Living Lent: blessings abound

Where did today go?  Whether we are knee-deep in classes or on break, it seems that time skips gaily by while I am left in the dust wondering where it went so quickly.

Today I promised part II of my list of blessings, so without further ado, I shall continue. [Sidenote: yes, I have been reading poetry.  Why do you ask?]

my books don't quite fit on my bookshelf...

my books don’t quite fit on my bookshelf…

12. Literature 
Books, books, books.  What is the best book you have ready lately? What is the last book you read?  I have been an avid bibilophile since I was little and scared myself silly reading too many Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.  I used to get in trouble for reading when I wasn’t supposed to.  (Yeah, figure that one out.)  Literature has provided me with entertainment, friends, profound emotional experiences, a greater understanding of the world, a better perspective of the human condition, and a basis for my understanding of God.  Though I am not the most talented writer in the world, I have a sincere respect and appreciation for those that are blessed with a such a talent.  And I am truly, deeply grateful for the gift of words.

13. Home

Charleston: home sweet home

Charleston: home sweet home

Home is where the heart is.  Home can be anywhere, and is anywhere.  Some once tried to tell me that I couldn’t be homesick for Scotland because it was never home–I respectfully disagree.  I believe that home is anywhere where there is a piece of your heart; though I only spent 4.5 months there, it was enough time for my heart to grow some and leave a piece behind.  Of course, home is definitely wherever my family is, too.
I am getting ready to graduate and go to grad school, though I’m still not sure where yet.  I literally have no idea where I will be in 6 months.  But I am so fortunate to have places to call home.  And I am excited to see where else God will let me call home!

14. Friends
I am blessed to have friends all over the world, even though I don’t get to see many of them very often.  Friends amuse, encourage, love, provide companionship, and help you learn valuable life lessons.  True friends are hard to come by, and quality is definitely more important than quantity.  Who cares how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have?  I am grateful for those who know the real me–good points and flaws together–and love me regardless.

Holly decided to surprise me...

Holly decided to surprise me…

my wonderful friend Sarah from St Andrews! she's working in DC now.

my wonderful friend Sarah from St Andrews! she’s working in DC now.

15. Health
Not much explanation is needed here.  Though I would/will praise God no matter what, I am grateful for the health that I have enjoyed thus far in my life.

16. Hope
Hope allows me to dream.  Hope gives me something to smile about on the worst days.  Hope has guided me through darkness.  The capacity for hope is something which separates us from the rest of God’s creation, something which beats pessimism and cynicism.  I hope for a lot of things, and it gives me direction and goals.  Hope shapes our lives in so many ways.

17. Forgiveness
Christ died for me on the cross.  What else needs to be said?  But there IS so much to say.  I mess up daily, hourly.  I am the queen of making mistakes.  God’s forgiveness is one of the single greatest blessings I have known; and I truly appreciate forgiveness from friends, family, and foes alike.  I am grateful for the capacity to forgive others, and how I learn and grow through that process.  I am sp blessed that forgiveness  affords me opportunities for new beginnings.

18. Oxygen
Breathing is, well, necessary for survival.  I am blessed to have every breath that God has allowed me in my life.

came across this gem while exploring St Andrews

I came across this gem while exploring St Andrews

19. Nature
Speaking of life…how incredible is the world in which we live?!  We get our food, the components of our clothes and houses, and so much of our inspiration from the natural world.  From the daffodils blooming everywhere right now to the mountains to the vast ocean, and everything in between, I consider the earth to be a blessing from God.  Though it’s easy to take it for granted,  I appreciate any opportunity to be out in the fresh air soaking up the sun.  Or being rained on.  Snow is great, too.  I’m not really picky.  And sunsets are often known to stop me in my tracks.  God is truly the greatest artist!

I took this outside of my dorm in St Andrews last spring

speaking of daffodils: I took this photo outside of my dorm in St Andrews last spring.

20. Peace
The more I hear about the war and unrest and fighting in other areas of the world, the more I feel blessed to live in such peace and stability.  (Governmental disagreements aside.)  Yes, crime happens.  Yes, We have been victim of terrorist attacks.  But compared to countless millions who live in constant fear for their lives, I am so blessed to sleep each night feeling safe.

