Tag Archives: life

It Takes a Village

This past weekend, I moved from my first “adult” apartment of two years into a new one. It’s a bit closer to my work, and it’s a fresh start. This week has been a lot of unpacking, donating, rearranging things to fit into a slightly smaller space, breaking down boxes, all while battling a stuffy nose.

There was a moment during the moving process when I sat in a half-circle with my friends, all of us with beers cracked open in our hands, when I realized these are my people–this is my village.

It takes a village to do anything well. “Well” is my operative definition. I will be the first to tell you, that we can do a lot of things on our own. We can shop by ourselves, and eat by ourselves (which is healthy independence). We can move homes by ourselves and refuse to ask for help. We can keep our own secrets, and we can keep our pain to ourselves (not so healthy). Ultimately, we, as humans, can survive on our own–but we are not living well.

But there is such a beautiful grace in vulnerability and asking for help.  I will also be the first to admit that asking for a helping hand is really hard. It reminds me of my shortcomings, and makes me realize that while I am a good survivor, I am still learning the art of living well. And the importance of creating a village is a topic I will probably write about later, but for now, the focus of this is recognizing your village.

This past weekend I had to move, and I had to ask for help. I had to trust that my friends would come to my aid when I asked–and they did. They came (one of them even showed up after three margaritas), and they drove (the one who drank didn’t drive), and they loaded and unloaded. They opened my bottle of beer, and sat and laughed with me and encouraged me when I felt the anxiety of relocating.

And that’s when I realized–when I took a moment to look up from survival mode to life-savoring mode–I had my village. My village of imperfect people, doing wonderful things.

village

I say imperfect because, ultimately, that’s what people are: imperfect. I can tell you some of the moments these people have hurt my feelings with their words, and in the same breath, I can tell you the moments their words made me feel like I could be irrevocably brave–and that’s what it is to have your village. Your village is the ones who are with you, growing you to be a better person and loving you each step of the way, even when it’s difficult.

Your village will be imperfect. They will be people full of faults, just like you. And they will be the people who will love you and help you when you give them a chance by giving yourself a chance to be vulnerable and asking for help.

It takes a village to do anything well. When you’re stressed, your village will hold you up, and when they’re stressed, maybe they’ll know they can turn to you, too.

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Filed under Mental Health, Relational, Uncategorized

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.

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Cherish Every Moment

 

cherish

With every step through my darkened hall, it’s as though every decoration begins to fade and the ghosts of loud laughter follow me as I check on empty rooms, eerily taking me back to the end of summer when I first arrived on Guy 300. Time has flown too fast.  One minute I was applying to be an RA, the next I walked the empty halls during hot summer afternoons putting up decorations, and the next I’m taking down the Christmas decorations, prepping for next semester before I leave for Winter Holiday.  I know that come January these rooms will be filled again and I’ll be walking up and down reminding these girls to be quiet (they don’t listen, haha!)

Buy Guy 300 will not be the same.

While the majority of my girls will be returning next semester, there are a couple that won’t be coming back to the floor.  Two of them are international students from Korea, and they are the sweetest girls anyone will ever meet.  It’s incredibly difficult saying goodbye to people that I’ve lived with for the past 4 months, and while I want to remain optimistic and say “I’ll see you later”, I can’t make promises I don’t know if I can keep.  While it would be a dream to visit them, I’m afraid of letting the dream become something to hope in, especially if it doesn’t happen.

Instead, I have memories.  Memories from laughing. Sweet memories and sweet pictures of beautiful people that I hope to never forget. With my first semester of being an RA coming to a close, I say this:

Cherish every moment. Be SO incredibly present with the people you are with.  That doesn’t always mean being with them all the time, but it means that in the time you have them within reach, cherish that person.  Love them as hard and as wholly as you possibly can. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to get caught up in the “shoulds woulds and coulds” (I should have…I would have…I could have…), and they are terrible reminders that we are only human and we cannot fully satisfy others’ needs sometimes.  While it is painful to get caught up in that spiral, remember that no matter how great or how small, no matter if you see or not, you’ve made a different.

