” or, “I’m sorry I cannot accept that.” But, not everyone is an effective Quizmaster. Not everyone can make the Quizzers feel comfortable. Not everyone can make Quizzing fun, keep the quizzes moving, be encouraging, and take control but also not be intimidating. And that’s what makes an effective Quizmaster. I don’t know if I am an effective Quizmaster or not– I’d like to think I am. I mean, I’ve been told I’m the fun Quizmaster. Coaches and Quizzers have told me that I have done a good job and have made Quizzing fun. The top Quizmaster for Senior Teen Vet A, and the former question writer, has told me that her kids enjoyed my Quizmastering. So, maybe that’s evidence enough to prove I’m both good and effective. I don’t know. But, what I do know is that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Because maybe it’s the candy. Or maybe it’s the fact that I have an uncontainable passion for Quizzing and a seemingly mundane yet incredibly inspirational and impactful Quizzing testimony which puts me in a unique position to share and encourage. Maybe it’s my constant attempts to make all the Quizzers feel encouraged and loved by my “good tries, ” “nice jobs,” candy, and high fives. I don’t know. But, I know that I love it so much that my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest. I love it more than I loved it when I was competing. Which I never thought was possible. 

I received a message from a parent and coach earlier today. She wanted to thank me for giving up my time this past week to be at Nationals (which, to be fair, is the furthest thing from a sacrifice– there is no better way to spend my time) and for talking to her team and expressing interest in them– especially her daughter, who had never had that before. She was excited and happy that I had shown interest in her. As I read the message, my heart broke a little. I hadn’t done anything special. I simply talked to her, offered her high fives, and made sure I acknowledged her, even when she wasn’t in my room. And to think that made her happy filled me with joy, but it also made me a little sad to think no other Quizmaster or person had done that before. But, it reminded me that, just like how in Quizzing there is more than winning, in Quizmastering there is more than just asking questions and keeping the rounds running smoothly and timely. There’s encouraging, high fiving, loving, and laughing. And again, I don’t know if this makes me an effective Quizmaster, but I know I impacted at least one life, even if it was just in a small way, and that is why I do what I do.

Quizzing has taken me to Kenya. It has taken me, and three of my friends, to local churches in order to put on a skills clinic for other Quizzers. It has taken me to four different and beautiful places for Nationals. It’s taken me to different churches and led me to volunteer at two different church’s practices. It has taken me across oceans, under bridges, over highways, and into people’s hearts. It’s led me to go on a missions’ trip, help plan service projects, and help start a fund for growing international Bible Quizzing. But, it’s also led me to learn more about myself and about God. I learn more about my passions, my gifts, my talents, and most importantly, God and His Word. And I could go on for hours about the impact it’s had on me in my own life, both as a Quizzer and as a Quizmaster, but until you experience it yourself, you won’t understand. You won’t understand my passion or my love. So, if you have no idea what Quizzing is, go out and discover it. If you have experienced it, go out and share your passion, your light, your joy, and your love for it and for God. Because if it were up to me, every person in the world would have the chance, and the desire, to experience Quizzing.

I never thought I could love something so much it physically hurts. Yet, I constantly feel a pain inside me when I’m Quizzing or when I’m talking about it. But, it’s not from sadness. It’s from unimaginable, inexpressible joy and love and passion. It’s from a desire to encourage every teen to try it, every adult to watch it, and every person to fall in love with it. I never thought I could love something so much that I’d rather die than be separated from it. Because making me give it up would be like ripping my heart out of my chest. In fact, that would probably hurt less. Because I love Quizzing more than anything, and I don’t think I will ever love any person, place, or thing more.*

*obviously this excludes the One who makes Quizzing possible and who gave me the ability and opportunity to participate, and who is the reason I Quiz. 

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It Is Well

Boppa Guy, as you were known, in order keep our two grandfathers straight, it’s been 11 years to the day. 11 years since you last smiled, and, although I wasn’t there, I know you were smiling, even as you were dying, because that’s who you were. It’s been 11 years since you went home- a place that you never felt was here on earth. And while I can’t believe it’s been 11 years, it’s even harder for me to believe why today it hurts more than it has in years. Why it hurts not nearly as much as 11 years ago, but at least as much as it has since.

I still remember the day it happened. Or, at least I remember the moment I found out. It was a Wednesday night. I remember my dad calling my sisters and me into his room. He had gone to visit you earlier that evening and had returned about the same time we had returned from church. We sat on his bed, knowing what he was going to say, yet hoping he wouldn’t say it. Because, although we were young, the oldest of us just 11, we understood what his silence meant. We knew you were sick. We saw you just a few days earlier when they brought you home from the hospital because you no longer wanted to be there. You just wanted to be at home, surrounded by those you love, comfortable and at peace. And, although you had come home, we knew that it didn’t mean you were better, but that it meant you wanted to be home when you went home. We knew. So, when my dad said the words I still remember to this day, the words I sometimes still play back in my mind over and over again, none of us were shocked.

