adulting coupla steps ahead of me

I was feeling people-weary and in serious need of a nap after a few weeks of busyness. Even this meet-up had been delayed by weeks (weeks!) of missed schedulings and packed agendas, but Mary sought me out and even treated me to a dinner — work had run late and I was coming to 7 pm on an empty stomach.

The tiredness, combined with our shared — though light — history, made me especially honest and vulnerable with myself on this evening. I’ve known Mary for a long time now, though never closely. I munched and aired all the struggly thoughts I’d been (not) working through, and she was patient and gracious to listen.

About friendships. About disappointment. About feeling like I’m regressing socially, though society tells me I am progressing just fine (“wait, how do I make friends again?”).

About small talk and the dread of it on Sunday mornings.

About writing. And feeling like I was doing a lot, at the expense of thinking a lot. Cause it does feel like a zero-sum game. Time is limited; so am I. This is especially so for time belonging to me.

She responded with wisdom that made me think that even this lil sandwich-and-tea meeting — such a small little blip in the grand scheme of everyone, everywhere — had been preordained. Made me think that she’s been where I am and that she’s stepped forward into betterness. Made me think: “There’s hope for me, too, then!”

She heard my woes about friendships and affirmed, yes, that the conclusion shouldn’t be a deflated, disappointed one. There’s more to hope for there. We were made to live in community for a reason, and friendships are a huge part of that. Shifting, changing, sure, but not disappointing.

She agreed about the social regression and the small-talk dread and the limitedness of time and energy. And with her agreement, helped me feel not so alone, at least.

She said that she had asked herself all these questions, too. And interestingly, the progress was found in asking even more questions. Sneakily similar to the ones before, but really crucially different.

  • Instead of “what does it mean to be a good friend,” ask: “what can I do differently to be a better friend?”
  • Instead of “when will I finally feel comfortable and belong-y here,” ask: “how can I better serve the people of my community and love them first?”
  • Instead of “why must I make so much small talk in life,” remember: “small talk is the juice and the glue of the every-day Wednesdays.”

It’s all about slight shifts in perspective. I hadn’t been all that off track. The tiniest pivot will catch different glimpses of light, display different hues, make different shapes.

Thank you, Mary unni. Yeah, it feels right to call you “unni” at the end of this dinner and this post.

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a bout of email-thinking about Ivy Leagues

thoughts thanks to an articleshare by gloroh. response much, much to belated, but finally here.

email-thinking:

as an overly proud English major whose heart, in recognition of itself, beat faster at these paragraphs —

The first thing that college is for is to teach you to think. That doesn’t simply mean developing the mental skills particular to individual disciplines. College is an opportunity to stand outside the world for a few years, between the orthodoxy of your family and the exigencies of career, and contemplate things from a distance.

But it is only through the act of establishing communication between the mind and the heart, the mind and experience, that you become an individual, a unique being—a soul. The job of college is to assist you to begin to do that. Books, ideas, works of art and thought, the pressure of the minds around you that are looking for their own answers in their own ways.

I’d like to think that the author of this article would be very proud of me. despite the fact that UVA didn’t make his list of recommended schools not trying to compete with the Ivies.

and this, this stuff is tragic; it makes me want to send this article to everyone I know who went to Ivy League schools and somehow coerce them into telling me their true inner thoughts. is it real? —

Before he started college, he spent most of his time reading and writing short stories. Three years later, he’s painfully insecure, worrying about things my public-educated friends don’t give a second thought to, like the stigma of eating lunch alone and whether he’s “networking” enough. No one but me knows he fakes being well-read by thumbing through the first and last chapters of any book he hears about and obsessively devouring reviews in lieu of the real thing. He does this not because he’s incurious, but because there’s a bigger social reward for being able to talk about books than for actually reading them.

Look beneath the façade of seamless well-adjustment, and what you often find are toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation. A large-scale survey of college freshmen recently found that self-reports of emotional well-being have fallen to their lowest level in the study’s 25-year history.

and then, the following para made me think of this vidjo which I believe we discussed at our last dinner date.

So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect ofnot being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential.

and overall, I really agree with his final suggestion for reformation:

The education system has to act to mitigate the class system, not reproduce it. Affirmative action should be based on class instead of race, a change that many have been advocating for years. Preferences for legacies and athletes ought to be discarded. SAT scores should be weighted to account for socioeconomic factors. Colleges should put an end to résumé-stuffing by imposing a limit on the number of extracurriculars that kids can list on their applications. They ought to place more value on the kind of service jobs that lower-income students often take in high school and that high achievers almost never do. They should refuse to be impressed by any opportunity that was enabled by parental wealth. Of course, they have to stop cooperating with U.S. News.

and really did enjoy the whole thing, except that he seemed to get progressively angrier and angrier as he wrote on, which was detrimental to his credibility as a writer/expert and which was the principle reason I haven’t sent this article to all my friends who went to Ivies — for fear of inciting much responsive anger. hm…I dunno.

