The Power of Someone who Cares

This past week I began watching an episode of BBC’s Ambulance. I was excited for this episode because I knew there was a car accident and status asthmaticus featured. But simple kindness moved me far more than medical science ever can.

The 999 call came in for an older gentleman with a history of chronic heart disease found with chest pain, then he collapsed. Immediately an ambulance and advanced cardiac care team was dispatched. Before the ambulance team arrived, the patient stopped breathing and their wife began CPR. When the ambulance crew arrived it was clear that the patient had died.

And then and there a subtle, yet critical, change began.

The wife became the patient.

The ambulance team began CPR with no EKG change. One of the two-man ambulance team went to be with the recent widow. He held her hand and gently told her the situation. That all their efforts would not bring her husband back.

And my heart broke.

I didn’t know this man nor his wife. Usually situations like this do not effect me, it is quite par for the course in the medical field. But the way they didn’t stop CPR until they informed her of the situation touched me. He held her hands when the stopped CPR and just sat in silence. Something beyond the job description, yet so important. They quietly took off the EKG leads, closed his eyes, and combed his hand back.

The gently carried him back to his bed, dressed him in his former favorite clothes, and tucked him into bed. A gesture so simple, yet I was moved deeply. The crew began to reminisce about other similar calls where the patient died. They have made tea and coffee, made a sandwich or two, and even walked a dog once. It is these simple and kind gestures in times of great suffering that often do more that the whole of medical science.

It is quite easy to get caught up in all the heroics and life-saving stuff of the medical field. But sometimes you can’t save the patient. Sometimes there is not cure. But even in those times we have the ability to make a difference, if only we remember kindness.

Advertisements

“13 Reasons Why” Christians Need Psychology

Most of you are aware of Netflix’s new series (Well, I guess it is not new anymore…) named 13 Reasons Why based off of a book of the same name. Both the book and TV series explore the 13 reasons that the main character committed suicide. The reason she committed suicide was a mix of desperation and a desire for revenge. In reality, the reason people commit suicide is because they believe that death is preferable to life. They are going through so much suffering that they can’t even imagine a place of worse suffering. While 13 Reasons Why is wildly inaccurate with the psychology, at least it has gotten people to talk about depression and suicide. While I would never recommend watching the series or reading the book, I do believe that there is a desperate need within society to talk about depression and suicide, especially in the Church.

So, without further ado, the following are “13 Reasons Why” Christians need psychology.

(1) Psychology struggles to understand “why”

Psychology tends to ask two questions: “How?” and “Why?” In much the same way Christianity also asks these same questions, but in a slightly different context. “How did the world get to the state that it is in? How can I gain salvation?” and once the person becomes a Christian, “Why do I keep choosing my way over God’s?” Psychology, like Christianity, struggles to understand the human condition. Many think that everything within psychology is based on the thought that there is no God, but that is simply not the case. Some Psychologists are Christian, while others are not, just like any other branch of science. If anything, psychology allows for a God more than any other science.

(2) Many things in the field of psychology agree with the Bible

One thing that psychology and Christianity agree on is that this world is messed up. Within the lens of Christianity, we know this is because of sin and living in a fallen world. In psychology it is attributed to living in a non perfect world and often due to the wrong behaviors of others. Aka, both Christianity and psychology believe that (in one way or another) both man and the world are flawed. I could go on and on about this topic about the similarities between many treatment methods used in counseling, and how nearly identical methods are described in the Bible, but those are topics for a different time.

Recently I was reading the book Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. He begins to talk about how many Christian fail to listen to those whom they are trying to convert–or even simply in a relationship. We fail to see others as people rather than projects. Within the Gospels, we see Jesus first listen to people then give advice. We are to follow his example. If Christians would just slow down, shut up and listen, there would be much less need for psychologists. Because at the deepest level, we just long to be listen to and understood by someone else. We all just want to be loved as we are.

(3) The scope of psychology is broad and not all that is under psychology is addressed in the Bible

Let me get straight to the point, the Bible is not sufficient for everything in psychology. The scope of psychology is very broad. From strokes, to learning disorders, to traumatic brain injuries (I will talk about these later on) the Bible only talks about how we should act toward those people. Nowhere in the Bible does it talk about reading strategies for people for dyslexia. What we know about dyslexia, and how to “manage” dyslexia comes from psychology.

