Tag Archives: Musings

The Place Where I Learned too Much

The concrete was wet. No one was looking. Someone stooped down and scribbled nine words into the pavement, “This is the place where i learned too much.” My friend told me it has sparked some discussions around campus. I told her that I hoped they left it there.

I went to that Bible school for three years. I loved it, but there were days where I felt like I was drowning in knowledge I would never be able to retain. I heard it described as standing in front of a fire hydrant and trying to drink from it with a straw. There were days I felt pretty battered mentally and physically due to a lack of sleep. I learned so much and built strong friendships, but I think I would have remembered more if less had been asked of me.

Some undergraduate teachers gave out graduate level homework priding themselves in the fact that for their students graduate work would be so much easier because they would be overly prepared. I never planned on going to grad school. Those hours and hours in the library reading books that debated the difference in how the disciples were portrayed in the book of Matthew as opposed to the book of Mark were hours of my life that I wish I could have back.

Can you learn too much? Maybe. In a way, no, and it is good to learn, but sometimes “learning” gets in the way of life. Sometimes there is so much study that the actual point gets missed in the dissection of something that should have been meditated on.

I called my sister this week. She had two eight page papers due on top of a lot of reading, two article reviews, a class project, a proposal, and mandatory chapels. She survived the week, but barely. When it comes to study, study, study I think about the poem “I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman. In the poem, Whitman writes about attending a lecture on the stars. At this lecture he heard facts and figures and saw charts and measurements, but all the talk made his mind tired, and he left feeling sick. When he walked out of the building back out into the open night sky; he looked up at the stars, this time in perfect silence. Everything felt right again.

That is how I feel when it comes to studying God. Sometimes you need to close the books and just walk outside. God is too big to fit in a lecture or even a doctrinal statement. Yes, He can be studied, but more than anything He needs to be experienced. Israel’s king David, a former shepherd, was referred to as a man after God’s own heart. He didn’t just study God. He had a relationship with Him. He asked God hard questions. He wrestled with difficult truths. He poured out his heart and waited for an answer.

Bible school can become a place where you can learn too much because sometimes in the midst of “learning” the relationship gets lost. Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Maybe there should be a class period of just being still, but then what would you do when God meets you in that place and the class period runs over time.

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Do I Really Want to Grow Up?

Do I want to grow up?

I realized the other day that I’m getting old. I know 25 isn’t really that old, but what I mean is I’ve had a shift in the way I think, what I talk about with my friends, and how I spend my free time. A couple weeks ago, I was genuinely excited about having an entire Saturday off so that I could paint my kitchen. I think that’s when it hit me that I’m more of an adult now than I am a kid. I also get excited over certain birthday presents (like say a vacuum), enjoy taking a good nap once in awhile (something I said as a kid that I would never enjoy) and intentionally add spinach and other grown up foods to my dishes. Weird, I know who would have thought.

Change is a funny thing when it happens so slowly that you don’t even realize it is happening. I’ve been blessed/cursed with the fact that I look much younger than I am. People tell me all the time that I look 16 which most would think is a good thing, but it gets annoying when people treat you like you’re sixteen long after high school is starting to become a fading memory.

About a year ago, I was out shopping with a friend of mine, who also looks much younger than she is, and the young guy behind the counter started bending over backwards to help me. “He was so flirting with you,” my friend told me after we left. “I know, I told her. “Maybe after he finishes high school and then college we can talk.”

I felt old over Labor Day weekend when we stopped to pick up my sister from the college she is attending. It was about eleven at night and there were kids everywhere laughing, screaming, jumping off walls, and just being goofy. I couldn’t wait to pick up my sister and head away from the mayhem. Then I got to thinking it wasn’t too long ago that I would have felt right at home on that very same campus. What happened?

Honestly, I wouldn’t want to go back. I’m done with all-nighters, loud dorms, and freshman drama. I loved college while I was there, but each stage of life is fun in its own way. Not all parts of growing up are fun. I was reminded of that fact on Wednesday when a short visit to the clinic cost me 93 dollars and 60 cents, yuck. While it’s not fun paying rent every month and doing your own laundry, I love cooking my own meals, having the freedom to pick unusual paint colors for my walls, and not having to be home by 10 p.m. I guess, growing up has its perks.

