Lilypie First Birthday tickers

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Is the graduate school experience a good indicator of life in academia?

I feel like its not. As I sit here at my desk prioritizing my work load and feeling like I am not accomplishing anything! I feel like graduate school is an exercise in perservearence.

Lately, I haven't felt productive despite being busy or all that enlightened despite being able to teach lab/lecture.

Time is passing, yes but sometimes I feel stuck in the vaccumm of grad school life. Where it is easy to come in everyday and yet accomplish very little.

I am not saying I am a slacker by any means but I feel like the days are filled up with meetings, class obligations and TA grading etc. how can I ever have time to focus on my research?

When I was teaching I found the balance of research/teaching a challenge and always felt busy BUT I was in control of my schedule.

When I am a TA all that goes out the window and thus I am feeling frustrated!

I hope that after I finish my PhD. I will still be able to feel productive and be able to accomplish my work without feeling like I am losing control of the day!

Gah, it can be so frustrating!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I want to be a farmer

This week I spent a total of 12 hours taking students on field trips this week. I am a TA for two classes and we went to the UNH organic dairy and to Wentworth GH and Butternut Farm.

I have been to all of these places several times in the past but I felt a sense of renewal after these visits. Sure, I love to see students get excited about the baby calves and marvel at the expanse of plants under glass and enjoy the warm sunshine while touring a beautiful apple orchard.

Sometimes, I find I spend so much time in the lab and classroom I forget how much I LOVE to work on the farm. As all the crops for my research have been harvested and my garden is 'put to bed' for the winter. I already miss the farm. It has only been a couple of weeks and I am in withdrawal!

So what's next? Maybe someday we will be able to move to a farm. I would love to have fruit trees, fields for growing vegetables a little farm stand.. maybe a dairy cow (Jerseys are the best ;)

A girl can dream can't she?

I hope some how that my academic knowledge and my passion for farming will help me help others, hopefully in the mission field. I have been meditating on this verse Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:16. I hope God can use me!

Monday, October 5, 2009

This sums it up...from Joel Osteen

See how the farmer waits expectantly for the precious harvest from the land."(James 5:7, AMP)

TODAY'S WORD from Joel and Victoria

Too often people passively sit around waiting for their dreams to come true. As time goes by they begin to think things will never change for them, and the longer the wait, the more frustrated they feel. It's important to keep moving toward your dreams in faith and hope. Expecting God's best and making preparations to succeed will help you stay in faith during times of waiting. "Joel," you might ask, "How do I do that?" Have expectant faith. Start talking and acting like your dreams are going to happen. People may think that sounds strange, but don't let it bother you. God has given you a dream, and you may see things they don't see. As you settle it in your heart and mind that God is faithful, you'll get excited about His promises for you.
If you feel like you're in a holding pattern, don't get discouraged; God is working on your behalf. Put your trust in Him. Start making preparations for the dreams God has planned for you so you will be ready when they arrive. Take your faith to a higher level — go from believing to expecting — and God will bring you the desires of your heart at just the right time.

Love this perspective because every once in a while I forget that I need to have expectant faith and trust God knows the desire of my heart and in His time, it will come. Like this PhD. thing, He will give me the endurance to get through it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Essay for The Well

I was asked to write a piece about balancing my academic life as a scientist with my faith.... here goes:

Crouched down in the middle of a winter squash field, I am greeted by the hum of pollen-laden bumble bees and chirping of crickets. It is one of those hazy summer mornings where the air just hangs as if suspended. Most of my graduate student cohort is still in bed, yet I am out in the field starting my day among the dew soaked squash plants.

As a PhD. student, I am ready to leave the hustle and bustle of another busy semester to find quiet solace in the fields of the research farm. It is not easy finding a way to disconnect from the hectic pace of academic life where emails are always filling up my inbox and deadlines are ever looming. How can I make time for my relationship with God when all of these work priorities are vying for my time and attention? Where is the balance?

As a scientist, I feel fortunate to find evidence of God’s handiwork throughout my research. How can I ignore it when I am sowing the seeds in the field and watch the thick green stems and leaves pop up out of the ground? Or when I open each squash fruit to find deep orange fruit flesh not only meant to be beautiful but nutritious? When I harvest seeds from these fruits and begin to plant for the following season, I see vividly how God thought of every thing. Even packaging!

During the summer, I conduct field research on winter squash which involves some breeding work. This is when I feel most connected to my area of research and yet I am filled with awe. There is a short window of time each day where pollination is possible. Each morning, as I search among the mass of vines and leaves looking for the next flower to pollinate, I feel like a bee. I marvel every time as I follow a flower bud from its formation onward to bloom.

This process is time consuming, tedious, and strenuous. It is a task that requires patience and persistence. I look forward to this time in the field every summer, but not without some trepidation. I know it is going to be hard work, but when I get out into the field, time just seems to fly by.

It is impossible for me to not see God’s hand in the natural beauty of the land. His hand in all of this work, the way the pollen sheds early in the morning before the flowers wilt under the powerful rays of the sun. To smell the earth, a mix of decomposing plant matter and worm castings. To hear the birds calling and the dragonflies whizzing around over head. Sure, to those who do not have the extra dimension of faith, all of these creations could easily be overlooked or even ignored. Yet, to someone with faith it is simultaneously a source of awe and a reminder of God’s dominion and plan.

As an educator in the natural sciences, one of my greatest joys is sharing my passion for creation to the students that attend my lecture or labs. In the secular university setting, I may not be able to attribute all of these amazing creations to the Maker but I can at least draw awareness often with great enthusiasm, while digging through the soil strata or observing tiny root hairs on sweet potatoes.

I even find myself doing this with friends, on walks through the woods or even at the dinner table. Some are believers and others not, but the message of the wonder and beauty of the natural world is universal. I challenge you to take the extra time in your day to observe the budding of the trees in the spring, the smell of dew on a summer morning, the colorful display of turning leaves and even the silence that follows freshly fallen snow. How can God’s presence not be evident in all of these events?

Its true, the life of an academic researcher is full of hustle and bustle leaving little room for spare time. Yet, I am often reminded of His presence when I take this time to observe God’s creation. It might be just a glance out my office window to see the Canadian geese migrating south or smell of wet leaves after a rain shower as I walk across campus.

It might seem contradictory to many of my non-believer cohort that I can integrate my faith with my work as a scientist. At the start of my academic career I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a Christian college which gave me a strong foundation in my faith and helped me to integrate science with faith. Since then, I have attended two other secular universities. It was during that time I learned the value of finding a faith community wherever I may be at the time. These communities have strengthened me when I felt alone not only as a Christian in a non-Christian environment but as believer who was pursuing a degree in the field of science.

Finding a church, joining Bible study and choir keep me connected to a faith community and supports me outside of my academic life, where I may be the only believer in my department. I am thankful to my college mentor’s advice that said to always look for a faith community wherever I am. She said “get connected through Intervarsity or through a local church and do it right away!” Wise advice and I share that advice with my students now.

I realize that being an academic research isn’t for everyone. The work can be repetitive and many graduate students are easily turned off doing this kind of work. I relish this time to take in the beauty of God’s creation where I can so clearly see his hand at work. I am reminded of Genesis 1:11 each time I watch the seeds I have sown emerge from the ground and the vines stretch out across the field each season. I look forward to walking up and down each row pollinating and spending quiet time with God each morning. To me, those without a reverence for God’s creation are missing an extra dimension that is so calming and a source of meaning for mundane tasks that lead to a body of work that can be used in His service.

We are not all meant to be field research scientists but we can all look for God’s hand in the world He created for us. We can take time to observe nature as God’s creation and give Him the glory.