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…).

gratitude.

In my room, which is the attic of a house, I have this word taped to the wall:

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Gratitude is an interesting word to me.  It evokes more than just a posture of thankfulness in my mind.  Instead it evokes an attitude of graciousness.  Gratitude takes over your heart and changes the way you live where thankfulness feels like a one time thing.

This picture reminds me of the many things I’m grateful for: a roof over my head, beautiful relationships that God has blessed me with, community, school, food, the list could go on forever.  Gratefulness is more challenging to me than thankfulness.  Being grateful means you are able to accept the fact that it’s challenging, that the situation hurts, or that you are broken, and be thankful for that challenge, situation, or brokenness.  It takes on a deeper aspect of pain and suffering but acceptance, and the ability to learn from that pain and suffering.

I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had at Wheaton College; the good, bad, hard, challenging, hurtful, painful, encouraging, and growing.  It grieves me to soon be leaving those experiences, but in that grief, I’m able to find acceptance and assurance that it’s been beneficial and good.

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city.

I grew up in the small (I only realized it was small when I moved out to the suburbs of Chicago) town of Hudson, Ohio.  It’s a cute little town of 22,262 people who are majority middle class white citizens.  The closest city to me was Cleveland, and we all know what Cleveland is like, and if you don’t, then you don’t want to.  Cleveland was not very accessible (only by car) from where I grew up, so going into the city wasn’t really a “thing”. There was also an understanding that Cleveland wasn’t really that great.  When I went there, I didn’t really see floods of people walking around or people enjoying the city itself.

Since coming to Wheaton, I’ve realized that the city is so much more than just a place to go see the symphony or see sports teams play.  The city is the conjunction of our human corruption and our innate beauty and creativity.  Maybe I’m just spoiled because I live by one of the greatest cities in the world, Chicago, but when I go to Chicago I see the world more clearly as it is.

When I go to the city I’m overwhelmed with the diversity of people.  Not just ethnically diverse, but the different personalities the city calls.  The city shows me how different each of us truly are.  Not only do we look different and act differently, each of us has our own separate lives.  We’re each going on our separate journeys only momentarily running into each other and saying excuse me.  The city reminds me how easy it is to fall between the cracks of society and feel incredibly alone and isolated with no community of your own.

But, there are some stunningly beautiful parts of Chicago, particularly Michigan Ave., State St., and Lakeshore Dr.  But there are some also wretchedly ugly dehumanizing, and filthy parts to Chicago as well.  I was blessed to have the opportunity to go to the city every Saturday afternoon to serve the homeless for the first 2 years of my Wheaton College career.  This opportunity opened my heart to the homeless and showed me the pain of human life in the context of the city.  I saw humans who were living like animals in the deep cavities of Lower Wacker Dr.; people who are so ashamed and embarrassed that when we attempted to talk to them they barely knew what to say.  Then there were others who didn’t know when to stop talking. I mean if you think about it, these people have no one to hear them out. I can’t imagine living life like that. It started to make me think about the world completely differently.

What brings someone to beg for money?  What brings someone to live on the streets of the city? I was always taught that they were choosing to be homeless, that anyone can get a job in this great nation of America, and that anyone who can’t is just lazy.  But that’s not true.  It made me realize, yes, some homeless people may just sit in their homelessness because they grew up homeless, and some of the homeless are pretty darn crazy and not necessarily fully in their right mind, but there are a lot of homeless people who lost their jobs and are truly struggling.  There are homeless who are stuck in the cyclical addiction of alcohol and drugs and can’t find a way out.  There are homeless who truly feel helpless and have no where to turn.

Visiting the homeless and getting to know them made me wonder what it would be like if I were homeless.  I tried to think about how lonely it must feel.  I thought about how degrading it must be to beg people for money only to have them turn their back on you and ignore you.  I thought about what it would be like for me and what state I would have to be in to beg on the streets.  I thought about how I would have to feel like there was absolutely no other options for me, that the only way for me to survive was to ask other people to help me to get food for that day. Some may be taking advantage of the system but many are acting in desperation.

The city is full of opposing pictures of wealth and extreme poverty, the immaculate and filth, brokenness and restoration. It’s a magnified version of the world around us.

 

routine.

And classes have begun.  I woke up on the first day of class at 8:30, and read an email from my professor announcing the location of one of my classes, which apparently was at 8am.  I had some confusion, obviously, because I thought that the class’ time was TBA but it was actually the location.  It didn’t feel very good to realize that not only had I slept through class, I slept through my first class of the semester.  Not the best way to start off a new year.  

This semester feels that way in general.  I feel like I’m tripping into the new semester, not sure why I’m still taking classes, and not really wanting to be taking classes.  I’m nervous and I don’t want to mess up and possibly have to spend (probably the rest of my life) at Wheaton.  

My question I’m coming into the semester with is, how can I be Jesus to these people around me?  I struggle because a lot of the friendships I’ve invested in are going to be moving on and going on in their lives (just like most of my friends did last year).  And that scares me.  Especially when I care about these people and I want to love them like Jesus loves them.  But that takes energy, energy I’m willing to give, but knowing that in the end it will lead them elsewhere.  

