Trading Something You Like For Something You Love: My Story

I went on a journey to find what I love to do, thinking that my self-worth came from my talent and performance level. I began this search by learning to play the piano when I was 5. I loved it so much. When I was 10, my piano teacher went to college and I fell in love with my new teacher. Her energy and kindness enhanced my life, and she made me feel so confident and special. Although I never practiced, she saw something in me. She saw my maturity and ability to play with emotion. When I did practice, she saw the cleanliness and cohesiveness in my playing. She would tell me that she couldn’t teach my energy, and saw me becoming a professional pianist one day.

But I didn’t see myself that way. Whenever I played a song, it never sounded right to me. Competitions became abrasive until I confidence in me remained. I hated being unable to deviate from the sheet music. So, I started trying new things. I started dance when I was 12. I think I liked the idea of dance more than I liked dance itself. 12-year-old Lea was so self-conscious with her wire glasses and awkward arms, and ballet helped fix my posture. But being stuck in ballet 1 from the start was honestly extremely frustrating as I had no idea where dance would get me in life.

So 8th grade came. I was 13 then, and I decided to start figure skating. I had always loved the way skating made me feel after all. My parents saw that I was starting to lean less and less towards piano and were worried that I would quit and regret it for the rest of my life. So my dad sent my teacher an email, and my teacher responded saying that I was too old to get anywhere with dance, that my only hope was playing the piano.

I was so infuriated. Everyone warned me that I would regret quitting piano because almost everyone quits regrets it. 70 years from now I’m going to look back and everything skating has brought me through, and I won’t regret quitting piano. Instead, I’ll say 2 words. Worth it. So with that, I quit. To me, I had just trashed all of my talent. But little did I know that I had just traded something I liked for something that I would love.

Figure skating. My memories of figure skating consist of beautiful moments full of me falling and getting up again, learning what it truly means to be passionate about something. The rush of the ice is something I greatly miss today. From the clean, crisp sound of landing an axel to spinning so fast that you can’t see anything, skating really enhanced my life. Desperate to prove my piano teacher wrong, I became obsessed with a regiment of stretching and got extremely bendy in a few months time. In 6 months, I was skating at the level most people wouldn’t get to in years. I had 3 amazing friends that I always skated with, and we competed together and told each other everything.

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Then, that summer, I had to test for 4 levels at once. I totally broke down in tears during my Freestyle 4 test. I made my test proctor feel horrible and after the test and she made me repeat the words, “I don’t suck” a few times before passing me. After that, I realized that skating, although amazing, was not going to fill the void in my heart or give me a purpose by any means.

Then I started going to youth group. I hated it at first. Everyone here seems so fake. But I kept going because I had been wanting a place where I could freely ask my questions about God forever. That was the first time I realized that my self-worth came from God. Finally understanding what my life should be about, I got baptized the day after my 14th birthday.


I ended up quitting skating because I wanted to go to Mexicali, and that was the easiest way to pay for my trip. When I got back from the trip I realized that I didn’t need skating in my life anymore. I would take everything I’ve learned about going all in and being insanely passionate about something and apply it to my faith. After making that decision, crazy things started happening to me all the time. In essence, I traded skating for God, something I thought I loved for something I was ecstatic about.

I couldn’t go without physical activity though, so I continued to dance. The day before my algebra 2 final my parents told me not to go to rehearsal, but I went anyways and fractured my foot on a switch leap. I totally failed that final despite studying every day for 2 months, and I had never felt so hindered in my life. But that was the first time I had ever felt peace in my life. No one expected me to do anything because I couldn’t do anything. However, the support I got from everyone blew me away. My dance studio is inside my church, and I woke up on the day of my final with so many people texting me that they were praying. I called my teachers expecting the worst as I couldn’t dance in the recital, but they responded with an unfathomable compassion.

 

before fracturing my foot
I was scared to dance for awhile, but eventually, despite my doctor’s orders to not dance for 6 months, I started again. But all of a sudden I was leaving dance feeling so empty for no reason. When my best friends would take me home, we would just complain about everything we couldn’t do. There were days that it was super fun and I was super close to my dance friends. But then recital happened and I was bawling tears afterward over a misunderstanding because my parents didn’t congratulate me. It was the best recital I had, don’t get me wrong. But instead of celebrating like I had envisioned, I was outside thinking that my parents were still pissed at me for quitting piano and would never be proud of me, with one of my teachers telling me, I went through the exact same thing you did. And the most important thing is not what your parents think of you, but what you think of yourself. It ended up being fine, but it still hurt a lot.

 


So still feeling the weight of piano on my shoulders, I wrote my piano teacher this long message, keeping things as positive as possible. It had been 3 years since I quit. She responded with such love and support that I felt like I could finally pursue whatever I wanted with no more false motives. (I may post something about forgiveness)!

