Out of the Grave

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One of the last moments I remember spending with the boy who didn’t love me was idling in the parking lot. His headlights disturbed the otherwise dim orange glow in the concrete space. I decided to profess my honest-to-goodness ridiculous and narcissistic refusal to stop liking him. Despite being a hopeless romantic, I don’t enjoy the status. He took the lead in telling me I couldn’t follow him. I don’t regret being honest, nor do I hate him for being so. I hate that the reality hurt me more than him.

I wonder if this is what all my relationships will ultimately beget–an utter sense of wish fulfillment propelled only by my own wanting. It’s a soul-sucking idea, but recently proving too true for comfort. I had a really close friend once, but now she seems more a product of time, convenience and proximity than someone who just wanted to be a friend. I realized she was one of the first people to call me fat, the first to take advantage of my competitiveness and one of the first to tell me I wasn’t trustworthy. Poison.Yet, she wasn’t a complete monster, always leaving room for late night chats and laughter. I want to know what I did wrong, that made her gossip and become someone so foreign.

I hate that. This feeling that we can become strangers again, aliens inhabiting familiar spaces. That we can so easily transition out of each others lives, adhering to these boundaries set by college or marriage or our own cowardice. He wasn’t the first one who broke my heart. She wasn’t the first friend to turn away. Why now, of all times, does the pain hit so hard? I feel like I have to apologize for wanting so much, for trusting so easily. I am tired of feeling betrayed when, maybe, people are just moving on.

In the last few months, I’ve spent more time working on my thesis and on Netflix than I have with people. Defense mechanisms out in full force. Drama bled out across the page or metered out in seasons always trumps getting bulldozed by people. Selfish, broken, beautiful people. Even swing dancing, usually such a force of stress relief, has turned into a source of frustration. I think it’s a kind of self-diagnosed cocooning, wiling away far too many hours sleeping than conscious.

They say anhedonia is a mark of depression. I think anhedonia is a side effect of grieving. In a way, I think it’s healthy, this laying to rest of dead friends and dying relationships. I suppose I am thankful for the course they ran in my life. Many of them were sick or gravely ill. It was time. I have to believe that God is refining me in these times when I seem to cry as much as I breathe.

But man. Through all these funerals, I really just want to see a wedding. I want moments of pure joy that I’ve had before, to watch them blossom and burst into pockets of infinity. It is that longing and that remembrance of what true love is that keeps me alive.

I am not okay. I feel like I’m learning how not to drown after helping other people to shore. It’s exhausting, but I’ll make it in the end. No matter how hard, I know where I’m going and how to get there. Never trust a man without a limp, never forget the struggle to gain a reward.

Rinse, Re(Joy) & Repeat.

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Vancouver must be an extremely happy place, because these pups were frolicking the water. Literally, frolicking.

“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” ~Hymn verse derived from Philippians 4:4

In all the commandments of the Bible, rejoicing is something I struggle with the most. Who would of thought, this little word that promises happiness and brings to mind big brass bands on a sunlit Central Park. REJOICE from rooftops and porch swings. 

The key to mastering this little word full of big action? The re(joy) in the rejoicing. We’re not meant just to celebrate God once, then shuttle him off into a corner as we go about our ordinary lives. No, we are meant to constantly and consistently find the joy of the Lord throughout our days, so the ordinary becomes the extraordinary. In it’s own right, rejoicing is a means to repent. I don’t know about your spiritual life, but when someone calls me to repent, I sometimes feel like I’m being punished or called out. Actually, repenting really just means turning back towards God and all that He offers. It’s putting the focus back on what God brings into our usually self-centered existences. What better way to turn back to God than to find the joy in life?

