Friday, May 17, 2013

The Story Isn't Over Yet (A HIMYM Reflection)

Here's a little-known secret about me. I love stories. I love hearing stories, I love telling stories and I love thinking up stories. That's probably one reason why I have an awkward blog which is only for stories ( stories that are true, about me or my friends and their awkward experiences).

One thing I love about stories is that they are never completely finished until all items have been resolved. Now, contrary people would tell me that is false- good stories leave you hanging, wanting more or wanting something to change (especially with documentary-type stories). But I would disagree. The stories that leave you hanging aren't finished. The actual story isn't finished yet even though the book might be published.

There is one story-line that I've been obsessed with since the first time it aired on television- that would be the show How I Met Your Mother. I absolutely love it. In fact, I love it so much that I even made one of my best friends a blue French horn for her birthday in honor of that show. I was very unsettled all season though because I thought the story was going to be winding down and ending since it was Season 8. You know how writers make the plot take forever to build up to the climax and then all of a sudden everything will fall into place and the show is over? They were doing that (and oddly the past few episodes seem to be reflecting parallels in my life too). But when things fell into place, some items were still missing. Not everything was explained or finished yet and I was so excited that there was more! AND even better is that the story isn't even over!

And that is what I love about stories. I love stories and watching stories unfold because life is one very complex story that never seems to be over. Things get messy and unsettled and disrupted and it's just wonderful after you can see how all that misery just makes for an even better resolution.

Stories reflect life but life is THE story that gets told. I don't think we always realize it. We make it about the characters or the theme or the genre or what have you, but it's all about the same journey or course in life.

I think that every story is really just pointing towards one HUGE story and we ALL are important characters in it.

And this is the beginning:
God was around, He made some awesome stuff (i.e. the entire universe) so we could live and worship Him and exist in all things beautiful but we fell off the wagon and created ugly by eating fruit from a snake. So to help us back on the wagon, a covenant was made that would guide and direct man to forgiveness and back to beauty. But it wasn't a pretty testament. Sacrifices were made, battles were had, sin kept existing, etc. All of this led up to the climax where Jesus, 100% God-man, died to finally end the catastrophic mess so we could all be free to worship God and restore things to the way it should be. He even said, "It is finished" to mark the end of that Old Testament covenant.



It isn't finished! It's just getting good. Because now we see things are falling into place but we also are seeing things get more unsettled and dirty. Terrorist bombings, nuclear threats and war, starvation, climate change, no energy sources, the never ending cancer disease, the worsening effects of greedy corporate systems, etc. You know what that means? We need the big climax and resolution when His second coming will finish it all. Here I am, living in the middle of this part, just a small blip in this huge story, but we're here. We're here and we see the messy plot of Satan and sin trying to take over but we also see God at work. I see the part where I am lonely and sick and tired and depressed but I also see how God can use that to bless others and make life beautiful. For what IS beauty if there is nothing harsh to juxtapose it against? (Seriously- I'm asking because I want to know.)

Anyway, we are a part of this crazy absurdly complicated story which billions of people have participated in since the dawn of Creation. I just think that is the coolest thing ever. And it's not over until there is this sweet smell of God writing the last period on the phrase "The end" where everything is perfectly resolved and in place.

I can't wait.

But until then, instead of moping about the long dragged out plot, maybe I should be out there experiencing it. After all, He wrote me into it as a character, so why not?


For two years now (actually probably longer, maybe 2.5-3 years), my soul has been hibernating. Some might have called me depressed even. Basically, my emotions hit the "pause" button and I stopped thinking, processing, feeling and doing. Well, I felt some things. 

