About clairececil

Claire. 24. Jesus-follower. Theologian. Proud American.

Thoughts on Becoming a Teacher

Here’s a confession that will shock and surprise no one: I love school. With two post high school degrees in hand, I’ve obviously spent a lot of time, i.e. most of my life, in school. I love the book reading, marginalia making, paper brainstorming, lively in class forums, small group discussions, and refining theses to near perfection. I do not love true/false questions, memorizing vast sums of information only to be regurgitated the next day, busy work, and in class movies. The difference between these two lists might be obvious. Good teachers (I mean, the best) brought joy to the process of discovery. These men and women labored to help me really engage with the subject matter. Through their efforts, I have an appetite for erudition. I crave books because they are vessels for new perspectives, stories, and wisdom. While I’ve always been a reader, teachers helped refine my palate so that I didn’t graduate from reading Sweet Valley High to the glossy paperbacks sold at CVS. I am indebted to these teachers.

While I love school and comprehend the value that certain teachers brought to my life, for a long period of time I was repelled by the idea of becoming a teacher. The giants of my high school career, Mr. Demek, Ms. Wildman, Ms. Slagle (to name a few), looming in my mind, I began my studies at my undergrad institution, the University of Mary Washington, and easily declared myself an English major the first semester. I had no ambitions for a career then because that was a whole four years away, I naïvely thought. Still, people asked. They supplied my response for me when I told them my major, “Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher?” I bristled and hastily dismissed the possibility. I was certain that the prospects for someone with critical thinking and writing abilities were unfathomable. “Teaching?” I scoffed “How passé.”

Thankfully, the Lord is not restrained by my petty prejudices. I became an EFL Teacher (English as a Foreign Language) for a year in Bangkok, Thailand and confronted everything that I felt about teaching—the grudge I felt against it, and the fear that I was disappointing everyone and myself through my choice to settle into such a pedestrian profession. However, that position was my platform to be in a country in which an infinitesimal percentage of the population claims Christ as their Savior. Everything I felt was secondary in light of this reality. I discovered that there is much about teaching that is rewarding. Public speaking is scary but I didn’t die or throw up ever while I was doing it. I treasured the connections I made with students both inside and outside the classroom setting. Teaching in Thailand did a lot to strip off the varnished disdain I felt for the profession.

What I realized neither at age eighteen nor at age twenty-three was that teaching is an art. Teaching is a platform for excellence (and can also be a platform for mediocrity). The difference is in the person who steps into the title. Reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin (a book that lingered far too long on my bookshelf) has transformed how I think about work, vocation, labor, and art. I’m still digesting the principles he sets forth. He writes, “Art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace.” In my experience, good teachers are artists on par with Harper Lee, Mozart, and Van Gogh. They invest the whole of themselves in the teaching endeavor and reap change in their students. Most are probably oblivious to the extent of their impact.

The resentment I felt towards the teaching profession is gone. It has been replaced by an aspiration to join their ranks, to invest in future leaders and Christ-followers, to introduce into the classroom setting everything I love and enjoy and forbid everything else. I endeavor to be an artist and my medium is the student.

Ushering in Christmas

Poor Thanksgiving. It always gets the shaft because people are so ready for the Christmas season to come already…including yours truly.

Thanksgiving is like the Christmas pre-game (if I’m using that vocal incorrectly, it’s because I don’t speak sports). We gather with our families, practice eating too much, and work on our Christmas shopping lists.

I’m over Thanksgiving. I sit here trying to work on Family Ministry worksheets but my mind keeps wandering to the end of December, to snow, to hot chocolate and cookies shaped like Santa.

The aroma of sugar cookies wafts from my tea (Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookies Sleigh Ride) and I have A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack playing on Spotify. I’m ready but I’m willing to wait. In the meantime, bring on the turkey.

