Saturday, October 23, 2010

Two Homes

I have missed Bakersfield. Some people make fun of Bakersfield and most high school seniors can't wait to get out. I was one of them. Certain things about Bakersfield still drive me nuts. Like the perpetual smog. But other things about Bakersfield are just so homey.

I was driving around today, and I staarted laughing. I saw so many Chevy Silverados and Ford F-150s...I'm definitely back in Bakersfield. Nobody in LA drives pick-up trucks. I've counted about five on the Biola campus. Everybody in Bakersfield drives a pick-up truck. I've missed driving a pick-up so much.

Driving through town I got to see the different areas of town...remembering the wonderful hours I have spent driving in Bakersfield, windows rolled down, blasting "Sweet Home Alabama." So many wonderful memories from this town.

I got to bake today. It's been at least two months since I've been able to bake something. I made two loaves of Irish soda bread (inspiration courtesy of Juliet San Nicolas). It was so beautiful baking bread in my own kitchen, barefoot, wearing a cotton calico skirt and apron and listening to Irish folk music fill the room. Definitely something homey.

I got to see people my teachers who knew me during my freshman year of high school. Talking to Mrs. Wells, my freshman English teacher, reminded me of how much I have changed: she reminded me of some of the beliefs I held during my freshman year and how quiet I was. Now, my point of view is the complete opposite, and I am much more outgoing. It was wonderful to see how much I have changed for God's glory.

Seeing my friends was amazing as well. I have to give Austin Lee props for giving me the best hug ever: completely lifting me off the ground and swinging me around because he was so glad to see me. I have missed these friends more than words can express. It's almost as if I left part of myself back in Bakersfield when I moved to Biola.

At the same time, I spent of good chunk of every conversation expounding on how much I love Biola, the professors, my friends, and everything about it there. Both homes are a part of me. I love Bakersfield because that is where I grew up, but Biola is just as much my home. I love both places and the people of both places.

Right now I really should be reading Heart of Darkness or Paradise Lost but I am going to worry about those later. One thing I have learned in college: people are more valuable than grades. Rest is also essential. For the weekend, I have put off the schoolwork for the sake of spending time with people and getting rest. Hopefully I will at least finish Heart of Darkness but noon on Monday. But we'll see...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This Is What Happens When I Start Stressing About Torrey Reading

Part of me thinks I encountered an angel tonight. Another part of me thinks I actually encountered a Biola student who was doing what God wanted her to: answering my unspoken prayer. Or maybe it was both.

The last two weeks have been crazy for me: midterms, Mid Rags, writing my paper, reading Faerie Queene and now Paradise Lost, zoo fiascos, more decisions about my major, planning a trip back to Bakersfield, and the Torrey Conference. Add on top of that the fact that I really don't want to be working right now. Tonight I almost hit my breaking point. I was in the library, reading Milton, and not understanding a single word I was reading. Not good when I don't have much time to read and comprehend 260 pages of Milton.

I left the library around 10:15, hoping that relocating, getting sleep, or something would help me focus. I sat down on a bench in front of Rosemead and proceeded to take another crack at Milton. I was nearly in tears because I was so burnt out and frustrated that I couldn't understand the language of the book, much less analyze its meaning.

Suddenly I looked up and notice a young woman I didn't recognize walking toward me. She asked me if she could pray for me. My heart skipped a beat. There was no way she could have known how utterly overwhelmed I was feeling.

She introduced herself as Rebecca, and I introduced myself. She asked me what my name means. I said, "God is gracious." Then it hit me...that was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. That no matter what happens, no matter if I finish Paradise Lost on time or not, God still has grace for me.

She prayed for me, not only in the area I requested prayer in (being overwhelmed with work) but in so many other areas as well. Her hand on my shoulder was comforting, and I felt myself calm down and remember God's grace and the grace of the Torrey tutors and my mentor. I saw my life as a whole picture, not just this little moment I was stressing about.

I felt so special. I felt like God heard every little unspoken prayer in my heart crying out for grace and peace and sent Rebecca to calm me and assure me of His love for me.

This brought me back to something I realized I had written 12 hours earlier during my reflection time for the Torrey Conference: "When I am feeling weak, stressed, and drained, it is God drawing me to His grace. When I am feeling refreshed, encouraged, and strengthened, it is God letting me experience His grace."

