Journeys & Writings of Paul

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Empathy is a valuable gift

The title of this blog post is not a claim made to toot my own horn, since I do happen to be an extremely empathetic person, but rather because I previously despised my own empathic nature. 

The Miriam Webster Dictionary difines empathy as such:
1:  the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

2:  the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :  the capacity for this

Empathy is both a blessing and a curse. 

It makes you acutely aware of the moods of others in a deep and quite peculiar way; it connects you keenly with those around you. It drains you emotionally when you exist for extended periods of time in atmospheres permeated with strong emotions such as sorrow, despair, heartache, and more. Hearing or reading the news is enough to make my tender heart ache for days after the fact.

Empathy is a helpful tool. One is example from my personal experience is how empathy affords me great insight into the human experience by understanding how and why others (re)act in particular ways in various situations. There are other factors which aid in this of course, such as my natural sense of curiosity, background in sociology, other personal strengths and gifts, add life experience, and sprinkle some maturity on there as well.

As time passes my empathy continues to grow with me. Sometimes my heart feels so full of emotion, so enlarged and distorted, it feels as though it might physically burst. I have sent up desperate demands to God, saying, "Really?! My heart cannot hold another ounce of empathy!" A year ago I was pleading with God to stop enlarging my empathetic heart to the pain and the sorrow and the suffering of others. I saw it as something that made me appear weak and childish.

I no longer view empathy in that way. In the Gospel of Matthew we read that Jesus, an exemplar of unabated strength, looked upon the crowds with compassion. Jesus! The very one I strive to emulate had a heart that broke in a similar way to mine.

My heart is unable to sustain the immense weight it carries. But God's heart can. I feel privileged to be an extension of God's heart, if only in a small-reaching and temporal way, as a laborer in the harvest of God, our world.

Appreciating the gift of empathy within me is one piece of the larger journey I am on to discover and appreciate who I am and what I offer, rather than covet the the personality, gifts, abilities, etc. I so readily identify in others. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Where my hope lies

Life is so much like the ocean. There are cycles and waves.

In the past eight years of my life:
I have doubted my own self and my decisions.

My  faith in God and humanity has wavered.
My health has faltered.
My heart has been splintered.
I have been disappointed in relationships.
Loved ones have died.
My ambitions have been trampled.
Curve balls have been thrown.
I have been lonely.
I have felt lost.

Through it all God has been faithful and to this day remains faithful.

And my faith, though wavering and at times almost nonexistent, has sustained me.

Praise be to God, my Sustainer. My hope is in you.

A stunning view of the mountains and the sea in Delphi, Greece
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 
-Hebrews 10:19-25

Monday, March 31, 2014


I cannot believe that my last post was in January. I have so many thoughts churning in my mind, wrestlings within my heart and and half-formed blog posts in my head, but haven't been able to commit them to this blog space. I've been doing a lot of internal processing this semester. Perhaps some of that will make it onto here soon. I won't make any promises though!

Life is busy, life is good. There has been so much sunshine this winter that it has made the negative temperatures somewhat bearable. Spring is starting to show up, and for that I am glad! Oh, and I graduate in 27 days! I have so much that I am looking forward to in the near and also more distant future. Some of that is still shrouded in secrecy because I am a private person. I am friendly, warm, and generally open-to an extent that is. I willingly admit that my appearance of being a fairly open is a facade. I'll chip away at the concrete soon enough and let you in a layer deeper in time. Patience my dear friends! By the time I graduate you'll get to hear about what I'm doing after college.

I extend the grace, peace and love of Jesus Christ to you all during this season of Lent. Speaking of Lent, you can read a devotional I wrote for Goshen College here: Our Strong and Dependable Rock

Somewhere in the Andes Mountains en route from Huacarpay to Colca. The view is overlooking the stretch of road we just covered and at this position we're still climbing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goodbye 2013!

Happy New Year! It has been quite some time since my last post, so let's review some of 2013 shall we? I love lists, so I will make a list of highlights (starting with two broad themes, then in chronological order).

1. Best year of my life - I learned so much, all of which boil down these categories: humility, vulnerability, gratitude, and empathy.
The magnet reads: You're on the right road if you're happy when you're lost.
2. Worst year of my life - I made it out alive and am a better person and stronger for it.

3. March 23rd I got my forward helix pierced.

 4. May 19th I ran and completed the Chicago Half Marathon with the best running buddy a girl could ask for, Kristin Martin!  *2hr: 22min: 26sec*

5. June 2nd Eric graduated high school. I am extremely proud of this kid.

 6. June 29th my best friend of 19 years, Kayla Feltz, married the love of her life, Dean Puthoff.

7. June 30th I chopped off 15 inches of hair, give or take. I LOVE my new hair!


8. July 1st I went gluten free.
9. September 29th Silas Joel Henriques came into the world! October 20th I met and cuddled and snuggled Silas.

10. God provided for me in miraculous ways.

 I am so looking forward to whatever 2014. In the past 25 years 10 months and 30 days, that is the entirety of my existence, I have learned that life is the ultimate crap-shoot. Relationships have proved to be the anchor in what started out to be a very rocky year, flooded with continual tears, doubts, fears, failures, ailments, and injuries. Midway things started looking up, leaving me optimistic that no matter whatever lies ahead of me it can be navigated with guidance from God and support from the wonderful community of friends and family around me. I will not say that I will never doubt God again, because I most likely will. And subsequently will be blown away yet again by God's unending love, patience, faithfulness, and remarkable way of coming through in the twelfth hour.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ups and downs

This year has been one giant roller coaster of emotions for me. At the end of 2012 I had high hopes for all that 2013 would bring. I was confident that prosperity was on the other side of December 31st. My hopes were quickly squashed as I realized that life isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Duh. I have cried this year more than I have ever cried. Tears as a result of sadness, anger, depression, doubt, fear, unmet expectations, loneliness, hopelessness, and a few tears of joy as well.

