Check out my other blog: Arugula Addict! I'll be writing about my journey to becoming a healthier person.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

One of the Chosen Few

Sometimes knowing too much can be more of a curse than a blessing. I'm one of the chosen few. . .

I first stepped onto this campus as a very bewildered 18-year old. Struggling to make sense of my parents’ separation and ultimate divorce, attempting to fit into yet another culture that was so foreign to all the ones I had previously lived in, I was inundated with an experience that did not allow me time to process very necessary emotions, thoughts, and feelings. I skipped the questioning young adult years and left college carefully and thoroughly brainwashed into an outwardly submissive and yet inwardly rebellious product of the system. Religion and every aspect of my behaviour was presented to me in a neat package, already assembled, and I was expected to assume the garb of the graduate who now knew all things and could go on to teach others what I had learned.

Now, 11 years later, I am beginning my journey towards truth.

How can you love a God you do not know? How can you know a God if you cannot trust Him? If God is a God of love, why does He allow such horrible things to happen? These and other questions have filled my waking moments as personal experiences start flying at me out of nowhere. The innocence of childhood is long gone and now I need to understand for myself why things happened and who God really is.

When I stop to think about it, the God I see in my head is a contradictory God. I call Him Father, but I don’t trust Him to protect me. I know logically that He will not keep evil from attacking me, whether through disease, fear, pain, or death. I don’t know whether He is unable to or whether He chooses not to, but regardless of the semantics, I know that Christians are not immune to sin’s consequences, even if their own behaviour is stellar.

Maybe reality is that we have to keep fighting to see the light, otherwise we may be swallowed up in darkness. Maybe we have to battle to know who God is, and maybe we have to demand that He bless us. Maybe God does not come peacefully; maybe He comes in like a warrior and captures our hearts with His strength. Maybe He gives us the freedom to throw away everything we have ever known and start building a tower with coloured blocks. Maybe He understands our confusion, frustration, anger, and fear and provides a safe place for us to come when the pain threatens to overwhelm. Maybe He cries with us, with an aching heart that longs to reveal His love and soothe the wounds that run raw. Maybe. . .

I’m not exactly sure. You see, I know too much. I know exactly how I should walk, talk, dress, sing, study, and pray. I know when I should drink, exercise, sleep, and work. I know what I should learn, read, listen to, watch, and eat. I know where I should worship, serve, fellowship, and witness. I know all these things, because I’ve been trained well. There’s only one thing I haven’t yet learned.

I don’t know Who I love. . .

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Looking for Options

It's 11:29 pm and I really need to be sleeping right now, but of course, I just spent the last two hours with my eyes glued to my laptop screen as I surfed the web.

This evening has been productive, even if I didn't get to bed quite as early as I wanted to! I've gotten into the habit of coming home and doing a couple of miles with Leslie Sansone's Walk-at-Home DVDs first thing, then eating supper, and then the rest of the evening is free to do dishes, tidy, clean, and watch TV. Tonight I got my accounts out of the way, then watched an episode of Psych on, with Rachel's promo code. After that, I spent way too much time looking for Masters programs online. An MBA with a management or human resources, a Creative Writing Masters, an M.Ed., all look interesting but as always, the MA in Psychology, Marriage in Family & Therapy, looks the most interesting!

I know exactly what I want, but I don't think I'm going to find it. I want a regionally accredited online reputable Christian program that I can complete in 2 years and the total cost will be under $15,000. Unfortunately, good MFT programs seem to range in the $30-$40,000 range, if they're online they are usually not regionally accredited, or if they are, again, the price is exorbitant, and if I want to practice in California and meet the BBS requirements for licensure, my options are limited. It is extremely frustrating, because I feel like now is the perfect time of my life to be studying (no responsibilities, still young enough to learn, haha!) but unfortunately financially-wise, it is not possible. I will not take out any loans, either, it goes against my religion, so I'm stuck. Oh well. . .

Tomorrow is Friday, I'm so happy it's the weekend!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sometimes Snow Does Not Cover

"I think I know what it means to be a good person; I don't think I know what it means to be a good Christian."

A challenging week behind me, I am grateful for a day or two to catch my breath before plunging headlong into the next. Sometimes I wonder what I'm waiting for, as the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, and now the years are trudging along. Will I one day find myself sitting on bed, 30 years from now, blogging about my long week and wondering where the time went and what I really accomplished with it? Being a type-A personality can be a blessing and a curse at times. While I am able to get things done, somehow when it comes to personal achievements, I feel like I must either get everything done right the first time or not try at all, or I must meet and exceed both personal goals and the goals of everyone else around me. Unrealistic, I know, and yet it is a very real part of my life.

