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Words of Love

“Christ would still die for you. Even if you were the only one.”

Yeah, I know. I do. Your reminder is exactly what I need right now. Because sometimes, recently, I have not been able to fully believe that. So thank you. I’m glad you said that—glad you care enough to make sure I know that. But I do know. In fact, I have said those words to anyone and everyone I think needed to hear them. I’ve drilled them into the heads of my Quizzers, my Sunday small group teens, and my friends. And I can quote all of them and then some. I memorized every word Christ ever said as He walked this earth– every word He said as He died for me. I memorized every time Paul or John or whoever else reemphasized this point as they wrote to broken people—some people who, like me, may not always truly and fully believe these words. And I think that may be the problem.

“Thanks,” I replied almost silently, without even moving my mouth. (A fun party trick I learned from my 7 years of Quizzing. Because no one has time to move their mouth when they are trying to quote every word Jesus ever said in 20 seconds or less.)

You probably didn’t even notice that I said thanks. But I did. And I meant it. Because my ability to quote these words means nothing if I don’t believe them. And I don’t know how much I believe them right now. Because right now, at this moment, I’ve been struggling to believe them. Because I know them. I understand them—I always have. To me, the words of Christ, or Paul, or John, or Moses—the words of God– have never been shrouded in mystery and difficult to understand. They’ve always been easy to understand. At least on the surface. I comprehend them. What I haven’t really done, until recently, is really feel them. And that is my problem—I now feel them.

I reached out and gladly accepted the hug. Because actions speak louder than words. And hugs speak louder than, well, just about everything. And I couldn’t say anything because I was afraid that if I did, I’d start to cry. In fact, I almost did. (Which, to be fair, has been happening a lot recently. Between college, whatever feelings I’ve been trying to sort out, and my medicine that’s supposed to help me regulate my emotions but also seems to make them go all over, I have that feeling a lot.) But had that hug lingered even a millisecond longer, I probably would have.

“I don’t want to pry. I just thought you needed to hear that. Give you some encouragement.”

No, pry. Please. Make me talk about it. Because I don’t exactly know what to say. I don’t exactly know how to describe what the heck I’m thinking—what I’m feeling. I can’t put it into words. But you would know. Something tells me you’d understand. Because if there is anything you’d understand, it’s confusion. It’s overwhelming, indescribable emotion. So please pry. Because I think I need someone to. And you—you’re comfortable. You’re safe. You’re someone who’d get me. Maybe because you remind me a lot of me. Or maybe because, low key, I wish I could be like you when I grow up. You’re a friend I never thought I’d actually have, or get to call my friend. And you’d have the words because you know the Word—probably, definitely, better than I do.

“Thanks. And no, it’s ok to pry. It’s just… I…”

It’s just that I don’t know. I’m feeling so much. And it’s hard to sort out what feelings are due to college being college, what are due to my medicine messing with my head, and what’s due to the actual issue. Because the actual issue is that I’m finally feeling all the words I’ve memorized and known throughout my life. And I don’t know what to make of that. Because I don’t know how to handle the fact that “God is love,” and that “He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Because I don’t deserve that, and I don’t know how to feel about that. I don’t know how to deal with the fact that Love loved me enough to die for me despite the fact that I am a sinner who, no matter how hard I try, can never get it right. I don’t know how to cope with Love’s broken heart, with the fact that I broke it, with the fact that He’d do it again—even if I was the only one–and with the fact that He still wants to heal my broken heart. That’s a Love that I honestly can never understand. The more I study Love, the more I know and the less I understand. Which is what makes Love beautiful. But also frustrating. Love can never be fully comprehended—not by my finite human mind. And I’m not sure I know how to handle that.

“College. Life.”

“Yeah, that’s…yeah.”

