Just Hang On the Semester is Almost Over

I would Iike to begin this blog by giving my fellow blogger Kassie a shout out for her post on defying disappointment with beauty. I connected with it and I loved it. I was in a similar spot this past week – errr…month. Disappointment knocked on my bedroom door more times than I would like to list. There were highs and there were lows, and I learned to dance through it all. (This is usually when “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack would start playing and I would make my grand exit, but I’m not done.)

I feel like I should reintroduce myself to the blog because I’ve been gone for a while now. I guess I took a bit of a hiatus, but that’s not entirely accurate because I was still trying to write. In the month I was gone I wrote the equivalent of one post. It took me about 3 weeks to write one post. It wasn’t writer’s block, and it wasn’t lack of motivation. I’m going to be honest – I don’t know what it was. A slew of things hit me at once and I was unable to do anything productive for a while. I guess it’s called life.
Honestly, things still aren’t exactly how I would like them to be, but when are things ever how we want them to be? When are things ever perfect? Never. So why are we mad when things go wrong? Because they’re not what we want? That’s awfully selfish of us. The best thing we can do in these situations is to smile, find our joy, and eat some chocolate. These situations don’t catch God off guard. He’s not sitting up in Heaven looking down and worrying because He didn’t expect this to happen. He knew. And He’s got this. So trust Him.

I, like every other college student, have some big decisions to make. I also have finals, work issues, and family issues. We’re all dealing with these things, and that’s what I keep telling myself. I know I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last to have 300 things going on at once. Almost every other Nyack student has 300 things going on. My psychology professor said it best, “Nyack students are some of the busiest people I’ve ever met.”

So while writing this blog has been a form of catharsis, I also want you to know that problems don’t run your life. Stress doesn’t run your life. Pressure doesn’t run your life. You run your life. And you run it with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit as your guide. You’ve got this! (And the semester is almost over so just hang on, buddy. You’re almost there.)

5 Ways to Fight Holiday Depression

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The end of the year is here, and with it comes the holidays. Honestly, I don’t care what you have to say about it, I’m ready for Christmas music, I’m ready for ice skating, I’m ready for Thanksgiving food. But you can’t judge me for being so ready for the holidays because Forever 21 sent me an email about their ugly Christmas sweaters at 10pm on October 31. They didn’t even wait until midnight so it would officially be November. I also saw 3 different kinds of Christmas commercials on television in the span of 2 hours, and Whoopi Goldberg was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to talk about her line of ugly Christmas sweaters. (It seems like ugly Christmas sweaters are going to be a theme this year). So I’m not alone.

However, with the influx of holiday cheer blanketing our television sets and flowing through the streets in the form of Christmas lights and Salvation Army bell ringers, there also comes the less cheery side of the holidays. Pressure and depression go hand in hand this time of year and affects more people than we would like to believe. The Nyack NYC campus has experienced these feelings on a deep level during recent weeks, and it has the potential to grow stronger this Holiday season if we allow it to. So, here are 5 ways to not allow the Holiday cheer to get you down.

  1. Don’t Have High Expectations

I know everyone is always saying to set your expectations high and shoot for the sky because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. In fact, that last one is one of my favorite quotes. However, it’s been proven that people who set high expectations are more likely to be disappointed. If your expectations are lower, there is less room for disappointment because you weren’t expecting much in the first place. Granted, this approach does sound a little depressing in its own right, but if the Holidays are a source of stress for you then the last thing you need to be doing is building it up to be something it is never going to be. Plan for a low-key Holiday season. Have a Friendsgiving and go out to eat with friends on Thanksgiving Day, or plan to volunteer somewhere on Christmas Day instead of staying home and unwrapping presents. Planning a chill day takes away unwanted and unnecessary stress.

  1. Volunteer

This goes hand in hand with my suggestions from #1. Volunteering at soup kitchens on Thanksgiving is one of the most rewarding experiences. You wholly forget about yourself for hours and focus solely on the people in front of you. Handing out food or pouring juice are small tasks, but they are anything but mundane when your heart is in the right place. Ever since I moved to New York 2 years ago, it has been my new tradition to volunteer at some kind of shelter, soup kitchen, or food drive during the holidays. I highly recommend it!