I've just spent the last hour journalling, so this entry will be short. Suffice to say that this week has brought many questions but not as many answers. I continue my own vendetta against all that is unfair and unjust, unable to let it go. Troubled that the letter of the law, as it relates to skirts, takes priority over principles, as it relates to health. People are fighting to stay alive over in Haiti while we fight to keep the women in skirts over here. It's all quite ridiculous, really, when you think about it. Maybe that is the problem. Maybe no one really thinks about it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Imagine All The People

Listening to my Jim Brickman station on Pandora and contemplating my next blog, I realized I wanted to journal a little on family. Seeing the awful disasters in Haiti has reminded me of the fragility of life and the importance of holding close those around you, especially your family.

Family is about more than just a name. Today, family was sitting in church and feeling proud inside as my 18-year old brother walked up to the front to be ordained as a deacon. A regular deacon too, not a junior deacon. He was the youngest person up there and only one of two young people under the age of 40 who were up front as elders and deacons for the coming year. Tears came to my eyes as I realized that this moment was possible because of the years of patient parenting from a single mother, the support of a loving community, young people who were role models in his life, and a God Who cared enough to walk close by his side and teach him daily.

Family was sitting around the table at lunchtime, eating spaghetti and sweet corn and aromatic garlic bread with a green salad, laughing at silly jokes. "Mom, are all dreams from God?" "Some are from indigestion!" It was taking a afternoon nap on the sofa and waking up to a quiet hum of activity around. It was sitting on the sofa watching Man's Favourite Sport with Rock Hudson, laughing at the corny jokes, and eating popcorn and lollipops. Family is that warm feeling you get inside, knowing that you are loved, knowing it will never change.

I've been blessed beyond belief with the family I have. When I see the abuse that runs rampant in today's world, kids under 18 living on the streets or disowned, parents beating their spouses or their children, unstable environments to live in, my heart aches for the children who must grow up under those kinds of conditions.

I wish I could change the world. I wish I could do it right now, and somehow, I know God must wish it even more. . .

Friday, January 15, 2010

To The Least of These. . .

My heart continues to ache for those who are hurting right now, and I understand those who get emotional and want to hop on the next plane and rush over to Haiti right now and start helping. Realistically, however, that isn't possible. So, like the many who can help out monetarily, I've donated to ADRA, a humanitarian organization that I know is already on the ground assessing the situation. They are trained to respond to situations like these, so I am confident that the money I've sent will stretch further and help more than if I tried to figure it out on my own.

I saw a clip online, people without water for 3 days, others with no medical care. Basic needs not being met and they are crying out for help. Like so many, I sit, feeling helpless, and wish I could send some of my overabundance to help others. It's encouraging to see so many people becoming proactive, donating, linking, praying. We might not be able to be right there, comforting and helping those in pain, but we can do the small part that we are able to empower others to be our hands, to be God's Hands.

If you are reading this and are able, head over to Money Saving Mom and leave a link or comment on some or all of the bloggers who are committed to donating.

Continuing to pray for the people of Haiti. . .

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Week Well Done

This has been such a good week :) I realized again, today, as I was unlocking the door to my cute studio apartment after a full day at work, that I really do enjoy being busy. I like having so much to do that I am rushing here and there, feeling quite productive. I am starting to settle in to the routine of things, figuring out how to work with the many different personality types that have come on board, and always learning more.

I realized several weeks ago that I need to let go of my ideas for what I want, my plans for this place, and not cling so tightly to my ideas of what I know are right. I'm still working on that, but I'm also realizing that God did give me a mind and He doesn't expect me to sit back and let it go to waste. It is perfectly okay to have ideas and to try to sort out the many puzzles I am faced with every day; what is not okay is my tendency to attempt to control situations.

This afternoon, I thought, "I could do this for years. Be a registrar here." I do enjoy it. Always have and probably always will. Sure, there are tough times, but when I sit back and remember that I am doing something I love to do, well, it puts a different perspective on things. I'm curious to see where and how God leads from here. Will I stay here another 20 years? Who knows!!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In the Fifth

It's only 8 pm and already I'm turning down the lights and sitting here by candlelight with a cup of hot mint tea cooling down. I think I'll adapt TGIF's slogan to TGIW. Somehow, Tuesday seems to be the longest day of the week, but once Wednesday's gone, you just have Thursday and then a half day on Friday and then the weekend hits!

Sometimes I wonder how many free weekends I need before I start to feel bored and look about for something to do! Seems like there's always something going on, whether a special event, going out to eat with friends, cleaning and tidying at home, or sleeping in from a late Saturday night!

