Saturday, December 31, 2011

So this is the new year


Call me a party pooper if you'd like but I've always regarded New Years with an attitude of indifference.  Of course it's exciting to think of the promise of a new beginning, a blank state, the chance to do things a bit differently this year, however I never know what to do.  New Years' resolutions are a tricky thing.  Typically, I don't like to make them, simply because I tend to drop them by February and beat myself up for it up until at least March, but maybe the way I make resolutions is the problem.  It's actually quite difficult to just say, "You know what, this year I'm (not) going to do this."  Sounds great in theory, yes, but in practice, whatever thing I've resolved to do differently in the New Year always seems to fall flat.  I decided this year though that instead of just picking something and running with it (or as in recent years, not resolving to do anything at all), I'm going to make a set of goals for the year 2012.  Practical, beneficial and in many cases, much-needed, here are a few goals that are reasonable, do-able and guaranteed to better my life and me as a person:

1.  Worry less about the future.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am the world's biggest worrywart.  Everyone worries but I tend to make things a much bigger deal than they need to be simply because I let a situation give me anxiety.  2012 is a chance for me to calm down, take a deep breath, and work through the challenges I face one thing at a time.  I have a verse from Matthew 6 taped to my laptop that says, "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself."  I think that'll be my new motto.

2.  Start saving money.
I'm a college student so naturally, money can be tight.  Thankfully, I have a steady job that allows me to work a few days a week and the sunny State of California has awarded me Cal Grant funds the last few years that have helped out more than I can say.  That said, there are a handful of things that I spend on that with time add up (ahem, coffee and food).  This year, I vow to be a little more cautious with my spending and cut corners when I can.

3.  Spend less time on Facebook.
Facebook is great for connecting with friends but occasionally I find myself doing a little too much Facebook stalking and spending substantial amounts of time scrolling down my newsfeed (hey, don't act like you never do it!).  Last year, I gave up Facebook for Lent and I can't even begin to explain how much more at peace I was without it.  I'm not planning on giving up Facebook entirely but I'm sure it wouldn't be a bad thing to cut back on my daily usage.

4.  Get back into running.
I can't pretend that I was ever an avid runner but for a few years in high school, I ran long-distance.  My times were never anything too brag about (to be frank, I was one of the slowest runners on the team) but distance running not only kept me in shape but was a great stress reliever.  This past November, I ran a 5K race for the first time in God knows how long and it was such a refreshing experience.  This year I hope to get at least three 5K (or maybe even my first 10K!) races in before 2013 rolls around and to run on a more consistent basis.

5.  Study/work abroad.
Since high school it's been a big dream of mine to go to Spain.  Unfortunately, I've never been big on traveling (my family vacations at Disneyland...) and my only plane trips barely lasted a little over an hour but I'm hoping to change that this upcoming year.  I'm looking into summer programs at the moment and will be (God willing!) applying to a few programs in the upcoming months.  I'm torn whether to pursue an internship or to just study abroad but I'm determined this year to finally make my dream of going to Spain come true.

6.  Keep in better touch with friends and make some new ones.
I've always been more of a "few close friends" than "many acquaintances" kind of girl and I think it shows--I can count my dearest friends on my hands.  I guess that means I have no excuse for not checking in every once in a while, huh!  I have friends all over the state, even a few in different parts of the country, but I think putting in the effort to keep in touch on a more regular basis will not only help the friendships I have with these people but hey, it might be kinda fun too.

7.  Pray more.
I wasn't raised as a Christian (although both my parents were raised in Christian denominations) so the last 4-5 years have been a bit of a challenge as far as turning Christian practices, such as prayer, into habitual actions.  That said, I want to up the amount that I pray from my basic bedtime prayers to something I do throughout the day.  About a week ago, I bought myself a little notebook to write prayer intentions, that way I won't have any excuse not to pray or for forgetting anyone.  In 2012, I hope to make prayer a bigger part of my daily life and to enter into conversation with God more often.