This year, after consulting many of my mentors, I chose to take a year off of dance and youth group to focus on school. As long as you have a place where God is filling you up, and it looks like the hospital is filling you up more than youth group anyways, you don’t need to do everything they told me. I wrote about my experience with that here. I traded dance and youth group, things I liked, for AP chemistry, a class that taught me so much more than dance and youth group would’ve ever taught me combined. This I find weird because school is a worldly thing, and school grows my faith so much.

So here we are towards the end of my junior year. Next year I will have time to have a life again and will need to decide whether I want to go back to certain things or try new things. When I look back, I never hated piano. I just hated myself, and how I played. I loved skating and I was good at it but was insecure about it anyways. Not dancing this year has brought me closer to God, because dance was the last thing I was holding onto as a clutch and putting before him. I think we tend to be insecure about the things we are best at. This is why we must always seek God first because he knows us best.

This is just a piece of my journey. But what I’ve learned from all of this is that God will never make you give up something you like if he doesn’t have something greater and more amazing in store. =)

 

Speak

Secretly, I had a powerful voice. I furtively longed to express myself. But I barely talked in class, because I never knew the right answers. I always stumbled in my efforts to wing presentations. Nevertheless, in 8th grade, my friends forced me to try out for Speech and Debate with them, ignoring my arguments about how public speaking would kill me. To my surprise, of all my friends who forced me to try out, none of them made the cut. Somehow, I did.

I would write, memorize and recite poems in front of strangers, in a moving manner, to a crowd of biased jerks who would judge me as a person completely. I felt discouraged. One night, I sat on my bed with my journal and pencil in hand. If I had to speak, I wanted my words to inspire. “Once upon a time,” I began writing, “There lived a young girl, with a huge heart and huge dreams…” After 10 minutes, I stared at the finished result. The honesty appalled me. I would never want to read it in front of anyone.

I found myself in a classroom, barefoot, standing in front of our speech coach, Mrs. Owen, reciting my poem dryly and emotionless, unwilling to expose myself. I finished, and she looked at me slowly. “This poem of yours is brilliant and has so much potential. It’s nothing to be embarrassed of.” I bit my tongue. “Just by hearing you say this I can tell you’re a strong person. Only a strong person would have the courage to write that.” I tilted my head with disbelief.

“I want you to imagine your dad is sitting right there,” she said, pointing to the desk in front of me.

“I can’t,” I said, shaking my head.

“What does your dad’s room look like?”

“It’s square.”

“When he gets home from work, would you talk to him?”

“No,” I said, puzzled.

“Then what does he do when he gets home?”

“Look, I don’t see what you’re getting at with this,” I reply, rebelliously. She squints, eyeing me closely, carefully. “I’m trying to get you to imagine your dad because I want you to say this honestly. I don’t want you to feel like you need to hide anything, and I know you wouldn’t be dishonest with your parents.” The words stabbed me in the chest because I never thought my parents would understand. I placed a finger on my wet eyelids.

“Pretend your dad is sitting right there, and that he loves you, cares about you, and truly wants to hear what you have to say,” She stressed, gently.

“You’re making me cry,” I sputtered.

“That’s okay,” she said, gently. She gave me a minute, and then urged, “Now try it again.” I took a deep breath and began.

After the last few words, everyone clapped. My voice had strength and power, and I felt completely unashamed. I had spoken up for myself for the first time in my life. I would never be soft spoken again. “That’s what I’m talking about,” Mrs. Owen said, smiling with approval. When I caught my breath, she walked up to the front of the classroom and placed her hands on my shoulders.

“Stand confidently when you say this,” she said. She pulled my shoulders back, elevating my spine, and then lifted up my chin with her fingertips. My eyes met her gaze.

“Keep your head up high,” she told me, “and just speak.”

From my autobiography 

2.20.17: Conviction 

Dear God,

I have not been keeping up with this Curing My Eczema Challenge thing. I’ve been feeling the conviction here: perhaps I am such a selfish person that I want the glory of curing myself. Except that is not possible. It’s hard for me to keep up with stuff that I must do, so logging my eczema progress daily was never going to happen. Besides, school got super hard, and my eczema became terrible again. It got a little better after sleeping in a lot, and then really bad after I pet this really cute dog I ran into at a thrift store. I’m still not sure if it was worth it. For some reason, even though I keep failing, you never cease to put people in my life who inspire me.

I met a really cool patient on Saturday. His name was Robert. He was an engineer for 30 years traveled the world. He climbed the Egyptian Sphinx and floated down the Nile. He has a heart for Cajun food from the Bayou. He went to UCLA. I asked him if the math I’m learning in school was worth it, and he said I’m never going to use it. He really won my respect there.

We talked about religion and food and medicine. He told me that he doesn’t take pain meds because he finds the strength to mentally block the pain out through his own meditation. This made me tell  him about my eczema, as it has always been my theory that if I could train myself to be mentally strong enough to not scratch, I wouldn’t have eczema anymore. When I told him that I was a Christian, he told me that he studied the KJV Bible from cover to cover and that he uses it for advice all the time.

“When I get to heaven, the one thing I want ask God is why he made my life the way it was, because it could’ve been so much easier,” He said, laughing.

