Square 1

Previously on Underground voices, we saw that, once again, I was freaking out about making a decision. Do I leave home (sort of) and live at university, risking my very life and relationship with my family? Dun Dun Dun

Well, turns out that the decision wasn’t really mine after all. I didn’t push too hard. I told tell her that I didn’t want to do it if she wasn’t going to give me her blessing. And this was probably a good approach. I mean, what if something did go wrong? I would never hear the end of it.

“Apparently, now’s not the right time.”

“$10,000 for room and board!”

“This might make you happy- it can’t be right.”

“It’s true that you can’t love your family more than God- but if you can’t even help the other members of your household, what makes you think you’ll have any luck in the world at large?”

So here we are, back at square one. The show is over and the status quo is restored.

Why am I not thrilled about this? I was perfectly happy before I got the call. Everything is the same, but why do I feel so disappointed?

I know that I’ve got to stop martyring myself, but I don’t want to. You see, I don’t think I really want to accept and embrace the situation. I don’t even think I want things to get better this year. I just want them to see me bravely suffering, and I want them to feel kind of bad about it. Isn’t that messed up? Oh, sure, I won’t cry all the time, but why not sigh every once in a while? Why not let them see the subtle sadness in my eyes?

I know this is stupid, especially when they think they are doing what’s best for me. They really believe they are. And maybe this is what’s best for me. You can’t really argue with God’s decisions. Or, I guess you can, but why even bother in this case? Why can’t I just be flexible and patient? Just a sliver of good attitude would go a long way.

I know that my “dream” couldn’t have been that great in real life. It’s doubtful that I would have found everything that I was looking for there. At the other end of that tunnel is probably just loneliness and confusion, albeit in a different setting.

I really shouldn’t complain. I mean, what would I really complaining about? “Oh, noooo, I have a nice home and my family loves me, and by the way, I am getting a college education and I have a few friends, and the Lord of all creation sent HIs son to die for me so that I could become His daughter and have eternal life, despite all the pathetic failures and horrible, unspeakable  sins tallied against me that will all be wiped away as if they never existed.”

Yeah, doesn’t get that much worse than that.

Hehe

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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.

Update

The phone seems to bring more bad news than good news. As my mom dialed the doctor’s office to hear their “message” for me, I was prepared for the worst, but I tried to focus on how green the trees were. “Just be serene like Jesus was.”

I know that sounds really silly.

Finally, the suspense was over. “Her tests all came out fine,” the lady said, “we just wanted you to know that.”

I smiled, how could I not? I”m not diabetic! At least I think so- you’d think they would have told me, right?

Whatever, if fancy medical tests can’t find anything wrong with me, then I suppose it’s not my place to find out what’s wrong with me either.

What’s there left for me to do? How will I spend my time now that I no longer have much cause to worry about my health? I suppose there’s nothing left to do but praise God and pray for those who really are sick. You know, like I should have been doing all along. Life really is short- if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this, it’s that I must enjoy the moment- however imperfect, however dull, however fleeting- because I know that one day, I’ll remember fondly the flavor of this time in my life. You know, God willing.

I guess there’s not much time for me to worry about if I’ll be here tomorrow, or twenty years from now, or sixty years from now. Who can know for sure anyway? I’m here now- I guess that’s all that counts.

Anxiously Chasing After Well-Being

It has happened. My mental health has caught up with my physical health.

It started a few weeks ago. If you read this blog, maybe you remember my crazy, frantic posts. That was precisely my state of mind. There was no peace, no rest in my mind. My heart was racing constantly, my brain was grinding its gears like a poorly oiled machine.

My appetite has been on the decline lately, which is weird for me. You see, I have always loved food. I was never a finicky eater. As a kid, I devoured the world. Five slices of pizza, three hotdogs, a half pound steak followed by an ice cream, nothing could faze me. A few episodes of acid relfux, however, served as a good wake-up call. When my growth spurt ended, this calmed down a little, but I was still capable of great fetes of feasting, and even took pride in this. No traumatizing event could keep me from eating for long. In fact, sometimes I would eat more in hard times to try to fill the void. 

For a while, I have had a concept of healthy eating, but didn’t follow through most of the time. I didn’t turn down the sweets, and I made no valiant effort to really change my lifestyle. 

I always thought that if I just ate real food, vegetables, and fruits (and some of the other stuff), then everything would be okay. 

So, anyway, now I’m eating about 1000 calories a day because I can’t eat any more, and even that seems like too much. Nothing seems to get along that well with my stomach. And this in it of itself may not be a problem. If I can get by on less, then why not? Many would probably love to have less appetite. Isn’t it just American culture that shuns any kind of minimalism?  

I am also experiencing diziness, lack of balance, fatigue, and some other symptoms as well that I would rather not go into.

What does it all mean? Are my efforts futile? Should I go on a cupcake diet and see if that does the trick? I do not deny that I am a little discouraged, but I wouldn’t say that it was all for nought. The reality is that I have been healthier relative to myself, but obviously I am not doing enough. I know I can do more. I know I can fight harder. Yesterday I went to Inn-n-Out (in my defense, I only had about 500 calories), and today I had a slice of homemade pizza even though I told myself I was only going to eat fruits and vegetables. So clearly I am not a total hippy-dippy, even though my body probably needs me to be. 

What I’ve learned from this is that sometimes being healthy isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sometimes you need to go to extremes, swallow your pride, and start eating tofu. I’ve learned that I need to stop being a crybaby- health problems are nothing new. I will accept this challenge from God. I will try to survive, I will try to stop worrying because anxiety is what triggered some of these problems in the first place. And I will see the doctor as soon as possible so I can stop wondering at least.

