12/24/17

For the first time in several months I had a moment of frustration. I’ve been on a really amazing run of peace in all my circumstances, joy and hope about my future, and excitement for the opportunities God has been providing for me. But this evening, an unfortunate consequence of a poor decision I made a few years ago seemed to be haunting me again, bringing fear back into my mind. I worried that if this situation wasn’t handled the way I thought it logically should, that I would have to bear the weight of this inconvenience for a while longer. That feeling of frustration started boiling within me and as it was coming to the surface I could almost feel a spring of hot tears burning behind my eyes.

I knew that if I let myself go down that spiral, it would ruin my Christmas Eve night with my family, and would put me in a mood that might even carry into tomorrow. Recognizing this, I went for a moment alone. I needed something positive to fill my mind with, that would replace these negative thoughts and redirect my perspective.

I turned to Matthew 5 and 6 where Jesus talks about dealing with anger and loving your enemies. While I don’t necessarily have enemies, the principle was valuable. In these chapters he talks about not even thinking of someone else as a fool, and not allowing anger to grow in your heart towards another person. It also says we shouldn’t repay anyone evil, if they do unkind or evil things to us.

These ways of dealing with conflict don’t come naturally. Evidently, they tend to go against our nature, as our first instinct is usually to put up our dukes and defend ourselves. But we never find peace dealing with conflict that way, and I want peace. So, I let those words of wisdom sink in and began to pray. I prayed that I would find peace in my circumstances, that God would help me deal with whatever the consequences would be, and guide me through it so that everything would be okay. And I also asked Him to shape my attitude to make me full of grace, forgiving, patient, and free, so that this situation wouldn’t frustrate me or make me anxious anymore.

It was like the weight immediately lifted off my chest.

Sometimes we are faced with challenging and frustrating situations that we cannot control. In these times, our mental and emotional peace can turn into uncertainty and pain. Although we may not be able to escape our consequences, we can always change the way we perceive them. Sometimes that means seeking wisdom, so we have a light to guide us back to positivity and peace. Prayer is a helpful tool that can help us to release those negative feelings, and get us to a state of serenity. To me, that’s incredible, because although nothing changed from the moment that got me frustrated until now, my perspective did.

Gratitober: Entry 23

23. I’m grateful for prayer.

Prayer is a powerful thing. Ancient cultures and belief systems have relied on prayer for multiple reasons. Some people use it as a form of meditation to clear their minds and release their negative thoughts; while others pray directly to God, thanking Him, praising Him, and making requests for help and provision in different areas of their lives. Whatever your fundamental beliefs about God, a Higher Power, or the “Universe” may be, prayer is an effective tool in helping us gain an understanding of situations we are facing, and helps us give them over to a Power that controls more than we ever could.

I’ve battled the need for control for a few years now, and this year I’ve finally grasped a stronger hold on what surrendering control really looks like. Fear is sometimes a stronger motivator than hope, and I used to internalize fear and worry about the future, allowing it to be the guiding factor for my decisions. I would take precautions, and have mental backup plans, and give ultimatums, and try to manipulate situations so the safest, most restrictive scenario would play out. But that’s a terrible way to live, and recognizing that anxiety was starting to control my life stopped me in my tracks. I had to step back, take a personal inventory, and see what toxic things I let into my life that gradually led me to this point.

It was really hard to overcome that desire to control. I basically had to surrender any frustrations I had about other people’s behaviours. I had to shrug it off and just let it be. I can’t even control my own future, how did I think I could control anyone else’s? I also had to create a healthier space–literally. I reorganized my room, put up positive quotes, articles, and bible passages on a part of my wall, and started journaling again. I bought candles and twinkly lights and cozy blankets and started to make my bedroom a metaphorically “safe space”, rather than a place where dark thoughts could creep in like they used to. And I had to pray.

Knowing I had zero control over anyone else and very little over my own future made me turn my focus off my internal battles and fear and focus on God. When I started to focus on Him, everything changed.

