Monthly Archives: March 2014

Focus, Then Glance

You know what’s crazy? I just returned from spring break, and suddenly in four weeks I will have officially completed my freshman year of college. That is crazy.

This home stretch is such an interesting one – it’s full of preparing yourself to say goodbye to the routines and comforts you’ve developed over the past seven months, and also time to say hello to countless new opportunities on the horizon. I’m a quarter of the way through… And yet, it feels as though nothing has changed, and I’m still just beginning this college journey.

One example of an opportunity is one that’s been on my mind almost constantly over the past few weeks. A friend of mine and I are looking into studying abroad in Europe next Spring via a program that CBU has an affiliation with—as if CBU needed to add to their list of incredible opportunities!

Since we’re both graphic design majors, Caitlin and I are having so much fun sorting through the various art schools in Rome andFlorence, jittery with excitement at the idea of living in another country for a semester. To wake up, pick up a mug of Italian coffee and some delicious Tuscan pastries before glancing over our shoulder–only to see the silhouette of the coliseum in the distance. What a daydream!

Therein lies the problem. I am so much of a daydreamer that I often struggle to remain firm enough in the present to focus! Focus on the here and now, focus on the present, focus.

I wrote in an earlier blog about how my mom used to tell me when I was in elementary school, after I’d complain about how the school days drag on forever, that, “When you are older, time just seems to go so much faster.” I never believed her… until I did.

With that reflection in mind, and especially realizing that an entire year of college has nearly escaped my reach, I’m learning the importance of balancing what consumes my mind between the present reality and my future daydreams. This is no simple feat for me, as I learned in my FOCUS class earlier this year. We were required to take a personality test which revealed our five top strengths – two of mine were Ideation and Futuristic. Enough said?

So if, having almost completed my first year, I have enough credibility to give some advice to graduating high school seniors, it would be this: when it comes to going to school for the purpose of planning a future, exercise focusing on the here and now so that you may succeed in whatever it is you intend to do.

But also, learn to daydream if you haven’t already, because that’s what will ultimately propel you through every homestretch.

Focus, focus… then glance.

Urban Excursion SF

 

My average spring break experience usually consists of the following: extensive yard work and extensive laying on the floor thinking of what to do with this strange new feeling called free time. To shake things up a bit, I applied to be a part of Urban Excursion San Francisco, a five-day mission trip organized by the Office of Spiritual Life. I only briefly heard about the trip during FOCUS leader training last semester. Leading into this semester, all I could remember was “fun trip over spring break to San Francisco,” and that was enough for me to apply. I was accepted and met the team over a period of three training nights. There were 10 students and two leaders, Julie Dobbins and Kris Huffman, and training consisted mainly of getting to know each other. Strangely enough, I still had no idea what we were going to do in San Francisco by the time we packed up the cars and left. Something about homeless ministry.

To start things off right, we left in two Chevy Suburbans with plenty of room and sour gummy worms to keep us happy during the eight-hour journey to the Bay Area. I still didn’t know the team that well so this was perfect time to ask random questions and laugh with each other. The good vibes carried us through the drive, as did the promise of an In-n-out stop for dinner. The team stayed at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, which is conveniently located just across the bridge out of the city. The campus sits on forested hills with a beautiful view of the water and city in the distance. We explored the hills the first night and felt excited to finally get in the city.

The next day we drove to Golden Gate Park where large numbers of homeless people congregate in the day. We pair up and walked around the park talking to and praying for anyone who would let us. I paired up with Kris, and we ended up talking to one man for the entire three hours. We met him on a street corner, where he held a cardboard sign asking for cigarettes and beer. He was friendly and talkative, but right away he began with his ideas of spiritual energies and chakras and what not. His traveling name was even Taro because he was a tarot card reader. We bought him lunch at McDonald’s and talked for hours about our understanding of God and the scriptures, but he always jumped back to his idea of feeling for the answers and mixing various religions into one. I’ve never met someone so spiritual in the wrong way. He was open, however, to what we had to say, and we at least prayed for him that he would find the truth. The whole thing was a bit discouraging at first but also revealed how lost people can be. Other groups had similar experiences in the park, which was a great challenge for our own faith.

