December 9, 2012

Saying No

I'm relieved.

Around this time last week, on the train back from watching my school's production of Hamlet, I decided that I didn't want to do this commuting business anymore. Nope. I was sick of it - frustrated with multiple connections, with two-hour-long commutes, with forking over hundreds of dollars to sit on a train, with having to leave events no later than 9:30pm. So I've spent this last week calculating what it'd cost to move to Brooklyn, and asking people I trust for advice.

Tuesday, I talked with my mom about if I was even allowed to consider moving out. Was I prevented from exploring my options because my parents just were set on having me home? No, I discovered. They just wanted me to make a wise choice, and be able to afford it.

Thursday, Mary wrote me a letter that means so much to me, about her story of staying home and growing in independence. What she found to be most true is that God is sovereign. She's treasured the experiences she's had living away from home, but is also glad for the time she stayed back. And in her trust of the way God works, I felt so touched. She wouldn't scorn me if I made the choice to stay home, nor think that I was choosing immaturity.

Today, after spending a few hours looking for jobs on Craigslist, and signing up for my school's Career Services job finder, I'm realizing that though I'd like to get a job this spring, I can't count on it. I just don't have the money to pay for an apartment now, and any money I make this year would be better spent on funding the expenses I can't avoid paying for school, and to support my summer trip to China. (I'll have to tell you all more about that once it's confirmed)

And because I have enough information to make a choice, I am relieved, though it's not easy to say no. I told my mom just now that I'm prone to miss-out-a-phobia (a term my family coined, but you can probably guess what it means). Maybe it's because I've heard again and again the values of doggedly pursuing your dreams, instead of living an average life. Maybe it's because, until I've exhausted all of my options, I'd like to believe that I can make my life better, more meaningful. I won't be at rest in staying in a difficult place until I've tried very hard to get out.

Living closer to school isn't out of the question forever, but for this spring, it's out. I'm sad, because it's not too fun to anticipate the inconveniences I'll go through again. Still, King's is the school I'm devoted to, and I'm committed to making sacrifices to make it work.

November 17, 2012

What hath God wrought

This past Thursday and and Friday were two of the best days of my life.

They followed a very upsetting first part of my week - registration issues, starting to feel sick, hours spent waiting in New York - what seemed to give no respite.

Sunday, while singing with my choir at St. George's near Gramercy Park, the Scripture reading was from Psalm 127.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain. 
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
I felt the vanity then, but still, I reasoned that I had wanted to do, and enjoyed, the things that made me rise up earlyl and go late to rest. But there were quizzes, assignments, a paper and test to complete within the next few days, Monday and Tuesday. I caught up with my choir director as she was leaving the service, and she prayed for me. "You might think that it'll take you so long to finish something, but God can just get it done!" She told me how she'd been an ambitious student, and that she understood.

I had a sort of break-down when I returned home that day, but my parents gave me perspective. Then I survived Monday and even had time on Tuesday for a very intriguing conversation about the six days of creation before my science test. Then I stayed up till midnight to register for the Spring, only to have the system to prevent me from registering (All the records of students who'd been advised before Sandy had been erased). And the rest of Wednesday I worked on homework, mostly.

On Thursday morning I left my cell-phone at home, but didn't realize until my train was pulling into the station. I was angry. I felt like so many things were unjustly assailing me, and let my frustration show. This fall, I grow in respect of my dad for his patience with the inconveniences of commuting. I don't enjoy the constraint on my freedom that all the multiple links of my commute require.

At school, I was able to talk to the registrar's office and sign up for my classes. I was encouraged to see my classmates and the girls in my House (the House system is like Harry Potter, apparently, if that clarifies). Later in the day, I read this commencement address. One paragraph in particular ministered to me:
It is in not seeking the Inner Rings that we will end up in a Ring of true significance. Our primary objective must be faithfulness in the little things, for our everyday actions are what influence society around us. The Apostle Paul prayed that we would “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work.” A Christian life of influence is a life of steady obedience. And it is here where our secondary objective, positions of influence, will come to fruition.
Faithfulness. Obedience. It really helped to hear these words from a student who evidently cares, like I do, about achieving. Her example about Corrie Ten Boom reinforced the idea that I do not have to directly seek influence. I suppose that I look at people who seem to have lived meaningful, God-honoring lives, and attribute part of their success to their fame, but Corrie didn't live to become famous.