8.  Say 'thank you' and 'I love you' more.
Another tidbit about myself: I can be pretty awful at expressing my emotions.  I never want to make anyone upset or have someone misunderstand how I feel so for quite some time now, I've opted for the easy route and coined "nothing" or "I'm fine" as my catch phrases.  Of course, I see now that's not helpful to anybody and want to work on not only expressing myself better but saying how I feel when I feel it, especially if it's something positive.  That said, in 2012, I want to say 'thank you' and 'I love you' more often to those in my life that I've been blessed with and that I appreciate dearly.

There's a lot I would like to accomplish in the upcoming year but the way I see it, everything has its place and time.  Odds are I'll stumble across what I need to if I'm headed in the right direction.  If I've learned anything this year, it's that attaining happiness, like any other goal or objective, takes effort and a great reliance in God's capacity to heal, embrace and care for His children.  Lord knows I've still got a lot of growing up to do before I figure things out but you know, I'm growing and learning.  I look forward to all the new year has to offer and I'm very excited to see what God has in store for me in the months to come!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

All I want for Christmas


For the past couple of years, I've had a bit of a hard time around the holidays.  I can't pinpoint exactly what it is about the Christmas season that does it to me but somehow I always end up feeling a little lonely around this time of year.  Maybe it's the movies, could be the commercials, either way, so much about the holidays seems to center around finding love or stumbling upon whatever it is that you didn't seem to have before.  I think that's the root of the melancholy I find myself experiencing during Christmas: how come I haven't found what I'm missing?  The more I think about it, however, that's not what Christmas is about at all.  I'll save the Charlie Brown Christmas speech this time but I'm starting to realize that the heart of Christmas is not about finding love lost or discovering that thing you've been missing, it's about rejoicing in all of the blessings that surround you right this very moment.

I've spent so much of this year thinking that if I had that one thing all of the other aspects of my life would fall perfectly into place.  I find myself on the brink of the new year with a change in attitude.  Sometimes what you hope for isn't all it's cracked up to be and unfortunately, that can be a bit of a disappointment.  Nevertheless, I'm starting to see that it's not the end of the world if things go "wrong" every once in a while.  When I stop and take a minute to count my blessings, I am astounded by all that God has given me, not only this holiday season, but every single day.  I have a loving family that, although dysfunctional, supports me in all that I do.  I have a small, yet solid, group of friends that I can count on no matter what.  I have the opportunity to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the country and every day learn a little bit more about the subjects I love the most.  I have a job that allows me to spend time with children that remind me what true caring is.  I have essentials that many others around the world don't: a home, a bed, a stable income, access to affordable healthcare.  Most of all, I have a God that is Himself the very meaning of Love, who knew me far before I was even born (Jeremiah 1:5).  When I reflect on the goings-on of my life in that light, I find that there is nothing I am lacking and that realization gives my heart more joy than any material gift ever could.

I have big plans for the New Year but I know that I can rely on God to be my companion through every situation I face.  In some ways, it's been a tough year, but no one ever said this journey would be easy.  In fact, "[b]ecause he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested" (Hebrews 2:18).  With this idea in mind, I see now that my challenges are as much of a blessing as the gifts that I openly recognize.

The kind of love that some Christmas stories relate is nice and all but it doesn't measure up in the slightest to the kind of love that surrounds me everyday!



"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.'  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
(Luke 2: 8-14)

Monday, December 12, 2011

bend/break


"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna."
(Matthew 5:29-30)

Sometimes, however difficult it may seem, God asks us to revise not only our way of thinking, but our way of living.  I never seem to do too well with this request when it comes my way.  I don't like change--not at all.  It's difficult, it's uncomfortable, it's frightening.  However, the more I think about it, sometimes change is necessary.  Currently, I find myself at a crossroads: I have the choice to move forward with my life or to attempt to salvage the remains of something that might be better left in the past.  I've never been good with this sort of decision, chiefly because when it comes to matters such as this, I often lack trust in God and his ability to heal all wounds over time.  I think I know best and for this reason, I sometimes choose to pursue avenues that in reality, I'm not at all fit for.  When I stumble, I wonder why. I think sometimes I try to cram things into my life that don't exactly have a place there.  However, much like anything else--a pair of jeans, a book on a shelf, a container into a cupboard--if something doesn't fit, it often doesn't end well when you try to force it.

