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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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A Year of Reflecting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Finding The Love of my Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kenya Post? 6 Months Later.

A little over six months ago, I returned from a missions trip to Kenya. (If you want to hear about those adventures, here is a link to those posts). And a lot has happened since then. I started college and survived my first semester. I went to my first Quiz practice as a coach. I Quizmastered my first tournament. I made my first college best friend. I ate my first exotic meat (although to be fair, I did that while I was on the trip. But that, plus the kissing of a giraffe, are pretty noteworthy). I got my wisdom teeth removed. I discovered the first romantic chick flick I didn’t actually completely hate. And, I experienced my first true emotional roller coaster of pain. However, more important than any of that, and more painful than the previously mentioned pain, is the roller coaster I’ve been on since I returned.

Okay- here’s a little back story into my life. I have always been a person who loves serving. I believe that God has given me the gift of service and the ability to serve with a joyful, willing, loving heart. And, before I went to Kenya, I was using this gift in whatever ways I knew how. I was volunteering with Kids’ Ministry programs at my church, serving at fundraisers for missions trips I myself wasn’t going on, teaching Economics to kids at a local elementary school, and helping with various projects at my church when, and if, I was needed. I was doing what I felt needed to be done with the skills and abilities I felt I had to do it. I was satisfied doing what I was doing. Until I went to Kenya.

If you read my last Kenya post, you’d know about some of the things that God revealed in and about me while I was in Kenya and upon my return. If you haven’t read it, you should. But, what you don’t know, whether you’ve read that post or not, is what I have done, what has happened, and how I have felt since then.

Since returning, I have started college. In one of my classes, we read a book and talked about the slavery that exists all over the world- even to this day. And it broke my heart, hearing all the stories of all these people- primarily females- who have been forced into labor and oppression. And while these conversations didn’t make me think about Kenya specifically, they did make me think. They made me think about my “I want to change the world” attitude. They made my heart ache for the people affected. And, they made me wonder if there is more I have been called to do.

I’ve been involved a little on campus with some anti human trafficking things, and I’m helping in whatever ways I know how. However, as I said before, I have an “I want to change the entire world” attitude, and I never quite felt like I was doing enough. And, recently, there have been so many things happening that have been making me question where to go and what to do. We had Free Methodist missionaries come to one of our classes and talk to us about their work. We had a chapel speaker from Compassion International come. And all the things they talked about- all the situations they’re dealing with and injustices they’re fighting made my heart hurt.

So, now here I am. Looking at old photos from my short lived trip to Kenya. Thinking about everything God has said to me and shown me since coming home. Wondering if I am in the right place doing the right thing. Because, here’s the thing, I love Chemistry- I do. But, I also feel this huge pull to do something more. I’ve gone in circles, asking myself if there is a good reason to be here doing what I’m doing now, if there are better reasons not to, or if there is even any reason to think about all the reasons.

I left a piece of myself in Kenya. And the further into my past it gets, the more I forget so many of the once so fresh memories, and the more I feel the ache of that missing piece of me. I look at the photos from my trip, trying to piece together the missing pieces of the story and of my heart. But, I can’t. All I want to do is hop on a plane and go back. But not just to Kenya. I want to go anywhere and everywhere possible. But it’s also difficult, because I don’t know where to go and who to help, because I can’t help everyone everywhere.  And I also want to stay here and continue my education and pursue my love for learning, and for Chemistry.

And so, where do I stand in the midst of all this questioning? Well, somewhere between super gluing my feet to the floor and impulsively buying plane tickets to Kenya. I’ve done everything from convincing myself to stay here and get my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate, settling down and waiting to see if I am given an opportunity to return, to trying to adopt a Kenyan child and almost crying because adoptions are closed from Kenya to the US. (And then I remembered that I’m like 12 and am not actually ready to adopt a child yet, so that doesn’t matter). Really, I’m trusting God and trying to listen to what He is calling me to do and where He is calling me to go. I’m praying and reading and listening and searching. Searching for my place. I’m searching for what God has called me to do, to study, to be, and to go. And searching for that piece of me I’ll never find but one day hope to fill.

“If home’s where my heart is then I’m out of place.” Mercyme- Homesick

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To My Roommate 

Dear roommate,

First off, I hope it’s okay that I wrote you this letter. I know it’s in a semi-public forum where it could possibly be seen by people neither of us know. But, if there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I write. A lot. It’s how I process. It’s how I think. It’s how I cope. I write things to people, and I write things for people. Because one day, a few years ago, I decided that I had things to say. However, speaking about those things is not one of my strengths. But writing is. Putting my thoughts into words and writing them on paper is. So, I write things. Things to those I’ve met about things that have happened. Things to those I have never met about things I don’t know will happen. Things to people I know. Things to nobody, but also to everybody. Some I share with others. Some I start but never finish. Some I post for the world to access. Some I leave in the dozens of notebooks scattered around my room, never to be seen or read by anyone but me. But, dear roommate, dear friend, there are things I want to tell you. And maybe there are things that others need to hear too. So, I hope it’s okay that I’m writing you this, here, because there are so many things I have wished to say, but couldn’t find the words to.

Dear roommate, in three weeks, we officially move into college. We leave our parents and our homes, and we move into a room that we will call home for the next year, with a person we call our friend. And I am beyond excited! I am excited to go to college and pursue my dreams and my passions, and discover more of God’s plan and purpose for my life. I’m excited to see what God has planned for your beautiful, wonderful, amazing life. I’m excited to see what He’s going to do with us, and through us. I’m excited to see you fulfill your dreams. And I am excited to share this journey with you.

