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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“(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.


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Letters to the broken

As I stood in the kitchen washing dishes, the news of his father becoming a drug user began to circle my mind. Even though I knew there was no direct way to verify this allegation…there was also no reason to deny it. He used to deal…he just got out of jail  for dealing, about 8 months ago… and is currently dating a woman who is known to actively use.

The thought of his son, now only 2 years old, losing the chance to have a dad involved in his life… the thought of what he will be exposed to as he gets older, and learns what his father is into… the thought of the cliché “history repeats itself,” seemingly so real, in a world where patterns propagate over and over again. The cycles are so heart breaking and painful to watch. Endless shadows of families that could have been, turned to single mother households… endless tales of young girls seeking affirmation from male counterparts leading to unplanned pregnancies.

Take a trip to your nearest low-income neighbourhood and watch. The evidence is overwhelming. But let’s not pretend it only exists in underprivileged communities. Even the wealthy suffer the same epidemic. Our society is laced with brokenness.

If I could write a letter to each man, woman and child.. it would go something like this…

Dear Brother

Before you walk out that door…Know that this attempt to show you’re in control… to show that you are “wearing the pants” …is a blatant display of your weakness. This woman, that you whispered promises of love and gave hope of a future… will be left with yet another wound, which will turn into a scar. Her heart will be broken… her insecurities enhanced. Her sense of worth will diminish as she recalls every conversation and quarrel you every shared… questioning whether any of it was genuine.. or if she just ‘played the fool’. Know that the fierce, rigid attitude with which she guards her pride, will crumble the moment you walk out. Realize that the child or children, who allowed you to creep into their heart(s), gaining acres of trust, respect and love… will lose their sense of safety and security… their world will become increasingly unstable… they will become intimate with abandonment, and flirtatious with the art of escape.  Before you make the choice to leave… ask yourself, how will this impact them? and is your immediate satisfaction worth it?

Dear Sister

We have been down this road before…I understand those words caressed your deepest areas of need… but must it end in the bedroom? Why not stop this time.. and allow him to learn you in every other way but the physical. Rather than have him be your measure of worth.. why don’t you begin to see your own worth? Look in the mirror and see how radiantly beautiful you are… embrace the tenderness of your heart; you were designed to nurture and comfort.  Don’t be ashamed of your emotions… though you are not to be led by them… having them does not make you less sane…less valuable. Before you submit your body… has he made you his wife? Has he honoured and protected you from the selfish desires of his flesh, and yours? Has he taken the time to know you in all your complex simplicities? Does he lead you down the right path? Will he make the choice of loving you, a daily mission?

If you’re a mother, look in your child’s eyes and ask if this he will be father and “daddy” to this precious, impressionable soul? Realize that the power to influence your child (or children)… is being released into his care.. for better or worse.

Dear Child,

I am sorry for every time your sense of security was trampled on…for every moment your parents chose to put their needs and wants above yours. I am sorry they did not create that environment of love, support and wholesome family hood that you needed. I’m sorry they made you feel like you had to earn your significance; fighting for their attention and approval. I am sorry you were guilted into responsibility or were considered too stupid to ever be a mature adult. Recognize that despite their seemingly infinite imperfections… they too are lacking. Choose to forgive them. Choose to love them. Choose to disrupt the pattern of brokenness by responding… by making the right choice. Your story does not have to follow their pattern. Your story can travel along a different path.

If I could write letters to each man, woman and child… I would say,

“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light”

There is still hope.


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What’s the purpose of marriage?

For the first time, I am able to understand the “no desire to get married” perspective. So many of my non-Christian friends have expressed this attitude for years and I just never got it. To me, you love each other… clearly want to build a life together… so why not?

What I failed to realize, is that beyond my cultural beliefs… my spiritual/religious beliefs are what truly nurture my views on marriage.

Prior to my salvation, I witnessed what my parents shared, and admired every aspect of it. They fostered a relationship of mutual friendship… knew each other inside out…actively yielded to one another in disagreements, jovially played and had intimate discussions with each other. They were an ideal example and I loved it!

Some early mornings, my brother and I would ease drop at their bedroom door and routinely heard them getting on the same page about any and everything. There was a peace about how they related with one another…it was simply beautiful.

I have no doubt that it took years for them to get to that place. Years of working through trials… years of learning each other and adapting… years for a selfless, unconditional love to develop. But from my 3 decades of observation, I am grateful I have had such a positive example to influence my views.

(Especially after seeing the casualties of the abusive marriage my biological mother endured for 8 years.)