In some significant and not necessarily visible, my life has been changed.  I hope I’ve changed lives along the way too.  Whether it be a memory of someone who simply offered a sweet smile, or a strong memory of a dear friend, the impact that has been placed our very souls are are real.

Every moment has value, from the most grand moments to the minute details…cherish it.

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Filed under College Years, Res Life, School

Educated

“No matter what you do in life, no matter what happens, as long as you have your education, that is the most important thing.”  If there’s anything I will ever strongly remember my mom telling me, it would be this quote.  My mom had many aspirations of me becoming a pharmacist (I don’t even understand), something in the medical field, or anything that would secure a bright and prosperous future for me–one she could not secure for herself.

Yet, she has finally come to terms that I am a Psychology major with dreams of changing the world through Social Work and therapy. After having a phone call with my dear mom recently I told her that I wanted to apply to one of the best grad schools in the nation for social work.  I told her that it would be my dream and I wanted to make her proud.  Her exact words back to me? “You’ve already made me proud. I just want to be at your graduation to see one of my kids with a diploma.”

This May, I will be graduating with my BA in Counseling Psychology and a minor in Pastoral Care and Counseling.  I will not be the top of my class.  If I’m lucky, I will barely scrape by as cum laude, and I attend a small Christian school in the Pacific Northwest.

I will be the second one in my family to earn a degree.

I have been in college for 5 years. 5 stinkin’ years! While graduation is still 6 months away, I know the months are going to fly by.  As I sit reminiscing on bittersweet memories: the joy of getting acceptance letters, the pain of moving away from home for the first time, the laughter of making new life-long friends, and the tears of struggling through change…all of these beautiful memories have led me to this: I am blessed to be educated.

Sure, some days I think my school’s administration is a bit ridiculous, but who doesn’t?  Sure, I think papers and exams and all those silly collegiate tasks are more tedious than necessary, but maybe now, I see the point to all of it.  Every sleepless night (even if I still begrudgingly think of them) has helped pave the way for my success.

5 years from now, if I stick on the path of becoming a social worker and am successful, I will have a relatively low income. If I become a therapist, I might have a higher income. If I go a different route altogether with an unknown income, one thing remains constant: I have my degree and my education.

Education has never been in my top two life dreams, but rather it is a dream and opportunity I have come to appreciate as a wonderful gift.

6 months from now, I will be walking across a stage with some of my family to cheer me on from the audience. No matter where I go from there–grad school, career path, anywhere else–I have my education.  I have learned and I will continue to learn.  No one can take away my education, ability to learn, and ideas.

 

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Filed under College Years, School

Changes and Transitions

Fall leaves

Autumn has always been one of my favorite seasons.  I love the gradual change from hot weather, to warm weather, to cool weather, to brisk and foggy mornings that I finally have a warm jacket for. I love being able to see my breath in the mornings as I trek up my school’s hills to get to my classes.  More importantly, I love the colors and the way things change from bright green in vivid bursts of reds and yellows.  I love the general feeling of autumn as the world around me prepares for the roll of holidays–Halloween, Thanksgiving, and finally, moving into winter, Christmas.

I’ve always associated Fall as a time of change–the leave change color and it’s a new school year which always means the start of a new beginning.  Recently in light of the circumstances I find myself in, I now see Autumn as a time of transition–a necessary beauty between lazy summer days to cozy winter nights.

For me, at the end of every summer for my return to NU, I have always been excited by the prospect of being with some of my best friends in a place that I love.  I would look forward to the joy of the start of something new with my best friends by my side to share all the moments in between.  As I geared up for this year at school, I knew that it would look different, but I never imagined it would be like this.

As I sat in my weekly one-on-one meeting with my AC (also known as an RD at other universities), Alison voiced something I had not quite formulated into words: “Serena, it sounds like this is a transitional year for you.”

Transition.

It is a word very similar to “change”, but not quite the same.  Change is something very different from what you are used to.  It is changing from point A to point B. Transition is the action in between.  Often times when we’re telling our life story we think about the “drastic changes” in our life, rarely thinking about the significance of the transition between, when in fact, the transition is the whole story.

