Monthly Archives: December 2012


These past couple weeks of December, I’ve been trying to brainstorm why everyone looks forward to Christmas. The solid answer seems to be that it all boils down to traditions.

Each family has their own – some obscure and unique, others loaned from culture, but every one treasured. To list each special and Pless-like tradition my family has accumulated over time would make the paper as long as Santa’s toy list, (and then some), but they are literally the reasons  I crave Christmastime in the midst of the hottest day in July.

Of course – the tree. How can anyone start the month of December with no fir tree immediately dropping pine needles with each step as you carry it into the living room. It made Mother (and the cat) crazy, wafting its distinct woody scent through the house.  She would pull out the largest boxes of antique ornaments I had ever seen from the attic to (gently) hang on each branch, complete with tinsel made from actual aluminum that she kept in its original 1950s cartoon-illustrated cardboard box. She and Daddy would wind strings of large multi-colored bulb lights that flickered and a never-ending strand of bubble lights around the tree, carefully placing each light in a perfect spot for all to admire. And as the baby in the family, I would place the ancient revolving, red North Star at the top as a final hurrah! I would literally sit in front of the tree every day, admiring the family’s work, as the cat contemplated which antique ornament would be his next victim. Between the loose needles  smashed into the Persian rug and the daily shattering of a 100-year-old ball or tiny glass trumpet, Mother was undoubtedly anticipating the first Thursday of the new year when it was time to clean up and put everything away.

Grandpa was a diabetic, so naturally on Christmas Eve, he wanted pizza and Coke, followed by some sort of dessert and coffee (decaf, of course). As long as I can remember, he invested in pizza as Mother and I prepared some sort of delicious sweet—indulging Grandpa in his sweet-and-salty tooth and giving us a break to prepare for Christmas morning brunch. Although he took the majority of leftovers home with him, we kept a little for ourselves to have as appetizers on Christmas morning, because nothing tastes better than cold pizza and Diet Coke on such a special morning (except bacon-wrapped Tater Tots).

As soon as my body got the faintest hint that morning had broken (hardly ever after 5:30 or 6 a.m.), I burst out of bed and flew down the stairs to see what Santa had awarded me for the year of Good Girlness. The year that “Santa had to leave and come back because a certain little girl came downstairs too early,” Mother installed a hook lock on the door at the bottom of the staircase to use on the occasions that I was up too early. (That was the year I had begged for a Felicity American Girl doll. How could I wait any longer than 2 a.m.? Surely Santa had already come and gone by that time). To me, nothing looked more beautiful than the tree so thoughtfully decorated, with elegantly-wrapped gifts placed “just so” underneath, and the hand-crocheted stockings our mother had made for us brimming over with specific goodies for each of us.

Remembering that morning each year reminds me what it is about the season that makes us yearn for it: family traditions. My best memories are those in front of the tree, colorfully and brightly lit, with cold pizza and our goodies in hand, and the old JVC log-sized video camera sitting atop Mother or Daddy’s shoulder.

I only have a couple more years to enjoy the traditions my parents established for my family before I’m on my own. I will cherish them and look forward to each one, because now I’m reaching the point where I will be deciding how to borrow and create my own traditions to carry out each year. Knowing how I was when I was growing up and the potential of what my kids could be, God willing, I think my own traditions will include a hook lock!

And Have a Merry Christmas

May I describe to you what euphoria feels like? It is being cuddled up with a million fuzzy kittens next to a warm fire while eating from an unlimited supply of candy.

That is almost exactly how I feel right about now.

My friends, I have made it to the end of another semester. I am currently writing this after completing my fourth and last final exam. Oh, it feels good. All of my hard work has reached a temporary end, and I may now look forward to Christmas break. Allow me to share just a few of the things I’m excited for in the upcoming weeks.

  • No homework: I actually might not know what to do with myself for a while. I currently feel guilty for using my laptop for anything besides completing a research paper. Hopefully this will pass soon, and I’ll be able to fully relax.
  • Christmas shopping: I think I have gotten better at this as the years go by. I have learned to be sneaky and take my friends and family by surprise when they receive their gift. I also like to think I’m getting better at wrapping gifts… The package may never look perfect, but it always has character!
  • Reading for fun: It has been some time since I was able to finish a book outside of school. I think it’s absolutely necessary for a person’s well being to read a book as often as you can that feeds both your soul and your mind. Do yourself a huge favor and go to a bookstore or a bookish friend’s home and pick out a title that looks interesting. Read it cover to cover. You’ll be amazed what a good, unassigned book can do for your outlook.
  • Home cooked meals: Beef stew. Eggnog. Pumpkin cookies. Breakfast quiche. Need I say more?

