Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A holy coincidence

I recently ran into a former English professor, whom I've been reluctant to tell about changing my major. It may be silly, but I felt awkward about it because he wrote a recommendation for my application to the education program. When I told two separate family members about it, they had different reactions. One said, "Well, just explain that education wasn't challenging and you wanted a challenge. He'd understand that." The other said, "You could say, 'I want to teach but I didn't like the system they were teaching us or the way they were teaching it.'"

What is interesting about these two reactions is that both said their comments matter-of-factly, as if they were just putting into words something I already knew. But the fact is, I wouldn't have used either of those two phrases to explain why I changed my major. Both reasons are true, but aren't comprehensive enough. I actually don't know what one or two sentences I could say, however, to simplify the massive (though fast) process that took me to a new major . When I tell people, I say something different every time.

I apologize ahead of time if this post (ok, let's be honest, it's going to take more than one) is just overly lengthy navel-gazing. It is often said to write what you know, but not often enough said that we really write to know. I suppose the main reason I want to write this out is so that I can figure out that phrase or sentence that the answer to "why I changed my major" really boils down to. (yes I just ended a sentence with a preposition.)

To start at the beginning...

My imaginary future self

I went into college certain that I would never change my major. There were multiple reasons for this. Because I love children and am passionate about education, it just seemed to make sense that I be a teacher. Sure, the public education system makes me crazy, but all the more reason to have good teachers in it, right? I knew I loved history, but I didn't see that as a career. Therefore, teaching seemed like the only job for me and thus elementary education the only major. I realize now that it was also based on pride; I wasn't going to be like "those people" who change their majors as often as they change their socks. I knew what I was doing and I was not going to take more than four years to do it.

Hahaha. Pride goeth before the fall. Only in this case, God was merciful enough that I fell off my high horse and into a green valley (mixing my metaphors here. I know.)

On September 25, in the middle of the fifth week of school, I felt myself to be a mass of tensions barely contained within a human frame. Since starting college two years ago, I have never had much school spirit. I've never felt like I belonged or really enjoyed college. Yes, there have been some professors I liked and a couple of good classes, but in all, it was a difficult time. I struggled to keep myself grounded in the present and not pine away missing high school or longing to be a stay-at-home mom. I prayed that God would use me in the place he put me, that he would enable me to love my classmates who made me feel like a two-headed alien, and that I would not just pick up a degree but actually grow as a result of these four short years. And yet, in July I told my dad that "School drains the life out of me," and really believed it. I went into this year feeling discouraged, that despite my prayers I had complained my way through the past two years, squandering them.

So it's not like school had been a picnic so far, but on this day the tensions began to come to a head. I felt both a strong desire to be a good student, to pursue my assignments and readings not "because I have to" but to actually learn from them. I didn't just want to speak enough in class to get a good participation grade, but to listen to my professors because I respect them. And yet it felt like half of what we were doing was just pointless busywork. I also vacillated between wanting to please my professors and not make waves, and wanting to completely rebel against the ideologies and structures that they pound into the heads of education students as gospel truth (while simultaneously saying there is no truth...). Should I do my best in classes whether they're meaningful or not, or scorn the entire program? And to what extent is it good and healthy to examine the situation and release tension by talking about my feelings, before it becomes complaining?

Into that mix add the tension resulting from my own background colliding with the established education system, which would no doubt be taught in any university. Even schools that explore alternative education models to some degree are still highly systematized. You are told, again and again, that for children to learn, you must have a lesson plan. Any good lesson plan must have an objective. And any objective must have a way of measuring it (e.g. a test or other form of assessment). If you just do fun activities that are disconnected from assessments and objectives, your children will not learn. While in class, I could start to nod and think, That makes sense. Then I would leave class and it was like a veil was lifted from over my eyes: I would remember my own schooling and that of the children I grew up with. In my entire educational experience up until college, I am certain my mother never wrote out lesson plans and objectives, let alone conducted regular assessments. We did do fun activities like visiting an organ company when studying Bach, "just because." And yet somehow I managed to learn or at least retain just as much as my public-schooled classmates. So how could I accept the mantra that students will only learn when they have objectives and assessments?

