Posts Tagged ‘ change ’

Life after Death

It is absolutely bizarre to be in a place where someone used to be, knowing they’re no longer here. How bizarre. I am back home for the weekend before I jet off to the Dominican Republic and staying in my room has been just a bit strange. I haven’t slept in here since the summer before sophomore year. My dad has been in here since then and now that he has passed, I suppose it is my room again.

I keep replaying scenes in my head, scenes of him in here. And I keep reflecting on how I met Death in that hospital room, on March 4th. I feel a sense of strength from that. I saw his work and am not crumbling from what I witnessed. I suppose I am being strong, like everyone has been saying. But, naturally, I also can’t help wondering when I will meet him face-to-face. I still don’t know when that time will be, but unlike before, I truly understand that it is coming – unless I am caught up in the rapture while I still inhabit this flesh. But it is extremely humbling. I know life and what I do with it is important, so knowing this appointed time is coming really inspires me to filter out the crap and focus on what is significant. I am still trying to figure out what exactly those “significant” things are, but I feel I am on the precipice of getting it. Lord, bring me there. Amen.

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Mental Anesthesia

Where is the existential unrest? I miss it. I have become too numbed by circumstance. I am too fatigued by the day-to-day to dream and question and remember the injustices that lie parallel to my reality and how much I once longed to intersect with them for hope of somehow raising them to my plane or higher. Maybe my trip to the Dominican Republic will revitalize the me that felt angered by corruption and was filled with a fire to uplift the survivors of marginalization and the victims on their way to survivorship. Where has she gone? Why is her voice so faint? No… absent? Or rather, whose ears am I now activating and how did the messages they carry come to dominate my worldview? I feel nothing. I resist nothing. Everything is “cool.” Why question anymore? Why not just appease? Just accept?

I am numb.

How unbelievably tragic.

The recent death of my father has made me think a lot about life. I suppose that is the natural response when someone dies – think about life, realize we truly are not invincible, that our days are numbered and therefore, we need to cherish and live them to the fullest. All the clichés that, in reality, should not lose their meaning. I suppose I have joined the ranks of mourners struck by such realizations. But for me, they have had a more positive effect, and, it is conflicting to say and likely sounds incongruous, but in a way I am thankful for his passing for this lesson that it is teaching me. I have largely wasted the past 4 years of my life due to fear and doubt. But I am slowly realizing that everything that matters so much to me – my intellect, my work, what other people think about me – are nothing but trifles in the major scope of my life. What I need to return to and inhabit is my conviction that my life contains the potential and power to impact others for good and that therefore, my focus needs to be on placing myself in a position of access to the resources that will better their lives. It truly is as simple as that. I am so sad that this conviction has only returned after his passing, but feel a burning commitment to carry it out as his legacy.

Hmm… wow. Lightbulb moment. In light of my dad’s death, I have been thinking that the timing of my pre-scheduled trip to the Dominican Republic is quite odd. However, I realize now that this may very well be perfect timing and may supply the tangible encouragement to fully occupy the person God intends me to be and the good qualities that both my dad and I have sought, but been unable to attain. He certainly has them now, in the presence of God’s glory. I pray it doesn’t take death in order for me to attain them.

May he continue to live in peace.

I need to, I will…

M

Paulo Coelho – Quote of the Moment

Paulo Coelho

Man improves himself as he follows his path; if he stands still, waiting to improve before he makes a decision, he’ll never move.

(Unpublished Saying)

It is God, all God that I saw this quote today. This morning, I was thinking about the person I am right now and felt somewhat dismayed by the gravity of improvements I feel I need to make. Within myself, I wondered if I should just stop and try to make these improvements before I keep moving … make sure I am completely in order first. I laughed to myself, because I realized I was thinking with a perfectionist’s mindset. And yet, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to be perfect, I figured I could at least try to become as close to perfection as possible before moving on to new experiences.

I know I am not the only one who is tempted to yield to such thinking. There is a security when you feel completely prepared for everything. (God, do I crave that security!). But I was so blessed by Coelho’s quote. And I feel it is so true, or at least in my own life it has been true.

