Thinking out loud while "changing my thinking"

in Him


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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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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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Don’t quench the fire

Just as I was finally calming the scatterbrain, beginning to read my bible in the midst of talking to Him…I started thinking about the camping trip I will be missing out on…because I am attending the Rocky Mountain Magnetic Resonance Conference in Denver.

I thought of the missed opportunities to connect with people and to observe them in a different setting… Boy do I LOVE seeing people in a variety of experiences… so much to learn! Then somehow, my brain went into how I would want to be known as well, in a different setting…

I started thinking about, how the only way to share who you are, is by letting people see who you are in a variety of environments… the only way for someone to truly, find some level of attraction to you…that is beyond the physical… is by them experiencing your fire burn…the warmth that they enjoy being around, the radiance of personality, the pain that comes from being scorched by your anger (maybe a little reach with word choices here LOL)… etc…

I thought of the this guy, who is going on this camping trip, and how I consider him decent physically, but have found his personality attractive for a while… and some of his challenges in pursuing women…I thought of how he is successful career wise and financially… etc… yet single. And in the maze of thoughts, fast pictures  of a number of my single female friends… especially the ones who have never even dated…and how they see themselves because they have gone “unnoticed” for so many years of their lives. I thought of the convo I shared with another friend where she emphasized the importance of preparing yourself for marriage etc.. Again a topic most married couples seem to elude to, saying they didn’t realize how different marriage actually is.

Entangled in my web of thoughts, was the article I just read about Tina Turner (73) getting married to german music producer, Erwin Bach, in switzerland yesterday… after 27 years of dating. 27!!! I can only imagine  what caused that delay…between her past experiences and maybe wondering if there was any real reason to get married… who knows…

But what I noticed from one of the photos of her and the new hubbie, is that she was just radiant…absolutely gorgeous. And He looked enamored with the sight of her. After 27 years, of which they probably lived in their house for at least a decade, if not more… he simply looked like the doting husband.. who was happy to finally put a ring on it.

And I could not help but think about how we should NOT let our fire die out! More than learning to keep house… to cook… to dress for various occasions… and manage money (PLEASE DO… very important considering its one of the leading causes of problems in marriages… I pray I get better at this myself)…and getting physically healthy for yourself and your family (Extremely important, hence I started slowly working out a few days a week, 2 weeks ago)…

Besides these practical preparation steps… I think during these times, rather than become disheartened…losing hope… or even having such a low self-image… for example, thinking you must not have anything to offer.. or are unattractive… BURN EVEN BRIGHTER

Become more confident in being yourself in every circumstance…

I saw an ad on Facebook, which used an old George Elliot quote “It’s never too late to become what you might have been” …showing the legs of a runner.. I believe it was for Zephyrhills… and I was like YEA! (mainly because my goal is to one day be a runner! lol)

Bottom line, be who YOU are created to be… FULLY… and let the God given relational experiences teach you how to be even better!

Dive into those friendships, no matter the risk of judgement, hurt, loss, etc… and be the best friend you can be… and let those experiences reveal your selfishness, childishness, wrong thoughts… and allow yourself to experience the grace of being sharpened!

You can only become more radiant.. more attractive…and more secure!

At this stage in the game… what will hiding in a corner, holding back who you are and feeling inadequate really accomplish? Absolutely nothing!

So if you are single… at least enjoy who you are and let the people you come in contact with be left with a mark from the encounter!

 


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Happiness

Last week, I returned from Brazil, 1/2 happy to be back in my space and 1/2 dreading the anticipated return to mundane lab work. Without a doubt, I do enjoy science on some fundamental level but certainly do not enjoy the tedious nature and repetitiveness of my current experiments. So… here I am.. back to the routine. The one benefit to routine is that you have plenty of blank spaces that enable subconscious and conscious reflection, which tend to be drowned out when over stimulated and excited by new ventures.

Within this week of return, I have gotten into disagreements with friends…been hurt…come to realize that people’s insecurities seep out in the strangest ways…been encouraged…stressed…blessed physically and spiritually (both of which made me happy)… angered… you name it. And in the midst of it all, I can’t help but to think on the common statement that people made while I was in Rio… “as long as your happy, that’s all that matter.”  Really?!