I found out about a little project called 100 Happy Days through A Beautiful Mess. What better way to put joy back into my life than with some social media accountability? To add to the challenge, I want to find ways to make my happiness in tandem with rejoicing. In other words, I want to turn back everything receive into thanks for who God is. Naturally, I’m not a very grateful person. I’m more comfortable with complaining and grumbling about every little thing until I’m flat out crying. (Seriously, it’s ridiculous). I also don’t want happiness to be my sole aim. I want my soul to aim towards rejoicing in God…and that might not mean making me happy. Perhaps the question might be, what would make God the happiest? That step might mean powering through an awkward encounter with a new acquaintance or giving a hard piece of advice to a friend. What makes God happy might not make me completely content in the process, but I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit is living and active inside us. When we make God happy, I’m sure the Holy Spirit does a very awesome version of a happy dance within you and me. 

I’ve been reading up on my positive psychology and productivity lately. All roads point to thankfulness. What better way to enjoy life than to remember and thank God for the grace He’s given for today? In this life, nothing is a guarantee, but everything is a gift. Lately, I took a note from a TEDtalk to start writing down positive memories. So far, I’ve:

1. Told a friend they had a responsibility as the last surviving unicorn to prance into people’s lives. (This still makes me smile.)

2. Seen a child open a backyard gate and a door while on a unicycle, like its no big deal.

3. Been surprised by a Chinese flute playing gentlemen in an impeccable brown fedora three days in a row. (I missed his playing today, but he is quite talented).

4. Played and lost a ridiculous amount of iPad, Wii and card games with my family. We shared the agony and glory of Angry Birds, Tower and Zelda antics. Stunned them all with my obnoxious laughter. Awesome.

5. Eaten brownies made with only 3 ingredients, one being a cup full of Nutella. No regrets at all.

I’m still the same freckly crazy person with an unhealthy relationship to lindy hop and Doctor Who. However, I’m starting to learn that life is a lot easier when you let God have your happy moments and sad tales. Honestly, if I spent half as much time praying for people as I do complain about people, maybe the world would be just a little bit brighter.

So…I’m off to play the ukulele, smile one more time and forget what it means to be depressed. 

“Today is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.”

Moving On.

Hello. It’s been a while.

Senior year is moving along in all its rickety, arthritis-patched and painful drudgery. Days go by in the silent clasp of windows and glances of strangers, cool the touch without the warmth of remembrance.

I don’t know if I want to move on. The problems and stressful situations, though painful, mean familiarity for a girl so used to turbulence. Sometimes I wonder if that will be all I know, this world of suffering and jolting shocks along a road pockmarked with the stumbling footprints I leave behind. Some days, I know God leads me beyond the hardened trail to gaze upon the delicate sights I feel unfit to see, unfit to comprehend. Other days, like today, I feel locked with fear, silent in a cage of my own making and hushed by the shadows of my past. Gazing back at my relationships and my mistakes, I wonder if I am destined for dilapidated, crumbling affairs and unrequited heartaches. My loved ones tell me I have a penchant for finding people lost in some way. It’s as if I want them to find a home, so I make myself that home for them. I want them to only find comfort and solace, never realizing all the while I was losing more and more of what I had built. Instead, I became what they needed, restructuring and redesigning to meet others’ needs.

It’s strange, learning how to stand strong on my own two feet…moving on from being a home for someone else to being my own home. I guess, you could say, it’s almost as if I’m clearing space for my own spirit. I’ve always heard that I’m too much or not enough. Too fat, too ugly, too bossy, too smart. Too demanding, too emotional. When I change, it’s always I’m not loud enough, funny enough…I’m not enough to be friends with or to stay with. I wanted to be parentheses to someone else, when all the while I should have just searched for better content.

My mother always warned me that I would have to fight for my own space as an Asian American woman in the United States. I would have to fight, even, for my own voice. It’s easy for me to slip into invisibility, to make excuses not to talk or not to show up. It’s so easy to give into my shadows.

But…not today. I will not settle for people who see me as something to fill the empty days with. I’d rather be alone and faithful to my own calling than stand in someone else’s wayward shadow. Taking up space, making room for one’s self, is beautiful.