Yeah. College. The part of life where I am supposed to be figuring out what I’m doing with my life but the part where no one actually knows. And the part of my life where I realize I’m graduating next year and I am further from figuring out my life than I was when I started. Because every time I think I might have an idea, I find something, some reason, I can’t. But, I also can’t because I’m realizing that nothing I could do could compare to what Love did. And Love really just wants me—my love, my life, my all. But that all still feels so inadequate. And so, I live my life in awe that Love would die for me without expecting my perfection. And I live my life in humble admiration that Love died for me just so He could have me—so I could have Love. I live my life reminded that though “for from dust you are and to dust you will return,” Love reaches out His hands that were pierced for me and picks me up from the ashes where I so rightfully belong. I live my life trying so hard to give Love my love, my fear, my reverence, my talents, and my everything. And I finally feel these words I’ve spent years memorizing. Which leaves me feeling humbled, in awe, inadequate, amazed, appreciative, Loved, fearful, and a bit confused.

“I think you’re putting on a brave face. But you’re dealing with something. And He’ll make beauty from the ashes”

Well, yeah. I’m putting on a brave face because, right now, that’s all I can do. All I can do to keep from crying, or pouring my soul and my confusion and my pain out to a random stranger in the library. I’m dealing with something because I’m dealing with something I can’t even explain. And I’m dealing with the fact that He’ll make beauty from my ashes. Because, I hear that all the time– those stories are everywhere. Heck, you want to talk about really making beauty from ashes, talk to my sister. Now that’s a real beauty from ashes story. But really, what I’m dealing with is the fact that I don’t actually know how to walk away from my ashes. Because I don’t deserve that. Which is how Love’s grace works—it can’t be earned, it isn’t ever fully deserved. But that’s how Love is. And I’ve read the Words. I know that it is a story of grace and Love. But I now feel the story. I’ve been feeling how much I am Israel. I constantly ignore Love. I reject Him. I put other things first—I make other things my god. I’m realizing we all do. And I’m suddenly overwhelmed because, despite all that, despite how often I lose faith and start to sink, Love still reaches out to save me again and again. And that’s indescribably amazing and beautiful. And I can’t understand why, so I just accept that it is—that Love is—and try my best to show Love, and to show Love that I do want Love. But some days, it’s harder to accept than others. And sometimes, more often than not, that type of Love is so indescribable that it hurts.

“Love you”

Thank you. Seriously, thank you. For the reminder. For the encouragement. For caring. For noticing that maybe I needed the encouragement. Because I am not even sure I recognized that I needed it until you gave it. And I love you too. I am so thankful to Love that He allowed me the opportunity to meet you. Because I joke about how I want to be you when I grow up. But in all seriousness, I’d love to be like you. I’d love to have your passion, your gift for encouragement, your warm hugs, your sass. And I’d love to have your wisdom. So, thank you for the encouragement, and for being a friend, and for giving me a hug. And right now, I’m going to give you another hug because that’s all I can do. If I say anything, I’ll probably cry. And I can’t do that here, not now.

“So, when are you coming back?”

And okay, I know it’s not actually up to me. And you would if you could. But, also, when are you coming back because I miss your classes. Because they were the places where I first truly discovered the Word come to life—where I first began feeling the Words I’d memorized. They are the places where this all began. When are you coming back because I miss your passion, your smile, your sass, and your light. When are you coming back because this—this moment right here—I wish it could stay like this forever. And I need more of these. When are you coming back because we all need you—or someone like you—in our lives. And so many others’ lives have been impacted by you. Because I, we, love you. And Love loves you. You helped show me, briefly, at a glance, Love. And, I’m sure you know this, but I want to remind you anyway since you reminded me.

“God is. I don’t know what He is, but I know that He is.”

God is a lot of things. He is good (although maybe not what we think “good” is). He is just. He is the beginning, He’s the end. He’s omnipresent, omniscient, and an all-consuming fire. He is I Am. He is the bread of life, the light of the world, the Messiah. He’s indescribable and unchanging. He is life. He is Love.

There were a lot of things I wanted to say but couldn’t and a lot of things I should have said but didn’t. But sometimes, words are hard. And sometimes, the Words of Love can be even harder. And sometimes it takes words of love to help you understand what love is and who Love is. But, man, am I grateful for all kinds of words of love, and for those who love, because sometimes, that’s what I need to truly understand Love. (And sometimes, actually most of the time, the hugs help too.)

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Wait, What? Oh, Yeah. It’s Valentine’s Day.