Sounds so simple…and seemingly ideal. In this present world, where we hope to all just get along… we hope that everyone, no matter who they are or what they believe or what they look like (etc), they will be accepted… they will be loved… they will be secure… and on some level be significant… whether through the rights they can exercise… or just to that other person that truly sees them.

But what is the standard to decide that happiness? What is the standard for what we term “ideal? Every measurement requires a standard… whether it’s a distance (measured in meters), time (in seconds), etc… so what is the measure of happiness that we should supposedly strive for?

A friend of mine recently shared a news report with me about a radio host couple that committed suicide together (http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/06/us/new-york-life-coaches-suicide)… as tragic as the situation is, it was pretty ironic considering they were life coaches and gave people advice on how to live. Yet an excerpt from one of the letters made it clear that the male companion could not “take it anymore” because his wife was in pain. But what really made this report stand out to me, were the comments on the bottom… people arguing back and forth about the couples right to choose to leave the world together… and others saying how they are hypocrites etc… so many opinions… so many ideas of morality, truth.

So whats the standard? And if truly, all that matters is that your happy… realistically.. should more of us contemplate death?

By no means do I support suicide… despite having contemplated (/planned) it in my past… but I ask people to really think about happiness and how fickle it is.. just as people are. Happiness waivers… it is never constant… it does not remain. tragedies happen.. people hurt people… inexplicable cruelty occurs for reasons deeper than we may even care to delve into…. and in all honesty, acceptance is usually based on what can be mutual benefited from one another… judgement occurs.

So I challenge people to really consider if happiness is enough.

Ironically, though I am a scientist by training…as a wonderful friend of mine pointed out this week… i am a believer in a God that I can not see, taste, touch, etc…  but what people don’t realize is that the experience that marked my change in belief is one that I can never deny. What happened was beyond my natural mind… what happened was more real, intimate and deep to the core of my being.. than any relationship with a lover… than any sexual sensation.. any high… any fear…

This intimacy and knowledge of Him… has provided me with a standard… and that standard is not dependant on my emotions… nor my circumstances… nor anyone else around me… it is dependent on Him.

This reality for me, also provides me with the renewed concept of love (growing process) and hope. And as stated many times, an opportunity that my “joy may be full.”

(more thoughts to come)


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Good laughs, good eats, good happenings = Good trip (Raleigh, NC)

The journey north was long but overall, FUN. Not only did my group (lab mates) get to truly just be in each others company for a change…which is a nice deviation from the standard meetings, etc… I think we actually enjoyed each other… I can definitely speak for myself, that I enjoyed them. Each person had a different flavour… each person was key in playing off/feeding into another…and there were some little one on one moments that I will definitely cherish. I thrive on such times when we can just connect, as people, on a different level.

I love my group/my co-workers. Oh and the singalongs.. who would have thought these serious faced scientists had it in them to get goofy and “serenade” a restaurant.

I also had the opportunity to re-connect with old friends… man I love those guys.. had no clue her brother was even back in the country.

But in reality, we went to Raleigh for the SEMRC conference.. but can you tell that was not the highlight of my trip?

On a different note, so many little things happened at this conference that truly just left me encouraged.

First I got a letter that turned down my application for a travel award,… then the recant saying that the first letter was a mistake. This is after I had already started talking to God about me accepting my app being turned down. Then I saw the professor who essentially marked the beginning of my graduate career completely changing course… like literally, this is the man I went to GA tech to work for… and yea… long story short, decided he did not want to keep me due to limited funding, etc. And from that point, I have gone through 2 other advisors (rough experiences)…I also ran into my favourite graduate advisor from GAtech.. and we had the opportunity to catch up.. he is still so adorable and forever looks like a baby…. I don’t understand it. And then the talk…despite being completely unprepared… having to present other people’s research… and totally insecure about that. Once again, the peace that surpasses all understanding hit like a wave.. and the comment I got was that I was “smooth”… lol. go figure.

I could not help but think after all these things of one word… restoration.

