Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is Happiness a Choice?

     In stages of life when things are just not going well and it's hard to be positive, there is something people tend to say that I never quite know how to take. "Just choose to be happy" and other similar statements have always been perplexing to me, and here's why. Humans are born with many different emotions, and we don't typically make a conscious decision about which one we display at any particular moment. I've never had anyone tell me to choose to be angry or sad, so what makes people think that happiness is a special emotion that can be turned on or off at will? Now, I know that there are many people who struggle with things like depression that are illnesses that cause them to have trouble being happy, and those are special cases. Your brain can get sick just like any of your other organs, and I believe those situations require more help than just typical everyday sadness, and I don't believe that's anything to be ashamed of. But for other times when sadness is just how we feel because of specific things that have happened to us, I have come to believe that we can choose to take positive steps to encourage happiness within ourselves. I know more than you can imagine that it isn't always easy and it can sometimes be a very long process, but I don't think that happiness is totally out of our control.
     I think maybe it all starts with choosing to trust. I guess I am kind of a hypocrite for saying this, because lately many people have been telling me that I just need to trust that all of the confusing and unpleasant things that happen to me are all part of God's plan, and I haven't been very receptive to that. Sometimes it just seems crazy to believe that an omnipotent being that I can't see is somehow organizing all of these unpleasant and seemingly pointless situations into some great plan, but I am slowly starting to learn that believing that is the very definition of faith. When I can trust and have faith, it is easier to be happy because I am choosing to believe that these negative things are happening for a purpose that will work out for good at some point in the future. When I stop thinking that I have too understand everything and choose to rely on faith, I can stop being so angry and frustrated about what I don't understand because I am choosing to let God take care of them and accepting that they are beyond my understanding. I often struggle with the fact that many people in the world see faith as ignorance, and believe that people like me are choosing to believe in God as a sort of crutch for the bad things we don't understand, but I am slowly learning that I can't spend time worrying about that. I choose to trust, and because of that I can start to be happy. So maybe I was wrong at first, maybe I can choose happiness. I think I just need to start with choosing to be faithful and trusting, and combine that with allowing myself to be surrounded by people who strengthen my faith, and my happiness will grow as a result.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Seeking Approval

     I have been wanting to get back to my usual flow of writing every other day, but it just hasn't happened. My thoughts seem to be all over the place lately, and it's hard to collect them neatly into organized paragraphs. My writing has been limited lately, and I think for two main reasons. It's partly because there just doesn't seem to be anything to talk about right now other than the fact that I didn't go on the mission trip, and I think I've really covered that enough at this point. The other part is something that was a little harder to figure out.
     Although I like to think I am self confident now, and I am way more than I used to be, I have realized that there is still a part of me that is always seeking approval from other people, and I think that really gets in my way sometimes. I sometimes get so worried that people won't like what I write that I don't write anything at all. When I think about that, it's kind of silly because no one asked me to start a blog, it's something I did for myself. But writing isn't the only area of my life where I seek the approval of others. First I worried that I was not recovering from my surgery fast enough because I was really tired and sleeping a lot, and then it switched and I started worrying that I was recovering too fast because people would come visit and comment that I looked just fine. I know that seems ridiculous to say, but that's just how my mind works.             Aside from trying to make the world understand my rate of recovery there is another area of my life where I am always unconsciously seeking approval. I know that many people are aware of what I believe, and like it or not, people have strong ideas about how Christians are supposed to act. One hard lesson I learned from my first year of college is that people who do not agree with your beliefs are often very quick to point out when you're not acting in a way that they think expresses those beliefs. It's exhausting always having to be on guard trying to never do anything wrong, and it was probably wrong of me to believe that I had to be that way constantly. I know that I should always try to do what's right, but I am finally learning that there are just some people who will find a way to criticize you no matter what you do, and I have to just let that go.
     It is so comforting to know that God does not ask for the opinions of people. When he is judging me, he won't turn to someone else and ask them to report on my behavior. It's all up to Him, and I think it's time I
start remembering that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

