Many Things about Tomorrow

Since day one, I’ve been told that I am smart, talented, and beautiful. With regards to at least the first two traits, I have tried to prove that my supporters are right. I was precocious. Then I was bright. And finally, I became a hard worker.

The older I get, the more I’m taught that hard work and dedication do not always pay off. You may study for hours for a quiz to still get a D. You also might completely forget you have a test and still ace it. Apparently, I haven’t learned that lesson yet, because I still expect to reap what I sow. Therefore, if I show myself to act with integrity, try to follow God in my pursuits, pray for His will, and work myself senseless, the right results should appear.

Even here, at BJU, I’ve been…encouraged to think of myself as special. My friends and teachers expect more from me, because I tend to give more to begin with. I am a quick study, I problem solve well, and I take initiative. And, I’m even trying to learn how to take correction gracefully. Now, before any of you start to think, “Wow, she really is a cocky little thing” let me make this caveat: I never believed them. I thought that yes, hard work pays off, but I also thought that, in a way, I was just lucky. I’m just good at taking tests, I’m not actually smart. Or that everyone else would get the exact same results if they put in the exact same actions. I honestly never thought I had a very high opinion of myself.

And then this school year happened. I got grades I’ve never gotten before. I struggled academically in ways that I didn’t even know were possible. There were personal events that I couldn’t have foreseen and never would have chosen. I was working harder than ever and succeeding less than I could ever remember. This semester seemed a bit easier than last, and I was thankful for the respite.

Then God burdened me to start looking at graduate assistant positions. For those of you outside the bubble, the GA program allows a student to take a full course load of graduate studies and work full time for the college, so that you pay off your entire degree by the time you finish that degree. I was firmly convinced that after I got my undgrad diploma, I would waltz back home and pursue further schooling there. And then one day, I became not firmly convinced. In fact, I was so very unsure that I should come home that I prayed for very long portions of the day for an entire week over whether or not I should I apply for some grad positions.

So I applied. I got accepted to return as a student. I submitted five applications and waited. A month later, I had my first interview. I prayed and debated over a few other positions, talked with other departments, made some decisions. I didn’t get the job from that first interview. Instead, I was pointed to a brand new position, one that looked tailor-made for me: fitting all my qualifications, would give me room to grow, and plenty of flexibility. I would be able to help frame out what the position would look like for following GAs. I had the interview, both with the dean of the school and the head of the department. A week later, when I was asking for a deadline that I would know the answer by, I was told that I should have gotten an email, but the position had been filled.

I was devastated. I am devastated. As much as I have wanted to go home for three years, I desperately wanted to stay here. Most of my reasons are rather carnal and craven. In fact, I don’t want to go home, because I’m doubting God. Throughout this whole process I kept praying that His will, not mine, would be done. That He would show me what to do. And I thought that meant staying here, since that would be the harder thing. Instead, it looks like it’ll be going home.

I want my family. But I want them here.

My church is here. I no longer have a church back home.

My school is here. The education I’d be scraping together back home will be rough to say the least.

My chances for med school are better here. I don’t even know that PSC has any chance of sending students to med school.

My chances of getting married are pretty much only here. There is no one back home.

My best friend is getting married. My sister is leaving for four years. I do not have a job. I do not have a boyfriend. I will be leaving all the relationships I tried to cultivate for three years here.

And I feel like a failure. Because I have worked and worked and thought I was growing and apparently, I haven’t. Because I don’t believe that going home is God’s will, even though He is so clearly showing me that it is. And I don’t believe He can provide an education or a job or a spouse, even though He is the only One who will ever provide those things for me. And I do not think He is good, even though that is the only thing He has ever been to me. The lesson I should have been learning is not that if I work hard enough, good things will happen. The lesson I should have been learning is that I try, I work, but I rest in God alone, because He will do whatever He wills in spite of what I do, not because of it.

God is not my personal, spiritual vending machine. I do not punch in a formula and put in the right things and get exactly what I want from Him. I am His clay. And I try to fight Him instead of allowing myself to be molded into His image.

So I apologize, formally, here, in print to God. I’m sorry and I am so very wrong for my disbelief, for my anger, for my hurt and assumed rejection. Please forgive me for doubting that You ever had anything less than best for me. And I cry like the father in Mark, “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.”

