themes in religious education

Inspired by many students’ struggles with the school system, I decided to write this post. This will be based on my personal experience, but I think they bring up very important trends that need to be verified and addressed. This is my  experience with the Christian private school system.

Since I entered pre-school, I have been enrolled in Christian education. I do not have any comments on the administration from elementary school, just vague memories of sitting in the principal’s office because of my demonstrative behavior, visits which were likely warranted.

In fifth grade, I moved from Portland Christian to Kings Way Christian. Throughout these middle and high school years, I would hear parents complain about a lack of communication between the administration and the students’ families. Rules would be enacted without consultation with the affected party to decide whether they would be necessary. The main example I can think of from high school was dress code, the situation of which changed so drastically without any notice, so many students received detention the first day of school for breaking rules with which they were not even informed.

The theme of poor communication extends still into my college years. Many changes have been made to campus without much student input, or without vetting a significant portion of the student population to find out who the change will affect. I believe that a shift in accountability needs to take place, where administration seeks a dialogue with students. Steps have been taken by the current HSU president to have an open door and listen to students who come to him, and I applaud that effort and think it is a huge step in the right direction.

However, the second theme I want to address is more fundamental to our stance as a religious institution. I have noticed that when a mistake is made in administration, there is a reluctance to admit it or rectify it; instead I have seen defensiveness and denial. In high school, I applied for the national Honor Society. I was denied, because a teacher’s testimony stated that I was not suited for an Honor Society due to my pretension and condescension. (I mean, I was pretentious and condescending, but I was also an ignorant 15 year old who used those traits to cover up my intense lack of self-esteem.) I was crushed. After my meeting informing me of my denial, another teacher asked me about the outcome. I informed them that I did not make it because I was reported to have poor character. They replied, “Well, maybe they have a point.” I ran out of the classroom crying.

That same teacher asked me to talk to them after school. I show up, and talk about how my feelings have been continually hurt in the classroom by the teacher whose testimony spoke against me. The teacher I was speaking with said that my version of events didn’t sound like that teacher, they were a good person, and it probably wasn’t intentional. Except that it felt extremely intentional.

Once other faculty members heard what happened to me (the same thing happened to several others) they encouraged me to reapply. I did reluctantly, and was accepted the second time. The initial issue with the testifying teacher was never addressed. No one admitted to making a mistake or mishandling the situation.

When students present an issue, administration should listen, not deflect or deny. When students cry for help, those in power should work to affect change or rectify the situation.

There is a mental and physical health crisis across the country in religious private education, at least as far as I have seen. If students are complaining, it is because they feel powerless to change the situation and they are hurting. If they are angry, it is because something is wrong that needs to be changed or addressed. More questions should be asked about private religious education, and why the themes of poor communication and deflection are so common across levels of education and geographic regions. As Christians, all institutions should seek to be examples of Christ’s love and agents of the Christ’s reform. Everyone should ask themselves if they are working towards those goals individually and communally. If not, then let’s get to work.

My Anxiety and Me: Alternately Titled “Why I Have To Go To Counseling Again”

For the last few years, I haven’t been feeling myself. Or at least I hope this isn’t myself. Freshman year of college I would go to the football field to run because if I didn’t, I felt as if I would burst. The first summer I lost 15+ lbs because I really didn’t eat. I had a panic attack at work and threw up; I thought I just had a stomach bug. I switched jobs, and throughout sophomore year, I was working 40 hours a week plus school. I was working customer service, which really took a toll on me, as I do not enjoy emotional labor and faking a personality for a paycheck. I hated situations where I would go in the back room to lay down on the floor and take some deep breaths so I could get through the shift, only to be interrupted by the desk bell ringing and guests getting angry with me that I left the desk for a minute or two.

Then, during spring semester, I felt at my wit’s end; I felt trapped. I had to drive, I had to get away or I had no idea what I would do. I drove about a half-hour outside of town, pulled over to the side of the road, and had a panic attack. When I made it back into town I went straight to the school’s psychology center and started counseling.