The point that I am trying to make is this: the Bible tell us to love our neighbors, but not how to love our neighbors. Loving someone who has had a stroke isn’t always baking casseroles, sometimes it is teaching them how to read again. And what branch of science studies the brain and how it works? Psychology and Neurology (there is quite a bit of overlap). The greatest commandments are to love God and to love others as yourself. That is never in question. But psychology is much more than trying to make people happy. It has much to do with regaining function. Believe it or not the goal is not to make the person happy, but to equip them to deal with their emotions in healthy ways. Depression isn’t cured when the person feels happy, depression has been treated successfully when that person can reintegrate into their life.

(4) Stroke

A stroke is when part of the brain in damaged, either from bleeding in the brain, or a clot in the blood vessels in the brain. Depending on the severity, strokes can have temporary or permanent damage to the brain. We know what part of the brain controls what because of strokes. By looking at the symptoms of the stroke, we can determine what part of the brain is damaged. It is often (medical) doctors and psychologist that work together and create a plan of care. Perhaps this one goes more into the realm of neurology, but it is still studied by psychologists to understand the brain better.

(5) Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is just that, an injury to the brain. It can be from external forces such as a concussion from a sports game or car crash. There are also hypoxic brain injuries that occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen. More recently, there has been more and more media attention to the dangers of TBI’s, specifically from concussions in football. We know that depression is sometimes related to parts of the brain being injured because we can see evidence from the people with TBIs. We know that if certain parts of the brain is injured, the person experiences hallucinations. Meaning that just because someone is seeing things, doesn’t mean they are possessed. Someone can lose sight with a blow to the back of the head, and because of people like Phineas Gage we know that damage of frontal lobe leads to personality changes.

(6) Learning Disabilities (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, etc.)

I have dyslexia, so let me debunk a few “Christian” myths. Yes, I struggled for years to read my Bible, not because I didn’t love God, or didn’t want to hear what he had to say, but simply because I could not read well enough for comprehension. If someone had stopped pointing their fingers at me saying that I didn’t love God, and read aloud to me the words or the Bible, I could understand the Bible. It wasn’t until middle school that I could read my NIrV Bible and could read the word of God for myself with complete comprehension of the content.

I was diagnosed by a psychologist. It was a psychologist that planned my extra classes to help me catch up to my peers. It is psychology that is making great leaps to understanding the mechanisms with learning disabilities.  There were many nights that I prayed I would no longer be dyslexic because I was being bullied at my church and school by adults and children for my reading skills. God said no, and I believe that he has a plan to work through me, even if I can’t see it yet. What if churches reached out to individuals with learning disabilities instead of ostracizing them? How many live would be saved, changed, and rearranged?

(7) Special Needs Children are precious to God too

This topic is one of my passions. Few things make me as angry as a church not caring for special needs children. Are we not commanded to care for “the least of these”? Is not the child with down syndrome the least of these? What about my friend with autism, doesn’t God care about her too? Far too often the church is more concerned with her outward image. We fear to associate with people different from us, as if we could “catch” what they have. But I invite you to watch the Drop Box, or at least read my article (Christianity in Action: The Dropbox). South Korea has more plastic surgery than any other country. The image you present is paramount within the society. But within the city of Seoul (the capital), Pastor Lee cares for children that were abandoned by their parents, often because they had disabilities. It is the authentic love of Christ that enables Pastor Lee to care for those children.

Do not these children deserve love and care? God has not forgotten them, and he has heard their plight. It seems (at least from what I have seen) the only people fighting for them are their parents and psychologists. Perhaps, Church, if you spent a little more time caring for people, and a little less time hating them, you could see how God loves all people.

