With God, All Things Are Possible

When I started college four years ago, I expected the new place and the new circumstances to change me. I also thought I knew what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

My last blog described my recent academic upheavals. Now I want to write about the spiritual ones. 2010 has been a landmark year in so many ways, the most important of which revolve around my relationship with God. I’ve wanted to write about this topic, really write about it, ever since last spring, but back then I was too busy and over the summer I was too lazy. Now is the time.

On September 1, 2006, my first Friday as an undergraduate, I started a journal. Over the last four years, I’ve written over 100 pages in it, mostly in times of emotional highs and lows. This evening, I read through all 100 of those pages. It was a very revealing experience. The main thing I came away with was that I spent most of the first three-and-a-half years of college wanting to be closer to God, wanting to have a “faith of my own,” but never really doing anything about it other than writing in my journal every few weeks or months. And so I stagnated.

My mom would encourage me to read my Bible and pray. It seemed like a Sunday School answer to me then, and I virtually ignored the counsel, thinking cynically that it wouldn’t “do anything.”

And yet, I wanted to make my faith my own. I wanted to change and grow and be real with people. But as the years passed and my journal writing became more repetitious, I started to wonder if I would ever change.

I would get fixated on all the little things I didn’t like about myself. I could see cracks and holes and inadequacies in almost every area of my life. How could I possibly go from this chronically broken person to someone who was at least on the right trajectory?

I wanted a big, life-changing moment to jolt me out of my aimlessness and into a purposeful faith that was my own. Oh, there would be blips in the flatline that was my life – a challenging chapel speaker, an excellent sermon, a desperate prayer during a time of discouragement – but I wasn’t pursuing God, not really. I was pursuing an image, an end to insecurities, more friends, the approval of my peers and my professors. I sure didn’t like where I was at spiritually, but I didn’t do anything about it – namely, fix my eyes on Jesus.

That was then.

Last spring, I found my new major classes helpful and informative and interesting, but it was Contemporary Christian Belief that changed my life.

Contemporary Christian Belief (Contemp for short) is a class every student at Taylor has to take. But I was excited for the class, especially after I found out what we would be reading.

In a nutshell, it was a philosophy class that centered on apologetics – the defense of the Christian faith. Our main textbooks were two excellent books – The Reason for God by Tim Keller, and Reason for the Hope Within by a collaboration of Christian philosophers, edited by Michael J. Murray. I read many intellectual arguments for Christianity and probed many of the hard questions.

As much as these readings stirred my mind and my heart, what made the biggest difference in my life wasn’t an argument at all. It was something very simple, something that I had always been told but hadn’t really pursued.

I learned that the Christian’s surest reason for belief is experiential knowledge of God, above and beyond all the intellectual reasons. I learned that the more I seek after God, the more I pursue Him and desire to know Him, the more I will know Him. Here’s what I wrote in my journal on April 9:

Instead of worrying and thinking about all the things in your life you don’t like, and how to change them (or despair that they will never change), lean on God. Talk to Him about everything. Get to know Him. Essentially, that is what prayer and Bible reading are – a sincere heart seeking after God. Anyway, by knowing God, the burden of all those worrisome things is transferred to Him, and He will begin to mold me.

This realization began a gradual process of growth that was different from all the transient spiritual highs that had preceded it. Instead of focusing on changing myself, I was focusing on deepening my relationship with God … or at least starting to focus on deepening my relationship with God. Since then, I’ve sought to “live my life as a prayer,” to dig deep into the Word, to earnestly seek after what – and Who – really matters.

It hasn’t been overnight change. There is still so much room for growth. But now I know the secret. I’m trying to seek God not as a means to an end, but as an end in Himself. I have a lot to learn, but now, at long last, I know I’m facing the right direction.