OVERALL, a MOST ENJOYABLE READ! I wonder what the state of college will be like by the time our kids are ready to go to college. if I do have kids, I hope I can be the kind of mom who instills in them the desire to gain understanding and wisdom and soul-stretchings in college and really see higher education as that best opportunity for those endeavors. but I fear that I am weak and will probably be anxious if they don’t get high SAT scores. much growth and prayer needed.

those spheres of ease

there are spheres of life in which you feel at ease, totally in your own skin, and open to newness because you’re okay with all the right-now atoms in your current atmosphere. and then there is everything else, which is the majority of life. at least for me, right now.

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love in a tiny kiwi. a lovely keewee.

but those spheres, they are so good. and they exist in the weirdest, randomest places. walking the halls at work for a clear-the-head break, arms a-swinging like the Cake song and teef a-smiling at the unknown peoples because they’re unknown to me; there’s no risk (there’s freedom in smiling at strangers). sweatpants life, veg-ing out at homehome, visiting for the weekend having brought real clothes but teebee.H. not needing them at all, all weekend long. blog mode at a cafe where the temperature is not too cold not too warm just right and zoning in on not to cold not to warm just the right words even though there are other, Real things to be done, and feeling so accomplished at the end of the thought train, at the bottom of the latte cup, zero of the said Real things having been accomplished. phone conversations with really helpful customer service repuhresentatives, knowing what you mean by your uncertain blabbering because they’re just that experienced in customer blabber-needs. spending way too many minutes perusing all the things I won’t buy up and down the aisles of the korean grocery store where I buy my weekly kale because produce is freshest there (huzzah for kale, huzzah for nova groceries).

and running into my mom’s friendladies and saying hello, no hesitation, because I feel able and natural. and getting impromptu shares of life wisdom from an older and wiser soul who’s brimming with it, only needing to be tapped, to be asked.

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haaappyyyyy biiirrtthhhdayyyyy too meeeeee

but honestly, it’s not even the content of such conversations — rather the context. what makes these moments possible. that sphere of ease. that comfortsphere. where you’re open to impromptu conversations with acquaintances that aren’t even yours, but your mom’s. knowing full, knowing well — smalltalk is not your strongsuit. going out of your way uncalculatedly to call out to people and open up your bubble to touch theirs, connecting for a moment or two.

what is it that creates these spheres of possibility? I have a feeling it’s something really specific: two heaping cups of really good nights’ sleeps. a liter of contented conversation stores. a mindful of vocab in that (un)foreign language you’re delighted to be discovering, again. three generous drizzles of chocolate frosting over that birthday cake baked at 375, for-ty8 minutes. those two bunches of bananas someone placed in the back of your car so you wouldn’t even have a chance to refuse them when offered. an extra day of rest from the running schedule, because your body — and your mind — needed it though you weren’t even clever enough to know it until you’d had it. eighty-three miles of road driven, harmonizing all the way with singers on your iPod loop loop looping all these years you never updated your music stores.

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happpyyy biiiiiirthhhhdayyyyyy! tooo!!! meeee!

 

how interesting to organize the experience of Life this way — it’s just a practice in negotiating these spheres and the rest. just a long series of navigations in between, from circle to amorphous circle. and the resolutions, the lessons, are to:

  1. expand these comfortspheres, each and all, until they’re the majority and the “restofit,” the exceptions.
  2. find out other people’s spheres of ease and discover them in living in theirs. observe. appreciate. smile aloud, teef and all.
  3. test and exactify that recipe for sphere success — so you can do numbers 1 and 2 better and better. this will probably take some more days off from the relentless schedule of working out and making lunch salads because you’re still only a young padawan (what even is a padawan? why do I use these words I don’t really know?), the greenest grasshopper, and apparently you can’t run and think at the same time. at least not to the same level of intensity. one’s gotta give way to the other.
    1. get better at running, so you can think more.
    2. get better at thinking, so you can run more.

wow. lots to do here. guess I better go get some more sleeps to get started.

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candid.
but this. yeah this. this is life-giving to me.

toaster ovens and bread machines

Five months in and my apartment is finally starting to feel like a home. What does that even mean, anyway? Home.

