Still waiting for life to start…: Finding contentment right now

watch clock time hour minute second men accessory bracelet “I’m going to college to be a… *looks both directions nervously, leans in close and whispers in a foreboding, secretive tone*…a garbage truck driver!” 

As a high school senior and college freshmen, I did not know what I wanted to major in nor did I know what I wanted to do with my life (and even currently as a college junior at Cornerstone University, while I have major figured out, I’m still stuck on the “life” part…). And yet these two questions seemed to be the FAQ of FAQs! They were innocent small talk conversation pieces but the constant questioning made me feel a great amount of pressure. These questions made me feel like like I wasn’t living right if I didn’t have an answer. I got so sick of being asked what I was majoring in and what I wanted to do with my life that I prepared to answer with the beginning quote–just to get people off my case!

sea ocean water mountain highland nature landscape sky clouds golden gate bridge travel view Young adulthood is commonly known as the bridge. We’re moving from being kids to being adults in a crazy world. Our focus is on our future: our future careers, our future relationships, our future plans. Our culture seems to shove down young adult’s throats the focus of the future…which isn’t entirely bad. However, like everything else in life, we need balance. Too much future focus can cause us to be so involved in the future that we aren’t enjoying the right now. To get too caught up in the future is to undermine current contentment. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 offers the idea of “seasons.” Life has it’s different seasons that we pass through each has it’s goods and bads. Getting the next joy involves giving up a current joy–which is the way life works, and it’s a good thing–in it’s proper time. But what good is the current joy if you’re not appreciating it right now, while you have it? Sure, right now you might not have the stability of that career, house, family, etc., but you have access to a freedom and flexibility right now that you won’t have when you’ve settled into each of those things. At college you have the opportunity to spend 24 hrs/day in the midst of young adults all in a similar boat as you. 

Image result for seasonsJoshua Harris says it well: “Just as spring’s role is different from that of fall, so each season of our lives has a different emphasis, focus, and beauty. One is not better than another; each season yields its own unique treasures…God has many wonderful experiences He wants to give us, but He also assigns these experiences to particular seasons of our life. (italics mine)” If we want to learn contentment, we need to start right now–because if today’s blessings aren’t making you happy, tomorrow’s won’t either. 

I often find myself waiting. Waiting for something big to happen. Waiting for my future to arrive. Waiting for my life to start. I go through high school, waiting to make it through college. I go to college waiting to make it through the semester. I go through summer waiting to make it back to school. I’m waiting for my career. Waiting to have a family of my own. Waiting until I have my future planned out. Once I check all of these things that is when my life is going to start. That is when I’m going to really live. And that is when I’ll actually be content.

That’s what I believe. Not because it’s true, but because it’s what culture tells me and I haven’t questioned it until recently. Studying communication teaches us to question what we unconsciously accept. It gives us control because it makes us more aware of what we are taking for granted or what we are accepting as true.green grass lawn field nature outdoor road travel horizon sky

Honestly, I think the belief that one’s life is really on the horizon and has yet to truly start, is what a lot of young people believe, whether or not they realize it. We are told to work so hard towards the future that we expect that it is the future that will provide us the contentment and fulfillment that we are searching for right now. When we feel like life is missing something right now, we push it off, believing the future will fulfill us.

But life isn’t going to get inherently “better.” It’s not going to randomly “start” when you graduate or get married or get that job or anything else. Today is the first day of the rest of your life and the blessings you have today are different from the blessings that you are going to have later. This current season of your life has unique blessings. Please, please don’t be so busy staring off into space, waiting, that you ignore these blessings.

people girl alone sitting wood reading book bible blur And if you are discontent right now, there may be a reason for that. You might want to consider how you are living your life and what you are living for right now. I believe if you truly commit your life to Christ, you will be capable of finding fulfillment during any stage of your life–even the right here, right now without that dream spouse, dream career, or dream family. Your life has already started.

Please feel free to leave comments. I love hearing from readers and would appreciate hearing your thoughts 🙂

In Honor of Sang Yoon: What are You Living for?

