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Doubtfully Trusting

When you’re driving, it’s probably a good idea to know where your destination is. If you’re going somewhere but you have no idea how to get there, you’ll probably end up lost, confused, and stressed out. So, before you leave, you put the address in your GPS and trust it to guide you to your destination.

Life is a lot like a road, and, if I’m being honest, I often make God my GPS. I say, “Okay God, I know where I want to go with my life. I want to get to this place and do this thing. I know the direction I need to travel, but sometimes I miss the turns and I need you to help me get there. Will you guide me?” So, I make a plan, have a destination, and listen to His voice, trusting that He’ll bring me to the place I intended to be all along. But, truthfully, God is not really meant to be a GPS. In fact, I know it’s super cliche to say, but God’s actually supposed to drive.

I’ve spent a lot of my life convincing myself I was allowing God to drive. I mean, I allowed Him to take me to Kenya, despite my defiance. I heard him whisper “go” so many times while I was shouting “stay,” but I eventually allowed Him to take me anyway. And I’m glad I did because it was life changing and indescribable. And, since I’ve been home, I’ve been searching for something that will fill the hole I have from leaving parts of myself behind. Because I left behind all the babies I held, children I played with, laughs I expressed, love I spread, Quizzing I taught, hugs I shared, and moments soon to fade from memory.

I let my heart get broken because I knew He had a better destination in mind for my heart. I fought it– I tried for as long as I could to maintain control and hold onto my plan for my life. I told myself that I was okay, that it hurt but I could fight it, and that in the end, it would turn out how I intended all along. But, I eventually jumped over to the passenger seat and said “Alright God, whatever. It hurts, but I’ll trust you.” So, I trusted Him to take me where He wanted me to be, but, all the way there I’ve been voicing my defiance and unwillingness to completely surrender.

These aren’t the only times I’ve done this. Countless times I’ve said, “Okay, I really want to go here and do this, but if you don’t want me to, I’ll listen to Your voice.” Then, I get out, move over, and let God drive. But, here’s the thing guys– I could still see the road. I could still see all the twists and turns, potholes and bumps. I let God drive, but I still had one hand on the wheel, and was prepared to brake if we needed to come to a sudden stop. I’ve been saying, “God, you’re doing a good job and all, and I’m going to let you finish. But, just to let you know, there’s some potholes coming up. If you could avoid those, that’d be great. And, by the way, you missed that turn, so you should probably make another turn up here and go back.” I was the world’s most annoying backseat driver.

It wasn’t because I didn’t trust God– I did. I just didn’t want to completely surrender my life to him. I wanted to have some control– some say. So, I backseat drove while God steered, thinking that meant God was actually driving, because I was terrified. Not having control of your life is terrifying. It’s stressful and scary– it’s uncomfortable. But, God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust. And trust is more than just allowing God to drive. It’s completely surrendering everything– giving up total control, and taking your hands off the wheel. And recently, I’ve been learning to do more than trust– I’ve been learning to surrender.

This past year, God has been placing road signs in my path, hinting at me that we should turn that way. And even though I was claiming to let Him drive, He passed them and went on the way I wanted, because, being blind and all, I couldn’t actually see them. He just drove– allowing me to eventually figure out for myself that the direction we were going was filled with potholes, bumps, and discomfort. He kept making the signs bigger and more obvious– probably hoping that I’d see them. But because I’m very blind, and very stubborn, I continued to ignore them. Until one day, we were driving down the road and I screamed “STOP! I can’t do this anymore.”

“I know. Now, will you listen to Me?”

And so, here I am now, trying my hardest to give God total and complete control– to surrender my life, my comfortable, and my plans. But, for me, that’s difficult. If I can see the road at all, I can’t keep quiet– I can’t watch God pass by all the turns I want to take– I think I need to take– and willingly stay silent. So, I’ve allowed God to take control in whatever way He needs to, and, you know what He said? He said, “Rebekah, you’re kind of annoying. You keep trying to backseat drive when I am the perfect driver. So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m kicking you out. You’re sitting in the trunk, with your eyes to the road behind us instead of ahead of us.”

So, that’s where I am now until I learn to surrender– sitting in the trunk, only able to see the road behind us. God buckled me up, promised me I’d be safe, and gave me His Words to hold onto if I ever felt unsure. And, quite honestly, I’m scared. I feel the ups and downs and bumps and rough patches and I so badly want to jump up and say “God! Watch out!” But, I’m not going to. Because He has told me to trust Him– to surrender to Him. So, I am.

For those who haven’t been keeping up with my life, just recently I changed my major. And it was the best thing I could have done for myself. But, it is also the most terrifying thing I’ve ever had to do. I was a Chemistry major. I love Chemistry, but I am not sure I was ever super passionate about Chemistry– or at least not as passionate as I am about other things. But, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and because I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it, and since I never found myself excelling at any specific subject, I chose to study Chemistry. And to tell you the truth, I was a little scared to go into anything else, because with something like that, your future is more sure, more secure. Not that any future is ever guaranteed, but at least it set me up to do something. But, I’d been wrestling for a while about what to do. Because I loved Chemistry. But I was passionate about so many other things– Bible Quizzing, writing, studying God’s Word. And it wasn’t until I was reminded sometime last year, by a rather surprising but wonderful source, that such pure and uncontrollable passion existed that I realized something was missing– something had to change.  I so desperately wanted to do something with all these passions of mine, but I didn’t know what, and I was terrified and completely unsure. I wanted to stay comfortable and, to be perfectly honest, I was slightly afraid of what others would think. But, eventually God told me to sit down, shut up, and stop letting my own fear control me and let Him take control. So, I changed my major.

