Reflection

I was asked to speak at Taylor’s All-Campus Communion Service tonight.  Here’s what I said.

I earned my undergraduate degree as well as my master’s degree from Taylor, and I can only begin to sum up all that I’ve learned here.

I’ve learned that a Polar Pop costs exactly 74 cents with tax, and that going to get one from Handy Andy is an event in and of itself.  And yes, I know it’s Circle K now, but that doesn’t matter.  It will always be Handy Andy.  I have never been more excited to go to a gas station for a coke than when I’m with my wing for a “Hands Ands” run.  My friends at home will never understand this.

I’ve learned that bowties will never go out of style as long as Randy Gruendyke still lives and breathes.  I’ve learned that when I’m away from school, I miss chapel.  I miss it because it’s with all of you, and in those moments where we all get caught up in something so much bigger than ourselves, I feel connected to the generations of the Church that have gone before us.

I have learned that knowledge is extremely valuable.  It is never a waste of time.

That the pursuit of wisdom is incredibly rewarding and terribly humbling.

That if you ask for wisdom, God will give it to you despite all your foolishness.  All your mistakes.

But more important than knowledge or even wisdom is compassion. Kindness.  Humility.  Love.

I have learned that people change.  Even the ones you care about most.  They change, situations change.  Life is change.  I used to hate when people said that to me.  I refused to accept it.  I wouldn’t.  But it’s true.  Life is change.  But God does not change, and if your relationships are rooted in Him, you will know the assurance that though some of your friendships may fade or look different in the future, you are bound by something deeper than this world can offer.  The most important relationships have continuity because we are bound in Christ and in his love, and nothing will ever change that.

I’ve learned that I’m not the person I want to be yet, but God is patiently working with me and making me into that woman.  I’ve learned that when I sin, when I mess up time after time, God doesn’t look at me and sigh with disappointment.  Even in my lowest moments, God sees me not as I am, but as I will be.  He never despairs that I won’t become who I’m supposed to be, because he sees the end result already.  Instead of a weak, selfish sinner, he sees a pure, grace-filled, truly good person.  Because each day, I am being made more like Jesus, and one day, I will be complete and whole.  Until then, I need to show myself grace, because God certainly doesn’t withhold it from me.  When God tells us to show forgiveness and mercy to our brothers and sisters, it also means that we should forgive ourselves too.

Finally, I’ve learned to love this dot on the map, surrounded by cornfields and a lot of sky.  I love this place, because it was here that I started the journey to growing up.  To becoming a person of substance.  I met with God in the cornfields, and on a front porch swing, and in the chaos of the dorms.  I met with him and lived with him and learned from him, here at Taylor.  And I am so grateful.

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Let Go, Hold On

The music of Ingrid Michaelson hums through my headphones, laced with the occasional whirr of the coffee grinder.  I am surrounded by friends, strangers, strangers that I wish were friends.  The cushions on this bench do practically nothing, and I am uncomfortable, but I stay here for hours.  I don’t want to leave, because even though I’m alone, I’m with them.  Hearing the overlapping voices, the intertwined conversations, the laughter peppered throughout.  I will miss this place.  I’ve decided to start saying my goodbyes now.  One goodbye a day, for the rest of this time I have here on this dot of the map that I’ve come to love so much.  Today, I say goodbye to the Student Union, with its ridiculous temperature fluctuations, its eclectic outdated architecture, its lack of sufficient space.  It has become the hub of my graduate school life.  I come here to work, to talk, to eat, to write.  I love running into people here, and enjoying unexpected fellowship instead of working like I “should.”  But really, this is what I should be doing…soaking up every minute with these beautiful, crazy people.  The clock is ticking, and I feel its hands pushing on my back, forcing me forward second by second toward a future that is still blurry, out of focus.  This moment, right here on the bench in the Union, however, is crystal clear and perfect.  And for now, it’s all mine.