19756847_10158820639760391_7935453298698112723_n.pngLast semester at Cornerstone University I was working in a morning psychology study group and brought an omelet for breakfast (because it wasn’t ready until after we were supposed to meet–darn kitchen crew 😉 ) so I could eat and study at the same time. However, upon meeting with the group, Miles, the fellow on my right said he’s allergic to eggs and the smell makes him nauseous. At the same time, Sang, the fellow on my left said he hadn’t had breakfast and the omelet smelled SO good! Awkwardly I offered the plate to the Sang, but he turned me down, despite the fact that his mouth was watering. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I had little to no interest in finishing my omelet in these conditions so I set it aside and tried to push it away so neither classmate would have to smell it. When we took a quick study break later on, Sang Yoon decided to take up my previous offer and finished my omelet for me–providing a relieving answer for everyone.

Two months after finishing that exam, I get the news that Sang Yoon, my omelet-eating study buddy, drowned in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This news forced me to do an overhaul in my thinking. I mean, I go about my day; I wake up, I go to sleep, I work, I Image result for omelet pictureskeep up on chores, I fit fun in where I can. So far I’ve been able to keep going through my everyday experiences. I do life somewhat thoughtlessly. But Sang Yoon’s death stopped me in my tracks. His death reminded me of how short and unpredictable life is. He reminded me of the bigger picture out there–and how despairingly small is my vision of life. How differently would I live, how differently would I communicate, if I could keep my eyes set on the bigger picture?

As a Christian, I believe God places each of us on earth for a reason. I believe life on earth is only the beginning and that the best is yet to come. I believe God has a purpose for what happens and can bring glory to his name through anything–even a 24-year-old man drowning. So, while I am upset that Sang had to die, I aspire to respect both Sang and God by challenging my way of thinking because of it. I want to recognize how short and unpredictable life is and I want to live my life for others and for the glory of God.

What have I been saying with my life? The mundane: the dish-washing, floor-sweeping, dinner-making, bathroom-cleaning can communicate a love for your housemates, a good stewardship of the things you have. Your attitude at work communicates. Your time on Facebook and Netflix communicates. Who you talk to and where you spend your money communicates. What has the past hour said about who you are and what you live for?

If I could regularly keep this perspective and purpose in mind, would I be so selfish? Would I complain if I had to stay late at work? Could I see it as a chance to serve more? Would I be so judgmental? Would I do the once-over on the girl with the short shorts? Would I be so impatient and so self-centered? Would I whine about leaving later than I wanted to for an event? Would it matter if I were a few minutes late?  Would I argue with my siblings as much? Would do more to show them that I love them?

If I could remember how little control I have and how each day is a gift, how each hour is speaking something, would I not pray more sincerely, live more boldly, act more purposefully, love more unconditionally? Would I not see how each day of my life can make a difference–even in the most minuscule, boring tasks–for better or for worse? Wouldn’t I take more risks in witnessing, wouldn’t I take more joy in little things, wouldn’t I be more thankful for what I have?19693630_1527121214013347_4089569426993532852_o.jpg

How one communicates depends on the perspective one takes. In honor of Sang, in honor of God, I aspire to embrace the perspective that God wants me to have. I want to live my life with purpose and to be used for God. Even if you aren’t religious or don’t have similar opinions about God, I would like to challenge you to consider what you are living by. What will people say about you when you are gone?Why do you do what you do? What motivates you, really? What perspective are you taking? What is your life communicating? What have you said with the past hour of your life? 

Goals don’t get accomplished on their own. It might sound cliche and overrated, but stepping back for a moment to consider what is motivating you to live as you do and what you are communicating with your life is a decision that, if taken seriously, I can guarantee you won’t regret.

And to Sang, I want to thank you for being the good-natured, patient, intelligent person you were. …and for finishing my omelet to relieve that awkward situation 🙂

 

I Feel Like I’m a Failure: Putting Feelings in Perspective

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June 6, 2016.”This morning I awoke in my normal weekday mind set…” I read this as I looked back back in my journal from last year, “…and completely detested life.” Well, I guess some things just never change. Can anybody relate?

Interpersonal communication is communication between two or more people. This is what most of my school-year posts were about. Intrapersonal communication is the communication that occurs internally. It’s the conversations you have with yourself in your own brain. When working 40+ hours at a job I don’t necessarily love, I need to focus more on intrapersonal communication–which explains the last numerous blog posts…and this current one.

