Sunday, January 18

pen and pencil

I know, I know, Julia is posting TWO things in ONE weekend?!
I guess that's just the beauty of J-Term and where my heart's at right now.

I love being an SLA because sometimes it gives me a front seat to some of the AMAZING stuff God is doing, and it sure keeps me humble.
The other night I was talking with a bunch of my girls about their NT homework, and I watched one of them go through the same revelation that I did last year:
 Sometimes, the things we grew up hearing about God, spirituality, 
and other weighty issues aren't actually biblically founded.
Sure, everyone means well. No one does it intentionally. But when it comes to taking something that you believe about God, you really have to re-evaluate if it's a sound belief when you can't find a verse that says what you seem to think that it should.
This was attached to a conversation about a theology theory that our theology professors tend to share, which helps make sense of differing views: pen and pencil. Some of the things we believe, we [metaphorically] write down in pen. These are the things that we hold to be true; things that there is no debate over. God loves us. The miraculous mystery of the Trinity. Jesus' birth, death, resurrection, and our redemption. The rest we write in pencil. These are things that we still hold to be true, and that's perfectly okay, but they are not indisputable. God's relationship to time is one of the things my girls brought up; is God constrained by time? Does he know the future? Yup, we hit on the predestination // free will debate for a hot second in there. These are all things that we write in pencil.
When we discover the things that we thought should be in pen are shifting, aren't actually laid out in scripture, aren't as solid as we thought they can be scary. It naturally invites doubt, which brings along fear.
"What are we supposed to write in pen? Can we really even put anything in pen?"
That was one of their reactions to our discussions. When pencil gets shaken or erased to be refined, everything in pen can start to feel like it's in jeopardy.
A few things were tossed around... we put the ten commandments in pen, we put Jesus' life, death, and resurrection in pen. We put God's Sovereignty in pen. We put that God loves us in pen.

After a very captivating and convicting at Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church this morning, God and I had some serious work we had to do. Near the end of the service, we were given time to just sit and listen for the voice of God. The sermon was on God's calling of Samuel, and his response: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."
[That's seriously a really bold claim: to be a servant. The translation of "I have heard you" can also be "my ears have been pierced." The way a servant voluntarily submitted to their master for the rest of their live involved the master driving a nail through their ear lobe. Kind of freaky, but very convicting. When we tell God that we're listening, when we ask Him to speak, we are also volunteering to submit to Him eternally, no matter the pain, no mater the cost, no questions asked. We're essentially telling God, "Nail my ear to your door frame, for I have heard your calling and I'm willing to listen." There's your Greek / theology lesson for the day. ANYWAY..]
So, an entire sanctuary filled with roughly 800 people sat in complete silence, listening for God. My journal came out, and I started writing. It took the form of a letter from God of things that I can truly write in pen; the unshakable truths that I'm all to guilty of forgetting.
When it's written in pen, there are no exceptions.
And I've spent the past few hours processing that, beginning to write in pen the things I know of Him to be true.
I do not claim to have it all together, but I do claim to have one really big God.

I love you.
[John 3:16, Psalm 130:7, 2 Corinthians 5:14]

I complete you.
[Psalm 139:5, Ephesians 3:19]

I protect you.
[Psalm 27:1, Psalm 46:1 & 5, Proverbs 18:10, Proverbs 19:23, Isaiah 31:5]

I know your heart, even deeper than you do.
[Psalm 94:11, Psalm 119:168, John 10:14 & 27]

I long for your joy,
[Luke 1:14, John 15:11, Acts 13:52]

for I Am your Joy.
[John 20:20, 1 Thessalonians 2:19 - 20, 1 Peter 1:8]

I Am your Life.
[Genesis 2:7, John 6:35, John 11:25, 1 John 3:16]

Follow me.
[Matthew 8:22, John 12:26, 1 Peter 2:21]

Let me form you.
[Psalm 139:15, Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 1:5]

Let me transform you.
[Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 15:51 - 52, 2 Corinthians 3:18]

Let me bring about the whole,
[Matthew 12:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 - 24]

[Ezekiel 16:7 & 13, Song of Songs 4:7, Romans 10:15]

flawless life
[Song of Songs 4:7, Song of Songs 5:2, 2 Samuel 22:31, Matthew 5:48]

that I have planned for you.
[Psalm 139:16, Jeremiah 29:11]

You are Mine.
[Isaiah 43:1, John 10:14 - 15]

[Psalm 100:2, Mark 10:14, John 14:6]

My Child,
[John 1:12, Romans 8:16, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 6:18]

and rest
[Exodus 33:14, Hebrews 4:10, Psalm 23:2, Psalm 91:1, Matthew 11:28]

in peace,
[Isaiah 9:6, Romans 5:1, 1 Corinthians 14:33, Philippians 4:7]

for I have already won the war.
[John 16:33, Romans 8:31, Colossians 1:13]

Saturday, January 17

the future.

So many very random things worth saying, so little motivation until now to actually write them down, make sense of them, and share them in a way that makes at least a little sense.

The fall semester has now come and gone and honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of it. After a pretty rough year academically last year [which I’ve been told is normal, but I’m not terribly proud of], I was on the academic honors list this year, earned a semester GPA of 3.83 [that’s four A’s and an A-, our scale is a little tough] and brought my overall GPA up by almost a third of a point. This honestly was such a huge relief for me.
I know, I know, grades aren’t everything. I tell myself this all too regularly. My main scholarship was never near being in jeopardy, but my good standing in the honors program and minimal honors scholarship were for a semester. It was a hit to my pride; not so much bragging rights, but my belief in myself. Especially because this fall I was starting in on more major-specific classes, it’s a huge reassurance for me to know that (1) I’m capable of keeping up to collegiate academic honors standards if I apply myself, (2) I’m not going to be struggling in all of my important classes, and (3) I’m genuinely loving what I’m doing and learning so much that putting in the hours to get the grades doesn’t feel like work.