However, I do feel a little bad for you. Because I am a little insane. Sometimes I rant for no reason about things that don’t matter. I tell too many nerdy jokes- most of which no one understands or thinks are funny. I love puns- almost to a point of annoyance. I tell a lot of dad jokes for a person who is not a dad. I discuss football a lot for a girl who spent the first 15 years of her life claiming she hated it. I’m worried that you don’t actually know what you got yourself into. But, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Because you’re awesome. And I’m not too bad myself. Plus, I know you’re a little insane yourself. Your insanity may just be less obvious than mine.

I’m glad you agreed to by my roommate. I’m glad I met you at Quizzing Nationals however many years ago. And I am glad you decided to come to this side of the world. Because there are so many Rochester things you have missed out on in your life, and there are so many Wegmans you haven’t experienced.

But, I know that with this new adventure comes many scary things. For both of us. And, as excited as I am, I am also terrified. The beginning of something new, being away from our parents, becoming adults, having real responsibilities- all these are things I have avoided up until this moment because they scared me. And I know that it may be even a little more frightening for you. Because you are traveling 800 miles from home. So, there are a few things that I would like you to know before we embark on this adventure together. Some things I hope will make both of our transitions a little easier.

First of all, mi casa es su casa, chez moi est chez toi, my house is your house. Literally. Because you are moving 12 hours from home. And I am moving 5 minutes from home. So, anytime you need a home, come to mine. It’s always open. Any break that you don’t want to make the journey home for but you also don’t want to stay on campus alone for. Any time you want a home cooked meal, or a place to crash, or even just a place to get away. You’re always welcome, even if I am not going to be there. Even if no one else is there. Make yourself at home. It’s been my home for 18 years and now it’s yours too.

Secondly, my grandparents live within walking distance. You will be introduced to them. And they will love you. You will immediately become one of the grand kids. They’ll ask about you if they haven’t seen you in a while, and they will always do their best to make sure you know you’re welcome. So, know that their house is always open. And my grandma will try to feed you every time you show up. She’ll convince you that you’re hungry, even after you just ate more than you thought was even possible. So, if we do go to their house, feel free to eat. But also feel free to say no. Because she always makes way too much food anyway.

As you know, my mom works on campus. So, expect me to stop by her office from time to time. If you ever need anything and don’t have a way of getting it, let me or her know, and we’ll make sure you get it. Also, she has connections, and she knows things. Which can sometimes come in handy.

I have shared a room for almost 15 of the 18 years I have been alive. Which means having a roommate is nothing abnormal for me. In fact, not having one is weird. When my sister moved into college last year, I couldn’t sleep well for a few days because I wasn’t used to the silence. But, I understand that you haven’t shared a room your whole life. And I understand that it takes some adjusting. So, I’ll be patient. But, don’t worry or freak about making sure whatever you are doing is okay with me. Don’t feel you need to change your behaviors to please me. I shared a room for 15 years with my sister, who is as close to my opposite as a sibling can be, and we both managed to survive- mostly. Sharing a room has made me an expert at ignoring annoying messes until they are picked up (or I fall and decide to pick them up myself). It has made me more adaptable and indifferent about things. I have learned to have opinions but to know when they matter and are important. I am better at picking and choosing which battles are worth fighting when it comes to rooms and shared space. I have also gotten pretty good at making myself scarce when my presence is neither wanted nor beneficial. So, relax and don’t worry about it.

With this being said, it does work better if you communicate. Tell me what is bothering you. What I am not good at is reading passive- aggressive behaviors or subtle hints aimed toward me. So, just tell me what the deal is. I will be a lot less angry or frustrated if you just tell me right away. Because I can’t fix a problem that I don’t know is a problem. And I think communication is the key to every relationship.

I, like you, like my sleep. But, I also do my best thinking, coping, processing, and writing, at night. And sometimes, I can’t sleep until I think, cope, process, and write. So, some nights may be restless for me. You may hear my pen scratching on paper, or my fingers tapping away, and I apologize ahead of time. If I disturb you, let me know, and I’ll process silently, in my head. Or, I’ll process silently by having a conversation with God, because that works well too.

Being my roommate may be difficult at times- as it is with any roommate. So, I’m sorry for being stupid. Or stubborn. Or whatever.  On the plus side, we have similar personalities. Which could work out great. Or it could end terribly. But, I’m betting it’ll be great.

I know there is a lot in store for us and for those around us this year. And I am happy that you will be there through it all, and I hope you’re glad I will be too. Through that class we hate. Through those late nights and early mornings. Through finals week, when all we want to do is kill each other. Through our first “roommate fight.” Because it’s going to happen- we’re girls, it’s inevitable. Through the guy drama, because guys are dumb, and so are we. Through the heartbreaks that I pray never happen- to either of us. Through the chemistry experiments and nursing simulations gone wrong. We’ll be there for the friendship drama. Or that annoying girl on our floor. Or if one of us is the annoying girl on our floor. Through the awkward social situations that the two of us semi-introverted, socially awkward, weird, nerdy girls will get in. 

You may have to deal with some of my weird obsessions. Like elephants. And chemistry. And good literature. And dissecting animals. In fact, just the other day I was trying to decide how many elephants is too many to bring with me, and if it would be reasonable for me to bring my favorite novels to college. Fortunately for you, I decided on only two or three elephants. And only one novel, besides my book on chemistry and the elements. And I chose to leave my taxidermy rat at home.

Fortunately for you, your roommate has many talents. One of which includes social media stalking. You know, in case that ever comes in handy. Another one, unfortunately for you, is getting in the way. Or having my things get in the way. At least I have a great taste in music though.

Freshman year is tough. But it’s also amazing. And I can’t think of anyone better to share it with. So, thanks, dear roommate. Thanks for agreeing to journey with me. And thanks for being your amazing, beautiful, hilarious, wonderful self. I can’t wait!

Love,

Your roommate

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