You know that feeling when you go deep into nature and just take in the massive views; knowing how small and insignificant you are? And when you get back to your routine life, you feel on top of the world because everything is in perspective again? That’s what prayer did for me. It helped me see how small my problems were in the grand scheme of all creation and time, and knowing that the Creator of it all was looking out for me, helped me embrace that strength and focus on it daily. Knowing that God would protect me and that no one else could harm my Spirit/the core of who I am, helped me let go of the reins and let things be. Prayer also helped me figure out what to do with my life, now that spending time worrying wasn’t on my to-do list anymore. It helped me focus on how I could be content with my life and change what I could. It made me realize I had to serve.

I decided I would make it my mission to speak light into everyone around me. If I walked past a stranger and thought they had a nice smile, I would tell them. If an old friend crossed my mind, I would reach out to them. I would take every opportunity I could to focus on making someone else’s day brighter, instead of dwelling on the disappointments in my own life. I also decided to invite the teen girls from my Church over to my house once a month so we could build relationships, support, and guide each other. That alone has been a huge blessing to me this year. Sometimes I feel like I get more out of it than they do! I love my girls! 🙂

Another great thing about prayer is that other people can send them for you too. Countless people whom I’ve shared things with have been praying for me for years. That’s huge… and it almost brings me to tears. Knowing I have spiritual support every day, even during times when I feel weak and broken, still gives me a sense of strength knowing that God’s got the world in His hands, and everything is going to work out as it should.

Gratitober: Entry 19

19. I’m grateful God replaces hurt with peace.

While reading one of my daily devotionals I learned something about myself. I don’t give myself permission to feel hurt. The older I get the more I reject my own feelings of grief and loss. Maybe it’s because I hate feeling/appearing helpless, or maybe it’s because I want so badly to be whole and happy that I force the past away like Goku’s Kamehameha ;). But through this month I’ve been self-reflecting and noticing some errors in my ways of dealing with situations, and one thing I’ve come to terms with is I’m allowed to hurt. I can give myself permission.

While many of us consider grief to be a negative experience, what if God allows us that for a purpose? What if grief is meant to cover our hearts after we’ve experienced loss and disappointment, until we get new “clothes.”

The Bible talks about the way the people of ancient Israel would put on sackcloth after they experienced a loss. People in the city would see them wearing it as they travelled around, and would immediately empathize, because they’d also worn it during times of loss. But no one would stop them to say, “Take that off! Things will get better,” no, because that would strip the person and leave them bare. The same thing goes for our hearts when we ditch grief without replacing it. Ultimately, God is the only one able to cover that loss and give us a new hope, better futures, and lead us to joy again. He does this in endless ways: He teaches us the innate value we have, He shows us a better way to understand and deal with our problems, He demonstrates a way to live that focuses on loving and serving others so we don’t get too consumed in ourselves. He does it all.

Realizing that even grief and disappointment have purpose, makes it alright for me to experience them. It’s better to wear grief for a time until we’re ready to experience joy, hope, and trust again. It’s worse to deny what’s going on inside of ourselves, and be insensitive to our deepest need to understand and heal. And even in times of grief, we can hold onto the hope that one day we will be clothed in joy. God’s timing is always best, and trusting Him means that even though we have seasons where we feel totally lost, and have no idea what’s next, or what to do, He does. And His plan is always wiser, better, more enriching, and produces more joy, than anything we could plan for ourselves.

Gratitober: Entry 10

10. I’m grateful for night walks & deep talks.

Have I ever said how much I love my friends? I think I’ve implied it a few times but, man, I really love my friends.

Yesterday I went for a walk in the morning. I woke up feeling pretty crummy and went out to clear my head. I walked past the residential areas, the empty roads, closed shops, train station, apartments with beautiful little balconies, and a few people taking their dogs for a walk. It was quiet and sunny and I was playing through the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack and some other autumn-feely tunes. It was the perfect temperature and the leaves were just starting to change and it was great to let my thoughts flow wherever they had to and just keep moving forward. I went out again at night for a walk and had a long phone chat with my friend and we shared our current emotional battles and encouraged each other about facing the week ahead with the right perspective. We even set a goal that we’re going to keep each other accountable to. I love that. I have some really quality friendships that without I wouldn’t be able to get to a point of healing and stability. I’m also grateful for the friendships that haven’t had the chance to get to that point but still rock because we make each other laugh until we cry and support each other in everything.

