Find Love in What You Do

Janelle Quibuyen advises that “whatever you do, don’t quit your dream job to pursue your passion.” This statement is quite contrary to this narrative we Americans like to tell — we talk a lot about pursuing your passions and doing what you love. I have encountered the issue that Quibuyen speaks of in my own classroom. I often struggle with the way we teachers tell students to “do only what you love” and “shoot for the stars” and “dream big,” when we know better than anyone that this narrative is not realistic for all.

In fact, in education, we like to make many promises that we know are not true. The thing is — the kids are onto us. The kids living in poverty, the kids from families who are continually shut out from the “American dream,” who come from broken homes — they know these sayings have little substance to back them up.

We tell our students to pursue the American dream — spouse, house, picket fence, one dog, two kids. We tell them that they should pursue a passion, a career that they will love. We tell them that education can take them anywhere if they just work hard enough.

However, can we really say that this is how the world works?

The American dream sounds great, and we can see people around us living the dream — or at least they seem to be. In actuality, the American dream is a workaholic lifestyle, built upon student debt and sustained by credit cards. The American dream is people all around us living beyond their means to maintain a certain status, to keep their nice neighborhood and picket fence.

We tell our students that education is their ticket out the door to a new world. However, that ticket is becoming increasingly costly and less and less useful. Consider — a few generations ago, one could actually get a decent, well-paying job with just a high school diploma. Yet, we keep moving the requirements up — now a college degree is required for most decent jobs and the diploma is just a stepping-stone. Yet, even then, a degree does not guarantee a career, though it does guarantee an exorbitant amount of debt from student loans.

We also tell them that they should do only what they love and ignore any job that does not spark passion within them. This one is especially hard for me, because I do (mostly) believe in it. Thoreau’s “Life Without Principle” is one of my favorite essays; I have made “you must get your living by loving” my mantra. I really did pursue my passion — hence my career as a teacher. Furthermore, I truly do believe in the concept of Christian vocation — finding that place you have been called to, that you will be passionate about, that will enable you to be Christ’s hands and feet. I believe the world would be a lot better place if passion and calling were our priorities when picking careers, enabling us to build upon our unique interests to produce quality work and creating a happier workforce.

However, “do only what you love” simply is not feasible for many. Many will have to have odd jobs to get through college, if they go to college. Many need to consider the needs of those relying on them before going off to pursue their passion. Many know that reality says you have to eat and all other things are second.

Here is where I think our language needs to shift. Love is important — Lord knows we need more love — but you do not have to love everything about your job to be a happy, fulfilled person. I remember talking to my dad about all the different jobs he and my grandfather had — the consistent theme was that they loved their jobs, not always for the job itself, but because their jobs enabled them to be good dads. That is important to tell our students — you can be in any job and still love the reason you have that job.

We need to shift our dialogue from “do what you love” to “find love in what you do.” Rather than sending our children on this nearly impossible mission to find the perfect job that they will be passionate about, how about we teach them to appreciate the little things. Rather than telling them that money does not matter, why don’t we acknowledge that it does matter, recognize that they will have others depending on them, and help them find balance between being a financial provider and a happy worker.

Yes, we need to encourage our students to be dreamers. And there will be those who are privileged with the support and opportunities to go for their “passion.” I am not saying we should stop pushing our students to dream big. However, when we say these things, we should also be a little transparent. We also have those who are realists — who see our promises as lies and therefore tune us out when we say to shoot for the stars. So perhaps we should start offering them some realistic dreams. No, a high school diploma might not mean much today, but it is a step toward something better if you choose to take it. No, you might not be able to afford that university that everyone is so fanatical about, but a junior college will help you get a little farther down the road. No, you might not have the freedom to go off and pursue your passion, but you can find a job with at least one thing you like about it.

Mostly, we should tell our students that, no matter where they end up, they should find love in what they do. Find a way to be kind to others. Figure out how your job will help you be a better family member, a better friend. Speak up when others are doing wrong and praise the good things that happen. Look around for a way to make things better where you are, here and now. Find love.

On Finding Justice

I remember the first time I was pulled over by a police officer.

I had just started driving. My dad was in the truck with me. The officer stopped us to let us know that I had only turned on the parking lights, not the headlights.

It was a quick, friendly interaction. It freaked me out a little because I thought I had done something wrong, but I was never scared in that scenario or in any of my interactions with police since then.

Of course, I have no reason to be wary of police officers. I am a girl, I am white, my dad was a cop before I was born and worked security as I grew up.