I love Social Work with my whole heart. I love the program here at Spring Arbor. I love the professors in the department, the outline and progression of classes, and the group of people forming that I’m going to be going through many of the classes with (which is mainly Juniors, as I’m a pseudo-junior:).
One of the most sought after respected professors in the major is switching to creating his own minor after this spring, and I’m so excited to be taking a very small and personal class with him.

This spring, classes are going to be wonderful:
        Adolescent and Early Adult Development [PSY306]
        Interviewing [SWK335]
        Practice with Individuals and Families [SWK340]
        Trauma Informed Child Welfare [SWK341]
        Honors Music Foundations [MUS152H]
I do well with goals; motivation and ideals help push me to be my best. If I maintain the grades I did this fall, I’ll have no problem graduating cum laude…which is an ultimate goal of mine (requiring a GPA of 3.7 overall). I know it’s lofty, but we’ve already established that goals really help me to thrive.

I’m taking Introduction to Economics [ECN101] in J term currently…three hours a day, every day, for roundabouts three weeks. It’s exhausting and I’m pretty sure it’s turning part of my brain to mush. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been told point blank that I’m going to be broke for the rest of my life if I continue with Social Work. Truthfully, there is no other subject I’d want to be devoting my money and four years of my life to studying. I’m not doing it with the hopes of making a ton of money, building a name for myself, setting my own hours as well as being financially independent and all of that. My dreams don’t center on financial stability, a big house, and hiring people to clean up my messes so I can live in luxury. My dreams do, however, involve supporting the people that parts of society has given up on, loving those who feel somehow beyond hope, and leaving people better than I encountered them so that, hopefully, they never have any need of me again.
So, to my economics professor, yes, I’m pretty sure that I’ve been made aware that I will not be a millionaire by practicing Social Work. I respect that you were in the field for a good portion of your life, and I’m sorry that you felt you had to find a different career to make more money in order to support your family or whatever complex explanation you give us for your becoming a lawyer and then an economy appraiser and professor. But please, I’d appreciate it if you’d stop reminding me of my financially bleak future so that I can focus on learning the material that you’re presenting me…which I happen to already know because, yes, I did have to take an economics class in high school, thank you very much.
The class is a piece of cake, especially because his grading scale is intentionally forgiving; a 90% is a straight A, an 80% a solid B, and a 60% is all that’s required for us to pass. Coming from someone who took a semester of Economics and could have remembered how to manipulate supply and demand curves with roughly 2 minutes of explanation, I’m pretty sure parts of my brain have temporarily turned to mush. Hopefully I get the brain capacity back in time to make this spring semester as wonderful as it has the potential to be.

I love being an SLA. My girls constantly push me to be a better person, and honestly, this position has a way of seriously keeping me humble. Every time I start to think that I’ve got my life and spirituality all figured out, someone comes with a question or a discussion happens or I have a breakthrough that seems so simplistic that, when I share with them, changes us all in little ways.
Little things…like why “love” is the greatest that remains, above faith and hope. Questions made complicated in their simplicity, like, “What does living like a Christian look like?” or, “Why are we so afraid of being vulnerable with each other?”
I’ve had to try to help the girls with their homework when they come to me with questions in their New Testament class [it’s a really deep, busy-work filled class of hard questions; the poor girls are getting about as much sleep as I did a year ago this month…not very much]. Theology debates and scriptural interpretations and what gets written in pen vs. pencil and what’s biblical vs. what’s taught as biblical and how in the heck we’re supposed to even begin to understand a God that is so far beyond our human expectations and explanations. I am continuously reminded of how little I really know in the grand scheme of our Unfathomable God and there is no better place to keep my heart.

I’ve officially got a job this spring. One hour a week is all that’s set in stone, but the chances are really good that I’ll be put on the schedule in the tutoring drop-in center as well. As of right now, I’ll be leading a required study session for five freshmen in English 104: College Writing on Thursday nights. It’s a system of teaching that I believe in because it’s essentially the way that I go over things with myself, only made formal and given to someone else to lead them through verbally. I’m excited…because even $7 a week is still $7 a week.

If all goes as planned, a year from now I’m going to be in Antigua, Guatemala. There’s a little bit of confusion and miscommunication in the application process, but that’s just par for the course as there’s a bunch of people trying to do the same thing and I’m so far ahead in the planning game. In theory, within the next three weeks or so I’ll have my application figured out and submitted for early admittance. I was supposed to go to a scholarship application meeting this past week, but I was the only one who RSVP’d and they lost my RSVP, so that meeting gets to wait a couple of months BUT it’s that scholarship that will determine if almost five months in Antigua will cost the same as five months at the arbor, or if it will be even cheaper. [Yup, you read that right. The study abroad program is one of the things that really drew me here; a minimum of three weeks is a graduation requirement and it’s figured into the price of tuition. While I was at orientation signing up for classes, all of the parents of registering students were given all sorts of information about pretty much everything, including study abroad. Immediately after that lecture I talked with my parents, and my dad picked Guatemala as the one he figured I’d be going on. He was dead on, and I could not be more excited.] Assuming it’s cheaper, I’ll be able to afford to take all 20 credits of my Spanish minor in those five months, fully immersed in a beautiful culture and language that I’m so excited to study.

All in all, I’m really content right now. I’m learning information and schools of thought that will undoubtedly help me in a future that I am so excited for.
Anxious, absolutely.
Secure, not really.
Confident, intermittently.
Worried, undoubtedly.
Hopeful, most certainly.

And exactly where I’m supposed to be.