“You know, sometimes I wish the same thing. Then I realize that in the moment I may not understand something, but at the end I always think to myself,’I wouldn’t have had it any other way.’ Because most of the good things that happen to me could’ve never happened if I didn’t go through all the crap first.”

“That’s a lot of insight for your age!”

“Long way to go,” I said, laughing.

I proceeded to telling him about all of my dreams, and he added his crazy experiences to my bucket list. I would one day get kicked in the face by a kangaroo in Australia, eat at a bistro in Spain, hear the choir in Rome, and sleep in a tree house in Africa someday. He told me I was kind, and I had many fine qualities. You don’t meet people like him everyday.

“Don’t waste your time on things you think you need to do. You have only so much time to cross all those things off your bucket list.”

“That’s good advice,” I said, smiling, “Thank you for taking your time to talk to me.”

“My pleasure,” he said, beaming. “Glad I could be a part of your journey.”

Talking to him made me feel amazing. I guess I am so broken, and selfish that I still search for inspiration from the world, nevertheless my amazing patients. And I feel like this is a problem. Not that my patients pour so much into me: they are perfect. But If my only motivation to do things is to make me feel amazing then I must have everything wrong. Because the world doesn’t revolve around me, but it revolves around you God. And I guess all my efforts to surrender control have all been a fail because I can’t seem to let go of myself. I can’t seem to let go of my desire to be known, to cure my eczema, to get straight As, and to tell stories about all the amazing people I met. But you put those people in my life, and you gave me all these talents I undermine. I am so mediocre without you.

And that sucks, but is so true, and freeing, and relieving, and scary. How do I be known, God? How do I be known for you?

I look in the mirror at my red, gnarly skin. God, you are mending me. If I want to be known for you, perhaps you have to break me of my pride, and my selfishness. You may never mend my skin, but I know every day you are making me more like you. 💜

“I’ve been there.”

“She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She took the weight on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.” 

Today was crazy. I failed 2 tests, and then this. 

I left the room, ready to sprint after the girl who ran out of class crying. 

I didn’t know how I’d find her, and my athleticism would probably fail at chasing her. But she settled for the bench right outside the classroom. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Hey, hey,” I said, gently. I sat down on the bench next to her, as she buried her head in her arms and let the emotions spill out. I put my arm around her, rubbing her back. We sat there for several minutes, and my heart broke. My heart broke for her because I had been there so many times before. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” I whispered gently. 

She told me what was going on through hiccups and short breaths, and I listened. She was reading in class because that’s how she handles her stress, so when my teacher called her out for not paying attention she just lost it and left.

“She didn’t know what was going on, or that reading is just how you handle stress outside of school. She just wanted you to pay attention because she’s teaching imaginary numbers and those things are absolute hell. I promise you that as a teacher she does care about you,” I said, gently.

She nodded, but kept crying. I decided to unravel my history of crying in school. “I’m the queen of panic attacks by the way,” I said. A chuckle emerged in the midst of her tears. “I’ve cried twice here in this class when I was a freshman, a few times in front of my pre cal teacher, once in front of my calc teachers, and this year I had a full on meltdown during my English class.” She laughed even more.

Coating my words with a deep sense of passion and care, I stressed, “You have every right to be feeling what you are feeling. You do not have to put on a façade and pretend to be okay, because the longer you do the easier they break. And the more you keep things inward without telling others, everything will spill over more often and more meltdowns will happen.”

We talked some more about teachers who let us cry in class. “You wanna pet a dog? There’s a stress dog in the library.” She laughed even more. We walked to the library and Angus The Terrier wasn’t there. 😦

“Ah let’s just walk around then. If we get detention for ditching it’s on me,” I said. We walked around campus in the cold air. We visited my friend’s photography class, and my other friends’ calculus class. When the bell rang we made our way back. She tried to tell the teacher what happened, but she started crying again. She looked at me. 

“Haha I told you. I always stop crying and then when I have to talk to the teacher I start crying again. I can’t even,” we both laughed. 

“Yeah. Lea’s a good person to walk out with,” my teacher told her. We all just talked about emotions and life and ditching class until everyone felt better. 

“Do you want my number?” I asked her. She nodded. I gave her my number, and we all exchanged hugs. 

“Feel better!” My teacher told her. She whispered a ‘thank you’ to me, and I walked out with my new mini me. 

And i thought, I have never been more happy to be someone who is extremely sensitive and emotional and undergoes meltdowns in my life.
Because if I hadn’t been me, I would not have been able to tell her all of my experiences and all of the things I’ve learned. As a class tutor, I’ve always prayed I’d be a good role model. I want to be someone caring enough to come alongside another but also experienced enough to teach. I guess you never know what people are going through, but when you find someone going through the same thing you did, it is incredibly healing.  

Today, I am learning that if you are going through something, you are never alone. It takes a lot of humility to go up to a teacher and ask for help. And that is why we should build each other up. How is one supposed to buttress another if they don’t know what’s going on? If you find a mentor who understands what you’re going through, you should hold onto them for dear life. Teachers, leaders, and mentors make life so much better. I am so grateful for mine.