The battle I find myself fighting so hard for is that of having a good attitude, being content, joyful always, and hopeful–all the things I like to shove in my readers’ faces (yes, I’m a hypocrite). Truth be told, I write these blog posts to myself as much as to anyone else. But what happens after I write all these things, after I instruct you to look for the positives, to see work as a service and purpose-provider, to keep the future perfection in mind, to communicate the hope we as Christians have? What happens after I instruct all these things but don’t feel like anything has changed? What happens when I still Image result for waking upwake up most mornings and scowl at the fact that I’m still breathing? Where did I go wrong?

I could be wrong, but this past week I had a revelation.  It was one of those revelations that come in the form of a bold, random thought that shocks you because you didn’t think you had it in you to think like that. This is otherwise known as God speaking, I believe. Anyway, my thought was, “what if using feelings and emotions to measure my accomplishments in the area of joyfulness, contentment, hope, and peace is the wrong form of measurement?

Perhaps you roll your eyes at me and think, “Duh. That’s not a revelation.” But to me it was. I try so hard to think of work as being a service. I try so hard to think of it as being prep work for heaven. But I feel like I fail because I awake in the morning with my grumpy face on, I count down the minutes at work wishing time away, and happiness seems so distant and so desperately short lived.

But what if being content were different from feeling content? What if being joyful weren’t the same as feeling joyful? What if I can use my time at work as a service just by knowing it can be and not by feeling all warm and fuzzy for helping others? What if I am  using my time as prep for heaven simply by having heaven on my mind even if I’m not jumping up and down with excitement? What if trust doesn’t have to mean I feel safe? What if courage doesn’t have to mean I feel strong? What if love doesn’t have to feel romantic?

night blue sky stars galaxies trees plant silhouette light lightning storm Especially in our culture, we are told to “follow your heart.” We’re told that your emotions should determine who you pursue, what you pursue, and how long you pursue it. Granted, your likes and dislikes, gifts and talents need to be taken into account when making decisions. But emotions are not the end all be all. I love David Dunn‘s song “Lightning Storm,” as its lyrics make some good points in a culture whose songs normally preach following any and all feelings: “So stop existing for what you’re feeling. Open your mind up and let the truth in.”

If these things were true–that feelings don’t accurately measure how much I’m growing, it could mean I am trusting God, I am serving through work, I am prepping for heaven, I am living with hope, I have joy…even when I don’t feel it. That would mean that waking up angry doesn’t mean I’m failing.

Granted, recognizing this isn’t going to change anything. There is no easy fix to trudging through work. I have a feeling I’m still going to have an awful lot of bad days in the upcoming weeks. But it’s encouraging to think that this lack of positive feelings isn’t proof of anything really. Feeling like a failure doesn’t make me one.

Feeling unhappy isn’t fun. But recognizing that my feelings don’t define me, I can see them as they are: feelings. They don’t have inherent significance nor do they speak truth all the time. And a side bonus of putting feelings aside is that often if you force your feelings to give superiority to reality, your feelings will eventually submit.

Don’t let your feelings define you. Seek out the truth.

people man alone bible book wall bench I believe God has a purpose for each person he creates and that he loves you with a love deeper than you can ever know. You matter and he won’t let you fail life if you turn to him.

Let me know your thoughts. I love hearing back from readers 🙂

 

How Other’s Eyes Influence Your Sight

FullSizeRender (1) - Edited.jpgIn the summer of 2015, a group of staff from Center Lake Bible Camp went on a trip to Marquette in the U.P. Despite having a stomach bug, I had a blast. We visited this amazing park called Dead River Falls, where we jumped from rock to rock, climbed boulders, swam beneath water falls, and went cliff jumping. There were no signs saying to keep on the paths and we were free to test our climbing, leaping, and scurrying skills as much as we desired. The adventures were those of my dreams and I was in love with the place.

