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Words of Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“College. Life.”

“Yeah, that’s…yeah.”

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

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

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

“Love you”

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

“So, when are you coming back?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shut up”

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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Avoiding Thanksgiving Love

Thanksgiving is almost here. Which means turkey, pumpkin pie, family, football, Christmas decorating, and, for those of you who are young and single, endless questions about your love life. And, if you’re anything like me, you wish people would stop asking you about your love life. Because it probably doesn’t exist. Or, like me, you have been hung up on the same guy for more years than you’d like to admit, and you wish he would just get off the couch and ask you out already. While, at the same time, wishing he wouldn’t because that’s terrifying. But, whatever your situation is, I know you don’t want all those questions. So, here are some of the best ways to avoid annoying, non-strop questions.

If you want the love questions to stop completely, tell your family you don’t have time for a love life. Because you’re too busy studying quantum mechanics. Then, you’ll sound super smart and impressive. Tell them you’re waiting until you know more about it so you can impress all the guys by talking about it. Or, say that, like me, your true love is Chemistry so you don’t need a boyfriend unless he is an atom of xenon. But, if your family is anything like my family, they will probably also ask you what quantum mechanics is, once they’re done questioning you about your love life. If that happens, you may be out of luck. Unless you know what quantum mechanics is. And if you don’t, just use a bunch of Chemistry terms like orbitals, electron densities, and hybridization, and you’re golden. Eventually they’ll give up and move on.

If you want to make it awkward and embarrassing for others, ask your siblings about their love life. I have two older sisters, so this technique works pretty well, because I just ask them. And they, being older than I am, are more likely to have a boyfriend, and are closer to the age where people, myself included, feel it appropriate to roast them about not having one. So, I just turn the question at them, and they get to feel awkward about it. Because my parents want grand kids, and they have not hesitated to let us know that. But, I’m way too young for that. So, I make my older sisters answer the awkward questions about grand kids and their chances of arrival within the next decade. If you don’t have any older siblings, or none who are actually single, ask your younger siblings. Nothing is cuter than asking an elementary school kid who they like. And the high school age siblings love it when they are asked. Because all their friends are in relationships and they love felling insecure about it, especially at home.

If you don’t have any siblings, or cousins, to place the awkwardness on, you could just make up some ridiculous story. Like seriously, the more pathetic the better. Talk about that one girl you saw while walking to class that one day that you made awkward eye contact with. How you have fallen head over heels in love with her, but you don’t know her name. How she made your heart stop when you looked at her from across the pathway. How you can’t stop thinking of her. How you think it’s love at first sight. Make it sound pathetic. Maybe add some tears. They’ll think you’re crazy and probably leave you alone. Or put you in a mental institution. Either way, you’re free. If you’re a guy, you could tell them you have a whole line of girls waiting for you to propose. You just have to make them suffer a little more before you make up your mind. If, like me, you’re a girl, you could talk about how you have a bunch of guys trying to pursue you. But, you’re making them fight to the death to earn your heart. Like the knights of medieval times.

Or, you could be openly honest. Seriously, you may be surprised about their reaction. Tell them about that girl you like and how you might finally get the courage to ask her out. How she makes you feel, but how you’re unsure about how she feels. They may be able to give you some great advice. Tell them about that guy you’ve liked for years and how you’ve tried to throw subtle hints at him, but you’ve never been good at throwing. Maybe they’ll help you brush up on your throwing skills. Tell them how he makes you laugh, or about his great character. They may be able to help you out. Or, if they are like my family, they will mock you. And tell you “they told you so.” And start rooting for you, and force you to, probably falsely, get your hopes up. They’ll tell you they totally called it, but that it’s not a bad thing. That he’s a good person. That you should get your hopes up. They should be supportive, for the most part. I hope.

If worse comes to worse, you could always divert the conversation to politics?? Because that’s always a great idea.

But, regardless of however you choose to handle the awkward love questions, remember to be thankful. Be thankful for love. Be thankful that love can permeate your life, by family and by friends. Be thankful for what you have been given by those who love you. Be thankful that Love himself died for you. And, remember to love.

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Kenya? I Can. 

For those who don’t know, I have decided to go on a missions trip to Kenya this summer with a group of Bible Quizzers. We will be growing their existing Quizzing ministry, doing service projects, attending church services, experiencing their culture, spreading love, forming relationships, strengthening friendships, and changing the lives and faith of both ourselves and those around us. This is an opportunity that I am blessed to have gotten and am excited to take, but it’s one I almost didn’t.

I have always considered going on a missions trip, and my church has provided many chances to do so. From Flower City Work Camp to trips to Romania, there have been no shortage of mission opportunities. However, there was always a reason not to go. While the reasons and excuses did not have much merit and were not good reasons not to go, I used them anyway. And even as I used them, I knew that they didn’t have much value, and they weren’t really reasons at all. However, looking back, I believe that they were really my way of telling myself I wasn’t ready to go on a missions trip, and God’s way of confirming that it wasn’t in His plan for me to go. Because if I had taken any of these opportunities, it would have been for the wrong reasons. And besides, they were not places I could really see myself going, things I could not really see myself doing, or opportunities where I could see myself doing God’s will and growing.

When I heard about this opportunity at Nationals last year, I initially got really excited. It sounded like something I would, could, and should do. So, I planned on going to the meeting that evening. However, as the day wore on, all those reasons I had for not going on missions trips filled my head and convinced me it wasn’t a good idea. By the end of the day, I had decided I wasn’t going to go to the meeting. It didn’t matter that the meeting wasn’t a commitment to the team. I had decided I wasn’t going on the trip, so the meeting would be a waste of my time.

