Faithful Presence

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About a month ago, Pastor Tim Chaddick shared an incredible message at RealityLA on the importance of having a faithful presence in people’s lives. He spoke on how having a community built on genuine relationships matters and that there are NO unimportant people. Previously, when I heard messages on this topic, my natural instinct was to think, Well, obviously. I already know that. However, something about Pastor Tim’s message really struck me. Maybe it was the constant repetition of “People matter” or the excellent deliverance of the message, but weeks out, I am still thinking about what was shared that evening. More often than not, we have very selective group of people we build our community around. Everyone thinks their friends are the best and that they really don’t care to make any new ones. The people directly involved in our lives are the ones that matter, and everyone else is just noise in the background. But he challenged the congregation to see past ourselves and understand how each of those people that we dismiss have their own fascinating and deeply written stories. Everyone has a unique reason they’re in this world and have a very specific purpose in God’s greater picture.

This made me appreciate the relationships I currently have so much more, but it also made me curious about the people I come across everyday who have their own radical stories. I so often navigate towards people who are similar to me in interests and lifestyles that I neglect the variety of people in this world that have the ability to challenge my perspectives and pull me out of my comfort zone. I think They’re so different. Why would they care about me? Why would I be remotely interesting to them? But that’s the issue. Society has become so jaded to the thought that people can genuinely care that they fear intimacy. People have come to think that every relationship that goes deeper has some kind of ulterior motive behind it, and fail to see that we’re meant to share life with others. We weren’t made to go through this life alone; we’re made to generously sow into people and to receive that kind of love and care back. Just as much as I have the capacity to invest in someone, they have the capacity to invest in me. Sure, it may not always be reciprocated, but that shouldn’t be what keeps people from making that first step. It can be scary to be in a vulnerable state and invest deeply in people, but, more often than not, you get to hear their story, you get to hear about the joys and tribulations they’ve gone through that have significantly influenced and shaped who they are. Isn’t that worth it? Isn’t the fear of rejection and fear of getting hurt petty compared to what you can learn and experience? Being on the surface level with people and thinking that we can go through this life perfectly on our own is almost selfish. When we sacrifice a little of ourselves and are willing to be a presence in people’s lives, we get an overflow of life-changing blessings.

hello 2015.

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Each year has monumental moments, downfalls, tribulations, celebrations, etc. 2014 was no different. As I look back on this past year, I’m amazed at how much has happened and how much has changed. The most significant event that happened in 2014 would have to be graduating college and shipping my life back to Los Angeles. Though I miss New York every day, and have a mental battle of whether or not I want to go back, I know there was a reason I made the decision I did. It never really hit me until I sat down and really reflected on the past year and thought about the people I’ve met, the memories I’ve made and the personal changes I’ve experienced. I had so many expectations moving to LA, but none of those expectations I had constructed were met. But that was the beauty of it; there was perfection in the unexpected and it was far greater than I could have imagined for myself.

It is human nature to think there is always something better out there and that there is more that can be accomplished, but these thoughts cripple us from embracing what we have in the moment. I spent too much time focusing on what was out there, and what I was missing out on, that I started to lack appreciation for what I had right in front of me. I have the most amazing people in my life; people who challenge me, who share their love and positivity, and who make me the best person I can be. Six months ago I thought I was pretty satisfied with my life as it was. I was fine with where I was headed, who I was surrounded with, what my circumstances were. Now I can’t imagine my life without the people currently involved in it, and the goals I am just beginning to develop. People always say everything happens for a reason, but I have never felt that statement be more true than through the events and decisions made this year.

I stopped making resolutions several years ago. More often than not, I couldn’t keep them, but I realized there was no point in making resolutions. People should try to better themselves on a daily basis and should always challenge themselves to make better decisions. The only thing I hope for is that that I live more fearlessly and intentionally this year. When I reached out to a friend of mine for some advice, he simply said “you can’t let your fears shackle you from doing what you’re meant to do.” This statement resonated with me deeply, and is what I hope defines 2015. The best is yet to come.

happy new year !

What is relevant?

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What shoes am I going to wear with this outfit? Should I wear my hair straight, curled or up in a bun? Do I want to go with vampy red or flirty pink? Should I get a salad to cut the cals or just fuck it and get a burger? 10 more reps? Would that make me look extra yolked? Should I drop down bills and credit cards to impress, even when I know I can’t afford to do so? What can I say to appear witty and charming? What will I be doing five years from now? What will give me status in society? Can I ever achieve the life I want to live? I want this job. I want that life. I want that outfit. I want I want I want…

Our minds are consumed with these kinds of superficial self-fulfilling thoughts on a daily basis; I am definitely guilty. We become so concerned with what is going on in our immediate environment, and strive to find a way to match up to the standards set by society, that we often forget about the bigger picture. We forget about what really matters in this life, the tragedies that go on around our world and the difference we have the potential to make.