Cause it wasn’t the gaggles of lost girls coming over to sit on my uncomfortable ikea chairs around my uncomfortable ikea “dining table,” sharing meals no one felt quite certain about. (Though somehow, it wasn’t The Triumph of the Entire Chicken, either.) And it wasn’t the pasting up of the things on the walls; things that made the place feel like mine but only in the surfaces they were touching. (Squares of unfaded ivory, marking the passage of time as the sun would have them.) It wasn’t the knick-knacks, and not the dust bunnies that had no one to chase after them but me, and not the downstairs neighbors for whom I tiptoe around my bedroom every morning. It wasn’t, surprisingly enough, even the moments of solitude and prayer and reading I certainly wouldn’t have the time or mind-space for, if I were still living at home with the mompops. All those minutes, spent sitting on the white couch, too distracted to read but too uninspired to write.

I’m pretty sure the answer — at least in part — has to do with kitchen appliances.

Okay backtrack: I’m pretty sure the answer — including bits and pieces of all of the things above — has to do with kitchen appliances.

I dunno if it’s just the way my home always was, throughout the transient years, but home is where my mom has all her stacks and stacks of dishes. Where all the rest of us learned WAY too late how exactly to put them away in their right places cause she spoiled, and never demanded chores of, us. Home is Mama Lee’s quiet extravagance — waffle makers and bread machines galore. And Home is warmth around a dinner table, time slowing because everyone relished those meals; the older we got, the better.

And somehow, suddenly and apparently, I have this kitchen all my own, and my apartment is finally starting to feel like a home. I got a toaster oven for Christmas and was appropriately excited, as an old person should be about “opening” the “surprise” of a useful and practical gift for the home. I cook here, read here, sleep here, dream here — I live here now. Next door to the bedroom live the bread machine and the toaster oven and the knife sharpener and the Y-shaped vegetable peeler, relics and testimonies of a life so poured into with abundant love and secret preparations I didn’t even realize were happening. Fingers weaving and caring for me while I (mostly) didn’t even know it.

Though some things aren’t so hip and high-tech — like the fact that I still have yet to figure out what exactly I’m supposed to buy at the grocery store so the city will take my trash away (yeah…) and that I’m typing this away on the desktop sticky note program of my internetless laptop, rendered a glorified typewriter. It’s a weird mix of growing up and…not. And boy am I grateful for these baby steps.

Chin-chin to a year of more pseudo-adult adventures

!

vanilla buttercream

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Midafternoon cupcake thoughts:

Vanilla on vanilla is my choice. Am I old now?
One on one meeting with manager is productive and sheepishness-inducing. Tips on Time Management 101. Am I grown up yet?

The confusion, and not-quite-here-nor-there thoughts encapsulated in a lunchbreak cupcake run, giddy with the sugar fuel but tight on that half hour of freedom. I work through half of lunch on Thursdays.

“great timing”

I think if there’s one phrase to describe your time here so far, I think it would have to be “great timing.”

From hiring to training to the way that random projects and uh, Other Life Things have popped up — this has been a journey of truly providential timing and the cushiest of postgrad-life-lessons.There have been so many “almosts” and “woahs” and “what ifs” in my life for the past few months, it’s insane and feels big-picturely orchestrated in a way clearer than life feels most of the time. I know God is working, all the time, but that some of the time, he lets us glimpse more clearly how he’s doing it. And these post-school few months have been an AWEsome demonstration of that, if nothing else.

From almost being whisked away to Madison, Wisconsin, a week or two from that last-minute interview for this position I had applied for…three months back,

to the boringly detailed, work-related saga of the project and product influx that streamed in, so timely, during the first titillating months of training and learning,

to the romancing and the Japan-ing and all these combinations of things I honestly NEVER imagined would be combination-ed in my life, wow,

to all the ends that are loose, still, but continue to be orchestrated in those mysterious but ultimately comforting ways in which the Father works, always.

Always! Always.

Praise GOd for uncertainties — and the courage to cling to the certainty in the uncertainties. Indeed, indeed.

things I am excited about:

  • developing the mind-folders of what every new iteration of each work email thread means, where it comes from, where it should go, how it should be handled, how many emoticons I can use in reply to it (ZEROOO IT’S ALWAYS ZERO, STOPP), which little outlook folder it should be tucked away into.
  • all the highlighted To Do’s in my planner for the next few weeks; all the meal dates and catch-up dates and otherwise dates.
  • learning to Learn From One Another — pulling out all the stops. metaphors. intense imagery. sadnesses and their counterpart happinesses [rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep rom 12:15]
  • all the Whole New Worlds — college sports (just watching…), throwing things that scare me, hiking and hand-holding, doubling the friend bubbles.
  • finally knowing where to find everything in my own kitchen. and also, where oh wherrrrrrre is my deodorant?
  • having people over when the weather is cool, the ac does not blaze, the windows have been sealed and soundproofed so we can speak to one another in WHISPERS if we wanted to, and still hear our thoughts above the roar of JPA traffic.

all the things!!