This post actually makes no sense. But neither does my life right now. And it actually has not really anything to do with Valentine’s Day. But neither does my life. So, Happy Valentine’s Day.

It’s Valentine’s Day again. *insert whatever reaction here*  And I could write another post about my thoughts on Valentine’s Day, but that’s been done before. Not just by me– by literally everyone. So, I’m not going to do that. Because let’s face it– we’re all tired of that type of thing. We’re all tired of singles posting statuses or photos or whatever else on the internet on Valentine’s Day claiming they don’t care or complaining because they do. We’re almost as tired of that as we are of all the couples posting their seemingly perfect adventures. And guys, to be honest, I’m not a brokenhearted jealous single who’s just trying to validate my feelings. But, to be fair, I’m not a perfectly content single who’s trying to encourage others either. I fall somewhere between those two lines– some days, like today, closer to one end than the other. But, that’s okay. And this post isn’t really about that. It’s not really about Valentine’s Day either. It’s mostly about life.

I’ve been having a rough time recently. I am not sure how to describe exactly everything I’ve been feeling and thinking, mostly because I don’t know. But, I am trying to write a post(s) explaining it all– it’s just a slow process because I’m trying to sort through all my thoughts. And my ADHD (surprise?! A post I’m planning to finish soon) makes that incredibly difficult because I am trying to figure out what’s important and trying to not hyper-focus on what’s not. (Like, I probably should be doing homework right now, but I can’t focus on that until I write this, but this isn’t that important to write, but my brain refuses to acknowledge that so I’m basically not going to sleep at all tonight, but it’s fine because I’ll drink like 4 cups of coffee tomorrow which is fine because the caffeine helps my brain focus which is good because then I’ll be able to do what’s important, and wait, what was I talking about again? Right, my life. So, I am feeling a bunch of things and thinking a bunch of things and I’m an introvert who didn’t have enough introvert time this past week, so I’m kind of a wreck. Yesterday, in an attempt to change the scenery and hopefully convince my mind to focus on the tasks at hand, I ventured from my usual study spot to the library– mind racing and thoughts darting back and forth.

After getting settled and beginning to start my many tasks at hand, I ran into a friend. I said hi, with the intention of just being a nuisance for a brief moment. However, somehow the conversation progressed to a not terribly annoying one (it happens…occasionally). He gave me some unoriginal advice (sorry, dude, if you’re reading this. But, like, I told myself all that already in order to convince myself I wasn’t actually a failure when I switched my major) and asked why I don’t switch my major (Little behind the eight ball, aren’t we?). And then, somehow, it transitioned to mutual friends of ours’– both of whom are in relationships. And I made some joke about them not hanging out with me because they were too busy spending time with their girlfriends (which is, in fact, a joke. We didn’t spend that much time together before they had girlfriends, so it really is no different now). To which he responded, “Does that bother you?”  (welcome to the mind of an overthinking, emotionally unstable, completely confused, physically exhausted, young single woman with ADHD on Valentine’s Day. You’re welcome.)

“Does that bother you?” Well no. But also yes. I’m annoyed but I don’t know what to tell you because it bothers me for reasons you wouldn’t think or understand. And you’d probably say they’re dumb anyway. Which, they are. Because he and I-we- there’s a- history- thing– it’s complicated. And him? I don’t really know. That’s just a thing I can’t really explain. And I don’t want to talk to you about this. Because you know. But also you don’t. And also, you don’t really know me super well. And, you’re like their brother. But you’re also like mine. My super annoying brother, but brother nonetheless. And you’re also like a 12 year old. Sometimes I wish I were 12. I act like it all the time, which is probably why they all love me and I get along with them so well, but, wait, I’m an adult, when did that happen? Wait, what’s happening to my life? Where’s it going? Wait, what’s going on? Oh yeah– no, it doesn’t bother me. Yes, it does. I don’t actually know.

