between.

In a world that demands labels, identifications, and sides, it’s a nightmare to be stuck in between.  To not be “normal”, “average”, “white”, “straight”, “American” or “majority” is a constant struggle between two worlds.  I witness this uneasiness everyday working in a high school.  Students are constantly attempting to conform, change, shove, and push their way into the popular, smart, hip, skater, or emo group.  The labels high schoolers place on themselves and peers add pressure to ‘be’ and ‘act’ a certain way.  I especially see the struggle of my students with special needs as they try to make friends, and try to reach out to students who don’t understand why they look or act a certain way.  It seems as though they are seen as different from the start, and their struggle to “fit in” is so much harder than other students.  My heart breaks for them to know how much greater they are than they can even imagine.

I often reflect on my own life and what these labels mean and do to me now.  Life and it’s labels are given by society instead of the peers and colleagues around me.  The expansion of these labels have taught me a lot- mainly that I don’t belong.  Do we ever really belong?

I am a Christian, half Japanese, half American bisexual woman whose labels don’t describe who I am.  The complexity of a human being is fluid and much deeper than any label could describe.  I have felt caught in between many of these labels- it’s a pretty lonely place.

In particular I struggled with my “Christian” label and “bisexual” label.  When you think of what a “Christian” is, you think of a moral, conservative, creation believing, Bible thumper who has all the answers, right?  They are confident about where they’re going, what they believe and sometimes they seem to tell people they’re wrong if they don’t believe what they believe, right?

When it came to my sexuality, I had a picture that Christians were straight.  If they weren’t, they were celibate, that was expected and taught.  So, when I realized I was bi, I felt my “Christianity” was like oil and my sexuality was water.  They couldn’t and weren’t supposed to mix.  I couldn’t be both bi, and Christian.

Because I was told my number one identity was always supposed to be “Christian” (because I believe in Christ), I shoved my struggles with sexuality away.  I wrote it off thinking “I can’t think like that, that’s wrong”, and most of all sinful.

When I think about sin, I think about actions that pull you farther from who God is in a destructive manner, whether that’s destructive toward oneself, ones relationship with God, or ones relationship with others.  When I look back on my denial, ignoring, and bottling of my feelings towards the same sex, I realize how destructive it was towards not only myself and who I am, but also my relationship with Christ and how I relate to Him.  I felt shame, loneliness, uncomfortable, and stuck between two worlds.  When I began to come to terms with my sexuality, that’s when I felt a weight off my shoulders.  I felt God telling me it’s ok, the struggle is ok, and (most importantly) I am ok, the way I am, the way God created me.

The most dynamic, life-changing, view altering thing I’ve learned since coming out to myself and others is how great, deep, and expansive God’s love for us is.  No matter who we are, what we do, or how we hurt ourselves, His love is far deeper than we could ever imagine.  He has taught me how to love Him more deeply, and how to love others more deeply.  Even others who disagree with me.  I’ve realized Christians aren’t tied down to certain stereotypes, certain labels like I described before.  There are Christians who are liberal, independent, straight, gay, transgender, scientists who believe in evolution, smokers; Christians who drink, who aren’t sure, who don’t know everything, who don’t understand all of the universe, and most importantly who don’t know how God works all the time.  When Christ is involved, labels aren’t needed.  Christ is bigger than Christians in this world.  He’s greater than how we label ourselves, and if we go to church every week, or if we go to the biggest church in the country or the smallest.  He is bigger, his work is bigger, and his love for you is bigger.  He is not contained in a label- he’s not contained in a church, or a culture, or a specific bible passage.  He is so much bigger than all of those things.  I’ve found when I step beyond the labels, when I’m stuck in between the labels, although it’s deeply lonely sometimes, I’m able to grasp more fully an understanding of who I am in Christ- and nothing more.

[         ].

I’m hoping a title that starts with the letter ‘o’ will come to mind as I write this post.

This world lives in silence.  Silence as the cries of the hungry echo through the streets. Silence as the lost wander through the wilderness, stumbling to find truth and hope. Silence as the pain of shame and despair eat us alive from within.  Silence as we cover ourselves with masks of busyness, screens, and staged joy.  Silence.

I can’t live in the silence of the world.