Where am I now? I’m in the second month of what’s looking to be my best school year yet. (Okay, I should probably remove that “yet,” since this actually is my last year). I don’t know what I’m going to do in the long-term, but I’ve discovered a heart for missions and a discontent for living the typical suburban middle-class life with a 9-5 office job and all the trappings. I want to live for God wholeheartedly.

I have a lot of decisions coming up, some rather soon, but above and beyond future concerns, I’m so grateful for what God has done in my life this year. It’s amazing, knowing what can happen when you put God at the center of your life. It’s going to be quite the adventure.

The Learning Curve

… [“The bends in the road”] captures my outlook on life at this time.  I’m nearing the end of my college career, and as that clear, defined end draws closer, so new beginnings approach as well… beginnings undefined and unclear, yet full of promise… a series of ‘bends in the road.’

When I wrote that, almost a year ago now, I had no idea how fitting the title “the bends in the road” would be even before “the end of my college career.” Then, I looked forward to May 22, 2010 — graduation day — as the day I would round that first bend.

But I was wrong; it happened much sooner.

One late night last August, hours before flying back to Indiana, I happened to browse through the course requirements for the media communication major. It struck me that this was the major I’d been searching for, two years ago, when I bumbled into (and quickly out of) the computer science — new media major, and I mused about what could have been.

I became a history major as a sophomore because of interest and necessity. History was the safe choice and, thanks to a good U.S. history class, an attractive one too.  But over the next year and a half, it didn’t go much further than that. I liked my classes (some of them, at least), I learned things, I met professors who cared about us students and were passionate about what they did, but I didn’t have that passion.

And so I coasted through the rest of my sophomore and junior years, often feeling like I wasn’t learning anything. I was accruing some knowledge of history and foreign cultures, yes, but I didn’t feel as if I were learning anything that was preparing me for the real world. But it was too late to change my major again, so I approached my senior year with the mindset of just getting through it as quickly as possible and getting on to the real world.

But then, hunched over my laptop computer that late August night, what could have been became a very faint what if…?

It was so incredulous an idea, especially to someone like me who so anxiously wanted to be done with school, that I hardly took that whisper seriously. All the same, though, I couldn’t deny that media communication was much more closely aligned with my interests and skills than history or, really, any other major I had dabbled in.

That whisper soon grew louder, but it still wasn’t an easy decision. I didn’t want to watch my closest friends graduate and leave while I lingered on. I was afraid that my senioritis and procrastination and lack of motivation that had been steadily worsening each semester would staunchly follow the law of entropy and infect this new path.

It took months to decide, months of weighing pros and cons, of discussion, of prayer. But I’ve made my decision: to stay an extra year and graduate with a double major in media communication and history, plus a minor in creative writing. I’m so glad that my parents convinced me to take last summer’s internship for credit — a requirement for my new major!

Already, I’ve learned so much — namely, about media writing. Four months ago, I didn’t know there was such a thing as AP style. Now, I’ve worked as copy editor for the school newspaper and have written several articles. I don’t want to be a journalist, but learning these useful skills and gaining actual experience has helped make this semester one of my best yet, and I’m excited (and a little nervous) about my year of straight media communication classes coming up.

I still don’t know what I want to do after I graduate. I don’t know where the happy medium is between this new media writing and my old friend, creative writing, nor how that will jibe with next year’s inundation into video, audio and web. But my outlook on school has already changed so much, and I’m excited to learn, and to have another year to “redeem my time at Taylor” … time that was lost in apathy.

May 22, 2010 — nine days ago — I watched my old class graduate. It was a bittersweet experience, sitting in the audience writing congratulatory cards and watching instead of being one of the 470 strong bidding the school adieu. And yet, I know I’m supposed to be here one more year.

Last June, I anticipated “bends in the road,” but I also anticipated my college career coming to a “clear, defined end” in 2010. So much can change in a year. It makes me smile.

A Month in the Life

Writer’s note: I wrote 86% of this blog last weekend (no, 86% is not an arbitrary estimation), but only just got around to finishing and posting it.  Hence my decision to change the “published on” date from July 24 (today) to July 19.


