What Really Happens to Christians at Liberal Schools?

I’ve been hearing it since the beginning of time.  “You’re lucky you are where you are now, because in college, people will treat you differently for being a Christian.”  “At college, people will really attack your faith.”  “Be really careful around liberals, because they hate Christians.”

I made a mention in my last post of how ridiculous I think this is, but now I have the answer to THE question: What really happens to Christians at liberal schools?

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Here’s a bad shot of my school, taken on my phone

 

In a word, nothing.  Or nothing bad that is.  Yes, you will meet people who disagree with you.  Yes, your beliefs will be challenged.  And yes, you might question everything you ever believed.  But in my mind, these are all good things.  I did come to college to get educated, didn’t I?

Now I can’t speak for every school, everyone you might meet at these schools, and every setting etc.  I can only speak from my experience.  To be honest, I haven’t actually started classes yet, so I don’t know if professors will try to force me to sign a paper saying “I don’t believe in God.”  Though I seriously doubt it.*

That said, I do believe I have been thoroughly exposed to so-called “liberal college culture”.  I am attending one of the more liberal schools in the country, and my experience here began with a service project for first-years, which was a rather liberal program.  To top it off, I was in the Gender and Sexuality focus area, which may have been the most liberal focus area at the liberal program at the liberal school.

In case you are still doubting my amount of exposure, here is a picture from a game we played:

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The red category is anatomy and the purple category is miscellaneous

 

Okay, if you were half as horrified by that picture as my mother was, you’re probably wondering how I survived.

When I walked in, I was afraid.  I was afraid everything I heard before was true and the people I was about to meet wouldn’t accept me because of my background or faith.  In reality, I found my new friends more accepting than the vast majority of people in Christian circles.  Yes.  More accepting.

By the time I left, I was almost a different person.  I’ve gained a lot of knowledge, some of it interesting, some of it… less necessary.  I’ve gone from some one who knew next to no LGBTQ+ people to someone who wonders if straight people (especially straight guys) are a myth.  But I also finally had the chance to speak out about issues important to me and to be heard.

The people I’ve meet here– religious and non-religious– want to talk about all viewpoints and meet people with all beliefs.  They don’t reject me because of my faith, and I don’t reject them for their beliefs.  My belief system, faith, and sense of self have all grown in ways they never could have without the people here.

If you simply respect the differences in yourself and other people, you’d be amazed what can happen.

*This post has been in the works for a long time, so I actually have been to classes.  And yeah, everything was fine.  We’ve discussed religion but from a neutral standpoint.

 

 

Reflections of a College-Bound Homeschooler

Hey guys!  I am (surprisingly) still alive, and I think I might start a journal series about my transition to college.  Hopefully it will be interesting/ helpful to whoever may happen upon it.  If not… then at least I think it will be helpful to me. 

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There’s a long road ahead…  (Picture mine)

 

Last year, I felt like I was a part of an inhumane social experiment.  For most people, senior year is your last year with all your friends in high school.  For me, it was my first year to be homeschooled full time, making it my first year without my friends in high school.

Now, I did still have friends–good friends– but my friends have a nasty habit of moving to different continents and filling their schedules up, so there wasn’t a ton of interaction.  I spent the vast majority of my waking moments hunched over my laptop in the corner of my room, trying to get through the work to finish the year.

But I made it through.  More than that, I made it into Boston University, which I am told is an accomplishment.  What exactly does this entail?  Well, for one thing, I am going to be surrounded by people.  A LOT of people.  And these people– in general– have a different belief system than the one I grew up with.  To say the very least.

As you can imagine, I feel as if I’m jumping from a freezer to a boiling hot vat.  Okay, that’s an odd metaphor, but you get the idea.  It’s a transition.  For one year, I spent most of my time alone.  Next year, I’m not sure I’ll hardly EVER be alone.  For most of my life, I’ve lived in a very conservative, very religious community.  Next year… that won’t so much be the case.  That may be the biggest change.

Back home, the waters were easier to navigate.  You read the Bible every day and never questioned it… or traditional interpretations of it.  You never swore or used the Lord’s name in vain.  You tried to date “the Godly way” (which usually meant kissing dating good-bye).  You never talked about sexuality, and if you did, you referenced the Bible in every sentence.  Men were men.  Women were women.  There was no in between, no changing.

Basically, there were several unspoken norms and rules you never challenged.  If you did, people still loved you, but there were consequences.  Everyone thought I was a wonderful person.  Because I scarcely challenged the rules.  Out loud.

In my head.  I challenged all of them.  Every last one.

The thing is, I learned the script.  I knew what to say and when, what to believe.  I knew the beliefs that would keep everyone happy with me.  It was easy, and I played along.

Now I’m leaving that world, and I’m discovering something very important.  My old social script is useless.  Of course, I’d guessed that, but I didn’t guess that I wouldn’t have a script at all anymore.  At a place like BU, where there are people from all sorts of religions, beliefs, and backgrounds, there is nothing you can say that will make them all happy.  Maybe some statements will make most of them happy, but not all.

