Saturday, October 17, 2009

The following is a short story I typed up. It's loosely based on my own experiences. Sorry for the short-ish ending. Enjoy!

Love from Above

Her name was Elizabeth.

She wandered the halls of Westmont University, feeling invisible among the throngs of people rushing by, their loud chatter ringing in her ears. She was new, a freshman, feeling lost and out of place, with nothing and no-one to turn to for the assurance that she desperately needed. Clutching her violin case to her slim frame, she pushed her silver-rimmed glasses up on her pixie-ish button nose and put on a brave face, willing herself to outlast the day. She made her way through the crowded hallway, the sea of unseeing faces allowing her to pass without a smile or a waved hello. She sat in her seat, one among hundreds, and stared silently at the professor during the lecture. He spoke about new beginnings, making a fresh start. “Yeah, right,” Elizabeth thought, fiddling with her frizzed curly brown hair, head tilted down to avoid making eye contact. “How can I make a new start, when I’m the same old reject from high school?” She sighed over her notes, her negativity permeating her thoughts into the same blue cloud she carried during her high school years. Shaking gently with the sobs she would never utter out loud, she rose from her seat as the lecture ended, making her way back to her pale white dorm room, walled in with cinder blocks like the county jail back home. Walking in to the stark blandness of an undecorated dorm room, she sat on her quilted bedspread, hands cradling her face as she tried to shake off the feeling of aloneness that dogged her every step.

The next day was no better than the first, nor the ones to follow. No friendly smiles, although perhaps that was because her eyes were glued to the tips of her sneakers. That was better, she told herself, than enduring their blank faces as they stared past her, looking for someone, anyone, other than her. Her classes were large, so large that making friends seemed unessential for the students, many not even speaking for the duration of the class, generic expressions plastered over their semi-bored faces. Elizabeth felt completely alone, completely invisible. Did no one care about her? Did no one see her? No one bothered to befriend her. Not even her roommate, who chatted with her boyfriend over the phone for hours before hitting the sheets, merely tossing a perfunctory “goodnight” Elizabeth’s way before turning out the lights. Over time, Elizabeth became increasingly run-down, the weight of her loneliness settling around her like a ball and chain. She became more and more reclusive, keeping to herself and the books she escaped into when the world seemed too much to bear. They, she told herself, were her only friends. They had served that purpose before, all throughout her high school years, and were a familiar balm to her aching heart.

One day, broken down in desperation, having nowhere else to turn, she went to one of the church services at a nearby church. The people there were as cold and unfriendly as those at school, allowing her to slip in and out of the back of the church without much notice from the congregation. The speaker was enthusiastic, but his words seemed directed towards everyone with their acts together. Elizabeth tuned out, feeling that he was speaking to everyone but her. Her life wasn’t perfect like theirs. She was falling apart, and she knew it. “And that’s the worst part. Knowing that I’m falling to pieces and there’s nothing I can do about it,” she thought, tilting her head down to hide the tears beginning to fall on her Bible. She had been to church all her life, even become a Christian at one point. But even God couldn’t fix her social inadequacy, so she thought. The crushing weight of her loneliness and awkwardness trapped her in a downwards spiral of bruised self-esteem that she couldn’t pull herself out of. But how could God, though supposedly all-powerful, care enough for her to rescue her from the abyss she had fallen into?

She lay awake in bed that night, wondering what she lacked. Why she went unnoticed still, when everyone around her was greeting with hugs and laughter.

“You’re not unnoticed to Me.”

She sat bolt upright. Where did that thought come from? She looked around for her roommate, poking her head up over the top bunk where her roommate slept, lightly snoring, clearly non-responsive for the time being. “If it wasn’t her….then, who?”

The next day she couldn’t get that feeling out of her head. The feeling that someone, somewhere, cared for her, even if it was just her imagination. But the weights settled around her heart again as the week went on, and the unseeing faces continued to look straight past her. That Sunday, she went back to the church, out of the same desperation, but also to prove that it wasn’t the church that had caused the momentary feeling of acceptance. This time, the speaker spoke about how God loved all people, calling them His “children,” and saying that He even knew the numbers of hairs on their heads, and that they had great value in His eyes. “Surely He doesn’t mean me, too,” she thought, brows furrowing in disbelief. “I’m a nobody.”

That night, Elizabeth opened her Bible for the first time on her own in years. She looked up verses about God’s love, feeling a warmth creep into her heart with each line. Curled up with her Bible, a desk lamp, and a pillow, she cried out to the Creator to give her hope again. To make her loneliness go away. To love her like He said he would. There was no voice from the skies, no miraculous sign. Nothing…but a gentle reassurance in her softly beating heart that He loved her already, and that she would never be alone. Her heart filled with peace, she turned off the lamp and slept with a smile on her face for the first time since coming to college.