I've started watching what I eat, and I'm trying to get in some exercise (been successful only one day this week so far with the exercise), so I'm kind of irritable right now. I hate feeling hungry and there's only so much lettuce and carrot sticks one can tolerate. Unfortunately I'd been developing bad habits of eating whenever and whatever I pleased. So here we go, working on the New Year's Resolution to do something about this excess baggage I insist on carrying about, and adding to on a regular basis!

While stressful at times, I am actually quite grateful that my week has been super busy and that I have a lot to do. I remember the days that stretched into endless weeks and turned into mindless months when we had few students and life at the college slowed down to an islander's pace. Some days I felt like I was going bonkers because of how bored I was!!! Now, with the spring semester beginning, 31 full-time students eagerly studying away, and new staff learning the ropes, I sit back and work steadily but surely through the pile of items that demand my immediate attention and smile that I have so much work to do.

The best part of my job is, as always, the people. I worry that I don't know everything, but I try to give my best advice to those who ask, and I am happy when students and coworkers feel comfortable coming in my office to sit for a little chat. While it's true that there have been a lot of changes around here, at least I haven't changed, and people will always remain the same! Imagine, I've worked as registrar for over 4 years now! Can't quite believe it!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pondering Friendship

It's 8:55 pm and I'm relaxing in my room, enjoying the Frosted Berries candle Shiloh gave me for Christmas, and amazed that there isn't a thing that I have to do. I absolutely love Friday evenings. Sabbaths, now that's another story, because we're usually rushing hither and yon, trying to do a billion things and go to a zillion performances, but Friday evenings are the best. Time to stop, when the sun goes down, from a frantish (new word!) pace and ease into a more peaceful frame of mind. Often we play a few games (I usually win in Boggle), sit around the kitchen table and chat about our week, and enjoy some supper, snacks, or, as this evening, lollipops. When I leave and come back to my place for the evening it is usually quite early and I can quietly sit and listen to music, read a favourite book, catch up on my blog, see what I've missed on FB and post a note on a friend's wall, or simply journal or write a creative piece.

This week has been super super busy, with registration and all, but with 31 enrolled for this semester (up from 27 last semester!), I am excited to see what the coming months will bring. I'm learning a lot, as always, especially how to work with different personality types, how to cope under change (which seems to be the only constant in my life at present!), and how to set firm boundaries without offending people. Just when I think I have it all figured out, life throws another curveball at me and I'm left with an empty glove, wondering how I can catch the next one!

I'm grateful today for the friends in my life, well I'm thankful for all of them, but tonight I'm thinking of the ones that I interact with on campus on a daily basis. Laura, always ready to lend a listening ear or dialogue about challenges, somehow she keeps a smile on her face in the midst of chaos, and she understands things the same way I do. My mom, who always answers her phone when I call with a question, lets me cry in her office when emotions run high, and listens to me for hours as I work through issues. My sister, someone who always understands what I mean even before I've thought it, loves to organize a meal out so we can get off campus, rushes me to the library 15 minutes before it closes, and constantly encourages me to achieve my goals. Sherry, who laughs with me at the ironic eccentricities of life (or else we cry!), reads people with frightening accuracy, is not afraid to tell it like it is, and is comfortable telling me to "get over it." Dr. Jensen, someone who is not afraid to be who she is, who sets an example for me in her fearlessness, boldness, and genuine caring for others, she too understands the frustrations I feel and is able to express them for me with her vivaciously dramatic flair (only in my office, though!). Rina, who walks about the campus with a song on her lips, is always stopping to say hello and notice people, and she listens when I ramble on about things and is genuinely excited with me when I am happy about something. There's others who brighten my life also, Cosmin with his upbeat spirit, Andy with his logical thinking, Kevin with his understanding born of years of independent ministries, Beth with her eagerness to share, Linda with her humorous approach to life, Heather with her sweetness, Becky with her hysterical laughter. Then my 5 absolutest best friends, in no particular order, LaVonne, Laura, Eva, Shiloh, and Katie, who are as giving as can be, and are the kind of friends I know I will cherish forever. Friends who will pick up where we left off should we be separated for 10 years, who are selfless and caring, friends who will pray in a crisis and laugh in the good times, and friends who will always be ready to go out to Fresh Choice for a meal!!!

As I've been blogging, worried that I will forget someone and leave them out accidentally, I've begun to think back over the years and remember all the other friends I've made who have moved on and yet left their footprints behind in my heart. I cannot name them all, I think I'd probably crash the memory on the blogspot server!, but I'm grateful for each one of them also.

