Help my Unbelief

So I talk a lot about the fact that I am a Christian on my blog, but I haven’t talked much about my experience as a Christian or about God. And I think it’s time to change that. And for me, at least right now, that goes hand in hand with a story about my semester.

So, it’s September of this year, right? (Not right now, I’m using this as a way to tell my story.) And I’m at school, I’m an RA, I’m taking cool classes, I’m a small group leader. Everything’s going great. And I go to this worship thing that was part of a prayer event on campus. I didn’t stay long, and I don’t remember most of what happened that evening. But I do remember this: I was praying, and something inspired me to say, “God, break me. Break everything that I trust in, so that I can trust in you instead.” And then, you know, I left soon after that. And I don’t remember when I started noticing the consequences of that prayer, but boy, did they come.

One of the smaller issues was waking up in the morning. I’ve always been very good about hearing my alarm and getting out of bed in a decent amount of time. I started sleeping through my alarms, even after I made them as loud as possible. And this wasn’t a big deal, but it did raise some questions about my health and whatnot. I think I’m just sleep deprived. Even this morning, I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off and then fell back into a deep enough sleep that I didn’t even hear my alarms go off. So that’s an interesting issue, and we’ll see what happens next.

My freshman dorm.

My freshman dorm. 

A bigger issue was loneliness. I went from having the great freshman dorm experience, with all of my best friends living just down the hall to living in a single for the first time in my life really, with my friends scattered across campus and even off campus. And that didn’t bother me for a while, but then it started becoming a problem. I felt so isolated in the room I have to myself. I don’t usually mind eating alone, but I felt like it was becoming a habit, a habit that I didn’t enjoy. One night was so bad that I just flung myself on the floor and cried. Soon after that, I went to the campus Counseling Center because I wanted to figure out if I have a form of social anxiety or not. And the counselor I talked to said to me, “Well it sounds like belonging is your real issue here.” And I know belonging is an issue for me. I’ve written about it. But to hear it from someone else’s words… It was an emotional time.

But I’m okay now, and I still don’t know exactly what has changed. I think it’s probably a lot of small things, like talking to people more and being more intentional with my faith. I think a good part of it is that I’m going more out of my way to help my friends. And maybe they have more problems, maybe it just feels more out of the way, or maybe I’ve just taken this role on. But I love it. I love being able to serve them and love them. And I’m not saying that to make myself look good. I’m just in a position to care for people right now. One day, I’ll need them to care for me. And that’s okay. And I tell them to let me know if they’re not doing well, which makes me reflect on my own actions this semester. Because in the depths of my loneliness, I wanted people to just know I was having problems and come help me, but that’s ridiculous. So I’m trying to get better about telling people when I have problems the way I ask them to tell me.

More recently, I’ve had issues with academics. Organic Chemistry II is really hard, guys. I thought I was going to do well because I’m good at memorizing. But everything looks the same, and I did not do well keeping on track of things at the beginning of the semester. And now my grades are starting to show. Just the other week, I got a midterm back. It was embarrassing how terribly I did. Really. And I don’t want to write that on this blog that so many of my friends and a good number of strangers will see. But I want to be honest, and that’s the honest truth. I’m ashamed, really. And when I got my grade back, I felt like a failure. I questioned my career goals and my abilities as a student and so much in my life.

So I got that grade back two Fridays ago, right? And I was still feeling pretty down about it at the beginning of last week. And then came Wednesday. I have small group on Wednesday, the small group that I lead. And that has also been an interesting story because for several weeks at the beginning of the year, I didn’t have anyone coming to my weekly Bible studies. And that was discouraging, and it made me question whether I should have been doing it in the first place and whatnot. And then people started coming. Last week, I had four people. And we had an awesome discussion. Really, it was so good. And I was grinning afterwards, because it made me that happy. Two of the girls actually texted me and told me that it was great. And it’s not because of me. They’re all just really comfortable with each other, so conversation comes easily, and they’re not afraid to share about their lives.

And now I’m finally bringing this story back to God. Because it was God that did this good work. It was God who was with me when I picked out the passage, where a father says to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” It was God who brought each of those girls that night and inspired conversation. It was God who was faithful. God took this thing that wasn’t working and showed me that20150626_195502 He can make something beautiful out of it. When my life is going well, it’s because God made it that way. And when my life isn’t going well, I can still point to His faithfulness throughout my life. I can say, “Well, Orgo isn’t going well, and I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen with it. But God was faithful with small group and in so many other parts of my life, so He will be faithful with Orgo. He will put me where I need to be.” And there will be days when I doubt. There will be days when faith isn’t easy. There will be days when I try to find security in my abilities instead of in the God who provides. There will be days when I say, “God, I don’t understand what you’re doing.” But He is good, and He will bring me through.

