Sunday, July 24, 2011

Passion and Purity--Achievable Today?

Just finished reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot called Passion and Purity. It's about her journey with God and with her eventual husband, Jim Elliot. They were in and out of contact, sure of their love for one another for around 5 years before marrying. The closest they came to "dating" was the letters they began writing to each other after he confessed his love for her and his assurance that God had, at least for a time, called him to remain single.

I'd venture to say that everyone who reads this book knows that it was written by an older woman, steeped in traditions that are not common traditions of today. Indeed, Elisabeth and Jim were married in 1953, which means he confessed his love for her in 1948. Yes, she is an older woman. Yes she is steeped in traditions that are no longer common. Many would write off this book--I am tempted to do so, myself--as antiquated and...well...antiquated. Elisabeth--"Bett," to her beloved Jim--knew this would be the thought, even as she wrote the book. She constantly assured me, as I turned page after page, that this life she led/leads is doable for all who wish to answer the call.

Talk about stopping you in your tracks. In this book, their diligence to the letter of God's calling, and her frank attitude about it all, is quite unlike anything I've encountered before. How can they so both so matter-of-fact-ly accept that--though they have an undeniable, deep, and abiding love for one another--they may never marry each other or anyone else? How? The world, and everyone else, always talks about how man and woman are made for each other. This is true, we were made to be compatible, to fit.

But that is not the design that Elisabeth and Jim focus on. Instead, they choose to answer the call put out in the New Testament: -Mathew 19:12: "For while some are incapable of marriage because they were born so, or were made so by me, there are others who have themselves renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let those accept it who can." -1 Corinthians 7:34-35: "The unmarried or celibate woman cares for the Lord's business; her aim is to be dedicated to him in body as in spirit; but the married woman cares for worldly things; her aim is to please her husband. In saying this I have no wish to keep you on a tight reign. I am thinking simply of your own good, of what is seemly, and of your freedom to wait upon the Lord without distraction."

Would I be willing to make that call, if it were placed on my heart? It hasn't, as of yet, but if it does...what then? Do I accept my fate quietly, like the turning of a page? I know the correct answer: "Yes." I know my heart's answer: "It would be nigh impossible." I know better than to worry about that now: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble on its own." (Mathew 6:34).

Returning to the unanswered question (which is also tied to the single-life question): Is Elisabeth and Jim Elliot's path of yesteryear achievable in the here and now? If we are to listen to Elisabeth, the answer is a resounding "YES." If we are to listen to any other source, the answer could be "maybe," or "no," or "who cares?" I think what it comes down to is a couple of things: 1) Do you care enough to try? and 2) Wherein does your hope lie? If the answer to #1 is "no," I will still tell you to hear me out 'till the end. If your answer to #1 is "yes," proceed to question #2. If you do not know the answer to #2, spend some time with yourself, honestly considering the potential answers.

I think the place, person, or idea in which you place your hope is key in determining whether or not this kind of life you can achieve. For Elisabeth, her hope was in God, her Creator. She knew, by faith, that her Creator knew better than she, knew that He had grander plans than she could imagine, knew that He was the only one who saw the entire picture, while she (and the rest of us) are like near-sighted horses with blinders on. Because of all of that, she could be at peace, knowing that if she was denied this great pleasure, He would still be her God, and she would be His beloved daughter, heir to the kingdom.

Elisabeth even wrote a "leaflet" to this effect, which I will copy here:

Be still and know that He is God. When you are lonely, too much stillness is exactly the thing that seems to be laying waste your soul. Use that stillness to quiet your heart before God. Get to know Him. If He is God, He is still in charge.

Remember that you are not alone. "The Lord, He it is that doth go with thee. He will not fail thee neither forsake thee. Be strong and of good courage (Deut. 31:8). Jesus promised His disciples, "Lo, I am with you always" (Matt. 28:20). Never mind if you cannot feel His presence. He is there, never for one moment forgetting you.

Give thanks. In times of my greatest loneliness I have been lifted up by the promise of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not o the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen." This is something to thank God for. This loneliness itself, which seems a weight, will be far outweighed by glory.

Refuse self-pity. Refuse it absolutely. It is a deadly thing with power to destroy you. Turn your thoughts to Christ who has already carried your griefs and sorrows.