The following days we met all kinds of people, those choosing to live on the streets and those recently unemployed or recovering from addictions.  I could write pages about the people we met, but I’ll at least highlight the ministries being done there to help out. We visited Interface SF on Sunday. Interface is a new church plant involving CBU graduates, which is planning to officially launch a community center in Golden Gate Park by September. The next day we partnered with them to volunteer at Family Home, an organization that provides free housing for families with terminally ill children who need care in the local hospitals. The final day we worked in one of the poorest districts, the Tenderloin, with City Impact, which offers multiple services for the homeless and needy. When we arrived, there were already teams from Vangaurd, Oklahoma Christian University and Colorado State University, all volunteering for the week. We helped prepare food, set up and tear down for services, and spoke to and prayed for those in need. In the afternoon, we packed lunches and handed them out from door to door at a low-income apartment building. The organization does these kinds of things every day, which is incredible. There is always someone else around that needs help, too.

Those five days went by fast, and our team grew close together in those shared experiences. We saw a lot of the city, as well, which made it even harder to leave.

There is so much need in the city. Still, we left with a new understanding of just how important it is to be involved in these programs. Urban Excursion was an eye opener for me as to what I can do to help. I’m definitely getting involved in trips to come.

Life of an RA

Spring break is officially over. and school is back in full swing. With a little more than a month left of school, there are many things to be done before deadlines hit and graduation nears. Instead of boring you with the detail of homework and studying that took place over spring break, I’ll tell a bit more of an exciting tale about the insides of residence life, the things that resident assistants do for some fun.

Being a part of residence life has made for a year full of events and such. Every month ResLife plans “family time” for the RAs. It is a time where the staff comes together to connect with the other RAs and do something together. Family time has consisted of anything from a worship night to a chili cook-off. When family time rolled around on Tuesday night, we were in for something special. Dodge ball.

Let me start by saying dodge ball is the one game I do not enjoy. You are literally signing up to get balls thrown at you. When guys are involved, the balls aren’t thrown in any sort of nice fashion. The balls are thrown hard in your direction, and, if you are fortunate enough to dodge the bal,l then you are not left with a red mark where the ball made contact with you. Needless to say, I was not necessarily looking forward to spending an hour getting balls thrown at me.

However, once the games began, I actually had a lot of fun. They mixed all of the staffs and placed us onto eight teams. Then the tournament began. Teams were paired, and then the winners of those games played each other. The final two teams played each other in the championship round. Each team had nine players, and each team was given a team name. (The names were given to us, we did not choose them.) My team was called Don’t Stop Ballieving, which came in handy when cheering on the team, even if it was a little cheesy.

The first round that my team played was a close one, but in the end we came out victorious. That meant we were onto the second round. We waited to see which team we would be up against and were a little nervous when the opposing team turned out to be pretty good. The second game we played was still tough, but we were again victorious, which meant we were onto the championship! At this point we kept saying ‘we made it to the finals and that’s a pretty great success.’ You see, the teams we were playing had some pretty good players; they knew what they were doing. In the end, once we put their star players out of the game, the Don’t Stop Ballieving was the champion.

To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this night. Like I said before, dodge ball has never been one of my favorite things to do. Tuesday night proved to be a little more fun then I had anticipated, even if balls were being thrown in my direction the entire time. Winning, I think, had a lot to do with our enjoyment in the game.

 

Old and New

As I’ve said before, I find that immense joy and insight comes from sharing your life with someone. The past few days have enabled me to do that in a new way.

Hopefully, we all have those friends that are undoubtedly God’s way of saying “Here ya go! This is what love and growth looks like with me!” For me, that friend, and one of the most influential people in my life is Shelby. We have an adorable story: We met in preschool, became best playmates and maintained our friendship all the way through elementary, junior high, high school and now into our third year of college – even though we go to separate universities. We have grown up together, laughed, cried, seen each other through every awkward phase and still love each other regardless. She is a person with whom I I can share anything, and I have no doubt that we will be key players in each others’ lives as we continue to grow older.