Epylle Spydre

Dear Incoming Freshmen

Dear freshmen,

Greetings! Wherever you are going to school, I hope you feel welcome there already. You may have already moved in, or 11891163_1062086420468140_1429134503368646281_nyou may have yet to move in. But I wanted to write this to you to give you some of my advice.

Congratulations on getting through the craziness of high school and the college application process (also know that I am not trying to exclude those of you who aren’t going to college–most of this will apply to you as well). Now you’re starting this new step in your life, and I’m sure you’re excited and nervous and twenty million other emotions all at once. There are many things I could talk about in this post. I could give you a whole list of advice just like all the other articles you might find here on the internet. But I only really want to talk about one thing.

Most of your high school life was figured out for you. You got to choose your electives and whether you took AP or honors or IB or what. You got to choose your extracurriculars, but it was still mostly handed to you. But now, now is so different. You’re moving away from your family; you’re making a new life for yourself; you’re figuring out what classes you want to take and when and how to make them all work together whilst praying that they don’t fill up before you can register for them. You may be trying to get a job or investigating all of the hundreds of organizations you can join. It’s a lot. And you are finally in the position where you get to decide it all for yourself. The possibilities are endless, and you may discover that you have way too many interests to be able to adequately quench them all. And that’s okay.

You may even discover that what you thought you were interested in is taking second place to some newer, bigger interest. You may have come into college knowing you were going to be a government major on the track to law school and find out that Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is way cooler. And that can be kind of freaky. Let me be the first to tell you: it is completely normal to have existential crises like this in this period of your life. In fact, it will probably happen to you. It’s okay. It’s normal. Your life is not over now that you’re changing your mind.

It’s also okay to have no clue what you’re interested in and what you want to do with your life. As a culture, we like to force everyone to have that 5 or 10 year plan. We are asked what we want to do when we grow up as little, little kids, and we never stop hearing that question. It’s really quite ridiculous. We can’t plan how our life is going to end up. And it’s crazy that we make ourselves even more stressed by obsessing about the future. We have enough stress as it is; we don’t need to make it worse.

So you may not have started questioning your life plans yet, but you probably will. And you will be okay. Know that you don’t need to know your future career, your major, or even what classes you are taking this semester to have worth. You don’t need all that to make a difference in the world. Ask questions. Try new things. Take time to analyze yourself and reflect on your life. Remember that everyone around you is in the exact same boat, so be kind. Smile at random strangers. Give thanks where thanks is due. Own your mistakes because you will make them. Work hard. And enjoy life. Today is the only August 21st of 2015 you’ll ever get, so make the most of it. Good luck to you. I really believe in you.

With all my love,

Brianna “Epylle Spydre”

p.s. This is technically written to incoming freshmen, but it’s really for anyone. Enjoy!

Song for the Sorrowful

Guys, I’m really excited. So because my school is awesome, this summer I was paid to spend 20 days reading and writing388634_312874848724131_1928943340_n poetry. Yes, I was paid to do this. How cool is that? Anyway, each day, I had a different poet. I would read their biography and a good number of their poetry, and then I wrote my own poetry as a response to what I had read. This is what I did at the beginning of the summer. Then I went on vacation/a mission trip, and since I came back, I have been editing the poems that I feel are worth it to actually make better. My intention from the beginning was to use these to fuel blog posts (so if I post poetry randomly in the next few months, know that this is where they came from). And now I am finally doing that!

This poem I wrote close to the end of the 20 days on the day I studied Sylvia Plath. I was actually pretty frustrated because I had had a difficult time writing very inspired pieces that day, but then the opening lines of this poem just came to me. So that’s pretty cool. It’s not my best poem, but I felt like it was ready for the blog. So yeah, I hope you all get something out of this.

Song for the Sorrowful

Speak to me of joyful things;
Let sadness take its leave.
Sing to me a lullaby,
And darling, please don’t grieve.

Your heart was made for more than this;
I know this much is true.
You only see your brokenness,
But I’ve seen deeper in you.

Your eyes are made of joy,
Your smile is made of love,
Your hands are raw, pure gentleness,
And your heart is a gift from above.

