Thinking out loud while "changing my thinking"

in Him


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Change… the inevitable

Throughout the course of my 3 decades plus of life, I have come to a few conclusions.

Conclusion #1 – “Home” is a fleeting concept.

Yes, I have heard the statement, home is where the heart is… or at least where your family is… but what if your heart longs for something that is not present in a specific location and/or within the connectedness of a group of people?

A few years ago, I felt Gainesville was my home. I was familiar with it… I had people there I considered family…friendships…and some sense of belonging…BUT that drastically changed over the last few years that I resided there. Many connections dissolved while others got ignited. The sense of being a part of something… or maybe it was the sense of feeling relevant faded. I found myself pretty isolated and more so in a routine of social excursions, role playing, mundane lab work (thank God that is over)… all of which was becoming less stimulating over time. The pockets of adventure i marinated in, lay in self-created spontaneity and in the ways God included me in what He was up to.  I found these adventures were what kept me going in the midst of my sorting through the fact that my “home” was once again dissipating.

Conclusion #2 – Children have it made.

Lately, I have found myself looking at kids and just admiring the time of innocence they get to bask in unknowingly. Though circumstances can vary drastically… in general, most of the kids I see around are in a safety net. They are nurtured and cared for by a parent or parents or group of family members. They imagine a world that is fed to them through story books, cartoons, etc… they are content in just being able to run with the wind and collapse into a pile of snow (which would typically be dirt)… and they recover quickly from the little disappointments they experience, like not being able to get another piece of cake.

It is simple in those early years of life. Rarely are they clothed in insecurity, thoughts, or states of confusion…not being sure who they are or what’s expected of them…they don’t need little ego boosts nor some self-fulfilling satisfaction in “feeling like” they have reached some new level of confidence…

They are just free and curious…and naturally growing.

Conclusion #3 – Accepting change is hard.

Considering how much change I have lived through… this conclusion for me is a little more of a shocker. But accepting change is hard. Even yesterday as I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, I could not help but think, wow… I was once really close to that person… we stood in a parking lot praying that she would have no more miscarriages and for her unborn children that we hoped for…and now she has them… OR in another case, we shared some really intimate moments of vulnerability. So many relationships that at one time were regular hangouts… and invitations to events… which are now distant and cold. And though I have always been okay with the evolution of relationships… there have always been the few that I thought would remain.

But that is not reality. Even now, some have slipped into their own unique state of “where is this going?”

Aside from relationally, I find myself also still adjusting to living in a new city. Ironically, I was truly relieved to return “home” after the wedding and fun honeymoon period. Having left for so many weeks, I was glad to be back in my territory. But till this day, I am yet to know where I can get my hair done or a once in a blue moon pedicure…i do not have a “trusted” mechanic…not sure where to get certain necessities…have not discovered the hidden treasures nor the hot spots…basically not feeling like I have fully acclimated to the city I live in. And with my job consuming so much of my time, I find myself more in a state of wanting to rest versus my normal, uncontainable desire to explore.

Conclusion #4 – Learning should be embraced.

As much as I complain about how much I have to study and prepare for lectures… and feel the stress of the “imposter syndrome” etc…I find that I actually enjoy learning. The biggest challenge I face is the sense of performing that I am plagued with every single day. The pressure… the anticipation… the unknown detours that come in the form of well thought out questions and challenges to what is being taught… they are all quite overwhelming…with few hits and many misses BUT… they certainly keep me on my toes and force me to engage more with the material… to think and question. The real frustration is in not always being able to find the answer and not having a safe, professional resource to turn to. Other than that, I feel stimulated in the moments that I am learning.

This same stimulation comes in recognizing growth spurts and “fatal flaws”… though the latter takes a moment to accept. As I watch myself take on various types of dynamics in my student-teacher vs mentor-mentee relationships, familial relationships, etc… there seems to be a constant state of transition that I am certainly an observer in. Yet I am learning more about myself, and others along the way.

I think at the end of it all, I am thankful that God has been with me every step of the way… He has never left my side… through heartaches, loneliness and sweeping fits of joy…. No matter the situation…my reassurance has rested in the fact that I know He is faithful, He is consistent, He is present and He brought me to this point… even though I trod along unsure of what this may evolve into.

Many things are being redefined at this point…there is part of me that is anxious about the inevitable changes but there is a part of me that anticipates the shift and hopes.


