Monday, May 24, 2010
It's incredible how a single, isolated incident can indefinitely alter one's perspective with a vicious lie, threatening to disable and ultimately steal any prospect of true freedom and fulfillment. But what's even more amazing is as swiftly as the lie crept in, Jesus comes with the power and authority to replace those doubts with faith and fear with love. We're left with a new glorious identity, remedy to breathe easier, because we're rescued, once again, by His saving grace.
1 For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet,
till her righteousness shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.
2 The nations will see your righteousness,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.
3 You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD's hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the LORD will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.
5 As a young man marries a maiden,
so will your sons marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.
12 They will be called the Holy People,
the Redeemed of the LORD;
and you will be called Sought After,
the City No Longer Deserted.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
There's something mystical that occurs on certain nights from the moment I lay my head down on my pillow up until the sound of the harp on my alarm clock the next morning. It's almost as if I subconsciously allow the enemy to sneak into my room and whisper not-so-sweet-nothings into my ear until I'm convinced of these horrible lies when I wake up. No matter how wonderful the previous day was or how confident I was in myself or the world, the next day I'm filled with serious doubts, insecurities and this gigantic, ugly lie telling me I'm unlovable and insignificant- seemingly out of nowhere. Please don't tell me this is schizophrenia. I know this sounds crazy. I told a few girlfriends during dinner last week and they were genuinely concerned. But I can't shake off this feeling and it's exhausting. Sometimes when I go running by myself or have a meal alone, God speaks to me so clearly- almost like He's my date or running buddy and it's just the two of us. Tonight in the stillness and silence, I felt God reminding me that He has new mercies for me every morning, especially during those times when it seems yesterday's dose isn't exactly cutting it. And quite honestly, I think that's extremely beautiful- to wake up each and every morning so desperate for God's mercy, grace and love all over again, needing Him more than a heart needs a beat, and never to be able to claim that He isn't necessary or desired. And I think that's the whole point- to need God every single day and in turn find myself more in Him and less in the world.
Friday, May 7, 2010
I will be an amazing wife & mother one day all b/c of my umma ;) hehe.
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Friday, April 30, 2010
On my way to work, I witnessed a man literally laying on his back on a busy, filthy NYC street corner, just to get a good shot of a random building I've never noticed before and probably never will again. Everyday as I walk through Times Square or down 5th Avenue, there are thousands of tourists snapping shots of images I regularly pass by and don't pay any mind to. I remember when I first moved to the city almost 10 years ago (wow. I feel old!). Everything little detail about the city exhilarated me. I was fascinated by the bright lights, intrigued by the gorgeous socialites, and invigorated by the nightlife. The stench of the subway stations in the dead of summer or the crazy bikers and pushy pedestrians didn't bother me. Much like being in love for the first time or comparable to the butterflies you feel at the brink of each new prospect of love. According to the beholder, the object of one's affection can do no wrong, even the most annoying habits are endearing, and every statement out of his/her mouth is poetry. Time moves in slow motion when you're together, sappy love songs all of a sudden have deeper meaning, and you have a new found appreciate and outlook on life. So how does this hopeful, passionate and blissful season transform into an ugly, resentful and insipid existence for so many? After years, even decades, of being together and seeing your mate's face just one too many times, I figure it would be easy to disregard what it was initially that was so enthralling about this person. Or maybe we get too comfortable and take them for granted and allow the familiarity to breed contempt. Whatever it is, however seemingly imminent, and at the risk of sounding naive and inexperienced, I hope and pray that I never forget what enamored me to fall in love in the first place. This got me thinking about what I consider to be the first and only constant, real, and volitional love in my life. More profound and stronger than any vow we can make with our spouse is the relationship we have with our Creator. When I first experienced His love, I was captivated by the promises and parables, I was convinced that every sunset and rainbow was specifically for me, and every praise song I heard was angelic and moved me to stand in reverence and wonder. And now after years of knowing this love, I'm renewing my commitment to never forget the power of the cross that saved me or the grace that redeemed and restored me. I'm coming back to my first love and believing and asserting that it's only on this unshakable foundation that I will build all my other relationships because there really is no other way.
