Kassie Neumann

About Kassie Neumann

Midwest native and Adolescent English Education Major at Nyack College. I thrive on poetry, mentoring, deep conversations, and really loud laughter. I believe that Christ, community, and cups of tea can restore the world. Wonder and mystery are two of my favorite words.

Finding Solid Study Habits

The sun brushes over the horizon, watching over the Hudson in the hush of a February morning on the Hillside. We are called into morning. I remember waking up to scenes like this my Junior Year of my time at Nyack. Junior Year was one of the most intense years of my college experience. Junior Year is like that for everyone. Classes and content are challenging every ounce of your being. Sometimes you don’t understand something until you’ve been challenged and forced into figuring it out for yourself. Junior Year was the year when I was forced to forge solid study habits to meet the challenges of that year. It took me a while to figure out a system, but here are some habits that worked for me.

I’d like to add a disclaimer, though. Everyone learns differently, it’s this extraordinary blessing called diversity that creates these differences, because God gave humanity diversity in order that we might enrich and renew one another. May these habits give you ideas to figure out your own systems as you cultivate solid study habits.

  1. Figure Out the Noise: You need to figure out what level of noise creates your best study environment. Some people are distracted by silence and need background noise, while others need silence that could be confused with prayer in church. If you need total quiet, the Silent Section in the Bailey Library is the best place on campus.
  1. Plan: Read that syllabus and chart out major due dates on a planner. Doing this for exams became a survival strategy for me. One semester I had a History exam that I realized would take 10 hours of study to pass. However, because I wrote down the date of the exam months in advance, I was able to plot out time 1-2 weeks before the test and pace my time spent studying. It might sound like a crazy idea, but I passed that test.                                                                                                                                                                                                     
  2. Find a Strategy to Focus In Class: Taking notes was a strategy I used to keep me focused in class. I had a reputation for intense focus, but that was only because I took notes. Otherwise, my mind would have wandered into the pros and cons of dog sledding in Florida in July.
  1. “It Is Better to Light a Candle Than to Curse the Darkness”: That’s a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, and it means that when faced with challenges it is better to work at fixing the problem and refuse to waste time complaining. We waste so much time moaning about the workload, professors, or our own inadequacies. Friends, I’ve been in all three of those places. I understand. Then I began to realize something. I began to realize that education was a gift offered into my own hands, and it was my task to strategize and fight for that gift. That meant figuring out how to manage my time, plan time to study, and try different strategies until I developed a system of solid study habits.

Friends, no matter what your experiences with study habits have been, you can do this. Start by adding one or two habits into your life a week. You’ll be amazed at how motivated you’ll feel, and how less stressed the middle and end of your semester will be. You completely, totally, and beautifully can do this.

“Because We Are Not Alone In The Dark With Our Demons”

I had a comforting thought this week.

This week was the Mid-Winter Recess for the school I’m teaching at now. It’s been a time of breathing, of catching up on sleep, finishing online work for my grad class, and getting a chance to drink copious amounts of coffee and just sit and think.

One of the comforting thoughts I’ve had this week, is a thought that’s been tossing around in my brain for a few months. Sometimes these thoughts need time, time to find other ideas, and time to grow through experiences. This thought was like that. A couple months ago, I finished reading The Confessions of St. Augustine. I’m not telling you this to sound spiritual, actually, anyone who gains anything from reading Augustine’s Confessions is anything but spiritual. It’s a literal wade through the desert of the human soul, and the only way you gain anything from that text is if you find it relatable. The only way you find it relatable is if you are also a frail human, crossed with sins and mistakes, and wandering on this road of grace. Some people won’t get anything out of Augustine’s Confessions, because they’ll simply be beyond that point in their faith. As of yet, I haven’t reached that point, and the frailty of my own soul is rather apparent.

Why am I mentioning this? Let me explain. One of the major ideas in Augustine’s Confessions is that the Holy Spirit of God must change our very desires in order for us to follow Christ. I know that whole “transform your minds” thing, but Augustine showed that idea through the story of how Christ changed his own desires. This had to happen for Christ to heal Augustine’s diseases, diseases of self, lust, ambition, pride, shame, and everything else Augustine struggled with.