In the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, he writes: "When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:11-12).  When we consider the idea of change in the context of this passage, it becomes quite clear that change itself isn't a bad thing, it's natural and often times, necessary.  As time progresses, we put aside habits and attributes that don't seem to fit our new way of life or that merely serve to cloud our vision.  The idea here is that with time, the partial will pass away, making possible a clear understanding of the reality at hand.  St. Paul's example of discarding one's childish ways makes the process of change seem easy--I think that's my main stumbling block with this passage.  Although growing up is a process with its own challenges, change itself requires careful and critical evaluation and of course, effort.  What should stay the way it is?  What needs to be different?  What will happen if I leave behind what I'm used to in order to pursue something else?  Will my current situation improve, stay the same, or worsen?  I struggle with these questions simply because they rely too much on the hypothetical.  I won't know the end result until I jump head-first into a decision.

St. Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians that bad company has the potential to corrupt good character (1 Corinthians 15:33).  Similarly, the above passage from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, although shocking at first, describes the measures that might need to be taken in the event of such corruption.  Here we see that some parts of our identity, of who we are, are much more painful to cast off than others.  These attributes, however violent their extraction might be, necessitate removal.  Much like a cancerous tumor, if left behind these "members" cause us to stumble and falter.  In my experience, identifying the destructive forces in my own life is not at all an easy process--in fact, more often than that, it's incredibly challenging.  Unfortunately, the entities that cause us to stray can be the very things we love the most and I'm beginning to realize that several aspects of my life are in dire need of revision, some even removal.  Truthfully, I'm finding it a harsh reality to face but a necessary one.

To be frank, I have no clue what I'm doing with my life anymore.  I'm sure not many twenty-year-old's do but I've never been this uncertain before.  I feel as if I can't count on the permanence of anything or anyone, for that matter.  I have my passions, of course, and things I know I want to pursue but everything else is so gray and blurred. To be perfectly honest, I'm scared as hell to face a future so unclear.  I find myself crashing into the same brick wall for the same reasons and maybe it's time to sever the parts of myself and of my life that cause me to run into nothing but the same dead ends.  Sure, it's going to hurt--much more than I'm prepared to deal with, I'd bet--but maybe it's what I need to do.  Once and for all.

I don't know how to proceed but thankfully, I have the distraction of exams which I hope will give me the time I need to discern the direction I should be heading.  I have so much that I need to improve upon and change but in this time of instability, I need to, above all, be brave and trust that God will provide.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Aprendizaje


Although I can hardly believe it, it's December.  The last week of classes went by in a flash and here I am, in the midst of Dead Week with final exams in the coming week.  It's incredible how fast the semester has gone by!  Finals week seems to be a bit of a mixed barrel.  Thankfully, I only have three sit-down finals, spread out through the week, although lucky me, has a final in the very last slot of the week: Friday, December 16, 7-10PM.  I won't be able to come home as early as I would have liked but I'm excited to come home tomorrow for a few days to study and re-charge a bit.  Although this time is certainly stressful, I'm not too overwhelmed simply because I know all of the hard work is almost over (at least for a few weeks).  I'm much happier than I was a few weeks ago, ready to just get through my exams and go home for a while.  My family and I will be making our yearly trip to Disneyland the week after I'm done with finals so I'm looking forward to the vacation.  Every year is different but I hope this trip turns out okay.  My dad has been pointing out how this may be one of our last trips just because my brother and I are getting older and we don't know exactly where I'll end up in the next year or two.  It's strange to think about but true... I'm looking into an internship abroad this summer in Madrid and a few grad schools on the East Coast so we'll see what happens with all of that.  I'm actually seriously considering Yale for graduate school.  I'm skeptical about my chances of getting in but they have an impressive Spanish program and if it's meant to be, it'll happen.  So much of my future is unclear at the moment but it's in God's hands and all I can do is try my best!  Any and all prayers are welcome.


I took a detour this afternoon on my route home from work and spent some time alone in the chapel of my church here.  It's been difficult for me to see Jesus in the everyday so I needed to put myself in a sacred space where I could look up and see His face on the cross.  Even in my fear, I know He's watching over me and gently nudging me in the direction I need to go.  Sometimes I wish He would give me more of a shove but His sense of timing is exponentially better than mine--I'm sure of it.


