The Frozen Pizza of Seminary

Like January 1 of a New Year’s resolution, the first week of class includes good intentions, ambitious goals, and great planning.  Unfortunately, the second week of class tends to hit as hard and fast as January 15.  Now, the greens in the fridge are ready to be thrown out and the gym clothes have been pushed to the back of the closet.  Instead, the frozen pizza bakes in the oven and running into work leaves you breathless.  The second week of class includes more skimming than reading, more procrastinating than productivity, and more cramming than sleeping.

These second-week habits are the frozen pizza of seminary.  Instead of doing our best to learn and glorify God with our studies, we do enough to get by…to survive.  Instead of sitting down to savor something nutritious, we eat a lukewarm frozen pizza while we fold laundry, talk on the phone, and watch TV.

Students are remarkably chipper the first week of class, taking time to talk to one another.  By the second week, talk is rushed and focused.  Now, anxiety begins to loom and moods change.  Once prompt, well-dressed students are flying in at the last minute, disheveled.

I could list a whole host of things to prevent these cycles, but they still always seem to happen.  By the end of each semester, my classmates and I always look at each other and resolve, “we are NOT doing this next semester.”  Yet, we always do…

I’m not advocating poor study habits nor would I suggest that better study habits are a lost cause; however, I do think there’s freedom in accepting our imperfections sometimes.  If most nights we sit down to eat a salad or at least have a vegetable with our meal, why not forgive ourselves for the frozen pizza nights as well? Similarly, school is full of many victories, but it’s also full of many self-inflicted late nights, surprise quizzes, and caffeine-induced headaches.  Instead of dreading the semester, knowing these things are coming, I’m ready to laugh between breaks… not just during them.

A Can of Green Beans

Recently, a new student stood in my dorm before we migrated to the common area to watch a movie.  As I made eggs in my microwave, she asked, “how do you cook in your dorm? I need ideas!” The other girl in my room began listing ideas while eating chips and salsa for dinner, “sometimes I eat popcorn for dinner.  Other times I eat carrots and hummus.  I also eat PB&J.  One time I ate a can of green beans.” Laughter quickly filled the room as the girl tried to justify her dinner.  I’m confident the new student will ask me for cooking suggestions first from now on…

Cooking in a dorm can be difficult.  We have a full kitchen downstairs, but it’s shared by over forty girls.  Most of us have make-shift kitchens in our dorms…or cans of green beans filling our bookshelves.

I thought everyone was poor in college until I came to seminary.  Free meals are more readily attended than ever and our idea of “eating out” is usually making pancakes in the common area.  We’re all broke…

…but we’re also blessed.  In a season where a can of green beans for dinner can be justified, it’s easier to empathize with the extreme poverty filling the streets around us.  Although we live in a safe, comfortable place and most of us will never know the extent of poverty of our neighborhoods, we are gaining a new appreciation for what we’ve been given.

From Christmas to Mardi Gras

I love Christmas. I love the traditions, the food, the gatherings. I love what Christmas means and how it’s one time of year where Christ’s name is exalted in public places (even if it’s over a mall intercom nestled between songs about hippopotamuses and reindeer).

Yet, when Christmas is over, I’m ready for it to be over. I’m tired of parties and rich food. I’m ready to hit the gym and excited to get into a routine. Frankly, I’m sick of celebrating.

I don’t think New Orleanians ever get sick of celebrating.

Immediately after New Year’s this year, the carnival season began. With all the enthusiasm of Christmas (or perhaps more), people here buy king cakes, decorate houses, and attend parades. Local schools even have a Mardi Gras break in February.

It honestly kind of annoyed me to come back to more celebration. Can’t we have at least one month without it? It’s bad enough that Valentine’s Day cards and candy are already out… But then I thought, “isn’t that how I should live? In constant celebration?” The life of a Christian is difficult and I wholeheartedly believe in sharing our burdens with one another, but shouldn’t we be showing the world what it really means to celebrate? Not the worldly, Bourbon street kind of celebration, the real celebration that comes from the depth of a soul saved by Jesus Christ. Those who trust in Christ as their source of hope have a reason to celebrate!

Though I’m not in favor of every part of Mardi Gras, I am excited to experience some of the G-rated traditions. I decided to start with king cake…

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Who knows what I’ll celebrate with next? (Though I can list a few things I won’t celebrate with…) But I am grateful that regardless of where I am and what’s around me, I am able to celebrate God’s constant, perfect goodness.

Pineapple Means Welcome

Pineapples are truly the greatest fruit imaginable. If satan was trying to tempt me with a forbidden fruit, he would know to use a pineapple…not because he knows everything (he doesn’t), but because I so obviously love it. Currently, I have pineapple in my refrigerator and make-shift pantry (thanks to sweet friends from home) along with pineapple decor, clothing, and jewelry throughout my dorm. I love the taste, look, and meaning of pineapple.

