The things we learn…

Some of you may know that I recently became an English education major. If you want to know the story about that, I would encourage you to look through my blogs from November or December, and there is one written specifically for your curiosity about this particular facet of my life. 🙂 

But this blog has a different story to tell. I’ve been learning some “stuff”, but it’s kind of a long story. Earlier in the month, I heard some news that really rattled my soul around. Someone I deeply respect and learned from in high school is no longer in the teaching profession. I can’t really explain it without sounding like a creeperish weirdo, but I started to feel that if she wasn’t teaching anymore, that my inspiration was gone–somehow suggesting that I couldn’t teach, or that maybe I didn’t want to anymore. I’m not really sure why I reacted the way I did to that news (I suppose this is a topic for my journal or something. Better not get into that.), but I seem to be slowly overcoming it. More importantly, I seem to be taking ownership of my journey to become a teacher. I find myself asking the question, “why?” often in my life, and this questions is certainly asked in the context of my major. I am of the mindset that teaching is a lifestyle, and whether or not I stand before a classroom, I will still always have the desire to inspire other people to think. In this respect–no matter what the future holds–I will always be a teacher. 

Yesterday, I sat with my English advisor for two hours while we drank coffee talked about everything from chapel, to the life of the mind, to teaching, and yes…we did mention squirrels once or twice. He looked at me through his cool “I’m working on my doctorate” kind of glasses and said to me, “I can already tell you that you are going to be an excellent teacher. You are thoughtful, articulate, and you care. We need teachers like that.” The thing I loved about those words is that they weren’t pinning me down or sucking the life out of me. He wasn’t telling me where to teach, what age level, or what kind of school. He didn’t tell me that thinking about higher education is ridiculous (something I often tell myself). His words simply gave me a picture of the teacher inside me. This was refreshing. I didn’t feel the way I normally do–panicky and sweaty. I walked away more curious about why I want to teach and what would motivate me.

As with most of my conversations in life, the visit with Almost-Dr. Esh remained in my mind throughout the day today. In American Education class, we were discussing the main philosophies of teaching. Some of the main ones were progressivism, behaviorism, essentialism, existentialism, and probably some others that I’m too lazy to look up. It was becoming clear from the dialogue in class and the thoughts I was having in my own mind that I had some different philosophies than some of my classmates. There was a separation between me and them, and I rather liked it. I didn’t feel afraid, or that I wasn’t as good as they were. Instead, I felt strong and confident (at least, mostly) when I rose my hand and said that I was leaning toward existentialism. One of the things that made this a little bold to say was the worldview (a word I’m sick of hearing about) through which we were examining these philosophies. I think my professor really wanted us to view them objectively but we  just couldn’t quite do it. During Monday’s lecture, we had been grouping them into Biblical or Humanistic categories. Something inside of me was like “WHOA WHOA WHOA!!!!!!” That isn’t fair. No way. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to get up in front of a classroom and teach everyone a lesson (pun. haha). When we separate Humanism in its entirety from Biblical ideas, we are being foolish. I believe in absolute Truth: Jesus Christ is the son of God and is my salvation. BUT, I think it is very, very dangerous for us to make little Bible boxes and start throwing potentially great ideas into the “sinful and wordly” box. This is one of the reasons I swing over to the Existentialist viewpoint of things. The Bible IS absolute truth, but let’s be honest; we can study it through and through and still never fully comprehend God’s awesomeness (or the intricate ways in which He meets with each of us). This is what my notes said about existentialism:

  • The individual being is of utmost importance
  • the universe is indifferent
  • the subjectivity of reality
  • the lack of predetermination (or fate)
  • Life has no inherent meaning
  • individuals assign meaning to their own lives.

I know what you’re thinking. I must be a heathen. No, relax. There’s more.

Theistic Existentialism (this would, in some ways, include me):

  • emphasis on the individual and personal responsibility–but the individual is before God
  • the existence of a moral system give to us by God in no way limits our responsibility and necessity to live our own lives with intelligence and volition.
  • recognizes the chaotic and ferocity in man, and presents it to God for forgiveness, healing, and strength
  • God require us to make choices, and He honors them.

I know. You’re still thinking I’m a heathen. Cool it and pay attention to what I’m about to say. (These are my thoughts, not from my notes.)