In this situation, I have a few options:

  1. I can stick to the old script, which I never completely liked and most of the people I come across in Boston REALLY won’t like.  Scratch that plan.
  2. I can try  really hard to find a new script at BU.  I think I’ve already discussed why I don’t think this will work.
  3. I can find my own convictions and stick to them no matter who I offend.  I like this plan best, even though it’s the hardest to execute.

So great.  I’m going to construct my own system of morality.  I have one… partially.  See, throughout the process of searching through what I believe, I came across a monumental realization: growing up in the community I did, where morals were all but decided for you, it’s very hard to have convictions of your own.

That’s right.  In a place infused with family values, strong religion, and unity of beliefs, personal convictions become an endangered species.  Not extinct.  Endangered.

Although I love the people I grew up with, sometimes I grew frustrated when they repeated their parents’ political beliefs verbatim when I asked who they would vote for.  Or when they wouldn’t challenge a teacher on something wrong.  Though the truth is, I did it, too.

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Time to fly solo (Picture mine)

Now it’s time to explore new morals, compare and contrast, and decide which beliefs are really mine.  I’ve discovered a world out there where gender is non-binary, people evolved from monkeys, and inclusion is of upmost importance.  I don’t know how much I agree and disagree with this world yet, but I’m going to find out.

I can see your eyes bugging out at the end of this, homeschoolers. 🙂  Wish me luck.

 

 

 

Christmas

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:10-14 (NIV)

Graduation Day– The Hidden Truth

Today is Saturday, which means it is time for me to continue this story.  Honestly I’m not entirely sure how much I like it myself, but some of you seem to be enjoying it, so I’ll continue.  For those of you who are interested here is part one, part two, and part three.  For those of you who are not interested, here is a summary of what’s happened so far:

It’s graduation day at Jude Christian Academy, an international Christian school.  Joe, Ruth, Fred, and Annemarie all should be graduating.  Something happened the year before that makes them all feel uneasy today.  It made Joe fail his classes last year, preventing him from graduating.  Ruth did better, but barely.  Fred is graduating valedictorian, but something is bothering him.  And Annemarie… is gone, but she’s watching them.  When Fred gives his speech, he emotionally falls apart, and it is revealed that Annemarie is a ghost.  (It’s much more interesting when you actually read it.) 

Joe

funny what the weather does sometimes.  when I walked home from graduation, it was pouring buckets, and you’d think it’d be sunny, ‘cause it was supposed to be happy day, you know?  and last year, with all that crap that happened, it was sunny.  every freaking day.  i really hated the sun for shining like that.  i know it’s dumb, but i did.

though during that time, the sky did have the decency to rain on one day.  i remembered that a little better than i wanted to.  i was sitting outside during the service.  just sitting there, letting myself get soaked and shivery cold.  it was actually the last time i talked to ruth.

“joe, why aren’t you listening to the service?”  she sat down next to me, pushing that frizzy blonde hair out of her eyes.  always getting concerned for others, that ruth.

“i don’t wanna.”  i didn’t look at her.  i just couldn’t.

she sat there for a while.  “why not?”

“’cause.”  i figured i had to tell someone, and it might as well be her.  “’cause I don’t care what that idiot pastor has to say.  it’s all a load of crap.”

then she gave me that look.  that oh my gosh I thought you were a better person than that how can you say such a thing? look“joe, I know you’re going through a hard time.  my golly, we all are.  but this isn’t the way to deal with it.”

“then what is the way to deal with it?”

“turn to god, joe.  find his love, his comfort.”

“oh yeah?  well, what did that comfort do for Annemarie?  did god’s love help frank become a good person?  and don’t even get me started on jacobson.  then there’s us to talk about.   we all believed in god, and look where that got us.  i’m done.  i’m just sick of the whole thing.”

she turned kinda pale and trembly.  “no joe.  no.  please, please don’t give up.”

“i’m not giving up on everything.  just on god.”

ruth looked so hurt and upset that for a moment, i kinda regretted sayin’ all that, but not really, ‘cause it just felt so good to say the truth.  she started to say something, then she just shut her lips and walked inside.  and we never talked after that.

and now that i could look back, it wasn’t just depression that made me fail all my classes my junior year.  it was that i hated jude christian academy so much.  ‘cause I could believe in god before i went there.  and you know, i make about as much sense as the weather.  i’d wanted something bad to happen to the school for so long.  now it had.  but it didn’t make me feel happy.  i just felt empty.

Ruth

I could only remember three times when my family left me alone like this.  (When our dog died, last year, and today).  Not even mom tried to talk to me, which she usually did.  But I was kind of relieved, because there are sometimes you just want to be alone.  (Like when you’re staring at a picture of your kindergarten class and you think it might kill you.)

Taking a picture is like taking a piece of the world and freezing it forever, so that even after your world shatters and rebuilds itself a million times over, the world you took a picture of still exists in a small way.  But sometimes pictures just tell you how much you’ve lost.  (Like right now)

First on the left was Fred, with his crazy carrot hair and a splash of freckles.  (His looks never changed much, but I hardly recognized him anymore.)  Then came Joe, with sparkling dark blue eyes (which no one would remember without pictures because he stopped smiling) and his perfectly combed brown hair (which has been a mess ever since he lost his smile).  Then came me (and I can’t name all the things I’ve lost) and then came Annemarie (the biggest loss of all).

