Surrendering To Love

At the beginning of this year I was asked to prepare a mini-sermon for my class. The theme I kept encountering was on surrender. Funny how I never anticipated for this to be the theme of my year…

A couple months back I had a housemate ask me a startling question. She looked me straight in the eyes and asked: “Are you upset?” Taken back by her question I  really didn’t know how to respond. She quickly countered with: “Upset isn’t the correct term. You just seem restless.”

It’s been a few months since I’ve written. Mainly because I’ve felt conflicted writing about depression when I felt like I was in the midst of it. How could I help someone else, when I was full frontal facing it myself. This season had hit me to the core, often feeling dazed and confused about the predicament I found myself in.

Twenty-six has been a year of detoxing. Intentionally listening to the narrative I cultivated, and the self-worth I believed to deserve.

My wilderness has taken place in the beautiful country of Australia. Where I’ve fought kangaroos, conquered cockroaches, survived on chicken broth, dislocated ligaments, gotten into a pricey car accident, and wrestled with doubt and shame. It’s also where I have been surrounded by an incredible community. Where I have gained tenacity and grit. A wilderness that has softened me, making me even more compassionate and gentle. Less self-centered, less worrisome, and a whole lot more brave!

The process of surrender has done its magic. Unfortunately surrender didn’t come easy,  but it has brought peace, and liberated me to love the process I was currently in.

“Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God. I am the God above all the nations, and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth.” Psalm 46:10

Surrender isn’t passive. It’s actually an active verb of giving over or yielding to. For me, it’s been a process of deliberately taking moments to pause. To reflect on the goodness within my life, to take deep breathes and remember to watch the leaves in the wind. To be compassionate towards myself in the process. It honestly takes a whole lot of mindfulness. Surrender is an invitation to smile. Surrender means accepting what is, and letting go of what isn’t. It’s acknowledging and loving every imperfection, every struggle, and every heartache. “Empathy and connection require us to know and accept ourselves before we can know and accept others.”(Brene Brown) How sweet that my God has never asked me to be perfect in order for him to use me. He loves our humanity.

As I’ve been reading I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brene Brown, she synthesizes it so perfectly. “Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. To let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”… “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and wounded, but between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

So here I am, 7 months after I spoke on surrender. And I am so grateful that I got to learn to become more compassionate towards myself.  To learn to smile even in the confusion, to ask for help even when I wanted to isolate. To trust the pain was only temporary and that God would revive what felt dead. I’ve gotten to experience His goodness firsthand and relearn to trust my Creator. To love myself fiercely, and to be vulnerable, to truly be authentic with the process. More importantly, I am learning that I am so much more resilient than I dared to believe and He will never leave or forsaken me.

Thank you to every angel that accompanied me on this journey! I am eternally grateful.

 

Identity Stories

In the more recent days, I’ve been playing this tiresome tug of war with my value. Do I believe to be worthy of great love? Am I significant to my friends and family? Do I value my opinions, the thoughts I have and the way I look?

In a world where humans let others define their worth, dependent income brackets, hotness levels, their productivity or charm, it can be incredibly difficult to feel valued when we fall short. Therefore I’ve been purposely shedding “value layers” that society has placed on me, in order to really know my worth and value for myself. Because of this, the timing of this topic couldn’t be more perfect. 

If you’ve ever been intrigued by mythology, you’ve probably come across the more common Greek origin stories. Personally, I never spent much time reading mythology until we were prompted to look at the Egyptian, Babylonian, Canaanite and Greek Origin Stories. Once I sat down and actually read them,  I noticed the similarities and vast differences. In comparison, it made me appreciate the Christian/Hebrew Origin Story so much more.

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Most research on Egyptian Creation Myths dates back to 2780 – 2250 B.C.E, which are considered the Old Kingdom times. Similar to the Bible, the Egyptians also believed that in the beginning there was only water and chaos. The sun god, Ra rose from those waters and procreated with himself and spat out Shu (god of air) and vomited out his daughter Tefnut (goddess of moisture). When both of his kids lost themselves in the chaotic waters, Ra (Sun god) sent out his eye to find them. Shu and Tefnut returned to Ra and when Ra wept with tears of joy, humans grew from the earth.