I have two and a half weeks left in Colorado, and I’ve only blogged about the first day.  That’s not good.  What’s even worse is that first phrase, I have two and a half weeks left in Colorado.  I advised a fellow intern of mine not to start counting the days yet, but I’m guilty of doing it too.

I don’t want to say goodbye.  11 months ago, I traipsed around the Focus campus, camera in hand, photographing everything photographable in the parking lot.  That week was a mountaintop experience in every sense of the word, and I was loath to so suddenly trade the sights and sounds of Colorado for… Kansas.  And Indiana.

That’s all very close to how I feel now, with a few key differences.  Then, I was in the audience.  Now, I am behind the curtain, soaking up every drop I can and trying to create a few memorable ones of my own.  But even without the Odyssey aspect, I am going to miss Colorado Springs.  I have finally found my kindred spirits in the “introvert table” of interns, and will miss them… not to mention the great people in my department.  I have truly felt welcome here.

I still haven’t gotten over my wide-eyed awe that I’m actually here.  And yet, being in this unique position has given me a different perspective on Odyssey fandom.  Let’s see if I can explain.  There is so much we fans don’t know about the behind-the-scenes of Adventures in Odyssey.  Often, we can only speculate.  I love hearing others’ opinions on the show, but it bothers me when people make assumptions or judgments before they know the whole story.  Going from drawing board to radio, or to website, or to store shelf, isn’t as simple and cut-and-dried a process as some people seem to think.  There are more links in the chain than we know.  Adventures in Odyssey is entertainment-with-a-message, run by people who care about making the show the best it can be.   If only the people who get riled up over changes to the show would care as much for the people behind it… would pray for the actors and the staff (who, even if this is their dream job, have times of stress just like the rest of us), and would not join with the tabloids in assuming the worst.

Lizzie: Okay, now I’m going to step off my soapbox and switch gears.
Eugene: You just mixed your metaphors.
Lizzie: Oh, be quiet, Eugene.

A Day In The Life:

6:20: I drag myself out of bed.  I’m still not used to such early risings – they make it so I can’t remember my dreams, leaving me only with the sensation of having dreamed something very strange.   Last night, however, I dreamed out an entire LOST season 6 finale, and it was rather lame.  So maybe it’s best if I don’t remember my dreams.

7:30ish: Off to work!  Now that I no longer am picking up Laura, a fellow intern, it’s just a matter of time before my subconscious realizes that 7:30 isn’t cutting it close and I start leaving later.

8:00: Arrive in the Audio Drama department, drop my armful of stuff on my desk, and check my email.  If I had been writing this blog a week ago, I would’ve said “fast walk into the Audio Drama department a minute or two after 8,” but, thankfully, I’ve done a better job of being on time lately.

8:10: Meet in the war room, or in one of the sound designers’ studios for department devos, or, on Wednesdays, the glassed-in viewing room for the broadcast tapings in the Administration Building for departments devos (yeah, I know that room has a name, but I can’t remember what it is).  “Devos” sometimes consists of just talking over what we’ve been working on or how our personal lives are going, but whether we’re simply catching up with each other or learning spiritual truths from Steve Jobs, it’s always a great way to start the day.

8:45 (or later): 1, 2, 3, break!  Everyone returns to their cubicles or offices to commence the day’s work.  We interns in the Audio Drama/Book Publishing room have been playing musical cubicles almost since day 1, due to the particular demands of certain projects.  I’ve moved into cubicle #2, and while I enjoy having two computers, I won’t mind when the time comes to return to my first one, which is closer to the rest of the Odyssey team.

We usually have enough solo projects to occupy us, though sometimes Nathan pokes his head in to ask my opinion on something, or to talk about the latest draft of my episode ideas (*shudder*), or to come collect me for a podcast recording session.  But even when I’m in my cubicle all morning, I’m never bored. Tired sometimes, but not bored.