  1. Have a Good Support System

Now is the time of year that family members who somehow seem to remember us since our diaper days come from near and far to celebrate the Holidays with us. Family is great, they truly are; however, they can be a handful as well. It’s common to dread the influx of out-of-towners that are heading your way when you know they have a history of asking too many questions and pointing out too many of your flaws. Granted, they probably do so because they care so much (too much?) but there is often a line that doesn’t need to be crossed. So before things get crazy, take the time to contact the people in your life who don’t drive you crazy: your best friends, other family members, maybe even a professor who always hears you out – and stay in contact with these people through January. They will keep you calm and remind you that you’re not going through this season alone. A good, strong support system is crucial.

  1. Remember Loved Ones

It is also the time of year where memories of loved ones who have passed start to flood our memories. Maybe it’s the cheeriness of the season, maybe it’s the lost loved one’s love for the season – whatever it may be, it causes a cloud to cover our holiday spirit and that cloud tends to stay with us all the way through January – which is going to be unacceptable this year. God did not give us a spirit of grief.

  1. Remember Why We Celebrate

I’m not going to sit here and type out: Jesus is the reason for the season (even though I just did) because it’s corny and you’ve heard it before. But it’s true, alright. He is also our rock. He never abandons us, and He is as reliable as ever.  Putting any kind of trust in Him is a smart move because He cannot disappoint. If we celebrate Him instead of the hype of the season itself, there is never disappointment. I love the hype as much as the next person, but I also realize that it is short-lived and ultimately, not worth a thing.

This holiday does not have to be like the last. We are overcomers, and we have the power of pure Joy on our side. Let’s tap into that Joy we have on the inside and fight against holiday depression this year.

Life Lessons I Learned From My Professors

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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.

Student Teaching: Placement Switch

It is exactly the middle of November. As most of you know, I’m in the middle of student teaching. The way student teaching works is that your semester is split into two placements. My certification will be to teach 7th-12th Grade English , and as a result my first placement was at a middle school. Those eighth grade students completely and wholly stole my heart. The last day I was there my cooperating teacher passed around a card for them to sign. Each period thought that they’d expertly hidden this card, as they tried to pass it around.

They forgot that teachers have eyes in the back of their heads.

They were going to hand the card to me at the end of the day, but some student accidentally packed it away with their books and made off with it in their backpack. They sheepishly handed me this light purple envelope–all that remained of their thank-you. I laughed, laughed, and laughed again. You just have to love the eighth grade.

Now, life has swung in an entirely different direction. I’m at my second placement working with tenth graders. Art explodes from every corner of this school. They understand that art is as necessary to life as lunch period. The students are filled with thoughts. Creativity is a valued strength at this school. This school welcomed me about six seconds after I walked through the building.

Now, life is rather different. Teaching high school English means that you have to prep multiple materials for multiple classes. I’d never really thought through that one. I entered my student teaching experience, embarrassingly without even a folder. Now, I carry binders, folders, and have developed a system necessary for survival. Forced improvement can be a beautiful work of art.

Now, I am learning how to grapple with texts I was afraid to teach. The class I’m teaching is going through Othello at the moment. All things Shakespeare happen to be a deep passion of mine, but for some odd reason I had never read Othello in any of my classes or personal reading. My cooperating teacher had kindly emailed in advance to tell me that we’d be covering Othello during my time at the school. Panic ripped through my chest. You don’t just wing teaching Shakespeare, and Shakespeare requires heavy interpretation. English teachers can be a rather opinionated bunch when it comes to textual interpretation. I feared getting it all wrong.

But…I decided to shove down my panic, and move forward. That’s a lesson I’ve been learning in more areas than just student teaching–shove down the fear, move forward. I began studying Othello, grappling with the text, characters, and themes.

Now, we just finished a lesson segment where the students acted out a scene from the play. Helping students untangle the rich language of Shakespeare, laughing as they add “wandering torchbearers” to their performances, and applauding as they leap out of their comfort zones to perform in front of their peers is amazing.

Now, now is the time to learn, now is the time to face silly fears such as teaching Shakespeare, now is the time to build relationships with students, and now is the time to revel in distinct joy.

