Family Talks

My parents called my brother, Karen and I for a family meeting yesterday because they wanted to discuss something with us. The discussion turned out to be one of the longest talks we’ve ever had as a family. We started at ten in the evening and finished at two in the morning.

Throughout the whole thing, the one thought that kept replaying in my head was, “This… This is growing up and getting old, this is family and life and death all rolled into one conversation.”

Once we were all settled in, my dad began telling us his ideas for dividing properties among us and upgrading life insurances. He enumerated the possible scenarios that could happen and what he wants us to do about them. That’s the first time I had to view the inevitability of my parents’ death seriously. Even with my grandparents who are already in their nineties, I’ve rarely allowed such a thought to cross my mind, let alone with my parents who are still in their early sixties. But there was no way around death last night.

Because after we discussed inheritances and all that, we talked about my grandparents and how we need to bring the entire family together before it’s too late for them. Karen and I brought it up. We’ve been talking about this with each other for some time now and we felt that last night was the perfect time to share it with the rest. Our family makes it a point to come together on my grandparents’ birthdays – my grandfather’s in August and my grandmother’s in January. But we’ve never been complete. There’s always been a family or two missing. And Karen and I feel it’s time to change that. We’ve both been feeling this urgency to have a complete family reunion as soon as possible because our grandmother isn’t getting any stronger. Every night, she and my grandfather both pray for the whole family, naming each of us one by one. Every night. The least we could do is get together and show them they raised a family that knows how to be one.

Then my mother brought up marriage and we laughed. My brother’s beein going on a couple of dates recently but so far none of them are serious, my twin sister is in California with her eyes set on grad school and nothing else, Karen is enjoying her single life and I’m determined to do everything I can do while I can still do them. None of us are in a serious relationship and none of us are actively looking to be in one, so marriage isn’t necessarily something we think about with earnestness. But my mom persisted. “Pray for your future spouse and in laws and children,” she said. We were all nodding our heads to appease her. I think we wanted each other to think we weren’t taking her words seriously, but I think we all did toward the end. We aren’t desperate to get married, but we are desperate to have a good marriage if or when the time comes. When you have grandparents like ours, you realize early on that a good marriage is the best thing that could ever happen to you.

We talked about other things too – my mom’s exaggerated fear that my brother has a drinking problem (he doesn’t), our mutual understanding that my twin sister won’t be leaving California after finishing grad school, our cousin’s impending marriage which we’re all pretty nervous about, my parents’ retirement (soon) and all whole lot of other things that we felt were worth losing sleep over.

My dad concluded the whole thing by saying this, “Whatever happens, do not forget: you children have each other. Look out for each other, love each other and when you all have your own families, know that this family is still here.”

I hadn’t thanked God for my family as much as I did last night.

Easter, Kenya and me

First, Happy Easter everyone.

Second, aren’t we just so insanely blessed to be able to openly celebrate this day without putting our life in danger? My mind has been consumed with thoughts about the Kenya university massacre and it has made me realize how often I take this blessing for granted.

One of the things that annoy me about fellow Christians is being so unnecessarily and so excessively vocal about their faith. Because I grew up in a conservative Christian family, there were many times during my childhood when I felt like Jesus was being shoved down my throat as well as other people’s throats, and I hated it. Even now, I roll my eyes whenever I see “If you love Jesus, like and share!” posts on Facebook and Instagram. The last thing I feel is surprise whenever I see people who aren’t Christians get put off by Christians because they’re too outspoken to the point of being condescending.

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And because of that, I’ve always been very reserved when it comes to my faith. I can always write about it, but talking about it with other people face to face has always been very challenging for me. Whenever my friends would confide in me about their problems, the last thing I’d feel comfortable telling them is to pray about it. I would sometimes get very conscious when I’m out with friends and I’d close my eyes to pray before eating. Sometimes, when everyone’s already in the middle of a fun conversation, I would opt to not pray anymore so that it wouldn’t “spoil” the mood. My friends aren’t even the kind of people who would judge a person for their religious practices but I felt the need to downplay my faith all the same.

And now I feel so incredibly ashamed for all these things. How ungrateful and stupid am I to let petty things like public image unsettle my confidence and pride in my faith when there are thousands of people across the world whose lives are literally at risk just because they believe in something other people are against? How foolish am I to fear putting off someone for displaying my faith when there are other people putting their life on the line for believing in theirs?

