New Year, New Eyes.

Today, I took a good look in the mirror.

The neurotic female in me saw imperfections.

The Mexican in me saw my Asian eyes, and the Asian in me saw my Mexican skin. The grad student and full-time employee saw tired eyes and a wavering smile.

Stripping all of those thoughts away, when final, resounding thought bubbled to the surface: I am proud of who I’ve become.

Here I am, 23 years old, single, full-time grad student, and full-time employee. Undergraduate years, although I graduated barely a year ago, feels like lightyears in the past, and high school feels like a different lifetime. Growing up, I’ve always had this idea of the person I wanted to be: beautiful, successful, good, well-loved, strong, and so much more, the list constantly fluctuating with what was more important to me at the given time. There was always something, in my mind, to improve on and to work towards. But, here I am. Here I am, and I am proud of myself and who I’ve become.

By saying I am proud, I’m not saying I am complete. I am far from complete. But I am saying that, looking back, I might not have become the “Serena” younger Serenas wanted me to be. I am not wildly successful or popular or beautiful. But I am happy with what I have (more or less–don’t get me started on my salary -.-),  I am happy and honored to be well-loved by the ones that love me most, and I am okay with the way my face looks with and without make-up. More importantly, I am proud of my empathetic heart and intelligent mind. I am proud of my artistic soul, and my indomitable desire to help others, to continuously choose compassion over chaos and grace over rigidity. I am glad Jesus made me to be who I am.

There will come days this year, 2015, when I forget this. Days in which I will want to lie on the couch for hours on end and give up on everything I’ve declared in this post. But for right now, this moment, I want to embrace this new year, with these new eyes, with hopes and prayers that I don’t forget this feeling of peace in a storm.

image

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal

To Be A Counselor

Since I started Grad School, this has been my hashtag for any picture or blog post regarding Grad school: #tobeacounselor. I know it’s juvenile to hashtag stuff, I mean, I’m 23, but I like this hashtag. One day I’m going to look back and see all these posts and all these pictures and remember all the tears, anxiety attacks, and exhausted weeks will all be worth it.

One of the big projects I have this semester is having a practice client, and I just want to say: sitting and listening. It is exhausting work to track and pay attention. It is exhausting to not speak.

However, the vulnerability, the sacred space of counseling. It’s a beautiful thing. I am in love with every part of it. I quietly listen to my client, I am right where I want to be. I could do it for the rest of my days.

I’m so glad I was called to be a counselor.

Leave a comment

Filed under Post Grad, Relational

Catching the Bouquet

The sun set quite eloquently behind tall trees with changing leaves. The air was warm–almost unusually so at this time of year in the pacific Northwest. Sounds of merry laughter filled the courtyard as people hugged, took selfies, and hashtagged the joyous celebration. Glasses of white and red wines reflected off the light, making the deep purple tablecloths even more elegant.

There are few things more exciting to be a part of than a wedding.

My dear friend Danielle looked radiant in her sparkly off-white wedding gown, and Zack looked every bit the gentleman with his freshly trimmed beard and hair. It has been a beautiful journey watching Danielle grow into a wonderful woman of faith (I’ve known her longer than I have known Zack–by a couple months haha), and it was an even more wonderful memory to celebrate her marriage this past weekend. Of course I cried at the father-daughter dance, and of course I toasted with gusto at every speech and kiss.

As the formalities of the wedding trickled to a close and we would soon dance the night away, there was only one thing left to do: toss the bouquet. As Danielle glided across the courtyard, a vision of class, I jokingly told her, as I tell every bride, “remember to aim for me!”, as do all the other single ladies. I took my place amongst all the other eligible bachelorettes, somewhere in the middle, hiding behind very tall people (because I am fun-sized, even in heels), expecting not to catch the beautifully crafted (and heavy) bouquet.

One, two, three. Danielle flung the bouquet behind her back and all hands were in the air. Six pairs of hands reached for the bejeweled prize, and somehow, my hand was the one that gripped the tightest. For the first time, I had caught to bouquet.

