More Than Ships Passing In the Night

Month: April, 2014

“The Happiness Project”

After yesterday’s post, I didn’t know what to write about today. It seemed trivial to go back to writing about the “little things” although I still maintain that they have their place of importance in how we view life.

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So, I’ve been reading this awesome book by Gretchen Rubin called “The Happiness Project.” My college roommate gave it to me for my birthday last year and I recently started reading it. I love the author’s writing style – she’s funny, engaging, and insightful. While there is an element of pop psychology to it that should be taken with a grain of salt, it is nevertheless a very entertaining and thought-provoking read.

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Stealing some reading time in my car before class this morning

The author writes very practically and candidly about the areas that she worked on in an effort to improve her happiness. A lot of it seems like simple common sense, but the way she presents it causes me as the reader to respond in a “Yeah, I should be doing that!” way (as opposed to a “Well, duh” way).

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“In fact, when introverts push themselves to act more outgoing, they usually enjoy it and find it cheering. Connecting with other people lifts people’s moods.”

One aspect of this book that has really impacted me is the way that Gretchen applies her findings to her relationships. She is examining the concept of improving one’s own happiness as a way of bringing happiness into the lives of those around us. It is a similar concept to the idea that you need to make sure your own needs are being met if you are going to effectively meet the needs of other people.

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“I also wanted to conquer my own particular bosom enemy: snapping.”

Something I have really appreciated about this book (in a kind of painful way) is the way that Gretchen repeatedly slaps me in the face by identifying areas where I struggle and that impede my happiness. Her wise words about nagging, snapping, fighting right, and giving proofs of love were not only helpful to me, but also convicting. I am terribly guilty of nagging, snapping, and not fighting right (my go-to methods in conflict are the silent treatment and snapping unexpectedly over things that aren’t that big of a deal. For the record, I do not recommend either of these methods, unless you are trying drive someone out of your life. And even then, there are classier, more effective ways to go about that). It was a sobering reminder to me of an area in my own life that needs a lot of growth: handling conflicts and learning not to pick fights over things that just aren’t worth it.

IMG_0190“Over time, however, spouses start to take each other for granted. Jamie is my fate. He’s my soul mate. He pervades my whole existence. So, of course, I often ignore him.”

That sentence, as well as the ensuing paragraph, hit me right between the eyes. It’s hilariously tongue-in-cheek, but it also gets right to the heart of one of my deepest relational issues: taking the people that are most important to me for granted.

For the sake of context, I will say this much: at the beginning of April, my boyfriend broke up with me. It was very unexpected and definitely not what I wanted. In the weeks that followed, the futility of my efforts to rescue the relationship were almost as devastating as the break-up itself. Hence April being the Month of Excruciating Sucky-ness, hence this post. The only reason I’m even talking about this is to explain that going through a trauma such as an unexpected break-up can be productive in terms of forcing you to closely examine the areas of your life where you need to grow.

Suddenly, everything I’m reading about relationships is now relevant to me, particularly in terms of how to have a healthy relationship, or to improve one’s relationship. I am soaking up everything I can find, trying to internalize it so that I will, hopefully, someday be able to apply it. Under the circumstances, I have a sort of ravenous receptivity to this information right now – maybe it’s a coping mechanism. At any rate, the paragraph pictured above was tremendously insightful for me, albeit in a “I wish I’d read this sooner” sort of way.

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I love the in-between moments where I can just sit in my car, take a few breaths, and read a few pages.

I’m not really sure what is my purpose for including the above picture, other than to document that it was a nice day and I sat in my car with the windows rolled down, drinking an iced latte and reading about how to be a happier person. All of that to say, go read “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s an easy read and it will definitely be worth your time.

Amazing grace

Instead of posting about shoes, or fortune cookies, or my lovely co-workers today, I want to write about something a little bit different. Right now, the choir that I sang in when I was in college is currently in Korea on a two-week tour. God is using them in incredible ways to bring hope and comfort. Last night, they had the opportunity to sing for the families who are grieving their lost children and loved ones in the ferry sinking.

Dr. Shawna Stewart, the Biola Chorale director, described the experience on their tour blog: “It’s hard to put into words our experience last night at Jindo. We are humbled to have been invited into their grief. It sounds like much good has come from it even in the smallest of things like the expression of our emotion through tears. We concluded by singing Amazing Grace with the families, us in English, the families in Korean. Soli Deo gloria.”

