Friday, February 25, 2011

I Just Need to Process What's Going On

I am mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. The weekend is almost here, but I have two books to read and take notes on, a paper to write, a test to study for, a 7-10 page paper to start, pull questions to do...the list goes on. I am praying for discipline to get everything done and ignore the existence of my social life for awhile. But in the midst of that daunting to-do list, I need to process what is going on. And I need to count my blessings.

  • I love my professors. I was skimming last night (instead of doing homework) and I found a book by John Mark Reynolds. It is so awesome to smile to myself and think, "He's one of my professors."

  • I particularly loved Torrey session last night. There was a lot of laughter, from the students and from the professor, and a lot of diagramming on the board, which I love to do.

  • I love Professor Schubert. When she is our tutor, I feel like she is part of the class, learning and discovering with us, rather than leading the discussion. And she has wonderful stories.

  • Augustine blows my mind.

  • The love within my Torrey group is amazing. I pray it continues to grow.

  • I'm really excited for Freshman Initiatives.

I am so thankful for God's love and the old hymns that express that love. Two years ago, I stood the gym at BCHS singing the last verse of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," realizing for the first time in weeks that God loves and cares for me.

"O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!

Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;

here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Today was...

  • The Getty Museum

  • PB&J

  • A view of Los Angeles on a clear day (by LA standards).

  • Having "Go the Distance" from Hercules stuck in my head as I looked at art made centuries ago.

  • Being reminded that the world is much bigger than the Biola bubble.

  • Looking at a painting of Christ's Resurrection with five other Torrey students who were all humming "Jesus Paid It All."

  • A positive experience riding with Elizabeth in LA.

  • A full meal at Chick-Fil-A for only $2.06.

  • Being thoroughly exhausted from something that is not schoolwork.

  • Getting an e-mail telling me I can teach high school English with a Humanities major.

  • Watching my ideas form a paper thesis.

  • Good friends.

  • Riding back to Biola from LA in the rain listening to The Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

  • Skipping down the hill at the Getty in the rain.

  • Being on top of a mountain for the first time in weeks.

  • Seeing this painting and connecting it to Dante's Divine Comedy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Being a Torrey Nerd

I went to a lecture tonight about possibly working with Wheatstone in the future. Because it is run by Torrey people, it is just as nerdy as Torrey, and I love it.

The speaker outlined the two dominant Torrey alumni dream lives. I found this hilarious because I want both of those things, too.

Option #1: Live in a little cottage in the mountains with your family where you have children and raise them to love God and books while you read poetry, love art, write books, discuss everything and tend to your garden or apple orchard.

Option #2: The life outlined in Dr. Reynold's Torrientation speech, where you spend four intense years learning about great books, God, goodness, truth, beauty, and Plato, then go out and change the world because the fate of Western civilization lies on our shoulders.

Needless to say, this is hard to reconcile because I desperately want to do both. But I think it can be done some way. (And the speaker gave us ideas, and didn't just let us ponder it for two hours like a Torrey tutor would.) And I want to do it. I want to live a virtuous life, engage the culture in the intellectual life it is missing, mentor teenagers, write blog posts, live in the mountains with goats and chickens, and rock the world.

I love being a Torrey nerd. I love the people I get to be nerdy with, I love the tutors and mentors, I love the challenge, the books, the thoughts, community, the jokes, the world-changing attitude, the encouragement to live for God and be the best you can be. I want to bring this to more people. I want high school students to see the adventure in learning and learn not for the sake of the grade, but for the sake of the betterment of their souls. I want to show teenagers that thinking is awesome and wonderful and much more satisfying than television. I want to teach world-changers in the same way that I am being taught to change the world.

And now to get into the practical application of all this: reading Augustine and figuring out a thesis for my paper.

(I apologize to all the non-Torrey people out there who have no idea what I am talking about.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dear Quadratus...

Six months ago today I met you. We sat in a circle of sixteen freshmen and seven sophomore seers and my first thought was, "What have I gotten myself into?" There was Mary Kate who was singing songs about ducks walking a row, Austin who looked nothing like his Facebook picture, Cale whose sign for our ice-breaker game was a thumbs-up, and many more.

