Strength for Today

Sorry for the lack of posts. I wish I had some deep excuse like how busy my schedule was or that my computer crashed, but the reality is I’ve been struggling to sleep. And when I don’t sleep, anything bad seems 200 times worse, ya know?

But even in this sleep-deprived state, I feel that my relationship with God has grown stagnant. I’ve been so tired, so lulled into routine, that I have forgotten how to dream. The tests and assignments seem so urgent, and my dreams seem so distant. But if there is anything that I’ve learned in my life is that a stagnant spiritual life is when our enemy loves to attack. After all, as C.S. Lewis talked about in Screwtape Letters, that the best road to hell is the gentle grassy one, with no turnings, no sign-posts.

One week ago I was sitting on my bed watching Netflix (as you do as a college student) and one of the worst things happened: a panic attack. For those of you who don’t know anything about panic attacks, they are sudden feelings of foreboding. When people have their first panic attack, they usually go to the hospital–I would know, I’ve worked in the ER. Your heart starts to race, your hands start to shake, you feel dizzy as if the world is spinning around you. You start to increase you breathing, leading to hyperventilating that causes numbness in your arms and legs, and may even lead to unconsciousness.

And while I am better equipped to deal with panic attacks than most, they are still quite the ordeal. I slow down my breathing, and know not to walk so as to not trigger dizziness. And while my physical symptoms may be managed, the feeling of foreboding doom lingers. And then I had another panic attack, and another, and another.

I hardly slept more than a few hours, but I woke up refreshed. Crazy, right? Here I am, sleeping nine hours and feeling like I haven’t slept, and the I don’t sleep and feel refreshed. And I could chalk it up to a crazy coincidence, but I am not that naive. Only an act of God could have seen me thought the panic attacks and given me rest.

I have often, in this time of depression, found myself praying a line from the song Great is Thy Faithfulness. I recently rediscovered this timeless hymn, and it has become my anthem.

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

The greatest misconception about the Christian life is that it is, in any way, easy. It’s not, and our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion. So many times I find myself praying for temporal comfort. “Don’t let it be too cold.” “I want to do well on this test.” Or I even pray, presuming that I deserve the blessings of God, saying prideful things like, “Show them they wronged me.” “I deserve to do well in school.” Looking at my nearly nonexistent prayer life, I have realized how much I rely on myself.

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” Regardless if you blame my fatigue on depression, the harsh rigors of nursing school, or anemia, truth is I don’t have strength for today. It is hard to get out of bed, let alone be motivated, when I feel so exhausted. For several months now, I have been dealing with deep feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and defeat. When I look inside myself for answers, I get more discouraged. I don’t have the answers, or anything even close, but my God does.

And I want to hope. I want to hope so deeply. And not just petty hopes, like I hope my heath will improve, I hope my depression will lessen, I hope I will graduate nursing school. Yes, these are good thing that I do hope for, but I want something more. I want an everlasting hope.  I want a hope that endures all harms and enhances all joy. Something that endures all hardship, all the good and all the bad in my life.

It is my hope that Christ will continue to work in my life. This week I have felt the sins that so easily entangle. They call out to me and seem so comforting. But his soul belongs to Jesus and I must not listen to the siren call of what the world may deem “good.”

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” There is so much life in this song. I am continually reminded that my strength is ever ebbing and God’s strength is ever flowing. I look back and reflect and am amazed at God’s faithfulness. Many times an uncertain future awaits me, and perhaps you feel the same way. And I cry out, “Lord, is this delay undo death?” And he so kindly looks at me, “This delay is not unto death, but unto the glory of God.”

So, if the ashes bring glory to God, let the fires come.

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Nursing School Burnout–An Honest Look at Stress

I had been looking forward to October 19 for almost a year: the day that the next season of Daredevil was to be released on Netflix. But when it was released, something happened that shook me to the core. As I began to watch those first few episodes I felt nothing. It was like I had become completely hollow and I could not find any enjoyment in watching any of it. I didn’t feel any emotion for the characters, any enjoyment in the spectacular filmography, or any satisfaction in the plot–and I was afraid. And this alerted me to a far more sinister and insidious fact–I had passed burned out a while ago and was headed for dangerous territory.