God's Tonsils

     I begin to write this very hesitantly, because I'm not sure I'm ready. I haven't really wanted to talk about how I feel lately, because some of my feelings haven't been very pretty. While I have been very encouraged by the amount of love that has been shown to me by so many people, there is always the underlying fact that      I did not get to go on the mission trip that I was so excited about, and I just can't seem to let it go.
I really thought that I was supposed to go on that trip, and when I found out I couldn't I was very confused and hurt. The frustration I had really went down to the very core of my faith. I wondered why this God that I have decided to put my faith in would not allow me to go on a trip to share His love with children who desperately need it, and instead make me have surgery which is painful and scary. It felt like He did not want my service, and did not care about how upset I was. I felt like instead of being the hands and feet of God like we try to be as members of this mission team, I was more like His tonsils, a part that can be removed while the body continues to function.
     But as I have turned these thoughts over in my mind these past weeks, I have slowly realized something. . What kind of testimony am I presenting if I give up just because life is difficult right now? I can't see the reason for all of this disappointment yet, but isn't the certainty of what we cannot see the very definition of the faith I claim to have? I I have never heard anyone give a testimony about how their life has always been easy, and I think there is a lesson to be learned from that. I have come to the realization that times like these are what I think faith is for. It's really nice when everything is happy and fun, but when difficult things happen that I can't understand, that's when I actually have to use faith. By thinking about how I should turn my back on God because I don't like what he's doing right now, I am showing how weak my faith really is.
    There's a whole lot that I still don't understand, and I am still sad that I did not get to go to Honduras. I just think that the perspective I have had until now was not the right one to have. Instead of rejecting faith when things don't go my way, I should be relying on it now more than ever.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Recovery Ramblings

I haven't kept up with my original goal of writing every other day lately, but that's okay with me for two reasons. One, because I have been recovering from surgery and taking medicine for different things, and I'm not sure that anything I write under the influence of Benadryl will actually make sense. The second reason is that I needed time to deal with the fact that I wasn't going to Honduras, and my feelings about that aren't quite ready to be expressed effectively. But today a thought has come to me that I think is a good one to talk about to help me get back in the habit of writing consistently.
 Throughout this surgery and recovery, and all of my previous ones, lots of people have expressed their concern for me in different ways. Many people have sent cards, which I enjoy receiving and find encouraging to read. Others have come to visit which is fun for me and also a nice distraction from the daily process of recovering. Even more have expressed their concern to my parents when they see them. But despite all of this kindness that has been shown to me,  I have allowed myself to become very selfish and judgmental. Instead of being thankful for the people who have shown that they care in the ways they know how, I have sometimes been critical of how people act or do not act towards me during this time. Maybe my feelings are just too easily hurt, but I often find it easier to notice what people did not do instead of what they did. I forget sometimes that even though having to have surgery and not go to Honduras was a very big deal to me, the world did not stop because of it. It's the middle of the summer when lots of people are very busy, and life did not pause for everyone just because I was going through this. When my world is slowing down because I need to recover, I tend to forget that the rest of the world is still moving at it's regular pace.
Some of the many nice cards that have
been sent to me during the past week
I guess what I'm trying to say, in my rambling long-winded way, is that I appreciate being cared about, and it is significant to me that so many people have taken the time to show that they care in many different ways. It is hard for me to be positive about this situation, which is probably why I am so quick to judge and only notice the things that aren't so good. But in the end, I really do have a lot of people that care about me, and although I don't always notice it like I should, when I stop focusing on how I wish things were and accept how they actually are, that makes me feel very good.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Enlarged Ventricles and a Cancelled Mission Trip

     Remember how I said I was going to try to blog from Honduras and write all about what I was doing there? Well, that isn't exactly going to happen because I didn't go. This isn't the story I was planning to tell this week, but I guess life is unpredictable like that.
     On Monday, I had what I thought would be a regular doctor's appointment. I have this thing called a shunt that was put in when I was about 5 months old, and about once a year I get an x-ray just to make sure it's in good shape and working properly. Not to get all heavy with medical terminology, but since we're on the subject, what it is (the best way I can explain) is a tube that drains stuff called cerebrospinal fluid from the ventricles in my brain and empties it into my abdominal region. An x-ray and then a CT scan on Monday showed that my shunt was broken and my ventricles had become enlarged. Eventually, it probably would have caused me to get bad headaches, but at the time I wasn't having any symptoms yet. I am told that shunt revisions are quite common, and that the fact that mine didn't need to be worked on for 19 years is really good.
     Anyway, weird medical facts aside, this meant that I could not go to Honduras. Honestly, I think that upset me more than knowing I had to have surgery. If you have ever read my blog before or talked to me for any length of time, you can probably tell that I was really excited about this trip. It was something I had been looking forward to and preparing for since last year. I really thought it was what God was planning for me to do, but now I think maybe I confused my own plans with His. Not being able to go is just a really hard thing to process and I really thought I was trying to do something good. At this point, I can't really say that I have learned anything from this experience, partly because I am still going through it. I guess things like this can take a while to make sense. But I am glad that this problem was found before I left the country, and I hope that I will get another chance to go back to Honduras in the future. 
These fish were hanging from the ceiling in the hospital
 and I thought they would make a blog worthy picture