  • A relationship with God is incredibly nuanced and personal. We ARE a part of the Body of Christ, but we are also uniquely designed individuals. We DO have a responsibility to take ownership of our beliefs. No one can force us to read the Word and strive to know God better. However, the individual is NOT before God. I just think we need to take great care not to stomp on the power of a deeply personal journey with the Lord.
  • I do believe that God’s Word serves as our moral guidelines. HOWEVER, this does not excuse us from thinking for ourselves and searching for deeper knowledge about “things”. What would be the point in obeying God if we don’t even know why we’re doing it? We need to think! This is not emphasized enough in the church, and I’m glad a “worldly” viewpoint can at least allude to it. 
  • The bullet point in my notes that talks about God requiring us to make choices…I don’t know where I stand on this one, except that God absolutely gives us the power to choose. I believe the most demanding thing God has done is lead His son to the cross on our behalf. This act has a beautiful demand to it: death and resurrection. BUT, God won’t force us into this death. A relationship with God is–just that! A relationship. You choose your friends. In the same way, we choose whether or not to walk with Him. In regards to the statement about God honoring our choices…hmm…we need to be careful. God is Holy and we are not. I believe He is pleased when we make choices in an attitude of surrender to Him. But He will not honor a defiant or rebellious choice. 

So, what’s the verdict? Heathen? I don’t think so. 

I know this has been rather lengthy and sporadic and terribly written. But I’ve just been thinking about all of this and how this relates to my future. In my class notes, it says that Existentialism as a teaching philosophy is all about helping students find meaning. Now, I know this can be dangerous. I already know that the meaning of life is to know the Lord, but knowing the Lord is so intricate and specific to the individual. If I’m going to be a teacher one day, I want to help students think about things, and hopefully that can help them discover this great Meaning of life. I have a lot to learn, so I hope I haven’t said anything to make myself look too foolish. My main point is that we need to learn to think about why we’re doing things. If I’m going to be a teacher, I need to know what my motivation is. And I think the meeting I had with my advisor and the philosophies I’m learning have empowered me to discover the first true glimpses of that motivation….my motivation. Oh, the things we learn when we think. 

 

 

Advertisements

Pain Management

I got up early this morning, mostly out of necessity. But I’ve always like the idea of coffee-sipping students shuffling through the student center in the darkness of the morning with books in hand. So, I tried to remember this, or something equally as intriguing when my alarm shook me awake rather early this morning. It was one of those mornings when I jumped enough to wake Mallory up. Apparently I inhale really sharply when I first wake up…so, that’s frankly a little embarrassing  I also didn’t know what day it was or why I was awake. Yep. It was one of those mornings. Happy Monday.

A little breakfast and some fresh brew seemed to do the trick, and I had some time to people-watch and study in the mallway of the student center. I watched the masses of zombie-like friends walk together to their 7:50 classes. Around 8:00, some sporadic coffee junkies made their way to McConn. Soon, another rush of students will come through on their way to their 8:55. I will join them, perhaps a little reluctantly. 

Hidden in the middle of the crowds of ‘someones’ were the lady from the food court,the maintenance guy with the belt of tools strapped to his pants, and the custodian in her red cleaning garb. I have seen them before, but they remain nameless to me–“just” people who work behind the scenes and hardly ever make an appearance on stage. I smiled at the custodian and watched her push a cart of cleaning supplies onto elevator, and as the door closed slowly, I watch her look down into nothingness. Pain Management. 

I’ve had people insinuate that I’m dramatic, but I don’t think even I could exaggerate the kind of pain some people carry with them. It truly is a matter of management. Why is it that we look down when we walk? Why do we smile when we happen to look up and meet the eyes of another someone, as if we were caught being too sad, too real? We have something in common that we don’t enjoy discussing. We want to hide it; we want to look down while the elevator doors close and take us away from the staring. The probing. The wondering. The examining. The judging. The living. Make it stop, we think. Make it stop. Pain Management. 

I hate to start out the Monday on such a gloomy note, but the less sleep I get, the more I realize the world doesn’t take a day off from pain. If my job is to smile at the custodian, so be it. If that’s what it takes to help someone manage her pain, so be it. Because it helps me manage mine, too. 