And I couldn’t stop thinking about Joe, and how life is so unfair.  (I know everyone says that too much, but that’s because it’s just so true).  Because last year, when the world fell apart, I stopped doing my school work, too.  I was just as bad as Joe.  And now here I am graduating and heading off to university, while Jude Christian Academy refused to give Joe a diploma.  So instead of doing what he wants this summer then going to the university of his choice, he had to do summer school and then go to community college until he could transfer.  (not that there’s anything wrong with summer school or community college, just that Joe should have had the choice)

That wasn’t because he was smarter than me, or dealt with the trauma any better than me.  Here’s the truth.  Mr. Jacobson didn’t like him.  Joe was ADHD and never a serious student like the rest of us, so Mr. Jacobson was happy for an excuse to throw him out.  I, on the other hand, was a just the kind of studious, happy, church-going kid that he wanted at his school.  So I was allowed to keep attending school and graduate.  It was so unfair.

I picked up another picture from the floor, one of our junior class, of all the people who had been my best friends throughout the years.  But even though I loved all of them, (I did, really) Joe, Annemarie, and Fred always had a special place in my heart.  Now Fred thought I hated him. (which if I’m honest, I did a little.  And Joe definitely did)  Joe and I hadn’t talked. (which was all my fault.  I really hated myself for showing him judgement when he needed love)  And Annemarie…

Blinking back the tears, I thought about how much I missed all of them (so much that it physically hurt).  Right then I made a decision.  I pulled out my phone with shaking hands, and for the first time in over a year, I texted Joe.  Coming to the graduation party tonight?

            Because even though I didn’t know if he would come or not (or if he would even read a message from me) I knew that we all needed each other more than ever now.

Fred

I didn’t go home after graduation.  I just took off and roamed the city without telling anyone where I was going.  My family didn’t call, so they must have known where I was, or at least that I wanted to be alone.  I had only done this once.  Last year.

As I walked around the park by myself, still wearing my graduation outfit, I thought over everything that happened, down to the last detail.  I remembered how Principal Jacobson stood in front of the room.  I remembered how we were all still talking and laughing then, since we didn’t know what he was going to say.  I remembered someone wondering where she was, then me feeling relieved she wasn’t there.  I remembered hating myself for that later.

But most of all I remembered what it felt like when Principal Jacobson announced the news.  All of the sudden the whole world started sobbing and screaming, but I just sat there, feeling like I had been run over by an eighteen wheeler.  I didn’t know if I should feel loss, pain, guilt, or indifference.  I felt all of them but the last one.

Then after that day at school, I just wandered around the city, not sure where I was going or where I came from.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t do any of my homework assignments, but no one noticed, because pretty much no one did homework that whole week.  What they did notice was that one day later, I started doing my homework again.  I was actually probably the first person in my class to start doing homework again.  And I started doing more homework than ever before.

Everyone thought that I did homework because I didn’t feel as upset as the others.  That wasn’t true.  I did homework because I felt as upset as the others.  I just dealt with it differently.  Even though I always played it cool and made jokes about having senioritis, I almost never stopped working.  It numbed the pain, somehow, and I thought I was accomplishing something.

Now that I was walking through the city again just like last year, I saw that I had accomplished nothing.

Annemarie

Here’s the awful truth about what happened last year.

            Here’s the tragedy that tore the world apart and took me away.  That revealed the dark side of everyone I know.  That perhaps showed our lovely school community for what it was.

            I died.

            The world piled on pain after pain, shoveled on shame, and tore away everyone I trusted.  Until I decided it wasn’t worth it.  Nothing could make me live through another day.  I was through.

            So I killed myself.

            I had no pills or poison, so this is what I did: One day after school, when no one was home, I went to my kitchen and took the biggest knife.  Then I locked myself in the bathroom.  And I cut.  I cut one smooth line across my left wrist.  For good measure, to speed the process, I cut the other.

            And I watched my life pour out.

            I left the world

            Drop

            By

            Drop.

            Now I was a ghost, watching from above.

Author’s  note: I don’t believe in ghosts haunting places.  I’m not sure if I believe in people watching us from Heaven, as happens in this story.  I just used it for the sake of the story.

Graduation Day (Part 1)

Well, it appears that I missed my first scheduled post. >.<  Sorry, but I was BUSY.  Anyway, this story has been on my heart to write and…. yeah, we’ll see how it turns out.  

Disclaimer: Although the setting of this story is very similar to the one I grew up in, it is not necessarily based on that setting.  None of these characters based on real people, and none of these events are based on real events.  In other words, while this story might relate to my life in some ways, it is entirely fictional.

Joe

i straightened my tie in the mirror, trying to remember the last time I even bothered to put the thing on.  then i remembered the funeral, and it all came crashing down on me so quick that I wanted to just throw the stupid tie off and forget the whole thing.  or something dumb like that.  before anyone could walk in, i washed off my face a little so that no one could see how my eyes got all puffy red the way they do right before I cry.

funny.  i hadn’t gotten all emotional like that in a long time.  it made me want to forget about the graduation and just stay home like i wanted, but i promised them i’d be there, and though they can be kinda lousy, they’re all i really have.  if i’m honest.

so i walked out the bathroom door and went over to the kitchen to grab one of the muffins mom made.  she’d been trying to make a lot of my favorite foods ever since i lost all that weight last year.  it’d worked some, but i was still skinny as a pencil.  when i walked down the hall, i could feel dad glaring at me, even though he had his face stuffed in some old newspaper.

figured he’d be kinda mad today, considering the circumstances, but i didn’t really want to think about all the ways i’d earned the title of world’s most disappointing son.  failing my junior year and not graduating today was just one thing on the list.  when i ran into mom in the kitchen, she gave me this kinda sad smile that made my insides all twisty turny.  i was used to disappointing dad, but letting mom down really hurt.