When I wrote down my life goals several years ago, I included one goal that was not quantifiable. I wanted to make a difference in the life of one person. Thinking of all the people who have made a difference in mine, I pray I can be used as God's Hands to touch the lives of all around me, not just one person. . .

Friday, January 1, 2010

In Whose Hands?

"My biggest struggle is trying to see that this is God's will. Maybe once I understand that it is His will for me to face these challenges in the coming months, I will also understand that He is waiting to help me with them."

A close friend stood by my office window, an earnest look on their face as they shared their personal struggles and asked for prayer that they could come to terms with those challenges. I, however, disagreed with their conclusion.

It was not the first time I'd heard that phrase. "It must be God's will that I am suffering this hardship right now." Or how about, "It's God's will that my life should go this way." Ever heard this one? "I don't understand why I am not doing _____________, but it is God's will for me and I must follow His will and not my own." Prayers included the familiar, "May Thy will be done in whatever circumstances lie ahead." When faced with a tough situation where there were no easy answers, such as a dying relative, an abused child, or a job loss, the easy way out was to say, "God must have a plan and we will pray with you that His will may be revealed in the midst of this."

The will of God, a cliched phrase that Christians fall back on, has served as the catch-all phrase to heal all hurts and cure all ills. A cop-out, in a way, it has rolled off the tongue all too easily to truly mean anything to the one who hears it. It is not a new saying, by all means. Visitors to the Middle East recognize a version of it when they bid farewell to a national and hear the words "Insha'Allah" literally translated as, "God has willed it."

As my dear friend struggled to make spiritual sense of something that was troubling her, I stepped back in my mind and looked at it from a logical perspective. What I saw troubled me. Questions that had been tumbling around in my mind for weeks now began to harrass me for answers. Answers that could be not be answered with a soft, "It must be God's will."

Maybe, just maybe, not everything was God's will. But was that a sacriligious thought? Did not everything that came to us come from God's Hand, as we loved to sing loudly every Sabbath morning? Were we not to strive for more trust, less doubt, and never to question the difficult things that came, but rather accept them as testings and trials that would give us the opportunity to learn how to cling closer to God and prove that we were true Christians?

I begged to differ. Another good friend explained it as, "People say, it is in God's Hands, but maybe it isn't. Maybe it's in the devil's hands." This friend was speaking from experience where they saw others using the excuse that every situation in life was in God's Hands, therefore nothing bad could happen to them, and if something bad did happen, well, it must have been sent by God.

These are false beliefs and need to be recognized as such. God does have a will and a plan for our lives; that plan included perfect love and life and harmony, but unfortunately it was ruined in the very beginning. So now His plan is to teach us more about what we missed out on here on this earth but have the opportunity to experience in heaven: perfect love, life and harmony. His will is that we can learn more about Him and become more like Him. His plan never included struggles and hardships and challenges. Those are all consequences of sin.

We need to recognize and place blame where it is due. The devil is the one who laughs when we struggle, and is the one who sends as many trials, temptations, and difficulties as God will permit to touch us. Read the book of Job if you're not convinced. Throughout the Bible, over and over, we see God protecting, defending, providing for and loving His children. There were times He had to allow the consequences of sin to be played out, especially when His children chose to walk away from Him. But I refuse to believe that God ever wished any of His children to suffer. God is a God of love and every time we are in pain, I believe He empathizes with us deeply. If a parent suffers when their child disobeys them and must suffer consequences so they learn not to disobey again, how much more must God feel our pain as our Creator and Father?

The devil, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to lose when he makes our lives miserable. He knows he's condemned to the lake of burning fire already, so he might as well go out with a bang and take as many people with him as he can. He goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), and he doesn't care who suffers.

My friend's particular circumstances dictated that the next several months would be particularly stressful. I knew that the added stress was not from a divine decree, but rather from other people's poor planning and choices not to take full responsibility for the current situation. This upset me, because while my friend attributed their distress to an act of God, His will no less, it seemed to me that God was not responsible. I tried to explain that I didn't think it was God's will that they should have to go through this, but they didn't want to hear me. Perhaps it made them feel better to think that they had to struggle to come to terms with God offering them assistance in their time of need.

Regardless of my friend's personal convictions, I left our conversation that day wondering why so many people blame God when it isn't His fault? Why must we always try to explain it as God's will when in reality it is the devil's plan all along to wreak havoc in our lives? Can we ever learn to see God for what He truly is—love—and can we accept that sometimes things that happen may not be His will, but that He will help us through the situation nevertheless?

I need to believe in a God Whose only Will toward me is Good and Perfect and Holy.