 

A “Good” Heart

Today someone said to me, “You have a good brain.” Of course, I was quite flattered, and showed it by looking at the ground and shaking my head in disagreement (crap! I forgot to say “thank you”….). Not long after that, the person said, “I think you’re grad school material.” That person was my professor, so…notice the phrase, “I was quite flattered”. I continued to feel quite flattered until I realized that the better compliment would have been, “You have a good heart.”  A a bit of suffocation came over me as I walked away, and an inner panic of sorts sent my mind whirling in circles. What has happened to me!? What have I done to my character!? That’s when my “good brain” was like, “Shut up, Satan!” (referring, of course, to Satan…not my professor. Just to clarify!) Something inside me just reminded me that head and heart are connected. If my brain is “good”, it can translate to a heart that is also “good”. Not by my power, but by my choice, God can use intellectual pursuits to increase my spiritual pursuits. How comforting to know that learning isn’t selfish. True learning is about discovering ourselves as we discover the world so that we can serve God and others. When the focus isn’t about becoming Dr. SmartyPants, a little learning might be just what God will use to give us that “good” heart. Huh. 

A Little Lackadaisical After All

Lackadaisical. I learned that word from my vocab book in high school. I never use it, had to look up the definition, and definitely didn’t know how to spell it on my own. I can’t even recall ever reading it in a book. But it came to mind as I began to type, and I thought hmm…I better go with it. A person like me doesn’t just throw away a good idea…even if the idea is pretty risky. Nearly every contribution I make in literature class is one giant risk. Sometimes there are casualties. Many squirrels don’t make it out alive. Granted, this is a blog post, and basically nobody reads it. In some ways, the risk of being risky (like that) in a blog post all but disappears with the audience that was never there in the first place. Gosh, I feel better already. Thank you, negativity. 

So, lackadaisical. If you’re a normal person (Mrs. Cox, this doesn’t apply to you. You’re still normal), you probably don’t know what it means. For all you know, I could be making this up! Ha! (It’s a real word. Trust me.)

I learned just a few minutes ago in Advanced Writing class not to do this (use a definition) in writing, so I will take this opportunity to do the opposite of what I was told. Bold, I know. 

Lackadaisical: apathetic, careless, lazy, relaxed, halfhearted, laid-back, easygoing, laissez-faire, lax (laxative!? Oh…the ones that look and taste like chocolate are interesting. Just thought I’d share. ), casual, slapdash (Note: this word should be used at least 3 times everyday.)

Antonym (the 2003 version of Word which I’m doomed to use gives me only one. Feel free to use your new knowledge of the word to come up with others so that you can blog about them in your spare time): energetic

How to spell it: put random letters together, beginning and ending with the letter ‘l’.

Pronunciation tip: Pretend like you’re stuttering. That might help. Also, it sounds like the word “daisy” is in there somewhere. Try to verbally express your love for daisies, and you might get it. 

My first thought was, this word doesn’t describe me at all! I care about countless things, and I generally pour my whole heart into everything I do. And I am not lazy!   

But, when I ponder it just a little more, I can’t help wondering if that’s my problem. Maybe I could actually be faulted for not be more lackadaisical. I can’t remember the last time I was calm about anything. I have no idea what my body would feel like without tension and exhaustion from constant worrying. When I realized my computer crashed and I would have to redo all my hard work, I tried super duper extra hard to be calm. Did you catch that? What I had set out to do was impossible because I was trying and worrying and stressing so much. I failed to take the more lackadaisical approach to staying calm. Interesting. Thought-provoking. Blog worthy.

I’m fairly certain that things always happen for a reason. Computers crash for a reason. We fumble over words in an interview for a reason. We show up late to class for a reason. We have disappointing moments for a reason, and it’s ultimately to protect us. I’m not saying that God makes bad things happen on purpose; I think we do most of this to ourselves, and He simply uses the mess we’ve made to communicate to us…a huge act of grace, if you really think about it. When we get too preoccupied with everything going on, God will remind us of His presence. And frankly, we don’t always like the way He shows up. I was walking to the student center today, fuming and on the verge of tears, when I finally just snapped up to Heaven, “Ok fine! You got me to talk to you again, and I’m asking you for help.” See what I mean? When God sees that we’re distracted or that our hearts are in the wrong place, He’ll “check us”—that’s what I always call it, anyway, although I don’t know why. He’ll use the circumstances of our lives to remind us of our great dependency on Him. Without Him, I couldn’t have written all those papers on my laptop in the first place. I wouldn’t even have a mouth to mix up my words with if He didn’t give me one when He formed me inside of my mother’s womb. And I sure wouldn’t be walking at all without the functional legs He gave me, let alone walking into class 5 minutes late. I need Him.