To draw near to God, we must earnestly seek him; yet I can be content even while seeking. This is the biggest concept I've been struggling to understand.

On Friday, I spent a portion of the day reading about the anthropic principle, and the argument from the fine-tuned universe for intelligent design. Some people may look at the incredibly small odds that our universe could even be livable, and search for a law of physics that would compel the world to unfold this way. Or, like Samuel Morse, quoting Numbers 23 in the first telegram, we can marvel, "What hath God wrought!"

Near the end of the day, I finally realized, I am so happy to be going to school at King's. God is providing for my needs. He is answering my questions. Thank you, Father.

November 13, 2012

Fun Writing: Happiness

I've written a quote on the top of the pages in my planner for this week: "They have been allowed to assume that happiness is a goal, rather than a by-product."

It's taken from a quote from Hilda Neatby, as quoted in "The Unteachables: A Generation That Cannot Learn."
The bored “graduates” of elementary and high schools seem, in progressive language, to be “incompletely socialized.” Ignorant even of things that they might be expected to know, they do not care to learn. They lack an object in life, they are unaware of the joy of achievement. They have been allowed to assume that happiness is a goal, rather than a by-product.
 Neatby's critique of my generation strikes at a mindset that I find myself living. Is it wrong to view happiness as a goal?

"Why would I obey God unless it made me happy?" I asked A last June. C. S. Lewis writes in The Great Divorce, "No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it," and the entire book highlights the weight of the choices that we make. John Piper proposes Christian Hedonism, and titles an evangelistic pamphlet "For Your Joy."

These voices would suggest that joy (which is long-term happiness, after all) could be an end goal. But then over this I hear Socrates reasoning:
So we have to consider whether we are establishing the guardians looking to their having the most happiness. Or else, whether looking to this happiness for the city as a whole, we must see if it comes to be in the city, and must compel and persuade these auxiliaries and guardians to do the same, so that they'll be the best possible craftsmen at their jobs, and similarly for all the others, and, with the entire city growing thus and being fairly founded, we must let nature assign to each of the groups its share of happiness. (Republic, 421c)
Socrates' logic is that the city as a whole can only be happy if each part performs the role designated by its nature. Yesterday evening, S was telling me that one of the professors at King's interprets The Republic as entirely a metaphor for the soul. (Socrates himself explains that his purpose in discussing a city is to make the essence of justice more clear, 369a, though at this point in my reading I think his dialogue is meant to refer to real cities, too.)

So the individual parts of a happy soul won't necessarily be happy, not when their happiness injures the well-being of the whole organism. I think this accords with Neatby's observation. If I see happiness as an immediate goal, I'll lose the happiness that can only be earned. There are many things to be desired, but no satisfying short-cuts.

September 20, 2012

confess

i want to talk about the confused emotions i have about school
but don't want the upperclassmen whose approval i'm so desperate to obtain to read it

i want to zip my mouth shut in my science class
because i asked too many questions tuesday
so that we couldn't cover all the material
related, of course, is that upperclassmen are in that class
and i suppose that if i had their respect and friendship
that. . . what? i'd have the validation of the gods?

funny
that amidst this
insecurity
are emails
from new friends
possibilities of meeting
and past ways i've already been welcomed

this book, "sin, pride and self-acceptance" is so lucid - now that we've come to chapter 6 -
explains why prideful people are so insecure, and how self-sacrificing people may be motivated by pride
i'm grateful for my conversation on Tuesday with L,
for my classmates' support and encouragement
for a mom whom i trust to tell her my fears and feelings
for a God who has bound himself to me

August 8, 2012

Hopes

I feel like a victor when I wake up hopeful.