The Mystery of God… Still Very Much a Mystery (But That’s Okay)

Is God’s will simply what is before us? Or must we carve it out with His guidance?

This question is central to the turmoil that I have been experiencing all day. Turmoil because I felt that I made a decision contrary to God’s pleasure, and that I will surely be punished for it.

The decision was to continue summer school. Doesn’t that seem like the most trivial thing in the world? Isn’t worrying the real sin? And yet I couldn’t feel good about my decision, even though economy and reason were on its side. I figured that this decision could surely benefit God. I can glorify Him in all circumstances, and these seem favorable circumstances, I thought. And yet peace did not descend. The alternative to my decision is what I perceive as God’s will because it is the less attractive one. Does that make sense at all?

Nonetheless, I seem somewhat trapped in this situation. If I do drop, my family will be upset, and why upset them needlessly? Where is this all leading? Surely, God, you could bring good out of that because you can bring good out of anything… But is it the better decision?

And so, I have been entirely unable to find peace. On top of this absurdity. Satan has been at attacking with a vengeance in different ways. He’s really quite relentless. He makes me question everything- including the reason that I choose to follow God. He asks me if I’m really good enough for God, if I’m really good at all. He asked me to join him.

I found myself going along with this way too much. I found myself only distantly admiring God, if at all. Like the tragic old cynic with a face weathered by brushes with demons, who can only exhort her descendants to turn out differently.

But what’s the use in that hopelessness? Why not seek out God and make things right? I knew that I needed Him, more than ever, so I opened His word. I knew that without Him I would be worse than nothing, so I accepted His help. Once again, He was there with open arms.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭4-7‬ NKJV)

Philippians 4 is awesome, please read the whole thing if you get the chance. I believe this. Yes, Lord, I believe You and I know You are good! It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, You are still the same, You are always the same wonderful God! You are peace, You are joy, You are the antidote to this toxic existence! Oh, please give me the strength to love You! Give me the strength to care! Give me the strength that I don’t have to keep on going! Lord, for some reason I still don’t feel right about my decision; but let me at least stop focusing so much on my own salvation and start focusing on the salvation of others who deserve it so much more than I do. You, in Your gentle way, Lord, win their hearts!

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. 

My View From the Tunnel

The most common criticism of Christians is that we are hypocrites. We say things that we do not believe ourselves. We think that we are all that and the rest of the world is filled with misguided sinners who are on their way to Hell.

Well, I don’t really have anything to say to that right now, not because it’s so absurd that it doesn’t deserve an answer, but because I am not blameless in propagating the image I’ve just described above. So today, I will not attempt to preach. I will not tell you how to live your life. What right do I have to do that anyway? Surely with my track record I must be the least of his followers. And what good does it do to tell people what to do anyway? There’s only One who can touch hearts.

But I will continue to praise the God whom I owe everything to and who deserves everything I have. The God that exists not because I want Him to, but because He is.

I will praise God today, in this moment. I’ve always had a difficult time living in the moment because I am so nostalgic and introspective. It seems like I’m always somewhere else. I constantly rehash old memories, mostly good memories from childhood. Old vacations and daytrips. I used to daydream about the future too, every night. But I haven’t done that as much lately. In part because the future is so uncertain, and in part because I’m beginning to realize that the charming, refined woman of the world will never be me. And rightly so.

So being nostalgic and overly ambitious is a weakness of mine. There are so many other weaknesses, more than strengths it seems, that I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose many of them can be summarized into one weakness- my tendency to obsess. The way that my brain fixates on things and won’t let go. The way that it spins out of control like a stationary wheel. Going nowhere, moving nothing, only tiring itself out and dizzying beholders.

Satan uses this for his advantage. Instead of overthinking about God, I just overthink about everything else imaginable. He just shoves things on the wheel and sits back for the show. He piles on sorrows. He piles on worries/pointless anxieties. He piles on pleasures. Anything, everything. People, food, TV, ideas, places, memories…

It’s too much to handle at times. I could easily be addicted to things in my relentless quest to fill the void. I could easily get a heart attack in my old age. I could easily commit some unspeakable crime simply because my mind is such a mess and Satan is good at what he does. I could kill myself even easier.

I could punish myself for these weaknesses. Lord, you know how many of your children have gone that route. Frankly, I do believe that I deserve punishment. I hardly deserve all the opportunities that God has given me.

I don’t punish myself only because I don’t have to. The Lord Jesus punished Himself so that I could live forever in Him. And I don’t need to feel completely hopeless about all my weaknesses. Because the Lord cares for the weak. He is strong no matter how weak we are, and sometimes our weakness makes us stronger because we learn to be less self-absorbed and self-reliant.

So, while I may seem so wretched that I don’t deserve to live, I just have a hard time believing that that will always be true. I just have a hard time believing that God won’t use this for good. Not that I should atone for my sins, because that is impossible, but that I should become the real me, the better me. And I thank God that there is really no alternative- that I must continue stumbling after Him in my own pathetic way, or simply die. Others seem to have a third option, but I thank God that I don’t. On one hand, I wish that others would be like me so they could believe and be saved more easily. On the other hand, I don’t know if I would wish my weaknesses on anyone else because they are a burden.

And so, here I am in this moment that surely won’t last. I would like to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I really can’t. Yet I still believe in it. And I believe that when I finally see it, it’ll be so bright my eyes will burn because they won’t be able to process the glory and beauty and wonderfulness that is the Lord.