Sunday, August 25, 2013


This week, I have
  • assigned mailboxes for 54 people.
  • had heart-to-heart conversations with at least 5 people.
  • met probably 70 people I didn't know before.
  • consciously made time to talk to people. 
  • hugged at least 30 people.
  • hunted down many people so I could give them keys and information.
  • made my room presentable so I won't be embarrassed when people come in it. 
  • thought about the people from last year I miss.
  • worried that people don't like me.
  • been surprised when unexpected people have liked me.
  • reminded myself multiple times to write letters to two people, which I still have not done.
  • prayed with groups of people probably an average of three times a day.
  • realized I need to call people back home.
  • remembered what it was like being a freshmen two years ago and being in these other peoples' shoes.
  • taken time away from people.
  • had two emotional breakdowns from being around people too much.
  • been shocked and amazed at how God provides ways for people to survive in places where they would normally be fish out of water.
I joked earlier today that I had managed to fool everybody into thinking I was a naturally loving person. But I don't feel like I was faking it. This week of returning to school, training with other dorm staff members, and greeting freshmen and returners has stretched me in ways I don't think I would have been capable of handling two years ago. I would have been even more of a crying wreck -- this week was not without its struggles.

I couldn't have done this on my own. Under my own power, I would not have been able to deal with so many people. I would not be able to function without God.

My dependence on Him isn't perfect, but I'm ever marveling at the ways God can take regular, flawed people and enable them to do things far removed from anything they thought they would ever do. Really, I think that's one of the things He does best.

What did God do for you this week?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The new normal

I'm back at Taylor, and it feels quite normal.

I went to my Indiana church this morning. I am in a different room this year, but on the same floor, and the walls are the same and the type of doors are the same and the mess from moving in is the same. My freshman year, I came early for orientation and these last two years I've come early for theater and discipleship activities, so that feels normal too, even though campus isn't full. 

Summer patterns are gone. (This means no more Wednesday book reviews, but I will post reviews whenever I do have time to finish a book.) Already, I'm anticipating trying to do too much at once and being tired and going to friends' game nights. I can imagine the angle of the sun when I slip out the side door after chapel. I can ignore the voices that come from the street below my window at 11 at night, because those are typical.

But there's something that's not going to be the same as last year: the people. I have seven brand new people I'm supposed to take care of, as well as a few I know but not well. I have to make room for them in my life. 

I've made it possible for me to ignore people a lot. I'm used to working alone, I excuse myself for not remembering names and faces, and I like to take for granted that others are better suited to helping people than I am. For me, these things are normal.

I don't want to slip into patterns this year. I want a discernment that shows me what steps I need to take each day, and for that discernment to result in intentionality in forwarding relationships. (Sounds like a God thing, huh?) I'm not good at these things. They're not embedded in my normal. I hope to put them there.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Missionary review

My mom read this book before I did, and her reaction was, "I was kind of expecting more of a Christian message at the end."

I think I hemmed and hawed for a few moments before trying to tell her that dropping a churchy-stamped anvil on a reader's head is not what most writers are going for. Then I actually read the book. You know what? She was right.

The Missionary, by William Carmichael and David Lambert, was kind of a mixed bag for me, but my reaction was positive overall. And truth be told, there are a lot of good messages you can draw from it. How the decisions we make affect the people around us. Reliance on God. Trust in marriage. These themes are tucked into a plot that was a lot more like a spy-thriller than the Amish fiction-esque story I was expecting (I guess I didn't read the back, or look too closely at the cover).

The story is about David Eller, a missionary in modern-day Venezuela who leads a mission that shelters orphans. David is bitter at the system that puts so many children on the streets, and when he gets a chance to attack the disease instead of the symptoms, he takes it. Things get complicated quickly.

There's a lot of descriptive detail in here - technical details of plans and operations, down to the weapons. Also, a rather strange tendency to give the height and weight of most of the characters you meet. Perhaps that fits the way the military characters think. I thought it was weird. Some of the details build to vivid moments, which is good, and sometimes the models of the machine guns or whatever went over my head. Tastes will vary.

One thing I didn't like was that some characters only existed for plot advancement. It fits with the movement and variety, which feels intentional, but there are a few characters I wanted more well-rounded -- David's father and brother, for instance. There were a lot of elements in this, characters among them, that were used and then concluded without the mind-boggling connections and purpose I like in a plot-heavy book. Not everything gets explained, which I liked okay, and there were a few good surprises, but sometimes I wanted more explanations and connections that could have given thematic unity -- the "message" I felt was missing at the end.