What I don’t really remember is how it felt. I don’t remember if I cried right away. I don’t remember if I ever got mad at God for taking you. Or at you for leaving us. I don’t remember if I told any of my friends the next day at school. I don’t remember if I ever tried to deny it. I don’t remember if I actually completely understood what was happening. I remember I cried at your funeral. But, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was crying because I was sad or because everyone else was. I remember asking my mom why she was crying. You weren’t her father, and I thought that meant she shouldn’t be sad. I remember people sharing stories about your life. I remember seeing you in the casket. I even remember thinking you would sit up any minute and yell “Got you!” or something. I remember tears, and someone handing my grandmother a flag. But, I also remember there was laughter. And family. And food. And I remember thinking that is exactly what you would have wanted.

Mostly, I remember the music. I remember my dad quoting “Big House”- one of my all time favorite songs that I have grown to love even more since that day. I know that now, every time I listen to that song, I want to get up and dance- which is what you would want. But I also want to sit in a corner and think about you- which is something you would want as long as I wasn’t sad. I remember my oldest sister and cousins singing “It Is Well.” And I know that now, every time I hear that, I want to cry- which you would not want me to do. But, I also want to sing it with a beautiful passion as I bask in God’s amazing beauty- which is definitely what you would want me to do.

You would want me to jump up and shout “Come and go with me, to my Father’s house. It’s a big big house, with lots and lots of room.” You’d want me to pretend to eat food and throw a football as I exclaim “A big big table with lots and lots of food. A big big yard where we can play football.” And, I do it. Because I know you’d want me to. And, I know you’re doing it with me.

You’d want me to remember God’s faithfulness as I sing “When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” You’d want me to raise my voice and sing with a passion as I echo “Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord oh my soul. It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul) it is well, it is well with my soul.” And I do. Because it is well with my soul.

And Boppa Guy, maybe that’s why today was so difficult. You see, I woke up with a painful twinge in my stomach and ache in my head. I thought maybe it was because I needed more sleep, or maybe it was a result of my current emotional state due to my recent heartbreak. But, then I remembered what day it was. January 18. And, then I knew. I knew the twinge was a reminder of the sadness of life but also that there’s “a big big table, with lots and lots of food.” I knew the ache was a reminder that pain exists, but that “whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.” And suddenly, I felt a sense of peace. You were reminding me that God’s present and that He, and you, love me. Because whatever my lot, you, Boppa, have taught me to say, “it is well with my soul.”

They played “It Is Well” at the end of a beautiful chapel service this afternoon. A service devoted to prayer. A service that I needed. A service that spoke to me so much at this point in my life. And, as I was walking out, I was already thinking of you, because you would have loved the service. And when they started playing “It Is Well,” I thought of you more. I thought about the fact that you have been gone for 11 years. Which means I have lived longer on this earth without you than I have with you. Which means I have few memories to remember you by, and each day my memory fades more and more. I thought about how I didn’t see you as I often as I would have liked, and I didn’t really spend time with you even when I was with you. I thought of all the memories we didn’t make. I thought about how I lost, or destroyed, or both, the rose I had gotten at your funeral. I thought about how there are few pictures of you and I together, but how I have a photo of you holding my doll- which at the time, was my most loved possession. The only thing I have of yours is a Bible that was given to me because you, like me, were hard of seeing. I thought about how you weren’t there to see me get baptized, or perform at my first Synchronized Swimming show, or compete at my first Bible Quizzing tournament, or graduate from high school. Or how you won’t be there to see me go on my first date, graduate from college,  or get married. You won’t be able to meet your great grandchildren or watch your children and grandchildren grow up.

But, I guess in a way, you were there, and you will always be there. Because I see you everywhere. I see you in grandma, who misses you so much, and in the artwork she does that would make you so happy and so proud. How each stroke of her brush or line of her pen somehow reflects you and your love for her. I see you in your children. In my uncle who shares your name. My aunt who was always daddy’s little girl and who never stops talking about you. My dad, who acts more like you everyday, with each made up song lyric and ridiculous story. How he insists that every time something is wrong it’s “because we don’t drink enough water.” I see you in my cousin, who never got to meet you, but who looks so much like you. I see you in your great granddaughter, who may have been born into unfortunate circumstances, but who shares your joy for life. Who is so sweet and innocent- you’d love her so much. I see you in my older sister, who acts so much like you. Whose photo we have, sitting next to you on the couch, both of you crossing your arms, copying each other’s face. I see you in my oldest sister who looks exactly like your daughter and who makes jokes exactly like you would. I even see you in the flowers, trees, wind, and rain. Because you’re always here.

And so, Boppa Guy, I am still not sure exactly why today hurts more than it has in any of the past 11 years. Maybe it’s because we talked about the death of loved ones in one of my classes yesterday. Maybe it’s because I heard that song in chapel. Maybe it’s because I was so young when it happened that I’m just now realizing how painful it is. Maybe my sadness doesn’t just come from missing you. But, whatever the reason is, I know that today, I missed you. Bur, I also know that you loved- love- me, and would be proud of me. Although, to be fair, you were always proud of all your grandchildren. But, you’d be proud of who I am, and who I am becoming. You’d be proud that I have 19 books of the Bible memorized- some of which I memorized using your Bible- because you always loved to share your love of the Bible. You’d be proud to know that I have that same hunger and love for God’s Word you had. You’d be proud to know that I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, where I’m going, how I’ll get there, or what will happen along the way, but I know the One who does. And so, I know I missed you. I know that I am struggling through life right now, my heart is broken, and I don’t know if it’ll ever be whole again. But I also know that you have taught me to say “it is well.”

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