Buzzwords

Buzzwords like “social justice,” “missional,” and “shalom” pepper conversations about what the church should be doing for the world today. These conversations take place in the blogosphere, in bible studies, on Facebook and Twitter, in coffee shops and many other places. I’ve witnessed these words be used to sound the call to the church to wake up and do something! As a result, people feel called to do something but what that something is remains a mystery. It might have something to do with environmental stewardship, fair trade coffee, ending slavery, or a wealth of other things that connote these terms.

What Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert do most effectively in their book, What is the Mission of the Church? is answer that “deceptively complex and potentially divisive” question (16) in a tactful and biblically faithful manner. They remind the reader that “[the] story is not about us working with God to make the world right again. It’s about God’s work to make us right so we can live with him again” (89). This simple truth had become obscured in my mind by “should” and “ought” statements that I feel the Enemy has used very effectively to distract me and other believers from our main priority—which is obeying the Great Commission and making disciples (63).

Before I began reading DeYoung and Gilbert’s book, I would have said the church’s mission, God’s mission, and the individual Christian’s mission was without distinction. It’s amazing how critical it is to understand the distinction so that I can be obedient in my task here in this life and help others to be obedient too.

Anna’s Story – A Short Film

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Anna grew up in an alcoholic home on the Navajo reservation. As a child, she never heard her father say “I love you.” She didn’t even know that was something a father could say. Trapped in a world of hopelessness, she watched as many in her own family and community took their own lives.

This is a true story.

It is a story of abuse, neglect, and despair. But it is also a story of healing, love, and hope.

See more: http://redemptionpictures.com/2013/09/13/anna/

It’s Days Like These I’m Glad I have a Blog

In my last post I mentioned how God is like a masterful work of art that only gains more admirers as time passes. I’d like to go back to that analogy and quote C.S. Lewis who provides some insight about admiration and exaltation:

But the most obvious fact about praise–whether of God or anything–strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…The world rings with praise–lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game…I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.

When I share about this wonderful, heart-filling, joy-causing day of mine, praising it completes the enjoyment, i.e. I enjoy it even more when I can tell people about it.

Today was a normal day not in that it wasn’t extraordinary, but in that I realized I live an extraordinarily blessed life.

It started with class this morning with Dr. Plummer learning about the ministry of Christ to the Gospels in our hands. Sitting there I marveled at how God has gifted certain individuals to be Christian-scholars and devote their lives to finding and preserving ancient documents that further testify to the truth of our belief. We don’t worship a God who shuns the academic, we worship a God who designs people to love the pursuit of knowledge. That was my first hit-the-pause-button wow moment and it wasn’t even 10 AM yet.

Second, I walked into chapel ready to hear Scott Patty share a message and he brought it. Even though I almost tweeted a quote by Scott Party (thanks auto-correct), I couldn’t stop nodding in affirmation about what he was saying on Psalm 42-43. I feel depression is an oft overlooked topic of discussion in Christian circles but Scott was very open in talking about his own struggle with seasons of depression. I couldn’t be more thankful for the way in which he closed his message–he reminded us of God’s promise to our weak souls, “I will be with you.” We can trust that however abandoned we feel, we have that awesome truth to turn to for comfort.

Third, I ate a spinach salad with black beans and fajita chicken in the cafeteria and got some reading done before heading to my Missiology class. Anthony Casey was teaching since Dr. Sills is away in Brazil (surprise!) this week…whomp whomp…Anyways, I still had two big take-aways from class which I would like to share:

  • Since holistic ministry engages community (see Jeremiah 29:4-7, 14), we should consider re-ordering the structure of our lives by asking (1) At which church can I serve? (2) Where can I work near my church? (3) Where can I live near my place of work and my church?
  • In our discussion about Israel’s role in mission, a young African American man named Jimmy raised his hand and said, “How can you expect a dead and unregenerate person to want to come and see?” Those words speak directly to those in the church who say (I’ve been guilty of saying this) that the church will be something profoundly attractive and people will be drawn to us. Um, no. That’s not just laziness, that refusal to go out and bring people to the banquet is disobedience.