I switched to cross disciplinary studies. Which means I can study Chemistry, religion and philosophy, math, and English all at the same time. I can become a jack of all trades without becoming an expert in anything. And I am so happy I did that, but it also means my future has become so much more uncertain and terrifying– it’s not sure. It’s open to so much possibility, and simultaneously so little. And like, I’m trying so hard to hold onto God and His promises, but guys, that’s not easy. I know that I am the type of person who won’t know what I want to do until I’m doing it, because there are so many things I’d be happy doing. Maybe I’ll end up being a pastor, or teaching, or travelling. Maybe I’ll take some more trips to Kenya, and elsewhere, to find that missing piece of me and spread my uncontrollable love for Quizzing. (There is so much desire and passion for Quizzing in Kenya, but they lack the resources and leadership to spread it). Maybe I’ll get a Ph. D in Chemistry or Literature. Maybe I’ll get my M. Div. Maybe I’ll end up unemployed and living in my parent’s house for the rest of my life.  Who knows? All I know now is that I am trying my hardest to surrender the hardest part of me to surrender– my life and my future– to the One who makes my future. And it takes a lot of faith. It takes faith that sometimes I”m not sure I have. But, if Joshua can believe walls can crumble simply by walking around them, Abraham can say “Here I am”, and Peter can step out onto the waves, surely I can allow myself to surrender my future.. And I know that I’ll doubt– I do doubt. I’ll struggle and fight and try to regain control of the vehicle of life. But God is helping me to be still. To know that He is God. To surrender my life and plans to Him. And, although it’s a difficult and scary time, it’s also the most peaceful and beautiful feeling ever.

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Major Life Update 

I’ve always been a stubborn person with a “fight through it” attitude and a strong intention to follow through with everything I commit to. I remember when I was little, my parents would put a baby gate in front of the staircase. And I, being the stubborn and determined child I was, would promptly push it out of the way and climb up the stairs. Then, I would sit at the top whining because I couldn’t get down. I’d wait for someone to come get me, and then proceed to do it again, all the while knowing I couldn’t get down by myself, but totally not caring because I just wanted to prove I could get up the stairs. And I was too stubborn to stop crawling up them just because I couldn’t get down them.

My life has been a lot like this. I’ve climbed mountains, gotten to the top, realized that I probably shouldn’t have climbed the mountain, but had no idea how to get down. Except now that I’m older, I’m too stubborn to ask for help getting down. Because if I climbed the mountain alone, I should be able to get down it alone. But sometimes, I know the way down, I just need someone to give me a little push. And recently, I was given a push down my newest mountain.

When I began this semester, I was signed up for 18 class credits, two of which were sciences, and one of which included Organic Chemistry, arguably the most difficult of all the sciences. And, somewhere along the way, I ended up committing to between 12 and 18 hours of work a week. Plus, I coach Bible Quizzing and agreed to be an assistant teacher in the 7th grade girls Sunday School class at my church. And of course, I have various clubs, social activities, chapel requirements, etc, that I must attend to as a college student. (A post about that can be read here.)

This has always been my mountain in life– my desire to do it all. I so badly want to do everything. I want to get a degree in Chemistry, coach Quizzing, work, teach Sunday School, participate in clubs, volunteer around campus, help my friends out, and sleep. But guys, the biggest thing I’m learning in life, is that I just can’t do it all. I have to say no to good things because I need to leave myself free time for the best things. But, because I’m stubborn, I decided to give this 18 credit hours piled on top of 16 hours of work mixed with hours of everything else thing a chance.

It wasn’t terrible for a while. I managed to get most of my work done and still get mostly enough sleep. But, I can only survive on 5 or less hours of sleep a night for so long before I crack. The more I got into the semester, the more miserable I got. I was sitting in the lounge of my dorm one night, alternating between my physics and organic homework, and I was miserable. Really miserable. I had never felt this miserable, and I didn’t even think I ever could feel this miserable doing something I loved. Days later, I cracked. I called my dad at 12:15 in the morning in tears. “I’m dropping out of college, just to let you know,” I said, tears streaming down my face. My dad listened, despite the fact that he himself was exhausted, and he provided support and fatherly love. After he told me not to be ridiculous for trying to drop out of college.

The internal conflict I had been having for a while mixed with all the stress finally built up to an unbearable amount. After some of my gen ed classes last semester, I discovered I had a passion for God’s Word greater than the one I already knew I had, and I knew God was calling me to do something about it. But, I wasn’t going to change my major because I still loved chemistry so much. So, I did what I thought would satisfy the passion I had and the desire I could feel God calling me to: I added a Biblical studies minor. As a result, I added an extra class, bringing me to 18 credits a semester.

And I said, “it’s fine,” everyday, while trying to convince myself it was, in fact, fine. But, in case you haven’t figured out by now, it most certainly was not fine. Which is why I called my dad in tears and told him I was dropping out of college.

One terrible day and dinner visit home later, and I felt so much better. I felt peaceful, like the largest weight in the world had been lifted off my shoulders. Which brings me to the purpose of this post– my major life update. This update is actually two-fold. First, I decided I had to give something up. I can’t do it all, as much as I want to. As much as I love it all and struggle to say no to things, especially things I’ve already committed to, something had to give.

I was talking to my parents about what could go. My dad said, “were you anyone else, I’d tell you to drop Sunday School or Quizzing…”

“NO!” I exclaimed, before he was even able to finish his thought.