Most people know that nursing school is stressful–in fact I would be hard pressed to find someone who thought it was easy. But I believe there is quite a difference between causing your students some stress and causing your students to be burned out. Being burned out should never be a “normal” part of nursing school no matter what your teachers tell you.

It is hard to describe the feeling of burnout to someone who has never experienced it. Imagine everything going wrong it all being your fault along with a healthy scoop of depression, and you might have an idea of what burnout is like.

My personality became warped. I didn’t want to hang out with friends or even leave my apartment. I didn’t feel like working on my homework, that was nothing new, but I also didn’t feel like reading the books I loved or writing. It was as if the enjoyment of all things had been taken from me. I began to lack confidence in even the smallest tasks, believing that I couldn’t do anything correct. No matter how well prepared, I felt as if I wasn’t. With the lack of motivation, along with procrastination, homework began to pile up. I found myself wanting to do nothing but sit on my computer watching videos, and even then I didn’t find any enjoyment. I began not to care–and that is something dangerous for nurses. I didn’t care that my studying may someday help a patient–and that gave me the chills. And the only things going through my head were negative. “I can’t do this.” “I will never be good enough.” “I don’t deserve to be alive.” “I will never change the world.”

Slowly, my body also began to show the effects of stress. Food no longer appealed to me, and even when I did eat, the food didn’t taste good. I didn’t feel like straightening my hair, putting on makeup, or brushing my teeth. Soon, even showering became a challenging task. No matter how much sleep I got, I never felt rested. And when I laid down to sleep, sleep would elude me for hours.

All of this weighed on me and my soul. I can’t put it any better than Annie F. Downs, so I wont.

I felt like a person I didn’t even know.

I had never felt so tired. And no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t take enough naps or sleep in enough days to counteract whatever was going on in my body. That was what scared me, I think. It wasn’t that I was having all these negative sad thoughts. It’s not like I was crying myself to sleep. I wasn’t doing that at all, actually. Instead, it was more like my body folded in and simply gave up.

Knowing God, Annie F. Downs

And even though I am in a better place now, the negative thoughts are still there. The voices have not stopped. But this begs the question: who is to blame? The unreasonable expectations of nursing school? Personal weakness and lack of commitment? My learning disabilities that make school much more difficult for me? Personal history of feeling down (depression)?

And I wish that I was here today to talk about how I overcame burnout and how you can too, but I haven’t. It is finally the start of winter break, and I am beginning to rebuild myself. Some days are better than others, and although I am in a much better place than the middle of the school year, I still struggle daily. Rebuilding yourself is not something that happens overnight, it takes work and struggle. And I could sit here all day and ask who is to blame, but that is not the answer I am looking for. I want to know how to fight this, because one thing I do not do easily is give up. I am looking for healing.

I did it [pray] because sometime healing is immediate, and that’s certainly God’s kindness, but sometimes healing doesn’t happen like we picture it, and somehow that’s God’s kindness too.

Knowing God, Annie F. Downs

I knew that however it had gotten to this point, I could not undo the damage alone. I felt angry at God, after all it is because he called me to nursing that I was perusing it in the first place. How could he let me walk thought something like this again?

And I sat here wondering how this could be God’s kindness. And I don’t know the full answer yet. But I do know that I have an amazing strength and endurance. People have called me inspirational, and I really don’t know how to take it. While I have never given up, let me tell you it has come close. I don’t perceive myself as strong, and certainly not as inspirational, more like a cautionary tale. I have had to rebuild myself from the ground up more than once–and I am better for it.

In the end, I am only sure of one thing: God is faithful. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. And I lost sight of both of those things. I failed to see who I was in Christ, and that my value never rested in my grades. I lost sight of the goal, not only to be a nurse, but to be a nurse for the glory of God.

My goal is not to be the best nursing student, my goal is to be equipped to alleviate suffering to the best of my ability. I feared the delaying of my dreams, as if I could never accomplish what I had been put on earth do to.

And I know that some of you reading this blog see me using Christianity as some kind of crutch and that I’m being preachy. And others of you might see me as preaching to the choir. But this is the truth as I see it. Apart from Christ I could not have endured this burnout; apart from Christ I will never accomplish anything worthwhile.

I have felt that the healing process has began, but I know that it is still a long road to recovery. And in some ways, I will be dealing with some of these issues and feelings for the rest of my life. But I’m learning to be OK with that. But for now, let me leave you with this poem about Andrew Barton:

I am hurt but not slain.

