Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spectrum of Personality

It seems like everyone generally has a favorite color. For my grandmother, it's undoubtedly blue. One look at her house would tell you that without a doubt. (I'll post a few pictures below to demonstrate what I mean... Yes, the whole house is like that, and as Nellie can tell you, there really are no words.) Anyway, throughout the years, my favorite color has changed, and I've often wondered what, if anything, that says about me during those periods of my life. I came across a website the other day that seemed to answer the question for me.

Now, I know it's not exactly scientific, but these descriptions are me in a nutshell. For the majority of my life, blue has been my favorite. About three to four years ago, a dark red comparable to maroon took precedence, and for the past few months green has definitely been growing on me and may take the top spot. For those of you who've know me during those times, I think you might see when you read the descriptions below just how appropriate they really are for me. Anyway, just a bit of fun...

Blue: Soft, soothing, compassionate and caring, Blue is the color of deliberation and introspection, conservatism and duty. Patient, persevering, conscientious, sensitive and self-controlled, Blues like to be admired for their steady character and wisdom. They are faithful, but are often worriers with somewhat inflexible beliefs and can be too cautious, and suspicious of flamboyant behavior.

Maroon: Harsh experience has probably matured the Maroon person into someone likeable and generous. It is often a favorite color of someone who has been battered by life but has come through. It indicates a well-disciplined Red personality—one who has had difficult experiences and has not come through unmarked but who has grown and matured in the process.

Green: The color of harmony and balance, Green symbolizes hope, renewal and peace, and is usually liked by the gentle and sincere. Greens are generally frank, community-minded people, fairly sociable but preferring peace at any price. Green people can be too self-effacing, modest and patient, so they may get exploited by others. They are usually refined, civilized and reputable.

And now for Grandmother's house. Be prepared to be amazed. Or aghast. Or something...

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Wisdom of Henri Nouwen

"You must decide for yourself to whom and when you give access to your interior life. For years, you have permitted others to walk in and out of your life according to their needs and desires. Thus you were no longer master in your own house, and you felt increasingly used. So, too, you quickly became tired, irritated, angry, and resentful.

"Think of a medieval castle surrounded by a moat. The drawbridge is the only access to the interior of the castle. The lord of the castle must have the power to decide when to draw the bridge and when to let it down. Without such power, he can become the victim of enemies, strangers, and wanderers. He will never feel at peace in his own castle.

"It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter or leave, but you will soon find yourself losing your soul.

"When you claim for yourself the power over your drawbridge, you will discover new joy and peace in your heart and find yourself able to share that joy and peace with others."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

needed words

Monday, April 20, 2009

much afraid

I know it's only been an hour since my last post, but I just realized something I wanted to share. I haven't fully processed it yet, but I wanted to say it anyway. It's not exactly profound, and it's probably not something you even care all that much to hear, but that's all right.

One of the basic elements for me in this process of deciding where I'm going to end up for the next couple of years for grad school has been my fear. I've placed a lot of emphasis on my fears without completely comprehending why. I still don't understand why. If I follow the lines of thinking that I have been recently, then whatever decision I make would be based on fear. If I decide to go to Abilene, it will be because I'm nervous about Boston and don't think I'm ready for the challenges it will present me with. If I decide to go to Boston, it will be because, although I'm still afraid what lies in store for me there, I believe those fears need to be faced and overcome. In the first scenario, I run to safety because of my trepidation, and perhaps justifiably so. In the second, I take steps, trembling as they may be, toward my fear and have to trust with all of my heart that God will provide and will see me through.

Now, I know this analysis is extremely simplistic and does not offer a thorough picture of my inner turmoil (which you probably wouldn't want to suffer through anyway), but I believe its simplicity holds some truth.

Firstly, it makes me ask myself who I want to be. Do I want to be the one who continues to live a relatively easy and non-threatened life spiritually and emotionally? Stay in my comfort zone a little bit longer and give myself a chance to be fortified? Perhaps I need that and the nurturing environment that Abilene would provide, especially after the things I've been through over the past few years. Or do I want to be the adventurous one who seeks out ways to humble and challenge herself? Dangerous, I know, possibly very dangerous. But along with that potential for wounding or failure is the potential for blessing beyond measure. Is it justifiable or healthy to choose a path because I know it would be more of a challenge to my faith and because I don't want to back down from this challenge? And again, would this be a genuine leap of faith or mere stupidity?