And when you are questioning why you are the person that you are, keep in mind that someone may need to hear the words “I’ve been there” when they feel like nobody understands. Always seek hope. 

Spiritual Healing In Hume Lake

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…”

This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to go to Hume Lake, an amazing Christian camp near Sequoia National Park up in the beautiful mountains with some of the most amazing people ever. I got so close to so many people I rarely get to spend time with.

This is my experience. 🙂

*

I didn’t know whether I was even going to make it on this trip. My eczema had gotten so bad that past week, and I had literally been crying in an urgent care clinic a few days before. School had been hectic and exhausting. My head was consumed with negative thoughts and worry, and I came to Hume searching for something. I just didn’t quite know what it was.

The car ride up itself was life changing enough. Mountains upon mountains, rocky browns and greens were all mixed together, and the hills rolled on in a never ending fashion of highs and lows. In the mountains, remember the valley.

The trip consisted of trying to figure skate with the worst rental skates alongside of one of the coolest leaders ever, Chris, playing card games and catch phrase, box sled races and chapel. The second day Hume endured the biggest storm in 10 years so ice, snow, and slush was everywhere. We got so wet walking from our cabin to the cafeteria or anywhere else we wanted to go. I tried broom hockey for the first time. I walked two steps on the ice and fell, got up again and then feel, and then just resorted to trying to sweep the puck into the goal on my knees.

At night all the girls got together and talked about what we heard in chapel.

Chapel was the best part.

The speaker, Bryan, was so amazing. Every word he uttered you couldn’t help but lean a little closer, longing to absorb his words a little bit deeper. He dissected the bible stories with passion and emotion. His words vividly delineated who God was and is, urging us high schoolers to love him with all of our hearts and minds and souls and strengths.

He did the alter call with everyone’s eyes open, saying that if all of heaven gets to celebrate when people accept Christ for the first time then everyone at Hume should get to also.

When the first timers stood he asked them 2 questions.

“Do you believe that the Jesus is the Lord your God?”

“Yes!” They’d say.

“Do you commit to following him for the rest of your life?”

“Yes!”

“WELCOME TO THE FAMILY!!” He’d yell enthusiastically. After morning chapel and watching all the new kids accept Christ, I burst into tears.

“Hey, are you alright?” Patty, another one of the most amazing leaders ever, said gently.

She held me while I cried, and then we went downstairs. I told her I had no idea why I was crying.

So we dissected my life story. Haha.

She told me some things I will never forget.

“When you’re passionately living for God, the devil doesn’t like that, so he attacks you more and you feel it. Sometimes when I’m comfortable and I’m not doing what God wants me to do, the devil is happy and leaves me alone. But God doesn’t want that.”

“And that sucks. You lose both ways!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah. When Paul was doing all these amazing things for God, he would always have this thorn at his side. He would pray for God to take it away, but God replied saying that he put that thorn in his side to keep him humble.”

I thought about my eczema. I use it all the time when I’m talking to patients in the hospital, which makes patients connect more to this teenager who also gets fed up with doctors and medicine, who also gets discouraged, and who also lacks confidence. It also forces me to look deeper into myself, pleading with me to see myself the way God sees me.

“So eczema might be my thorn?”

“Could be.”

“That sucks too!”

We talked more, about how it sounds like my eczema is probably correlated with stress, and then she prayed for me. I nearly cried again because I could feel God right there with me.

“Thank you so much,” I breathed with a smile.

“Of course! Now let’s go watch broom hockey!” Patty and I then went to endure the raining, icy, slush.

Later that night I was still so confused as to why I cried. I was talking to Tomiko, another one of the most amazing leaders ever.

“Why is it that I can be so distant from God for a while and still end up in situations where I serve him or pray for patients and such?” I demanded.

“Well, just because you’re not doing your part doesn’t mean he isn’t doing his,” she said, with a smile.

I always feel God with me, but the fact that he was not only with me but fighting for me opened my eyes.

As we worshiped him during chapel, I could feel his presence. The last sermon inspired me as it reminded me how God was such a loving healer, wanting me to know that I was his daughter and could trust him. I knew God was always mending my brokenness.

During cabin talks we talked about how being a Christian isn’t supposed to be easy, but how good things almost always come from the bad. We talked about artists who purposely broke vases to glue them back together with gold, making them more beautiful.

Was I going to keep taking all theses risks following God, even if it meant Satan would attack me all the time? Was I still going to follow God even if my eczema may or may not be my thorn? Was I going to have God esteem or self-esteem? Would I climb mountains with small valleys or simply not choose to climb mountains because they are so freaking hard?

I remembered then how God always moves me to tears when I feel his presence. This morning I felt it. His presence is powerful.

Is He worth it?

He’s worth the mountains. He’s worth every broken piece of me. He breaks me down only to build me up again into something greater, stronger, more like Him.

When I am that discouraged sheep that gets caught up in all my problems, he will always be the Shepard that finds me. He found me at Hume. I wasn’t sure what I was searching for, but he was and is always running after me.