Often when I stall, I get stuck there, likely because I become so fixated on my faults that they end up staying with me. Like I wrote in a previous post… the car analogy. When you’re driving, you subconsciously direct the car toward the point upon which your eyes fixate. It is the same in life. When you fixate upon a point, you begin to reposition your life to get there. So my stalling for perfection and fixation on my faults only keeps me right there at this point. I can’t move past them because I have stopped moving altogether.

We have to keep moving, with our eyes focused ahead on the person we want to be. When we focus on our future, better selves, we will position our entire lives to become the person we want to be.

So Lord, I have decided to keep walking.

“Not Here” by Jelaluddin Rumi

I recently found this poem on Clyde’s Blog, http://opinionatedoldfart.wordpress.com/ and decided to re-post it here. It is by Jelaluddin Rumi, a 13th century Persian Muslim poet and theologian. This poem so suits a current transformation the Lord is undergoing within me (will post on later). And I especially loved Rumi’s mention of alchemists! 🙂

Not Here

There’s courage involved if you want
to become truth. There is a broken-

open place in a lover. Where are
those qualities of bravery and sharp

compassion in this group? What’s the
use of old and frozen thought? I want

a howling hurt. This is not a treasury
where gold is stored; this is for copper.

We alchemists look for talent that
can heat up and change. Lukewarm

won’t do. Halfhearted holding back,
well-enough getting by? Not here.

An Old Dog Abandons Her Old Tricks

For all the growth I have made this semester, I have still been held up by old vices, which is extremely disappointing. I feel the Lord changing me, changing the person within me, and oh… God, I am so eager for it! To be new, fresh, unhampered by the past. And I know I can be. I have tasted newness this semester. But, man, can I be my own worst enemy. But I am determined to win this battle against my old self, and to do that, I need to purge.

My real weakness is that I feel too much. I identify with people, imagine their situation, imagine myself in their situation, try to come up with ways to help and guide them, feel utterly helpless if I can’t succeed in helping them, need to let them know that I am there for them, and then must follow through in being there for them fully. An extreme empathizer. So much that, as a school psychologist pointed out earlier this semester, I allow my own happiness to depend on others, which is so detrimental to myself.

I think this disposition is why I so easily identified with my mother, who in her adversity (being married to my dad), had so much need for empathy. I imagined myself in her place and tried to emotionally fill the void that my dad had created within her. Because I identified so strongly with her, I paid more attention to how my dad treated her than I did his treatment of me. And also, because I identified so strongly with her, she became an example of the kind of person I should be, while my dad became the example of the person I didn’t want to be. I put her on a pedestal.

When I was a little older (~late teens?), my mom told me that she is not the person that she used to be, the person she was before and in the early years of her marriage. But the only person I saw and could remember was this new person she had become. A woman who strived to be wholly self-sufficient, independent, emotionally guarded, masking and denying her true emotions… A necessarily strong woman. A private woman. A dependable woman, who denied herself her own desires and happiness, ranking them after those of everyone around her. Growing up, she was the image of what I thought I should be, of what I wanted to be.

But I realize now that I have truly identified too much with my mother. I have become her in many ways. The qualities that I once viewed as strengths have become faults because I have adopted them too intensely.

INDEPENDENCE –  I always feel like I need to be self-sufficient. I don’t like to ask for help for anything, if I can help it. And I don’t allow others to do niceties for me. For example, I remember when I was moving out of my room at the end of my freshman year at college, a friend scolded me for this. “Let us help you!” he said. “You don’t have to do everything by yourself!” I had tried to move my heavy boxes by myself instead of taking up their offer to help.

Don’t get me wrong, independence is an admirable quality and I am glad that I am equipped to and comfortable with doing things for myself. But sticking too firmly to it has been detrimental (i.e. because of my independence, I have purposely created distance between myself and my friends). This is something of which I am coming to the full realization. I shouldn’t allow my independence to divide me from the people I care about.