And that’s what you call privilege. I grew up with the officers that served and protected my community being from my community — most of them were white, I went to school with their children, our families went to church together, etc. Because I knew them, I was not afraid of the uniforms carrying around guns. Because I grew up with one, I knew the protocols for interacting with officers and I learned how officers are trained to react within specific situations.

As I watched the Philando Castille video this morning, I just kept thinking how differently that situation would have gone for me. According to his girlfriend’s narrative, Castille did everything he was supposed to do — all of the things I was taught to do — yet he was shot four times.

At first, I thought it was odd that his girlfriend was filming the aftermath, so calmly. I would have been grabbing whatever I could find to try to stop the bleeding. But the officer is telling her she has to keep her hands where they are, and all she has in her hands is her phone. Had she acted upon my instincts, she would have likely ended up shot as well.

Furthermore, I never grew up fearful that officers or the public wouldn’t believe me. As I watched, I realized her instincts were to collect all the evidence she could to prove what happened. Without the video, would anyone have believed her? She grasped at her best chance to record her testimony.

I am the type of person who works hard at seeing both sides. I am the person that will come up with an argument to refute my own point, because that is just how I work. In many of these stories — the black man shot by a police officer stories — I can usually find a way, not to excuse what happened, but to see something from their point of view.

This one, I cannot wrap my head around. I just keep thinking that if it had been me, I would be walking away from that scene alive.

On days like this, it is really hard to find the fair. It’s hard to find beauty in a world where some people have to fear those who serve and protect, where a woman has to film her loved one dying, where a routine traffic stop turns into a little girl seeing a man shot right in front of her.

Yet we must continue to search for what is fair, not to make light of tragedies but in order to find the justice and beauty that is our goal. For He has told us “what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Do justice.

 

 

 

*This was written quickly as my attempt to sort through my thoughts. It’s not the most coherent or best-written piece of mine, and I am ok with that. Nor am I trying to get into all the intricacies of the #blacklivesmatter movement and our country’s issues with profiling and racism. However, a law-abiding citizen should not end up dead after a routine traffic stop. We must examine –seeking the truth even when it hurts –how this could have happened so that we can make repairs and ensure justice for all.

Everything Changes

As twenty-somethings, we are very familiar with transitions and definitive endings.  We have gone through elementary and middle school to four years of high school, to graduate and then go to four years (hopefully) of undergrad, to graduate and begin careers or, for some of us, pursue graduate programs that similarly involve another transition or another pre-determined block of time allotted for our respective goals.  Aside from school and work,  many of us are in serious relationship,  everyone, seemingly, is getting engaged and married, and, Lord help us,  some twenty-somethings are even having kids.  We are in our decade of continual transitions and changes, both exciting and terrifying.

 

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“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

 

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In a conversation today, I made a remark about entering a career (teaching) that I will be in for the rest of my life (in some capacity, at least).  My own statement caught me off guard.  I have never been in a stage that I would be in “for the rest of my life.”  For as long as some stages seemed to drag on, there has always been an end in sight.  While I anticipate many more transitions and changes coming, none of them will be as set or predetermined as the past 23 years have been. My transitions and changes will be more of my own doing.

 

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Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

 

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Within the next few months, I will be moving twice, graduating with my Master’s and leaving the university at which I have spent the last five years and which I love dearly.  I will be leaving a town that, for all the fun we poke at it, has a special place in my heart.  I will be starting my teaching career, where I do not know yet.  The transitions, changes, and unknowns are coming quickly.  With all of this, I am ever so grateful for the provision and friendships God has blessed me with so far, and I am so comforted by His faithfulness.

 

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“Great is Thy faithfulness!”  “Great is Thy faithfulness!”

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have need Thy hand hath provided —

“Great is Thy Faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

Sometimes Words are Hard to Come By

Sometimes words are hard to come by.

Sometimes the sounds the shapes the syllables hover on the tip of the tongue, yet the mind the heart cannot decide which should go with what.

 

Sometimes we realize that we have spent so long multi-tasking, cramming, getting projects done, that we know little of our own mind.

Sometimes I realize that – for many of us – human progress has not meant making life simpler, or deeper, or truer, but has instead meant making life more productive, more efficient, more hectic.

 

Sometimes I – a lover of words – find myself with few words to use because they have been swept away while I was distracted from thinking.

Sometimes I get so angry with myself for allowing media and entertainment to deter me from the things I truly love. And I get angry at others for making distractions the norm.

 

Sometimes my heart is overflowing – yet how does one begin to describe this? To express it? When self-examination has become so rare, how do I tell another of the myriads of things I see inside myself and inside of them?

 

Sometimes words are hard to come by, and I realize it’s because I’ve forgotten to be still and know.