There was such a warm companionableness driving back to Ipoh from Penang today - I was glad for the days we spent in plentiful happiness. (Days are lovely when there is water, sky, laughter, and too much to enjoy to allow yourself to spend much time online.) Tuesday, we had planned out where we would go and where we would eat the evening previous, so it was much less stressful making decisions than usually it is for me. For lunch, we were planning to eat at a restaurant back at the condo called Secret Recipe. It's a Malaysian-owned chain that sells pastries, Asian dishes, "Western food," smoothies, coffee. . . I just gawk over their entire menu.

Yeh-yeh and I were planning on going there to get a curry chicken cornish, a more elaborate version of the Malaysian curry puff. But we were out past 1pm sightseeing, and on the spur of the moment, decided to stop for chendol - another item on my hope-to-eat list. Chendol is composed of coconut milk sweetened with Malaysian sugar (gula), ice, and often red beans as well. But the crucial ingredient is the chendol noodles themselves: they are thin and green. The store where we stopped is world-famous for chendol. On the walls of the store were photographs of prominent people eating the dish, from Jimmy Chu to the chief minister of Penang, along with newspaper articles praising the restaurant. So we had dessert for lunch. Later, after we had visited the house of P. Ramlee, a Malaysian singer, actor, and star, we came back to the condo, and downstairs, ordered our cornish. Like I said, I just gawk over Secret Recipe's entire menu. You don't even need their menu for your mouth to water: they display their twenty-five-or-so varieties of cakes in plain sight.

Where was I? I was talking about things that I hope for .... then got distracted writing about Penang *sigh* And why do I love it so much? The island has much different feel than Ipoh. Whereas I can never picture the streets of Ipoh in my head, Penang's roads are basically a circle all around the island. Also, Ipoh is surrounded by fields of oil palms and a few hills. In Penang, the hills are in the center, and all around is sea shore. Shore means waves, rocks, water, and significantly, space to see the sky. I just feel like I know where I am when I'm in Penang.

That's the view from my Aunt's apartment.

I've been thinking about the things I've already said I've been thinking about (future/growingup/happiness/etc). I want to find out what I really enjoy doing, and then commit to doing it. This is a revelation to me. The scary thing about adulthood is that you do have to pursue it - you need to want to learn, want to create, want to live. But what's exciting is that if you love something, you can seek it. Being motivated to brave obstacles and inconveniences for the sake of your passion is pretty wonderful.

I'm called back by loyalties that worry, how Brother Lawrence wrote (hundreds of years ago) about seeking God's presence all the time, and how I never can. I think about how insufficient I feel about how I pray, or take in God's word. I don't want my hopes to be self-salvation programs. Life must be moved by not fear, but love. I think of what someone said about freedom. Father, put your loves in my heart, and steel me to choose them. I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart...

August 4, 2012

My father is watching me


my legs can't fit into the glass case
that defines my ideal adulthood
I crush and bruise myself trying to squeeze in
if I became mush to pour inside, the mold wouldn't walk
-I must try to grow from roots up

glutted with advice, write/wait/hope/lose/want
I construct myself into a tower of babel
reaching for god, future me
but I collapse before I'm tall
outside the window, my father is watching me

his eyes in my heart are saying:
glass and stone expectations, ideals and towers
are only my people serving me
seek only me
I am your blood your muscle your mind

July 30, 2012

Tumblr creative project

Lizzie and I started a new blog project, Shafts of Glory!
We're posting one beautiful thing a day - quotes, pictures, thoughts, experiences. We'd love for you to follow, make suggestions, and ask us questions!*

*I'm not giving up the Oxford comma until my English class officially starts

July 15, 2012

"I cannot bear to forget my ground."

June 18, 2012

faithful

Father, teach me to be faithful.
You expect of me maturity that I don't yet possess, that I need to walk into.