I’ll lay me down and bleed a while,

Then I’ll rise and fight again.

So today I lay down and rest so that tomorrow I can stand and fight.

The Power of Someone who Cares

This past week I began watching an episode of BBC’s Ambulance. I was excited for this episode because I knew there was a car accident and status asthmaticus featured. But simple kindness moved me far more than medical science ever can.

The 999 call came in for an older gentleman with a history of chronic heart disease found with chest pain, then he collapsed. Immediately an ambulance and advanced cardiac care team was dispatched. Before the ambulance team arrived, the patient stopped breathing and their wife began CPR. When the ambulance crew arrived it was clear that the patient had died.

And then and there a subtle, yet critical, change began.

The wife became the patient.

The ambulance team began CPR with no EKG change. One of the two-man ambulance team went to be with the recent widow. He held her hand and gently told her the situation. That all their efforts would not bring her husband back.

And my heart broke.

I didn’t know this man nor his wife. Usually situations like this do not effect me, it is quite par for the course in the medical field. But the way they didn’t stop CPR until they informed her of the situation touched me. He held her hands when the stopped CPR and just sat in silence. Something beyond the job description, yet so important. They quietly took off the EKG leads, closed his eyes, and combed his hand back.

The gently carried him back to his bed, dressed him in his former favorite clothes, and tucked him into bed. A gesture so simple, yet I was moved deeply. The crew began to reminisce about other similar calls where the patient died. They have made tea and coffee, made a sandwich or two, and even walked a dog once. It is these simple and kind gestures in times of great suffering that often do more that the whole of medical science.

It is quite easy to get caught up in all the heroics and life-saving stuff of the medical field. But sometimes you can’t save the patient. Sometimes there is not cure. But even in those times we have the ability to make a difference, if only we remember kindness.

“13 Reasons Why” Christians Need Psychology

Most of you are aware of Netflix’s new series (Well, I guess it is not new anymore…) named 13 Reasons Why based off of a book of the same name. Both the book and TV series explore the 13 reasons that the main character committed suicide. The reason she committed suicide was a mix of desperation and a desire for revenge. In reality, the reason people commit suicide is because they believe that death is preferable to life. They are going through so much suffering that they can’t even imagine a place of worse suffering. While 13 Reasons Why is wildly inaccurate with the psychology, at least it has gotten people to talk about depression and suicide. While I would never recommend watching the series or reading the book, I do believe that there is a desperate need within society to talk about depression and suicide, especially in the Church.

So, without further ado, the following are “13 Reasons Why” Christians need psychology.

(1) Psychology struggles to understand “why”

Psychology tends to ask two questions: “How?” and “Why?” In much the same way Christianity also asks these same questions, but in a slightly different context. “How did the world get to the state that it is in? How can I gain salvation?” and once the person becomes a Christian, “Why do I keep choosing my way over God’s?” Psychology, like Christianity, struggles to understand the human condition. Many think that everything within psychology is based on the thought that there is no God, but that is simply not the case. Some Psychologists are Christian, while others are not, just like any other branch of science. If anything, psychology allows for a God more than any other science.

(2) Many things in the field of psychology agree with the Bible

One thing that psychology and Christianity agree on is that this world is messed up. Within the lens of Christianity, we know this is because of sin and living in a fallen world. In psychology it is attributed to living in a non perfect world and often due to the wrong behaviors of others. Aka, both Christianity and psychology believe that (in one way or another) both man and the world are flawed. I could go on and on about this topic about the similarities between many treatment methods used in counseling, and how nearly identical methods are described in the Bible, but those are topics for a different time.

Recently I was reading the book Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. He begins to talk about how many Christian fail to listen to those whom they are trying to convert–or even simply in a relationship. We fail to see others as people rather than projects. Within the Gospels, we see Jesus first listen to people then give advice. We are to follow his example. If Christians would just slow down, shut up and listen, there would be much less need for psychologists. Because at the deepest level, we just long to be listen to and understood by someone else. We all just want to be loved as we are.

(3) The scope of psychology is broad and not all that is under psychology is addressed in the Bible

Let me get straight to the point, the Bible is not sufficient for everything in psychology. The scope of psychology is very broad. From strokes, to learning disorders, to traumatic brain injuries (I will talk about these later on) the Bible only talks about how we should act toward those people. Nowhere in the Bible does it talk about reading strategies for people for dyslexia. What we know about dyslexia, and how to “manage” dyslexia comes from psychology.

