April 30, 2013

In The Cracks

Over spring break, a girl from my hometown passed away. She was the fifth person I knew of from the area that has died young in the last year and a half. Shortly after getting back to school, I learned that one of my former Girl Scout Troop leaders, as well as the mom of an old friend, had lost her battle with cancer. My TA for one of my classes then informed us that she had been diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer and that we wouldn't be having a final exam. Nearly a week and a half later, the bombings in Boston happened. 

It has been a lot to take in, and I've started to wonder, how do we really go about not taking anything for granted in life? Is it possible to truly live and make the most of the moments that we have without ignoring personal pain? On one side, there's the acronym made famous by a popular rapper. On the other, there's the notion of having an "eternal mindset." Instead of trying to explain it all, I'll just let the poem do the talking. 

In The Cracks

Bombs flying
Buildings collapsing
She says she’s got cancer and the other is one breath away
From the other side
It seems like the world has been brought to its knees once again
And as much as I don’t want to ask what the hell or why
Together it doesn’t make sense
The short span of time

And so I’ve realized that real life
Is not just short, but precious
Like grains of sand coursing through my fingers
The question then becomes
How do you hold on when something moves so fast?
Which side do you choose when you’re standing in the cracks?

The side where the rocks are always moving
And you’re slipping and sliding
Living for the thrill of the unexpected adventure
Maybe not always doing everything right
But trusting God to guide you

Then there’s the smoothest path
The one without any roots to get stuck in
You never get scraped, or bruised, or burned
You just simply watch from the cracks

I don’t want to live by a silly acronym
Or wait till Jesus comes back
Is it possible to live for the moment, to not have any regrets?
At least without betraying beliefs
I’m not sure and I probably won’t ever be
And that’s OK

It’s silly to wait another five decades to live like I have nothing to lose
And spend time caring about what other people think
Love, forgive, and accept Grace

Inhibitions will not keep me at bay
Others opinions will not change my mind
If I’m that determined to accomplish a goal or get something done
I’m not going to stop until all the doors have been closed

Maybe we’re not always supposed to know what to do
Or how to do it
Maybe the most beautiful things can only be seen
When we end up in the cracks 

April 23, 2013

Other Writing

I wanted to blog about this particular topic on here, but since I'm required to contribute one or more articles per week for my internship, I thought it would be best to post it on there first and then provide a link for others to read. I've been thinking a lot about being "good enough" and how validation, particularly from online communities, has become so magnified in our culture. Unfortunately, it's starting to destroy people who take it too personally, ultimately keeping them from real connection. 

You can find the link to the article here, and if you like what you read, feel free to like College Social Magazine on Facebook!

April 17, 2013

Love in Action: Starting Small

I have felt a strong desire to love more deeply, as well as to love better. In the last year and a half, six people from my hometown and the surrounding area have passed away for one reason or another.  And now that tragedy has struck our country for the second time since the shooting in Connecticut, that urge has only become greater.

I once had this idea that showing gratitude and appreciation was about sappy cyber-messages and phone conversations, or the willingness to take on the weight of the world for another. And not that words or helping somebody carry a heavy burden is meaningless, they’re just not the only ways to go about it.

This is where technology can make a difference: every Monday I like to send out a text asking friends how I can pray for them during that particular week. I will gladly tell them good luck before an important exam or event, or let them know that I’m thinking of them if we haven’t crossed paths in a while.

There’s no doubt that words are powerful, especially when one is faced with their own mortality. But do they really mean anything, especially if there aren’t actions to support such declarations?

Am I personally doing enough to demonstrate love to other people? Sometimes I’m not so sure. More often than not I feel stuck between wanting to let them know how much I care about them, but not be so over the top that I come across as insincere.

That’s when I realized that if you’re not sure about something like that, you might just have to go back to the basics. You’d be surprised at how a simple “hello” or “good morning” can do wonders. I still become incredibly giddy when I see someone around campus or downtown that I know, especially if some amount of time has passed. Taking it a step further, it’s even better when we have the ability to give each other a hug and catch up for at least a couple of minutes. Things like that have so much potential to make someone’s day, and you never know what could follow.

But what about once you get to know a person? A relationship simply needs more than a greeting to survive. Back in high school, I heard about a book called The Five Love Languages; since it seemed geared toward committed or married couples, I didn’t read it until a couple of years later, and it turns out that this practice can apply to singles as well.
Basically, there are five primary ways to show someone that you care about them: it can be through physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, and gifts. I’m not going to launch into an explanation of each because the book is definitely worth reading. But once you figure out another person’s love language, caring becomes a lot less stressful.

I recently took the test over again, and discovered that my primary love language is physical touch, with quality time coming in close second. That explained so many things that I had once found confusing: why I get frustrated and/or anxious when I don’t see my closest friends for long periods of time, and I realized that I’d rather prefer to spend time with people and experience things with them over material gifts.  It also made a lot of sense as to why I loved being physically touched in some way, whether it is through a hug or leaning against someone when I’m tired. The hardest part is knowing how to communicate those things; depending on the person, sometimes I do still get a little intimidated.

But being a love person is not just about what someone can do for you, but what you can give to them as well. As I mentioned beforehand, there are plenty of universal ways to say that you care about someone. Yet as you get to know each other, it becomes more important to understand (and respect) what they like and what they don’t like. This is where I appreciate the fact that I’m so observant and have a rather obscure memory. It makes my Mom really happy when the house is clean and our chores get done, particularly when she doesn’t have to tell us to do it. As far as I know, my Dad has never gotten rid of any gift or card that we kids have ever given him. My sister is not a cuddlebug in any way whatsoever. And my brother will never admit it, but I see his eyes light up whenever anyone compliments him on something. There are my best friends as well, but that would take too long.