During my time in college, we did not have quite the same ministry opportunities. Our choir tours consisted of trips to central California, Arizona, and New York. They tended to be more recruitment-oriented than anything else. They were fun in their own way, but I am truly awed and inspired by what the Chorale is doing this year. This trip is what the Biola Conservatory is about. It is what makes our Conservatory unique. We strive to be excellent musicians, but there is a greater purpose to our endeavors than just delivering an exceptional performance. Our purpose is to minister hope, healing, connection, and comfort – to communicate truth and light in the midst of darkness. This is why we do what we do – so that God can use our music for his glory.

After I graduated, I found that I had a strange double-standard when it came to supporting the Chorale. This group represented the community that was such an integral part of my college experience. I missed that community. I was jealous of – dare I say, even threatened by – these new choir members, this new era of Chorale, because I wished that I could be a part of it. It sounds childish to admit, but there it is. Oftentimes, my jealousy kept me from appreciating the good things that the Chorale was doing. Because I could not stay in the choir forever, I started resenting it.

But this morning, as I looked at pictures of their Korea trip, and read the blog posts and the news articles, something in me was convicted and something in me melted. I suddenly saw the barrier that my jealousy had created, blinding me from supporting this group in the way that I should. I will always be an alumna of the Biola Chorale, and I am so thankful for that. I am so thankful for the amazing ways that the Chorale continues to use music to minister to those around them. Please join me in praying for the efforts of the Chorale as they continue their Korea tour.

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The Biola Chorale singing at Jindo

 

 

Anything for old friends

Yesterday I went to San Francisco. I don’t normally venture out into The City because driving in SF scares me. But a friend from college was giving his master’s recital for his composition degree, and I wanted to support him. Plus, my mom said she would come with me. She provided the moral support I needed to navigate the streets of San Francisco, and we parked across the street from the Conservatory without incident.

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This is the outside of the San Francisco Conservatory. So unassuming!

The recital hall had this lovely modern vibe to it while also creating a very intimate atmosphere. You could sit in the back row and still feel like you were “up close” to the stage.

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The composer himself, saying a few words before the recital started.

The recital was phenomenal. This composer is very gifted and I look forward to seeing (and hearing) how he will use his abilities to create beautiful music in the future (Check out his music here!) The recital nourished my soul a little bit, if I can say that without sounding too silly. It reminded me just how much I love and miss the Conservatory experience. It fanned the flame of that grad school dream I’m always talking about. And it was just inspiring to see people I know, people I went to school with, doing incredible things. It made me want to find my own way of contributing to the music world.

Plus, it provided a much-needed reminder of the constancy of music in my life. Sometimes life can feel like a series of unpredictable changes, but sitting in a concert or recital hall and listening to an orchestra tune reminds me that there are some things that do not change. And that is comforting.

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The fortune cookie never lies

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My practical application still needs work, but at least my philosophy is solid.

Anyway, it made me smile.

Dancing through life in ballet flats

Well. I originally was going to upload some hilarious videos of my sister and brother-in-law doing lip trills, with general commentary from my parents in the background. It’s pretty epic. There are Muppets. BUT. I can’t figure out how to add videos into a post unless they are via YouTube, and somehow uploading those videos onto YouTube first feels more weird to me than sticking them in a blog post.

However, I would be remiss if I let today slip by without a post. So, instead, this post is about the awesome shoes that I scored at Target last week.

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I know, not nearly as exciting as lip trills, but sometimes it’s the little things, people! In this case, I wasn’t even looking for shoes at Target. My mom was trying on shoes and I was putting a box of misfit shoes back on the shelf for her and wondering if Target carried their signature ballet flat shoes in the color red, when I saw this vision of loveliness:

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Now, riddle me this: how often do you walk into the shoe section and see THE shoes that you are looking for in THE color you wanted in THE exact size you wear, on clearance for $4.26???

I know, right?!

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The shoes basically quoted Back to the Future at me right in the middle of Target: “I’m your density. I mean, your destiny.”

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And the rest is history. I love them. I can’t walk very far in them because I’m still breaking them in, and if I wear them too long, I get these raw spots at the base of my ankles. But they are worth it. Now I just need to find a yellow brick road…

 

Sasquatch: ode to joy

I had written up a post about how Sasquatch originally came to be in my life, but reflecting on that season of my life actually made me more depressed, which is counter-productive to the purpose of these posts. So, I will save that story for another day! However, in keeping with posting about things that make me smile right now, this post is dedicated to Sasquatch, the (not so) little cat who came into my life right when I needed him and continues to be a source of endless joy and entertainment.