My walk home continued with some meditation on all that I have to be thankful for.  I have a wonderful family, a small, yet extremely close and faithful, group of friends (some of which might as well be family for as much as they mean to me)... I'm a student at one of the best universities in the nation studying the subjects I love more than anything... I have a job that I love.  So much, really.  I think I need to spend more time letting those that I love know just how much they truly mean to me.  I don't think I say it nearly enough--maybe I should start.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Homecoming


It came and went much too fast but I made it back to Berkeley after a very much-needed Thanksgiving holiday.  On Wednesday morning, I made it to the Amtrak station, caramel brulĂ©e latte in hand, for my long-awaited trip home.  Usually my mom is able to pick me up and drive me back to Woodland (a blessing I am extremely grateful for!) but this time I opted for a train ride to Davis.  If it weren't for the $20-something ticket price, I would probably take Amtrak home more often.  It really is a wonderful way to travel, at least from my experience.  Looking out the window, one can see a great expanse of both city and land, opening up an entirely new view of the surroundings I typically just notice in passing.  It was a very soothing trip--I spent most of the hour or so just looking out the window and listening to music.  I'm extremely thankful for the change of pace I was able to experience on the ride home.

Back home, I split my time between paper-writing and visiting with friends and family.  Wednesday afternoon, I was able to catch up with both Pablo and Miss Chung over a cup of coffee.  Lucky me, Jason also happened to be in there so he joined in for a while.  Thursday afternoon, my family and I drove to Davis to spend Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family.  I never used to care for Thanksgiving, seeing as my brother and I were always the youngest and never seemed to be able to find much to do or many family members to socialize with.  Now that I'm in my 20s, it seems I'm a little closer in age to the rest of the family so that it's easier to interact with those I wasn't necessarily close to before.  It's really nice to feel so loved and to have some of my cousins, among others, so interested in what I have to share with them.  I spent the majority of Friday at Starbucks, going back through texts and creating a prospectus so that eventually I could start the paper with ease.  Saturday morning, I went to Natomas with Miss Chung and came home with nail polish, a few new clothing items and some supplies for a few DIY Christmas gifts I plan to make.  The rest of the weekend has been spent paper-writing and of course, journeying back to Berkeley for the last week of classes.  I can proudly say I'm on the eighth page out of ten of my paper--I should be able to finish before the night is over.

On a side note, today is the First Sunday of Advent, along with the implementation of the new Roman missal.  It's a time of preparation for the Church and of course for me, as I try to once again center myself and think more deeply about the way in which I live out my faith.  Today's Gospel reading from Mark left a lasting impression this morning, reminding me of the necessity to stay alert and remain watchful, for I "do not know when the time will come" (see Mark 13:33-37).  It's a warning I feel I need to hear as I think I've grown a bit slack lately for a variety of reasons.

Thankfully, the semester is in its last weeks and soon I will get a break from the hustle and bustle of school.  I recognize things could always be worse and I'm certainly quite grateful that they're not.  I guess I just need to focus on the bigger picture!

Blessings to all this week.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Running


My mom signed us up for the 24th Annual Davis Turkey Trot and I'm very pleased to say that I managed to survive my first 5K race in over a year.  I'm definitely not the kind of girl that makes time for the gym (although sometimes I wish I had that kind of will power!) and I haven't run in months so initially I was a little apprehensive about running the race.  At the end of the day though, I'm so very glad that I did after all.  I finished the run with a time of 32:18.57, not the greatest of times, of course, but a nice surprise nonetheless for me.  There's something so therapeutic about distance running that I wish I could describe.  It was really wonderful to just run and not think about anything at all, just taking in the scenery, breathing deeply and enjoying the music looping through my headphones.  It was a nice break from the rest of the world and some of the worries that have been swimming around my head.  Maybe I should start going for jogs more often!