 

To be.

Light Has Come

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

but the Lord will arise upon you,

and his glory will be seen upon you.

–Isaiah 60: 1-2

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A little over a week ago,  we came together to celebrate that the Light has come, to give thanks and praise that we need not walk in darkness,  for Jesus came to our wretched and dark world to save us,  to live as one of us,  to know our pain and wretchedness, and to lift us out of it.

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Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

–John 8:12

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We often overlook the why and how of putting up Christmas lights, yet it is the part I love the best.  Somehow, in celebrating that the Light has come, we are drawn to filling the world with lights, flooding the insides and outsides of our homes with bulbs and candles that tell us the good news,  that shout to us about this glorious miracle that has happened, though too often we grow deaf to the cries.  Nevertheless, I love the lights.  I love the candlelight services: the starting of the flame,  the passing throughout the room, the joining in this shared symbol of the miracle we are celebrating,  the praising God for the little flame and all it represents,  singing

“Silent night, Holy night

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord at thy birth

Jesus, Lord at thy birth.”

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For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

–2 Corinthians 4:6

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As I begin this year, I am seeking to set my hope and trust in that Light, having faith that I will never be left alone in the darkness.  That faith is my struggle, trusting that God is in control, that no matter how often people fail me, He will not.  Fortunately, He is steadfast even when I am not. 

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In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:1-4

 

Because I’m my Father’s Daughter

I have many things to thank my parents for, but as of lately I’ve been especially grateful that they never tried to put me in a box.  Their greatest expectation of me was and is so simple:  that because I’m a child of God I will be who He created me to be.  Moreover, because young women learn so much from their fathers about the type of treatment they should receive, I’m especially grateful that I am my father’s daughter.

~

When my parents were expecting me, my mom asked my dad if he was disappointed that I was going to be a girl.  He said no,  because when Mom needed me in the house,  I could put on my frills and help around the house,  and when he needed help around the place I could put on my grubbies and come work with him.  He loves to tell that story because that’s exactly how things turned out.  Growing up, I loved the horses, tractors, and fishing just as much as I loved playing princess and having tea parties.  It’s in looking back that I realize how much of an impact that had on who I am now.  My dad never said that because I was a girl I shouldn’t learn ______,  or that I didn’t need to know how to ______,  nor did he ever assume,  in the myriad of conversations we had,  that because I was a girl my opinion would be  ______ or suggest that my intelligence was connected to my gender.  He never raised me to be anything but a strong, independent, kind, Christian woman.

This is one of the major lessons I learned from the first and most important male role model in my life:  that my actions, thoughts, and pursuits are important, unique, and valuable on the sole basis that I am a human being, created by God, fearfully and wonderfully made.

~

I didn’t start labeling myself as a feminist until college.  After being exposed to the world outside the shelter of my childhood home, I came to realize how important feminism is, how needed it is.  What was the norm for me – how my parents, and especially my dad– treated me, I now came to realize wasn’t the norm for everyone.  And it broke my heart.  And it made me angry.  And on that note, here’s my brief two cents on why I’m a feminist:

~

First, let’s chat about women and our current society.  Because here’s the thing: for as far as we’ve come,  society still has a lot of problems with recognizing that women have intrinsic value and worth just because they’re human beings.  As the most recent example, observe the craze with Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video and his comments on it.  Our society has a sadly strong intention to objectify women, to make us voiceless dolls to be dressed up, paraded around, and acted upon by the will of others.  These are the problems that 21st century feminists have been screaming about:  the convoluted ideas of beauty, the pressure put upon young girls to look and be a certain way, and the perverted idea that degradation is what leads to equality.

And here’s where I get angry with women; just as angry, if not more, as I am with the men who have been cultivating this mindset for centuries.  I don’t understand why more women aren’t angry alongside me.  How are women ok with “Blurred Lines” and other songs like it?  How were the women in that video ok with making it?  How are news anchors and TV show hosts ok with praising these messages?  How do women complain about men creating legislation over our health and bodies and not realize that,  according to the cultural norm,  women have said that they’re ok with men pressuring women into what to do? How are women ok with perpetuating the cultural mindset that is oppressing us?  And in my anger with women for being ok with the culture, I’m also heart-broken as I realize that this is how bad the problem is:  that so many women don’t even see it as a problem.