But “no, it’s not much different than before, you know. Good for them.” But also, I don’t want to do this– not here, not now, not with you. I can’t do this with you now. I’ve got homework and thoughts and emotions to think through. And honestly, I kind of think I’m about to cry. But like, that’s not really your fault– and I’ve kind of been feeling that way a lot these past few days. My medicine that is supposed to help me control and clarify all my emotions is wearing off so I’ll have very little control over my emotions for the next half hour or so until, coincidentally, it wears off completely. And also I’m stressed and confused about life. And I kind of just want to sit around and contemplate Ezekiel or whatever other book because I’m kind of mad at the church right now for whatever. And God’s kind of been making me feel Him too much and also not enough recently. He’s been leaving me awestruck but also feeling unable to do anything about anything. And I’m exhausted and I don’t know what to say when people ask what’s wrong. And I’m an introvert who hasn’t had enough introvert time recently and I’ve got way too much work to plausibly get done before break. Because I did nothing yesterday because my friends were having crises. And I had to help them figure out what the heck was going on. And I am really just super confused about everything. And freaking feelings, hormones, and medication keeps screwing with my mind. And tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, and two days ago was Sunday. And my one pastor wasn’t there Sunday. And oh my goodness, I thought about maybe being a pastor. But I also definitely cannot do that. My pastor told me he figured my life out for me. And, oh yeah, my pastor joked about talking about a passage on love during Valentine’s week. But like, Valentine’s Day is stupid except for the chocolate. But I always buy that the day after anyway because it’s cheaper. And my brain can’t shut up. And I really don’t want to cry in front of you. I really don’t know you that well. But I might. Or I might punch you in the face– I’m not entirely sure.

“You know, I know it can be hard seeing people you’re close to get in relationships.” Well yeah, but also not at all. Like they’re happy and all that crap which is cool. And I’m happy, I think, which is good. And like, relationships are great. I know lots of people whose relationships are doing great things for the Kingdom. Oh, crap, I used to write KOH on my paper in New Testament and always tried to figure out why I was writing about potassium hydroxide in Bible class. Ah man, I miss that class. That professor is my favorite human being. She’s married, and her and her husband are pretty chill. They’d be like relationship goals, if I believed in that type of thing. She’s one of the reasons I switched my major. Why’d I not completely switch again? How’d you not know I switched? Have you been living under a rock? What am I doing with my life? How old am I? I have no idea what I’m doing. You’re older than I am and you just said you have no clue either. But also I didn’t remember you were that much older than I am. Didn’t you graduate with my sister? Oh yeah, I can’t believe she doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life either. Why is everyone clueless and having crises? And wait, dude, why are you giving me relationship advice for my non-existent relationship if you have a non-existent one too? No, it doesn’t bother me because I’d have to be close to a person for it to be hard to see. But I’m not that close to them anymore. And all the closeness I thought we had seems now like a lie. Oh shoot, did anyone notice how unnecessarily close that dude was sitting to me? Because that was weird. And a weird place to do that. But also, why was he sitting so close? Like go away. Crap, I still feel like I’m about to cry again. Shut up

“Shut up”

And so, after trying my hardest to finish my assignment due at 10 while simultaneously thinking about– well, everything– I re-read old Valentine’s Day posts I wrote. Because today is Valentine’s Day. And I read old letters to people I’d written that they’d never read, and some I hope they will. Because Facebook reminded me of a status I posted on Valentine’s Day last year about one of those letters. And now, here I am. Writing this post at 2 am on Valentine’s Day. Procrastinating homework that I definitely should not be procrastinating. Because my life has been weird recently and my mind has been unfocused, despite being on medication to help it do the exact opposite of that. And words are hard to find to express anything. But, today is Valentine’s Day. And love has a lot of meanings, and my brain thinks a lot of thoughts, and I’ve had a lot of different conversations about Valentine’s Day these past few days. And I’ve been writing something on Valentine’s Day these past few years but I kind of don’t feel like it this year. Because I don’t want to write an encouraging letter to singles because even if I believe it, those are so cliche and overdone. And one of the reasons I hate Valentine’s Day is the cliches. And I don’t want to write a post about the jealousy singles can feel on Valentine’s Day. Because I don’t really feel that super deeply. I’m somewhere between two points, and while I may be closer to that side today, y’all have heard that before too. And I’m kind of sick of hearing it. So instead I wrote this. Because there is a lot in my life happening right now. And the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday and three days before break makes everything more confusing. And this, in a way, helps to begin to explain some of it. But also leaves everyone, including myself, a lot more confused. Which is what Valentine’s Day kind of does to me. So, instead of rewording posts you’ve all read a billion times, I’ll leave you with these words from my past self:

“I live a love story of death and eternity, and unconditional, always present love. My life is a love story and my love is the Creator of Love itself– Himself” -Why I”m Choosing to Reject Valentine’s Day

“So, maybe I am that stereotypical girl I never wanted to be. Maybe I don’t actually hate Valentine’s Day. Maybe I still do. Or maybe just this time around I do… I’m sitting here filled with this overwhelming feeling of something indescribable. Something somewhere between sadness, anger, confusion, love, and hope…  I miss you, as much as it is possible for someone to miss a person they have never actually met and have no concept of. But tonight, I’m confused and broken and inexplicably sad. “-excerpt from a letter to you that one day you’ll read

So yes, I hate Valentine’s Day. But no, I don’t really. Really I just can’t make up my mind about anything and everything makes it more confusing.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day. Enjoy your chocolate, your significant other, and/or your adorable pet. Or enjoy none of those and sulk like Scrooge on Christmas. But whatever you do, please don’t ruin other’s day. And please don’t tell anyone how they should feel. Because, if it were me, I’d probably cry. Or punch you. Who knows? I can’t make up my mind about anything:

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The Christ of the Church

This was not the blog post I wanted to write. It’s not the one I had half finished and was going to post today, but I think that this is the one I had to post. I had to write this because, right now, I have to say some things. This may be risky, and it may ruffle some feathers, but I’m sorry– it’s too important (and I’m too mad about it) not to post.

Actually, you know what? I take that back– I’m not sorry and I don’t apologize. So, here I am, speaking my heart, despite the repercussions. Because we need to talk about the church for a minute.

Recently, I thought about walking away– not from church altogether, just from my church– the place I had grown up. Something was missing, and I didn’t know what it was, but I could tell it was something I wanted. I have since discovered that it was passion, vision, and most importantly, truth. My church has recently undergone changes, and now, I have seen this passion, vision, and truth more than ever.

Recently, my sister wrote a post similar to the one I’m about to write. For those who are unaware, my sister has a powerful testimony. (which you should read about by reading her other posts). It’s filled with tragedy, bumpy roads, thunderstorms, and dark tunnels, but it’s also filled with hope, light, and strength. But throughout all of this, the place she felt the least welcome was the place that she should have felt the most welcome– church. She didn’t feel at home at the place where she met Jesus for the first time.

Because this Jesus she met here, and the Jesus a lot of people meet at church, is not the real Jesus. It is not the Jesus found in the pages of the Bible that our pastors preach on. It’s not the one whose words we read (or memorize). It’s a Jesus that’s sugarcoated, misquoted, and misunderstood.

Because here’s the truth. Here is the thing I commented on my sister’s recent Facebook status about her anxiety and recent struggles and about how thankful she is that God meets her where she is– brokenness and all.

My favorite Bible stories (besides all the other ones) are the ones where Christ, once made human form to meet us, ate with tax collectors, sinners, and broken people. Because that’s who He came for. The Pharisees (or, comparatively the church), thought He was crazy and shouldn’t associate with those people because they weren’t perfect. But, Christ actually wants our brokenness and not our perfection. He doesn’t want the whitewashed walls— He wants the sinful woman pouring perfume on His feet and the criminal hanging next to Him on the cross. He wants the doubter who says “God, are you even real?” Because He wants to say, “Yeah. Here are My hands that were pierced for you,” as He stretches out His hands so you can feel His wrists. And if you still don’t believe Him, He wants to walk on the waves toward you and say “come to me”. And once you do, and you start to sink, He says “Why do you doubt?” as He reaches out His hands to save you– even if you continue to sink over and over and over and over again. Because Christ can calm the storm, but only if you ask Him. He’ll raise His hands, pierced for you, and say “Be still!” But, He never once says “heal yourself,” because those who are already perfect have no need for Him. Let’s be honest, anyone who says “I’m too good for Jesus and I don’t need Him,” is lying. And anyone who says that anyone else is “too broken” for Christ doesn’t understand the true nature of Christ.”