It’s easy to want to live in the past thinking “yesteryears” were so much better than what is here today, but part of that is because when looking back, it is easy to forget the challenges and only remember the good memories. Today is here. It’s not always perfect, but it’s not all bad either. I love growing up, growing older, getting to see new things, and having new responsibilities. Each new day brings an adventure, and I don’t want to miss the good times that I can have now by wishing that things would go back to how they were.

What made you realize you were growing up?

What do you like most about your current stage in life?

Is growing up overrated?

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Kiss this Blessed Ground

“I bet,” he told me “If you took a group of people from here over there they would just kiss the ground when they got back. We are just so blessed in this country.”

“Really,” I thought “What is so blessed about this place?’ but I answered with a lame “Well every place has its pros and cons. I guess it was hard not to feel cynical. I was watching an eleven year old girl I had spent the last two years mentoring ride a carnival ride with the daughter of the man who struck up a conversation with me.

My little friend was leaving in the morning. Her mom was sending her off for the school year to live with a friend who lived seven hours away. I guess working, going to school, and having a baby with her live in boyfriend had become more important than raising the daughter she already had. What was so blessed about that?

No single riders this particular ride said. Never one to meet a stranger, my little friend found a riding partner and was high in the air while I watched from the ground. “Does she go to such and such a school?’ the dad asked me. “No,” I replied giving him the name of the school she had been attending. “Oh do you know so and so he preceded. After answering no to two different names I apologized saying I hadn’t lived in the area very long.

This, of course, brought on the where are you from question. I told him my parents were missionaries and that I had grown up in Zaire now Congo. He then mentioned something about the Ivory Cost was it near there? I said no Congo is more in the middle of Africa. He then proceeded to talk about how blessed America is. I bit my tongue and waited for the carnival ride to end.

Blessed? last week there was an obituary in the paper of a women who killed her self. Talk on the street said she’d tried before. Last week she succeeded. Last week I was talking to a parent whose son was raped by another boy. The police said nothing could be done because the perpetrator was under the age of 13. The victim’s mother felt that nothing being done had more to do with the fact that one of the boy’s relatives works at the police station. According to the boy’s mother, there are currently six open cases connected with her son’s rapist. She said she just wants to see the boy get some counseling.

I live in a small town tucked in the middle of America’s heartland. People say it is blessed. People say it is so much safer than the city, but I see a lot of hurt and heartache being swept  into a cold dark corner. A blessed country would protect its children. A blessed country would provide a safe place for people to heal.

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Humanity Stripped to its Core

This week I watched The Pianist. It is a fascinating yet violent movie, about a heartbreaking period in history. The movie is based off the autobiography of Wladyslaw Szpilman and tells the story of an amazing Jewish-Polish pianist who lived through the Holocaust. Szpilman was the last person to play live music on the Polish radio before the Nazis invaded Poland. He survived the Warsaw Ghetto and barely escaped being sent to a concentration camp. Towards the end of the war, a German officer, amazed by Szpilman’s musical talent, helped him remain hidden in an attic. He lived through severe hunger, separation from his family and survived one of the most ugly periods of history.

The Holocaust was such a sad event, but it is good to remember the incredible stories of the people who lived through it both those who survived and those who did not. Sometimes I wonder what I would have done if I had lived during the Holocaust. Of course, it’s easy for my generation to say we would never let such a tragedy occur on our watch, but it happened just like genocides in Africa continue to happen today. People lost sight of the importance of human life. Children, the elderly, the wealthy, the poor it didn’t matter who you were if you were Jewish, your life was in danger.

Some of my Dutch ancestors lived in Holland during World War II, and thankfully they were part of the group who helped rescue Jews in their area. Pastor Gerardus Pontier and his wife Dora hid a Jewish family in their home, and Gerardus Pontier was part of an underground network which helped many Jewish children escape during the German occupation.

Gerardus Pontier was eventually arrested by the Gestapo and spent six months in a German prison camp. Thankfully, the Gestapo did not search his home when they arrested him, so the  Jews hiding there were not discovered. After the war, he and his wife were recognized in Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations” for the lives they helped save.

