Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Hypothesis: Repeatedly exposing one's self to the source of fear reduces the effect of the fear.* I have lived this out and know it to be true.

For instance, when I started my job about five years ago, I was afraid of the elevators. Their reputation preceded them as I had been warned of their tendency to get stuck for lengthy periods while loaded with numerous occupants. I gritted my teeth and listened to my heart race each morning, vowing to ride only to the first stop or two and then to take the stairs. The problems with this tactic were multi-fold: (1) I was usually wearing heels, which weren't conducive to stair climbing; (2) the stairwells aren't air conditioned and often smell like cigarette smoke; and (3) their isolated use gives them a creepy factor almost commensurate with the elevators. So, I looked fear in the face and took the elevators every day. Most days I did it scared, and eventually the fear subsided.

I had the same experience with visiting emergency rooms. I had only been once as a child to accompany my sister to have her stomach pumped after eating a day-old sandwich that had been made with mayonnaise. So, when I started having abdominal pain in the summer of 2003, my first trip to the ER by myself was a bit scary. But after repeated visits and a diagnosis of gall stones, that fear of ERs went by the wayside.

I'm hoping that this tactic of reducing fear by repeated exposure will work for teaching as well. Going in this afternoon, I wasn't as nervous as last week. But then I had to wait almost two hours after arriving at the school to give my lecture. I had prepared more than last week because I had the day off, but my tongue and mind didn't quite keep up with each other when I began my lecture. Moreover, it was humbling to be corrected by students when the group exercises didn't go exactly as planned. (As a side note, none of the students dropped after last week, which made my heart sing.)

So, I'll be watching to see how this plays out over the course of the semester. I probably won't post a teaching update every week, but I'll let you know if there are any highlights.

*This isn't meant in the context of abusive relationships or criminal acts.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Practicing Sabbath Rest

The concept of Sabbath rest has been on my mind a lot lately ever since reading The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. Additionally, we've been studying about pursuing God over the past eight weeks at church and have been learning about different spiritual disciplines, including rest. The following is a short article that I wrote on this topic and that was included on p. 10 of our church's fall news magazine:

If asked to describe myself, “list maker” and “rule follower” would appear in my answer. Both of these traits, which have often come in handy, have caused me trouble when it comes to pursuing rest in God.

My list maker tendencies urge me to be in full-time productive mode and to gauge my weekend as “good” only if all tasks on my list are completed. And when my list maker tendency combines with my rule follower nature, they whisper that I should make a list of the spiritual disciplines and do one each day so that I can “be right with God.” If left to my own devices, most weekends would rate a dismal “okay” on my rating scale.

Several weeks before Ted preached on “Pursing Rest in God,” I finished reading a book entitled The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. The introduction grabbed my attention:

In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God: the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that, you need to be still. (p.3)

I knew I had been using the wrong measuring stick. But I didn’t realize what I had been missing. That in the midst of my self-described productivity, I was missing out on God.

On seeing the things that He wanted to show me. On hearing the words and the wisdom that He wanted to impart to me. On feeling the love that He wanted to wrap around me. On connecting with Him through His creation. On knowing Him more intimately.

The realization of all that I’d lost was devastating. Devastating enough to cause me to set aside one day a week for Sabbath rest so that I could attempt to recover what I’d lost and had been missing for a long time.

Just like Buchanan, I also “learned to keep Sabbath in the crucible of breaking it.” I have discovered what a gift it is to let go of my lists and rules for one day each week and to rest in God. And because I’ve let go of the rules, what this looks like for me varies from Sabbath to Sabbath. I try to let God lead. Sometimes Sabbath rest involves connecting with friends over lunch. Sometimes Sabbath rest includes journaling or writing. Sometimes Sabbath rest means physical rest in the form of a nap. And when it’s not 107 degrees outside, Sabbath rest may include taking a walk to enjoy His creation.

I haven’t been practicing this discipline very long, but I’ve already noticed that I haven’t needed to check off everything on my list in order to have a great weekend. So maybe someday I’ll be able to do away with “list maker” and “rule follower” and be able to describe myself as “Sabbath keeper.”

I'd love to know your thoughts on this concept. Do you try to incorporate a "stop day" into your week? If so, how has it changed your perspective?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Being Carried

"If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4:10)

Remember the feeling of being piggy-backed by a friend or parent? They did all the hard work of lifting and carrying, and you merely climbed up and hung on?

That's the closest way that I can described what I experienced today. My friends and family did the heavy lifting, carrying me along. I received emails and phone calls encouraging me, a wonderful dinner last night to ease my stress, and a ton of prayers. It humbles me that people interceded on my behalf and prayed me through today. And because of their efforts, I survived!