I'm still feeling a little out of sorts but I know that everything will turn out just as it is meant to... it'll just take a little faith and trust on my part.  I'm home for the weekend, trying to finish up a project for Monday, study for an exam and figure out the last of the work I need to accomplish before the Thanksgiving holiday.  God willing I can at least get a few things more things out of the way tonight and tomorrow.  Prayers and positive thoughts are very welcome in this stressful time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When the going gets tough, the tough eat ice cream


To be perfectly honest, life isn't the greatest right now.  To be even more honest, my coping strategies for when things get rough aren't the best either.  I tend to turn into a bit of a recluse when things aren't exactly going right, devoting myself to one extreme or the other, either burying myself in work or neglecting all of my responsibilities in favor of Office marathons, retail therapy and Ben & Jerry's.  Lately, I don't have the time for the latter (although the irony here is that I'm writing a blog entry instead of working on my take-home midterm), so I've created a to-do list of all there is left to accomplish before the end of the semester.  I've found if there is one thing I can control in my life, surprisingly enough it's school.  Despite all of the recent chaos, I'm surviving my classes and completing my assignments.  This morning's Spanish class was a nice picker-upper.  I'm taking a class on advanced Spanish grammar and composition and more often than not, it has been a frustrating experience--not at all the teaching style I'm used to, readings that seem irrelevant and answers that are almost never clear.  However, upon walking into class this morning, my professor pulled me aside and said that she's been very impressed with my work, especially the lengthy grammar corrections and explanations that we've had to do, and that she would like me to e-mail her my work so that she can use it as a model for future classes.  She sent me off saying that I have a real talent for grammar.  A bit of a strange compliment but a welcome one, nonetheless.

The majority of the time I find myself in a perpetual state of self-doubt.  I question my ability to be successful and to do the right thing in a way that creates one of two outcomes.  The first is that I psyche myself out so much that I find myself unbelievably surprised when I accomplish something.  I worry and worry and worry only to find that I am fully capable of doing just fine.  The second, a much more detrimental response, is inaction.  I hesitate to the point where I do nothing which only serves to make me look like a person unwilling to put in the necessary effort.  I've come to realize that my lack of confidence does me little to no good, often it only leaves me frustrated and disappointed at my inability to make the right decision.

What I need to remain aware of is the fact that I have within me the tools to be successful.  Typing this blog entry, I can't help but be reminded of a well-known quote spoken by St. Catherine of Siena.  She said, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."  Isn't that an incredible image?  I have the capacity to leave a lasting impression on this world, to make something of myself and the community of which I am a part.  It just takes confidence, a knowledge of self, and most importantly, lengthy discernment of God's will for my life.  Something that has become apparent in the course of my writing through this blog is that the one thing I lack above all else is trust.  I believe that God loves me and I have faith in his existence but I often doubt his ability to lead me forward.  Well, if that isn't a red flag, I don't know what is!  So many of my problems are rooted in trust, faith and confidence.  But how does one gain confidence?  That's one question that I have yet to find a clear-cut answer to, although my gut tells me the only thing I can do is pray.

My solution to the tough stuff is not always the healthiest I admit, and with the imminent approach of even more stress (oh yes, finals are on the horizon), I need to find better ways of dealing with my struggles.  The answers are there for me, just in my grasp, but I need to seek them out and ask for them.  Not only that, I need to really believe in myself and my capacity to be successful.  I've made it this far, haven't I?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's tough being a kid


Sometimes when I spend too much time with children, it's easy for me to forget that once upon a time I was one.  During a typical school week, I work Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at a preschool in the area.  Those kids are something else.  They often forget their manners, have little to no understanding of the concept of "personal space," make a TON of noise... they fight, they argue, they scream, they yell.  Some days it's enough to drive a person insane.  However, thinking about the ways that my three and four-year-old's act out, I realize that much of the time my attitude is not any better.  It can be difficult not to get upset when things don't go our way--after all, why shouldn't they?  When something in my life doesn't seem to be going right, more often than not my first instinct is to complain.  Why me? I wonder.  There's no good reason for this to be happening, I declare.  The danger with this thought process though is that often times when I get upset for things going the "wrong" way, what I'm really angry about is that things aren't going my way.  Therein lies the crux of the matter.

