Saturday, December 26, 2009

surely he taught us to love one another

Love. Is something I seem to be learning a lot about lately, and also am learning how little I know how to practice.

As Christians, we are told to love. To love God, to love others, to love our family, to love our neighbors, to love the church, to love our enemies, not to love the world, not to love money. We know that we are to love, that's a no-brainer. But to love the people we are commanded to love, I'm learning that this is a more difficult task that I ever realized.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" 1 John 3:16

Love is laying down our lives for others. But what does that look like? Sacrificing all at the expense of our own spirits? Doing everything that a person asks? Giving another person everything they want? That doesn't seem like love. It seems more like spoiling a child. It's hard when someone says, "This is how you should love me," and when you don't do, they don't feel loved. But are we really responsible for making others feel loved? This is hard for me to accept, but I do believe that we can love others without them feeling love.

A friend and I recently had a great conversation about loving others. About how loving someone means trying to meet their needs, not their wants. Meeting someone's wants provides instant happiness and the other person may say that they feel loved, but truly loving someone, truly meeting their needs should provide for their eternal well-being, truly loving someone doesn't always produce those warm fuzzies that I'm likely somewhat addicted to. It's easy to know what someone wants to feel loved, but it's a more difficult task, requiring prayer, patience, and understanding, to discern what another person that I'm trying to love truly needs.

Sometimes, people need the truth spoken to them, even if it doesn't seem loving on the surface. As an only child who loves to preserve harmony around me, this is something that doesn't come naturally to met at all. It seems that I'm learning these skills simultaneously as a therapist to my clients and as a daughter, friend, sister to others in my life. My supervisor this past semester, in encouraging me to confront a client about unhealthy behavior, told me, "You can say almost anything if it's coming from a place of love and compassion." I have a feeling that this statement will stuck with more than anything else a supervisor can tell me. It's true, if my motives are love, concern for the longterm well-being of another person, then I can say something hard to hear, but it can still be loving, and hopefully will be received well. But if I'm saying it out of fear or selfishness or anger or bitterness, then it probably won't be received well, and it's not loving at all. But this isn't my temptation. My temptation is to say too little, to preserve the peace. Maybe it's not even the path of true peace.

So, I'm learning to be better lover. It's a long journey, and I recognize that it's the whole point why I'm a Christian. There are a lot of things that seem good about me naturally. I'm good at being kind, at being considerate, at being thoughtful, and at times, being loving. But I'm also good at trying to protect myself, at fearing the loss of relationships, at being prideful, at being jealous, and all of these things hinder my true expressions of love. And this is where I need God to continue his work in me, to continue to bring situations and individuals who strip away the areas of fear and who encourage me to love more truly. I need His grace to make me a better lover.

Monday, December 14, 2009

everybody's coming to get me, just say you never met me

So, I have my moments of paranoia that at time lead me to take unnecessary and sometimes dramatic precautions. In high school, I once arrived home to an empty house to discover the phone lines weren't working. Because sometimes in movies the bad guy cuts the phone lines so the victim cannot call for help, I grabbed a big kitchen knife and dramatically kicked open every door in the house. I'll admit, I took such dramatic actions half for the fun of it, the fun of pretending that I was in a spy movie or something. Sometimes I'll worry that a car is following mine when a car behind me begins making the same turns at me. I'll begin making unusual turns, until the car takes another route. Recently, some of my friends were followed home from a club, so this isn't something that's bad to be paranoid about! About a month ago, I arrived home late at night to find my cat acting strange, avoiding my bed, and I worried that some critter was in my room, under the bed. While 80% convinced that there were no strange animals in my room, I still slept on the living room couch that night. One of my roommates thought I was being ridiculous, but the other one told me that she sometimes thinks this house is haunted, and related some unusual experiences to me, that only increased my paranoia about what could be lurking in my room.

This afternoon, I found a strange package sitting on my kitchen counter. It was a bulging Hungry Jack pancake box wrapped in plastic packing tape, sent from a name I didn't recognize in North Carolina. If it had been sent in a normal parcel box, I probably would have just gone ahead and opened it, even though I didn't know what it was or who it was from. Somehow, the strange packaging just seemed shady to me. I squeezed it, and felt something hard and indistinguishable inside. I couldn't remember ordering anything recently, and it seemed logical that this was some online seller's address. Maybe someone I knew had sent me an early Christmas present. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was fishy about this package.

I looked up the name on the package online, but found nothing substantial. Nothing that said, "Oh, I sent a package to Texas" or "I'm an online salesperson." I thought about calling the post office, "I received a suspicious package," but decided that was likely too dramatic. I imagined the possibility of a bomb inside. Though I assured myself that no one hated me enough nor was I important enough to be the target of an assassination plot, I couldn't get rid of the feeling that this package could be dangerous.

So I did the most logical thing I could think of in handing a potentially dangerous, mysterious package. I donned my bike helmet, grabbed a sharp kitchen knife, cracked open the door to the back porch, and began opening the package, with the door in between my body and head and the package, my hands, and knife. If there was an explosion, I would only lose my hands. The imagined explosion could blow the door down, but I was wearing a helmet and hopefully would not sustain a fatal injury. (Somebody who knows more about bombs than I do please tell me that this is not a ridiculous notion). Probably the most dangerous think about this scenario was the fact that I was using a knife while not looking at what I was doing!

I successfully opened the outer package, revealing another smaller package, wrapped equally tight in clear packing tape. This too seemed suspicious, so I quickly removed it, and dropped it on the other side of the door. At this point, I began imagining that this package held illegal drugs instead of explosives. There was something written on the package, that at first glance I thought had my name on it. I turned the package around, reading the sharpied text, "Kitty Ring Holder." Then I remember two weeks ago buying an antique silver cat-shaped ring holder on a whim from an etsy shop. I don't even wear rings, but I thought the thing would make a fun decoration. I removed my bike helmet, brought the package back into the kitchen, and quickly opened it to enjoy my purchase.

This is probably the type of story that I should just keep to myself to save my reputation, but I like laughing at myself and I don't mind friends laughing with me. For my friends reading this who run etsy shops, please label your packages as an etsy purchase. You never know what dramatic, paranoid young woman with an over-active imagination is going to be ordering from you!

I think I'll name him Billie Joe.

Monday, December 07, 2009


How can something so ugly be so natural to us humans? It's as if him saying, "Thou shalt not covet . . . " he was saying, "Thou shalt not feel hunger." Is jealousy an action? A choice? Or is it a feeling? A state of being that overcomes me and entangles me in ways that are often difficult to shake loose? I don't feel like I choose to be jealous like I might choose to tell a lie, but I certainly entertain jealous thoughts, I feed them when they come, giving them enough light and water to stay alive until I distract myself with something else.

So how do I kill it? How do I be not jealous? Ideally, I should rejoice for my friends when I feel jealous of them, celebrate the things and opportunities that they have, even when I selfishly desire them for myself. But sadly, it's easier to focus on the good that I have or bad that they have to get rid of the thought that I want what they have. "Well, I may not have that, but I do have this, and this is really great," of, "Well, they have that which I want for myself, but they also have that which I don't want, so I should be glad that I'm me and not them." It's great to focus on what I'm thankful for, to rejoice in my blessings, but that kind of comparison, of measuring myself up against you seems just like the thing that is at the root of this jealousy in the first place.

Am I even capable of killing it? Maybe I just need to confess and repent and ask for forgiveness and healing, and remember that I'm not the One who killed it, I'm not the One who nailed it to some wood where it died. But the very word "repent" implies action, it implies a turn, a new direction. So where do I turn when I feel jealous? Towards gratitude, contentment, trust, love for others, towards things that often seem so much less natural to me. Again, I must turn to the One who not only killed it, but who opened the path for those things that I truly desire, the things so much more foreign to me than jealousy and pride and selfishness. He must have experienced it too. He must have been tempted by it also.

