Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Fig Tree

              Yesterday, it was brought to my attention that there is a fig tree growing outside my bedroom window. A fig tree nobody ever planted. A tree, that up until yesterday, we all thought was just an annoying, oversized bush that I always asked to be cut down because it obstructed my view of what was going on outside. Not until yesterday, when the fig buds were pointed out to me, did I realize that I had been hindering it from bearing fruit by always asking for it to be cut down because I couldn't see beyond it.
             This reminded me of the parable (Luke 13:6-9) of the man who plants a fig tree that, for years, bears no fruit. When he asks the groundskeeper to cut it down, the groundskeeper tells him to leave it be for one more year, that he will dig around it and fertilize it, and if it still doesn't produce fruit in a year, he'll cut it down.
             I'm not sure what correlation there may be, if any. All I know is that once I stopped asking for the useless, annoying bush to be cut down, it turned into a tree that started producing fruit. It's not that it suddenly turned into a tree; it was always a tree, I just didn't know it. It needed time to do what it was supposed to do, and I needed time to see it for what it was.  The bush I thought was ruining my view was actually a productive tree trying to give me something.
             Perhaps the things we see as obstacles, the things we want so much to get rid of in our lives because we can't see past it, if we just let it be, and give it some time, will give us something we couldn't even fathom it was capable of bearing. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Some Like it Hot

Last week my family and I spent the day down on Coronado. With clear skies and temperatures in the 70s, it was hard to believe it was actually winter. It was nice to just sit in the sun (with SPF applied twice, rest assured), have pizza delivered to the beach (!!), and just be around good company.

But let me be honest; for as beautiful and sunny as it was, it was not easy. When my sister text me that morning asking if I wanted to come hang out, my immediate response was a decisive "no."  But the more I thought about it, the more I told myself that I probably should go. Not just to be with my family, but to not avoid situations simply because they're uncomfortable for me. So I went. There were enjoyable moments, and there were moments when I felt like, okay, I've been out and around people long enough, I'm ready to go now. Only to look around and see that everyone else was having a good time and was most certainly not ready to go yet, and not wanting to say anything for fear of being the fun sponge. It's a trapped feeling. My sister was kind enough to let me sneak off to her room to get away from everything and recharge somewhere quiet for awhile. Imagine having to take a break because the beach is too stressful, haha. But that's just how life is right now, a mixture of having a good time and being overwhelmed, the wanting to stay and wanting to go, and trying to enjoy things, even if it means sometimes having to go off to decompress in the middle of it.


Out of the rough oyster-shell of difficulty she extracts the rare pearl of honour, and from the deep ocean-caves of distress she uplifts the priceless coral of experience. When her flood of prosperity ebbs, she finds treasures hid in the sands; and when her sun of delight goes down, she turns her telescope of hope to the starry promises of heaven.
C.H. Spurgeon  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Indiana Jones and the Dressing Room Selfie

Outfit posts are like bald eagles, rarely seen around here. But I liked this outfit and I was in front of a mirror, so I took the opportunity. 

Dress & hat: Forever 21
Belt: thrifted
Sandals: Target

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Year in Review

Years always seem to split into two, and by the time December rolls around, looking back on things that happened in January and February seem as far away and foreign than if they had happened the previous year. This was especially true for 2014. The first part of the year feels like it happened in a completely different decade than the last half. The first five months or so were good; I was working a lot, exercising almost daily, really focusing on myself and my relationship with God and I felt like I was in a good place. But then over summer, right around the half-way point in the year, things changed. I got a promotion at work. And while this should have been the pinnacle moment of the year, something I had been waiting for for the last 3 years, it turned out to be quite the opposite.  This made the last part of the year go to the birds. It's like I completely checked out. I spiraled into a hole that I'm still trying to climb my way out of. With the promotion came idleness, confinement, and weird hours, and it knocked me off the steady foundation I had created of busyness and routine. Looking back, this event taught me a lot about myself. 

I always thought that I was a person who didn't like routine and the idea of being a slave to a set schedule, but not until I settled into one did I realize it was actually a perfect fit. I liked having the same hours everyday, not working an early shift one day and then a late shift the next and screwing up my sleep pattern. I liked getting up at the same time every morning, and actually being tired when I went to bed at night. And I liked knowing what to expect. Expectation, in a weird way, gave me freedom.  I know this makes me sound old and boring, like routine automatically equates to a dull and stagnant life, but I really can't think of anything more exciting than being fully prepared and present for the day because you're comfortable and well-rested.

The next thing I learned is how much keeping busy helps me. Albert Einstein's words ring true, "Life is like riding a bike, to keep your balance, you must keep moving." In my prior position I was constantly physically doing something--walking around, doing different tasks, keeping myself busy. Not a busy that was exhausting or unhealthy, but one that kept me occupied enough not to get trapped inside my own thoughts. And one that wore my body out enough that I wasn't physically capable of keeping myself up at night with incessant thoughts and worries. This also spilled over into my everyday life and  I found myself being more productive outside of work. Because I was used to it, it wasn't as hard for me to do. After I stopped being able to be busy at work, and with my hours cut to where I was at home all day until I had to work at night, I found myself slipping back into the idleness. And you know what they say, "idle hands are the devil's workshop."  

