Saturday, November 28, 2009

Three Dogs + Two Cars + Snow and Ice = Today!

The trip back down to Manassas today was anything but dull. Because my sister is a bit too overwhelmed at present to take on an extra three dogs, my parents decided that the little creatures had to travel with us (not my parents' brightest idea). Dad and my brother-in-law John hit the road at 4:00 this morning, while Mom and I chose to wait until 7:00. And, the Midwest being what it is, we naturally were accompanied by some rather wet snow. The day showed immediate promise of being interesting, to say the least.

Around Marshall, Michigan, I unexpectedly hit a patch of ice on the road, and nearly lost control of my car. With my heart settling into a new residence in my left ear, I spent the next forty minutes or so dodging icy patches and clinging desperately to the wheel of my car. I'm actually pretty skilled at winter driving, having grown up in Michigan, but I don't think any amount of experience can take the fear and tension out of driving on ice. To lighten the mood, Mom and I played Christmas CDs. The three dogs, meanwhile, were determined to be anything but ideal passengers. Although I had spread their three beds into a pleasing array in the back seat, Mitzi and Abby were determined that their proper place was on a lap up front, and thus had to be continually scolded and placed back in their appropriate location. Jasper, as usual, was the second cousin to an angel (he tried to come up front a few times, then gave up and went to sleep).

Shortly after Mom and I reached Ohio, John called to warn us of worse things ahead, and to inform us that he and my father had hit ice at seventy MPH and had had an accident. Fortunately (praise God), they were both unhurt, and miraculously (again, praise God), although the car had hit the road divider with great force and speed, it sustained no damage (aside from a few scratches, that is). While we were quite relieved to hear that they and the car had been spared, Mom and I became quite nervous about what experiences awaited us.

Although Dad and John continued to struggle through icy and/or slushy roads and passed accident after accident, Mom and I met with mostly clear roads and only passed two accidents. The weather was ugly and menacing, and the wind roared with homicidal intentions, but my little yellow Aveo5 did just fine, hugging the road as if it were a bosom companion. I have to say, once again, that I am very impressed with this car! Of course, it also helped that Mom and I were hitting areas later than Dad and John, and the salt trucks had had time to work their magic.

While the car behaved beautifully, the dogs continued to test us. About halfway down, realizing how little space was available in the backseat, I pulled off at a rest area and folded my back seats up, then rearranged things so that the dogs had a large, comfortable space to themselves. Did they appreciate it? Of course not! The little demons devoted themselves to leaping the barrier (the folded-up seats) in order to reach the front passenger seat, at which they were scolded and tossed back, which then energized them to try harder the next time. In accompaniment to the lovely Christmas music, the dejected pooches whimpered and whined in a frequent, maddening chorus. I made a mental note never to have triplets.

Mom and I eventually sauntered into Manassas at a little after seven this evening to discover that Dad and John had diligently completed most of the loading of my belongings into the moving van. Mitzi and Abby immediately christened the carpet with urine and feces, much to my dismay. Dad and John finished loading the truck, minimally assisted by Mom and I (there honestly was very little left to do, plus they were the ones with the dolly). After a tasty dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers brought from home (sadly, there was nothing left of Aunt Diane's delectable broccoli casserole, which would have been marvelous after such a journey), I rounded off my meal by trying to finish some of the ice cream left in my freezer. Since my entire kitchen is already packed, this proved amusing. Has anyone else ever tried chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream served on a paper plate and eaten with a fork, using a laundry hamper as a makeshift table? I heartily recommend it, sheerly for the laughter it induces.

And now that Mitzi and Abby have finally ceased their indignant protests over being put to bed early (Jasper, as always, was a perfect dear about bedtime, since he sleeps in the same room as I do), I am going to put this blog to bed and try to rest up for the move tomorrow. The Manassas chapter of my life is written and finished, the villains will punish themselves with their own stupidity and general ineptness, and our heroine, Stephanie, is now ready for "Liberty University II: The Graduate Years". Stay tuned!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Today, Let Us All Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. In the spirit of the occasion, and since, after all, this is a holiday meant to celebrate thankfulness rather than turkey, football, or shopping, I would like to list the top five things that I am most thankful for today:

1. God's grace, sovereignty, and salvation: Okay, so technically this is three things, but I'm rolling them into one. At a time like this, when I'm scrambling to pick up the pieces and build up my life again, and when I still fight worry and fear of the future on a weekly basis, it is immeasurably comforting to know that God is in control, and that He is still looking out for me.