The point that I am trying to make is this: the Bible tell us to love our neighbors, but not how to love our neighbors. Loving someone who has had a stroke isn’t always baking casseroles, sometimes it is teaching them how to read again. And what branch of science studies the brain and how it works? Psychology and Neurology (there is quite a bit of overlap). The greatest commandments are to love God and to love others as yourself. That is never in question. But psychology is much more than trying to make people happy. It has much to do with regaining function. Believe it or not the goal is not to make the person happy, but to equip them to deal with their emotions in healthy ways. Depression isn’t cured when the person feels happy, depression has been treated successfully when that person can reintegrate into their life.

(4) Stroke

A stroke is when part of the brain in damaged, either from bleeding in the brain, or a clot in the blood vessels in the brain. Depending on the severity, strokes can have temporary or permanent damage to the brain. We know what part of the brain controls what because of strokes. By looking at the symptoms of the stroke, we can determine what part of the brain is damaged. It is often (medical) doctors and psychologist that work together and create a plan of care. Perhaps this one goes more into the realm of neurology, but it is still studied by psychologists to understand the brain better.

(5) Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is just that, an injury to the brain. It can be from external forces such as a concussion from a sports game or car crash. There are also hypoxic brain injuries that occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen. More recently, there has been more and more media attention to the dangers of TBI’s, specifically from concussions in football. We know that depression is sometimes related to parts of the brain being injured because we can see evidence from the people with TBIs. We know that if certain parts of the brain is injured, the person experiences hallucinations. Meaning that just because someone is seeing things, doesn’t mean they are possessed. Someone can lose sight with a blow to the back of the head, and because of people like Phineas Gage we know that damage of frontal lobe leads to personality changes.

(6) Learning Disabilities (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, etc.)

I have dyslexia, so let me debunk a few “Christian” myths. Yes, I struggled for years to read my Bible, not because I didn’t love God, or didn’t want to hear what he had to say, but simply because I could not read well enough for comprehension. If someone had stopped pointing their fingers at me saying that I didn’t love God, and read aloud to me the words or the Bible, I could understand the Bible. It wasn’t until middle school that I could read my NIrV Bible and could read the word of God for myself with complete comprehension of the content.

I was diagnosed by a psychologist. It was a psychologist that planned my extra classes to help me catch up to my peers. It is psychology that is making great leaps to understanding the mechanisms with learning disabilities.  There were many nights that I prayed I would no longer be dyslexic because I was being bullied at my church and school by adults and children for my reading skills. God said no, and I believe that he has a plan to work through me, even if I can’t see it yet. What if churches reached out to individuals with learning disabilities instead of ostracizing them? How many live would be saved, changed, and rearranged?

(7) Special Needs Children are precious to God too

This topic is one of my passions. Few things make me as angry as a church not caring for special needs children. Are we not commanded to care for “the least of these”? Is not the child with down syndrome the least of these? What about my friend with autism, doesn’t God care about her too? Far too often the church is more concerned with her outward image. We fear to associate with people different from us, as if we could “catch” what they have. But I invite you to watch the Drop Box, or at least read my article (Christianity in Action: The Dropbox). South Korea has more plastic surgery than any other country. The image you present is paramount within the society. But within the city of Seoul (the capital), Pastor Lee cares for children that were abandoned by their parents, often because they had disabilities. It is the authentic love of Christ that enables Pastor Lee to care for those children.

Do not these children deserve love and care? God has not forgotten them, and he has heard their plight. It seems (at least from what I have seen) the only people fighting for them are their parents and psychologists. Perhaps, Church, if you spent a little more time caring for people, and a little less time hating them, you could see how God loves all people.

