Birthday

Yesterday, I walked barefoot on a beach in Penang as dark and brewing storm clouds moved in overhead.  One minute the wind was strong–the next minute it could have knocked me over if I wasn’t careful.

While we were running to the car, a million worse case scenario situations ran threw my mind, mimicking the “hurry, hurry, hurry” push I felt from the wind.  “We could get pushed into a wall!”  “The wind could lift us off our feet!”  “We’re gonna die!!!!!!!!”

Alisa and I made it to the car perfectly fine.  As we reflected on our race to safety, we found it was quite a fun experience–but only because of the shelter of the car.

It seems to me such a perfect image of life: we get caught up in tomorrow’s worries or yesterday’s fears and it is not until we are able to look at life through the lens of experience and serenity that the tumultuous and rough transform into the beautiful and picturesque.

On this birthday, I was grateful that my life is not about me.  I choose to thank my Jesus for giving me the gift of life.  I embrace all of what defines me.  And I pray for the courage to do all the things I dream of doing.

Alive

Today is my birthday. Yeah! I’m alive!

When I turned 20, I wrote a thing about reflections on my life and what it has taught me about the important things in life.

This year, I discovered September 15th is the UN International Day of Democracy and since humanitarian causes and work is one of m greatest passions, I thought I’d write something about democracy.

To me, democracy represents the citizens ability to have a voice. In America, I think we take democracy and the First Amendment for granted every single day. If I were living in the Middle East, the very idea that I am a woman who loves writing and wants to be internationally recognized one day would not only be frowned upon but silenced. Such thoughts and pursuits are dreams beyond the reach for many of the citizens of the world.

While the fight for democracy throughout the world is very clearly a political struggle, I truly believe that it is also a fight for us as individuals. Politics is not nearly as powerful as the voices of the world uniting for a cause.

I think the reason I believe in democracy strongly stems from my belief in the power of choice. I believe no matter what situation you are in, you will always have one choice which can never be taken away from you: the choice to choose hope.

So today…on this day where I celebrate my life and friends and family and loved ones…I pray for democratic freedom for the world. I plead with you to become more informed about injustice in your neighborhood or your school or your county.

Happy Birthday to my fellow human beings who share this date of birth with me. Happy UN International Day of Democracy.

Shalom.

Remember

Today, I realized it was 9/11 only at the end of the day…and I felt ashamed for not having taken the time to remember the importance of this day for America and the world.

When I was in 6th grade, I woke up to a world that was radically changed even though I was not aware of it at the time. My first memory of that day was of Mom saying, “Terrible” as she looked at the horrific images on the cover of The Straits Times.

I think the things that is wrong with forgetting to take time to remember does not center around the event itself but rather the significance and sacrifice of what 9/11 means. Our world is no longer the same because of the choice a group of men made that fateful morning. We can no longer return to a pre-9/11 world.

For many, the very concept of a world before 9/11 no longer exists because of the individual’s and loved ones who were ripped out of the tapestry of their lives. These mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers will never have the same life they had before those towers came crashing down.

I hope I remember this day with more clarity next year not necessarily because I want to honor these people’s deaths-I do believe we should honor and remember the horror and the tragedy. But I think it would be a crime to let 9/11 pass by and not let us effect us in such a way that we are moved to be better people.

Today, I thank the men and women who died saving the lives of hundreds in the aftermath of the collisions. I honor those who are lost and pray for their families. But most importantly, I pray and ask God for the courage to live a better life with each passing day.

Who am I?

I had a lovely talk with one of my friend from high school the other day.  We talked about everything from my crazed happiness at owning The Hunger Games to the recent and very sad death of a young man we both know.

As I am entering the “real world,” I realize more and more my life and the course of it seems strikingly different from those around me.  I have no hometown.  I couldn’t choose a favorite food if my life depended on it.  No, I don’t think it’s odd to hope for Narnia when I open wardrobes.  No, I do not want a 9 to 5 job.

But on the flip side, I am realizing just how much all humans are a like.  We are–more or less–stupid, selfish creatures trying to make some sort of infinite impression in an existence that is most definitely finite.  We come and go–working, studying, eating, drinking, having sex–and most of us are content to be part of the status quo.

I am not one of those people.

I look at the world and think, “By God, I hope I can make things just the slightest bit better in this fucked up world.”

I think my definition of who I am is no longer an answer to a list of questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” or even deep philosophical questions.  Who I am is defined as who God made me to be and who I choose to be.

As Dr. Seuss wrote: “Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no alive who is Youer than You.”

Finding the Soul

Soul-less features but full wallets.  Empty wallets and a down trodden soul.

This is Singapore.

A city filled with a vibrancy so empty that its citizens can be looking for only one thing:

belonging.

The train is filled with hundreds of individuals caught in the emptiness of their own thoughts.  While life and joy and fullness are only inches away from them in the smile and laughter of children, the adult’s eyes are glued to their mobile devices or lost in a space of frustration.

A pale sunrise goes unnoticed by all but the keenest observers who recognize that life is not found in the haste of coming and going.  Instead, it is found in the moments of stillness and insightful provokation to find beauty in that which goes unnoticed.

As I look into the faces of the city promoting “happiness, prosperity, and progress for our nation,” I wonder if this statement is a bygone dream.  I wonder if the men who wrote the pledge are saddened because of what they see.

Yes, there is financial prosperity.  Yes, Singapore has stood as a shining pillar of economic success in a time when the world economy seems to be sinking into ruin.

But happiness?  A sense of a full soul and satisfaction with one’s place in life?  I have never seen that here.  

There is always another promotion or condo or exam score or iPad or university or – something to be achieved.  In a culture raised almost completely on the importance of showing face and good performance, the brokenness of the home, the heart, and the mind have been sorely neglected.

Perhaps the people who penned that pledge are as oblivious to the problem as the people who follow its guidelines.  Perhaps, they are no more than what each and every individual on the planet is victim to: the consequences of a horribly fallen system. 

I look into the eyes of my fellow Singaporean’s and hope and pray and wish with all my being that they find the love of Christ. I hope that they come to realize–as I slowly do on a daily basis–that life is in the now not the what or the how or the when.

Honest

I was walking around downtown Singapore just thinking about life and enjoying the less-than-boiling-hot weather.  One of the things I try to do is look people in the eye on the street since pretty much no one does that in Singapore.

I looked at people’s faces and tried to think of the stories behind the sadness or joy or frustration in their faces.  Was that girl’s laughter genuine?  Is that couple really as in love as they appear to be?  Is that family enjoying themselves?

I think one of the saddest things about a fallen human nature is that we have lost the desire to be honest and open.  We all want to be known; we want people to know our stories.  But when someone asks me, “Tell me about yourself,” we often end up weaving a tapestry which does not resemble who we really are.  We are afraid the world will not like what they see if we show them the picture of our broken and cracked life.

But the ironic thing is, honesty is so very freeing.  This past week, I shared the most personal part of my life with my encouragement group at my work.  I was scared shitless leading up to the whole thing; I felt like a bird freed from its cage once I had let them see my heart.

I hope I can be known as a person who listens without judgement.  I’d like to be remembered as someone people went to to bear their hearts to.

I pray for the clarity to be non-judgmental and the grace to be loving in-spite of my own personal opinions and judgments.