Now I know what I have gotten myself into. I am in a group of wonderful people whom I love more than I ever thought possible. Quadratus, you guys are my friends, family, encouragers, entertainment, counselors, all-night-paper-writing buddies, rescuers, accountability partners, editors, dinner and lunch dates, partners in crime, prayer warriors, advisors, valentines, and brothers and sisters in Christ.

I am tempted to say that Biola, Torrey, and Quadratus have changed me, but I don't think that's accurate. Instead, Quadratus has made me uniquely myself. You have encouraged my strengths and help me grow in my weaknesses. You have taught me how to think, how to love, and how to live. You have cried with me, prayed with me, rescued me, challenged me, and loved me. I cannot fathom what college would be like without each any every one of you.

May God bless Quadratus in our journey to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful.

The Blessing of Each Day

Two cups of tea.
Torrey session on Psalms.
A yellow rose from my Quadratus gentlemen.
A singing Valentines' Day message from my Quadratus gentlemen.
C.S. Lewis.
Dr. Henderson's sense of humor.
Leggings and a dress.
A Jane Austen-esque hairstyle.
Finding a paper topic.
A package of Sees candies from my mom.
Singing songs in class.
Putting together a sentence in Spanish class that actually makes sense.
Praying with my friends.
Reading My Utmost for His Highest aloud to Elizabeth in the caf.
Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies.
"Be Thou My Vision" stuck in my head.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Heart

Is beating.
Is longing.
Is pleading.
Is calling out.
Is crying deep inside.
Is dancing with joy.
Is wishing to be free.
Is being held.
Is sealed.
Is not my own.
Is given away.
Is safe.
Is dying.
Is in my King's hands.

This is a poem I wrote (please grant me grace, I know I'm no poet) at the end of my senior year of high school when I was going through some minor problems with my physical heart, and dealing with the realization that my closest friends from high school would be leaving (as I would) in a few short months for college. Nine months later, it still manages to capture what I'm feeling.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Amazing Friends, Good Books, February, and God's Faithfulness

Last night, I wrote a blog post that sort of ended in a hopeless way. I mentioned something about clinging to God's love, but I didn't expound on it, partially because I had already spent an hour and a half writing that post, and partially because I was concurrently discussing our Reynolds session with Rachel and not paying complete attention to how I ended that post.

But since last night I have been overwhelmed with hope. I have wonderful friends, and I am so blessed to be around people who genuinely care about me. They talk with me, give me hugs, make lunch and dinner dates with me, let me chill in their rooms, send me notes and messages reminding me of their love, and call me to check up on me. I cannot imagine being educated in a setting without this kind of love and support.

But good friends can't get me through everything, mostly because they are not that wise. I am learning with them, and not sitting in their tutelage (though I learn a lot from them). That's why I have mentors. I have people like Professor Klapauszak who help me think and can see what major I would thrive in. But even from my mentors I can't learn everything. So, God has given me books where I can learn from great minds who no longer walk this earth. I can sit in my room and learn from Sheldon Vanauken, C.S. Lewis, Plato, Augustine, and even Jesus. He is faithful to provide the wisdom I need.

God's faithfulness is also evident in the month of February. It seems I always face particularly interesting and faith-testing moments in February. One year ago I was accepted to Biola, and I had no idea if this was where God wanted me to go to school, and I was minorly freaked out about it. It was at this time that I was also introduced to the idea of Torrey and decided to apply, a decision that changed my life forever. Two years ago (February 2009), I went through an intense time of doubt about my faith. Being raised in a Christian home, this was the first time I consciously wrestled with my faith. The song "Come Thou Fount" brought me back to God as I saw that I was truly "prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." He lovingly took my heart and sealed it, sealing it for His courts above.

Three Februaries ago, I was in the midst of fighting with my father, which turned into nine months of his refusal to speak to me, despite continual efforts of my part to ask for and earn his forgiveness. This issue is still one I am dealing with, and still one where (as I experienced last night) God's grace is present.

Four Februaries ago I was baptized. This was a difficult decision for me because I was afraid of proclaiming my faith in such a way. I made the decision and have never regretted it.