He explained how he would have told me to give those up, but he can’t because I have to do those things. I belong there, I’m doing good things, God’s working through me, etc. So, I couldn’t give up on those. And my work schedule had already begun to decrease, and it would continue to decrease. Nonetheless, something else had to go. Which left a class. But here’s the thing– I didn’t want to give one of those up either. Because, first of all, why should my academics be the thing that gets pushed aside? And secondly, dropping a class at this point in the semester seemed useless. Plus, I’d always been a “smart” kid, and dropping a class kind of made me feel like I was a failure. (But guys, dropping a class does not make you a failure. You do what is necessary for your sanity.)

I finally came to the realization that the best way to solve my problem would be to drop Physics. Here’s the thing– Physics is not that difficult of a class. In fact, it may be the easiest of the sciences I’ll ever have to take. But, I don’t have time to put into it, and I was already behind and struggling, and my other classes, particularly Organic, were suffering because of it. So, I set up a meeting with my adviser to get his approval and dropped Physics.

Which leads me to part two of my major life update. While discussing my life with my parents, they asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I froze and realized I have no idea. My friend asked me the other day what I saw myself doing in the future, and I didn’t know how to respond then either. My parents brought up the fact that I like to do it all. I enjoy a lot of things. I love science, math, English, Scripture, history, and most of all, learning. My dad said “I could see you doing a lot of things. I could see you working a job, or being a Pastor (as if being a Pastor isn’t a job).” And the more I thought about it, the more I realized, there are so many things in life I could be happy doing. I’d be happy working in a lab, working at a church, travelling the world doing who knows what, or even teaching. And, to be quite honest, I’m not entirely sure that I’ll know what I want to do until I am doing it.

So, here’s the exciting part of my news– I’m seriously, seriously, considering changing my major. In fact, I’ve done everything but fill out the official paperwork. I’ve told my parents (well, actually, they told me), I’ve told my friends, I’ve mentioned it to my adviser, and now, I’m telling all of you.

Some of you will be disappointed to hear that I’m switching from Chemistry. Because those of you who’ve known me a long time know I love Chemistry. Others will be disappointed to find out that I am not switching to Biblical Studies. Because anyone who’s seen me at Quizzing or talked to me in the past year would know that I have a burning passion for that too. But, instead, I’m still trying to do it all. I’m switching to Cross Disciplinary studies.

I have not yet decided exactly what 3 areas I’ll be exploring. My main area will either be Chemistry or General Science (probably whichever one I’m closer to completing at this point), with one of my other concentrations being Biblical Studies. As far as the third area goes, I’m torn between math and English. Being my sister’s sister and grandfather’s granddaughter, I love English (and math). I love writing and reading various types of literature, but I am also only one class away from completing math (in fact, if I continued with my Chemistry degree, than I could easily get a math minor with one simple 300-level math class).

So, basically, I have no idea what I’m doing. I have no idea what I”m doing with my degree, or my life. But, it’s fine. And I mean it this time, because I’ve got God on my team, and God, being my homeboy and all, knows exactly what He’s doing.

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Library Encouters 

God does some incredibly strange and wonderful things, doesn’t He?

I wasn’t going to go to the library last night. I was in my room, softly playing my music, relaxing, and about to open my physics homework to take one more look before I called it a night. Being a person who normally doesn’t do homework in her room but instead goes to the library or finds an empty classroom on campus, it was weird that I was okay with staying in my room. But, the laziness, non-desire to deal with people, and the always overwhelming temptation to buy another cup of coffee I probably don’t need, made me want to stay. Until something inside me said, “go to the library. You have to do your work there.”

So, I packed up my backpack, made the 30 foot trek to the library, found a nice spot in the cafe (with the scent of coffee overwhelming me– which I didn’t give in to), and got to work. I was somewhere mid-physics problem when I ran into my friend Adam, with whom I have a 60/40 being mean/ being nice relationship, and we briefly talked about our lives and our work after quipping about how annoyed we were to see the other one in the often frequented library. I thought “was this the reason I came all the way over here? So I could hear Adam talk about his struggles of work and school and so I could tell him my brief anecdote about my grandfather going to seminary with Victor P Hamilton, the author of my Pentateuch textbook?” That seemed a little weird, because I could hear his struggles (and insert a sassy comment intermixed with encouragement) anytime, and a quick scroll through Facebook and he would have seen my grandfather anecdote. So, I continued working on my Physics homework, still not sure why I was there.

Then, I remembered I had to print my Calc weekly and my Pentateuch assignment. Was this the reason I felt a desire to come all the way out here? So I wouldn’t have to rush before class to print the assignment? Probably not. There’s printers in the building across from my dorm, I have an hour and a half free before that class, I have a whole week to do the Calc weekly, and since I won’t have time to do it until at least Wednesday, I was in no rush to print it. But, I printed them anyway and got back to work.

At this point, I wasn’t making a lot of progress on my physics, so I gave up and switched to reading a commentary on Genesis 2 for my Pentateuch class (the aforementioned textbook whose author went to seminary with my grandfather). Then, a freshman who I don’t really know and have talked to maybe once came in and asked politely if she could sit with me. I told her “of course!” and went back to reading. I glanced up at one point throughout my reading and asked her what her major was and how she’d been enjoying her first year. She eventually left, and I again wondered if that was why I had felt such desire to go to the library– to give this girl some company as she worked on her stressful autobiography assignment for her First Year Seminar class. I didn’t really think so, but, since it wasn’t quite 10:00, and I hadn’t yet finished my physics, I decided I’d wait a little longer and get a little more work done.