To true love in 2010. Cheers*
Monday, April 19, 2010
I set my alarm for 6:20 am on Sunday morning, but woke up a few minutes before 6 am to the sound of my own sobbing and a broken record in my head playing "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." Naturally, I was confused and surprised at my own apologetic stance particularly toward this specific person. It's been 3 years since our relationship came to a rude and abrupt halt, and although I had forgiven him years ago, my feelings went straight from extreme hatred and bitterness to indifference. Despite the fact that we see each other, albeit in passing, once a week, I hardly ever think twice about him or care to revisit the disaster that caused me so much pain and utter brokenness. So anyone could probably easily understand my confusion Sunday morning. After all, I was undeniably the victim who was owed the profuse apologies; he should really be the one begging me for my forgiveness. Never in my lifetime did I ever think I would feel it necessary to offer him an apology for what happened between us. But in the clarity and stillness that accompanies many mornings, however backwards or ridiculous as it seems, I was sincerely so sorry for everything. I was sorry for hating him for so long that it literally physically hurt each time I thought about him, I was sorry for judging him and inadvertently putting myself in the place of God, I was sorry for letting my pride get in the way of ever saying "hello" again, and I was sorry that I withheld the grace that could've freed and released me so much sooner. When you think about it, we've all been wronged, some more than others. But in the end we're all in the same boat, desperate for God's grace and in need of His forgiveness, mercy and kindness.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
When I was growing up in Kansas, there were countless times where I felt I couldn't wait to get out of my parents' house and move far away. During my last year of college, all I could think about was graduation so I could finally have my independence, start working full-time, and never have to finish another art project or sit through excruciating 3 hour lectures on textiles. And even now, there are many things in the future I'm anxious and impatient about: marriage, kids, the weekend, my hair growing out, and especially football season. Only in retrospect do I regret not thoroughly enjoying all the different seasons in my life, although they might have seemed unbearable at the time. This past weekend, while hiking at Bear Mountain, I was reminded that it's not just all about the view from the top of the mountain. Sure, it was incredibly breathtaking and felt amazing to have climbed 1.5 miles vertically to reach our final destination. But when I reflect back on the hike, what sticks out even more is everything in between the first step on the foot of the trail and the view from the peak of the mountain: the times we wanted to give up but kept pushing forward, losing our breath only to find it again on the many rest stops along the way, pausing to take pictures of our great adventures, and of course, plenty of laughter. I'm taking this as a wake-up call & lesson to enjoy today for what it is and do the same tomorrow and the day after that. All that other stuff I claim I "can't wait" for will inevitably come in the allotted time, and when it does I'll look back and have no regrets of wasting my life away in always wishing and hoping for what's next.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I've noticed lately that as I'm walking down the street, I'm consistently seriously tempted to ask random strangers if I can hold their babies, just long enough to steal a whiff of the delicious baby smell off their precious little heads and for the baby's body to mold so perfectly into my arms. This is new. I guess this affirms the theory that women have biological clocks because I can hear the tick-tock loud and clear. This consequently got me thinking about that intimidating M word: marriage. My coworker once told me about how his wife cried hysterically for the whole duration of their honeymoon. Like clockwork, she would wake up each morning, crying uncontrollably, look to her newlywed husband and shrug her shoulders whimpering, "I don't know why." I immediately felt sorry for him but understood her disposition. From the morning after the wedding until forever, waking up next to the same person hardly appealed to me. It's logical that I have this point of view because I've never legitimately been in love or had a long-term relationship and, unfortunately and on occasion painfully, I see people come in and out of my life like an automatic revolving door. Despite these deterrents, I'm an eternal optimist and believe, more than anything else, in true love. But to put it plainly, I believe it's nothing short of a miracle when two people find themselves moving in the same direction on the same path, and in God's impeccable timing, decide to take vows to spend the rest of their lives together, for better or worse. It's pretty entertaining to think that once upon a time, our parents each had separate lives before they met. To me, as silly as it sounds, it seems more feasible to believe that all our parents have simply always been together because we never knew them apart (this is actually kind of true for my parents who have known each other since kindergarten). After almost 29 years of marriage, through good times and really hellish, horrendous times, it's comforting to know that my mom and dad still make each other laugh daily and manage to bring out the absolute best in one another. To that, I believe there may be more hope and sense in vowing to stay best friends forever; exclusive best friends who just happen to be married and have beautiful children together. When the M word is presented in such a way, it's not so daunting anymore. And although I haven't found "the one" just yet, it's exciting to think that one day a man will stand beside me who will make me want to make a vow to be his one and only best friend forever, til death do us part.
"Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous." Carrie, Sex & the City.
Friday, March 19, 2010
...is not gold. In fact, it's meaningless and superficial. Many would consider this point of view honorable, even noble. But when the same apathetic feelings are projected toward life itself, it's flirting with danger. (Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!- see Ecclesiastes). How do you resolve and eventually overcome the sense that nothing we say/do/feel has any purpose? How would anyone be expected to wake up in the morning & be able to face the many challenges of the day, all the while feeling so overwhelmed and completely uninspired at the same time? I could be too much or not enough and it just wouldn't matter; it would make no impact whatsoever. Suffering from 'post vacation depression' (a term which deemed me "spoiled" by some friends), this is precisely what I felt all last week. I was consistently surrounded by others but still felt indescribably lonely and empty. Like Eve when she discovered she was naked, but definitely not as tragic or dramatic, I was suddenly aware of a painful void inside, eating away at any contentment that was left in me. But ironically, I couldn't even feel terrified. I simply felt nothing. If this is what I'm going to experience every time I come back from a tropical retreat, I'd rather relinquish the opportunity & stay put in NJ...actually, I immediately retract this statement (there's just so much beauty out there. Phew! Good thing I snapped out of that). But I'm digressing from my initial point. Eventually, I couldn't stand the indifference any longer. I'm typically not one to feel nothing. It was yet another instance that made me so desperate and hungry for God. I'm all too complacent singing and reading about Jesus being the reason and sufficient for my every need, but to remove the cliche and realize and accept this as the absolute truth is another thing. I couldn't quite articulate what I believed could remedy my predicament but I knew I needed something to penetrate through this exhausting funk. So I prayed a very elementary and humble prayer: "God, show me you love me." If I was forced to describe accurately in words what followed after this plea to God, it wouldn't do justice to the rescuing relief that I got from His divine intervention. Over the course of the next few days, the underlying panic gradually dissipated and was replaced with the assurance that I matter and my life is exceedingly significant. It was as if God had record of every time I belly laughed or shed tears that I would rather not recall. In retrospect, I see that the problem resided when I focused too much on myself, my needs/wants, my issues. But when I shifted my gaze and direction at someone infinitely greater than me, I was able to once again grasp my identity as royalty, a child of the King. Just as in the way physical pain & discomfort may be an indicator that we are not 100% healthy, the awareness of the absence of God similarly reveals the need for a routine checkup and minor operations. And I think it's OK to admit that we are not OK and need help every once in a while. It's all part of the process of becoming less like the world and more like Jesus, from glory to glory.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
The treadmill spoiled me this winter. The conditions were always reliable and consistent: temperature steady at 70 degrees, water fountain within 10 feet away, ESPN displayed on the flat screen, bright lighting (albeit fluorescent and unflattering), & smooth trails. No matter how wretched the weather was outside, I could always rely on my sanctuary in the gym, running in 30-45 minutes intervals at 6.0 mph with a 5 minute cool-down. There were no surprises or challenges, nothing standing in the gap besides my own personal restraint and the threat of succumbing to my laziness. If I felt particularly tired or out of breath during a run, the end of the track was just a push of a button away. Honestly speaking though, each time I stepped off the treadmill, I never received a sense of satisfaction. Sure, it took effort and motivation to get my heartrate up, I definitely worked up a sweat and my legs felt sore somedays, but I literally went nowhere. Regardless of if I ran 5 miles or 15, I was exactly where I started with nothing to account for it except for burned calories. But now that spring is fast approaching and the great expanse of the parks and streets are beckoning me to tread through them, I figured it's time to venture outdoors. Afterall, it's been almost 4 months of simulating actual running on a stationary high-tech machine with a belt that goes round and round. So as I expected, today was rough. It was chillier than I typically prefer and my ears began to ache. As I jogged through Central Park, I had to maneuver through the clusters of pedestrians & mind the fellow