February: learnings 2015

February: month of skunk journeys and astonishing weather shifts, of walks under clear skies and under evening rain showers, of so-many-essays-to-grade for my students and so-many-people-to-thank for social media birthday wishes, of fears and hopes, of confidence and uncertainty, of ice clattering out of pine trees and daffodils illumining the space around the Chinaberry tree. And of learning things.

What-We-Learned-in-FebruaryToday I link up with Emily P. Freeman of Chatting at the Sky to share things we’ve learned in February. The photo above will take you to her site. Meanwhile, below is my list.

1. I learned that cyber-dogs are no longer merely the stuff of Aardman Animations’ Wallace and Gromit — though Preston the evil cyber-dog from “A Close Shave” makes these dog-like robots seem scarier than they necessarily should be:

2. Also on the scary-science front, I learned that scientists think human head transplants could begin to happen as soon as 2017. Obviously, the head-transplant would be for the benefit of the person possessing the head, not for the benefit of the person possessing the body. But the idea gives me the creeps, and I think I’d rather stay in my own body, even if it means a shorter, more painful life. (It also raises so many questions about bodies and souls and how they are connected. Is the head the essence of a person? This science seems to assume that our heads live on our bodies like hermit crabs live inside shells. But I don’t think it’s quite like that.)

3. I learned, as I learn every year, how wonderful strawberries are, in color and flavor and general perfection: strawberries

4. I learned that sometimes the only morning in the week when you wake up eager to go to work is the day that, on threat of snow, work is cancelled and you stay home all day watching the trees ice over.

5. I learned how computer thesauri combined with poor grammar mastery can result in things like “role model subsequent.” It took me an unnecessarily long time to figure out that in the author’s mind “subsequent” = “following.” But while “following” can be an adjective or a noun — and in this case would be a noun — “subsequent” is just an adjective.

6. I learned that molecular sieves exist when my oil-industry brother came home with a couple of sieve spheres in his pocket.

7. I learned about AirDrop on my MacBook — only a year after getting the MacBook. But so handy!

8. I learned that the sound of my empty classroom — a classroom with a computer at every seat — is like the hum in Uncle Andrew’s study in The Magician’s Nephew. In the book, the hum comes from the green and yellow rings which take you in and out of worlds — and is not, in some sense, a room full of computers a sort of wood-between-the-worlds? I take satisfaction in shutting down each of the 37 computers and reducing the room to silence before I walk out.

9. I learned even more of the complications of Middle Eastern politics as I listened to NPR reporter Robert Siegel talk of his recent visit to Jordan:

I’ll tell you what one Jordanian told me – and he would never be quoted on this publicly. He said what he had really been afraid of was that ISIS would hand over Moath Kasasbeh, the pilot, alive. What would have happened then, he asked? Would Jordan have turned pro-ISIS in the streets if that had been the result? It still worried him.

It reminds me of the frighteningly fine line between good and evil, and of the dangers of not giving bad things their proper bad names. (G. K. Chesterton points out that the Victorians allowed the propagation of all kinds of immorality because they were too prim to refer to ugly things except in euphemisms — and euphemisms cover the ugliness which, to be eradicated, must be exposed.)

10. Speaking of naming things, this article by Kevin Loria at Business Insider raises the question of whether we can see colors that do not have names. And it makes me wonder what I’ve wondered before: can we know that we’re all seeing the same things which we name the same? I saw the dress as gold and white, and it made me wonder. . . . Even in walking by sight it seems we walk by faith.

11. I learned how clouds can cast shadows on the sky:

12. I learned that Marilynne Robinson’s newest novel, Lila, is good to read, though somewhat disquieting in its ending. It’s a novel in part about finding home and grace, unexpectedly and even perhaps against one’s will, in unexpected people and places. Many passages resonated, but I’ll share this one:

It felt very good. . . . Good like rest and quiet, like something you could live without but you needed anyway. That you had to learn how to miss and then you’d never stop missing it.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

2014: learnings

Today I join Emily P. Freeman of Chatting at the Sky to share things I’ve learned in 2014.