 

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The day after I rescued him

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Goober

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“Oh, heyyy….”

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“HEYYYYY….”

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“Lucy is cuddling with me. Does not compute.”

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Yin & yang

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Easter selfie with my baby!

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I was trying to imitate the face he was making. Obviously.

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Sasquatch is over the selfies…

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In one of his weird cuddle contortions.

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Look, Ma! No arms!

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It’s hard to tell in this picture, but Sasquatch is watching women’s bobsledding.

We discovered it’s his favorite Olympic sport.

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This kid…

I can neither confirm nor deny that there may be more posts to come featuring this silly cat.

I will celebrate any excuse to smile

This is the third year in a row that April has been the Month of Excruciating Sucky-ness, for one reason or another. I’m not a fan of this trend, so I’m fighting back. For the remainder of the month, my goal is to post a photo or photo series on this blog about something that makes me smile or laugh right now. My therapist told me to immerse myself in things that boost my Joy-O-Meter (I don’t actually know if that’s how she would spell it. She made the word up last night, and that’s what I envisioned).

So, for today’s sunshine, check out what my co-worker did for her fellow admins on Administrative Professionals Day (which was yesterday, by the way. Did you forget? That’s okay, I will gladly accept accolades through the end of the week. And beyond. In fact, every day is Administrative Professionals Day, as far as I’m concerned. Or at least, every work day that I show up to be professionally administrative. Or to administrate for professionals. Or to daily profess my administration? I should stop now.)

Anyway, back to celebrating:

Homemade cookies!

My hand is in the picture for scale. The envelope was so adorable!

How sweet is this?

I’m blessed to have such thoughtful, wonderful co-workers!

Waiting for the next upgrade?

[I wrote this post over a year ago, back in February 2013. For whatever reason, I could never muster up the courage to publish it. But I still think these articles are great, so here goes…]

Disclaimer: I’m not married, nor have I been married before. I write this as a single person with limited life experience and an unimpressive relationship track record. I recently read four articles that have validated and further shaped my own fledgling ideas about marriage, and about the relationships that lead to marriage. I wanted to share the articles.

We are living in an age of upgrades. Technology has exploited our longing for perfection, so that we are constantly looking for the newest version, ready to discard the current model as outdated and no longer satisfactory. We expect instant gratification. Things that require patience and effort are dismissed as obsolete versions, and we look for the thing that will meet our needs the most effectively, with the least amount of personal inconvenience. If we don’t like what we have, we look for the next upgrade to something better.

Is it possible that this mindset has permeated our approach to relationships as well? Is it possible that one of the reasons why singleness is a growing trend is because we fear being stuck with an “outdated version” of a spouse? Or because we are engaged in a frustratingly futile search to find the “next upgrade” that most conveniently and effectively meets our needs (while requiring little to no effort from us)?

Sharing these articles became important to me because they challenge a lot of general modern misconceptions about what it takes to make a relationship work. I’ve shared quotes that I particularly like from each one, but I hope you will take the time to read them all in their entirety.

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before We Got Married

Three things anyone should know before they get married, I’d imagine. This article challenges the concept of what it means to live “happily ever after.”

“Although happiness is often a very real byproduct of a healthy relationship, marriage has a far more significant purpose in sight. It is designed to pull dysfunction to the surface of our lives, set it on fire and help us grow.”

“Along the way, we happened upon a derailing hypothesis that goes something like this: If one makes their husband or wife priority number one, all other areas of life benefit. […] Notably, on the days my wife genuinely felt valued, I observed her advocating for me to invest deeply in to my work. She no longer saw our relationship and my career pursuits as competitors for my attention, and as she partnered with me in my career, I have experienced the benefits of having the closest person in my life champion me.”

“The next time you find yourself dreaming about living significantly or succeeding in your career or being a better parent than yours were to you, do the world a favor: Go home and love your wife. Go home and and love your husband.”

You Never Marry the Right Person

It is a sad and scary thing to see couples discarding their relationships based on a misunderstanding of what it means to be compatible. This article challenges our notions of “compatibility.” Don’t miss the forest of who your partner is simply because you chose to fixate on one hacked-down stump.

