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


"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


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.