It’s a sweet story, but nonetheless, it clearly expresses that human life wasn’t intentional. Humans were mere byproducts, even if it was caused by a joyful occasion. This comparison may seem far stretched but hear me out. I believe there is a deep innate desire in every one of us to be loved and desired. Unfortunately, I’ve had friends who’ve struggled with knowing they were unintentionally conceived. It’s crazy how this could shift your perspective of being unworthy or unloved and embed a strong belief of inconvenience and even insignificance. I’m sure the Egyptians didn’t feel or believe that they individually had much significance towards their creator. 

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This origin story is considered some of the oldest known to man. Apsu (or named An), god of fresh water, and Tiamat goddess of salt oceans basically mate and have two new gods. Ea (or named Enki) and the other grandkids become extremely disruptive and difficult to deal with, so Apsu tells his wife that he wants to kill them. Ea (the river god) hears this and decides to put a spell on Apsu that “kills” him, but basically makes him inactive. So then Ea has a son called Marduk, who fought battles for Ea and requested that he may become the god of gods. Later on, when he did become the main god, the Gods complained that they had to serve Marduk and do the labor. So plan B for Marduk was to create mortals (humans) out of clay to be the laborers instead of the gods.

Again, we have an origin story with water. This story takes a bit of a different turn- meaning I want to shift our focus to the deity.  If the gods were wanting to kill their offspring and having to rival for power and authority, how much power can they really be possessing? I don’t think I need to even address the moral issue here…

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Chaos and water (AGAIN- see a theme here?!), chaos had the name of Baad and Arapel was the god of cloudy darkness. After a lengthy line of mating with each other etc. Teshuqah is a god that wants to rule, reign and create. Through this process, different gods were made for different purposes: heaven, earth, time, sunrise etc. Eventually, all these gods arise and fight each other but the strongest one of them all is named Baal. Baal essentially wants the earth to be beautiful, so he creates humans and animals to inhabit it.

Very similar to the Mesopotamian Origin Story, with the deity struggle.  Therefore again my actual struggle is with the gods. But at least Baal created humans and animals to make the earth beautiful.

 

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According to the Bible God created Heaven and Earth. Darkness covered the earth and God said: “Let there be light” and there was light. For 6 days, he speaks to water, he speaks to the stars and the sky, he speaks to vegetation and birds etc. God continues to be pleased with creation but it isn’t until the sixth day that God says “Let us create man in our image, according to our likeness” and then there in Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that he had made and it was very good indeed.”

Genesis is such a rich book and one of the most difficult to understand. But I believe when it comes to value, there are two important things to remember from the Christian/Hebrew Origin Story.

  1. God created us in his image
  2. God was incredibly pleased with how he created us.

Both are extremely difficult concepts to grasp. It doesn’t matter how often I read and reread it, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the fullness of what those sentences mean. Throughout the Bible, there are verses that say that God himself thought of you before birth, before time and wanted you to be a part of this life. That means that you and I weren’t merely an accident or created to amuse a God. But even crazier than that, God himself was and is extremely pleased with us! In scripture, it says He knows every detail about us; our specific laugh, our individual physical attributes, even our hearts desires. That doesn’t just apply to a particular race, age, or gender. No this applies to every human being that has walked the face of the earth! So essentially we could literally do nothing, or even worse, mess up in every aspect of our lives and still- YHWH, my God, would still love me unconditionally and say I was worth every second, minute and year spent on this earth.

It’s honestly a bit daunting to believe this truth when I at times can so viciously pick myself apart. Entertaining thoughts of inadequacy and failure. There are definitely days where it becomes unwillingly difficult for me to like myself. This is where the creation stories come together, our values, our beliefs of why we are here and why we exist actually play a major role in how we see ourselves. If we believe that we are sheer accidents, then why would it matter that I value myself or others? Why would it matter what I think of myself? What’s crazy is that what we think of ourselves actually makes a world of difference. It determines what our relationships look like, what type of job we have, how much money we make, even how happy and content we are with our lives. I can’t stress enough that our beliefs about our value will and can shift everything, either negatively or positively.

