The Mouse in the Library

This post recounts a short but true story from tonight – one which will assuredly live on in Mabee Library lore for many days to come…

Tonight, a mouse ran out of my library director’s office, causing a flurry of commotion from the 30+ students/staff on the first floor of the library.

For nearly 30 minutes, we rallied together to chase and catch the mouse – there were screams from football players, gasps of awe as the mouse leapt over obstacles with heroic agility, and rallies of support from distracted students as many of us continued to strategize on how to catch The Mouse in the Library.

Finally, after stirring the mouse from a clever hiding spot under a printer, one cunning student caught it with an upside-down recycling bin.

There were cheers.

A few minutes later, after successfully wrapping the recycling bin in a fortuitous trash bag, we brought the mouse outside and released it into the world to go and be in the library no more.

Everyone congratulated each other on a mouse-well-caught – and then, we proceeded to go back to our own respective work, studies, or social circles.

It’s amazing how something as simple as a mouse can bring people who don’t know each other together – collaborating with a common purpose, with no thought of differences or social barriers.

Tonight, the Mouse in the Library brought us all together for 30 momentous minutes.

Advertisements

Change

Fall is my favorite of seasons (though each of them has a place in my heart!). There’s a sense of adventure in the cool fall air that inspires my own love for adventure; and, there’s a sense of beauty in the changing colors and changing weather. Fall means that winter is coming, and with it the death of flowers and plant-life – but the fact that we know spring is coming changes the way we see this death. The ending of fall makes the new beginning of spring all the more beautiful.

Fall also seems to be consistently a time of change for me – which makes it all the more exciting. As I wrote in my previous post “On the Seasons“, I’ve noticed trends in each of the seasons in the role they usually play in my life and the kinds of lessons I learn in each. Of course, every season of every year is unique – but there are still some commonalities, at least in my own life.

This fall has brought about many changes for me. While I moved back to Kansas and started my new job in August (summer), those changes really feel like the prelude of more changes that really didn’t happen until the fall. August held the most distinct changes in my exterior life, but it’s really been this fall that’s brought about the most changes in my interior life – largely as a result of those big, exterior changes.

Do you ever feel a sense of true calling so strong that it fills every corner of your life with joy, just to know that you can participate in it? This is what I have felt this season. Every day and every second is exciting. For the first time, I feel a coming together of every area of my life – my work, my studies, my worship, my time with friends and family – they are all united in a common purpose. I have no work/life balance; rather, I have work/life integration, and my spiritual life is integrated into it all.

I’ve felt so many callings this season, but they are really all a part of the same calling – the calling to follow Christ with my entire heart, soul, and mind. I’ve been called to pray – regularly and intentionally. I’ve been called to study the Word He’s given me with purpose and vigor. I’ve been called to daily seek out ways to love the people He’s placed in my life, further His kingdom, and give up my own desires for His sake. There is such a beautiful freedom in the laying down of one’s own life. It is only through giving myself away, for Christ’s sake, that I am able to truly find my identity in Him – and thus also find true joy.

The changes in myself this season are so distinct that they’ve also affected my external life in many ways. When I am regularly in prayer, Scripture-reading, and consistent worship, I feel an empowerment from the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, the things that used to tire me physically and mentally are unable to do so. Suddenly, I am able to push myself to extreme limits for the sake of others – I don’t need alone time like an introvert, and I don’t need people time like an extrovert. The Holy Spirit empowers me with an energy that doesn’t depend on alone-time or people-time (though of course, I still need to take care of my physical body and get enough rest!).

I’m looking forward to continued learning the rest of this season. Perhaps the fall has been such a time of change and growth for me these past years because I have intentionally sought that growth out, and tried to listen to God as He’s been trying to change me. While I hope to always seek out spiritual growth, I do believe it is helpful to have a specific intentional period of evaluative change. For me, that period is the fall – and it’s such a beautiful time.