I thought it was going to be just things learned in December. Thinking through the whole year was harder. But here are a few of many, many things learned:

1. Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s daily Bible reading calendar is both helpful and profitable. It has you reading in four different spots in your Bible every day, to read once through the OT and twice through the NT and Psalms in the course of a year. I downloaded and printed the bookmark-calendar from this site, and that was really helpful.

2. I actually like teaching 8:00 am classes. I like driving to work in the fresh part of the morning. I like the extra effort it takes to greet eight o’clock students. I like noticing who was up early and who barely got up for class, and seeing how those are different people on different days.

3. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s story of how the Lord drew her to himself is moving and challenging, and the book in which she tells her story The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith is well worth reading. Here’s one gem among many from the book: “I know that I don’t choose. God chooses. He rules and he overrules. We walk in faith and (at times) terror, but we walk nonetheless.”

4. Having consistent friends in my life whom I see regularly and who love the Lord and challenge me to love Him more is a wonderful thing. I love my Clinton community!

5. Taking a month of 5-days-a-week summer classes can be a treat.

6. And linguistics is cool.

7. It is possible to be at the latter end of your twenties, possessing a Master’s degree and having taught college courses for three and a half years, and still to be consistently assumed to be in your first year or two of college.

8. Nabeel Qureshi’s story of how the Lord drew him to himself is also moving and challenging, and proved particularly helpful to me in making me recognize that people who are Muslim are still and always people first. Read my review of his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, here.

9. My baby brother is getting married this weekend. Contrary to what one sometimes hears, having my baby brother get married does not make me feel old; it just makes me feel that my baby brother is getting married at an impossibly young age. (Which he actually isn’t.)

10. Numbering my days: I’m grateful for the ways God’s been teaching me to do this and reminding me that this life doesn’t belong to me.

11. Sometimes, when it looks like God might say “yes” to a long asking, it seems maybe scarier than the idea of Him never saying “yes.”

12. I can make and survive solo road trips on roads I’ve never travelled through states I’ve never visited. I still like to have maps in the car, but the GPS also became my friend in 2014.

13. I seem to have visited and revisited, here and in my journal, the idea that life is full of frightening things, and that we are told, over and over, “do not fear.” 

14. Teaching American and British lit surveys during the same semester is fun because of the way I can start making connections for myself, drawing all the small pictures into one larger picture.

15. ISIS. Ferguson. Malaysia Airlines. Boko Haram. Gaza. Yazidis.
It’s been a year of learning about hurting.

16. #BringBackOurGirls #BlackLivesMatter #YesAllWomen
But I’m not sure that hashtags effectively help the hurts.

17. Saudi Arabians typically have two simultaneous and elaborate parties at their weddings: one for men and one for women. (I’ve never been to a Saudi wedding, but I’ve learned about them.)

18. It is hard to get a squirrel out of the courtyard of a three-story brick building when once it has got in. But a squirrel can survive a flying leap from a third-story balcony onto an iron table and a brick pavement.

19. People in Taiwan celebrate the New Year twice: once in the Western style with a countdown and a ball dropping, and again, a month or so later, at the Chinese New Year in the Chinese style with gifts and family visits and lots of red decorations.

20. Years have ways of always overturning my expectations and being better and harder and more surprising than I could imagine. But the Mighty One has done and continues to do great things. Here at the end of another year, my soul magnifies His name. He is good.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

May: learnings

Joining Emily P. Freeman and friends today, sharing things we learned in May. 

photo credit to LHE

photo by LHE

1. I learned how to make these paper pinwheels while decorating for a wedding reception. Real people taught me how, but, if you want to find out online, I can google that for you.

2. I learned that in the New Testament, the word for “servant,” “bondservant,” or “slave” is the Greek word “doulos,” which looks like this in Greek characters: δοῦλος. I think this is something that I’d heard before — minus the Greek characters — but I had it from a few different sources this month, and now it’s going to stick — minus again, perhaps, the Greek characters.

