Some truth for Valentine’s Day

It’s been awhile. I can’t believe I wrote here only three times last year. I’ll talk about my reasons for my absence in another post (or maybe not if the past ten months are anything to go by).

What I will talk about is why I’m crawling out of my WordPress hibernation for.

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Coincidentally, my reading for today fell on 1 Corinthians 13. For those of you who don’t know, this is where the famous “Love is patient, love is kind…” verse comes from. So when I opened my Bible and saw this, my first thought was that I am too single for this.

But then, as most things are with God, He surprises me by dropping some knowledge when I least expect it.

I used to think that this whole chapter is basically what the pastor/priest/chaplain/minister says in every wedding I’ve ever attended.

False.

The first three verses of this chapter are just massive truth bombs. And with everything that’s been going on in the world right now, I genuinely believe that we are in desperate need to be reminded of this every day.

Whatever cause we are fighting for, we can always support or defend it with love and respect for our fellow human beings. Because in the end, no matter how witty or intelligent or amusing or impressive or catchy or persuasive or viral our words and actions are, if we do not have love, nothing happens.

I’ve fallen in love with words on paper: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

It’s been more than a year since I last wrote a post like this. I don’t even know why I stopped in the first place. But earlier today, I was ten foot deep in thought about where my life’s heading and I flipped through my notebook where I write down all my favorite quotes. This book’s entry tickled my heart.

Me Before You tells the story of Lou, a 26-year-old woman who has never really done anything spectacular in her life, and Will, a man who squeezed every adventure out of his life until an accident turned him into a depressed quadriplegic. Lou is hired to be Will’s caregiver and everyday companion when she loses her job at a cafe. At first, they butt heads. Gradually though, they find comfort and possibilities in their differences. And, in doing so, they open themselves up to a whole new world where hurt and healing are one and the same.

Even though I read this almost a year ago, I remember thinking to myself then, I’m Lou… minus the love interest. And earlier as I read the words I wrote down from this book, I can’t help but think, I’m still Lou… minus the love interest.

His eyes met mine. They were infinitely weary.

They looked like they were really happy together. Then again, what did a photograph prove?

The thing about being catapulted into a while new life… is that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are. Or how you might seem to other people.

There are things you don’t notice until you accompany someone with a wheelchair.

Here, I could hear my thoughts. I could almost hear my heartbeat. I realized, to my surprise, that I quite liked it.

There are normal hours, and then there are invalid hours, where time stalls and slips, where life – real life – seems to exist at one remove.

“No. Stay for a bit. Talk to me.” He swallowed. His eyes opened again and his gaze slid up to mine. He looked unbearably tired. “Tell me something good.”

“This might sound revolting to you, but astonishingly, Will Traynor, not all girls get dressed just to please men.”

Girls like Lissa trade on their looks for so long they don’t think they have anything else.

It could be oddly dispiriting, the blank refusal of humankind to even attempt to function responsibly.

I needed to tell him, silently, that things might change, grow or fail, but that life did go on. That we were all part of some great cycle, some pattern that it was only God’s purpose to understand.

I felt the music like a physical thing; it didn’t just sit in my ears, it flowed through me, around me, made my sense vibrate.

You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.

“And I cannot for the life of me see how you can be content to live this tiny life. This life that will take place almost entirely within a five-mile radius and contain nobody who will ever surprise you or push you or show you things that will leave your head spinning and unable to sleep at night.”

Some mistakes just have greater consequences than others.

There is nothing more terrifying that my sister’s thinking face when it is trained directly on you.

And finally, possibly the most eyeopening of them all…

Knowing you still have possibilities is a luxury.

Reading these lines in the emotional state I’m currently in, I honestly don’t know what to feel, kind of like how I didn’t know what to feel after I finished reading the book. No, I am not content to live a tiny life, and yes, I know that as long as I’m alive and breathing, there are possibilities. My heart and brain can process that. They just don’t know how to apply that in real life.

