One Holiday at a Time, Please

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I love the holidays. I’m the kind of person who goes all out when it comes to decorating and having a holiday spirit. I think my family resents me a bit once December 1st hits, because I turn into Cindy Lou-Who, throwing lights and glitter and decorations everywhere and sometimes I think I even start singing that creepy song the Whos all sing. (I’m not entirely sure what fahoo forays even means; that doesn’t stop me from singing it, anyway.)

But I turn slightly Grinch-like when I’m walking down the street, enjoying the autumn colors and weather just starting to turn chilly, when I’m suddenly assaulted by a giant inflatable snow globe with Santa and dancing reindeer. Some of my neighbors don’t even wait for Halloween to end before they start decorating for Christmas, so I turn into Dr. Seuss; only my message is slightly different than his.

I quite enjoy the holidays; this is a fact that’s true. But Christmas lights so early? What’s a poor girl to do?

We should just be enjoying each season in its course, but Thanksgiving gets trampled by the prompt Christmas force.

I stand on the sidewalk without any snow, puzzling at lights. How can it be so?

Maybe Christmas, I think, doesn’t come in December. With decorations up early, it’s hard to remember!

“They’re hanging their lights up?” I snarl with a sneer. “It’s only November! Winter’s not even here!”

But they have their ribbons and bright Christmas tags, while pulling lights out of their boxes and bags.

“But wait!” I call out. “We still have some time!” But nobody listens, so I write this rhyme.

‘Cause they pull out their wreaths and their bows and their holly, and hang them up in September, all Christmas-y jolly.

What happens then? In Rochester, they say, Katie’s warm heart shrinks three sizes that day.

Decorations are good, knick-knacks a wonder; but let’s not steal poor Thanksgiving’s thunder.

I’d like to turn Grinch-like and snatch lights away, returning them on the appropriate day.

A bare street with no lights till December! What then? But swords are not mightier than my little pen.

For we all saw what happened to our dear Grinchy friend when he stole the Whos stuff; he gave it back in the end.

So I sigh and put up with Christmas so soon, and hope someday, someone listens to my tune.

My friends, welcome holidays in its assigned term, ‘cause lights before Thanksgiving just make me squirm.

Seriously, guys; let’s take one holiday at a time.

Modern Day Idolatry

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Whenever someone says idolatry, I picture little golden statues that got the Israelites into so much trouble in the Old Testament and congratulate myself for being able to say I’ve never done that. Poor, dumb Israelites. We won’t even mention the early Christians in Rome who decided to give up Jesus for Diana and the like.

Something that’s easy to forget is that Christians are frequently guilty of idolatry on a daily basis. I’m not talking about the deed of actually bowing before some stone god.

I’m referring to whatever is placed above God in our lives. It can be Netflix, Facebook, sports, or even a person. I had to purge my life of a few idols recently. It wasn’t pretty. I didn’t go all Moses and smash a giant golden calf, but it was pretty close.

I love music. I’m a horrible singer, but that doesn’t stop me from belting out songs, anyway. My taste in music is probably the most varied of anyone you’ll ever meet. I’ll listen to and appreciate pretty much any music genre (although rap isn’t my favorite.)

I had a lot of different types of music on my phone, and I listened to them frequently. Let me be clear in saying that I by no means had anything explicit on my iPhone, but I was listening to a lot of different artists, mostly secular.

It wasn’t until I was scrolling through my library one day that I realized just how much I had. My secular music heavily outweighed my Christian and worship songs. It slowly dawned on me that it was distracting me from Jesus. It was trying to pull me away from Him, and I discovered with some disappointment that it was being successful. I was stuck in a place where I could choose one or the other.

It was no contest. I deleted them all and listen to strictly Christian music now.

The point of this post is not to get you all to go wipe every artist other than Hillsong on your iPod, so don’t write me off as a crazy blogger yet!

I’m merely suggesting that we all take a hard look at our lives to see what we’ve placed on our pedestal above God, and then pull an Elijah and destroy it. (There’s a reason so many different people destroyed idols. It was a big problem!)

It continues to be so today. What may be an “idol” for some may not be for others; mine just happens to be music. It may not be the same for other people, but we all have something that distracts us. The world in general will do whatever it can to pull us away from Jesus, and it will do so with whatever means necessary.