Rediscovering Wonder

Every so often, I find that I must rediscover wonder. It’s not that I ever truly lose sight of it, or doubt that it’s there (that is hardly possible to do in a world so full of it!) – rather, it’s simply that I get so distracted by my big projects, packed-full schedule, and preoccupied mind that I forget (for a moment, for a week, for a month) that there are much more important and wonderful things around me that require stillness and silence to comprehend.

It can sometimes even (though I feel ashamed writing it!) become commonplace for me to let the splendor of a sunset or the beauty of bluejay go completely unnoticed, when so preoccupied is the state of my mind. It becomes easy to live as if the world around me were “common” (not magical, as it quite obviously is). For a time, I can forget that I am in a magical realm, full of wonders created by God – and when I do so, not only do I miss out on joyful delight of the world around me, I miss out on all of the ways He can and does speak to me through His creation.

Now, you might be thinking that the world is hardly magical and wonderful, at least due to the entrance of sin in this world – but, I maintain that though the reality of sin and evil is definite, that does in no way lessen the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. We truly live in a magical realm, even though that magical realm is now prey to evil – much like Narnia after the coming of Jadis (or, the White Witch).

The times when I am most aware of wonder in myself are times when I make it a point to spend regular time in prayer and in quiet. Focusing on the Creator allows me to better see Him in His creation (for, anything beautiful in creation is simply an echo of His own beauty). And then, I also start to recognize the wonder in every other aspect of my life – in my everyday work, in conversations with friends, in the magical cup of coffee I drink every morning (really, it’s like a magical spell of energy! I know it’s the effects of caffeine, but who’s to say that caffeine isn’t a magical substance?). When I spend regular time focused on God, it helps me also stay focused on Him throughout the rest of the day and be aware of the beauties in His creation and His constant, joy-bringing presence.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 9.26.02 AMOddly enough, this time it’s something as simple as Instagram that is helping me rediscover wonder – through the wonder of a simple snapshot. Sometimes, it’s important to take time away from the utilitarian and instead focus on that which has no practical value, but is all the more beautiful for it. Perhaps I gain nothing from taking a picture of a magical, transforming leaf and posting it online for friends to see – but, the act of taking the time to notice the leaf, acknowledge its magic, and share the wondrous experience with others is worth more than many useful or practical tasks – for, it helps me to see more clearly and live more joyously.

And, taking part of this practice of wonder-seeking allows me to find that even my useful and practical tasks are quite wonder-filled.  As an example, I daily send out Interlibrary Loan articles and books to library patrons as they request them – perhaps one of my more “mundane” tasks. However, though it’s easy to see the boredom of such a task, it’s much more worthwhile to recognize the wonder in it – isn’t it marvelous that I am sharing knowledge and stories and written words with readers, even though they’ll never know it was me who sent them? Indeed, I feel like a librarian-wizard – granting powerful weapons to readers across the world simply through the click of a button.

I know that life will happen, and sadly I know my wonder will have moments when it starts to fade yet again – but it is my hope that when it does, I will again be reminded of the importance of prayer, silence, and intentional wonder-seeking. Because, it’s when I focus on the the wonders in the world around me, wonders of unquantifiable value, that my sight is clearest, that I am my truest self, and that I am best able to hear the constant ways God speaks to me through His creation.

Dreams, Callings, and Following Christ

A friend recently asked a question in a community I’m a part of: when and how did I know the career/dream I’m pursuing is my calling? This was my response:

I think that finding a career you love is often a result of seeking God, actually pursuing and working in that career, and discovering the joys of it. There wasn’t really a moment when I realized “Academic Librarianship: that’s my calling!”. I *did* learn a lot about it before pursuing it, and figured out that it fit with a lot of my interests and talents. But my love and passion for it came from being a part of it; it came *after* prayerfully choosing it.

Honestly, I think it’s possible to find joy in any field, and have it become a passion with dedication. Of course some fields fit certain people better than others – but even when I was working as a Sales Associate at OfficeMax (not my ideal field), it was still possible for me to find joy in that; and I believe that serving people in that position did become my calling for those 2 years of my life. That’s where God placed me at that time, and I became passionate about it while I was there. That calling then prepared me for other callings, which prepared me for where I am now.