The Distinct Joy of Exercising in College

There’s the shift of your feet across pavement, it’s the air entering your lungs and exiting in sharp, cold breaths–oxygen flowing into your bloodstream. Your feet toss leaves aside. You toss everything aside: exams, the homework you’ve been struggling through, the family drama going down at home, the endless text messages wearing you down, the fact that your brain hurts from thinking about it all. You toss aside everything as you run through the fallen leaves on this gorgeous campus that God has given you. You run and are finally at peace, as you separate yourself from everything. It’s just you, the Lord, and the pavement. This is why running is a distinct joy for me.

This is why I’m an advocate of exercising in college.

I wasn’t always this way. In high school, I was on a swim team, but in college exercise wasn’t exactly my thing. My parents forced me to hike and exercise with them. I despised hiking. I liked poptarts.

A couple of years ago, two events changed my perspective. (Okay, don’t judge the honesty here.)

  1. I got stuck working inside a stuffy pizza shop all summer. I smelled like cheese and grease from May-August. Suddenly, I craved being outside, and would find every excuse to drag the trash out to the dumpster just to feel the sun on my skin, just to feel human again. Suddenly exercising outdoors sounded like a wonderful idea.
  2. I had a crush on a runner. He was running solo, and of course he needed someone to run with him… (F.Y.I: That relationship did not work out, but I discovered a love for running through that experience.)

Yes, honesty. Anyway, once I started exercising I realized how much of a positive change it was in my life:

  1. It became a way to release stress, and use up energy that before I started running, I had been pouring into worry and anxiety-filled thoughts.
  2. Running made me focus and concentrate more in school. It just did.
  3. I started realizing how healthy running was for my body.
  4. It forced me to manage my time better. Running required me to plan out when I was going to run each week, and that planning made me balance my life in more healthy ways.
  5. Exercise can be an opportunity to pray. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to pray during an intense workout, but all workouts are not intense. Sometimes it’s wonderful to run at a slower pace, just enjoy nature, and enjoy the peace of Christ.

So. What I offer to you is this: find your groove. Figure out the types of exercise you enjoy. Maybe you’re into running, lacrosse, soccer, lifting weights, ping-pong, or dancing? Figure it out, and start exercising regularly. It doesn’t have to be anything insane, but set a goal and stick with it. Set small, attainable goals for yourself. Running three blocks farther than the last time you ran is an example of this. Running a marathon the first day you buy running shoes is not.

Also, don’t get hung up on everyone showing off on Instagram. They’re probably spending more time taking the picture than exercising anyway. Exercise for yourself–not other people. Enjoy yourself, as you start exercising in college. Enjoy the distinct joy.

Christmas Hope Starts in November

Color fades from the leaves. High School students are beginning to eye the piles of leaves in their neighbors’ yards, and translate them into quick cash. Fall holidays are over, and the world waits as the days of pumpkins and apple cider fade into icy temperatures and sweaters. It’s November. Right now, I’m listening to Christmas music. I know, I know…all you haters out there…

There tend to be two types of people.

There are the people who passionately love Christmas music. You can catch this kind of person slipping Bing Crosby records into Harvest Party playlists. This kind of person can bring ebullient joy, but can also disgust everyone around them with this excess of holiday cheer.

The second type of person loathes Christmas music, is upset that radio stations begin mentioning the topic after Thanksgiving, and this person goes into hiding two weeks before Christmas when that’s all that’s being played on the airwaves.

Admittedly, I’m the first type of person. I passionately love Christmas music. Actually, I passionately love Christmas in general. If you don’t, that’s alright, but let me explain why I’m preparing for Christmas in November.

Christ found me in a frozen December. That’s quite a story, but nevertheless December is when I became a Christian. The entire season of Christmas means a great deal to me because of this, and as a result I associate Christmas with hope, with a Savior.

The older I get, the more grateful I am to be given a season in which hope is celebrated. The world can be a dreadful, dark, and despairing place. Our world can be so cold and so cruel. Sometimes I find my soul growing cold with the weather. I get more impatient with people. My thoughts become more cynical and self-protective. It’s ugly. The hope of redemption, of Christ coming as child and as our Redeemer, draws me out of that. That’s why a few years ago I started a ritual of reading The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens every Christmas. I know, I know. All you English majors out there are going to roll your eyes and say, “Oh, that’s just a morality tale written for Post-Industrial England”. I don’t particular care. I read Dicken’s novel every year, because Scrooge’s redemptive experience reminds me that redemption is a possibility despite our wretched darkness. It reminds me that Hope is living, and we were not born for despair.