I’m tired of halfhearted friends who care more about image than backbones, who run when they really should stay. I’m tired of running after people who don’t know what they’re running away from.

I wish I could tell you that finding tough love is simple. By some means, it is. A comforting hug, an encouraging word. However, true friendship bears through storms and refines by fire. In the end…only a few remain, the ones who stayed to listen, the ones who stayed at all.

Moving on. If it’s one thing I learned, I need to focus on being a better friend rather than critiquing others. Moving on from bitterness to forgiveness, moving on from frustration to patience. Moving on like rushing water or a rustling wind. Barely detectable but decidedly strong.

Even a little light, shed in dark places, can bear the burden of shadows

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What We’ve Done to God

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Lately, I’ve been nursing some bitterness against Christians as a Christian myself.

What is going on, Church? What have we become?

To be fair, I entered into Christianity on a sour note. Southern Baptist Sunday School with a sister minority component called Grace Chinese Church smackdab in northwest Arkansas. We were always divided by gender for Sunday School, and people always wondered, “Where are you from, really?” Mars, apparently. 

It’s really nothing new, discrimination in the South. However, at Grace Chinese Church, things were different. The community wasn’t nicer or more well-respected. We didn’t have more or less of anything than anyone else. In fact, some people were downright vicious. Never underestimate the tightiness of an Asian American community in the deep South. Don’t underestimate the amount of gossip either. No, it wasn’t the community. It was the way God moved, the way he transformed jealousy and lust into something almost divine. How gentleness challenged the most calloused person into reflecting on change.

People are horrible. I’m horrible. It was the overwhelming majority that nailed Jesus to a cross. They called him a blasphemer. They called him crazy. His closest friends deserted him, one of them even cursing his name. Time after tried time, we betray, lie and cower.

This is my beef. If we are all so detestable and crazy, who among us can judge? Who among us can say to another human being they are so much more sinful or disgusting than the rest of us? We can’t. We shouldn’t. Yet, so many of us do and call it Christianity, we condemn others and say it in the name of God. We convince ourselves all our actions are justified, somehow sweeter.

Wars have been launched in God’s name. Crusades. Genocide and hate crimes. What are we doing to the name of God? Christians are desecrating it for selfish purposes. Why, because one person feels a bit uncomfortable? Because one person looks a little bit different or thinks a bit differently, we think we can persecute them?

Christians aren’t better people. Just forgiven. 

Today, I’m going to share God the only way I know how. To give love and respect. Not necessarily to shout at people or tell them all the ways they are wrong, but find ways to live out light. In the 33 years of Jesus’ life, he spent 30 years preparing and 3 years on missions. So much of faith is personal, hidden in the quiet and discovered through prayer. People are only willing to listen when you first take the chance to listen to them. In God’s eyes, we are all made in the image of Him.

The next time you talk down to someone, demean them or sneer at them, remember that if you’re a Christian, you believe that each person is God’s workmanship and masterpiece. When you deface them, you are dishonoring God.

In-Betweens

Happy Single Awareness Day!

I could very easily use this post to rant about the stupid things said on Twitter about Chancellor Phyllis Wise. In fact, I typed up an entire mock-up post raging against the ignorance I observed on campus, both through social media and micro-aggressions years before this trauma reared it’s ugly head.

Perhaps another day when I’m feeling extra feisty.

I’m in between a lot of things right now. Finishing up college and waiting on Fulbright. Transitioning out of parental sheltering and into the reality that is independent living. On two liberal arts and science degrees? That takes cajones, even for those of us who call the humanities our home. Corporate or academia or homeless? Soulless or soulful? I’m in the midst of finishing a thesis I’m hoping will breathe fire into literary criticism, in the best of ways. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’m desperately willing it not to flop. In terms of dancing, I’m smack dab in the middle of getting my creativity and technique rebooted….while also not venting my frustration at anything that moves or simply exists, including the ice in our driveway. (Honestly though, CPM, take care of that safety hazard). 