I found the idea that Christ must transform us in order to heal us rather profound.

This week, I came across another thought which gave Augustine’s idea more weight. I was in my kitchen listening to this folk band called the Oh Hellos. The Oh Hellos are a band of two siblings whose lyrics are often steeped in faith. They have an entire album inspired by a book by C.S. Lewis. They’re cool cats. Anyway, they have this song called “I Have Made Mistakes”. It’s gorgeous. Go listen to it. They understand this struggle of faith, this constant struggle with the sin of ourselves. They sing this line after they’ve mourned the intensity of this struggle, “Because we are not alone in the dark with our demons”.

This was a profound idea to me.

You know how people say God is always with you?  

“Because we are not alone in the dark with our demons”

Augustine’s idea is that for Christ to heal our diseases, He must heal our fallen desires. He must change the very core of our beings. He must heal our demons, and yet? We are not abandoned with those demons, as we are being redeemed. That thought radically comforted me, as I look at my own life and its often frail function of faith.

Friends,

Take courageous heart. Be open to the work to the work of Christ within you. “Because we are not alone in the dark with our demons”.

Tips on Passing the edTPA

Friends,

Last semester I had the opportunity to graduate an Education Program at Nyack College. December 16th was the last day of my undergraduate career, and I remember walking home. I remember watching the sun fade into the Hudson, and I traveled home with memories of student teaching tucked neatly into my pocket.

One thing I’ll never forget about that semester?

I’ll never forget working on my edTPA. If you’re not an Education Major, you probably don’t know what that is (no worries). It’s this portfolio Ed. Majors do on a lesson segment of their student teaching. It includes videos of you teaching, research-based strategies you implemented, academic language, and you have to follow very, very, very specific guidelines to complete this project. It’s an extensive project. You’re also required to submit your edTPA in order to become a New York State Certified Teacher. Now for the Ed. Majors…

The project is intimidating. I remember feeling intimidated.

However, friends, all is not lost. You can pass the edTPA. Now, I’d like to give a few tips that will help you pass:

  1. Read the Handbook They Give You in Boot Camp: There’s a required “Student Teaching Boot Camp” put on by the college. In this Boot Camp, they will tell you to read the edTPA handbook. This is not a suggestion. Read the entire document. You’ll need a bird’s eye view of this project, in order to strategize the how’s and when’s of completing your edTPA. Otherwise, you’ll forget vital pieces of your video.        
  2. Do Not Wait Until The Last Minute: I cannot stress this enough. This is not a paper you can cram into an all nighter and some energy drinks. I did the math, and completing the edTPA took me at least 45-50 hours of focused work. I’m not saying this to scare anyone, but it’s just a reality. Space those 50 hours into weekly segments and you’ll be fine.
  3. Shoot Videos In Your First Placement: Plan to shoot your lesson segment in your first placement. If something goes wrong, you can shoot another in your second.
  4. Figure Out Your Class: This is especially crucial for Adolescent Ed. Majors who student teach in middle schools and high schools with periods filled with different groups of students. Figure out which group of students show you off as the fantastic teacher that you are. (In other words, don’t pick the class with the kid who interrupts every five seconds to declare that, “I really have to use the bathroom”). Pick an engaged class. You’ll feel more comfortable, and you’ll look more comfortable on video.

For now, those are all the tips I can think of, but if I think of more I will let you know.

Much Courage,

A Friend

The Challenge Student

There are many types of students in this world:

The Conscientious Student: This student can be found sitting in the front rows of classrooms, feverishly taking notes, and raising his or her hand in curiousity.

The Lord… Give Me…Student: For one reason or another, this student can be found testing your patience as a teacher every single day. You may find yourself uttering the, “Lord, Give me… [insert Fruit of the Spirit here] with this student”.

The Silent Storm Student: This student speaks little in class, but his or her written work is a whirlwind of thought, depth, wisdom, and is always above grade level.

The Funny Student: This student always has a joke on hand, and has the ability to either make learning fun or distract every student in your class.

The Helpful Student: This student can be found organizing the classroom library, throwing gum wrappers in the trash, and doing it all with a smile. Helpful Student, you’re making the world a better place one gum wrapper at a time.

