Sunday, December 10, 2017

Finding Joy

I'm grabbing a few moments on this cold Sunday while my tea is too hot to drink and the library is temporarily settled. (Moments like this are few and far between these days!)

I say it every year: finals is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite time of the semester. This year is no exception. Last week was the last week of classes. It was hectic and stressful and was the first time I had a student cry on me about a grade. (The test was taken again, a better grade was achieved, everyone is doing great.)

This week, exam week, is sometimes easier, though not without its own stresses. There is last minute research (that probably should have been done a few weeks ago), last ditch efforts to write 4 papers in three days, and attempts to cram everything you learned all year onto ONE cheat index card. Of course the biggest concern on student's minds is, 'What if the library runs out of snacks before everyone is done studying?!" Don't worry, y'all. I've got popcorn and cookies coming out of my ears. We will be just fine. 

The first few hours today were busy, but honestly? Oh man I loved them. I got to connect with a few of my regulars as well as some of my Exam Regulars.

There was a moment today when I looked at myself and said, "Girl, you LOOK happy."  Feelings are sometimes unreliable in their ability to help you understand the world around you. They are real because they are part of your experience, but sometimes yeah, unreliable. But today, in that moment? My feelings and my reality were the same: I WAS happy. 

It's been a hard year. Not even touching my personal life, work has had more than a few ups and downs. I had three different bosses this year, not to mention an interim person to report to, as well as staff changes at Old Navy. I saw student workers graduate; I had a new batch of student workers start this fall. I had really productive months, and I've also had some really unproductive months. Isn't life a balance anyway? 
So to be able to stop and recognize a good day, I mean, a really good day? I love it. 

As we step into the second week of Advent, I'd like to encourage you to notice those moments. Notice the moments that leave a smile on your face and peace in your heart. 

They might be when you are at work doing what you absolutely love. 

They might be when you finally get home from work to the people that you love. 

And if you have to create your moment? Go for it. Make yourself a cup of tea and turn on that Christmas music.

Notice when you are using your gifts to serve others. 

Look for peace. Recognize joy when you see it. Call them by name and take a moment to be grateful for the gifts that don't need to be wrapped in colorful paper.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Some Sunday School Thoughts

(I'm going to start this post like I haven't been MIA for the last few months and jump right in and trust that we are friends enough for you to forgive me. Thanks in advance.)

We are halfway through our two part Sunday School class discussing Lee Strobel's Case for Christ and Case for Creation books. The Case for Christ I'm more familiar with, though I'm not sure when I would have actually gone through it. I have the book he wrote and dug it out to read at the recommendation of a friend, in conjunction with the class. (I'll confess right now that I also accidentally picked up Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet's Good Omens around the same time. Guess which one I finished? Yeah, if you guessed the book that would be least relevant to my Sunday school class, you would be correct.) I've missed the first two classes for Case for Creation so I wasn't really sure what to expect in class. I was blown away by some of the intelligent explanations about creation and how some experts talk about creation ex nihilo and scientific evidence in the same breath without contradiction. I love that. At one point, someone in the class drew attention to the fact that "scientific theories change all the time any way!" in, what seemed to be, an attempt to discredit science and bring focus back on the consistency of the Bible. 

My non-scientific heart cried a little. I was reminded of something I read from C. S. Lewis over lent this season (and something I've heard from Matt Chandler a time or two) and eventually chimed in.

Lewis asks the following question: How can an unchanging system survive the continual increase of knowledge? He posits at one point that Christians have little to fear from the acquisition of new scientific knowledge. If we start with belief in the Bible's consistency and infallibility, we are then measuring science against it, not the other way round. But of course, science isn't necessarily consistent! Like the commenter in class stated, scientific theories can change. But (and here is the part I really love), Lewis says that wherever you see real progress in knowledge (or what I sometimes will call "new knowledge") there is some knowledge that is not superseded. 

New knowledge does not necessarily supersede old knowledge. 

I mean, isn't that just the best gift we as Christian's can be given when we are interacting with the scientific community? You want to tell me that this rock is a million years old? Matt Chandler says, "Awesome. Like, where did you find that?!" No, no wait! It's FIVE million years old! Again, Chandler says, "That is incredible!" 
Does the age of the rock change God's existence or my belief that he created the world? Nope. "But it went from one million to five million! That's a huge difference." Our understanding of the scientific world changes with every new discovery that is made. I mean, people once thought that the world was flat and you could sail off the edge. We are continually learning things about the world around us, things that maybe our ancestors never dreamed we would know. 

How do I not lose my faith when science starts telling me things about the world that the Bible doesn't mention? 