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Expect the unexpected

One of the three rules that was given to me during the engagement period was to expect the unexpected. And the snarky response I gave back, part good humour – part arrogance, “well if it’s unexpected, it’s just a little hard to expect it isn’t it?” (not exact words).

But thinking on this today, I have to admit, I am amazed at how  selfish I can be and at how often my inner insecure child surfaces from the shadows.

Everyday with this man, I witness selfless, unconditional love. A desire to do anything to make me happy… a willingness to take the lower road when confronted with my self-justified rants…a quiet observation of moods as I swim in a sea of negative thoughts in the distance. He has had to deal with all of this before, but now, its 24/7.

I have always known he is more generous and loving than me. With every boundary I subconsciously or consciously tested, he showed patience with his ability to step back, listen, comprehend, and remain committed. Yet somehow, despite knowing a lot of my own weaknesses, and boy are there many, I did not expect to be so without a true understanding of what love is.

For some reason, I assumed my seemingly theoretical knowledge and experience with a variety of romantic and non-romantic relationships would somehow equip me to … well let’s just say… I assumed I would be a better than this. Though I know I am imperfect and have some deeply rooted issues… I just thought I would be better.

Hearing him say the other day, “I don’t just read the bible… when you really look into the bible, you can not stay the same… you change… every time I change.” The truth is, inside me, a small part of me dismissed his statement like whatever and another part was taken a back by it. But man, what a reality check for me.

I have spent the past few years of my life studying or reading the bible sometimes consistently… other times not so much… but I never realized how much sin had really hindered my growth…hindered the planting of the word deep into the grounds of my heart to bear the necessary fruit.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

There is no doubt I need to humble myself. There is no doubt I need Him to remove the calluses from my heart. It’s time to really learn what love is.

 

 


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Ground zero

I was just on the way to a rusty but decent post… then I chose to multitask …aka update java…and lost it all. Ugh!!!

It’s been at least 7 or 8 months since I last wrote a post and boy does it feel foreign at the moment. So many thoughts swirling through my mind… things that have been left untouched, some partially processed… and I think I’m slowly reaching the point where I would like to document them but I hesitate… where do I begin? What should I share and how much? Same old questions.

2014 was an eventful year. In fact, many will label it as a blessed year for me. Between securing a job, finishing grad school, engagement, survival summer job, moving up north to teach, and marriage! PHEW… but why am I not jumping up and down in excitement over all the changes?

Don’t get me wrong, I am basking in the “honeymoon phase” of being a newly wed…between the natural pleasures of being with someone I love and the effortless companionship…I am also still procrastinating, therefore have not plunged into the intense work mode that I am about to face for the semester (still vacationing)… yet…I’m very sober and very calm.

It’s like I’ve taken a leap away from all the factors of my life that swiftly knock me off my feet and cause me to run the hamster wheel, and somehow I am just enjoying the simplicity of present moments. The little tensions of miscommunications that quickly dissolve into expression and understanding. The laughter as smells filter through rooms (don’t ask). The silent moments where He gently nudges me to awareness. Pockets of hope in facing a new set of challenges for the semester that is about to begin. My focus has definitely shifted. But even though in my head I am thankful for everything… its like I am recovering from all the stress, anxiety, tensions, demands, voluminous highs and dreadful lows of last year… and now its time to reset and begin to let everything sink in. It’s time to slowly and steadily, take it all in…

This weird delay and shift in focus is new for me…and I’m curious to see where it leads.


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Time

(Exhale)… For the first time in several months, as the chaos dissipates… I hear silence.

I have missed moments like these… moments where I can hear the birds chirping, watch the deep green leaves rustle in the wind, and hear insects crash into my glass patio door – though today one ended up in a gecko’s mouth.

 I have longed for this stillness for so long, it seems surreal. 

This morning, I am reflecting on where I am today with a level of gratitude…yet, I can’t help but ask myself, “What just happened?”

It’s like I was swimming blind folded underwater for months and now I have come up to take some air, and find myself facing a completely new land… and I am wondering is this where I belong? Is this real? How did I get here? Am I happy? Or better yet, content?

Years ago, the process of “sitting – planning – expecting” stopped. I learned to accept the patterns and cycles I found myself trapped in, though I always put up a fight or attempted to resist. I gave up on chasing some “idea” of what my life should look like. I made peace with where I was, and made the most of it.