On this particular afternoon, after viewing "a few clips" (15 minutes of video) my professor had sent out for the next morning's class, which overlapped and just repeated information from our previous discussions, I texted two of my dearest friends, "WHAT IS THE POINT. WHY AM I HERE. Switching to engineering looks pretty good". At this point, however, I didn't seriously think of another major as an option; "switching to engineering" had been a running joke in my household since I started down the education path and found it lacking. After venting about all my various conflicting feelings to the same friends, I wrote, "I don't know that I would choose education if I was a freshman today but I'm too far in to change majors."

Underscoring these tensions was the contrast between my classes. Since I started college I was a history minor. My one history class last fall was the best 150 minutes of the week. This created yet another tension, with my love for my history classes contrasting with my general resentment towards my university in general. Three weeks into school I was already mourning the end of this class. I had one class left for my minor and I decided that I would do whatever it took to make sure I was taking a class from the same professor the next semester. Because of student teaching, education students can't take any non-education classes their senior year, which meant I had to finish my last history class in the spring semester.

The morning after my day of tensions, the spring schedule came out. I was reading my Bible, a little after 6:00, when I remembered this. Like the good, focused Christian that I am, I couldn't contain my curiosity and set my Bible aside for a minute to pull up the class schedule. I quickly put my professor's name in the search bar. Only to discover that he wasn't teaching any classes. Well, folks, this is a good reason not to let distractions come into your devotional times. The rest of my quiet time I had a hard time focusing because I was just crushed. My history minor, the only thing that had ever meant anything to me at KU, was coming to an end. Not only that, but my last class would have to be something just squeezed into my schedule, not a joyful and wonderful experience.

So, feeling rather dejected, I went to my 8 am class. I had started to actually make some connections in my education classes. I don't remember if I told my acquaintances that day about being sad about having only one history class left, but I did spend most of the next four hours with them chatting. During these two classes, we had a lot of space for "working" or for discussion, which meant that most of the class time was not spent learning class materials and a lot of time could be spent doing whatever one wanted. Thus, I had a fun morning in laughing with my classmates, though I felt a niggling sense of guilt for not being a "good" student.

That afternoon, I met with a student who was interested in joining a campus organization in which I'm a leader. She was a pre-law student and told me about how she likes reading about cases and studies legal documents in her free time. And it struck me that I don't download articles about ESL methods to read for fun. When I'm researching for a history paper, however, I get distracted by non-relevant but interesting articles and download them to read in my spare time. And if it made so much sense for her to be studying the thing that got her blood pumping, might it be possible that I should study history?

I went back to campus for my last class, at 5:00. Some of my same classmates were in this class, but for whatever reason the people I had laughed and chatted with in the morning were no longer interested in talking. By the time we got out, I felt sad, tired, and lonely. At almost 7:00 pm, I stepped on a bus to go home. And then I saw Amy.

She was the TA in my wonderful history class and we'd ridden the bus together before and chatted a little. I didn't know her that well (this was only the fifth week of class, remember), but when she asked how I was and I said "Okay" and she said, "Really?" I let it all out. I told her that I was in education and it was frustrating and I was maybe kind of sort of considering changing my major to history, except that I was concerned that if I did history I would just be doing it to enjoy college and would regret it later because I wouldn't end up with a job. We rode the bus to the same stop and then stood outside her apartment (she lives across the street from me) talking for another twenty minutes. She listened and reassured me and gave me great advice and encouraged me to talk to my history professor for his perspective (which I had wanted to do but I didn't want to bother him). And when I left the conversation, I thought clearly, "This was a God-moment, a holy coincidence. Whether I change my major or not, that was the hand of God." At the end of a weird day, filled with all kinds of emotions, it was exactly the ending I needed.