“oh.  you’re going.”  her voice sounded surprised when she said it, which made it all worse.

“i said i would.”  well, we both knew that didn’t mean much.  i said i’d do all kinds of things.  like graduate, for starters.  “you?”

“i’m afraid i can’t joseph.” seriously, she’s the only one who called me that anymore.  she put on a fake smile and pushed a plate of muffins at me.  “i have a bible study today.”

yeah, figured it’d be something like that.  always some bible something or other goin’ on with her.  and of course my parents wouldn’t get off their butts for this.  who’d go to a graduation their kid wasn’t apart of?  well, a lot of people I guess, but not my folks.

“i can’t be late.” i grabbed a muffin and acted like i was in some big hurry, even though i had plenty of time.  i think she might’ve called out one last thing to me, but i didn’t hear.  i just wanted to get graduation over with as soon as possible.

Ruth

“Essie, do you have any waterproof mascara?” I asked my older sister, who was using the same mirror as me.  The twins (Abby and Grace) were using the other one.

She smiled and handed me a grey tube, keeping the other hand on her curling iron.  (Essie was always the more put together one)  “Afraid you’re going to cry?”

“Oh I know it,” I answered, wresting the old thing open.  “My golly, I’m going to bawl and bawl to no end.  I just don’t know how I’m going to make it out alive.  Agh!  I got some on my nose.”

She laughed, pulling the curling iron out of her hair and letting a perfect blond lock fall to her shoulders.  “Here.”  She took a tissue and dabbed at my nose.  “I don’t know how you manage, Ruth.”

“Well I don’t either,” I groaned, making another feeble attempt at applying makeup.  (Without mascara, my eyelashes are invisible.)  “I make messes wherever I go, and I’m probably going to make a mess today somehow.”

“You’re not going to ruin anything.  Just relax and have fun.  It’s your day.”

“Easy for you to say.  When you graduated from high school, you got through your entire valedictorian speech without a hitch.”  I screwed the mascara cap back on, examining the clumsy makeup around my blue eyes.  It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing.

Essie turned to smile at me, which just showed how perfect her makeup turned out.  (People told us we looked alike, but she was much prettier.)  “I stayed put together for the speech, but you should have seen me after the ceremony.  It was pretty bad.  But you don’t have to worry about ruining a speech…”  She stopped short, realizing what she said.  Without saying anything else, she started fixing her hair.  (It was already perfect)

I pretended like I needed to get something from my room, hiding my face so she wouldn’t see.  I ran down the hall to my room, almost tripping on my little brother on the way.  (That’s the problem with big families; you’re almost never alone.)  When I reached my door, I shut it behind me and sat with my back to it, relieved that no one was there.

I knew I was overreacting, but I wasn’t upset that I had finished middle of my class, even though I should have had a chance at salutatorian, maybe even valedictorian.  Burying my face in the skirt of my dress, I fought back the tears welling up in my eyes.  The whole day felt surreal and wrong, like we shouldn’t even be allowing it to happen after what happened last year.  (But there’s no pause button on life, and the world doesn’t have enough time to put itself back together when tragedy strikes.)

Fred

“Drew, if you don’t get off the sofa, you’re never going to make it to my graduation,” I told my little brother.

He yawned.  “I can’t Fred.  I’ve got senioritis.  Like you.”

I laughed.  “Dude, you’re in sixth grade.  If you have senioritis now, you’re in serious trouble.  At least I didn’t get it until I was a freshmen.”

“You got it and you’re still valen—valetori- something.”

“Valedictorian,” I corrected, pushing him off the couch.  He was still wearing his space ship pajamas, the ones I passed down to him.  I was a little embarrassed I ever wore them now.  “But I never would have made it this far if I didn’t learn to overcome the seniorities and work.”

“Okay,” he groaned, dragging himself off the couch and jumping up the stairs to his room.  Old Drew.  All he ever wanted to do was become like me.  If only I was really worth living up to.

“Valedictorian,” I muttered under my breath, turning to straighten my bowtie in the mirror and smoothing my bright orange hair before running through my lines again.  Hey, maybe I was being a little self-conscious, but today was my day.  After everything I’d earned, I didn’t want anything to go wrong.

As I practiced my role of happy-go-lucky, 4.0, Bible-reading valedictorian, I started to wonder what would happen if I showed the real me in this speech, the Fred that wasn’t so pretty.  I couldn’t help but picture it—everyone at Jude Christian Academy looking at me with disgust, my family crying with disappointment, and, worst of all, my classmates looking at me with these faces that told me they  knew all along.

“It’s not true,” I muttered.  “I worked hard.  I deserve this.”  But I couldn’t shake the feeling that the valedictorian tassel didn’t really belong to me.