I have no recollection of what I said the first ten minutes of class. Words flew out of my mouth before I turned the floor over to the students to hear why they have chosen this career path. My voice survived the rest of the class by alternating between speaking and giving writing assignments; the writing assignments allowed my faltering vocal chords to recharge. And before I knew it, the dismissal time of 5:20 had arrived.

In the coming weeks, hopefully my vocal chords will gain their strength, and my ability to teach writing and speaking skills will increase as well. At least now the big first class is behind me. I rest in that tonight.

Father God, thank You for surrounding me with praying friends and family who encourage me and take time to pray for me in the midst of their busy lives.

Monday, August 18, 2008

And the Oscar Goes to . . .

Obviously not me because I am not a good actress. I'm a decent prepared speaker, but I cannot ad lib or give impromptu presentations. Yet, I was persuaded to try acting once during a New Year's Eve party. It was all caught on tape. One that I, and I alone, used to possess. I think it has been destroyed because it was so painful to watch as I struggled to portray the designated scene I drew from the hat. Something along the lines of role playing people at a nursing home, using swimming noodles as canes.

But it's times like these when I wish I could rely on natural acting talent. To act like I'm not nervous. To come across as thoroughly prepared.

I'm not, and that frustrates me. I don't want to come off as the newbie professor. Mostly because I can't recall a single professor or teacher I had who appeared nervous or anxious on the first day of class. All of their lectures seem perfectly timed to cover the exact amount of material that was assigned. Something I took for granted until now.

But I cannot be other than who I am: The new adjunct professor who has no idea if she can speak for an hour and fifty minutes.

I'm debating how much of this struggle to reveal up front. Because the tiny percent of me that isn't nervous says that I ought to simply be real. To lay out my fears and ask for the students to help me along with questions. Because there's no way of getting around the school's requirements that we must meet for the allotted time EVERY week, with no early releases. That already puts several strikes against me, but hopefully all of the professors are on an equal playing field when it comes to this requirement.

And so I plan a little more. And pray a lot. Hoping that tomorrow goes smoothly. I'll try to post the "results" tomorrow. Until then, I hope there's not any drama worthy of an oscar.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


My name is Alyssa, and I'm addicted to the Olympics.

I got a new TV over the weekend, just in time to see the Olympics in all their glory. Or more precisely, to see the swimmers in all their glory.

I've convinced myself that Michael Phelps will not win if I'm not watching him. And so I stay up late every night to watch him compete. Tonight will be no exception.

As with any addiction, this one is taking a toll on my body. I'm exhausted. My body requires sleep, even more so than food. I begin to feel sick without it. And even though I know this about myself, I push myself to stay up later and watch more of the action. After all, the summer Olympics come but once every four years.

It's not as if I have nothing to do. I begin teaching on Tuesday. Somehow, I feel like I can work in my prep time around some of the less enticing events, like men's indoor volleyball. But instead, I'm blogging about my addiction and counting the minutes until the USA swimmers compete in their races and hopefully add a lot more medals to the total medal count.

So what do you like or dislike about the Olympics? And if you have pointers for overcoming the addiction, post those as well. I have the feeling that there will be a big letdown come Sunday when the swimming is over.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Little Weekend Humor

This week has been a bit of a tough one at times, so I thought it would be nice to end it on a lighter note.

One of my co-workers gave me this to put on my itchy arm where I had received my allergy shot.

My Spider Man bandaid reminded me of the super powers I felt I had while wearing R2D2 Underoos as a child. So go get some fun bandaids and put them on. I bet you'll catch yourself smiling.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A New View

On Friday afternoon, I made the move. Packing up my belongings one load at a time, I started the trek. All the way down the winding hall to the other side of the office. And there I unloaded my armfuls of books, papers, and decorations.

I now have a new office.

Same building. Same floor. Same job.

Just a different office. One that's a little smaller and doesn't have a window. And this wasn't a demotion.

I chose to move to be closer to my pod, the people I work with most closely on a daily basis.

Before I made the move, I decided it was time to go through all the stuff I brought with me to this job. All the things that I thought would be important and that I couldn't live without. I quickly realized that much of the stuff I had brought with me hadn't been looked at since my last move five years ago. Many of the papers and books were outdated. They made their way to the recycle bin and lessened the burden of the move.

This cleaning-before-the-move has some life application as well. It's prompted me to undertake the same cleaning process in my daily life. To figure out what I'm holding onto that is no longer useful or helpful and to let go of it so that I can move about my life without so much baggage. Not just physical baggage but emotional and mental as well.

I'm not sure that this process will be as fun or as fast as the office cleaning. But I think the end result will be even more enjoyable and freeing than working in my new office.