2. My parents: They have done so much more for me than the mere fact of blood relation has obligated them to. I would undoubtably be homeless at the moment if not for them.

3. Friends and the rest of my family: Friends are family minus the blood ties and desire to aggravate (that was meant to be humorous) and family are friends that you can't escape, who happen to enjoy seeing you squirm. I'm grateful for both - they give me support, and they keep me humble.

4. Liberty University - I can't tell you how much of a relief it was when I found myself about to be fired at any moment and Liberty stepped up to the plate and rushed my admission through without requiring any more paperwork from me. I would have had far less confidence in those last miserable days at Emmanuel "Christian" School had it not been for Liberty accepting me into the graduate program so quickly.

5. Those courageous 102 people who set sail in 1620 with little more than dreams (on a ship that was only 90 feet by 24 feet), and spent a harrowing 66 days at sea, arrived in a foreign land on December 26, lost half of their people to illness and starvation that first winter, and then continued to persevere until they, and those who came before and after, had built a country. There's a lot to be said for that kind of hard work and determination. What sets these 102 people apart from the others, however, is a little document that they drafted upon arrival, which we know of today as the Mayflower Compact:

"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620."

Have a safe, wonderful holiday, everyone. And please, take a moment to give thanks, even in these hard times. Maybe you could even say a little prayer, before that first mouthful of turkey. God bless you all today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

Yesterday and today are dedicated to securing much-needed funds for grad school. In other words, applying for every scholarship conceivable, and chasing down Stafford loans. To accompany me, and since I feel like I'm reliving the Depression at the moment, I've been watching films from the early thirties while I work. It's too bad my life can't be more like an old movie - wouldn't it be lovely if all my problems could be solved by a strategic tap dance, or a spontaneous song? Wouldn't it be marvelous if I could conveniently be the misplaced heiress to a fortune, or if a fur coat could land on me while I'm out walking and spark a chain of events leading to marriage to the perfect millionaire (who, coincidentally, also looks exactly like Ray Milland)?

So far, I've managed to secure a Stafford loan (pending approval from the lender I selected). Now if only just one of those lovely scholarships could fall into my waiting arms. Why must it cost so much to become well-educated and seek one's academic dreams?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chest Pains

Today I awoke with severe, rather terrifying chest pains. In light of my recent cold, I called my mother at work to ask what I should do about my symptoms, and she told me to get in to see a doctor immediately. Unfortunately, my doctor was off today, so I had to settle for a different doctor. Naturally, the only one available today was the cranky scary one who gave me a stern lecture the last time I saw her (she was upset with me for saying that I am immune to Amoxicillin - even though my regular doctor told me to say that whenever asked).

When I got called back, the nurse scared the daylights out of me by announcing that I would be needed an EKG. Heart my age?? You can certainly imagine my relief when "Dr. Frightengale" diagnosed me with a muscle injury. Apparently, I either injured myself by boxing on my Wii Fit or when I fell down the stairs. For the rest of the day, I have to keep strapping ice packs to my chest. For the next few days, I'm to take Vicodin and not use my left arm. Appropriate timing, since I'm moving the day after Thanksgiving!

All right, all together now: "Why do these things always happen to ME?!"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meteor Shower

I stayed up until four this morning just to see the meteor shower. Crazy? Yes, perhaps (Jasper certainly thought so - poor thing kept looking longingly towards my bedroom). However, I have always wanted to see one, and I always manage to miss them whenever I'm fortunate enough to hear about one in advance. So, with considerable help from Olivia de Havilland, Dick Powell, Rosalind Russell, and Robert Cummings ("old, dead movie stars that no one but Stephanie cares about," as my mother would eloquently explain were she here, although she'd be wrong about Olivia, who celebrated her ninety-third birthday this year), I managed to keep awake until the optimal viewing time. Poor Jasper could barely drag himself outside when the grand moment came, but I knew that he would cry if I left him inside.

