January 25, 2013

Friday Finds!

Even though these last couple of weeks have been, and will continue to keep me busy, I still have managed to find some good/funny/thought-provoking stuff around the internet. Whether you're being like me and burying yourself in the books this weekend in order to knock some stuff out of the way (my birthday is next week and I'd rather get as much done as possible). Or, you're letting some steam off before real work begins, feel free to take a look at these. 

  • Dear Thirteen; It's amazing and scary at the same time, because I viewed myself the exact same way at that age (via The Good Women Project) 

  • Forget the Superbowl! Who's excited about the Puppy Bowl? (if only for the sake of looking at adorable baby animals). Source: People.com

  • I've never been a big fan of The Bachelor, but Sean seems more interesting and level-headed than the rest of them. This video makes me love him even more! (Via Youtube). 

  • I first heard Gary Allan's "Every Storm"  on the radio as I drove home for Thanksgiving break. Admittedly, I am going through a bit of a bumpy season in life and can't stop listening to it. The video gave me chills and brought a tear or two to my eyes. Hopefully it uplifts you as much as it did me!

God Bless!

January 22, 2013

Stream of Consciousness

Aside from a few bags, I'm pretty much all unpacked and settled back into my apartment. As much as I enjoyed being at home, winter break had well worn out it's welcome. The last two weeks weren't exactly a picnic, since most of my hometown friends had either gone back to school or were working a lot and we weren't able to get together. 

The biggest annoyance was probably internal; I'm not at liberty to go into detail about it at the moment, but I'm in the midst of watching a very sad and disheartening situation play out. It is not something that I don't  directly have to deal with, but it does affect me in a variety of ways and it's a tough thing to process. I have days where I don't know what to think or believe. I have days where I wonder where God is in all of it, and if the promise of not having to pay more of a price due to someone else's choices will be delivered. 

But that's the beauty of being away from home; as it was at the beginning of first semester, my line of thinking is the same this time around; I'm living my own life now. I'm no longer a child who has to be stuck between two people that I deeply love and care for. Yes, it hurts more than I can describe. But when all it said and done, some burdens are not my responsibility to bear. 

With that being said, there are other aspects of my life that I do need to focus on right now. Since a new semester isn't exactly a clean slate (and my final grades from my previous classes weren't the best that they could have been), academics are definitely a top priority. I'm not going to predict what I'll have do just yet, because I haven't even attended my first full week of classes. But I will have to work hard and apply myself more if I want to raise my GPA. 

I've spent a lot of time going through some deep healing, and I want actively live out those changes. I'm not going to let myself become overly bitter about what I just mentioned above, along with other difficult challenges or experiences that I've faced in the past. Self-pity happens, but it doesn't have to happen all the time. 

So if I need to say something for the sake of saying it, I will. If I want to do something because it makes me happy and it's good for me, I will. I can't live life just sitting down with my arms crossed and my head down. Instead, it's time to put my defenses down and let other people put their arms around me. 

Along with being emotionally healthy, I'm setting a goal to be physically healthy. As the first half of the year progressed, I would run out of energy so easily and so fast. I brushed it off as something that just came with being mildly handicapped, but then I came to the realization that it had a negative effect when it came to being around other people. So it's not just about the exercising, but about eating healthy food and making sure I get enough sleep every night. Physical and emotional health go hand in hand, and I'd like to have a decent balance of both. 

And as I type this, my eye-lids are starting to feel somewhat heavy. I am blessed and grateful to be back at school and to have new opportunities to grow in faith and love. No matter what lies ahead, I'm keeping this verse in mind: 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I am with you wherever you go
-Joshua 1: 9

January 17, 2013

When Details Should Be Called Definite Headaches

I was sitting at a high school basketball game a little over a week ago, watching my cousin lead her cheerleading squad. I couldn't  help but feel a little nostalgic for those four years of my life; not that I miss them terribly, because I feel a lot more comfortable and confident in being older. Yet, I've always maintained   one single regret since graduation: I paid way too much attention to details.

In fact, I've learned and am continuing to learn that who/what we pay attention to, and how much attention we give to it, can tend to make or break an experience.