Kind of exhausting, in between a rock and a hard place. Actually, it’s kind of fantastic. It’s not like falling off a precipice but undergoing well-planned mountain climbing. The terror still creeps up but in a measured way. In a “I could die, but it’s relatively unlikely” feeling. 

For that reason, perhaps because I am moving on from so many avenues and so many feats of the familiar, I find myself more untethered. For better or worse, my honesty bursts forth. Some might call it abject bluntness. Whatever it is, the harshness is refreshing. Gritty, difficult to swallow but facing it head on is what I’ve been wanting for so long. No more brushing aside comments I long ago hid away. Perhaps it is opening Pandora’s box, but hope still remains. 

I’m not going to pretend I’m not scared. There have been nights where I literally cry out to God, tears filling in the blanks where words fail. There have been moments in class where I feel ashamed talking about race or injustice, simply because of the sardonic looks I get in return. However, I’m not going to stop being vulnerable. As Ai Wei Wei says in Never Sorry, maybe bravery is a sort of fragility.

So yes, I’m in-between security and insecurity, giving into consent or refusing to compromise. Whatever I do, I refuse to back down from what I believe God calls me to do. That could mean challenging people I’ve long tolerated or even loved. Not in a sense of self-righteousness, but questioning the reason behind things.

I’ve done some really sucky things and will probably continuing doing sucky things. How ever much people call me a sinner, that I know, God calls me to be a saint. That’s all that matter. In the in-between, the doubt and the frustration where I cannot even call my body home, at least I know someone has a place for me.

 

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I’m Awksome

Happy New Year, blogosphere. Why not start off fresh with a bit of story time?

All my life, I never really fit into anything but awkward. I’m working towards awksomeness.

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When I was around 1, my parents left China to pursue food science graduate school in the States. At 2, I flew over to join them. However, due to a complex mixture of academia drama and job insecurity, I found myself always the new kid. By the time I was 7, I had lived in China and four different states. My parents always informed me I was an aggressively happy kid, so much so I made this Kellogg cereal commercial campaign. (That or people just wanted to see a Chinese kid sporting a bowl-cut sit under an oak eating American cereal. Go figure.) I disagree. I think happiness usually evaded me as the crybaby.I started the waterworks at the drop of a hat. In part, bullies somehow always squirmed themselves into my life, wolves in sheep’s clothing. By 2, I knew how to kick, to bite and to cuss. I never learned to scream. I still remember a middle-school boy repeatedly kicking me in the stomach at a family party.  I always sputtered out, it didn’t hurt as my face scrunched up in agony. The bus cultivated a brood of kids who played wack-a-mole with my head. Otherwise, they taunted me until any friends I made rushed off in embarrassment. It doesn’t help a new girl in Arkansas to be Asian. I didn’t fit the “exotic” mold with my American accent and short hair. Quickly, I was brushed off as “less than” the “more Asian” new girl who came just a few days earlier. In Arkansas, I remember both close-knit friendships and brutal bullying. A “friend” turned the playground into a battleground when he pulled at his eyelids and told other kids to do the same. I quickly learned who my allies were, as they defiantly shoved hands into pockets. Sometimes, it was hard to forgive ignorance even for those I loved.

The sky was more my home than the earth.

The sky was more my home than the earth.

I remember never belonging, if this is what awkward is. I remember crying in class and watching as a jock poked fun at my pain, mocking my tears. Hatred consumed me but I diverted it towards self-harm. Instead of fighting for respect, I gave into the lies. I believed I was ugly, fat and worthless. “Chink. Go home to your country. Go make me some fried rice.” To even my friends, I was just the fat Asian nerd. I believed my skin color meant that I could only be smart and never a complete person with feelings, looks or, God forbid, a personality. Failing in school, then, meant failing in life. To protect this one solace of identity, I cheated and became incredibly arrogant, all the while feeling more and more insecure. Without close friends or a network, I slowly began to unravel. I swallowed pre-packaged brownie after brownie  to keep the pain at bay. Hugging a chip bag, I brainwashed myself with TV until I no longer remembered that I had no plans that weekend. I didn’t even want happiness, I just wanted numbness. I thought I could find solace at home, but my rapidly expanding figure soon even turned my family against me. “Just put on a belt,” My dad said, “It’ll at least stop your hips from widening. I mean, look at them.” In Gulley Park, I once asked my mother if I was pretty. I received only silence in return, drowned by my own sobs. She told me, quietly, that content of character mattered more. While I agree with her, to this day I wish she had at least said something during those few precious seconds.