Fourth, I went directly to Systematic Theology I after my Missiology class and got to soak up beautiful, glorious truth with Dr. Bruce Ware. Every class, he reminds us to hit that pause button and reflect on the privilege that it is to study at a seminary like Southern at a time like this! Today we talked about Revelation, the epistemological foundation of the Christian faith. Revelation is by God’s sovereign prerogative to give what he chooses to whom he chooses and we need it. We need it because of our finitude and God’s infinite nature–we cannot on our own comprehend God’s glorious otherness. Also, concerning General Revelation, through creation (God’s divine nature evident in created order) and conscience (Mens’ hearts are imprinted with God’s moral nature), it is not saving, but it does hold all accountable. If it seems like I’m just regurgitating my notes, it’s because I’m still in awe of everything I have written here! You can meditate on the implications of God’s sovereign prerogative for days (or eons) probably. He didn’t have to make known truth but he did! He did because he is good and wise and loving.

I finished my classes and walked over to the library with my friend Lance to look at an old book as an extra credit assignment for my New Testament class. Shameless, I know. After that, I changed into my swimsuit and headed over to the pool for the Aqua Alive water aerobics class. My Abide (women’s small group) leader Candice joined me and the Asian, pregnant and older ladies for a great work-out! I really felt the burn… After class, Candice and I had an excellent conversation about repentance, waging war on sin, contentment and a number of other topics. I’m keeping it vague because I’m not ready to disclose any specific details to strangers on the internet! We did sit in the hot tub for longer than the recommended time though…I got a cafe mocha from Founder’s to warm myself up and that’s my day! Like I said, blogging about my day consummates the joy I have in having experienced this day firsthand.

Diversity > Conformity

A diverse body of believers is an incredible, miraculous thing to observe. I’ve been on the SBTS campus for almost three weeks now and I’ve encountered people who in China worship in packed house churches, who were first invited to church by the roughest guy in an inner city Chicagoan neighborhood, from Haiti, from Korea, from Honduras, and from more places besides these than I could ever imagine.

We who come to Southern to study are just a small sampling of the nations. John Piper in the third edition of Let the Nations be Glad tells us to look at what God is doing throughout the whole world and reminds us of the joy we have in being able to participate in the making of God’s masterpiece. Indeed, “if a work of art continues to win more and more admirers not only across cultures but also across decades and centuries, then its greatness is irresistibly manifested…His true greatness will be manifest in the breadth of the diversity of those who perceive and cherish his beauty” (Piper 222). What an amazing thing of which to be reminded! We who are students at Southern are gathered to admire God’s true greatness which can be perceived in taking a step back, turning around, and seeing who exactly stands there trembling before God with joyful wonder (Piper 38).

The nations are far away, to be sure; but the nations are also here on this campus. It is through this framework that I will observe my classmates and remember that the God we worship has won a diverse variety of admirers.

Top Summer Reads of 2013

I have a blog crush on Modern Mrs. Darcy for what I consider to be obvious reasons. One of them being I get almost all my book recommendations from her because she’ll be up front with you if a book (albeit a best-seller) is crap. I appreciate that honesty. One blog series of hers in particular that I like is called Twitterature. She says it’s a place to share short, casual reviews of books you’ve been reading. Perfect. If I haven’t read a book yet, I don’t want you to tell me exactly what it’s about. Just tell me whether or not I should read it. That’s what I’m going to attempt to do here with my top reads of the summer (which is quickly drawing to a close).

1. Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner

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Well written. Emotionally resonant. “It is love and friendship, the sanctity and celebration of our relationships, that not only support a good life, but create one. Through friendships, we spark and inspire one another’s ambitions.” #justreadit

2. When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead

ImageOf the two YA novels by Rebecca Stead that I read this summer, I prefer this one (the other was her debut novel First Light). Put aside any prejudice that this book is “children’s literature” and therefore solely meant for children. It deals with some rather mature themes from an adolescent perspective (though this adolescent thinks like an adult more than is believable sometimes). #quickbutworthit

3. The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Patchett

ImageIf you enjoy growing increasingly frustrated with the main character (Rose), then this is the book for you! This novel is split in three parts from three different points of view. As as we move away from Rose’s point of view in Part I, she becomes as distant to the reader as she is to the other characters. Other than this though, it’s a very compelling read. #wouldnotrecommendtoeveryone #alsoa1998televisionfilm??

4. Light of Eidon series, Karen Hancock

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Once you get past the horrifically bad cover art for this book (first in a series of four), you’ll read it and thank me. And then you’ll beg me to loan you books two through four which I won’t be able to do because I’ve already loaned them once. At least the first one in this series is free on the Kindle! #notyouraveragechristianfiction #legit

 

A Thirteen-Year-Old’s List of Fun Stuff to Do in the Summer

I was sifting through some old papers from my childhood and I found a list of “Fun stuff to do in the Summer” that I had written when I was thirteen. If you’re feeling uninspired about your own summer plans, maybe you can find some ideas here for things to do…

1. Go to the pool and do dives on the board

2. Go with mom on a long trail (bike riding) 

3. Have a picnic with Jillian and Becca (maybe) at the brook

4. Relax in the hammock in the shade with lemonade

5. Go to NYC with Aunt Mary on July 19

6. Go to Camp Caroline Furnace (Adventure Plus)

7. Make a mural on the driveway with chalk

8. Have a lemonade sale with Annie

9. Play Capture the Flag or Cops and Robbers

10. Have a water gun fight with neighborhood friends

11. Bachelorette party with Jillian and Becca

12. Hold a neighborhood wide talent show

13. Go on Josh’s trampoline

14. Have tons of sleepovers

15. Volunteer in the library with Stephanie

16. Read at least 20 books

17. Go to the movies a lot with Kelly

18. Go out to Macaroni Grill

19. Get my nails done and get a haircut

20. Highlight hair

21. Eat lots of watermelon and roast marshmallows 

22. Go camping in the backyard

23. Go to Splashdown water park

24. Have a street hockey tournament

25. Play computer games (HP, mini golf, Sabrina)

26. Build a fort inside the basement

27. Paint a picture with acrylic paint

28. Make a pancake breakfast for family

29. Make a scavenger hunt

30. Earn money for going to Best Buy

31. Finish cross-stiching project 

32. Buy craft set or book

33. Throw a party for no reason

34. Bike to Greenbriar and shop!

35. Have movie marathon/ stay up all night

36. Organize desk, drawers, closet, cabinets

37. Color laces all different colors on sneakers–> stamp markers

38. Put on a puppet show with Annie

39. Practice volleyball

40. Make up my own song and sing it

41. Write a book and try to get it published

42. Draw signs like “no mosquitos” or “cool wind welcome”

43. Make a scrapbook with lots of pictures

44. Try to learn French!

45. Make a silly clock

46. Go to Blockbuster and rent Gone with the Wind

47. Paint room (sponge it) blue

48. Rearrange room (move stuff around)

49. SLEEP IN!!! zzzzz

50. Make a pretend cruise with Annie

51. Listen to the radio (97.1)

52. Make a cake (chocolate)

53. Make a collage out of newspapers and magazines

54. Play cards at a pretend casino (Monopoly money)

55. Go on walks every evening with Dad

56. Play in the sprinkler

57. Remember to wear sunscreen and sunglasses

58. Have a luau for fun

59. Go to the bookstore (don’t buy anything)

60. Have a hot tub party in the little pool

What things did you dream of doing during the summer when you were a kid?

Asia Confusion*

*Phenomenon when one uses the mannerisms and customs of Asia in a non-Asian country with embarrassing and unusual consequences.

