The Desires of the Heart

I recently moved back to my home town about a month ago. Before moving home, I had worked in a community mental health agency for 8 months. It was my first job after graduate school and I learned so much from it.

Within about 3 months of working there I had this feeling that community mental health work just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t my passion. I could do my job well, but it was very draining work and took an emotional toll on me.

I learned so much from working in mental health, but I learned more because I was working in a setting that I didn’t feel called to:

1. You can do good work somewhere even if your heart isn’t in it.

I could do my job well, but it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling for me as it was for some of my coworkers. I remember one of my coworkers who said, “I love this work so much. I drive home everyday with a huge smile on my face.” And I said, “Are you being sarcastic right now because I can’t tell?” The point is that person put their heart into what they were doing because it was their passion and purpose in life. I did my job and drove home happy knowing that I had given a good day’s work for a decent day’s pay. Then I cranked up the Led Zeppelin and rolled my windows down dreaming of finding my passion.

2. Sometimes you have to “put in your time” to get a job you’re passionate about.

Coming out of graduate school, I had zero experience in social work besides internships. As a new graduate with mounds of debt and itching to use my degree I had to take a job to build my skill set and resume. I learned so much about assessing and diagnosing patients, but I could tell that my heart wasn’t in it. If I would have tried to “hold out” for a job that I really wanted I may have never gotten employed. And besides, at that point I didn’t know what I really wanted. Don’t give up on your dream job, but sometimes you have to take a detour.

3. Take chances and have faith.

My mom is actually the one who told me about the job here in my hometown. She encouraged commanded me to apply “now” so I did. The funny thing is that my mom also set me up to apply for another job which I worked throughout college.  Daniel and I had been wanting to move back to our hometown, but we weren’t getting any job leads. After waiting and praying for 6 months, he finally got a great opportunity so we moved back hoping and trusting God that I would find a job. And that job that my mom told me to apply for is the one I got. It’s a non profit job and it’s serving people who have ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease. The same disease that my Grandpa died with 2 months ago.

God works in mysterious ways. Mysterious mostly because we don’t know His plan. Works is the second most important word in that sentence. God is first. God works.

God uses the desires of our heart to accomplish His plan in our life. When I found out I got this job, there was more than happiness that I felt at the prospect of getting a paycheck. I felt peace. Peace that God has truly blessed and granted this desire of my heart.

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” -St. Augustine

Linking up with Blessed is She for this week’s theme: Heart.


Lean In

Exuberant. That was the word they used to describe him.

As I sat among hundreds of other people remembering the life of this man, it made me stop and think about how I’m living my life.

He was a professor in the School of Social Work. One word that described him at times was “absent-minded.” He was absent minded in the best of ways. He taught a course on social work groups. In class it was rare if we spent a lot of time reviewing the assigned text. The majority of class was spent in discussion or listening to stories from our professor. The course had a textbook, but all of us students knew that he, our professor, was the true textbook. He had worked in the profession so many years and his clinical wisdom was boundless. He taught us to “lean in” when clients got mad or upset or things got tough. “Lean in” I would hear him say. Of course it wasn’t until I left graduate school and actually began clinical work that I understood what he mean when he said “Lean in.”

When I took his class, he wore a long braided pony tail. Right off the bat, I could tell that there was something different about this guy. This professor told us about Native American culture, he brought his flute in to play for us. Yes, readings from the text were assigned, but they weren’t the focus of the class. His class focused on life. Teaching and preparing social work students to have compassion for the people they would serve one day, going out of ourselves to advocate on behalf of those who aren’t able to advocate for themselves.

How do you grade students in the class of life?

As I sat there in that auditorium during his memorial service I couldn’t help but think of my own life. You see, every picture displayed around the auditorium of this man was unique. Unique in that in every single picture this man exuded the essence of life. I don’t know how else to put it. He was a man who had wrung every last drop out of life. And he was only in his 50s. All the stories told about him had a similar theme–this man loved abundantly. That’s a simple way to say it and maybe and understatement. He loved everyone and spoke directly to each person without distraction.

Maybe he wasn’t focused on the details. His wife said that he often called people by the wrong name. However, he was focused on what truly mattered–making each person he interacted with feel loved and accepted.

Reflecting on my own life, I began to think, “What will people say about me at my memorial service?” Will they say that I loved abundantly? Will they say that I left a mark on them, that I inspired them to do something greater? To be something greater? How do I exude joy and love to others? Like, how is that possible?

Leaving his memorial service, I was inspired. I want to love more deeply, more richly. I want to speak to others with love and acceptance. I want to be true to myself, like my professor was, not afraid to show the quirky side of my self. After all, to accept and love others as they are, we have to first love ourselves as we are.

Lean in. When the fire gets hot, lean in. He taught us that “leaning in” to situations with our clients makes them feel more safe and comforted. Notice how when someone starts to raise their tone or the situation gets heated, you naturally incline your body away from that person.

Lean in to life. Lean in to friends. Lean in to those in need. Lean in and give of yourself. Lean in and love without measure.

everyday life, faith

Diving Head-first into Dreams

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams. Not dreams like what images and story line my subconscious mind produces while I sleep. Dreams like things I’ve always wanted to do, places I’ve always wanted to visit, who I’ve always wanted to be. Dreams, for me, consist of asking myself this question “Who would I be if I wasn’t afraid to take risks?”