I finished my physics assignment and was reading Genesis 3 in preparation for class the next day when a classmate said, “Hey, Rebekah, do you have your physics notes from Friday on you?” Since she was absent that day and hadn’t gotten the notes yet, I gave them to her willingly so she could finish the assignment I myself had just finished moments before. Unfortunately, I had about 10 verses left in Genesis 3 to read and I was thinking about leaving when I was done. Not wanting to leave without my notes, however, I decided I’d have to wait until she was finished with them, and then I could leave. So, I finished my assignments, and contemplated getting a little ahead while I had the time.

And then God, because He sometimes likes to ruin your own plans and throw off any feeling you have of being ahead on work, did exactly that. That classmate who had borrowed my notes approached me again and said, “Hey, do you think you could help my friend with her New Testament homework?” At this point, I kind of felt like I wanted to go back and sleep or get ahead on my work, but, being a Biblical Studies minor, lover of learning, and person who’s passionate about God’s Word, I agreed.

As I gathered my stuff to go over to the other side of the room where they were sitting, my classmate reassured her friend, “Don’t worry. She’s an expert at this.” I reassured them that I was not, in fact, an expert, and was, in fact, the furthest thing from one, but I was reasonably knowledgeable and super passionate, and now is as good a time as any to find out how much I actually understand  and enjoy my minor.

I sat down and looked at her assignment. It wasn’t too difficult; it was just long and, quite honestly, should have been split into at least 2 assignments. (The work equated to reading all 4 gospels, comparing their introductions, talking about their connections to specific passages in the Old Testament, finding all the times Jesus mentions the Kingdom of God and explaining their meanings, and comparing the death and resurrection stories of each of the 4 gospels. There were 9 questions, each of which would require at least a paragraph or more of explanation.)

The first question instructed her to read the opening chapters of each book and compare writing styles, characteristics, and stories. I had done the exact same assignment last semester, so I figured it would be pretty painless. I asked her, “Ok, do you have your Bible?”
“It’s in my room”
“That’s alright, we can use mine.”
“You have yours’ with you?”
“Absolutely. I always do.” (Something that should be known about me: there are two things I always have in my backpack– a journal and my Bible. Because I never know when I’ll need to write something down or look something up. And, although I have the Bible app on my phone, nothing is better than seeing the Word printed on a page and being able to hold it in my hand).

I handed it to her and asked her to turn to Matthew.
“I don’t know where that is,” she replied, almost timidly, like she was worried that I would judge her or God would smite her.

I showed her how to find it, and I told her about the Bible app she could download on her phone if she wanted. “Cool!” she exclaimed, “I did not know you could do that.”

Admittedly, as I was waiting for her app to download, I looked at my watch and thought, “Oh man, I should have left earlier. How can I help her with her New Testament homework if she has no idea what it even is?” I wondered how someone’s knowledge could be so limited that it literally doesn’t even exist. Even growing up in a public high school, all my non Christian classmates had at least some knowledge of the Bible, what it was,, how it functioned, and how it was structured.

But, I figured now is as good a time as any to test out both my knowledge and my passion, so, I pressed on. As the app was downloading, I flipped to one of the gospels in my Bible, opened another on my phone, and then instructed her to find one of the others on her phone. I gave her a brief run down, for context, of what the purpose of the gospels is, then, I had her read the stories. As she was reading, I chatted with my physics classmate, and helped her with some of her work, familiarized myself with the rest of the NT assignment, and thought about how I could explain these amazing stories to someone with no knowledge. I thought about how I could start at square one– how could I answer these questions without spending hours explaining things that I grew up learning, that are so ingrained in me they’ve become second nature. I wondered how I could explain things that I myself had learned in the past year, but that excite me as if I’d studied them my whole life. I thought about how the only thing this girl had were the Words in front of her, my limited knowledge, and my passion.

She finished reading and began summarizing. I gave her a brief lesson about distinguishing chapters and verses, and she began writing. She then asked me to summarize Luke for her. She was confused about John the Baptist and Jesus and wasn’t sure who was who, who did what, and why John was important. I summarized it for her, and added a few fun facts of my own, and waited for her to write it all down. Then, I watched as she read and interpreted John. I was slightly shocked she understood John so well. I mean, John is my personal favorite gospel writer (although, Matthew’s pretty good too…), but he can sometimes be a super cryptic and difficult to understand writer, especially if you have no background or context whatsoever. Then, I discovered she was a communication major, and maybe that’s why she appreciated John so much. I briefly went a little off topic and talked about my love for John.

To make a long story short, I walked her through all the aspects of her assignment, added a few of my own fun facts and historical context comments in there for comprehension purposes. I tried to answer the questions her professor posed about connections to the Old Testament as much as possible without overwhelming her or making it super obvious that my Old Testament knowledge pales in comparison to my New Testament knowledge. I summarized the gospels, hit on the unique details of each gospel writers’ death and crucifixion stories, and basically summarized N.T Wright’s novel Simply Jesus. (If you haven’t read it– why? What are you waiting for. It’s amazing. Shout out to my NT professor for making us read that.)

By the end, I figured she would be a little overwhelmed. So, I let her read and answer the last question on her own (since it was mostly an opinion question anyway), and began to pack up my stuff. At this point, it had been over an hour, it was almost midnight, and any hope I had of getting ahead on homework had passed. But, I waited to see if she had any questions for me or anything she wanted to talk about. I wasn’t sure if what I had said made sense, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t confuse the poor girl more than necessary.