I hope that one day, I can really truly learn to rejoice with you and to want the best for you more than I want it for me. Until then, I'll keep fighting this thing I hate, and rejoice on the days when rejoicing for you feels easier than worrying about what I don't have. Even reading this feels dirty and ugly, and I'm tempted to delete it, and forget that I ever confessed these things. But I need to see the dirt before it can be washed, and I know that you experience it too. And again, it's not as if I'm confessing a secret felony I commit, it's more like I'm saying, "I breathe."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

anticipation of weeks ahead

As I discussed today with a friend, Thanksgiving just felt like an appetizer, a taste of a little bit of time with friends and family who don't live near me, but it left me wanting more, hungry for the main course that's just around the corner, almost three weeks of time with those loved ones. Time for more time with family, spending more time with those dear ones, not just a quick pop in and out weekend trip, and catching up with many of those I haven't seen but maybe once in the past year. Friends and family I haven't seen since that friend's wedding back in the spring, or that random weekend in the winter when we were both in town together.

I also look forward to the last few weeks here, this place that now often feels more like home to me than that other home that I moved away from almost two and a half years ago. It really feels like things are winding down, as I turned in that paper today, just a couple of simple presentations to give, a report or two to write, paperwork to finish up, and things will all be wrapped up. I'm excited, and part of me is looking forward to this festive time of year before all us students leave, attending Christmas parties, ring dunks, concerts, soaking up as much time with my family and friends here before I leave them for a few weeks.

But tonight I was reminded of some really peaceful weekends that I spent in this house when I first moved in, before my roommates moved in a month later. I'm such an extrovert, I used to never really enjoy time by myself as much as time spent with others, but that's starting to change. I found myself loving spending the days at my house, fixing breakfast, reading, journaling, cooking, cleaning, in my bright kitchen, nowhere to rush off to until I pleased, in a place that felt so alive and already so comfortable. I hope I have some more times like that in the coming weeks, some more beautiful times of peace and solitude. It's almost strange for me to write this, as I never guessed that I would enjoy that kind of solitude.

A big part of my comfort in this home comes from the fact that it's the first living arrangement since I moved down here that truly feels like it's my home just as much as my roommates. The first year, I lived with a girl who's family owned the home, so it really was her home, I was just renting the space. My second year, I rented a house with three delightful roommates, but they all knew each other much better than I knew them, and frequently had their mutual friends over, so once again, it felt like I was living in their house. But this feels like my house and it feels like our house.

Though I loved this house in the summer, the winter makes it feel so cozy and brings out a new facet of its personality. Our backyard is decorated with lights, we have a tree up in one of the living rooms, and as soon as we can get our landlady to clean our chimney, we'll start building fires! My cave of a room has no heating on its own, so I'm using two space heaters and multiple blankets to stay warm, as I listen to the rain rythmically pelt the tin roof above me and every now and then hear a critter scurry above my ceiling. This chilly room that I have to heat on my own reminds me of another place and time, like a room in a Northern European apartment, or a frontier farmhouse. Mmm, how I'd love to heat up some coals to place under my bed to keep me warm at night! For now, I'll just be thankful for my Home Depot space heater.

Monday, November 23, 2009

age, adulthood, and other funny things

I'm 24, self-confident, and still experience those moments when I feel like a middle school girl getting shunned in the cafeteria. Today at my practicum, I watched as the post-docs gathered by the front door, waiting for two of our staff psychologists to join them to go out for lunch. I remembered last week them saying that since we weren't having our regular training meeting that they would go out for lunch this afternoon instead.

And no, I wasn't invited. There was no reason for them to invite me. I'm only here two days a week and even my supervisor didn't expect me to be here today since it was optional because of the holidays. But here I am, and I was disappointed to realize that instead of eating lunch with the post-docs, three youngish women who I have come to get to know these past few months over lunches, meetings, trainings, and supervision sessions, I would be eating in the break room without them while they went out to lunch.

It felt silly, but suddenly I felt the age difference. I felt like the little sister, watching her big sisters go off together, hoping that one of them would invite her. I walked in an out of the break room a couple of times, watching them gathered, saying something to one of them, then only making eye contact the second time. How I hoped that one of them would say, "Oh hey, we didn't know you were going to be here today, why don't you join us for lunch?"

Even though I'm only a third year doctoral student, completing a part time practicum here, in the past few months, I'd come to feel as an equal to the staff here. I'm always aware that the full time staff have more experience than me and I have a lot to learn from them, but recently interacting with the postdocs, I'd come to feel like one of them, eating lunch together, talking about our clients, our families, dates, etc, sharing our frustrations and excitements with one another. I'm going to be sad to leave these new friends. I hope that we'll keep in touch, but it's unlikely that I've established any deep, lasting connections with them. At best, they'll be good professional contacts to consult with when I'm applying for internship and post-doctoral positions - good contacts to have, for sure.

Now I understand why coworkers in full-time office jobs often become close friends. I've never worked a job when I took lunches with coworkers. Just two hours a week, plus meetings and trainings and consultations together, and that's sadly sometimes more time than I spend with many of my other friends during the week. And though we're of different backgrounds and life stages and personalities, there are some qualities that counseling psychologists share together that make it easy to connect.

And so, I'm sad that I'm not really their equal. That they go out to lunch together while I stay behind. That I'll be leaving this practicum in a few weeks, and will be saying goodbye to them, goodbye to lunches together, goodbye to laughing about weird diets and fashions, goodbye to informal consultations about client frustrations with them.

Maybe it makes today's experience all the more sad because I've been realizing more and more how little things like age and life stages can matter when it comes to adult friendships. I have friends 3-4 years younger than me still in college, friends several years older than working or in graduate school, single friends, married friends, friends who are mothers and fathers. One of my friends calls this an "urban tribe." Why do many churches divide people up into "homogeneous" groups of Young Singles, Young Marrieds etc.? I threw a well-attended party Friday night, a house show in which three of my musician friends played, and it was wonderful to look around see the diverse friends around me. Friends, strangers, college students, grad students, single, married, fathers, pregnant women, two of my pastors, coworkers, neighbors, friends of friends little sisters, mostly White, but also black, Indian, Turkish, people who see me as an authority figure, people who see me as a mentee to shepherd, people who see me as their friend, sister, equal, all eating queso, drinking beer cider, listening to music, having conversation, telling stories, imitating Obama, singing songs. All seemed more equal that night, any normal power differentials (for lack of a better term) seemed to blur as we all enjoyed the music and company.

Our church elders last night spoke about maturity, recognizing that we're a young church, and we need older adults with more life experience and maturity, but also recognizing that age and experience doesn't always equal wisdom and maturity. I'm thankful to be growing into maturity, I'm thankful to have people in my life who are more mature than me in different areas. I have no idea how to wrap up this blog post, it's taken a turn that I didn't expect. This often happens when I'm writing. I have in mind to write one thing, and then discover that it's related to something else, something more important to me than the thing I first set out to write about. Usually I like to connect this back to the beginning, but maybe there's not a need for that.

I'm 24, self-confident, and still experience those moments when I feel like an adult.

Monday, November 09, 2009

ooh, it, feels good to be free

I should have known today was going to be an eventful day as I drove into Huntsville, listening to the BBC radio coverage of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the fall of the Berlin wall, my eyes filled with tears. This is the second time I've cried this past month while listening to public radio news, the first being while listening to the speech of a female member of the Afghan's parliament's speech criticizing the parliament's relationship with warlords, that resulted in her removal from parliament and threats against her life and safety. I knew today was a special day being celebrated in a city that I recently visited, but I had no idea what a personal impact this Monday was going to much hold for me.