Monday, January 20, 2020

A different kind of winter break

Tomorrow, I'll be back in school. It's rather a weird feeling; I always have so much I intend to get done, but usually I do get it done, and also read two or three novels and play the piano and see friends and drink buckets of tea. Winter break has always seemed too short to travel, yet can't really be said to go fast, because all the things I'm doing are of my own volition and thus aren't rushed.

This break has been unlike any other. I spent six days out of state at an international student ministry conference. I have been writing applications for scholarships for a summer study abroad program (!!). As with other breaks, I have done some mending and cooking, but honestly cooking isn't bringing me as much joy as it used, so I've been procrastinating on that.

I've also been doing various things that are unlike any other break because... I am no longer an education major. I am a blissfully happy and incredibly blessed history major. This has led to time spent scheduling a museum internship and brushing up on my French in preparation for studying it this semester.

What I have not been doing: sleeping in, exercising regularly, drinking tea, or reading novels. Until I got sick a few days ago, that is, in which time I slept 10 hours, took a nap, finished two books (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and Hi Hitler!) and drank several cups of tea to compensate for my relatively tea-less break. I also became so brain dead that I culled probably a hundred pins from my Pinterest and even considered watching Downton Abbey (reserved for the very sickest days when my brain is functioning at such a low level that a doctor would probably pronounce me dead). The couple days leading up to school have been less productive than I planned, but such is life. It is good to be reminded that the world can indeed go on functioning if I do none of the things on my planner.

And yet, it has been such a good break too, even if different or less productive than previous years. I am so incredibly blessed by the friends I have seen (each and every one of you, if you're reading this post), the time at the conference, and, even if I haven't been less busy, a change of pace from the school year.

I am also excited to go back to school, which is a completely new thing for me. This is directly related to the above, namely, the major change and Vision Conference. I intended to write a post about the process of changing my major months ago (it was official the second week of October) but the draft is currently about three million words long, and that's way too much to bother with if only I care two figs about it. So if you're reading this, let me know if you are curious about the long, multifaceted story that led to me changing my major (something I swore I'd never do yet accomplished only 10 days after I first considered it) and I will persevere and share it with you.

If not, the short story is that history is and always has been my passion but I didn't think that I could or should get a job if I majored in history. Then I learned that I could, so I did. Now I am going into a semester enrolled in Elementary French II and three history courses (one being an independent study with my favorite professor), as well as doing an internship at a tiny local museum. Does it get any better than that??

And now I need to finish mending some socks. Because whether I like a productive winter break or not, it needs to be done.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

An Inspector Calls: Movie Review

I used to review movies because I really liked them, or because I couldn't find any other reviews that touched on what I consider the important points (e.g. faithfulness to a book or era, level of "mature" content). I no longer have time to write reviews just because I like something; rather, there has to be something I feel the desire to talk about. And this movie definitely fulfills that.

To give a brief summary, An Inspector Calls is about the visit of an inspector (the one and only David Thewlis) to the home of a typical British upper middle class family in 1912, after the suicide of a young lower class woman. It is important to point out that this is not a murder mystery. He does not ask them "Where were you at 5:18 last Tuesday?" and the movie does not end (spoiler alert!) with hauling off a hardened criminal to prison. Rather, though this movie does not quote scripture, it explores the question "Am I my brother's keeper?"

All of the members of this family would be described as "good people" by their own set and seem like an ordinary bunch, but it is revealed throughout the movie that each of their lives intersected with that of Eva Smith, the dead girl, in some way.

Each of the characters had an opportunity to do good to this girl and each instead put their own interests first. Without wanting to give too much away, this includes doing direct harm as well as looking the other way when a fellow creature was in need. Once again, I would note that most of these characters would not be described as "criminal" or seen as some kind of aberrant monster. They simply chose to act out of fear, pride, spite, and selfishness instead of loving their neighbor.

I also think it's interesting that the play this movie was based on premiered in 1945, directly after the end of World War II. At this moment in history, the world was grappling with the question of complicity in regards the horrible genocide in Europe. How much were ordinary Germans (and Europeans generally) who never held a gun responsible for the destruction of their neighbors?