There is hope. I am reminded that if nothing in my life ever went wrong, I wouldn't experience God's grace. I wouldn't be encouraged by my friends or find joy through rough circumstances.

"Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace." ~Anonynous

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Bruised Heart in Blog Post Form

Torrey students: Quadratus had their first Reynolds session today. I told my group right before it that I wasn't ready. There were too many things reeling in my head, too many triumphs and tears throughout the day to end it with a Reynolds session, especially on Plato's Symposium. But that is exactly what happened. The result? I checked off number 96 on the "101 Things To Do in Torrey Before You Graduate" list: Cry in session.

Non-Torrey students: Imagine being hurt, then putting on a happy face and trying to tell yourself and everyone else that it will be okay, and then having a knife thrust into your heart. In a very academically, mind-boggling way. Then add in a lot of awkwardness. That was my night.

We talked about a lot of things this session. One of my favorite topics of conversation (which I wish I was better versed in) is the down-fall of American culture and Western civilization, which is also one of Dr. Reynolds' favorite topics of conversation. Which means we spent a lot of time talking about what love is according to our culture and comparing it with love according to Plato.

We talked about beauty and wisdom, and how rare it is to find a person who genuinely has both. It struck me how true that is. Beauty takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. So does the pursuit of wisdom. People cannot feasibly be drop-dead gorgeous and have time to become genuinely wise. Those who pretend to do are not doing at least one of those things to the fullest capacity. Instead, those who are good-looking have to spend their time keeping up appearances, not learning. They can bluff their way through school and life if they want, but the mark of a truly strong person is one who can get through life by bluffing (or with charm) but chooses to use intellect instead. Those who prefer the charm route can do so, but they will have to hire someone to do the brain work behind it. Classic example (and I am honestly not trying to pick on Obama with this example): Who was elected president? Obama. Who writes Obama's speeches and who does the hard work of running the country? Speech-writers and the president's cabinet. This leads to the question: What happens in a culture where the good-looking people's lines are written by the bad-looking (but smart) people? The smart people run the country but the good-looking people think they do.

Now, at this point you are probably wondering one or more of the following (unless you were actually in this session)...

1. Aren't you being a little self-righteous? After all, just because someone is born good-looking, that doesn't mean they are doomed to be stupid, right?

2. Isn't it possible to get good grades and spend time on your looks? After all, school doesn't take that much time!

My response to number 1: Born good-looking gives you a ridiculous advantage in this culture. Most are tempted to use this advantage - after all, who wouldn't? The word that came to mind during session was "integrity." Doing the work, even though you could get away with not doing it.

My response to number 2: Wisdom is not the same thing as schooling. True wisdom is not spitting out answers on tests. True wisdom is reading and thinking. This type of wisdom takes time. It takes a lifetime. As I looked around Dr. Reynolds' office, the majority of wall space was covered in bookshelves filled with books, all of which contain wisdom. That much reading, or even a fraction of it takes time, effort, and a love for it.

We also discussed (and by "we," I mean everyone else, because I spent most of the class period just trying to process what was being said) that right before a culture is destroyed, historically, it does not appreciate its blessings. Instead, it takes the blessings it is given and wants more. (We cited Plato for this, but I honestly don't think you care what the citation is, and I don't remember it anyway.) If this is true, our culture is approaching destruction very soon because everything is taken for granted: education, family, food, friends, books, transportation. In any time before this, none of these things were taken for granted, especially not education. Dr. Reynolds told us about his grandfather who only received an 8th grade education. And there we sat with not only a high school education but also enrolled in college, and not just any college, but a part of the Torrey Honors Institute, reading the greatest works of Western civilization. Dr. Reynolds told us that his grandfather would look at us and ask, "How can you possibly be unhappy?" Yet, each and every day we complain about how we want more. We don't appreciate our blessings, and that will lead to our downfall.

We talked about another interesting topic that explained Torrey and education to me in a way that helps me understand when we don't come to an answer in session. Education is about going in circles. We can either go "further in and further up" as Lewis says, or we can go somewhere. I have always valued the destination more than the process. Now, I am learning to value the process and the learning more than the destination and answer.