For starters, the most difficult client I've had thus far in my training abruptly terminated therapy with me in an entirely frustrating manner, but what else would I expect from someone whom myself and the staff suspect suffers from a personality disorder, who has caused us numerous frustrations over the past two months? I was downright pissed off this afternoon, but thankfully I have a wonderful staff to process it with and I'm thankful for the training opportunity that has challenged me and will provide fascinating answers to the internship interview question, "What has been your most challenging experience with a client and how did you handle it?" Though at this site we sarcastically use the term "training opportunity" for anything difficult that we don't want to do, I genuinely am thankful for this experience.

Then, I received freedom from all romantic involvements for the first time in over a year, and incredibly, by God's grace, it happened in the most positive way one could hope for - with clarity, kindness, understanding, gratitude, and forgiveness, without hurt, shame, anger, or regret. I'm so thankful for this. It feels good to be free, to be grateful for my current state, to be open to whatever or whomever will come into my life next. I know a time is likely to come soon when I will experience loneliness or long for a man's attention, but for now, I'm surprisingly downright euphoric about this new found freedom.

Finally, this evening I booked a 13 day tour over spring break in this country:

Home of the city no longer called Constantinople, the 7 churches of Revelation, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Troy, Pergamum, seascapes that rival Greece's in beauty, incredibly hospitable people, and the furthest East I will have ever traveled. As you can imagine, I'm pretty incredibly stoked. Somehow, four months away, this trip doesn't even seem real to me yet, but I'm excited, and I'm sure it will sink in soon. Just last week, I also booked a trip to New Orleans with a good friend and then on to Oklahoma to visit other friends in January.

There's just something incredible about freedom, that people around the world will risk their lives and safety for it, that young women in Texas will dance joyfully and shamelessly to a favorite song when they receive it, that a god would send his son to death to secure it for his people.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Last night, we did a neat activity in my church small group. When we arrived, two tables were covered in about 50 different photographs, all evocative images depicting various people, settings, and objects. Our small group leader asked us to select one picture that described where we are now in this season of them, then later asked us to pick a picture, in light of the knowledge that God loves us, where we believe that God would want us to be right now. I wish I could find these photographs to share, but they came materials that a Christian organization uses for evangelism, so they are likely copyrighted.

True to my indecisive nature, I looked at every single picture before I chose one. I then asked myself, "Where am I in life right now?" The answer immediately popped into my head with one word, "Moving." I picked the photograph that conveyed the most movement to me: a young woman and a young man running through a train station, limbs and torsos blurred, arms extended towards one another, as if they were running to catch a train and the young man was reaching out his hand to pull the young woman along.

My life is moving forward right now, I know where I'm going in the immediate future, and I know the steps to take along the way. I know where I will be completing my practicum for the next two semesters, I likely know what new job I will take next fall, I know when I will be proposing my dissertation, I know (probably) when I will be applying for internships, and I know what sorts of internships sight I will apply to and have some ideas of where I plan to apply. There's a lot that I don't know, a lot of very important details yet to be decided, and still much flexibility in all these plans, but I know enough to feel sure of where I'm going and to feel confident to run towards these goals. I'm no longer the insecure, clueless first or second year graduate student, feeling like I'm swimming aimlessly and trusting that in some unknown way my classes and experiences will lead to a doctorate degree and a professional license. I recently told one of my classmates that I feel like we're at the last lap (which we're not), and that I feel like we're rushing towards the finish line now. There's still a LOT left to do, but how to get to that once elusive finish line is now much more clear to me. And I'm busy pursuing all those things this semester, much busier than previous semesters. I've had weeks when I've been stressed and exhausted, but God has answered my prayers and the prayers of others to give me energy to mostly thrive in this schedule. It probably helps that I now have a better idea of what the coming semesters and years hold for me and how the things I'm doing now directly relate as steps toward a goal that is being achieved.

I feel good about all these things. But when I looked at the picture of the two in the station, it felt frantic and stressful to me. The two were not sure if they would reach their destination, but they were running like hell to try to make it there anyway. They were reaching out to one another, but their hands weren't quite touching. In the same way, I feel like some things in my life just aren't connecting as they should be. I feel like my busyness is causing me to sacrifice some things for now, and honestly, I sometimes feel like I'm flat out dropping the ball on things I should be doing, but just don't have the time to complete or the mental energy to even remember to do because I am so focused on more demanding things. I don't feel as frantic as the photographed two, which I'm grateful for. In the midst of this busyness, I don't feel nearly as stressed as I could be, and there's been a lot of peace throughout this semester.

For my second photograph, I chose a picture of a young man, a college student I assume, walking away from the camera, toward a beautiful collegiate looking brick building, red backpack strapped to his back, surrounded by old trees who are just beginning to turn into fall colors. As his left foot is turned sole towards the camera, there is obvious movement in this photograph, but the entire scene is crisp and clear, no aspect is blurred in motion. I imagine this young man walking at a steady pace, towards his destination. He's not wearing himself out, he's not tired, he could stop if he wanted to, he's walking slowly enough to notice his surroundings. I believe this captures what God wants for me because I believe that he wants me to keep moving, that he wants me to pursue these goals I'm currently pursuing. I don't think he wants me to change directions or stop, but I think he wants me to continue moving forward at a more steady pace, less frantic, and I believe that he wants me to experience more peace while I move. To feel confident, to trust that my steps are sure. I don't think he wants me to rush nor miss out on what is present all around me.

Afterwards, my small group leader told me how he experienced sadness when I said that I'd be finishing up in a couple of years, "I'm sad for selfish reasons." I almost cried when he told me that. I know it's almost two years away, but for all the excitement I experience about moving forward and reaching my educational and career goals, I will be very sad to leave the people and this place that I have come to love. I shared with him my recent realization that if I decide to stay an extra year, to finish my dissertation and/or become a more competive internship applicant, and if I spend that extra year here, I'll be very happy with that. I thought I'd be eager to leave this place, but it truly has become home to me, a delightful, satisfying surprise. If I am led to stay or return, then that would be amazing. As fast as I seem to be moving, I'd love to slow things down and savor all of this.

Wow, I really am in such a different place than I was just over a year ago. As busy as it may be, I absolutely love this season.

PS - I updated my blog roll. It makes me happy :)


I dislike the question, "What's new?" I prefer the more open-ended, "How are things?" or "What have you been up to?" Those questions anyone can answer, because there are always "things" going on in life and anybody is always up to something or another. But "What's new?" makes me feel some pressure to think, "What is new in my life? What is new to this person? Or what's new this week? Or what big, monumental, NEW thing has occurred in my life recently?" This past summer, I would answer that question eagerly, "Everything's new! My house, my roommates, my job, my practicum, my classes!" But a few months later, the newness of such things has worn off. Nothing right now feels as new as all those things did a few months ago. Completing a learning disability assessment, co-facilitating my fourth group of college students with depression, buying plane tickets to New Orleans, going to a Regina Spektor concert, none of those things seem as monumentally NEW as all the changes that have occurred for me in the past five months.

I also feel like the questioner is fishing for something, like they expect me to share something NEW that will satisfy their curiosity. It's almost as if they're thinking, "Something is new about her, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is . . . " I know it's just a socially acceptable question that us white americans have been conditioned to ask one another when we're curious about another person's life or feigning said curiosity, but I feel like it implies a need for the other person to have NEW, exciting, life-changing events and experiences. Maybe my life is average right now. Maybe the only thing that's new are the clothes I'm wearing. But is that good enough for you? Am I not fulfilling your expectations for my life to be continuously NEW and fascinating?

Even more irritating to me is when I've already been talking to a friend for 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes, sharing about different things in each other's lives, and then the friend asks, "So, what else is new with you?" I want to respond, "I've spent the past 20 minutes telling you about NEW things in my life!" Do they think I'm hiding something from them? That I'm beating around the bush? Or was what I just shared not interesting enough for them? Are they waiting for me to reveal some big NEW event, that all the other things I shared were just leading up to?

