Day in the Life

I love teaching on college campus. If you’re wondering what a typical Monday looks like, I’ll tell you. The day always begins with coffee, Bible reading, my prayer journal–a must to survive! After getting my children situated for school, I’ll drive to campus. This day began with a special treat: I ran into another faculty member. We chatted on a campus bench before her 9:00 AM class. Students streamed passed us and busses exhaled at their stops as we talked. Talking to other professors means we’ll inevitably swap teaching stories, but we also talk about our families, what we’re learning, and any new ideas we’ve had lately. I love being around creative and intelligent people. I always learn something new!

Then, I rushed off to my office to return several emails to provide feedback on student writing, write recommendations, or advise students. I share an office with two colleagues, so I love catching up with their life and work.

I met with three different students: one readying herself for medical school applications who needed help with her personal statement, one seeking personal, career, and class advice, and one wanting to talk through the sequence of his next essay. If you’re thinking about a career in teaching, let me prepare you: you’ll interact with many people in a day, and each conversation matters deeply. This is why you keep alert with snacks and coffee in your office!

Then, I walked through the sunshine to my teach my advanced writing classes in a building across campus. Each class is 50 minutes long and involves lecture, discussion, and writing. Of course, I always plan a “Name Game.” Today we talked about the highlights of our weekend and then worked on advanced grammar skills to hold the attention of the reader. When I leave class, I love it when students follow me out to talk about whatever is on their mind.

Then, it’s back home to greet my children and prepare dinner. I normally just have a few minutes to transition home. During the week a paper is due, students will email more frequently, so I devote more time in the evening to helping students improve their writing. Often, former students will email with writing questions or help with their resumes, and if I have the energy, I’ll answer a few of these before bedtime. So that’s my Monday! If you’re wondering when I blog, it’s whenever I have a free moment! I’m writing now before I clean the dinner dishes.

On Tuesday, I’m home writing, and I schedule ministry meetings in the afternoon. And that’s a day in the life.


A Cry of the Heart Answered 40 Years Later

I experienced the oddest but most powerful memory yesterday. I sat in our church’s sanctuary for the orientation for a food-packing event with Feed My Starving Children, a Christian non-profit that packs meals to send to starving children all over the world. I learned about how to pack at my station to make a meal to save a child’s life: the vitamins, the dried vegetables, the protein powder, and finally, the rice. I learned about where the food would go and the number of children it might feed.

But while we watched a video showing starving children, and then pictures of them months or years later after surviving on the meal packs from Feed My Starving Children, a vivid memory flashed through my mind. I was four years old, and I was watching television with a babysitter while my parents were out to dinner. A commercial came on–the first of its kind I’ve ever seen. It was, of course, Sally Struthers in her plea to save the Ethiopian children. As a four year old, watching other children starving to death on the television impacted me so deeply I remember feeling sick inside. I couldn’t stop crying about those dying children. When my parents returned home from their evening out, I remember my mother comforting me, but I just kept saying something like, “Can’t we just send them a pear?” I thought of the fruit I enjoyed every day. I thought of those children as I went to bed and as I moved on into a regular kindergarten day. But I never sent a pear, or anything else. I felt powerless and overwhelmed.

Although as time went on my husband and I supported children through various ministries, I never became involved with direct hunger relief as an adult. But as I sat in the sanctuary with my hair net on, ready to pack meals, I remembered that feeling I stored away as a little girl. I could now do something. I could now use my grown-up resources and wisdom to do something and choose organizations that knew how to actually get nutritious food to children. How far we’ve come in studies of nutrition! How far we’ve come in resourcing the right people on the ground to avoid corruption to get food to children. I especially noted the way Feed My Starving Children customizes their mobile food packs to feed children suffering from intestinal diseases when they can only digest certain foods or for babies ready to transition to solid foods.

I praised God that He directed me here at such a time. It felt like a fulfillment of a forty-year old ache that I hid away all this time. And now, onward! Onward to donate, to pack food, and to do what I now know I can do.


Little Sleep

When you have teens, you might feel like you did when your children were toddlers. You lose sleep! You stay up to make sure they’re OK. And if you host sleepover parties for all the friends, you may not really sleep at all. It made me laugh to think that these two seasons of life feel so similar. Both require a little extra grace for all.


“Because I had to write it.” –Ray Bradbury

My oldest daughter loves the public library. She likes to roam and find books, and this I love about her. She finds a Ray Bradbury book to read again since it’s been so long, and while she plucks Fahrenheit 451 from the shelf, I pick a collection of his short stories. I love what he writes in the introduction:

“Every story here was written because I had to write it. Writing stories is like breathing for me. I watch: I get an idea, fall in love with it, and try not to think too much about it. I then write: I let the story pour forth onto the paper as soon as possible.”

I think some of us hide stories within that we must write and we must pour forth as soon as possible, but for some reason, we don’t give ourselves the time and permission to do so. Well, I hope you will.

Maybe, like Ray Bradbury, we should try not to think too much about this idea we have. Maybe, like him, we should just write.


4 Very Easy Dinners

It’s been such a busy past few weeks, so I’ve found myself so thankful for some very easy dinners (three invented by my husband). If you have limited time, try some of these:

Buy a bag of cooked and frozen grilled chicken strips. Or cook all your chicken on the weekend, and slice and freeze until ready to use. This same bag of cooked chicken can make the following: 1). Chicken Caesar Salad (use bagged salad from Trader Joe’s–my favorite!–and add in some peas and sliced onion. This will take you 5 minutes). 2). Chicken Tacos. Heat your chicken strips, heat soft taco shells, heat up black beans, and serve with salsa, cheese, and lettuce. 3). Chicken Parmesan. Cook pasta, heat chicken. Place chicken under the broiler with fresh parmesan and mozzarella. Serve with heated marinara sauce.