the soft-push struggles of the cushy postgrad life of the ladisonmee

This (un)official last summer has been so full of trials and their counterpart blessings. I am so grateful for these opportunities to grow, between such forgiving walls. Whether it’s forgetting the security deposit for lease-signing [like the housing noob I truly am], or “finding the corners” on a shiny new car (or two…), or ending that movie-scene flashing-lights-in-the-rearview-mirror with the movie-line words, “I usually don’t do this, you really were going 18 miles over the limit, but just this time…”

life has been so forgiving of my unfortunate noobnesses. With parents who are so gracious to keep lavishing their parently love – keep reminding me of my heavenly father’s love – and friends who balk at my mistaken ways but then correct me in love and wise counsel, I feel tap tap tapped in small-increment adjustments onto righter and righter paths to lesser and lesser noobery. Thank you for the patience; thank you for the forgiveness; thank you for the love.

Now if only I could put these thoughts into non-nonwords and real truethoughts.

Or not.

🙂 praise God!

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"I love these kinds of pictures because they make me feel safe and spoiled and cozy and like a baby."
“I love these kinds of pictures because they make me feel safe and spoiled and cozy and like a baby.”

What We Get Wrong About ‘Finding God’s Will’ via Relevant

God’s will is not a mystery to be solved but a road to be traveled.

 

from here

What is God’s will for your life?

This question tends to haunt us while we go through our college years. We struggle through it by choosing our major, deciding where we will spend our summer, figuring out where to go to grad school, and so many other decisions.

If you are like me, anxiety creeps up on you every time you think about your future plans.

But why do we get so anxious? For me, I start thinking about how I have one opportunity at every decision I make, and when I choose one path, I am saying no to another. But how do I know the path I choose is the right one?

The phrase we have all heard in answer to this question is we need to find God’s will for our life. And for the past 21 years, I thought I had to keep praying for God to open my eyes to the will he had laid out for me. That if I just kept searching long enough and hard enough, I would know exactly what I was supposed to do in the future.

But Kevin DeYoung blew up this idea for me while I was reading his book Just Do Something.

We Never Find God’s Will for Our Future

In the beginning of the book, DeYoung says, “We should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tight-rope, or a bull’s eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.” This rocked my world. I always thought that if I made a wrong decision or took a wrong turn, I would be removed from God’s plan.

But what he is saying here is that we are free from the burden of trying to discover God’s will ahead of time. It is not a maze for us to perfectly navigate in order to reach our end goal, but instead, God desires for us to trust Him with all of the twists and turns.

Yes, God is sovereign over my life. Yes, He has specific plans for my future, but He does not expect me to find out the details of His plan before I get there. So this whole idea of finding God’s will for my life has been me searching for something God does not want to reveal. But why does He choose to withhold His plans from us?

An Unknown Future Leads to Faith in a Known God

If we knew every step and detail of our lives, there would be no reason for us to have faith in God. When times get tough, we realize we need someone greater than ourselves to direct where we are going. That’s why God doesn’t always want us to know the perfect road He has laid before us. It would be like someone spoiling the incredible plot twist of Fight Club or Inception. What makes the story great is the  confusion and uncertainty, and then in the end, every puzzle piece comes together to create a beautiful picture.

Not only does God have an epic plot for your life, but He wants you to trust in Him. God has given us these tough decisions not to be stressed out but to make us realize we can’t do this on our own. He gives us more than we can handle, so we are forced to lean in on Him to find strength. Just as Provers 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” So instead of praying to find God’s will, let’s start praying to find faith in God’s guidance.

God’s True Will for Our Lives

Now if we never find God’s will for our future, then what is Paul talking about in Ephesians 5:17 when he says, “Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is?” What Paul is describing here is a different definition of God’s will than we normally think about.

Many times, we only think of God’s will for our life in regards to the future, but there’s so much more to it. No matter what your future plans are, God wants you to seek and glorify Him right now. Simply put, God’s will is your growth to be like Christ and glorify Him in all things.

We need to do away with the idea that He wants us to go to Him in order to find out our future. Instead, God wants us to go to Him to be transformed in our heart and mind. God’s past, present, and future plans for your life have one constant: His glory. And if God has transformed our hearts, our decisions will be made with His glory in mind.

As DeYoung says, “God is not a Magic 8-ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him.”

So Make Decisions With Confidence

If God has given us a new heart that desires what He desires, our decisions are going to line up with His plan. We work through these decisions with the wisdom He gives us through the Spirit.

We are often so intent on looking for some hidden plan God has laid out for us that we forget to consult the passions and desires He’s given us.

We will never find the perfect road God has laid out, but He will give us desires He wants us to chase after.

Find those passions and pursue them.

Make decisions and stand firm in them.

Have faith in God and trust in Him.

God is bigger than your major. God is bigger than your job. And God is a whole lot bigger than the worry you have about your future.

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woosh and woosh