Not much has happened for two years. I take that back actually. Let me explain some of the things that first come to mind that have happened in the past two years in my life:
  • I realized I suffered from chronic and daily migraines (and not allergies and sinus headaches like I tried to tell people) for the past 5 years and figured out I was deficient in some minerals. I always blamed the weather- then i started tracking it and learned my headaches actually occurred daily and was not connected with the weather. So now I do things to prevent them and I haven't had one in 6 months. Life is so much more tolerable now.
  • I had to end an extraordinarily emotionally toxic friendship with my best friend, which might have been one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and it took me 5 months to get the strength to do so.
  • My brother and I have gotten close like besties but it’s the type of closeness where you never acknowledge it because that would ruin the beauty of the sibling dynamic. 
  • I lost my grandfather two Thanksgivings ago and learned that the saddest thing in the world is a 90 year old mourning widow who mourns for her late husband of whom she was married to for 70 years. 
  • My friend was found discovered on the tracks of the NYC subway system. That is all I want to say about that.
  • I learned that no matter how supported you are in your first job, they will still only treat you as “the girl out of college” and won’t give you freedoms the way the men are given- even if your company WBENC certified and you have presented work to 4 star generals.
  • I almost choked on chocolate one night, literally to the point where I was trying to not panic and get myself outside so someone can help me because nothing had entered my lungs when I took a breath. 
  • I’ve had the worst nightmare while sleeping that I have ever had where I woke up and tried calling my best guy friend at 3:30 am on a work night due to the crippling fear it produced- even to the point where I didn’t sleep for the next night either due to it and I blocked my doors every time I was in my apartment for a month after it. (If you know me, you know that dreams and things never affect my real life decisions like that unless if it’s bad.)
  • My best friend got married to the perfect guy for her and her marriage is truly one that I admire and respect. In fact, because of her marriage and how wonderful it is, I have peace at the moment that I am the "forever single" girl because I know I haven't met that guy for me yet. I am at peace because I know when or if I ever do meet that guy, that story will be both beautiful and hilarious at the same time and will be totally worth the wait. I can't explain to you why my best friend's marriage has taught me this but it has.
Needless to say, most (but not all) of the memories I have of the past two years are not exactly "happy" or "favorite" memories. But, more importantly is that I’ve learned about family. Family helps. Family is what shouldn't EVER go away. And your family isn't just comprised of relatives (although it’s nice if you have those too) but your close friends and their relatives are also your family.  This is a sample list of what family does:
  • They take you under their wing and force you to play board games for your entire birthday weekend with no one mentioning it's your birthday because they know how awful birthdays have been in the past for you.
  • They let you show up late at night every weekend for 3 months because you are depressed but they never ask why. 
  • They invite you over to every family function to help you feel included. 
  • They don't ask why you love a certain show- they watch it with you instead, even if they don't understand or like it.
  • They call you regularly even though you never remember to return their phone calls in a timely manner.
  • They do all these things for you, but you would do the same things and more in a heartbeat for them.
Anyway, I'm ready for a change from these last two years. I'm hoping for a change. I'm praying for a change of attitude. Hopefully, tomorrow begins that change. I really want to call the last two years a "winter" season for my soul and I pray that my soul is moving into a season of spring.

I pray that something is finally beginning to thaw inside me.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Learning to Observe

One time when I was in elementary school, an assignment was given to each of us to list 20 observations about an object. I think the object was a rock.  Twenty different observations! All of us kept telling our teacher how hard it was going to be to think of twenty different things to list. I never thought I would be able to complete the task. I looked at the rock and started my list: the rock was gray, had shiny spots scattered throughout it, bumpy on one side, smooth looking on the other side. It was taller on one side than the other, sorta round but not quite, and  had an indentation in one spot. But then observations started slowing down. How could you  come up with 20?!

Everyone in the class was slowing down in this assignment. Then my teacher gave us a suggestion- we should use our other senses besides our eyes! We were allowed to touch the rock, smell the rock, listen to the rock, even lick the rock if we wanted to. 

This idea opened up a whole new avenue and possibilities for our list. The rock now was also rough, smooth on one side, hard, cold before I held it, warmer when I held it in my hand for a time. It smelled like dirt and metal combined. It tasted, well, not yummy. The rock was silent. Well, it was silent until I dropped it on the table and then it made a clinking noise. Once I got over that initial roadblock of expecting myself to run out of descriptions, it was easy to reach 20!

I've been pretty mellow lately and perhaps a bit angry and definitely empathetic towards my job lately. There have been a lot of changes I don't agree with and I've felt walked over. However, I've just been observing at one angle. If I had just started using my other senses and my gut instincts, I'd realize that some people are hurting in my office and some are so insecure they come off as aggressive tyrants in their act to compensate.

After finally noticing these things, which I might add, are not self-seeking (finally) I was sitting in my chair and I thought "Why haven't I been acting as an example of Christ's love towards these people?" But I didn't realize how far I'd strayed until I sat back and forced myself to observe my office's inner workings from multiple senses. No leaping to conclusions or searching for things to perpetuate one's opinions or attitudes- just observations.