When she finished writing she said, “That was great! I’m sorry I kept you away from your work, but I did enjoy that.”
“It was my pleasure, I enjoyed it too. Like I said, I’m a Biblical studies minor, so I’m always down for talking Scripture.”

As I was preparing to go she asked me, “Where’d you get your Bible? Yours’ is so much easier to understand than mine.” So, of course this led to a brief discussion about Biblical translations and which versions I prefer and which ones Biblical scholars agree are good. Then, she asked if we could exchange phone numbers.

“It’s so great that [physics classmate] just found you! I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee sometime and do this again. And, I will probably need your help again.”

I gave her my number, I wished her luck on the rest of her assignments, and I left. But, I didn’t stop thinking about it.

Walking back to my dorm, in the rain, I was smiling. Not because I had just dropped some knowledge bombs on someone, or that I had just spent an hour and a half of my life doing something far more important than Calculus homework, or that I had a chance to see if I really have chosen the right path in life, but I was smiling because I was hopeful, joy-filled, and warm.

I felt hopeful that something I said may have sparked an interest in her. Maybe it was something I said about Christ’s purpose, maybe it was the joke I made about how I was that kid in Old and New Testament who would say “this is my favorite book!” before every book we studied. I realized that she came to Roberts for very different reasons than I did. I wanted a place where I would be challenged in my faith and pushed to grow, and she wanted the scholarship money she was offered because of volleyball. But, I was joy-filled that, even if that class was required, she had taken the time to sit, listen, and talk about it with me instead of running and dropping the class at the first sign of struggle. And I had a strange feeling of warmth, that I am still not sure how to describe. My whole heart was happy, like for a minute it forgot the brain controlled happiness because it took it all for itself, and it still hasn’t let go.

And, I couldn’t stop thinking about this encounter. As evidenced by the fact that I had promised I’d be in bed by 10 last night, and it is now 1:45 the next morning, and I am still awake writing this post, this encounter meant a lot to me.

I’m not sure where this girl will go with everything I told her tonight. I certainly hope she texts me and asks me for help again, and I hope that something I said resonated with her. But, I don’t know. I do know that I am left now with more reassurance, more confidence, and more doubt.

I”m left with reassurance that I have a knowledge of the Scriptures and a passion and desire to learn more about them and learn more from them. I am left with more confidence that I am somewhere on the right path for my life and that pursuing more, deeper studies into this is something I need to be doing and one thing I love to do. But, I am also left with more doubt about whether or not I have chosen the path in life that I actually want to take. Now, to be fair, I have a “I should change my major” crisis about once every week or two, but this time, something’s different. I”m left with a lot of questions, few answers, too many feelings, and not enough words to describe it all. But, I’ll leave it at this: God does some wonderfully strange and amazing things. And I am so glad He sent me to the library tonight, and didn’t allow me to leave, despite all the times I wanted to.

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Hands

Recently, my grandfather had carpal tunnel surgery. Which, as an aspiring scientist and amateur writer, got me thinking a lot about hands. So, naturally, I did two things– I looked up how the procedure was done, and I began writing this post. Once I figured out how the surgery was done and reassured myself that it was a relatively minor procedure, I began to figure out how to write this. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn’t completely sure where I wanted this post to go. I could use my fingers to count a million different words I could write. I could use my hand to draw a map of all the different places this post could go, tracing out each path on the veins and creases on my hand. I needed a direct path from my heart to my fingers. (Fun fact, wedding rings are worn on the left ring finger because it was believed to be the only finger with a vein leading directly to the heart.) So, I fiddled with my ring I wear on my left ring finger that’s definitely not a wedding ring, and tried to find a direct path from my heart to the tips of my fingers. But, that proved more difficult than carpal tunnel surgery. My heart was telling me to write about how this surgery was just another example, this time physical, of my grandparents getting older. I wanted to write about how watching Boppa’s body grow weaker hurts, but watching his mind grow weaker has hurt more. For grandma the nurse, her hands are so important, but for Boppa, the college professor and ordained Free Methodist pastor, with two masters’ degrees and a doctorate, his mind is so important. Both of them served with their hands, one literally and one metaphorically, and I wanted to write about how much it hurts to see both of them becoming weaker. But, I decided that story is, mostly, best saved for another post. Instead, I decided, as I reflected on how important hands are, that I would write something else. Somewhere along the path from my heart to my fingertips, I decided to save the pain of that story for another time and instead write a more beautiful story. So, here it is– a different story, written with my own hands, about my own hands.

My hands have been through a lot in my short 19 year life. Throwback to when I was a baby with tiny hands yet undiscovered by me. I flailed my arms, fists clenched, and paid no attention to what, or who, I might hit. After I discovered them, I grabbed things– other people’s fingers mostly. I put them in my mouth, or other people’s mouths, or whatever was nearby. I touched things, simply because I liked how they felt. I used them to pull the baby gate out of my way, then used them for support as I crawled up the mountain-like stairs I was too afraid to crawl back down. They held my blanket and my doll as I ran my fingers across them because I loved the way it made my hand tingle and the sensation I felt in my fingertips. My hands became part of the reason my parents suspected my visual impairment. I used them to hold objects centimeters away from my face because I couldn’t see them any other way. I reached out and touched things just to see how far away they were or what they felt like because I couldn’t use visual cues to interpret the way they might feel. I’d reach down to feel just how big of a jump it was from my grandparent’s garage to their driveway, because my hands were saying it was a centimeter difference, but my eyes were saying it was a canyon. I used them to navigate a world I couldn’t see. And, later, once I had my (adorable) glasses, when I was learning to walk, I held them out in front of me again as I navigated, trying to feel my way around a world I had never seen so clearly before. Once I got used to my new perspective of the world, I used them to point at things I had never noticed before– just to make sure everyone else saw them too.

