Spring is for Rejuvenation

Singing Beach, Manchester-by-the-Sea

I am now an upperclassman.

Finals week flew by, and the conclusion of sophomore year with it. I’ve got an apartment, a bevy of on-campus jobs, study abroad plans, and some fantastic friend and academic plans heading into my first semester of junior year. It’s pretty surreal. Didn’t I just write “An Ode to Fall Semester”?

 I recall all the hesistancy I had last August, and wish I could reassure myself. It was a great year. Both semesters were phenomenally busy, but spring, like the season itself, was rejuvenating. I explored with North Shore with friends. I began running through the Chebacco woods at dusk. On weekends I read at my leisure. By taking fourteen credits, I was able to savor my classes. I was able to keep up with my classes as they got more difficult. Working with College Bound both enlightened and cheered me.

 By having a less stressful semester, I’ve discovered the keys to balance. Be strict with yourself. I’ve learned that my alone time can’t be forfeited. Seek God through everything. It is through Him, after all, that all things are possible. Take school seriously. One of the best tips I’ve heard is to treat academics like a professional job, and then have fun. Someone wrote on my dorm’s bathroom mirror: Time you enjoyed wasting was not time wasted. Enjoy people. Enjoy the outdoors, the sun, the ponds. Run often. Go to Boston for the afternoon, because you can. Sleep regularly.

 This summer, I’m staying on campus and interning for Student Development. I hope to continue maintaining balance – work, and then biking to the beach, reading on the Quad, movies, ice-cream at Captain Dusty’s, and swimming in Gull Pond. I want to enter junior year confidently, and use balance to savor the time.

Lessons Learned in Lynn

 

Some of the College bound tutors and kids at Curwin Circle, post-Spring-themed scavenger hunt. Leaves galore!

“What does that word mean?” asks Leanna, her fingers tracing circles in a dog-earred children’s book. She points. I-M-P-A-C-T. “Ihm…puh…I don’t know what that says.” She shakes her head impatiently.

“Impact, like bam! Boom! Thud! Things coming together to create a bigger sound.” I answer. Impact, like OCE‘s College Bound. Impact, like how this semester has been meaningful in showing me how I can make an impact. Impacts in the classroom, Boston, the dorm, the world. God has taught me over the past four months not to be fearful of social injustice. Be the catalyst, He has said, be the spark. Be meaningful. Make noise. 

Boom.

two tutors and a happy aiysha. (photo from heather davis)

Mendelssohn and Beethoven: Reflections on the Celebration of the Arts

 The A.J. Gordon Chapel echoed with Mendelssohn and Beethoven Saturday evening. The Gordon College music department held its bi-annual concert, and I was caught unaware. Walking from my dorm to Lane, I heard violins and thunder of drums from behind the chapel doors. Naturally, I decided to investigate. I was ushered on to the balcony, and greeted with this sight:
Violins, cellos, drums, flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, trumpets, and glorious music below. The Gordon Symphony Orchestra did not disappoint. The audience, a scattering of faculty, students, and Wenham community, sat attentively. The music was executed not only beautifully but also with great skill, led by conductor Bruce Hangen. I particularly liked Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” symphony.
“Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.!”

(Psalm 150)

 It was a great and spontaneous way for me to end the Celebration of the Arts – a week long festivity highlighting art, music, and theater from a variety of disciplines. Throughout that week, the Gordon community hosted in a variety of events that celebrated the arts. Waiting for Godot showed on stage, symposium asked “what is beauty?”, professor Bruce Herman created beautiful, T.S. Eliot inspired art, rapper Lecrae came to a solid out show, and artists such as producer Ralph Winter and theologian Jeremy Begbie spoke. All of the events I attended helped me to reflect thoughtfully on art, especially in light of exploring the heart of God in creation. Mendelssohn on Saturday was a capstone to a beautiful week.

A Typical Monday

March 26th, 2013.  Where has the semester gone? In days such as these, filled with learning and conversation and activity. I’m taking this post to fully appreciate the normalcy of my second semester, my Gordon life, by documenting my day.

My Mondays officially begin at 9:10 with Mandarin Chinese class. The five of us meet in KOSC and delve into Chinese culture and language. Today, we sang Chinese worship songs, learned travel vocabulary, studied the Qing dynasty, and read dialogues to practice our tones. 很有趣!

Chapel starts at 10:25, and today’s speakers were Dr. Ryan and Kelly Plosker. With a jovial rapport, they dually spoke on the gift of relationships. It was thought provoking, and not exclusive to romantic relationships, but all relationships due to our God-gifted relational faculty. Chapel band provided worship, and it soared to the ceilings. Monday mornings are the best with praise.

Post chapel at 11:30, I went to Gilles and picked up lunch on my way to work, stopping to chat with friends and check my mail (a magazine, a bill, and a letter from Grandma today).