Ways in which I’m experiencing this phenomenon: 

1. Upon using the toilet, I look for a place to dispose of the toilet paper not in the toilet. Upon entering the toilet stall, I’m shocked that there is toilet paper.

2. When showering, it feels wrong to just swallow whatever water that happens to enter my mouth instead of spitting it out immediately. I feel like I did something regrettable.

3. During my travels in Germany and France (in which English is not the first language), it was instinctual to thank people with a curt head nod (one step shy of a ‘wai’). It was also instinctual to say “kha” instead of “yes” or “yeah” when receiving directions or instructions from a local.

4. Though I studied French in high school and university, when trying to communicate with a French person, it was easier to call to mind Thai words sometimes in addition to French words resulting in . Thai words were like a fungus that had covered all the French grammar and vocabulary beneath it in my mind.

5. In the beginning of my time in Europe, I couldn’t help but notice all the foreigners only to realize a beat later that they aren’t foreigners here.

Epic Oatmeal Banana Pancakes

I love breakfast. I love breakfast probably as much as Ron Swanson (Parks and Rec fans out there know what I mean??)

I wake up and this goes through my head almost every morning:

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Seriously guys. Breakfast is awesome. Anyone out there who voluntarily skips breakfast is just south of crazy (is that even a real expression?)

The other day I realized I had ingredients in my possession that I could use to make pancakes! Since I believe breakfast is supposed to be delicious and filling (**cough** nutritious), these pancakes were destined to be filled with protein and healthy fats.

I turned to my friend Google for a good recipe and I found one on a website called “Kath Eats Real Food.” Kath is an RD who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia which is just down the road a bit from where my parents live. Anyways, it’s a good recipe and her site is full of good resources and recipes, especially if you like oatmeal.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking oatmeal (rolled oats are fine too but the texture will be different)
  • 2 eggs (if you want fewer calories and less protein, sub 1/3 cup egg whites)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • A banana

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Behold! All the ingredients (sans butter) ready to go!

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Start with a 1/3 cup oats. Like I said before, I like my breakfast to be hearty and thus eliminate the need for a pre-lunch snack.

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I use two whole eggs instead of one for two reasons. I like protein because it has that staying power. I don’t like to separate the yolks from the whites. When I’m back in the land of options, I’ll try this recipe again with just egg whites and see how it turns out.

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Eggs + oatmeal = beautiful

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Since I don’t have a 1/2 tsp, I just filled the 1 tsp halfway which seemed to work pretty well.

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The imported artificial vanilla extract is expensive enough as it is. As you can see, I’m not super particular about the quality of ingredients at this stage in my cooking career.

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We’re making progress!

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Be generous with the cinnamon. It really makes the pancakes smell amazing as they cook.

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This is where things get complicated. Slice the banana in half. Slice that half into pieces. There’s not really a wrong way to do this.

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Banana pieces all ready to be mashed!

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Add the banana pieces to your assembled ingredients. Just throw them in there!

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I only have access to the finest of tools here in the kitchen at the BSC guesthouse–my mashing instrument is indeed a fork.

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Get mashing!

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Feel free to add more cinnamon.

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This is my kangaroo butter since it’s imported from Australia and has a kangaroo on it.

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Put a couple dabs of it on the pan with the burner on medium-low. If you prefer, you can use non-stick cooking spray but I can’t find that here in Thailand.

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Now you’re all set to add your pancake batter to the pan!

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My, what a big pancake!

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See those banana chunks in there? You can only be so thorough with a fork as your mashing instrument. Allow bubbles to form in the center of your pancake.

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Once you see those bubbles, your pancake is ready to flip! Be careful that you wait long enough though or else you’ll experience severe pancake regret.

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Give it another couple of minutes on the stove and then serve on a plate. Slice up the other half of the banana and place on top of the pancake. Drizzle lightly with syrup.

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Add some walnuts on top for some healthy fats!

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Now you can admire your handiwork.

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Enjoy with a tall glass of iced coffee.

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