Throughout all this, we talked about love, the theme of Symposium. We talked about what it truly means to love. We talked about sacrificing for the one you love. We talked about how love implies loving something. Love implies a beloved. All the dialogues talk about "love" the thing, but not the real love, which implies a beloved and an action. It is not something idependent of itself.

Amidst all of this, we did some thinking about our own love relationships, most notably with our parents. We also talked about marriage relationships. These are both great learning instances, but it hit quite close to home. Before coming to session, I talked to my mom on the phone. My dad is not talking to my mom or my brother, after going for a week in January without talking to me. Throughout session, my eyes would tear up when this topic came up, but I made it through. Near the end, however, Mrs. Reynolds came in, and Dr. Reynolds asked her to give the last word in the discussion. We had talked about how in romantic movies, the credits roll at the happiest time of the movie. In real life, the credits roll in a hospital, with at least one person in intense pain. She described what I deem as the truest love: Philip Johnson, one of the leaders in thought of the idea of Torrey, is in the hospital, and his wife is by his side, helping him and loving him. That was when I lost it. My family is in much of the same situation. My mom is not in a hospital, but she is disabled, hurting, and confined to a bed most of the day. My dad is not there with her. He avoids her and her children, tells her she would just get better if only she would try, makes his son walk seven miles home from school because he doesn't feel like driving to pick him up, and refuses to talk to his daughter even though she begs him that she will do anything if he will just love her. Love can hurt. A lot. Which is why it's so dangerous.

After this session, I did not know what to do. How do you respond to three hours of discovering that you feel your family doesn't truly love one another, to such a degree that it hurts being home? I ended up talking to my friends. They told me to keep clinging to the promise that God loves you. To keep loving yourself. To rely on the Body of Christ because that's what community is for.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"As a high school student I used to read about Catherine [Marshall] and Elisabeth [Elliot's] days at college, and I could see them sitting in their dorm rooms writing journal entires and prayers that would later serve as landmarks in their spiritual journeys. Elisabeth even left behind a man she loved and ventured off to the mission field...

I eagerly wanted to follow in their footsteps. I went to a Christian college, hoping to meet other girls who wanted to do the same. But by the time I got to college, I found myself looking around and wondering where the Elisabeths and Catherines had gone. Don't get me wrong, there were many faithful girls who loved and served God. But after close examination it was evident that some of the passion that Elisabeth and Catherine had was missing from my generation.

It seems to me there is a new kind of girl taking over the world. She is even taking over the Christian world. She is modern and independent, focused on glittering up her outside, and has forgotten how to tend to her inward life. Now, this is not a new phenomenon. Even in her spiritual autobiography, Meeting God at Every Turn, Catherine Marshall describes her wealthy roommate at Agnes Scott College.

Her name was Virginia and she had the finest clothes, an endless supply of makeup, and was a real live "blond bombshell." And there sat her roommate, plain old mousy-haired Catherine, writing things in her journal about how she wanted to know and seek God more, so she could find His purpose for her life. Today, it seems there are many Virginias and few Catherines. Far too many girls are saying no to God and yes to the world..."

~Shannon Kubiak Primicerio, God Called a Girl
Graduate of Biola University

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Day of Firsts

Today has been a wonderfully surprising and surprisingly wonderful day. I went to a reformed-doctrine church for the first time and watched the Super Bowl (well, some of it) for the first time. I also attended my first Super-Bowl-party-turned-hymn-sing.

I was planning on going to church this weekend with Maddie, like we did near the end of last semester, but she went back to Bakersfield for the weekend, so I asked Elizabeth if I could go with her. So, I ended up at a reformed-doctrine church with Elizabeth and two other friends. Afterwards, we planned to go to Elizabeth's house for the Super Bowl. Because I'm not a huge football fan, I wasn't entirely thrilled about an afternoon of football, but I decided to tag along because free (non-cafeteria) food was involved, as was getting off campus and hanging out with friends. However, everyone who wanted to go along were Torrey kids, which meant all of them had homework to be doing. So, we talked ourselves into believing that this would be a study party, too.