I made two mistakes when I went out to watch the show the heavens had prepared for my benefit - I borrowed Dad's shoes (mine fit a little tight over slipper socks, and I didn't want to waste time getting different socks on), and I went out in a sweatshirt and no Michigan, in November. I did a bit of artistic stumbling on my way to the backyard, but eventually I triumphed over the hindrances of pitch darkness, my own klutziness, and Dad's enormous shoes (had I any ambition to become a professional clown, I probably could have filmed that segment and sent it into Ring Ling Brothers as an audition tape). Then I stood in the backyard and froze nearly to death, while gazing in silent awe at the luminous stars; and gasping with delight each time I spotted a meteor. Jasper amused himself by ignoring the resplendent display overhead and instead focusing on sniffing each individual blade of grass in the backyard.

In total, I saw six meteors for certain, but possibly saw more (it was hard to tell if several distant streaks of light were actually meteors or just my eyes doing odd things from staring too long at stars. I also had fun seeing how many constellations I could recall and find from my college astronomy class. After thoroughly chilling myself to the bone and doing a few more pratfalls, I went in to change into my own shoes and grab a coat and gloves. I only stayed out for another five minutes after that, as Mr. Sandman had tired of subtlety by this point and was now pelting me with his soporific sand. I fell asleep soon after hitting the pillow, my mind still lingering on the silent, mystic beauty I had been privileged to behold.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wearying Weekend

Dad and I drove down to Manassas over the weekend to get all my things packed up and ready to move in December. Since my body chose that excellent timing to give in to illness, it was a thoroughly exhausting experience. Still, on the bright side, now everything is packed and ready to go, so my moving day should go pretty smoothly. We're renting a truck this time, so there are no space concerns, and I will have the help of not only Dad, but also Mom and my brother-in-law John.

I know this is completely silly, but I can't help but feel nervous about John helping me move. You see, the last time he helped me move, he wound up sick and in the hospital, where he learned that he had lymphoma. It was one of the scariest times of my life, watching someone I love so much fight for his life, and I have been plagued by guilt ever since, as he had to go into that battle completely exhausted and sore from helping me. I know that I didn't give him the cancer, but for some reason I still feel guilty somehow. John, in his generous way, pointed out that my moving actually caused him to discover the cancer and may have saved his life, but still I have a touch of lingering guilt over that whole episode. So, even though I know it is ridiculous, I find myself a little nervous about letting him help me this time - especially since this situation does bear a few similarities to that one.

That time, I was leaving Wilmington, North Carolina, following a hellish semester of grad school in which a violently non-christian professor treated me horribly (and my classmates, too, but he singled me out particularly) just because he knew that I am a devout Christian. He regularly tried to make me look foolish for my beliefs in class, and behaved in an abominable way towards everyone with his frequent bouts of temper (one time he threw a rather large dictionary at us while screaming obscenities). This time around, I am leaving a situation that is also one of persecution, but sadly, this time it came from those claiming to be Christian. I am certainly having my Wilmington flash-backs, but this time it hurts a little more, since those causing the pain are supposed to be my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sometimes, when I see or experience situations like this, I find myself asking, why on earth does God put up with us? I mean, how can One so perfect as Him stand to be around such utter ugliness and filth as the way people behave? How can He stomach them stamping His name on their behavior as an excuse for it? I know He has a plan, and I know He will use this all for good, but I sometimes find myself asking how. In my feeble human mind, it is impossible to comprehend how things like this can ever benefit anyone. I am glad to know that someday in the future (how long into the future, I can't say), I will be able to look back and see how God meant this whole horrid situation for good. After all, Joseph must have felt pretty forsaken in Pharaoh's prison, but that experience eventually saved millions of lives from famine and led Joseph to wealth and prosperity. Yes, it then led to slavery for his descendants, but that later was used to remind them of God's grace when He rescued them from that situation. So, even though right now this looks pretty bleak, dreadful, and even pointless, I know that somehow it is going to serve a greater purpose.