The Challenge Student: This is the student who marches into your classroom with folded arms (usually on the first day) and announces that they hate the subject, hate the books, and hate the color of the walls. Today, in this post I’m going to briefly discuss how to deal with this particular breed of student.

In the last year I’ve had a couple of experiences with this interesting species called the Challenge Student. The Challenge Student’s goal is to make you believe that you have no room to move as a teacher. They want you to believe that learning will not happen in your class–just because they hate the subject. However, the Challenge Student doesn’t realize that enthusiasm is contagious like a viral disease.

During my student teaching, I had a Challenge Student who marched up to me and informed me of her hate for Shakespeare. We were going to be reading Shakespeare for the next two months…Challenge accepted. As a result, every class, I made sure to specifically speak with her, and explain the plot twists in the play in the craziest and most interesting way possible. 

Excitement is contagious. By the end of my student teaching placement, this girl had read ahead in the play. It wasn’t really my doing, she found the exciting parts of the play that were already there. She just needed a little help.

My friends,

The lesson here is that we must refuse to give up on our Challenge Students. We may not reach every Challenge Student, but with a little persistence…we might find some of those students reading ahead in class.

Why I Love Teaching English

One of the cool things about being an Education Major at Nyack is that the School of Education, and Nyack in general, cares about developing you as a person throughout your college career. That was one of the joys of my college experience, and one of the ways God worked through my time at Nyack. One of the ways the School of Education does this is by helping you figure out your calling. The faculty at Nyack care about why you’re in your major.

They want you to untangle for yourself why you’re sitting in their classes.

It makes you own what you’re doing. It makes you confident that God is going to see you through your calling.

That’s huge on late nights when you’re studying for finals, and suddenly college is hard, hard work. It gives you perseverance.

Admittedly, I came to Nyack as an English Ed. Major because of a simple passion for literature and writing, and a love for working with middle school kids. That was about as deep as my reasoning went, but during my time at school that reasoning took root and began to change, grow.

Student teaching really helped with that.

During student teaching, I realized that teaching English gave me two distinct opportunities as a caring citizen and as a Christian. Suddenly I had a fire for what I was doing.

I realized that being an English teacher meant that I had the opportunity to teach kids critical thinking skills. Thinking about Shakespeare’s word choices, untangling Robert Frost’s poems, and understanding why Hope fights so persistently in Hope Was Here are ways that I watched students grapple to critically think about our texts. If you understand how to critically think about your world, there is less chance that it will overcome you, and there is more chance that you will learn how to change it. Critical thinking draws us away from the ills of groupthink, of blindly following the majority. Citizens who critically think change society.

I also realized that being an English teacher gave me an amazing opportunity as a Christian. This might sound crazy, because in the public school system you cannot talk about matters of faith. However, when we teach truth we are teaching the words of God, whether or not we are teaching Jeremiah or Shakespeare.

That’s not a trendy idea, that an ancient, Augustinian idea.

I watched this happen while teaching Othello during student teaching. We unraveled human nature throughout our study of the play. We talked about how envy and jealousy corrupts the individual and then the community. This was the discussion for weeks and weeks, and the discussion became personalized by the end of my time there. How does envy and jealousy begin in us? How does it wreck our communities? You’re saying nothing about Christ, not a word, and yet you have explained the hardest part of the Gospel–that we are fallen humanity filled with sin and grief. You’ve introduced a need for redemption. You leave students with questions, and you trust the Holy Spirit to perhaps one day move the rest.

These two reasons are why I don’t mind the idea of getting up early 180 days a year, or eking out my years standing at a copier. To me these reasons are fuel and fire for God’s calling in my life. What are your reasons?  

How A Professor’s Comment Led to a New Year’s “Resolution”

We counted down in unison until the world flashed with an explosion of confetti, embraces, and Instagram photos. 2017 has begun. Fare thee well, 2016, in all your joys and sorrows. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a measure of each last year. We’re all human and to share in this humanity seems to carry a measure of each. Tuck away the lessons you learned from 2016, the ones that have sifted and shaped you.