The media flaunts the ideal of fame and glamour, idolizing individuals who have made it in the limelight and can sing some tunes and dance on stage. We get attracted to the wealth, the beauty, the praise. These icons become the staple of society; the image they portray is what individuals, young and old, feed off of. We forget that they are no different than you and me. They’re still human. Behind closed doors, more often than not, they’re living fucked up lives with miseries that they’ll never let surface. Some things, money really can’t buy. Is it worth it to vicariously live through them and miss out on the beautiful moments in our own lives?

Some of us find an urgency to be wherever something’s going on because of serious FOMO and the desire for our presence to be felt. Where the crowd is, we naturally gravitate towards because that’s where we can expand our network. We want to be in the know and become everyone’s best friend, but take a moment and step back, do those people feel the same about you? Is it worth focusing so much energy into being noticed amongst people who don’t care when you can be expending that same energy into something that can actually bear fruit?

This generation has the tendency to always want more and to complain when we don’t get it. This is definitely something I struggle with. We fool ourselves to think If I get THAT job, I’ll be SO happy. If I find THAT guy, I’ll know what falling in love is like. If I just have THOSE material things, I’ll never ask for more. Truth is, we’re always going to want more. We’re like children who desperately want certain things, we’re just old enough to know how to suppress our tantrums. We’ll never really be satisfied by the things that this world will offer us. These things that we think are so crucial to our lives now, slowly become irrelevant. We meet new people, find new passions, obsess over new inventions and trends. It’s a cycle that doesn’t stop. So if the cycle never stops, will you ever find happiness?

The thing is, we have the choice to make these things significant in our lives. We think that it is inevitable for us to be wired to focus on these things because these are things that are relevant in our society. But that’s just an excuse. That’s easy. These are choices we make on a daily basis. You can choose to sacrifice a little of yourself and your time to help someone who may be in need. You can choose to tune out the the norms the media presents and enjoy your life, in the present moment, with the people you ACTUALLY know and love. You can choose to step away from the crowd and learn more about yourself and what YOU love instead of exhausting yourself trying to know everyone and everything. You can choose to be thankful for what you have and the people you are surrounded with every day, and you can choose to embrace this season in your life and appreciate whatever else happens to come your way. These are choices we make on a daily basis. We wake up in the morning, and choose to have a good day. We choose to love who we love and we choose to shape our lives in a particular way. Sometimes, we need to be still and really reflect on what we hope our lives will look like if we look back on the span of it. Will all these menial things we count so important now really mean anything?

What is relevant?
That’s up to you.

Vital

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When you sit down on a chair, you don’t think twice about whether or not it will keep you upright as it should, you believe gravity will hold you up. When you feel a breeze, you know the wind is blowing. You can’t see it, but you don’t question its existence. That kind of innate instinct and unwavering trust is what faith should look like. I always find it hard to explain the concept of faith because it is something so complex and personal. I’m not one to force my faith on others because I believe it is something intimate that cannot be demanded, but I do believe faith is something worth sharing.

I was baptized at birth and was raised in a Christian family. I grew up attending church on a weekly basis and always involved myself in church activities; I was on praise team, helped out at summer camps, attended bible studies, etc. I didn’t entirely know why i was doing what I was doing or what I really believed in, but I went through the motions because that’s what I knew to be right. As I got older and became more exposed to the world, I became conflicted and questioned where my values really lied and whether my faith was built out of default or because of my genuine belief. I had to separate my participatory faith and my real faith. During high school I had several opportunities to get baptized again as an adult, but I always found myself reluctant. I wanted to recommit my life when I was ready and when I knew what I believed in. 

I have been incredibly blessed to hear some incredible testimonies about how God has completely changed people’s lives; life stories from people who were once gangsters, drug addicts, alcoholics, but turned a 180 once they accepted Christ, praise reports of healing from physical, mental, emotional ailments, testimonies of near-death experiences where God offered a second chance at life. Hearing these testimonies, I’d alway feel humbled and deeply encouraged, but I would always find myself wondering when my “moment” would come; that moment where God becomes so real to me and nothing could hinder my belief. I’d go to every retreat, praise night, service expecting for that revelation to come, and would find myself disappointed. The funny thing was that while I was searching for that “moment”, God was already doing radical things in my life that I was missing out on because my focus was elsewhere. I wasn’t recognizing what he was giving me directly because I was paying too much attention to what he was giving to someone else. But faith isn’t about someone else. It’s not about another person’s life, what struggles they’ve gone through and how they’ve overcome them through their beliefs. Faith is personal. It’s based on what you believe and what you know to be true.