When I think more about this trait in relation to my mom, I also realize that she was so independent because my dad didn’t fulfill his husbandly role as God describes it. So she had to step up and lead my brother and I. This example, a woman leading her family, only added to my view of female independence and encouraged me to believe that I shouldn’t depend on any man to do anything for me. And because I didn’t know what that looked like… to have a man lead his wife and for her to be able to depend upon him… I now even find myself resisting guys’ attempts to do something for me. I probably appear less “feminine” to them when I hold doors open for them, rather than allow them to open a door for me. But after years of seeing my dad not do such niceties for my mom, I don’t expect it from any man (except my brother, who my mom brought up to be so courteous) and just automatically do such things for myself. But I don’t like that I am this way. Again, I should be willing to allow people to display their courtesy.

WALLS – My mom set up emotional walls after she realized that her emotions were not appreciated by my dad. He couldn’t be trusted with them. So she entered into  subsequent friendships with a walled heart. Encouraged others to do more talking, so that she wouldn’t have to give too much of herself away. Basically Proverbs 4:23 to the extreme.

I am the spitting image of her example. Growing up, it was emphasized that our private business was our business and not to be shared with others (we had extremely gossip-y neighbors). But I have carried this mandate with me into my young adulthood. I let others do the talking, which is fine because, being an extreme empathizer, I like to hear about their experiences and like bringing them pleasure by showing my interest in their life. And I think I don’t share my emotions partly because I don’t want to run the risk of discovering that they won’t be appreciated by my listeners.

But I have realized that this stunts my growth. Part of being in a relationship with someone is giving of yourself. And part of growing as a person is learning how to trust others with parts of yourself. I think a lot of my past friendships ended because I was unwilling to do this – unwilling to open up and show the other person that I trust them enough to let them see me. Trust. Now that is something that requires true strength. This is definitely something I have been working on building.

This reminds me… I recently read a quote that said something to the effect of… “the problem with [emotional] walls is not only that they keep people out, but they keep you in.” This could not be more true. It definitely has been pretty lonely being the only person who knows me.

DENIAL+MASKING – this falls in line with building walls. My mom was a master actress. Being strong for my brother and I, she denied many of her emotions and masked them. She always appeared strong. Always appeared happy. And she was both of those things. But there was a storm inside. Since I am older now and our friendship has matured, I see this more. She will sometimes say things that hint her desire for affection, but then quickly denies it and masks it. But I know her well and can identify when she’s doing this. And I think she does this because deep down she doesn’t feel that she is worthy of having her desires… or, perhaps more correctly, that it isn’t possible for her to ever have them.

I think out of all the qualities I have picked up, this is the one I need to change the most because, I realize now, it leads most directly to self-sabotage. I deny myself of my desires and convince myself that I can’t have them or am not worthy of them, and then mask that I have a desire at all. For someone who so strongly values communication, this tactic makes me a complete hypocrite because it keeps me from communicating with myself and with others, who very well may be able to deliver what I want. It is a breeding ground for mixed signals.

The truth is, it is not that I cannot have what I desire… but that I do not allow myself to have what I desire, and what is perhaps even available to me. So I create my own unhappiness, not my situation or any other person, etc. In living this way,  I  also offend God by not accepting and trusting His ability to deliver my wants, if they are right for me. So I tie not only the hands of those around me, but His hands as well. I deny myself happiness and love, so that in the end, all I have is my independent self, sitting within all those walls I have built. Alone.

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I realize that I have been living as though I am a woman in a wrecked marriage, perhaps thinking deep down inside that behaving this way will prevent me from acquiring her unhappiness. But, my God. It’s all SO wrong… couldn’t be more wrong than this. And I just praise the Lord that He is bringing me to the full realization of these things NOW, while I am still young. I need to live up to a higher standard – to God’s standard. I am resolved to not look to any other person as a model for how to live, because we are each fallible in our own ways. God is the only one worthy of a pedestal!