The last thing I learned from this particular event is how much I crave being outside. My previous position allowed me to be outside a lot, by myself, walking around, taking in the sky and the trees and the fresh air. Now I'm stuck inside all day. I try to go outside on my breaks as much as possible to keep sane. This isn't just at work either. If I've spent too long inside my house, I make it a point to at least walk into my backyard and watch a sunset or take a couple breaths of fresh air. A couple days ago I was sitting in the car waiting for my mom and sister to get done in a store, having an underlying feeling of anxiety that, while common for me, is still uncomfortable. And as I sat with the feeling of dread, I looked out the window and saw these clouds that were illuminated by the late afternoon sun and trees gently rustling in the breeze and my heart filled up with so much joy I thought it could burst. And I laughed at the simplicity, that even in a moment of uneasiness, how much the beauty of the outside world soothes my nerves. 

These are all things that I write for myself to remember. (I've also learned this year that if I don't write things down, I tend to forget them--this goes from grocery items to things I've been taught to deal with my anxiety that I forget in the moments I need it.) But I also want to acknowledge the moments throughout the year that I look back on fondly, like the day, pictured above, when I went hiking with my dad. We talked about God and birds and I learned that even amidst rocks and weeds poppies still grow. Or something as simple as going shopping with my mom and just being content. I'm thankful for all the people I've met this year-- people who make me laugh and think and challenge me. 

I've learned more than anything that I am a person who loves the process, maybe even more than obtaining the goal itself. Like how sometimes getting ready is more enjoyable than going to the event, or the car ride more fun than the destination. This became clear to me when I got to where I thought I wanted to be, and realized it wasn't what I really wanted at all. It was the working towards something that I wanted, the possibility of something that made everything I did to get it seem worthwhile, even if it was unpleasant. Like Freud said, "In hindsight, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful." It's in the struggle, in the process, where the pockets of calm and peace hold their sweetness. The moments of solace hold deeper meaning and are treasured more than anything else. And those were the best parts of 2014 for me. I'm excited to see, not what goals I can reach, but what process is in store for 2015, and how I will change and grow from it. And how many sweet spots of serenity it holds for me along the way. 

Happy New Year. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Ocean and You

I've always liked the sentiment of this quote until I realized it doesn't make sense because it isn't true. For as vast and powerful as the ocean is, the thing it does not have is power over itself. It is completely at the mercy of outside forces. It's temperament is dependent on the weather and the winds and the pull of the moon. So here is a truer statement: like the ocean, you can give yourself up to the storm you are in and let it toss you around relentlessly, knowing that it will eventually pass and the waters will be calm again. Or, truer still, look at the immensity of the ocean and know, despite its size and strength, you can do something it can't: choose how your circumstances will affect you. The ocean can only be calm after the storm's end, but you have the ability to be calm amid the storm simply by knowing there is an end. Isn't it nice to know that you possess more power than the ocean? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

To The Unknown Soldier,

             I was working the first register, the closest to the door, when I felt someone come up behind me. I turned my head to see a man in his 60s, face tanned and weathered. You asked me where you could find French bread. I pointed to a rack at the end of the aisle and you nodded your head and walked towards it. A few minutes later you were on the other side of the counter. I rang up the bread and read the total. You quietly pulled out your debit card and swiped it through the machine. You stared at it for a couple of seconds and then moving your face closer, you slowly lifted your finger towards the buttons. You looked at me and apologized, “Sorry, I’m blind in my right eye.”  “It’s okay,” I assured you. “I lost my vision in Vietnam,” you went on, offering more. “I was on Hamburger Hill.”

My faced winced with sincere sympathy, and I hope you know that. But “Oh. I’m sorry,” was all I managed to get out.  Time was up, the receipt printed out, the next person was waiting. I handed you your receipt, and tried to force all of the apologies that I couldn’t say into a smile and told you to have a good day. You left and I felt ashamed at not having said more.

What I should have said was that I was truly sorry. I’m sorry that you had to fight a war you probably didn’t believe in, a war that has stayed with you for over 40 years; a war that took not only your vision, but probably your innocence as well. A war that continually haunts you to the point of needing to acknowledge it in the grocery store checkout line. I’m sorry that you will probably never not know what it feels like to stare death in the face, to kill a man for survival, or to see a friend die by your side. I’m sorry that you undoubtedly still have flashbacks that find you in a sweat late at night. I should have said that I’m sorry about how people treated you when you returned, being blamed for not having a choice, for being punished for surviving. And even though I may not have been alive then, I feel that you deserved more than my silence. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you this.

And more importantly, I should have said thank you for enduring a war, no matter how senseless, simply because it was your duty. Thank you for surrendering a part of yourself in the attempt to help others, be it comrade or foreigner. Thank you for your selfless service.