It never gets back to David's mission; after a while, helping the poor impoverished children fades away. Sure, his life and loved ones were in danger, but the story didn't follow up on the consequences of his actions on his ministry. I guess there were other things to talk about, but I bet it could have been skillfully woven in, again, leading to a more solid ending.

Still, the things the authors did led to an action-packed and exciting book. You empathize with important characters, even some rough mercenary types, and the Christianity isn't forced. (Actually, I thought it could have taken a more central role toward the end.) I liked the complexity and beauty in the Ellers' relationship, and there are a few moments where the prose itself sparkles (and a few where it tries, but falls flat). If anything I've said here intrigues, you might want to give it a look.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Family vacation

I'm trying to come up with a blog post that will expend the lowest amount of energy possible. I thought uploading a photo would be a good summary of the weekend, since those seem to be half of what family vacations are all about, but it would be too much effort to try to figure out how to get the photo onto the blog when I'm using a netbook and a phone and I'm too tired to know how to put them together. (Don't tell me. Maybe I'll figure it out later.)

This will not approach close to 1000 words, but I can try to put together a picture.

I have bruises all over my legs from active climbing while playing woodchips.
I have sore feet from being barefoot on surfaces like gravel and forest trails on which people were not meant to be barefoot.
I have sunburn on my face from long amounts of time in the pool, even though I applied sunscreen. (Skin cancer is serious.)
I will be delighted to sleep on a bed instead of on a sleeping bag separated from the ground by only a thin layer of tent.
I will not want to wake up for work tomorrow because my body will be recovering from long days divided by nights spent on a sleeping bag separated from the ground by only a thin layer of tent.
I should stretch, because if I don't, my legs will be angry at me in the morning.
I have a sore neck from trying to find creative positions to sleep while in the car.

I have a wonderful family.
I love vacation.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Phantom of the Opera review

The Phantom is a heck of a lot creepier than in the movie. Just sayin'.

As a theater person, I was particularly interested in Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera. Though I don't love the movie musical, one thing it impressed me with was a deep sense of the theatrical. I was interested to find that they didn't add that in. They took it straight from the book.

If you want to read more classics, but don't have time for really thick or dense books, I'd recommend this one. It's short and has enough thrill to keep you going, even with ornate details and the overwrought setup. (I mean that in the best way. It really works for the tone he's going for.) It also has an element I can't describe as anything other than Frenchness.

Things I liked: fast pace, overtones of horror that fit really well with the theatrical scenery, the way side plots got worked in, the Paris opera house, Christine, the Persian. Though he doesn't spend a lot of time forming their characters, Leroux gives us a vivid sense of what they're like. I was more impressed with Christine than I thought I'd be.

Things I didn't like: Raoul. I've always thought he was a bit wimpy, and though Leroux takes pains to tell us that he's brave, we get no sense of what he's like other than obsessed with Christine to the point of selfishness. Kind of creepy.

But not as creepy as the Phantom.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Looking forward

And in a moment, summer was pretty much over.

Well, there's actually still a month and a half of summer. But having been public schooled (alas), seasons for me tend to revolve around the school calendar. Heightened awareness of events ahead is making me feel like it's all coming to an end.

In my summer post from two and a half months ago, I outlined a bunch of the things I wanted to do. So far the scorecard reads like this:

Books read: 3/8 I had planned, but I read 5 I hadn't planned, so pretty much even.
Things done: 4/6. One of the things I have yet to do is a crochet project, but I have several hours of sitting in a car coming up that I can fill nicely. The last thing is harder... finishing the novel.

Someone suggested to me recently that I should take a break and write something else, since I was stuck. That sounded very appealing, but I have some simmering stubbornness that makes me want to finish the darn thing. A look back at the work I've done this summer will turn into a look of confusion, since it pretty much looks like it did when I left school, resolutions and lifestyle changes or no.

But when I look ahead, I start to get excited. Because in the future, I fix all the problems in the story and then it becomes awesome.

Other good things are also coming soon.

I'm going on vacation with my family. Pretty ecstatic about it.
I'm going back to school, where I will take on three jobs and audition for the musical. I also can't wait to meet the new girls on my floor. Next year looks like what I've wanted since I visited Taylor when I was a junior in high school.
I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year whether it kills me or not. I have an idea that's slowly cooking, and when I start making progress on my current novel, I'm going to begin planning for my new one (which I'm actually hoping will turn out to be a novella).

In the near future, there are people I want to see and places I want to be. There's a reason fall's my favorite.