Accept your loneliness. It is one stage, and only one stage, on a journey that brings you to God. It will not always last.

Offer up your loneliness to God, as the little boy offered to Jesus his five loaves and two fishes. God can transform it for the good of others,

Do something for somebody else. No matter who or where you are, there is something you can do, somebody who needs you. Pray that you may be an instrument of God's peace, that where there is loneliness you may bring joy.

Yes, the loneliness she speaks of is a life without marriage, but it is also applicable to the loneliness in living a life of purity...because, let's face it, in today's world, it's a fairly lonely life. But, if Elisabeth is to be believed, and I think she is, then it's a full life: full of hope, of love (deeper, even, than love between a married couple), of strength, and of eternality.

Here's to striving for a full life, one that's worth the wait and the heartache.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Major Nerd

So, I know the last time I posted something about a
N E R D A L E R T,
it was about liking field guides. Well folks, it gets worse...

We went to Hard Labor Creek State Park yesterday with some FUN volunteers and their families. Inside the park is an observatory run by the Georgia State astronomy program ( They have a deal with the park, that if they hold open house once a month--and more often in the summer--they can own that tiny bit of the park, and use it for research. We're lucky enough that Kristy's (our boss's) husband, Nole, is working on his PhD at GSU for Astronomy. He's pretty legit...not only does he study big stars, he just got approved for Hubble TIME! That means he can use the HUBBLE TELESCOPE FOR HIS RESEARCH! This is awesome, not only because it's the Hubble, but because the Hubble is an old man, and it won't be around for much longer (sad).
Anyways, I digress again. We, Kristy, Reid, Nole, and I trekked out to the park and set up for night of trivia and spying on the stars. We bribed Nole's astronomer pals with Papa John's (free food will motivate most scientists...for the record), and so the night began. A lot of the volunteers either couldn't come or didn't show up, probably because it rained in Atlanta yesterday. The weird thing is, Rutledge, GA, has a weather shield that prevents it from acting like the rest of Georgia when there is bad weather. It was sunny all day! Speaking of sun, while it was up, we brought out a sun-scope to look at the sun...I got to see Prominences! That means flamey things that stick out off the surface of the sun! You could watch them flame-up! It was awesome!
Once the rest of the students got there, we started trivia, which, to be honest, was a hot mess. But, we managed to power through it, give moon-pies as prizes to the winners (clever...we know), and start up the telescopes. Now, this is not the tube that you stick your eye in, these telescopes are GIANT. Well, to the layman anyway.
The astronomers (who were a trip, by the way), showed us the Hercules Cluster Galaxy (looks like a big splat of stars), the Swan Nebula (looks like a fuzzy line), the Ring Nebula (looks like...a ring), Saturn (we saw it through a little telescope, then through the 20in telescope, where you could even see the atmosphere!!!!!!! THE ATMOSPHERE). It was, in case you haven't figured it out, AWESOME.
I kept getting so excited I squealed. No kidding, I squealed. If you need help understanding why it was so awesome, look up the stuff I listed--do a Google image search. We didn't see fancy colors, everything was black and white (to my eyes anyway), but it was amazing. To think that you are actually looking at light that traveled from so far away, you're looking into the past...because that light left the nebula or star or planet years and years was unbelievable.
I'm sure I embarrassed myself by being way overzealous, but I don't care. Finally getting a chance to see some of God's most beautiful creations was worth the potential embarrassment. Had I gotten into a spiritual debate, I would have been alone in that excitement, but it still doesn't dampen my enthusiasm. "Right-wing nut-jobs" might be kooky, but who cares? If my God can produce something that is that beautiful that "left-wing whatever-they-call-themselves" want to dedicate their lives to studying it...that's totally fine with me.
Woops, I didn't mean to get political there.
At any rate, last night was amazing. It was totally worth the sweat and the late night and the bug bites. We got to see some neat stuff, and then when all the kids left, we got to watch the astronomers work for a little while. Nole is studying a set of binary stars (stars that orbit each other and swap mass on occasion) that just had an upset in their orbit. The smaller star hit a disc of matter (think Saturn's rings, except an extension of the star) from the bigger star and changed the shape of the disc. Apparently, this has never happened before, even though they've been orbiting each other for quite some this is exciting for Nole. They take pictures through something called a spectrometer, which takes a picture of a certain portion of the light spectrum and separates the wavelengths. Through this process, they can determine where the majority of the mass/energy/whatever of the star resides. This is apparently important for something. The spectrometer photos we watched only took two minutes each, but sometimes they take pictures that last 1 hour!
Okay, so maybe I don't get everything about astronomy. Why do these stars matter to humans? Not entirely sure, since our Sun isn't a binary star...but who cares? It's still neat to watch professionals get really excited about their research, even if I can't understand it.