Here’s my point: maybe we can’t be lackadaisical in every sense of the word, but synonyms like “relaxed”, “laid-back”, and “easygoing” might be worth considering—especially if that gives us a chance to chill out and think about how much we need God. Learn from my mistake. Working hard and achieving great things won’t happen at all without a willingness to take on a few lackadaisical characteristics. 

The important things

In each of our hearts, there is a place where the most important things lie. They come together and begin to grow out of us into our behaviors and attitudes. They make us who we are and why we are. Here are some of mine:

I believe in smiling at people. Even if it’s awkward, even if I just ate oreos, and even if the person doesn’t smile back–still, I believe in smiling.

I believe in integrity. I believe in being honest with myself, with my peers, and with God. The world wants to steel my heart, and it will take my character too, if I let it. But I believe in fighting for an honorable life, an authentic life, and a life of purity.

I believe in learning hard lessons. I believe that all of us must learn to think at a broader, deeper level day by day. And to me, acknowledging my own ignorance is an essential part of that process.

I believe in people. I believe that my professors are humans, and that the girl who annoys me is human, and that I am human. This knowledge makes it easier to love others and myself, and helps me to lower the impossible expectations I have placed on the people in my life.

I believe in saying “excuse me” and “thank you” and “nice to meet you”. And I believe in looking at the ground humbly and stepping out of other peoples’ way because I’m not better than they are.

I believe in asking questions and giving answers.  And I always raise my hand first.

I believe in squirrels, with their furry tails and little skittering feet. And I believe that talking about them has opened the door to wonderful relationships with other people.

What do about you? Do you know what you believe?

 

Every part

When was the last time you thought about how God wants every part of you? I wonder how many of us would be jumping around during worship and singing songs about “take my life!” and “where you go I’ll go!” if we realized that He doesn’t really give a rip about the fact that we have really good voices, or that we have nice smiles on our faces while we sing those songs. Oh, and I wonder what made us forget that clapping is pointless if we’re ignoring the words to the song we’re jamming out to. All I know is that somewhere in the middle of moving my lying lips, I realized that I would rather not sing those songs at all if I’m not going to mean it. I’m not going to sing about giving Him everything until I’m willing to actually do it.

When I lie awake at night, I can feel him tenderly touching my heart, waiting patiently for me to yield it over to him completely. You see, God isn’t going to just grab something from us that we won’t give freely and willingly. Sometimes I resent Him for that. How could He put me in the richest country in the world, give me gifts that surprise me as much as they surprise others, and then expect me to give it all back to Him in a daily act of worship? How dare He ask me to die to myself. Thankfully, God can handle my sour attitude and bitter questions. Say what you will about my spiritual life, but I mean it; when was the last time you realized that God wants everything? 

I look around at my peers here at IWU, and resent them for the way they seem to live their duplicitous lives without consequences. They sing the same songs I do in chapel, bow their heads and close their eyes during the same prayers I do, and ultimately walk out unchanged…just like I do. The problem is that the guilt nearly eats me alive, but they all seem fine. Maybe it’s because God hasn’t revealed to them what He’s revealed to me: He wants nothing short of everything, and that means a daily death.

For a long time, I loved how I lived my life. Church and God on Sundays, and everything I wanted the rest of the time, with some good deeds and Christian words mixed in. But that doesn’t line up at all with what the Bible says. It’s not even close! And there are people in my lives right now who have given every part of themselves to the Lord, and their lives look nothing like mine. To them, all that matters is pleasing the Lord and becoming more like Him. To me, all that matters is getting everyone to like me and becoming more successful. See what I mean? Something’s gotta give, and it’s my heart. I know it well.

I could have written about how I just saw a large crow on a trash can outside, or how I’m craving chocolate. I could have written about how excited I am to get coffee with a professor on Thursday. But what I need most is to be honest. I’ve always boasted about my authenticity, and I feel that it’s important for me to communicate this truth to whoever reads this. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not asking for counsel or saying that I’m not okay. I’m actually doing really well, and I happen to know the answers. I recognize that it is healthy to have these points in our spiritual walks. If we never have any struggles or questions at all, I don’t think we would every really grow. The point, in this blog and in this life, is to be transparent. That’s the point of this. So, here’s to growth!

