Journeys & Writings of Paul

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 façades 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!

Monday, April 1, 2013

In the darkness shines a faint light, small but powerful

It is now April. It has been about six weeks since my last post, but not because I have had a lack of things to say. There are many drafts that I started and stopped. There have been more drafts than that started in my mind that I didn't allow to leave the confines of my mind.

My journal has been experienceing the same kind of neglect, so don't take it too personally.

Writing is therapeutic for me, a sort of catharsis if you will. Everything is ok as long as I'm writing, even if nothing is ok.

I haven't been writing.

And things have been far from ok.

Well folks, to put it mildly, so far this year has been exceptionally hard. I have battled through so much in these past three months to make it to today, the first of April. I started off this year so hopeful, so optimistic. The realist in me is kicking myself in the butt, whispering, "See, that's what happens when you dare to hope." Or was that the depression speaking? Probably both. Yes, most likely both.

Depression sucks. I have battled with it off and on throughout my life, most of the time silently, not even acknowledging it myself. I thought if I ignored it, maybe it would go away. Maybe people wouldn't notice. Mostly I felt guilty and ashamed. A little proud as well. Or a lot proud. I have a fierce independent streak in me. But depression alone is awful. Depression on top of a host of other crappy curve balls that life throws and keeps throwing (which I won't even attempt to delve into here; ain't nobody got time for that!) feels like it will absolutely consume you from the inside out.

But it is freeing to realize that we can't do it alone. That we don't have to and we weren't meant to.

I have cried so much this year.

I cry relatively easily. I have a really tender, sensitive heart, but I began to realize that crying on an average of every other day was NOT normal. This was not like me.

Late one night, through chatting with a friend on Skype, I admitted to myself that my depression had come back. Just removing the denial of that fact was enough to lift a weight. I didn't have to try to fake it any longer, but rather could face this beast for what it was, like I have had to before. But depression is a dirty bastard. People who have never experienced what depression is have no idea what it is like. It is not this thing that can simply be shaken off. It is like something that crawls deep into your mind and plants itself there. Rationality goes out the window. For someone who is logical, this is terrifying.

I usually fight off emotion with logic, but that is another topic altogether. I have a systematic way of disecting what I am feeling and why. I am able to compartmentalize my feelings. I have been accused by a dear male friend of mine of being "like a guy" in this way, because often my truest feelings never reach the surface. Those must be excavated.

With depression, logic is useless. I am left defenseless, mainly because I can't answer my first question on that checklist: why do I feel this way?

Long story short, I am winning this battle. I am not defenseless, but I am already victorious. The war isn't over, and more battles will likely crop up throughout the rest of my life, but I have conquered so many of these battles before. Not without God though, and the love and support of people like my father who know what a bastard depression is and how powerful the love of God is.

There are those who believe that God does not want us to suffer and that there is no place for suffering. I don't believe that God wishes us to suffer, but I am confident that God uses it. I can't help but believe that there is a greater purpose in all of this. In hindsight I am thankful for the pain, because it has made me realize my dependence on God, God's love, grace, provision, and my own ability to be a light when all that surrounds is darkness.

P.S. I want to give a shout out to Abby Hertzler, whose book inspired me to finally put these words to the page through her book The Pen and the Pieces of Myself.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On lent: one week in

I'm not Catholic, but I am a Christian; therefore I believe Lent is an important season. I also am in the camp that the practice of giving something up for *forty days can be a valuable practice.

This year, not only am I subtracting something from my life for forty days (salty snack foods), but I am also adding something (the core challenge).

I am finding that the practice of this addition can be just as much of a sacrifice and sanctifying as the subtracting, possibly even more so (Please pause to appreciate the alliteration in this  sentence!). Fasting is an important spiritual discipline, but coupling that with building intentional good habits has been especially rewarding for me spiritually, physically and mentally.

 *It actually adds up to more than forty since I continue even on Sundays when traditionally they are a day to take a break from your fast.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Balance is so fickle, isn't it? I feel that I am terrible at balance in  most areas of my life, and tend to behave like a pendulum swinging out of control. Except for my ability to keep my balance, as in center of gravity; I have pretty good stability, but I digress.

The point of this blog post is not to talk about my mad balancing skills.

Lately I have been mulling over an inner battle that has been raging for at least a year now. I am what the author of the book of James calls double-minded.