And to the rest of you here in Greenville, I’ll miss you terribly. I’m not sorry I made friendships here and I refuse to regret giving of my life and time and heart to you. It will hurt not seeing you, or hanging out with you, or sharing my feelings, thoughts, and dreams with you. But I won’t forget you. You taught me a great deal, like the importance of meal plans and how a real church feels and acts and worships together.

To my faithful few in Florida, I’m sorry I didn’t want to come back. Please believe me that it was not because I didn’t miss you, but because I feel like I no longer belong. I worry that I won’t make sense there and that I will not be needed. So thank you for wanting me back anyway.

I am very uncertain about what this next chapter holds, and what on earth I should do. So I’m going to try and live a little less by the rules of Martha, and a little more by the mantra that, “I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know He holds my hand.”

The Strands of Time Are Stringing

Yarn.

Yarn everywhere.

Long, free, promising strands pooling in beautiful loops at my feet.

Clogs. Hopeless snarls. Knots and rifts.

Frustration mixed with patience and tempered with stubbornness known only to the females of my heritage. I knew that this ball of yarn used to be a neat ball and could be again and gosh darn it I nearly have a college degree, I can handle this!

The problem came about because I bought a yarn that was too light weight. Moral of the story, children: buy a heft and width suitable to your needle size AND the density of project you’re making. I knew, however, that by using two strands of this thinner stuff instead of one, it would work up just fine. Most yarn comes with two ends (you know, physics), both readily accessible for those who are inner or outer yarners (there is a debate about which way is correct, kind of like which way toilet paper should unfurl, but that is a discussion for another time). My yarn did not have a readily apparent inner end.

No problem, I thought to myself. I’ll root inside, find the end and just work from there. It shouldn’t tangle.

 

I find that statement equal to Napoleon thinking, “Eh, Waterloo is pretty small. No biggie.”

 

Three hours later, with a hopeless snarl in my hands, I unwork everything I’ve done and slowly start isolating the ends in two, carefully but loosely coiled, pools. That process had to be restarted at least three times. For literally three class periods and then three hours outside of class I toiled.

But I vanquished the Gordian knot.

The ball now lies in my bag, neatly bound into a ball, from the center of the strand. I have two ends free and have worked about 16 rows thus far.

I am knitter! Hear me roar!

It’s Time

Scenic Route:

When unused to traversing back campus, be sure to take the longest way possible to your destination, particularly in spring time. Not only will you get your daily dose of exercise you will also benefit from the serene floral vistas. There are more shrubs, trees, and personal flower gardens, the road is smaller and less frequented, and the little brick houses with family cars offer a subtle, reassuringly nostalgia over home. On your walk, you will have time to think about how much you miss home, and not the home of your youth, but the home of your soul. The place that feels right, that smells of crushed pine needles, and gleams of exuberant azaleas and delicate dogwoods.

Picnic:

Finally arriving at your destination, you will be greeted by a smiling professor who still remembers you and has kept you as a friend on Facebook, which is a sign of favor that you take in the most flattering light. As you choose your hot dog, you (on a whim) ask if that same professor (arming the grill) will possibly burn a hot dog for you. You have a particular preference for burnt hot dogs. He assents, laughingly, but with much horror, because it goes against his chef-like spirit. Upon gathering the rest of your food, while awaiting your charred prize, you try to decide upon a table. Although you know many of these religion majors, you do not know everyone, and are uncertain as to where you fit in. Sighting some fellow Greek students and your teacher, you make your way to them only to realize there’s no more room at the table. You take recourse at the table to counseling students that continues to fill and have a very pleasant time there. You continue to hob nob with faculty and students and even partake in a conversation that causes your inner intellectual to swoon with a Greek lecturer. Then your grill meister calls your name and you go to fetch your food. You also get homemade cake (two slices) which you savor.