Communication and relationships are the most important things in life. Honestly. They’re richer and more valuable than any habit, job, hobby, anything. Relationships where you can get past the surface commonalities and dig deep into beliefs and thoughts about heavier topics, are the best kind. Where you can be honest about where you stand on certain issues or topics, and share your opinions without being judged. Where you can be genuinely heard, understood, and get great feedback. Where you can have an impact because you trust each other, and you know everything you share–all the advice and encouragement–is going to a good place. It’s been tremendously valuable to me to have people I can talk to for hours about all kinds of things, including the deeper things about life. I’m so grateful for the peace and clarity that comes from night walks, and the comfort and wisdom given and received from deep talks with friends.

A Speech to Millenials, From a Millenial, About Social Media

I’m going to talk a lot today. #SorryNotSorry

It’s clear the world has lost its way. People are upset, angry, frustrated, exasperated, disappointed, distraught, oppressed, offended, wounded, hurting, apathetic, passionate, etc. Something is wrong. When social media became an outlet for news, everything went downhill. I was a Journalism student so I know how effective social media is for spreading ideas and stories. In fact, I’m about to use it now just to tell you what I think. (The irony…)

Before Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr we had two main ways to find out about world issues: newspapers and broadcasts (either on television or radio). Most news, if not all, was thoroughly investigated before it was published, and journalists tried to sift through the opinions and biases to share what goes on objectively. But lately, that’s not what people see the most. News is spreading through hashtags and viral video rants, which get people riled up instead of informed on current issues. Additionally, even the media is paid to feature certain stories that get people riled up about certain causes or specific events happening in the world. It’s nearly unavoidable. As soon as I turn on the news, I’m already getting heartbroken over what I hear. And maybe I should be upset, but social media takes it to another level, causing more division and hate than spreading awareness.

I’m not saying social media itself is bad. Thanks to Facebook I get to talk to my grandma every day. Thanks to Instagram I get to see pictures of places around the world I would like to visit someday. Thanks to Twitter I get to see updates from my favourite bands. Thanks to YouTube I learned how to appreciate and take care of my curly hair. Social media itself isn’t bad; it’s the abuse of it to amplify bad news and encourage us to take biased positions. The barrage of posts online is overloading us with one-sided ideas and social media operates to make us see posts like the ones we’re interested in, and that further hinders our objectivity.

This information overload also has the opposite effect on us by desensitizing us. We hear so many things that stories often lose their impact or we choose not to care. There’s too much information. Scroll down Facebook for just two minutes and you’ll experience the dull hum of apathy. If you hate a post you’ll skip it or write a comment. If you like it you’ll… like it. And then move on. Too easy. We are complacent because we know too much. And we don’t care enough because our attention spans are shorter than that of a goldfish. And we don’t know the truth because we only hear opinions.

We need to start with ourselves. We are the current and upcoming generation of parents, educators, scientists, leaders, journalists, inventors, public speakers, filmmakers, musicians and politicians. It’s our job to make things better for the next generation. It’s our job to care. Unfortunately there’s an overwhelming amount of 20-something year olds who aren’t focused on developing their character for the responsibilities that are necessary in adulthood. It shocks me to see that people are still engrossed in celebrity gossip and Internet trends instead of paying attention to what is happening our world. We should be listening. People older than us despise our carelessness and people younger than us don’t respect us. This should deeply concern us.

The problems in this world are too tremendous for us to understand or deal with by using the Internet, and maybe it’s not our job to set fires to get people over-stimulated. Look at what it’s already done. Maybe our job is to comfort those who have been treated unjustly. Maybe our job is to take on positions where we can influence people to be more sensitive, understanding, considerate. Maybe a compassionate approach is more effective than an aggressive one. This isn’t possible if we’re watching the world through a palm-sized screen.

We have to put down our phones, have a conversation, talk to each other, build face-to-face relationships and understand each other’s concerns so we can comfort each other. And when we do raise our voices it should come from a place of concern and love as we stand up for the voiceless and the ignored, not from a place of deeply rooted hatred, revenge and disgust.

So what do you think? Should we repeat the same mistakes for another hundred years?