(8) Mental, Sexual, and Physical abuse signs

As sad as it is, abuse still happens in the Church. In the past few years near where I live, Christian parents were arrested for torturing their children. You read that right: torture. These parent attended a local Church where they were involved with many ministries and even adopted children from a foreign country. Their children were starved, threatened, beaten, etc. While some members of the church suspected something, police and other church member failed to act. It was only after years of torture that the parents were arrested. This is why we need to know the signs of mental and sexual abuse in addition to the signs of physical abuse. Just because a child is in the church does not mean the child is safe. Justice is caring for those people who cannot protect themselves: children who are abused, a battered wife, and anyone going through any kind of abuse. The thought that a church wouldn’t learn these signs because “they are not in the Bible” astounds me–in a bad way. The Bible is sufficient for everything in spiritual life, but not everything in life. And before you stone me, let me explain! The Bible isn’t going to give you driving directions, it is not going to teach me how to properly insert an IV (I’m a nursing student), it doesn’t have recipes. Knowing the signs of abuse is practical and vital in a church that cares about the community.

(9) Depression is more common in the Church than we would like to admit

There are two causes of depression: situational and chemical. I shouldn’t even have to talk about situational, but it seems the church has missed the point. One of my friends was struggling with depression (due to a situation) and began to self-harm. The church rather than coming along side her, gave her a 10 page packet about how she was going to Hell, citing Bible verses out of context. Christianity is a compassionate call. If you don’t know, compassion is “suffering with.” When the church refuses to come alongside its struggling members, it is tantamount to telling them to go to Hell. I don’t know how else to phrase the church’s indifference to depression. It is as if they have pulled the trigger themselves. I believe that God will hold them responsible, and that seems to be the only justice I will get.

Depression is more than just a feeling of sadness, but the lack of any other emotion.  “When you listen to people describe their depression, you will hear two extremes. People will report that the pain is so intense that they want to die. Others will describe an emotional numbness in which they are already dead. Sometimes you will hear one person describe living with both extremes simultaneously.” (Source: Blame it on the Brain [book]) Where is your compassion?

And even if the person has caused their situation, you must still come alongside them. Or do you not remember that when we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly….No one wants depression, or any type of suffering for that matter. Pointing fingers and assigning blame will never fix the problem–and keep in mind that the problem might be chemical.

(10) Suicide and suicidal ideation

I can’t phrase it any better than the article “Healing comes from Christ,” so I won’t try. “…As I write, it is the 32nd day after my son, in a split second, put to death the precious life that my husband and I created from our own flesh and blood over 22 years ago….” I did not know him well, but I knew him. I remember talking to him during my study hall about how bullying should never happen in the church. It was something we were both passionate about, and something we had both experienced. But with grace and poise, his mother continues to address the church.

“Does this mean that we keep mum about such things as suicide and sweep it under the rug? Avoid Discussing it? Refuse to acknowledge that it happens? Fail to address the why? Not at all. Undoubtedly we all need to be aware, but especially as parents, of behaviors and activities and mental states of the ones we love and care about. But this awareness needs to come in the form of proper education, proper research, proper counselling, and proper understanding based on medical, spiritual, physiological factual information, not theatrical and fictitious dramatizations[13 Reasons Why]….I know that the true healing will come with Christ’s return.”

Do you know how bad someone’s life has to be where they believe that death is a better than life? Really, think about that for a moment. Do you know what it is like to have so much suffering that the thought of drawing another breath fills you with trepidation? The world is incredibly broken, and some people get more than their fair share of sorrow. But, Church, you are to be so loving that people will feel comfortable telling you about suicidal thoughts because they know you will still love and care for them. “Perfect love casts out fear.” Church, your call is to the lonely, the broken-hearted, the lost, the poor, the least of these….Do I need to go on? If you cannot love someone who is suicidal, is Christ’s love really in your life? Because I know that He deeply loves those who think life may not be worth living.

(11) Eating Disorders

A few year back I had the honor of hearing the testimonies from the people in my small group at church. About a third of the people that I saw once or twice a week had/were struggling with an eating disorder–and I had no clue. Perhaps it is because I have never had an eating disorder, but I didn’t understand the impact it had on these people’s lives. It was through many tears and prayer, and coming alongside these people, that they were healed. It make me think, how many more people in this church secretly struggle with an eating disorder? Again, the fear of judgement keeps many people from admitting they need help. Thankfully not at my church, but I have heard from some other churches, that the people who admit they have eating disorders are shunned. This is quite simply not the way of Christ.