Describing marriage as “two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation, a ‘haven in a heartless world,'” and challenging the idea of “looking for someone who will accept them as they are, complement their abilities and fulfill their sexual and emotional desires,”  this article suggests that “a marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you.”

“Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? […] So the biblical doctrine of sin explains why marriage—more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.”

So, please. Read this article before you decide to follow through with whatever half-baked “justification” you are currently contemplating as an excuse to avoid the challenge to love better.

The Blessed Union of Two Dead Singletons

This article uses the movie “The 5 Year Engagement” to analyze the growing culture of “singletons” and the misconceptions of where marriage fits into our sense of individuality. I’ve not seen the movie, but I like the point that the author makes.

“Under the impression that marriage will be right when both are self-fulfilled (or when things “slow down,” or upon “getting there”), they both paradoxically lose themselves…”

“It is evident here that being alone is simply not enough: celebrations are by definition gatherings of people, doing things together. Being singletons, we still want to go home at the end of the night to our own orbital safehouse—television, toothbrush, Twitter—but we do want to be loved by the people we love, at least before we turn in. […] Look at me, love me, but leave me alone. […] All of a wedding celebration—the ceremony and reception, the gifts and guests, the toasts and dancing shoes—is not so much a celebration of the persons as much as it is the celebration of their decision to let go and be known. Rather than Love me, leave me alone, it is the sacrament of that Love that will not let me be alone.”

Does Marriage Have to Be Hard?

I like this article’s treatment of love as a choice.

“The most dangerous part about the myth of falling in love is that it is based on a definition that has no sense of predictability or control. It offers no guarantees. If you can fall into it, you can surely fall out of it. […] The truth is, love was never just intended to be, it was intended to do. […] Frankly, it’s the hardest verb you will ever do. It’s a verb that requires a selflessness and altruism beyond any other experience on earth. It’s a verb that is not always felt but must always be chosen. It is a commitment to do what is right, even though the one standing before you may be entirely undeserving.”

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If you are married, or thinking about getting married, or dream of getting married someday, I hope that you will spend the 15 minutes it probably takes to read through these articles. If you are feeling dissatisfied with your current relationship, I hope you will read these articles. Maybe, just maybe, one of them might uncover the root of your dissatisfaction, and help you determine how you will deal with it going forward. If you are single, I hope you will read these articles. Maybe they will help you cultivate a mindset of what to expect going into your next relationship – what to look for, what the real deal-breakers are. Maybe they will help prepare you for when your partner inevitably messes up and you realize that he/she is not the vision of perfection they seemed to be when you were first infatuated with them. Remember, you aren’t perfect and neither is your significant other. People are not pieces of technology to be discarded when they “malfunction” or “stop working.” There isn’t something better just around the corner. Relationships aren’t about upgrading, they are about investing in each other, caring for each other, and encouraging one another to grow within a safe space of security and support.

I can’t find the right words to conclude this. So, at the risk of invalidating my point by referencing a romantic comedy, I’ll borrow from Beverly Clark:

“We need a witness to our lives […] In a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

Or how about this, from Inception, when Cobb talks about trying to recreate a dream-version (literally) of his wife through his imagination and memories:

“But I can’t imagine you with all your complexity, all you perfection, all your imperfection. Look at you. You are just a shade of my real wife. You’re the best I can do; but I’m sorry, you are just not good enough.”

If we are always waiting for the partner we have dreamed of to materialize – the “something better” that is supposed to be “just around the corner” – we sell ourselves short and do others a disservice by settling for a shadow of reality rather than embracing what is living, breathing, imperfect, and wonderfully real.

Thirty-two years we’ve sailed these seas together

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This is the story of why I have a random picture of a glass ship on my blog.

In December 2013, my parents celebrated their thirty-second anniversary. This photo was taken when we were decorating our Christmas tree and I was admiring this beautiful, glass-blown “ship in a bottle” ornament that we’ve put on the tree every year for as long as I can remember. I learned that my parents bought the ornament at a seaside boutique when they were on their honeymoon. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was immediately charmed by the symbolic significance of the beautiful little ship representing the launching of a committed relationship that has been going strong for thirty-two(plus) years. Of course, it seemed like the perfect “mascot” for my blog, so I incorporated it into the blog theme as a tribute to my parents, who daily model a relationship of commitment, care, and communication.