It's clear that the person releasing Zyklon B into the gas chambers is guilty of murder, but what about the manufactures of the poison? What about the guy driving the train filled with prisoners? What about the townspeople who lived close enough to concentration camps to hear what was going on but did nothing?

These aren't easy questions. History is messy and there are no cut and dried answers because people are messy. I mean, I can't always fully tell you my motivation for actions I took yesterday, even if I wanted to be honest and leave a clear historical record.

Which is why I appreciated this movie. It (and, I presume, the original play) doesn't wrap up in a nice and tidy ending. Half of the characters are concerned only about covering up their involvement in the life and death of Eva Smith. The other half are filled with guilt over the part they have played in driving her to her own destruction.

This is not to say that they "as good as murdered her" or to excuse her for any sin that she committed or to lay the blame for that at their door. Yet, the Bible does say that it is better to have a millstone tied around your neck than to lead another person into sin, which seems to me to say that we do have a weighty responsibility to our neighbors and can have an effect on whether or not they choose sin. And certainly we have the responsibility to pursue justice for the vulnerable — God even tells the Israelites that bringing him sacrifices and following ritual laws means nothing if we are participating in injustice.

It also struck me that so many of the situations in this movie were related to the fact that Miss Smith was a woman. Because she was a woman she was paid less. Because she was a woman she couldn't find a job. Because she was a woman she had little choice in becoming a man's mistress because she didn't have any other option. And further, because she was a lower class woman, she couldn't make a good marriage or live a life of idleness. In that time of the world — and in many parts of the world today — the powerlessness of her gender intersected with her class to create a no-win situation.

And then this speech:
"Eva Smith is gone. You can't do her any more harm. You can't do her any good either. You can't even say 'I'm sorry.' But just remember this: there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives and hopes and fears and suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone on this earth. We are responsible for each other."
It reminded me rather of A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge can't go back and marry his sweetheart. He can't change the past. But he can choose how he treats Bob Cratchit.

I cringe as I write this, lest I come across sounding more like a moralist than a Christian. To be clear, I don't think it's possible to live our lives putting the other at the center instead of ourselves. And I hope that no one reads this and finds themself in the position of going from selfish motivation to motivation of guilt, "ought to," or duty. We have the power to choose selflessness and love and humility and even our own death only when God is at the center of our lives, not ourselves or our neighbors (wow, a lot of italics in one sentence). Because we love him, we can obey him and love other people. And we get to love him because he first loved us.

What is the conclusion to this philosophical sketch? I'm not sure. What does it stir in you? Where in your life are you brushing past the other, are you leaving an unexamined impact?

One thing that comes to mind for me is my purchases. Friends, it's really expensive to be healthy. Yes, processed food costs more than bulk ingredients, but there are times when it is simply a lot more expensive to choose the zero-waste, organic, ethical choice. And it feels like, is it really worth it? Can I justify spending twice as much on this item because it feels somehow better?

To be clear, not everyone has the budget to go plastic free and organic. I don't have that budget. I guess all I'm saying is that yes, it is harder to choose the road less travelled. It is way easier to buy clothes made in a factory run by slave labor. It is always going to be cheaper to buy conventional produce. But the point is, "We don't live alone on this earth." My choice to buy jeans from a thrift store or Target affects someone else's life. And when I weigh the many factors that lead to that choice, I hope at least one of them is Eva Smith.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

A brief comparison of Howard's End (1992) and Howard's End (2017/2018)

Okay, folks, here's how this is going to work: I'm a reader first and then a movie watcher, so any novel-to-film review will mostly examine the faithfulness of the adaption. Secondly, I love historical costuming, so I can never review a period drama without touching on the clothes. Thirdly, I'm short on time because right now it's 8:45 pm, my bed time is 9:00pm, and I still haven't finished my reading my 8:00am class tomorrow...heh. And even though I'll be working this in more than one sitting, the likely case is that I will have homework calling my name regardless of when I finish this. So basically, you're going to get the down and dirty version of my thoughts, so to speak (except I'm not speaking. I'm typing and you're reading. So take that for what it's worth, I guess).