For the rest of the semester, I would go to my counselor once a week and basically cry the whole hour. I barely want to admit my feelings to myself, but putting them into words makes them seem real and gives them weight. Things got better once summer hit, I could just vent and talk through things instead of bursting with emotion at every session. I stopped my sessions in August.

It became quickly clear that I should go back. Things were not as bad as they were when I first started counseling, but I could see the writing on the wall. With the start of the fall semester, things have progressed in a troubling direction. I quit my job; I couldn’t let a paycheck make me feel empty and lifeless. Since I quit, I haven’t had work to convince me to repress feelings for the sake of making it through the day. These last few weeks have been spent in a state of constant anxiety, and I really don’t want to be here when the dam breaks. Tomorrow, I have to sign up for counseling again.

I hate spending my days feeling as if I do something wrong, the world will fall apart. I hate having my feelings make my mouth say things I know are not true. I hate having intrusive thoughts tell me that all I do is ruin things, that my fiance does not love me, that he tolerates me because he is stuck with me, that I can’t be happy again. I hate taking three naps a day, then having reality seem like a dream too. I hate feeling lost and listless.

I keep telling myself things will get better when Garrett gets a better job, when I quit my job, when I get married, when I move, when I get a fulfilling job, when I have free time, and on and on. Honestly, although those things will help, I shouldn’t suffer while waiting for those things, and I should not put so much pressure on those things to fix my problems.

It’s time to change things. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do better than before, and that I could handle things by myself. But I need to face the fact that I honestly can’t. That I am incredibly sensitive, that I need constant support, and I am dealing with incredibly stressful things. It’s okay, and it’s time.

Being A Customer: A Guide

Both of the jobs I have held have been customer facing. At the pizza place, I was cashier and busboy (busgirl?) and server for minimum wage, and now at the hotel I work front desk for slightly more. From my immense wisdom that comes from a year and a half in the work force, I have noticed that most people seem to forget proper etiquette when they enter a retail establishment. If you will join me, I would like to go over some rules that will guarantee you the best experience. 🙂

 

Refrain from Personal Comments

I know that when you first meet someone, the immediate reaction is to make a comment about their appearance. Its too tempting to restrain yourself from blurting out the first think that pops into your mind! However, just how it isn’t nice to assume a woman is pregnant by her appearance, it is not nice to tell a retail worker how you feel about their looks. For example, I have been told by multiple guests that I look simply too young to be working! Apparently I look like a child, and it is ridiculous that a company would hire a child. Well, I can assure you, I am 20 years old; my employment is not breaking any labor laws. I am not a little girl, and it is a kind of rude to refer to me as such. Instead of telling your relative on the phone that “the little girl at the desk can get you a key,” terms such as employee, my name perhaps, or front desk agent (you know, my title) would work much better.

Listening and Reading Comprehension are Your Friends

When an employee tells you something, please listen. When you read a piece of paper that you are signing, please read it. This will save you and the worker many headaches. If you don’t know where something is located, you can look around for a sign that instructs you where to go or look for the item first before asking. Usually the sign or item is right in front of you. If you need something from the desk but the worker is not there, you can read the sign on the desk stating that they are assisting another guest and will be back momentarily instead of slamming the bell twenty times a second and screaming that no one is there when you have been waiting under five minutes.Please listen and read. It is tiring for employees to repeat information when you talk over them and to point out the same things when a quick look at your surrounding would tell you what you need to know.

