He Provides

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Back-to-school is an exciting time for me, my favorite time of the year actually. While others dread it, I’ve always enjoyed new pencils, a fresh schedule, and another second chance to have a good year.

It’s a bit different now that I’m in college, but it’s really not that different. I still need things like paper, and this morning I realized that I’d neglected to buy looseleaf paper. Things like this stress me out a little since I live a little out of the way. Should I make a special trip? Pay the exorbitant price at the university store? And then, just when I started looking, I found the pages that I have attached above. There were two of them with writing and the rest were blank (just what I needed!). They had been rubber-banded into something of a makeshift prayer journal by me a few years ago.

While this may seem silly to an outsider, it is precious to me. Not only did I find the paper, but I found encouragement from an unlikely source- my own journey with God. Maybe I wasn’t quite as good of a writer a few years ago, but in a funny kind of way, maybe I was wiser back then. In any case, it’s good to look back on what God has done for me over the years and what I have learned. 

I wonder why I doubt and wander so much, when clearly, He’s had my back all along and He gives me just what I need to keep going. 

Trust: Does It Always Need to Accompany Love?

....why should I trust you?

“Don’t trust anyone. Never let your guard down.”

This is something that I hear all the time, even from other Christians. And it’s not like it doesn’t make sense.

Many of us learn this “lesson” around middle school (or earlier, if you weren’t quite as lucky). I know I learned it somewhere along the way, and I learned it too well. My little friends disappointed me, left me all alone, and since then I haven’t been able to look at other people, or myself in quite the same way. Over time, I went from happy, carefree child to quiet, awkward adolescent (although I can be fun with certain people).

So I can’t really say that I trust people a whole lot. I just wait for them to disappoint me. And when they do, I take their “rejection” personally. “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t they like me? What’s there not to like? What can I change?”

Let’s revisit the love verse. If you are Christian, you’ve probably heard it a million times, but I’m going to post it again because even though I’ve been hearing it for years, it has taken on a new meaning for me lately.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 RSV

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastfulit is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The fact is, people are going to disappoint us.  People are going to downright screw us over.

But you know what? In all probability, we will disappoint others as well. Maybe we will even do our share of screwing over.

So here’s an idea. Maybe instead of always wondering what the other guy is going to do next, maybe we should focus more on our own heart, on what we are doing wrong. Maybe it is better to be a naive little fool who trusts people and believes in humanity and isn’t afraid of the devisings of men because her faith in God is positively overflowing.

But how, how is this accomplished? Should we “trust” that our fellow motorists won’t cut us off? But that’s crazy!

Should we “trust” that the creepy guy in the alley won’t mug us?

Should we “trust” that thieves won’t steal our belongings?

Should we “trust” the credit card company?

Should we trust our friends to be there for us? Our family? Our spouse?

Should we trust God?

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. Personally, I have a hard time believing that people will come through for me because of past experience. My philosophy is, “they probably won’t, but hey, at least God will be there.”

And indeed He will. But should I believe in others too? Won’t that just make it more painful when they don’t come through? (because they won’t… don’t trust anyone!).

I guess it could hurt to try, but maybe I will. I’m not an orphan with street cred or a recent divorcee or a victim of abuse. I’m just another person who learned “the lesson” in some way or another. Maybe I can start unlearning it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Testimonial For God

I won’t say that my story is exceptionally well-written. I won’t say that you will completely relate to it. I won’t say that you’ll like it. But I will make my every effort to put meaning into the events that have made me into who I am today.

Everyone has a life story. A life story well-told is often made up or made into a movie. It often takes the form of a good book. Not everyone’s life story becomes a literary masterpiece- but God knows them all by heart. Everyone’s life story is different, though they have the same themes intertwined in them. A testimony is also a story, a life story with a Christian spin on it. I suppose I haven’t really shared my testimony before. I suppose now is as good a time as any. 