And so, here is my thing, the whole reason I’m even writing this post. Too often, our churches claim to be Jesus’ disciples, and yet act like the Pharisees. We claim to know it all and don’t let the outside world see our brokenness for fear that it will somehow make our Jesus less attractive. But, if we really want to be Jesus’ disciples, we would be doing exactly what Jesus Himself did and associating with the broken, sinful, “messed up” people, while admitting that we ourselves are broken, sinful, and messed up. If we want to make Jesus attractive, we would preach a Jesus who meets us where we’re at– brokenness and all. We would claim that we need Jesus as much as everyone else. Church should be a place where people can show up with their messy lives and find a place where that mess can be embraced and peace can be found.

And here is where I ruffle some feathers (if I haven’t already), and where I also share a little bit of a personal update.

I don’t have any idea what the heck I want to do with my life (as anyone who knows me or has read any of my recent posts could easily tell you). But, recently, I’ve had a lot of people tell me the same thing. I’ve had my parents, my sister, my pastors, my fellow Quiz coaches, and my friends tell me that I’m going to be a youth pastor. And, in all honesty, the idea of that has grown on me, and it is something I have seriously considered. But, the more I think about, the more I’m torn, because the more I don’t think I can do that. I can’t do that.

I’m not saying I can’t do that because I’m not able to, or because I don’t have the gifts or the passion or the desire to. I mean, there are definitely some things I could say to convince myself, and others, that those things are true. But, that’s not the real reason I can’t do it.

I can’t do it because I can’t stand up and teach a generation of people who don’t feel the church accepts, values, or wants to listen to them because they are too young, messed up, broken, confused, doubtful, or whatever. I can’t teach them how much God loves them just to see them struggling but too scared to say it because they feel they are “too broken” to accept God’s love– too broken for Christ to even want them. I can’t watch them be afraid to be honest because they feel that church is not the place for doubts and that if they don’t answer the questions with the “right” answers they are somehow failing at being a Christian. I can’t help them learn that they are not failing, nor are they “too broken” for Christ and help them accept Him and come to Him as they are, just to watch them graduate and get forgotten about. Just to watch them enter a church that is so focused on helping children and teens find Christ and helping adults continue to live like Him, that they forget that college students and young adults need Him too, but they feel too out of place to know where to go to keep finding Him. They aren’t children, but they aren’t really treated like adults, so they are forgotten about in the most critical time of their life simply because the church doesn’t know what to do with them. I can’t watch them enter that church, then walk away because they feel lost and abandoned, like everything they were taught was a lie since they no longer feel that they have a place. I can’t work for a place that acts like we have it all figured out. I can’t stand up and pretend I have my life figured out and nothing is wrong while I know that not a single person leads a life like that. I can’t work for a place that, once I do admit my life is not figured out, has the tendency to say “you can’t be a leader if you have flaws because you’re supposed to have it all together if you want to lead– especially if you want to lead our young, vulnerable members.” I can’t be a youth pastor because so often our youth pastors are not taken seriously enough. Too often, they are viewed as “Junior pastors,” people who took that job so that they could get their foot in the door and hopefully, eventually get a job as a “real,” “adult” pastor. Their ideas are brushed aside and their passions are stepped on, because we trust them to lead our youth, but only if they do it within the system that has been in place for so long but has stopped working years ago. I can’t enter a system like that– a system that, at times, can be so messed up it misses the point of the gospel it preaches. A system that embraces change until it goes against their traditions and then they resist it and allow it to cause drama and tension and awkwardness. I don’t want to continue to encourage that atmosphere and I can’t help young people who love God so much love Him more just to enter a church as an adult and have to deal with all that. Quite honestly, I don’t want to watch them get the same shock I had with all this change going on and discover that there is more tension in the church than love and acceptance. I don’t want them to grow up and find out that the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus that is preached, is not the Jesus that is practiced.