Sunday, July 6, 2014

It's Time For Us To Do Something

     Well, It's almost here. Early Tuesday morning I will leave for my second mission trip to Honduras. Isn't that crazy? A while ago I would have never guessed that my life would include an experience this amazing, and especially not two of these experiences.
      This is the part where all of the unimportant worries start to fade and the fact that this is actually happening starts to feel like reality. If last year is any indication, I know that this is going to be awesome, and I think I'm ready now. It will be a little different because I will be with different people. I will miss those members of last years team who are not going, but I will remember the good examples that they set for me and look forward to sharing my new stories with them and others when I return. I also look forward to making new friends and new memories this year.
     I am so excited to be going back to Honduras. It's such an amazing experience that I always fall short of describing accurately. I know that I always talk about what I think and how I feel, but I learned last year that this mission trip is not about me. It's about the children who just want to be loved and how we can show them love in the short time we are there. It's about the lessons that are learned along the way, even the hard ones. And most of all, it's about doing what God has called us to do, even if we don't fully understand all of the details. I hope that I will be able to do some blogging while we are there, but I know that you can never really be sure of things like reliable Wi-fi on trips like this. So if I don't say anything else before I get back, please pray for the team, that we will be safe and stay healthy, and fulfill God's plans for us during our trip.
     And now comes the part that is going to look tacky and random and get me teased,and that I almost didn't write. Throughout all of the preparations for this trip, there has been one thought that I never could really completely process until now, or maybe didn't want too, and that is the fact that the best mission trip roommate ever will not be with me this time. Last year before the trip, Chandler was just my youth leader who I thought was pretty cool. On the trip, I got closer to her and learned so much from her while having so much fun. I remember one moment so vividly where I was looking at a little boy who was sitting by himself and thinking how sad it was that he couldn't walk. About five minutes later, there she comes, holding his hands and walking with him. Something about that experience was so profound to me and I remember it often. Chandler, I will miss your jokes, excitement, and melatonin fueled lunchtime naps. Most of all I will miss the great conversations that we have, but I know we will have plenty more of them when I get back. Thank You for always being someone I can count on, and get ready to see tons of pictures when I get back!
     Now that I've gotten all emotional and said things that I wanted to say but will probably be embarrassed about saying, I think I've said it all. This is really happening, and I couldn't be happier that it is. Thank You to everyone who has supported me on this journey. It means the world to me and I am so excited that this is my life.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Taking the Scenic Route

     As a person of a certain age, no longer a child but not really a full time adult, there seems to be a certain set of questions that I am met with at any social gathering. The dialogue of this exchange goes something like this.

Caring Adult. I bet you're glad to be home for the summer! Are you working this summer?

Me: Well I was but I'm not anymore I'm not working

Caring Adult: Oh..So what are you majoring in at school?

Me: Well I go to a two year college and I have to transfer to a four year school before I really declare a major, It's called Richard Bland and no, you've never heard of it.

Caring Adult: Well are you ready for your trip? When are you leaving?

Me, Suddenly cured of social awkwardness, begins excitedly sharing the details.

In a lot of areas, I sometimes feel like I am falling behind. I am nineteen years old and jobless without a completely solidified plan for my future. My social life isn't filling up the calender and let's just say there aren't exactly droves of eligible young men knocking down my door. I very easily get caught up in believing that my life isn't moving fast enough and that I need to be concerned about it. But when I really stop and think about it, I realize that I'm only concerned about these things because everyone else seems to think I should be.