 

 

We like routines.

To use a cliche, I am a creature of habit.  I thrive with routines! Even in my toddler years, I understood that Honey Nut Cheerios were to be at my disposal in the darkness of dawn…every. single. morning. It’s a good thing my mom has always been an especially patient women. Thanks, Mom! 🙂

But my metaphorical appetite for consistency grew bigger than Cheerios as I got older. In school, I learned to love the schedule of it all–constantly holding me accountable and giving me a sense of direction. I probably love methodical tasks almost as much as Blankie. 🙂 There were times (although I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it now) when I used to dread weekends because there wouldn’t be a routine! (Oh, how I’ve learned to cherish free time since I’ve been at college!) 

I suppose some of this routine business is just a part of our development as human beings. We have to learn the mundane things like eating, showering, and sleeping in some kind of order to keep us alive and healthy. Maybe the rest of it (“homeworking”, working out, reading, practicing instruments, adopting squirrels, massaging gerbils) just falls into patterns, habits, and schedules without us really thinking about it. If routines don’t fail us with the important things in life, surely they’ll come in handy as we live out the simple, somewhat mindless activities of our day to day lives, too. As our personalities form and our character expands into the person we end up being for the rest of our lives, we aren’t just living out physical habits, like putting on Germ-x every five minutes after holding gerbils; instead, we form thought habits and attitude habits, too. These become some of our most cherished routines, whether they’re good or bad. Bingo. This is what I’d like to reflect on today: “the life of the mind”–a phrase my English advisor once used, but probably in a different way than I’m going to. Because I can. Shall we? Don’t answer that.

I’ve noticed a few things about “the life” of my mind lately. This may seem obvious, but really everything we do comes from either our mind or our heart. And if our minds and hearts are prone to forming habits and routines, it’s pretty important to keep them “in check”–to be sure that they aren’t damaging our identities or compromising our character. That is, above anything else, my greatest fear. So, maybe this blog is more for me to write than it is for you to read, but just hang in there. You got this. As I was saying, some of these routines have become obvious to me lately:

1. My mind and heart often prompt me to be alone. This routine way of thinking is something I’m not really opposed to. Some people are drawn to crowds. Not I! I am repeatedly fighting the temptation to retreat! If I were a gerbil, life would often be grabbing me by the tail and snatching me back each time I would try to scurry away from the crowds and noise of my present reality. Note: college students are loud, touchy-feely, and often travel in packs. Just so everybody knows. Another note: People like me struggle with this…just a little.

2. I talk to myself. *blushes* I have conversations while I’m in the shower (it’s the best alone time I’ve got!) that I wish I could be having with real people. I practice being articulate and loving; passionate and lively.  This is a routine that my mind is drawn to. I love communicating and explaining. So my mind practices. No big deal. 🙂 Plus, you all know you talk to yourselves too. Busted. How embarrassing.

3. In an attitudinal sense, I struggle with negativity. Something simple, like a long line in Wildcat, can lead to me grieving the state of humanity (all the rushing and inconsideration of others). A paper or project that could be fun, ends up draining me, flustering me, and making me grumble. My heart is often throbbing for the condition of things…broken, ugly, ignored things. And like any selfish person, I often grieve for myself. Poor me.

4. I think in music. I also think about it, but that’s something entirely different. My mind pays attention to little things, forgotten details that resemble little nuances and harmonies in music. And, because I often think about music just as often as I think in music, I spend a great deal of my time with earbuds in. I like the pounding of drums in my mind and choruses echoing in my thoughts while I write papers and read books. I hesitate to think that this need for music in the background has negative implications, but I will say that it can easily isolate me. It doesn’t take long for me to be absorbed into a melody of some sort, so I have to watch it every once in awhile. Most of the time though, my music-listening habits help me do my best work and reach important conclusions about my life. So, I probably won’t stop listening to music anytime soon.

5. This one is probably common for most girls, but another habit in “the life” of my mind is criticizing myself for the way I look. There are SO many cute guys here at school. SO many. And I am SO single. To counteract my methodical murmuring of, “I’ll be single for life!”, I have to remember to be content in God’s timing and in the masterpiece that I am–inside and out. What can I say? I’m a work in progress.

Maybe this goes without saying, but we like routines. We really like them.