For the next few days, I look forward to the on-campus Christmas gatherings, white elephant gift exchanges and spontaneous caroling. It will take a while for it to sink in that I don’t have to budget homework or study sessions into this time, but I plan to enjoy the Christmas season in Riverside before looking forward to Christmas back home. Watch out, Ukiah, I’m coming for you soon!

Looking back, this semester truly has been eventful, and I really believe that I learned so much from each of my classes. I feel that this semester has brought me closer to my eventual degree. For now, I will enjoy this sense of accomplishment in the completion of my fall 2012 semester and pray that I finished well.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Living Your Purpose

If you are around California Baptist University long enough, you will hear the phrase “live your purpose” quite often.

CBU’s slogan inspires satisfaction and confidence. It reminds us that we have a purpose in our lives — one that God created for us.

Since I am in my college phase right now, it is more difficult to look at my life holistically and understand the purpose God has created me for. When I was in high school looking for colleges, I would ask God, “Where is it that you want me to go?” I wanted to make sure that I went to the college that God intended for me to go, because surely that had to aid my purpose in life. Well, it is a good thing I did come to CBU. Not only has it been a great experience and inspiring academic atmosphere, but it has taught me a lot about the purpose for my life.

Dr. Bruce Stokes, professor of anthropology and behavioral sciences and dean of the School of Behavioral Sciences, and Dr. Nathan Lewis, professor of psychology and director of the graduate program in counseling ministry, have instilled in me the way to interpret God’s will for His people. Sometimes these two professors like to modify the school’s slogan to say “live His purpose,” because we as Christians can misunderstand what the phrase means at times.

God created us in order to live holy and righteous lives before Him, loving others and following His law so that we may have satisfaction and joy in our lives.  Sometimes Christians take the “destiny” approach to Christianity and believe that Christians are “destined” to do such and such thing. Then if we do not do that thing we missed out on our purpose. I am glad that it does not exactly work that way. God does bring opportunities and people into our lives, and these things can change our lives in tremendous ways. But God may or may not tell us in plain words “Take the Christian doctrine class this semester” or “Room with Veronica this year.”  Living our purpose is so much more than that.

If we narrowed our purpose to such minute things, we would miss out on the purpose that God has really called us to. God has a great calling for all Christians. His purpose is to make disciples of all nations and be a part of a universal church devoted to making His name great. Christians can do this in so many ways that it is really an adventure.

Coming to CBU and being a part of the community here is a way that you can make disciples and be a part of His church.  But you can live your (His) purpose, wherever and everywhere you go. Friends, live your purpose!

Survival 101

I didn’t find a definition for finals week in Merriam-Webster Dictionary, so I offer these two for your consideration:

 Finals week (n.):

  1. the day(s) in a student’s life where each minute is accounted for, caffeinated drinks replace water, the most unhealthy foods are consumed, and after the last final, a great sense of accomplishment overwhelms the student knowing that the student completed every last detail to the best of their ability, usually resulting in a temporary hibernation.
  2. the day(s) in a student’s life where the student loses their mind from over exhaustion, suffers from loss of sense of time from the stress of responsibilities, possibly resulting in stress sleeps where, instead of completing every duty assigned, the student’s brain turns off and is induced in a long unscheduled nap, thus leaving the student feeling unprepared and disappointed.

As you know, finals are looming, making us crazy and driving us to unusual habits (i.e. sleeping in odd positions and places, craving Alberto’s Tacos at 1 a.m., drinking coffee every two to four hours, etc.). It’s amazing that the necessities and priorities of everyday life outside of our studies are almost all flipped with the stress of completing academic requirements. Each person really needs a “Surviving Finals Week” guide or checklist to organize and keep him or her from giving into the second definition of “finals week” listed above. In a big picture approach to conquering finals week, I have decided a few things are the most important and will aid me in coming out on top. Maybe they will help you, too.