IMG_0813

I stood there laughing with my friends as I held it up victoriously before I sent a picture to several other friends. For the remainder of the night I carried my prize with me, enthralled by the creativity put into it, and slightly afraid someone would steal it.

Which brings me to the main topic of this post. Though I jokingly tweeted “I caught the bouquet, you know what that means….” in the deepest corners of my heart, I am so tired of being single. Since I was 20, I have been invited to at least 10 weddings, and know countless more friends who have gotten married. I have been single for a very long time. I will not lie that my heart has been emotionally compromised many times since I’ve last kissed a boy.

And I am tired of being single.

There, I said it. Out in the open. I am tired of being single. I’m tired of my heart being mangled and bruised by countless infatuations, because I don’t know how to separate my heart from desire. I am simply tired of “waiting for God’s perfect timing”. Every winter and summer has looked the same since I turned 20. Couples getting engaged then getting married. Now, all of my married friends are starting to get pregnant.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled so see Jesus continuously weave the most amazing love stories, and I am excited to see where He takes all these beautiful people. But I cannot deny that part of my heart that breaks a little knowing that I still have to wait. Being in grad school right now, you’d think the wait would be easier–as I am working full-time and going to school full-time. In all honesty, I probably don’t have time for a significant other right now, because I barely have time to put on mascara in the morning before I have to rush to work or class.

Either way, I am tired of the wait. I know there are young women out there, many of which I get to call friends, who are honestly very happy with being single. While I cherish my time with my beloved girlfriends and living with a roommate, and learning more about myself, I want to do all these things with my plus one. Not just anyone else, mind you. But the someone to end “the someones” and nights when my heart is so heavy I swear I can hear the sound of my heart breaking.

Overall, this post is just me being honest. Because for a long time, I strongly believed it’s weak for a girl to want to be married so badly when she can be her own heroine. But I have come to learn it’s not weakness. It’s okay to desire marriage. If you’re like me, I want you to know it’s okay. I hope and I pray that I’ll one day get to embark on a journey to make Song of Solomon’s envious and raise a whole tribe of children, and I hope you do too. I really, strongly hope and pray I get that. Until then, I’m moving forward. I’m recognizing my wants, and I want to actively leave them at the feet of Jesus everyday, because I’m learning to be a heroine in my own story still. I’m learning to be brave and move forward and believe in the beauty of my dreams.

Also, for those of you curious, here is the happy couple, me, and a couple of our friends. <3

IMG_0812

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Life, Post Grad, Relational

Beauty Is.

It seems to me there is a battle waged on the idea of beauty.

In one tribe, there’s this group of people that promote positive body-image. An example of this would be Meghan Trainor’s song “All About That Bass”. In the other tribe there are people who are intent on shaming anyone who does not fit into this “small size = right size”. This is something we are all familiar with and is portrayed in media every day.

And here I am, discontented by the constant debate of beauty.

I am frustrated by the act of body shaming, yes, and I applaud anyone who promotes a positive body-image.

Even so, I am disappointed by the war.

I want beauty to just be

Beauty does not need to be analyzed by size and shape and color and smell and whatever else we can possibly rate beauty on.

Because just is.

As it goes, a flower does not wish to be another flower. A flower is beautiful because it was made beautifully the way God intended it to be—it’s as simple as that.

Maybe I’m just adding to the war on complicated beauty, but I stand for beauty being simple. If someone is beautiful, I see it resonating in every aspect of their life, from their physical appearance to their heart. If a sunset is beautiful, it’s beautiful because God made it so.

Beauty is.