Now we open our hands to 2017, closing our eyes, murmur in surrender to the God who holds each of these days. A lot of people are trying to make 2017 better than 2016. We’re making resolutions for the New Year, but what if we rattled tradition a little?

What if instead of a list of resolutions, what if instead we changed the questions we’re asking? What if we simply shifted our perspective, and altered our responses to situations?

What if…

A question I’m going to ask is one I picked up in one of Dr. Pinkham’s English classes. In the last lecture of the semester, Dr. Pinkham challenged us with the idea that one of our most valuable jobs as Christians is to ask how can I help bring healing to this situation? That stuck with me. What if we walked through each day asking how we could bring healing?

Another question to ask this year is do I act on what I believe? Friends, this can be tricky at a Christian college. It can be tempting to immerse ourselves in all these classes where we discuss theology, philosophy, religion, politics, ethics, and all the important thoughts that drive our lives, but become nothing more than arm-chair theologians, philosophers, and politicians. Conviction requires action, and that is not simply liking a cause on Facebook.

The third question is, where are the gifts in each day? You may have slept through your alarm. You may be late to that quiz, but how did you get to class? You walked on healthy legs. You wore shoes, and maybe, just maybe a fellow student smiled in greeting as you passed the Bubble. All of those are gifts.

The final question is this: how can I contribute to my community? How can I give myself to others at school? We’re being poured into so much at Nyack College, and it’s beyond amazing. How can we take what we’ve been given, and begin pouring into our community? May we ask God to heal us, to stir us to see and feel need, and to act to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters.
Happy New Year

Attend an Open House and ask about enrolling in the Education Program at Nyack College!

Practical Gift Ideas for Education Majors

Most people seem to put Christmas on repeat during the month of December. My family has approximately four Christmas’ with different sides of the family to attend this year. Bring on the holiday cheer. When I told my boyfriend how many Christmas’s I’d be attending this year his reply was, “Whoa. That’s intense.” To me it’s just normal. We exchange gifts during each of those Christmas events, and it’s a great way to spend valuable time with family.

That being said…multiplying Christmas four or more times can be problematic with gift giving and receiving. My family has learned a few tricks about gift giving, but the receiving part can be tricky. How do you tell your grandmother that you are not going to wear that pink sweater with the glittery pom-poms?

You don’t.

Instead, before you find yourself beside a crackling fire wearing such a spectacle why not offer well-meaning relatives more…practical ideas?

Christmas does not hinge on the gifts, but my thought is that if relatives are going to buy gifts, then perhaps giving them gift ideas that you will actually use, would be a better scenario for everyone. No more glittery pom-poms.

Here are a few practical ideas for gifts for Education Majors:

A Sturdy Bookbag: You will need this, as you’re getting through your program. Education Majors seem to always be going places, whether it’s to class or field experience. Carrying books with you to study or prep for classes you’re teaching becomes essential. Jansport, SwissGear, and Timbuk2 are brands that will last several years.

A Planner: You need a planner to organize yourself and your time. If I could tell a freshman Ed. Major to buy anything it would be this. You can organize major class deadlines (papers, projects, and exams), times you have field experience, and everything else that’s important in your life.

Desk Supplies: Pens and pencils, and a pencil sharpener are essential for Education Majors, especially when you student teach.

Sticky Notes: These are a great way to give feedback to kids when you student teach, especially if you’re grading tons of English essays.

Sweaters and Cardigans: You’ll be needing some business clothes, as you’re studying to go into a professional field. We’re in New York State, which can be quite a chilly place, and schools have a reputation for being cold and drafty. Layering with sweaters and cardigans can make your teaching days much more pleasant.

A T-30ii Calculator: This is a fairly inexpensive, but impressive calculator, and you’ll discover that you’ll need a nice calculator to compute grades during your student teaching.
Here are some ideas! Hope they help you and your family celebrate Christmas…without the glittery pom-pom sweaters.

Click here for more information on our Education programs!

 

68.9 Miles to Bethlehem

Every year we pour over the ancient words in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. If you’ve been in church for any number of years, you know the Christmas story. You’ve seen the kids in the Nativity play scamper down the church aisle likely a motley herd of sheep. You’ve probably chuckled quietly as the lead shepherd forgot his lines. Sometimes though, we forget that this ancient story is a part of real flesh and blood history. It is not a myth.

