Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Just jam it all in there--God

This September is the start of another semester.

If I were playing life safely I would have no business thinking on the semester timeline.

But I'm not.  I don't believe that to be a satisfactory or responsible way of life.

I've mentioned this to some friends before, but I want my tombstone to read:
"He did as many of the hard things as he could."
That doesn't mean I succeeded at the hard things--haha, no definitely not! Lordy, no!

It means that until you/I try to do the things you/I think are too difficult for God to work through with you/me, we won't do the things.  The things are waiting for you.  All of them.  Every last one of them.

I thought that the things were chemical engineering and graduate school.  And then I left graduate school with a measly M.S.  The PhD has eluded me.

Certainly that stung.  But percolating in the back of my mind had always been Young Life.  Ever since I left high school I had wanted to be a leader.  In college I immersed myself in my studies (same for graduate school).

Now that I had a normal job that didn't dominate 95% of my time, I decided to jump back into it.  Not the hardest thing--certainly not an easy thing--but something definitely worth doing (my own life was changed in HS due to the love of my leaders).

Sounds like I was game to follow God reasonably and do what some goody twentysomething might do with their time.  How gosh golly prosaically nice of me.


God had other things in mind.

I'm not one for putting words in God's mouth.  But right now, it looks like God might want me to teach engineering to college students at a Christian college.

Two years ago, the two previous sentences would have caused me to give a wry smile then burst into laughter.  Here's what I would have said:
"I'm earning my PhD to manage a lab in pharmaceutical development!  I might teach at the end of my career. 
And I don't even know if I'm a Christian, or what that should even mean."
I'm not going to lie--these are some of the hardest things I've ever done (if not in technical skill but at very least in combination).  But I'm not drained nor do I feel like I'm dying inside (like much of grad school).

The work is hard.  The work is good.  God has way crazier and bigger plans for you than you might expect--that's what's so cool.

Maybe you'll find yourself leaving the continent, fostering a 5 year old in your twenties, teaching college or working quietly in the lives of those in your community faithfully.

God wants to use the life you're living now--that's what you've got.  That's all we're given.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Belonging to a room

My fear of public speaking goes back to 8th grade.  We were tasked with doing a research project over the semester and presenting both a written report and orally to the class.  My sexy topic was the Electoral College.  I didn't really prepare much for the presentation, though I'm sure the report was pretty well written for an 8th grader.  In fact, I'm sure I didn't even practice it more than once in the mirror.

It went badly.  I remember reading awkwardly off of note cards, rushing through it, and being very disappointed with the grade that came later.

In middle school, no one really feels like they belong--I was no exception.  And in fact, until recent years, probably starting in college, I never really felt like I belonged anywhere.  That's when I found that I was pretty good at chemical engineering.  And I liked it.  A lot.

Recently I reflected on why I so hate to speak in public.  I was in the shower.  It was a couple days after I had given a toast as the best man at a beautiful wedding, where I knew a lot of friends.  Of any place to feel as though I belonged, it was that place.  More than anyone else, at any wedding, other than the bride, groom, and their families, the best man and maid of honor belong.

The realization came afterwards of course.  The toast went as well as it was going to, given my confidence at the time (0).

But it made me think that belonging, for me at least, is a huge component to any social situation, and much more for public speaking.  In order to address a group, of course it behooves you to feel as though you belong--as though you have something legitimate to contribute to the conversation (even if it's one way).

In contrast, I have much less trepidation about my role this fall as a part-time lecturer at a local college.

This is crazy.  I never went into academia because I wanted to teach--in fact, I went in denying that I would ever do such a thing unless it were after a long career in R&D doing pharmaceutical development (still my dream).  But here I am, ready to teach a course to sophomore students.

Last night was the first lecture.  Both professor and students belonged in the room.  It went as well as could be expected.  Truth be told, I'm really excited to explore this course with my students (if I can kill my 'ums')--my first impression is very good (they have very good taste in literature).