Dear (terrified) future husband…

Actually, anyone’s terrified future husband.

I want to apologize on behalf of the unmarried female populace for all of the “Dear future husband” letters that are multiplying on the internet faster than the fruit flies in your bachelor pad.  I’m sorry because they’re honestly pretty creepy.  I’m sorry because they portray Christian females as an overly mushy and sappy specimen of womanhood who sit around writing letters to you and polishing their purity rings.  I’m mostly sorry because–although most of them have some sort of “but Jesus is better!” caveat  near the end–they really seem to put you in His place, and no human can live up to that pressure.

Yeah, we’re girls.  We’re romantics.  We think about you more than we probably should.  But please please please… do not run in terror from all Christian girls because of creepy blog posts.  Or long pinterest pins conveying extremely unrealistic relationship expectations mainly involving you becoming Prince Charming incarnate.  Or songs like “Dear Future Husband.”  I won’t even get started on that one.

I’m not saying that all expectations are to be tossed out the window.  Please be gentlemen.  Please be kind.  Please be a leader.  What I am saying is we know that you won’t be perfect, and we’re wrong when we paint you as the panacea for our soul’s deepest longings. Please do not accept that burden.  Jesus has already taken that job, and if we won’t accept the satisfaction he offers, we’ll be just as lonely with or without you.

And girls, let’s just stop it.  I personally pledge that this will be the first and last letter to a hypothetical husband that I will ever write and I invite you to join me on this pathway of removing creepy expectations from guys.  Next time you have an urge to write a “Dear Future Husband” letter, maybe you should write a letter to your true future husband, Jesus.

#freetheguys

 

Standing among Giants

I can’t explain just how it felt–but there were definitely a lot of goosebumps involved and nonstop smiling.  It’s the kind of feeling you get when you’re peering over the edge of the Grand Canyon, or holding a brand new baby, or eating mangoes.  But I wasn’t doing any of those things–I was standing in Carnegie Hall.  On the stage.

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: I was part of a 210 member back-up choir in Carnegie Hall which one buys into and does not have to audition for.  I was not personally performing in Carnegie Hall.  That in no way, however, diminishes the fact that it was awesome, epic, indescribable.  Best. Senior Trip. Ever. 

I was standing in the footprints of giants.

As we entered through stage right, I was walking where the world’s finest musicians have inspired audiences for the past 125 years.  I could imagine Yo-Yo Ma, Jascha Heifetz, Ella Fitzgerald, or Renee Fleming filling this breathtakingly regal dome with sound–the same space that our voices would soon penetrate.

I was standing behind giants.

As we began our sound check for that evening’s sold out concert for Keith and Kristyn Gettys’ concert, An Irish Christmas, we were standing almost close enough to touch these history-makers.  While far from a household name, the Gettys are well-known in protestant churches as resurrect-ers of hymn writing.  They create Biblically-sound, singable, timeless hymns for communal and energetic worship.  The heart of their music pulsates to an eternal beat that makes you want to take part in it.  They do not leave behind them only collections of timeless songs, but a community-focused philosophy of church music that is desperately needed in a world of spotlights and superstars.

But I was not just standing behind giants, nor in their footprints.

I was standing among giants.

I glance around me as the conductor and pianist confer.  Two seats down on my right is the professor of Elementary Music Education at Purdue.  To my left is a high school choir director and composer.  Somewhere behind me is a married couple that have taught private voice and instrument lessons for years.  In the row in front of me is my own college choir director who is also my voice teacher.  While I have met most of these only in the past 24 hours, I know from my teacher that he pours his life into his work.  He has devoted his time and energy since his high school years into studying and teaching music.  I am certain the same could be said for the many others I met.  Singing with these often unseen giants was one of the most musically-formative moments of my life to date.

As a college senior studying music, I hear “So you’re going to teach, right?” a lot.  Don’t get me wrong: I love teaching.  I currently teach a handful of students, and watching them progress and develop as vocalists, violinists, or pianists is incredibly rewarding.  However, a month ago I would have answered that question, “Mmm… maybe part-time.”  I like teaching, but until now I haven’t had the conviction that teaching is what God wants me to be doing.  I’ve never had a “calling,” and that has bothered me at times.