Speaking of research, it's time to get back to preliminary research for my senior thesis.

N E R D A L E R T # 2

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pirates at Fernbank? Best Day EVER!

So, when I was little, I'm pretty sure I always preferred pirates to princesses. If not back then, I do now! We had around 30 "professional" pirates from the Atlanta Pirate and Wench Guild (timeout, WHAT? We have a Pirate guild in Atlanta??, and we had a princess and a knight from Medieval Times. But, I'm getting ahead of day began long before the pirates and wenches and royalty...It began around 9am.

First, we brought up box after box of newspaper for our recyclable pirate hats and princess crowns...yes, my fingers were hours of playing with newspaper.

Then, we had to blow up the inflatable pirate ship...and test it!

Yes, that’s Tim (top photo), our Mr. Fix-it, who always jingles with keys, always has a coffee mug, and can fix anything, from exhibits to squeaky paper cutters. And that’s Reid, frolicking on the ship. Yes, they’re both grown men grinning like 6 year olds!

Then...the people came. We had lots of princesses wanting crowns:

And pirates wanting captain’s hats:

And crazy boating pirates:

And shy pirates:

And tattoo artists:

And precious daddy-princess pairs:

And pirate families seeking quiet overlooks:

And did I mention people??

And little pirates with big pirates:

And did I mention lots of pirates??

Who brought their own pirate photographer:

Anyways, that’s kind of how my day looked. Except all these shots of single people don’t really capture the fact that by 12 noon, there were roughly 1200 people in the museum already. By the way…the museum opens at 10 am.

By 2pm, our fingers were blackened, our booted feet were hurting, but we were all still having a good time:

As the event wrapped up, we put the hats away, and the tattoos away, and the ship away, and the tables away…but the music kept beckoning, and the pirates kept dancing. The pirates and wenches are the types to have fun wherever they go, even if it’s a kids’ event at a natural history museum. For all I know, the pirates are still partying under the dinosaurs. Best part of the afternoon?

The pirate guild invited me out to the pubs to find the rum …

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Field Guides

So, I've always liked writing, but I never thought I'd try my hand at writing a "field guide." At work we're working on cataloging every specimen, egg, pelt, feather, etc that is in a room used for weekend education activities. I call it the "Weekend Wonders" room, but really it's "Lab A," or something like that. Reid and I are going through everything by "category:" birds, dinos/fossils/ancient stuff, mammals, ocean stuff, reptiles/amphibians, rocks/plants.
I've worked my way through the birds, being sure to cite my sources and include range maps for everything. I thought it'd be pretty easy, and boring, having taken Vertebrate Natural History...but lo and behold, I learned the coolest stuff!
Did you know that there are actually three species of peafowl?? Peafowl is the correct term for the entire species, male and female. Don't laugh, I'm about to cite Wikipedia (which, I promise, I did refrain from citing in the guide). We have the Congo Peafowl ( found in Africa, the India Peafowl, which is characterized by a blue chest (, and the Javan Peafowl, which is not coffee colored like I'd hoped, but is characterized by a green chest ( Sweet. There are three species of peafowl! Not to mention all the colors people choose to breed into the birds (including...PURPLE!).
Did you also know that Indigo Buntings have different songs according to where they're from geographically? And that they defend their territory from Indigo Buntings with different dialects? We're not that different...we have accents, and some might even say we're defensive toward people from different parts of the country (c'mon Southerners...think about all those Yankee jokes...and vice versa). Weird.
Anyways, I wish I had Microsoft Publisher on my laptop so I could work on it in my spare time...that's how much fun I'm having with this project!