During this period, I also found some level of satisfaction in being confident in whom I was, and more free to walk to the beat of my own drum. While others anxiously desired the model happy life of success, companionship, or whatever else… I learned to just watch and evaluate myself along the way.

Some might think this meant I was protecting myself from feeling disappointment, or that I had lost hope… but really I had just learned to separate myself from the limitations of time.

Time is the ultimate source of pressure for most of us. There is a sense of failure when we think of what little we have accomplished or experienced at a certain point in time. There is a sense of fear that our “dreams” will never be fulfilled within this lifetime. But at the end of it all, who says your life has to fall on the same scale as everyone else? Who instilled that scale… and why is it the standard?

Don’t get me wrong, taking double the amount of time I expected, to complete my graduate studies may never be something I look back on with pride and happiness… however, EVERYTHING was worked for my good (Rom 8.28)… and boy did I go out with a bang! 

I have officially attained my doctorate in chemistry and it still has not sunk in… who knew there would be no climax even after attending graduation. I have secured a job that I am extremely excited about and can’t wait to give my undivided attention to…and in one sweep, I have gotten engaged to a man that could not be a better complement to me… a man that I consider my friend and family… a man who’s presence has given me a sense of home.  Yet I am still asking myself, “What just happened?”

In my next post, I plan on slowly addressing some of these questions as I reflect on the happenings of my life these past few months … but what I am really grateful for, in this moment, may have been missed.

It’s like I was swimming blind folded underwater for months and now I have come up to take some air… 


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Are you “powerful” or “powerless”?

I have to say, I am pretty excited for what is happening in my heart.

For the past few months, I have been challenged in my thinking and actions in ways that go beyond subtle awareness of faults.

Areas in my heart that need “work”…healing…and softening, have been highlighted relentlessly, yet delicately.

The real question is where to begin in the sharing process (bear with me as I am running on 2 hours of sleep again).

Like a great number of people, I was the product of a broken home.

I grew up in a family that was filled with laughter and celebration. The sweet smell of fresh-baked yeast breads clothing the house in warmth. Sounds of music fluttering through the air. Gatherings where games were played, movies watched and stories shared.

On the outside looking in, we were the perfect family.

Even under the scrutiny of an insider, we seemed like the perfect family. But something was just a little…off?

Expression of who I was seemed to contradict the culture I was growing up in…or maybe it just threatened authority figures sense of control.

If I was in a serious or sad, introspective mood… I was commanded to look happy.

If I wanted to spend some time alone in the bedroom, I was approached – asked what I was doing – and told to come join everyone else.

If I expressed myself truthfully but politely through letter, I was given “the keys to my life”… aka told that the security I had in having someone care for me, was being removed… and I, in return, would have freedom to do anything of my choosing without interference. A pretty detrimental thought to a child.

Considering verbal communication was already a challenge for me due to fear of rejection, the statement of giving me “the keys to my life”, along with other responses to my attempts at communicating, pushed me further into a lifestyle of people pleasing.

However, the hardest, yet most hidden issue within this, was the sense of not belonging.

There was an aching inside that was not pacified by the warmth of my family. And I had no idea how to process it.

Fast forwarding to about 17/18 years old, I discovered a lot was hidden behind lies for my protection.

Parents were grandparents… oldest brother was biological father…my dreams of witnessing physical abuse and experiencing intense fear must have been real…and the woman in those dreams, was my mother.

So naturally, the next question was…who and where was she?

Though grateful for the family I grew up in, for all the good things….ex. saw a beautiful marriage, had a loving father and strong mother (bio grandparents), etc…A part of me struggled to suppress the restless desire to know who I came from genetically… even though I did not understand why I was curious.

I also had a longing for intimacy…a true desire to connect.

Fast forwarding to the present day… I am now pretty disconnected from my family.

Between broken ties from my biological parents (who are divorced) at a young age…rejection of who I was over the years … coupled with moving every 3 years…AND then moving away from my family. I have become a detaching/distancing expert.

A queen at avoiding pain…fleeing while masking it with confidence…(unknowingly).

Initially, I saw my detachment as a coping mechanism that became a part of me…which meant I really had no control over it.

But as the issue began to surface in my close relationships… especially one in particular…I became more attentive to it.

Then another friend addressed me head on, telling me how he felt slighted when I kept my distance while his daughter visited etc…he proceeded to discourage my detachment from those I love…advising me to allow myself to feel the pain of missing people.. to put myself in the presence of them, even at the risk of rejection.