(8) Mental, Sexual, and Physical abuse signs

As sad as it is, abuse still happens in the Church. In the past few years near where I live, Christian parents were arrested for torturing their children. You read that right: torture. These parent attended a local Church where they were involved with many ministries and even adopted children from a foreign country. Their children were starved, threatened, beaten, etc. While some members of the church suspected something, police and other church member failed to act. It was only after years of torture that the parents were arrested. This is why we need to know the signs of mental and sexual abuse in addition to the signs of physical abuse. Just because a child is in the church does not mean the child is safe. Justice is caring for those people who cannot protect themselves: children who are abused, a battered wife, and anyone going through any kind of abuse. The thought that a church wouldn’t learn these signs because “they are not in the Bible” astounds me–in a bad way. The Bible is sufficient for everything in spiritual life, but not everything in life. And before you stone me, let me explain! The Bible isn’t going to give you driving directions, it is not going to teach me how to properly insert an IV (I’m a nursing student), it doesn’t have recipes. Knowing the signs of abuse is practical and vital in a church that cares about the community.

(9) Depression is more common in the Church than we would like to admit

There are two causes of depression: situational and chemical. I shouldn’t even have to talk about situational, but it seems the church has missed the point. One of my friends was struggling with depression (due to a situation) and began to self-harm. The church rather than coming along side her, gave her a 10 page packet about how she was going to Hell, citing Bible verses out of context. Christianity is a compassionate call. If you don’t know, compassion is “suffering with.” When the church refuses to come alongside its struggling members, it is tantamount to telling them to go to Hell. I don’t know how else to phrase the church’s indifference to depression. It is as if they have pulled the trigger themselves. I believe that God will hold them responsible, and that seems to be the only justice I will get.

Depression is more than just a feeling of sadness, but the lack of any other emotion.  “When you listen to people describe their depression, you will hear two extremes. People will report that the pain is so intense that they want to die. Others will describe an emotional numbness in which they are already dead. Sometimes you will hear one person describe living with both extremes simultaneously.” (Source: Blame it on the Brain [book]) Where is your compassion?

And even if the person has caused their situation, you must still come alongside them. Or do you not remember that when we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly….No one wants depression, or any type of suffering for that matter. Pointing fingers and assigning blame will never fix the problem–and keep in mind that the problem might be chemical.

(10) Suicide and suicidal ideation

I can’t phrase it any better than the article “Healing comes from Christ,” so I won’t try. “…As I write, it is the 32nd day after my son, in a split second, put to death the precious life that my husband and I created from our own flesh and blood over 22 years ago….” I did not know him well, but I knew him. I remember talking to him during my study hall about how bullying should never happen in the church. It was something we were both passionate about, and something we had both experienced. But with grace and poise, his mother continues to address the church.

“Does this mean that we keep mum about such things as suicide and sweep it under the rug? Avoid Discussing it? Refuse to acknowledge that it happens? Fail to address the why? Not at all. Undoubtedly we all need to be aware, but especially as parents, of behaviors and activities and mental states of the ones we love and care about. But this awareness needs to come in the form of proper education, proper research, proper counselling, and proper understanding based on medical, spiritual, physiological factual information, not theatrical and fictitious dramatizations[13 Reasons Why]….I know that the true healing will come with Christ’s return.”

Do you know how bad someone’s life has to be where they believe that death is a better than life? Really, think about that for a moment. Do you know what it is like to have so much suffering that the thought of drawing another breath fills you with trepidation? The world is incredibly broken, and some people get more than their fair share of sorrow. But, Church, you are to be so loving that people will feel comfortable telling you about suicidal thoughts because they know you will still love and care for them. “Perfect love casts out fear.” Church, your call is to the lonely, the broken-hearted, the lost, the poor, the least of these….Do I need to go on? If you cannot love someone who is suicidal, is Christ’s love really in your life? Because I know that He deeply loves those who think life may not be worth living.

(11) Eating Disorders

A few year back I had the honor of hearing the testimonies from the people in my small group at church. About a third of the people that I saw once or twice a week had/were struggling with an eating disorder–and I had no clue. Perhaps it is because I have never had an eating disorder, but I didn’t understand the impact it had on these people’s lives. It was through many tears and prayer, and coming alongside these people, that they were healed. It make me think, how many more people in this church secretly struggle with an eating disorder? Again, the fear of judgement keeps many people from admitting they need help. Thankfully not at my church, but I have heard from some other churches, that the people who admit they have eating disorders are shunned. This is quite simply not the way of Christ.

Yes, it may reflect that you do not see that your value comes from Christ alone, but the way to deal with that is not secrecy. As a Church we are to build each other up! Perhaps we don’t know that Christ loves us as we are because we were never told! Far from punishment or judgement, we are to come alongside and love those brave enough to share their most inner struggles with us.