I’ve learned today that openly practicing my faith doesn’t and shouldn’t automatically mean I’m shoving it in everyone’s face. I’ve learned that showing my faith with neither fear nor risk is a blessing that not everyone has and, therefore, should be appreciated and taken advantage of.

Most of all, I’ve learned that I have such a long, long way to go in terms of my walk with Christ. I am so incredibly fortunate that I have a God who believes I am worth it, that I have accepted into my heart the One who believes I am worth dying on the cross for… even when I know I am not.

What would you do?

Please let this be an April Fools prank.

I wrote before about signing up for a small program that would allow me to earn money by teaching English to visiting students from Spain. Well, my cousin, who also signed up, just told me the program will not push through because they couldn’t find enough host families for all the kids.

So now, I have a plane ticket to California for May with a return flight on August and without any solid plans for the whole month of July.

Decisions, decisions.

Do I reschedule my return flight to an earlier date? I could go back to work and start earning for my next big thing.

Do I go ahead with it anyway and just do whatever I want for an entire month? I could push through with that road trip, but this time I can make it longer (and also more expensive).

What would you do? No seriously, what would you do?

Thank God for photo albums

I completely forgot they existed. And when I found them, I realized I also completely forgot the little girl I once was. It’s kind of amazing really, when you see the child you once were through the eyes of the adult you’ve become. I can’t describe how it felt trying to reconcile the girl in the photographs to the woman staring back at me in the mirror.

I like to think I still remember how I was as a kid. I like to think I was smart for my age, that I knew how to share my toys and that I didn’t give my parents any trouble. I’d speak when spoken to, always in a polite manner, never forgetting to say please and thank you. I’d never forget to say my prayers at night and before meals.

But the truth is, the things I remember are more made up of pixie dust than real memories. And the truth about that truth is, I kinda like it that way. I like imagining different versions of myself as a kid and I like that I don’t ever really know which version is the correct one. There’s no reason. Just because.

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I was born 90% cheeks, 10% everything else
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Me on the left. Working on our charm.
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Me on the right. With my so not identical twin.
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Off to school… or maybe just the porch.
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We all have that one photo where our front tooth is missing

So thank God for old, dusty photo albums. Thank God for the many versions of my kid self. And most importantly, thank God for my twin sister because it is now proven that when it comes to baby pictures, two is definitely cuter than one.

Laughing at a funeral, and my amazing best friend

The grandmother of one of my very best friends passed away yesterday. She fell asleep while watching TV. She didn’t wake up again. Just the day before, she went grocery shopping and bought more stuff than their house actually needs.She was very healthy for a 79-year-old and she had a strong personality as well. “She’s like the grumpy cat but funny,” Katrina, my best friend, would say.

Earlier today, I went to the wake. Believe me when I say I am fully aware of how totally inappropriate and just flat out wrong this sounds, but I had a really good time. I went there, preparing myself to be the shoulder to cry on for my best friend. I left, being told by that very person to drive carefully and that she was very happy to see me.

No tears were shed. On the contrary, laughter was very much had.

Katrina told me funny, and I mean really funny, stories about her grandmother – how she would intentionally fart near her face, how she would unintentionally ask a store clerk for a pack of beer when she really meant a pack of bottled water, and some other hilarious memories she has of her.

And then at some point I realized I’ve never seen her cry before, which I shared with her. Which led to us reminiscing about the only time she saw me bawl my eyes out when my ex broke up with me. Which made us remember how her brother drove around campus with the windows rolled down, shouting my ex’s name so that he could beat him up for making his sister’s best friend cry.

So there we were, at the front of an otherwise solemn room, laughing and giggling.

My family loves Katrina, but they also think she’s weird. And I have to say, she really is. That’s what I love about her. I went to her grandmother’s wake, thinking that she, like any normal person, would be either consumed with grief or completely lost in it.

But it was neither of those. Because Katrina is weird. Because Katrina, unlike any other person,  has the grace to accept the bad and the spirit to focus on the good. She still has moments of sadness, but she doesn’t allow herself to stay there longer than she needs to. She can laugh with a broken heart because she knows it will heal.

Now isn’t that just crazy beautiful?