The idea that redemption and hope exist is the reason I find myself turning on Christmas music in November, and the reason I have Christmas rituals. This time is the advent of Hope. Friends, no matter what your feelings are about Christmas, consider what living in expectation of Christ’s birth can do in your own life? Living in expectation of Christ’s birth can make us more hopeful human beings, more grateful that Christ would redeem us, and more apt to spread our gratitude among our brothers and sisters.

Brothers and Sisters,

Despair not.

For years ago, Hope was born among us.

We can be redeemed.

Merry Christmas

What Are We Saying? Creating Substance in Communication

Ink stained fingers, feeling paper between your thumb and index finger, the sound a pencil makes as it etches words across a page, these are all experiences associated with the practice of writing a letter.

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately–”laughing” a dangerous pastime, I know.

I’ve been thinking about the millstone-carrying weight of our words, and how modern formats seem to shape their substance, or lack of substance. Let me explain:

You shoot a text message.

You type. You press send. Immediately.

How much thought goes into those words?

I’m not speaking about avoiding spelling and grammatical mistakes–I’m speaking about understanding the ideas we craft with words and the strength they carry.

“Press send now” is our culture. Don’t get me wrong, I text and have a thriving Instagram account, but a couple weeks ago I was presenting a lesson to my class where they had to write a letter of their own. We read an article that discussed the idea of how modern culture can rob our words of weight, of thought. The article listed reasons why people in 2016 should still practice the art of letter writing. One of those reasons was that writing letters slows us. It causes us to value words, to tally up the cost to ourselves and the other person before we seal those words into an envelope, and ferry them away with a stamp.

Talking with eighth graders about this idea of ways to create more quality communication was an absolute privilege, as is blogging about this idea.

Friends,

I challenge you.

I implore you. Write a letter. Slow yourself. Write a letter to someone you deeply care for and give them your time. Evaluate the weight of your words. We write and speak so much fluff, meaningless drivel. My theory for why this happens is two-pronged. First of all, we’re terrified to reveal anything of substance about ourselves, as we’re haunted by a fear of rejection. Secondly, substance takes time and thought–investment. Substance takes time to craft which few of us seem to have. Fluff is easier.

What is the burden of our words?

This is a challenge for men and women as well. Sometimes there’s this weird idea that letter writing is for women who write on fluffy, pink, perfumed stationery? I hate fluffy, pink, perfumed stationery. I’m not sure when that idea became popular? (It wasn’t always a popular idea. Check out Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln’s manly letters.)

Also, I’m not writing that we ought to destroy our phones and computers. This is our age and we burn with its pros and its cons. Technology is ours and is a wonderful tool. However, it is the cry of my soul that our words would carry substance, depth–meaning. Creating substance in modern formats of texting and social media is more difficult but not impossible. That’s one of the reasons why I advocate so strongly for taking a trip back to the dark ages and writing a letter, it means for a moment we are able to slow ourselves, and grapple with what our words mean for us and for others. Then we just might be able to look back on our text messages, tweets, and Instaposts, and wonder what we’ve been saying all along.

In Memory of Utopia Campbell and Tryphena Ramcharitar

It was recently made known that Nyack students Utopia Campbell and Tryphena Ramcharitar have passed away. A memorial was held in their honor on the 13th of October on Nyack College’s Manhattan campus. It was attended by students, faculty, friends, and family who knew the girls both personally and through association. The memorial consisted of person after person relaying their fond memories of the girls. It was both moving and sobering.

Those who knew Utopia have nothing but good things to say about her, and those who might have only seen her in the hallways, like myself, do the same. Last semester, I remember seeing Utopia on the 19th floor constantly. She would smile at me and tell me hi every time. She had a warm spirit.

Tryphena was known by most and seen by all. Because of her and her work in the admissions department, many students have found their way to Nyack this year. Tryphena was also the former Nyack blogger for the NYC campus. When she left the position, the spot was vacant for some time until I received the blogger baton in March of this year.