Sometimes I get incredibly frustrated with my preschoolers because some days they just can't seem to grasp the idea that you can't always get what you want.  We have a saying we like to use with them: "You get what you get and you don't get upset."  I tend to forget that this little proverb certainly has room for its application in my own life.  Although I may be struggling with school, trying to figure out what the future has in store for me and how on earth I'm going to balance family, friends, relationships, work and everything else with what my education demands of me, it does not give me the right to be self-pitying or to spend the majority of my time complaining.  Father Dan Beeman, a Catholic priest serving in the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, recently tweeted something that really resonated with me on this topic: "Self-praise and self-pity are both a danger to the Christian life."  Now, I have to ask myself, in what ways has my self-pity prevented me from performing my duties as a Christian?  Certainly, it has often made it difficult for me to exercise sympathy and to recognize that there is always someone else suffering more than I am at any given moment.  A long-time friend of mine always tells me, "It could always be worse."  No matter how arduous the situation, this statement holds true.  Good itself is never purely absent from our lives.  In our suffering, in our sadness, there is always a silver lining, so long as we take the time and effort to number and appreciate our blessings.  God's love is always with us and often his most glorious gifts come to us in the form of challenges.

I recognize that I worry far too often, especially about things I cannot change.  In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus confronts this issue directly: "Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?"  Here, the answer is clearly no.  My worrying is not productive--if anything, it prevents me from focusing on the matters that so desperately merit my attention.  I'm not always in control and although it drives me nuts to acknowledge that, it's something that I need to be okay with, otherwise I will have an extremely difficult time finding peace in the years to come.  When things do not go my way, I have to learn to see such events as an opportunity to grow.  Self-pity and complaining more often than not are ventures that do not bring fruit, rather they distract us from the reality at hand and from the aspects of our lives that we can control and change.  I pray that with this realization I can learn to better cope with the things in my life that frustrate me and to trust that God will lead me down the proper path so long as I follow Him.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Treat yo' self!


Even though the day is almost over, happy Sunday to everyone!  It's been a gloomy weekend, full of clouds of rain, but nonetheless, a very pleasant one (even if it has been filled with reading and homework).  Kim and I were finally able to have a "treat yo' self" day of sorts on Friday night, enjoying a couple of milkshakes at a diner called The Original in downtown Berkeley.  They were delicious and a very welcome way to end another busy week of school.

We spent the majority of Saturday at the Starbucks downtown.  I've been trying desperately to catch up on reading I need to do before the last official day of classes on December 2.  I can proudly say that I'm making a dent in my workload (even if it's only a small one).  The trip home was certainly an interesting one... anyone that lives in Berkeley knows that often times public transit is the easiest way to get around town and of course, that was our preferred method of getting back home from downtown.  Our driver however must have been a little out of sorts.  He missed a stop, went too far, turned on the wrong street, just about every mishap imaginable, until one of the passengers started yelling directions to the driver from the back of the bus.  Thankfully, we made it to our stop in one piece and got home just in time to let in the AT&T tech that was to fix our Internet connection.

Today has been a relatively calm one.  I started the day with a phone call from Chuy.  I have to say that being able to hear his voice was definitely worth being woken up at 7:30AM!  Kim and I were able to attend the 9:30AM mass at Newman Hall.  My main take-away point from the service was that I need to take advantage of my "waiting time," that is, the time I have on this earth, not only before my death, but before the return of the Lord.  Just the wake-up call I needed for the motivation problem I've been running up against these last few weeks!  On the way out, I grabbed a card from the Christmas tree that had been set up in the back of the chapel.  A gift item is written on each card and these gifts will be given to families in need who may not necessarily be able to afford the luxury of Christmas gifts.  I've wanted to do something like this for a while so I'm happy to have an opportunity to do so.  Other than that, the day has been spent reading for classes.  Not necessarily an enjoyable pastime but certainly a necessary one.  It'll be a relief to be done with the semester!  How many days until Christmas break?

Friday, November 4, 2011

We are all a little weird


"We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love."
- Dr. Seuss

Monday, October 31, 2011

On the brink... but of what?


I think the most difficult part of the semester is the final stretch.  Tomorrow is the first day of November, a realization on my part that offers both comfort and a significant amount of anxiety.  Here we are already at the start of the holiday season and I don't quite know how all of this has crept up on me so quickly.  What happened?  The several trips I've taken home throughout the course of the semester so far have been a great help for me but I'm beginning to realize that what I'm lacking at this point of the school year in large part is motivation.  As much as I enjoy my classes and am excited by the course material, my drive to keep going has started to dissipate.  The reason for this disappearance I have yet to put my finger on exactly.