As I grew, my hands grew with me. With them, I learned to write, carefully copying each stroke and hand position. They traced the words on pages as I learned to read, my finger precisely following each shape as my mouth sounded out the forms. I held the hands of my parents as I crossed roads and parking lots– thinking that staying safe forever was as simple as never letting go. In them was placed my first Bible– a gift whose impact wouldn’t be realized until years later when those same hands held those same Words as I memorized them. They colored outside the lines, cut themselves in an attempt to cut paper, and glued parts of themselves together. They reached up to grab the monkey bars or to hold my baby cousins. I let them be used by my friends to scrawl phone numbers or flowers on. I held them out to shake hands or give high fives. They learned to tickle both the ivories and my dad’s feet. I used them to wipe my nose, put band-aids on my skinned knees, and wash my body. They held my favorite books as I went on adventures with my best friends, and they supported me when I fell down. Sometimes, they were the reason I fell.

As I grew older, my hands did too. They started writing full sentences and typing full essays, carefully drawing each shape as I saw it in my mind. Instead of tracing the words on pages, I often find them tracing the path my blood takes from the tips of my fingers, through my hand, to my wrist, up through my arm, until they arrive at my heart– feeling each beat and reminding me that I am alive. Somewhere along the road, they let go of my parents’ hands, as I reassured myself I’d be okay on my own. And now, they sometimes long to hold another hand– to be reminded that I’ll be safe as long as I don’t let go. With them, I hold my Bible– reaching out to God– knowing that they’re holding my greatest joy and my entire life. They’re still not one for staying in the lines. And I’ve cut them countless times with knives or paper or pins or scissors. They’ve super-glued themselves together more times than I’d care to admit. They reached out to accept my high school diploma, and they reach out to hold the babies and pet the puppies that cross my path. They’ve been my go to notebook as I used them to jot down that homework assignment or date. They’ve clapped and cheered for my competitors, and greatest friends, as they held in their own hands– hands I had shaken so many times– an award mine had longed for so long to hold. With them, I spread encouragement and congratulations to my friends whose hands held Words as they memorized them. They’ve had an itch to tickle the ivories for far too long, and they’ve been reminded that playing the piano is nothing like riding a bike– it can be forgotten. They’ve wiped tears from my eyes, bandaged my wounds, and washed my face.  They’ve gone to Kenya where they clapped and danced with new friends, held babies, and pet elephants. And, they’ve been longing ever since to reach back out and take the hands of the friends I met there, as they search for the piece of my heart I left behind, all the while knowing they’ll never find it– and not wanting to. They’ve supported me when I fell, and were the things that picked me back up. They pieced my broken heart back together as they fought the urge to fight the thing that broke it. 

And now, I’m sitting here, in a coffee shop, examining my hands. As I flex them and study them, all the while feeling completely crazy, I see all the things they’ve done in my life. I see my senior year AP Bio class, where I dissected eyes, brains, frogs, and worms, and where I used them to taxidermy a rat, all without wearing gloves. Because, I’ve always been fascinated with how things feel, and I can’t get the whole experience if I can’t feel. I see my junior year AP Chem class where I spilled silver nitrate on them, because, again, why wear gloves if you don’t have to. I see the incalculable amount of times I washed them, trying to get it off, but having to finally resign myself to just being patient. I see the way they served in Kenya and how I’m still using them to serve in Kenya and elsewhere. I see that time they held a young rookie as she cried, pouring her heart out, and the time they were linked with others in prayer as we cried for each other. The times they were raised in worship and surrender to the One who made them. I see my fingernails that are dirty and sometimes broken. I see the calluses I have from working. I see all the chemicals I’ve spilled on them and the times my professors forced me to wear gloves, even though I prefer the experience without. I see the way they cramp up when I spend four hours a day deleting phone numbers and emails from records, and how, with 4000 records, I still have more to do the next time. I see how I use them to bake and cook. (Seriously though, my scones and my homemade pizza are truly culinary masterpieces.) They are currently dry and a little red, because, no matter how many times I wash them and put lotion on them, the constant exposure to chemicals, from my job and from my Chemistry training, has left them a little rough around the edges.

So, here’s the thing. Here’s the point of all this talk about my hands. I believe that if eyes are the window to the soul, then hands are the mirror to the heart– reflecting the innermost parts of who you are.

I don’t believe all those people who say you can tell your future by looking at the creases on your palm. But, I do believe you can see your past, and your present, by looking at your hands. Hands say a lot about what has happened to you, and they reflect so much of who you are. They show all the experiences you’ve had and they tell a lot about who you are as a person. When I see my dad’s hands, a little rough and probably permanently stained with grease or newsprint or both, I don’t see just that. I see all the hard work he’s done over the years to support us– his three jobs, his late nights and early mornings, and the things he’d sacrifice, including time with us, to give us all he could. When I looked at the brace on my grandfather’s hands as he was waiting for this surgery, and still waits for his other hand’s, I don’t just see a hand that sometimes goes numb. As a scientist, I see a carpal ligament that needs to be cut to relieve pressure on the underlying nerve. But, as a writer, I see his past and present. I see all the people he’s served– the sermons he’s preached, the hearts he’s touched, the Word he’s spread. I see all the papers he’s graded and the students he’s inspired and encouraged. I see in my grandmother’s hands the patients she’s healed, the families she’s reassured, the friends she’s cooked delicious meals for, and the family she’s held so close. I see my sister’s love of piano playing, word writing, and book holding, and the way she used them to try to give up, but how she uses them now to list all the reasons she shouldn’t. I could go on and on about all the stories I see when I look at my family members hands.

