Sleepless in Newberg?

Are you one of those people that can function on small amounts of sleep? The kind of person who often finds themselves staying up till 2 AM supplemented by procrastination and caffeine? Well I am NOT. In fact, I recently found myself believing that I had stayed up late working on homework because I finished and assignment at 10 PM. I’m a total night owl, right?

Unfortunately, this not-so-night owl recently had a night where her body and mind seemed to be in utter disagreement, sabotaging my precious sleep. Let me tell you about my Thursday night.

While I knew my body would regret it the next day, my mind seemed to be racing a a million miles an hour. As I laid in bed, I tried the old trick of “Netflixing” myself to sleep. DID NOT WORK. After binging on way too many episodes of Parks and Recreation (let’s be honest, can you really watch too many episodes of Parks and Recreation though?), I closed my laptop at midnight and tried to finally get some shut eye.

My mind would not allow this and preceded to hold me captive with thoughts. “You know what would be a great idea?” my mind whispered to my body. “Perfect for this time of night! Let’s brainstorm good things to pack in a carry on!” Really brain, really? Right now at this hour, this is the most important thing we can be doing? But my mind would not give in.

Eventually, I decided just to go along with it and make that list. “Okay, let’s see. What snacks should I bring? Larabars? YES…” my mind continued as my thumbs dutifully typed this list into my phone. To be fair, we did learn in class to always write down our ideas so we don’t lose sight of them. Maybe I was finally retaining something I had learned in class.

To top my night off, it continued with a 3 AM “spa trip” to our house bathroom where I decided if I wasn’t going to sleep, I was going to take advantage of it and preceded to tweeze my eyebrows and put on a relaxing tea tree oil face mask.

I’m not sure why I decided to tell you this story, other than the fact that it shows the superb example of putting something into practice that I learned in class. I’m supposed to tell stories that make me look good, right? Anyways, my writers block is beginning to set in so I will end with this. My hope for you is that 1. you had a better nights sleep than I, and 2. that you are able to apply what you are learning. These should be helpful tips to carry into the rest of your life, but ESPECIALLY  for finals week. Am I right?

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End of a Semester…Beginning of a Journey

And with that, our semester of Studies in Writing comes to a close. Though this is not the first college class that I have had to blog for, blogging provided the creative outlet to keep my creative juices flowing for the semester. Blogging valiantly attempted to protect me from writers block and at times forced me to me more creative than I am used to. Surprisingly, some of my favorite blogs to write were actually those with assigned prompts. Often, they were a reflection on something we were reading or talking about in class. Blogging about those things forced me to out the thoughts swirling around in my head written down. This became extremely helpful in retaining my thoughts when it came time for essays or in class discussions.

Although it won’t be for this class and may look a little different, I am going to continue writing blog posts back on the blog I began in high school. This blog is going to be a creative outlet for me and a way to connect to those back home as I spend my semester abroad in Thailand. I hope to update the blog with my travels and what I am learning at least twice a month or whenever I have time for it. Once I figure out what the blog will look like, I will provide a link to it on this blog. It has been a joy journeying through this class with you all and I can’t wait to see where writing takes all of you in the future.

Saul to Paul

The story of Paul’s conversion is one of extreme importance in the early church. The transformation from persecutor to missionary not only shows the merit and truth of the gospel of Christ, but it also gives hope to a modern world where many Christians are being persecuted in the same region they were nearly two thousand years ago, around the time of Paul’s conversion. To gain an understanding of the importance of Paul’s conversion, we must dive deep into the background that lead him to become a persecutor of the church, the special way in which he was confronted by the risen Christ, and just how drastically his life changed in the aftermath of that confrontation, including the name change from Saul to Paul.

Acts, chapter nine starts out by telling the readers that “…Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” Other than his approval of Stephen’s stoning, this is one of the first lines mentioning him in the New Testament, the first impression we get of him. Saul was not putting Christians to death for no reason though. Rather, he was extremely committed to his own Jewish faith and was willing to go to great lengths to keep pure what he believed to be the way of the Lord. For Paul, and other Jews for that matter, it was very scandalous to claim that their savior had been crucified, hung on a tree and left to die.

