Saturday, May 30, 2009

Where is the love?

I've discovered that I have an issue. Well, I have lots of them, let's just be honest here. But I have one issue in particular that really lights a fire under me: People who lack compassion. Oh. My. Gosh. I've learned that if I come across someone who is blatant about their lack of compassion for people who are truly and sincerely hurting, being exploited, starving, et cetera... I basically want to hurt them. As in, severely maim.

I had a certain situation this week involving some people who were displaying a total lack of compassion for the people of Africa. They came up with the worst excuses I had ever heard for their behavior and comments, and it was everything that I could do to keep from stabbing their eyeballs out. I now understand a bit more why Jesus went on a rampage through the temple. Righteous anger is an intense emotion, let me tell you. I do not believe that ever in my 26 years have I been furious to the point of physical shaking and my hearing buzzing. The anger I felt towards these people was mixed with sympathy for their unfeeling attitudes towards people, children no less, in horribly desperate situations that are beyond what those living comfortably in America can even begin to imagine.

I do not understand how a person can have any sort of knowledge whatsoever about the devastation around the world and not feel for that. How is that even possible? If anyone even mentions human trafficking, starvation, exploitation, regardless of who it is or where it is, my heart physically aches. The human side of anyone should hurt for that. And yet, so many of us are so caught up in our own lives that we cannot see past that. Or, we are so focused on our own passions or ambitions that we segregate our compassion towards a single group of people and leave the rest to their own defenses. This is not right. I do not believe that segregated love is the kind of love that Jesus taught.

How can we, in good conscience as a human being, turn a blind eye to suffering? How? This completely boggles my mind. I do understand that younger generations may need to grow into compassion, in a sense. That egocentric mindsets can be lessened with maturity and may be something that has to be learned, rather than coming naturally. However, I find any excuse still to be pitiful. If you cannot look at a suffering fellow human and feel nothing, you are wasting your life. Absolutely throwing it away. We were not created to be caught up in ourselves, to spend what little time we have on this earth focusing on our own wants and desires. We were created for a higher purpose, to uphold each other, protect each other, help each other. Anything less and we may as well just give up. It is pointless.

I had to pray for compassion on those who angered me so. It took me a little while to remember that their self-involvement and arrogance in the situation was most likely fueled by issues that I could not see, personal crises that could be skewing their perception. I also need to remember to have compassion on those who do not seem capable of the same at that moment in time.

"Compassion is the radicalism of our time." - The Dalai Lama

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cameras and Thankfulness

I find myself getting frustrated often with technical difficulties that get in the way of my dreams. Like money. Money is a very big technical difficulty that presents a host of obstacles that clutter the path towards my dreams.

We all have those ideal careers, those things that we wish oh-so-hard that we could do well. I have quite a few of those. Things like, be a wild horse tamer, domesticate alligators to keep as pets, a best selling author, principal dancer for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. But probably topping my list is to be a phenomenal photographer. I mean, the kind of photographer that makes people's jaws drop when they look at my photos. I have a decent eye for pictures, but I know that I'm not the most naturally gifted person out there. But I really want to be good at it.

One particularly massive obstacle in my path towards becoming the world's best photographer is that I don't have thousands of dollars just lying around with which to purchase top-notch camera equipment. In case you didn't know, let me enlighten you. Camera equipment is expensive. I mean, expensive. I've dug in my couch a few times to see if I could come up with enough loose change, but what I found wouldn't even buy a candy bar, much less super expensive equipment.

This is one of those times where I must learn to be satisfied, and remind myself that at least I have food on my table and a roof over my head. The important things in my life are more than taken care of, and that should be enough for me. I've been reminded lately of being thankful for what I have, and not to be longing and lusting after things out of my grasp. If God deems it fit, I will be blessed with my hearts desires for things I cannot afford. If not, I'll just be thankful for what I do have.

Its much simpler to just be thankful.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Presumptions and the Overwhelmption

As previously mentioned, I had a penchant for being a ridiculous version of a hypochondriac. As in, a fake one. As in, I'm am not actually a hypochondriac, but I sure do have a famously good time pretending to be. As also previously mentioned, I am partial to another amusement: originating diseases.

Several of my recent imaginings include the Swan Flu and the Pot Belly Pig Flu. Both continue to make symptomatic appearances on a daily basis. An another fabricated medical condition that I suffer from regularly is known as the Overwhelmption. I may have enlightened you to this infirmity in the past. It is of the direst of all ailments, causing symptomatic distress that is equitable something dreadful. Like Ebola. The Overwhelmption causes its victims much mental distress and emotional angst. There are typically sleepless nights and heightened anxiety to the point of hardly being able to focus on any one thing. Its quite terrible, really.