We forget that Mary was a young woman being scorned by her society, because she was perceived to be pregnant out of wedlock.

We forget Joseph who had the grace to let Mary go quietly and not press for his rights in a broken covenant, until God sent a dream and told Joseph to marry this girl.

We forget that a Roman decree sent both Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem from Nazareth.

That wasn’t a cute trip.

I looked it up online and the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is exactly 68.9 miles. Imagine journeying that distance and being ready to bring a child into the world any day. That wouldn’t be a cute trip if you had a bus, and they had no such transportation. Each time I read the Christmas Story I’m not struck by cuteness, I’m struck by the grace filled reactions of Mary and Joseph, despite the hardship of their situation. I’m struck by the beautiful history and tradition of our faith, but our faith is still living and active.

The word of God is still living and active.

We remember the history, the real people who lived this story, and yet when we finish reading we must head out into the frenzy of our own lives that are separated a couple thousand years from that first Christmas–

and yet the word of God is living and active.

How can a story thousands of years old speak to us who are rushing around finishing finals, wrapping Christmas presents, and journeying home for various family functions?

I believe that Scripture speaks loudly into every point in history. I believe that the Christmas Story speaks to us today.

That journey, the journey of Mary and Joseph, has been speaking to me this December. It was filled with 68.9 miles of uncertainty and possibly tragedy. Would they make it to Bethlehem? Why did the worry and uncertainty not overcome their journey? What if…What if…What if…

I suspect that the reason Mary and Joseph were not overcome, was that Mary carried the Author of Peace within her for every one of those 68.9 miles. This had never occurred to me before this December. Mary and Joseph’s beautiful reactions to the hardships of that journey must have come from a knowledge of that Peace.

We’re all headed in various directions, braving the public transit system, waiting in crowded airports…finally arriving home. We all have a task of a journey.  

Friends, may you be reminded that no matter where you are headed this Christmas, whether that place is filled with peace or strife, may you understand that knowing Christ means that you carry the Peace of the Holy Spirit for that journey. May you be overcome by that Peace this Christmas Season.

Merry, Merry Christmas.

13 Things You Learn From Teaching Othello

My second placement for student teaching has been a two month crash course on teaching Othello to high school students. It has been a wild, wild, crazy experience, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. To all you Adolescent English Majors: continue in your programs. Do not be intimidated! It is completely possible to learn how to teach high school Shakespeare, and be an engaging educator! Fear thee not. This being said, when you’re handed a wild, crazy experience you are guaranteed to learn a couple things…

Here’s what you learn from teaching Othello:

  1. You learn that 40% of your class has no idea what’s going on in the play, 55% have skipped ahead to the fight scenes, and the other 5% are working on their Shakespeare dissertations.                                                       
  2. You never take it personally, when a student declares that, “Ms. Neumann! I hate this Shakespeare stuff!”      
  3. You learn to read, read, and reread the text before you teach it. You read it in the original text. You reread it in a modern version. You don’t use Sparknotes and Cliffnotes as an excuse for laziness. You actually use them the way they were intended– a lifeline! (and a way to study the text).                                                              
  4. You learn to ALWAYS preview the movie before showing clips in class. (Use your imagination on that one. Also, check the ratings on any DVD.)                                                                                                                                   
  5. You learn that enthusiasm is as contagious as the bubonic plague, and if you can get a bunch of fifteen year old’s excited about something like Desdemona’s handkerchief? You can learn to teach anything.                       
  6. You learn that kids hate/love acting out the scenes. You learn to make them do it anyway, and eventually everyone is clapping in applause.                                                                                                                                         
  7. You learn that there’s something about plastic swords that brings out the actor in all of us.                                  
  8. You learn Shakespearean insults. “A pox on you for late homework!”                                                                         
  9. You learn to laugh at yourself when you spell Desdemona’s name wrong on the board–in front of the entire class.                                                                                                                                                                                            
  10. You learn to capitalize on the bizarre, gross, gory, and strange details of the play. Iago said what!                      
  11. You learn that ultimately teaching Shakespeare is a study in human nature, both from the characters in the text and from the reactions of your students…at being assigned homework over it.                                                 
  12. You learn that having the best supervising teacher ever makes the experience. You know who you are!  
  13. You learn that only an English teacher shouldst heed the pangs of love and agony which doth spring from the instructing of pupils on bookish fancies of a man heretofore accorded witness as Shakespeare. You learn that you are an English teacher.