But those choices are not always easy to make; sometimes we become incredibly invested in a situation without truly realizing just how deep a hole has been dug. I know that on a personal level, I am very much a dreamer, a fighter, and a go-getter. I believe there are circumstances where you have to work your butt off in order to make it happen, rather than letting the opportunity simply fall into your lap. Nine times out of ten, it could very well be an uphill battle.

There's no shame in wanting the best, or for something to be the best that it possibly can be. But what happens when your dream wedding, dance/party, vacation destination, etc. leaves you sighing with relief (or defeat) once it's over?

The usual advice is to lower your expectations so that you won't be disappointed. I find that doing so doesn't always ease the stress. In fact, expecting things to go wrong can be just as bad as expecting everything to go right. When you always prepare yourself for the worst, it's as though you're trying to find something wrong with the current or approaching situation. It doesn't always protect you from disappointment, either; you might actually feel more let down because you kept telling yourself X would happen, and you were right. 

Instead, take a different, and perhaps a more simple approach: be more open. More specifically, be open to various kinds of changes, from the people involved, to planning strategies and so much more. Especially when you're planning something huge, there's almost a fifty-fifty chance that something will happen out of nowhere. When it does, you can either choose to roll with it and make the best of it, or you can cause yourself more grief and frustration. 

Yet that line of thinking can be excruciatingly tough to go along with. Truth be told, it's a pain in the butt for me to do, as I'm sure it is for most people at one time or another. There are times when I think to myself, "I've worked so hard and I have always tried to put others needs before my own. Darn it all, I deserve this!" Or, as sad as this sounds, I also feel my thoughts drifting toward "I want to feel important and I want to know that I matter, if only for one particular night." 

Not to say that it's right or wrong, because it is healthy to acknowledge negative emotions. Once you do that, you can make room to allow positive ones to replace them. The task is whether or not you're going to allow yourself to dwell on them. 

On the other side, there are situations where details are important. You want to put your best foot forward when it comes to school work and personal projects. You want to be the best person you can be in terms of a job and a career. And you want to make sure that there is an equal amount of respect and contribution in relationships. 

It's about discerning what you can control, versus what you cannot. 

At the end of it all, I've seen that the most perfect moments aren't ones that are intricately planned or somehow created. They just happen because I'm being present in whatever is happening, and I'm finding joy in it. 

For me, I have to learn how to trust that everything will work out, somehow and in some way. I have to have faith that while I may not get all that I want, I most certainly will never lack what I need.

I've been saying this since I was eighteen, and it's one of those things that has carried me through some really stressful periods of my life, and it is now. Do what you can, and let God take care of the rest.

January 10, 2013

Giving Up The Guard

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life
-Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) 

You may have been raised on that verse from childhood. Or like me, you heard it for the first time when you just a teenager and your relationship with God at the time closely correlated to your experiences in your junior high and high school youth groups. I was sixteen and had been betrayed by a very close friend not long before that. Whenever I talked about it with other people, especially the ones within my church,  the general consensus was that I wouldn't be hurting so much if we hadn't grown so close. When I asked for guidance on how to avoid such a situation in the future, I was advised not to let my guard down, particularly with a man, until I knew for sure that he would be my husband.

From my final two years of high school to my first two years of college, I was defensive and distant as well as extremely confused. I heard "guard your heart and you won't get hurt" while longing for deep, emotional connection.That ache, that thirst intensified when I met someone very special freshman year. Yet I did not want history to repeat itself. 

 It wasn't last until semester that I began to loosen my grip. It began with a break through therapy session and continued with one of my girl friends looking me in the face really letting me know how much I was hurting myself. When all was said and done, I knew that my one resolution for 2013 needed to involve working toward closing the gap between me and those that I care about.

And that means that I need to stop "guarding my heart."

I need to stop holding everyone at arms length, assuming that all they're going to do is take advantage of me in one way or another.

I need to stop blaming myself and believing that it is my fault when someone that I've connected with walks away from the relationship.

I need to stop constantly making choices out of fear, and start making choices out of love.

Now before anyone cries out that I'm going against scripture, I'm not. What I'm going against is the interpretation that I and many others have been presented with over the years. The one that says we're responsible for other people's choices, when in fact we cannot control what other people think. The one that says heartache is avoidable if we put ourselves in a bubble, or maybe just walk around covered in emotional bubble wrap.