Something happened in NYC, though–walking through the streets of Manhattan after the concert, talking to one music teacher in particular.  He reminded me that because music is a gift of God, Christian musicians are responsible to pass it on; it’s a sort of specialized discipleship.  Listening to him, I observed how intrigued he was by the latest child prodigy, the polychord at the end of one of our pieces, a recent excellent performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria.  He left me with the feeling that he couldn’t not teach music, because he loved it so much–and somehow he passed that bug on to me, too.  I can’t explain the feeling, the burden, the… calling?  The pressing need to teach music, to pass on what I have been given, hit me like a train hits a stalled car that has been sitting on the tracks for months, hoping to be hit by a train (don’t overthink it–every blog post needs at least one really bad metaphor).  The motivation created by this new-found, God-granted purpose has already filled me with so much freedom and direction.  And I know from the teachers I talked to that this God-given purpose keeps them going through the long hours and stubborn students.

These teachers are the link between music’s history and its future.  They pass on the precious gift that they have been given.  If the soloist in Carnegie Hall is the pinnacle of the musical mountain, music teachers are the massive, steadfast base which lift that soloist up.  Music teachers make music history happen.  They turn the listener of music into a creator of music.

We turn the listener into a creator.

I’m excited to join the ranks of music teachers–I’m privileged to share my passion–I’m blessed to have been granted by God the calling to join the giants.

Rubik’s Cube and Rumble Strips: Summer Travels

This summer, I had the privilege of traveling as part of a singing group representing my college.  Quick stats:  8 students + 1 sponsor/sponsor couple traveling in a 15 passenger van with a trailer for 9 weeks through 17 states to approx. 45 churches/camps/conferences to present our program of sacred vocal and instrumental music and drama and recruit students, prayer warriors, and other contacts for our school.  It was a great, hard, fun summer, and conveniently, all my highlights start with R!  Alliteration fanatics, be proud.

Rubik’s Cube

Gotta do something in the car, right?  12,000 miles is enough time for even ME to learn the Rubik’s cube.  My very patient friend taught me while we were sitting in the van.  One thing I really value from the summer is the time in the van chillaxing.  Essentially every day, we drove between 1 and 7 hours–plenty of down time to learn new things, read, review my Greek, memorize Scripture, cross-stitch, get to know your teammates, and yes, nap. A lot.  When I look at my little Rubik’s cube, it symbolizes to me time.  Time in which I was forced (not unwillingly) to sit and do the things I always say I’ll do “when I have time.”

Roller Coasters

I went on my first roller coaster!  Mondays were our days off, and we were able to enjoy going to a theme park in Branson, the Mall of America, or chilling/swimming in the hotel.  I’m not going to lie–I wasn’t super crazy about hurtling towards the ground at millions of miles per hour and then being whipped around unnatural angles.  Yeah, yeah, it’s “safe.”  In this context.  It’s pretty much letting people feel like they’re going to die without dying.  Huh, fun.

I know, I’m being a party pooper.  The thing I did appreciate about days off was being able enjoy things as a group that I wouldn’t go do on my own.  We got close as a group, and we just enjoyed being together.

Relationships

My teammates, the people that we ministered to, the people that ministered to us by having us in their homes…  people were the best and worst part of the summer.  They pulled out of me what I didn’t know was in me–anger or compassion, self-assertion or submission, problem-solving or “the void.”  You know, where you try to think and there’s literally nothing there.  Mac ‘n Cheese where my brain should be.  Anyway, people are what God used most in my life this summer to show me what I have in me–both good and bad.