Yes, it may reflect that you do not see that your value comes from Christ alone, but the way to deal with that is not secrecy. As a Church we are to build each other up! Perhaps we don’t know that Christ loves us as we are because we were never told! Far from punishment or judgement, we are to come alongside and love those brave enough to share their most inner struggles with us.

(12) Mental Illness does not care if you are a Christian

Dyslexia, TBI, stroke, schizophrenia–none of these things care if you are a Christian. They affect you anyway. They are just as likely to occur in Christians as in non-Christians. So, why is it then, that mental health is almost exclusively talked about outside the church? Why is it that members of a community that was modeled after Jesus, get told that they are not wanted? I have watched friends walk away from Christianity–I almost did myself. And the reason why had to do with Christians telling them they were not good enough. “Oh, you have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. We don’t want you here.” “Don’t talk to that girl, I hear she has autism.” “Did you see the state of her clothes? I can’t believe she wore a sweatshirt to Church.” “They started to self-harm? Tell them to get the hell out.” All of these statements have been made to people I know. Some of them have walked away from Christianity, some have not. If you are not angry at what was said, how dare you call yourself a Christian! In Jesus’ own words, “I came for those who are not good enough, not the ones who think they are already ‘in’ with God. A hospital is for the sick, not those who are well.”

Perhaps what is not understood is that when you become a Christian, Christ Himself has declared you righteous before God. You have been made worthy, but so has everyone else. Christ was willing to lay down his life. Are you? Caring for someone who has a mental illness or learning disorder or stroke is not easy. It is hard. Some days it will seem like it is not worth it. But it is.

(13) If the church won’t talk about psychology, Christians are going to continue to get their information from books/TV shows like “13 Reasons Why”

I have admittedly, not watched “13 Reasons Why.” And I don’t really plan to. For all its flaws (and there are many) at least people have began to talk about mental health. If Christians don’t step up and love people with mental illnesses, then who will? If Christians are going to sit in a corner and put our hands over our ears, who will share the gospel? We cannot any longer stand in indifference to the great suffering all around us. Church, step up!

Dyslexia Life Hacks (Dyslexia Awareness Month)

Dyslexic life hacks by a dyslexic to other dyslexic’s. This is not your average “find a quiet place to read” stuff. Like, thanks. I figured that one out in kindergarten. These are a little out of the box.

Invest in a Kindle

While other tablets like the iPad and Samsung’s tablets have better accessibility features overall, Kindle (I think) has a slight edge when it come to actually reading. But I am going to be taking about Kindles such as the PaperWhite and other e-ink displays–we will get to audio books later on.

Kindle’s screens do not cause as much eyestrain as other readers. This is important for dyslexia not because we are more sustainable to eye strain, but because we spend more time reading than others (i.e. a 30 min. reading assignment might take me an hour). We need more concentration, and that screen makes it a little more bearable. One thing I have loved about the kindle is the different fonts. It does have fonts like OpenDyslexic but also has other fonts that I find easier to read (personal favorites are Serif and Bookerly). It is nice to have the same font for every book that I read, because I am more likely to recognize words. Consistency is the key!

Of course on Kindle, you can do all the formatting stuff like changing the font size, spacing, margins, etc., all which make a huge difference in my reading comprehension. Other useful features are search (very good for research/paper writing), highlighting, and a feature to build your vocabulary. But the best feature is the ability to click on a word and find out what it means even when I am not connected to the internet (Which is the main reason I refer it over a phone reading app). That last feature is critical to expanding my vocabulary and increasing my reading comprehension.

Chrome is the superior internet browser

Hopefully you know this, but if not: download Chrome (internet browser). Yeah, it kind of decreases your battery life, but spell check is life. Chrome has built in spell check that works on almost all websites. Like, seriously, I couldn’t pass my classes if it wasn’t for Chrome’s spell check. In addition, Chrome has many other accessibility extensions, and although I haven’t found any that I really like, I LOVE the spell check. Saved my butt on online classes.

