Lessons from physics: how to glorify God in the new year

When I entered college, I already knew I wanted to take a couple specific courses: journalism, for one, and physics.

“What?! Physics? Why would you take that? It’s crazy hard!” Yes, so I’ve been told. But at my liberal arts college, we’re required to take one lab science and one non-lab science. I had a bad experience with biology in high school, and I had found chemistry boring, but I’d loved physics. Why not take it in college?

My mom discouraged me from taking the course, thinking my GPA would plummet. Admittedly, I became a bit anxious by the way everyone talked about the subject. Nonetheless, physics was still on my mind sophomore year. Should I chance taking the class? Would I regret it forever if I passed up this challenge?

That year a chapel speaker spoke on taking challenges, and it was settled. I resolved anew to take the physics. I signed up for the class for my junior year fall—this past semester.

Since I did not complete AP calculus, I took “baby physics,” the algebra based class. Still, I hadn’t taken physics for four years and math for three and a half. On top of that, I did not own the pricey textbook. Moreover, the professor, being a theoretical physicist, did not teach very clearly or understandably.

On the bright side, I had the privilege of sitting next to my friend MJ every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, celebrating when we actually understood something and questioning if that could possibly be true. I also loved walking from chapel to class with my dear friend Ann each day as well, sharing in her life through those walks. Since she studies engineering, she was able to encourage me that I would pass and be okay.

I did well in labs, thanks to my lab partners who understood the subject. My prof was kind and gave us homemade brownies (which he made sure we knew were his creation, not his wife’s) after a bad test. God also provided me with tutors to help with homework, as I was consistently and utterly lost without their help.

But I hated physics. (Sorry, physics major friends.) Unfortunately, I did not understand the subject. The day we spent on music was sweet, and I enjoyed the aforementioned relationships, but I couldn’t wait for the class to finish. All I needed was a D to pass.

For those who knew me in high school, perhaps you think I have stooped too low. But college is not high school, and my college is known for its “rigorous academics” in particular. Since coming to Wheaton, I’ve developed certain skills and lost others. Case in point, I am no longer smart in physics, and I have to be okay with that. I can write and influence people, and since that’s what I want to do (as opposed to being a hard scientist), I was fine scoring low. I just needed to pass so I could graduate on time.

I honestly was unsure if I could achieve this goal. Without any curves or special grading, my test average hovered in the low 50s. I needed a 60 to pass.

I fearfully avoided looking at my grades over break, but last night I checked them. Praise be to God, I somehow passed physics with a C-! Not a D, not even a D+, but a solid C-!

The point of this physics narrative is not actually about science—it’s about taking challenges. Had I not taken physics, I would have regretted it my whole life. I was miserable in this class this semester, but I passed and thus succeeded. In my lowest moments, I clung to the hope that passing would make it worth it, and it has. I can say that I faced and overcame a challenge, and I can take no glory for myself!

All the glory goes to God, who provided me with friends to support and encourage me, a kind professor, tutors for homework help, sustenance and stamina to make it through December, and finally, a passing grade.

Friends, when faced with a daunting challenge this next year, take it. When everyone seems to think you’re crazy and that you’ll fail, persevere. And above all, always lean on God and give him all the glory! We can do nothing without him.

Happy New Year.

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Five things I learned from my science-major friends

This summer, I became friends with a group of students taking Organic Chemistry. We began to hang out every weekend, and we had tons of fun, but they also stretched me and caused me to grow. Here are a few things I learned in the past month or so:

1. I operate in a very different world than they do. I didn’t understand anything they said when they talked about A-Chem, P-Chem, O-Chem, professors, tests or assignments. I’m used to debating which sociology professor is better, not which lab to take. I’m accustomed to being online doing social media all day and reading articles about race, not studying intricate scientific formulas. I understand journalistic jargon, not bio patois. When I was one of the few non-hard-science majors present, if not the only one, I felt a bit lost and left out, but I understood that this was only natural since I was the only non-hard-science major. I was glad to see their shared passion although I did not comprehend their vocabulary.

I also realized that other people might feel this way around me and my closer friends who operate in more social science/ humanity and writing or even international circles. As a journalist, working in a discipline created for the people, I should be especially careful to speak in terms that everyone can understand in an attempt to make everyone feel included.

Despite our different academic interests, my science major friends excelled at making me feel welcome by inviting me to hang out each weekend, giving me rides and always smiling and listening as good friends do. Of their own will, they went out of their way to include me. And as I grew to know them better, I discovered (as I had glimpsed from the start) that they were way more than super-smart science nerds.

2. People can love biology or chemistry yet also have other passions and places to which God has called them. Some of my summer friends are concerned with social issues such as race in the United States and the genocide of Native Americans as well as the human body and marine biology. As humans we all have passions, dreams and maybe even a draw to specific locations placed in our hearts. Christians may feel this calling more acutely because God wants us to live out his will in specific ways. Needless to say (yet apparently not obvious to me at first), God calls bio, chem and physics majors too.