May 27, 2012

adulthood

Two nights ago I watched a movie which might become one of my favorite films, There Be Dragons. I am not going to write a review of it right now, but it's been much in my thoughts. I wrote this yesterday in a postcard that I'm going to send tomorrow, but one element that stood out to me was the way one man (a priest) wrote to a childhood friend every year though that friend never wrote him back. That constancy, that individual attention, moves me. That's a "friendship" that would have seemed to have no potential - but the priest still cared enough to write.

If I haven't told you already, I'm writing another novel this summer. I'm going to aim to write the draft in July, NaNoWriMo-style. I follow this blogger on Tumblr, ES Wynn, and he mentioned a few days ago that it's hard when people treat his profession of writing as a joke or a breeze, when he writes over 2000 words a day and has published over thirty books. And I think, if I'm serious about becoming a writer, I ought to discipline myself and start producing (but not making an idol out of productivity).

Some things John Mark Reynolds has said are proving encouraging to me as I realize how afraid I am of growing up. I'm actually wearing my Wheatstone t-shirt right now; two years ago, he said he is more happy as an adult than he was as a child. He spoke of wishing there were stronger words than "I love you" to say to his wife, words he could used almost carelessly as a teenager. And in a blog post, he wrote about how undying passion is the dream of a prostitute, not a true lover. (I've tried to find the original post online, but the post I think it was part of isn't hosted online anymore. This one is kind of similar. Reynolds writes, "Love is secure enough that it need not appear passionate.") These words are hopeful to me, because some part of me believes that maturing will cheapen my experience of life and meaning, and that I'll lose wonder and romance for boredom. But that belief isn't consistent with the idea that we are growing to the full stature of Christ, and being prepared for glory: those doctrines would have that adulthood is to be desired.

Kristen reminded me last night that life isn't just about being happy. I feel sometimes as if it is, because I desire joy and fulfillment, and will sacrifice things if it will make me happier later. Well, as Chad told me once, "Joy is long-term happiness" - so it's not so bad to want to be happy. But I shouldn't act as if God owed me happiness right now (or ever?). This life is about sanctification, and service. "Just follow Me. And I can do whatever I want with you."

March 6, 2012

Full

Apologies if you're not specifically mentioned here. If you're one of my followers, I'm still thinking of you, and at the very least I don't mind you reading.

I know, I know. I've retired this blog. But the things I have to say this evening don't fit at all in the context of my tumblr. This is for my friends, my old friends. I thought of emailing you, but the old familiar blogging layout seemed more suited.

I've been swimming for a long time, pushing forward to the next thing. I have a theory, that there is only so much time for "margin" (as Wendell called it, and our team adopted), and if you know you're going to have a lot of margin, space, freedom coming up, you have to give up the little things you tend to do in the meantime, like reading blogs and listening to music and writing stories and checking facebook. It's a wonderful thing to be driven, but (Averygirl knows this, actually a lot of people do) my work ethic is TOO INTENSE sometimes. (I can't talk to you all without talking about my team...)

So, youth ministry. Hayley, my first impulse was to say how much I missed it. But I think my original heart surge at the topic was because of my emotional connection to my team, and the whole tour. It's weird to have your beliefs and likes determined by the people closest to you, but that's in a large way what happened. For me, it is better to think of individual people I love or have shown love to, rather than claiming devotion to a ministry.

Tonight reminds me of all God has taught me about waiting on his Spirit to share thoughts, and to have a sense of clarity. Those two desires, for understanding and communication, seem to have been consistent themes on this blog. Recently I haven't put off everything until I had them, but instead I've kept on going, getting ready for two Flood the Five events I'm helping to run this month.

If you're reading this, Hannah Faith, I've been thinking a lot about you today. Right now I'm reminded of the conversation we had in January about how we've changed since we first met, and how philosophy and questions and reading have opened to more freedom in Christ. I'm paraphrasing, but I'm sure you know, I appreciated that conversation.

Like I expressed on Liz's blog, I've been praying to follow God's call on my life, especially in how I continue to build relationships. (Aren't relationships what give substance to life, anyway?) But tonight, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have you as friends. I thought I gave up my NCFCA community when I skipped off to college. I missed being at Regionals so much. I am grateful this community still exists.