When we’re united we’ll be deeply saddened when we hear about every death.
It’ll cause us to have mututal respect.
It’ll cause us to seek the real issues at hand because the right to live is always more important than the right to bear arms.
It’ll cause us to keep those in power accountable, and well-trained.
It’ll cause us to be more patient and give more grace to the whole group when a select few are viscious and unkind.
It’ll cause us to forgive instead of seeking revenge and causing a chain reaction.
And one by one we’ll make the world a better place.

If we change how we think and teach others to do the same, it’ll be a rainy evening one day in 2030 and we’ll be driving home listening to the news and smile as we hear about the good things happening in the world. Because we stopped to care.

The Profound Mystery of Grace

Every day we are bombarded with ideas and the older I get the more I realize progressive society wants us to safeguard ourselves from the intentional or unintentional harm of others. It’s grown to be part of our natural human reaction to pain and disappointment. Scroll through Instagram or Twitter and the majority of perspectives on forgiveness are… well.. you wont see any. That’s because the progressive voice of media is focused on making us believe we are void of fault and everyone else is our enemy. In a time where autonomy and self-preservation are the norm, forgiveness is seen as naive and even a foolish response to harm.

Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.

-Luke 17:3-4

This is only one of the statements Jesus made on the subject of forgiveness. He even went as far to say that if we do not forgive our brother, He will not forgive us. (Matthew 6:14-15) Most of us find the first part of this verse favorable. We relish in the idea of correcting someone and taking them out of their troublesome ways. We like to fix people and we take pride in being able to provide someone the help they need to make their lives better. But see how quickly Jesus moved on to say “if he repents, forgive him.” He doesn’t just want us to correct our friends but to forgive them, even when they do it over and over and over again, and even when they don’t ask for it. See, there is no limit on how many times we should forgive someone, and there are no conditions on whether we should or not either. Jesus doesn’t offer conditions such as “if she gets professional help” or “if he brings you nice gifts and makes you a lot of promises” or even “when she says sorry.” He just tells us to.

Kindness has more power than resentment.

This is the profound mystery of grace: Jesus asks this of us because this is how He forgives us. Whoa. Really? But isn’t he going to punish me for my mistakes? Isn’t he going to expect me to follow all His rules perfectly? How many good works will I have to do to earn it? That’s the thing! There is nothing you can do to earn your forgiveness. It’s free. He just gives it. No questions asked.

When someone comes to you asking for forgiveness, it takes a lot of humility and courage. It’s hard to be honest with ourselves and with the people we have wronged. Speaking it aloud makes it real and sometimes the risks are terrifying. When we step back and look at the big picture, we can see ourselves in both roles at various times in our lives. We see times where we wanted forgiveness, and times when we wished for it.  Even when forgiveness is painful, it’s also our path to peace. Holding grudges make us bitter and hardens our hearts. Built up bitterness makes us skeptical of people and makes us hard to love. Forgiveness takes a lot more strength than rejecting someone for their mistakes, and it actually makes our lives a lot happier in the long run. It sets us free.

…on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.

-2 Corinthians 2:6-8

Moving On After A Bad Breakup

As soon as you read the headline you were probably already thinking about that time when you had your worst breakup. Or maybe you’re thinking of a horrible story your best friend told you about their ugly end to a long relationship. It’s taken me almost two years to write this and to be honest it feels strange digging it up again because it’s been so long but I would regret never writing this story. It’s a sad story, that happens to more people than I ever imagined. And you need to know that life gets better — because it does.

Let’s dive in.

(Heart) Breaking News

It was a Thursday afternoon at work and I was browsing through Facebook when I noticed the little red “2” bubble hovering over my “Other” Message Box.

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I opened it and quickly skimmed a message from a girl I’ve never heard of before. She asked me if I was still with my boyfriend at the time because she’d been seeing him all summer and some sketchy stuff was going on. The second message was from a different girl, whom I also did not know, asking a similar question. Wut.

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It doesn’t really matter how you found out, whether through your ex, catching them in the act, or from a message by the third party(ies). It just flat out sucks to discover the person you thought you knew all this time was capable of such a horrible series of actions. The pain I felt was unlike anything I ever felt before. I felt utterly betrayed, confused, exasperated, disappointed and mortified. It took a while for the shock to pass and I had a hard time deciding how to deal with it and where to go from there.