On this Good Friday, I’m reminded of why Jesus came to earth.  He came and he broke the silence of the world.  The silence that daily hid what was actually happening.  The world couldn’t handle the silence being broken, the truth proclaimed and the sin of us all being undressed and bare for all to see.  The world couldn’t handle that.  In response, the world crucified Jesus.  The world nailed him to the cross for his reminder of our failures and his cry out to the world showing us who we actually are.

The dark world sat in its silence on that day.  On the evening Christ died.  The world was immersed in every way with silence.  The earth shook and the curtain was torn, but the world remained silent.  The layers of silence which hid the sinful from their sins remained still and the world was satisfied.  But God was not.

But this Good Friday, I encourage you to remember the silence of the world.  The cries of the broken around you and the covers which we hid behind so no one else can see us.  I challenge you to pray that God would lift those from your soul and show you the greater truth he has to offer you.  The greater truth which comes on Sunday.  But for now, we are left in silence.

 

krispy kreme.

The other day (and by the other day, I mean a few weeks ago) I went to Krispy Kreme with a friend.  We traveled around 45min round trip to get these sweet, hot delicacies and let me tell you, they were worth it.  I had been planning to go to Krispy Kreme for awhile (we were supposed to go over spring break, and then all of a sudden it was the end of spring break and we didn’t do anything we had planned…) and I looked forward to finally getting some doughnuts.

I know Krispy Kreme doughnuts is a random topic, but trust me I have a purpose, and if I don’t, I’ll make it sound like I do.  Essentially, we’re in this thing called life.  There are few things that cause me, at least, great joy.  One of those things is Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  I also love sweet tea, good food, good people, God’s restoration in the world, I love seeing broken things fixed or developing, etc.

My challenge is how much do we look forward to those little gifts and forget about the greatest gift we’ve ever received, the gift of grace.  I looked forward to getting that Krispy Kreme doughnut, and it was completely worth the wait and driving (and waking up early) to get them.  But how much do we look forward to the coming of Jesus?  Is it that it seems so far from us that we don’t remember the glory and the promise of it?  Or is it that we just get caught up in time too much that we forget that our life is but a breath?  My desire to taste a Krispy Kreme doughnut should be nothing compared to my desire to see Jesus reign on earth and redeem all things.  The longer I live the more I desire for Jesus’ coming because the more I realize the suffering, loss, pain and brokenness of this world.  But in my everyday life, I look more forward to the taste of Krispy Kreme on my tongue than the healing touch of Jesus in my life.

adult.

So, apparently these “A-to-Z” blog posts are only supposed to be 100-300 words.  I didn’t realize that… so, I apologize for the length of this one.  The following is a post I began on December 29th, and I decided to complete it to start the April A-to-Z challenge off.

*Just a brief preface.  I’m posting this because I was inspired by my church service (yes, my Disney World church, see this post if you have no idea what I’m talking about), because of people being baptized.  I realized that hey! I post online and talk about God/Jesus/Christianity all the time and no one knows my story.  So I figured I’d write it out.*

This is the testimony of God’s work in my life.  Through my weakness and humanness God has shown his strength and his provision.  This is the work of God, not anything of my own.  “He must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30)

Throughout the centuries, different cultures have identified moments in time when children become adults.  Some say it’s when they turn 13, some say 18, some say when a 16 year old gets their drivers license, etc.  Throughout history, society has attempted to put a line on the transition from a child to an adult.  I am very inclined to believe that none of these are true.  But sometimes in our own culture, we force children to become adults when they aren’t actually adults, and sometimes children become adults even though we still treat them like children.

I think that the development of adulthood is actually the deeper and deeper realization of the world and it’s true state, and my own being and my own true state.  My first true understanding of the world came when I was in 7th grade.  I started attending an all girls school and I was enjoying it.  But I also got a taste of the world.  I trusted people freely and I shouldn’t have.  As a result, I got hurt.  I gave my heart away and I got it back in pieces.  I couldn’t handle it and I couldn’t handle myself and what had happened.  Self-mutilation was where I turned and suicidal thoughts filled my mind.