I'll have to be honest, as an unmarried person, I sometimes feel like when people ask, "What's new?" that they want to hear about some new relationship development. A new crush, a new boyfriend, a new serious development with current boyfriend etc. Maybe they don't. I don't beat around the bush with those kinds of questions, I straight up ask, "Are you seeing anyone?" "How are you and so-and-so doing?" "Do you see a future with him?" But I feel like many people don't have the guts to ask such straightforward questions about what could be a sensitive topic to someone other than the closest of friends.

Maybe people are just curious about each other, and ask questions that sound ok to ask. Maybe I'm just projecting my own insecurities about the newness of my life onto others. Maybe no one else but me cares how new or old the things in my life are.

Whatever it is, the question still annoys me. Just ask me how I am, pretend to be interested in what I share, and trust that I will share what seems important for you to know.

At least it's a relatively open-ended question, even if the questioner is leading towards something. Last night, my friend told me how her friend kept asking her, "Aren't you sooooo good?" How does one respond to that? "Yes, in fact, I am soooooo good," or, "Actually, no, I'm not soooooo good," or, "Wow, you're right, my life is good, thanks for convincing me of that!"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

the difference between a graduate student and an undergraduate

A graduate student will bike through a sea of maroon-clad fans, past the stadium on her way to the library, toting her laptop, wearing her TCU sweatshirt, looking oblivious to the fact that a football game is to commence in 45 minutes.

Few undergraduate students will ever know the joys of flaunting their complete disregard for decades-held traditions in the pursuit of academic success.

Today, I'm not even a "two-percenter," I'm a negative two-percenter, if that even makes sense in whatever the definition of a "two-percenter" is.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If I were a British school girl living in a cartoon universe . . .

. . . I might look like this -
Courtesy of Tom Siddell, writer and artist of Gunnerkrigg Court, a webcomic that I enjoy. He offered to create personal drawings for a small fee to make some money off of the comic. I'm happy to support his work, and am delighted with his rendition of me as a Gunnerkrigg Court student! The comic itself is a beautifully drawn and intriguing tale that still manages to bring laughs and delights despite its often dark mood. Its basic premise reminds me somewhat of Harry Potter, with a young girl who joins a mysterious boarding school after her mother dies, except that there's no Voldemort and no Dumbledore, which is key. Gunnerkrigg Court offers no simplistic distinction between good and evil, and it's often unclear who of the characters to trust. The plot centers around stoic Annie's (short for Antimony) adventures in the school itself and the equally mysterious forest outside, uncovering clues about the school, the forest, the inhabitants of both, and her family. Elements of mythology and alchemy symbols are woven throughout the chapters, and themes of manmade science vs. natural magic are emphasized. If you're going to read it, I recommend starting from the beginning. When I was first introduced to this comic a year ago, I tried to read the most recent ones, and was pretty lost until I read all the way through.

I'm such a fangirl, and I've just outted myself if you didn't already know that about me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

this has never happened to me before

The amount I had remaining on my Starbucks giftcard was exactly the amount that my drink cost today.

Seriously, when does that happen, when you have a giftcard and don't owe money and don't have money remaining?

This reminds me of how my grandmother would give me giftcards that included the tax in them. Which is genius, because inevitably one has to spend some kind of money on tax when using a $5, $10, $25 etc giftcard. My grandmother was one of the most thoughtful people I've ever known when it came to things like that. She knew that I didn't like nuts, and whenever she made a recipe with nuts (brownies, elk salad, etc), she would save a special portion without nuts for me to enjoy, and chide others who tried to eat the non-nut section that was saved specially for me. Most of the time this was great, but sometimes it obligated me to eat foods that I don't like. How can I tell my grandmother that I don't like jello salad when there's a special small container of jello salad without nuts made just for me? At least I can tolerate bad food without nuts making them completely unbearable.

It's hard to believe that it's been three years now since she died. Since that time, I've come to tolerate and even sometimes enjoy more nuts in more recipes, without the woman who remembers my preferences. Three years sounds like such a long time, but it doesn't feel like she's been gone three years. Not that the pain of losing her feels fresh at all, but it doesn't feel like she's been out of my life that long, and I think this is a good thing. The woman who kept nuts away from me feels like a recent presence in my life, not someone who is far away in my past. I want to model her thoughtfulness in my life, in my relationships with others. In the gifts I give, in the words I say, in the questions I ask, in the concern I display. In the ways I use my time, money, possessions, words, and gifts. I want to give to others in a variety of ways, and I want to do it thoughtfully, not scattering out kindness haphazardly, assuming that all kindnesses are the same or that the things that mean the most to mean will also be meaningful to others, but really seeking to know those that I am called to love and giving to them thoughtfully.

And for those of you who know me as friends and family, as brothers and sisters, I'd appreciate help in this endeavor. If I do or say something toward you or another that isn't kind, or that just isn't as thoughtful as it could be, I'd appreciate the feedback. If you ever feel hurt or dismissed or underappreciated by me, then maybe you're right to assume that I didn't mean it that way, but it doesn't mean that you have to ignore it. I tend to have a rather kind nature, which is great, but it also could make it easy for me to become complacent and to not think about my need to strive to be more giving, more loving, more sacrificial, in the ways that Christ has modeled for me, in the ways that the Spirit enables me to be.

Wow, all that from a Starbucks receipt? She does move in mysterious ways.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

earning some initials

Tomorrow, I become Ms. cracker and cheese, M.S.!* Earning a Masters' on the way to a doctorate degree is something that most people in our program achieve, and tomorrow I will receive that degree. To be honest, it's felt a little anticlimactic, and something that I've underplayed. Any other time I've graduated, I've ended one chapter of my life to begin another. This time when I graduate, things stay the same. I've been a doctoral student for the past two years, and after tomorrow, I will continue to be a doctoral student. Many of my classmates received their masters' and never attended the graduation ceremony. I decided to attend the ceremony and walk the stage tomorrow, mainly so my parents could come down and celebrate with me. A few weeks ago, when I shelled over some money to purchase the cap and gown and rent my masters' hood, I almost regretted that decision.

Fortunately, my apathy toward graduation has subsided and my excitement has grown as graduation grows closer. I've started to share about it with others, and it's been easy to feed off of their excitement and pride for me. This is a big deal! Maybe this won't be a life-changing event, but it's a significant accomplishment. I've worked hard in this program for the past two years, and it's great to have an achievement like this to celebrate.

So tomorrow I'll fix my hair and make-up, put on a pretty dress, don my cap, gown, and hood, walk across that stage, text message friends during the 2 hour ceremony, and greet my family, taking pictures, and celebrating this step!

*Most of you know who I am, so just insert my full name in there!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

a suburb is a suburb

Overall, the trip to California was all that I'd hoped it would be - a fun time to celebrate the marriage of my friends and spend time with family in a beautiful area that is a welcome escape from Texas. The three days of wedding activities were better than I expected. One of the other bridesmaids is one of my best friends, and we all hit it off with the others, who I'd never met before. The brides' family completely pampered us. I ate some of the best food of my life that weekend. And I slept. On. A. Boat. I've been in many weddings, and this was one of the most fun, probably because by the time the wedding rolled around, we'd spent three days together and so the wedding itself was the culmination of a days of celebration and preparation with old and new friends. I know I've been in the weddings of some of you reading this post, and believe me, every wedding I've been in has been fun, exciting, memorable, and special, but there's just something a little different about having a "destination" wedding of sorts that allows everyone involved to just escape into wedding land for a few days.