Personal Frustration Should Remain Personal

In almost every sitcom, the characters will be annoyed at a personal circumstance and will yell at a waiter or cashier because of it, which is always accompanied by an uproarious laugh track. These scenes now make me cringe. The answer to your problem is not yelling at a stranger. Retail workers are human beings too, which is a fact that is often ignored. Just because you think you are in a position of power over another, and think that the employee cannot retaliate to your outburst does not make it acceptable. When you scream at me because I don’t apologize for your mistake, I am not being rude. When you are in the wrong and I will not break policy for you, I am not cruel. You are frustrated with yourself and the situation, not the employee. The key to deflecting your issue on an employee is simple: DON’T. No one deserved to be screamed at or belittled. If an employee is truly rude to you, you can speak to their manager and address the situation calmly.

Leave Things the Way You Found Them

Honestly no one should have to be told this. It is disrespectful to leave your trash for others to pick up. It is disrespectful to make a huge mess and leave it for another to clean up. If you are covered in mud, please wipe your shoes at the door. If your child throws food on the floor or makes a spill, clean up or at least tell someone who can get a broom or mop. It is selfish and rude to make someone else pick up after you because you don’t feel like it; I shouldn’t have to say this.

 

I feel like there are more things I could say, but I’m getting tired. The hotel is sold out, and it has taken me three hours to write this between check-ins, running upstairs to fix ACs and TVs, and answering a million phone calls. Honestly, the most important thing is to remember that we are all human. Your behavior affects others no matter the circumstance, and while you do not have power over an employee, you do have the power to make or break someone’s day. Show compassion. Be respectful. Try to be the best you can be when you interact with others. Its really easy, and when an employee can talk to you with genuine friendliness instead of their “retail face,” it makes it all worth it.

 

Home Sweet Home

I haven’t been back home in about a year.

I haven’t seen my parents in six months.

And its kind of messing with my head.

This place is very confusing to me. I don’t understand the appeal personally, and that is why I’m going to write my senior Capstone about it starting in the fall. How I understand it is that people live and thrive in this land because of the tough and harsh qualities. The difficulty of forming a living out of the dry ground acts as sandpaper, smoothing out the edges of the heart and leaving behind a cultivated spirit.

However, when you just trying to simply survive, the sandpaper is just too rough.

Trying to really live in a place where you feel inherently uncomfortable is not easy. It is interesting, but probably not surprising, that quality of life improved drastically once I moved out of the dorms. I no longer have to walk down three flights of stairs to the “kitchen,” my arms full of ingredients, attempting to feed myself at midnight. I no longer have to share a space with another person, when all I want is to be alone and rest. I no longer have dishes and food stacked and piled on the floor since there is no storage space for them. I have not had any panic attacks since I moved out, for which I am thankful.

However, this weekend, I got a little upset. Renee, my May roommate, moved out to go home and I had the apartment to myself before Monday, when a stranger will move in. On Friday, I passed out at work due to an accident with some new medicine, and had an extremely bad headache the next day. I was resting before work on Saturday, when I get a knock on my door. When I open the door, wrapped in a blanket and looking very pathetic I imagine, I see three huge men telling me they need to clean out the empty room.

I did not know about this. (Apparently housing sent an email at 10:30 the night before, but obviously I didn’t see it.) I asked them if they could come back later after I left, as I was sick and resting. They said they could not. So left the door open to let them in, locked myself in my room, and cried.

Why did I do that? When I was alone at my Vancouver house, I let maintenance men in just fine. But now, it’s different. Unsuspected knocks on my door remind me that the apartment isn’t my home at all, just a place where housing lets me stay. Since 2014, I have moved living spaces five times and only been back to Vancouver once. I have no real place to call my own. All I wanted that Saturday morning was a place that was my own, that wouldn’t be intruded upon by unknown people and strange new roommates.

Last summer I lived in Hunter hall, which could be classified as its own separate circle of hell. My plants died there, I had panic attacks frequently, and I lost 15-20 pounds without trying. (I gained about 10 back as of last week.) When I went to the dean, he seemed sympathetic to my issues, but did not really understand. He compared my living situation to his time in RD apartments (definitely not comparable) and said that dorms aren’t meant to be a home.