And when I look at my own, I see it all too. I see me as a baby, discovering my hands for the first time. I see me as a child of no more than two, using my hands as a navigator for this new clear world. I see them learning to hold a pen and play the piano. I see how they no longer move the baby gate out of my way, but how they now work to move any obstacle out of my way as I face conquerable mountains I am no longer afraid to fall down. I see the bumps and bruises I’ve gotten along the way and the sores and marks they have now. And, admittedly, right now, my hands are exhausted. They’ve worked hard. This year, this life, and this summer, and they’ll work even harder as I grow up. But, I also see the way they reflect my heart. My heart of service and hard work. The way they reflect my personality based on what they do. I see the way they exemplify Colossians 3:23 without the words being scrawled on them in day old faded ink. So, look at your hands. Because they can’t predict your future, but they can reflect your past and explain your present. And they are the true reflection of who you are.

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Facing the World: Pursuing My Dreams

Well, that’s it. I have officially graduated high school. I have received a piece of arbitrary paper that somehow certifies that I am eligible and somehow qualified to go to college, get a job, or enlist in the army. And once the initial saltiness of them giving me the wrong type of diploma wears off, I’ll be ready to face the world. In my case, facing the world means going to college and pursuing my dreams. I am studying Chemistry, but I love every subject, and I want to learn more about each of them. Because I love learning and absorbing knowledge. I can never know too much about anything. I’m continuing to educate myself about things while pursuing my dreams and making myself happy.

But, before I do that, I have to get through summer. Summer, which, for me, is filled with so much. Next week, I leave for my last ever Nationals in my favorite place on earth, to do my favorite thing on earth. And that will be a week filled with fun, exhaustion, tears, sadness, stress and joy. A few weeks after that, I leave for an amazing adventure in Kenya for a missions trip with Quizzing. Which will be a time filled with unexpected experiences and life changing moments. I have my graduation party, which is the last time I will see some of my greatest friends who got me through all of high school. I move into college. Where I will be rooming with a fellow Quizzer and Kenya adventurer. I’ll start college with some amazing Quizzing friends, and great school friends, by my side. And I’m so excited for all that the future holds. 

I’m excited to see what Seattle and Narionlas holds. I’m not expecting enormous things. I’m not expecting to come home with the Alpha and Omega, or even a Sweet 16 trophy. But, I’m looking forward to the amazing fun I’ll have with my teammates and the memories we’ll make. I’m excited for all God has in store for me in Kenya. Because Quizzing has had such a wonderfully amazing, indescribable impact on my life, and I hope to be able to share that. I’m excited to move into my dorm and be on my own, although I am also terrified. I’m excited to get to know my Quizzing friends better, because, although we’ve known each other for seven years, it’s hard to really know someone when you only see them once a month, or once a year. I’m excited to get to know the Gates kids going to Roberts better. Because, although we didn’t talk a lot in high school, that’s still a huge part of each of us, and it’s nice to have someone to share and reminisce with. 

But these excitements are only short term. What about long term? What about things that I can do now that I have finally finished high school? What about my dreams? My hopes? My fears? 

Well, I’m excited for those too. I’m excited to pursue all my dreams. To study chemistry and become more informed about how the world works. Because I am incredibly curious and like knowing how and why things work and act. I’m glad to be continuing my education. And hopefully continuing it beyond just college. And I don’t just mean getting my masters and doctorate (although those are on my list). I mean continuing it in the world. Because one of the best ways to learn is outside the classroom. By experiencing and absorbing. 

I’m excited to meet amazing new people. Make new friends. Have a family. Read more amazing books. Marry some amazing guy (you know, once they stop having cooties). Raise my children to be curious, loving, dreaming, hoping, hard-working and kind. Live in an amazing place. Pursue my dreams. Make sacrifices for others. Be a friend and support. Love everyone I meet. Give back. Experience new things. Travel the world. Discover myself. Use my gifts and talents for Him. Serve others. 

I’m terrified to become an adult. I shouldn’t be trusted with any form of responsibility. I’m terrified of messing up. But, everyone messes up. I’m terrified because I know nothing about how the real world works. But, I’ll figure it out, eventually. Maybe. I’m scared to go out into the world. Because it’s a scary place, and I would prefer to stay under the comfortable protection of my parents. But, I can be a light in the scary world, and I have to go into it in order to do that. I’m terrified because I can’t see into the future to see how it works out. But, I know the One who holds the future, so, I’ll put my trust in Him. 

Today, I was told by so many that the world is mine. But I think it was always mine, but will also never be mine. I don’t have to wait until high school is over to live my life and make my world into what I want it to be. But, I’ll never really make the world mine. Because it’s God’s world, and He put me in it for a purpose. So, as I go into it, I’ll remember His purpose, His love, His grace, and His mercy. I’ll pray that I may become who He desires me to be. That I may live in a way that pleases Him, honors Him, and fulfills His will for me. 