Graphic Novels/Comics/Manga

I love reading these because they are so much less exhausting. Because there are no shortcuts in reading fluency (just practice, practice, practice), reading graphic novels is great. I don’t get bogged down in trying to imagine the setting–it’s right there in front of me. I only have to worry about the dialogue. I feel like I understand the story and characters better than traditional novels. Plus there are some really good stories out there.

Google Docs

Yeah, not my fave, but they have some redeeming features. The main one being the Speech-to-Text. Now, I remember when this first came out and it wasn’t very impressive. Like it really sucked. Now it is better–not as good as something like NaturallySpeaking–but it is the best free one out there. Now, there has to be some heavy editing, but for sentence fluency, this is the best solution I have.

Audio Books

Don’t think that Audible is the one stop shop for fixing dyslexia. So here is the TL;DR for finding audio books:

Older Books–Many books that copyright’s have expired (think classics like Art of War) are available online for free (and it is legal). It doesn’t hurt to check! The main app I use for this is LibriVox.

The Library– People always seem to forget about this one. Libraries have many audio books that you can borrow for free. And if you ask, they will often get the audio book you want just ’cause. And don’t forget that we have online libraries. Personally I use the app called OverDrive which I love. With my library card I have access to hundreds of audio books and Kindle books. It has major features that can enhance the audio (up to a point), set a timer for listening, and increase the reading speed. Hey, if you can read a book for free, why not?

Learning Ally–Learning Ally has a yearly membership fee, but you can listen to as many books as you want. Because Learning Ally is made specifically for people with learning disabilities and/or blindness, you must meet one of those requirements. The paperwork is quite a hassle, but once you get it done, it is amazing. Unlike like many audio sites like Christian Audio or Audible, Learning Ally has many textbooks even at the college level. It is an amazing resource for people with learning disabilities and blindness, but do not use this option if you do not meet the requirements.

Audible–Honestly, I don’t have a membership, but I would like one. Audible is about $15.00 per month for one audio book–so is it actually a good deal? Depends. There are audio books that are far less than $15.00, especially if you are buying a used CD version or an older book. But on the other hand, there are many audio books that cost upwards of $40.00 or $50.00. So, generally I think that Audible is worth it if you love audio book–regardless if you have dyslexia or not.

Other places to get audio books include Christian Audio, iTunes, and the Play Store.

Subtitles–my Secret Weapon

This might seem random or strange, but subtitles has been the best way that I have increased the my reading comprehension and speed. Think about it. You get to see the world and then hear them outloud. Without subtitles I would have never put together things like how “coup” is pronounced (why is French so weird?). When I first started doing this my reading was significantly slower than the dialogue. I would be halfway through reading and the subtitles would change. Now, I can usually finish them. It seems like such a small victory, but it really makes the difference in finishing my tests. Plus, I was going to watch that movie/show anyway, I might as well get reading practice. And that’s the thing about it I like. I get to practice reading (which I’m not a big fan of) and get to watch TV (which I love).

Hopefully these suggestions were helpful. Happy reading!

Dyslexia: What is it? (Dyslexia Awareness Month)

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development dyslexia is:

A specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological components of language that is often expected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Now this definition is all sciency (something I am not a fan of), so I will break it down to the vernacular.

Dyslexia is neurobiological. This simply means that there is a difference in the brain. This is why someone with dyslexia cannot grow out of it–their brain is different from the normal brain (although what a “normal” brain is is also up for debate). It is a neurodivergence. Read more: What Dyslexia Actually Looks Like

Dyslexia is characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Boiled down to its most basic meaning, our brains are not efficient at reading. We don’t have as many part of the brain activated, so we don’t catch many errors that we should have caught. We struggle to recognize word we know and sound out words we don’t. And don’t even get me started on spelling–if it wasn’t for spell check, I would have never graduated high school!

These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological components of language that is often expected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. This sentence tells us what dyslexia is NOT. Dyslexia is not low IQ or an intellectual disability. People with dyslexia have average, or above average IQs. Dyslexia is also not due to bad teaching. Bad teaching can be overcome. You get back on track. Dyslexia is defined as a difficulty reading and spelling with good and bad teachers. It is constantly being behind your peers despite having the same education.

Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Once again, I must stress that this is not related to IQ or intelligence. People often lack background knowledge because they don’t read very much. People with dyslexia learn best by listening, seeing, and doing, but almost all school is based upon reading. Because of this most struggle to do will in reading based classes, but excel in other classes. This can give the impression that they are not trying in some classes, but this is simply not the case. Additionally, people with dyslexia tend to have a smaller vocabulary because they won’t pick up words they don’t know in books. This can be lessened by listening to audiobooks.

The bottom line: Dyslexia is a neurodivergence and is a difference in the brain. It is not due to poor teaching or low IQ. People with dyslexia have troubles in reading, reading comprehension, and spelling. Because of this many struggle with smaller vocabularies and less background knowledge.

Thanks for reading.

People Who Suffer Well

And I , when I came to you, brothers did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Cor. 2:1-5

We love to down-play the power of sin. It can’t really be that bad, can it? We do the right things, not for the good of others, but for our reputation and perception. We live in a society of rebellion–and I’m not talking about living in America. Every human culture lives in contrast to the gospel, it is engraved into humanity. It is easy to come to Church and be far from God.

And sin lurks within our own hearts as well. Many things we do “for God” are not really for God (if you catch my drift). We give offering not because God has placed it on our heart, but because it is expected of us. We want the glory to go to us, not God. In the end, idolatry is the heart of sin. It is putting anything–even good things–above God. Idolatry is often an attempt to take control of our lives rather than surrendering control to God. It is trying to bend the world to our will.

Amos 4 describes many trials that Israel went though. Each stanza ends with the line “Yet you did not return to me.” Here’s the thing: sin is self-consuming. It will keeping eating at you until there is nothing left. God wants to destroy our idols, because if they are not destroyed, they will destroy us. It is really an act of mercy.

But when bad things happen we are often left wondering why. Is it just because sometimes bad stuff happens? Or is God testing me? Or perhaps Satan is trying to undermine me….What could be the cause? But for a second shift your attention. Does it matter the cause? And let’s be real, we ain’t God. There are many things in life that we just won’t know. So, because we cannot know with a reasonable degree of certainty, we must ask a different question.

What should I do in response to this suffering? And know that suffering can take many forms. Sometimes it is as simple as a bad grade on a test or a frustrating teacher. Sometimes it is the death of someone we deeply loved. It can be watching our family go through the pain of end-stage cancer. It can be battling depression for the fourth year in a row, with no real healing in sight. It can be all of these things.

So, what should I do in response to this suffering? I could sit here and shake my fist at heaven blaming God. Or maybe I puff my chest up in pride that Satan would go to such lengths to destroy me. Or maybe I shrug my shoulders and blame this crazy world. But none of these things really seems to do much.

So, what do I do in response to this suffering? I can mourn, seek God, and evaluate my life.

As Christians, especially in contemporary America, it is easy to forget that mourning is biblical. It is not a character flaw or weakness of any kind. It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to be sad. Oftentimes there is nothing to do but ride out the sorrow. Right now, I am resting in the simple truths of the Gospel, as nothing else in my life seems solid. “Whatever the cost, Thou hath taught me to say it is well with my soul.”

Sorrow often transcends words. It’s pain is so deep that comparing it to physical pain doesn’t do it any justice. In dark times, I need a compassionate friend. Someone who will simply listen to me and feel my pain with me. I don’t need any words of wisdom or smart sayings, I simply need to feel their presence and the presence of the Almighty.

And in these times we are to seek God. God is always going to pursue you, not matter how far you go. It is hard to seek after God because in the journey we must surrender control in our lives. Americans especially, I feel, love to be in control. I know I crave control. And the insidious nature of idolatry sneaks in as I think I know best.

We turn to our idols because we want to be in control, but in the end those every same idols end up controlling us. Seeking God requires surrender, and surrender is difficult. I think this is what turns so many people away from Christianity. Surrendering control of our lives to an invisible being seems crazy and reckless. And it absolutely is, unless that invisible being is real.