My belief isn't in the scientific discovery of the day. My belief is in the One that crafted our universe out of nothing. The One who keeps a storehouse full of snow, waiting until the time is right to release it. Do I get excited when new discoveries are made? You bet I do! Y'all remember those 7 new planets they found earlier this year at only 40 light years away? If Earth is the only habitable planet, why did God bother making anything else in our universe? Was it so we could explore and learn about the created world? Did he do it just to show off? Or was it so we could see that the God who created the stars, the moon, the sun, and all the planets (known and unknown) created Earth uniquely and specifically for us? 

I know people sometimes think that because God is SO BIG he couldn't possibly be concerned about a single individual life in this world. But man, isn't that what he is showing us through nature? Of all the planets he created, he put humans on the only one that is able to sustain life. 

So let the rocks be seven million years old, let galaxies be discovered 400 light years away. Let your scientific theories change over time, becoming more accurate, more specific as knowledge increases. 

God still created the rock. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Grace Is Not Proportional

Is it summer? Is it fall? Is it monsoon season?

We've had quite the change in weather the last few weeks. Don't get me wrong, I love a good hot summer day...but you know, I don't need to be sweating all day long to enjoy a day. These faux-fall days have been so refreshing. I'm not ready for fall just yet, but not being stuck in an oppressive sweat box (aka my apartment) has been really nice.

I'm still working on the Job stuff for you guys, but until I get there, I finally finished the book of Numbers! I never thought I'd be excited to say that. And it's not just because I'm glad to be done with it! It was tedious and long; it was also the first book I picked up a commentary for. And can I make a suggestion? Grab a commentary when you need one! Even if you don't agree with everything or even if you don't read the commentary entirely, it is super helpful to have another set of eyes when you are going over a confusing passage.

The more I read the Old Testament, the more I learn about God. I heard a Village pastor say that we need to change our approach if our main reason for reading the Bible isn't to meet God. That is why the Bible exists: to teach us about God. I am struck by the grace of God, even when Israel is disobedient. The entire book of Numbers up until Chapter 14 is about the Israelite's traveling to the land that God had promised them. We see rebellion and obedience, sometimes in the space of a chapter. And then, there they are! The edge of the promise land. The spies go into the land and bring back a report: "The land is rich, yes. But the people are powerful and huge. We look like grasshoppers to them! We can't attack them!"  Ten of the twelve explorers forgot that God delivered them from slavery and helped them cross the sea floor (while the Egyptians, their former masters, were thrown into the same sea to drown). They forgot that God fed them from nothing in the desert and gave them water from a rock. Their powerful God has provided for them time after time, but even when God tells them that he will give them the land, they get the heebie jeebies and run away scared.

God gives this rant about them, but nestled in Numbers 14 there is this beautiful verse: The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.

Even in their disobedience, of which the consequence is not being able to enter the promise land, God wants to tell them that he is slow to anger and abounding in love. He could have wiped them out then and there, but he didn't. He could have wiped them out countless times before and after this event. One of the reasons he didn't? Moses prayed for them. It is shocking to me how many times Moses prays for his people, the people who complained non-stop through the desert, the people who complained that they would rather be back in Egypt as slaves than be stuck here in the desert "starving." He prays to God for those people. For those stiff necked disobedient people.
The other shocker? God actually listens.

There is still a consequence for their sin, but God let them live. They had feasts; they sacrificed at the Tent of Meeting. They got married, had babies. God continued to provide for them in the desert. He protected them when the elders of Moab and Midian sought out Balaam the seer to curse all of Israel. He made them successful when they went to war against the Midianites. The Israelites lived. For as long as they lived, they saw the faithfulness of God. How's that for a legacy? Their children learned from an early age that God was faithful and forgiving, but also very serious about obedience. Walter Riggans, the author of the commentary I read, put it this way: At heart [God] is gracious, but he is not to be played with.

God is faithful even when we are not. I almost want to say "especially when we are not." I think sometimes when we drop the ball or mess up, we expect others to treat us a certain way based on our failure. But God doesn't make proportional responses to our failure. He is faithful to his people because he made a covenant long before Moses was born. He is a God of his word, trustworthy in all things. His faithfulness has nothing to do with our failure but everything to do with his character.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The facts were these...


Did January the last few months absolutely drain anyone else? I have been working on this post since mid to late February. Clearly, I did a great job with it.

This semester started off kinda rough. Lots of students forgot lots of things. Like how to use a library. It was a bit of an adventure helping students back on the straight and narrow, but I think we got there eventually. Semester ended last week, so things are starting to calm down a little bit. A handful of "my kids" graduated last weekend, including a two of my student workers. It was such a great moment for me to see them walk across that stage after four (or five) years of hard work. 