Secondly, it makes me wonder where exactly these fears are originating from. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Is this hesitance a God-given gift to guide me in the right direction (assuming that there is a right direction)? Or ought I be anxious at all? I know that to most of you, this does not necessarily seem like that difficult of a choice, and in many ways it really shouldn't be. But for me it's not just about what school I end up at or even just about where that will lead me. It's about what kind of a statement my decision makes about me and my faith in God and His ability to preserve my heart and soul in Himself. I realize that God is able to do immeasurable and unimaginable things, and I really shouldn't worry about whether or not He'll be faithful. And as His child, He's given me boldness and the capacity to conquer all through Him, not this spirit of fear that I have been using as my springboard for decision. Shouldn't I be contemplating so much more than I am just how God could mold me and use me in each situation? Instead of moments, mercifully few though they might be, of sheer panic, ought I not rather have sustained excitement and trust in His sovereignty, no matter what choice I make or where I find myself in the future?

Some unfinished thoughts that will continue to work themselves out in my head, turning round and round so that I can see them from every angle. As I mentioned to my mom earlier this evening, being able to perceive every minute aspect of a situation is a blessing when it comes to peacemaking but a definite curse when it comes to decision making. The saga -- Decision 2009 -- continues...


Well, I was hoping that hearing about funding from ACU would make my decision easier. It hasn't. Just got an email this evening telling me about the scholarship offer, and I'm still basically where I was as far as the choice itself. So here are my two offers:

Boston University - full tuition and an $8000 stipend per year.
ACU - full tuition and a grad assistantship which would pay about $1700 a year.

With the cost of living being so much higher in Boston, those two would honestly be pretty close to equal. They'd pay for housing, and then I'd have to take out student loans or work to pay for groceries and all that jazz.

So basically, when it comes down to it, money shouldn't be a deciding factor. And the things that are deciding factors have pros and cons for each school for various things, depending on who I want to be and where I want to go with my life. Thoughts and prayers still greatly appreciated!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Boston, continued...

Well, it's been just about two weeks since I got back from Boston, and to answer your first question, no, I don't have a decision yet. Not an official one, at least. I know what I'm leaning toward, but we won't go there quite yet... I would like to catch you up on what the rest of my trip entailed, though. It'll be the (somewhat) shortened version. Enjoy!

Monday (30th): It was cold and rainy again. Seemed to be the theme for the week, actually. Definitely something I'd have to come to terms with if I moved up there. I bundled up a little, though, and took an umbrella with me to go do some more exploring. Started off downtown again and just wandered through some streets taking pictures. Went through the deserted Boston Common. And I'm sure I got some funny looks as I stopped to take pictures, while the rain fell and while my umbrella attempted to escape my clutches. I don't mind a few stares, though, if I can get some good shots in, and I did get a couple of decent ones. Stopped at McDonald's for a mocha to warm up and dry off a bit. Then I headed back to Vic's to grab my stuff and head for the hotel where I'd be staying for the next two nights. As I was walking to the hotel from the subway stop, I noticed a girl about my age with a suitcase who was heading the same direction, and I wondered if she might be part of the group, and it turns out that not only was that true, but she was also my suitemate at the hotel. So Jayne and I checked in together and got settled in our rooms. She went to see her sister, who lives in Boston, and I took some time to relax for a while. That evening, the prospective students who were there already met up just down the street from the hotel at the Theology House, which is (not so surprisingly) some housing for about 20 theology students. We got to meet some of the current students over pizza, talk to our fellow prospectives, and take a tour of Theology House. Afterwards, a group of about 10 or so of us prospective students went out to talk some more and get to know each other. I know I very much shocked one of my fellow Southerners (from Paragould, AR, actually...) by the fact that I'm a Church of Christer and was considering Boston University, and also that I went out with the group, knowing that there'd be some alcohol involved (very minor amounts, for those of you who might also be shocked). That evening I really connected with Jayne and also with two guys named Matthew and Aidan. The four of us ended up spending a decent amount of time together over the next couple of days, and I'm thankful for having met them. They helped make it a great experience for me and gave me a good taste of what I could expect if I decided to attend there.

Tuesday (31st): Well, I wish I could say that Tuesday got off to a good start. Honestly, it didn't. I didn't sleep well at all, due to the fact that it was 85 DEGREES in my room! Aaah! I was sweating and throwing off covers, opening windows, closing windows when it got too light and too loud outside, doing just about anything possible to sleep sanely, and failing miserably at my attempts. I think I easily woke up 6 or 8 times during the night. It didn't help that I was right over a very busy street, and it really didn't help that that morning, of all mornings, there was a protest just about 30 yards down the street, where some group had chained a mannequin to a storefront, someone had called in a bomb threat, and there were multiple sirened vehicles passing by just under my window. Yikes! But after a rocky start, the day turned out to be a good one. It was actually sunny and decently warm on Tuesday (the only day of the week!). A group of us met in the lobby of the hotel and walked on down to the school for breakfast with the dean and the rest of the prospective students who'd arrived too late to join in at Theology House the night before. After breakfast, I attended a survey of the New Testament class (taught by a woman!!), and then it was time for lunch with the dean and many of the professors. They were amazingly nice and very interesting people who were fun to talk to. After lunch was another class, then a walking tour of some of BU's campus. An hour or so of free time, and then dinner at a Chinese restaurant. After dinner, we went to the dean's apartment, just down the street, where we had dessert and talked amongst ourselves for a while. A few of us went back to the place we'd been the night before, where we played a thrilling game of Clue and then headed to bed.

