Change- So We Finally Meet

Hello change,

You were right, you always stalk on by when I least expect it. Still deciding how I feel about you.

Sincerely…

I was just merrily writing along, happy as a clam. It had been a good day, despite the fact that I felt a little under the weather. It was nice outside, so I hobbled around and looked at the flowers to get some exercise. I watched some TV, and sat down to do a bit of writing. The house was quiet- what I”d been dreaming of- and I had time to spare. Not to mention, my friend writer’s block has been out of town, so there are really no complaints. I only wish I had a little more drive and willpower to really push through.

But anyway, enough about that. I was writing, and I got this phone call. I thought it might be the hospital. For a split second, I probably thought I was dying. But no- it was good news! At university, there were a couple super last-minute openings for on campus housing.

Yes, I did consider that good news. Good news that I hadn’t been expecting at all, especially after the email that I got, twice, which basically said, “Yeah, better luck next time, there’s way too much demand so find some other option.” So, of course, I made peace with it. What choice did I have? Another year of commuting- I was okay with that. Wasn’t I? I was happy!

So, there it was, there was the opportunity that I’d been dreaming of for so long- leaving home. But was it there to just taunt me? I imagined telling my mom about this. I expected an immediate and emphatic “no.” Why disturb the delicate balance?

I waited for what seemed like a long time. When we finally sat around the table with our sandwiches, I spit it out. To my surprise, she did not say “no.” She asked questions, made conditions, and expressed some concerns, but very calmly and cheerfully. I couldn’t believe she was being so reasonable. But it wasn’t a definite yes either.

I couldn’t curb all the youthful excitement. I could see a glimpse of it, of everything that I had ever dreamed of. Not spending two hours a school day in the car, having friends, people to talk to, going to events, meetings, making a difference in the community, being part of people’s lives…

Long story short, I asked my mom for an answer. She went back and forth many times. I cried a little. She obviously doesn’t really want me to go, but she could kind of understand my position. And I could understand her concerns too. Okay, that’s not really true, but I am truing to understand her position.

The reality of the thing hit me. And the price- almost $10,000. I knew it wasn’t going to be the dream I thought it would be, but reality always seems to hit me much harder than I imagined it would.

Now, where we stand is that I am allowed to go. She won’t hold me back, but she won’t support me either.

I am excited, frustrated, and yes, very apprehensive. I don’t want to ruin my relationship with my family over this. I don’t want to be selfish.

I just want something to change I guess!

Is this what God wants? Would it be best for everyone in the long run?

I’ll sleep on it, I guess. Maybe by tomorrow, the opportunity will be gone, someone would have already taken it. I’m kind of hoping that’s the case so I don’t have to make a decision.

But I don’t really want that to be the case!

Agh- a house divided cannot stand.

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. 

 

 

 

The Unknown Health Dangers of Love Balads

Sometimes when I hear love songs, I try to imagine that these songs are not about earthly relationships, but about a more divine relationship- the love that is between God and humans. The relationship between God and I, or you and God. I suppose that is what worship songs should strive to portray. For example, maybe about a year ago, I was very moved by the song “More than Words” by Extreme. I was able to make it even sweeter and more beautiful in my imagination.

I suppose I didn’t do that when I was listening to music yesterday. Per my mother’s request, we listened to the “love” station in the car. I can’t say that I “love” all those songs, but I was a little touched by “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman.” Anyway, these songs reminded me of something- the fact that there is a very distinct possibility that I will be alone for the rest of my life.

Why do I think this, you ask? Surely I’m too young to be an old maid. Of course that is true- but I still just don’t imagine myself happily married with children. I don’t even have any friends right now, so how is it that I’ll find someone who is willing to spend a few hours with me, much less the rest of our lives? It’d possible, of course. It would be an insult to God to say that it is impossible, although somewhat improbable. So it is possible- but is it ideal for me? I can’t answer that question right now, obviously, but here’s what I will say- there’s no shame in a life of celibacy. I’ve never led a normal life, really. I come from an unusual and awesome home. I was never popular or even completely accepted by my small group of friends at school. I don’t see why any of that should change. I can’t name a single thing I’ve done to deserve the blessing of commaradary.

I suppose I’m not a big romantic. I suppose that I am fine with the prospect of being mateless… At least for now. That is a problem that even perfectly normal people have. The saddest part of the whole thing is just that I have no confidence in myself in general. I am just so resigned to it, so prepared to spend the rest of my life alone.

The natural answer to this question may be that I need to stop hating myself. The trouble is, I don’t exactly make myself easy to love. Another solution may be to stop listening to too many love songs, since they clearly remind me of things that I don’t need to spend any more time thinking about. The bottom line is that anything is possible. But no matter what happens, God will be with me, and if I let Him, He will work through me. And that’s a comforting thought.