So go try it and observe. Wal-Mart is a great place to start!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Afraid of the Dark

I have a confession to make:
I am afraid of the dark.

Now I'm not afraid of the dark in the normal sense. I can walk into a dark room or out into the night and understand that the area hasn't physically changed and that nothing will jump out at me and attack (except for my brother's cat). Mentally, my brain knows not to fear. However, deep down my heart starts doubting anyway. I get fearful that I am left all alone. I think it also helps explain my winter anxiety- winter has the shortest days of the year and so it is dark the longest.

I realized my fear, or at the very minimum my strong distaste, of the dark a few weeks ago. It just sorta occurred to me. And I got thinking: why am I so fearful of the dark? Why don't I like it?

I think it brings on mental claustrophobia. The dark starts to strip things out of your line of vision. When you are in the dark, you can't see the things around. Darkness is around you and all you 100% know is that you are standing there but a blanket of darkness cloaks everything else.Sure, we have faith that everything around us is the same as what it was when the lights were on. We rarely have reason to doubt that something has changed with the cover of the night. But I still don't like it. I can't see the strangers walking down the street at night, I can't see that uneven bump in my path that I need to step over, I'll run into things with my clumsy feet and then I will most likely trip and fall.

My relationship with God is like that too. In the lighter times, I have no reason to doubt that God is present with me and that He cares for me and has undying, relentless love for me. But when darker times come, I am left standing there with a slight fear. I can't see what is around me, I can't see what God is doing but I'm desperately trying to trust Him that nothing has changed. I have to trust that when I do trip God will still be with me to help pick me up.

Maybe that is why Christ said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Maybe Jesus is my light bulb, or my flashlight. A flashlight shines a beam of light in the direction you point it so that it shows you what's lying ahead. Jesus already lived a life here on earth to show us what's lying ahead. His example can guide me and show me when I should turn because there is a bend in the path. His example also reveals and reassures me that God always IS present so that I won't be living life alone in the dark.

Since I started my job, I've been waking up early in the morning to get to work. I wake up with the sun rising and go to bed when it is dark. I used to wake up at like 10 or noon and stay awake until the sun was almost rising the next day. I was practically living in the nighttime instead of the day. That made me miserable. I am now making a conscious effort to live life when it's light outside instead of at night. More people should try that. It's much nicer. I can't avoid the darkness (because in the winter it's dark at like 4:45 or 5) but when the darkness does come I know it's time for me to start calming down for the evening to rest for the night. Spiritually, I should learn how to do that too. When the dark times begin to come, instead of panicking I will remain calm and curl up with my Jesus to rest and trust that God will still take care of me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Emotional Boundaries: A Letter to my Brothers-in-Christ

I am documenting this because apparently guys don’t understand us girls. I am sad that I have seen so many of my girlfriends destroyed and hurt by this so here goes nothing. Guys, here’s a little 411 about girls that apparently you don’t understand nor have any of you ever figured out:

Emotional boundaries and emotional attraction are to girls the way physical attraction and physical boundaries are to guys.

Let me try to elaborate. Girls are taught to dress modestly because guys often are attracted to physical beauty and stumble into temptation more often due to crossing physical boundaries be it through action or sight. While I think it’s more complicated than that, I will say I agree with this in a general sense this based on how my guy friends act. Us girls are taught to cover ourselves up so as to not tempt our brothers and so we can guard our brothers’-in-Christ spirits. I am aware that us girls do not always protect our brothers’ hearts like we should and that we fail in this area. We aren’t perfect. I’m not trying to blame guys, I’m just wondering if guys realize what they are doing to girls when they are, possibly unknowingly, leading them on.

My question is: Are guys instructed to guard our hearts so as not to tempt us girls in a similar way that is appropriately fitted for how girls operate?