Some of us (especially those of us not interested in football) opted to do some homework, too. So, I sat in the Bush's kitchen, alternating between watching Super Bowl commercials and reading Psalms. Talk about a clash of cultures.

After dinner, the die-hard, I-actually-came-to-watch-the-Super-Bowl people parked themselves in front of the TV to finish watching (and loudly discussing) the game while the rest of us went into another room to read or do homework. Elizabeth played the piano, while we sat contentedly doing our work. Eventually, a guitar was brought out and more people migrated to this room and we started singing praise songs we knew from memory. I sat in an armchair with my Bible on my lap, looking at the scene. Mr. and Mrs. Bush and their 11-year-old daughter sat on one couch, reading and doing a puzzle. Their 7-year-old daughter sat in the arm chair next to mine snuggling in blankets and reading a book. Cree played the guitar, and Elizabeth, Cori, Robin, Andrew, Kyle, and Sean sat in various places on couches or on the floor singing along. Elizabeth beckoned me and I joined the college kids sitting on the floor. I smiled. This was what live is supposed to be. Family that loves one another and others. Students who want to glorify God. A place where friendship, books, knowledge, joy, truth, mentoring, prayer, and songs abound. We eventually gathered around the piano as Elizabeth played or we sang acapella to many of the old hymns I grew up learning. We sang all of my all-time favorites: "Nothing But the Blood," "Be Thou My Vision," "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," "The Old Rugged Cross," and so many more. Mrs. Bush brought out tea for us, and I laughed as I watched college-aged boys rushing to the china tea cups, trying to figure out how they were meant to be held. We sang a few more hymns and prayed. As we prayed, I felt like I was a part of the Body of Christ in a closer, more personal way than I feel when I'm at chapel or in any gathering of believers (other than my Torrey group and my home church). I was with a variety of people: one who knows me better than I know myself, one I had only met that day, and everyone else fell somewhere in between. Yet all were a part of the Body of Christ, all were my brothers and sisters in the family of God. After we prayed, we loaded up into Elizabeth's car and ended the evening by driving back to Biola on the freeway, singing along to "Don't Stop Believing" and "Lucky."

Super Bowl Sunday has held special significance to me for four years: on Super Bowl Sunday in 2007, I was baptized. Four years ago, I never imagined being here. I never could have imagined the spiritual steps I have taken. I look at my infant-Christian self, and see such a huge change in my relationship with God. I can see where He has brought me, who He has put in my life to touch me, and how He has loved me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"So I have come into Wicklow, where the fields are sharply green, where a wild beauty hides in the glens, where sudden surprising vistas open up as the road rises and falls; and here I smell for the first time the incense of Ireland, the smoke of turf fires, and here for the first time I see the face of the Irish countryside."

H.V. Morton, In Search of Ireland, 1930

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happiness of the Last Few Days

  • Both friends who thought they might not be able to come back this semester are coming back. In fact, they are back.
  • Fro yo.
  • Plato.
  • Studying at night with Rachel.
  • "101 Things To Do in Torrey Before You Graduate" is printed out and on the wall of my dorm room with check marks next to the ones I've already done. 26 out of 110.
  • I get to spend tomorrow at a Charlie Hall (whoever he is...) chapel, taking a Spanish placement exam, and reading Plato and American Lit stuff. And dinner with Elizabeth.
  • I couldn't stop smiling and laughing in session today because I am so excited to be back with my group in session. That definitely hampered my discussion skills.
  • Screams of joy.
  • Having entire conversations without saying a word.
  • The Irish quote book Rachel gave me.
  • My old journals and God's faithfulness reflected in them.
  • Good writing.
  • Friends who tell me things like, "You worry too much. There's this thing called the present. Live in it."
  • When the Psalms say, "God, when you save your people, save me." Not "if." "When."
  • Job 38.
  • Banana chips and almonds.
  • "Streets of Bakersfield" by Buck Owens.
  • Quadratus. And their funny looks, laughter, joy, humor, wanton cravings, hugs, friendship, and all-around awesomeness.
  • A hug from Robynne.
  • Dr. Vincent's prayer in session that made me cry.