21. Children
How can the sight or sound of a young child–especially a baby–not make you smile?  Children represent imagination, innocence, hope, joy, love.  I hope to be a mother some day, and for now I cherish any opportunity I have to spend with kids.  Every child is truly a gift from God!

22. Emotions–all of them

happiness.

happiness. [photo by Mayank Kapadia]

When I say all of them, I mean the bad ones as well.  Without sadness or anger, how can you understand true joy?  Without frustration, relief means little.  Emotions remind me that I am alive.

23. (one to grow on) YOU!
Whether I know you personally or not, I know that God made you with care and that He has a great purpose for your life.  I consider it an honor and a blessing to share this world with you, and to be able to share pieces of my life with you.

In Christ,
Christine

Erskine blessings

Merry Christmas everyone!  Today is born our Savior!  I pray that the holiday season finds you and your family healthy, happy, and enjoying the many blessings God has bestowed upon you.  I know that, personally, I am so grateful for surviving the last month of school, including a rather stressful exam week.

In honor of the Christmas season, I wanted to resume my blog posts by writing about some of the greatest blessings that God has given me through Erskine.  I do apologise in advance: I have no photos to do this post justice, so my ramblings will have to suffice.  I will make up for it in future posts.  So…(in no particular order) here we go!

I am grateful that, as a Christian college, Erskine brings us all together through our shared faith in so many ways: college chapel services; prayer before classes, meetings, and performances; various organizations and clubs; small-groups and Bible studies; impromptu gatherings in the residence halls; and so many others.

I am grateful for being able to live in Carnegie Hall for 3 of my 4 years at Erskine.  As a freshman, Ms Ruth and my SLAs were always supportive and helpful no matter the emergency (of both the small and large varieties).  I met so many great girls my first year that I still study, laugh, and cry with.  As an upperclassmen, I’ve had the ability to serve as a Student Life Assistant for 3 years (this is my second in Carnegie).  I have an even greater appreciation for my awesome freshman year now that I understand more fully what goes on behind the scenes, and I love being able to watch out for and get to know my girls.  And, lets’ be honest: Carnegie is probably the prettiest building on Erskine’s campus. Who wouldn’t love living in a beautiful hundred-year-old hall?

I am grateful for Ms Ruth, the RD in Carnegie for the past 20 years.  This woman wears a whole lot of hats, most of which she wears quietly.  She has the best stories, knows absolutely everything about Erskine, and has lived a terribly exciting life.  I have learned so much from her and she truly has the best advice.  As an added bonus, Ms Ruth makes sure that the halls of Carnegie are truly decked with boughs of holly, lights, trees, and bows.

I am grateful for every professor I have had the opportunity to learn from.  They challenge me academically and personally–often intertwining–and have truly helped me become a better, stronger, more well-rounded individual.  I am confident that they have prepared me fully for graduate school and beyond.  I know my professors not just as teachers, but as individuals.  I know their backgrounds, their families, and their hobbies.  I cannot think of another college where you would form this type of relationship with one professor, let alone most or all of them.  Erskine often talks about “thriving,” and my professors are the reason I thrive here.

I am grateful that Erskine gave me the opportunity to study abroad at the University of St Andrews.  All of my scholarships transferred, making it very affordable for me to spend this past spring there.  I was more than ready to get there and heartbroken to return home.  St Andrews was so much fun and a priceless experience that I will never forget.  It is hard to be so far away from all of the friends I made there; but on the plus side, I have friends to visit all over the world now!

I am grateful for the psychology department.  At many colleges and universities, psychology can be the “easy” major.  Not here.  I have definitely worked hard for my As and I am amazed sometimes at both the number of pages I have read over the past 3.5 years and how much I have learned.  I know that learning is the point of college, but we as students (and by “we,” I definitely refer at least to myself) tend to get caught up in grades and GPA.  Dr Elsner, for example, always laughs when we come to his office stressing about grades.  As he and the other professors have gradually gotten us to accept, it’s most important to focus on the work and the learning; the grades are secondary.  As a psychology major, I have gotten to write countless papers, learn statistics software,  conduct and present original research, collaborate with other students, participate in a summer research internship, be accepted to intern at a mental hospital this spring, and become the psychology lab manager.  Graduate school? Bring it on.