Smoke Screen

Just finished reading a chapter in Protecting Your Children From Sexual Predators, by Dr. Leigh Baker. An excellent well-written book, I would highly recommend it as an awareness resource. It makes me mad, though. Mad because there are so many predators out there and because children are the most vulnerable and the ones most preyed on.

It's like when we were sitting in the DMV yesterday. Michael and I were chatting about different things, and somehow the issue of second-hand smoke came up. Did you know that it is now illegal to smoke in California if a minor is in your car? I didn't, guess it must be a new law they passed recently, and I'm very grateful for it. I'm also grateful for Koop, who I don't know personally and haven't really heard very much about, actually, but Michael read his autobiography for English class last semester and said he is responsible for pushing laws against smoking in public places.

I still remember the days we would fly back to Europe on furlough and we would be seated in the non-smoking section of the airplane. Today, just about all major airlines have a no-smoking policy, but back then, if you were unlucky and got seated in the non-smoking row immediately behind the smoking row, well, you might as well have sat in the smoking row for all the good it did you, as you inhaled the noxious fumes of chain-smokers as soon as the little red lights went off overhead.

When I visited Europe last year, I realized how blessed we are in California to have all these no-smoking-in-public-places rules as I struggled to find a breath of fresh air in the cities. Today I almost take it for granted that the strongest smell I will encounter in a public area will be someone's perfume or a Starbucks coffee. Until I went to the DMV.

As we sat there, having moved on to another topic of conversation, our nostrils began to pick up a rather intolerable stench that was beginning to pervade the room. One of the 59 people waiting there on a busy Thursday afternoon had just been smoking, and rather profusely it appeared.

I'm not a very tolerant person. I am adaptable, my mother tells me, but not tolerant. Brought up to be polite when in public and around guests and visitors, I am constantly concerned that I might offend someone and am tuned in to the nonverbal cues as to what my behaviour should or should not be. Unfortunately, however, I seem to be cursed with perfect pitch when it comes to picking up on behaviours that irritate me. Washing machines going at 6 am on a Sunday morning, people who talk but never ever listen, and taking the last cookie without asking if anyone else would like one, are some for-instances, but I'll save that for another blog.

Back to the DMV. Sitting there, inhaling second-hand smoke against my personal preference, I became quite upset. I understand, smoking isn't the only way to ruin your health and you can do it just as well by overeating, not getting enough sleep, or doing any of a number of things. But those are personal choices. Smoking is one of those things where if a person chooses to smoke, every single person who comes into their vicinity is unwillingly suffering the consequences of that person's choice to smoke as they inhale the second-hand smoke. Apparently tests have shown that it takes a full 24 hours for traces of second-hand smoke to completely leave a person's body. If someone chooses to smoke, they may say it's their own choice, and I will not tell them what to do. What I will not tolerate, however, is when their choice imposes on my right to breathe air that is not contaminated with their smoke.

The same goes for sexual predators. Anyone who is a victim did not choose to share the predator's sick behaviours. Yet, victims have no say in what happens. Unfortunately, our society is not set up to protect the innocent to the extent that it should be. When will justice be avenged on this earth? A million millstones need to be prepared, and even those would not be enough. . .

A Bucket List (or maybe a Tub List, so many things on it!)

Hmmm, so I'm not exactly sure why it's called a Bucket List, except that LaVonne called her's a Bucket List, so here goes:

1. Lose 30 pounds. Minimum. (still hoping I can lose it by positive thinking, but slowly realizing I need to add some vegetables, subtract desserts, and exercise on a regular basis!)
2. Write a book. At least one. Okay, the reason why I'm still thinking about this one is because I have about 10 different ideas for books, none of which I can seem to get into a 20-chapter outline! I want to do an autobiography, one on emotional abuse, an easy-reading humorous book (like Patsy Clairmont and Barbara Johnson), one on spiritual abuse or conservative systems, a collection of writings and poetry, a simple-ingredients cookbook for busy women, and maybe a novel.
3. Be involved with some type of ministry for at least a year, like an orphanage or a homeless shelter or a women's shelter.
4. Keep my place tidy for more than a week!
5. Visit the Seychelles, Switzerland, Austria, and New York. In no particular order.
6. Become a certified Marriage & Family Therapist.
7. Earn my PhD in Psychology, Higher Education, or English.
8. Work at a mainstream SDA college (as an assistant registrar or registrar or executive assistant).
9. Be published in Adventist World.
10. Get my green card.

Oh, now I know why it's called the Bucket List! And I think I even saw the movie, it was pretty good!!! All I can think of are 10 things. Maybe I'll have more inspiration tomorrow, or maybe, I really don't want to do that many things. I'm working at my dream job, I have a car, my own place, and no debt, family and friends, what more could I want?