The next day, she walked the halls with a timid smile on her face, her eyes shyly peeking up at the people walking past. A few of the unseeing faces actually looked her way, meeting her timid smile with a friendly one of their own. On her way back to the dorm, a fellow student bumped into her, dropping all her books. Instead of brusquely picking up her books and passing by Elizabeth, she giggled as she bent to get them, coming up with a bright smile.

“Sorry about that! So clumsy of me! So, are you new here too? What’s your name? My name is Sharon….”

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Not the Same Old Song and Dance

So, my beautiful friends, it has been a while. My life has been a whirlwind of business, so I haven't been able to write in a while.

As always, I have plenty to say...but I don't have time to tell you all about my life. So I'll spare you the details, though feel free to ask if there's something you want to know.

This past summer, I worked at White Lake Water Park. I was at a loss to why I wasn't able to get a camp job, as a staffer, and I was frustrated and wondered why God put me there when I could be doing something elsewhere. I had horrible managers, who treated me poorly and forced me to work two or more people's jobs at once. They promised me 40 hours, then cut me to less than 20. At the end of the summer, after saving and penny-pinching, I barely had enough money to buy books. (being an English major is expensive) I went through the entire summer screaming at God, "WHY????"

Then I came back to school. I expected things to get better, and, in many aspects they have. I have awesome roommates for the first time in three years, who I can get along with and co-exist with peaceably (so far). I am surrounded by people who love God. The Christian atmosphere is amazing.

But...I have more problems than ever this semester. Financial crisis arose, and I'm having trouble getting this semester paid for. I'm living on ten dollars right now, and, although I did get a job, my first paycheck doesn't come until two weeks from now. I'm swamped in schoolwork, more so than ever before (yay upper level English classes!), and I have very little time to work on it (yay for a 17-hour schedule on top of an 18-hour courseload). Time management has never been my strong suit, so I've been really struggling to get everything done I need to get done.

On top of all this, I'm a prayer leader as well. I love my girls, and I feel like I'm failing them, because I haven't been able to spend time with them like I feel I should, and I don't have time to do many things for them. I'm rarely on the hall, and I'm seriously considering dropping my position next semester on the grounds that I don't have enough time to be the friend and counselor that they need.

Needless to say, life is kicking my butt. Seriously.

The good news is that I'm getting everything resolved. Slowly but surely, I'm getting used to not having time. I'm sleeping less, yes, but I'll get used to that as well. I'm struggling, but I refuse to drown. I won't let this beat me. I won't give up, I won't give in. The temptation is strong right now to neglect God, to neglect my quiet times, to neglect everything that I need to live a happy life. Or, joyful, if I can't be happy. Happiness depends on outward circumstances, which aren't always pleasant. But God's joy comes from within. I've decided that this semester will be a good one, regardless of how I feel, or how tired I am, or how downtrodden I might be.

Yes, every day is a struggle. Yes, every day I'm exhausted. YES, every day I want to quit.

But what I will reap at the end of the semester is worth it.

And I will be stronger for it! Life doesn't always hand you hard times, but when it does, you'd better know that the only way you'll be strong enough to handle them is if you're backed up by the One who exudes power! GOD CAN HANDLE IT! In my darkest hours, when I am backed up against the wall, when I can't do anything except cry, when I want to completely give up, God is the One who holds me close, who whispers softly that I can do this, because He is with me every step of the way. My favorite poem right now is the "Footsteps" poem. Cliche, yes, but I firmly believe that God is carrying me right now.

I can't survive this semester on my own. I've bitten off more than I can chew, and I will choke on it unless I learn to lean on God even more.

And, by the way, I found out why last summer happened. Last summer, I dealt with people I didn't particularly like, at a job with constant difficulties, and was forced to do multiple things at once in a short amount of time. All those problems have reoccurred on a grand scale this semester. God gave me some practice. And thank goodness He did. Because I couldn't deal with this semester if he didn't.

Now, maybe next summer I'll get a camp job, to get to do what I love doing, with no distractions. Maybe then I'll be able to minister to a bunch of high-schoolers (and possibly middle-schoolers) and love on them and teach them about what God says about life.

But for now, I'm learning the lessons God is giving me, about time management, planning for the future, and dealing with all personality types. And if I don't get the camp job? Then God has something better. Maybe I won't think it's better at the time, but in the grand scheme of things, GOD is the One who knows my future, and HE knows what's best for me, even when I don't!