Leave a comment

Filed under Relational

On Trust & Being Brave

costume

It is a general rule of mine to keep others at arm’s length. To erect my walls and let them down at a speed of zero miles an hour. We can sit here and analyze this all we want: my mom told me not to trust others, sour friendships and familial instances, emotional abuse, whatever. Maybe each blip of the aforementioned moments solidified my mistrust–the glue between the layers of my brick walls. Still, I am my own person, and although the ideas I have learned are firmly in place, I am my own person. My lack of trust should not come from the “trust lessons” others may or may not have have shown me.

I desired to keep this thought without analysis, but I digress, and I am a psychology major through and through. At the end, I believe my root is fear. The more I let others into me, my heart, my private thought process, my very being and crux of my soul little by little, there is fear. I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past few years. Therefore the problem lies in me. Within me is an ugly ball of fear telling me I will drown even if I just wade in. Fear that keeps me from even learning how to swim (figuratively and literally).

And still. I find myself loving words pertaining to the idea of bravery. Brave. Courageous. Lionhearted. Dauntless. Sure. Gryffindor. Risk-taking. Change.

Both in my professional and personal life I can and do tell others to be these things, with hopes that others will be willing to take a step into freedom, believing I am these things too. Yet, the more I examine it, the more I find I am not brave. I am full of paralyzing fear that disallows me opportunities to let bravery shine.

All I want is to be brave without a second thought. To kick fear in the ass and never look back. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be afraid, it would just mean that finally…

…finally my stupid, strong walls will come crashing down once and for all. And, I will be brave.

And I will trust.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal, Relational

Change vs Structure

I find in recent days I am a fan of change.

In most cases, I need structure.  For other Meyers-Briggs nerds, I am an INFJ. I was fairly moderate on all, except my “J” which was high. I need closure and structure and concrete plans. Even so, within the lines of my well-defined system I attempt to create in my day-to-day/5-year-planned life, I find myself fidgeting for something new and unexplored. I cannot remain in one place for too long. I cannot watch the same things happen over and over. I need change.

Well, since my last post, a lot of change has happened:

I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Psychology.

I went to Europe (Italy and Austria).

I moved into a new apartment with a friend.

I started a new job which I really like.

BIG CHANGES in a span of a single month!

In the next few months I will start Grad School–which will be hell. I’ll probably want to die every day as I will also be working a full-time job that takes all of my energy (if you think of me, pray for me!).

As I find myself yearning for more change and more chances to see the unknown, I will always love my structure.

As I need to stretch my wings and fly to new places, I’ll always come back to my nest and read a good book, or another addicting show.

As I start  new academic program, I will still be studying the same subject (counseling psychology).

As I live in a new place, I know I will never be in a place without some large body of water near me.

So, I raise a toast to structure and change.

A toast to another new life adventure.

A toast to the next step.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Leave a comment

Filed under College Years, Personal, Post Grad, Travel

Tick Tock

Tick tock.

Tick tock.

Tick

tock.

Time has moved so terribly fast this year, and there are many things I could write about, but the most impactful was this:

Tick

Tick (Aug 2013)

Sitting in a room full of acquaintances and strangers, not knowing what to say. Looking around and wondering if anyone else felt the same doubt and silent fears as you. Am I good enough? Do I really have what it takes to be an RA? What if they made a mistake in choosing me?

Tick.

Then you break into a smaller group. This little group of 9 faces, little do you know, will suddenly become the world to you. They will be the people pushing you to do your best. They will be the ones loving you even when you don’t want to be loved, and loving you through your mistakes. For the next 9 months, outside of your residents, your res life team becomes your family.

Your #GPCfamily.

Over the course of 9 months you find your walls breaking down with each fond memory and each picture taken. You find yourself laughing, and crying, and praying and simply being, with the nine people you suddenly can’t imagine life without.

Then one day, all the time you thought you had is gone.

Suddenly, you’re sitting in a room full of people who are your family. You watch with tears in your eyes as each of your beloved family members if affirmed for things you have come to love about them. You feel your breath hitching and your pulse racing as you begin to plead with God and you don’t even care that you look like a hot mess. It can’t be over, God. Please, no, it’s not enough time. I need more time. Fear grips your chest, and you realize you’re scared as hell for whatever comes next.