Today in Sunday school, we asked the teens what Paul would say if he were to write a letter to our church. We were speaking specifically of our one church, but I think the answer works for the entire church body as a whole. Some of the things they said were honest and difficult, but I compiled them, and added a few words of my own:

Dear church,

Can you stop being so stubborn? Stop being so stuck in your own traditions and ideas that you neglect to recognize that not all change is bad, and sometimes, it is necessary. Stop treating kids like they are “too young” to be important, teenagers like they are “not mature enough” to make an impact, young adults and college students that they are “not old enough” or “properly educated” to have any good ideas or wisdom to impart. Don’t forget about your “young” members just because they are young. You don’t like the direction the future generations are going, and yet, you don’t let them find direction in the church. Stop being so judgmental and self-centered. Allow people to bring their brokenness, messiness, and sin inside your doors and be a place where they are free to talk about it without judgement and with love. Go back to the Word and find out what it really says and follow it– even if it doesn’t say what you want it to. You can’t change the gospel to meet your needs and justify your actions. You have to learn what it says so you can better imitate the Christ within its pages. Because the Christ you preach is not the Christ you practice.

And I’m glad that my church has people with a passion. A Pastor who isn’t afraid to share hard truths and call us all, including himself, on our crap. And I’m glad we have a pastor whose passion is for those of us who are “in between.” Who are old enough to make decisions about their own life but not old enough to have others we need to make decisions for. I’m glad we have pastors who are willing to fight for the truth regardless of the tensions or anger it may cause. I’m glad we have pastors who try their hardest to practice the Christ they preach. I’m not sure about the other churches, but I hope they do too. Because look, if you ever even want a chance of me entering into that system then the church as a whole has got to stop being hypocrites and resisting all the hard truths because they are uncomfortable. Because quite honestly, I’m tired of it, and it makes me a little angry. And if we ever want to reach those who are unreached, we have to start preaching, and most importantly, practicing, the Christ of the Bible.

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Life’s Feeling 

Guys, I’ve been honest on here before. I haven’t hesitated to talk about my heartbreak, my feelings of inadequacy, my fear of not knowing what I want to do with my life, and anything and everything in between. But, this post may be my most vulnerable yet. It may be one that I regret writing, but, it’s on my mind and in my fingers so, here goes nothing.

I’ve been trying so hard recently to be happy. In a way, I’m the happiest I’ve been since I started college. Switching my major gave me a feeling of happiness I haven’t had since I stepped foot into my intro Old Testament class day one of freshmen year. But, I’m also not happy. Because guys, if I’m being one hundred percent honest, I’m not really anything. And I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but, right now, my world doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I’m exhausted. I’m physically exhausted. The short nights and long days are finally starting to wear me out. The 5 hours of nonstop work every other day piled on top of classes and homework is finally starting to physically drain me. I have knots the size of boulders in my neck and shoulders and back. My feet constantly feel like I’m walking on rocks, like they are permanently bruised inside my shoes. My lungs sometimes get tired of taking in air, and, as an asthmatic who already struggles enough to take in air, that proves to be an issue. More often than not, my brain gets foggy and is no longer able to function properly. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even want to think about drinking coffee. Not that I’m going to stop, because it’s my life source, but I would just so much rather have real sleep, consistently, for days in a row, that the thought of drinking coffee is, quite honestly, a bit repulsive. I’ve had migraines that my usual tricks don’t cure– worse migraines than I’ve ever had before in my entire life. Migraines so bad that I literally cannot think. Like my own thoughts hurt my head. And, I can’t study because every time I try to read, I’ll see the letters on the page in an arrangement that makes something that should be a word, but my brain will literally not understand what the word is or recognize it. A few days ago, I came back to my room before chapel, sat on my bed, told myself I should get up for chapel, and then just sat there. For an hour. And then, I closed my eyes and decided I’d try to sleep. Because I was so tired, but I couldn’t actually sleep. When my roommate came in, I couldn’t even open my eyes it hurt so much. And her voice hurt but I didn’t have the energy to say anything. But, I’ve got things to do so I take my vitamins, take some pain relievers, drink a lot of water, eat well, and sleep when I can.