Thank you for pulling the pieces together for me, God.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Longing for "Home"

I'm not exactly sure how to classify how I'm feeling. Maybe it's homesickness. But I'm not sure. I love my family and I miss them like just about every college student. But my desire isn't really for home. The last time I was home I felt somewhat like a stranger in my own home. I was living out of a suitcase in my own room because most of my stuff was still in my dorm at Biola. My dorm room sort of feels like home now. I feel comfortable there, and I belong there. When I go home for the weekend, I miss Biola, my Biola friends, and even my comfortable little "corner of paradise" known to most as room 326 in Sigma Chi.

But there's a longing in me for other things of home. I miss the country. I miss cruising through the country with my windows rolled down, blasting praise songs and singing at the top of my lungs. I miss driving through Oildale blasting "Singin' With the Saints" by the Gaithers. I miss having a stick-shift pick-up at my disposal. I miss being able to see the stars. I miss my little country church with its church potlucks, wonderful little munchkins, and all the love and old hymns that abound there. I miss being able to shoot a shot-gun. I miss being a country girl. I'm listening to "Church in the Wildwood" sung by Andy Griffith, and it pricks a pain in my heart for all things country.

I miss my friends from high school. My friends who are in Bakersfield and all over the world. My friends who call me "Cinnabon." My friends who remember what I was like during my freshman year of high school and can look at me now and see how God works to change hearts. My friends who know that the only reason I am a sociology major is because God has changed me and my heart.

Don't get me wrong...I love Biola. It's a dream come true in so many ways. I still stop myself as I'm walking to class and remind myself that I am really truly a student at Biola. I look at my Torrey group and cannot figure out how I am so blessed to get to know these people. I sit in a lecture about Plato given by Dr. Reynolds and know that I am getting a top-notch education, and I could not wish for better. I make eye contact with Elizabeth and know that God put the two of us together as friends for a reason because we struggle with the same things, laugh at the same things, and find joy in many of the same things.

Despite these wonderful blessings at Biola, I will never be a SoCal girl at heart. My heart belongs in the country with clear blue skies, cowboy boots, Levi jeans, handmade flowered skirts, country music, dirt roads, pick-ups, bonfires on New Years Eve, and good home-cooked country chili with cornbread. I'm a little country girl who is ready to rock the world, as the song by Brooks and Dunn says.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Watching How God Works

My first debate tournament was on October 4, 2008. Or somewhere thereabouts. Two full years ago. Part of me feels like just yesterday I spent every day after school learning to write debate cases, learning what parli was, and figuring out that debate was harder than just about anything I had every done before. The other part of me feels like it was a lifetime ago. I was a completely different person two years ago.

I cannot believe the things God can do in two years. Two years ago, I was a quiet, stubborn, proud young woman. I am still a (sometimes) quiet, stubborn, proud young woman, but now at least I am aware of it. Because two years ago I had no idea. Joining the debate team, being forced to work with people who had personalities the complete opposite of mine, and learning to do something outside of my comfort zone taught me so much. I can't imagine the person I would have been if I hadn't been humbled through debate.

At the same time, my time on the debate team taught me to lighten up and enjoy life. My junior and senior years of high school would have been so much less exciting had I not learned to lighten up and enjoy life.

I just finished my first Torrey Mid Rags. Looking back over the past two years, I cannot see myself being in Torrey and doing well in Torrey without my debate experience. I would not have been nearly as connected with people or interested in people as I am today had I not gotten to know the wonderful people on my debate team who taught me not to judge people by outward appearance or first impressions. Without this experience, I certainly would not be a sociology major right now. I would not have a desire to grow outside my comfort zone had I not joined the debate team and worked my tail off for the sake of a stinkin' seven-minute parli speech. I would not have learned that one of the greatest joys you can have is the joy of accomplishing something that seemed impossible like I did when I got first place in extemp. Had I not learned that lesson and experienced that joy, I would have had no motivation to apply for the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. Had I not learned how to talk coherently and analyze the written and spoken word in debate and speech, I would not have done well in my first Mid Rags. I can see so clearly now how God took a quiet, stubborn, prideful young woman, stuck her on the Bakersfield Christian High School Forensics Team, taught her humility, love for people, and how to "come out of her shell;" then He transplanted that same young woman and put her at Biola University in the Torrey Honors Institute so she could be molded and shaped by some of the greatest minds of the past, present, and future to become a woman that desires to love God, love people, and pursue goodness, truth, and beauty.