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In hindsight, I recently learned kids who move 5-7 times before they turn 13 are more likely to commit suicide. Perhaps my own breakdown was a blessing in disguise. After a prolonged trip to China the summer after 6th grade and again after 7th grade, I no longer knew who I was. I was too American for Chinese people and too Chinese for the Americans. Both too much and not enough, this border-less, country-less girl. You’d think the hyphen in Chinese-American would get you two countries, but growing up it sure didn’t feel that way. It was in the midst of confusion and a major depressive episode that God found me. Somewhere in between my family’s disappointment and society’s disapproval of my existence, God told me I was beautiful. That I was beloved. I wasn’t an accident or a burden or something horrible to look at. I was His, a precious child.

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High school. Before crazy makeup.

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After (or during) Ulzzang phase.

I wish I could just stop the story there. A happy ending smacked on the end of a rather cruel tale. However, I don’t think God promises only sunshine and rainbows. I think He calls us to search out grace in the midst of the storm. My family moved to a new state right after freshmen year. Since everyone already formed their cliques, there was very little room for an Asian American, awkward girl. If I thought southerners were cruel, high school in the north led me into a whole other ballgame. While healthier than before, girls started vicious rumors about my looks in the locker rooms, even snapping pictures while I changed. They gossiped that I looked so androgynous, I had to be a boy or hermaphrodite. I have no idea where this started or how far the pictures leaked. I only knew I grew to be so paranoid, there were some moments I couldn’t breathe. Junior year unveiled a new bully who said I looked like a toad in taunting whispers at the back of architecture class. (I hear he goes to Columbia now on a soccer scholarship.) He got the entire back of the room to talk about how ugly and socially inept I was. To combat these rumors, I changed my look completely. I became obsessed with Ulzzang and himegyaru trends from Asia. I spent hours coloring and recoloring my hair, stacking false eyelashes, buying colored circle lenses and pursuing double eyelids. It wasn’t just that I wanted to redefine what it means to be a “cool” Asian, I just didn’t want to look like me anymore. I dressed in ridiculous outfits, including tight skirts with 5 inch stiletto heels. To class. I’m not joking. All this, just because I wanted to be lovely. To be loved.

In high school, I trained my brain to believe God loved me but no one else did or ever could. I paid the price for that in college. I sought after attention, only to find it temporary and fleeting. My desperation only brought me more hurt and anguish. However hard the lesson was, I learned to truly trust in the Lord. I couldn’t find my own way, blindly in the dark. Turning towards friends meant temporary comfort, but they were human too, they had a limit to how much they could listen or empathize with. Gradually, I learned what it meant to have a living relationship with God and not turn away when I felt ashamed.

“God. I really loved him. Why did he betray me?”
“God. I want to die. But I know it’s not time yet, you have something more in store for me.”
“God. He said he didn’t want a relationship. It’s just like all the others. Is it always going to be this way?”
“God…am I going to die alone? I know you’re with me, but everyone else seems like they’re in a relationship.”

“God…how can I love you more?”

When I learned to be real in prayer, I learned to stop looking elsewhere for love. I began confiding in God, actually telling Him why I didn’t feel like praying that day or what seemed to block my joy. Our relationship became living and active with its own highs and lows.