It’s my prayer that you would grasp just how incredibly essential you are. That you were created with purpose and significance. You are a mathematical walking miracle that is surrounded by one hundred billion galaxies! I believe that He is very pleased with you and God thought the world would miss out if we didn’t have YOU in it!

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Why Jesus

Public Service Announcement: I AM ATTENDING BIBLE COLLEGE.

It’s still crazy to believe I’ve taken this road. Especially as someone who never considered this path. Heck, I didn’t even want to attend Pepperdine University due to it’s conservative/ religious views. And now I am going to Bible School?!?

Honestly, I’ve kept it under wraps for various reasons. Some were due to my lack of confidence in my decision, and some of it was honestly because I at times can be a bit too concerned with what others may think. Especially when it comes to my faith, I’ve been rather private for most of it. Also because of my lack of knowledge when wanting to defend my faith. But man I have experienced the GOOD NEWS. I have experienced his graciousness, his favor and his radical love and freedom.

My relationship with Jesus hasn’t always been mutual. For many years I wanted to engage spiritualism, as long as it didn’t involve Jesus. I loved the mystery of crystals, chakras, mantra’s and was clearly enticed by New Age Spiritualism. If you don’t know about New Age, it is a term used for a range of different esoteric beliefs that combine Mind, Body, and Spirit. But ultimately New Age is heavily focused on the self, and after much trial and error, I was confronted with innate human flaws. Due to my errors, logically it doesn’t make sense to elevate myself to believe that I am essentially God.

Transitioning from Buddhism and New Age to Christianity wasn’t a glamorous one. Christians oftentimes came across pretentious, self-righteous, judgemental and ignorant. But every time I stepped into that small Church, I wept because God spoke so distinctly to my broken heart. Years later I’ve come to realize that these so claimed Christians have never encountered God, rather claiming his name for power and authority.

Therefore my next blogs will be on a series of:

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After reading the Origin Stories of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greek, and Hebrews, was I able to see the similarities and vast differences between them. I was drastically enlightened by how different cultures see the human relationship to the divine. More than anything the Origin Stories validated how beautiful and special the Christian faith it. It often times feels too good to be true and defines human identity their sacredness.

 

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July’s blog post will examine grace. Christianity is the only religion that is not based on our works to receive salvation, but we’ve been gifted with grace. Martin Luther once said: “I preach grace every day because every day I forget.” Grace is a precious undeserving gift that brings joy and freedom. In this post, I’ll discuss why grace is so crucial to mental and spiritual freedom.

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In August I want to focus on the Upside Down Kingdom. Discussing Jesus’ values and how incredibly contradicting they are to today’s culture. How drastic, sacrificial and people-oriented He is. At Bible College we consistently pray that there may be less of us and more of Him (Jesus) and during this blog, I’ll get down and dirty with just how raw and crazy that prayer actually is and just how good it really is.

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If you have questions on any of the upcoming three topics, please message me in the “What Do You Think” form. I’d be more than happy to incorporate your questions and thoughts. This series is to shed light on the joy, freedom, and healing I’ve received mentally and spiritually from Jesus Christ. Why I am so passionate about this good news and also to give you some insight on why I’ve committed to this gracious omnipresent loving God.

So do me a favor like this post if you are excited! Scroll below to subscribe and commit to this wild ride of a journey with me!

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8 Weeks Sober

8 weeks ago I was confronted with a difficult decision. A decision to become sober. Not necessarily for the rest of my life, but to abstain from alcohol at least for the time being. When confronted with this decision I was surprised by my resistance. I was surprised how unwilling I was. I’d blame my unwillingness on that if I really wanted to take a break, I could. So, therefore, I didn’t really have a problem…

Then I heard someone speak on the matter of being sober. She said if you can’t abstain from alcohol for at least 6 months, guess what?! You’ve used it as a coping mechanism. So there it was. There was the unwanted truth, the unwanted confrontation that I needed to take a break from it.