I’m emotionally exhausted. I’ve always been an extroverted introvert who loves time to herself but also doesn’t mind hanging out with other friends, in small capacities. However, recently, it’s taken a lot of emotional energy for me to do anything. Sometimes, I have to leave class to go to the bathroom just so I can be alone for a minute. I lock myself in, with just my thoughts, and stay there for a few minutes–until it gets to be a length of time that seems unreasonable for a bathroom trip–when I force myself to snap out of it and return to civilization. I do the same thing with my roommate. We’ll be sitting in the room, not talking, just enjoying our own thoughts, doing our own thing, and I’ll leave to go to the bathroom–just to be alone. Getting out of bed for class is a daily struggle (when is it not?) It’s not aided by the fact that the professor of my 8am gives us no reason to show up at all– attendance has no bearing on our grade, and the way he grades makes it possible to show up to very few classes and still pass. Just this morning I got out of bed and got back in it 3 times before finally deciding I should go to class. I’ll sit in the lounge at the end of my hallway and do my homework, so I can say hi to people and chat a little– be present– but I’m never actually present. Even Quizzing, the one thing that has always emotionally stimulated me– the one place I’ve always been an extrovert and not felt emotionally drained by the end– has taken so much of my energy. I have come so close to actually getting mad at the Quizzers. And I love Quizzing and the Quizzers– I rarely get to a point where I’m angry at them, or at least angry enough to get mad And I know they can tell there’s been a change in my personality. I am normally the fun, patient, excitable Quizmaster, and suddenly I’ve become the exhausted, annoyed, “no fun allowed” Quizmaster– and I don’t like it, but I don’t have the energy to pretend I have the energy. I was playing a game with my family, and about 2 or 3 turns in, I was just tired of being there and playing the game– a game I’ve always loved with people I love even more. But, I go to class, talk to my friends, and fight my way through my non desire to be around people– faking it until I make it.

I have even begun to feel a little bit spiritually exhausted too. I go to church, I help teach the 7th grade girls’ Sunday school ( I even bring up some great points and say some cool things), I coach Quizzing, I pray, I read my Bible. And yet, I feel like God is further away now then He has ever been. It’s not because He is, or because I’ve stopped trying to seek Him. It’s because I’m exhausted and I feel like He’s unreachable. He’s always felt close– like I could reach out at any time and touch Him. And now, every time I reach out, I know He’s there, but I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel any different. It kind of hurts to try because I feel like it’s taking so much of my energy to reach out to Him for me not to feel Him. He might as well be a photon of light because I know He’s there, I can see Him, I can feel Him, but every time I reach out to touch Him, it’s like He isn’t as close and as tangible as I thought. But, I read my Bible, reach out, pray, and practically beg God to take whatever burdens I have that are keeping me from seeking Him so that I can seek Him.

I have lost what little motivation I had just a week ago. I have a huge Organic Chemistry test coming up tomorrow and I haven’t really started studying. But, I also don’t really care. I know nothing, but I don’t feel stressed or motivated to learn anything. I have an 8 page paper for a class that, just a week ago, I was beyond excited to write. And now, it just seems like another paper I’m going to force my way through and probably start two days before it’s due– miserably writing every word. I’ve never loved going to work or really looked forward to it, but recently, I’ve been dreading it. I’ve been trying to come up with reasons why I just can’t show up that day. And, on days when I have a legitimate reason I can’t show up, I still feel guilty when I call in, but yet, on every other day I try to find reasons I can’t come in. But, nonetheless, I do my homework, albeit rather miserably, and, for the most part, show up to work and do my job– at least trying to have a positive attitude.

Even now, it’s 1 am while I’m writing this, and I have homework I should be doing, but I don’t really care. I’m just sitting here, typing two or three words a minute between staring out the dark window and scrolling through social media– mindlessly liking random Instagram pictures because it’s been a few posts since I’ve hit the like button. I haven’t really felt anything but nothing recently. Not the stress I know I should be feeling due to the next 2 weeks being the most stressful of my life. Not the excitement and anticipation I usually feel days before an upcoming Quiz meet. Nothing. Just some physical aches and pains and some overall fogginess. It’s weird, and I can’t explain it.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t hugged any adorable little kids in a while or pet any cute little puppies. Maybe it’s because I have a strange case of senioritis that only affects non-seniors. Maybe I’m dying from some incurable, deadly disease. I don’t really know. But I know that I’m trying my best. And that’s the best I can do.

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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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