Rumble Strips

Some of those people were the staff members from the school who would travel with us for 1-2 weeks at a time to drive the van and serve as an adult presence.  One of our sponsors–we’ll call him “Egbert” to protect the… I hesitate to call him innocent–was an excellent spiritual leader and a very fun addition to our team.  But he loved rumble strips.  Like, would purposely drive on the rumble strip for several miles to ensure that everyone was awake.  As you can imagine, those of us who were sleeping at these times were not too keen on being awakened by Sir Egbert’s little driving tricks.  I guess all of our sponsors had their quirks though–and that’s what made them memorable.  It was one of my favorite things about the summer, to hear your professor scream on a roller coaster, or  wear sandals almost 24/7, or have him pull you aside and ask how you’re holding up, or to observe him graciously drive through Manhattan with a van and trailer (no mean task!).  To see the summer vacation side of teachers–even if that involved rumble strips.

Re

Each member of our team had different responsibilities.  Mine was that of Music Director, which involved leading warm-ups (like do-re-mi?  Get the title? Nevermind.) and rehearsals and rearranging the program schedule when the church wanted less than the full hour and fifteen minutes.  It was one of the most stretching parts of the summer for me.  It forced me to be creative with warm-ups and programming, to analyze what needed to change, to lead musically.  I hated it–I loved it.  I got to the end and gladly renounced my responsibilities, at the same time knowing there is no renouncing what I know God has given to me, so I’m actually just starting.

Right Around the Corner…

I couldn’t help but wonder, as the summer went on, what I’ll be doing next summer after I graduate.  I value so much this summer and the different kinds of churches and ministries I was exposed to, the grad schools I was able to look into, the cities we visited, and even the teaching bug I caught.  Overall, I’m more excited than scared about what lies beyond graduation.

 

So… what did you do this summer?  Can you alliterate it, rhyme it, or acronym it?  [P.S. Acronym can actually be a verb.  Did you know that?  I didn’t know that.]

The anniversary of a watch

“Out of the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of engine at the bottom.  We directed him to draw out whatever was fastened to that chain; which appeared to be a globe, half silver, and half of some transparent metal: for on the transparent side we saw certain strange figures circularly drawn, and thought we could touch them, till we found our fingers stopped with that lucid substance.  He put this engine to our ears, which made an incessant noise like that of a watermill: and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion, because he assures us (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did any thing without consulting it.  he called it his oracle, and said it pointed out the time for every action of his life.

The Lilliputians’ descriptions of Capt. Gulliver’s pocket watch, from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

A year ago, one of my kind and generous brothers who possess excellent taste brought me a lovely, mulberry-colored wristwatch for my birthday.  I love it because it’s from my brother, it’s classy, and it’s extremely practical.  If I forget to put it on in the morning, I soon miss it, because I’m constantly checking it–like Gulliver, it almost becomes a god sometimes.  Other times, I wish I would have paid more attention to its silent, constant admonition.

A year ago, I set the time, pushed in the crown, and watched my pretty little watch count its first seconds.  And whether it was looked to or not, whether or not its silent advice was heeded, the watch ticked faithfully on.  The watch ticked out seconds; minutes; hours; days; weeks; months. Finally, the watch ticked out an entire year.  That first year ended this morning.

The watch was there, and could bear witness to what I did with each minute I was given.  For truly, I was given each minute.  They were granted for my benefit, productivity, and maturation from the hand of God himself.  Five hundred and twenty-five thousand, six-hundred of them.  So many precious little gifts.  Some abused, some lost, some wasted.  Some redeemed into usefulness, treasured to goodness.  One thing is certain–those minutes are all gone.  All have ‘ticked their last.’

Yet the watch ticks on.

 

 

Home

Homing pigeons, home for the holidays, home sweet home, Home Depot, nursing home, homestead, mobile home, homeless, homeslice, homework, home run, homing device. [bonus points if you think of any good ones I missed.]

Home [hōm]: The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

“A place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.”

(Oxford Dictionary)

I’m loving being home–the first kind, where most of my family lives.  It was a long (but good) semester, and it’s going to be a long (but good) summer traveling on a singing team with my college.  I have three weeks to be at my first home.  Two of them are over–a week from right now, I’ll be gone again.  I’m so grateful for these days–time with precious siblings, talks with Mom and Dad, being at my home church again, baking and washing dishes and ironing and doing homey things.  Being at this home is restorative, relaxing, and enjoyable.  These are the people I belong to and with.