Yes, my friends, I have been afflicted with said Overwhelmption much of the last few weeks. I have been investigating some circumstantial life changes and my chronic indecision and lack of being able to trust God to lead my life in the right direction has brought my underlying Overwhelmption very much to the surface. I oft wonder why it is that I still have such a dreadful time trusting that God is leading me. I have 26 years of experience under my belt with no apparent life-altering horrible decisions that led me completely astray. Even the times where I felt that may have happened, I have been brought to a place where I can really see God's hand so evidently working me just to the place that I need to be. As in, at age 22 I was certain that I had missed the boat. I had several serious regrets about my college decisions, wondering if I had managed to royally screw up my life. Yes, some remnants of those regrets still remain deep in my soul. However, I am watching my life take a turn in a new direction, with new passions, new desires, and had I followed the path I thought I should be on at 22, I would be in quite the opposite place right now. My true calling in life could have been completely lost under what my presumptions were in relation to my ideas on what my life should be.

It is rather fascinating how our lives turn out. It is typically so opposite from what we thought it should be, in our stupidity of years past. And yet, even when we don't see it, God is moving us along, towards our destiny of as close to perfection as we will ever be. To be what He molded and shaped us to be.

Tonight, I am glad that I am not in charge of my life. Boy, how I would have screwed it up....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

There Are Still Some Kinks

I found myself angry today. At me. In the rough wake of Sue's funeral, I was highly agitated at how I hadn't been there for her and her family more, how I hadn't called enough, hadn't emailed enough, hadn't put my own selfishness behind a bit and put her before myself. In complete honesty, I was afraid to go visit her. I knew how I had reacted the last I had seen Sue. It involved a total emotional breakdown. Not to mention barely being able to control the tears from rolling down my face at the skeleton of a woman I had once known while she was right in front of me. Looking back now, I realize the utter egocentrism involved. It never should have been about me, about how I would react, but about being an encouragement to someone I cared about. About showing my love, respect, care.

Love is not selfish, the Bible says. I know that my love still needs to be perfected, that I have yet to learn to love as Jesus loves me. Learning to become like my Savior is going to be a life-long process, and it is again blatantly obvious how far I have yet to travel on that journey. I will never be Jesus, but I will still strive everyday to be more like Him, to learn His character, to work out all the kinks in my life so that it matches His. It will never be perfect, but I will try like hell.

As my day progressed I couldn't help but be reminded of how we truly do need to cherish every day. All the cliche Carpe Diem phrases that we oft roll our eyes at suddenly have so much meaning in times such as this. There is no guarantee of what tomorrow holds, and only God knows where are life's path ends. Every moment should be regarded to be as precious as gold, and as savored as the most elusive herbs. Every instance where we can remind another of how we love them should be snatched up and put to use. The only guarantee in life is that there are no guarantees. That chance may never be had again.

To all my friends and family, I know I do not say it often enough, but I love you.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ponderances and Decisions

One of my favorite phrases is "life has been very life-like lately." Its a fabulous way of getting across that things aren't necessarily terrible, but they may not be so great either. I do feel that the last few weeks have been very, well... life-like.

Combine all the drama with my car, depression issues, sleep deprivation, and certain tragic incidences, its all been a bit overwhelming and I've found myself repressing the urge to smash my head into the corner of something heavy. Okay, so it really hasn't been quite that bad. But still, I feel that I can make the case for life being slightly less than desirable in recent weeks.

I have often been quoted as saying that I find it simply incredulous that children at the age of 17 or 18 are forced by society to pick their life's path in the form of a college major. I mean, seriously, at age 17 one is still so young and naive as to think that life is going to all work out exactly the way one wants it. Should people such as these be trusted with life-altering decisions? I think not! One of my most pressed suggestions with high schoolers is as follows: "take as many elective courses as you possibly can. Even if you're not sure if you'll like it." My reason for saying this is that, if given the right circumstances, one can learn so much about oneself in college through random course taking. One discover interests and talents that one never knew existed. One's path may alter completely based off of a single course.

Sadly, I was not afforded this opportunity in my advice during my college stay. Being an education major for my first 5 semesters of college, each semester was essentially planned out for me and jam-packed tight full of required courses. I believe I had 6 credits of free electives for my entire college career (how depressing!). However, one of those required courses did alter my career path nonetheless. A hellish semester with 5 required classes in my major (Secondary Education with a concentration in History) also brought along an Instructional Technology class that prompted a change of heart and brought about a switch in major midway though my junior year. A bit late for changing my mind, huh?

