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.

transitions.

Transitions are times that you see coming but can’t prepare for, and are inevitable.  I’m realizing this more and more as I continue to live life.  I “graduated” from college, and it seems like the apparent next step for me is to get married.  Four of my good friends are getting married this year, I’ve already seen 2 of my good friends get married.  But aside from marriage, apparently graduation from college launches you into the “real” world or I guess the career world.

I miss college already, but what’s mostly hard about it is I’m watching people around me and how they have made lifelong, deep friendships in college, and I thought I was going to have that, but I didn’t.  The friends I made were flaky and when a moment of transition hit our friendship they were gone.  There are some good friends I’ve made, and I may be friends with them for my lifetime, but it’s not like I’m able to have fun with them or spend time with them freely.  I don’t have anyone who I can just pick up the phone and call to talk about life, or to just be with.

Life is so bound by the career we choose or the location we’re in that it’s so hard to connect with people outside of that realm.  I feel like everyone is moving around me and I’m just still.  I mean, I’ve watched my friends get married, and I’ve legitimately never been on a date (Thanks Wheaton College).  But in a more serious sense, the friends I’ve made have been good and beneficial, but temporary and that’s hard for me who makes very intentional friends.  I will go out of my way to be there for people, and if we’re friends, there is intentionality to our friendship and meaning.

I wish there was a way that I could prepare for the feelings I’m feeling, or the transitions I’m dealing with, but there isn’t.  I think because I’ve been feeling a lot of transitions in such a short period of time, I’ve just felt like people are sweeping by me.  I miss consistency and steady relationships and people in my life.  (I also did just Skype one of my good friends last night and I realized how much I miss hanging out with him, so that could be where these thoughts are rooted in…).

summer.

Graduation was great.  It was a stepping stone for me to move on from my Wheaton life and step into my life as a Wheaton grad.  The only bad thing about Graduation was the rain.  Apparently 20min before the ceremony ended it started pouring rain outside.  As we were processing out, they led us into a circle in Edman and I was very confused.  We were being led straight into the library.

During commencement rehearsal in the campus library, they told us we were going to meet our “graduation partners” at the loading dock.  That instantly made me feel like a piece of meat being shipped off, and also made me think why does our library have a loading dock?  But anyways, at commencement, we were instead being shuffled back to the library, where we didn’t get wet, but instead we were forced into a building with 600 other people.  It was hot, gross, and I didn’t have a cell phone to call my family.

When I finally found someone I knew with a phone, I called my mom and this was the conversation:
Mom: “Hi, we’re going to get your sister.”
Me: “Mom, I’m not with Lisa.”
Mom: “O, you’re not?”
Me: “No.”
Mom: “Where are you then?”
Me: “At the Library.”
Mom: “Where’s the Library?” (As she says this I realize the person’s phone I’m using is getting a phone call)
Me: “It’s right next to the building we were just in. But I gotta go. Sorry.”

It was as if I was dying and my last conversation with my mother was absolutely pointless and didn’t get anywhere.  To say the least, post commencement was absolutely insane. We were all in the library, it was stinking hot, I couldn’t find anyone, and no one was leaving, and I couldn’t walk back to Edman where I came from.  On top of that, I didn’t know where my family was, and I didn’t have a way to contact them.  It was terrible.

Onward with the purpose of this post (I was just recently reflecting on that day…).  My summer.  Graduation makes me feel like I need to have a grown up solution to what I’m doing with my life now.  One of my students the other day, after I told them I’m graduating from college replied “O! what are you going to become?”  That question overwhelmed me not only because I felt like I all of a sudden needed to be something, but also I felt like I needed to know what I’m doing with my life.

In some ways I do know what I’m doing with my life.  I have a goal in mind- I’d like to eventually have an after school arts program, or some sort of private studio for inner city kids or special needs kids where I teach them music and give them a place to be, and a means to express themselves.  But how I’m going to get there, I don’t know.  I have interests- I think very deeply and I enjoy learning about how music affects the brain.  This has given me ideas of grad school (which I know eventually I will do).  I also enjoy people and understanding them, getting to know them, and figuring out how they work and think.  I’m more just trusting that God has a plan for me, and that I will be doing fulfilling work that enjoy and love.  In fact, I’m doing that right now, but I’d love to head up my own non-profit (which I have no experience with) or some sort of business involving the aforementioned students.

That being said, this summer will involve myself continuing to teach and loving on kids.  I love what I do right now, and despite my frustrations with working at a store and the fact that I could never work here forever, I love my students and I love watching them develop and grow as musicians and more importantly as kids.  The fall brings two more credits for me to finally, FINALLY, finish my degree at Wheaton College, and post fall semester brings adventures of hopefully getting out of the Wheaton area.  It’s exciting to finally be moving on in my life and not feeling like I’m stuck in a rut working on my degree.

present.

I have returned.

Sometimes I get frustrated when I’m not able to keep on to something that I really want to (*ahem* the a-to-z challenge).  It’s not that I’ve purposely stopped, it’s that I have too many thoughts and I’m trying to keep with it but then I can’t think of topics for the thoughts I have running in my head and then I’m sent in a whirlwind and I’m not sure when or where to start. It’s a frustrating thing.

On with the challenge.  PS.  I will be adding a random blogpost in response to my post titled “[         ].”  Because it’s about Easter (which was now two days ago).