I’ve of course had dreams at various times in my life that have not happened – being a professional upright bassist, going back to CZ as a missionary, opening a tea shop. These are things that I did feel a calling for, and I still have a place in my heart for each of them – maybe they’ll happen someday, maybe they won’t. In the end, with much prayer, I made the choice to pursue other things instead, at least at this time – and I fully believe I am where God wants me right now, even though perhaps I’m not “pursuing my dreams”. I am confident that God’s plan is greater than any of my own dreams. I believe that wherever He has me at each moment of my life – which city, which field, which community – *is* my calling. And, I will constantly strive to discover the wonder and joy that exists within that calling, and thus develop a passion for it.

Really, what all of this comes down to is listening to Christ and following Him. My choice of career came through lots of thought, but also lots of prayer. My choice to not pursue music, embark on international missions, or start a tea shop at this time in my life also came through much prayer. Even though I still have these dreams, I do not want to pursue them if God is not in them. If and when He calls me to them, then I will pursue them. In the meantime, I want to always listen to Him and make every decision based on His will for my life. I know that wherever He leads me now will prepare me for His future plans and my future callings.

Now, I’d like to expand on this a little further, and give an example. In addition to my smaller personal dreams, some of which I mentioned, there are other greater dreams I have that I do believe are directly from God. One main one, is my dream to raise a family. Since I was little, getting married and raising a family has been one of my primary callings. This is a dream that has not yet come to pass – but I do still believe I am called to this; just, in God’s timing and way. Some people, when discovering where I am in my career, state that I must be incredibly dedicated to my work to be where I am at my age. However, it’s not my call to my work that was my motivation (even though I love my work and believe I can and should be worshipping God through it daily) – rather, it’s primarily been my motivation to raise and support a family that has given me the drive to work extra hard in my career.

Through my work, I am preparing for what I believe is my future calling – even though it may be far in the future. And, because working at MNU in Olathe, KS is where God has placed me at this time, this is my present calling – and I take great joy in it, knowing that not only is this good, but that it is preparing me for something even better. Someday, if I do get married and start a family, that calling will be fulfilled – and at the same time, that and the rest of my life will continually prepare me for something even better still: an eternity with Christ.

My main point is, that I don’t believe God gives us one singular calling in our lives that He wants us to achieve right away. I believe He often calls us to small things first, in preparation for greater things. He often asks us to give up our dreams in the process, so that we will look to Him first. The whole point is for us to listen to Him, trust Him, and follow Him, above all else – and when we do, He will lead us down the best paths for us. I have no doubt that if I fix my eyes on Him and follow wherever He leads, that He will fulfill every true calling and dream He’s placed on my heart. In the meantime, I need to recognize that where He’s placed me now is where I am called. Through this present calling, He will teach me, change me, and make me more like Him – in order to prepare me for future callings and the fulfillment of the dreams He’s given me.

The Final Destination

Over this past week, I’ve gradually decorated my new office – to the point that it now finally feels “my own”. It’s been a lot of fun filling the shelves with my own books, the walls with my own diplomas and pictures, the desk with my own supplies, etc. It still has more work to be done (you will see below that some bookshelves are still empty) – but it’s certainly coming along quite nicely! Here are some pictures of what it looks like so far (it’s difficult to capture everything due to the shape of the office!):

FullSizeRender (3)       FullSizeRender (4)FullSizeRender (5)       unnamed

I’m glad that I’ve finally gotten this mostly done – since I’ve now been in this wonderful new position for nearly a month! It’s been one of the best months of my life so far – which honestly feels a bit weird to say. This isn’t where I expected to be, and yet, it’s so much better – God has blessed me in so many ways. And, for the first time in a long time, I feel that I’m in a place that I’m going to be for a very long while. This may, of course, change – who knows what God has planned. But right now, everything is pointing to this position being very long-term.