I know that it’s not easy
To break off the bonds of fear,
But in your endless trying,
Don’t forget that I am here.

You were not made to go it alone;
Let your brothers and sisters aid.
You’ve helped us all throughout your pain,
Now finally, be repaid.

Don’t let sorrows storm your soul;
You will get through this strife.
You have a place upon this earth.
There is purpose for your life.

3 Days, 3 Quotes Day 3: Love from E. B. White

Alas, it is the last day of the 3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge. Feel free to read yesterday’s post or the rules/post from the first day. Thank you so much to The Daily Geekette for nominating me for this really fun challenge! And here is the final quote:

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

~E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

It’s really cool, because I was thinking about writing about this quote recently and decided not to (probably ’cause I’ve been on vacation/a mission trip the last month or so). But now I am writing about it, and again, I feel like it’s too beautiful to really add more words to. But I will anyway, because I do have some thoughts about this.

This quote really grabbed me, because I’ve noticed we like to talk about love in terms of what we deserve. And in one respect, it’s healthy. Here I’m thinking about helping people get/stay out of abusive relationships. It’s important to know you do not deserve to be mentally, emotionally, or physically abused. No one is worth so little that it’s okay to hurt them.

But I don’t like the idea we have that we earn love by being good. Your good deeds don’t help you advance levels with love as the prize at the end. Being good is not the currency with which we buy love. Truth is, none of us are so good that we can truly earn love. But we have been given love. Love is given, not earned. And the only thing we can do is receive love when it’s given to us and love others to the best of our ability. 11174960_975167519161524_4670260034670953467_n

Charlotte didn’t love Wilbur because she wanted him to give her something more. She didn’t give because it was what was expected of her when she accepted his friendship. No, she said, “You have been my friend. I care about you. I love you. So let me do something for you.” We don’t love for what we will get in return. That would make it a business deal. No, love is so much bigger than that. There aren’t boundaries on love. It just gives and gives, not caring about propriety or expectations or what’s considered fair or the sacrifice. Love says you’re beautiful even if you don’t see it yourself. Love gives without expecting you to return the favor. Love says you are worth it.

I can’t think of anyone else that I know who has a blog (the right type of blog, that is), so I am unfortunately not nominating any more people.

Until next time,

Epylle Spydre

p.s. I don’t want to ignore the fact that this quote is also about the beauty of friendship and the gorgeous way that Charlotte uplifts Wilbur in this quote. But I think those are inherently communicated just with the quote and do not need any of my words. So we’ll just let that beauty sit there. Hopefully I haven’t ruined this quote by talking too much…

3 Days, 3 Quotes Day 2: Fitzgerald, Books, and Belonging

Wooh, it’s day 2, and I’ve got another quote for you all today! If you want to look at the rules again, read yesterday’s post. Again, thank you Carly and The Daily Geekette for the nomination!

fitzgerald quote

20150715_163814

Even this cat found a home with books (and magazines).

This quote really needs very few words. I feel like you have either experienced this with books and wholeheartedly agree with Fitzgerald, or you don’t. I’ve written a lot about belonging and what home means to me on this blog. I’ve struggled with loneliness considerably during my lifetime, which is why this quote resonates with me so much. So often during my life, I felt like I was on the margins. I need an invitation to feel like I belong, where it seems like other people just create a space for themselves and call it home. But books? Books welcomed me. They said, “Hey there, wandering soul. Find a home here.” Books gave me the human connection I was craving. And they have done that for countless others.

I think we all want to belong. We all want to be at home somewhere, with people who really know us and care for us and tell us that we are welcome and wanted. And it’s really wonderful that books can alleviate loneliness for people, even people who wouldn’t consider themselves very lonely.

I hope you not only find a kindred spirit in the pages of a book but also on the streets of your life. I hope you know that you belong.

Here are the people I’m nominating today:

Enjoy your quotes, everyone!

3 Days, 3 Challenges Quote 1: Mother Teresa Teaches About Love and Pain

Well, I missed the blog’s 3rd birthday ’cause I was in Turkey, so happy belated three years, everyone!

Anyways, this post is actually a response to my first blog challenge! So exciting! On to business and fewer exclamation marks now…

A Cool Glass of Lemonade has been nominated to participate in the  3 Days, 3 Quotes challenge by Carly of The Daily Geekette. Thank you Carly for the nomination!

The rules of the challenge are as follows:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Post a quote for three consecutive days (one quote per day).
  3. Nominate three new bloggers each day.