Therefore, when my family took a vacation in the upper peninsula, I insisted that our family (with kids ranging age 8-17) check the place out. Nearly immediately after we arrived, however, I realized this place was not going to be the ultimate place for my mom to hang out; I didn’t realize quite how steep the trail was… She took off to go shopping. As the rest of us (my dad and four of my siblings), continued on, I suddenly realized how treacherous the paths were, how fast the water was gushing, how high the rocks were, how slippery the path was, how sketchy the bridges were, how dangerous the place was–especially for my clumsy, careless 8-year-old brother. Even working our way along the hillside to get to the boulders, I was convinced my little brother would trip on one of the many roots, slide all the way down the eroding hill, and hit his head on the sharp rocks, before slipping into the gushing waterfall.

Although with the competent young, strong, adult camp staff I had had the adventure of my life, immediately when my uncoordinated little brother and several younger sisters were along, I feared for their lives and the experience was not exactly fun. This is just another demonstration of  how perception varies depending on so many variables. Have you ever started that movie that your friend said was great only to have the friend suggest you stop watching part way through? With different people, the movie seemed less appropriate.

Not only do different people have different perspectives, but perspectives change based on who we are with. This plays a role in the saying “Bad company corrupts good moral” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Not only does bad company push us to compromise our morals, but it is likely that, in the presence of such company, we don’t even perceive our choices as that negative. Now, of course, not all perspective-changers are negative (in fact, arguably most are neutral and amoral (not related to morals at all)), but it is valuable to be aware of the fact that perspectives change. For Christians, whose goals are to glorify God above all else, this means we should keep Biblical morals in view the whole time.

But even from the amoral perspective, recognizing how many different things affect perception can be handy. When making plans for what activities to do with your friends, which movies to watch with the family, or where to go on vacation, plans might turn out better if you have the foresight to make sure you’re planning with the right perspective in mind.

What are some of your different experiences of the same thing? What changed your perspective? I would love to hear your perceptions!

You’ll See What You Want to See

Image result for confused faceOne evening I was sitting in Concert Choir class when I asked a question of my professor. His answer prompted my thinking face, which (without my knowledge) he took to be a look of discontent or annoyance. The next time he looked at me was when a neighboring singer had sung off-key. I thought his second look meant he was reprimanding me for my neighbor’s mistake. I returned his gaze with an expression of innocence mixed with denial. Throughout the rest of practice, my professor kept making eye contact and I kept responding with expressions of confusion.

At the end of the class, I dismissed the episode, thinking he had just been correcting me for a mistake I didn’t make and I was just going to let it go. Later, however, I discovered my professor thought he had said something that offended me, which, in his opinion, was why I kept responding to his eye contact. Every face I had made after that simply (from his perspective) confirmed my offense. When he started with the assumption that he had done so, everything afterward was seen through that lens. He read the signs, he connected the dots, he saw the obvious…and he came to the wrong conclusion.

This is the problem of perception. While my argument is not that everything perceived is wrong, I believe it is essential that we recognize that not everything we perceive is right. From my teacher’s perspective, he had a lot of reason to be sure he had offended me–time and time again I made faces at him. But every single face he interpreted incorrectly because he made the wrong assumption about the first one. And the faces I was making after that first one weren’t even related to his response to my question, but related to a whole different issue (the one of the off-key singer).

This can happen larger scale as well. On first impression of a quiet person, I could assume this person just didn’t like me. After that, even completely unrelated things can be drawn upon to prove my point. She might not laugh at my joke. She might leave an event early to do homework. She might not ask me questions when I ask her questions. Even though I might not even second guess these if I had started with the perception that she likes me, but is just quiet, I could, because of my original assumption, use this as further evidence of dislike.

While this can go the other way as well (we might make consecutively positive judgments about a person or situation or reaction), I feel it is mainly the negative perception cycles where the most damage is done.

So please, when you find yourself making negative judgments about a person, situation, or occurrence, chill out a little and consider the fact that it is possible that your judgments are wrong. Even when the connections seem obviously clear, even then you could be making a mistake. Be ready and willing to assume the best of the other. In the case that your assumption is wrong, arguably it is better to assume the best than the worst.

Let me know what experiences you’ve had. Have you ever recognized a time when someone “took” you all wrong? Can you see what may have caused them to see the situation differently from how you meant it? Do you think there could be any situation you are currently in which you are perceiving with the wrong impressions? I enjoy hearing your responses 🙂