Wednesday (1st): We had a lovely time eating the varieties of pancakes that the BU Theology Students' Association whipped up for us that morning. Afterwards a quick tour of the theology building and theology library. Then it was off to chapel. The chapel service was very encouraging to me. Some good singing, a good message, and a bit of time to refocus myself on God's control of my situation and future. I definitely needed that last part especially, because this whole decision-making process has been heart-wrenching for me. There are things about each school that I love, and a few things about each that would be difficult or frustrating to me. Each school offers so much; they just offer different things. And so the challenge has been to determine which one is the better fit for me at this point in my life, to foresee which one I will benefit most from intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and in so many other ways. So the reminder of God's presence and benevolence was much appreciated. After chapel was the weekly community lunch with all of the school of theology's student body, faculty, and staff. As we were walking to lunch, I happened to spot Dr. James Walters, one of the professors whom I'd been able to email quickly with before I left for Boston, and we were able to sit together at lunch and talk some more. (One of the people I'd met at ACU had mentioned that he knew some people in Boston, so he'd put me in contact with Steve Holt, who you'll hear more about later, who then connected me with Dr. Walters and a guy named Chad via email...) Dr. Walters was a wonderful man for me to meet and talk with for many reasons. Besides just being a great and friendly guy, he comes from a background that is very much like mine. He's a Southerner, a member of the Churches of Christ, he was a professor at Harding for 10+ years, and he actually was offered a job at ACU at the same time he was offered his position at BU. He knows and has worked with a number of the ACU faculty. And so he was able to understand and address a number of my thoughts, questions, and fears about this decision that I'm making. And he's expressed that he'd be willing to provide a listening ear to me if I needed it in the future. So that was comforting, knowing that if I did end up at BU, I would have someone who understood where I was coming from and why I might be struggling with certain things as opposed to others. I'm very thankful to have met him! After lunch, we were taken on a trolley tour of the city, which was quite entertaining, and I learned a decent amount about the city's history while also getting to talk more with some of the prospective students. And when we got done with the tour, our official event were over. Sad! I had to start saying goodbye to my newfound friends, knowing that there was a good possibility I'd never see some of them again... Jayne went to do some organ practice for when she got back home the next evening. Matthew went to meet a friend of his. Aidan and I went to Bruegger's Bagels to get a drink and some internet. We spent an hour or so there talking until it was time for him to leave for home. Hugs and goodbyes, and I headed back to Vic's. It was cold and rainy again, and I honestly was a bit depressed and indecisive and upset, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to do anything that evening. But I convinced myself to go visit the Brookline Church of Christ (where Dr. Walters and his wife attend) because I found out it was only about a ten minute walk from Vic's apartment. Their website said they were meeting at 7 at the building, "no foolin!" (as it was April Fool's Day), so I gathered up my emotional strength and traipsed on over there, actually working myself up to looking forward to it, only to get there and realize that I really must have been fooled, because there was not a single person there, and the building was quite locked. It had started to rain, so I didn't wait around to get even more wet (hadn't taken the umbrella with me). I headed back to the apartment to settle in for the evening to myself. Vic came back a little later and very nicely fixed me something to eat (hadn't had dinner yet), and I caught him up on the past few days and then watched LOST while he worked on some other things. Went to bed very much emotionally and physically exhausted.