I am grateful for the music department.  Despite not majoring or minoring in music, I have a music scholarship and get to take voice lessons and sing with the Choraleers.  I’ve also been a member of the Chamber Choir and Bella Voce and performed in opera workshops and various other performances over the past several years.  It is definitely a blessing to practice and perform with such talented individuals, and the faculty … talented doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Some of my favorite college memories relate to Choraleers retreats and tours.  I have grown as a musician and as a Christian and I know my experiences with the department will serve me well in future ministry and life in general.

Continuing with the arts, I am grateful to be an active member of Erskine’s theatre department.  Actually, we technically aren’t even a department, but that certainly does not stop us from acting up a storm!  As a member of Alpha Psi Omega, I get to help make the magic happen both on the stage and behind the scenes.  I had to take a break from the improv this group this past semester, but I hope to finish out my time at Erskine as an active member again this spring.  My fellow Thespians are, quite frankly, talented. And did I mention funny?  They are definitely both.  In sum, if you have never seen any music or theatre performances at Erskine, you are missing out.  We’d love to see you in the audience!

I am grateful for my friends.  Late night studying, paper writing, rehearsing, procrastinating, finding amusement in Due West, 2AM excursions to IHOP, cooking together, and so much laughter …  I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

I could probably easily spend another thousand words  writing about how great Erskine is and how God has blessed me in my time there, but my mom is about to take the baked ziti out of the oven and I am too excited to eat a big chunk of it.  I hope your stomach is as happy as mine is about to be.

I pray that your heart may be content and that this season will bring you happiness and peace.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Erskine professors are the best.

Part of what makes Erskine so special–part of that unique feeling on campus that no one can quite explain–is the faculty.  Every professor at Erskine could most likely make more money and gain more prestige working elsewhere but they choose to be here.  I know many instances of professors leaving higher-paying jobs (or turning down enticing offers) elsewhere to be here.  This is so striking because it shows just how much these individuals truly care about us, their students.

While at Erskine, I have had the most contact with the psychology, foreign language, and music departments.  Professors in almost every department, though, have deeply impacted me in both similar and varying ways.  I have never seen a teacher as truly excited about math as Dr. Gorka and I have also had the benefit of his excellent advising regarding study abroad.  I have learned–and retained–more world history in the past few years than I have the rest of my life combined.  Dr. Granados’ classes have both frustrated me and massively improved my ability to communicate in Spanish, as well as fostered a genuine interest in Spanish literature.  I talk to her as a professor and as a friend.  Our current acting president, Dr. Christie, has also been my acting director and my English teacher.  I know of no one else who could make the book Moby Dick as interesting as he did in his American Romanticism course.

I have spent hundreds of hours in the music building singing as part of a choral ensemble, in voice lessons, in practice rooms, and as a performer in many concerts and musical productions; and  I have attended many other musical performances by amateurs and professionals.  Thanks to Erskine’s music department, I have had a music scholarship for four years even though I am not a major or minor.  Singing with the Choraleers for four years, as well as Chamber Singers and Bella Voce, has afforded me the opportunity to sing and worship at dozens of churches around the southeastern United States.  Some of my favorite memories of college were made during Choraleers retreats or trips.  Singing sacred music with a choir and conductor who actually believe the words we are singing is a far more powerful experience than singing the same music with a secular ensemble.  And Dr. Nabholz’s daily witty comments and retorts never fail to make us laugh.

The professors in the psychology department have been my encouragement, my biggest supporters, and sometimes my biggest frustrations.  Drs. Elsner, Showalter, Sniteman, and now Dr. Van Scoy are truly some of my favorite people on campus.  They have celebrated my achievements with me, given me countless words of motivation and advice, and helped me find my footing when I stumble.  I have read thousands of pages and spent countless hours studying for this department, but it is [almost] never boring.  These professors see potential in me that I never would have found or believed on my own, and they are part of the reason that I consider the psychology lobby/lab my second home on campus.  If I get accepted into a graduate program, and survive, it will be due to the thorough preparation they have given me.