After all, dreams consist of risk. If there was a recipe for dreams it would probably consist of 8 cups of risk, 2 cups of motivation, and 7 cups of guts (gross, I know..but necessary). Living out my dreams is something I haven’t put much thought to until recently. If I get one life, should I take the easy road and work a safe 8-5 job or should I drop everything I’ve known and that which society promotes as “the good life” and dive head-first into risk, soak it up, roll around in it and chase my dreams?

I have this mental image of chasing dreams and taking risks like that scene in The Parent Trap when one of the girls plays a prank and it ends up covering her camp counselor in molasses and feathers from head to toe…then she gets sent to the “exclusion cabin” which to me looks like more freedom and fun…but anyways. That’s how I picture following my dreams. I’ve just got to get covered from head to toe in risk and learn to be comfortable with it.

That’s when life happens–when we’re covered in the molasses and feathers of risk and running down the highway of our dreams.

Everyone will stare. Everyone will gawk at the audacity and sheer craziness of it. But then, deep down, they’ll wish they had the guts to do the same. sparrow

So let’s cast out into our dreams and abandon ourselves to risk, fate, and the Divine Love of Him who Created everything and live as it pleases Him. If He cares for the sparrows and sustains their life, how much more will He care for us, made in His Divine Image?

everyday life

Is it bad if I lick the toppings off of breadsticks? {A true poem}

Is it bad if I just wanna drink creamer + coffee all day in my pj’s on the couch and not go to work?

Is it bad if I wanna eat 2 Snicker’s Ice Cream bars at a time?

Is it bad if I wanna swim in a pool of noodles?

Is it bad if I sometimes give people gifts that I’d like cause I don’t know what they want?

Is it bad if I only wear my glasses when I feel like it?

Is it bad if I don’t use a level when I hang stuff on the wall?pizza-hut-breadsticks

Is it bad if I live my life according to my own values?

Is it bad if the only thing I’ve every really committed to is marriage?

Is it bad if I lick all the toppings off of breadsticks and don’t eat the rest?

Is it bad if I am my own person?

Is it bad if I live according to my faith as best I can, though imperfect?

Is it bad if I care too much and so sometimes I seem detached?

Is it bad if people judge me because they think I judge them because I embrace a different moral standard?

Is it bad if I use run-on sentences in my own blog?

Is it bad if I care what people think, but not that much?

Is it bad if this is the deepest thing I’ve written on this blog?

Is it?

culture, everyday life

Hopping on the Tour Bus: My Writing Process

Bee yourself

Bee yourself

Today I’m linking up with Noony at From Laos with Love for a Writing Process Blog Tour. She has become a fast friend through blogging. Her blog immediately caught my attention because she writes about Lao culture in the diaspora and gives readers a glimpse into her family’s immigration story as refugees from Laos.  Being that Daniel is Laotian, I hear similar stories from my mother-in-law. However, not many people are documenting these stories from an insider perspective the way that Noony is on her blog.  I look forward to reading her posts and am thankful that she writes about her experiences as a Lao refugee. What I’ve come to find out is that not many people know that Laos is even a country, let alone that the Laotian people suffered so much during the Vietnam War.  Props to Noony for telling her story with eloquence and candor.

And the bus rolls on….


The Questions

1) What am I working on?
I don’t know that I would say I’m “working on” anything really. I began this blog because I love to read blogs and because, at one time, I liked to write.  I still do like to write (sort of) and this blog is my space to document life as I live it. I tend to have a bad memory so I want to remember the mundane and the not-so-mundane happenings in my life.  As an anthropology major I consider culture my first love. Marrying a Lao guy gives me a bicultural perspective from which to write and my next project for posts involves examining how we navigate these two cultures in our everyday life. So I guess that’s what I’m working on.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My work is different from others of autobiographical writing because of the various lenses I view the world through.  The lenses of anthropology/culture and faith shape the way I see the world and, consequently, what I write about.  As a Catholic married to a Laotian, I have a unique perspective (as does everyone else–Ironic, huh?) on life and I infuse my writing with these themes.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Writing about the mundane is important to me. Perhaps it’s the cultural anthropologist in me that is more interested in everyday life than about the extraordinary parts of life.  This is why I write about the everyday happenings and milestones in this life that I share with Daniel.  I want to remember what it felt like during our first year of marriage to be able to take a road trip at the drop of a hat and not worry about the laundry or packing for a baby.  I am nostalgic like that and it breaks a little piece of my heart when I throw away a birthday card from two years ago–even if the sender simply signed their name and didn’t offer any personal greetings.  It is this yearning to remember simple things that drives my writing.

4) How does your writing process work?
Being the rebel that I am, I have never really embraced a writing process.  The only time I willingly used a formalized writing process was as a second grader learning “rainbow writing” where you use green, yellow, and pink strips of paper for the introduction, body, and conclusion of an essay.  Once I got to high school my “rough draft” was simply the first time I wrote my paper and the “final draft” was the second time I wrote it paying more attention to my penmanship or grammar. I write exactly what I think.  As I think, so shall I write.  Any other way doesn’t feel authentic. Some teachers/professors would say “Your writing has great voice” and others would say “This isn’t how you write a professional, collegiate paper” and I would say “frank you” (substitute another f word, substitute I don’t care, but mostly substitute- I do what I want.)  Once I’ve written what I have to write, I read over it and if it sounds weird in my head, I change it. I know–fancy, and complex. Two words I’d not use to describe my writing or my self.