This year is vastly different for me.  My two best friends at school are married to each other, and while they live on campus, due to conflicting schedules I don’t get to see them often.  My usual group of friends have all graduated.  This year I am in a position of leadership (an RA), and I’m working, and I’m a senior, and I will soon be applying to Grad school.

It’s hard to imagine that this time next year, I honestly don’t know where I’ll be.  I don’t know if I’ll be in San Diego– feel as though God has told me that my time there as a resident might be over.  I have fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest, but I have no idea if this will become home quite yet. Next year will be a year of change for me, and for the time being, I am living the transitory moments.

They are painful.  They are difficult.  They are very much unexpected.  I long for the days of yesteryear in which everything was familiar, just as much as I embrace the challenge before me.

This time of year is often difficult for me.  I have a tendency to get more melancholy (seasonal depression–but not that terribly), and it is difficult when I feel as though I’m not being poured in to, but as I tell everyone and anyone who asks: I would not change it for the world.

Transitions are hard to live, but they are what bind my story together: from who I used to be to who I will be at the end.  For now, I am becoming.

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Filed under Christian Life, Christianity, College Years, School

Peace

Photo Credit: Tootsie Vasquez

Photo Credit: Tootsie Vasquez

 

Behind a snow-capped mountain range the sky was aflame with a beautiful bright orange as the sun began its descent. Although the weather was a bit chilly despite the sunshine earlier that day, the view kept me glued to my place in the middle of the parking lot on my way to my weekly evening class. A distant feeling of nostalgia washed over me like a gentle breeze as I whispered my thanks to God for creating such awe-filled beauty.

Later that night I looked up to the expanse of black velvet sky expecting to see the usual clouds. Instead I was once again enchanted by the beauty of God’s artwork. Stretching above me in endless night were hundreds of stars dazzling, shinning, gleaming into the night; the first time I’d seen stars in what felt like forever. For a moment I stood there and stared as a smile lifted the corners of my mouth…

I felt peace.

I hope to never forget the first sunset I saw in Seattle by Lake Washington two years ago. Just like that moment two years ago, I felt it again on Monday night: a certain rightness and peace about being in Washington. Despite what distance has done to many relationships I have, and despite the difficulty of being in a place a thousand miles from the roads I grew up roaming, I knew in that moment, staring up at the bright stars, I was where I’m supposed to be. Every moment I lived, every memory I have all lead up to the great crescendo of the moments I’m living now.

This next week is Spring Break for me and I’ll be staying on campus. All my roommates are going home, the weather will be rainy (it’s Washington–what do you expect!) and I’ll be working full-time most days at my job. Written out, my circumstances seem grim and a bit saddening, but I’m glad for the break and relaxation! I get to read for fun! Whatever I end up doing, I’m excited to live in each moment, content with my lot.

As for you, I hope that you look to the sky, a water front, or in the eyes of a very dear loved one and feel alive. I hope that you remember all of your moments that led you to the place you’re at and you feel right. And if not, I encourage you to pray until you know where your “rightness” is.

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Filed under Christian Blog, College Years

Jesus- Centered

I want all I do to be Jesus-centered. I mean, yes I go to a Christian school. Yes I do outreach things, but even so, it’s easy to do Jesus things without involving Jesus.

I don’t want that to happen anymore. Somewhere along the way, I began to go through the motions, living in my tiredness and forgetting that Jesus is my reason.

I need to be Jesus-centered.

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His Love Never Fails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)

For the most part I am very quiet about the more difficult events that happen in my life. I will tell the people closest to me or people I know I can trust, and then I will wait for the storm to pass before I make it public. Therefore, I have every inclination not to tell you what’s going on in my life right now, but I feel the need to share my situation with you, not to generate pity but in hopes that someone will be blessed.