Ok, when I say I hate being confined by time, do you understand why? I feel like time passes way too quickly, and my life isn’t able to catch up to it.  Ever.  There is never a time I feel like I’m on top of time and I hate that.  In life, we’re always looking towards the next minute, always thinking about the next hour, day, week, month, year, years, etc.  We live by goals and goal setting and sometimes we forget about the present.

One of my good friends asked me the other day how I approach friendships.  She continued to describe to me how she tries as best as she can to be where she’s at, because she knows her tendency is to rely and heavily reach back to the past and attempt to rely too heavily on past relationships instead of investing in the present ones.  This was an interesting concept to me, because although I don’t struggle with being present (or at least I try not to think I do), sometimes being stuck in the past is much easier.  It’s really easy for us to rely on what we know and not explore the present and what we don’t know.  It’s easy for us to reach back to the past, to the familiarity and become invisible in our present.

Even more interestingly, it’s easy for us to become attached to our future and forget about our past and present.  Sometimes we look and plan so heavily on our future that we lose the present and our past.  I want to challenge you today to be where you are, to be where God has placed you and to be all there.  Love the past, appreciate the relationships you have from the past, and continue to kindle them, but don’t forget about stepping out of the comfort and finding the present.  Don’t lose what God has placed in your life right now.

openness, opportunity, and ostracize.

So, the title was basically the only three words that start with ‘o’ I could think of right now.  But I realized they are all related in an interesting way.  They are all steps in a process of knowing and acceptance.

First, you have to be open.  You have to be open with yourself, with God, and with others.  Being open means being willing to be challenged and changed.  You have to be able to identify who you are and how God created you and accept that it may be different than what you first thought or what you want.  This is sometimes challenging because we put ourselves in boxes.  We think that we have to be a certain way, and instead of actually asking ourselves who we are, we assume we must be a certain way.  Being open is accepting that that may not be the case.

The second step is being ready for an opportunity.  I realize I’m being very vague with my definitions, and I apologize.  There are opportunities that we’re given to explore, to understand, and to reveal ourselves to others, and the only way to grow in deeper relationship is to seize these opportunities of vulnerability.  I’m a firm believer in the fact that we’re given opportunities to share and I’m also a firm believer in the fact that when the opportunity is given, one should take hold of it.  I think great growth come from these opportunities.

Lastly, you are either ostracized or accepted.  You are either accepted and loved for who you are, or you are ostracized and isolated.  I struggle with this because I’ve experienced both, which I’m sure you have as well.  I struggle because acceptance especially in the current Christian culture is becoming synonymous with the truth or ‘standards’ by which Christians are supposed to live.  In order for us as Christians to accept you, you have to live a certain way, and if you don’t live that way, then we can’t accept you.  We’re forced to love you and hate your sin.  But in reality, as I’ve learned, there is no Christian “type”. God has made us all differently, we all have different strengths, we all have different weaknesses, and we all react to situations differently.  Yes, there is sin, but we are innately sinful.  So how can we as sinful beings decide what is the sin and what is the fruit?  I’m wary of my ability to judge people and decide who’s life is sinful and who’s life is not.  In fact, I am pretty certain I am incapable of having any say in who’s life is sinful.  All I know is we are all sinful, including myself.  There is no man or woman out there who is anymore sinful than me, for my sin is just as bad as any other sinners out there.  The only thing I am certain of is that Christ died for me, and has obliterated my sin with his shed blood on my behalf.  I have no right to ostracize anyone, and I mean anyone by telling them that I can’t support the way they live because I,sinful, broken, selfish being be

[         ].

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.

 

loss.

Today at my church gathering called “Collide”, several people got baptized.  I love baptisms; there is something special about someone proclaiming God’s testimony in their lives and their public declaration of their commitment to follow Christ.  This baptism was particularly moving to me.

Among others, Rose Stevens was baptized tonight.  I don’t mean to diminish the others who made public commitments to Christ today, but I was moved because of how God has moved especially in Rose’s life.  Rose Stevens lost her brother Graham one year ago today (March 26th).  Graham died at the young age of 19, he had just started his freshman year at Wheaton College, and his death was sudden and painful. Rose told her story about how she began to know Jesus. Graham was 6, two years older than Rose, and Rose described riding home from church one day when she was 4. Graham would not stop talking about God and how much he loved Him.  Rose wanted to know this God Graham was talking about, and so she asked him how to get to know Him.  Graham led Rose to Christ and prayed with her.

I’ve been blessed to be in a small group this past year with a group of young adults who are each very dear to my heart.  These group of people God has brought into my life also were very close to Graham Stevens.  Graham died March 26th to a heart attack kind of thing.  He was a freshman at Wheaton College and his death was incredibly sudden.  He was playing Capture the Flag with the Glee Club boys and collapsed.  I didn’t know Graham well at all, but I know people who knew him deeply.

Watching and hearing Rose’s story was painful.  It was hard to see the people in my small group around me suffering, I was physically feeling their pain inside of my heart.  But I also struggled.  I attended Graham’s funeral in the same sanctuary she was being baptized in.  I remember celebrating his life with an overflow of people who gathered.  His life was lost one year ago today.  But his life was not lost without life being gained.  Not only has he gained eternal life with Christ, and no longer is suffering bound here to earth, God used him in his sister’s life.  He used Graham to give Rose life.  Where there is death and loss, there is greater life and blessing.

It reminds me of the cycle of death and life and how much God longs to restore us. It gives me great hope in the loss of Graham to know that our God is a God of redemption, not of death and destruction.