Monday, November 30, 2015

A Different Person

"Who am I now?" Imogen Heap asks at the end of the song "The Listening Chair." The song had just documented her favorite things and people, her childhood riddled with bullies and visits to the hospital, and her current worries, like whether or not she wants to have children. This is a song she will add to with each successive album until her death. It will be a sonic autobiography. And at the end of her first chapter, she calmly asks, "Who am I now?" and a chorus echoes, "Who am I now?"

It is so easy to write about the past, but writing about the present is tricky. You have to evaluate everything before you have the perspective that time allows. Writing about the present requires one to pause, to go off to a quiet corner and think. It can make you sad. It can make you angry. But sometimes, it really is best to focus not on what happened last year, or the year before that, or the year before that. And so this is my attempt to write about what it happening right now.


"I can't go back to yesterday -- because I was a different person then." -- Alice


I think about how I've changed as a person, and I see a lot of what I hate to call "progress." But I am progressing, as my character changes with each new experience and I grow stronger. I'm adulting all over the place. I'm actually earning a little bit of money and I've learned so much about how a nonprofit organization works. I had to basically oversee the office on my own while my bosses were in India, which was for about two weeks. I have learned how to speak to customers and handle fistfuls of twenties at my parking job, not to mention that I will be dealing with progressively colder weather for hours at a time. 


In all of this, I feel extremely fortunate. And aside from the occupational developments, I can feel how I've changed as a person. I'm bolder now, and less apologetic. I can feel myself shine more. I'm aware of when and why I am discontent, instead of being unperceptive about my own feelings. I know when to cut my losses. I let go more easily. I can handle when people don't turn out to be who I thought they were. But I also laugh more. I've started biking around the neighborhood, and I read as much as I can, for fun. I've gone through about a dozen graphic novels alone this past fall. My favorite author is now, officially, David Sedaris. He grew up in Raleigh, so reading Naked had me jumping every time he mentioned North Hills or Crabtree Valley or pollen or the beltway. I can actually pursue some of my interests now that I am not consumed with school. I feel like more of myself. And working in missions feels closer now that I am not studying it but doing it.


I can't go back to yesterday, because I really was a different person then. I love myself now, and I still love myself then. I am proud of how I've made it through all that I have. I don't have regrets. I had to give up the luxury of regretting all the things others might shake their heads at. Regret is something I cannot afford. Yes, I do regret some things. But they're certainly not obvious. 


The past and present go hand in hand. They say that eternity is most like the present. And it is with appreciation that I find my present a very satisfying eternity. It is my eternity, for now, until I discover the real thing. I can really say that I am more me now than I ever was at any point in my past. I am a different person now. And the clever part is, I don't have to prove it to anyone. I thank God that he has brought me to this point in my life. And I can't wait to see where he will bring me next.


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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mercy

Love is hard. There are often people in our lives who we are required to get along with, regardless of how we feel. You may be hearkening back to grade school, when you sat next to that kid you didn't really care for. But this is a problem that will follow us all of our lives. And perhaps, it ought to.

I have had to learn to love people I did not necessarily admire. I had to do this because 1) Jesus calls me to do it but also 2) because I was living in the same room with them. I've been through my share of trying situations but somehow living in the same room as someone who does not treat me with respect or compassion is one of the worst experiences I have ever been through.

I recently let go. I unfriended these people not because I was still angry with them, or because I wanted to punish them, but because I could look at their picture and feel not bitterness in my heart but goodwill. It was a painful goodwill, hard earned. It was a state that allowed me to say goodbye to two people who probably don't realize how much they have damaged my self-image and well-being. The good thing is, God can use any situation to shine light on his goodness, and he actually often uses the most hypocritical of people to reveal to us what he really looks like.

What if love was always easy? What if it required nothing of us? Jesus' love for us cost him everything. Why are we disturbed when we also are required to give of ourselves?

The thing about mercy is that it is for the undeserving. That is its purpose. And the thing is, we cannot cast any stones because we are just as guilty. I could write a blog post about every crappy thing those two people put me through. But my journey now is one of forgiveness.

I have dropped my stones. It is not my business to expose anyone. Instead, I am called to love them in a tangible way. And now, that way involves acknowledging the fact that I do not, cannot consider them my friends. If that sounds strange, like I am trying to get my way and still call it love, I'd just ask you, is being a victim any better? I am not a victim. I do not even think these two people will miss me. Time has passed. Part of me wants justice, but I know I am called instead to mercy. There are some things I must leave in God's hands because only he really know what to do. That is what faith is: giving God your worst knowing he is worthy to handle it.

I hope you can look at your hurts a little differently. Don't let the pain last any longer than it needs to. Learn to just forget. I know we can never forget completely. But the last place your hurt has to live is in your mind. Don't let things you can't stand live in there, or else your mind will become a place you can't stand to be. Forgive. And remember mercy was designed for the undeserving...that is, for all of us.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Happpiness

I've been very happy these days. Okay, Monday, when my eye was twitching uncontrollably and I got a headache at the back of my head from stress, I was not particularly happy. But overall, and in spite of the stress, I've found a lot of satisfaction in my life.

I'm no guru. And frankly, I get annoyed at people who try to tell me "the" recipe for happiness. DO THESE 5 THINGS for happiness, they say. I think it's beneficial to pay attention, take notes. But to base your life around someone else's rules strikes me as counterproductive. What is meant for you may not be meant for me. But I have found a few things that are true to my experience.

Listen to God. However you do this, wherever you do this, listen to One who formed you, who knows you better than you know yourself. He knows everything, for that matter! If God tells you to do something, especially if it is kind of challenging, seek to do it. Life is not necessarily always a give and take. Sometimes there's more giving or taking, and God isn't a magic genie. But Jesus really does love you, and one of his roles in your life is that of a guide. Listen to his whispers.

In my journey from my lowest point to now, I have had good and bad times. My lowest point was major depressive disorder, an atypical depression, or at least a particularly severe period of bipolar depression. I literally thought that I was evil. No one should ever feel that way (or at least the people who ought to feel that way usually don't). Sure, we're all sinful, but we shouldn't be imagining the easiest way to kill ourselves. Anyway, my current happiness strikes me as uncanny, since I do still have dark moments, but they are always overpowered by what God has given me. So what has he given me?

Purpose. Each day I am living not just for my immediate pleasure but for a goal. I believe we can and should have comfort in this life but there is even more comfort in giving up certain things, things like "normalcy" and "conventions" and "$$$."

Perspective. Had I not wanted to die, maybe I wouldn't appreciate life as I know it now. I certainly would not be able to relate to as many people. I feel like a more complete person the more I go through things that other people might think would make me incomplete. I can appreciate every experience that God gives me because I can make the choice to embrace it. I have that choice now.

Peace. I don't always get to choose what happens to me, though. Many times things seems to come out of left field and I find myself unprepared...until I have to act and realize that I am actually well equipped. God has given me peace in that I don't worry about my capability because I know he is capable and will lead me through it. I trust that every confusing turn my life has taken not only makes the journey but produces a competence in me that leaves little room for fear or discontent.

Okay, I really didn't intend for these to all start with the letter "p," but whatever. These are some ways I've found happiness in the life Christ has given me, a life that has involved family issues, death, back surgery, teen angst, a car accident, depression, mania, travel, romance, and moving all the way across the country to work at a nonprofit. I am happy with all of this, because I feel I have learned more about myself, others, and Jesus than I could have had my life been, well, boring. Do not despair if your life has been not as, well, eventful as mine has. We cannot compare lives, ever. If my "happpiness formula" helps you, great! If not, well, I'd be happpy to hear yours ;)

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