Delivery:

The football jerseys you designed for society have finally arrived and you are extremely excited over them. They are a lovely weight and texture and the blue is exactly what you wanted. You rush to look up the girls’ room numbers and then pop over as quickly as you can. They’re surprised to see you but very pleased at the jerseys, which further excites you (and also affords you relief). It’s really rather ridiculous how much you wish to please people and hate to see them disappointed, especially when you’re worried they see you as too frivolous. Really, you just care a little too much and tend to come off as obnoxious and excitable. You’re working on it. At any rate, the jerseys are beautiful and paid for and fit absolutely perfectly so you race back to your room to preen in one for a moment. You are disappointed that it will be too hot to wear them for a while.

The Burn:

You decide to work out, even though you really hate sweating and taking the time to go to the gym. But it’s a perfectly nice gym and very accessible and free because you’re a student, so you know you need to go. You bike, fervently and fast, for twenty minutes and are inordinately pleased when you manage to make 4.8 miles. At a decent resistance too! You grant that maybe this whole exercise thing isn’t too horrible after all, even if you are bright red and melting. You then do a few arm exercises and are appalled by how slender your arms are and how little weight you can manage. You know you aren’t the Hulk, but you are a little put off.

New Growth:

A fellow gardening novice, heretofore known as Fun Size, comes to your room for some dirt. She hast two marigold sprouts that are quite happy and perky, but need to be transplanted into a bigger container. You have potting soil and she has the pot, so gently, you show her how to free the roots and dirt from their current spot and sit them in the dirt-filled pot. Then you both finish filling the pot with dirt and press the soil firmly into place. You reach to push one stem a little further to one side and hear a little snap. You freeze in horror. You both have been doing so well at not killing things and all of sudden, you have just killed a friend’s plant. She dissolves in laughter as you dissolve into near hysterics and fountaining apologies. You are so very sorry. Finally, you both resolve to gently stick the split stem back into the dirt to hopefully take root and keep growing. Fun Size says she forgives you and you genuinely hope the plant will be okay because it is not nice to hurt other people’s plants.

Time:

It’s time for you to begin writing again. There are no more time excuses (there will never be time), or worries about content (there is always something and nothing to write about), or just sheer apathy (that never builds character). You miss it and you know you need it and fear of being trite and ordinary and unimportant is not the point. Writing is the point. And you know it. So you open the tab. And you write.

Excitement

This morning, I woke slightly earlier than normal, but I didn’t mind. Not too badly.

Because I was going to get free pancakes.

 

So I pop out of bed, start getting ready and I’m not sure what drew my attention, but suddenly, I realize: there is a three inch roach on my ceiling. A ceiling that is shared by my three sleeping roommates.

Containing the spontaneous profanity that tried to spew forth at my surprise, I gathered my wits and a tennis shoe. Then I climbed atop my desk chair, prayed for sure aim, and swung.

I hit, but he fell, like he ought to have, but THEN he started running and he most certainly should not have done that. And he ran straight to my closet. There is small pile of shoes (a pair of flats and my boots) in front of my closet and that is where he disappeared. Tentatively, and with much trepidation, I plucked and tossed each shoe until I uncovered my quarry. Apparently, I had dealt him a death blow, because he was no longer moving. I hit him twice more anyway, for good measure.

I disposed of him quietly, simply and with much disgust by scooping him up on a sheet of paper and burying him in our trashcan.

 

And then I sliced my finger open on a lint roller. I have no idea how I get to lead such an exciting life.

Plays Ramble On

I am dehydrated and distressed.

Every time I go to a play I tell myself that I need to take water and then I’m like, but you can’t drink it during the play so why bother? And then we get to intermission and I’m thinking, THIS is why you should bring water because now you’re thirsty. And instead of concentrating on the play, now you’ll be thinking about how thirsty you are.

 

And sometimes it’s a welcome distraction, not thinking about the play. Plays force you to think with your emotions. They wrench you into an experience you’ve never had to instill empathy you didn’t think you were asking for. Plays make you uncomfortable. They make you confront realities you can’t bear. They make you laugh at things you didn’t think were funny before, because now you understand. But they make you cry for the same reason. Plays also rub raw your jagged edges, your exposed serrated wounds.

“I have experienced emotional trauma at a work of fiction”

But maybe it’s traumatic because it isn’t fictional. It brings you to terms with your own life and mind. And it only hurts when it’s personal.

 

The play I saw tonight was beautiful. Childishly whimsical. Hurtful. Unexpected. Off kilter so as to restore balance.