Why do I share this? Well, ladies and gents, I’m proud to announce that CBU’s presence has been recently graced by the presence of the one and only Shelby, my lifelong friend (insert resounding applause!). She is on her Spring Break and decided to fly down and see where my life happens.

I’ve noticed that bringing someone into the world of CBU for the first time reminds me of why I fell in love with it in the first place. For one, the campus is beautiful, and it is awesome to see someone experience it for the first time and to relive that pleasure yourself. I’ve also become immensely thankful, once again, for each of my classes. I took Shelby to sit in on Cinematic Story – co-taught by X-Men producer Ralph Winter – and was freshly enthused by the opportunities I have to study what I love and gain knowledge from truly astounding people. (In Shelby’s words, “I want to start over and take this class. This is crazy!”)

The thing that seemed to leave the most lasting impression on my treasured visitor is exactly that which has made my time at CBU abundantly blessed – the people I get to spend each day with. Our first night in Riverside, I summoned the troops to gather at the Old Spaghetti Factory for Shelby’s welcome dinner. I wanted these lovely people from my two worlds to converge, and when they finally did, I can’t accurately describe the beauty that came out of it. I saw how Shelby, who has always been a huge part of my life, merged in flawlessly with my friends at CBU. Our conversation was rich with conversation about personalities, creation, anti-jokes, God and how we’re living life. As we all returned home I realized that conversation like that doesn’t just happen. My life at CBU has blessed me with friendships to nurture and build upon.

Showing Shelby my life as it is now was, for lack of a fancier word, amazing. Aside from being unbelievably fun, it was an encouragement to see how God is continuing to grace my life with His presence. He gave me Shelby as a lifelong friend, even though we now live miles apart. He has also given me the chance, through CBU, to continue to grow and learn, and He has shown me that quality relationships are such a tangible way of experiencing his love. I’m filled with gratitude – for my busy schedule, the classes that challenge me, the work that stretches me and for the people who walk with me. Shelby, come back soon!

Peace in the Chaos

Friends, the chaos has hit.

Every semester, I tell myself that I will be poised, calm and fully prepared for midterms when they hit. Unfortunately, every year I am never as put together as I plan to be. This past few weeks have proven to me exactly how important it is to prioritize, map out a game plan, and keep calm in the midst of the chaos

We all know the drill for when times get crazy. We wake up early to get a jump-start on work, put off that trip to the movies and organize homework parties to maintain our sanity. These are all wonderful tactics, but sometimes a bit more is needed to keep stress at bay.

There was a point last week where I found myself nearly out of my mind with fatigue, stress over deadlines and a desire to do well in everything that I was doing. Not only did I have my midterm exams, papers and presentations come along, I also had new job and small group commitments, group projects, people to keep up with, and budgeting worries to occupy my mind. I came to a point where I did not feel on top of things as I was hoping I could have been, and I began to lose sight of the bigger picture. I focused on the grand, looming mass of all that I had to do, and eventually came to the point where I realized once again that I do not always have it all together. This humbling experience came to remind me again of the importance of a broader focus.

While I will admit to being worn out after the bulk of my midterms, I remembered the ever-true fact that it is okay not to be perfectly composed at all times. As much as I would love to be Super Student, I know that I have to remember my own mortality. School is a challenge – it is supposed to be. I am here to stretch myself and soak in all that I learn, and midterms are just a way of showcasing that. When I find that I have a difficult time keeping up with everything, I remember that there is beauty in the challenge. If this were not difficult in some way, I would not be learning to the fullest extent.

While the challenge is certainly not the most easy-going and fun element of life, it was easily combatted by the joy that can be found in the simple things. Yes, I was stressed and had a lot to tackle, but in the midst of this, I still had access to coffee (it’s a blessing, people). My best friends are also just a short walk or a phone call away. Immense pleasure is found in shared experiences, as we are all in the same boat, and we know that we can laugh in spite of ourselves through it all. We shared the concerns and the fatigue, but we also enjoyed the adrenaline rush that comes from finishing and assignment and knowing that you gave it your all. We also greatly enjoyed the post-midterms celebration – a quiet movie night with loose-leaf tea followed by an early bedtime.