But you know. Somewhere, beneath your surface selfishness that a family will always be a family, and it is better to watch your beloved #GPCFamily disperse into 9 different paths. While you want to keep them to yourself, you’re happy knowing someone else will get to experience the same joy and love you did.

That blasted clock is still ticking. Your heart is still breaking. And yet, you are smiling. You are smiling because your heart had loved much. Your heart has expanded and grown in ways that you never would have dreamed, and you are still scared as hell, but you excited for whatever comes next.

Tock.

Tock (May 2014)

Leave a comment

Filed under College Years, Relational, Res Life, School

Strawberries & Chocolate

#GPCFamily 2013-2014

#GPCFamily 2013-2014

For Lent this year I decided to give up sweets.  It was a spur of the moment decision (probably not the best way to do it), and sweets were the first thing I decided to give up.  It was stupid.  I love ice cream.  Tonight, I broke Lent.  Before I dive into why I gave it up, let me tell you what I learned about myself in these last few weeks:

  • I mindlessly eat sweets too much
  • My life without sweets isn’t that bad; it’s the knowing that I cannot have them which is the worst.
  • Lent, for me, had become a legalistic practice.

I have never participated in Lent before, and I wanted to do it just once.  However, somewhere between resisting a muffin and taking my first bite of delicious “Jesus-moment” chocolate, I realized Lent had become a legalistic practice for me–I was completing this more out of religious pride than reverence and remembrance of Jesus.

So tonight I broke Lent.  I ate wonderful, sweet, juicy strawberries (fruit didn’t count as “giving up sweets”) and a square of delightful milk chocolate. As I ate the chocolate, I looked around the room. I was surrounded by the sweet faces of my res life team–the people that have become so dear and familiar to me this past year.  These people, these friendships, these moments…all of these moments will be held dear to me for the rest of my life.

I saw their faces, enjoying the fine sweets before us, being totally present in the moment and laughing together.  In that moment, I felt Jesus.  He was in the faces of His followers that sat around me.

In that moment of breaking Lent I was reminded more of Jesus than I ever was during the weeks of Lent I participated in.  I don’t know if I’ll ever try to do Lent again, and if I do, I hope it will be for all the right reasons.  But I do know I want more moments like I had tonight.  Moments in which I will look around the room, breaking bread (or eating strawberries and chocolate) with the people I love so much, laughing, living, loving, and seeing Jesus.

chocolate

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Life, Christianity, College Years, Food, Personal, Res Life, School

To Love and Be Loved

To loved and be loved is a vulnerable thing.

To loved and be loved is a vulnerable thing.

Last week, my res life team celebrated my half-birthday.  My AC LOVES to celebrate, so it’s only natural that birthdays (and half-birthdays for those that are summer babies) are appreciated.  Per tradition, we are to wear Mickey Mouse’s wizard hat and have the res life team bless us.

On the night that it was my turn to allow my team to bless me, I sat on the floor, wishing I could disappear into the strange hat, and trying to melt away into the ground, making myself as small as possible.  My arms were wrapped around my legs, protecting myself as the words of my dear, sweet team started flowing over me.  As their words came to me–calling me loving, sweet, genuine, sincere, quirky, courageous–I found myself lost in my tears.

Their words rolled over and around me, like a crashing wave, and my tears fell, blinding me as I sat paralyzed in my spot, I realized the full extent of how hard it is for me to believe I am loved.  I know that I deeply love others, but I can’t allow myself to be as deeply loved–because it hurts.  Because it requires letting people see me, and I’m afraid they might not like what they see and leave me.  Because I don’t give myself permission to love me.

I don’t give myself permission to love me.

That’s the weirdest thought. I need permission to love me? What?

I know that God loves me.  The Bible says it. He has told me.  Pastors, counselors, mentors, friends, family, etc…they’ve all told me.  You can tell a person something a million times, but when does it finally hit home and become real?