According to Jewish law, those who were hung on a cross, just as Jesus was, were said to be under God’s very own curse, bringing curse to others and to the land along with them. Because of this, at first glance, it would be very hard to believe that the one who was sent to bring freedom, blessing and salvation was instead under the curse of God. For Saul to believe that the Christians were right, that Jesus was in fact the savior, he would have had to change his entire mindset. Saul had to acknowledge that God’s salvation was at work outside of the law. Jesus was in fact not outside of the law during his death on the cross, He was actually the fulfillment of it. While Saul was convinced that he was being an honorable law-abiding Jew, he had indeed missed the entire point of his faith, he had missed the Messiah.

It was probably for that very reason that the Christ whom he had denied met with him face to face in one of the most radical and abrupt conversions in the early church. Reading through Acts 9:4-6 is the only way to really feel the magnitude of this event, “He fell on the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” One very interesting and apparent aspect here is that Saul didn’t simply experience a vision or something of that likeness, the risen Christ called him out into a face to face encounter, representing a true conversion which involves a personal encounter with Jesus that leads to new and abundant life.

May you meet the God of your salvation face to face this Easter, as we celebrate the Resurrection.

Letters and Life Reflection

The most impactful thing that stuck out to me in this section of Bret Lott’s writing was in the description of he and his family wheeling his dad down the hallway in the hospital to take him for a walk.

“Do not here think me some kind of good guy for taking the wheelchair and pushing my dad down to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee. Do not look at me in this moment as the thoughtful son doing the right thing in relieving the nurse or keeping my mom from the work of pushing that chair,” Lott writes, “Instead, look at my father, and my mother, and my wife…”

Lott successfully urges the readers eyes off of himself as the central theme of his writing. Instead, he enables us to look through his eyes and become emerged in his surroundings. This can be a difficult thing to do, even for Lott himself. He describes how his views on the job of the author used to be much different when he was younger and just starting grad school.

He used to think that writing was about the author and how well the writer could put words on a page to form a story. However, after reading some of Raymond Carver’s work, he realized that isn’t the case at all. Rather, the writer is simply an intruder in the story. Rather, stories are about the characters in them.

This has prompted me to believe that the more diminished the author is in a story, even a a story that is about something the author experiences, the better.

Even if I Settle on the Far Side of the Sea…

Spring semester is almost over, so I thought I would give friends and family a little update about what I have been up to while I’m away at college and some exciting things in the next year or so. This semester has been a crazy whirlwind. I am taking six classes and started out the semester working on a research project about corporate social responsibility alignment in social enterprises. But, I will be HALFWAY DONE with college when it is over and will be presenting that research in April at the Northwest Communication Association Conference in Coeur D’alene!

This summer, I will be coming back to Longview to intern at Calvary, working with the youth and putting on summer camps, but will also be heading off to the Philippines for two weeks to return to the site of my first mission trip. Come August, I will once again be heading overseas, but this time for a semester abroad in Thailand. I will spend 3 months taking courses and participating in a practicum in Chiang Mai. Prayers could be used for this crazy endeavor and for the people I will be missing while away. When I get back from Thailand, I will get to celebrate a wonderful Christmas break with loved ones, including a week in Arizona finally seeing my grandparents’ home away from home. Next spring semester, I will be living in the cutest little house off campus with three friends enjoying our own space and cooking our own food. After that semester ends, I will be jetting off to either Greece or Israel on a three week juniors abroad trip in May with a group of students and faculty from Fox.

This coming year will be a crazy time for me, and I don’t know if I have fully comprehended what I have signed up for. However, many (if not all) of these things are a result of prayer and pushing past fear, doubts, and anxiety. As I think about all to come and the obvious ups and downs I will encounter, one verse is sticking out to me.

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.”

-Psalm 139:9-10

I hope that I continue to remember this verse with confidence that there is nowhere I can go where I will be out of God’s reach.

Shared Creative Writing

The following is from the shared creative writing activity we participated in on Wednesday:

One, two, three, four… the red light flashed again and again, its crimson glow the only illumination this desolate city could conjure up. Not being someone who is usually up at this hour, I didn’t know quite what my eyes were telling me.

Was I there already? It was too late for my brain to connect, and the drive seemed too short for me to be in the capital already. I could barely remember why I was driving south anyways. Maybe this would be a good place to stop, just for a few hours? Exhaustion was seeping into my bones. I desperately needed rest. I drove forwards, into town, looking for any signs or markers that would indicate a place to stop. A few blocks ahead, there was an ancient wooden sign indicating a bed and breakfast.