If Every Day Was Thanksgiving

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This was the first year that my family didn’t have an actual turkey, which kind of threw us off, but you know, what does it really matter, we had other good food. And I still gained a bit of weight. I suppose I didn’t spend a whole lot of time being thankful today. I found myself sulking at one point in the day, which was kind of ironic. But then I thought… Why is that a bad thing just today? Shouldn’t every day be like Thanksgiving? Even without the gravy, the extended family, the parade, the shopping? Shouldn’t every day be spent giving thank to God for life, health (if applicable), family, friends, resources, work (again, if applicable). And yet, our society tells us that we should make thankfulness a temporary thing, and the rest of the time should be spent climbing up ladders and gawking over things that we don’t have. As if that’s any way to live.

photo credit

Emotional Greed

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Why do TV commercials work? It seems ridiculous that they are as effective as they are. We laugh at them… but if they didn’t work, why would companies pay for them?

Consumers know that many of the products are superfluous, and they know that the benefits are highly exaggerated. They can see through all the fluff and glitter.

Commercials sell much more than a product. They sell an image, a lifestyle, an accessory to happiness. So no matter how cynical you are, you’ll always find something deep inside you churned by them. It’s not just your stomach. And pretty soon you’ll find your wallet churning as well. It’s due to a basic human desire- to live the best life that you can.

For a time, I was partially convinced that I’d built up some immunity to greed. I realized that, materially, I had everything a person could ever need and far more. I stopped dreaming so much about a prosperous, successful future for myself and started dreaming a tiny bit more about the good things I would do with my life, God willing.

I even wondered why it was that others around me seemed so obsessed about money. Wealthy people and lower income people that I’ve known alike. Why couldn’t they be content with their families, their friends, their present situation? Why couldn’t they be a little more like me?

Someone once called me “greedy.” The person didn’t speak English as a first language, so at the time, I thought that it was not only unjust, but that even if I was guilty of discontent, it wouldn’t be called “greed.” That’s not the right word, you’re wrong, and I’m a good person, overall? Right? Not greedy, that’s beneath me. Everyone feels depressed sometimes.

You’re not a total jerk.

I’m a good person, right?

Right…

I began to realize that my emotional greed was really no different than the conventional type of greed. I’ve always wanted to have lots of friends, go places, have fun, be accepted, and all that. What a fool I was, blinded by my own avarice! Yes, good for me that I was partially resisting the love of money, but what of my sins? What of being irritable and ungrateful? And why, why? Why couldn’t I just sit back and enjoy past memories of friendships while passively delighting in the uncertain possibility of hope in the future. Why not appreciate more my home, my writing, my little niche here on WordPress that I’ve grown to love, and all the rest. Why worry, agonize, cry in the dark, belittle myself, and constantly deliberate the reasons for it all in my overactive mind?

I know that I shouldn’t covet. But sometimes it’s just not easy. Now I know how every other human being feels.

Well, I won’t judge you if you want some more money in your life. Who am I to talk? After all, money is quite essential. Hunger and thirst will kill you before loneliness, every single time.

The Love Affair with Freedom

Americans like their freedom. We are used to our freedom, it is inherent in our culture. Children here grow up wanting to be free, and expecting it. As children they shun bedtimes and assert their food-related demands. As teens, they go crazy and usurp freedom that their parents won’t give to them. Then, as adults, they generally leave the nest early to go to college or get their own place as soon as possible. They lead their owns lives, marry whom they want, and make their own decisions. Sure, parents often continue to play a role, but in other cases, the kids move to a different state or become estranged.

Asian culture is a little bit different. I was raised in a mix of the two.  Asian parents have more control over their kids, it’s a common stereotype and mostly true. There’s a little more emphasis on the family than the individual. Just go to an Asian restaurant, and what do you see? Families kind of share their food, or at least that’s what we do. The parents order sushi or whatever, and everyone shares. Sometimes if it’s a Korean BBQ type restaurant, they won’t even give teenagers a menu, because really, it’s not their decision. But in American restaurants, it’s a very different story. Everyone needs to have their own food, and only grudgingly will you allow your Mom to eat your fries, and reluctantly will you accept a taste of someone else’s chicken. They even make special menus to cater to the kids, who are too picky to eat normal food.

As a kid, I didn’t raise temper tantrums over cookies. I was always a little afraid of my mother. But I did eat my first hamburger when I was six, and secretly they are probably my favorite food. I never learned how to use chopsticks the “proper way,” but I can get by without dropping things, and the food will make it to my mouth. I attended and held a few sleepovers, but they were regretted by my parents :D. Shortly after my sixteenth birthday, I was allowed to go to the DMV to get my license, but I didn’t drive alone for a couple more months. And when I did, I had to text my parents every time I arrived from/left a place, and I virtually only went to school, dance lessons, and Starbucks.

Freedom is still a big issue in my life, especially as a Christian. My parents still want me to do certain things with my life that I may not like at this point. I want to live the American ideal and be a free person, able to make my own decisions, and go places that I want with people that I like. But I know that I am essentially not free, that I am property of God. I know that life is not about making myself happy. I know that I have a higher calling, to make disciples and serve my fellow man. I know that freedom often breeds sin.

But as an American, I believe in freedom in a slightly different sense. People can’t be told what to do by government. People must make decisions for themselves, and you can only hope that they will choose to listen to God. As Roger Williams put it, “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.”