I may not have a crazy story, but that’s okay. God became real in my life in silence and when I was completely alone. It wasn’t a climactic moment where something dramatic happened, it was just a solitary moment where I knew that my life would not and could not be fulfilling without His presence. I knew I could live my life by my own means but I would always come up empty. On April 15, 2013, at the age of 20 years old, I was ready to re-commit. 

My values and beliefs are what drive my life and what keep me grounded. I know there will be times I find myself slipping and depending on worldly things to offer me comfort and satisfaction, but I’ll always come back to the same place. When I’m going through a funk and I don’t know why, I’ll look at where my spiritual life stands and 99% of the time, it is because I have been negligent and withdrawing. When I chose to get baptized, it was a huge “moment” for me, not because something monumental happened, but because the faith I presumably believed in for 20 years finally became real to me.

Everyone is going to have a different story, but it doesn’t make one greater than the other, so there is no need to look at someone else’s faith and wish their story was your own. That’s the beauty of having faith in something. Once you believe in it, no one can take it away. 

Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains.

When 1 + 1 no longer equals 2

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When your in your 20s, you’re either single, in the butterfly stages of a relationship, or you’ve been in a relationship for quite sometime. The 20s are the years you begin to figure out what kind of person you really want for yourself, and what kind of person you know you aren’t compatible with. With this experimental season comes great excitement, joy, love, but there is also the unavoidable consequence of heartbreak. Every time you lose someone that once meant so much to you, it hurts. It’s inevitable and even when you think it doesn’t affect you, at some point, it will resurface. There is no sugar coating when you experience heartbreak. It doesn’t matter what people say to try to comfort you because, though those encouragements are greatly appreciated and welcomed, they only temporarily relieve wounds that are so deeply cut.

I’ve learned its a little cycle. At first your sad. You reflect on however long you’ve been with that person and you think about all your memories. You think about how good it was and how happy you were, and then you try to pinpoint the moment it went wrong. You start to question why things turned out the way they did, and you begin to blame yourself. You think about the things you lacked, or the areas you fell short, and you start feeling insecure and lose confidence in who you are. You become numb to anything and everything, and you find hardship in facing each day. You may appear fine on the outside, but you’re just desperately trying to keep your broken self together.

Once this sadness passes and you’ve expended so much energy in letting yourself feel the pain, you become increasingly bitter. The tables turn and you start to think about what they did wrong, how they didn’t consider your circumstances, how they were selfish. It then becomes a blame game of it wasn’t me, it was actually you. You feel a kind of refreshed satisfaction in this bitter state because, for a moment, you throw off the burden of the breakup by just believing it wasn’t your fault. It’s easier to suppress hurt when you camouflage it with resentment and anger, but the effectiveness of this mechanism is only momentary.

What comes after these few stages? When you come to the realization of how vulnerable you actually are, and how much hurt your hiding behind, how do you cope? When your mind doesn’t allow you to let go, how do you force yourself to move forward? You live in a daze searching aimlessly for something to fill the void you’re feeling, not knowing how to come face to face with the situation at hand. You refuse to let yourself feel the emotions that you need to feel to move forward because part of you honestly doesn’t want to. You want to hold on because it’s what makes sense to you. You keep thinking if I let go, everything I believed in and trusted just perishes. But sometimes, the best thing you can do is to let go. For the other person and for yourself. Sometimes, holding on only prevents you from developing and bettering yourself and keeps you from really finding the person that was designed for you. You engage so much of your time into holding onto something that no longer exists. You may have fallen in love, but it’s just as easy to fall out of it. Just because you let go doesn’t mean you never loved them, or that the time was wasted. It just means the time you had was to edify you and prepare you for something and someone more perfect for you.

It’s never going to be easy, so don’t try to force yourself to think that it is. Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel, but don’t grow bitter to the point even the best memories together turn sour.

Building Blocks

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When my older brother and I were younger, LEGOs were our thing. We would build fortresses, create tracks for our race cars, play with our little LEGO men; it was truly the most entertaining thing for us in our childhood. I always wondered why my mom never bought me barbies or kitchen sets, but whatever. I had fun and I’m all about gender neutrality for the kids. I digress.

Something I recently reflected on was how my brother and I would spend endless hours building these amazing constructions, only to break them down moments after. We would put in so much effort creating what our little minds were envisioning, but once we did, we’d tear it down to start over without hesitation or reluctance. I look back on that now and think, what a freaking waste of time; if I were to spend hours of my time investing into something, and someone else destroyed it let alone I destroyed it, I would be fuming. But I thought about it a little more and realized that having the ability to be torn down and embracing the persistence to be built back up is the beauty of living life as it presents itself. I’ve often been told to have a child-like faith and a child-like heart, and, ironically, as I get older, it becomes more of a pressing need for me. Children are simple-minded. If something dramatic or unwanted happens, its a few moments of sobbing and wailing before its just another thing of the past. They don’t think it’s the end of the world if plan A turns to the plan B, and they know how to fearlessly let go.