Unfortunately, I woke up the day after the wedding sick with a bad cold, caught from one of the other bridesmaids who had been sick prior to the wedding. Fortunately, my cousins took good care of me, and I took it easier my second half of my time in California but still managed to have fun. Monday, I drove my cousin's minivan (a frightening experience on LA freeways) and battled parking meters in Pasadena to spend a few hours shopping and enjoying art collection of the Norton Simon Museum. Tuesday my cousin, her kids, and her brother and I spent a few hours at Knotts Berry Farm, which I still managed to enjoy in spite of fatiguing more easily and experiencing more nausea on the roller coasters than I would have had I not been sick. In between, we enjoyed good meals, Animaniacs, frozen yogurt, Theraflu, playing farkle, and antics with my cousins' 5 month old daughter and almost 3 year old son. We tried to teach him how to say, "Hellooooooo Nurse" when he see "a pretty lady who looks like Mommy," as some of the Animaniacs characters do. He managed the phrase sometimes, but sometimes it turned into, "Hello Nana."

It was somewhat prophetic that I titled my previous post "California Reality." At the time, I intended it to be a play off of "California Dreamin'" because I wasn't just dreaming about going to California, I would actually be there in my reality. The title has taken on more additional meanings as I realized that prior to this trip, I had idealized California. A beautiful state of almost perfect weather in the southern coast, and a variety of natural beauties (beaches, mountains, forests) within driving distance of anywhere in the state had made it seem like a paradise compared to Texas. Fortunately, ever since my first visit, I had been aware of the high cost of living in this state, but I would still find myself telling people, "I would love to live in California if it weren't so expensive." After this visit to Southern California, I'm seeing now that even if you have a lot of money in this state, the suburbs of LA may not be the ideal paradise that I imagined, mainly because the region is so darn crowded. Houses are small, and yards are smaller. Traffic is horrible, with my cousins urging me to leave Pasadena before 3:30 if I wanted to make it back in less than an hour. Honestly, even with the great weather, the suburbs of LA seem just like the suburbs of DFW, but with a higher population density and greater urban sprawl.

Living in a smaller town these past two years, I've come to enjoy the conveniences of being able to drive wherever I need to go in 10-15 minutes. When I visit my home in the DFW suburbs, I get annoyed with the traffic and just how spread out everyone and everything is. I spend 20 minutes to an hour driving each way to go see another family member or friend. I'm annoyed to see the suburban sprawl, miles of houses as far as the eye can see. I've come to appreciate living in a smaller town without such sprawl and traffic. I don't know where I'll live in the future, but I'd prefer to live in a small to medium-sized city or the downtown of a large city with decent public transportation than a suburb. Wherever I may make my home, I'd ideally like to live close to wherever I work to minimize commuting time, and hopefully that will also be close to necessary amenities and a community of people that I love and care about.

Just as my Southern California fantasy bubble was bursting, I saw the amazing film 500 Days of Summer, set in LA. Seriously, go see it as soon as possible if you haven't already. One of the many great aspects of this film is that it manages to make downtown LA beautiful in a way that I've never seen in film or in person. Somehow, in this film, LA looks like an East Coast city, plus some palm trees. The protagonist, who studied architecture, appreciates the beauty of old buildings amidst modern parking garages. I've never seen this side of LA before. Maybe I haven't been to the right place, or maybe it takes just the right eye.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

california reality

Tomorrow, I fly out to LAX at 7:40 in the morning, bright and early! I will be in the LA area for 6 days to maid-of-honor in my friend's wedding and then to stay a little longer to sightsee and hang with my cousins. This will be my 7th time as a bridesmaid, my 6th time flying solo, 4th trip to California, 3rd trip to the LA area, 2nd wedding to attend in the LA area, and 1st time to meet my cousins' baby Violet! (Sorry, if I think of what this is the 5th of, I'll add it later)

Sadly, I've been so busy lately, that I haven't had a chance to let the excitement of this trip build. But now that I leave in less than 24 hours, am packed, have my boarding pass printed, my dress altered, my gifts bought, the bachelorette dinner planned, and plans with my cousins are shaping out, I'm definitely getting excited! There will be love and commitment to celebrate, great friends and family to catch up with, new friends to meet, good food, drink, dancing, lingerie, getting nails and hairdid, beaches, yachts, minivans, babies, Knottsberry Farm, highs of 73 degrees, and whatever else comes along!

I'm trying to figure out what to do solo on Monday when my cousins are at work and allow me to drive their awesome minivan. Since this is my 3rd trip to LA, I've already seen a lot of the typically touristy places, Hollywood stuff, Venice Beach, Rodeo Drive, driven around Bel Air, UCLA, etc. So, I'm definitely open to any suggestions!

Did I mention that it's almost 30 degrees cooler in Huntington Beach than in College Station right now?

Monday, July 20, 2009

tucking in my cloak

This morning, I read in 1 Kings 18 when God answers Elijah's prayers and ends the 3 1/2 year long drought. It's just after God has answered Elijah's prayers and sent down fire to consume the altar on Mount Carmel, demonstrating that the God is Israel is the true living God and Baal is no god at all. After this great display of power, after Elijah prays with his head and his knees to the ground, after Elijah's servant had looked toward the sea six times, on the seventh viewing, he reports a small cloud rising from the sea, Elijah urges the king to ride his chariot down off the mountain before the rain prevents him from leaving. The sky grows dark, the winds howl, and the heavy rain comes down. Elijah is seized by the power of God, he tucks his cloak into his belt, and he runs ahead of the king's chariot 16 miles back to the city! Maybe horses pulling chariots run slower than a man, maybe the terrain was rocky and easier for a man on foot to navigate than horses and chariots, but I believe that this "power of the Lord" was supernatural energy and strength and speed that allowed Elijah to run over a half marathon ahead of the king's chariot, with the heavy rain and storm chasing them from behind.

Leaving campus this afternoon, we saw dark clouds and heard distant rumblings of thunder. I quickly bid my companions goodbye and scurried to unlock my bike. I began pedaling quickly, anxious to make it home before the rain started. I heard a louder clap of thunder behind me, and started pedaling faster. As I found myself furiously biking through campus, I felt a little like Elijah, cloak tucked in, running ahead of the chariot, with the storm coming behind him. Most of me desperately wanted to make it home dry, but a small part of me hoped that the rain would beat me, and that I would be caught in the storm. As I began to imagine this, that desire in me grew. What could be more invigorating right now than this exhilarating ride to escape the rain than to actually be caught in the rain? To be pelted with water, powerless to stop it, unable to be dry until I reached the safety of my home, completely drenched? I did not lower my speed, but as I pressed on, I began to hope that the rain would win this race.

I was victorious. As I sit half an hour later at my dining room table writing this, the rain still has not come. I could feel silly, that I got so worked up about beating the rain that still hasn't arrived, but instead I feel grateful for a few minutes of excitement, for the reminder of God's power through nature's unpredictability, and the ability to feel alive and present.

Monday, June 29, 2009

mysteries of children

I claim that I'm not good with kids, but some children seem determined to prove me a liar. And when they do, I'm grateful because there's nothing quite like having a 4 month old baby fall asleep in my arms while I'm holding him or snuggling up with a toddler in my lap. I suppose I treat little children like cats in that I don't rush over to pick them up or play with them, but when they approach me and want my affection, I feel honored and blessed and happy to oblige them.

Today, not quite two-year-old little Zoe climbed up onto my lap while I sat at Ari's kitchen table. Uninvited but welcome, she took one bite of her apple slice while I munched on mine.

"Do you think she remembers me?" I asked, referring back to a year ago when I was more of a presence in Zoe's life, "Or is she just friendly with everyone?"

"She's definitely doesn't approach everyone like that," Ari replied, "But sometimes it almost seems like she seeks out people that need love from her right now."

And love from a precious blonde-haired, blue-eyed, smiling, babbling child I was happy to receive and to give back to her.