It's quite strange to think that I only have three semesters left of my undergraduate education.  What the future holds after graduation is so ill-defined that I find myself again falling into fits of worry.  I want to pursue graduate studies in Spanish literature but I'm afraid that I don't have what it takes to continue on.  I've been looking into the graduate programs at Stanford, UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Davis, and I can see quite clearly that I have my work cut out for me.  The applications alone for these programs require that I do well on the GRE exam, demonstrate fluency in the Spanish language, acquire letters of recommendation, write a statement of intent and submit at least two writing samples (one in English and one in Spanish), at least 20 pages each.  I will be submitting these applications a year from now.

One of my biggest struggles is taking things one day at a time.  I spend so much time worrying about the future that it often distracts me from the present.  I need prayers now more than ever for motivation, determination and focus.  In the past, I have very rarely had difficulty going after what I want and working hard to get there but now I find myself in many ways lost and confused, held back by nothing more than fear.  I need to pause and re-group, take a deep breath and ground myself.  My dreams are so close that I can grasp at them and I don't want to let them float away simply because I'm afraid I won't succeed.  I need to keep telling myself that I can do this and that as long as I try my hardest, everything will fall into place.  By the grace of God, I will end up wherever it is that I belong.


"Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord."
(Romans 12:11)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Patience


"Surely, I wait for the Lord;
who bends down to me and hears my cry."
(Psalm 40:1)

I recently read a Twitter update that I found rather striking: "Sometimes it feels like I'll never be holy... but what other option do I have then to keep trying?"  Recently I've found myself at a crossroads of sorts with my faith.  I have no doubt that I'm in the right church or that my faith is something worth pursuing, rather I feel as if I'm immobile.  I know that I've been given all of the tools to glorify God and to seek holiness but I don't know what to do with those gifts or even where to start.  At the heart of things, that is what is most frustrating: Knowing you are equipped with everything you need to live a holy life pleasing to God yet ignorant about how to start building that life.

In most Christian faiths, it seems as if there is some sort of taboo against speaking about doubt or confusion.  We do not want that uncertainty to be misconstrued as an absence or depletion of faith so often we keep it to ourselves, neglecting the resources of our fellow Christians and religious authorities as a possible means of surmounting these doubts.  It is often much easier to find a comforting verse and use it as a "teaching moment," that is, a way to educate others in how we as Christians should behave.  This projection outward has the potential, in my view, to prevent us from that inward reflection that is necessary for spiritual growth.  I have to admit that often I am one of those Christians.  When I have struggles, often my first inclination is to grab my Bible or to Google Bible passages relevant to my situation at the time, i.e. "Bible passages for patience," "Comforting Bible verses."  I forget that I have the Lord in my midst, readily accessible through prayer, always there to not only give me comfort but to illuminate the proper path that I should be continuing toward.  Of course, that is not to say that the Bible is not a valid resource (it is the word of God after all and can provide us with both solace and direction), but I so often forget that prayer precedes all else.  In prayer, we can directly encounter our Lord and invite him into our lives in both our weakest and most joyful moments.

I'm quickly realizing that the lesson I am being called to learn is patience.  To put it simply: I am a control freak.  If I don't know what's going to happen or in what direction my future will go, I suffer major anxiety.  I do not want to wait and see what the Lord has in store for me--I want to know.  (And sooner rather than later.)  I guess that goes to show that I also have issues with trust.  It's extremely ironic that one of my all-time favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11, a passage in which the Lord proclaims his plans for my welfare, yet I have difficulty trusting in that promise.  Recognition of this problem is at least a start and I can take steps to build my faith and trust in the strength of the Lord's promise of my well-being.