I’m someone who works fervently towards something and expects their to be a result. If I’m giving 110%, I expect the outcome to be a reflection of that, but the cold reality is that that’s not always going to be the case. Whether it be in the goals I set for myself, the relationships I build, the work I do, there will always be the potential that something is faulty causing what I have built for so long to come crumbling down. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and becoming bitter and resentful, I can use those moments of vulnerability to start over and build again. We may blame our shortcomings and think we failed, but sometimes its not our fault. Sometimes its just the way life goes. We are our own worst critic, and if anything, we are the ones who keep ourselves in muddled waters.

Starting over and having to build from scratch may seem absolutely dismal. The time and effort invested into whatever was damaged may seem like such a waste, but when you look at the glass half full, it could be the best thing that could have ever happened. If we never experience pain and we never want to lose things that could potentially be harmful just out of the convenience and comfort of holding on, we can never really experience joy. We could be missing out on something incredible, and we wouldn’t even know it. Next time you feel your world falling apart, embrace it. Take life for what it is and don’t be discouraged. Challenge yourself to build again. Whatever struggle you face in any particular moment is a gem in disguise. Make it count.

Selfish Youth

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Fear is something that lives in all of us whether we like to admit it or not. It is something that has definitely hindered me from pursuing ambitious goals, from letting people into my life, and from fully embracing who I am and what I value. Allowing fear to linger and not making a conscious effort to conquer it has inflicted a lot of regret and brokenness in my life. This past weekend, I felt like I hit a wall. Not physically (though I would not be surprised if that were the case), but mentally and emotionally. I realized that fear was constantly creeping into every aspect of my life and preventing me from believing in my potential. It wasn’t just about my potential to achieve my goals, or the potential for great relationships to develop, but more about the potential to just do more in my everyday. There is so much I want to explore and experience, but I never actually do it. I’ve lived in LA my whole life minus the four years I was in NY, but the vicinities I’ve ventured are so limited. My weekdays consist of working full-time, and my weekends have consistently been the same, doing the same activities. Don’t get me wrong, I have had a lot of fun, but I can’t help thinking is this what every week will look like? Is this just going to be an on-going cycle? Am I okay with that? This is when I hit that “wall”. I am not okay with that. I don’t want to be okay with a routine and a cycle that just seems easy and comfortable. I want to venture out and not let the fear of missing out or the fear of being alone keep me from going forward and being my own person.

People I look up to and have experienced more years of life than I have always tell me, “Your 20’s are the years to be selfish.” The word selfish has never been one that sits with me well. I always felt it was a fault in character, and the worst insult. However, these individuals I call my role models put it in a different perspective. They remind me how these are my glory years and how I must appreciate and live in my youth. I always took that piece of advice with a grain of salt, but lately it is resonating with me more and more. Turning 22 doesn’t make me feel any older or any wiser. It is that insignificant year similar to the years between 18-21 where nothing is that exciting or monumental. It isn’t an age where you can buy your first lottery ticket, or an age where you can purchase your first alcoholic beverage. It’s what I like to call a “floating year”. I didn’t have a lot of anticipation or expectations for my 22nd year of life, but I realized that was the worst way i could look at it. 22 does not change anything for me in terms of the law or in society, but it is a new year that has the potential to be full of incredible experiences and fruitful growth. It is my choice to allow that to happen.

People tend to go through a quarter-life crisis when they turn 25, and, knowing me, I’m sure I will experience it just the same, but I felt like I went through my personal life crisis in turning 22. I know, I know. *Roll your eyes* You’re ONLY 22! No, I am not old. I understand that I am still VERY young. However, I also feel like each year will continue to fly by quicker, and that my youth will be over in the blink of an eye. I am becoming more wary of wasted time, living idly and for the satisfaction of other people. I don’t want to look back when I turn 25, 28, 30, etc. and think that my years were not fulfilling. I truly believe my 20’s are for ME. Though that may sound self-centered and haughty, I don’t mean it that way at all. I’ve let fear rule over several aspects of my life, for years of my life. It has torn me down and made me push many people away. It has made me question who I am and who I want to be. The person I was at 18 is completely different from who I am now, and who I am now will be completely different from who I will be another 4 years from now. I don’t want fear to be an obstacle interfering with me becoming the best person I can be. This year, I make it a personal goal to destroy those fears and to focus on my personal growth. These are the years where I can explore life and find my passions. I can build confidence and let go of many of my insecurities. I thought that the college years were the years I would really find myself, but I’m realizing that this is just the beginning.. Adventure awaits!