 I want you to know that you are respected and appreciated, and even two years later, I still think about you often. I’m sorry I couldn’t get myself to say this to you when I had the chance. Please accept my apologies. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Prescription of Prayer

I sat on the table in the doctor's office, cold, shaky, looking down at my wrist where I could see the faint scarring of the words "I Am" etched in my flesh. The permanent reminder of God's permanent presence. Where are you now though? I thought to myself, feeling defeated and hopeless. I was on my third straight day of pure anxiety-- it felt like something had set off a bomb inside me that made it impossible to function. I had already called in sick to work two days straight, embarrassingly telling my manager, "I think I might be having a nervous breakdown." I was exhausted from waking up at 3 am like clockwork every morning only to not be able to calm myself down enough to go back to sleep. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't turn my brain off. I couldn't eat. I couldn't even brush my teeth without dry heaving over a trash can for five minutes afterwards. And the whole time my poor heart had been running a non-stop race. I kept telling myself it had to stop eventually, but it didn't. I didn't know what else to do, so I went to urgent care, knowing that they probably couldn't do anything, but half hoping they would look at me and immediately send me to the hospital, admit me, give me a feeding tube and pump me full of sedatives just so my body could fix itself without me getting in the way with my stupid anxiety that sabotages everything. I kept thinking of that Hemingway quote, "I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?" Yeah, I did know.

The doctor, an attractive male in his 30s, walked into the room. Great I thought sarcastically, this isn't embarrassing at all. But I was desperate, and all I wanted was for someone to help me. So when he asked me what was going on,  my eyes watered as I told him everything. I told him I couldn't calm myself down, that I was scared my body was becoming malnourished and probably shutting down from not being able to eat, that my heart was probably going to stop from the constant surges of adrenaline. He sat there listening to me, handing me tissues and nodding sympathetically. He assured me that my heart wasn't going to stop, that I could live the rest of my life in a heightened state of anxiety and it wouldn't kill me. I asked if it was possible there was something wrong with my adrenal glands. He looked at me very seriously and said, "it is possible to have an adrenal disorder, but people who have it are usually walking around with very high blood pressure and bleeding from the eyes, so I think we can rule it out." It was the first time I'd laughed in days.

"Nothing's going on where you're scared for your physical safety? Nobody's trying to hurt you?" He asked.
"Okay, good. And you have a good support system in your life?"
"Where do you get your support from?"
I thought for a second before answering. "My family, my friends... my faith."
"Yeah I noticed your earrings," he said, referring to my ichthys fish earrings, "are you a Christian?"
"I am."
"That's good. Faith is just as powerful as anything I've ever read in any book."
I sat there kind of stunned, is this really coming from a doctor?
"If you'd like, I'll pray for you," he went on."Please, I would really appreciate that," I said, genuinely touched that he would offer to remember me in his prayers. But before I even realized what was going on, he clasped his hands, closed his eyes and bowed his head and started praying out loud. Right there in the doctor's office. A long, thoughtful, personalized prayer, asking God to help me find my strength in Him, to give me the assurance that everything happens for a reason and to trust He will give me His peace, which transcends all understanding. I listened to him with tears going down my face, my head bowed, but my eyes going back to the tattoo on my wrist that 15 minutes earlier made me question where God was in all of this, and how now he was using a medical doctor praying for me to answer me, I'm right here. 

When the doctor was done, I didn't know how to properly thank him or express how much it meant to me that he would do that, but I think he understood. I felt this kind of relief and calmness on the drive home, this hopeful feeling that I hadn't quite been able to grasp on my own in the days prior. I knew that I was not, nor would I probably ever be, miraculously set free from my anxiety completely. I am still very much in my broken flesh, and the weeks following the doctor's visit proved that. My anxiety still came and went, yet not as strong or with the same feelings of hopelessness. And never again with the question of God's presence.

I still sometimes wonder about the why, though. Even though He might be here, why does he allow it to happen? And the only real explanation that I can come up with that makes sense to me is to reiterate Proverb 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" and Isaiah 55:9, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." If a doctor were to take an x-ray of me, and then report that something inside myself was broken or not working properly, and the only possible way to fix it was surgery, I would trust that the doctor knew what he was talking about. I wouldn't try to convince him that taking some aspirin would be just as effective nor would I look at the surgeon in the middle of the procedure and say, "Are you sure you know what you're doing? I don't think it should hurt this much." Because I would trust that the doctor knew what he was doing, and that his knowledge and qualifications far exceeded mine. It isn't that the doctor isn't aware that surgery is painful, and the recovery unpleasant, but he knows that it is necessary in order to get things working right. He knows that the end result far outweighs the temporary pain you feel in the process. And if I can trust that a doctor, despite inflicting pain and discomfort, has my best interest in mind, how could I not trust that God is doing the same? Of course it hurts, he probably wants to say to me, you're undergoing an operation! But God isn't heartless, He offers the pain killers of trust and prayer, because He knows it hurts, but He also knows that the pain is inevitable. Because the only way to get inside of you is to cut you open.
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