I honestly never considered myself to have a problem with alcohol. I previously worked for an adolescent treatment center and was well aware of the signs of a substance abuse and still, I don’t label myself as an alcoholic. BUT there are layers of dependence. There are those that can’t function within their job without a sip of alcohol, and then there are people that can’t kiss someone without having at least a cocktail or a shot depending on how hot their date is.

Personally, I’ve realized that both dating and alcohol were not always but during hardship and confusion used as coping mechanisms/ ways to escape. If I was feeling insecure about my appearance, I’d go on a date. If I had an exceptionally difficult shift at work or I was frustrated I’d have a drink. And more often than not, a drink would turn into multiple drinks. At the core, they haven’t helped me process my emotions in a healthy manner but instead would help me to deflect.

Now as I’ve been reflecting on the term sober, it’s actually not always associated with alcohol or substance use. But the term sober also means sensible and solemn. Solemn means to be characterized by deep sincerity and sensible means doing or choosing in accordance with wisdom.

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That means anything you use to self-medicate, (examples such as shopping, food, movies, dating, sex, porn, gambling etc.) really anything that you use to fill that void can become addictive. Russell Brand says wisely “This is the age of addiction, a condition so epidemic, so all-encompassing and ubiquitous that unless you are fortunate enough to be an extreme case, you probably don’t know that you have it.”

Here are some examples of subtle layers of an addiction:

You really want to travel to Bali, but you can’t seem to save money for the trip because your weekends involve parting, or you simply can’t stop buying that Venti Latte at Starbucks every morning.

You really want to start exercising at 6 AM, but you can’t seem to put down Instagram at 11PM and therefore sleep through your alarms.

You really want to lose 5kg, but you can’t say no to the free cookies in the office kitchen.

You really want to break up with your boyfriend, but you keep excusing his behaviors because you don’t want to be alone.

It’s a power struggle and these last 8 weeks have been uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because I’ve had to face some real truths and claim back my authority over my feelings, attitudes, and behavior. Simultaneously it’s been incredibly empowering. I feel like I’ve already made some breakthrough and starting to form habits that will take me to the next level. The beautiful thing is I don’t have to do it alone. It’s been so helpful to be in a  community of people with the same intentions and efforts.

If you are struggling with something, please reach out to me, your friends, or your community. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you with tweaking small adjustments in your life, or overcoming some major hurdles.

 

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Lonely by Default?

Moving as much as I have, and let me tell you, it’s been A LOT! I’ve had to learn how to tackle loneliness. Loneliness presents itself in many shapes and forms, but I’m sure we all know what it feels like to either feel left out, to not fit in, or simply not know who to call when in trouble. Loneliness, especially while I was wrestling with depression, often whispered lies of inadequacy, failure and rejection.

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Here are some very simple tips how to nip loneliness in the butt and quickly feel more connected.

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In a day and age, where we barely acknowledge other’s existence, I believe it’s crucial to greet people. It’s a simple act and a vital one. If you are crossing someone’s path it’s a kind gesture to let them know that you see them. Sometimes even a smile is sufficient. It’s letting them know they matter and is often the first step towards social interaction.

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Small talk is essential to helping fight loneliness. Yes, it may seem superficial at times, and honestly it takes some practice getting good at it. But if you genuinely try to care, people will notice and respond. Small talk with your cashier, Uber driver, coworker,   waiter etc. these are all people that we tend to forget about. I mention this because often we disqualify the people that are offering us a service or product, but even the smallest of interactions can change their day and in exchange ours as well.

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Often I would have a difficult time reaching out to someone. I’d come up with excuses like “I don’t really know them too well” and “They’ll probably think I’m weird” or the classic “They’ll think I don’t have any friends”. I still struggle with these thoughts from time to time, but they boil down to stupid assumptions. First off, if the person does think those things then A) you probably don’t want to be friends with them and B) the majority of people don’t think that way. For example if you hear someone needs help moving, offer your help. Or if they need help with a project etc., these are easy ways to get plugged in without coming across as too eager. Sometimes we have to become vulnerable in order to gain a friendship. So reach out! Be supportive, be kind, be caring, ask questions and invest time! Friendships take time and persistency.