This, too, feels a bit weird – simply because I’ve been thinking about “the next thing” for so much of my life. From grade school, to college, to graduate school, to internships and fellowships… everything has been about getting to the next step. I’ve always known that where I was and what I was doing was not permanent – that it was just a passing phase (even if a good one, and an important one), as I was preparing for something better.

Of course, even now, I know that this is still really a “passing phase” (one that may last for many years, but still, it shall pass). From future promotion possibilities, to getting a PhD, to teaching new classes each semester – my job here will continually change and grow. And, at some point, I expect God will call me somewhere else entirely – whether that’s in the area of library directorship, or educational leadership, or maybe something completely different. But this still isn’t exactly what I mean, because even once I’m in the final position of my lifetime, that too shall pass. I cannot pretend to know where God will lead me, but I do know that anything on this earth is temporary. Everything on this earth is simply preparation for something else – something infinitely better.

This is such a valuable truth to dwell on. While I was in high-school, I worked to prepare for college. While I was in college, I worked to prepare for graduate school. While I was in graduate school, I worked to prepare for my first professional job. But through all of this… I should be working with Heaven in mind. I should be working on growing closer to Him; becoming more like Him; loving Him and loving others, more every day. After all, eternity is the final destination – all the rest of this is just temporary.

As I continue on here in my work (here at MNU, here in Olathe, here with my family and friends, here in all of the places God’s called me right now) – I must always keep my final destination in mind. Hopefully, this will significantly affect the daily choices and decisions that I make. Hopefully, this will help me become more like Him.

Words vs. Images

I am increasingly troubled by our culture’s preference for images over truth. This is especially apparent in the way we try to create images of ourselves – through social media, in how we talk about ourselves, and even just in our own heads. We try to craft ourselves as being as interesting and admirable as possible, regardless of the truth of who we actually are. We all want to be liked and appreciated – and so we create images of ourselves (often false ones) that will be liked and appreciated by others.

This obsession with our own image does stem from our culture, which is already image-obsessed. While there are many wonderful things about films, television, and other forms of media, there are also definite problems that can be associated with an oversaturation of these things. I believe that these problems are heightened when we do not read enough, and even more when we don’t spend enough one-on-one time with actual people. There is a big difference from chatting to someone online than there is from talking to them face-to-face. There is also a big difference from viewing images of a person (how they appear) versus actually understanding a person (how they really are).

Reading is a great tool to curbing this issue. It helps teach us empathy, and to understand people better. It helps show us that what we see is not necessarily the truth – in fact, it usually isn’t when it comes to something as infinitely complex as a human being. When we read a story, we are able to see into characters – books are portals that help us see inside people’s hearts and minds, and thus understand them a bit better. The fact that a character is fictional does not take away from this truth – when we read from the perspective of a fictional character, especially a well-written one, we are still experiencing a different life from our own, and a unique perspective. We can see what these characters are really feeling, what they value, and who they actually are as people. The written word helps to show us that this (the truth) is what matters – not the way we or others appear. Reading Between the Lines: A Guide to Christian Literature is a wonderful book that talks about this in more detail – I highly recommend it. Reading can help us empathize with others, and thus learn (or start learning) to not judge a book by its cover; or a person by their image without knowing their unique backgrounds, thoughts, and hearts.

I know that when I observe someone, I do not really see who they are. All I see is a small, outward glimpse of that person, and there is so much more within that I will never truly know. I have wrongly judged people based on their outward appearance way too many times; it’s something I think all of us have to intentionally try to avoid. Even when I talk to someone and start to get to know them, I have to understand that the words they say and the way they behave may have a completely different truth behind them than the way I interpret them. Spending enough time with any one person can help with this – when we spend a lot of time with someone, we start to realize that they are infinitely more complex and multidimensional than we ever thought. In order to truly get to know someone, we have to spend enough time with them – but, we have to also be willing to attempt to see things from their perspective instead of our own. Getting to know someone is an active endeavor, not a passive one. It’s entirely possible to spend years talking to a person and never actually know them. Understanding a person takes time, effort, and the willingness to see things in a new way.