Then where is my home supposed to be?

Luckily my boyfriend lets me hang out at his apartment a lot, and I do have some influence on the look and arrangement of the decor. But I don’t spend my nights there, or have my clothes, books, records, groceries, etc there, so its a little different.

I’m trying to forge a living out of a landscape characterized by refinement, when what I need is security. Most of my thoughts rest on my plan to move back north after school. (One more year!) Not to Vancouver, as there isn’t anything there for me to make a livelihood or continue my education, but somewhere. Somewhere where the weather doesn’t try to kill you or where infrastructure isn’t a deathtrap.

Maybe there I’ll find what I’m looking for. Security, comfort, something that feels like living.

One more year.

Bullet Journal: Trying Something New

It’s been awhile, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been meaning to write more! I had to wait until I didn’t have something pressing or imminent to do for school. I mean, I still do, but I can at least ignore it (for now).

About a week ago, I discovered a system called the Bullet Journal. I’ve been not so pleased with pre-made planners in the past, as I skip days constantly, and the covers of the spiral planners keep on falling off when I take them places in my backpack. The lack of room on some days, too much room on others leads to the pages feeling cramped or wasteful. But not with…

THE BULLET JOURNAL

All you need is an empty notebook and a pen. It is a free form, personalized system to stay organized and on top of things. First off, the journal.

Displaying image1.JPGimage1

I bought this journal from Minted before I decided to do this, mainly because I wanted to and I love spending money. It has my name on it! Totally worth $20. It has graph paper in it (my favorite) and no spirals. Its about 40 pages.

FIRST FEW PAGES

The first page should be an index or table of contents, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s what is so great. This is where you write down what is on each page, for future reference. There are many types of pages to create, the main ones being the Future Log, Month At A Glance, and Weekly/Daily Logs.

image2

These are my first two pages after the index. The Future Log keeps track of things that are a few months out, so you can remember to add them to the Month At A Glance when that month arrives. Make sure to note July 26, as it is my birthday.

I am not really satisfied with my Month AAG for April. I was experimenting with not using a constraining grid system, but then I realized that I didn’t have enough space to write in the days of the week, and its hard to distinguish weeks, so I will try a new idea next month. That’s what is so great! You get to make a system that works for your schedule, and how you live life.

WEEKLY/DAILY LOGS

image3

Sorry its sideways; I can’t fix it, or I don’t know how. The Weekly Log is where you put tasks , events, notes, and thoughts. Each of those categories is denoted by a specific starting icon. I don’t have any events this week, but that would be marked with an empty circle, tasks are a dot (! for important things due on a specific day), and notes are dashes, which I don’t have yet either. You can do weekly things like this, or daily logs that are separate from each other if you have a lot of things to do.

I took this picture early in the week, so today I have a lot more things added and many things crossed off. The system makes me more productive because I really want to finish tasks so I can X them out.

Another feature that I have not used yet in the picture is scheduling and migrating tasks. You can make a bullet for a task:

•make a blog post

then when you find time in the week, you can schedule it:

<make a blog post: tuesday

If it doesn’t get done on schedule, but the task is still worth completing, you can migrate it to next week.

>make a blog post

Each change is marked by a different icon, to keep track. Migrating helps identify tasks that are unnecessary, and simplifies your workload by making sure only essentials transfer to the next list.

WHATEVER YOU WANT

Once these are made, there is room for any other lists or pages that you need. Because the weekly/daily logs can be placed wherever they need to be, that leaves extra room for the non-schedule parts of your life.

You will notice on the last picture, I have a schedule of when I’m working (which I am right now, in fact). I also made a habit tracker, so I can remember what needs to be done, and evaluate at the end of the month what things I need to make a priority or get rid of.image4

I also have a list of things to be grateful for, since its easier to get through the day when you acknowledge that good things actually did happen. Most of my things so far are food I got to eat and classes getting let out early. I lead a simple life.