If you read my blog avidly (I don’t think anyone falls into that category), then you would know that I am pretty nostalgic. I miss my early childhood. I may even carelessly refer to those years as “the best of my life.” I came into this world floating on a pleasant, idyllic cloud of bliss. Everything seemed so beautiful back then. Everything was so magical. Just remembering now almost brings tears to my eyes. 

I don’t think I could be more nostalgic.

I had loving parents and a stable home. I lived in a safe neighborhood. I went to school and did nothing but play. My teachers believed in learning through play. They were hippies.

I had lots of friends. I had my imagination. I had lots of good times. But God was not in the picture.

Then, something changed. I was eight years old at the time. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who can understand this part. If I tell people, they think I’m just crazy, if not worse. And they’re right.

I lost my innocence. I don’t know exactly how it happened. No one beat me. No one raped me. No one humiliated me on Facebook. No one stuffed me in a trashcan. No one told me where babies came from. No one offered me a drink or a hit of a joint. Do you get the picture? Nothing major happened. Except this- my family moved to a new state.

That’s all. It was hard to make friends. It was a  different culture. I missed my birth-state, California. And somehow, I learned that the world was something very different from what I’d always thought it was. It became harder to see the beauty in every little thing. I became depressed, borderline suicidal, and confused in every possible way. But I didn’t go to a shrink, I just held on. 

A year later, I moved back to California. Slowly, I started to feel better. And then I started going to a Christian school. They told me that Jesus forgave my sins. And I believed them. But what the next step was, I couldn’t imagine.

Middle school was a roller coaster for me. Once again, it was hard to make friends. And I was having some troubles at home too. No, no one beat me. But I’m pretty sure that there was one week of my life that everyone hated me. Or at least, it really, really seemed that way. But suicide was out of the question. I’d learned in Bible class that suicide was a sin. I learned many other things too. Slowly, gradually, I accepted Christ into my heart. Things were never quite the same after that. From then on, I knew I had a purpose. I knew that I wasn’t a mistake of evolution. I knew that I had to keep going. 

But, as you can imagine, it’s not like things got way better for me. It’s not like I was really a much better person. I remember doing and saying some pretty awful and mean things. I probably stopped doing this a little by junior year, when I finally realized that I was supposed to be loving my neighbor, as well as my enemies.

There were good times. There were moments that I felt like I fit in. But a lot of what I remember is pain, pain that I largely inflicted on myself. 

“Look at everyone else. Everyone else is having fun. Everyone else has friends. No one is awkward like you. There’s something wrong with you. No one likes you. No- that’s not true. People like you. But in spite of the fact that you’re strange and awkward. That’s right, you’re awkward. And you’re strange. You might as well be from another planet. Just look at you. But look, you can change. You need to get a life, go out, stop being so pathetic. You’ve got to have your time in the sun.”

That’s how I thought. I’m not proud of it, but that’s how I thought. I think jealousy is a terrible, ugly thing. I don’t know why I expend energy indulging in it. I should have been thinking more along these lines:

“Good for everyone else! But what’s there to complain about? I have everything I need. If God thought I really needed a social life now, he would have given it to me. I guess He is building my character. You can’t have it all, anyway. And I have some pretty important things to be doing, like writing. So I just don’t have much time.”

And to be honest, I had some good thoughts like that, even though I forced them on myself. And yet the negative ones kept reappearing.

And that’s not all. I wanted a car too. I thought a car would lead to a social life. I remember when getting my license seemed like the most important and coveted thing in the world. Man, it seems so stupid now. By the end of senior year, I was cruising along in one. It got me from point A to point B just fine. But it didn’t get me to cloud 9. I can’t believe I had such high expectations anyway.

Senior year especially, I started to get serious about my faith. I realized by then that I needed to really dedicate my life to Christ. But at the same time, as you can see, my “heart was not pure.” I was chasing after worldly pursuits, and I was trying to follow God too. I was trying to achieve the impossible. To be honest, I wanted it all. I wanted the status symbols, I wanted the friends, the grades, the writing career, another career. I think I even wanted to be an actor at one time. I wanted these things, at least in part, just for my own glorification. Can you imagine that? And I also wanted to be one of those Christians who would renounce all their possessions. I wanted to be fired up for Christ, not indifferent, not merely a kid from a Christian school who follows the crowd. I wanted to be different. I wanted to deny myself. But another part of me wanted to indulge myself. So I was- and still am- being pulled in all these different directions.