I will never forget the time I went to this college group at a mega church in San Diego and the pastor gave a message that was centered around Romans 8:28. What he said about that verse has hit home with me, and has never left. His example was this (paraphrased haha) (REMEMBER THIS IS HIS EXAMPLE, NOT MINE. I AM NOT A DAD): “Let’s say my family and I are on a walk and my three-year-old son wants to ride his scooter during the walk. Of course I let him, but I tell him “you can’t go that far ahead of me and you CANNOT go into the street”. So we’re on our walk and what does my son do? He goes into the street. He listens momentarily then heads back toward the street despite my warnings. One more time, my son tries to get back into the street and there’s a car coming really fast, it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop in time or see him, so instead of watching my son get hit by the car, my initial quick reaction will be to pull him away which may cause him to fall down. He’s going to fall onto the ground and start crying because he got hurt from the fall. He’s going to look up at me with confusion and maybe betrayal, because I’m Dad, I’m supposed to protect him, not hurt him. What he doesn’t see is that I saved him from more pain from being hit by that car. While he’s crying, of course I will comfort him until he feels better, but I will not regret making him cry this time because I know what would have happened if he made it onto the street. That’s what this verse (Rom. 8:28) means. God doesn’t promise rainbows and gumdrops, there’s going to be storms. We’re going to look at him with confusion and maybe even betrayal because we don’t see what He sees. We don’t see that bigger storm that He saves us from. Even if there is pain, good comes of it, He makes it work for our good.”

A week ago I was praying, thanking God that for once I’m not worried about my financial situation (to an extent), for once that was the least of my worries. Hours later I was hit with news that one of the ways I was paying for school is no longer available to me. That was like a punch to the stomach. Suddenly I’m faced to make these monthly payments that I can’t afford which requires me to pick up a second job. Already, I have one job, and Lighthouse, and classes to stay on top of, where am I supposed to fit a second job into that schedule?! Not to mention my car battery decided to die that same day (my fault, really), and then the next day I came down with a stomach virus (it just wasn’t my weekend…).

Why is God doing this to me? Why?

Even now, I can’t tell you why because I’m not so sure myself. However, I do know that God works for the good of those who love Him.

Financial struggles are my biggest fear to be completely honest. Give me bad financial news and I flip out instantly, it’s not fun to watch (or experience if you’re me). Often times I find myself doubting God and His faithfulness and I want to take matters into my own hands. Maybe that’s the lesson I’m supposed to learn right now, to remember that God is faithful, to relinquish my ridiculous control on circumstances that ultimately are not up to me but completely up to God.

I know I’m not the only one going through storms and craze seasons. Maybe your storm doesn’t come in the image of financial struggles. Maybe your storm is in your body and health, maybe it’s in family and relationship struggles, maybe it’s in the spiritual realm. Whatever your storm looks like…God works it for the good. I cannot stress that enough.

He works for the good.

I encourage you to keep praying, don’t lose faith, don’t lose sight of God’s unfailing goodness. Whatever your season looks like, remember that it is only a season. Seasons change.

God bless you.

In Christ,

Serena

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Filed under Christian Life, Christianity, School

The Return to NU!

Currently I’m sitting on a couch in my apartment. One of my roommates is on the other couch putting decorations together, and another roommate is at the dining room table organizing recipes while the fourth is still at church. Slowly, our apartment is coming to life with decorations making this year of living together in a student apartment an actual home.

The first weekend back has been a whirlwind of crazy. First there was the moving in and settling in and seeing all the old friends. By the end of each day I was exhausted and it took less that 5 minutes for me to fall asleep.

Last night was Fred Meyer night where after the store closes down, it opens up for NU students only and offers a ton of discounts on a bunch of different things. This night is always full of people and loud noises and traffic jams in shopping aisles. Even with all the discounts I easily spent over $70…..fail.