It reminded me how desperately I want to write. How I want to make words that hurt people to heal them. How to make people feel and understand and connect but also be by themselves. And I can’t do that yet.

But I shouldn’t quit trying.

No matter how many false starts and wrong themes and bad brushstrokes happen. There are words that I haven’t killed inside me yet. I haven’t stifled them all yet. They can’t all be gone. I just have to gently breathe them back. Coax them to come. I can’t keep pushing away and quenching them to make my insides stop. To make them stop hurting and being so loud and forcing me out of society and functionality. Because the words are what make me actually work. They give me a means of being a part of society.

They make the hurt less.

And no I didn’t misspeak. I said what I meant about the hurt being made less. When you look something square in the face, it becomes so much less scary. Anticipation is always worse than the actual event. And reality is never as bad as our nightmares.

Maybe that’s what God’s grace being sufficient for the day means. We don’t get a free pass on our fears because our fears and terrors are too big. We get grace for reality.

I just need to find it.

I need to not die and wither in this never-ending, day-to-day, blase existence.

Because every day is wondrous. There is a sky. Every. Day. I don’t want that sky and the wind and feel of my own hands to get overridden by homework and textbooks and the smell of musty carpet.

 

It’s saying goodbye to some dreams. And saying that I will lead this ordinary, provincial life so that I can eventually reach my other dreams. The real ones. The deeper ones. The ones that are right outside.

James Weldon Johnson

On Saturday night, I heard pieces of African American history told in speeches and poems and interviews. One Voice was a beautiful, stirring performance by Jeremiah Dew. One of the very first pieces he recited was a poem by James Weldon Johnson. I realize this is the second day in a row that I’ve used another person’s words for this blog, but I think this is something we should all read. At least once. If not more than once. So here it is.

Go Down Death

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband–weep no more;
Grief-stricken son–weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter –weep no more;
She only just gone home.
Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God’s big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.
And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!–Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.
And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn’t make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God’s command.
And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She’s borne the burden and heat of the day,
She’s labored long in my vineyard,
And she’s tired–
She’s weary–
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.
And Death didn’t say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven’s pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning’s flash behind;
Straight down he came.
While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn’t see;
She saw Old Death.   She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I’m going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.
And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn’t feel no chill.
And death began to ride again–
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.

Lyrics I Love: Fountain of Grace

In light of Acts 15, where divisions in the church where finally resolved and condemned for what they really are (preferences and pride), Dr. Coleman wrote a song. The song was about grace. Grace that is not and can never be based on merit. Grace that we all need, circumcised or not, well-dressed or not, vegetarian or meat eater or liberal or conservative. God died for our sins and if we accept that, we are His.

Fountain of grace at Calvary,

The Son of God has died for me.

Grace undeserved, so full and free,

This fount of grace has rescued me

And to this fount each day I go,

Confessing sin He already knows;

And in His grace He pardons me –

This fount of grace keeps cleansing me.

 

A fount of grace God now provides

To all who turn to Jesus Christ.

Hearts cleansed by faith, then Spirit-filled,

Equal they stand at Calv’ry’s hill.

 

Fountain of grace for others, too,

But in my pride I them refuse.

I lift myself about their state,

And scorn to share this fount of grace.

O Lord, to You in shame I bow,

Hypocrisy confessing now;

I revel in grace shown to me,

Yet hold it back from those in need.

 

This fount of grace from Calvary is free to all,

Not just to me;

So how can I this grace deny

To someone else’s desperate cry?

 

A fount of grace God now provides

To all who turn to Jesus Christ.

Hearts cleansed by faith, then Spirit-filled,

Equal they stand at Calv’ry’s hill.

Beyond the Brink

To all of you who think that I am some sort of technilogical genius…

You’re wrong.

 

I may work for IT, but that means nothing. I am capable of turning on a computer. I can make Word documents. I can even Google.

But today, I once again came face to face with my mortality. And by that I mean my limited sphere of tech knowledge.

I had to use a Mac.

 

Now, Apple has produced some lovely, functional machines. But I have PC-ed too long to have all this “exit in the left hand corner” nonsense. But today, I did successfully set up a remote desktop connection from the Mac to a PC.

And that was basically the sum of my work today.