Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Handbells and Kayaks

Of all the titles to have, I chose handbells and kayaks. What do these two things have in common? I love both of them, but do not often get to do them. This, I hope to remedy this year. Amongst the four classes and two labs I am taking this semester, I also signed up to audition for the handbell choir, and to get information from the outdoors club. There are a LOT of kayaking events on the calendar, so I hope to do a couple of them. ^_^ I also signed up for dance ensemble, but I don't have much information about that either.

The first two days of school have gone pretty well. My professors are all really cool, and so are the classes. Despite the fact that I'm taking anatomy and physiology, and chemistry, I'm really excited about them. I love science. I know they are hard classes, but so far, the resources for doing well have been provided, so I don't feel scared about the semester. I'm just excited in general. I hope it continues.

Well, until next time, shalom!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The next step of the joyful adventure

It has now been three days since I arrived on the grounds of Messiah College as a brand-new first year student. I was so happy to be here when I arrived, and I'm still pretty happy. My roommates are great, the campus is beautiful, the food is good. The schedule has, however, been crammed with necessary but annoying orientation sessions on all kinds of things. The things I'm most fuzzy on have not been covered in the sessions or schedule. Oye vey.

Classes don't start until Tuesday, and I'm both glad and anxious for them to come. Glad because some of my textbooks have not arrived yet... but overall, I'm excited for them to start. I'm taking some really cool classes (courtesy of being in the nursing program and the honors program), like the writing class on the amish, anatomy and physiology, and foundations of marriage and family. I'm so excited about anatomy and physiology, and also for chemistry. I am such a scientist because I LOVE to learn about God's creation and explore it. I love all the labs in chemistry, and I love learning about the body. Each system is so complex, so that when you put them all together, they completely blow your mind. How can anyone say that we came from a mass of exploding gases?

On another note, my dorm building's theme is "Choose Joy." This seems to be a recurring theme in my life. In middle school, back when I was that awkward little kid with the weird obsessions and such, my mom told me that I needed to choose joy in life, because if I looked at all the pain and sorrow and strife, life wouldn't be so hard. The first week at the Springs, Pastor St Cyr spoke about joy - real joy. So often people use "happy" and "joyful" synonymously, when they really aren't. Happiness is based on circumstance - "I'm happy to see you" or "You make me so happy" or even, as my friend's dad puts it, something can have "happy-making qualities." Joy, however, is rooted in contentment and in God. It is deeper than happiness. It is more than happiness. It is something that burrows deep into your soul and thrives in contentment.

Joy is beautiful. Happiness is fleeting, joy is eternal. It is only when we take our Lord as our companion that He shows us the priceless value in joyfulness.

So, it is fitting for my first-year theme to be "Choose Joy." It hasn't just been a first-year theme; it is a life theme. The picture here is a graphic my friend Aaron designed. His website is if you want to look at the other artwork he's designed. In any case, the scripture he's chosen for joy fits perfectly. Our souls are joyful because the LORD, the Lord Almighty, has compassion on his children. We are redeemed because he loves us so, and we rejoice because of that. Because of that, we find so much more joy in knowing God.

Shalom, and may you find simcha (joy) this week!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Everything thus far

Well, I am a pitiful blogist. The summer is just so busy and full of wonderful things. So let me begin with a brief overview.

I worked at White Sulphur Springs for two weeks at the beginning of the summer. That was absolutely wonderful; I have gone to camp there for now five summers, and this summer was my second on staff. Next year I hope to do senior staff. It is a lovely place, full of grace and beauty. The people there are gentle and respectful, but awesome and crazy in their own way. I became good friends with several of the senior staffers for this summer, and have been talking with them, even while we are not together. Such are the relationships there, that when you go, you know at least somebody, if not many somebodies! Often times, you will mention one person's name at a meal, to find that everyone else at the table knows them as well. It is a lovely community, one that I hope to stay part of for years and years to come. Even though I am not military, I still love the place as a retreat center, "a place apart, a place of the heart" and "where cares refuse to stay." O, how I love it there. Not just because it is nestled in the midst of the mountains. Not just because of the peace and quiet that greets you. No, it is a place of community, of fellowship with both people and of God.

Two weeks after the Springs, I volunteered in my church's Vacation Bible School as a small group leader for the fifth and sixth graders. Each small group was composed of one of the two grades and seven to eight boys or girls. My group was all girls (obviously). Those girls were so cool. Quest (the 5th/6th graders) did a shopping trip to buy food for a local food pantry one day, and did service projects at two local elementary schools on two other days. However, one of the days was insanely hot, and we opted out of working out in the heat of the afternoon. The kids were given the option to arrive at the schools in the morning to do a few hours of work before VBS. Even though my group had not originally signed up to do one of the schools, three of my girls and I showed up to one of the elementary schools to spray paint bike racks and throw mulch around. I was awed by their willingness to serve. One of the girls didn't even go to that school! She was homeschooled. That was really neat.

Note: I am not just randomly skipping the two weeks between the Springs and VBS, and the time between VBS and the Springs again. There's just a bunch of little things that went on in those periods that I may or may not get to later. We shall see.

Like I said, a week after VBS, I returned to the Springs, this time for camp. They run a number of youth programs, including Alleghany Outback! (nicknamed AO!) for high school kids. I did AO! for all four years of high school, including a special AOX this summer. AOX is an intense, slightly varied version of AO!, except that it is only for freshman in college and high school seniors. Mainly the freshman though. The other main difference is that the week is focused more on community, fellowship, and our relationship on God rather than on all the cool activities we do. Needless to say, we did do some awesome stuff, but I'm not at liberty to share that. ;) But in all seriousness, the best parts of the week were when we were celebrating, praising, or relying on God, either in community or by ourselves.

I'll tell you a story. In the midst of a day when everyone was tired and exhausted, we had a prayer time. Someone would call out a topic, and we would pray for it for about two minutes, and then another topic would be called out. At the beginning, I said, "Let's start out by praising God." By doing so, rather than complain to God about how tired we were and ask for energy, we praised him for the beautiful day, for eyes to see the beauty and muscles to allow us to be there to see it, etc. After that, we moved on to supplication topics. But it signaled an incredible shift. The rest of the day was filled with intentional conversations full of grace. Several of us exchanged verses we had memorized and discussed them. I told one girl about my experience at a Messianic congregation. And during that time, I laughed. And believe me when I tell you that you have never known laughter or joy until you have spent a day "praying without ceasing." I was so full of joy, I cannot describe it. All pain vaporized. I forgot the exhaustion, having traded it for pure, unending joy.

Joy isn't happiness. Happiness is too shallow to truly describe joy. Joy is deep and, I believe, is linked and closely entertwined with contentment. When you allow the Lord to be your sustenance, He rewards you with strength beyond your capacity and incredible joy.

"The Lord is my strength" moved to "The Lord is my stronghold" to "The Lord is my salvation" to, lastly "The Lord is my song."