Dear God, I want to follow you with all of my heart and mind and soul and strength. Shaping me is going to hurt, but I know it needs to be done. Following you after all is worth all of my brokenness. I’m not afraid. Following you is worth my everything. 

 


Eyes Above The Waves

Yesterday I spent my New Years day at Marin Headlands, where vast rolling hills compliment the rocky cliffs that hang over the roaring ocean. When my parents decided to take a nap, I embarked on my own solo hike through the mountains. I took it all in. Every shade of green and blue and brown complemented one another. A flashback hit me from when I was in 7th grade and spent the week here for camp. I’ve been thinking quite a lot about it lately, so I wanted to share it with you.


**************************************************

The night sky exhaled a cold wind as we stepped out of our bunks, running to meet our naturalists for another nightly adventure. Me and my best friend, Brinthy, met Casey, our naturalist out in the square.

She led us out to the beach. “Okay, this is what we’re going to do. You guys are going to turn your backs to the ocean. I will be watching the waves to make sure none of you get swept in. That means if I say run, you guys are going to run. Let’s practice that.”

We laughed. “Run!” she yelled. We ran from the shoreline.

“You guys will have to run a little bit faster than that, but good enough. So, every time a wave gets sucked in I’m going to tell you to dig, Okay?”

“Okay!” We chorused.

“Dig!” She yelled.

We stuck our fingers into the sand digging furiously. Every time we stuck our fingers in, the sand sparkled like glistening diamonds.

“Woah!” We exclaimed. She told us what it was that was sparkling at the end, but I don’t remember. It had to do with zooplankton or algae or something.

It was the next part that really stuck with me. “Alright, enough of that. I want you guys to get into a line, standing with your back facing the ocean. And I want you to cup your hands around your ears and just listen,” she told us.

I listened. I wondered what would happen if they stopped crashing against the shoreline. They were a neverending reoccurrence, but it was a beautiful thing.

“And,” she added gently, “every time you feel like the waves are getting closer and closer to you, just stand your ground. Once you feel like the waves are going to swallow you, I want you to look back and see how far that wave really is.”

The roaring waters echoed louder and louder until it became overwhelming and stirred my anxiety. I uncupped my ears and looked behind me. The waves were so far from where I was standing. They were so much farther from swallowing me than they seemed.

*

 

 

Christmas Eve Hospital Shenanigans 

After blowing all my finals and realizing that my entire body was covered with eczema and it was way worse than before, I was quite sure nothing ever goes the way I want it to. Maybe it’s better that way though. But when I walked into the break room in the Oncology center today on Christmas Eve and saw a ton of food, my face lit up. There’s nothing food can’t solve either I guess.

“She’s back!” Yelena, one of my favorite nurses, said. “All of this needs to be eaten. Eat whatever you want.” Feeling a sense of belonging, I ate a cupcake and a crepe and a bunch of crackers with jalapeño cheese. I couldn’t believe the hospital break room was my new safe haven. I was surrounded by people who were kind without questioning. They didn’t know what was going on in my life, but still somehow made everything better and more bearable.

I’m so glad I volunteered on Christmas Eve. It was such a busy day. I crashed into an Anesthesiologist fast walking in the hallway, took a lot of phone calls, passed waters, broke down charts and delivered reclining chairs, and discharged a patient wheeling her out, and overall laughed so much.

Then, I walked into the room at the end of the hall in which the last time I was there that patient asked me to marry him. There was a woman there, shaking, in an insurmountable amount of pain.

I started talking to her.

“What are you up to?” She asked.

“I just failed all of my finals so I kindof feel like a failure, but I mean I did everything I could,” I said, laughing.

“Oh don’t put that on yourself. You did fine. Don’t look at it that way. Do you go to Sac State?”

“Haha no I’m actually a junior in high school. I’m 16.”

“Wow. What do you do here? You’re not a nurse right? They haven’t been getting me any pain medicine.”

“No I’m not a nurse. I’m a volunteer! I do basically whatever they want me to do. Today I learned that I hate taking phone calls though. I literally don’t know anything.”

Our conversation was so rich. I told her about a lot of the past patients I’ve met and how they’ve inspired me. She told me about how she lived in Southern California and that I should visit Newport Beach one day. Then she started to tell me about all the drugs she’s been put on.

“I’m just so afraid to lose my hair. That’s such an important thing,” she said.

“Yeah I can’t pull off the short hair thing like you. I’d look like a dude.”

“I have this condition called eczema. It’s all over me and it’s totally beyond my control. It’s super hard to look in the mirror and have crap all over skin, just like it would be to lose my hair. But in the end I’m glad that I have it because I think it’s made me more empathetic and humble. When I look in the mirror, it’s forced me to look so much deeper to find my beauty and I think that’s a good thing. I guess it’s an attitude thing.”

“My niece had that. It was all over him. Poor kid.”

“Yeah. It’s super life altering, but I think it’s what you make of it that matters.”