I hope that if I am ever in a similar position, I will make the same choices. Life is too precious. History is already too full of people making awful choices. I watch movies like The Pianist because they are such a clear picture of humanity stripped to its core. In the midst of the horror, some people step out and become saviors. Some people risk everything, others take everything. Some people survive the chaos to become an even greater version of themselves, others show just how dark humanity can be. Lessons that are too crucial to be forgotten.

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For Alice

Everyone around me was waving, trying to get their graduate’s attention as the sea of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral candidates paraded to their seats on the arena floor. I tried to smile, and not look out of place, but sometimes it’s just too hard to smile. My friend Alice was supposed to be a part of that sea of graduates. She had worked so hard and overcome so much, but her unexpected death in February changed everything.

When Alice first landed in Chicago, she was met with a horrible snow storm, and no one to greet her at the airport. She took a taxi, but the new arrival from Kenya was unfamiliar with American money, so when the taxi driver told her the price of her fare, she held out her money and let the driver take what he needed.

The school office was closing when she arrived, so Alice was told to spend the night in a hostel. The next day she was handed a list of area apartments and told to find somewhere to live. Not used to the weather, she developed a severe cold and later said that if she had had a return ticket, she would have gotten back on a plane and returned home. But she stuck it out and graduated from Loyola University with her master’s degree and then transferred to Southern Illinois University to work on her PhD. Even at SIU, she ran into obstacles and had to switch programs and earn a second master’s degree when she observed that no one in her program was graduating. Alice was not the type of person who complained, she just did what she needed to do reach her goals.

Alice’s father flew in from Kenya to receive her PhD. Everyone on the stage stood to applaud him and the work Alice had completed. At the graduation, astronaut Mark Kelly spoke about goals and how his goal was to be the first person to set foot on Mars. He never made it to Mars, but Captain Kelly has flown on the space shuttle Endeavour and the Discovery and visited the International Space Station four times.

Alice never walked across the stage to receive her doctorate degree, even though she worked so hard to earn it. Her goal of starting a women’s center in Kenya will never be fulfilled, and yet she accomplished so much and touched so many lives in the process.

I’ve been thinking about goals and what they even mean. Life is short. There is so much I hope to accomplish, but it is easy to lose direction. It is easy to never reach the goals you set. It is easy to ask—what’s the point?  But, life is not lived in a vacuum. Maybe you won’t reach all of your life’s goals, but maybe you’ll inspire other people to reach theirs. Do goals define someone’s life? No, because life is more about HOW you live than what goals you can check off your bucket list. But, it’s good to set goals and live life with a purpose.

Saturday’s graduation was hard to attend, but I was happy for the family and friends who filled the stadium to celebrate with their graduate. So much potential filled the room. I hope each graduate sets high goals, and it will be exciting to see how they change the world.

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Cardboard Shelves

I finally have a little reading corner set up in my apartment. Even though I’ve lived here for six months now the place is still under construction, so I am not ready for any permanent shelving. But, I’ve really missed my books. Just seeing them out again helps me feel more settled. For my beloved books’ temporary home, I created some cardboard box shelves (covered in newspaper for a more finished look) and unpacked and dusted off some pictures to put on top.

Now my little corner, which is actually more like a section of the wall, is cozy with some color sprinkled in. I’m slowly starting to feel slightly more attached to this place. I’m not sure when I’ll have time to actually sit down and pick up a book, but I just feel better knowing that I can if I want to. Now maybe with my French books out in the open I’ll be more motivated to pick up them up once in awhile too.

I love reading corners, porch swings, and hammocks because they represent a place of rest, not sleeping per say, but a relaxed state of peace. Those moments can be hard to find in the midst of life’s demanding schedule, but they’re there. Eventually the clock reaches quitting time, chores and errands are finished, and it’s time to relax. My favorite part of the day is night time. Everything that had to be done is done and if not it will keep till tomorrow. I love the feeling when everyone else is asleep, the TV is off, and it’s just me and my thoughts. I hate going to bed because I want to hang on to that feeling as long as possible. I know it can’t last forever, but it is so satisfying while it does. The longer I linger the closer morning gets, so I finally let go—almost ready to face another day. At least I know it won’t last forever, and when it’s over my reading corner will be there.