A bell rang as I stepped inside, disrupting the eerie silence. I surveyed my surroundings, deciding if I should just sleep in my car or try my luck here. The lobby was sparsely decorated, but a giant, dusty chandelier hung squarely over a large rug. I felt a whisper of a breeze on my arm and turned, ready to bolt. A man stood at the counter. Old, with translucent skin. He had not been there a second ago.

“Looking for a room?” he asked. His voice was unexpectedly smooth. I could only stammer a “yes.” He motioned with his hand to follow him up the stairs. As I walked, there were shadows playing on the walls, flickering on the ceiling. But there was no distinguishable light source. Sometimes, I thought I could here a whisper follow me. We walked down a flight of stairs. But wait, hadn’t we just walked up a flight of stairs? Nope. Too much. I was leaving. I stuttered some lame excuse about an emergency to the old man and began to run back the way we had come. He just smiled and nodded. I turned left, up the stairs, then right and down. I was lost. How was this possible?…

Creative Collaboration Reflection

In class this past Monday, we participated in a creative collaboration brainstorming activity with a partner. In that activity, we were able to think about a response to one of the creative writing prompts, interview the other student about their idea, and then draw out what we saw their idea looking like.

Even though I did not come to class with a solidified idea in mind, I found the collaboration helpful and walked away from class with a potential story idea. When thinking about things I have recently read, I struggled to find something at first because I basically never read fiction. The last time I remember choosing a fiction novel to read outside of the classroom was probably in early high school, at least 4 years ago. That’s pretty sad, isn’t it?

While I used to spend plenty of my free time making up stories, I have lately struggled to come up with something I could claim as truly original content. Rather, I have opted to read biographies and non-fiction reflections while I write about my own life and spiritual journey.

I finally was able to come up with something, inspired by the biblical passages my community group has recently walked through. While going through a book called “Manna and Mercy” we have talked about the ideas of community, creation, and rest in the Bible. One thing that came to the surface was that though the year of Jubilee was planned in the Old Testament, it never seemed to actually happen. My idea is to write a fictional tale of a time when the year of Jubilee actually happened. I am not sure yet what it will look like, but I was able to get some helpful suggestions in class.

Return To Thailand

With the recent affirmation that I will be going back to Thailand for an ENTIRE SEMESTER, I have decided to take a look back through the journal I kept during my time there in August of 2015. Below I have included a summary of my time there as a way to remind myself of why I am going back:

As the last month of summer approached, I set off on an adventure to Thailand with a team of 17 companions and a great God that led us all there. Our church has supported Ban San Faan, a children’s home in Thailand for years and finally getting to meet these kids I had always grown up hearing about really motivated me. As we entered into a new culture, each with our own ideas of what might happen and the shared hope that God would do something great through this trip,  little did I realized just how much I would be blessed by a God who desires to grow my spirit each day and the believers in Thailand that have committed to follow Him while ninety-eight percent of the nation follows a different path with their religion.

The first day of the trip, our goal was simple: unplug from the lives we are used to and learn about the culture that would temporarily surround us. The first couple of days after we landed, we tried to dive into the culture as much as we could, including learning a little about Buddhism and wandering through a large street market, but nothing compared to the times we really connected with those kids. However, no matter where or what we were doing, God’s spirit was continuously at work in every aspect of His mission for us in Thailand.

The first time I really clearly saw Him at work was our one night trip up north when we took six of the older Ban San Faan girls with us. The first place we stopped was at another children’s home called Mercy House where many kids live and are able to get an education. Though they may not have had an abundance of material wealth, God provides for them and the joy and sharing personalities that they have are worth far more than anything the world has to offer. Though we could not communicate that well linguistically, just being with them and watching the Ban San Faan girls lead them in song was a sweet moment that taught me more about just how big the god that we serve is. He knows no boundaries! This was just the beginning of God’s many blessings and lessons He had waiting for us.

The next morning was a time that was very moving for myself and I believe for other members of the team as well. We went to a church called Khaodee, another children’s home with over 100 kids of many ages living and learning. I had the privilege to be a part of the band that led worship that morning, but the best part was that their voices flooded that upstairs room so loud that they seemed to overpower our own microphones and instruments! There would be many more memories, but one thing in particular that their leader said that will always stick with me is “We have nothing to offer you but prayers, here we live by prayer!” God has started to show me that just like this church, it is always better to depend on Him instead of myself for everything I need. After that, the kids there all prayed for us out loud all at once, I felt undeserving of that blessing from them, but I knew it was a gift from God, His spirit is alive and at work!

