Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” -John 4:10

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps. –Proverbs 16:9

In May 1997, I received a bachelor of arts in Earth Science at Trinity University. After muddling around with thoughts of being a journalist, I sort of fell into the Geology Department at Trinity. I wasn’t great in the sciences and math, but I have always had a deep fondness for both because they seem to hold answers to questions I harbor in my heart about the earth and space. Truthfully, someone with a true science bend could find the answers I sought in a few well chosen books or by just subscribing to “Scientific American,” but the major enticed me through relationship. While working for the school yearbook, I interviewed several of the Geology professors. I fell in love with their warmth and generous spirit and decided to take a class, and then another, until, settling into a major through the department felt inevitable. I truly had a curiosity for rocks and geologic formations; I even wrote about this in my college entrance exam, but the relationships are what drew me.

The Geology professors all loved a good discussion about life and philosophy and science. This was my favorite aspect of life in the Geology Department. None of them ever lorded themselves over a student or acted like they didn’t have time for my questions. In fact they really cared about their work and their students. With these professors I could ask questions freely and receive well thought out meaningful answers, or enter into a dialogue where my opinion was respected. This was so different than middle school and high school where my science teachers met me with blank stares and stumbled through ridiculous answers or babbled on in what seemed like another language that left me feeling as if I would never really get it.

Most of my young adult life wrapped around a search for meaning and life purpose. I wanted the most out of life. I was introspective, yet unaware of myself because I could dream beyond myself so easily. After settling on Geology, I began to dream about graduate school and beyond. I heard about groups of people doing work in Uganda to help bring clean water systems to impoverished areas. This struck a chord in my heart. Providing clean water to everyone world-wide is really crucial work in treating the ill effects of poverty. This seemed to go hand in hand with my desire to make a lasting difference in people’s lives and in the world. I felt if I could meet people’s physical needs, I might also have opportunity to share my faith. Perhaps God would use me to meet both people’s physical and spiritual thirst which could in turn heal both their physical and spiritual sicknesses. I set my sights on becoming a Hydrologist and studying ground water systems.

The practical work of a scientist and mathematician may be as far as one can get from relational work. Classes like Hydrology and Geomorphology quickly brought home the reality of life as a field geologist and mathematician. The majority of this work is done in labs and in front of a computer. Very little of it is conducted outdoors or through theoretical and philosophical discussion. I liked theory, not practical. I liked people and conversations, not long hours in a lab studying maps and specimens and running computer models. The first semester of my junior year was miserable. I spent long hours laboring over labs, homework, and studying. Most days of the week I pushed myself until early morning hours just to complete a class assignment and study. I slept only 4 to 6 hours a night and hoped to catch up on the weekend. This clearly was not my thing. But where did that leave me? I was already half way through college. It was too late to change majors and life direction if I ever wanted to finish in four years.

The week before Thanksgiving, I had a sort of meltdown. On top of the sciences I also took an Ethics class that semester. My Ethics professor left a note on a journal assignment asking me to call and make an appointment to discuss my class journals. I called and he pressed for me to come in right away, which meant forgoing a small Geology Department get together before the holiday. In addition, I had just finished a discussion with my advisor about the possibility of withdrawing from a class. My 17 hour load of sciences and labs was clearly overwhelming. But withdrawing meant summer school and skipping coveted opportunities for geology related field work. I didn’t want to discuss Ethics journals. I wanted to go to the party and then brood about what all this meant in the face of my life purpose. I told my Ethics professor that I didn’t think I could make it in that day. “Couldn’t I come in the morning?” He insisted that I should come that afternoon, so I reluctantly agreed, feeling as though missing the party was a sign of missing out on the life of my dreams.

I remember walking to his office in the rain. My life seemed muddled and cloudy and messy, just like the world around me. My professor told me that my journals were not exactly what he was looking for. It seems that rather than taking an academic approach to philosophy, I was taking a personal approach and writing how I felt and what I personally thought about the applicability of each philosophy we read. He wanted something more abstract and distant. He wanted me to look at the philosophers outside myself. I started to cry. Humiliation and frustration and sadness overwhelmed me and I could not hold in the mess any longer. I tried to apologize and said, “I’m sorry, please go on, I know I can fix the journals, I’ve just had a really bad day.”

What a kind man that professor proved to be. He finished describing how my journals should look while handing me a box of tissues, and then said, “Okay, now that we have that out of the way, what is happening in your life that is so troubling?” I reluctantly shared with him all the problems I faced and he said, “You’re trying to live and plan your whole life out in four years of college! You have no idea what to expect from life. And although life is short, you have plenty of time to finish school and travel the world and change your career and life goals over and over. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to figure it all out right now.”

I left his office and withdrew from the Hydrology class that afternoon. The weights I had strapped to my back lessened a bit, and I began to pray about what God wanted from me. A woman at church pulled me aside not long after this. She said she felt like she needed to share a scripture with me from Matthew 6:33. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” So I continued to pray and did what I knew I could do by way of “seeking.”