I am more attracted to guys who stop and talk and get to know me than guys who are good-looking. Guys who chat me up and open themselves up to me make me swoon. Girls’ emotions get wrapped up into our friendships and relationships. We strongly desire feeling loved and reciprocating love. I believe it stems from the fall in Genesis 3, verse 16 when God told Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” We crave this emotional attachment to men. This is where we do not guard our hearts and stumble into sin because of that craving of a relationship. We seek out friendships with men and we deceive ourselves in thinking that we only need ‘friendship’ and it won’t be so bad. Or we even convince ourselves that maybe someday, the guy will finally fall for us so we don’t even put up the ‘friendship boundary’ that are so vital because we so desperately want more. Guys tend to not get so wrapped up emotionally in comparison and don’t understand why girls ever cared so much. Naturally, these friendships and relationships break apart or fall through and we feel hurt, broken and rejected. is how we get the stereotype of being crazy and over-emotional. This broken friendship or relationship isn’t necessarily the guy’s fault. Men and women operate differently and guys don’t always think what they were doing was causing us to stumble or hurt because if it was done to them, it wouldn’t necessarily affect them the same way. It’s been said to my friend, who then told me, that the difference between men and women is where we find our value. Men find their value in tangible things like a career, skill, hobby, etc. but women find their value in their relationships with their family, friends, and boys.

Girls stumble and get most hurt from emotional harm, not physical harm. Sunitha Krishnan is an advocate in India for rescuing and helping sexually-exploited children. She was gang-raped at age 15 but she said that it wasn’t the act that she remembers that hurt her and made her feel like a victim. It was the bitterness and anger afterwards that harmed her that she remembers the most. It was the emotion and the loneliness she felt afterwards that made her become a victim.

I personally have worked with very young girls who have been sexually abused by men. These girls do not even understand that the physical act of what these men did was a bad thing. They are more harmed by these men that they trusted with how they left. The girls feel it is their fault that the men were disappointed or angry at them and that is why they did what they did. I was driving one 10 year old girl back to her house this past winter while the bread-winner (her step-father) had been arrested for molesting her. We didn’t know how her mother would find a job or find transportation for a job to support this girl. Her family was in trouble. This girl, crying in my car, asked me if she had done something wrong because as she said, ‘It feels as if no one loves me and it’s all my fault that this happened.” She never truly understood until her sex-education class that what had been done physically to her was wrong; she only knew the pain of her emotional hurt.

Ladies must be very careful of emotional boundaries. And gentlemen should respect that. I’m finding more and more that a lot of guys are clueless that girls become significantly more emotionally attached than guys. For example, my friend broke up with his girlfriend this past winter and she kept de-friending and then re-friending him on Facebook. And then she would go through phases where she’d talk to him ‘as friends’ and then not speak to him. I would always yell at my guy friend for answering back and he didn’t understand why. I called him terrible and mean but he said it wasn’t his fault she was crazy. She wasn’t crazy. She was hurt and trying to heal and struggling with desiring any type of relationship with him (including trying to be friends) and he did nothing to respond to that. In fact, he encouraged it by talking back and allowing her emotions to be even more tormented as she desired that relationship again when it wasn’t right. When she finally gave up and stopped trying to contact him, I said ‘good for her.’ He still didn’t get it.

Unfortunately, some guys have figured this out and use this to their advantage; they are called flirts and they ‘lead girls on’. They mess with our hearts purposely to get attention and then leave when they get what they want, leaving us hurt and our spirits beat-up. I have a nameless friend who just experience this. This guy started flirting with her. She had a talk with him to clarify his actions and he told her that he was serious about his feelings for her and his faith in Christ and he wasn’t going to try to hurt her. So they talked and hung out for about 2 or 3 weeks. Then, all of a sudden, he had ‘bronchitis’ and couldn’t call her on the phone. A week later he responds to her text which asked how he was by saying, ‘I’m great! Just getting my life settled here in California.” Yes, he picked up and left the East Coast and isn’t planning on coming back for a long time after leading her on. Not cool. It will take all of my strength in November when I’m in California for a work trip not to hunt him down and throw a rock at him.

In order for us to heal and feel like beautiful women of God, we need to guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all, guard your hearts for everything you do flows from it.” For girls this means for us to remember that our value and worth is not in our relationships but in Christ. The only place we can be the women we were designed to be is in Christ. Our brothers need to help us with this with the realization that this issues is a heart issues which they can’t fix but they can help protect us.

And so, Brothers-in-Christ, I beg you to stop tempting us. Stop opening up communication and stop allowing these deep friendships to develop when you do not desire anything more because for girls, deep friendship means commitment and commitment means intimacy. If you don’t desire intimacy, don’t let that relationship get deep. Don’t deepen a friendship without clarifying that you don’t desire anything more and even then, realize that with the “DTR” that girls will still read into your actions with the thought “maybe he’s changing his mind.” We will believe your actions before we believe your words. We can’t have guys messing with our emotions. Just like how we cover up ourselves for you so you aren’t tempted as easily, we need you to learn when to stop talking to us and we need you to stop encouraging us to talk to you. Granted, we don’t always guard your hearts through modesty as well as we should; we are still insecure and sometimes we like the attention we get from our beauty. This is probably similar for guys; guys are insecure too and probably like the attention they get from being our friends.