Cutting was a release I hadn’t ever felt before.  It took me to another world where I didn’t feel; I was numb to the incisions in my body and it made me forget about the pain I was actually feeling.  That’s when I first realized it.  The world is dark, heavy, burdening, and painful.  When I cut, there was no light, no hope, no joy in the world around me.  When I cut, it was like the world began spinning around me.  Time stopped where I was but the world kept spinning, and it didn’t care about my single life.  I remember describing my life at that time as me being in a dark, damp corner with concrete walls surrounding me.  I was at a party, with a group of faceless people.  Those people were all around me dancing and having fun with loud music blaring.  There were lights shining on them, but they didn’t shine on me at all.  None of them noticed me in the corner.  I buried my head into my knees and couldn’t get the strength to cry.  I remember feeling dirty in this corner, unworthy of the attention of the dancing people around me.  But most of all, I felt alone.  I felt alone with a crowd full of people.

The darkness I felt from the world was real.  I realized that the world is dark and self seeking.  It doesn’t care about me or about who I am.  I came to the realization of the world and it’s true state.  It’s true state of darkness, brokenness, and most of all, its humanness.  This realization was painful because I realized my place in the world as well, which was no where.  I was nothing.  The world continued to move on without me.  It didn’t need me.  I felt as though I could’ve dissipated from the face of the earth and the world would continue to turn as it had been, not feeling the loss of my presence.  This is when I believe I became an adult.

I grew up quickly after I looked at my life and felt no flame inside of me to continue going.  I looked at the world and longed for more.  I longed for a restart of my life.  It was my 7th grade year, and I ended up getting kicked out of the all girls school.  I watched my life shatter (in my feeble 13 year old mind) before my eyes.  I didn’t understand what was happening.  I was confused and most of all hurting.  My heart cried out for more from the world.  I longed to see restoration, growth, and light in my life.  I knew there had to be more to the world around me than what I saw in my dark corner, but I was too weak to search any further.

From my dark corner, I looked up.  I was blinded so intensely I couldn’t open my eyes.  The light I saw from the party of happy dancers and loud music was dim compared to the light I saw in front of me.  I attempted to shield my eyes, but I couldn’t.  I saw a hand reach out to me and call me by name.  I felt the dirt on my body, the guilt, and the pain more deeply than I ever had before.  The light I saw was pure, so pure, I could actually feel my flesh behind the dirt on my arms and body.  He lifted me up, because he knew I didn’t have the strength to, and he began to show me who I really was.  He was the first person who didn’t care what I looked like, how dirty I was, or how long I had been sitting in my damp, dark corner.  His love for me was radiant, overflowing, and consuming.  I didn’t know who he was, but all I knew is I wanted to get that dirt off of me.

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise; Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light” Micah 7:8

In His presence, I became new.  His light out shown my dirtiness.  His light burned the dirt and shame I felt off of me.  That moment, when I saw Him, I knew I was His.  He captured my heart, I didn’t ask him to come into my heart, he was already there, he just didn’t make himself known to me.  In that moment, I was complete.  I felt wholeness, forgiveness, and I was accepted.  I was accepted with all my dirt on my body, for who I was, the sin, the dirt and shame.  I was accepted not because I am human, dirty, selfish, sinful, and broken, but because of that light.  I was accepted because I no longer was that person who longed to be dancing at the party.  I longed for so much more than what the world could ever give me.  I realized that I am no longer of this world, I had been bought at a high price, and was adopted into the community of Christ followers I call the Church.

I so began my journey of adulthood, not because I chose to, or because of my own doing, but rather, because of God’s grace in my life.  I am being formed more and more into the person that God wants me to be and that is thrilling.  Our God is a God of restoration and renewal, and I am so thankful for that.  I can do nothing and I am nothing without him and his presence in my life.

Soli Deo Gloria.

relationships.

First of all, yesterday was Christmas.  So, Merry Christmas.  I pray that through the details of the day, you didn’t forget about the purpose of the celebration and the gift from God that brought us hope.

Secondly.  I can’t sleep.  When I can’t sleep, I often times have too much going on in my mind, and usually am thinking too much.  Tonight, I didn’t think that was the case.  I was mainly thinking about how my sister was reading with the lights on while I was trying to sleep, and how I need my room to be pitch black, and therefore I couldn’t sleep.  She left and now I’m stuck here trying to find more reasons why I can’t sleep.  Maybe I need music.  Nope.  Maybe this is the wrong kind of music and I need more calming music.  Nope.  Maybe I need to shut the door (which is very possibly a reason why I can’t sleep, I have always needed the door shut completely).  Nope.