Midday and afternoon I always work. Tuesday/Thursdays, I participate in OCE‘s College Bound program, tutoring first graders. Hilarity always ensues. Monday/Wednesday/Fridays, I work in Frost as a (get ready for it) administrative assistant to the administrative assistant of the Humanities/Social Science division. Whew. Despite this sounding important, I work on course evaluations and proctor exams. It’s fantastic to be somewhere where professors casually stop and chat and are personal outside of class.

 In the evening, I trek across the slushy quad to Jenks Library to study. Often this is fruitful, but today I was restless and needed to change study spots frequently.

Spot 1: the Jenks reference room. Too quiet today. 



Spot 2: Lewis lounge, too loud.

Spot 3: My desk, Lewis room 312. Just perfect

6:00 pm marked dinner at Gusto Cafe in Beverly, MA with a friend. Taking a breather from work was just what I needed (also some blueberries and great conversation).

My JAF debate group met at 8:00 pm for the rest of the night. Shameless plug: JAF every year holds a public debate on a crucial and relevant topic, and this year the resolution is the death penalty should be abolished. The affirmative case is comprised of me + six other ridiculously-intelligent-and-good-looking-individuals. We’re planning on winning, Chelsea.

Reflections on La Vida: Conquering and Adapting

Derrick, our mascot. He cheerfully accompanied us on our journey from day one of La Vida, to be deflated from a vicious pine tree on our Whiteface hike. C’est la vie.

…and the greatest people you’ll ever meet. My co-hikers for twelve days in the wilderness.

“Alright, Wesley, Savannah, Libbi – we called you three over here because you are all going to be LODs [leaders of the day] for our final hike. The climb and descent of Whiteface, oh you know, that mountain we’ve been walking towards for the past few days? Here’s a map, we won’t be there. But have fun, drink plenty of water, and we’ll see you in a few.”

…began the last day of hiking on La Vida. I stared incredously at my sherpas. I was being entrusted with leadership? With a mere map to ascend the fifth tallest mountain in New York? I was handed a watch with the incorrect time to accompany the map. Despite the sherpas reassuring me in their choice, I did not feel reassured. The rest of the night, I did not join in the festivities of GORP eating and ridiculous stories, I dwelled on the possibilities of tomorrow. Despite spending the last two weeks hiking, I did not feel ready to lead our group further into the wilderness without our sherpas. Little did I know what God and nature had in store for me the next day.

With a rousing chorus of “rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory!”, Wesley and I woke up our group to dawn, and the beginnings of a 8 – 6 hiking day. We explained our sherpas’ absences, and reassured them of our capabilities. Finding the trail, Wesley  pulled me aside. “Libbi, do you want to lead and I’ll take the rear? Savannah hold down the middle.” I agreed with an earnest prayer in my heart. Lord, let me not lead this group astray. Give me strength, endurance, clarity of mind, and positivity. With a map, compass, and broken watch in hand, we strode off into the pines.

GORP: hiking fuel, way of life.

We climbed over boulders. We scaled vertical switchbacks. We “charged up the mountain like Alpine mountain goats”. We were fearless, and bold, and Whiteface-conquers. Flushed and sweaty, it was triumphant to see all nine of us looking out over Lake Placid, where we had camped the night before. The colors of God’s creation were breathtaking and rejuvenating to our weary souls. We stood jubilantly on the ledge of the mountain, giddy with the victoriousness of our climb.

It was an unforgettable moment.

….and then our sherpas emerged from the path we were on, alarm scrawled on their faces. “There’s a thunder and lightening storm approaching, we need to run.” Run we did, jostling down the mountain with dark clouds threatening furious rain. Anxiety hovered over our group. If we seemed like mountain goats before, we were mountain lions running down Whiteface.

Reflecting later that night under a rain tarp, sitting in lightening position, we laughed over the ridiculousness of the situation. So is La Vida. You adapt.The unexpected occurs far more then the expected. La Vida taught me flexibility and adaptation in the face of pressure – and revealed my capabilities to flourish. The past few weeks, I’ve reflected on how I’ve been able to survive despite the enormous pressure of work, and I can only conclude that La Vida built that aspect of my character. Whether in the Adirondack wilderness or a KOSC classroom, I can adapt.

Apfelstrudel und Karl’s

World, meet Karl’s Sausage Kitchen‘s apfelstrudel in Peabody, MA. It’s deliciously Austrian and studded with raisins, oozing with apple jelly, a heathy dollop of schlagsahne on the side. My love for German food brings me here between classes. Over coffee and dessert, my friends and I reminisce over Europe, chocolate, and cobblestone streets before racing back to Gordon. French, German, English, and Swedish echo around our table - I feel at home. Karl’s is by far my favorite place on the North Shore.

Gordon Globes Equation

One little black dress and a pair of red velvet shoes…

 …a two minute walk to A.J. Gordon Chapel, three hours of Gordon Globes, four cookies consumed at CEC‘s after party (shhh), five friends, six memorable jokes cracked by the hosts, seven rounds of applause, and eight student-made videos…equaled a great time.