The truth is, not being tied down to things and not having the full responsibilities of an adult yet is what allows me to do things like travel to Honduras and have this experience that impacts me so much. True, I do want to settle down in the future and have a family and a job of some sort and I would really appreciate it if the beginning stages of that process would start sometime before my hundredth birthday. But I shouldn't let that take away from the fact that I am getting to see part of the world while I am young, which not many people get to do. I know that this experience is one that I will remember for a very long time and there are a lot more adventures that I still want to have. It has finally occurred to me that maybe my lack of social
Random picture of the place we stayed at in Honduras.
 I can't wait to be back there on Tuesday
oppurtunites and employment is a blessing in disguise. In the end when growing up is complete, the majority of people end up at pretty much the same destination. I am taking the scenic route. It's the slower route and sometimes a lonely one, but in the end, I think the experiences it allows will be worth it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Truth

     I have always liked to write, but this blog is the first time I have done it consistently and publicly. For a while, I was torn between wanting people to read it and being terrified that people might actually read it. For me, writing is a very personal thing. The act of sharing my thoughts with others puts me in a very vulnerable position, which I probably did not think about when I started this blog. For a while now, I have been very self-conscious about the fact that people are reading what I write and seem to find it credible. That is quite an honor, and it's also slightly terrifying. Being aware of this, I have become guarded in my writing. I have stuck with topics that are safe and can be wrapped up nicely into little moral lessons that make me seem to posses some sort of wisdom that people enjoy. Everything has been pretty and proper, and I have filtered out the ugly, rough parts and pushed them back into my mind until only a portion of my creativity is allowed to escape. Tonight, I find myself realizing that this kind of writing does not satisfy me. I have been writing from my mind instead of my heart, and it has been mediocre. Tonight, due to exhaustion, over confidence from my recent increase in age, and a single faint streak of rebellion, I have decided to once again return to writing from the heart, because I have decided that honest writing is more important to me than the approval of readers.
     I often write as if I have a faith much stronger than I actually do. Very soon after I lost my job, I realized that if I was going to write about it, I had to have some sort of a conclusion, The natural way of a writer is to introduce a conflict and resolve it, and I rushed through this process quite recklessly. I admitted that I was angry, but I did not elaborate in a way that would reveal the true emotions I had at the time because they were not what I thought my readers would approve of. I did not reveal how very hurt I was to be treated in such a way, and how it made me fear that this will be a reoccurring situation throughout my entire life. I did not dare admit that I went through a time of being mad at God for allowing me to have this opportunity after searching so hard for a job, and then let it be taken away from me for no good reason. To be completely truthful, I am just now starting to shed that anger, and I think a small piece of hurt from this situation will always be present. It was a very hard thing for me to go through, and I felt quite lonely going through it. It was hard to accept that in real life, the good guy doesn't always win, and some things are simply just not fair.
     Another thing I have been holding back is a personal journey that started last week. I have worn braces on my legs for as long as I can remember, and the thought of being rid of them was the one thing in my life that I truly labeled impossible. Recently it has been decided that now that I am done growing, it is a real possibility that I can get strong enough to only need them for long distances, and that they won't have to be a part of my daily life. I can't even begin to explain to you how big of a deal this is to me. I will just say that I am getting something that I have always wanted, and yet the world does not seem to share my excitement. Perhaps I overestimated people's understanding of the situation, but very few people who know about this have reacted in a way that I would like. It's just lonely sometimes not having someone who cares about you enough that they can be excited for your triumphs with you without having to be begged.
     I have not written about my loneliness in these situations because it is a vulnerable thing that I was not sure I wanted to share. I am at a place in my life right now where I don't have a lot of social activities happening or a lot of strong friendships I can rely on. I have had to go through a lot of hard times virtually alone, and although I know you will want to tell me that God is always with me, I admit that it would be nice if he would designate a person to be physically present with me through all of this. So, now that I have revealed all of these not so attractive emotions to you. I will probably post this and become extremely embarrassed and hide from it for a while. I just felt like I needed to be honest and stop trying to write things that sounded good just to trick people into thinking I was some kind of literary prodigy. I would also like to point out that I am not trying to call anyone out, and I know that certain people like my parents are always there for me even when I can't help but feel lonely. Writing this will not cure my loneliness, but it will satisfy my desire to write genuinely and I hope that it will signify the return of writing with my heart instead of trying to make everything logical and correct. Feelings like loneliness are not comfortable to think about, but if writers only wrote about things that are comfortable, no great stories would ever be told.