#4. Soup and Sandwich / Salad: When you’re tired of variations of the chicken theme, don’t forget the delicious boxed soups from Trader Joes (we love the roasted red pepper). Serve bowls of soup alongside grilled cheese sandwiches that take only a few minutes to make. For healthier folks, you can eat your soup alongside a tossed salad full of veggies.

So you have four nights of easy meals. For the other nights, try fish (so fast under the broiler–either salmon or cod) with some steamed broccoli and rice, the ever-popular Breakfast for Dinner (omelets or pancakes), or pita pizzas (use pita bread for crust!). So there you go! I hope this helps your meal planning for next week.


Something Unique

Today I thought about dactyloscopy–the art of fingerprinting. Penn State requires fingerprinting as part of our clearances to work with children, and since I’m volunteering at the local high school for a writing conference, I traveled for fingerprinting today.

It’s truly amazing if you think about it. I learn that your fingerprints are more unique than your DNA. No two people ever, in the history of the world, have been found to contain the same fingerprints.

There’s truly no one else like you! It’s amazing to think about. You leave your own mark on the world, literally.


Stop and Marvel

As I walked back to the parking garage after teaching classes yesterday, I felt the weight of a long day upon me. I could hardly put step after step.

But then, I hear the giggles and cooing of two college girls who had their phones tilted down towards a little squirrel who sat perched on a column. I stopped and watched. Then I added my own giggles into the mix.

The squirrel just sat by us and methodically and greedily munched an apple. We could pet him if we wanted to. I didn’t feel so tired and gloomy anymore. Instead, I felt awash with wonder. The squirrel event felt so whimsical–a key feature of living with flair!

I briefly considered that I was in the presence of the celebrity squirrel, Sneezy. You haven’t heard of Sneezy? You must know Sneezy! Sneezy lets Mary Krupa make little outfits for him and dress him. You can see all the photos on his Facebook page if you don’t believe me. It’s here: I love the photo of Sneezy with a top hat and cane. Here’s a peek below. Mary takes these photos and doesn’t edit them at all. The squirrel is really wearing the hat and holding the cane!

Photo by Mary Krupa of Sneezy the Penn State Squirrel

You can read more about Mary in a news report from Penn State here. The fact that I know about a celebrity squirrel–and that I perhaps encountered him (but upon closer inspection, I do think they are different squirrels!)–counts as living with flair today.


In Just One Generation

Something strange has been happening to me. I’ve been praying like never before in my life for a great revival in the US among young people. Are you doing the same thing? Mostly, I pray about deception, fear, and anything that blinds their eyes to who Jesus really is. It’s an odd feeling to want to prayer so fervently. It makes me think we’re all due for another Great Awakening.

But this morning, I discovered a sobering verse that fueled my prayers more than ever. In Judges 2:10-11, we read this: “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals.”

Can you believe it? In just one generation? The new generation described here “did not know the Lord” nor anything about His work or great miracles. How could that be? How in the world would an entire generation forget about the parting of the Red Sea, the manna, the quail, the commandments? How could they not even know the stories?

It reminds me of the day I played some of my favorite songs for my students. So many of them had never heard the music–whether Dave Matthews or Phil Collins or anything I might play from the early 90’s. It’s like their parents never introduced them to it, so it became lost. They didn’t know the words or the melodies. I feel that’s true for so many children and teens in our communities. They don’t know the music of the gospel. They don’t know the words.

I felt a fresh zeal to keep speaking about the things of the Lord, to teach His word wherever I go, and to think of new ways to impart truth to the next generation. Join me!


My Best Thought

At the time of this writing, I’ve written over 3,500 blog posts, numerous articles, eight books, and countless academic essays including a thesis and dissertation. And I’ve spoken over 100 times to various audiences in various contexts. And I’ve read more books than I can mention.

That’s a lot of words. Probably too many. I think about all these words this morning as worshippers begin to sing one of my favorite hymns. In Be Thou My Vision, based on the Irish Christian poem by Dallan Forgaille and then translated by Eleanor Hull, we hear this beautiful line about God:

. . . Thou my best Thought by day or by night. . .

The best thought! I’m frozen in place by the phrase.

I think about everything I could ever possibly think or know or speak or write. I think of the highest and best of any possible knowledge I might hear. And I conclude this:

My best thought is Jesus.

I think of the excellency and supremacy of Christ written about in the book of Colossians (1:15-20). Paul writes this about Jesus:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

We know that Jesus is the One the whole world will one day acknowledge. He is the One! I affirm the truth of Philippians 2 about Jesus:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

I think about how Paul had no greater thought and no greater message. In fact, he said that he would venture to speak of nothing else except what Christ had accomplished in him (Romans 15:18). As I grow closer to God, I can think of no better thought but Jesus.


When in Central Pennsylvania

If you live in Central Pennsylvania, you’re going to meet hunters. You’re going to become friends with hunters. You’re going to find they deliver you gifts of spicy venison sausage which you have no idea how to handle. And even though you mostly don’t each much meat, you’ll try a slice of it or fry it as they suggest, and then you realize you love it. You secretly wish for more.

Then you find out that your hunter friends have 60 or 70 more rolls of venison sausage stored up for the year. Then you realize that if anything ever happened to you, your home, or your food source, they would save you with their stores of meat. They also have all the vegetables you’d ever need–either canned or pickled or frozen.

I talk to my students about the venison sausage, and those from around these parts know that of course you survive off the land and the animals. Of course you eat rabbit, squirrel, bear, and deer. Don’t forget birds and fish. And everyone has a backyard smoker. It’s how they grew up and it’s what they know. So to inhabit the world of it, you at least try some venison sausage.

Welcome to my world.