3. I learned that Elizabeth Goudge’s novel The Scent of Water is a book I like. I wanted to read a novel, and chose that over a few others because it had an epigraph from the book of Job:
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;  Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
The epigraph mentions hope, and the book itself is about hope, in hard ways. I could share any number of pithy quotes, but here’s just one: “I had not known before that love is obedience . . . love is not some marvelous thing that you feel but some hard thing that you do. And this in a way is easier because with God’s help you can command your will when you can’t command your feelings. With us, feelings seem to be important, but He doesn’t appear to agree with us.”

4. I learned that being glad to see my students is one of the Important Things I can do on the way to being a good teacher. Because it’s much pleasanter to go to class to teacher who is glad to see you, even if the subject isn’t your favorite. (And because, in the words of one of my students, “it is not fun to sit in a class with a teacher who has a bad day every day.”) Being glad to see them is a matter of obedient love, and the beautiful thing about it is that God seems to allow the feelings to follow the obedience. (I AM glad!)

5. I learned that my first brother’s GPS likes to go straight through cities, instead of around them on the highway bypasses. Thanks to this, I got to see different parts of St. Louis and Indianapolis, and learned about

6. Reversible lanes, “in which traffic may travel in either direction, depending on certain conditions.” I thought they were neat, but I like the fact that I don’t have to drive on them usually.

7. I learned that my baby brother is going to get married, because he proposed to his girlfriend this month. But it wasn’t a surprise to me, since I decided several years ago — when she was fourteen or so? — that she would be right for said brother. (But it also was a surprise to me, because, how often do the things I decide would be right happen?)

8. I learned this song from my Bible study friends, and have been singing it for the last week or more: “What an amazing mystery / That your grace has come to me.” (Also, I love it when there are free piano score for the songs I look up!)

It’s been a month of grace, tasted often through the obedience, grace which helps me to obey. I learned many more things than made this list.

What did you learn in May?

©2014 by Stacy Nott

April: learnings

At the end of each month, Emily P. Freeman, of Chatting at the Sky, invites bloggers to share what they learned in that month. I’ve never jumped in before, but here it is, April 30, me wondering what to write. And Emily has given me a topic, which, if not deep, is sufficiently wide.

1. Today I learned the word “incitation.” A student emailed me about the placement of the “incitation:” before or after the period? And, while I of course realized that he meant “in-text citation,” I learned that “incitation” is the noun-form of “incite” and means “an act of inciting,” “stimulation,” “provocation,” “instigation.”

2. Earlier this month I learned that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a book I like. I’d never read it, until this month, but when I began reading it, I finished it within four days. It resonates and satisfies.

blue bottles

3. Last week I learned that sometimes, when you want to take a picture of a luna moth, blue bottles actually make a better picture.

4. A few days ago I learned how, when you are drowsing and listening to early-morning rain, the sound of early-morning hail can take you immediately from drowsing to wide-awake and on-your-feet.

5. Over the past few weeks I’ve learned that H A S H, a blog which officially launches tomorrow, (and to which I have the privilege of contributing), not only sounds exciting — if you like that sort of thing — but also looks exciting. Go and look!

6. Last weekend I learned that one friend made a beautiful bride, and another friend has a pleasant fiancé, and I remembered that old friends are good to see and old times are good to remember.

7. Sometime in the month, I learned that season 3 of Call the Midwife is showing now, and began watching it, and was glad.

8. Yesterday I re-learned that letter-writing can provide a sort of company when you’re feeling lonely.

9. Two weeks ago I learned what it’s like when they have trouble getting blood out of your arm and end up sticking your hand and your other arm, too: not fun.

10. All along the way I’ve been learning and re-learning how much love goes into living, even in the most ordinary things; guessing at how many times I’ve benefited from love without even being aware; realizing that, as the God who made me in His image loves me, so He has designed me to love.

11. And, just now, I’m learning that lists of things learned are hard to end, because they never can be exhaustive, and, even if they could be, I doubt I’ll know all that I’ve really learned this month until much later.


©2014 by Stacy Nott