On the way into dinner that evening though, I had an experience that I believe was God’s way of putting me back on His path for my life. While walking, I ran into one of the girls who had gone on the last trip. She asked if I was planning on attending the meeting. I told her that I didn’t think I was going to the meeting, but I wasn’t sure. She suggested that I should come to the meeting, and if I didn’t she would find me and drag me to it (or something like that.) If these words had come from anyone else, I would have ignored them. But this girl is the sweetest, kindest, most honest person I’ve ever met, and, because the words came from her, they were enough to convince me to at least go to the meeting. And for that, I thank her. And I thank God that He put her in that place at that time.

As the meeting went on and the leaders explained more about the trip, I got more excited. As others shared about their experiences on the trip, I began to envision myself being there and doing all of it. I began to realize that this was something I thought God was calling me to do.

After the meeting, I talked to my parents and other Quizzers. From these conversations, I learned that not only could I see myself going on this trip, but others could as well. I didn’t make any decisions at Nationals though, because I was afraid that the spiritual high I was on would lead me to make the right decision for the wrong reasons and that my fear would lead me to make the wrong decision for the wrong reasons. So, I waited a few weeks before I even considered it again.

During that time, and up until the application process, I continually prayed about this decision. I was praying that I would make the right decision. That I would go on this trip not because I thought I had to go on a missions trip before I graduated high school, or because I felt that it would make others think more of me, or because others had told me I should go, or because it seemed like everyone else around me had gone on one, or even because I really wanted to go. I wanted to ensure that it was what God really had in store for me. So, I prayed. And God’s answer was not as explicit as I had hoped.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe some sign, event, word from someone, or a perfect verse read at just the right time assuring me that I was making the right choice. But I never got the huge obvious sign I was hoping for. Instead, God’s assurance came in a quiet, subtle, almost unnoticeable change in my attitude. Throughout the entire process of praying over my decision, waiting for the application to come, getting my references, applying, and then waiting again for the response, the excitement I had initially never died down. And that’s when I realized that this is what God wanted me to do. Because for all the other missions trips I had considered going on, I had never felt this way. I’d never felt so content, terrified, excited, uncomfortable, or peaceful.

And I’m still feeling all these things, and more. I feel overwhelmed. I feel like this experience is unreal. As I’m writing this, I’m staring at the binder with the information for the trip, and I am still not sure I completely believe it’s really happening. And I don’t think I will ever believe it- even as I am on the plane on my way. But I know I’m excited for all that God has in store for me. I have the opportunity to share with others one of my biggest passions in life. I have the chance to build relationships with my team and the people I’ll encounter. I have the ability to show love and spread encouragement. I have the opportunity to go on a missions trip to a foreign country and do something I’ve always hoped I’d be able to. I have the blessing of being able to share this experience with others who are part of the large Quizzing family that I have so often found comfort in. I have the opportunity to give back to a ministry which has given me so much these past seven years. But most importantly, I have the chance to do what God has called me to do and to respond to His voice and His plan for my life.

So, as I embark on this journey, I ask for prayer. Prayer for myself and the team. Prayer for the necessary preparations to be made. Prayer that we can begin to form and strengthen our relationships. Prayer that we can prepare ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Prayer that we will make an impact on those we meet. Prayer that God’s hand will be present and His will will be done. And prayer thanking God for giving me this unbelievable chance.

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Thank You

Tonight was the testimony service at Nationals, which is one of the greatest parts. I love hearing about how Quizzing has impacted others lives. There are a few things that I just have to say about Quizzing and its impact on my life.
First, I love Quizzing. It is one of the best things in my life. I have always been a competitive person, but due to my horrible athleticism and even worse eyesight, sports have never been my thing. Quizzing is way to express my competitive side in a friendly and loving environment. Everyone is so nice and friendly. I especially love my church and our conference. Our coaches always make Quizzing fun. There are few, if any, restrictions on who can and cannot come to Nationals and to tournaments, and they coach in such a way that even if you never know any of the answers you still feel like you are a part of a family. Also, within our conference, everyone is nice and everyone truly cares about and loves everyone. When you lose a quiz, and the other team says, “Good quiz,” you know they mean it. Everyone believes in each other and supports each other. It is truly amazing.
Second, Quizzing is one of the greatest things to happen to me. (For more on that go to my other posts here and here). I used to, although I had the why mostly right, be very intense and care a lot about winning. I would be very upset when we lost, especially at the Nationals level. However, this year was stressful due to school work and things. But I am glad I continued with Quizzing, because I learned a lot about it in just one year. I didn’t do nearly as well this year as in previous years, but I eventually came to the decision that that didn’t matter. I even got to point where, when eliminated at Nationals by a team from our Conference, I wasn’t in the least bit upset, even though we answered none of the questions. In fact, I was proud and happy for them. They deserved to win, and I was so proud of them and all the teams in the Genesis Conference.
Finally, I want to thank Bible Quizzers everywhere, particularly those in my Conference. You are all awesome! Losing is not a horrible, sad, and unfortunate thing when you are a Bible Quizzer. The team who eliminated us all congratulated us and were sincere and nice about it. There was no condescension or arrogance in their voices at all, and there never is. They are all really nice. Any team who beats us, or anyone, particularly those teams in our Conference, are so nice and sincere and supportive. After we were eliminated, I went to support another team from my Conference and, although they lost, they congratulated thhr other team and sincerely wished them good luck. I truly love Quizzers and Quizzing. I have been able to realize this year that no one is judging me based on how well I can Quiz or how well I have done in previous years or months. In fact, no one is judging me at all. They only care about your relationship with God and others, and they all want to encourage you in those relationships. Thanks Quizzers. Because of Quizzing, I have grown and matured as a person, I have learned important life lessons, and I have gained great new relationships.

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