3. Science majors work crazy hard, but they also have crazy fun. And they can be crazy weird. Together we traipsed through Wheaton, Glen Ellyn and Naperville this summer watching fireworks; belting Christmas carols; chasing each other on the starlit playground like school children; creating a sand octopus that strangled one friend; eating Korean, Indian, French and Italian food; participating in a surprise birthday party and performing incredibly realistic chicken sounds. (The chicken imitation was the weirdest part, and it got even weirder when three of my friends were doing it in a parking garage on the way to the birthday party, suddenly ceasing when other people appeared to claim their car. However, we still have plans to make a larger impression this school year. Stay tuned to campus news, Wheaton College. 😉 )

wheaton fireworks 2015 o-chem friends photo by falecia sanchez

Photo Credit: Falecia Sanchez

4. God is powerful and deserves to be sought. This past week I heard about my friends’ student-led Bible study and attended the last night with the O-Chem students present. I listened as one of my friends, having sought the wisdom of a professor, explained 1 John 5:26. We all wrestled with that Scripture together. We discussed the power of prayer, and they encouraged me in my missionary endeavors to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The way they sought God reminded me of the passionate college students I’d admired in Connecticut.

God used these students to teach me more about himself though regular interactions as well.

5. The diversity of our Messiah’s Body goes beyond race and ethnicity. Most people in this group of amazing men and women were white Americans and thus appeared homogenous. However, we came from varied backgrounds such as the suburban Midwest, SoCal and the “boonies” of Minnesota. I do not intend to demean the significance skin color and ethnic culture plays in our lives and the lives of those around us. However, I was surprised at the cultural diversity within the group despite our shared skin color, and I’m grateful that God showed me how amazing my white skinfolk can be! I needed to learn that lesson. We learned from each other, compared cultural differences we noticed and tried to understand how our cultures influenced us.

Our dreams also varied: One friend has already been accepted into optometry school, and a couple friends are anticipating their upcoming marriage and future children. Yet another is looking forward to working in a Boston lab before potentially going overseas to India. These friends are so welcoming, humble, and inspiring!

You would think that I’d already know all these points, having lived with two hard-science-turned-other-major students this past year. (Common sense is a thing, too, but I’ve always been a little lacking in that area.) I had to be in a group composed of bio, chem and physics nerds in order to learn these five lessons.

These friends have loved me and welcomed me into their circles, offered me generous hospitality and extended warm hugs of friendship. They remained their weird selves in front of me, and they welcomed me with my own quirks and interests and unsightly allergies that make me cry uncontrollably once the pollen builds up each evening. These gracious, intelligent, godly and fun friends filled my June weekends with laughter.

The Organic Chemistry class finishes this Friday, and I won’t see some of my new friends again until school resumes in August. I will miss them! Here’s a shout out to the friends who are leaving for the month: I thank you for loving me. Thanks for teaching me about God and the joyful, vibrant life he’s given us. Thank you for stretching me in unexpected ways!

Photos by Falecia Sanchez

New medicine for 19 year old’s life-draining disease

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Iliana Rivera sits on the right-hand side.

by Katelyn Skye Bennett

You enter the Office of Multicultural Development and see a blue-green head of hair on a girl in a scooter. Her laughter reaches your ears. Who is this joy, you ask? She is 19 year old Iliana Rivera, my roommate. Why is she in a scooter? She has Myasthenia Gravis; she has had it since high school.

Iliana’s disease has degraded such that she cannot walk on her own, hence the scooter, or keep her head up for long periods of time. Studying is difficult because memorizing takes longer. Her nerves do not reach the muscles to tell them what to do, so the disease makes Iliana weak.

The medicine Iliana is on has not been improving her health. Thus, she is starting a new medicine today, new to her and to the scientific field. If it works, she could have her life back again. In fact, if it works for many people, it could become a staple for people with bad cases of MG. This is the most hope she has had in a while. However, if Iliana responds poorly to the medicine or becomes sick while on it, she could die.

Iliana’s living and regaining life is obviously preferable, yet it comes with all the unknowns of starting to live again. She would become like a child physically, learning to become independent. Yet Iliana is also hopeful about this — think what it might be like to live a normal life again!

Iliana’s flute lies on a shelf in our room, waiting for her to complete a song on it. Sabor Latino, the Latin dance club, calls her name as well. Ideally, she could sleep more and have less all-nighters because homework might take her less time. New opportunities would abound.

But first, the hospital. Today Iliana will receive her first injection. According to the plan, she will receive one injection per week for four weeks. This will occur every six to eight months for two years, best scenario, or for five years, worst case.

Iliana is brave yet anxious in the face of the unknowns. If all goes well, Iliana might have her life back. If she reacts or catches a sickness, she might lose it. The balance is in God’s hands.

~~~

People are praying for Iliana from all over the United States: The saints in Connecticut are lifting up her name before God. People in Denver and Chicago are crying out to Him as well. Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other states are lifting up prayers for Iliana. To name a few organizations or groups, Wheaton College’s Mu Kappa, the William Osborne Society, Koinonia, the Office of Multicultural Development, Chaplain’s office and her dormitory floor know about her new medicine and are praying. Iliana’s close friends are doing the same, and one of her best friends will be by her side while she receives the injection today.

If you have read this blog, please pray as well. Mourn and rejoice alongside Iliana as she battles MG, and step back in amazement at the beauty of the church coming together for a sister in Christ. May Jesus be forever praised!