Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reflections from the weekend (so far)

[Pulled from Daylilies 2/26/12 and 365+Grateful Project 2/26/12]

Two posts in one day on this blog! This hasn't happened in a while. (Except with 365+ bahaha) But this will be short.

I'm at Starbucks, I was going to write my essay for the two hours between Evelyn's departure and the PDPT meeting ~~ but here I am almost an hour and a half in and I still have not done anything for my essay other than review all my chicken scratch.

Evelyn came to visit this weekend - not really to visit me but for her audition :) But we were able to have lots of fun too! We did the classics - Fanueil Hall/Quincy Market and North End (for cannolis!!!), Russell House for oysters bahaha, and dim sum this morning. I really enjoyed having Evelyn here for the weekend.

Her visit has also taught me a lot. I would say they are reminders, which I suppose they are in some sense, but what is a reminder but a re-learning, and what is a re-learning but a new learning? Everything is old, and everything is new.

I am selfish and prideful. 
I think so much of myself... it is not natural for me to think of others, truly, even though I like to think that it is and that I am a compassionate and loving person... it's not true. At all. Anything that seems that way in my life is the blessing of the Lord as He works in my heart. Evelyn has definitely shown me so much..

God is good. 
He knows all. He works through all. He understands us so well, and yet loves us so deeply... He has been working so powerfully in her life, even though she may not be seeing it yet. Just the same, the words she spoke to me and the ones I even spoke to her struck me in my heart deeply. God is so good. He knows what we need and when.. He knows what we struggle with and why. He knows also when and how we will grow because of these struggles and be delivered from them because He has already planned that path. And He loves us so much that He does not let us go mindlessly about...

God is faithful. 
He doesn't let us go... He doesn't leave us hanging. He fulfills his promises without fail, and He works in our lives sometimes quietly and unnoticed, sometimes less so, but always powerfully. His allowing us to see that is yet another blessing from Him as He guides us in our walks with Him.

There is more.

And there is still more that I have yet to learn. I know there will always be. And I hope that I will never feel that I've learned enough. 

I'm thankful for being able to host Evelyn this weekend. Wow I love the Tsen fam. <3

Winter Teen Conference 2012

[Pulled from 365+Grateful Project 2/20/12]

I hope that this conference was a blessing to the students who went, as well as the counselors and P. Justin too. It was definitely a blessing for me - a humbling, encouraging, and very revealing weekend.

Last year I went to WTC with literally a day's notice - one of the regular counselors had suddenly fallen sick and I went in her place. I think though, perhaps I was more prepared going in last year than this year. This year, I knew I was going to go for at least a month beforehand, yet even the week before, up to the day before I hadn't truly prepared for it... I was distracted, stressed, tired, putting my heart and thoughts more into other things than into a mindful, prayerful preparation of my own heart for the weekend. I prayed for the students and the retreat as a whole, for my girls... but not even half-heartedly. It seemed much more a rote, almost reluctant and forced duty than a genuine and burdened crying out to the Lord.

I arrived to PDAS on Friday with my mental, emotional, and physical baggage in tow. And I was frantic and fearful at this point - what was I going to do? How in the world was I going to do it! What was I thinking, signing up for this retreat? Why was I here??

I told myself fretfully, God can work through all, no matter what they deserve; I comforted myself by saying that it was ok that I didn't prepare myself, God was still gracious. And that He is... but the words that I spoke to myself were only empty shells of comfort attempting to cloak my excuses...

So I went into retreat carrying these feelings of shame, uselessness, disgust with myself, and fear of the inevitable failure I'd face as a small group leader (again, so revealing)... I also carried an enormous desire to do well, hoping to change the girls' lives - these two sides struggled against each other and all through the weekend, on the last day especially, I was convicted of this self-centered, not-at-all-God-honoring, utterly pointless struggling within myself. Jess shared during our morning meeting that she felt convicted of wanting to be the one who makes a difference in the girls' lives; I felt this as well, so so very much. It's really ridiculous how I felt this way especially given the state I was in prior to going, though perhaps that also explains my completely irrational and pompous attitude about it - if I had been more grounded in the Word and led by the Spirit, would I have realized how utterly dependent I ought to be on the Lord?

All throughout the weekend, God spoke to me through His word, P. Justin's messages, my small group's conversations, huddles, conversations with other counselors, times alone with Him... He was gracious to expound to my soul the half-hearted excuse-ridden empty words of comfort that I'd been giving myself earlier - He truly works through all as He wills and to His glory.

On the final day of WTC, one of my girls wrote me a little note of encouragement - I was reminded again of ATD's trip to DC and the hospital rounds we made. Sometimes God allows us to see a little glimpse, always so undeserved, of how He still chooses to work in and through us... I am so thankful for WTC this year, and the tremendous grace that God poured out in my life through it...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Temporary WTC post

Back from retreat! It was wonderful. I have not the mental capacity to write about it now. But I have suddenly noticed that I have 14 new bruises on my knees alone - how did this happen and why are they all separate/not one giant bruise??? I don't understand.

Relating to strange bodily ailments, my sister has finally found the medical term for our family's congenital ear piercings. In the event that anybody on Google searches for this, they're called preauricular pits or cysts and are not the most pleasant life experience. But not the end! Good luck to you and happy cleaning.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cleaning Day

It's cleaning day! Because today is Yoojin-comes-to-stay-over-day and tomorrow is retreat and it's rainy which means it's perfect for laundry-vacuuming-dusting-packing-reorganizing.