JAF & Eastern Orthodox Vespers

I found myself on a cold Saturday evening attending a church service at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary. Jerusalem and Athens Forum gathered for a night of cross-denominational dialogue, appreciation for tradition, and vespers at Chapel of the Holy Cross in Brookline, MA. I tenatively entered, and left feeling intellectually and spiritually satisfied. As Dr. Skedtros of Hellenic College vividly described it, the dome of the church contained “something magical”.

Inside Holy Cross Seminary Museum

(photo credit to Sarah McCarron!)

Incense greeted my nose, and baritone chants in staggered Byzantine Greek and English welcomed my ears. “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός, Ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.” The accoustic harmonies echoed off of the ceilings, adorned with gold icons and painted a rich blue. The church was dim, save for candles cermonially lit by the priest. Despite not being able to understand most of the singing, I felt the deep reverence for Christ from the Orthodox Christians filling the room. There was tenderness and adoration in the worship that created an atmosphere of profound praise.

Reflecting, I still cannot fathom what made that Saturday night vespers service “something magical”. The presence of God was there that night. Was it the rumbling harmonies of the chanters, or the constant sign of the cross made in prayer, or the clouds of incense? Was it because my senses and heart were overwhelmed? Could it of been my own reverence for tradition? Or perhaps the loving intentionality of all the Christians, regardless of denomination? It was all those things, and still more I do not understand and only appreciate. This service briefly exposed me to the mysteries of the Orthodox tradition, and I am left curious and perplexed.

On Choosing Gordon

“I am going away to a country where I shall have no past and no name, and where I shall be born again with a new face and an untried heart.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

When the blizzard died down on Sunday, I laced up my Bean boots and went on a two hour trek in the woods. I trudged through snow banks, feeling like a pioneer forging my own path. I took the snow path less traveled. The powder was daunting in some places, but I was courageous and travelled far, concentrating on the snowfall around me. Determination guided my footsteps. I wanted to create my own adventure.

This exemplifies much of my own Gordon journey. I’ve felt like a relentless adventurer. Pursuing a school in a region of the United States I am hardly acquainted with, wading in the waters of adulthood, tasting individualism thousands of miles away – it has been an incredible adventure. Forging my own path amongst the forests and Boston skyscrapers has given me the individualism I sought. On the East Coast, I truly have “no past” or “no name”. A vital part of venturing out from home is discovering a future and an identity.

This is apart of the reason I choose Gordon. I wanted to create my own adventure, my own story. I’ve found New England be whimsically and wonderfully romantic, the perfect location for my pioneer determination. But I also knew my “untried heart” would tried by questions of Christian intellectual community. I wanted my “new face” and my “new name” to be molded in Gordon’s God-fearing-and-loving nature. I wanted a tough, relentless pioneer adventure – seeking God in the wake of newfound adulthood and individualism. So, I took a step forward and arrived in a slight town-of-five-thousand named Wenham. My adventure hasn’t stopped.

A Reflection on “Sweeney Todd”

                                

 “Alright! You sir, you sir, how about a shave?
Come and visit your good friend Sweeney.
You sir, too sir? Welcome to the grave.

I will have vengenance.
I will have salvation.”

Saturday evening, I saw Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at Gordon’s Barrington Theatre. It was everything one could of hoped for in a Sondheim production: vocally and visually stunning. More impressive was that it was directed and produced by the Producer’s Society in partnership with GCSA, a student-founded organization.

Here is a short synopsis of Sweeney Todd for those not familiar with the play: Barber Benjamin Barker lives a happy life with his daughter and wife. One day, all of this is cruelly ripped from him by Judge Turpin, who desires his wife. Barker is sentenced to prison, becomes Sweeney Todd, and returns with revenge on his mind. What follows is utter chaos. Sweeney is a story of redemption, revenge, obsession, and love. It displays love in varying degrees. There is Sweeney Todd in his desperate love for his wife and love for revenge; Johanna and Anthony in their pure love that outlasts and overcomes; Judge Turpin in his forbidden love; and Mrs. Lovett in her unrequited love for Sweeney and financial prosperity. The story revolves around how love reflects in the characters, drives them, and causes both admirable and abdomiable things. It’s about extremes and boundaries. How as Christians, we need God’s grace and mercy to counter the innate human desire for sin. God provides those boundaries.

The cast did a remarkable job with their interpretation of the play. Admirable was how generous the actors were with their characters. Sweeney Todd, played by Ryan Coil, was bold and unapologetic. His portrayal of insanity left me torn between gasping at his actions and passionately agreeing with his quest for vengance. The audience was able to interactively ponder his motives and dubious morals. I appreciate how Sweeney posed quandaries and challenged viewers to think about their humanity.

“They all deserve to die. 
Even you, Mrs. Lovett 
Even I. 
Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief
For the rest of us death would be relief.”