I’m going to start with my favorite quote, spoken by the inspirational Mother Teresa. It’s actually really hard to pick a favorite quote by her, because she has so many excellent quotes. Anyways, here goes:

“I have found the paradox: that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
~ Mother Teresa

I feel like I shouldn’t even write anymore because nothing I can say will be as beautiful, simple, or pure as what she said, but I guess I will try to write some. I learned of this from a friend who knew that I liked quotes. It’s actually funny because the first time I heard this, I didn’t like it that much. It didn’t seem that profound or interesting to me. But I always kept it in the back of my mind, and as I grew older, I learned to see and appreciate the wisdom in it.

heart 1As we grow up, our idea of love changes. At first, it’s just a pretty red heart, a valentine. Its shape is always symmetrical and smooth. It’s pointy on one end, but it’s not painful or ugly in any way. It’s just pretty and dependable and fun to doodle.

heart 2

Then we get older, and we learn that hearts don’t look like that at all. Hearts are for pumping blood and getting oxygen to different parts of our bodies. Hearts are so vital to life. And it’s interesting that that is what we use as the symbol and language of love. We say:
“I love you with all of my heart.”
“My heart has been broken.”

We talk about love using the language of this gross-looking organ that we need to live. It’s not pretty. It doesn’t always work correctly. It can cause pain. And so does love.

Love quite simply, isn’t always beautiful. Real love is the stuff of life, and real life is painful. The act of loving itself causes pain. If we didn’t love, we wouldn’t care enough to feel hurt. That’s why I’ve always adored books and movies that make my cry: because I knew that if I cried, then that means it meant something to me. Tears are like my test to see if it was really that good or not. If we love so much that it hurts, then it’s real love, and real love will always win over the hurt.

Anyway, I wrote more than I thought I would. Thanks for reading!

I nominate:

Cheers!

Dreaming of a more Honest World

I’ve been thinking about writing this post since I had a dream a couple weeks ago. In the dream, one of my good friends openly said I was poor in some conversation. It wasn’t to shame me, and I didn’t feel embarrassed with people knowing that. I just said, “Yeah, that’s about right,” and continued with the conversation. And upon waking I was struck by how different that is than reality. Friends wouldn’t usually just offer up that information so nonchalantly because they would worry about how it would make other people perceive me. Unless I was with a small group of very close friends, this would be an awkward moment, not a routine one.

But why? Why is there shame associated with being poor? So often, it’s not the fault of the person who is poor. Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you’re uneducated, lazy, or irresponsible. People may discriminate against you because of your gender, sexuality, race, appearance, or anything else, even when you’re completely qualified for the job. And the cycle of unemployment is vicious. So often, you’re expected to have experience before you can get a good job. But where on earth are you supposed to get that experience if everyone is looking for people with experience? Or maybe you’re poor because one of your family members has a chronic illness, and all of your extra money goes to their treatments instead of to luxuries that other people find so commonplace.

To be completely fair, I’m poor but not super poor. I’ve never worried about where I was going to live or how I was going to eat. But I’m poorer than most of my friends. I live in a townhouse instead of a big home. My family can barely keep two cars for longer than a year, so I haven’t thought about getting my own car. I never went to New York with the choir and drama departments in high school, and I have never seen a show on Broadway. I borrowed my friend’s dress for senior prom. I’m so used to looking at costs when I go out to eat that I almost always opt for a less expensive option even when someone else is paying for me. I even like to brag about how little I spend on clothing. And the only thing that kept me from needing to do work study this past year at college was the fact that I earned a $7000 scholarship.

And you know what? I’m happy about that. I didn’t write those things so that you would pity me. Sure, it would be nice to be able to care a little less about money, but it’s also good to care (then again, that’s coming from my lips; I’m sure my parents would like to care less). But this has been my life so far, and I’m okay with that. It’s made me who I am today, and I wouldn’t trade the past for anything.

So there, I’m not ashamed of being poor, though I don’t even know if the label truly applies to me. There are people much poor than me, and people much richer than me. Don’t be so quick to judge (judging quickly is a whole other problem we have in society, and it pervades literally EVERYTHING). There isn’t inherent shame in how much money you have, only in how you spend the money you have. And in the end, money doesn’t really matter. It’s not what gives life its true worth.

I'm really good at acting like I'm rich....

I’m really good at acting like I’m rich….

Epylle Spydre

p.s. I tried hard to make sure that it doesn’t come across that I don’t like rich people, but if it does, I’M SORRY. I love you all, regardless of how much money you have.