Tag Archives: hope

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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The Art of Healing

Healing is a long process. Whether it’s physical or emotional, healing takes time, energy, effort, trust and patience. It’s like trying to paint a materpiece. There are steps you must take to get it right, there are things you must do to make it beautiful, and there is time you must put into it. You may have setbacks and you may need to start over. But, once it’s all said and done, it’s an ultimately wonderful and amazingly beautiful thing. 

Thankfully, in my life, I haven’t experienced a lot of tremendous physical pain that required a lot of healing. I had eye surgery when I was about two- the healing process from which I hardly remember. I’ve pulled muscles, twisted ankles, bruised vessels, cut skin, and scraped elbows. And, two weeks ago, I had my wisdom teeth removed. 

Thankfully, in my life, I also haven’t had too many emotionally difficult and painful experiences that required a lot of healing. My grandfather and great grandma died when I was really  young- the healing process for which I didn’t really understand. I’ve had bad days, stressful weeks, difficult years, painful months, and confusing times. And, a month ago, I had my heart broken.

To sum up the story: girl meets guy, spends years falling for him, he becomes one of her greatest friends, and he eventually gets a girlfriend, effectively crushing her heart. You all know the story- it may have even happened to you at some point in your life. But healing from heartbreak, like wisdom teeth removal, takes time.

The day I got my wisdom teeth out, I was a mess. The anesthesia affected me so much, I was unable to physically walk to the car by myself. My mouth was numb. I felt like my tongue weighed 90 pounds. I was shivering and exhausted. I was forced to keep ice on my face, change my gauze every half hour, and I couldn’t go more than three hours without needing pain medicine.

When my heart broke, I was miserable. The news affected me so much, I was unable to eat or physically function properly. My mind was numb. I felt like my heart weighed a million pounds. I was dejected and exhausted. I was forced to drag myself out of bed, try to hide my feelings, and I couldn’t go more than five minutes without wanting to burst into tears.

The day after I got my wisdom teeth out, I had begun to heal. I was still exhausted and in pain. I laid on the couch for most of the day, watching Netflix. I still couldn’t eat real food because I was unable to chew. My cheeks had begun to swell, although only a little. I sill had to take pain medicine every three hours.  However, I had stopped bleeding, I was able to take a shower, and I no longer had to hold ice on my face. I was feeling much better.

Days after my heart broke, I had begun to heal. I was still shocked and in pain. I laid in bed longer than I needed to, thinking. I sometimes couldn’t eat because I was unable to process. My heart had begun to ache, although less than before. I still had to wipe my eyes a few times a day. However, I had started accepting, I was able to laugh, and I no longer fought so hard to get out of bed. I was feeling okay.

The third day after I got my wisdom teeth out, I thought I would be better. But, I woke up nauseous. I was starving, but I wasn’t able to keep my food down- at least not first thing in the morning. I was more exhausted than I had ever been, the antibiotics upset my stomach, the pain medicine made me feel like I was high, but the Advil wasn’t strong enough. Thankfully, I was eventually able to keep food down, get out of the house, and talk and laugh with my family like a normal human being. Even though I had to alternate between Tylenol and Advil every three hours because it still hurt.

A week after I got my heart broken, I thought I’d be okay. But, I woke up teary eyed. I was exhausted, but for some reason I couldn’t sleep- at least not without my mind wandering and wondering. I was more angry and dejected than I had ever been, the thought of it upset my stomach, the sadness and anger made me feel like I wasn’t myself, but the consoling words didn’t make me feel any better. Thankfully, I was eventually okay enough to get up, watch one of my favorite T.V shows that was also his, and fight some of the feelings of pain and anger. Even though the feelings still came and went occasionally because I was still hurt.

By the end of the week that I had my wisdom teeth out, I was feeling great. I was able to give a devotion and quizmaster for a Bible Quizzing tournament. I was still taking Advil and Tylenol every three hours, and the talking hurt my jaw. I could feel my stitches beginning to dissolve, leaving open holes in my mouth. By this point, the salt water rinse felt like more of an annoyance than a healing step. But, by the end of the day, I felt feverish and had a headache. I was exhausted again. But, the pain, except for in the lower left jaw, had mostly vanished.