Then college came around. I thought my life was really going to get better. I thought a fresh start was just what I needed. I thought I would stop doing and saying stupid things.

I didn’t make tons of friends like everyone assured me I would. I am still feeling out of place. At times, the secular spin does make me question my faith. 

I wish that I have a tidy ending to put here. I wish I could say, “And I lived happily ever after. I was never discontent or unfaithful ever again.”

Or, better yet, “Even though my priorities were straight, and I really just wanted to just love on others and make disciples rather than party-buddies and a place for myself in society, God blessed me with a tight-knit group of friends anyway who continually encourage me to stand up for my faith. Oh, and by the way, I have a fantastic boyfriend too. I know, I never thought it would happen to me! Well, I couldn’t be happier. Thank you Jesus, for all the incredible blessings you have bestowed me. I will do all I can to use them according to Your will and do everything you have preordained for me. Well, see you in heaven, until then, everything is just dandy!”

But even though my journey is still in progress, even though I constantly fall back into sin, even though I still crave things that are not good for me, even though I still have bad thoughts and sin constantly… I have hope. I have hope for an abundant life. I have hope that one day, I will seize my opportunity to serve Christ wholeheartedly and never look back. I have hope that, if not on earth, at least in heaven I will be given a new body and new mind, cleared of all mental illness/anxiety. I have hope that someday I will connect with someone. Maybe I’ll never even be someone’s bridesmaid, let alone get married myself- but I pray that one day I will lead a fellow human being to Christ. And that would be the greatest honor of all. I have hope that someday I will help someone, make a difference in their life. I have hope that maybe I will write something worth reading and believing. If it is in God’s will. The all-important caveat to most of what I just said.

So maybe my life story will never be turned into a movie. It would be foolish and prideful to imagine myself being famous (although, embarrassing as it is to admit, I do it all the time because it makes me feel better about present circumstances). But the good news is that I am alive right now, and that Christ is willing to live in me. He is willing to retake the soul that I defiled and purify it, filling it with good and helpful things. He is willing to dwell in me. He is willing to dwell in you. And I think that is a beautiful thought. I think that was missing from my childhood.

So the journey continues. Thanks God, it’s been an interesting ride. I guess I wouldn’t change a thing.

Well, maybe I could have done without some of that sin.

But we can’t go back in time anyway, can we?

We only have today. 

 

 

 

I Don’t Remember the 60’s

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I don’t remember the 60’s because I wasn’t there. But I do remember when oldies stations played a lot of 60’s music. Over here, they play a lot of 80’s now. I know- no one cares. But don’t worry, I have a point to this. 

I remember sitting in the backseat of a Ford F150 for long periods of time, listening to the Beatles without even knowing it, or listening to “Can’t Hurry Love” and thinking it was, “Cater-Rhythm.” Don’t ask me how i heard that. I didn’t know what it was- but it was music, and it made me happy. And I would eat chicken McNuggets because no one ever told me that they were unhealthy (if not worse), and drink coke without worrying about diabetes or osteoporosis. 

I remember climbing things, and falling down and scraping my knees or my belly. I remember crying over a broken pencil. Maybe that’s why I became a writer. I remember toy phones and Legos, and dolls. I remember not knowing a single thing about life. Sometimes I feel as if I would give anything to go back to those days. Kind of like the song “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder. I probably heard that when I was a kid too, but just didn’t know what it meant. 

And yet, it’s foolish of me to be so nostalgic. Because when I was a kid, I didn’t know Jesus. No one ever told me I was a sinner and that I needed to dedicate my life to the Gospel. Even in my innocence, I was dead to sin, and I didn’t even know it. Why is that a good thing? 