I'll attempt to talk in veiled terms so as to be spoiler-free for those of you who haven't read the book or seen either of these adaptions, but I'll also be referring to "that one scene where the guy talks about his job," which will obviously make no sense if you have no frame of reference for the story. I do recommend reading the book. I listened to it, but think I would have appreciated it more reading it. I didn't immediately know what I thought about it when I finished. It seemed sort of abrupt, and had some "unreliable narrator" moments which I'm not a fan of. However, I think it's really quite a progressive book for its time (written by a E.M. Forester in 1910) and deals with such complex themes as women's roles, sexism, classism, extramarital affairs, the spiritual relation to the physical, and the intellectual life. It would make for a great book group discussion, I think (which is sort of ironic, as some of the book reflects on the fact that it is only the wealthy, privileged class who has time for intellectual pursuits and discussion clubs).

A Hasty Overview of Plot Points

1992: For a fairly short movie, this stuck to the plot very well. The main important episode that was omitted was the drive down to Evie's wedding. The car hits a cat and the Wilcox clan blows it off as the fault of the peasants who were in the road, while Margaret leaps from the car to check on the people. This basically shows to demonstrate, once again, the worldly, money-fixes-everything, spiritually deficient nature of the Wilcoxes.

The iconic keys-in-the-grass scene.

2018: As a miniseries, they were able to be a bit more detailed, but they also omitted the cat-turned-pancake scene. Surprisingly, for having more time than the 1992 movie, I thought that it was a little bit less faithful to the book. 

Evie being fake nice, as usual.
For instance, in the scene were Leonard Bast has tea with the Schlegels, they changed the dialogue. In the book (and the original movie), Len takes the hint about his business being likely to "smash" as though the Schlegel girls are trying to "pick his brain" (i.e., use him to get information about his company for some devious underhand purpose). He simply is not used to people who have the leisure to do an act out of pure (if misguided) benevolence. 

However, in the 2017/2018 miniseries, Tibby comes in as Helen is trying to smooth things over with Len and says something like "Is this the fellow you talk about in your social club? Part of your experiment?" I think this was the writers' attempt to make one of the themes of the book —interaction across social classes and how that can benefit or harm both parties — more obvious, but it was very clumsy in my opinion. It put an entirely new spin on Len's irritation and/or embarrassment that I didn't feel was in the book at all.

Even more importantly, I was pretty shocked that they entirely skipped the conversation between Helen and Margaret that takes place when Margaret surprises Helen at Howard's End. In the book and the 1992 adaption, when Margaret bursts in they have a long conversation, as Helen is angry and Margaret explains, etc. In the movie, they show Margaret walking in and then cut to a scene presumably an hour or so later, alluding to the fact that they talked but entirely dismissing the viewer from participation in this important conversation. Also, I felt they rushed one of the most important scenes of the story, where *SPOILER* Meg confronts Henry and drops the keys on the grass. *End spoiler* Also, why was Aunt Julie with the Schlegels the first time they met Leonard Bast? But overall, I'm pleased with this transfer of book-to-screen as well.
A Quick Sketch of the Cast
1992: Overall, I thought the cast was very well chosen. I love Emma Thompson, but I felt she was too old for the role. In the beginning of the book, Margaret is 29. She is still viewed as a naive girl, even though she is more mature and firmly grounded than Helen through virtue of being the oldest child and having basically raised Helen and Tibby. But Emma Thompson is such a good actress that by the end of the movie she had convinced me into loving her. Plus she and Anthony Hopkins are a great pair. 

I love Tibby.
Can we all just take a minute to appreciate how amazing Anthony Hopkins is as an actor? Helena Bonham Carter was good as Helen, but not all that memorable in my opinion. Tibby was quite good. The actress for Jackie was fine, but the way they made her up gave the impression that she was quite a bit more disreputable than I got the impression she was in the book. Both of the adaptions did a good job of showing that, while the Basts' marriage was not perfect and was in some ways unsatisfying (especially to Len), Jackie does care about him. This movie has my favorite Charles and Dolly. Dolly is honestly the most hilarious personage.