(12) Mental Illness does not care if you are a Christian

Dyslexia, TBI, stroke, schizophrenia–none of these things care if you are a Christian. They affect you anyway. They are just as likely to occur in Christians as in non-Christians. So, why is it then, that mental health is almost exclusively talked about outside the church? Why is it that members of a community that was modeled after Jesus, get told that they are not wanted? I have watched friends walk away from Christianity–I almost did myself. And the reason why had to do with Christians telling them they were not good enough. “Oh, you have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. We don’t want you here.” “Don’t talk to that girl, I hear she has autism.” “Did you see the state of her clothes? I can’t believe she wore a sweatshirt to Church.” “They started to self-harm? Tell them to get the hell out.” All of these statements have been made to people I know. Some of them have walked away from Christianity, some have not. If you are not angry at what was said, how dare you call yourself a Christian! In Jesus’ own words, “I came for those who are not good enough, not the ones who think they are already ‘in’ with God. A hospital is for the sick, not those who are well.”

Perhaps what is not understood is that when you become a Christian, Christ Himself has declared you righteous before God. You have been made worthy, but so has everyone else. Christ was willing to lay down his life. Are you? Caring for someone who has a mental illness or learning disorder or stroke is not easy. It is hard. Some days it will seem like it is not worth it. But it is.

(13) If the church won’t talk about psychology, Christians are going to continue to get their information from books/TV shows like “13 Reasons Why”

I have admittedly, not watched “13 Reasons Why.” And I don’t really plan to. For all its flaws (and there are many) at least people have began to talk about mental health. If Christians don’t step up and love people with mental illnesses, then who will? If Christians are going to sit in a corner and put our hands over our ears, who will share the gospel? We cannot any longer stand in indifference to the great suffering all around us. Church, step up!

Dyslexia Life Hacks (Dyslexia Awareness Month)

Dyslexic life hacks by a dyslexic to other dyslexic’s. This is not your average “find a quiet place to read” stuff. Like, thanks. I figured that one out in kindergarten. These are a little out of the box.

Invest in a Kindle

While other tablets like the iPad and Samsung’s tablets have better accessibility features overall, Kindle (I think) has a slight edge when it come to actually reading. But I am going to be taking about Kindles such as the PaperWhite and other e-ink displays–we will get to audio books later on.

Kindle’s screens do not cause as much eyestrain as other readers. This is important for dyslexia not because we are more sustainable to eye strain, but because we spend more time reading than others (i.e. a 30 min. reading assignment might take me an hour). We need more concentration, and that screen makes it a little more bearable. One thing I have loved about the kindle is the different fonts. It does have fonts like OpenDyslexic but also has other fonts that I find easier to read (personal favorites are Serif and Bookerly). It is nice to have the same font for every book that I read, because I am more likely to recognize words. Consistency is the key!

Of course on Kindle, you can do all the formatting stuff like changing the font size, spacing, margins, etc., all which make a huge difference in my reading comprehension. Other useful features are search (very good for research/paper writing), highlighting, and a feature to build your vocabulary. But the best feature is the ability to click on a word and find out what it means even when I am not connected to the internet (Which is the main reason I refer it over a phone reading app). That last feature is critical to expanding my vocabulary and increasing my reading comprehension.

Chrome is the superior internet browser

Hopefully you know this, but if not: download Chrome (internet browser). Yeah, it kind of decreases your battery life, but spell check is life. Chrome has built in spell check that works on almost all websites. Like, seriously, I couldn’t pass my classes if it wasn’t for Chrome’s spell check. In addition, Chrome has many other accessibility extensions, and although I haven’t found any that I really like, I LOVE the spell check. Saved my butt on online classes.

Graphic Novels/Comics/Manga

I love reading these because they are so much less exhausting. Because there are no shortcuts in reading fluency (just practice, practice, practice), reading graphic novels is great. I don’t get bogged down in trying to imagine the setting–it’s right there in front of me. I only have to worry about the dialogue. I feel like I understand the story and characters better than traditional novels. Plus there are some really good stories out there.

Google Docs

Yeah, not my fave, but they have some redeeming features. The main one being the Speech-to-Text. Now, I remember when this first came out and it wasn’t very impressive. Like it really sucked. Now it is better–not as good as something like NaturallySpeaking–but it is the best free one out there. Now, there has to be some heavy editing, but for sentence fluency, this is the best solution I have.