However, my view on marriage got 106 fold enhanced, after coming to know Him.

It is not that I became more unrealistic about what marriage entails. I just saw it through a new set of lenses.

It was no longer just a perfect union of two people… it was a union in God and a powerful expression of His love manifested for us.

Marriage was made for the same purpose we are…for His glory… but what makes it even more amazing, is that in the midst of it…the potential for growth is exponential.

Based on current divorce rates (in the US), it is clear that it takes way more than some puppy love-infatuation-sexual connection-financial security- and wavering happiness to maintain a marriage. The initial giggles and coos from over romanticized fantasies eventually fade to standard daily living. Sometimes physical appearances change… or the act of communicating begins to suffocate rather than liberate.

So what is the purpose?

This was the question posed by a lab mate of mine who is currently in a new relationship. Though culturally, her parents (traditional Chinese) would expect her to tie the knot… she has more “modern” ideologies of how things should go. She believes there is no point… you can live with each other, have sex, enjoy each other for a lifetime or not. Essentially, she sarcastically questioned whether she should do it for tax benefits…and expressed how she sees no purpose in it. In her perspective, if he wants to leave her, she wants him to be able to do so, without feeling obligated…without the messiness of having to separate acquired material goods and finances through a legal system.

It was like, WOW… I get it. There would be no purpose if I did not believe marriage was a deliberate choice to unconditionally love another person… to serve them, regardless of it being reciprocated… to stand faithfully by their side, even if they failed to meet your emotional, physical, or even intellectual needs. There would be no purpose if I did not see it as a testimony of His redemption. So how can I expect “modern” society to view it the same way? I really can’t. Culture, mindsets and beliefs are continuously evolving. So I certainly can’t think that even within a society where people are pushing for same-sex marriage… that “traditionally” accepted marriage between man and woman can’t fade into companionships that either work out for a lifetime or end in a simple break up (though not so simple when years are invested).

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that levels of maturing can occur within companionships…after all, various close relationships can show our deepest character hiccups as well. But as a Christian, I believe there is something that happens in the spiritual when that union is made. All that being said, I finally understand why some people do not see the purpose of getting married.

 


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A place to call home

Bare with me as I attempt to communicate on very little sleep.

Still awake from the unexpected alarm going off at 3:30 am (UGH)… I can’t help but think about my experience here in Denver.

So far it has been…interesting.

Contrary to what I imagined, the city appears to be small… or better yet, spread out… kind of like Atlanta.

Even on the ride into Denver, we literally saw NO mountains. (jaw drops)… not sure how I could be wrong on so many levels…I thought I searched all possible google images LOL. But to make things worse, there has been no way to escape the tentacles of this meeting aka major disappointment.

Please realize that for the past several months, I have conjured up an image of perfection when thinking of Denver. Between thoughts of the majestic Rockies… beautiful weather… the overall idea of being able to gallivant a real city, yet have the option to retreat to cabins and /or trails with spectacular views and lakes at my disposal… yes…I had a dream.

I had built an idea in my head, that somehow, Denver could be the place for me to finally call home.

 

Within in a few hours of exploring “16th Street Mall”…which I will admit, is very cute and buzzing with energy at night… we had multiple experiences of bad food… bad service (do better Cheese Cake Factory!)…and noticeably fewer options, with all the replicas of stores (such as 6 Starbucks on one strip)…. I was pretty much on the side of “There is no way, I would want to live here.”

But the following morning, around 5:30 am…as the dawn pierced through a sliver of spacing between the curtains… all was quiet…I decided to take a peek at what the city looked like in the stillness of the morn. Much to my surprise, I caught a glimpse of the Rockies from my hotel window. 🙂

I was ecstatic.

From that point on, all the negatives we had experienced began to look like minor divots in a sea of possibilities. No place would be perfect. It could work! I just need a chance to explore.

Now I wish this was a tale of how I played hooky and created the experience I wanted (my typical norm) in trying to discover my “home”…but it’s not. I was stuck in the hotel where the conference is being held and in the vicinity of 16th Street Mall for meals.

But what I take from this, is the potential for more…a part of me longs for that place to call home…and I believe even if it may not be in Denver (still not ruling it out)… It could be in Boulder… or Knoxville…or wherever else. Nothing says I can’t keep exploring my options until I find the place that truly resonates with the desires of my heart.

At the end of the day, my true home lies with Him… so the physical home is a temporal satisfaction… and the possibilities of that, are endless.

Rest assured, I will be back!

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