Dolly's ability to always say the absolute wrong thing is priceless.
2018: As with the other film, I'm generally satisfied with the cast. Charles and Evie were just as nasty as necessary. Margaret seemed a bit more the proper age in this one — and Hayley Atwell is really good — but Helen and especially Tibby seemed too young. Tibby is 16 at the beginning of the book but is at Oxford by the end. In this adaption, he seems all of 14 years old throughout (and was as annoying as a fourteen year old boy would be expected to be). I did feel that the siblings seemed a little bit more like a real family than in the 1992 version. 

The actors/directors did a really good job showing the close relationship and mutual oddness between the Schlegels. I love Matthew McFadyen so of course he was great. I liked that in this version, Mrs. Bast seemed a little bit more respectable — yes, I know she has a past, but the book does not imply she has a present, if you know what I mean. This Mrs. Bast wears actual clothing instead of hanging out in a corset and dressing gown all day (in general, this film makes the Basts' seem less destitute — they have walls instead of curtains and decent furniture to sit on. Not sure whether that's more faithful to the book or not, but there you go). 

The Basts

A Disproportionate Amount of Pictures (ie. The Costumes)

1992: There is not enough space on this blog (nor enough screen captures available on the internet) to showcase the costumes from this film. I loooooveed all of Margaret's outfits (though Helen's not so much). Absolutely lovely white frocks, shawls, hats, etc. What I can't figure out is why Helen had her hair down in almost every single scene. Yes, she's young when the story starts, but she's twenty-two, not thirteen! I thought maybe they would use her hair to show her aging, but nope, it stays down. This is the Edwardian era, not the 1970s. Going out without a hat, let alone leaving your hair down, was a social faux-pas.

 I'm sorry, Helen's hair is just a mess and her costumes were not very appealing to me. I love the black and white dress Margaret wears to Evie's wedding, though.

The coat!
2018: Overall, I preferred the costumes in the 1992 film to the miniseries. In the first couple episodes, Margaret wears a lot of plaid and dark colors, which was surprising to me as one usually sees so many light colored tea gowns and blouses in Edwardian fashion. 
Just not feeling the plaid.
Some of Helen's ensembles were downright strange.
In the last two episodes, she wears a lot more of the white, lacy frocks that one expects. I read another reviewer suggesting that they were trying to contrast Margaret's independent, emancipated-woman situation in the beginning with her position after *SPOILER* marriage, as she molds herself to the expectation of the submissive woman. *End spoiler*

I love all the details of this dress.
 I absolutely loved Margaret's hair. I know it's a wig but I'm missing the time when I had hair long enough to do that kind of thing. Can someone put out a tutorial for that, please? 

This movie had the same issue with Helen's hair as the 1992 version. Once again, I thought they would use the transition from loose hair to up-do as a way to show time passing, but she has it hanging loose up to the very end. Perhaps they were trying to show Helen's indifference to social customs that she deemed unnecessary? But I don't get the impression, from the book, that her frankness and independence extended to a flagrant disregard for modesty, which is what this would have been considered.

In Summary

I have compared both versions for the benefit of anyone interested, but I leave the choice up to you, as I cannot pick a favorite. All in all, both versions are excellent adaptions, and I highly recommend you watch them both — always provided that you've read the book first. ;) 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Don't cry over spilled milk

...even when it's precious raw milk.

Well, internet world, it is Labor Day, and being that it is only the second week of college, I have a respite from homework. While I have more posts in "drafts" than I care to see, I thought I might take the chance to write one I've been pondering today.

However, I feel little motivation to write here anymore, because I simply wonder if anyone reads this.  What, indeed, is the point of jettisoning one's thoughts into the atmosphere if no kindred spirit will be edified, amused, or at least have the pleasure of recognizing mutual feelings? Why not simply journal? (Especially if I'm writing a soul-searching post like this one; I'm a blog reader, too. I know the witty reviews get more reads.)