Interview With a Senior at Nyack: Meet Grace Anger

On the list of people worth knowing, Grace Anger is pretty high on the list. I’ve known Grace prior to day one of college. We saw each other on a college group on Facebook and were convinced that we would never, never be friends. We’ve been roommates and the best of friends for 2.5 years. Life is hilarious. Meet the lovely Miss Anger:

Can you tell me a little about your major?

I’m majoring in Childhood Education with a concentration in Teaching English as a Second Language. Right now, I’m also transitioning into the Master’s Program at Nyack in Special Education.

Is there anything special about your program?

The program gives you the option to seamlessly integrate your undergraduate and graduate studies, and you’re done in a total of five years with both degrees.

Why did you choose Nyack College?

I felt God leading me here. That decision has been reinforced over and over again, and my experience at Nyack has greatly exceeded my expectations for what college would be like.

Were there any challenges you experienced as a Freshman?

Yes, submitting my first paper was a bit of a challenge. I was required to hand this thing in and be vulnerable with my work. That was really hard at first.

Also, during my first semester, I got an 81% on an assignment, because I didn’t follow the directions. The directions were to cite information in APA Format, and I went off on rabbit trails about homeless people. I remember standing in my professor’s office asking her what went wrong with that assignment. Through that conversation, she ended up becoming my mentor through my entire time in college. Without that vulnerable experience with that grade, I would have missed out on an opportunity for that professor to pour into my life.

You’re a senior now, what advice would you give students about making the most of their time in college?

First of all, the point of college is not just getting a grade, a degree, and a job. College broadens your horizons: reveals your dreams and passions, allows you to meet life-long friends and mentors, and offers you books to read that will shape your character and your ideas. College is an opportunity to pilot many of the habits you will carry into adulthood.

What are some of your favorite memories of your time at Nyack?

Running with my roommate through the sprinkler system on Mosely Field. Embrace the quirky people around you.

Also, attending a crazy diverse small group on campus was one of my favorite memories. At the end of the night I would look around at all these different people. There were so many ways in which we had nothing in common, and yet we were all united by the Holy Spirit.

What’s been your favorite class at Nyack so far?

College Writing II with Dr. Gates. That class kind-of shaped me and how I would learn in my classes after that. Dr. Gates defined learning as being transformed as a person. I’ll never forgot that.

Have you been involved in any extracurricular activities while at Nyack?

Yes, for about three years I’ve been involved in the college’s chorale. During some semesters, my involvement has been limited, but as my schedule allows it has been such a privilege to make music with other people in a community setting. I’ve loved working with Dr. Jameson. He has high standards and a lot of patience. What I love the most though, is that he truly wants the lyrics we’re singing, whether they’re Christmas Carols or ancient German melodies to move our hearts.

Life Lessons I Learned From My Professors

dont-say-cant-font2

 

Friends,

There are only weeks left in the semester. For some of you, the stress is overwhelming every minute of these last weeks. You’re panicking. You might even be starting to doubt yourself and ask, “why did I decide to go to college?”

Remember your dream.

Remember your vision.

Above all keep moving.  Above all keep praying, my friends. You will make it through. You know how I know this?

I know this, because right now I’m a senior staring down the last three weeks of an undergraduate career in the face. I’ve been where you’re at, many, many, many times. You’re going to make it. Keep moving and keep praying.

I want to mention, though, that college is not all stress. Right now, perhaps that’s all you can see, but I’d like to remind you of one of the beautiful, amazing gifts of college. That gift, especially at a college like Nyack where classes are tightly-knit, is the ability to learn from your professors about more than just textbook information. I’ve had the privilege of sitting in class, and learning so many lessons about life from my professors. The professors at Nyack have made my entire experience. Here’s a few life lessons I’ve learned from them:

Dr. Buel: There is power in the word “yet”. Don’t say, “I can’t do this”. Instead, you need to say, “I can’t do this–yet”. That class changed my life.