 

Keep Calm

I apologize, my friends, for my absence on this blog the past month.  I’ve been working on finishing up my Masters thesis, and though that’s no excuse to ignore you, it has decreased my desire to sit and write anything at all.  My head is so full of thesis that I can’t seem to find the motivation to produce anything else.  Honestly, I’m having a hard enough time producing good work on this paper.  I’m pretty close to the end, and my initiative has dropped proportionately to the amount of paper I’ve finished.  So that means that I’m not very good at focusing right now.  My roommate knows this.  She has witnessed me sit for half an hour staring at my computer screen, then typing a sentence, looking self-satisfied and rewarding myself with a cookie.  “So industrious!” I think to myself, “You’ve really accomplished something here!  Now it’s time to watch a movie or take a nap.”  Needless to say, this style of work does not get me very far.  It seems unavoidable though!  At this point, every small sentence I wring out of my fatigued brain feels like a big achievement.  So…if I keep going at this rate, I should be done some time in 2016, along with President Habecker’s overhaul of Taylor University.

But seriously, I know I will finish this.  And I will finish this soon.  As my deadline draws nearer, the motivation will come.  And perhaps it will be a motivation of fear and desperation, but it will work.  Here’s my timeline, by the way:  March 30th, turn in complete rough draft to my advisor.  April 21st, turn in edited, absolutely final draft to the Bible department.  A couple of copies will be bound into books, and I will defend my thesis to the faculty sometime in May.  At the end of all this, they will hopefully give me my hood and a diploma and I will find a corner to huddle in for a while.

Thanks for being patient with me, readers.  As the Ministry of Information liked to say to the British public during WWII, “Keep calm and carry on.”*

*This has been my recent mantra.  Feel free to repeat it to yourself in a British accent whenever you are overwhelmed.  Perhaps pretend that you are the Queen Mum.  Trust me…you will feel better.

"Oh my, I daresay!"

**Update**  Oh no!  Now that I have written this blog post, I feel 0.00% motivation to work on my thesis!  The feeling of writing something has dulled whatever small inducement I had to work on the paper!  Curses!  Well…I’m gonna go have a cookie or something.

“This is the way college ends–not with a bang, but a whimper.”

Alright, maybe that isn’t exactly how T.S. Eliot phrased it, but it works for me.  I am graduating in three days.  And I’m skipping the last day of my college career.  Isn’t that delicious?  But really, the whole thing does seem a bit, well, anti-climactic.  I won’t actually walk for my diploma until May (which I’m happy about…I want to walk with my class), so there’s not really an event to make me feel like this transition is actually real.  I feel like I’m just telling myself I’m graduating…like it’s this big practical joke I’m playing on my psyche.  Well, it’s no joke, psyche!  You’re actually graduating and you’re actually entering a master’s program!  It feels good to finish this degree well, and my J-term class (Dead Sea Scrolls) has been challenging while not being stressful.  It’s been a satisfying way to end.  I know I’ve been writing a lot about grad school and graduation, but honestly, that’s just been what’s on my mind lately.  I’ll branch out to other topics soon, I promise.

A sweet surprise

Today I received a large envelope in the mail.  The address and beautiful handwriting belonged to my friend, Bree.  However, when I opened it, I found out that it was also from my roommate, Maria (Bree’s sister).  She is in Paraguay this month, and I am graduating from college in a couple days.  It disappointed me that she wouldn’t be here for that, even though it’s not like there’s an actual event that she’s missing.  Anyway, she arranged for many of my close friends to write me letters of congratulation and then had Bree send them all together now, during the final days of my college career.  I’m not sure I can explain just how much that means to me.  Maria knows how important words are to me, how much I value what my friends say to me in encouragement.  I read through all of the letters at once, laughing and crying in turns.  What a joy to hear from the people I love so much!  What good memories came to mind!  Maria’s thoughtfulness, and all of my friends’ kind words, completely made my day.  I just keep smiling whenever I think about those letters, waiting for me with support whenever I need it.

Thank you, my dear, dear friend.