The Lurking / Mourning Stage

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Cheating is probably one of the worst causes for a breakup but how you deal with it is an opportunity to let the experience either ruin you or mold you. As with any break up during this social media era, it takes a lot of self-control not to check their profiles for updates, or hack into their emails to see what they’re up to. In fact, lurking their blogs or Twitter feeds does you more harm in the end. The truth is, you’re not going to get anything but bitterness when you find out your ex is either still fooling around, or depressed and remorseful. Nothing can change what he/she did to you, and honestly at this point, it’s not about them anymore — it’s about you.

Avoiding The Reckless Search for Temporary Fixes Stage

There are two ways you’ll handle the breakup. You’ll either run off and mess around, get wasted at parties, and binge-watch Netflix to make yourself forget, or you’ll find healthy ways to deal with it that, although slowly, will help you rebuild your self-esteem and rediscover your value. Although the first method might seem to work for a time, you’ll still have those nights when you wake up at 3:15 AM thinking about how it used to be, and what happened to make him/her do that. You’ll still have broken relationships because of unresolved trust issues. You’ll still doubt your worth because you’re not showing the world what you stand for. This is why this stage is best to avoid… so those things don’t happen. Instead, focus on how you can grow from this… which leads to my next point.

Be Like A Phoenix

I love the concept of a Phoenix (all my fellow Harry Potter fans, HOLLAAAA). The idea that the mystical bird must suffer intense burning from flames and ash just to be reborn and transformed is what happens to us after dealing with any crisis in life. We can either remain a pile of ash and never regain our hope and confidence again, or rise up, even though it hurts, and become something more. Romantic love might never seem the same again — your whole understanding of true love, trust and honesty was just crushed. But that doesn’t mean that perspective can’t be repaired. The future can get better. It doesn’t mean people are garbage. It doesn’t mean there is no hope for your future and it doesn’t mean you’re not worth better. Because now you’re stronger. You have a great story of healing and accomplishment to write and share. You’re going to inspire and encourage. You’re a Phoenix reborn.

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Rediscover Your Worth

I joined the gym a month after the breakup. It was a healthy and fun way to rebuild my self-confidence. I started a journal to get my feelings out on paper and read articles on positivity and healthy reflection. I reunited with old friends and went out more, and that’s a good thing! Don’t sit around in your room, get out there, catch a movie, go to the drive-in, walk around the community, get a gym membership, pick up a hobby, host a BBQ or potluck, reunite with old friends and embrace new ones, build relationships with people you can trust, spend time with your family, be with people who love you! There are so many other amazing relationships for human beings to experience and you owe it to yourself to discover or revive them. Plus, this is a chance for you to learn about who you are. A cheating ex has no power over your present or your future. Instead of looking back and dwelling on your pain, look forward at the freedom you’re about to experience! Appreciate who you are because you are a treasure and it’s going to get better. You’re full of beautiful qualities that you should discover, embrace and be proud of.

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Set Your Standards High

Seriously do this. Sit down and write down a list of things you expect from your future man/woman and a list of the things you won’t tolerate. (Be reasonable of course, no one is perfect!) Read it over a few times then put it away. Doing this will give you a picture of what you believe you deserve from someone and it also refreshes your mind when you are ready for a new relationship. Setting your standards high will help you find someone you can count on, and who is as much a treasure to you as you are to them.

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Embrace Peace (and Forgive!)

I know you’re angry, I sure was! Having your trust broken whether it’s from a relationship, friend, or family member, can really damage you and have a lasting scar that takes years to fade away. But one way you can get that wound on the road to recovery is to forgive. Yeah… I know, why should you? Sometimes forgiveness is more about your healing and peace, than their removal of guilt for what they did. When you forgive you prevent what they did from holding you underwater. You can move forward, let the past go, and slowly work to regain your trust in people, and your confidence in yourself.

I’ve made the mistake of rushing into a new relationship after being hurt, as if replacing the person would help me forget. But you need to give yourself time to deal with and accept what happened, find consolation in your friends, and spend time taking care of yourself and working on your healing. And who knows–maybe one of those friends will become someone you can grow into a meaningful relationship with! Once you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere left to go but upward. 🙂