And yet, a part of me feels guilty for abandoning this corner of cyberspace (does anyone use that word anymore?).

In fact, guilt drives more of my behavior than I'd like to admit, or that I am always conscious of. I read about the keto diet, which restricts carbs so severely that bananas (which are obviously very high in sugars) can not be consumed. For a few months I stop buying bananas in preparation for this diet. Then, even when I'm not following the rules of the diet, I only reluctantly and guiltily start buying them again. To make green smoothies. And feel an inward shame that I'm destroying my health by doing so.

Another example: Today I made yogurt. I started buying raw milk over the past couple months to make my own yogurt, because grass fed yogurt is basically liquid gold. Well, I recently found a grass-fed, organic raw milk source, and that stuff is liquid silver (or maybe copper; the point is, it's not cheap). I believe it's worth it, but I'm pretty conscious of what I'm using it for and making sure I get the right amount. Well, in the process of making yogurt, I spilled rather a large amount on the counter, because our large glass measuring cup doesn't pour the best when it's very full. Now, this is a frustrating thing, because every bit of milk becomes delicious yogurt, and I hate waste. It's natural to be a bit annoyed or distressed. But I didn't just feel a bit put out; my feelings quickly escalated to anger and taking offense at everything around me. All glory to God, the Holy Spirit was quick to point out the shift in my attitude, and I was able to reorient myself, in his strength.

Later on in the day, I was making a big batch of hummus, and realized I had less than 1/2 cup of tahini, an essential ingredient. Again, I felt more than a little frustration, beyond what was reasonable about having to make a quick trip to the store (about a 5 minute drive).

As I analyzed my reaction to these two situations, I realized that it wasn't about the wasted time or money — at least, only at a superficial level. Friends, I'm sure I spilled less than 1/4 cup of milk. At $8/gallon, this comes to the equivalent of about $0.13 wasted. So, yeah, I think our budget will be able to handle it. Ha.

The point is, both of these situations jabbed at my false self, my worldly identity. I desire to be an efficient, capable housewife, and in many ways I'm fairly good at this. Thus, it's easy to mistake my human confidence and positivity for the secure identity that is only possible when rooted in the unchanging love of the Father. Because everything else is changing, friends. It doesn't matter if I made a great batch of brownies, homemade yogurt, and cleaned the bathroom, if I can't even pour out of a measuring cup. It doesn't matter if my last several grocery trips were well planned and I got the best deals if I forgot to buy tahini. The authors of a popular book on budget meal planning say that the one best practice is reducing your grocery trips — if you don't have an ingredient, it's better to change your plan than to make a trip just to get that one item. Thus, in the rules-driven, guilt-ridden mind of a Katie, it doesn't matter if I planned to make hummus weeks ahead so that there would be lunches for the week; it doesn't matter that I soaked the beans from dry instead of using cans; it doesn't matter that I live five minutes away from a grocery store: I failed in planning, and thus in housewife-ing, and thus as a person, because I forgot tahini.

Writing this out, I can't decide if it sounds pathetic or like a subtle form of comedy. I suppose it's a little of both. Sometimes, I have to actually write out my fears to recognize their foolishness; I have to tell myself "I'm practically on the shelf," in order to laugh myself out of insecurity about lack of a suitor.

But while it may be funny (because really? no one in my house cares a pin whether I have to go to the grocery store twice in a week or twice in a day. get over yourself, girl) it is built on an insidious lie, that my identity is based on what I can do, that I'm only worth what I'm able to accomplish, cook, clean, earn, write, or prove.

These words remind me that, yes, who am I, compared to the Living God? All my good deeds, my attempts to prove myself, are like filthy rags. Yet, in the glorious riches of his love, I can sing that I am who he says I am. 

P.S. College is busy. Long posts are hard. So if I maintain any kind of presence here over the next nine months, I'm thinking about doing mini-posts. I can't do a full fledged review of a movie with thirty pictures (that was probably too long in the first place), but I could do a ten-bullet-point comparison with my three favorite costumes. Etc. So look for that. Maybe. Haha.