However, even in this time I’ve been home, I’ve been discovering the second kind of home more and more.  The place I flourish.  It, too, is a place of belonging.  A place of restoration.  It involves being with the people–rather, person–whom I belong to.  Same quality time, same deep conversations.  But it’s my portable home.  He’s my portable home.

Home is where I truly belong–my real home, my lasting home, is heaven.  But home is also whom I truly belong with.  Every day I am more and more aware of how much I belong to and with Jesus.  His presence completes my need for belonging; conversation with him restores me.  I love him.

It’s simple logic, really:

Jesus is the one I really belong with.

Where the one I belong with is is home to me.

Jesus is everywhere–he never leaves me.

I have home everywhere. 

So yeah, I’m traveling this summer.  Every night I’ll have a new home.  The bus will be home on the road.  I’ll be away from home–but not really.  The peace and restoration that comes from being home can be mine every day, because Jesus is mine every day.  I can’t wait until he takes me to my true home.  And until then, I’ll love every day of being home with him–wherever that may be.

Chalkboard Graduation Cap

Things I Don’t Understand about Bible College

 

I have some thoughts about college.  Bible college.  My Bible college.  If you’re on of my fellow classmates, hey!  How’s break?  Evidently pretty lame since you’re reading my blog.  Do you like how I just insulted you AND me there?  Clever, aye?  Well, that will be pretty much the rest of this post–stamping on my own feet, and, if you’re anywhere close to me, you might be stamped upon as well.

These are three things I hate about what I’ve seen of college and why.

1. Students who are at college solely for the degree 

We all know this guy.  He wouldn’t say that he’s just in it for the degree (actually, maybe he would…), but it’s pretty clear if you really look at his actions.  He doesn’t study all semester, then crams to get good grades on the exam.  He fluffs up all of his papers to meet the page limit.  He works on other assignments in class instead of listening to the instructor.  WAIT WAIT WAIT.  That’s me.  But that’s not me at all.  Yeah, I do a little fluffing/cramming, but that doesn’t mean I’m just here for the certificate.  I just… don’t always care about learning.  Which is exactly the same thing.

This would be a heinous enough crime if I were at a secular school.  But at a Bible college?  Training for ministry?  If I’m not learning, what am I paying for?  A piece of paper to go on my wall that says I’m qualified to help you with your spiritual problems/teach your children/preach the Word of God to you/praise God through music/spread the Gospel throughout the world.  This is a little more weighty than fudging my way through a business degree.  Don’t fluff papers.  The teachers assigned them so that you could learn more about ministry.  Unless your teachers are…

2.   Teachers who don’t even know what they want their students to learn

Seriously.  Why?  Why be a teacher if you don’t have a passion for your subject, a passion for passing it on to the next generation, a passion for them to really learn and live?  And if you have that passion, why not express it in your lesson plans and assignments?  I value so much teachers who are so burdened for their students to understand how the Bible affects their lives that they assign hard projects, not just for the sake of hardness, but to cause them to grapple with the deep questions.  They expect students to learn and remember information for tests, because they know what they want students to learn and they expend their teaching energies on those important things.  These are the super teachers, who live and breath history, theology, communication, whatever their field of study; who have expectations and communicate them.  Unfortunately, when they expect hard, important things, the students give way to…

3.  Constant complaining about homework

I pay a lot of money to go to school.  My parents pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  The government pays a lot of money for me to go to school.  Anonymous donors pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  Extended family members pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  My school pays a lot of money for me to go to school.

All those people–myself included–do not invest all those resources in me so that I could sit at school and complain about how much I hate it.  That’s just plain stupid–you whine about how you don’t like school and you whine about how much it costs.  Newsflash: Choose a different school.  Oh, you do like it?  Then stop whining.  All that money, all this time, is going for you to learn.  What you’re learning depends upon your college and program, but it was evidently something you decided to pursue as a course of study and wanted to learn.  [If you didn’t, maybe you should re-evaluate why you’re there]  Part of learning is homework, because teachers can’t do everything in class.  They try to set you on the right track to learn the rest by yourself.  So do it, and stop whining about how much you hate reading/writing/projects/review.  It’s part of the learning process–learn to love it, force yourself to make it your thing.