By the end of the three weeks away, I was feeling great. I told myself I’d accepted it and my heart had healed. I was still struggling with the pain, and the thought of it made me cry. But, I could feel my heart healing, leaving open scars in its muscle. By this point, the talking felt more like a broken record than a step toward healing. But, by the end of the final day, I felt more broken than ever and had doubts about myself. I was sobbing and emotionally unstable again. But the anger, except for that which was directed at myself, had mostly vanished. 

And now, here I am, two weeks after my wisdom teeth have been removed, and I’m feeling great. I no longer need any Advil, and I am able to chew normally without pain. I can wear my retainer again without it hurting, and I can quizmaster all day without my jaw being sore and exhausted. I don’t have to cut my food into tiny pieces like a little kid. I feel great. But, I’m still missing a part of me.  

And now, here I am, a month after my heart was broken, and I’m not sure how I’m doing. I no longer struggle to get out of bed everyday, and I’m able to text him like nothing happened. I can listen to that song I’ve been avoiding without crying and I can have a normal conversation with him without wanting to cry or get mad. I don’t have to find as many excuses to not see him or talk to him. I feel okay. But, I’m still missing a part of me. 

My emotional pain, just like the pain of having my wisdom teeth removed, will eventually heal. But, like having my wisdom teeth removed, I’ll never be completely whole. Because some part of me will always be missing. It won’t be my wisdom, or my teeth, but rather, a piece of my own heart. 

So, unlike, the pain from getting my wisdom teeth out, this pain will never completely go away. My wisdom teeth took weeks to heal. My heartbreak may take months. I’ve gone through all the stages of grief, and I’ll go through them again. I still fight the pain, anger, sadness, and doubts that come with each day. But, I also find trust, hope, joy, and strength in God. I painfully wait for His plan to come to fruition in me and I wonder where He’s calling me, finding the waiting to be almost as painful as the pain itself. I find myself wondering, questioning, doubting, and hoping. I find myself taking small steps toward the long process of healing. 

Because yesterday, I sat next to him at dinner and didn’t feel like crying, getting angry, or walking away. Last week, I said hi to him and made small talk with him without feeling awkward. Today, I texted him something stupid and ridiculous that wasn’t related to making plans or wishing him a happy holiday. Tonight, I listened to that song I’d been avoiding because it always made me think of him. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to see them together without immediately feeling sad or nauseous or angry.

But, healing is a process. And it’ll take time. It’ll take longer. It’ll take days of acceptance followed by days of pain. Because, unlike physical healing, emotional healing is unpredictable and irrational. Because emotions are unpredictable and irrational. So, the steps may be small, and some days it may feel like I’m moving backwards, but it’s all part of the art of healing. It’s all part of its beauty and its pain. 

Because healing is a wonderful thing. And it, like art, takes time. But the art of it is, it’ll eventually happen. Sometimes, it may seem like it’s failing. And sometimes it may seem like its the most beautiful thing in the world. But, regardless of what it feels like or looks like, I just need to keep trusting, even when it’s hard. I need to keep quoting those verses over and over to myself everyday. I need to keep forcing myself to face it. I need to keep moving forward and moving on, or else I’ll never heal. 

Today, I wrote a Bible verse on my white board for encouragement- a thing I had stopped because I wasn’t sure I believed it. I wrote these words without crying or getting mad. I read some of the words I had already written without feeling the same anger and pain I did when I wrote them. I talked to my friend about my future wedding and didn’t imagine him in it or cry because I hoped he would be. My roommate and I have been praying together every night, and I’ve cried less as the days have gone on. I’ve been able to watch those much hated rom coms and not imagine it were us. I listened to my friend share his stories about love and was able to remember to focus on aiming my arrow instead of fighting against its pullback. I’m able to spend time alone without thinking about it. I’m beginning to be able to listen to all the songs that used to make me think of him. I’m able to watch shows on Netflix that I know he loves without crying. I can talk about mutual interests we have without thinking it must mean we are “meant to be.” I can pray without asking God why but instead asking Him what now. I can begin to look at the wreckage of my heartbreak and begin to think of reasons why, and glorify Him through it. I’m beginning to heal, and I feel almost as high as I did when I got my wisdom teeth out. 

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