Thursday (2nd): Thursday morning I met up with this guy named Chad who I'd been able to email with a little. He's another one who's familiar with both ACU and BU and is interested in many of the same things that I am, so he was able to provide yet another perspective on things for me, to give me some things to think about. While we were sipping our coffee and munching our pastries, all of a sudden at my elbow, Matthew walks up and says, "I don't know enough people in this town to be bumping into people I know." So after Chad and I finished up, Matthew and I went to meet up with Jayne for a while, and then when she had to leave, he and I headed over the the campus to eat lunch with a friend of his and some of the theology students. Then it was time for him to leave, and I was alone again in the city. For the afternoon, I went over to Harvard's campus for a while. I'd heard it was a bit greener than much of the rest of the city, and it was, so that was nice. And any theology student registered at any of the Boston schools can take theology classes at any of the other schools, so I might be taking some classes at Harvard if I end up up there. Sat for a while on the steps to one of the buildings. Called Nellie and filled her in on the details of the trip that far and what I was thinking. Spent some time praying and reading in my Bible (the story of Moses' calling). Left Harvard to go visit the USS Constitution. It's the oldest commissioned naval vessel still floating. 1797. Got to take a tour of it, which was quite interesting. Walked to the Bunker Hill monument. Then hopped on the T to head out to Steve and Chrissy Holt's house for the evening. Like I mentioned, I got in contact with Steve through one of the people I'd met at ACU over their preview weekend at the beginning of March. I'd emailed Steve a few days before leaving for Boston and was able to talk with him on the phone for an hour or so as well. He and Chrissy had hoped to meet me at the airport when I came in, since they only live one stop away from it, but with my rescheduled flights, that didn't end up working out. The two of them and some friends meet weekly on Thursday nights for dinner and some time of fellowship and Bible study, so I was able to join them, and it was a huge blessing to me! Both Steve and Chrissy and two of the other members of the group had done some grad work at ACU and then moved up to Boston. They had had varying experiences at ACU. None particularly bad, just some different perspectives and insights on what to expect and what might be gained from grad work there or in Boston. It was good to be around a group of people who'd been through some of the things I was considering and who also shared faith that was very similar to mine. Those few hours with them were among the most encouraging and precious of the week for me. I know for a fact that if I end up in Boston, I will greatly need a group like them. One couple dropped me off at the T station, and I headed back to Vic's house to talk with him a while and head to bed.

Friday (3rd): My last day in Boston. Again, cold and rainy. Surprise, surprise... Said goodbye to Vic in the morning as he headed out to work. Got up and dressed, packed my bag, and then went to run a few errands. Picked up a gift card to a bakery as a thank you to my wonderful host, went over to Theology House to recover his umbrella that I'd left there on Monday night on accident. Ate lunch at a little diner around the corner from his apartment. Didn't have much else to do. I'd pretty much seen the sights I wanted to see, plus I was tired of walking around in the rain, so I spent a few minutes catching up on some emails. Then I gathered up all my stuff and headed out. I got to the airport a little early (despite the fact that from the T stop, I got on the wrong bus which took me to the wrong terminal, so I had to walk quite the distance to the correct terminal). Checked in my bag and got my boarding passes and had about an hour and a half to wait. I considered settling down in the terminal for that time. But then I made up my mind. I'd never been to the Atlantic. The only time I'd ever been to the beach was for an hour or two one afternoon in Marseille. I wasn't going to come all the way from Arkansas to Boston, be that close to the coast, and not go! I hadn't found a way to squeeze it in earlier in the week, and even though it was dreary outside, Vic had told me about Revere Beach, which was only four stops away from the airport, and I was going to go. Knew I'd be cutting it close, but I'd at least try! So I left the airport and headed back out. I actually made it with plenty of time to spare, so I took fifteen minutes or so to walk on the beach, step into the quite cold waves of the Atlantic, take a few pictures and collect a few seashells to take home with me. Perhaps not most people's ideal beach experience, but it all seemed very fitting to me, including, and perhaps especially, how overcast and gray it was. Just seemed to fit my temperament at the time. Back at the airport (I took the right bus this time), I easily made it onto my flight and headed out of Boston. For all I knew, it could have been my first, last, and only time to be in the city, and so it was a bit sad. But in all honesty, I was so emotionally spent from the week of wrestling with my options that I was longing to be home and back in the familiar. No 4 1/2 hour layover in Cincinnati this time, thankfully. And back at XNA, Nellie and Jedediah were there to pick me up and drive me home. Open spaces, stars, trees, tree frogs... all thing that I'd missed very much during the week that I'd been away. As much as I like the idea of Boston and all it offers, I know there are things -- big things and very small things -- that I'd miss very much about my home. It was good to be back. Good to be home.

So the question still remains, yes, after two more weeks of contemplation and prayer and attempts to think about each possibility as if it had already been decided and attempt to not think about it at all... I am excited about the possibilities that are open to me, the amazing opportunities that God has given me. But I am saddened by what I know I will be giving up. No matter which choice I make, I know that there are things about the other school that I will be missing out on, perhaps never to experience. And I am scared. Not exactly scared that I will make the wrong choice, because I don't think that either choice is a bad one. More scared that I will struggle for whatever reasons with the choice that I do make. I know which direction I am leaning, but I am still waiting for more information about scholarships from ACU before I make that decision final. I covet your prayers. Prayers for my ability to make a wise decision, prayers for my sanity, prayers for my ability to cope with and meet the challenges that will come my way wherever I end up. I thank God for you and for your encouragement! And now, after what must be the longest blog post ever, I think it's about time to call it a night...

Lady of the Library
(For more pictures, check out my album on facebook.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.