But the way I see it, the whole idea of doing that often turns into being self-reliant. Again, it might cause one to believe that they're in control of something when they're actually not. On top of that, it gives them the the notion that walking with God is pain-free, when in fact He promised anything but (read John 16: 33).

 I was unable to find the actual article, (via Relevant Magazine) but I once read a piece where the author said something to the effect of how guarding our hearts keeps us from fully trusting Jesus to heal our brokeness if we do get hurt. Personally, I could not agree with it more! No one wants to experience any kind of pain or heartache, but I've learned that sometimes it is necessary. When I'm brought to my knees, it is a reminder that I can do nothing apart from Him.

I can't speak for anyone else, but it seems like the greater pain in life is one without love and community, rather than one without risk and possibly a broken heart. I say that because I've been there, and it's excruciating. I can't tell you how many times I've stood next to or across from a friend, knowing full well that there was a barrier between us. It was a barrier that didn't have to be there and would only take a sentence or two to remove, but I was down right scared of what might come afterward.

From now on, I'm not going to put someone in a "danger" box when I'm first getting to know them or learning about them on a deeper level. Instead, I think it's best to pray frequently and use discernment when being vulnerable; there are going to be those that may not have the best of intentions, but you never know how God can speak through you and vice versa.

Timing is important, but not always to such an intense degree. There are instances where when my friends and I have met each other for the first time, one or the both of us was going through some rough patches in life. I'm not going to force anything to take place if there isn't an opportunity to discuss the matter, but I won't shy away from doing so if one does come along.

So I wouldn't say that I'm just going to prattle on about my life story to anyone who will listen, or open the door to anyone who knocks. But I don't want to live in such a way where love is a greater risk than it is a reward. If there's one regret that I can say that I have, it's what I've chosen not to do simply because I was afraid to do it. 

Ecclesiastes 4: 12 says "though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves a chord of three strands is not quickly broken." 

There is no one formula to avoid pain or trouble. Instead of trying to come up with a "plan", pray about it each day and focus on keeping God at the center of it all. You can be a light while still having boundaries. And above all, don't do these things just because it's what everyone in your church, youth group or Bible study is doing. We're all called to do things in different ways, and what's right or comfortable for someone else may not be the same way for you. 

Every single one of us is created to love and be loved. The question is, will you allow it? 

My answer is yes.

January 07, 2013

When My Heart Breaks For Theirs

I do not want to go to deep into the meaning of this poem, or reveal any specific names out of respect for these people. But I'm sure we've all been there; watching a person(s) from a distance as they struggle and hurt themselves repeatedly. What's worse is that there is that there is very little that can be done on my part, aside from praying for these people and listening to them when needed. But even that can be tough, particularly when you want to scream and yell about just how badly they're destroying themselves. At the same time, I also have my own life to live and cannot fully bear a burden that isn't mine to take on. The words will hopefully explain themselves. 

Watch, Hurt, Hope

She’s just seventeen and still a child in many ways
Yet needs a prayer for something bigger than she can understand
She’s put her trust in all the wrong people
Built a foundation on people and things
Tired of loving and being left over and over
She tells her friend’s that life’s not worth living

For over twenty years
They threw themselves into what was only temporary
They claimed it didn’t matter and that’s how things would be
But at the end of the day all they do is blame each other
Neither one of them is happy

He has been struggling to find his way for most of his life
Running around in circles
One minute he’s confident, the next he’s lost again
He cries out in anger and frustration
Yet doesn’t seem to understand personal responsibility

Here I stand
Looking from the outside in
My heart breaks for such pain
A kind of pain that doesn’t seem to end
I want them to know that I care
That love will always be there
Still I hesitate for a fear of being ignored due to indifference

So in this place I pray
For healing and peace
For forgiveness and mercy
For peace and starting over
That what I call home may become a place of sunshine again
Rather than a place of sadness and bitterness
A world of gray

January 04, 2013

Friday Finds and Link Time!