Life has thankfully slowed down a bit for me now, as these things go. I have to say that I am SO looking forward to a week at home for Spring Break, where there will be family, cats, books and no deadlines. Even though I prefer this leisure to the chaos I just experienced, I find reason to be sincerely thankful for it. Business puts everything into perspective, reminding me of the privilege to learn, the love of a challenge, and the stories that I will get to share years down the line. And now I’m off to board a plane to Northern California, grab a book and a mug, cuddle my cat, and sleep soundly. Friends, enjoy your break.

IC in LA

I’m not the type of guy who goes out to museums for the day to appreciate classical or obscure art, but when the International Center hosts a day trip to Los Angeles for only $5, I cannot resist. Last Saturday I visited the Getty Museum and walked around Holly Boulevard along with 40 other CBU students. I wasn’t sure what a “Getty” even was leading up to it. All I heard was “Los Angeles,” “day trip” and “international students” which drew my attention fairly quickly. I’ve been on trips and events with the International Center before, and they never disappoint. These events are based around connecting international students with California culture and American students, so of course I wanted to go.

The group met up by noon out in front of the International Center, and due to more people joining (including my roommate Jon, literally minutes before), we loaded onto a bus and two extra vans. The trip over to the Getty was an adventure in itself driving through LA traffic and sightseeing around the skyscrapers. The museum is located on a hill that overlooks the city with a view of Santa Monica to the west and urban life to the east. Art and history aside, the Getty Center as a building was impressive enough. The white stone blocks along the exterior mixed with the fountains and gardens below plus that view again makes for an impressive structure. I didn’t mind just hanging outside, but with paintings by Rembrandt and Monet inside, I guess I had to check it out. I didn’t realize before that the Getty Center houses several pre-20th century European paintings and sculptures, which really isn’t one of my passions, but I appreciated the historical aspect. With nothing in California being more than 100- to 200 years old, I enjoyed seeing a little more history. There was an 18th century French Planisphere which had dials that displayed the time of day, month of the years with their zodiac signs, days of the lunar month, and local times of various cities. As an aspiring engineer, I could only appreciate the complexities involved in creating such a timepiece hundreds of years ago. Then I looked at my phone and felt frustrated when the signal died.

We left the Getty Center by 5 p.m. and then headed over to Hollywood Boulevard. I’ve been living in California for almost five years now, and this was the first time I’d ever seen the stars on the sidewalk. The bus dropped us off, and we walked down the street, watching out for familiar names and avoiding the overwhelming number of celebrity look-a-likes wearing Halloween costumes trying to get some money from you. This is when my friend, Isaac De Guzman, shined in his knowledge of the city. He pointed out famous sites during the drive over and then led us over to the Hollywood & Highland Center mall next to the TLC Chinese Theater. There were two huge elephant statues sitting above the shopping center where we ate a quick dinner before heading back into the streets. We passed by El Capitan Theater and checked out more shops. I grew up in a big city like this, so I felt great walking around under the nighttime lights. It’s strange how familiar an unfamiliar place can feel. We ended up playing cards in a frozen yogurt shop and only afterwards learned how close we were to Korea Town and the Griffith Observatory. We all had fun exploring the city and already have ideas for new places to visit the next time around.

Tick, Tock…

Having hardly announced its arrival, spring break is already right around the corner.

What?

One of the best parts of growing up is gaining the freedom to make your own decisions, and along with spring break suddenly comes that time once again…. So much faster than I had anticipated. In fact, I’m in a little bit of a foggy disbelief as I type this!

Every year when March rolls around, students all over campus are just watching the minutes tick by as we await our class registration and housing selections for the coming fall semester…. Tick, tock, tick, tock…

While to an outsider this whole crazy selection and scheduling process may sound like a hassle, to us students, it’s definitely an exciting time! Class wise, CBU offers hundreds of different types of courses that range from just about every interest to the next… graphic arts, philosophy, marine science, aviation, music, anatomy, etc… I’ve been asked a couple of times, “So how does CBU require their students to set up schedules? Were you required to take ‘this, this and this,’ for example?”