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This is honestly a hard one to learn and one that I am still learning. But let’s get this straight. The world doesn’t revolve around you. As brutal as that sounds, it’s the truth.  Taking things personally is a belief that is attached to fear. It’s important to think rationally and to understand that people’s responses to you are ultimately a reflection of themselves. This takes some confidence and discipline too. If you tend to overthink and analyze people’s reactions, try and become busier. Become more productive with your time, either reading, working out, or cooking etc.  The more downtime you have to dwell on things, the greater the stories you make up in your mind reasoning why everybody is against you.

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I often can have this ideal imagery of what my friendships should look like. I imagine having 10 friends around the campfire and us being this perfect clique that does everything together. We’d have our inside jokes and long list of memories, and we’d all be these ride or die homies. At times this mindset has forced me to subconsciously disqualify people that didn’t fit my ideal version of what my friends should be and look like. Incredibly shallow, I agree and even more eye-opening, this loneliness was self inflicted. Most of my best friends have been people I didn’t necessarily agree with or even have the same interests. However, it proves my point that my superficiality and wrong expectation have been a cause of loneliness.

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Hello Doctor? Can I get some more happy pills?

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When I was 20, I decided to move to South Lake Tahoe for a prolonged summer. One especially hot summer night I was antsy to get home quickly and didn’t come to a complete stop at the stop sign. To my luck, there was a cop waiting for me to witness this  mistake, and once I was pulled over I metamorphosed into a full blown meltdown. I’ve been told I ugly cry, and you better believe that this wasn’t pretty. Once I arrived home, my ugly turned up a notch into a complete pathetic mess. I wrapped myself with a blanket like a taco, and laid in fetal position in front of the patio. My reasoning for laying in front of the patio door, was so I could try and smoke a cigarette inside while blowing the smoke out. All the while accompanying my pathetic self with a shot of whiskey.

During this hot mess, I just couldn’t seem to reasonably process the situation. Thoughts such as “What’s the point?” and “I can’t continue on” were racing through my mind. I felt as if I had no energy to continue and deep down I knew these thoughts were far to extreme of a response for a $300 ticket.

It wasn’t for another couple months that it became evident I needed to change something. So I grabbed my insurance card, called the back and explained I was looking for a psychiatrist. My insurance at the time was Kaiser, so they recommended a couple doctors to me and after reviewing them online, I made my initial “interview” appointment. I got lucky with this doctor, because she started me on some meds that worked wonders for me. My energy and motivation dramatically increased, I slept better, I lost weight and more importantly mentally felt a lot lighter.  Essentially it was the push I needed to get my life back on track and start processing some things.

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Now almost 5 years later, I decided it was time to wean off of them. So in August, 2017 I decided to tamper off of them. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy, plus I’ve been going through some serious transformation. Nonetheless, it was time to take off the training wheels.

In my opinion, antidepressants should always be accompanied with therapy. Therapy should be able to give you some insight on your thoughts and feelings and help you create a better self awareness. Then this self awareness can be used to create some real change. By understanding the patterns I was given the ability to transform what I was learning into some hands-on practices.

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It took me a while to learn this and it’s still a daily practice. But your mind is powerful! It can change the course of your life and even those you are surrounded with. Unfortunately many don’t know that our mind is like a muscle. We exercise it by choosing our values, our beliefs and our frame of mind. Which then will show effect in our decisions and behaviors. It’s a keychain reaction. The beautiful thing is that we have the ability to dictate and construct our lives.

A couple books that helped me get started were:

  • The Bible (you’d be surprised)
  • The Perfect You by Dr. Caroline Leaf
  • Boundaries: When to say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of your Life by Henry Cloud
  • Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer

Writing about my struggles is never easy, so I hope you guys know I write this with a desire to help bring some insight and to also be relatable.

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