Maybe I am ok with kids. Or maybe there are certain children and certain times when we are both just perfect for each other.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

summer evenings

"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future."
Ecclesiastes 7:14

Back porch + book + baked custard – bugs = bliss

Though my baked custard didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, though a mosquito still bit my knuckle (having only sprayed my feet and ankles with OFF!), and even though barely a paragraph into my latest chapter, I received a phone call that whisked me away from my lovely back porch back to the clinic where I work to attend to a minor crisis, when I returned from work for the second time, I was finally able to settle into my book and enjoy the last remaining minutes of daylight and enjoy relaxing yet stimulating bliss.

We’re nearing the summer solstice, and I’m loving the long summer days of sunshine that lasts nearly to 9pm, but I’m also saddened that once summer solstice occurs, the days will slowly grow shorter, and there will be less sunshine for me to enjoy. Nevermind that this cycle repeats itself, nevermind that I actually love fall weather, and come mid-July will be yearning for cooler temperatures, right now, I want the days to just keep getting longer and longer, and the thought of losing even just a minute of daylight dampens my spirit. And I hate that I’m thinking this way, and I hate that I’m thinking this way about a lot of things. Why can’t I just be, and enjoy the blessing of the moment, the present, all that I really truly ever have which is that in front of me, around me, within me?

I’m thankful that this past month or so that the few of us still here for the summer from our comgroup have been rapidly growing closer. This is such a special time for us to bond, as we’re all here in town, and many of our usual friends are gone for the season, and even though we’re working, in school, or looking for jobs, the demands and stress of life inevitably slow in the summer. The conditions have all been right facilitate more quality time together in ways that I just don’t think could have happened during the usual school year. I continue to enjoy such rich times with these friends, laughing, rambling, ranting, bantering, confiding, listening, encouraging, advising. As much as I’m enjoying these special times together, the nagging feeling that this season will end at the end of this summer is present with me. It seems inevitable that these times together will change, as people move, as fall schedules start, as other friends return. I don’t anticipate that we will grow tired of one another or that our times together will feel old, but it seems that the conditions around us will change, and our friendships will change as a result. But why I am even thinking this way, when we’re right in the middle of a wonderful, fun, precious season with each other, when we’re still sneaking candy into Pixar movies together, when we’re still staying up late on rooftop bars, discussing God and how we relate to him? Why am I anticipating an end when in many ways, this just seems to be the beginning? I know that I won’t stay close forever to everyone that I grow close to for a season, but it is possible that though things will change, close bonds will remain, friendships will continue, even if there is a physical distance between friends. Most of these friends will be living here for another year or two at least, and we will continue to go to church together, and we will continue to have opportunities to spend with one another. So even looking forward, I see continued friendships, I see growth, I see hope for us.

I guess I should blame my white American culture, but why am I so future oriented and so obsessed with marking time? So many of my thoughts seem to be looking toward the future, planning something, eagerly anticipating something, dreading something. So many thoughts given to things that have yet to occur. Things that could never occur, or that could occur very differently that I ever could imagine. And I’m always marking time forward or backwards. It’s so many days/weeks/months until x occurs. It’s been so many days/weeks/months since y happened. And usually there’s a judgment. Since it’s been x amount of time since I experienced y, I should be feeling z. Since it’s j amount of time until k, I should be doing l in preparation. I think it’s good and healthy to look back and categorize seasons and learn from them, and of course I need to look ahead and plan, but I don’t want my plans or my judgments about time to master me. I want to be more engaged in the present. I said that for the first time over a year ago, and I’m still learning what that means and how to do it. And there I go, making another time-related judgment of myself :P And now I’m judging myself for judging myself, which is even more absurd! But I’m not too frustrated at myself at the moment, more bemused that it seems inevitable that I will continue to think they way I don’t want to think, and to do the things that I don’t want to continue doing. That sounds pessimistic, but I’m trying to learn to have more grace with myself, the same grace and understanding and forgiveness that God offers to me, and that I’m trying to learn to offer more to others, I’m also trying to receive and offer to myself.

These past few weeks, I’ve also become aware that I’m approaching or perhaps have already reached what is likely the halfway point of the portion of my life that I live in Bryan/College Station, TX. There’s a feeling of accomplishment in having come this far, but it also is a tad daunting that the time I have remaining about equals the time that I’ve already spent. And with this remaining time, I’m expected to propose and collect and analyze data for a dissertation and to apply and interview for internships? I feel that I’m losing my academic excuses of, “Oh, I’m only a first year, a second year.” But I also fear that I’m losing my excuses to myself, “Oh, I’ve only lived here a year, year and a half, of course I don’t have the friends I like, of course I don’t feel more at home here than I do yet, give it more time, dear one.” But I have accomplished a lot in my short time here, experienced many new things, grown and developed in a myriad of ways, and am becoming more mature in some ways, and feel much more at home, certainly than I did last summer. Again, I’m tempted to judge myself, to judge my life, and where I should be, what I should have learned, what I should have accomplished. But I am where I am, and I’m meant to be here, and I will be further along in this journey when it’s time for me to be there. I like the me that’s 24 and one month. I like the me that has lived in BCS for not quiet two years. In some ways, it’s not the life that I hoped for at this stage, but in some ways, it’s better than I imagined. And it’s just as it should be.

Monday, May 25, 2009

action vs reaction

Looking back an unposted blog entries, I found this from September 24th, 2008 -

"I want to stop just reacting. Something happens, and I react and respond. Someone says something, and my mind goes off in an unhealthy tangent and starts making meaning out of what that person said, and then I react to that meaning that I create.

I want to be more than just a set of stimulus and responses. I want to choose, I want to act deliberately. I want to have a plan and a course."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

this is not a confession

I may or may not have started a fire in the break room today. I may or may not have been trying to remove my hypothetical bagel from the toaster oven, may or may not have been using a napkin as an oven mitt, and that possibly existing napkin may or may not have caught on fire. Rest assured that if I did start a fire this morning, that I would have resisted the urge to throw the fiery napkin into the trashcan and instead would have thrown the flaming paper to the floor, and stamped it out with my flip flops. If I had been wearing flip flops today, of course. Also note that if I ever were to start a fire in the break room, it would have been entirely by accident.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

birthday eve

It's the night before my birthday and I just feel like crying.

I feel sadness. I feel longing. And I feel frustration with myself that I'm feeling this way even though tomorrow is my birthday, tomorrow is my day of celebration, of turning 24, and I will spend more time with friends and family, as I already have this weekend, and I will receive good wishes and kind words and love and appreciation. And I'm afraid that I'll be ungrateful, that I'll just feel mildly appreciated, and not deeply loved, and not truly enjoy myself like I'd like to on my birthday. But maybe feelings aren't everything. Maybe I can still receive these things from others, and still treasure and ponder them in the days and months to come, and maybe even if I don't experience immediately the joy and encouragement of such things, maybe they will still take root in my heart and blossom into further blessings that I can continue to experience in times ahead.

2009 has been such a year so far, and though I wouldn't change anything, I'm ready to hit the reset button. It's no longer heaven and hell side by side, but rather a bait and switch has occurred. The amazingly good things went down the tubes and the shitty things have improved and continue to improve (and I rejoice in that). Some things that were good two months ago continue to be good, and continue to get better. None of the goods or bads are as extreme as they were two months ago, which almost seems just how they should be. I suppose that I do believe that everything is just how it should be, though often things feel horribly off. I wish I could change some of this, but I do believe that I'm receiving what I need to receive and growing and becoming more the person that God has created me to be, a new creation, being transformed and renewed. I see evidence of this growth, and know that it's not just some nice cliche that I tell myself and others to feel better. No, this growth is real, I know without a doubt that I am more mature that I was a year ago, two years ago, four years ago. Sucks that it takes experiencing pain to realize this growth, but I'm grateful for the truth and reminder, whatever package it comes in.