The first time I was asked this, I probably seemed a little bewildered as this thought had not crossed my mind. While students are given plenty of recommendations for how to optimize our schedules each year, the decision is ultimately our own. That’s something I love about being here. If you choose wisely, not only will you have tons of fun in the process (or, maybe that’s just nerds like me), but you will also feel an overwhelming satisfaction with each passing semester!

And as for housing, even we freshmen aren’t limited as freshmen usually are in most colleges. From the dorms to the cottages to Tower Hall, the selection is all ours! But, needless to say, I am definitely excited to have the selection choices of an upperclassman.

I actually didn’t know until a couple weeks ago that for upperclassman housing, CBU offers apartments that range from one-person studios to five-person townhouses! And, you have complete freedom to develop your own “groups” of roommates so that you know exactly whom you will be living with when September rolls around.

Plus, if you’re someone who appreciates perfection (or, obsesses over it) then you’ll probably be just as impressed as I am by CBU’s roommate searching process. If you’re a new student who doesn’t have a clue about who to room with, or if you’re a returning student who can’t think of someone you’d like to room with (what happened?), then this process may just be your rescue. Every student inputs information such as rooming preferences, likes and dislikes, character traits, etc., and CBU then provides you with a list of potential roommates and the percentage of their information that matches up with yours.

Neat, huh? I’m so excited!

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

When Life Was Simple

Starting my day in an elementary school classroom is one of my favorite things to do and is something I’ve been involved in for the past couple of weeks. I have acquired many stories through the hours that I have spent inside classrooms, whether it is through tutoring or just observing. One of my favorite memories came from a kindergarten classroom.

I was tutoring in this classroom and working on reading with the students. The task was to read the short story three times out loud and then write a sentence and draw a picture representing their favorite part. Once the students had finished, they were allowed to go back to their seat and do the rest of their classwork. As the hour was coming to a close, there were two students left at the table. The boy had finished the task, and the girl was almost done. I told the boy that he could go back to his seat since he had finished. He told me that he was going to wait for the girl to finish her assignment, because they were best friends. Then he said: “We just became best friends today, because the teacher sat us next to each other.”

My heart melted. How great is the simplicity of a kindergartener’s thoughts? Don’t you wish you could go back to the time when you became best friends with someone just because the teacher sat you next to each other? I know I found myself wishing that I could go back to a time where making friends was so simple, a time when my biggest worry of the day was what I was going to have for lunch. Making friends when you are older requires much more effort on your part, and then you have to decide whether or not they would be a good person to have as a friend. A 5 year old doesn’t have to worry about any of that. All they know is this is who they sit next to in class and that makes them friends.

Gone are the days of simplicity.  Life is much more complicated now than it was back then. Days are filled with classes and homework. Then there’s the whole worrying-about-what-the-future-holds aspect of life. The simple words of a kindergartener caused me to reexamine how I approach life. Not everything needs to be complicated. Sometimes the simple route is the way to go.

I encourage you to find the simple joys in life. They’re worth it.

CBU Doesn’t Care if Your Socks Are Uniform

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 11.41.38 AMAs a graphic design and digital media student, a small fraction of my studies is devoted to the art of photography and digital editing. Craving more of it, I enrolled this semester in a brand new Commercial Photography class, where every few weeks I am assigned a new project having to do with an advertisement of some sort.

This past week, I brought my younger sister and cousin to school with me for a night so that they could model for my Saran Wrap campaign ad. Needless to say, we had a great time! While I left the experience with many wonderful memories, something that my cousin mentioned while in chapel on Monday has left a mark in my mind.

While in chapel, before the service began, she began telling me about a couple of the colleges she had been looking into. She definitely has a few years to think about it, so I applauded her initiative so early on. After listening to her list of UC schools, I asked, “Have you thought about any private schools?”

She laughed a little and shook her head as though it were an obvious answer, “No, definitely no private schools.”

In all honesty, her response had me taken aback. As I was soon to find out, though, my cousin’s understanding of a “private school” was that they are all uptight, uniformed and strict. She wanted to go somewhere where she could excel academically but also enjoy the uniqueness of a college social life.

So, I set to work.

Now let me be clear, I understand that private school is not the best route for everyone. Certainly, for many reasons, it was the best choice for me and my academic pursuits, but I am not everybody.