I WAS BAFFLED.

All I could say in response is “Why on earth would I do that?”

But the conversation was speaking to my heart despite the resistance I put up.

Every single day, from that point on…I can tell the dead, dark places of my heart are surfacing and being replaced…the dry places are being watered…while the calloused parts are being chiseled off…slowly, steadily, and gently.

Every day, my interactions with people are revealing my active commitment to moving toward them, or away from them. Aka, my actions are revealing my subconscious or conscious goal to connect or disconnect with people… as described in Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk (so far a great read).

All this coupled with what God has revealed to me through scriptures and reflection…. I am like wow, I have lived so much of my life as the “powerless” when I am fully equipped to live as the “powerful”. 

Here are some key points of the “powerful”:

  • They do not control other people; their job is to control themselves
  • They can choose to love because He chose to love them
  • They respond instead of reacting to fear and pain.
    • “Powerful people are not slave to their instincts…they can respond with love in the face of pain and fear”
  • In responding, they engage by training their mind to think, use their will to choose, and their body to obey

All this being said, I am on a journey and the question posed to me today, is the same I would like to share with you….

What is the goal in your close relationships? Whether it is marriage, friendship, parent to child, sibling to sibling, co-worker or even a stranger….

Are you trying to create a safe connection or a safe distance?

Will you choose today, to be “powerful” or “powerless”?

LOVE


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“(I can’t get no) satisfaction”

satisfaction by rolling stones 2

The old rolling stone hit, “(I can’t get no) satisfaction,” seems to capture a very present reality in today’s society…(feel free to click this YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoxRFOr_sQ0).

The lead singer starts off with the title line, and follows it with the repetition of how he has “tried”… over and over, to no avail. But as simple as these lyrics may seem… the summary of the efforts placed on reaching satisfaction, and the message, of how “ideas” are sold to us through marketing/branding… is absolutely brilliant.

From radio to TV to magazines to social media… there is practically nothing left that is NOT designed to feed our imagination with “must-have” desires. The conditioning is almost inescapable.

But reality is…You will never become fully satisfied and secure in any position in your life…until you stop comparing. Whether this position is within your job, relational, activities, material possessions or even in self-reflection …it is a losing battle.

Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time evaluating myself and people around me, against what I believe… and what I have come to realise, and agree with, was well expressed by Neil Anderson…we all have the same basic needs: identity, acceptance (love), security and significance…But the real challenge comes in how we choose to have those needs met.

For me, I have constantly looked to the world to fulfill my needs… and boy has it failed on every level possible.

From my wild partying, dare-devil days… to indulgences in sexual lusts for the sake of wanting to “feel” loved and important to someone…to pleasing people for approval…to wanting some role or status that will place me in the lime light of admiration.

Each and every one of my strivings, have failed miserably. They have left me broken, lonely, angry, confused, without hope… and crazy enough… coming back for more. <SHOCKER>

The idiom “kill two birds with one stone” is not unfounded. In one sweep, the attempts to fulfil my needs have given me instant gratification….but have also left me fearful of loss.

What the world does not tell you… is that the very platform you are striving to take hold of, waivers. Just as we are guaranteed to get older the longer we live… we can also rest assured that people’s opinions of us will change…jobs can be lost…trends modulate… you name it!

Yet, there is a tendency to “come back for more.”

I can not even go into how many times I have repeated destructive cycles and found myself asking “how did I end up here again?”  Completely illogical when you lay out the cause and effect.

The earnest search for fulfillment…the longing to be satisfied in life…can not be found in what the world offers.

Working out for the sake of being healthy is great…but should not be confused with weight loss obsessions that give you the illusion of being more acceptable to people…or even yourself.

Peoples compliments/encouraging words about our character are timely…but should never be the source of our identity and significance.

Attaining degrees, having the “six figure” income, a place you can call home, a spouse and children, (etc) are all gifts…but should never be what we place our security in.

THEY CAN ALL CHANGE IN ONE SWIFT BLOW

At the end of the day, God is the only constant. He is my source of hope. He is the only one that will meet my needs the way it should be. Please do not interpret this, as me saying I don’t need people… because that is not true. We all do. The harmonies God creates through the right relationships… “are vital to becoming a whole person” (Keep your love on by Danny Silk). What He has made available is where true satisfaction can be attained…and that’s the beauty of this journey.