Not sure why, but that word popped in my head many times… cause all I could think of was how I saw flashes of my past… and could stand. I remembered how a long time ago… one of the two advisors I have gone through since that first one…told me I had something special.. the way I commanded the room while delivering my original proposal (my very own, original idea… i forgot I actually created a project back then)… to my committee at GAtech.. and I remembered how worthless I felt when I stood at UF a failure… low… told I could never get a doctorate…. and I saw myself now, inspired… working hard (though that’s  definitely draining at times)… with a boss who seems moody, that I rarely see yet supports me in true faith of my potential… and another boss who thinks I can master anything… overcome any challenge (I tend to go down kicking and screaming but eventually allow God to make up for where I lack)…

So many memories flew through my mind.. its like I came full circle.. I was so confident before… it all got torn down… and slowly but surely…I am being rebuilt.. but on the right foundation this time… one that is sturdy… one that will last regardless of the stamp of approval.

This was a good trip… and I have a lot to think about.. a lot to be thankful for. Cause even though I see areas in my life that are lacking and need repair… man… nothing can take away from what is.


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Adoption

I was persuaded to listen to a tape called “dealing with rejection” and though overall, I thought the speaker made great points, I can not help but disagree with him on one part in particular: it should be easier to explain the gospel to an adopted child, than anyone else. Which in my mind equates to him saying they would be able to understand and receive it (and I could be completely wrong and bias based on side influences).

Though his reasoning seems fair and logical; it is very one-dimensional.

He uses the classic idea of having strangers know what you look like (etc) yet still choose you to be their child; how they were not stuck with you like parents who have a child through natural birth.

But, what of those children who were not chosen because they were wanted? What of those children who were placed as a burden of care to someone else due to unforeseen circumstances? Or the children who were used to manipulate a situation? Should that still be considered a “good” choosing?

What of the children who literally are the bait on the hook, conditioned to get the right fish that would lead to comfortable living? What if it’s a combination of circumstances or completely different?

In my head, I believe my family loves me. But nothing can change the impressions and feelings I grew up with as a child. Even though I was never even told I was “adopted,” as a kid, I beg to say it made the feeling of detachment, not belonging, being a stranger/odd ball… a more enhanced reality. I never spoke of it to my parents… how could I? I would not even know what to say. At most, I probably wrote a water downed version of my feelings to my mom in one of a million letters I wrote to her in attempts to communicate.

Watching your brother get the nice stuff… yet somehow feeling like you must be the responsible one… the one who does not burden the family… watching him get away with so much because he was “being stupid” (immature etc)… while you were just a calculated whatever.

There was no denying to myself that I did not fit. I knew I did not fit somehow… and I could never understand why. Eventually I learned why. Bottom line, my parents did the best they could… they loved me the way they could… they cared for me… they provided for me… and I will always be grateful for that because like the speaker said… we are not entitled to be adopted. But if I were to use my “adoption” analogy to relate to God’s choosing, I would be left utterly handicapped and unsure of a lot more.

Hearing my b. mother tell me that I was taken to keep her within a marriage… true or not… was not in any way going to help my perspective of how things were or are.

So no, I choose to say God’s choosing is UNLIKE any other. Nothing will ever take away the reality that God saved my life. That God saw me and made me worth something more. That He accepted every part of my being, even in my state of lacking any substance, with nothing to offer, depraved, whatever you want to call it… till this day, embraces me as I am.

God’s choosing is not comparable to anything mankind can offer because sad to say, people are selfish. Sometimes I ask myself why He chose me, because I can’t understand it… it does not make any sense to me considering how good He is…but I can tell you a lot of possible reasons as to why others have chosen me.

So I disagree with that earlier statement made by the speaker… because what I have experienced,… just the gift of having my eyes opened to the reality of God… Him constantly pursuing me in the midst of every choice I have made… even in the years of not acknowledging Him… the desire for my well-being… with Him helping me to realize I don’t have to “earn” His love like other people… no expectations… no pressures… no facades… walking through some of the darkest moments of my life with me… when I felt like a complete failure… worthless… aimless…alone… and He still gave me hope… and restored me over and over. No… nothing compares to that.

Adoption into God’s family… being chosen… redeemed…may seem easier to explain to an adopted child… but not necessarily. Sometimes, it makes it a challenge because you don’t even know what truly being accepted looks like. And that is something He has been and continues to work on in me.