We are to also to evaluate our lives in light of the Gospel. This is often practical, but also forces us to evaluate our priorities. Recently in my family there was a death. It is hard to describe the sorrow, and some days I am still not ok. I don’t understand why she had to die. I wanted her to see me graduate and make it to the mission field like she always cheered me on to do. I wanted to be able to say goodbye. But I also know that she was in a great deal of pain, and that each day was difficult. And God brought her to her eternal home. I realized that life is fragile and short and I don’t have time to waste. I wanted her here on earth for my sake. Other people don’t live for my sake. I can’t try to hold on to relationships simply because that is what I want, but surrender control of even that to God.

I had to replace my selfish desire to hold-on with knowing that God was in control and resting on Him. I have to replace my sin with God’s grace and continue moving forward. To be honest there is much sin in my life that I am afraid to tackle. I don’t want to surrender control. I want to live the way that I want. But over and over again, I am learning that His way is better than mine. I want to learn how to suffer well.

So, today, I rest in His Grace.

Just Like Me: The Importance of Representation

Percy Jackson–Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Rick Riordan)

lightning-thief1

I first picked up The Lightning Thief at a book fair hosted by my high school. My brother had given me the money to pick it up for him because he heard it was good. I was intrigued by the name of the first chapter (“I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher”). I mean, clearly this wasn’t your average book. But I had one major problem–I didn’t really read. Yeah, I had read the Eragon series and Dragons in our Midst series respectively, but I wasn’t the girl that read in her free time.

You see, I wasn’t the girl that read because I had dyslexia and ADHD. The amount of effort I had to put in made it seem not worth it for many books. But I had free time during study hall, so what the heck–I’ll start reading that book. After all, I have nothing better to do. What followed was the fastest I had ever read a book. It was also the first time a book had grasped me so intently. My attention was griped on that first page. “If you start to recognize yourself in these pages–if you feel something stirring inside–stop reading immediately (pg. 1).”

That, my friends, is how you hook a reader. And I’ve been reading Riordan’s work ever since. But something strange started to happen, I really did start to recognize myself in the pages. From accidentally talking louder than I meant to, all the way to the frustrations with finals, I knew exactly what Percy was talking about. In the opening pages, Percy describes his life: “But Mr. Brunner expected me to be as good as everyone else, despite the fact I have dyslexia and attention deficit disorder….And I just couldn’t learn all those names and facts, much less spell them correctly.” Ah, memory and spelling, my two arch nemesis. Someone else struggled with them too! And not just anyone, the main character of a super cool book. Never before had a ever run into a character that was like me in this regard, and I couldn’t have been more excited.

I deeply identified with Percy when Mr. Brunner pulled him aside to say that perhaps leaving his school was for the best. Namely because he was different. Percy says, “Thank you for reminding me” and runs out of the room nearly in tears. This was a scene in my own life that I was familiar with. I was simply different from other people–and I used to hate it. All I wanted was to be normal. I just wanted to be like everyone else. I was sick of meeting with teachers for extra-help. I was sick of getting make fun of, being the class joke because of my reading. I wanted to be the main character in my own life, but felt like nothing more than comic relief for my classmates–and not in a good way.

What Percy Jackson taught me is that it is OK to have learning disabilities. That I don’t have to hid who I am, because people who are worthwhile will accept me for me. I can be amazing, go on adventures, and be a hero even with learning disabilities. And even though they impact me so much in school, that there is more to life than my academic performance. It taught me that although dyslexic may describe me, it does not define me.

Dr. Spencer Reid–Criminal Minds

spencer_reid_then

This is another funny story (I hope). My friend and I were talking about hair and television and how no one had our same hair color (not quite brown, not quite blonde), and how each character had perfect hair or was (generally) portrayed in a negative light if they had crazy hair. Fast-forward a week or so, and she texted me that Dr. Reid had the same hair I did, from the hair color to the length (I had a pixie-cut then). Because we were both in college, I assumed that Dr. Reid was one of her teachers and asked which subject he taught. But she laughed and asked if I was kidding. “He’s in Criminal Minds, you watch that show, right?” Well, no I didn’t, and wouldn’t until I checked that the psychology was legit–and thus began my obsession with Criminal Minds.