A ripe pineapple is probably the sweetest fruit. My sister, who can’t stand any taste too sweet, is not a big pineapple fan. I, on the other hand, LOVE sweets and LOVE pineapple. I think pineapple makes salad, dessert, and meat infinitely better. To me, it is worth the grueling process of cutting up a fresh pineapple just to experience its sweet, juicy taste.

I also love the way a pineapple looks. Though the outside can be intimidating, the inside is refreshing and bright–like the sun shining through a forest.

Most of all, I love what a pineapple means. My grandmother has a golden pineapple on her back door, the only door anyone that knows her uses. As children, my cousins and I asked about the pineapple and my grandmother always explained that it means welcome. She had the pineapple on her door to welcome guests.

In New Orleans, I don’t always feel welcome. Though the people are friendly and the culture is inviting, everything is still foreign and I do not blend in at all. When my sister and I arrived back in NOLA after my Christmas break, I was promptly reminded that…

the culture is different,

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the vegetation is different,

IMG_5502 the architecture is different,

IMG_5460 and even the coffee is different.
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Yet, I was also reminded that God is welcoming me to join Him in this city…

IMG_5482 As my sister and I were touring a plantation, the tour guide pointed out a pineapple displayed in one of the guest bedrooms. She explained that the hostess served fresh cut pineapple to the guests when they arrived as a sign of welcome. I may not be from the South (and my Bronx-born and Long Island-bred grandmother certainly is not), but I do love southern hospitality and I am grateful for the sweetness of a pineapple to welcome me back to my home away from home…and NOLA does have excellent pineapple.

New Semester, New Year, New Resolutions

Though I rarely stay awake until midnight, I do love celebrating a new year.  I enjoy reflecting on the past year, seeing what God has done, and thinking about the year to come.  Resolutions can be trite, cliché, or vain, but they can also be meaningful.  I love being intentional with goals for the year.  I often aim too high and don’t completely succeed, but I’m normally a lot closer than I would’ve been had I not set a goal at all.  (Admittedly, I’m also pretty type-A and goal-oriented.)

There are dozens of things I could list that I’d like to do (i.e. eat better, exercise more, study efficiently…all of which would be good goals), but this year I’m planning to focus on living in the present.

What does that really mean?

In an age where we have the entire world in our pockets, living in the present could mean listening to the person across from me instead of perusing social media.  It could mean talking instead of texting.  It could mean crying with someone instead of sending a sad emoji.

In an age where we rush from place-to-place or event-to-event, living in the present could also mean enjoying what I do when…

I’m sitting alone at a Tennis Shop in New Orleans with nothing to do, remembering that I’m getting paid to study, sit, or smile.

I’m sitting alone at a Tennis Shop in New Orleans with nothing to do, remembering that I’m getting paid to study, sit, or smile.

I’m eating beignets after a long semester of studying, savoring each bite of sugary goodness.

I’m eating beignets after a long semester of studying, savoring each bite of sugary goodness.

I’m sitting on Santa Alligator’s lap with new friends while longing to see “the wind come sweepin’ down the plains” with old friends, remembering God blesses us through the new and the old.

I’m sitting on Santa Alligator’s lap with new friends while longing to see “the wind come sweepin’ down the plains” with old friends, remembering God blesses us through the new and the old.

I’m home laughing that my mom printed my entire blog and put it in a three-ring binder, treasuring my mother’s love.

I’m home laughing that my mom printed my entire blog and put it in a three-ring binder, treasuring my mother’s love.

I’m entertaining a sweet friend’s little boy while we shop, celebrating simplicity, life, joy, and growth.

I’m entertaining a sweet friend’s little boy while we shop, celebrating simplicity, life, joy, and growth.

I’m finding my stuffed animal hidden throughout the house by my sister, enjoying her sense of humor.

I’m finding my stuffed animal hidden throughout the house by my sister, enjoying her sense of humor.

I’m sitting next to my great aunt, grateful to have people older than me to teach and love me.

I’m sitting next to my great aunt, grateful to have people older than me to teach and love me.

I’m spending time with an old friend, thanking God for how He maintains relationships.

I’m spending time with an old friend, thanking God for how He maintains relationships.

I’m eating my mom’s Christmas feast, considering the precious gifts God’s given us.

I’m eating my mom’s Christmas feast, considering the precious gifts God’s given us.

I’m sharing the couch with my 12-year-old stinky dog, loving his company

I’m sharing the couch with my 12-year-old stinky dog, loving his company

I’m opening my Christmas gifts and find the one thing I asked for, laughing at my own quirkiness.

I’m opening my Christmas gifts and find the one thing I asked for, laughing at my own quirkiness.

I’m helping my mom move into her new office, cherishing our time together.

I’m helping my mom move into her new office, cherishing our time together.

The key here is: I want to enjoy WHEN I do these things.  Memories are great and looking back is fun, but I want to enjoy what I do now.  I don’t want to be happy doing everything I do (that resolution would already have failed).  I simply want to see God working.  I want to be joyful…even in affliction.

This is my resolution as I begin the new year and the new semester.  I want to live in the present.