12:00: Lunchtime!  (or 11-1 on Wednesdays, when all the interns gather together to eat special food and watch an episode of the Truth Project (and by special, I mean non-cafeteria-but-ordered-out-food.))  Thursday is pizza day, but even when we’re deprived of that delicious delicacy, there’s usually something fairly good… for cafeteria food, at least.  When worse comes to worst, well, there’s always the ice cream machine, which overflows with some of the best soft serve ice cream I’ve ever tasted.  When it, um, works.

Other than the food itself, though, I also enjoy the lunch hour for its socializing aspects.  Even when the wind is blowing our food away or we’re wishing the wind would blow in some other food, it’s nice to take a break from work and chill with the other members of the “introvert table.”  Or everyone, depending on the day.  We’ve only eaten in Whit’s End once, but I’m eagerly anticipating our return – I still haven’t gone down the slide or recorded my own episode yet!  (Well, okay, I went down the slide last year.  But that was last year!)

1:00: Back to work!  Everyone, back to work!  We often wind up standing in a circle in the Chapelteria as our final moments of freedom drift away.  Once, someone wondered aloud how long we could pretend we were praying before people started to suspect we were just shirking work.  A long time, we decided.  But fortunately for Jonathan and me, we don’t dread going back to work.

The afternoon has about the same rate of unpredictable predictability as the morning, and…

5:00: …usually arrives much sooner than I’d expected.  Gather up my belongings (most of which remained untouched during the day) and waltz out to my car, the beloved Yipo.

6:00: I almost never arrive home before 6.  Then I have just four short hours of dinner, running, and/or bonding time with the ol’ computer before I have to go to bed and get ready to do it all over again the next day!

11:30: Well, okay, I should go to bed at 10, but I almost never do.

More Highlights:

LizzieG Meets ToOers

I got to meet a member of the Town of Odyssey website during my second week.  What could be better than sipping WodFamChocSods with a fellow fan?  Meeting Nathan Hoobler and Dave Arnold, of course!  So I introduced him to those venerable personages, and it was a memorable day.  Yes.

Rock Climbing

Unfortunately,  I have no pictures to document this momentous occasion, but I am proud to say that last week I went rock climbing for the first time ever, and climbed a 5.9 route!  For those of you who don’t know what that means, allow me to enlighten you: rock climbing with ropes and harnesses begins at 5.0.  Each percentage point higher indicates a route twice as hard as the one before it (i.e. 5.3 is twice as hard as a 5.2).  The hardest routes are 5.15.  And not only did I climb a 5.9+, but I even made it to the top completely unaided (of course, we won’t count the times Nathan told me from the ground where to step next)!

It was exhilarating to try something so new with a hint of danger, and not only try, but succeed!  I’m looking forward to going climbing again, though next time I plan to be armed with a camera… and an alert mind to catch all the brag-worthy facts about the rock in question.

Being Whit.  And Connie.

Last Saturday, Jonathan and I had the opportunity of dressing up in the Whit, Connie, and Sherman costumes and thereby adding an extra dose of funness to the Focus on the Family Yard Sale.  We walked around the parking lot and Whit’s End, hugging and high-fiving kids or, in the case of Connie, scaring them.  Just wearing the costumes was an adventure in itself, however – you don’t know what it’s like before you’ve experienced it for yourself.  The fat suits, the ice vests, the head fans, the head that wouldn’t stay upright, the lack of oxygen… good times, good times, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

“We were supposed to go to the zoo on Monday.” *tear*

I had this line stuck in my head all day. Happily, though, Jonathan, Kim, and Laura did not “die” and deprive me of a once-in-a-lifetime zoo experience.   And it was Saturday, not Monday.