Annemarie

            From above, I watched the community of Jude Chritian Academy filing into the room, chatting and laughing as they took their seats.  I wondered how I should feel about the place, the international Christian school that used to be my home.  But I stopped calling it home long before I found my real home.

My eyes scanned the room, searching for familiar faces.  I caught a glimpse of my mother, smiling as she talked to my old English teacher.  Her grey eyes, the ones I inherited, had a sad, distant look in them. 

But no tears. 

Not yet. 

Noticing the empty seat next to her, I searched for my father.  No sign of him.  My eyes flitted to my mother’s left hand, which bore a tan line around the fourth finger.

No rings.

            I didn’t feel surprised, or even disappointed.  Ever since I was old enough to add two and two I knew they didn’t really love each other.  My Choice gave them the excuse they had always been looking for.  Perhaps they’ll see it that way one day.

            Then I looked behind the stage, where the graduates stood, adorned in awkward blue gowns.  They laughed and hugged each other, whispering about nervous butterflies and plans for college.  If I still had pain, I’m sure I would have felt at least a twinge of sorrow at the sight.  I could be standing with them, getting everything they have if I had chosen differently.

            Out of curiosity, I searched for the person wearing the valedictorian tassel.  Then I saw it, draped around a pale neck holding a head of red curls. 

Fred. 

Of course. 

Had I not been well beyond bitterness, I would have felt it then.  Despite what everyone said about the students at Jude Christian Academy loving and caring for one another, I knew he would have done anything to rise to the top and get that tassel.  Anything.

            If Fred got valedictorian, Ruth should have made salutatorian.  The thought gave me some hope as I searched for her rosy cheeks and blonde hair.  But when I found Ruth, I saw her dressed just like the other graduates.  So she didn’t make it.  Pity.  She deserved recognition more than any of them.

            Although I knew he wouldn’t have any academic awards, I looked for Joe, too.  I looked into the face of every one of them two, three times without seeing his brown hair and dark blue eyes.  If I could have felt upset anymore, that would have upset me most of all.  As much as I wanted to have him near, I didn’t want him to end up like me.

            I wondered how they felt today, doing this without me.  Most probably would have ignored my absence, but I knew I must have haunted the consciences of some.  That was why I Chose to leave, after all.  Even though I knew now that I had made the wrong decision.  Suddenly I felt the urge to wave, just to see if I could get their attention, if they would see me.

            But I knew I couldn’t.  I was a ghost to them.  I always had been, in away.  I flitted about the halls without being there, joined in conversations without speaking, seen but never noticed. 

            And now

            I had

            Completely

            Faded

            Away.  

CW 14: Memoir in Letters and Notes

For this week’s assignment, we were to create an autobiography by choosing ten books or songs that described us or our lives.  I chose five books and five songs and ordered them chronologically.  If you want to learn too much about me, proceed reading.

Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales

Believe it or not, this book represents the evil side of me.  Although I loved all these stories as a child, my favorites were about the naughty animals.  Tom Kitten became my role model and I pretended to be him almost as much as I pretended to be Peter Pan.  It never occurred to me that it would be strange to pretend to be a boy; if it was only the boy characters that were naughty and went on adventures, then by golly I would pretend to be one of them.

But don’t get too worried; there is an innocent reason this book makes this list.  It is one of the first books I can remember reading, marking the beginning of my life-long love affair with books.

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds

Although I have not actually read this book, I still feel like it represents an important part of my life.  I am a third culture kid (TCK), which in short means that I belong in multiple cultures without belonging in any culture at all.  I’ve grown up with an American mother and a Romanian father, living in Romania while going to American schools, having dual citizenships, and hearing two languages in the home.  Needless to say, my life is a sufficient mix of both Romanian and American.  This sometimes causes difficulty and makes it hard to identify myself.  (Where am I from?)  Although it also comes with great advantages, such as experiencing other cultures in a way most people never do.

The Call

Another downside of the TCK life: people are always moving.  Just about every year since kindergarten, I’ve had to say goodbye to close friends.  I’m not a very emotional person, but this song makes me feel so bittersweet.  It so perfectly describes the sad and hopeful feelings of goodbyes.  I also love it for being on the Narnia soundtrack, as Narnia was such an important part of my childhood.

The Travel Book

One of my favorite parts of living in Europe is the ability to travel.  Since Europe is a condensed continent with rich history, hundreds of world famous tourist sights are only a road trip or a short flight away.  Some of my favorite places I’ve visited are England, Italy, and Austria.  In the future I really hope to see Norway, Ireland, and to explore the other continents.  Experiencing other cultures and places has greatly influenced me, and I plan on living in several different countries in the future.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

This is possibly my favorite hymn.  I really feel like it describes my spiritual life.  Some of my favorite lyrics are:

 Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above

During worship times, I’ll admit my mind is very prone to wander.  When I hear this part of the song, it always feels like a call to focus my attention where it needs to be.

Fireflies

This was one of my favorite songs in middle school.  Although I don’t listen to it too much anymore, (there are only so many times you can listen to a song before getting tired of it, and I listened to this one literally hundreds of times) I still like its fun, bubbly sound and nonsensical lyrics.  It seems to describe how I feel when I’m in a happy or excited mood.