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Beautifully Painful

During the recent Hunger Games movie craze I talked my dad into going to the movies with me not to watch the Hunger Games but to see October Baby. I had planned to go with a friend but due to some bad planning on my part it didn’t work out, and at the last minute my dad graciously agreed to go with.

I’m the kind of person who believes that watching movies should be a shared experience. On occasion, I’ll watch one by myself, but generally I want to talk about what’s going on, and if you talk to yourself people tend to give you strange looks. I have a bad tendency of talking during movies usually asking questions and occasionally threatening to throw a pillow at the screen if a character becomes particularly aggravating. My older brother and one of my friends from college hate watching movies with me because of my tendency to ask questions. “I don’t know what’s going on either,” my brother will say. “I’m watching this for the first time too. Stop talking and just watch the movie.” I’ll be quite for about five minutes before blurting out “What did he do that for.”

My favorite movies tell a good story preferably one based on a true story like Miss Potter or The Pursuit of Happyness. Although with true stories, I tend to get so interested in the person’s life  that I start reading up on them and often end up disappointed when I find that my favorite part from the movie never actually happened.

But back to October Baby. It was an extremely well done movie and what piqued my interest was the fact that the movie was inspired by the story of abortion survivor Gianna Jessen. What made me actually go watch the movie was seeing an interview with actress Shari Rigby who plays the role of the mother who attempted to abort her child. When the film’s producers asked Shari to play the part, they had no idea that she had had an abortion earlier in her life. She said she got the script and was just stunned at the similarities between her story and the one she had been asked to play. Shari said the movie turned out to be a healing experience for her as she journeyed with her character who ultimately receives forgiveness from her daughter and comes to forgive herself as well.

It was a beautifully painful movie to watch, but those are the kind of movies I love the best because life is often beautifully painful. Sometimes I get annoyed when people try to give simple answers to everything that happens in life. The older I get the less answers I see and the more brokenness I encounter. But there can be a beauty and growth in brokenness and a sense of maturity developed during times of pain. Of course we all wish life wasn’t so  painful and that situations like abortion, genocide, break ups, and terminal illness didn’t exist, but often it is the things that we want the least that, as humans, bring us together the most and develop us into the person we seek to be.

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Pale Bare Feet

It’s finally warm! Right now I’m sitting outside on the porch with two cats playing next to me and the gorgeous spring sun shining down on my pale bare feet. It’s 5 o’clock in the evening and the thermometer says 79 degrees. Not bad for March.

I love spring because I love rain, and I also love the hope of a new beginning. I think the new year should start in March not January because March is when the world comes alive again. There is hope after the mushy snow melts and seedlings start pushing their way to the surface. There is hope when the chill in the air gives way to some good old Vitamin D. The world finally feels at peace. The struggle against surviving winter is over, and it feels good to just be outside and soak in the new life.

I guess this is the part where I should start writing about something inspirational, or thought provoking, but on this gorgeous spring day the only words of wisdom I have are- stop and smell the roses. Not an original thought, I know, but it’s an important one that we often hear, but fail to practice. I saw a list this week of the top 5 things people said on their death beds. I found the list quite interesting. People said, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself,” “I wish I didn’t work so hard,” “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings,” “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends,” and “I wish I had let myself be happier.”

Sometimes I think it takes being faced with death to see what really matters in life. It is easy to become so busy planning for the next stage and wanting to be where you are not that the pleasures of today get missed. Yesterday is over. Whether good or bad, it’s gone and no amount of reminiscing will bring it back. It is good to remember the past, but do not miss out on the pleasure of what is here right now by trying to relive something that is over. As far as tomorrow goes, maybe life will be better once you’re married, or once you get that dream job, or once you have kids, or once your kids pass the terrible twos stage, or once they make it through college (you get the idea). Maybe things will be better then, but don’t miss the moments of today, that make life what it is, by always wishing for tomorrow. I say this just as much to myself as to anyone else because it is such an easy trap to fall into. The art of being content is not an easy thing to attain, but it is a worthwhile pursuit that we should all practice more.

We DO have today and when you take the time to stop and savor it, today is a beautiful thing. So smell some roses and make some memories. Don’t take life too seriously. It is good to laugh a little everyday, and it is good to soak in some good ol’ spring sunshine.