“Yeah you’re right. Maybe I can get a wig.”

“That should be easy to get.”

I told her about my teachers and how I’m so grateful for them in school and about how I have no life. It seemed to take her mind off of things. She laughed and told me I’ll have plenty of time in the future to have fun after my education.

“You must have great parents too, along with those teachers.”

“Yeah. I know they love me, but sometimes I unintentionally take things out on them.”

She had stage 3 lung cancer and a really low heart rate. She was more distraught than any patient I’ve met before. She questioned,”How are you supposed to choose between getting well and being in pain? They won’t give me pain medication because it will prevent me from getting well, but I don’t want to be in pain.”

I answered,”I guess sometimes a doctor has to inflict pain on their patients sometimes because they know it’s for the very best. You never know what might happen.”

“The doctor said I should be cured in 6 months.”

“That’s really good!”

“But I don’t trust him, because you never know what might happen.”

“But right now it feels like you can’t get better, but you never know, so you can believe that you can.”

I told her about Sarah Thebarge and how she had breast cancer and it practically destroyed her life until she met Somali refugees on a train and they ended up really healing her.

“I went through all that too. My husband cheated on me,” She said.

She told me about her kids, and then we talked about travel. I told her about my mission trip to Mexico. 🙂

“That’s just terrible. They have no access to medical care there? That makes me so sad,” she said.

“That’s what you would think at first. And then you get there and realize they’re so grateful and happy that it’s really not sad at all.”

“That’s crazy.”

Then, she asked me to fetch her some shower stuff and when I came back it was about time for me to go. She seemed a lot more vibrant now.

“I have to go but can I pray for you before I leave?”

“Yeah I’d really like that.”

I took her hands in mine. “Dear God, I just pray for Jane and that you would help her to know that you understand what she’s going through when others don’t. I pray you’d help her to know she is loved and that you will take care of her. Help her to know everything will be okay in the end. Help her with her pain, heal her God. I pray you’d help her to trust you with all of this. In Jesus name, amen.”

We opened our eyes. A huge smile was on both of our faces.

“Thank you,” she said. Tears stung her eyes. She was crying. I embraced her.

“Take care of yourself!”

“I will,” she said. And when I left that room, I was so happy. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I really don’t have normal days in my life and nothing goes the way I expect it to. And I think it really is better that way.

He Takes Broken Things…

My last 2 hospital shifts have been the most amazing things ever. I don’t even know where to start.

2 weeks ago I got to talk to a patient named Shirleanne. She was so sweet, and talked so much. She went on and on telling me about her diagnosis and how she and her best friend were diagnosed with cancer at the same time. She started crying as she told me to never take life for granted, and how hard the past few months have been as her tumor took away her ability to move her leg.

After telling me all about her hospital situation, she said, “But one thing I’m confident in is that God is good, and that he will either cure me again or take me home.”

My heart skipped a beat. “You’re a Christian.”

“Yes, I’m a very strong one.”

“Well that’s cool. I’m actually a really strong Christian too.”

She nodded. “Well I’m glad to know that you understand what I am saying.”

It turned out that she lived rather close to where I do, and that she goes to a church that I have been to before. She told me about how she is so unafraid of telling all the doctors what she believed, which blew my mind once again.

I ended up telling her my life story too, and she said, “It sounds like God really is using you here. There is a reason for everything.”

“It took me a long time to learn to take the word “failure” out of my vocabulary,” she went on, and then started crying again, “and when you go through things that are hard don’t ever tell yourself that God doesn’t exist. Because that just makes going back so much harder. And I can tell you that because I was one of those people who turned away from God, and I wish I never did.”

Before I left, I asked her if I could pray for her. And then she took my hands in hers and said she was so happy she met me, and that she’d be thinking of me and praying for me, hoping that something she said stuck with me that day.

Yesterday I had another shift. I was volunteering with Tatevie, who I literally met in the beginning of shift where we instantly clicked. This one patient wanted water, and we accidentally splashed it all over her.

“Tatevie what the heck!” I exclaimed, laughing. The entire time as we were trying to clean it up, our patient, Nancy, was laughing her head off.

“That actually felt super refreshing!” She said. We took care of everything else she needed and then left her room laughing like crazy.

Later, when my new friend left, I still had an hour left. I had nothing left to do, so I went back to Nancy’s room.

“Hi! I’m bored, and we spilled water all over you so I wanted to talk to you. How are you?” I asked.

She was flattered that I wanted to talk to her. “Other than having an annoying IV in my arm and a bowel obstruction, I’m doing great! I’m assuming you’re a student”

“Yes, I’m a high school student.”

“Are you a senior?”

“Nope, junior! Tatevie is in college, though.”

“So you want to be a doctor?”

“Yeah! Well, basically when a new person comes up here, like a dietitian or a physical therapist we go follow them and see what they do. So there’s plenty more to explore!” I told her about some of the other patients I’ve met, like the time I worked with a physical therapist named Joe and we helped a guy walk. And I just continued to talk about my dream college, Loma Linda university, why I’m so passionate about being a doctor, and how I am currently dying in my calculus class.