 

 

One of my teachers called this The Great Swindle, or some such title: college is the only institution where the supplier and the consumer work together to cheat the consumer.  If such must be true of college as an institution, may it not be said of those seeking to train Christians to enter the ministry.  If it is true that the world genuinely needs what we have to offer–the Bible–then we must earnestly pursue that knowledge of the Bible, of the world, of service.  We must not rejoice over canceled class periods.  We must not thrive on open book tests.  We must not give any less than our greatest efforts in all of our work.  May our desire for knowledge exceed our desire for the easy route.

 

 

Life is weird

[Disclaimer: this is essentially an online journal post.  I hope you find yourself in some of the things I say, but this is really the sort of thing I should confine to an old notebook somewhere and not post on the eternal web.  If you get to the end and say, “Ruth.  That was super boring and I don’t care about your weird feelings,” know that you’ve been warned.]

Life is weird.  You may have already known that.  People are weird, relationships are weird, jobs are weird, college is weird, fun times are weird.  But the weirdest thing of all the weird things is that nothing is weird–I only perceive it as weird.  This is life.  There’s only one of them.  So everything is normal.  Life is normal.  Somehow, even though this is my first, and only, time through life, it still seems weird to me.  Which is weird in itself, because this being my first time through, I shouldn’t really have preconceptions to judge life by–but I do, and when life doesn’t match my preconceptions, I call it weird.  But it’s not.  It’s actually normal.

I said jobs and college and other things are weird.  And I truly think they are.  Pretty much nothing I have encountered in my life so far is like I had played out that it would be in my head.  But the weirdest thing in life to me is me.  I’m kind of complicated.  Maybe you are too.  I’m not really what I expected me to be.  I thought that life should be pretty standard, pretty normal–that I should be standard and normal.  But I’m not, and it’s weird.

It’s weird to me that I often find washing dishes more fun than hanging out with people.  People can talk, crack jokes, do fun things, provide interaction.  Dishes only talk in Beauty and the Beast, and if they crack, it’s not usually a good thing, but for some reason I find their company soothing.  I need people, but I want to do dishes.  I wish that wanted people and needed to do dishes.

It’s weird to me that rather than familiarity breeding contempt, it actually breeds love.  Over and over, with people, tasks, food, colors…  I love to vacuum the entire library where I work.  There isn’t anything much more relaxing and mind-clearing for me than to spend an hour vacuuming.  A year ago, I tolerated it.  Now it’s my down time.  This has happened more times than I can tell. Why can I change what I like and don’t like?  I’m a fluid stream, but I thought I was a rock.  I was wrong.

It’s weird to me that I’m never really ready for anything in life.  Sometimes I think I am, then I jump into something to realize I have no clue what’s going on.  And when I realize I’m not ready is actually when I’m most ready, because somehow acknowledging my unreadiness makes me more ready.  Tenacity, not confidence, is my foundation for the future.  Some foundation.

It’s weird to me that my mind and my heart still can’t get along.  You’d think that after 20 years of living together, they would put up with each other.  Bickering children at least pretend in front of their mom to like each other.  My conflicting parts don’t even make a show of it.  Knowledge and feelings rarely align.

In other words, it’s weird to me that I’m an introvert.  But only sometimes.

It’s weird to me that trite sayings don’t govern my personality.

It’s weird to me that I can’t prepare for things that there are no way to prepare for.

It’s weird to me that I’m a complex emotional, physical, spiritual creature.

Pretty much, I’m weird.  It really has nothing to do with life at all.  Life is a complex creation of God; I am a complex creation of God.  Maybe instead of trying so hard to understand, I should step back and allow my breath to be taken away by what he’s making and take comfort in knowing that he understands me when I don’t.