runners sharing my path. Making my way back down 5th avenue, I had to stay alert to avoid the oncoming traffic and aggressive bikers. The later and darker it got, the more difficult it was to bypass the potholes, uneven roads, patches of slippery sidewalks and I relied on the streetlamps to light the path. As cumbersome and inconvenient as it may be on certain days, there's nothing quite as liberating as running through wide open spaces. With the next several months of opportunities to run outside ahead of me, I expect there will be times the sun will be beating down on my shoulders leaving farmer's tans and sunburns. I'm sure there will be days I get caught in the rain when I'm still miles away from my destination. If there's a wreckless driver on the road one day, I might even run the risk of getting hit, even with my reflective gear on. And maybe, like it has happened in the past, during a long run I'll take one too many wrong turns and lose my way. I'll look around and find that I've wandered off too far and can't find my way back. But no matter how lost I am or hopeless I feel, I always eventually manage to find the road that leads to home. There's really no other option. There's no "stop" button or easy way out. Even the familiar paths will change through the seasons and wear & tear. Looking back, I realize that whether I have a tremendous run when I actually feel as if I could run all the way to Kansas or even when I struggle through every excrutiating mile & my shins are begging me to stop, I still finish feeling victorious. I know it mattered. And such is life. It's not just all about sweat & pain & endurance though. There are sweet rewards along the way.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
It's rare that a thought enters my mind, like a divine or magical encounter, that I can legitimately point to as an epiphany or revelation from God. I suppose one could say the circumstance was anticlimactic & somewhat bittersweet, coming back home after a week of escaping familiarity and detoxing in paradise. But as the pilot announced that we were making our final descent back home to each one's sobering reality, I looked outside the window and couldn't help but feel a little overwhelmed at the perspective thousands of feet above the ground. The buildings, houses, and lakes looked like tiny lego pieces I could easily displace and there was no sign of actual life apart from the cars that seemed to be moving in slow motion. It suddenly occurred to me how minuscule I am in this vast world. I felt so insignificant and also a bit embarrassed at how I believed my life was just about me, my actions and what I make of myself. It's difficult to shake off the sentiment that I'm in control of my destiny and life is only comprised of what I can visibly see, however beautiful or mundane it may be at any given moment. I closed my eyes and tried to take it all in, the stark truth that life is so much bigger than I could possibly grasp given my limited wisdom & experience. Then as I stood at the brink of becoming depressed and despondent, God reminded me of the times I could almost literally hear His voice, as if He knew exactly what I was feeling and knew precisely what I needed to hear and believing, if only for a second, that I had the God of the universe all to myself. I thought of just last week when He spoke to me so powerfully and gently without words but through a supernatural, healing peace and grace so real that I couldn't deny that I was His beloved. It's revelations such as these that convince me of God's hand in my life and there really is more than we could ever begin to comprehend. Whether it is due to this expanded view or simply my low tolerance for idleness & boredom, I just can't live the same way anymore. Neither do I want to. I want my actions to have purpose and for my time & energy spent on relationships to deepen and enrich those around me. Then I began to wonder about all the amazing opportunities we must miss out on daily because of fear: fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, fear of taking risks. Maybe that's why we stop having fun as we get older. We let fear overrule our desire for greatness and fizzle out any inertia we could've mustered up to take more risks. The real tragedy is when we look back on our lives, maybe even in just the past few years, we won't have any memorable stories to share. We won't be able to relive the time when we overcame a giant obstacle, stepped up when someone else needed us, or did more than was required or expected. Idleness, if we allow it, will rob us of the best years of our lives. That is, of course, if we're content living with a life sans passion, meaning & love. I'll take the good with the bad, the losses with the victories, if only for the sake of not being lukewarm. But more so for the hope of one day seeing Jesus face to face & hearing "well done."