I know of few universities where professor can connect your name to your face, let alone know your family, hometown, major, and campus involvement.  I not only learn from these extremely intelligent individuals, I eat meals with them, know their families, and have called them at home or on their cell phone.  They remember to ask about my health when I’ve been ill or hurt or how a major assignment or exam turned out when I’ve been stressed.  More than a couple of professors kept up with me and my travels and experiences abroad via Facebook and I don’t find that weird at all.  Erskine may have more than its fair share of stellar professors, but I would not change that for anything.

The liberal arts experience

I would just like to say that I adore going to a liberal arts college.  There is little more exciting [at least for me] than making endless connections among disciplines and having the pieces fall into place. For example: a world civ lecture on Greek philosophers the other day helped me figure out how to finish a paper on Rousseau for my Family Theory class.  A couple of days later, an American Government lecture on Calvinism helped put Rousseau in context even better for me.  I constantly find overlaps with psychology and every other subject.

I also love just learning.  In my Sensation & Perception class, we have been discussing the psychophysiology of the brain as it relates to vision.  I now walk around campus thinking about how the parts of my eyeballs, the optic nerves, and all of the various areas of my brain are constantly working together to make sense of the world.  Our homework assignments for this class are always quite fun as well: for example, last night I got to play with Play-Doh!

Our professors at Erskine are truly an exceptional source of information.  I frequently find myself, on my way to or from class or errands on campus, running into a professor and spending the next 20-60 minutes discussing life, classes, future plans, and almost any other topic you could imagine.  I found my professors in St. Andrews to be quite easily approachable, but not in the unique way that makes Erskine the strong, close-knit community that it is.  My favourite part of studying here (yes: studying can be fun!) is coming across quotes from professors as I review class notes.  My pen is always poised to copy funny comments during class.  I truly love being around sociable intellectuals: they are truly witty.  (I’d like to note that this also applies to so many students here as well.  Academia is wonderful.)

One of my favourite examples of this happened just a few days ago.  Dr. Christie, our acting president and probably the best English teacher I have ever had in my life, gave the address for the formal opening of the college and seminary.  (That’s a lot of words to say that school has officially begun.  Let the work commence!)  I had to laugh when, sitting with the Choraleers in the balcony of Due West ARP church before it started, I saw on the program that the title of his address was “Dude! Alas!”  Only Dr. Christie could tie the word “dude” into Scripture so effectively.  Curious as to how this could be?  Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eqU7X85GGY&feature=youtu.be.  The Secret Sevens even make their way in to the ceremony.  I much prefer this one to the alarm clocks a few years ago…

I wish I had photos to add to this post, because that’s one of my favourite parts about blogging; alas, I have none.  I promise to make up for it in the next post though!  I should probably go catch up on homework though…being a senior is no easy task.  If you have any recommendations I would be happy to hear them.

Post Graduation Thoughts

May 18, 2013 – my last day at Erskine College as a student…

It’s hard to believe that four years went by so quickly. It’s all so bittersweet. I guess the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” is accurate. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Erskine. Sure it started out a little rough, but over the years I grew quite fond of Erskine and the community there. I left Erskine with tears in my eyes because I realized just how blessed I have been. I received a fully funded college education. I made life-long friendships with students and faculty and staff. I traveled to Europe with the Choraleers. I traveled to China during J-Term with Dr. Grier and Dr. Chaney and students from various departments. I met outstanding alumni who helped me find internships and jobs. I further developed my talents and skills. I was given several opportunities to be a student leader.

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

– Luke 12:48

I was given four years at Erskine to grow academically and spiritually. I gave back to Erskine as much as I could. But all of my accomplishments and accolades aren’t of importance. Over the years, people will eventually forget what I’ve done. My only prayer is that I left a legacy that reflects back on Christ more than it reflects back on me.

As a student, there were times when I complained about Erskine and got tired of the school and church politics. I got caught up in the rumor mill. I talked about things I didn’t fully understand. But I implore current students to realize just how much of a blessing the Erskine community can truly be. It’s not a utopia of higher learning, but it is a fine institution. You will be pushed academically, but that will prepare you for your future endeavors. You will be nurtured spiritually, but that will help you define what you believe and why you believe it. You will be given opportunities to lead, but that will teach you how to deal with people from different backgrounds.