It’s up to us to realize what those idols are and say “No” to them. Smash them completely and give up this trend of modern day idolatry. We need to choose this day whom we will serve.

Joy to the World

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I like to think of life as a journey. I understand that sounds super cliché and cheesy, but it’s true. One of the (admittedly more annoying) aspects of my character is that I try to be optimistic and find good in everything.

I remember once when I was a kid on a hayride at night with a group of friends. Someone pointed out a black, boarded up house and began to tell a story about how he had heard that it was haunted.

I frowned at this suggestion, worried that the owners and/or the actual house might be hurt over those allegations. I decided to try to find a way to redeem the situation. “I don’t think it’s haunted,” I defended it stoutly.

“Really? Then how come the old lady that lived there hasn’t been seen coming in or going out in 25 years?” he challenged.

I remember scrambling for an answer. “Maybe she hasn’t been seen because she just…died in the house a few years ago…or something.”

I believe his response to my proposition was something along the lines of, “That’s what would make it haunted, doofus.”

It was annoying to people when I was seven. It’s still annoying to them 15 years later.

Now, I am not an Amy Adams from Enchanted type of person; I do complain. Things irritate me. I get crabby, especially and inexplicably on Thursdays. I just don’t really like to dwell on negative aspects of my life because I have too many things to be thankful for.

I guess the world has enough negative aspects that already fight to try to steal my joy without me allowing them to by dwelling on what I’m not happy about. This does not mean I stick my head in the sand or ignore features that are wrong or need changing. Life is beautiful, but it is also difficult, and we, especially as Christians, should be fighting against the injustice, pain, and poverty that is so prevalent not only in our society, but also in the world as a whole. Sometimes, however, there comes a point in life where we need to stop complaining about things that need to be changed and just be the change ourselves.

What would happen if, instead of focusing on what displeased us, we focused on our blessings?

I’ll change the Patrick Dempseys of the world yet.

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Farewell, Rochester College

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Warning: Many tears were shed in the creation of this post.

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To say that it is a difficult task to write about the past four years of my college education, express my gratitude to all of the wonderful professors who have supported and guided me, and attempt to say goodbye to all of the friends I have made during one of the most incredible experiences of my life in one article is most definitely the understatement of the year.

 

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Since transferring to Rochester College my sophomore year, I have not only had the chance to gain an education, but also to form lifelong friendships, grow, change and become both a better person and student.

 

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I have gained a vision for my life and future, and am excited about starting grad school this fall. Working as both a supplemental instructor and English tutor through the ACE lab has deepened my love for the English language and literature and cemented my desire to become an English professor and teach at the college level.

 

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I have made incredible friendships through various classes, writing clubs and Sigma Phi Delta Nu, of which I’m proud to be a member.

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I have thousands of pictures, memories, stories and jokes from the countless hours I’ve spent with my friends studying, learning and spending time together. I am beyond blessed to have found and formed friendships with people who have encouraged me, laughed with me and cried with me.

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Throughout the classes that I have taken here, I have learned more than I thought possible (especially because I have had to read Hamlet nine times in various courses!) I have been taught more than simply academics; I have learned spiritual, practical and life lessons. Professors have been more than instructors. They have supported and championed for me, welcomed me into their homes and given me their time and attention. If I can someday be half as influential and incredible as the professors I have had here, I’ll consider that a great accomplishment.

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I am thankful for more than simply the educational accomplishments I have had here, however. Through Rochester College, I have travelled multiple times to the Hillberry Theatre, Stratford, Rock Glen in Arkona, Canada and more recently, Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey, where I walked through the ancient cities of Ephesus and Laodicea. I experienced Turkish culture and the Muslim religion firsthand by visiting mosques and various families. It was a life-changing opportunity that I will never forget.family turkey laodicea

Even as a writer, it seems as though words are not enough to convey the depth of emotions I feel upon preparing to leave here; I am grateful, excited, sad and looking forward to the future.

 

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Thank you, thank you, thank you for a wonderful three years, RC. It’s been one heck of a ride.

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Purim: God’s Faithfulness Then and Now

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God is a huge part of my life. I like my writing to reflect that. Even though my capstone project isn’t necessarily a “Christian” or “religious” one (Ugh. I hate both of those terms), the idea of God heavily influences it. I love writing about the faithfulness of God. I’m so blessed to have a Savior who will never let me down.