Here I am, nearly 5 years after college graduation. First off, I am flabbergasted that I am 5 years out from my undergrad degree. How does that happen? Each day pushes me closer to the 30 year mark, and I have a single thought that runs through my cranium every single day: What am I doing with my life? Yes! It is so true! I am about to head into my "late twenties" and I'm still relatively clueless as to what I am actually doing with my life. I have heard that this is a common theme amongst humans. I've had 50 year old people tell me that they still don't know what they want to be when they grow up. I do not find this encouraging. Another 25 years of swimming around in the sea of indecision does not sound like a good time.

I am on a quest to find out my life's calling recently. Well, not really recently. I suppose its more a quest that I've been on for the last 26 years, its just become accelerated as of late. I do believe that some light may be beginning to shine at the end of the tunnel. I'm hoping that I may get some direction soon, or I may just get steamrolled by the train that is attached to said light. Who knows. I do know that God knows the plans that He has for me. And they are plans to prosper me and not to harm me.

I'll simply take comfort in that. For now.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sue Jakiela

I first met Sue about 5 years ago. She brought her daughter, Esther, into one of my dance classes and I remember being struck by her quiet strength that just emanated from her. As I got to know Sue over the next few years, I discovered that her walk with the Lord was tremendous. She was one of those people who trusted her God for every single thing in life, was optimistic in everything, knowing that she would be taken care of and that nothing was too much for her to bear, as long as her Lord was beside her. Her son, Caleb, had a hearing dysfunction, which later contributed to learning problems once he was of school age. Still, Sue was strong. She was an inspiration to all, she would light up a room the instant she walked into it. She took care of her body, eating so healthy (I never understood how she could do that!), ran miles every week.

About 15 months ago, Sue came to the studio to drop Esther off and sat in the waiting area like she had done every Monday evening for the last 4 years. I noticed that she was holding her head off to the side, and naturally asked if she was okay. "Oh, I just woke up with this kink in my neck the other day and it will not go away!", she said. A trip to the doctor's later on that week revealed nothing. Sue told me the following Monday that the doctor had wanted to prescribe anti-depressants, since apparently that would solve everything. Because of the strength of her faith, Sue refused, stating that she knew that it was not an emotional issue that was causing the problem.

The following week, Sue was not there. Her husband was dropping off Esther, which was unusual. When I asked if she was okay, I heard those dreaded, dreaded words. Sue has cancer. I'm sure that utter shock must have registered on my face. "It can't possibly be!", I thought. Sue, of all people. The woman who had taken quite literally that her body was a temple of the Holy Spirit. The woman whose faith was a rock. That woman could not possibly have cancer.

As the details started pouring in, it was discovered that Sue had Stage 4 cancer in her collarbone and also her liver. Aggressive treatments were started immediately to try to slow the spread of the disease. I didn't see Sue for a while, but received updates from her husband often, and I called and emailed on occasion to find out how she was.

Last June, I was very surprised by Sue's presence at the dance recital. I struggled through several conversations with her that day. She had always been very thin, but she was down to about 90 pounds at this point. The chemo was ravaging her body and was not as effective as the doctors had hoped. She had started on experimental treatments in hopes that they would achieve better results.

That was the last time I saw Sue. I received word early this afternoon that Sue had fought, fought so hard, but had lost her battle with cancer. She went to be with the Lord at around 8 this morning. She was determined that the cancer would not get the best of her, and it never did. She kept her faith and her optimism until the very end. I know that she used her sickness to witness to many, and to be an inspiration to all she met.

In times like this, it is impossible to not ask why. Why?? With all of the Osama bin Laden's in the world. Of all those who spread hate, and agony, and misery.... Why someone like Sue? I heard it put so very well one time that God chooses the strong of faith and heart to endure these awful things sometimes because He knows their hearts. He knows their faith. He knows that they will be the epitome of His love because of the essence of who they are. Because they love Him above all else and will keep that in front of them at all times. Because they will be an inspiration and a walking testament of God's unfailing love and faithfulness in their lives. It is one of those things that is very hard for those that love them to accept. I don't want to accept it. But, I will. Knowing that God has her best in mind. That she was used of her Father in tremendous ways, and there can be no regrets there.

Sue, you will never be forgotten. We love you and will miss you terribly. Thank you for everything that your life meant, for all that you are, for what you were to your family and friends. Thank you for your life and the blessing that it was.