That weekend was a perfect preparation for spending even more time with the kids in Chiang Mai and at Ban San Faan, seeing God use the six older Ban San Faan girls and learning how our team fit with them and into the culture. The Monday after we arrived, our team got to start helping out with teaching English at the elementary school down the road. Even though their energy had somewhat of an exhausting effect at the end of the day, it was a blast seeing their smiling faces excited to see us and to learn. While I started to get tired after those school days, I think God was showing me that I need to remember to rest and relax in Him. He should be the source of my energy, not my own strength. After all, the goal of a mission trip should not just be to do a bunch of good activities. It is about being intentional with connecting with those that God puts in your path, and to truly grow and learn in Him more.

When I thought about being intentional, one verse in particular popped out to me; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who dies for them and was raised again.”

We must be intentional in our lives to live for God’s agenda and spend time with Him so that He can fill us up to do as He desires for us!

One time I felt that God really wanted an intentional heart was one simple night at the Chiang Mai night market. A group of us decided to pray over the market, the city and that we would be able to see the opportunities that God would choose to place in front of us that night. Later on that night, I ran into a begging woman on the street. It was only by God’s grace and guidance that I was led to just go out and speak with her. I gave her a small amount of money to this woman named Dalia who was missing an arm and then later on, we  prayed for her that she would be able to know that she is loved and beautiful in the eyes of God. Though that moment was short and I don’t know much else about this woman, I feel that it reached something deep within me because God was continuing to show me his greatness with the way He led me to this woman.

After that night, we were blessed to spend more time fellow-shipping with the Ban San Faan kids and taking them out for the day where we were blessed to afford to buy them each their own Thai Bible. That day and the joy those boys and girls filled my heart with each time I saw them and we got to know each other more will always be one of my favorite memories. And though it was very hard to leave, I know that I will get to see them being used by God and growing and that is worth everything!

Bad Grammar?

For years, among English teachers and writers alike, there has been a war over whether or not teaching grammar in the classroom is helpful and worthwhile. In his article “Grammar, Grammars, and Teaching Grammar”, Patrick Hartwell outlines some of his positions on the subject. He outlines three different types or levels of grammar and explains how grouping their definitions together is problematic. The three grammars are as follows:

  1. Grammar: This is what most people master by age 5 or 6. Basic uses that are not discussed.
  2. Grammar Two: This is when basic grammar begins to be discussed and looked at, where students begin to describe their grammar.
  3. Grammar Three: This is grammar etiquette, which tongue is appropriate to speak and write in.

Hartwell tells his readers that grouping the three types of grammar is problematic because the teaching of one type of grammar could be more helpful and necessary than the teaching of another type of grammar.

Personally, I have never really been a fan of in depth grammar lessons (as you probably get a sense of in my writing). However, as I enter deeper into my studies as a communication arts student, I am beginning to see the importance of grammar just a little more. If teaching grammar is used to “…help students understand the system they unconsciously know, showing them the necessary categories and labels (Hartwell),” then what grammar really is is a tool for meaning making. The ones who are making the meanings are the ones who have power. Therefore, maybe grammar is more than what we give it credit for, it is a tool for empowerment.

Inefficiency

The internet has supplied each of us with a huge amount of knowledge right at our fingertips. In a Google search, one can access anything from the writings of C.S. Lewis, to a plethora of delicious recipes. With so much information available at the click of a button, one must be wise and intentional in taking advantage of this technology. In no way should we discount the advantages that technology has enabled our society with. Rather, we must simply be aware of the time we spend using it and the many ways it can affect our lives.

As many of us personally know, one can be easily become lost when browsing through the unending pages and social media sites that the internet has to offer. While there is nothing particularly wrong with this, it is important not to let it become a black hole that our time disappears into, never to be seen again. Americans now spend an average of eleven or more hours a day consuming electronic media (Richter). Though this media can often be consumed while simultaneously accomplishing something else, this seems like an incredibly large amount of time to be plugged in. One can’t help but ponder how life would be different if we spent even half of this time doing something else. While people accomplish work-place tasks, research, keep in contact with loved ones and an array of other things through electronics, much of our time online could be deemed unnecessary.