Toward the end of 2012, I began to notice that my blog seemed a little bland. Not in the sense of lacking in content or design, but more like it was the same stuff over and over again. As I've said, writing heavy posts all the time can get a little exhausting, and I can imagine that my readers might feel the same way when the read them. And that I realized how many other great articles, blog posts, videos, and even tweets that I come across by the time the week is over. I thought it would be fun to share them as a way to kind of lift people up as the weekend begins, or at least provide some other food for thought. I don't know if I'll do it every Friday, depending on what other stuff comes up. But here you go!

  • How two parents inspired a pay it forward movement after their son's brave battle with cancer (via People.com).

  • As a blogger, has their ever come a point where you felt like you were writing strictly for your readers instead of for yourself? One of my favorites talks about how he's taking his blog and his life back (via Single Dad Laughing).

Have a wonderful weekend!

January 02, 2013

Stream Of Consciousness

I'm only two weeks in, but winter break has been absolutely wonderful! I never imagined finding so much joy in waking up and having nothing to do; or at least not having a laundry list of assignments and tasks that needed to get done by a certain time. Not that I've been a lazy-bum either; I'm usually awake before ten o'clock and have been doing a variety of activities in each day. 

The holidays were a blessing, as always. Christmas Eve with my Mom's extended family was typically a full house with plenty of food and laughter to go around! If I didn't fill up on appetizers or drinks, I definitely did during dinner. There were always these random moments in between that made me laugh so hard to the point where I had tears in my eyes. Overall, if someone doesn't walk out of there with an aching stomach for one reason or another, then they haven't had the full experience that is a polish Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's house!

New Years was all right. I kept it low-key by having dinner with my parents and siblings, and then Dad and I went and saw Les Miserables with time to make it back before midnight. The movie gave me chills, but it was tough to sit through at times. I really didn't mind that I wasn't out partying or doing anything huge, because my time will come in a couple of weeks. I was just happy to be alive and to be able to ring in 2013 as it was! Admittedly, I did buy into the Mayan hoopla for a little bit, where I actually spent the night of December twentieth curled up in bed sending sappy snap-chats and texts to my friends. Yes, I can be gullible at times, as much as I don't like to say so. 

Yesterday marked one month until my twenty-first birthday! Every once in a while I get asked, mostly by older adults, why it's so special to me. I usually answered with something along the lines of how my college town has become more strict and it will be nice to stay out after ten. But I've been doing some thinking and I've actually come up with something a little bit deeper than that. 

For starters, I didn't get to celebrate a whole lot with other milestone birthdays for the reasons that they're usually celebrated. At sixteen I wasn't able to drive, so I didn't get my driver's liscence. At eighteen, I didn't have a reason not to have a curfew anymore because I didn't go out that much on the weekends. Not only will I be officially legal after my upcoming birthday, but I'll no longer have to jump through hoops anymore to spend time with my friends. There will be a lot less regulation as far as where we can go and what we can do to hang out and catch up. 

The other part of it is more emotional and even spiritual. It's hard for me to explain it in a way that makes sense on paper, because I still struggle with it in my own mind. What it all boils down to is being able to embrace certain qualities about myself that I felt that I couldn't before because I was underage. One of them involves enjoying a good bottle of wine or an alcoholic drink because it actually tastes good, not because I want to get drunk. The other part is that I like getting dressed up because it makes me feel feminine and attractive, not because I'm looking to get attention. But that's more for a post regarding fashion and modesty. 

The above sounds insecure, and it is. I don't know if I talked about this beforehand, but I'm still in the process of growing in my faith because of my relationship with God, and not solely because of what I was taught in church or through Christian culture in general. In other words, I'm trying to unlearn what was driven into my head in high school, and live it out in a way that is both God-honoring but also where I don't feel like I'm doing it to hide other aspects of myself, if that makes sense. 

I don't know what will happen or what my attitude will be. I still have four weeks left to go, and I don't want to overthink the celebration to where I don't enjoy it. 

Speaking of enjoying, I forgot to write down that I want to make more of an effort to read for pleasure, rather than just for academic purposes. I'm not calling it a resolution, but more an effort to keep my sanity, particularly when the semester starts. How that will play out, I'm not sure. But for now I'm taking advantage of not having any homework or studying to do. 

Life is good today. How has your new year played out so far?