So, I’ll go out with a sense of pride in what I have accomplished. But I’ll continue to work harder than I ever have. I’ll go out with a feeling of hope and excitement for the future. But, I’ll remember everything in my past that has made me into who I am today. I’ll go out chasing my dreams. But, I’ll be open to my dreams changing in order to fulfill His purpose for me. I’ll go out with a sense of excitement and also fear. But, I’ll remember my friends and family, who were always there, and always will be. I’ll heed the Salutatorian’s advice and surround myself with enriching and satisfying friendships. I won’t compete against others, because someone is always going to be better. I won’t let my fears or feelings of inadequacy or my weaknesses keep me from pursuing my dreams, conquering my fears, and building relationships. I’ll keep Christ always in my circle of friends, and at the center of my life. I’ll go out into the world, fearful, hopeful, and curious.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.  Proverbs 16:3

He has shown you, o mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord not for men.  Colossians 3:23

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To The Class of 2016

Dear Class of 2016, 

The day we thought would never arrive is finally here.  And for as long as I can remember, I have been the one who couldn’t wait to graduate.  I couldn’t wait to go to college and start over. To make new friends. To get to know some of my current friends better in college. To pursue my dreams. To continue my life. To explore my passions. But, as I stand here looking back on the mountain of finals, stress, APs, SATs, proms, homecomings, and pep rallies that was high school, I am realizing that, at some point, I’ll begin to miss it. But, for now, I am excited, because, for the most part, I hated high school. I will miss parts of it, but I am honestly glad to be moving on.

I’ll miss my friends who really were always there for me, despite anything I may have said, or thought, on the contrary. Who supported me through my 4 APs Junior year and struggled with me through calculus. I’ll miss my teachers who taught me so much about life. Who helped me discover my true passions, and who helped me rediscover my old love for certain subjects. I’ll miss my synchronized swimming coaches who kept me physically fit but drove me mentally insane. I’ll miss my friend who asked me everyday for homework help. Whether it was AP Chem, math, Comp, or even Spanish (which I definitely couldn’t help her with), even though she drove me crazy. I’ll miss my first non Quizzing guy friend who made my life more stressful than it needed to be by calling me at midnight asking for help with Calc or Bio or Stats or whatever, but who was actually a quality guy despite the thousands of contrary examples that surrounded him. Who was so obsessed with aliens that it drove me crazy, but with whom I also had so many deep conversations about life and the future. I’ll miss the fun we all had. I’ll miss the familiar hallways where I no longer get lost. I’ll miss the pool that was always so cold, but where I made many memories and pulled many muscles. I’ll miss the many AP Chem labs I messed up, the AP Bio dissections, the laughter at the rules the administration made that we refused to follow because of their stupidity and our own, the people, and the memories. I’ll miss everything it means. 

Because high school means comfort, despite the fact it never felt like home. The familiarity and structure of it all is comforting. I always knew what was expected of me, where to go, and what to do. And once I walk that stage, I’ll no longer have that. Sure, I’m going to a college whose campus I grew up in and around and whose people I am familiar with, but it’s not the same. It will never be the same. I’ll miss high school because graduating means leaving. It means leaving Quizzing, a ministry that has impacted my life more than anything, impacted me more than words could ever describe. It means leaving the people I have spent so many years surrounded by, whether good or bad. It means changing my routine that has been set for 13 years. It means no longer being able to text or call my friends to ask what the homework was, or how to do that one question, or if they want to go on a coffee date or impromptu trip to the library or Panera. It means becoming a freshman again, lost and confused, with no familiar faces in sight. It means saying goodbye to friends. My underclassmen friends who I’ll miss dearly. My friend since kindergarten who has put up with me for 13 years (which can not have been easy). My friends who have gotten me through so much. My friends who I just met this year who I wish I had talked to sooner. But, leaving also means happiness and joy. 

It means finally seeing my hard work pay off. It means pursuing my dreams and becoming who God has called me to be. It means having new, unimaginably amazing experiences. It means making new friendships, and seeing old ones grow. It means living. 

So, to the class of 2016, good luck. Good luck in whatever your future holds. Allow your experiences and time spent in high school to be carried with you throughout your lives. Remember the positives. Allow the negatives to change and impact you. Never forget the friendships you had and the memories you made. As you move on with your life, don’t forget your past, but build yourself an amazing future. Build yourself a future that, when you look back in 50 years, will make you smile. Be kind to anyone and everyone you encounter. Leave a mark in the world so bright that when others see it they’ll remember your beautiful spirit and unbridled joy. Pursue your dreams. Fulfill your purpose. Know that you are loved, and that you matter. Know that God’s got an unfathomable purpose for you. Know that who you were in high school is not who you have to be.  Understand that leaving high school does not mean your life is ending, it means it’s just beginning. 

Today was filled with many lasts. The last time you opened your locker. The last time you saw your favorite teacher or your best friend. The last time you walked through that hall or passed by that classroom. The last time you walked your best friend to class while laughing about the annoying freshman and complaining about that teacher. The last time you hung out in your favorite teacher’s classroom. The last day you sat and laughed with some of your best friends. The last day of your 13 year long school career. But, the future is filled with so many firsts. Your first day of college. Your first class that’s so stressful you’ll want to cry. Your first class that you’ll fall so much in love with you’ll wish it will never end. Your first time leaving home and really being on your own. Your first real all nighter. Your first love. Your first time you won’t be able to call your mom for every little thing. Your first new best friend. Your first career. Your first child. It’s the start of the rest of your life. A life filled with so many wonderful moments, both good and bad. Embrace this change, but never forget the memories you have made. 

So, to the class of 2016, good luck. I’m proud of you, and I sincerely wish you all the best. I hope you fulfill all your dreams. And thanks for making these past four years amazing, beautiful, stressful, terrible, and unforgettable. 

Love, 

A fellow curious, wondering, excited, and terrified senior

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