God does know what He's doing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


When I hear something really great, I like to ponder it for a while. Sometimes that while turns into a long while. If it's something funny, I am likely to write it down in my quote book or post it on Facebook. If it is a serious quote, I am likely to write it in the back of my Torrey Bible, write in my journal about it, write a blog post about it, text it to one of my friends, go on and on about it when I talk to someone, or all of the above.

I went to Grace Evangelical Free Church in La Mirada for church this morning. I was struck anew with something that I try to constantly remember, but constantly fail: wonder.

Wonder is a tricky thing. You can't try to wonder: that defeats the purpose. True, real, genuine wonder is not something you can practice and become good at. Which means that when you have been raised in a Christian family, gone to Christian schools for your whole life, and areat a Christian have to find new ways to rediscover the wonder of God's love.

The text for the sermon was on Isaiah 42 and 43. In chapter 42, especially near the end, Isaiah tells Israel what royal idiots they are. Which reminds me of myself. I am such a royal idiot sometimes. More than sometimes. But Isaiah goes on to say in chapter 43 that God loves Israel anyway. He deeply loves Israel. He knows them by name, claims them as His people, gives men in exchange for them, holds them as precious to Himself. Even though they are idiots who constantly disobey Him.

So often I forget how potent the word of God is. If I take time to really look at it, it can renew my wonder for God's love. Reading certain verses still gives me chills even though I have read those same verses at least a hundred times.

I forget how much of an idiot I am. How I fail to trust God. How I fail to look to Him in so many areas. How I still think of myself first instead of others. And the sad thing is, I rarely see it when I'm doing it. But when I do see it, it makes me repulsed with myself.

Then I read verses like Isaiah 43 and realize that God loves this dirty little thing known as me. He sees me as precious, and He tells me He loves me. It fills me with wonder and how this could possibly be.

One quote from the sermon: "Our wonder for God is our witness to Him."

I want people to see my wonder for God and say, "Has she really known God for years? His love still seems so wonderful to her. I want that."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Exploded Mind in Blog Post Form

Why do I always walk out a Reynolds lecture feeling more depressed, inspired, doomed, encouraged, confused, and enlightened?

All at the same time.

For Torrey students: Imagine a session Dante's Paradise with Dr. Campbell and then a Reynolds lecture on Plato. Yes. That really happened.

For non-Torrey people: Imagine having your brain removed, put into a blender, and then put back in your head and then being told to go out into the world and function. That was what I experienced tonight.

I walked away with so many musing. The essence of education is not to train me for whatever I plan to do after graduation. It isn't to get me to know the facts. It's to build my character. It gives me a brand new way of looking at my education. I'm not here to figure out to get my reading done most quickly so I have time to still hang out with my friends. It's about how much I can get out of the text. I am so conditioned into the English class reading where I spend the whole time looking for answers to reading comprehension questions that I perpetually forget that this text is what is important. That skimming doesn't work. That session will be even more enjoyable once I learn to love whichever book I'm reading. I am here to become a virtuous young woman who follows Christ. There's no short-cut to learning virtue. Hard work brings out the best and the worst in people. I think education is fundamentally about doing the hard work and teaching yourself to go through the hard work so that it brings out the best in you instead of the worst. And, along the way, learning important lessons from Plato, Dante, Virgil, Homer, and all those other dead guys.

I need to learn to know myself first. I'm not being selfish. But before I can go out and do amazing things for the world, it would help if I had a few things worked out first. Like what I believe. Because some days I honestly don't know. Like who I am and why I matter to God. Like what is the purpose of this whole adventure I've come to know as life. Big questions. I need to answer each and every one of these (along with others) before I can try to answer these questions for others. Walking into a coffee shop and telling the waitress she should believe in Christ because Dr. Reynolds has this awesome little quip isn't going to cut it. I have to really know it and love it for myself.

It's okay that I am confused. In fact, if I wasn't confused right now, there would be something very wrong. As a Torrey freshman, I am supposed to feel overwhelmed, confused, bewildered, and maybe even frightened. My guess is that this is the humbling process, which is something I have desperately needed and will continue to need.