I am asking that you become aware of how ladies function if you weren’t already aware so that you can show us love and so that you can love us well by protecting us and showing us Christ. I am asking you to stop unintentionally leading us on. My friend’s ex-girlfriend was struggling with this break-up for months and she finally learned that she couldn’t be friends with him. It would’ve been a whole lot easier for the girl’s heart to heal if my friend guarded her heart more after the break-up; unfortunately he didn’t understand why she was struggling so much with getting over their relationship.

Don’t think it’s funny to let ‘crazy’ girls deal with their emotional mess and go back and forth in anguish.  It is your responsibility as our brothers in Christ to guard our hearts by stop talking to us when we need to heal. You were designed by God to be leaders in households. It is therefore also your responsibility to not lead on girls by talking to us and flirting with us just because you want that emotional attention. When you realize you are not interested in a girl, stop leading her on and put up those emotional boundaries.

I understand that guys also need to open themselves up and that they desire relationships with open communication. I also understand that guys when they hang out with other guys don’t always talk to each other. It’s against the ‘bro code’ or something and so guys seek out girls because they need to open up. Do not continue seeking out those emotional friendships with girls. You are hurting us in ways that you do not even realize. The damage you are doing is the same as if one of your sisters in Christ were to walk up to you dressed in a way that tempts you just to get your attention, even though she isn’t interested in dating you.  She would be using your weakness to get the attention she is seeking, which is what you are doing when you are pursuing deep friendships with girls that you truly only see as friends. Please stop. Learn to open yourself up instead to your brothers. Find a brother in Christ and ask him to be an accountability partner. It might be awkward at first but it is by far healthier. Jesus had 3 bestest friends in his inner circle and all 3 were men. Perhaps we should learn by his example.

Also, realize what it will look like when you do become serious about a girl. With so many emotionally open relationships with other girls, you are not guarding your future girlfriend’s, or fiancĂ©’s, or wife’s heart. She will covet that bond you have formed with these other girls and will wonder why you can’t go to her to talk but instead want to go to these other girls. There will be competition and jealousy no matter how hard everyone tries to claim there won’t be. It sucks but that’s what our inner nature is like. Later, you might even wish that you had saved some of the emotional intimacy for her since that is what your wife will desire. This is similar to how a girl with a lot of physical intimacy in her past wishes she had saved some of that physical intimacy for her husband as her husband wanted to be that provider for her.

We are called to be sacrificial in loving others just how Christ showed us sacrificial love. Yes, that does mean opening ourselves up to others. And by being sacrificial it will hurt if we do not lean on God and trust in Him that He will provide. God will protect us and provide for us but we still need to learn how to do love with wisdom and discernment. I believe this is one way to be discerning. Depending on each person and each friendship, this might look differently. I might hang out with my former guy classmates in a different manner than the guys I will meet at my new church knowing that our boundaries are very different. In fact, I am more guarded around the guys at church than my classmates because I have had discussions with my classmates on how I will not seek out any type of relationship without establishing what each person’s faith looks like and they know there cannot be anything other than a casual friendship. It gets messier with Jesus-lovers. I can’t have that same exact conversation. My guard is up as each guy and each relationship will look different. Just how some guys will be tempted by the way a shirt is cut on a girl while others are tempted by holding hands or a kiss. For girls, a girl might be able to handle a friendship with a guy she used to have feelings for but with another guy she may not be able to keep a friendship with him since that friendship might be too toxic for her. [Example: sometimes when a guy feels bad that the girl wants a relationship and he doesn’t, he’ll be friends thinking it will help her heal. Believe it or not, that can leave us more confused and hurt than just cutting us off entirely. We struggle at thinking our value is in that relationship and since that relationship isn’t moving forward, it can lead us to stumble over our heart issues. Sometimes by cutting it off, that temptation is removed (although it still will hurt for a time) and our hearts are protected.]

I truly believe that relationships are beautiful things and something to be encouraged and valued. But I believe that they take work, understanding, discernment and a complete trust in God. And hopefully this makes things less mysterious for guys however I have a feeling that it just made things look even muddier ;)