All the same, I'm ready to hit the reset button on my life, to start fresh in several things, to not be around reminders of this past year anymore, though it's been a good, wonderful, fun, exciting, growthful year in many, many ways. I am just ready to step into the new. Thankfully, still living as a student, these resets occur every few months, and in the upcoming months, the reset button will be hit multiple times, starting tomorrow. Beep. Now I'm 24. Then next week, beep, new job. Two weeks later, beep. New class. Beep. New practicum setting. Beep. New place to live, new roommates. I don't see these changes as erasing the past or trying to forget anything, but I do feel excited about them as I see them as new opportunities, fresh starts, improvements, blessings, gifts. Reminders that nothing is permanent, that as the wind whips the clouds across the full moon, so too will God move me away from the tears and pain, and move me toward his goodness, his love, his mercies, his tenderness, into the beautiful newness.

Why do I post something sharing sadness when I should be celebrating and joyful? Maybe because it just feels so wrong, that I should be happy right now, damnit. Happiness will probably come tomorrow, maybe not all day long, but maybe some of the day, maybe even most of the day. Why do I write this now? Do I want sympathy? Probably. Let's be honest, I appreciate the sympathy and the concern, even though sometimes it embarasses me when people respond overly concerned. Why do I write this now? Why do I want to remember the last day of being 23rd as a sad one? I write this in the confident hope that I will soon look back on this post, and realize that I don't feel this way. I write this is the hope that being 24 will be better than being 23, that being 24 will mean less tears and more smiles and laughter and hope, and even if I experience more tears this upcoming year, that 24 will mean being more mature, experiencing more love, and feeling more confident.

It's the night before my birthday and I cried. It's the night before my birthday and I stood outside, alone atop the highest hill in this town, listening to nothing but crickets chirping and distant dogs barking, and feeling the cool, gentle, life-giving breeze. It's the night before my birthday and I'm kinda smiling.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

remembering what I do

I wish I could fully describe for you what a priviledge it is to walk through someone's valley with them, caring for them, challenging them, experiencing their lows, opening up their emotions that frighten them, exploring and understanding themselves more and more, and then, seeing them walk out of that valley, into the hills and green plains, having learned from their pain, having recognized strengths within and around them, finding more hope and more truth, and having grown and changed for the better.

Right now, in this moment, this afternoon, I love what I do. For all of the challenges and frustrations that my education and chosen profession bring me, I love and cherish being on this journey with others. I am priviledged. I am blessed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

my blog is not dead

Nor have I forgotten about it. To be honest, these past couple of months, I haven't had a lot of motivation to blog. When I have thought of something that I wanted to write about, I'd usually be busy and have something else that needed my attention, and never got around to writing in here. I have things I'd like to write now, but don't always have the time to write when I want to, and also feel like some of the things on my mind right now are probably just best thought and prayed about privately or shared individually with those close to me.

But in the past two and a half years since I started this blog, I've seen my writing wax and wane with certain seasons. If the past is any indication, my writing certainly slowed down last spring, and then the posts picked back up again during the summer. I'm hopeful that within a couple of months, or maybe even next week, who knows, I will start feeling more motivation to write things, and will probably have more time and less school demands that should allow me to do so.

So, this blog is still alive. Keep me on your google reader or your bookmarks or links or whatev and hopefully they'll be some actual posts again soon. Thanks :)

Monday, March 09, 2009

heaven and hell on earth

"I have this theory of convergence, that good things always happen with bad things. I know you have to deal with them at the same time, but I just don't know why they have to happen at the same time." - Diane Court, Say Anything

There's a lot that I relate to Diane Court about - feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable when praise is heaped upon me, feeling insecure and fragile despite my successes. She's the girl that has so much going for her, so much success, seemingly has it all together, but is human, and frail, and weak, and scared, and needy sometimes.

And these past couple of months, I've related a lot to this quote of hers, to the feeling that good things and bad things must happen together. I don't know if I fully believe in her convergence theory as the way that life is, but lately, it seems rather accurate. Some things in my life are really shitty, and some things are amazingly good. Things are either growing and blossoming in exciting directions or falling deeper into a dark pit, and even the stagnant things are pulsating and aching to go in one direction or another. There has always been good and bad things coexisting in my life, but never can I remember them being so extreme. The good is heavenly, and the bad feels like hell. Maybe that's a little dramatic, but sometimes it feels that way.

Still, I'm surviving every day, and some days even thriving. Through both the good and the bad, I know that I'm growing more and more into the person that I'm made to be. Opportunities to develop professionally also turn into opportunities to develop personally and opportunities develop personally and spiritual turn into opportunities to develop professionally, and there becomes more and more of an overlap between who I am as a student and counselor and who I am as a friend, daughter, girlfriend, roommate, sister, as all of these roles fold into one another, creating the one entity that is me.

"Am I just babbling? Do you know what I mean?" - Diane Court. This could sound vague, but I just don't know how to write about the good or the bad specifically, which is maybe why I haven't written much this year so far.

At the beginning of the year, I dedicated this verse to my 2009, Isaiah 42:16 -

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them."

I had a sense on January 1st that I would be embarking on unfamiliar paths this upcoming year, but really didn't know what was right about the bend. I'm experiencing good and bad experiences that are rather unknown, and in ways, unlike anything that I've experienced before. I can say, "This is sorta like x," but no, this is x to the extreme, so much so, that it's not even x anymore, it's z or something. So far, 2009 is the year of extremes, the year of change, the year of utter pain and incredible joy like I've never experienced yet.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2009 Oscars

So, tonight is the night for the 2009 Oscars. I'll probably DVR it, so I can later go back and watch the speeches and song performances that were worthwhile. A lot of the in between stuff just feels lik filler, so it's often boring to sit down and watch it straight through. In anticipation of the results, here's who I'm predicting and/or rooting for in some key categories:

Actor in a Leading Role
Having just seen The Wrestler last night, I'm rooting for Mickey Rourke. Gosh, he brings so much genuine emotion to a character who, in my opinion, is discovering his humanity for the first time in his life. However, I just saw that Brad Pitt has only been nominated for one Oscar. Really? He's definitely more than a pretty boy, and is so talented in any role that he plays, that it astounds me that this is only his second nomination. So, he's my second choice for winning. Somehow though, I predict that Sean Penn is going to win. I haven't seen Milk yet, but based on his previous work, he'd certainly be deserving, though I'd be more excited for Mickey Rourke or Brad Pitt who haven't yet enjoyed a win.

Actress in a Leading Role
Sadly, I haven't seen any of these nominated performances yet, but my heart is with Kate Winslet. This is her sixth nomination, and she deserves the accolades for her body of work. Come on Academy, don't pull a Susan Lucci on us and keep nominating her if you're not going to award her soon. She's got tough competition against Meryl Streep, who I personally is rather overrated. I feel like there are just never enough good leading actress roles in any given year, which is why I think Angelie Jolie got nominated for a what was probably a great performance in a mediocre film (with only a 61% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes).

Actor in a Supporting Role
Ever since his death, I'd been saying that Heath Ledger would get nominated for a posthumous Oscar. And in a way, I hope he wins, which would certainly help seal his status as an iconic talent who died too young, ala James Dean.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Honestly, I'm having a hard time picking a favorite in this category. I'll go for a threeway with Amy Adams - Taraji P. Henson - Marisa Tomei being my favorites. I'm not predicting that any of them will win though, as I really don't know who to predict. I haven't seen Doubt, but Viola Davis does seem to have a lot of buzz, and Penelope Cruz seems like a formidable opponent to be up against.