Life slowly returns to normal, whatever that is anymore. 

The end of January brought some emotional upheaval for me. Things are getting better every day, but man. It has been hard. (And yes, this one is still true almost four months later. Healing is a process.)

So, of course, I started reading the book of Job. 

I had a dear friend joke about how "uplifting" the book is and, lovingly, poke fun at my choice. I was afraid she was going to be right, but still, I pressed on. It was next, chronologically, in my reading plan anyway. Might as well just carry on.  

I think we all probably know the story of Job. Dude with seemingly the worst luck in the universe loses his family, his house, his possessions--eventually even his health-- all in the course of a single day. He and his friends sit around for like, 30 plus chapters, talking about all the terrible things that had happened, how God would only punish a sinner, not a righteous man like Job. Not the friends I would want with me during a terrible time in my life. Finally, and miraculously, God steps in and has a dialog with Job. Because of a lot of things, (Job's righteousness and love and devotion to God being part of it), God restores Job's fortune to him, double what he had at the beginning of the story.  

To be honest, I don't think I've ever read this book in its entirety. Sure, you grab the beginning and the end. That's where the meat of the story is if you are going to teach it in a classroom. But the stuff in between? Honestly, y'all, it blew my mind.

I hope to share some of that with you in the months to come. I've since worked my way through Exodus and Leviticus, and Habakkuk. It has been slow going, but in all of it, I still see God providing for his people, in all things. And through the semester and personal ups and downs of life, that has been an altogether encouraging thing to read. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Happy *cough* New Year! (Achooo!)

Happy New Year friends! 
At the risk of sounding ancient, the more years I see, the faster they seem to roll by me. It seems impossible that it is 2017. Anyone else? 

Of course, I started the new year with a bang: sinus cold! I've been fighting something ugly for the past two weeks now and I have to say, I'm ready for it all to be over. I'm finally on the uptick I think. I hope. My house is a sea of tissues and half empty water glasses. My almost two weeks of vacation was spent putting a Laura-sized divot in the couch and finishing a few TV shows. Not all bad, but now that I'm finally starting to feel better, it is time to join the land of the living...and get to cleaning up the house. (And eventually back to running? I mean UGH but also, do I miss it? Mostly no. But a little yes, too.)

Christmas holidays weren't all bad of course, just intensely busy. Little and Big Sister (husbands and kids) were all able to come home for Christmas. It was loud, it was crazy, it was hilarious and I wish we could have had more time together. 

Guys. I finished that sweater that I've been working on for almost two years! I've already gifted it but I'll see if I can snag some pictures of it and share them with you. Without a big project like that in the background, I'm feeling a little ... sad? But it won't last for long because I'm working with a friend to make a blanket for her living room sofa. It involves a lot of math (that she does mostly. Thankfully.) and counting rows and such (that's mine). The exciting thing about it, though, is that it is something she and I designed together. The first time I'm truly working a large project with a self-designed pattern. I'm nervous but excited to see how it will turn out. I finished a bunch of other projects for Christmas presents and such, so I'm a little in-between knitting adventures. With the freezing weather we've been having lately, I have been in the mood to knit a warm hat for myself. I'm also halfway through a fingerless glove pattern, which besides the blanket, is my only current work in progress. It is a challenge with cables, so I'm in love. The biggest challenge is going to be adding thumbs to it. And well, I've never done that before and it is incredibly daunting. 

I keep track of my reading over at Scattered Wits, but if you were following, I didn't meet my reading goal last year. And I'm honestly doing okay with that. Yes, I was bummed. (Maybe more like a lot.) But one of the reasons I didn't finish was because the larger reading project I had going was reading through the New Testament in a year. That one? Yeah, that one I finished. It has taught me so much about Jesus and the way he asks his followers to live that it felt like I was learning about him for the first time. And Paul's letters have to be some of my favorite books in the New Testament. So this year, I reduced my reading challenge by half and will try to make it through the Old Testament. So that's my biggest challenge this year. I mean, besides the thumbs. 

We've had two snows so far this year. If I hadn't been sick and partially unable to breathe, I was seriously considering a snow walk. I've always wanted to do one of those. We had a light dusting today and there is a call for freezing rain tonight. The weather continues to be frightful, but it is off to work for me. (In the whole "being sick for two weeks," I haven't been cooking too much. Dinner tonight will be very interesting...)

A brand new year with so many new things to come. Some of them are planned. Most of them? Probably not. This year feels like a good year to be extra hopeful, to keep my eyes open and heart ready for whatever happens. New adventures. New friends. More old friends. More life. More joy. 

Once more onto the breach, dear friends, once more.