Something else got me to thinking: Dr. Reynolds asked us, "Do you love people, or do you love what they can do for you?" Considering I just changed my major to sociology, a very people-related field, this is a good question for me to be asking. I like to think of people as living stories, but sometimes I forget to see them that way. I forget that they have pasts, presents, and futures, that they experience emotions, that they need to be served. I reduce them to one aspect of their personality. But people aren't here for me to know them by how they can best help me. People are here to be loved. If I see people for what they can to do for me, I will turn into Judas. That is a sobering thought. Judas used the King of kings for personal gain. That is not what I want to turn into. Christ says that what I do to the least of these, I do to Him. If that's true, when I love people because of what I can get out of them, I am doing this to Christ. I am being a Judas. The one Christ said it would have been better for him if he was never born. Criminy.

Lastly, if I wasn't already convicted enough, Dr. Reynolds issued to us a challenge: Are you willing to wonder? Wondering is hard work. It makes you question the very essence of life. I will question my most deeply-held beliefs. I will have to consider on any given issue, that I may be wrong and that if I am, this could change my entire worldview. But the good news is that wonder never ceases. It will keep happening and keep making me grow. It will be what builds me into a virtuous young woman: wondering and thinking.

I'm so confused right now. Yet so satisfied with my mind as it is. That's what a steady diet of goodness, truth, and beauty does to a young soul who isn't used to being challenged beyond what she could ever imagine.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bad News and Good News

The bad news is that I think I'm getting sick.

The good news is that I think I figured out what my major is going to be.

The bad news is I can't take American Sign Language for my foreign language credit (unless I'm willing to take the full 12 units required to be "proficient"), and instead I have to take Intermediate Spanish next semester. I am going to fail epicly.

The good news is that after this semester I will have all my math and science gen ed credit complete.

The bad news is that if I change my major to what I want to change it to, I will have to take a computer analytics/statistics course. Yuck.

The good news is that the major I want to change to only requires 30 units of major classes, so I can minor in something and/or take some classes for fun (logic, philosophy, education, ASL, psychology, art, or even some Bible classes).

The bad news is that I'm worrying if I am cut out for this major and this job.

The good news is that I have God here with me no matter what happens.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Deepest Gladness and Deep Need

My friend Jessica Carter passed on a jewel of a quote to me last week, and it has been on my mind ever since.

"The place to where God has called you is where your deepest gladness meets the world's deep need." -Frederick Beuchner

I thought long and hard about this. I get joy out of writing. Sometimes. I used to think it was my deepest gladness, but hours of staring at a blank computer screen have taught me otherwise. Writing is more accurately one of my favorite pastimes, my way of escaping from the crazy world of college and being in control of something for once. It's therapuetic. My way of procrastinating. But only when it is done my way. Which means that writing for a career may not be a swell idea.

My deepest gladness so far in college has been being around people. Talking with people, working with people, playing games with people. More accurately, I love kids. I long each day to hold an infant, help a toddler learn to walk, play catch with a 5-year-old, play dress up with a 10-year-old (do 10-year-old girls even play dress-up anymore?), help a 13-year-old with her homework, and talk about life with a 16-year old. I love getting to know a small group of people so well that they know my loves and hates, and I know theirs.

The world's deepest need part ties in quite well with children. Children are the ones mistreated by this world in so many ways because they are so innocent. Children are the ones who are abused, neglected, spoiled, hurt, sold into slavery, and even murdered and are completely incapable of doing anything against it because oftentimes they don't even know their abusers are wrong for doing so. I want to change that.

My dream is to set up a home for children like these. They could be taught how to live like Christ. How to be disciplined. How to do hard work. How to love others. Basically, I want to spend my life loving on kids who didn't know love existed.

That's where my deepest gladness meets the world's deep need.

What I Have Learned in College So Far

-I really don't know what I am talking about most of the time. When I do know what I am talking about, it is through no feat of my own.

-Everything relates back to Dante.

-Whenever something is burning or firey, the gods are involved, and that is always bad.

-Do not go into caves.

-17 Torrey students find it impossible to define what a hero is, given three hours with which to determine an answer. Hercules defines it in three seconds.

-Dante's Divine Comedy was not meant to be funny.

-As far as one-up-ing goes in the war of epic poetry, Hercules wins. Apparently Disney beats Homer, Virgil, and Dante...

-Limbo = being at APU with your car totaled. Ante-Purgatory = being at Biola, sitting at the Fluer Fountain with a latte in your hand with your car broke down while you are wanting to be at Disneyland with your Torrey group. Purgatory = being caught in traffic on your way to Disneyland.

-Plato and play-doh make life better.

-Church ladies are Stalin.

-If you have an affectionate tour guide, you know you're in Hell.

-Hercules is much more entertaining when you can critique how terribly it reflects true Greek mythology.