Events like this sedate us. They cause us to forget about our own stress and worries and instead mourn the loss of a wonderful life, in this case two lives. We mourn not because they are suffering but because we miss them, which as was pointed out at the memorial, is a somewhat nice thought.
What I do know is that Utopia and Tryphena’s souls are happier now than ever before, and I do believe that is something to celebrate. Their passion for people is something to celebrate. And the impact they made while on this earth is something to celebrate. They were the true embodiment of Nyack and I know the school is proud.

It’s also important to bring awareness to issues, like depression, that surround this event. Depression is not always a heavily noticeable state. In fact, a lot of times it’s not noticeable to anyone other than the person being afflicted. It’s easy to stay in our little bubbles and mind our business, but at times our bubbles need to be popped. There is no problem with reaching out when we feel led and cheering someone up or letting someone confide in you – or even confiding in someone yourself. We can’t reach out to those who need help, or reach out ourselves, when we’re in our bubbles. We can’t smile at others to make their day like Utopia would do for me or go out of our ways to help someone like Tryphena  often did if we don’t allow ourselves to.

During times like these, it’s important to celebrate life and be thankful. I’m thankful for having the pleasure of interacting with Utopia and Tryphena. Both women of God left an imprint on this school that will not be forgotten.

I pray peace for the family and friends of Utopia Campbell and Tryphena Ramcharitar.

8th Grade Books For Old Souls

Powerful, poignant, moving us with the heart of their stories, those were many of the books I read in middle school and high school. Many of the books we read during that season of life shaped who I became later. Books have the power to do that, you know. As I’m student teaching this semester, I’m revisiting many of those books. They’re books mostly taught in middle school and high school, but they seem to speak to something deeper in all of us. They’re books you ran across in eighth, ninth, and tenth grade, but they’re really for old souls. You can enjoy some of these titles whether you’re an eighth grader, college sophomore, or a ninety year old sitting in a rocking chair on your front porch.

What I wanted to do with this post, was to create a book list of “8th Grade Books For Old Souls”. You are certainly busy right now as a college student, and your eyes might be weary from wrestling with the likes of Decartes in Philosophy Class, understanding the Magna Carta in World Civ., or balancing equations in Chemistry 101. Sometimes though, fiction can be a break from that kind of intensive reading. There’s nothing like curling up with a cup of tea in your dorm room on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and pulling out a book that has heart. Here are some of those books:

  1. A Long Way From Chicago: Richard Peck–This is a fantastic laugh that chronicles the adventures of Joey and Mary Alice, two siblings from Chicago who annually get sent to their crazy grandmother’s house in small-town America. It’s a coming of age story filled with the zany, the bizarre, and the force of nature–their grandmother.
  1. Out of the Dust: Karen Hesse–Written in poetic format, this book is about a girl named Billie Jo who is growing up in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. The emotion of this book is intense as Billie Jo wrestles with deep family tragedy, poverty, and becoming a woman during all this.
  1. The Outsiders: S.E. Hinton–You might have read this in ninth grade. Read it again. You’ll get so much more from it this time. This is the story of a kid named Ponyboy and the rival gangs of the Socs and Greasers. Themes of belonging, figuring out who you are, and family are beautifully woven throughout this novel. “Stay gold, Ponyboy”.
  1. The House on Mango Street: Sandra Cisneros–You probably could read this book in an hour. It’s written in chapter/essay format and follows the life of Esperanza Cordero, a girl struggling to find her place as she grows up in the heart of an immigrant community in Chicago. Her story illustrates challenges facing urban communities, but Esperanza Cordero’s determined spirit seems to give courage to us all.
  1. Boy and Going Solo: Roald Dahl–Technically, these books are both autobiographies. Both books are entertaining and fantastic, filled with Dahl’s stories of growing up in England and eventually fighting as a pilot in World War II. If you read both books, you’ll find at the end that Dahl’s experiences have shaped him into a man.

Meet Professor Kirsten Luba of the School of Education

Friends,

This week there’s someone I’d like you to meet. I’ve known her during my entire college experience in the School of Education, and she has been an example of service that is faithful and does not need to announce itself. I’ve learned an incredible amount from watching this woman quietly work. Meet Professor Kristen Luba:

  1. What Was Your Major in College?

 

Well, originally I thought I was going to be a missionary. My mom encouraged me to get my undergrad in something other than missions, so I chose teaching and thought I might be able to teach on the missions field.

