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


"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!