Purim is a Jewish holiday that falls between the months of February and March and commemorates the story of the book of Esther. This year, it begins March 14 and ends March 15. We throw big, loud crazy parties where everyone dresses up in a variety costumes and eats fruit filled cookies called Hamentaschen that are supposedly shaped after the hat Haman wore. (They’re triangle shaped, so apparently Haman was part pirate.) Last year, my congregation held a contest for the best costume and we had everything from Willy Wonka to a gypsy to a bunch of grapes. True story.

Somewhere in the midst of all the laughter and celebrating, someone reads the whole book of Esther out loud while all of the little kids cheer and boo respectively when Mordecai and Haman’s names are mentioned. It’s considered a mitzvah (good deed) to give time and money to different homeless shelters and charities, helping out those less fortunate than us. It’s a loud, boisterous and busy holiday, and it’s frequently easy to get caught up in the fun and noise and exciting chaos, while losing sight of the true meaning of the holiday. (And you guys thought I wouldn’t have that problem by not celebrating Christmas!) The truth is that just because I’m Messianic doesn’t mean I get to avoid commercialism.

There’s a story behind Purim (as is frequently the case with holidays.) Esther was stuck in a pretty tough situation. When the Persian King Xerxes decided to kick out his first wife after she wouldn’t parade herself through his court for his drunken friends to admire, he decided he needed a new woman to replace her as queen. He chose Esther, whose uncle Mordecai had raised her from birth and advised her not to tell anyone at the palace that she was Jewish. This turned out to be a wise choice, as Haman began to slowly work his way into power and create a plot to completely destroy the entire Jewish race. Thanks to Persian politics, Esther couldn’t visit the King unless he had invited her first. It was an act punishable by death. With all of her people facing annihilation, Esther stepped out in faith and went before him, anyway. He decided not to lop off her head (spoiler alert), and she revealed Haman’s plot. The King had him killed for his treachery and the people were saved, hence the big day of celebration, even thousands of years later.

Cool story, bro, you’re probably thinking. What in the world does this obscure Jewish holiday have to do with me?

My point is that we’ve all been Esther. We’ve all been in situations where it was terrifying to even consider taking one more step forward, because the way was dark and we didn’t know what was around the corner. We could fall. We could get hurt. It’s hard to step out in faith when it would be much easier (and safer!) to stay within our comfort zones. We can boldly move forward, confident, because our God is not uninvolved or apathetic. He cared about Esther’s life-threatening situation, and He cares about our struggles, no matter how small or enormous they may seem to us. Whether the situation is a problem emotionally, financially, physically, or spiritually, He’s involved….even when it doesn’t feel like it. He’s never failed before, and I don’t expect Him to now. He’ll come through. It may be right at the moment that I’m facing the king, bracing myself for that final, fatal blow, but He’ll step in. He’s never late.

He was faithful for Esther. He’ll be faithful for you. Trust in Him.

A Learning Experience

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Last summer I went out of my comfort zone—about 7500 miles out of my comfort zone, to be exact. I went to the Dominican Republic. It was my first time out of the country (Canada doesn’t count!) and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Armed and ready for several Instagram pictures of palm trees, I set out.

I had no idea how much it would change my life.

I ministered to love-starved orphans and formerly abused children now in foster care. I cried with women who had been victims of sex trafficking and other abuse. I talked in broken Spanish at different villages to a variety of people whose joy put me to shame. I held three crying babies at once and wished I had more arms. I close my eyes and it’s like I’m back there again; I hear the excited chattering that I can only partially understand because my Spanish is pathetic at best; I feel the desperate crowding as children fight to be one of the ones who receive a hug, or the one who gets to hold my hand and lead me through the village, proudly showing me the hut that is their home. I can feel the panicked arms tightening around my neck when it’s time for me to leave the orphanage. I see the dark eyes pleading for one more hug, one more caress, one more, “te amo, bonita.” And I open my wet eyes and realize just how much I miss them.

I absolutely love being in college. I’ve learned a lot in the four years I’ve been working towards my finishing my undergrad, but I don’t think learning happens strictly in a classroom listening to a lecture. (I’m a former homeschooler. It’s in our blood to feel that way.)