The Writer’s Handbook

I have never read this book either.  The reason I chose it is simple: I enjoy writing.  I’ve been thinking of ideas for stories for about as long as I can remember.  In fact, it’s a miracle I’ve passed all my classes with the amount of story planning I did in the classroom.  Throughout the years, I would go through spurts of writing.  I would think of an idea and work hard on it for a while, then move on.  About a year and a half ago, I starting taking writing much more seriously.  I was sitting on the couch thinking when a book idea suddenly came to me.  So I started writing it, and I haven’t stopped writing since.

For the First Time in Forever

Yes, I’m actually putting a Frozen song on this list.  The first time I watched the movie, I was amazed at how well Ana’s and Elsa’s emotions in this song describe my split personality.  Part of me, like Ana, hates isolation and wants to be the first person to sign up for every social event and to meet new people at every chance.  Yet another part of me, like Elsa, cringes at the thought of social interaction and wants to hide in my icy tower all day.

The Last Sunday

This is possibly the most autobiographical work I’ve written.  The characters’ relationships are almost exactly like my relationships with my friends, meaning yes, we are as mean to each other as Nadia and Aidan are.  Although that isn’t the only reason this work reflects my life.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had to deal with friends moving away many times before.  And soon (although not as soon as Nadia) I will be leaving for college.  I feel like I could have had almost this exact conversation with my friends before.

Face Up

Lights has so many relatable songs it was really hard to choose the right one.  I eventually decided on “Face Up” because it conveys so many emotions: exhaustion, stress, despair, determination, and hope.  I play this song when I feel any one of these things, or when I’m just tired and don’t feel like waking up.  As the song reminds me, I try to keep my face up, keep fighting, no matter what the situation.

Cw13: The Snow Globe

Ah, Christmas.  The time of year we gather around our families, stuff ourselves with foods, and listen to sappy stories we wouldn’t tolerate at any other time of year.  This is one of those stories, told in the form of poetry.

Note: to focus on the story, I kept rhymes simple and didn’t really do meter.

Gather ‘round boys and girls, I’ll tell you a tale

Of a young child so cheerful and sweet

It was only fitting they called her Joy,

With her smile that could light a dimly lit street.

At Christmas her charm only grew

Indeed her very heart seemed to glow,

Lighting even the darkest of souls.

No sorrow did she seem to know.

She’d skate and romp around with glee

Enchanted by each falling snowflake

“At Christmas,” she thought, “all are merry.

With loved ones ‘round, there’s no heartache.”

Though as the years went by and by

The light in her eyes slowly snuffed out

As she saw the cruelty of the world

And wondered what all its hate could be about

Further down and down she fell, into

Her own dark pit of fear and dread

Loneliness became all she knew

Dark thoughts running ‘round her head

A mere shell of the girl she once was

Joy hoped Christmastime would bring

A light to guide her through her pain

To hear just one angel sing

Yet when Christmas came, nothing did change

Sugar plums and sweets all lost their taste

Snowmen became but things that melted

The sound of bells was erased

And all this made her start to wonder

If there was nothing to Christmas after all

If the bliss she once felt was but naive

Never to return, only a melted snowball

“Alas there’s nothing left,” said she,

Growing ever closer to breakdown

Only one thing she still held dear,

A snow globe holding an enchanted town

For hours she gazed at its snow-laden streets

And its inhabitants always filled with cheer

With a soft sigh Joy said to herself,

“If I could be anywhere, it’d be here.”

On one bleak Christmas Eve she did wish,

“Please let this peaceful town be my home.”

Then slept in her bed and in the morning found

herself confined within the glass dome

At first she let out a great shout of glee

Thrilled to leave her own world of drear

for the charming little cottages,

deciding, “I think I could belong here.”

Yet upon meeting the little townsfolk

Her heart overflowed with dismay

For not a one was happier than she.

No hope in their world, only decay

Yay, each person was lonelier than the next,

Although they celebrated Christmas year round.

Nothing more did Joy want than to leave,

Yet no way out was to be found.

So she spent her days wandering about

Hoping for any means of escape

From her unbreakable prison of glass

And from her world in such a dismal shape

Hundreds of times she passed the manger scene

Sitting unmoved in the town’s square

And wondered, “Why would God send His son

to a world like this?  Why would he care?”

And in that town where the same snow fell each day

Joy kept returning to the lonely scene

Never knowing why she did, only

Wondering what such a thing could mean

After a time, she knew not how long,

Joy lost hope, letting her life ebb away

‘Till she found herself at the manger

And thought, “Perhaps I should stay.”

She wondered how there could be such a gift

And decided if there was, some hope remained.

“If God hasn’t yet given up on the world,

Then neither shall I,” was her refrain.

Joy prayed the way she did as a child

And when her eyes opened they had back their light.