Obviously I am just getting started and things could be better organized or more pretty, but I like what I have going so far. I like crossing off tasks and making notes and having something to write in everyday, that I don’t feel constrained by. Maybe it can help you too!

check out

http://bulletjournal.com/

Top 12 Bullet Journal Hacks

and other sites for inspiration and getting started clarification.

 

Sending organized and calm thoughts,

Melody

 

Easter and Honesty

As Easter approaches, I’m not really sure what to do with myself. Ever since I came to Abilene, church hasn’t felt right; it feels put-upon or disingenuous. It seems that no one attempts to search themselves, but instead choose to search others for wrongdoing. No one searches for truth in passages in the Bible, but instead mashes together a bunch of verses in an attempt to find what they want. I hope this is not everywhere, but sadly this is what I have experience so far.

So in light of those experiences, I want to focus on the truth of the event this Easter; what the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus means without emotional music and flashing lights.I want to focus on the truth that is just as evident in a quiet room as it is in a stadium of screaming people.

Because if the gospel is as powerful as it claims to be, and I believe that it is, then I want to experience its message in its most honest form. I don’t want to be persuaded by soulful improv piano behind a prayer. If the prayer speaks truth, then the truth will speak for itself. I don’t want to be blinded by a stunning presentation, because if the message is moving, then the words will move you on their own.

I feel this way because I think these powerful truths, which are recorded in the gospels, are self-evident. I think that the message of pure sacrifice and all-encompassing love is written on everyone’s heart, even if that message has become occluded or shoved aside. The message that we are redeemed by love, and that our redemption makes true love possible, cannot be escaped. Also, the conviction that this truth proposes cannot be ignored: that unless we treat each other with love and care like we have been treated, we are denying our true purpose.

This conviction is something that is very clear to me. I don’t know if any of you have felt this way, but to me violence and hurt is not only wrong, but it is unnatural. When I think about how violence could be committed in a true and organic way (not that I spend a lot of time thinking about it) nothing seems to fit those qualifications. Plato talks about how everything on this earth is a shadow or lesser variation of a true ideal, but with violence, what is this ultimate truth? What is the ultimate idea that encompasses all the violence and hurt in the world? I don’t think this supposed higher truth exists, because it was never intended in the universe’s original iteration. Violence is the entropy or degradation of an ideal, not the ideal itself.

But love, love is oh so different. True love is as close to a higher ideal that man can attain, in my opinion. Love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love! (Thanks Ewin McGregor) And what better love is this: that a man would sacrifice his life for that of another. It is a great irony that a concept which was not intended and which is unnatural destroyed the only thing that was intended and is ideal. But this destruction only lasted for three days. It is a great victory that love, and the truth behind it, conquered and overcame that which sought to erode and undermine it.

On this Easter, I want to seek the truths and ideals that transcend this world, this shadowland of a higher ideal. (Thanks C.S. Lewis) I want to write them on my doorposts and in my heart in an honest way; one without pretension and presentation. I hope the same for everyone else too, no matter where they spend their Sunday.

This is just what I am searching for this year. Everyone is in a different place and needs different things from religious experience and expression. I hope that what I wrote holds true for some people, and that for others, they can learn about a different perspective. Its the variety of understanding that makes us great.

Happy Easter,

Melody

Getting Started…

Here we go!

It’s become clear to me that I need a space to take my thoughts from an unorganized notebook to a fully realized form. This is both for the clearing of the mind and the attempt to make that mind a place to rest. Hopefully this can also help others do the same.

This time in life is stressful and unnerving; nothing is certain, but every move feels like I am permanently solidifying what is going to come. Stress and worry have piled up, making themselves more at home within myself than I am. Let’s change that.

If you ever stumble across this blog, I hope it will help you wherever you are. We need to learn from each other, the mistakes and the victories. Please learn from mine, and hopefully I can learn from your stories as well.

Melody