Knowing that our culture values images as much as it does, it’s still often tempting to try to project an image of ourselves for other people to see – as opposed to just being who we are, and trusting God with the rest. However, I believe that the latter is what we must do if we are to follow Him fully – we will never truly follow Him if we are preoccupied with ourselves and how we appear to others. He calls us to love Him, and love others – not to create false images of ourselves in order to look good.

When we create false images of ourselves, we are really just putting on a mask. We are not being who He has called us to be – instead, we are pretending to be what others want us to be, and how we ourselves wish that we were. Ironically, the only way to reach our full potential and become beautiful as God made us to be is to give up all pretense of being in control over our images… and to surrender ourselves and how we are viewed totally to God. Will we still encounter people who misinterpret our hearts, and choose to see only our outward appearance? Of course. Will we also have those who deride us for choosing to follow Christ instead of enhancing our own images? Absolutely. But if we truly want to become more like Him, and become who He planned for us to be, it is essential that we surrender ourselves anyway, regardless of what others think. We must forsake false images, and instead choose Christ. And, through His power and love alone, we can see past the masks people put onto themselves – and see the true beauty that is underneath.

His Presence Alone

This will be a short post, written in an attempt to capture something that I learned yesterday. It is inspired by the message given at MNU’s 2017 faculty convocation.

In Exodus 33, Moses meets with God in the form of a pillar of cloud in the tabernacle. Verse 11 says that “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
Moses asks God to bring up his people, the Israelites (who are still wandering),  and to show them His way. The Lord responds, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

This is not God saying that He will bring His people out of wandering, or show them the way. It is simply Him saying that He will be with them through whatever is to come, and that His Presence will bring them rest. I think this is profound. How many times in my own life have I asked God to rescue me from my trials? To lead me to the right path, so that I know I am going where He wants me to go? And, more times than not, He does not answer as I expect – but He does always answer, just in similar fashion to how he answered Moses. Regardless of what happens in our lives, no matter what trials and temptations we go through, no matter how much we wander in the wilderness without knowing the way… He is always with us, His Church, in the form of the Holy Spirit. He will always be with us, and so we can always have rest.

Is this enough? This doesn’t mean that everything will happen as we wish it would. This doesn’t mean that the path will always be clear to us. This doesn’t even mean that our wandering will cease. But, it does mean that we are never alone – and it means that God, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, our Father and Savior is always with us. And thus, we can have constant, true, unshakable peace and rest in Him.

Going back to Exodus 33 – how does Moses respond? He says simply: “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.

This line is striking to me. Of course, Moses wants with all his heart for the Israelites to be brought out of their wandering. He wants to know the way God has for them. But when Moses asks God for this, and His response (while significant) is not perhaps what Moses wants to hear, he responds that if God is not with them, then there is no point in being brought up out of the wilderness at all. It is His presence with them that matters, and that is ALL that matters. Moses recognizes and understands this – I want to understand this, too. Trials may befall us, and we may wander without knowing the way – but through everything, it is only His presence with us that matters. God’s presence is ALL that matters. The Israelites need God, and nothing else. God alone is infinitely better than having everything else without Him.

How would our lives look if we realized this truth daily? What if we prayed: “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us happiness, or wealth, or success. If Your Presence does not go with us, do not fulfill our callings or our dreams. If Your Presence does not go with us, do not rescue us from hard times or show us the way you’d have for us. Because You are ALL that matters, and You alone. If You are with us, we have everything – and if You are not with us, then we have nothing.”

After Moses responds, the Lord says: “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.

Moses understood that God’s presence with them was all that mattered – and in turn, the Lord chose to give Moses what he asked for anyway. This doesn’t mean that He will always give us what we ask for if we recognize that He is all we need – but it does mean that He sees our hearts, and that He will always respond in perfect grace and love. I need to constantly remind myself that He is all that matters, and that if I simply embrace this truth, everything else will follow. He desires the best for me, and He has a plan for me – but the way to come into that plan is to let it go, and to simply follow Him and embrace this one simple truth:

His presence alone is enough.