It became real the other night.  The other night when I sat across from someone I often feel the need to prove myself to.  I found myself hunching over, hiding myself, making myself smaller because I felt so unworthy–and he hadn’t said anything.  Then somewhere it clicked.  A still, small voice echoed in my mind.

The voice called out from the dark place I was heading to, “Why are you doing this? Why are you hiding? Sit up straight because you have confidence, you’re not the same girl you used to be.  You have authority, and you are just as worthy as anyone else in the room.  You don’t need someone’s permission to love yourself.  Give yourself the permission to love yourself.”

I wish I could say that in that moment, I was healed of every last insecurity in my heart, but I know I’m not. I know I still have a long way to go–and I give myself permission to say that’s okay.

I don’t know if there’s another girl (or guy) reading this, thinking the same thing–believing in your “unworthiness” and refusing to let others love you.  I wish I could give you three simple steps in loving yourself, but I can’t because I’m still figuring out this journey. I can suggest this:

Look in a mirror.

Look yourself in the eyes.

Remember the love others have for you.

Remember the love God has for you.

Finally, let yourself love yourself.

Give yourself permission to be loved.

Love yourself the way you love people–wholly, with everything, unashamedly.  Allow yourself to be seen through the eyes of God–as someone worthy.

To love and be loved is a vulnerable thing, but it is well worth the effort.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Life, College Years, Personal, Res Life

Tangled Lights

lights

I once read a quote that read: “you can tell a lot about a person by how they react to tangled Christmas lights and sudden rain”.  This is one of the truest quotes I have ever read.  What if we applied the same idea to people?

Earlier today I got to have one-on-one time in a loud Mexican restaurant with a friend I don’t get to see very often.  I don’t get to spend time with him because I’m in school and he’s busy being innovative.  So in the time I’m back in California, he’s one of the people I often try to spend time with at least once.

During our conversation, he said something that got my wheels thinking unseasonably about tangled Christmas lights.  He mentioned how at one time, people forgot to ask him “how are you”, and because of this, he forgot to ask himself how he was.

Do you ever find yourself hurrying along on a busy day and you pass someone you know.  You both nod at each other and say “hey, how are you”, and that person says “I’m well”.  As soon as the answer is out of their mouth you quickly respond “that’s great, have a good day!” and hurry along on your way?

I admit I’m guilty of this as I walk to and from class, to meetings, and from class to the quiet peace of my room behind a closed door.  In these passings, I am only thinking about myself and what I have to do.  In these instances I am missing the words that are unsaid and overlooking the emotions that clearly say that someone is feeling anything but “well”.

I know that life is busy and we can’t always stop and spend hours with a person delving into their life story.  But life is also messy, and there are minutes in a day that we are free to ask someone how they’re doing and really mean it.

When it comes to tangled Christmas lights, I go into the task of untangling them with dedication and determination.  After two minutes I give up and throw them away and wait for someone else to do it.

I clearly remember doing this last year in my apartment with my 3 roommates.  The stupid lights would not untangle and I got so frustrated that I left them on our living room floor and caught up on episodes of Downton Abbey instead.  My roommate came home and I told her my frustration.  After she put her stuff away she came to the living room the right the mess I had made.

I watched her as she patiently considered the lights before gently unworking the tangles without complaint.  Slowly but surely she got them done.

“I hate untangling lights,” she said as she carefully laid them to the side so we could decorate the tree later.

I hate untangling lights too, but what set my roommate and I apart were our levels of patience.  While I cursed in anger, she worked in silence only sighing in annoyance a few times.

People are a lot like tangled strands of lights, poetically speaking.  We are all a bunch of messy and jumbled hearts filled with knots that require patience to unravel. I know I am, and I know you probably are too.  And when someone takes the time to unravel us, to patiently regard us despite all of our twists, we are allowed to glow in the most beautiful of ways.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Life, Relational