 I guess I miss my childhood because I’m not happy with the here and now. I guess my childhood was the last time that I didn’t feel lonely in one way or another. But why should I feel lonely now? Isn’t God more valuable than a boyfriend, or a million friends, or acceptance from society, or a combination of the three? Why do I feel lonely? 

Now I sit in my car by myself and listen to the 60’s station on satellite radio. But it’s not the same, because now I understand the songs. It’s not the same, because it can never be the same again. But that’s okay. 

Sometimes, I wonder if good memories are a gift from God. Maybe they are. Bad memories are helpful too. Our memories are what made us who we are today. They are the greatest lessons ever created. So I suppose that even if I didn’t know God as a child, it’s not like all those years were in vain. I learned things, and am still learning things from the past. I suppose I’m just afraid to apply them to my life today. If I applied all the things I’ve ever learned, I would probably be happy today. Please God, help me to stop living in the past or in a future that only exists in my imagination!

 

 

Photo Credit: sodahead.com

 

 

 

 

Scared of My Own Shadow

Here is an issue close to my heart, but a little taboo. Thought I’d share it because I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Fear. Fear has held its icy grip on me for quite some time now. But before I get into this, let me just say one thing. I have never been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness or the like. And I didn’t have a “rough” childhood either. So retrain yourself from pitying. What I am about to get into is mostly a personal problem.

I think I began life normally enough, healthy and strong. I was a large and vigorous baby. In early childhood I was outgoing, bold, and delightfully naive. My parents tell me that I used to greet strangers in a loud voice and even strike up conversation. People responded well because I guess I was cute and not too obnoxious. I don’t remember disliking people in those days, besides my arch nemesis, a kid named Mitchell. You know kids and their arch nemeses… but generally I was cheerful and easy going.

Then something changed when I was around eight. It wasn’t just that I leaned out and grew taller, something drastic was changing inside of me. I moved to a new school in a strange new place. Removed from my suburban dream bubble, I learned many things about life way too fast. For the first time, it was hard to make friends and become accepted. For the first time, through means that I cannot fully explain, I was beginning to see the dark side of my world. In school they taught us about drugs and why they were bad, and in the foggy, dirty streets of downtown, I saw just the tiniest fleeting glimpse of their influence. The experience was not constructive for me. As stupid as it seems to a rational person, I became afraid of drugs, even though I had no reason to be. I was afraid of their residue in public places, things like that. I also became afraid of alcohol, smoking, sex, everything that I was just beginning to understand. But mostly, I was afraid of myself, afraid of my own shadow. I was afraid that I had weaknesses and a great potential for evil. I was afraid that there was something wrong with me, and there was, but the problem was mostly the fear. I felt hopeless and unwell. Sure, there were still good days, and times when I could forget, but when I think back on this particular time in my life, I remember mostly the bad.

I started going to a Christian school in sixth grade. I was never opposed to the idea of God. I liked having a savior. So I started accepting God into my life, but it began quite superficially and progressed gradually. My fears still existed, and middle school was still hard because of social stuff, but I notice a change in my life for the better during this time. The insanity seemed to be waning, and my fears became more rational.

Today, my fears are much more rational than when I was eight years old, but still unjustified. I worry about what people think of me and my popularity. I am afraid that I give off an awkward vibe and people can notice it right away. I am also a little scared of people in general, though I usually like them and want them to like me back.

I admit to growing quite tense on the freeway. I am also a germaphob at times, but it kind of makes sense because I am always sick.

And, like everyone about the future, what I will do with my life, etc.

Why I need to worry about these things, I don’t know. It just proves how lousy I am at trusting God. Why does it matter what people think of me? Why do I let them determine my self worth?

Instead, I should thank God, because He is continually saving me from insanity. Where I would be without His hope and grace, I don’t know. Maybe in some mental ward screaming my head off. Instead, (for now at least), I’m here on WordPress or writing my novels, letting the angst of my soul and the quirkiness of my essence spill out on virtual paper, an outlet that is less frowned upon and counterproductive. It’s a good place to be. God is good, all the time.