She spent the day spreading mirth all around

Helping and giving with all her might

Indeed when the day came to an end

The whole town had more cheer than before

That night Joy went to sleep with more peace

And awoke back at home once more

But no, her story was not yet over,

For she found her own world a little too blue

Yet instead of withering in grief

She spread her gladness to them too

From that day forward her determination

Never wavered, even on doleful days

Joy gave hope to all, at every time of year

As proof one could survive the darkest of haze

Up upon her shelf she kept a snow globe,

Hoping she’d never forget what she learned

in that little town about the manger’s gift

Something given that could never be earned

Now if you don’t believe I speak for true

Let me say, Joy is I and I am she

Yes, dear friends, the tale I have recounted

Is in fact the story of me

CW 7: Dan and the Mountain Lions

This week’s assignment was to retell a Bible story in a modern setting.  You can probably guess which story I did.  😉  Though I’m warning you, it got to be a bit long…

Hidden in a backroom, three seniors at Chaldean Academy conversed in hushed tones.  “I don’t like it.  I don’t like it at all,” Regan said, impatiently drumming her perfectly manicured nails.  “Class president, StuCo president, now valedictorian?  This has to stop.”

“Totally agree,” Al said, popping open a soda can.  “I’ve hated that guy ever since he convinced Principal Nezzar only to allow healthy food in the cafeteria.  Seriously, that stuff is gross.”

“What makes it worse is he’s one of the orphan kids that got shipped here a few years ago,” Regan ranted.  “We were the ones attending Chaldean first, the ones with respectable family backgrounds.  If anything, we should be outdoing him in everything.  It’s mortifying.”

“Yes,” Edmund agreed ruefully, not moving from his perch at the window.  “Yet how can we rid ourselves of a problem like Dan?”  He stared at the mountainside with hawk-like intensity, yellow-green eyes searching the mountainside as if he would find the answer to his question etched in its rocky slopes.

“Simple.”  Al tossed a potato chip in his mouth.  “We knock him down from one of his positions.”

“Knock him from one of his positions?” Regan rolled her sharp blue eyes.  “Easier said than done.  Our new principal is practically in love with the dude.”

“Put him on academic probation?”

Regan slapped the backside of Al’s head.  “Ow!” he complained.

“You idiot.  He has the highest GPA in our class.  If this goes on he’ll be valedictorian, and we can’t have that.”

“Okay, you’re right.”  Al scrunched his features together in thought.  “We can get him in trouble for the time when he… when he…”

Regan sighed dramatically.  “That’s just it, Al.  Dan has a record more spotless than Principal Mede’s new car.”

“So he does,” Edmond agreed, twisting his head around to reveal a crooked smile.  “But there is one thing we can use against him.”

There was a sharp knock on Principal Darius Mede’s door.  “Come in,” he called.  The deep brown door swung open to reveal three familiar faces.  “Regan.  Albany.  Edmund.  What brings you here?”

“Do you have a moment?” Regan asked.  She gave him a smile like an iced over lake.

“Why yes.  I’m always pleased to speak with three of Chaldean’s finest students.  Is there a concern you wish to discuss?” Principal Mede replied, shuffling some papers and straightening his spectacles.

“As a matter of fact sir, there is,” Edmund replied, sauntering forward.  “You see, we were under the impression Chaldean Academy offers only the finest education.  That it stands as an intellectual haven.”

“Erm, well yes,” the principal stammered.  Under Edmund’s stare, he suddenly felt reduced to the size of a mouse.  Did the students of his school think him incompetent?  He couldn’t have that; as principal, he wanted—needed—to be respected.  “Has something caused you to feel otherwise?”

“Actually yes.”  Regan stepped forward, placing her hands on the enormous oak desk.  “It has come to our attention some students believe in God—an old-fashioned, childish fantasy virtually disproven by science.  No modern, intellectual school would ever support such an idea.”

“Thus in order to protect the serious students, those desiring a true education, we propose a rule be made to ban any recognition of God,” Edmund added.  “Moreover, you’ll be renowned as the most progressive principal Chaldean has seen yet.”

“And how will it be enforced?” Principal Mede asked, leaning forward in his office chair.

“Any kid caught praying or reading a Bible will be kicked out pronto,” Al answered, jerking his thumb at the door.  “Because really, no serious student would believe that mumbo jumbo anyway.”

Principal Mede reached for his pen to write down the new rule.  “I quite agree, Albany.  But given the fact we’re a boarding school positioned in the middle of nowhere, what do you propose we do with expelled students?”

Edmund let out a laugh that sounded more like a screech.  “Send them out to the mountain lions for all I care.  See what their God can do for them then.”

Dan pushed through the crowd to see what the great fuss was about.  Nearly the entire student body of Chaldean Academy was gathered around a paper posted to the wall.  A few of the kids threw strange glances at him, whispering behind his back.  Being Chaldean’s top student, he was used to getting attention, but somehow it felt different today.  “Hey Dan!  Hear about the new rule?” his friend Tom greeted him.

“New rule?  Is that what all this commotion is about?” Dan asked lifting his head in hopes of getting a look at the paper.

“Yeah.  Anyone who shows any sign of believing in God is kicked out.”

Dan dropped the notebook in his hand.  “What?!”

“You heard me.”

“But… that’s absurd!”

Tom shrugged.  “Well, Principal Mede is real serious about it.  No one’s been kicked out yet, but he swears he’ll do it.”

“No.  I won’t stand for it,” Dan said with enough force to cause a few heads to turn.  He started pushing his way back through the crowd.