Audio Books

Don’t think that Audible is the one stop shop for fixing dyslexia. So here is the TL;DR for finding audio books:

Older Books–Many books that copyright’s have expired (think classics like Art of War) are available online for free (and it is legal). It doesn’t hurt to check! The main app I use for this is LibriVox.

The Library– People always seem to forget about this one. Libraries have many audio books that you can borrow for free. And if you ask, they will often get the audio book you want just ’cause. And don’t forget that we have online libraries. Personally I use the app called OverDrive which I love. With my library card I have access to hundreds of audio books and Kindle books. It has major features that can enhance the audio (up to a point), set a timer for listening, and increase the reading speed. Hey, if you can read a book for free, why not?

Learning Ally–Learning Ally has a yearly membership fee, but you can listen to as many books as you want. Because Learning Ally is made specifically for people with learning disabilities and/or blindness, you must meet one of those requirements. The paperwork is quite a hassle, but once you get it done, it is amazing. Unlike like many audio sites like Christian Audio or Audible, Learning Ally has many textbooks even at the college level. It is an amazing resource for people with learning disabilities and blindness, but do not use this option if you do not meet the requirements.

Audible–Honestly, I don’t have a membership, but I would like one. Audible is about $15.00 per month for one audio book–so is it actually a good deal? Depends. There are audio books that are far less than $15.00, especially if you are buying a used CD version or an older book. But on the other hand, there are many audio books that cost upwards of $40.00 or $50.00. So, generally I think that Audible is worth it if you love audio book–regardless if you have dyslexia or not.

Other places to get audio books include Christian Audio, iTunes, and the Play Store.

Subtitles–my Secret Weapon

This might seem random or strange, but subtitles has been the best way that I have increased the my reading comprehension and speed. Think about it. You get to see the world and then hear them outloud. Without subtitles I would have never put together things like how “coup” is pronounced (why is French so weird?). When I first started doing this my reading was significantly slower than the dialogue. I would be halfway through reading and the subtitles would change. Now, I can usually finish them. It seems like such a small victory, but it really makes the difference in finishing my tests. Plus, I was going to watch that movie/show anyway, I might as well get reading practice. And that’s the thing about it I like. I get to practice reading (which I’m not a big fan of) and get to watch TV (which I love).

Hopefully these suggestions were helpful. Happy reading!

Dyslexia: What is it? (Dyslexia Awareness Month)

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development dyslexia is:

A specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological components of language that is often expected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Now this definition is all sciency (something I am not a fan of), so I will break it down to the vernacular.

Dyslexia is neurobiological. This simply means that there is a difference in the brain. This is why someone with dyslexia cannot grow out of it–their brain is different from the normal brain (although what a “normal” brain is is also up for debate). It is a neurodivergence. Read more: What Dyslexia Actually Looks Like

Dyslexia is characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Boiled down to its most basic meaning, our brains are not efficient at reading. We don’t have as many part of the brain activated, so we don’t catch many errors that we should have caught. We struggle to recognize word we know and sound out words we don’t. And don’t even get me started on spelling–if it wasn’t for spell check, I would have never graduated high school!

These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological components of language that is often expected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. This sentence tells us what dyslexia is NOT. Dyslexia is not low IQ or an intellectual disability. People with dyslexia have average, or above average IQs. Dyslexia is also not due to bad teaching. Bad teaching can be overcome. You get back on track. Dyslexia is defined as a difficulty reading and spelling with good and bad teachers. It is constantly being behind your peers despite having the same education.

Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Once again, I must stress that this is not related to IQ or intelligence. People often lack background knowledge because they don’t read very much. People with dyslexia learn best by listening, seeing, and doing, but almost all school is based upon reading. Because of this most struggle to do will in reading based classes, but excel in other classes. This can give the impression that they are not trying in some classes, but this is simply not the case. Additionally, people with dyslexia tend to have a smaller vocabulary because they won’t pick up words they don’t know in books. This can be lessened by listening to audiobooks.

The bottom line: Dyslexia is a neurodivergence and is a difference in the brain. It is not due to poor teaching or low IQ. People with dyslexia have troubles in reading, reading comprehension, and spelling. Because of this many struggle with smaller vocabularies and less background knowledge.