Regardless, I think that every high school student should have the benefit of a proper understanding of every option available to them when choosing a university. So over the next day, I was sure to show my cousin every in, out, wall and door that illustrates CBU’s well-rounded offerings. (Actually at one point, she poked fun at my enthusiasm and pointed out a rock and its supposed significance).

CBU teaches humility, not an understanding of uptight religion. CBU endorses plenty of room for students to make their own decisions and grow through that process of independence, rather than being overbearing and strict.  And, most importantly to some, CBU really doesn’t care whether your socks are uniform or not. In fact, CBU encourages God-given individuality and the decision to stray from “worldly” norms.

Certainly, there are a few “private schools” out there that may be considered uptight, uniformed and strict, but CBU is not one of them, and I made it my mission to help her understand that during her stay. And given her state of awe by the end of our time together, I would say that I succeeded!

All About an Email

Last Friday was the big reveal for student leadership applicants. By 5 p.m., all of the university offices offering positions sent out emails either congratulating you on your new job or thanking you for your interest. I had been waiting for this email for a long time, and each day leading up to that Friday added a little more doubt in my mind. I had to know, but at the same time I just wanted to forget about it.

Now I am not the kind of guy who stresses about homework assignments or worries about what they’re serving in the caf for dinner. If I have a week booked with projects, lab reports, ADC hours, blogs and intramural soccer games, I tend not to freak out. It’s not that I am immune to anxiety or naive about my time commitments. I just know that I need to do, plan out what I should accomplish each day, and get it done. That may involve some skipped meals and late night studying, but at this point I can push myself without thinking too much about it.

With my apparent lack of nerves or ability to feel stress, it doesn’t make sense why I would worry about receiving an email. There are a few things, however, that could explain it. The first was how much I had been talking with my friends about becoming an RA next year. I’ve been looking at the job ever since my freshman year when I met my dorm RA, Mike Teruel, almost two years ago. It was crazy how one night he could keep the hall laughing with the funniest stories and then the next convict us with a solid Bible study. He was the RA, but everyone saw him as a solid friend and role model. I respected him so much for that, and I knew that I wanted to do the same. I applied for and accepted the FOCUS Leader position for last fall and really enjoyed that experience, but now I felt ready for the next step. Again, though, I talked it up with my friends leading up to the reveal day as if I already had the job which only made me want it even more. The second reason I felt worried was from the group processing night. I wrote about this before, but to review I ended up missing the first series of RA group interviews due to the fact that I caught the flu and threw up all over the parking lot as I was walking to said interviews. That set me back right from the beginning. Luckily enough, my immune system pulled through the week after during my individual interview. The interview ran smoothly, and I felt good about it, but I still couldn’t believe that I missed essentially half of the interview process. I just knew that would come back to haunt me.

Friday finally came around, and for once I was quiet about any RA talk. I just needed to wait for that email and feel good about whatever it might say. Unfortunately, I served food in the ADC that evening and wouldn’t be able to check my email until my 10 minute break, which could be early or late into my shift. I served up meatball gyros and watched for anyone I knew who applied for leadership, as well, to ask if they received the email yet. Then I learned that it was sent out early, and I couldn’t handle not knowing. My friends came up to me to say how they got FOCUS Leader and RA and Community Life Intern, but all I could respond with was, “Do you want extra tzatziki sauce?”  Finally, my manager let me take my break, and I rushed over to a table and pulled out my phone. Some of my friends saw me, too, and came over to see the result. The pressure was on, and my phone kept failing to connect to the internet. My 10 minute break was moving fast, too, but luckily my girlfriend’s phone was equipped to deliver the results. I found the email from Res Life and scrolled through it without reading any of the text. For those first few seconds, I didn’t want to know. My eyes glazed over, and I was content with that. I had come this far, however, so I refocused and read the words. The email welcomed me to the Residence Life staff as a new North Colony RA, and I was speechless. My friends thought I was disappointed that I didn’t get Smith Hall, but I was quite the opposite. I honestly didn’t think I would get RA of anything. I walked back to my station still shocked, and then the excitement started creeping in. I would be an RA next year, and now I can talk about it with full certainty. Next year is going to awesome.

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