Second, let’s have a little chat about women in the Church.  (To read more of what I’ve said about this before, see this.)  While, again, women have much more freedom and equal opportunity within the Church, there are still these boxes that many Christians try to put us in.  Observe Christian literature targeted at women, the majority of which works from the presumption that women, by definition, are called to marry and raise a family.  While very important, the life of the Christian woman goes so much deeper than being a housewife.  Being a Christian woman doesn’t automatically make a person called to be a stay at home mom;  it does mean that you are created for a purpose and that one should pursue God’s calling for her life as only she will know.  Furthermore, there is this idea floating out there that a Christian woman’s pursuits must be overseen by a man, in particular her husband, before they are valid.  For example,  growing up,  I often heard young women around me express desires to go into missions or ministry or sundry other professions,  only to be told  “That’s nice dear,  but you’ll have to wait and be sure that your husband is ok with that.”  NO!  That isn’t how God works and that isn’t how we are called!  We are all created beings, formed with a purpose and intention, uniquely made and designed within God’s plan.  God is the one who validates whether our actions are worthy and valuable and we should run toward our intended pursuits head on, without waiting for the “approval” of others.

~

Society tried to teach me that women were voiceless objects, dolls to be dressed up to meet men’s whim;  too many in the Church tried to teach me that my voice wasn’t valid unless filtered through men’s supervision.  But my dad taught me that my voice was intrinsically valuable because it is my voice, the one given to me by my heavenly Father, created with purpose and reason, and that I have a right to be heard because I am a human being, a child of God, fearfully and wonderfully made.

Why am I a feminist?  Because I’m my Father’s daughter.

This was a very brief and loose peek into this can of worms.  To read more of what has helped me develop my understanding of feminism,  here’s some recommended links:

For a look at what it means to be a Christian feminist: http://shelovesmagazine.com/2013/reclaiming-feminist/ and http://sarahbessey.com/in-which-i-choose-to-be-a-feminist-in-the-way-that-jesus-would-be-a-feminist/.

A bit on the women and the Church: http://www.shaneyirene.com/2013/03/why-the-rebelutions-modesty-survey-was-a-bad-idea/ and http://deeperstory.com/i-am-damaged-goods/ and http://seeprestonblog.com/2011/12/sparks-fly-up-a-response-to-id-rather-have-a-proverbs-31-woman-than-a-victorias-secret-model/

And a TED talk on objectifying women: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kMS4VJKekW8

Fearfully and Wonderfully

Sometimes, many times, we humans place such little value in each other.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I relate to people whom I don’t completely agree with, or even with people with whom I am in complete disagreement.  And I’ve realized that a lot of it boils down to how I perceive, or value, these people.

Because here’s the thing.  This summer,  I’ve come across a handful of people,  people who I love dearly,  who I think are absolutely wonderful and who have shown me a lot of things.  Sometimes, these people have said things which have made me want to jump in, correct them, clarify that on the said topic I am at odds with them and do not agree with their words, proclaim to them that they should listen to me because I’m the one in the room who holds the truth on the matter.

And then this phrase, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” keeps popping into my head, and makes me realize that to say these things would not be right, would not be graceful, would not be loving.

(Nor would they be true, because, personally,  I hold no more truth on the matter than anyone else.  Truth is truth, held by no one person, though all seek it somehow.)

Because here’s the thing.  If I believe that we as humanity are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that God’s “works are wonderful” (Psalm 139),   if I believe that God is a sovereign God who works all things together for His glory and our good, if I believe that we have been gifted with bodies, and minds, and hearts, and souls, and the ability to think and feel and act upon these things, then that means I have to have a little faith in my fellow humanity.  I have to embrace that our disagreements don’t detract from the value of others, and that because they are wonderful people created by an amazing God, they have the rights to think and feel and act upon these things the same as I do.  And sometimes that’s hard.  Sometimes I want to be the overprotective mother trying to stop her little ones from exploring things that she just knows are going to hurt them.  The thing is, so often over protective mothers, while well meaning, are worried over nothing.  Yes, it may be a narrow escape, but the children so often come out all right in the end – somehow it all works out.  The even more humbling thing is to realize that I’m not even the overprotective mother; I’m just another kid fumbling around the place, thinking that I know which paths are the safest, but not really knowing anything at all.

The not knowing is scary.  But it brings me back to counting what I do know: knowing that there is a loving God and that this is His beautiful creation; knowing that we are His children and that we are to value each other because we are all his children; knowing that we have a Savior  who through His life showed us that we are to show beauty, love, and grace to each other.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (I John 4)

So here’s the thing.  I’m working on this.  I’m working on being loving, on valuing my fellow humans above myself, no matter where our disagreements lie.  I’m working on having some faith in the hearts and minds and souls of my brothers and sisters, because I have faith in the Father by whom we are fearfully and wonderfully made.