I am continuing to pray for the other new teachers who are still caught up in that cesspool of unhappiness and deceit masquerading as a Christian ministry, and I hope that my readers will do the same. Please pray that they can all find new, better jobs soon, and that they will be able to persevere blamelessly until then. Please pray that they will not grow bitter, but will be strengthened each day and able to meet every challenge with a good attitude. Pray that the students will not be hurt, and that their parents will awaken to what is going on and step in. Pray that God will either raise up better leadership or will dramatically change the hearts of the current leadership there. Please do not pray for revenge and retribution, or for anything bad to happen to those who have hurt me and who are hurting others. I do not want revenge, as tempting as it was at first - I want to see the situation turned around, if possible, and those kids given the education, care, love, and Christian guidance that they need and deserve. I do not want to see ugliness returned for ugliness. Those who know me, know my heart, and know that I would never seek to hurt anyone - even if others may feel that they deserve it. Please pray for me, too - I am trying to find my way in life without giving in to discouragement, and believe me, discouragement is very tempting at the moment (I still lack both a job and a roommate, which is very worrisome since I will be moving back to Lynchburg in just one month).

"To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

Great things He has taught us, great things He has done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see."

~Fanny Crosby (1875)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another New Look

Yes, indeed, I am changing the look of my blog again! I decided that I was getting bored with the way it looked, and I was never 100% happy with the way my banner turned out (woe to me that my computer skills are not more advanced than they are). Now that I can post at will again (no more self-imposed gag order in a futile effort to keep an unwanted job), I am making improvements.

Sorry about the long absence, readers. I did what I felt I had to do to keep that job, and that meant not using my blog. Now that I'm free, I shall post to my heart's content! When I get back from my weekend trip to Manassas, I hope to get around to finally posting those photos from my summer trip out west (it certainly has been a while, hasn't it?).


Getting By....Somehow

The good news is, I have a job interview with Liberty tomorrow, which could fix everything. It's a full-time position that would provide benefits and would pay for my tuition as a grad student. It may not be my dream position, but it would certainly solve my present troubles, and I would love to work for Liberty, since that institution has treated me very well in the past.

I am still emotionally reeling from the situation I lived through in Manassas. I have dreams about the school at night, and I keep replaying that "meeting" over and over in my mind. I wonder how much longer my mind will stray to thoughts of that horrid place. I guess the reason that it stays with me so is the utter betrayal that surrounds it all. Betrayal is a hard thing for me to come to grips with, I have realized.

I am driving back to Manassas on Friday to spend a few days getting a head start on the packing. Then I'll be coming back up to Michigan, where I will likely remain until the first week of December. I hate having to infringe on my parents yet again, but thanks to certain individuals, I cannot afford groceries anymore (since I am now without a paycheck for two months longer than planned). It's okay, though. I am no longer experiencing daily migraines, I don't have people spying on me anymore, and I never again have to feel that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach from driving into the parking lot of that school. I don't have to have my Sundays ruined by being forced to attend their church (attending there was like going into a restaurant longing for steak and having to settle for lukewarm milk). I have my life, my mind, and my soul intact. I can sleep peacefully at night.

Oh, by the way, I think the gloves can come off now. Previously I never referred to the school by name in my blog, knowing that most workplaces would consider that to be improper. I kept my frustration and my dismay to myself, resisting the tempting and comforting outlet of my blog. During the "scary time" when I lived in daily fear of losing my job, I was especially cautious. Now, however, I have no worries from that place. If you're wondering what school to avoid in Manassas, Virginia, the full name of the school is Emmanuel Christian School. Of course, I think it's a little more accurate to write the name this way: Emmanuel "Christian" School. There, I've done it. I took my one and only swing back, and I feel a tiny surge of pleasure. Considering what that place did to the former headmaster and is continuing to do to the excellent teachers that he hired, I think it is not at all petty to, just this once, refer to them by name. With that one strike back, I shall return to my non-fighting stance and move on with my life. ECS has done their worst, and I am free from it all.

Once again, I find myself missing Korea.
"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"