Besides that, nothing much is new. We're watching the first Harry Potter movie and I'm reminded of how much I like this one. In this movie, Hogwarts is such a novelty, the thrill of magic is so new for Harry and all the rest, that it takes me back to when the series was new to all of us. I'm excited for the conclusion coming up soon, though I have to say I am also excited for it to be finally finished. The newness and excitement has worn off, eight movies over the course of several years will do that to anyone. Although, I will say, I look forward to reading these books with my kids one day, when they become old enough, as my parents did with me. There are many valuable lessons to be learned in these books, lessons even Muggles can learn. My favorites, and always relevant, will always remain: "We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are." And, to paraphrase "There comes a time when we must choose between what is right and what is easy." Oh, and by the way, I'm pretty sure all those were said by Dumbledore. 'Cuz he's awesome.
That is all.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Learning Doesn't Stop Outside of Class

Okay, so…I’ve never done this before. I made my own website when I was like…10 and went to one of those sweet Discovery camps, but I’ve never blogged. It can’t be that hard, it’s like a journal on the internet. I guess I’ll learn as I go! This is private because Fernbank would have to approve anything I say as an employee, so I’m hoping to loophole this since it’s a personal, private thing. Because really, I want to share this with you, and I don’t want to do it as a representative of the Museum, I want to do it as your friend and/or family member.

We’ve (Reid—fellow intern—and I) been doing this for over a month, and I’ve already learned more in June than I thought I would! Lucky for me, my majors in school focus on mammals and other primarily terrestrial animals. However, here at Fernbank, the focus is on mollusks, ancient animals, and kids. Yes, I link all three of those together as if they are all in the same category, because…let’s face it, they are. ;) The kids that visit are, for the most part, well behaved, intelligent, small people. But kids-r-kids, and some are really…well…kid like. Frankly, my dog listens better than some of these children. It happens, I know I wasn’t an angel when I was three either. I’m just sayin’.

So, back to my original point, I’m thankful that the information I’m learning here is not a constant repeat of the information I’m learning at Warnell. It’s nice to step away from school and still learn new things. But it's nice to be in the "real world" too, instead of taking more classes. Learning outside the classroom is just as, if not more beneficial to developing yourself..or I think so anyway. I'm learning not only natural resource information, but also people skills, diplomacy, respect, teaching skills, and I'm learning more about who I want to become.

People are hard to deal with. Let's face it. Even the most easygoing person out there isn't going to be pleased all the time. And the biggest thing is (this is where diplomacy comes into play), you can't just say what you want to say when you want to say it. Being in the public eye, and being a part of a big organization makes you double-check yourself before saying anything. It's hard to learn when to keep my mouth shut--thanks, Omi, I come by that honestly--but keeping your mouth shut and being diplomatic is SO important in a public-eye-job like this. For example...ever seen kid-leashes? I have. Even hand-cuff leashes with retractable know, like those dog leashes? Yeah. Mama, Daddy, did you ever want to put me on a leash? Maybe you, as parents, can shed some light on this trend? Please feel free to comment on this post if you have some insight.

But, I haven't bitten anyone...I haven't even considered it. Although, speaking of biting, my favorite question I've ever received from anyone at the museum is...."Does it bite?" This question occurs when I am helping with animal walkarounds (we take an animal or two out onto the museum floor so people can see them and kids 4+ can touch them...don't get me started on 4- kids that like to grab). So here I am, holding a leopard gecko (which by the way, isn't more than 8inches long, including it's fat tail), and I get asks if it bites. My usual response is..."can you bite?" "uh..yes?" "Well, so can it!" I then say something like, "If someone stuck their hand in my face or squeezed me or was mean to me, I'd consider biting them too." Is this scary for 6-year-olds? I'm trying to help them realize that yes, everything bites, but, I wouldn't let them touch this animal if I knew it was calm, and when correctly handled, wouldn't freak. Let me know if I shouldn't say that. I'm working on my patience, but I know that sometimes I can be blunt, and I don't want that to affect someone's museum visits.

Anyways, I think that's all for me, for now. I look forward to hopefully getting some comments! If not, that's cool too :)