Maybe if I read the sequel to the book, I’ll find the answer there. I doubt it though. Answers like that you can’t find anywhere else but yourself.

Tasting freedom, and then letting it go

I didn’t want to write about my two months away right after I got back. I was still on a high. And home felt like rehab.

I didn’t want to write about home that way. I didn’t want to be that person who goes away for awhile, and comes back high and mighty, suddenly feeling like she deserves more than the life she has now.

So I waited. I waited for the bitterness – I guess that’s what it is – of coming “back to reality” to fade away until the acceptance of the reality of what was and what is settled in. It’s in this frame of mind that I am writing now.

There’s no more bitterness. Only longing.

I realize now that I’d never really experienced true freedom until two months ago, when I was thousands of miles away from home. I’m not talking about freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want. I’ve grown up enough to know that’s something I can live without.

The kind of freedom I lived with in the two months I was away is something else entirely. It’s freedom from fear – fear of disappointing watchful eyes, freedom from approval I don’t even think I want sometimes.

It’s also the kind of freedom that just can’t be found here at home. And if I’m being honest, I still don’t know how to feel about that. I love home. I love that I get to be with family. And, to me, home and family are the two things that are worth letting go of freedom for… It’s just that there are things about home and family that make me long for the two months I spent away from them.

There isn’t any bitterness. There’s just moments of loneliness – I feel lonely because I miss being alone. I’m not sure if that makes any sense to you, but it does to me.

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On the edge of the Pacific Ocean, breathing and loving life – Oregon, July 2015

To remind me that Life is beautiful

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And that just because I don’t see it right now doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

And that life goes on and that I should go along with it.

And that just because nothing BIG is happening in my life right now doesn’t mean that nothing is happening in my life.

And that even though there are moments in life when I find it almost impossible to not focus on the bad, the difficult and the ugly, I have witnessed and experienced so many moments of incredible beauty and infinite peace.

And that Life is always worth living and will always remain so.

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.

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?

My bold declaration: 2015 is THE year for me

Two months into the year and I’m finally and officially declaring it.

2013, the year I graduated college, was me testing out the waters. I quit my first job and then settled into my new one – teaching.

2014, the year I completely immersed myself in work, was me deciding what I truly want to do with my life or, at the very least, in the near future, and me mapping out the steps I need to take to get there.

And 2015… will be me actually getting there. Well, halfway there, if I’m being accurate, but there nonetheless.

Toward the end of last year, I told Karen that this year will be a make or break for me. I knew that if I would end up putting off the things that really mattered to me, I’d be stuck in the just okay-ness of my life. I also knew that if I could just muster up the courage to move my lazy ass and do the things I’ve been telling myself I would “eventually” do, I would sleep at night with less what ifs and more happy sighs of fulfillment.

SO.

I’ll be staying in California with my twin sister and our cousins for the entire summer. In June, my three awesome cousins and I are going to Colombia for a week. We’re all going for a vacation, but I’m also going in order to check and see if I could live there for five to ten months to teach English. Regardless of what my finding will be, I’m so incredibly excited for this trip. Colombia has always been on the top of my list of countries I want to see.

I have also signed up for a small program that would see me teaching ESL to a group of students from Spain who will be visiting California as part of a summer study tour. I’m really looking forward to this one as well, not only because of the opportunity to meet new people, but also because I’ve been studying Spanish on my own since last year and I’ve been dying to use actually use it.

That said, I’m enrolling in an online TEFL course this month. A TEFL certification combined with my teaching experience will hopefully mean more opportunities for me to both teach English in and travel to South America in the future.

And I have other adventures to look forward to: going on a California road trip with my favorite group of girls, volunteering in a summer camp for families who have members with disabilities, seeing NEEDTOBREATHE live in San Francisco and a whole lot of other things I have yet to discover.

In my previous post, I wrote about how complicated this Life is. And I still stand by that. But the more complicated it gets, the more unexpectedly beautiful it becomes. And I’m constantly falling in love with it every single time.