Above all, you will make friendships that will last a lifetime. You may meet your future spouse. If not, you’ll at least meet your future bridesmaids and groomsmen. You will meet professors that actually care about your well-being. They will push you to succeed not only in the classroom, but in life! We have a tight-knit community and many times it’s seen as a curse instead of a blessing.

Choose to see it as a blessing. Choose to focus on excelling academically, growing spiritually, and reaching out socially. Squeeze that Erskine education for all it’s worth! Then, when your day of commencement comes, you will be able to walk underneath the towers (I’m still a little bitter that I had to graduate in the gym…) with a smile on your face, knowing that you grew as a person and are adequately equipped to take on the world and impact the Kingdom.

The Misconception of Due West

One of the first things people realize when they enter Due West is the fact that it is small. This is an obvious feature of our town so we might as well address it openly and quickly. Therefore, one of the first things people assume is that there is nothing to do here. WRONG! I find that I actually rarely have a spare minute on campus. Yes, I have done some of this to myself by joining too many clubs and volunteering for too many activities, but nonetheless, Erskine is a busy place. Somehow, one has to find time for academics, physical health, a little fun, and oh yeah…some sleep!

Academics are the most obvious things to make time for because they are mandatory. (Hello, that’s why we came here!) However, unlike many colleges where classes involve lectures in auditoriums filled with hundreds of students, Erskine is much more interactive. Especially once students have begun taking their major classes, they find that class sizes are small and allow for much more hands-on activities. For example, I am an education major and most of my classes range from six to ten people. This past week, in my Social Studies for Teachers class, we were able to make a model of the South Carolina regions, demonstrating activities we could do with our elementary aged students. Through this, we learned the struggles they will encounter as well as techniques and questions to add to our repertoire of teaching methodologies. In addition, our class traveled together this weekend to Columbia to attend a Geography Workshop where we met with other pre-service and in-service teachers to learn exciting new lessons and innovations for the classroom. Even better, I won some free maps!

Tonight, my physical health and fun were able to come together as I participated in my first ever intramural game! Our basketball team attempted to work some magic, but came up a few points shy. After trying to catch my breath for an hour in order to write this, I realized I did have a great deal of fun. However, other fun an exciting events that have occurred lately have involved my first round of tree golf as well as a “masquerade” (a semi-rave with masks) hosted by one of the societies. I will pretty much use any excuse to dress up hideously in too much neon.

Sadly, sleep hasn’t happen too much lately, but I am happier than ever. As a junior with many friends who are seniors, I am beginning to realize that not much of my college time is left. I fear I may have wasted a few semesters, so I am determined to enjoy this one to its fullest, especially since I will be student teaching next year. See, there are things to do in Due West. The challenge is…to try and find a day without something to do!

Where Have I Been?

Where have I been? The answer is…not at Erskine! That’s right, I used Erskine’s unique J-term opportunity to pursue interests outside of the classroom and spent the month at home. Okay, now before you go there, I did do some work. I promise. However, I was able to do work in a setting much different from the college atmoshpere and gain a new perspective entering into the spring semester.

In case you are unsure of what I am talking about, J-term or Winter Term as some may call it, is a one month semester taking place during the month of January. Rather than beginning a full spring term after returning from Christmas, here in Due West students take this month to take only ONE class. These classes are typically unrelated to their majors and range from Music Videos and Cinema to Math Puzzles and so much more. In addition, January offers unique travel destinations to places such as New York and Italy! However, I chose to do none of those this year.

After the Christmas lights were taken down and all of the presents were put away, I began researching areas in my field, Education. While at Erskine, I have had plenty of chances to take classes and spend time in the schools with students, but I wanted to spend January looking into specific areas of interest and sharing them with professionals. Therefore, I spent the month exploring the topics of collaboration, service learning, and technology before presenting them at teachers’ meetings at local schools. While I will admit this was somewhat intimidating, it was also extremely rewarding. I was able to see what a difference I could make in my community while also gently stepping into the world of professionalism. Even better, I got three hours of credit for this! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my month.

Does this sound exciting to you? Or perhaps it is rather boring? Either is okay! Many more opportunities like mine exist and Erskine can help you find them. Through internships, externships, and research opportunties, if you are willing to work, you can find a way. So now, I am back and well into my second week of the spring semester. I am sure I will have some intersting stories so be sure to keep looking…there is more to come.