So now I’m writing a blog post in hopes of getting my thoughts (that I didn’t think were actually there tonight) out.  Besides trying to figure out why I can’t sleep, I have been thinking about how God has blessed us with the ability to have relationships with each other.  I started thinking about my life in general and what motivates me and gives me energy.  I’ve realized my life is energized by relationships.  But it is also drained by them just as much.

I look at what I want to do with my life, teach, help either at risk or special needs kids, and do music (somehow).  The majority of those things revolve around other people and building relationships with them.  I think about what has impacted me the most in my life, and I think of people.  I’m not sure if this is what everyone sees, so if it is I’m sorry I’m just realizing it, but I value other people and my relationship with them so much in my life, I long to know other people and understand their life better.

I have a deep yearning to connect with other people, through relationship and experience.  The relationships I have built so far in my life have made me who I am today.  God has blessed me with many people who I’ve come to trust and love; to guide me closer and closer to him.  Not only guiding me to Christ, but they have showed me who Christ is and have taught me to trust him and have pointed me back to him when life causes me to doubt and give up.  Many relationships I’ve built have been grounded in Christ and I’ve been blessed by them.  But humans cause pain and grief sometimes.  Not only have these same relationships caused emotional grief and pain, some of them have actually led me away from Christ.  They have caused me to question his goodness, sovereignty, and love for us and me.  I’ve always wondered, why God would allow us humans to enjoy the blessings of his creation through relationship even though he knows it will sometimes lead us away from him.

It’s so easy to forget about our relationship with Christ when he has blessed us with others physically around us.  I think I’ve learned this the hard way, especially in college.  My freshman year my relationship with God was significantly different than it is right now.  I am tempted to say it was stronger my freshman year, but it most definitely wasn’t.  It did look very different than it does right now, but throughout my college career, I was very easily able to look to my friends before Christ when before, I had no one but Christ to look to when I was having a hard time.

I’m not dating, and I haven’t been on a date so I have no idea how this works and I’m completely ignorant in the area.  But I always wonder how this works with a relationship with a significant other.  Because I feel as though it not only would be so easy to isolate your relationship with a significant other to an unhealthy level, but also, exclusively look to them (even directly after Christ maybe) and value them over other people.  For some reason, that just doesn’t feel right to me, but maybe that’s the way God intended it.  Where is the line of exclusivity and where does it become unhealthy?  How do I know if I’m loving Christ first before my significant other?

I don’t know.  Like I said, I can’t sleep so maybe my thoughts don’t make any sense right now.

I realized after I had thought about some of my past posts about relationships and marriage, maybe I’m completely turning any potential dates away by my thoughts on the subject.  To clarify, I do have a desire to date and be married someday.  So even though I’m completely fine not being married, and I feel as though God can use me just as much without a significant other in my life, if God is calling me to married life, I’m willing.  So with my questioning and my concerns about having a significant other, I’m wanting to know the answers.

Random tangent:  I hope I never get old.  I know it’s bound to happen, but a huge part of me hopes I die before I have to go to a nursing home.  I can’t see myself super old anyways.  Which I’m sure all the old[er] people reading this probably felt the same way when they were 23, but I very much pray that either Jesus comes before I turn 70 or he takes me home before then.  Today we had Christmas dinner at my Grandma’s nursing home.  Which was fine, but I just don’t look forward to living in a nursing home at all.  It sounds boring as heck.  On top of that, I couldn’t handle the food.  All I could think was “Good thing I don’t have to eat this everyday of my life” and I tried to force it down my throat without thinking about it.  It worked, except for now I’m not feeling so great.

Some relationships I have (and had) have been terribly draining and challenging to maintain.  Sometimes I wonder what the point is to continue relationships that are challenging, painful, unhealthy, and emotionally draining.  Relationships suck sometimes and it is very easy to just give up on them.  To never talk to a person again, or decide that hanging out with them any longer isn’t worth it because they are too much of a drain on you to continue.  Yes, I understand this, and I see the idea behind it.  But then I remember Jesus and how challenging, painful, unhealthy, and emotionally draining his dying on the cross for me and for my salvation must’ve been.  I’m reminded that Jesus’ relationship with me isn’t necessarily easy, but his love for me extends beyond the emotions and unhealthiness of me.  There are many relationships I’ve been tempted to cut off completely because of the pain and how they’ve drained me emotionally.  But I know that God’s hand is in each of them.  And I’m so thankful for his strength to maintain them, even if I truly see no blessing in them.