Dr. Gates: Work faithfully and holistically. Every part of your life matters and is integrated together. (Also, a little known fact is that Dr. Gates slips fantastic relationship advice into his lectures).  

Dr. Beach: Christianity is full of wonder and mystery, and a fair-amount of good humor. Take Oxford Christian Writers with him. Do it!

Dr. Pinkham: Everything in life doesn’t need to fit into a nice labeled box. You’re going to face things in life that can’t be either/or, but will be both/and. Embrace that. If you take Short Story class with him, it will change your life.

Dr. Davis Abdullah: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Use your voice. What you’re saying matters, and do not be afraid to say it well. Do your research.

Dr. Nichols: When you’re a teacher care about your students. You can have all your material memorized, but don’t forget about the heart of teaching. Care about your students.

Professor Locke: Servant leadership works both in theory and in practice, and if we lead through servant leadership we are reflecting Christ.

Dr. Dueck: Wrestle with your faith, for that is the only way to have true faith. Read a lot of Kierkegaard.

Dr. Looney: Believing in people is just as powerful as what you do for them. Pray always.

Professor Linda Poston: Faithful hospitality will change the world, or at least the heart of a homesick college student. Cover your life in Scripture.

How to Defy Disappointment With Beauty

I’m writing this blog post right now, and this week I really don’t know where I’m going with this post. Usually when I write, I have some sort of idea. Usually I have a title at least etched out, and I work from there. This week I have nothing. These passed few weeks have been wild, terrible, blessed, wretched.

I believe in honesty. I believe in realness.

The last few weeks I have experienced wild, wild, bizarre, crazy hopes. The last few weeks I have experienced disappointments crush those hopes and others in a steady rhythm. Two weeks ago I had one of the hardest weeks of my college experience. Everything important fell apart at the same time. I was dealing with conflict that felt far, far out of my league, and being handed problems and disappointments I never thought I’d have to deal with while still in college. I felt all over the placed, scattered like sunflower seeds being tossed to a rootless wind.

I like to tell myself that I’m pretty good at keeping it together…

That week I became a little unmoored, and suddenly I lacked direction. Last week, I bought sunflowers and arranged them in a vase. I did this as a defiance against the chaos, against the disappointment, against the rage and the fighting surrounding me, against feeling unmoored, against feeling rootless. Beauty is defiance.

It’s a cry against a utilitarian world which seeks to use and consume everything in its path.

Beauty defies disappointment. Beauty teaches you to look beyond yourself–beyond the cracks and tears in your own world. I think part of the reason that happens, is because there’s really no point in beauty, right? At least no practical point. Placing flowers in a vase doesn’t offer a solution to your problems, actually displaying some sunflowers will change nothing about your circumstances, but such an act can and will defy the idea that your circumstances will engulf you, overcome you into silence. Beauty reaches into your life and mentions offhandedly, that life will one day be different. I think also, for me at least, placing flowers in a vase is a declaration that I will not be ruled by my circumstances. Nothing changed with those sunflowers, nothing at all, but perhaps the core of who I am is not tied to my circumstances. Perhaps we can lift our eyes to the simple wonder of golden petals framed by a fierce red sun streaming through a window, and see joy. Dearest of friends, joy is not found in circumstances.

Then today. Fast forward to today where I received wild, amazing news, news I had resigned to the “this is never going to happen” section of life. I’m still trying to process everything as I type this post. My life is still wrecked from that week, about half of it is still ripped, torn apart, a mangled mess. A great deal of what happened that week is still out of my control. There is nothing I can do, no strategy I can offer to fix everything. Suddenly all my distracted self can do is to have my knees hit the floor each morning in quiet, steady need. I’m not saying that to sound spiritual. I’m admitting this, because in my frailty and need there is nothing else to do. Receiving wild, amazing news changes none of that need. I’m praying out of that need, and now I’m asking for strength to meet this crazy news, and I’m praying that through You that whatever may come that we may defy the world with the beauty of sunflowers.

  • Real Time Web Analytics