I spent some time yesterday afternoon in prayer at Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish's chapel.  I cannot even begin to describe the beautiful experience that is kneeling at the Lord's throne, in front of the altar, offering all that I have to Him.  I am not one that is easily moved to tears, however looking up at Jesus on the cross, I started crying.  He has given up and continues to offer so much for me and yet I spend so much time in doubt of my future.  Thinking about things in that light, it seems completely irrational that I would spend so much of my time worrying and struggling with fear.  My God is faithful and has shown himself over the course of my life to be nothing but loving and uplifting, even when I neglected His presence.  My goal this week and through the rest of the semester is to be more aware of this fact.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Isaiah 49:13


"Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains.  For the Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Coffee, family and Fraustos


Sometimes I really can't believe just how blessed I am... What a wonderful Saturday it has been.  An orthodontist appointment on Friday afternoon merited a trip home to Woodland for the weekend but I'm very glad to have been able to enjoy the company of my family and close family friends.  After hastily throwing together a bag of items to take, my mom drove me to Woodland from Berkeley on Friday afternoon.  I always enjoy the drives to and from Berkeley because my mom and I can just chat about anything and everything (something I definitely appreciate about our mother/daughter relationship).  Besides the necessary errands, a trip to Woodland is never complete without an indulgence in a few comfort foods so I've had my fill of In-N-Out, pizza and Dutch Bros. Coffee since being home.  Lucky me was also able to have coffee with both my mom and my other "mom," Chuy's mom, Sylvina, this evening.  With a tall nonfat no-whip salted caramel mocha in hand, I spent the evening talking with two of the women I respect and admire the most--thank God for such an opportunity.  I'm a firm believer in the idea that the main way that God shows us how loved we are is through the wonderful people He surrounds us with and of course, my family, extended family and close friends are prime examples of the beautiful gifts that God provides.  My boyfriend, Chuy, is another of these blessings.  He is a Marine stationed in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and with his long workdays and the three-hour time difference, it has at times been difficult for us to communicate often... this weekend though, we've been able to Skype three times (a record, I think!) and I couldn't ask for more.  Although he's nearly 3,000 miles away from home, even seeing his face on a computer screen is reason for me to be joyful.

Although it's strange to be away from Berkeley and my roommate, Kim (another blessing at God's hands, if you ask me), it is a welcome distraction to spend a day or two at home.  Living in the Bay Area and going to school away from home has been very much a life-giving learning experience for me, but there's something so renewing and refreshing about being home.  As much as many of us want to get away from Woodland as soon as we can, I look forward to the possibility of later starting my adult life here with my own family.  Like any other town, we have our landmarks and our shortcomings, but Woodland is home and a place very dear to my heart.

Tomorrow I make another trip back to Berkeley for yet another week of school--here's to hoping it's an easier one than the last two weeks have been!

Friday, October 14, 2011

In manus tuas


Surprise, surprise... I've joined the blogging trend!  I'm not sure what will come of this but I liked the idea of having a space to share my reflections, experiences and thoughts, so here I am.  Lately, I've strayed away from writing, a pastime that I very much miss.  School is time-consuming and leaves me with little time to sit down and really collect my thoughts so hopefully I can find the time to at least post little notes here and there.  We'll have to see how well I am about maintaining this sort of thing!

The semester is speeding up.  If I remember correctly, we're already in the seventh week of instruction, which means assignments are accumulating and of course, midterm season.  It's been a busy last few weeks.  Papers due, midterm exams, presentations to prepare.  On top of my schoolwork, I work two days a week at a preschool, volunteer twice a week as a mentor at a local elementary school and attend various club meetings on most weeknights.  Frankly, I'm overwhelmed but I'm trying my best to stay positive and keep in mind the benefits that will ultimately come from such hard work.  I'm struggling with a lot of doubt right now about how capable I am of juggling everything but a few close friends and family members have been reminding me to keep my confidence up, which has been a huge help to me.  I'm blessed with a really wonderful support system and without them, I don't think I would be where I am this very moment: a third year Spanish and English literature double major at the University of California, Berkeley.  My worries are troublesome but God is reminding me through the kind words of my friends and family how equipped I really am to be successful and I'm incredibly thankful for the gesture.  For now, I'm trying to focus on the tasks at hand and to leave all the rest to God.  I'll discern His plan in good time.

I should be off to bed.  Tomorrow is another day (though thankfully, it's Friday!) and I have to be up early enough to catch the bus to the elementary school where I mentor.  Hoping to update again sometime soon!