There's a little trick I've learned recently to controlling clutter::: take a picture of the space, and you'll be able to more easily identify what should and should not be there. Our brains are wonderfully adept and can quickly skim over things that it's grown accustomed to -- i.e. patterns (this is a really poor and cut down explanation of why we can read things like this). Patterns can be in text, concepts, or spaces. I have no research-based scientific backing for this, but I think that based on our brains' ability to chunk things into patterns and store them into long term memory as "habits", we can similarly chunk our cluttered spaces into patterns. So unless you are very intentional about looking for clutter, it's easy to ignore it because it's "just always there anyway" (patterns!).

Cameras don't do that. When we look at a picture, we're looking at a frozen instance of space. Yes, inanimate objects are still inanimate objects (unless you live in Harry Potter world and every picture is alive), but the finality and distinct boundaries of a picture force our eyes and brains to explore the finite space, to actually process those patterns that we otherwise overlook (literally). Sometimes, we need to be slowed down by a physical picture (or digital, whatever) so that we can really process what's going on in that space.

I think the same goes for life in general. There is a lovely article on the Harvard Business Review about prioritization, with one quote that I really like:
"Many of us have become addicted, unwittingly, to the speed of our lives — the adrenalin high of constant busyness. We mistake activity for productivity, more for better, and we ask ourselves "What's next?" far more often than we do "Why this?""
I would say that's very true, and generally descriptive of what I do with myself. Activity most definitely != productivity, and more != better, yet somehow we convinced ourselves otherwise (or just me).

From the article,
"It's only when we pause — when we say no to the next urgent demand or seductive source of instant gratification — that we give ourselves the space to reflect on, metabolize, assess, and make sense of what we've just experienced. 
Taking time also allows us to collect ourselves, refuel and renew, and make conscious course corrections that ultimately save us time when we plunge back into the fray."

It's been a theme in my life for a while now, I'm such a slow learner... but I think that I've been internalizing and exerting this more. Hopefully.

Welps, happy cleaning day! And also I can't wait to eat my lunch!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What does it matter?

That's the common theme in my thoughts lately. Not in a solely cynical or depressed or hopeless way, but in a (what I hope is) genuinely pleading, solemnly considerate way. Perhaps because I've never entered the work force before, I feel especially daunted by the sheer magnitude (and felt constraints) of it. Also, perhaps because my studies and work so far haven't all focused on one specific field, I feel unbound in a sense, with seemingly too many possible directions and not enough guidance. I like structure.

A few weeks ago I was talking to some PDAS kids about what they wanted to be when they grew up. What a question... I don't know what I want to "be", still, and while I can't say I'm necessarily "grown up" (where does that begin and end? Psychology will tell you I guess. HAH), I definitely am already "grown up" in their eyes (because anybody above 20 is "really old"). We talked about what they like to do, what they want to do, what they are doing now, and our childhood dreams... For me, I wanted to be a singer, actor, teacher, writer, artist, architect, archaeologist, doctor, designer (ALL AT THE SAME TIME - I guess I haven't changed much in that sense). Some of those were because I thought they were fun. Others because I thought it would be nice to help people. Those reasons, while lovely, also seem so superficial right now.

I think that's how we often approach career and work. We're told time and time again and even tell others (I know I have) that we should pursue work that we love and enjoy. While I think that's wonderful and good and that God's calling can be precisely that, I also think that the way that we (Christians) sometimes view it places the work above the calling, even if we phrase it in a way that places calling above work. Example, in Christianese, "Your passion is often a God-given calling". It's beautiful and true! But often at the heart of the matter this is actually played out as "God calls me to work that I love and enjoy; therefore anything else simply can't be my calling." It may not be said exactly that way, but I feel that it's the undercurrent.

I think this almost implies that God does not ever call us to things we don't like. That we can always look at this formula to mean "If you don't feel affinity toward this or a passion for it then clearly God's not leading you here." It makes a lot of sense, and I think that it's definitely a good and even right way to test a leading. BUT I think too often we make it the only way. I'm not talking just long-term-career-type-of-calling either, but really just about any type of call to obedience - whether it lasts for a day, a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime. Because how do you know how long it will last??? God's plans for you are not always so clearly laid out at those crossroads.

I think that where and when God calls, He also equips - and that means in skill, knowledge, and passion. God does not call the equipped so much as He equips those He calls (where did this come from? I can't remember and I'm attributing it to like 5 sources right now) - a simple and perhaps subtle change that means so much. What am I saying!?

"Career (or whatever we're called to do) is just another talent given to us, and we should be good stewards of it." (from Cat! I used that without permission :X But I cited you now puhahahh) It's just another piece of God's plans for us to live for HIS glory. And this is something reiterated again and again, through the young adult retreat last Fall and also the college retreat last year. Pastor Steve said in sermon this past Sunday, Discipleship is costly. "Those who do not renounce all he has cannot be Jesus's disciple." Cannot. Is not able to. Will fail at. For some time, I thought that meant that God was preventing them from becoming Jesus's disciple because they were not worthy or something... But through other sermons recently and this one as well, I think it crystallized for me that for those people who said, "Lord, let me first go bury my father", or "Lord, let me first say goodbye to my family", and even "Lord, wherever you go I will follow" -- it was out of God's grace that the answer was No. (And who knows if it was a resounding and final No or if it was a Not yet? Does that matter for our purposes? I don't think so anyway.)

That means putting Christ ahead of all our personal possessions, personal relationships, personal desires (also from P.Steve's sermon). The question then is, are you, am I, willing to accept that and let go of my own dreams and desires? To trust and obey God, wherever that takes me, wherever that leads, and even if it doesn't include dreams and desires of a nice cushy life and all that it entails? It's hard for me to do that. I daresay it's impossible for anyone to do that. But by His grace and power, the impossible becomes possible.