Despite seemingly unending tears met with feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, destitution, and abandonment, that is not to say that 2013 has not been a good year.

The definition of "good" is dependent upon the perspective behind it all. I think for me it is perhaps too strong to say that everything happens for a reason. However I am comfortable saying with great confidence that God uses every experience in our lives to teach us if we are willing to learn.

To be certain, when I look back on the past twenty-five and a half years of my life, the hardships have been the things that have shaped me the most. The roughest stages of my life are the ones I look back on with fondness and gratitude. It is in those stages that I learn to cling to and rely on God. It is in those moments that I allow myself to be open in vulnerable ways with those around me that I am normally not comfortable doing. It is important to be able to take down our fa├žades and allow what is real behind them to show. It isn't always pretty, but it is genuine.

These are the things I've experienced in brokenness that I am thankful for: They mark formative years, thickened skin, an ever-growing empathy, humility, dependence on God, strength, confidence, poise.

I give praise and thanks to God who is my constant support, ever present in time of need, and the epitome of patience. Here goes a big shout out to God: thanks for not giving up on me!!

I want to take this moment to say a big thank you to all my supporters in life!
You encourage and uplift me with your prayers, kind words and actions.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On receiving

It is better to give than to receive, they say.

It is better to know when to receive instead of give, I might add.

This summer has been a healing time for me. I am surrounded by a community of givers where I do not feel ashamed to be a receiver - and often. Currently I am in a position where I need to take a little more than I give. I generally find that giving is a way to receive, but at the moment I am so thankful to be surrounded by generous people that I am able to take. And take. And take some more.

Being needy is not something that I enjoy, but I think it is definitely a theme in this season I am in. Not just needy, but desperate. Raw. The kind of needy that you cannot hide; I fear that people can see through my facade, see the tears that are ready to be shed at any moment. I’m not really trying to hide the fact that I am needy, I just don’t want to make others uncomfortable.

I was just journaling the other day that I feel like a faker. I fear I am faking being happy. Perhaps happy isn’t the right word; I am happy. However deep down the core of me is discontent and restless.

My friends joke that I only have one expression, a huge smile. This is true. I do wear a smile more often than not. That smile is not faking, because even deeper than the discontent that is writhing within my core is a bedrock of faith. Because of my faith, I have hope, wrought through time and adversity.

I was just washing up the dishes at the close of the evening and reflecting on the fact that I genuinely enjoyed and was thoroughly present in the moment during an entire evening I just had. Dinner with friends. Discussing all the wonderful fruits that we’ve sampled from our times abroad. Silly YouTube videos. Laughter. Sharing. Receiving. Giving.

Lately I have had difficulty being present with others. This has been troubling since it is usually something that comes very naturally for me. I am invested in relationships and genuinely love to hear everything from others that range from the mundane to the highly significant. These days I cling to the moments when I forget that I am trying to override this utter feeling of dissatisfaction and don’t have to exert any effort to be absorbed in the moment. Hope.

I know that this feeling of discontent that comes with this stage, I have had similar ones in my life, and no doubt there will be more. The preparation stage. The worst kind of stage that results in the best possible outcome. God has been stripping me of everything that I put trust and security in and will stop when God alone remains.

Nature reflects the will for life to continue despite circumstances that may be. Nature is somewhere I find hope.
At this point I feel the weirdest sense of peace I have ever felt. Sometimes I think I have lost it. Lost my peace, lost my faith, but the truth is I was built to endure much adversity. For whatever reason some require a lot more refining by fire than others. I would like to think that all the adversity, all the tears, all the questioning, the doubts, the fists shaking in the air, add up to making things better for those who come after me.

It certainly has made me a tougher and a softer person at the same time. God is into paradoxes.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Spring and summer happenings

So it's the end of June and my last update was April 1st. Whoops!

This doesn't mean nothing worth mentioning has happened, au contraire!

1) With April came the end of the Spring semester, thanks be to God on high! Seriously.

2) May Term play term was a lot of fun but incredibly busy.
My typical day went something like this: wake, eat, Religion and Sexuality from 8-12, lunch, forum post for class, work from 3-5, intramural volley ball games from 6-7ish, dinner, then reading homework for all of eternity, thank you KGM. Throw in spontaneous Chief visits and card nights, too!
3) Chicago Half Marathon! May 19, 2013
This was so FUN! A shout out to the best ever running buddy, Kristin Martin! We ran the race together and finished under our goal time clocking in at 2hr:22min:26sec. A huge thank you to Kristin's aunt and uncle who allowed us to have full use of their awesome condo to crash the night before the race. This will forever be the weekend that the stars aligned perfectly.
One of the things I most love about running is how I am constantly blown away by the things that I am capable of. This has spilled into a larger metaphor in all facets of my life: mentally, spiritually, emotionally, as well as physically. I love pushing the limits of what I once thought was possible.

4) Working with the fun, quirky printing and mailing crew at GC.
I went strait from school to working full-time at my campus job I started back in January in the printing and mailing department. There is never a dull moment!
5) Summer spontaneity.
I love working a forty hour work week then doing whatever you want! So unlike school where the work is unending. I run, read, porch sit, and write letters in my free time. It's awesome. I am currently engrossed in Les Miserables. When I'm not doing one of those four things I'm hanging out with my girl Rosalynde or having potlucks with other GC students hanging around for the summer. This is a slice of the good life.
 That's the nutshell version to catch you all up on life happenings!