1.     Don’t forget to immerse myself in God’s word. As I grow busier and increasingly stressed, I am tempted to cut out the most vital time of my day,  because—as my naturally arrogant heart would say—I’m obviously living and breathing, so I can accomplish all my responsibilities on my own. I’m encouraging myself and those close to me to dive into God’s word to get closer to Him in the midst of this stress, because He is the ultimate conqueror and giver of all things. This time of my day is the most precious, really needed and gives me a perspective that will put the trivial, worldly things into their rightful place: at the foot of Calvary’s cross.

2.     Scour the pockets of clothes and couch cushions for loose change. When I am stressed, I immediately crave Cheetos®, ice cream, In-n-Out and chocolate. It’s like a light switch: “Oh, you’re stressed,” says my brain. “Here, let’s load you up with insatiable cravings and yearnings for junk food.” Literally, those are the worst foods for me during Finals Week. That loose change is going to buy satisfying fruit and vegetables to snack on as I practice piano and vocal music, or study for tests (I’m attempting to trick my mind into thinking the crunch of celery is actually the crunch from a potato chip… Shh! Don’t tell!). Some of my professors have recommended bananas right before a test to physically relax the muscles and give a boost of natural sugar to increase brain activity. Is that completely accurate? I don’t know, but it gives me an excuse to eat a wonderfully sweet snack, possibly alongside peanut butter, depending on my mood.

3.     Reviving the idea of “Bed Time.” I know that after 11 p.m., my brain is useless and refuses to function. (Un)fortunately, trying to stretch its capacity during Finals Week is not going to yield great results. Uninterrupted sleep during the hours of 10 p.m. and about 4 a.m., for me and others who have experimented with this, has proven higher functionality during the day with increased energy levels, metabolism and detoxification. Let me challenge you to call it a night by 10 p.m. and wake up as early as 4 or 5 to finish that assignment you were stumped on the night before. Surprisingly, you will find your mind is alert and fully functioning. Make it a habit, and you will notice a drastic difference in the smallest ways, such as lack of illness, higher energy levels throughout the day and less grouchiness

4.     Become a fish. Water, water, water! Increase the intake of water. Fill a water bottle with this clear liquid rather than coffee or soda, and it will wean out any nasty toxins in the body and give you something to sip on constantly. Not only will it help fight off the Sandpaper Throat (as I like to call it), but also it will prevent you from falling asleep in those last lectures before final exams!

These few points are vital to my success and survival of this week, and I challenge those also enduring end-of-the-semester stress to come up with a short list of big picture ideas to aid in their domination of the last few days we have. I’m going to write my own list on my hand, a mirror, sticky notes, my laptop, wherever I can to remind myself of the key ingredients to success. I am determined to make this week a piece of cake!

Now go back to the beginning and read the two definitions for finals week again. Which one are you going to choose for yourself?

The Beginning of the End!

It’s here everyone! The end of the semester is nigh, and you all know what that means… Christmas approaches!

I’ll admit to being a holiday enthusiast, and Christmas is by far my favorite. I am currently sitting here on my couch listening to Christmas music as I gaze admiringly at the decorations hanging in our apartment. I love this time of the year. In the midst of finals, it is nice to be able to listen to crooners such as Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jr. sing about snow, cheer and reindeer.

One of the things I love about Christmas time is its nostalgia. It gives everyone even more of a reason to be loving and generous. As we near the end of another semester and approach a new year, I find myself in an especially nostalgic mood. I love to look back and remember the best things that have occurred so far in my second year at Cal Baptist.

Here are a few things that have contributed to a wonderful fall semester:

1. A New Living Situation: Living with new people is always an adventure. There are always feelings of excitement mixed with anticipation as you prepare to settle into a new home. I can honestly say that over the past semester I have learned so much from my three roommates and deeply appreciate their presence in my life. To each of my roomies, let me express my thankfulness for you and my excitement to live with you through the next semester! I can’t wait for more impromptu dance parties, coffee breaks and meaningful talks. I love you all.

2. Antiques and Oddities: This semester, like others before it, has brought so many opportunities to try new things. I frequented the giant antique store in downtown Riverside this time around, and discovered the weird and marvelous treasures within. I once found a gorgeous copy of Millay’s collected sonnets along with a replica of an alien from “Men In Black.” That store truly is a wonder.