The four of us went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and saw just about every animal there.  Highlights included feeding the giraffes giraffe crackers (they have very long tongues! (the giraffes, not the giraffe crackers)), watching the grizzly bear emerge from behind its rock hiding place, and having an Aslan-Prince-Caspian moment with a tiger – you remember when Lucy sees Aslan but no one else does?  Well, this tiger had a forested area in which to live, and I happened to glance over and see him standing among the grass and trees near a waterfall.  The lack of visible fencing and the fact that I was seeing him unexpectedly (and did I mention the forested environment and the waterfall?) reminded me of that moment in Prince Caspian.

We walked, we drove up to the Shrine of the Sun, we listened to Disney music, we saw a Hawaii license plate, we saved orangutans, we didn’t bring our teddy bears, we took pictures, we had a good day.

~*~

I have said more than once that I would love to live in Colorado.  Recently, however, I have been seriously considering moving here after I graduate.  I love Colorado – it’s a beautiful, activity-saturated state mostly second-to-none (c’mon, I gotta retain a little loyalty for my California), and would be a perfect place to start being an adult.

I’m not too excited to return to school in just a little over a month and greet my old enemies, Motivation Monger and Procrastination Phil, but I am grateful to have another year to ponder and plan for the future, and to spend too much time with friends before the inevitable parting.

So there you have it – past, present, and future.

“It’s A Place Everyone Oughtta See”

I just arrived in Colorado Springs, having been delayed in the Denver airport for almost two weeks due to a freak June snowstorm that kept me from communicating with the outside world!

Except, not.

I did pull an all-nighter that last night home. I never want to, but that’s what always seems to end up happening on the eve of long trips. Particularly the 30,000 foot variety. I would call it a semi-grueling first day, with a fully-functioning autopilot and a one-track mind that pled for sleep while preventing either nervousness or excitement from reigning. But I was glad to be there, there at the edge of the West, with the mountains so close and Odyssey-land less than 10 miles away!

The house I’m staying at is a very nice one, with a beautiful view of the city and the mountains from my bedroom window. My host family is nice too; they’re an elderly couple who apparently have been housing interns under their roof for quite a while. While eating dinner with them that first night, they mentioned past interns they’d hosted, including “the guy from Calgary, who worked with that radio drama, what was it called?”

My ears pricked up at this. “Was his name Corey?” I asked immediately.

It was, of course. I explained briefly how I knew him, much to their surprise and amazement, and promised to pass along their greetings.

That evening, I toiled over my three overflowing suitcases and managed to get everything stowed away, tucked in a corner, or stacked on a dresser, much to the soothing of my order-loving soul.  I fell asleep easily, despite the lack of air-conditioning.  I found out later that my room is one of the warmest in the house. Had I still been living in the red-hot heat of northern California, that would’ve been a cause for alarm.  Thankfully, though, Colorado’s temperatures aren’t quite so extreme, and I have pleasantly survived.

Tuesday began at 7 am.  For once, I overcame my all-too-pervasive  tardiness and arrived at the Focus headquarters right on time. The powers that be decided that my first hour would be best spent learning about the history and mission of Focus on the Family, so on the main tour I went, where I not only gave the correct answer to the one Odyssey trivia question (“How did Odyssey get its name?), but was apparently the first person in my tour guide’s experience to get the line word-for-word.

I saw the same push-pin-decorated maps, went up the same grand staircase, and heard the same facts that I was treated with last August. It really is a rather ordinary tour, but the ties that bind me to these unmistakable buildings, set in a rich landscape of green and mountain, inspire thrills in even the most commonplace of routines. Seeing that Chapelteria again, though empty and without the whispers of future treasures, brought back the beauty and the unquenchable joy of last year. If you’re perfectly still, you can hear the soft strains of that music, not easily forgotten, that thousands of eager hearts and fulfilled dreams couldn’t help but bring. It’s rich with memory… memory that I can almost touch. -my journal

After the tour, I finally met Ida Hoffman, the volunteer coordinator with whom I had communicated the most during and since the application process began back in January. The next step was getting my badge and officially becoming part of the system. It should’ve taken less than a minute to get my picture taken, but apparently someone had logged out of that particular program, and no one knew the password to get back in. Twenty minutes, four security guys, and a couple of phone calls later, I was finally outfitted with my new plastic “necklace.” But at least now we have the beginning of a joke! – “How many security guys does it take to take a picture?”