Then there’s the question, what do you do when two people don’t like giving or receiving the same things, especially if you’re dating or married? To be honest I don’t have the answer to that one at the moment, but I do think there is a happy medium somewhere.
The biggest challenge is not reading too much into what the person is going to think. I always try to remind myself that it’s not about getting a reaction out of them, but to simply do something out of the goodness of my own heart. I can only hope that it will make someone’s day a little bit brighter, and maybe even easier if they’re going through a difficult time.

Which is why big gestures are nice every once in a while, but not necessary in every- day life. It’s wonderful to be able to support and be there for someone in a time of crisis, but why wait until then to let them know that they mean something to you? If I’ve learned anything from the tragedies of the last ten years, it’s that we are only guaranteed today. Heck, we’re only guaranteed this moment.

After witnessing the heartbreaking news coverage, it’s easy to lament how messed up the world is. But just as well, there are a lot of wonderful people out there who dedicate themselves to loving and doing good, despite all that. But you don’t have to be anybody’s hero to make an impact. It’s all about taking the ordinary and transforming it into something extraordinary.

So am I doing enough? I can’t say if that's true or not. All I can do is pray that God keeps presenting me with opportunities to love and serve other people, and hope that one day they’ll pass it on.

This is my second post in the series Love In Action. Next time I'll be discussing vulnerability and how it's not just about opening up to people, but what happens on the other side of it.

April 10, 2013


It's amazing how much my mood changes when the sun is out, when I'm not all bundled up to the point where I'm fogging up my glasses. It's not just baseball season, it's walking season.

(image credit: Pinterest

It's like I can finally breathe again; I'm no longer confined to layers upon layers of clothing, nor does my head have to be kept down in wanting to guard itself from the wind. Slowly inhaling gulps of spring scented air, I begin my trek up the slightly angled sidewalk toward my destination.

Since I've been a college student, leisure walks have taken the place of mornings and afternoons spent on my backward swing set; it's my one of my escapes from the world, a getaway from chores and things that are crying out to get done. I have a strong preference for walking over running; I don't trip as much, and it allows me more opportunities to take everything in. 

Yes, I've been here almost three years and I still look around in awe, amazed that I'm actually here and that I've come so far. It didn't seem all too long ago that I was a dumbstruck eighteen year old, thinking that this place was utterly huge and intimidating to navigate. I'm still terrible with directions, but I can tell you where to go based on various landmarks. 

I go past the local Starbucks, a yoga studio and a super fancy restaurant that serves all these weird looking food platters. Making a right, I now stand in what some call the heart of campus, or at least the night life scene. It's pretty much a mixture of bars and eateries, but some have more sentimental memories than others. On one side is a popular hang out where I had my very first kiss, and on the other is a nightclub where I managed to find myself in some pretty interesting situations. Apparently I'm quite the dancer in both establishments. For whatever reason, they like to party like it's still the 90's, but you can't get them to play Luke Bryan. I don't get it. 

But it's not just about the craziness and whatever happens as a result. Some of the most meaningful moments and conversations have taken place around here. I became best friends with someone through getting coffee on several Friday afternoons. A few doors down I celebrated my twenty-first birthday, where I can still recall receiving one of the best hugs I've gotten in a long time

The majority of the memories that I hold in my heart weren't (and still aren't) planned or expected. Yet, that's what makes them so incredibly beautiful. Subconsciously, I know that certain things may not happen again for a long time, or maybe ever. So I savor whatever is happening; moments where in context it doesn't come across as a big deal, yet it still means the world to me. I take snapshots in my mind: from the music that plays through the speakers to the people I run into, I manage to remember it all. 

It was through those moments that I've learned to be present and live with an open heart. To not worry about what comes afterward or who's looking at me. I just take it in, and remind myself that the only regrets worth having are when you don't learn a lesson or have a story to tell because of it. 

I begin to take the usual route back to my apartment, where papers need to be written, chapters need to be read, and productivity is a definite must. That all too-often sense of being overwhelemed washes over me, but with it comes an oh-so gentle reminder that never fails to give me goosebumps: cherish this. 

Usually that's the kick-start to an emotional tug of war; I frequently get stuck between knowing that I'm blessed with more than I deserve, while at the same time feeling pulled down by the undertow of both short term and long term stresses. It's that whole "well there's always someone out there who has it worse" while believing that I could, and want to be in a much better place than I am currently. 

It's draining and exhausting; above all else, it doesn't work. 

The thing is, you don't have to choose a side. I used to believe that you either had to be really happy or really pissed off, and those can be umbrella terms for a lot of other matters. You don't necessarily have to be for something or against it. What I'm trying to say is that there are days where you're going to feel on top of the world, and days where you're going to feel like you're being crushed by it. The trick is ultimately knowing when to let go instead of dwelling on what you can't change or control. 

Before turning the corner, I look back and survey the scene before me: people grazing on sushi or sandwiches in one of the nearby cafes. Children laughing and playing on the little playground in front of the public library. Men and women of all ages relaxing on various benches, contemplating life and appreciating the sunshine. This is what I know as of today: everyone has their own share of crap they have to deal with and their own pain they have to heal from. That doesn't mean there isn't any joy or hope. Life is hard, but God is still good.

Reflections like these are what make my walks similar to therapy;  in some ways, they're even more clarifying than sitting in a room full of people and going on about whatever I'm struggling with. I'm not venting and rehashing out the same stuff; I'm observing what's around me and learning from it. Sometimes it's good to put a little distance from a to-do list because it gives you the ability to rest and approach in a healthier way later on. 

And the best part? You never know who you might run into, or what adventure you might embark on next!