Animated Feature Film
If WALL-E doesn't win, then there's just no justice in the world and I will never have faith in the academy again. I do wonder, if this category hadn't been created a few years ago, would WALL-I have been nominated for Best Picture? I think that it would have, though I doubt it would have won, though I think it would have been deserving of the win.

Documentary Feature
I haven't seen any of these, but I would love to watch some of them - Man on Wire, Trouble the Water, and Encounters at the End of the World sound especially fascinating.

Foreign Lanuage Film
Again, haven't seen any of these, but I'm interested in Waltz with Bashir, The Class, and the Baader Meinhof Complex.

Music (Score)
I'm torn between Thomas Newman (WALL-E) and A. R. Rahmen (Slumdog Millionaire). My Indian friends tell me that Rahmen's scores for previous films were better, but these films never gained much following outside of India, so this is like this talented composer's one shot at winning that coveted statue. Thomas Newman is definitely deserving for his work on WALL-E, as I feel like the music really made the film, more so than with Slumdog, but he is likely to be nominated again.

Music (Song)
My vote is for "O Saya" from Slumdog Millionaire by A. R. Rahmen and M.I.A. Man, the performances for both this and "Jai Ho" are going to be awesome to watch.

Visual Effects
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. This film just wouldn't have been what it was without the incredible aging/youthing of Brad Pitt.

Best Picture

Given that perhaps the true best picture of the year is in another category, which of these films is really deserving of this title? I feel like it's been a relatively weak film year, and I have trouble wanting to bestow this award on any film this year. Even Roger Ebert didn't declare a best picture, he just listed his 20 best films of the year, instead of of ranked top 10. Really, even the nation's most well-known film critic can't pick a number one film of the year? Well, I am going to pick my favorite - Slumdog Millionaire. If you haven't seen it, then you should by now. It's hard for me to pinpoint what exactly I like about it, but it's a great story with fascinating characters, beautifully made, and I know that I could watch it repeatedly.

My goodness, is this category filled with amazing individuals with a great body of work! Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, the rumored Arrested Development Film), Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting), Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Billy Elliott), plus the never before nominated David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) and Danny Boyle (Millions, Trainspotting)! Really, any of these men are worthy of the award. It seems like it generally follows that the winner in this category will win best picture, soooooo . . . Go Danny Boyle, Go!

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) - Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire
Writing (Original Screenplay) - Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon for WALL-E

Ok, I totally just copped out on those last two and selected my two favorite films among all of the nominees.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


A dream I had several nights ago posed an intriguing question. In this dream, I was sitting at a big table of a Tex-Mex restaurant, filled with various friends and people I knew. Sitting across from me was an old high school friend, not one whom I'm particularly close to know, but he asked me this question:

"Imagine that many years later in your life, you appear before God to ask him for something that you've longed for but never yet received. What will you already have?"

This question immediately struck me with the uncertainty of nearly everything in my life. What will I have many years from now? My first thought was friends and family, but I cannot say for certainly which friends will still be in my life and which of my family members will still be living many years from now, and I can't say for certain that I will be married or have children. Then I thought of having my doctorate and my license to work as a psychologist, but even this is shaky. I'm still a few years away from having my doctorate, and there's still a possibility that my course could change. And if I do earn licensure a few years from now, this could also change as my licensure could expire or be revoked or I could change careers entirely. Next, I thought of my personality traits, inner things that I hold that are not likely to change, things like my optimism and my worries. I can say for certain that I will still have some degree of optimism and some number of worries, and will probably still have my friendly, extroverted personality, though I'm likely to grow and change and won't exactly be the same person that I am today, but I'm fairly certain that some core aspects of my personality will never change. I can say for certain that I will still have God himself in my life, even if my thoughts and ideas of him change drastically in the years to come.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Observations upon returning to my own church after a 6 week absence

  1. The pregnant ladies all now look like they're ready to POP, and some of them are, in about 4-8 weeks.
  2. The littlest kids are all significantly older. Little Zoe's hair is long enough to pull back into pigtails, and she walks more than she crawls now.
  3. Some dudes grew beards.
  4. Some dudes shaved their beards.
  5. Some gals shaved their legs.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

it is written

I've been back for over a week now, and wondering how to restart this blog thing again. Whenever I go away from it, it's always a little hard to know how to return. I've gotten out of the groove, and I lack inspiration. I know that you would probably enjoy reading about my trip, and I'd like to write more about it, but it's hard to know what to write without it becoming a list of my itinerary, and Ben has already written some great posts about Amsterdam, that what could my writings add? My perspective, I suppose, but a lot of my perspective from the trip is best shared one-on-one, and not through a blog. Instead, I found other inspiration this morning.

Last night, I saw Slumdog Millionaire. If you haven't seen it, please see it as soon as possible! I'm going to do my best to talk vaguely about plots points and avoid giving any spoilers, but if you'd prefer to wait to read this until you've seen it, then wait. One of the friends I'd seen it with had already seen it before, and she told me about things that she hadn't noticed the first time, like the depth and complexity of one of the main characters, and how even from childhood, you see the changes that this character undergoes.

This morning, I found myself thinking about the female character from Slumdog, Latika. This movie is many things, and it is most definitely a rescuing the damsel in distress story. When I reflected on that this morning, at first it irked my quasi-feministic side. Why couldn't Latika rescue herself? Why was she so dang submissive toward the men in her life? Why couldn't she have been a more dynamic character, like the boys in the film? But the more I thought about it, she was indeed a complex character. I believe that feminism is about choice, and at a key point in the movie, Latika makes a difficult choice, a choice that probably saves someone else's life, and a choice that leads her to continue her life of submission and degradation by men.

I continued to reflect on this damsel in distress aspect of the plot more, and thought that really, it was a beautiful love story. In our heart of hearts, all women (and probably men too) want this kind of love, of a man who never forgets her. Years may pass, but she is still the love of his life, and he continues searching for her, and will never be satisfied until his love is safe in his arms. He's willing to put himself through danger, and do whatever it takes to be with her. A couple of times in the film, someone asks, "What? Not her again," and encourages the main character to give up on chasing after her. Yes, her, who else but her? No one will compare, and he will continue after her, never giving up hope that they will be together again. Gosh, who doesn't want that?

And I've never been one to get a lot out of the imagery of Christ as the bridegroom, and the church as the bride, but thinking about this film this morning, that image clicked with me. I saw the gospel in this film. I saw a woman, so defiled, so degraded, living with the enemy, first being forced into this awful lifestyle, and then choosing to stay in it. And I saw a man, who loves her infinitely, and more than that, he looks at her and doesn't see her lifestyle, doesn't see the ugliness of her actions and the actions against her, but he sees her for who she is, he sees her as beautiful and pure, and because he does, that is how us, the audience sees her. She's radiant and gorgeous.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

how I will spend the rest of my Christmas vacation

Tomorrow afternoon, I will fly to Houston, then London Heathrow, and then Monday afternoon I will arrive in
where I will attend an opera, and spend the next day sightseeing with a great tour guide. The day after that, we will spend a couple of nights, and about day and a half in

before taking a train to
to spend a few days, before flying to

for a few days and after that I will fly home, via Newark, NJ this time, having eaten, drank, slept, explored, and taken many pictures of cities of four countries that I have yet to set foot upon.
It's an understatement to say that I'm thrilled about this trip, my third European holiday, that was rather spontaneously planned a little over six weeks ago. I'm excited about the sights I will see, the company I will keep, the friends I will meet, the food I will eat, the pictures I will take, the tongues I will hear, ok, everything excites me except for the weather, but even the cold fog and clouds will be an exotic change from the strange warmth Texas has imparted upon us these past few days. And hey, it could be worse, it could be raining! Perhaps it will snow, blanketing an otherworldy magic onto a place that already seems so enchanting to me, or perhaps the clouds will break and the sun will shine down unexpectedly. Whatever the weather, I will love this time.