That's right, double-minded. Who admits to this stuff? I guess I do.
 I'm a hypocrite, my faith sometimes is extremely weak if not almost entirely non-existent at times.
 Why? Well, it's a long story, but here's the quick and dirty:
I'm a college student.
I am terrified of being in debt.
I am in debt to the federal government for an amount that makes my heart stop whenever think about or view it.
I have been praying to graduate from undergrad debt free.
It sounds crazy, I know, but I feel like God can handle it. But at the same time I doubt the possibility, because from my perspective it seems near nigh impossible. I have felt really convicted lately because I am praying, asking God to help me make this become a reality while simultaneously doubting that it is even a remote possibility. The result is an epic and terrible struggle internally. The reason I site it as an issue with balance is because I struggle with how much to depend on my own ability to be financially responsible and how much to trust that God will work it out if I ask.

I am asking for wisdom; am I in a position to receive it when I am likened to the windblown surf of the sea?

I don't have any resolution to this dilemma, but the purpose of this blog is to obtain a higher level of accountability myself but publishing my thoughts. Check.

I do know this: prayer, meditation on Scripture and sharing my struggles with others are all helping to strengthen my faith into something more resilient and genuine, even if when it travels over rocky terrain. Especially then.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The power of "we"

This post is a follow up to my post What i love about peru.

Collective Mentality

Something foreign and wonderful to me in Peru was the collective mentality, or the power of "we" as I have titled this post. Here in the United States of America we are a very individual driven society. Our language is individualistic, our goals are individualistic, our advertising is geared towards individualist. Similarly, it is ingrained in us that a person can do or become whatever she or he may put their mind to.

In Peru, things are different. Peru is all about community rather than the individual. I caught myself the other day talking like a Peruvian rather than an estadounidense. Last week I was telling someone about my current semester and instead of using the pronouns I, me and my, I caught myself saying we, us and our, referring to myself as well as my roommates and friends. In Peru it is a polite gesture to include those around you when you are talking about your plans, daily activities, accomplishments, etc. no matter their level of direct involvement. Inclusion is a big deal in Peruvian society and it is something that I walked away valuing on a higher level after three months of trying to fit myself into a context with different cultural mores and social norms.

This attitiude reminds me of the body of Christ and how we are supposed to function as the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. I'll hone in on the key phrases in verses 24b-27 that are the specific sections that came to mind while thinking about this communal way of thinking:
"But God has put the body together…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."
How we relate to one another and refer to our daily interactions with others differs across cultures.

Myself with my host family in Lima
Galedt, Glicerio, Leanna, Zully, Sara

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Life lessons

I am very embarrassed and hesitant to share what I am about to right now.

I made a mistake. A huge mistake. A huge mistake a regret a lot for a variety of reasons. That however is a tangent and besides the point for the moment.

On January first of this year (five short days ago) I found and purchased a used car from an owner that I found listed on Craigslist.

The long story made short is that the seller was dishonest about the condition of the car (mainly the failing transmission). He was able to pass it off as acceptable by being extremely crafty. Don't be so quick to judge me, reader. I won't describe all the ways that he was able to pull the wool over my eyes. Looking back I can recognize the signs, but he was a very good swindler. Well played, sir.

I have been through all sorts of emotions today. I have been furious, felt sad, disappointed, wronged, stupid, childish, and had all sorts of evil thoughts ran through my mind that I am not at all proud of. I had my first cry of the year; then my second. I thought about calling him. I wanted to tell him what he did was wrong and then give him a piece of my mind. But I did not. Being logical as I am, I knew that it would accomplish nothing and would just get me more worked up. I don't want to be angry.

Tonight I realized there is only one thing to help the situation at this point. I realized that what I need to do is forgive him. The strange thing about this conclusion is that I feel like I not only need to forgive him but I also want to. I firmly believe that this is not of me but rather it is  nothing short of God.

So, I did. I forgave him.

And though I am still out the money, I am still out an operational car, I am still out some of my pride, I have inner peace. Tomorrow after church I plan on calling this man to tell him 1) he was dishonest with me, 2) what he did was wrong, 3) I forgive him and wish him well. I pan on concluding the conversation by telling him I don't expect any action on his end (since he swindled me in the first place) but I am just calling him to let him know that I am forgiving him for his wrong against me as Christ forgave me.

That's the long and the short of it. In life you live and learn I suppose.


Thursday, January 3, 2013


I wrote this poem for my Spanish class while studying in Peru last semester. I came across it as I was going through my papers. Here is the list of my satisfactions that I came up with one week into my SST experience.

Un día lluvioso con cielos grises y hierba verde
Una cama muy cómoda y caliente
Los abrazos de mi mamá
Los flores de la primavera
La gata
Mis amigos
La familia
Música clásica
El agua
El sol

A rainy day with gray skies and green grass
A very comfortable and warm bed
My mother's hugs
Spring flowers
My friends
Classical music