God’s word reinforces our need to be aware of our time consumption: “Be very careful then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is” (NIV, Ephesians 5:15-17). Along with every other part of our lives, we must put our use of technology under the authority of scripture. It is vital that we choose to keep technology balanced in our lives. This balance is our means for keeping authenticity in every area of our lives.

If we are not careful, technology can not only use up our time, it can also affect many other aspects of our lives. Including the ways that we relate to others, especially in friendships. According to Brown, “The modern world is becoming more and more efficient with work and less and less meaningful with human interactions. No friendship is based on efficiency” (Brown). With the dawn of modern technology, the demand for efficiency in everything from fast food to our Wi-Fi connection has been highlighted. Maybe it has a come to a point where our minds automatically separate those things that are deemed efficient and those that aren’t, such as friendship. Perhaps this is a dilemma in our way of thinking. Friendship is a necessary part of life, but it can bring about inefficient, unexpected things into our paths. Not to worry though! These deep, intentional friendships are exactly what God wants for us.

‘As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ (NIV, Luke 10:38-42)

Mary pleased Jesus not because of anything she accomplished, not by checking of a bunch of domestic duties, but by simply spending time getting to know Him. Because she intentionally put everything aside and invested in her relationship with Jesus, she was blessed. Maybe if we choose to put aside our electronic media and need for efficiency, and instead look up from our screens and really listen to what our friends are saying, we will be blessed as well.

This creates a funny contradiction in the realm of technology. If the main point of technology is to make life more efficient, why is it one of the largest time consumers in our day and age? Friendship may not be deemed efficient, but maybe if we didn’t let this efficient technology use up so much our time, we would actually be able to invest in those life-giving relationships. It is important to take control over our use of technology. We must use it and its efficient nature to improve our lives and give us more time to set aside for intentional relationships. We must not become distracted, letting technology usher more harm than good into our lives. This is exactly what healthy intentionality looks like, in both our use of technology and relationships with others.

Gendered Writing

Neither in the Flynn nor in the Tobin articles did I wholeheartedly resonate with the type of gendered writing these authors were writing about. While the writing narratives of both men and women may be different, I think that the way men and women compose is far more complex than it has been made out to be. Personally, I have written pieces that fit into both writing style tendencies. I have written more community focused pieces that seek a resolution, but I have also written the sports story where I am pictured as the “hero” who overcame injury.

So while I didn’t particularly connect with one side or the other, there was one section in Tobin’s article that really stood out to me. Maybe because it was though provoking, or maybe just because it gave me a good laugh when I read it. Either way, it was the one paragraph that stuck with me the most. On page 161 in the middle paragraph, Tobin talks about their annual “Papers from Hell” conference where instructors sit around and talk about the papers they find it hardest to read.

In my head, I allowed myself to imagine all of my teachers, past and present, getting together to discuss their least favorite papers to read. How many of them would be mine? Though I have always received high grades on papers, I feel like I have probably written a paper in each of the listed categories:  the author-vacated re- search paper, the politically incorrect persuasive essay, and the plot summary response to a literary, and maybe even my own version of the typical male narrative. I allow my mind to wander here because if a paper I have written would appear at this “Papers from Hell” conference, there is a skill I have not yet learned that could be of tremendous value to me.

Mother Dearest

You know that awful playground saying, “You have a face only a mother could love?” I have often wondered if the same could be said of my writing. When I take the time to think about it, my mom has been one of the biggest influences on who I am, especially in the early years of my life. Therefore, whether she intended to or not, she has shaped my writing.

I can remember one Christmas when I was probably 7 years old or so, my mom had an interesting idea for a Christmas present to all of the family and friends.  She wanted to give them book of my highly-desired elementary level poetry where I wrote on excitable topics such as being super hungry on a family road trip, wanting to jump in puddles, and wishing the world was made out of candy. I even wrote a little “about the author” page that went something like this:

“My name is Reagan. I am seven years old and in the 2nd grade. I live with my mom, dad, and little sister. Selam. I like to read, do cheer-leading, go outside, and play with friends.”

I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a look at my poetry after reading that rousing autobiography?

This 7 year old poetry book may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of my writing currently. However, my mothers wholehearted support and publication of my writing caused my to operate in the mindset that my writing is something worth being read. I hope to use this as a stepping stone and not a crutch to fall back on.