Growing up, I always enjoyed playing in the woods behind our house. It seemed that there were infinite discoveries to make; things to play with, yet we never felt spoiled - no one was "buying" us with the beauty of nature.
Being from a middle class family, I was encouraged to find a "useful" pursuit, and engineering seemed a good fit. However, I always resented the lack of nurture and social dimension that seemed to accompany much of the field. So I took other courses at the big state university - from anthropology to Russian; from piano to art history; and of course math, science and engineering.
I had a job and started right after graduation. I made good money, but felt pulled away from the "settled" life and headed out to travel the world. After touring some 20 countries, I returned and settled into a lazy period - watching movies, sleeping, not quite sure where to go next. During this period I searched for meaning, via everything from Zen Buddhist chanting to travel, good food and fun; and visits to many churches and temples. Alas, I rarely felt welcomed and nothing seemed to provide the answers I was looking for.
Somewhere in my searching, my idealism kicked in and I decided to learn about alternative energy - after all, we all need energy, and we need to do better at providing for a sustainable future. So my masters in California got me involved in biomass energy conversion.
Something unique happened in California - in the form of a poster which grabbed my attention with big letters: E.N.G.. As I got closer, I read "Engineers Need God: Call Pete for Bible study." I felt called to call, and Pete brought me faithfully to his home and church.
Slowly, the messages in the Bible started to sink in, and I felt drawn toward the unique figure of Jesus: his humble birth and life; his service and encouragement; his willingness to associate with any ready to hear his words; the hope that his followers gain from spending time studying and praying. I still was unsure about the formal church, but drawn to Jesus himself.
I returned to Cornell for the PhD, continuing on in the biomass vein, studying process control, composting and sustainable agriculture. Again, posters got me - Grad IV invited me to join a small group.
The friends I found there encouraged me to consider my calling - the idea that I am here for a reason. This fit with the fact that during my adventures traveling, climbing mountains or ice climbing, I had many close calls with death, but somehow I am still here.
So I began to seek my calling - what am I here for, how do I fit with God's divine plan? This changed my outlook during optimal times, but many of my old habits remained. During my PhD research, I was discouraged and at one point fell on my knees and said "God, if you want me to have a PhD, YOU have to do it!". There was a quick quiet response: "Of course I will enable you to do what you were called to do, but YOU must put in the time, you must be there."
After this, I continued many old habits, but some things changed: when I hit a snag, instead of running away, I spent time praying. Amazingly, in one of the first of these sessions, my eyes were truly opened and I could see the solution very clearly. I later found you don't have to wait until things are bad to pray, to receive guidance, encouragement, inspiration.
That led me ultimately to find my calling as a profess-or, one who witnesses, and shares the wisdom they have found, and as a father, one who nurtures and encourages with humility. I am still far from perfect, but grace has brought me a long way, and I have been blessed.
I still seek wisdom from God and from His "other book", the natural world, His creation. I still have my bad days and my bad moments, but I know I am loved and I find ways to pass on that encouragement and joy in classes, research on caring for creation; and in various service opportunities. It has been quite a ride and I have the feeling I am still in the "middle of the story", but I am hopeful about what lies ahead.