We can’t help what situation we’re born into, but we can help how we allow ourselves to be affected by it. And I choose to love myself… fully love myself and believe that I am worthy of happiness and all my desires and that I can and will indeed have them, if not today than someday! All according to God’s perfect time.

Wow, when I re-read this, I wonder who on earth would want to have such a complicated person in one’s life. Yes, I suppose I am quite a complicated mess right now, but I know that God is a good janitor. The best, actually. And now that I have finally given Him the master key to my building, I know it will clean up better than “just fine” 🙂

Future Post:  Traits I’ve picked up from Dad.

Revival

Wow, so I haven’t been on here in a while! Well, I plan to change that. God has really brought me to a point in my life where I am just relishing in Him. I’ve made some new friendships with brothers and sisters and am so grateful that I have surrendered to this change in my life.

I’ve been yearning something, and I think I know what it is now. I’m longing to just talk about Him. To talk in depth and at length about my King. To challenge others with and be challenged by His word. And I guess I am a little discouraged because I don’t have any one person that I can talk with like this. My mom is SO unbelievably busy, working to support my whole family now that my dad has lost his job. She’s very tired, and though of course we talk about Him, we don’t have the time to talk at length and in depth as we used to be able to do. And then my Christian friends here at school are so busy preparing for graduate school admissions exams, among the other million things they’re involved in. So I can’t talk with them because they don’t have the time. Friends at other schools have their own Christian friends and have formed their own deep bonds with them. So, they don’t have the time to go in depth with me, when I’m sure they’re doing that with others at their university. SO, I am left alone in this. But not so alone 🙂 God will have to be my Bible study buddy, and, well, who better to have, right?!

I imagine this must have been how my mom felt when my brother and I were younger and she started to seek God more deeply. My dad wasn’t in the picture spiritually, and since they had just moved to a new area, she didn’t know anyone who she could talk with about the Lord. From what she has shared with me, it didn’t seem like her old friends were at a point of seeking the Lord just yet. So she was alone… as I am now. But of course, not alone, because He was there, as He is here for me now.

I think I’m just a little saddened and frustrated because I am so used to going to people and talking with people about God. So to not have anyone to talk to feels so different, and a little off. But I think this isolation is only good for me. Because people are not going to always be in the picture. They’re not always going to be available to converse with me… so in such situations, what will I do? I need to be less dependent on others and solely dependent on God.

Wow, Lord… I think I get it now. I think this is why I am here this semester. See, I was supposed to be abroad in England right now, but I couldn’t because of financial problems at home. The disappointment of not being able to go abroad is a pain that I’ve kind of filed away in the back of my mind because facing it is too sad for me. I’ve never been out of the country nor had an experience so independent of family and friends, so my heart was really broken when I couldn’t go. I think this disappointment is manifesting itself this semester by my lack of drive. I am literally pushing myself through all of my work. I am really not excited about pretty much anything I am learning… except perhaps the new language I’m picking up. But, I even have to push myself on that. I guess you could say I’m experiencing a little depression. And although I have not turned these sentiments into anger toward God, I have been questioning Him on why this couldn’t work out for me. All throughout college, I have felt like I was at least a step behind the other students in terms of experience/academic background. So I was really looking forward to 1) getting away from university and 2) having an experience that would be mine, all mine… something worthwhile that I could finally talk about with my more experienced peers. But now that I type that out, it really seems like my motivations were fueled indirectly by others. I’ll have to think about that. But yea, so I’ve been deeply disappointed and wondering why God has me here. I think it’s for this isolation. I think it’s because He wants me to dig deeper into Him, to find myself in Him and Him alone. I think it’s because He wants me to face the pain in my life. Rather than running across the ocean to get away from thoughts of my parents’ bad marriage and my feelings of being caught in the middle, I think He wants me to stand here and face it and make room for His healing.

So, although I am still disappointed, I won’t turn away from Him. I’ve been there done that and only know that that leaves me empty and dark. No, this time, I will look to Him and trust that He will turn this disappointment into the purest joy and contentment in Him. After all, I did set the new year’s resolution that I would become the best version of myself yet… I think God’s got me on the right track for that.