She really liked my humor, which made me happy. We then criticized Donald Trump and talked about the popular kids in school.

“Are you popular?”

“Heck no!” I laughed.

“Is that whole scheme still based on what you wear?”

“Whale actually I think I have an amazing sense of style,” I said twinkling my eyes.

“Well, I love your outfit right now! Especially the dignity health logo on your polo!” She said, nodding in approval.

“Thanks!” I flipped my hair and posed. “I worked really hard picking this out.”

We then talked about more serious things like facing death and I told her how I’m not afraid of death.

“You must believe in the afterlife.”

“I most certainly do.”

“Well wow you are just so passionate and I think you definitely have so much more to give to this world. I think you’d have such a great bedside manner, which is so important because many of the older doctors I’ve met are just jerks. It’s been amazing meeting you! Thank you for talking to me, you made my day.”

“Awwe thanks,” I said. “Before I leave, can I pray for you?”

Her face lit up. “Dude that would be amazing!”

I walked to her bedside and took her hands in mine. “Dear God, I just pray for Nancy and that you’d take care of her. I pray that she isn’t too bothered by having to hold her arm straight because of the IV…,” she bursts into laughter,  “and can forgive us for spilling water all over her…” she erupts into laughter again, “but most of all I pray that she’d know she is loved, because you love her, and that she’d know everything will work out because I know you love her. In Jesus name, amen.”

“Give me a hug!” She exclaimed.

I reached across the bed and embraced her.

“I hope I get to see you again someday,” she said.

“Me too. Take care,” I smiled, and left her room.

The smile on my face was so big, as I felt so happy. One of the nurses said, “You must really like being here. You’re always smiling.”

“I do,” I said. “Maybe too much.”

I guess I never thought a place as gross and sad and smelly as a hospital could be so beautiful. I am learning that in the midst of the most pain and suffering, perhaps the most beauty exists in the little nooks and crannies too. Perhaps we just don’t look for it enough. Maybe it exists in my homework, in my meltdowns, in the times I fail and the times I succeed. I am confident however that no matter what others see, beauty exists in everyone I meet.

After all, he takes broken things

And turns them into beautiful.

The 10 Million Voices In My Head

On Thursday I had my first day of school. I was literally crying when I got home because I had so much homework.

Friday was a lot better though! And then Saturday I had my fourth internship shift, where I got to see Jason again from my previous post and meet another new lady, Erma. She was a super sweet 70 year old lady with a pretty swell sense of humor.

“You’re pretty,” she told me.

“No, you’re pretty,” I said.

“No you’re beautiful.”

“You’re beautifuler.”

“No you’re gorgeous.”

“Well you’re gorgeouser.”

We talked about life and she laughed at my jokes which made me happy, because they’re not funny. And then we watched the movie Up and I explained what was happening to her, and at the end of the shift I asked her if I could pray with her.

She said yes. And while I was praying with her she was praying on her own, saying things like, “God you are so good,” and “thank you Lord,” even after all she’s been through. What even.

Afterwards, she took my hands in hers and said, “God bless you,” and it really warmed my heart.

That got me thinking real hard about my attitude. I’ve been asking myself how I am supposed to manage AP Calculus and other hard classes with dance, youth group, volunteering, and being president of Christian club. I’ve been acting so pessimistic lately, cussing a lot every time I face a challenge and being a real negative jerk to my parents, complaining all the time. I really need to work on flipping my mindset, and doing everything without complaining or arguing.

And then today I got to talk to one of my dance teachers about everything, and we touched on attitude a lot. I talked about how in dance sometimes I am so afraid to screw up, so I do. But I also told her about how I started dance because I used to be super shy and how I used it as a crutch to justify failing in school, but most of all a reason to make myself feel more confident. I talked about how that doesn’t apply to me now because I’m not that shy anymore, but I want to make sure that when I’m dancing now I am doing it solely because I love it.

What stuck with me the most was when she told me that sometimes people who are the most encouraging need the most encouragement, because we pour ourselves out into everyone and then end up with nothing left.

And that is exactly how I feel. With every person I meet, I poor myself into loving them leaving every person with a piece of me. I find so much joy in doing it, but then when I come home I have nothing left. So my attitude at home is really really really bad.

How do we combat that? For me, I guess it would be a lot of prayer, and surrounding myself with friends like Rachel and Renee who can help make hard tasks like reading “The Scarlet Letter” for AP English easier. We had such a fun day together today as I was so happy and outgoing, but I’ve learned that sometimes I need to sift through my thoughts with someone else and be completely honest about how things have been. Like for me, dance has not been super great and amazing. School has been tough. I’ve had issues with my confidence since forever. I was totally open to talking about how sometimes I come home from dance thinking about everything I can’t do and express how that seriously stresses me out.

And it’s okay.