But this Dr. Reid and I shared more in common than just a haircut. I began to recognize other behaviors–moving hands awkwardly when I talked, going on tangents, not realizing what is appropriate and what is not. He was a character that didn’t quite know how to deal with his emotions, yet was portrayed as mature. Someone that had random obsessions that seemed unrelated. This was something that I had never seen before on TV. Someone who was so different, he had stopped trying to be normal. It was quite the breath of fresh air–finally a character that didn’t fit into a box or cookie-cutter mold.

I had now had someone to identity with. I wasn’t the only one who would ramble on bunny-trails for hours if you would let me. I found someone else that missed just enough social cues to be awkward without missing all of them, or enough of them to warrant a diagnosis (of ASD). Even though I don’t have Reid’s ability to read 20,000 words per minute or an eidetic memory (in fact, I had just the opposite with dyslexia), I still loved his character.

It gives me hope as Dr. Reid is one of the favorites among fans. There are people out there who will accept me for who I am, weirdness and awkwardness and all. And I can be myself. I can see parts of myself finally portrayed in other characters. They were people just like me.

Minimalism Update: Progress, Why I haven’t posted, and Random thoughts

I began writing about my minimalism journey about a year ago. Last semester I quit writing for several reasons.

Reason 1: I had no time! I as a full-time nursing student. It is a joke that when you ask a nursing student when they have free time, they will tell you their graduation date. But that’s not really a joke. I had so much reading and homework that it seemed it would never end–add to that dyslexia and other learning disabilities and you have no time for really anything–including blogging.

Reason 2: Mental Health–Last semester, mentally, I was in a bad place. I was continually refused accommodations that could make-or-break nursing school for me. I was told repeatedly that because of my disability I should look seriously into other fields. Add to that a resurgence of my depression and anxiety and a loss of self-confidence and you have a recipe for a near mental breakdown. I honestly didn’t feel like writing (or doing anything other than Netflix, truthfully). I didn’t feel like going through my stuff.

Reason 3: I got to the hard stuff to get rid of. I’m down to the stuff that I like. I’ve gotten past the obvious stuff to get rid of–the pants that didn’t fit, the shirt I hate, the book I didn’t read, etc. Now is the harder part…

So, with that out of the way let’s get to the good stuff: my progress!

Clothes–I have gotten rid of many of my clothes, even some of my favorites that needed to be replaced (NOOOO!). Now I am at the dilemma: do I replace them or am I OK where I am at? The hardest part is getting rid of shirts. I am, admittedly, a huge fan of graphic T’s and have way too many. And the problem is I don’t want to get rid of them! And in addition, I am needing more semi-formal clothes (aka, not T-shirts) and want to continue the one in, one out model. But basically, right now, I am not buying new graphic T’s (and for me that’s progress).

Book–This is the hardest category! Even though I am dyslexic, I am a HUGE fan of books. And I keep buying more and more! Now, I have absolutely loved each book that I have bought recently, but I keep buying them (like over 9 this summer). One goal I should make is buying more books on Kindle. While many people hate E-books, I love them. I can click on words I don’t know and find what they mean, change the font style and size (huge deal for readability for dyslexics), and they don’t take up much room. But Mardel’s and Book-a-Holic have better deals than Kindle!

Misc.–Steady progress, not much to say about this. I got rid of most of jewelry, which isn’t a big deal for me because I don’t wear a lot. I do have a bad habit of hoarding earbuds and charging cords through. Win some, lose some.

Random Thoughts:

I started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tiding-Up, but haven’t gotten that far (it was a book from the E-library and I didn’t read it fast enough). I am interested to try the KonMari method though, especially because I have lived in Tokyo, Japan, and let me tell you, space is a premium!

I finished reading Living With Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness by Joshua Becker (Student Edition). There wasn’t much I hadn’t heard before (but I am a fan of his blog), but is was useful to have the (Biblical) references and such at my fingertips.