“Listen, Dan,” Tom started, following his friend.  “I know you’re serious about your religion and all, but just drop it.  It’s not worth it.”

“Not worth it!  Tom, following God is anything but not worth it!”

“Look.  You graduate in a few months.  After that you can do all the God stuff you want, but for now just put up an act.  Remember, you came from the orphanage.  If you get kicked out of this place, you’ve got nowhere to go.”

Dan took in a deep breath.  “I know.  But God’s more important to me than a place to live.  If I get expelled, I get expelled.  Then I’ll trust Him to provide for me from there.”

Principal Mede’s door swung open, revealing a trio wearing triumphant expressions.  “Please knock before you… oh, it’s you three again.  What brings you back to my office?” the principal asked.

“We caught some one breaking your rule today,” Al said with a smug grin.

“Oh?  And who might that be?” Principal Mede asked, fidgeting with his pen.

“Dan,” Regan replied.

“Dan, surely he didn’t…”

“Oh but he did,” she interrupted.  “He prayed before every meal today, just like always.”

The principal put his face in his hands.  “Chaldean Academy hardly has a better student than Dan.  Perhaps we could make an exception.”

“Are you sure, principal?” Edmund challenged.  “A move like that would put your authority into question.”

Principal Mede shifted uncomfortably.  “But… Dan came from an orphanage.  Where would he go?  These parts aren’t very safe, with the mountain lions…”

“That’s none of our concern.  A rule is a rule and you must enforce it,” Edmund insisted, staring deeply into the principal’s eyes.

“Very well,” the principal consented after a long moment.  “Dan will be expelled.”

After the three students left his room, the principal slumped in despair.  How could he do this to his favorite student?  But Edmund was right; his authority could not be compromised.  He would send Dan out for one night, just to show the school he meant business.  Then, if Dan was unharmed, he could return to Chaldean in the morning.  One night out in the open couldn’t hurt.  The mountain lions wouldn’t really come, would they?  “Please stay safe,” he muttered, suddenly wishing for a God to pray to.

The moment the first ray of dawn struck the morning sky, Principal Mede ran out the door, most of Chaldean Academy following behind.  He hadn’t slept a wink the entire night.  Each mountain lion cry he heard chilled him to the bone, and there were more last night than he’d ever heard.  A garbage can lay on one side, its contents spilled on the ground.  So they were hungry, too.  Of course.  He collapsed in despair.  There was no way Dan was still safe.

After some time—he wasn’t sure how long—there was a hand tapping his shoulder.  “Umm… Principal Mede.  I heard you were looking for me.”

The principal jumped up to find Dan standing before him, dark hair ruffled and school uniform wrinkled from his night outside but otherwise unharmed.  “Dan how are you… how are you..?”

“Alive?” he laughed.  “Well, I saw quite a few mountain lions last night, so I can only think of one explanation.  God protected me.”

“Yes… yes, He must have.”  Principal Mede stood up, facing the students who had gathered around the scene.  “Students, I would like to announce that from now on, Chaldean Academy will teach the truth.  Dan’s God is the true God.  Anyone who disagrees with this being taught can see me.  And you, Edmund, Albany and Regan,” he said, turning to face the three flabbergasted students.  “Are expelled.  Pack your bags and be gone by lunch.  I don’t want to see or hear from you again.”

So justice came to the plotters and Dan prospered for the remainder of his high school career, but most importantly, Chaldean Academy became a place where the truth was taught: Dan’s God was real and alive.

J7: My Favorite Bible Story (or Stories)

“Favorite” questions always throw me off.  Whenever I’m confronted with questions such as “What’s your favorite book?”, “What’s your favorite movie?”, or even “What’s your favorite food?” I’m forced into an awkward silence because I have no idea what to say.  I simply have so many favorites I cannot choose.

Another one of these questions is, “What is your favorite Bible Story?”  Since the book is filled with more life changing stories than I can fit on this page, I’ve decided not even to try to choose one favorite.  Instead, I’ve composed a list of five that are among my many favorites, not listed in any particular order.

  1. The story of Esther.  I’ve always loved this story, perhaps because Esther is one of the few female protagonists in the Bible.  She shows remarkable courage, which I really admire.

2. Balaam and the donkey. (Numbers 22)  This is a rather bizarre story, which is exactly what I love about it.  It shows God can use anything in any way to accomplish His will.  Not only does the thought of a donkey rebuking his master make me smile, but it reassures me God has the power to work in amazing ways.

3.The story of Deborah. (Judges 4)  Between Deborah’s awesome leadership and Jael killing Sisera, this story features a lot of girl power.  Similarly to Esther, I enjoy this passage because it shows women displaying great strength and bravery.

4.Ehud. (Numbers 3:12-21)  Yes, I’m serious.  I really do love this story, and not just because I’m a deranged person who finds it amusing.  In Ehud’s time, being left-handed was regarded as strange, though God was able to use this for a greater purpose.  It reminds me God knew what He was doing when He created every person and can use the parts of us that we don’t like.

5. Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11) There are so many reasons to love this story.  It really shows what kind of a person Jesus was.  Instead of giving judgment he shows grace and forgiveness; instead of being prideful and hateful he shows love.  Moreover, He used a few simple words to send all the accusers away, scratching their heads and reevaluating their lives.