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Here’s to Love

There are plenty of blogs floating around the cyber world lamenting the state of being single on Valentine’s Day, and I’ve seen enough “I have the best husband in the word” facebook posts to make me question just how many best husbands can live on a single planet. To me both the “Woe is me, I can’t get a date” group and the “look everyone and be jealous” group seem a tad self focused and well, a little insecure. If you’re really so in love please get off facebook and spend sometime with your man, and if you want a date so badly why not try picking up the phone and asking someone out. I don’t want this post to be a rant, so I’ll stop there. What I do want to say is love is beautiful and painful. It’s often messy and usually quite unexplainable which is no surprise seeing as people are involved. The idea that meeting the right person will fix all your problems is stupid. I’m not saying that relationships are a bad thing, I’m just saying that people are flawed and no one person can (or should) be expected to meet your every emotional, physical, and spiritual need. Meeting the right person does not guarantee some kind of never ending marital bliss. Look at the Old Testament story of Isaac and Rebekah. When Abraham’s servant went searching for a wife for Isaac he prayed that God would lead him to the perfect girl. And God did. Rebekah was beautiful, she thought about others, she passed the test the servant set to find just the right girl, and she was willing to leave her family to become Isaac’s wife. Clearly she was the one. But while Isaac loved Rebekah and she is said to have been a comfort and joy to him, it is interesting to note that years down the road Isaac lied about being married to Rebekah in order to protect himself. In doing so he put his beloved in danger. Rebekah later turned on her husband encouraging her favorite son Jacob to trick his father into giving him the family blessing as opposed to his older brother Esau who was his father’s favorite. True love to the end right? Yeah, not so much. The point is we’re all messed up. No relationship is going to be perfect because no two people are perfect. Marriage is a wonderful thing but, it’s hard work that takes a whole lot of commitment and a whole lot of selflessness. But that’s what love is right? Putting someone above yourself and caring more about their needs and feelings then your own. So here’s to love on this day after Valentine’s Day. Go out and care about someone imperfect.

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Walk With Me

He never called me by name. I wasn’t too surprised. He didn’t use my name when I saw him last at my cousin’s wedding. Still it was hard not hearing him say it.  Grandpa is a solid six foot four, at least he was when he was younger. He prides himself in taking long walks and eats a banana with peanut butter for supper to keep his good cholesterol up and his bad cholesterol down. I’m sure his heart is healthy, but his mind is beginning to slip.

When I was younger, I used to go with grandpa on his daily walk. It was one of the few things I’d actually get up early for. We would bike for a stretch then I would do my best to keep up with his long stride. He’d cut his walk short when I tagged along so that my little feet wouldn’t get too tired.

On this visit to Florida I was feeling a bit restless. It was a beautiful day outside and my Canon Rebel was begging for some attention. I asked my sister if she wanted to go for a walk and Grandpa decided to join us. They walked ahead while I snapped pictures of Spanish moss and anything else that caught my eye.

Grandpa took the lead showing us the scenic route which cut through several private yards. I tried to steer him back to the road as best I could. Along the way he picked up several empty beer cans, and a monster can telling the story of how when he first took crushed cans to the scarp yard they’d paid him sixty dollars. I smiled. So far this trip I’d heard that story three times.

It’s not easy seeing a man who earned a master’s degree in mathematics struggle to come up with the word “wasp” describing what he wants to say until someone gives him the word. “That thing that flies and builds mud houses.”

I knew grandpa wouldn’t admit when he was tired, so I suggested we turn back after going 15 minutes out. As we entered the cul-de-sac an aluminum can in the neighbor’s trash caught his eye. He circled back to grab it. I watched him teeter as the sharp turn upset his balance. Grabbing the garbage can, I tried to steady it and prevent him from doing a complete head dive into the trash can. My sister grabbed his arm, and we both stood there straining under his weight wondering how we were going to call for help.

“I can get up,” he said after we had stood there tense for what seemed like ten minutes but was more likely 30 seconds. Methodically he paused to regained his balance, reached for the aluminum can, then pushed up on the plastic garbage can to get back on his feet. I reached into the trash to pull his watch out which had fallen from his front shirt pocket during the tumble. There was a time when Grandpa cut his walks short for my little legs now I just wanted to get him back home so he could rest in his favorite chair.

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