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Today, I resolve to be awksome. Perhaps in myself, I can only achieve awkward. However, God, awesome that He is, lives in me. Hence, awksome. Dorky, I know, but its mine. Today, I know how to be brave. I can laugh, cry and dance my way in His courts. And you know what? I think God loves it. “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” –Jeremiah 31:13

The past threatens me with regret and misgivings. In the eyes of the world, I’m completely hopeless. My mother jokes that I was given the short end of the stick: a minority woman who chose English and Psychology as majors. I’d like to politely disagree. I have the strength of thousands of years of Chinese heritage, tradition and wisdom. I had an ancestor who helped design the Forbidden City. My monolid eyes, so hated in Asia and America, remind me of my tenacious family, refusing to bend to surgery or a quiet death. As a woman, I get to share a link with remarkable people like Mother Teresa, Isabel Allende and Maya Lin. Did you know it is believed the first people to enter the empty tomb were women? The first to know, the first to confess Jesus’ resurrection. My majors will make me one of the most versatile and well-versed graduates in the work force. I read Chaucer and lived. I read Freud and B.F. Skinner, cringed and lived. If I can do that, I can do anything.

This is my pledge to be awksome, not just for this year, but for the rest of my life. I don’t know where God will lead me. I don’t know who or what He has in store for me.

But I know it’s going to be awksome.

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“Oh How I Need You” by All Sons & Daughters

Happy Thanksgiving! 

I’m thankful for this life. Thank God I’m alive, I’m breathing and I have enough grace for heartbeats.

Sometimes I have to think like that and count my blessings.

Anyways, I’m also thankful for this lovely music by All Sons & Daughters.

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Photo courtesy of Last.fm

Happy listening!

S.

Fri(end)?

I don’t know about you, but that word doesn’t always conjure up the best memories. Friends who betrayed, friends who talked behind backs, friends who didn’t stay. Friends who wanted something more but weren’t entirely convinced of the idea themselves. Half-hearted friends.

Yet…I have the privilege of keeping up with some of the most amazing friends I know. Friends who drop everything they’re doing just to grab a cup of coffee. Friends who wake up at ungodly hours to pray together. Friends who’ve gone to Budapest and back with me. Those type of tough love-giving, fierce hug-giving friendships bring light into my life.

Does a friendship ever end? Jesus calls us friends, despite the crazy sinners we tend to be. It makes me question what rights I have to declare undying friendship or not. I believe in loyalty, love and honesty. I believe God is the paragon of all these things. I also believe loving God is the perfect friendship, one that none of us even remotely deserve.

God is the kind of God that has shown me friends like none other. When I was twelve, He gave me a community. He gave me true friendship when I had only caught glimpses. I prayed through depression and loneliness. He answered through Grace Chinese Church, smack-dab in the middle of Fayetteville, AR. Years of struggling and feeling alone matched alongside one prayer? A full answer bulging with newfound love, friends and struggles to boot. Hard though it was, I learned how to take my first baby steps as a Christian. Stumbling, bumbling me…at least it was in the right direction, led by friends. These were tough men and women of Christ, unafraid to cry alongside me but also equipped with the ability to rebuke in love. Extraordinarily broken people refined by a perfect God.

Whenever I’ve had a dark thought of ending my life prematurely, God has always provided, if not an earthly friend, Himself. The Friend who is more than enough, more than words can confess. In Hong Kong, when I felt utterly disgusted at my own hypocritical behavior, I had a conversation with God. It was really hard, full of tears and anguish. It also changed my life. That day, I learned a bit more about who my Savior is. God the Father, seeing not my sin, but Christ’s sacrifice. He loves me, even when the whole world turned its back. He loved, loves, is loving me.

What right do I have to end a friendship? The simple answer? I don’t. However, I do believe some friendships are misnamed. They are not friendships per se, but they look a bit like: competitions or comparisons. Perhaps they weren’t friendships in the first place.

Let’s start fresh, then. Let’s start with friendship.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” –Proverbs 17:17 ESV

Would they take a trek in your shoes?

Would they take a trek in your shoes?