3. Rock Climbing and Future Plans: I tried rock climbing for the first time in years and actually enjoyed it more than expected. The first time I tried it was at a church camp when I was about 11-years-old. Let’s just say it was not exactly a magical experience. I may or may not have failed miserably. However, sometimes it just takes a second try to discover the greatness of something, and after rock climbing again, I found that I love it. So naturally, I was ecstatic to find out that Cal Baptist’s new recreation center has rock climbing and bouldering available for next year. If I ever go missing for a few hours, you’ll know where to find me.

4. Beaches: Another thing I got to experience this semester was Laguna Beach. I hadn’t particularly enjoyed trips to the beach last year, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that not all Southern Californian beaches are terribly crowded. I went to Laguna a handful of times this semester, admiring its beauty and charm each visit. I ate the best Acai Bowl I’ve ever had, as well as obtain a horrible sunburn (sorry Mom… I forgot about sunscreen).

5. Concerts: I had the opportunity see a few concerts this semester, some in intimate coffee shop settings and others in large arenas. A few of the artists I saw were Needtobreathe, Manchester Orchestra and My Double and My Brother. CBU also offered us a FREE Switchfoot concert during homecoming! Dreams really do come true, kids. Each show was phenomenal, and I hope to make it to many more in the near future.

On top of having an amazing home and great experiences, so many people played a huge part in my life so far this semester. I am thankful to those I met and spent valuable time with since the beginning of the semester and those whom I reconnected with. You all continue to bless me richly by showing me Christ’s love and respect. I count each person I know as a valuable aspect of my life. Thank you for going through life with me, figuring things out as we go along, and for coffee talks. This fall semester at CBU has turned out to be one of the most eventful so far and has encouraged so much growth. I believe that once we get through finals and the chaos of it all, I’ll have much more to say about how this semester ended with a bang!

The Christmas event is yet to come, and I might burst with excitement and joy. As for now, back to my remaining research papers!

To All the Ends of the Earth

It’s amazing how small your problems seem and how big God is when something changes your perspective.

My boyfriend’s parents just returned from a vacation in South Asia, after visiting their daughter who is a missionary there.  They recounted their experiences there to me, and all that I heard inspired and encouraged me.

In this particular country in South Asia, there is a large population, with the majority of them being Muslim, Hindu or Sikh.  There are millions of poor and few rich people in this society, and according to my boyfriend’s parents, the slums are simply devastating to see.

People in some areas of South Asia are open to hearing the gospel, but the issue is that the culture rejects any person who is baptized in the name of Christ.  Family members who accept Christ have been beaten or cut off from all relationships by their own families.

Kristen White, director of Mobilization at CBU, spoke at my church this past Sunday.  She shared with the church that missionaries baptize a large number of people all over the world.  She said that she gives us the statistics of people baptized, not the number of people converted, because in other cultures, once a person gets baptized in the Christian faith, people take that person’s faith seriously.  In some countries, once a person is baptized, the persecution begins.  As a result, some people who have converted to Christianity avoid being baptized.

This was startling to me, mostly because in America we see baptism as a regular ritual that follows up a person’s conversion to Christianity.  A person gets baptized, we celebrate, life moves on.  However, for so many people in other countries, baptism is a giant step.  One girl my boyfriend’s sister deals with in South Asia who became a Christian and recently was baptized said that once she was baptized, everything in her life went downhill.  Her family abandoned her, her boyfriend abused her, and most aspects of her life have been severely affected.   However, she is growing strong in her faith and in the Lord, and she has willingly given it all up for the sake of Christ.

As a Christian, it is highly inspiring to hear about such commitment to the Christian faith.  It always causes me to question, “Would I be willing to do the same thing if I were in their place?”  As Kristen White said, “You either die for something or live for nothing.”

I sometimes get caught up in my trivial trials and tribulations that I encounter in my life and forget that there is so much more than myself to consider.  I may have hurt feelings or stress in my life, and it could consume my world if I let it.  However, hearing these stories helps me to put into perspective how miniscule these trials are in the grand scheme of things.

Also, it was encouraging to hear how God is moving in South Asia.  My boyfriend’s sister is an alumna of CBU, and she has been a Journeyman in South Asia for nearly two years now.  When my boyfriend’s parents visited there, they said it was remarkable that God was moving in such miraculous ways.  Whether by dreams or “chance” encounters with Christians or deliberate discussions with missionaries, people are being chosen and saved by God.  There is a lot of work to be done, but the gospel is spreading in South Asia.

Be encouraged, Christians.

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