Maybe this is wrong for me to think this way because I’m not Jesus, and maybe we shouldn’t strive to build relationships similar to Christ’s relationship with the Church, but I want to live my life to be more like Jesus.  If that means I need to give up my own emotions sometimes for the sake of showing someone else who Jesus is, then I will do it.  I didn’t even care about Jesus before, and Jesus still died on a cross to save me and give me life; I can sacrifice some of me and my emotional stability for the sake of showing someone who Jesus is.

It is now 3am.  And I’m convinced I apparently had more on my mind than I thought.  Being at home has been strange, and oddly comforting and freeing.  I’m thankful for my family.  I do miss living in my attic though (strangely enough).  I pray God would continue to show me how to be more like him.  And I pray he would guide me to where he wants me and use me to show others his love for them.

stille nacht.

When someone whom you grew so close to leaves you it’s interesting how much you learn about yourself.  There is pain in the emptiness and loss I feel, but there is also scarring over and healing involved.  It’s like a part of my heart has been removed and there will be a hole there for awhile, but it becomes less and less apparent as time goes on.  I’ve realized many things about myself.  One of those things is I was stunted as a musician because of how much time I invested in that hole in my heart.

I find joy in music again where last year at this time, I was too invested in the hole in my heart.  I haven’t forgotten what I learned to love (from before), but I have remembered the love I once had.  I have been reminded of the wonder music brings me and the peace that fills my heart when I encounter it.  Good music that is.  I’ve gone to concerts that I wouldn’t have ever gone to if that hole in my heart was still filled.  I am very grateful.  Especially tonight.

Tonight my colleagues performed a series of Christmas carols alternating with the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the subject of advent which they titled “Stille Nacht”.  As I sat listening to the glorious sounds of the choir and the words of Bonhoeffer as he sat in a prison cell in a concentration camp, I was compelled; I was torn.

The pain Bonhoeffer must have felt at the concentration camp tugged at my heart. He wrote of advent in a prison cell where daily he witnessed devastation, death, and vile acts putrid in the world.  But the joy Bonhoeffer spoke of, the coming of Jesus to die on the cross to save the world eased the tension, if only for a second.

It caused me to realize the deep dissatisfaction I feel from this world.  When I think about the world, I picture a world that is melting.  I picture our humanness covering up our disgusting nature through fabricated order.  Order that is not perfectly orderly, but instead contains the chaos.  For example, we have stop lights, stop signs, and traffic regulations, to keep order somehow.  Even though it is not perfectly orderly to prevent all chaos, it suffices.  We have sentence structures that keep order in the words we use, but there are still exceptions.  We have architecture that creates perfectly square and rectangular buildings that are neat and orderly.  But even in that, there are problems that arise, and issues that need to be sorted out, and in the end, the building is not perfect, there are still flaws.  But there is beauty in our chaos.  In our incompleteness and humanness.  In our weakness there is beauty.

As Christians it’s like we are stuck in the center of a tornado, the calm of the tornado is within us, but the world around us rages on.  Our savior came to save us, he was born and it was glorious.  Jesus came to earth as a man and he walked where we stand, he breathed the same air we breathe, and he drank the same water we drink.  Perfection met absolute, pure imperfection and chaos.  But in order for Jesus to save us, he had to be nailed to a cross and crucified, humiliated, and killed.

In the eerie silence of the night Jesus was born are the whispers of his coming and ensuing death.  God’s gift to mankind brings great joy and hope, but in that joy and hope there is pain and suffering.  I pray that this Christmas season would be a reminder of Jesus’ birth.  The joy of baby Jesus’ cry and the peace he brought to mankind.  But let us not omit the price God paid for us through the death of his son.  Advent is a time of waiting and expecting, but advent is also a time of ambivalence.  In the silence, there was great joy, and in death, there was great life.