Thanks for reading.

People Who Suffer Well

And I , when I came to you, brothers did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Cor. 2:1-5

We love to down-play the power of sin. It can’t really be that bad, can it? We do the right things, not for the good of others, but for our reputation and perception. We live in a society of rebellion–and I’m not talking about living in America. Every human culture lives in contrast to the gospel, it is engraved into humanity. It is easy to come to Church and be far from God.

And sin lurks within our own hearts as well. Many things we do “for God” are not really for God (if you catch my drift). We give offering not because God has placed it on our heart, but because it is expected of us. We want the glory to go to us, not God. In the end, idolatry is the heart of sin. It is putting anything–even good things–above God. Idolatry is often an attempt to take control of our lives rather than surrendering control to God. It is trying to bend the world to our will.

Amos 4 describes many trials that Israel went though. Each stanza ends with the line “Yet you did not return to me.” Here’s the thing: sin is self-consuming. It will keeping eating at you until there is nothing left. God wants to destroy our idols, because if they are not destroyed, they will destroy us. It is really an act of mercy.

But when bad things happen we are often left wondering why. Is it just because sometimes bad stuff happens? Or is God testing me? Or perhaps Satan is trying to undermine me….What could be the cause? But for a second shift your attention. Does it matter the cause? And let’s be real, we ain’t God. There are many things in life that we just won’t know. So, because we cannot know with a reasonable degree of certainty, we must ask a different question.

What should I do in response to this suffering? And know that suffering can take many forms. Sometimes it is as simple as a bad grade on a test or a frustrating teacher. Sometimes it is the death of someone we deeply loved. It can be watching our family go through the pain of end-stage cancer. It can be battling depression for the fourth year in a row, with no real healing in sight. It can be all of these things.

So, what should I do in response to this suffering? I could sit here and shake my fist at heaven blaming God. Or maybe I puff my chest up in pride that Satan would go to such lengths to destroy me. Or maybe I shrug my shoulders and blame this crazy world. But none of these things really seems to do much.

So, what do I do in response to this suffering? I can mourn, seek God, and evaluate my life.

As Christians, especially in contemporary America, it is easy to forget that mourning is biblical. It is not a character flaw or weakness of any kind. It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to be sad. Oftentimes there is nothing to do but ride out the sorrow. Right now, I am resting in the simple truths of the Gospel, as nothing else in my life seems solid. “Whatever the cost, Thou hath taught me to say it is well with my soul.”

Sorrow often transcends words. It’s pain is so deep that comparing it to physical pain doesn’t do it any justice. In dark times, I need a compassionate friend. Someone who will simply listen to me and feel my pain with me. I don’t need any words of wisdom or smart sayings, I simply need to feel their presence and the presence of the Almighty.

And in these times we are to seek God. God is always going to pursue you, not matter how far you go. It is hard to seek after God because in the journey we must surrender control in our lives. Americans especially, I feel, love to be in control. I know I crave control. And the insidious nature of idolatry sneaks in as I think I know best.

We turn to our idols because we want to be in control, but in the end those every same idols end up controlling us. Seeking God requires surrender, and surrender is difficult. I think this is what turns so many people away from Christianity. Surrendering control of our lives to an invisible being seems crazy and reckless. And it absolutely is, unless that invisible being is real.

We are to also to evaluate our lives in light of the Gospel. This is often practical, but also forces us to evaluate our priorities. Recently in my family there was a death. It is hard to describe the sorrow, and some days I am still not ok. I don’t understand why she had to die. I wanted her to see me graduate and make it to the mission field like she always cheered me on to do. I wanted to be able to say goodbye. But I also know that she was in a great deal of pain, and that each day was difficult. And God brought her to her eternal home. I realized that life is fragile and short and I don’t have time to waste. I wanted her here on earth for my sake. Other people don’t live for my sake. I can’t try to hold on to relationships simply because that is what I want, but surrender control of even that to God.

I had to replace my selfish desire to hold-on with knowing that God was in control and resting on Him. I have to replace my sin with God’s grace and continue moving forward. To be honest there is much sin in my life that I am afraid to tackle. I don’t want to surrender control. I want to live the way that I want. But over and over again, I am learning that His way is better than mine. I want to learn how to suffer well.

So, today, I rest in His Grace.