I like having experiences that teach me, and I like writing about those experiences. I like when I read a book that makes me think. I can’t stand fluff literature. I very much believe in constantly learning and growing, and I like when my literature, whether it’s what I’m reading or what I’m writing, helps me to do so. I’m always looking for life lessons in everything. (It can get pretty annoying of me, actually.) Still, my writing almost always has a significant meaning deeper than the surface level. The project I’m working on for my senior seminar class is no exception. I’m really excited about it. I’m writing about what I’ve learned from the ruthless teacher named Life and I’m looking forward to sharing it. I’m doing a lot of research and a lot of reading, but that’s not all that’s necessary to learn.

Learning doesn’t stop when you’re out of the classroom. Sometimes, in fact, that’s when it can begin.

Here’s to adventures!

Early Dreams

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I credit my lifelong love of reading and writing for leading me to be an English major with a concentration in professional writing while dreaming of being a teacher. I didn’t dress up and play professor, though, or line up all of my stuffed animals and teach them about the different feminist theories that can be pulled out of Kate Chopin’s work; my interest originally started because of a bet I won out of spite against my older brother.

I sat on my knees atop the plastic chairs in the waiting room and pursed my lips back at the fish in the aquarium. I liked going to my older brother’s orthodontist appointments; it was such an interesting, mysterious place with scary-looking instruments that made the most fantastic sounds. The sharp smell of latex gloves and bubble gum toothpaste was new and exciting. And, of course, the best part of all was you got to leave this magical place with braces. Tommy had all the luck.

I leaned back in my chair and sighed, knocking the toes of my cloth tennis shoes covered in butterflies together. The novelty did start to wear off after a while, especially because I couldn’t play rocket ship in the big chair. I picked up a book off the side table.

“Want me to read that to you?” My Mom offered.

I shook my head. “No, thanks—”

My brother laughed, cutting me off. “You can’t read! You just turned four. You haven’t even gone to school yet.”

I scowled at him. Big man Tommy thought he was soooo grown up, just because I was the youngest and he got to have sparkly jewels on his teeth. He wasn’t so cool.

“I can, so,” I defended myself stoutly.

“Cannot,” he retorted.

“Can, too.”

“Prove it.” He selected a bright orange book from the table and held it out to me. “And no Arthur Gets Glasses or Dress Up like Mommy. I know you have those ones memorized. It has to be a book you’ve never seen before.”

“Leave her alone,” Mom chided gently, but I snatched the book from him and defiantly tossed my untamable curls over my shoulder. I’d show him.

Examining the cover of the book, however, my heart began to sink a little. I had never seen it before, and, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I could read. I had never tried it before, but how difficult could it be? I’d been read to for hours and hours. Besides, I wouldn’t admit I was unsure of myself now for anything. The cover had a joyous figure jumping up and down in the background. A more dubious fellow was in the foreground, apparently very displeased with his meal. I looked at the words printing out the title and reminded myself to try to sound them out, as I’d heard my Dad tell my older sister: “Green Eggs…and Ham.”

“You just guessed the title based on the picture,” Tommy scoffed.

“I did not!” I tried to hide my thrill over apparently having read it correctly. “I honest to goodness read it.” I paused for effect. “So there.”

“Keep going, then,” he challenged.

“Fine.” I nonchalantly opened the book, feigning confidence. I’d read this whole thing if it killed me. I took a deep breath and carefully sounded out, “I am Sam. Sam I am. Do you…like green eggs and ham?” I paused for a moment to glance up at Tommy. He was frowning. I smiled. That was a good sign. Encouraged, I continued uninterrupted, my triumph growing with every word. Look at that! I guess I really could read! I enjoyed my victory and the story was pretty entertaining, too, despite the sourness of the doubtful figure in the story. What a crab. Sam I Am was just trying to be nice and share what he loved. The cranky guy did end up liking the green eggs and ham, anyway. I was sure that’s what would happen with Tommy if he just gave Barbies a chance.

“See?” I said triumphantly, thrusting the book back into his hands. “You thought you’d prove me wrong, but I proved you wrong. I am Kate. Kate the Great.”

He stared at me, open-mouthed. The hygienist called his name and he started to go, but turned back. “Mom, she can really read!”

My Mom was speechless, apparently just as surprised.

“’Course I can,” I said lightly. “I tried to tell you.”

He left, still shaking his head, and I resumed making faces back at the fish. Maybe later I’d try my sister’s copy of Little Women.

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