There were no lightning bolts or signs that showed me THE WAY, just a quiet question in my heart: “What did you enjoy from this semester?” There was not much. I had spent little time with my friends from all the studying I did. My classes were obviously not as rewarding as I imagined they would be. But there was one thing I truly looked forward to, without stress. About twice a month I mentored a small group of middle school students for 4 hours at a time through a program called “Saturday Morning Experience.” I planned activities and lessons for them that would extend their education outside the classroom. We went on fieldtrips and wrote plays and had fun. My first awakening into who I am and where I am gifted was rooted in mentoring that group of kids.

At the close of the 1995 fall semester, I registered for spring classes and included a one hour education practicum class. I had taken a few education survey classes early on in college because teaching was always in the back of my mind, but had abandoned the idea to my dreams of providing fresh water for dying people. (Teaching did not seem nearly as noble as saving lives, as far as life purposes go!) That spring, the math teacher I had been observing fell ill and could not find a substitute teacher that felt comfortable in a math class. She asked me to teach a few of the classes with the substitute looking on. I agreed and set to work planning for the next day. I enjoyed myself and the classes I taught. The substitute used my lessons and example to teach the classes I could not attend. The following week my practicum teacher left a message for me. She expressed her gratitude and told me that after quizzing the students, not one was behind. They had all done well under my instruction. She said, “You’re a great teacher. Thank you.” It was the awakening I needed. I was a teacher. Why had I abandoned that? After praying and seeking wise counsel, I knew I needed to pursue a teaching degree. I didn’t know how it would all work out, but there was no longer any doubt about God’s direction.

Trying to change the course of a degree usually means at the least an extra semester in college. My parents were not willing to pay for an extra semester at Trinity. I had to work it out to graduate on time. After pouring over the courses book and praying desperately that the Lord would work out the details, we found our answer! The year I entered school at Trinity (fall 1993) the Geology Department offered a BA in Earth Science. The degree was taken out of the course books in 1994, but because my first course book held that degree I could still pursue it! My advisor and I worked out a plan to change my major from a BS in Geology to a BA in Earth Science. This freed up space for me to take the necessary education classes. By some grand miracle, I only had to take one summer class to fit the education program into my major and graduate on time.

After working toward a masters in teaching, teaching in the public schools, traveling the United States and the world, becoming a wife and a mom, starting a tutoring business, running a credit recovery program, teaching in a private school, and now staying home to take care of my family, home school, and write memoirs, I can see what my philosophy professor meant about life. I would add what Jesus said, though, to his wisdom: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” It is only Jesus who can offer what will quench the deep thirst of our hearts. Until I sought God’s perspective on my life, I couldn’t see my life. Life will just happen, and much of it we never could anticipate, but God sees what we do not. Truly, the scope and purpose to one person’s life cannot be figured out in a college degree or a career or a philosophy journal, but placing the HIGHEST importance on the one who is right and good and true will open doors that lead somewhere right and good and true. Walking those roads with others who also seek the paths of righteousness will allow for partnerships and shared loads. And one day, we will all look back and see that though our eyes were on the rulership of God, his eyes were on adding abundance and fulfillment to our lives.

As an after-thought to this memoir, our dreams sometimes have a way of presenting themselves in new forms. Although I will never dig wells in Africa, I recently came across a really great non-profit group that will: Lifewater International (https://www.lifewater.org/). They are real people who traveled to Mexico in the late 1960s and saw a need they could meet. The Ashe family had a successful water pump business. Rather than horde their resources, they chose to give of themselves and donate their time and equipment to areas that needed clean water. This act of love and care developed into an international group dedicated to providing clean water and Living Water to poor areas all over the world. Although they reach the globe, the staff is personable and down to earth. They take the time to send hand written notes and each donation, no matter how small is received with gratitude. I believe this grass roots organization is making a difference, and I am blessed to support their work in any small way that I can. If you have a heart for the poor in this world, consider giving water through Lifewater International.


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2 comments:

    Pilgrim said...

    I didn't realize this part of your story - I guess I figured you were always meant to be a teacher! This week I also learned that kids can take "field trips" to the Vulcan plant near Orsinger park - you can go down into the quarry and look at rocks with the kids! Seeking Him first we always end up in the right place- though rarely the place we thought we'd be!

  1. ... on October 31, 2009 at 10:57 PM  
  2. Beth said...

    Thanks for the tip about the Vulcan plant! I'll have to look into it. My kids love rocks too! We have all sorts of rock collections in the back yard. Caleb is quite the excavator. He also has a growing collection of old toys, keys, money, etc. that he digs up from days gone by. They would love to go somewhere with the intent of looking for rocks.

  3. ... on November 5, 2009 at 8:15 AM