 

  1. What Did Your Life After Graduating Nyack Look Like?

I didn’t end up getting the job I expected due to circumstances out of my control. It was one of those, “God, what are you doing right now?” moments. Then I came back to Nyack and worked for the School of Education as the Administrative Assistant, worked on a Masters in Intercultural Studies at the Seminary, and ended up meeting my husband.

 

  1. What’s Your Favorite Part about Working at Nyack College?

The people. I love the Education Department.

 

  1. If You Could Design and Teach Any Course What Would It Be?

I’d love to design a course about constructing curriculum for faith-based organizations. For instance, the course would teach students how to build curriculum for Vacation Bible Schools.

 

  1. What’s One Piece of Advice You’d Like to Give to Students?

Don’t be afraid to take school seriously.

 

  1. Do You Have a Favorite Verse or Quote?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV). Professor Luba’s take on this is, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, even though His plans may look like woven weirdness”.

 

  1. Is There Any Advice You’d Like to Give Education Majors?

Yes, teaching is one of the most amazing and impacting professions there is throughout the good, the bad, and the ugly–it is worth the effort and the investments.

Also, you’re not dealing with products and computer screens. You’re dealing with the persons of the future, and you have an opportunity to mold students.

 

              Things You Didn’t Know about Professor Luba:

  1. When she was a senior and student teaching, she received the Apple Award from the School of Education. The Apple Award is given out to one student teacher each year who demonstrates excellent skills and service in student teaching.
  2. She’s worked at Nyack for sixteen years.
  3. During her sophomore year at Nyack she played on the volleyball team. She was taking volleyball for her Physical Education credit. The coach came up to her later and asked her to join the team.

Deep Relationships and Tea

Steam draws itself from the water kettle. I’ve always thought tea kettles were akin to works of art. Perhaps it’s the way the steam circles into the air, or the time it takes to breathe, to rest before the kettle begins singing and your water is ready. We gather together. My friend sets out the tea in the rows of Apple, Ginger, Blueberry, the truest of Chai, and faithful black tea. Before college I thought tea tasted like boiled water with a hint of dried up leaves. “Laughing”, thankfully college and a fantastic roommate changed my prejudice towards tea. Sometimes coffee and the occasional cup of hot chocolate are on the menu, but usually the conversation is steeped in the courage of tea bags. Conversation and the gathering of courage, that is why we are gathering here among friends to sip tea.

I’m advocating here for that–to set aside a time in your week to gather with friends and drink tea. Let me explain…

We live in a culture where constant movement is valued. We pack our schedules and ourselves full, and we pencil people into moments between our productivity. We need to slow ourselves down and gather with others in an agendaless setting. Sometimes I wonder if we shy away from these settings because we’re terrified of sharing ourselves, and we’re tired of silence with friends that the frailty of words cannot fill. We do spend time with people, though. In fact we waste lots of time with people. I’m speaking about the times we’re on our phone while hanging out with friends, or the many times we end up only talking about celebrity gossip, complaining, or discussing general superficiality. Those are the times we waste ourselves with people.

Another reason we avoid some of these settings, is that there’s also something terrifying about spending real, true time with someone, sipping tea together, and having to look them in the eye. Other cultures do this all the time. They have a daily coffee or tea hour. Economic and educational opportunities abound in our culture, but perhaps we sacrifice the deepening of vital relationships for personal productivity.

I’m writing to myself in this post as much as anyone else. I realized this was a problem in my life, and as my friends and I edge towards graduation, schedules fill up. We realized that if we wanted our friendships to matter, if we wanted the space we occupied in each other’s lives to be something more, then we needed to set a time each week to gather. The time each week that we have been gathering together and share what’s going on in our lives, to listen to each other, to bear one another’s burdens, these times have strengthened and encouraged us for the rest of the week.

Friends,

I leave you with challenge of considering how to deepen your friendships? Set aside specific time for people and seek ways to have real conversations that go deeper than the chicken patties in the cafeteria and your favorite contestant on The Voice. If you need ideas for deeper conversation topics, feel free to email me at neumannk@nyack.edu. I’d love to chat.

As Always, Dwell in The Mercy,

Sincerely,

-Kas

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