There are thoughts that plague my head telling me that I am stupid when I don’t get my math homework, only to find everyone else in my Calc class feels the same way. There are thoughts in my head telling me that I cannot dance when I’m thinking too much only to find that when I stop thinking I can do 5 pirouettes. And there are voices in my head telling me I am not capable of leading Christian club, that I don’t belong anywhere, and that I am a worthless mess who cannot even walk without tripping over speed bumps.

And you know what, those voices are all lies. Because God gave me these gifts for a reason. And he’s gonna use me, as I am regardless of how many times I fall. I am going to struggle with feeling empty, because I am a human being. I may feel like I have nothing left when I get home from an amazing day. But one day I will learn to see myself the way God sees me. It is so easy to see the negative in everything but perhaps when I flip my mindset I’ll be free.

Dear God,

I pray you would continue to place the right people in my life for the right reason. Allow me to let others pour into me so I can pour into even more people. Remind me that it’s not about being perfect, but living to glorify you. Give me the strength to do the things you’ve called me to do and help me be more positive. Keep giving me amazing opportunities and using me everywhere I go, because I am so grateful for the experiences you’ve given me. I love you God.

The Reason Why I Smile

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about my smile lately. It scares me to think that I go about life wearing a mask. It scares me to think that I am not real, or happy. I’m scared that somewhere inside of me I’m a broken mess full of past failures that cannot seem to be mended, and that my smile is a result of a coping mechanism I developed to deal with my perfectionism and harshness on myself. If my smile does cover up anything, I’m scared of what it covers up. Who is the real me? And  why do I naturally smile all the time and only realize that I am smiling when somebody calls me out on it?

This is how God answered those questions for me on September 7th, 2015.

~

Excerpt taken from my journal

My mom and I had gone thrifting on Labor Day, because everything in Goodwill was 50% off and I love thrifting a lot. No shame. The line to check out was literally 2 hours long.

In front of me was a woman wearing a Mercy Ministries shirt with her mom, and we spent the next 2 hours waiting together. We talked about books, music, worship, and church. I told her about the book I found, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

“It’s about a girl who finds her voice, I think,” I said.

Then I finally remembered. “That’s where I’ve heard of Mercy Ministries! It’s a rehabilitation program right? I went to Winter Jam where Francesca Battistelli talked about it!”

“Yep!! It’s great. We love Francesca Battistelli! She made an entire video dedicated to Mercy Ministries!”

“I’ve seen it!”

And we practically fan-girled about Christian music until we were at the checkout.

Before she took her turn, she turned to me with a thoughtful expression. “I know this may sound weird, but I feel like it was God’s plan for us to meet today. Just by the way you smile, you are a carrier of the Lord’s joy. I can tell. I feel like the Lord has placed that in your heart, and he wanted you to know that today.”

I was stunned.

“Thank you,” I said, speechless.

“Next person in line!” The Goodwill people call out.

She turns back towards me before leaving. “Remember, you’re a carrier of his joy.”

“WAIT! What’s your name?” I called after her.

“Taryne,” she said, with a smile.

“Lea.”

“Nice to meet you,” we said in sync, shaking hands.

And then she left.

~

So why do I smile?

It’s not because I’m fake or wear a mask all the time. It’s not because I am a depressed failure who needs to cover up my crap. And I do have the ability to smile, even after crying for hours or having a horrible day. It’s a crazy thing, to be so worked up on the inside, and then walk somewhere in public and have all these people smiling at you and meeting your gaze. And then realizing that you were smiling first.

But these are the reasons why I smile:

1. Because dogs are so incredibly fluffy

2. Because of amazing hikes, waterfalls, nature, trips, friends, food, and dreams. Because I’m never alone, because I get to kayak in a piece of God’s masterpiece with my best friend and do life with her.



3. Because I’m not defined by how well I do or perform, even though God has blessed me with so many talents.


4. Because I have so much to be grateful for.

5. Because I have friends and family supporting me through everything

6. Because I love practically everyone I meet

7. Because I am unashamed of who I am and what I believe. God has done so much in my life and has given me some of the most amazing memories in life itself.

8. Because I get to do what I love every day, worshiping God wherever I go with everything I do through things like singing, dancing, helping out at school, my internship, long bike rides admiring nature, or simply showing kindness to another human being.

9. Because I’m not perfect, and I always see a soft side and the best in people. And my imperfections cause me to create incredible memories of me slowly learning to step out of my comfort zone and live life to the fullest. And I know that God has my future in place so I don’t need to worry about being a crazy lunatic anyways.

10. There are so many more reasons to smile, but most importantly, like Taryne said, God has placed a joy in my heart that cannot be contained. If you have given your life to Jesus, you possess that joy too. The truth is though that everyone has a reason to smile, no matter how big or how small. Especially if you are a Christian. Being forgiven is definitely something to smile about.

And I’d hope that I wouldn’t lose that joy or take it for granted. Or undermine it in any way, calling it a mask or fake when in reality God has given me my smile, attitude, and energy for a purpose.

Someday, I hope that God would use me to make the world a little bit kinder, a little bit happier, and a little less broken.

I smile because I know that one day, after God has used every spec of me, I will be home where I belong.