I’m realizing as a student, that we get stuck in this routine of school.  We get stuck in this schedule of classes, sitting in class, going to rehearsals, sitting in more class, doing homework and studying, and then sleeping, waking up, and doing the same thing.  I personally can’t stand it.  I’m the type of person who needs change, at least small little change in the midst of familiarity, and I lose that when I’m stuck in a routine.  But another observation, I feel like I learn the most and grow the most when I seize opportunities that break me out of my routine. 

I pray that although comfort and stability feel right, that I would accept the opportunities to break the routine and just be.  In those moments that I feel uncomfortable and uneasy, I pray I would continue to seek after those and learn to love despite the itching feeling to leave.  I don’t want to have a life of routine, but a life of constant change seeking and growing to be more like Christ.

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.

improvisation and suffering.

What have I accomplished today?  I woke up at 6am, warmed up my car that I’m afraid one day is just going to decide it can’t start, walked out the door at 6:40, went to Starbucks, drove to Buswell library to find out that it was locked, drove back to Starbucks and now it’s 7:30 and my class starts in an hour.  Instead of doing what I was hoping I would do (Aural Skills homework), I’m writing a blog post.  And I’m oddly ok with that.

I’m not sure where this post will lead, so I apologize if you read a post and hope to know the point before I start.  I don’t know the point of this post, therefore, you won’t know the point either.  Hopefully there is a point to it though.  As always, there has been a lot on my mind.  One, my senior recital is coming up in less than a week.  It’s made me think about my musicianship throughout these past 5 years.  For those of you who don’t know me, I play the cello.  I’ve been playing the cello for about 13 years.  I’ve realized that I came into college very well trained technically.  But my musicality was very lacking, which I think is a good place to be.  To have the techniques down on my instrument but be lacking in the musicality.  It’s better than lacking in technique but advanced in musicality, because technique will always hinder from the musicality.  That’s beside the point.

Since coming to college, my one major accomplishment performance-wise has been my ability to step away from the music and actually say something with the notes that have been written out for me.  The main way that I was able to accomplish this was through the ability to improvise.

I love the cello.  I love playing, performing, but most of all I love hearing the cello.  I love the instrument, and I know the instrument.  Improvising has allowed me to gain the confidence to be ok with playing something that may sound bad, and moving on from it.  When you improvise, not everything sounds good.  I would improvise with a pianist, and so most of the time it wouldn’t sound good.  I started out playing whole notes under the piano, but now I’ve been able to play moving notes and it becomes easier and easier to play off something that doesn’t sound good and making it seem like it was supposed to be that way.

Here are some links to improvised music that my friend Ryan and I recorded:

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8.4.13

Most of all improvising helped me to step away from the notes.  Prior to my improvising experiences, I was so caught up in getting the right notes that I couldn’t step away and find the line of the whole phrase.  Improvising gave me the freedom to say something with my instrument where prior, I couldn’t because I was focused on the details of a passage.  It would take me forever to read and learn a piece of music because I was so focused on the notes and all the details within that note (dynamics, articulation, etc.)  I’m going to be honest, I’ve only started practicing for my recital within the past month.  And even that practicing hasn’t been a lot.  This week, I’m planning on actually practicing a lot… which who knows if that’ll be a lot.  But the point is, I’ve learned new pieces much faster than I did before because of that ability to read through a piece of music the first time and understand the phrasing of it instead of just focusing on the notes.  Music and the way it is written makes sense, and when you understand why a composer wrote something a certain way, then you can easily understand where he/she is going with it.

Enough of the music jargon.  I’ve also been thinking about relationships and how God provides.  When you lose someone close to you, whether they pass away or they just drop out of your life, there is a grieving process that takes place.  I’ve been going through this and it’s been challenging in many ways.  I’m not going to go into details of what’s happened or who I’ve lost, but I miss them.  I’ve been in denial, I’ve been angry, I’ve tried to see what went wrong and questioned with what ifs, I’ve been depressed, and I’ve been anything but accepting of it.

I trust that the acceptance will come in time, but for now, I’m suffering the loss.  It’s been challenging to move on in my life and leave the past behind.  One thing I can say though, is God is good.  He has provided for me friends that have blessed me in so many ways.  I’m able to be myself now and I’m enjoying my life and where I’m at so much more.  Many of my friends have no idea what I’m suffering the loss of, but they have been supportive of me and loving of me as if I’ve known them my whole life.  I’ve felt very alone and isolated, but I’ve also felt more loved this past semester than I have in a long time.  God has been so good in providing me exactly what I need at exactly the right time that I needed it.

I am certain that God had this planned out in my life that I wouldn’t suffer alone.  I am also certain that he would not let you suffer alone either.  He has blessed me so much by his provision and by the body of Christ.  My view of the body of Christ and it’s purpose in this broken, lonely world has greatly expanded in the past 5 years.  God has shown me who he is and his presence in my life much more fully and I’m so thankful for God’s grace in showing me that.  Through the pain of loss, I know God is good.  That is the one truth I hold to, and everything else will fall to pieces around that.  I pray that in your suffering God will teach you that same thing, that he is good despite the pain.  I pray that truth will lead you through the rest of your life.