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I wonder how much of what I come to conclude daily is based on conjecture: unruly, tantalizing, dangerous presumptions that cloud up my judgement and leave my mind in a disarray. And on the contrary, I would imagine that a very small percentage of my conclusions and beliefs, therefore my sentiments, are due to actual substantial, reliable and legitimate sources. Why is it then so tempting to give into the, for example, he-said-she-said route and forgo seeking out the truth? Serenity now! I can't count how many times I've been misled by assuming the worst, giving into this seduction of my mind to run with any thought, whether it be good or absolute garbage, and inevitably ruin what started off to be a peaceful morning. Some would call this self-sabotage, maybe even self-destruction. Whatever it is, it's not cool and it must stop. The disparity between reality and obscurity, regardless of how narrow or vast, leaves too much room for interpretation and possibly reading into something that never existed. It's scary to think how much we can convince ourselves to believe in something without any evidence, no proof or confirmation. So no matter how hard I try, I can't appreciate the appeal of the so-called mystery that some people or situations carry. I'd much rather prefer obvious and transparent over ambiguous anyday. (Ambiguity, YUCK, is the devil). Is it possible that this sort of behavior is prevalent in women? With that said, I'm vowing to no longer entertain or overanalyze thoughts provoked by unreliable, yet even seemingly innocent, sources. However, I realize this comes with the tradeoff of actually taking the responsibility to get down to the nitty gritty and demanding some real answers. No more sugarcoating or hiding. No more living in ignorant bliss, if there ever was such a thing. The truth will inevitably come out and set you free. Albeit potentially hurtful and/or messy, at the very least my mind will stop racing & leading me down a very dark slope. Like ripping off a band-aid or blitzing to get that tackle, deep breath, no turning back.
God, for the sake of my sanity...peace, please.
God, for the sake of my sanity...peace, please.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
(pronounced /ˈæɡə.piː/ AG-ə-pee; and sometimes /əˈɡɑː.peɪ/ ə-GAH-pay after the Classical Greek agápē; Modern Greek: αγάπη [aˈɣapi]), also called parental love, is one of several Greek words translated into English as love. Many have thought that this word represents divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love. Although the word does not have specific religious connotation, the word has been used by a variety of contemporary and ancient sources, including Biblical authors and Christian authors. Thomas Jay Oord has defined agape as "an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being." In his book, The Pilgrimage, author Paulo Coelho defines it as "the love that consumes," i.e., the highest and purest form of love, one that surpasses all other types of affection. Greek philosophers at the time of Plato and other ancient authors have used forms of the word to denote love of a spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, in contrast to philia—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and eros, an affection of a sexual nature.
Perhaps because there is absolutely nothing else worth obsessing over and wasting a lifetime searching for, this word that essentially means "true love" has literally been branded on me for the past year. Agape- my daily reminder that love is not just a warm feeling for the hopelessly romantic. It's an unconditional, passionate, intense, & daring way of life: a choice that doesn't always make sense or weigh the consequences. It is oblivious to any previous heartache, as if it happened a lifetime ago, to someone else far away. This rare thing called love that trusts, protects, hopes and sees good: how did we ever manage to mess this up? And because nothing else comes close & nothing else will satisfy, settling is not an option. Counterfeits and bootlegs, save your efforts for another sucker. I'll sniff you out and kick you to the curb. I have a 6th sense for that sort of thing now. To those searching for the real thing...here we go. 2010. Great expectations.