After filling out some paperwork and meeting a few more people, Nathan Hoobler arrived to escort me to the Audio Drama department which, for an Odyssey fan such as myself, was mere footsteps from heaven. The last time I had talked with Nathan had been when he autographed my Official Guide almost a year ago. Meeting him and some of the other “men behind the curtain” had been a surreal experience in 2008… but was the curtain really rising now to admit me – me! – an adoring fan?

My first act as an intern was to sit in on a meeting with Nathan, Dave Arnold, and Paul McCusker. Of course, I can’t relate much of what happened during that meeting, other than that I enjoyed Paul and Dave’s senses of humor (while simultaneously being awestruck by their very presence), and that I need to see Up at my earliest convenience.

Following the meeting, Nathan told me everything there is to know about everything… that is, as it related to what I would be doing this summer. They’re definitely going to keep me busy!

…and I can’t wait.

~*~

Keeping up with three separate written accounts at the same time isn’t an easy thing to do.  There’s the school-commissioned journal of my internship, the existence of which is still debatable; my sturdy-looking(-but-don’t-be-fooled-cuz-it’s-from-Wal-Mart) journal, which is currently clocking in at a hefty 16 pages for the first week; and this intangible-yet-attractive blog.  The goals of each are different enough that I can’t very well combine them into one:

  • School journal: Write about what I’ve learned and experienced, the integration of these “real world” experiences with what I’ve learned in school, my pros and cons related to this field, interpersonal challenges, and the ever-popular “integration of faith and learning.”
  • My journal: A no-holds-barred account of everything, including (but not limited to) the following: descriptions that wax eloquent, top secret information, and a fairly chronological telling of all that’s happened, particularly at work.
  • This blog: A less detail-oriented account than my journal, and with the classified stuff removed, capturing “the spirit of the internship, not the letter of the internship,” and complete with interestingly-told funny and memorable moments.

More soon!

Colorado Bound!

In less than 5 hours, this journey will begin.

It all started last summer when I trekked to Colorado Springs to join thousands of fans in celebrating the 20th anniversary of Adventures in Odyssey.  That story has been told before, and will continue to be told because it was, in all honesty, the trip of a lifetime.  And it sparked my interest in this internship to which I have joyfully bequeathed the next 45 days of my life.

Many of you may know that I am a History major, and some, that, even though I’m a scant year away from graduating, I still have little idea what course to pursue after that.  I’m hoping this internship (or practicum, as my school officially dubs it) will help me narrow it down a little, and set me going at at least a fast walk in the right direction.  But this internship means more to me than a few class credits, or the potential for future career inspiration.  As I alluded to in the last paragraph, and as my facebook profile will testify, Adventures in Odyssey was the soundtrack of my childhood, and is the soundtrack of this 20-year-old’s adulthood.  I’m excited to work for a show that has captivated me for so many years, and with people whose names and work have been familiar to me for almost as long.  And, of course, it’s Colorado; what’s not to get excited about?

I should be sleeping right now, but I determined weeks ago that I would start this blog for this trip, and I determined days ago that I would not tell anyone about this blog until I had written at least one entry.  So there you go.

I’m virtually all packed: mapquested directions to work, Walmart, and the library printed out, the Odyssey shirt tucked intentionally between less important clothing, the headset and webcam I would be loath to forget, and the surprisingly-limited-yet-specially-chosen collection of books.  It’s all ready, and so am I.

I don’t know how often I’ll be able to update this blog, but if my anticipations are correct, there will be a lot of blog-worthy happenings over the next 6-7 weeks.  And if procrastination doesn’t get the best of me, you should be hearing about those happenings as they occur.

Adieu for now!