Finally, it is Sunday, the day before school starts. As I sit in my apartment, I find myself feeling wonderfully blessed that I get to live in such a nice space with wonderful friends. It seems like there’s always people filtering in and out of our apartment, and while it gets noisy sometimes, I can’t help but love it. It has always been a dream of mine that wherever I live, I want there to be guests always around. Secondly, another thing I’m quickly learning is HOW TO CLEAN!! I know my mom and my sisters would be very proud of me. My roommate will often shake her head at me as she notices me wander around the apartment constantly going after something I find that needs cleaning. I know it’s only the beginning of the year, but I definitely feel is cleaning phase is something that will stay. It also makes me appreciate my mom that much more. She spent 21 years cleaning up after me, and now I’m finally understanding what it means to clean up after myself. >.<

As the year goes on, I hope to grow closer with my roommates as friends and sisters in Christ I hope this apartment will become a home for all of us, and our guests, to relax in and have fun in. :)

Reunited!

In Christ,

Serena

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Solo Road Trip….with tips!

Somewhere in Oregon

As most of the people reading this know (because most of my readers are friends and family), I recently embarked on a 16-hour-straight journey from San Diego, California to Salem, Oregon. Alone. Eeeek!

When most people found out I was taking this journey on my own, they were concerned for me, frightened for me, and tried to talk me out of it. While they all meant well, I knew that I could do it.

Yet the week before I left, I started getting nervous and even asked a few random people to take the journey with me, but they couldn’t find a way back to California, or they started school, so that left me no choice: it was time for my first solo road trip.

While it was a good experience, it was also one I don’t want to do again any time in the next month or two.

If there’s any college kid out there, or a person with a severe case of wanderlust and are debating on taking a solo road trip, or are having doubts, I’m here to encourage you. YOU CAN DO IT! Here are a couple things that really helped me along the way:

1. When you’re driving

  • Pack your car the night before, and if possible, make sure you can still see with your rear view mirror.
  • GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE!!!!!!! I cannot stress this point enough. I woke up at 3 AM for my journey, so I attempted to hit the sack around 8 p.m. so I could catch a few good z’s.
  • Know the directions to where you’re going. I’ve been to Salem before, and my destination was right off the I-5, so it was an easy drive, but just in case, I used a GPS which brought me comfort. Know how to get to where you’re going via GPS, or smartphone.
  • Be cautious. Remember you aren’t racing anyone. Everything you learned in driving school, however long ago that may have been, is necessary. Keep your eyes on the road. Keep alert.
  • Keep alert!!!! The first 4 hours of my drive were the worst. I left San Diego around 3:40 am, and I was tired even as I headed out. At some point during those first 4 hours I thought I couldn’t do it. I thought I would fall asleep at the wheel. So after my first stop, I was able to take a break and instantly I was refreshed.
  • Know when to stop. Frequently check how much gas you have, decide whether or not to hold your bladder any longer, decide whether or not you’re tired. Don’t take chances.
  • Bring good music. Seriously, don’t under estimate the power of music, also, DON’T BE AFRAID TO BLAST IT LOUD! You’re on a solo road-trip! Roll down your window, crank up the radio and BELT. YOUR. HEART. OUT. It’ll keep you awake and IT’S FUN!

2. When you’ve stopped for gas/rest/etc.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Asses your area when you’ve stopped for rest/gas. You’re on your own so you need to be aware of yourself, especially if you’re a girl. I cannot stress that enough. Please, please, please, be careful.
  • Walk around and stretch for at least 5 minutes. You’ve been crammed in your car all day, take a breather!
  • Tell someone where you are. Every time I stopped I updated my twitter and/or I called my mom, or one of my sisters to give a general guess of where I was.

3. Have fun, bro (or sis)!!

  • You’re on a solo road trip, friend! Have fun! Be silly (yet cautious), sing loud music terribly, talk to yourself, enjoy the scenery. I swear that at some points of my trip, I had the biggest smile of my face for no reason at all except for the sheer enjoyment of traveling and pride in myself knowing that I am a capable, independent woman…who can drive 16 hours straight.

A solo road trip is a great experience that I encourage everyone to go on. I loved every minute of it, even when I was tired. It was great “alone time” and great “God time”. It gave me time to think and pray and reflect. It was wonderful.

Thank you again to everyone who prayed for me, I’m sure that in those moments where I felt like I couldn’t go on, your prayers kept me safe the entire way. Thank you. :) I love you!

In Christ,

Serena

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