#WordVomitWednesdays 5: From wounds to scars.

Have you ever fallen over your own two feet and scraped your knees on the pavement?

It probably happens to me more to me than I’d like to admit, but I’m sure you’ve experienced it a few times in your life too.  Maybe more if you’re as much of a ditz as I am.

Every time it happens though, my least favorite part isn’t the fall itself.  What’s worse is the dread that comes with knowing, “Oh crap…that’s going to hurt SO much more later.”  ‘Cause, for me at least, treating the wound is usually more painful and scary than getting it.

Sometimes, I’ll try to ignore it for as long as I possibly can.  “You know what Jenine, this isn’t too bad.  If I think about it really hard, it just feels…really numb.”  Yeah.  That’s usually how I know it’s starting to get bad.  

But I have the biggest fear of that stinging sensation that comes when you start cleaning up that area with hydrogen peroxide and water.  It’s the worst.  It feels like fire and death.  And I absolutely despise it.

giphy

Oh, but it’s not over yet.  Nope.  Once you’ve bandaged that little sucker, it still hurts to walk around with, and it takes a while before it starts to look like regular skin again.  Then it starts to do that stupid thing where it begins to scab, but the scab doesn’t look like how your skin used to look or it feels funny, so you pick at it and pick at it until you accidentally make it bleed again.  TADA!  It’s back to being a wound.

…am I getting too graphic yet?

I guess what I’m trying to say is, our emotional wounds are so much more like our physical wounds than we realize.

They usually hurt like hell when get them.  But they’re a reminder about what we need to look out for, and how easy it is for us to get distracted.

Sometimes, we want to delay the healing process.  It hurts to talk or even think about the things that have made us feel so much pain and vulnerability.  But wounds only fester and come back to bite us even harder when we internalize that pain.

And when we finally start healing, it’s not always an easy process.   When we keep going back to the place that we were hurt and we peel off the layers that God has been building us to heal those pains- we start to bleed again.  And, we have to start that healing process all over again.

Making the transition from a wound to a scar is pretty difficult when you keep picking at the scabs.

But when that wound finally becomes a scar, it really is the most relieving sensation in the world.  You can finally run your fingers over that part of your body without flinching from the pain.  And sometimes, you can laugh about how you got it in the first place.  ‘Cause, look where you are now.  Happy.  Healed.  And ready to start walking by yourself again.

Just like the scars Christ bore after being hung on the cross to save us from our sins, our own scars have their significance too.  They remind us of who we are, what we’ve overcome, and all that we are capable of overcoming.

We just have to be willing to fight the pain, and start to heal.

Thanks for reading!  And as always, click below to read more word vomits and mind farts from some pretty great people.

Taylor // Brian // Xing // Judy // Justin // Hnou // Esther // Josh

#MindFartMondays 4: Miracles happen

“Once in awhile…when you believeee.”

I hope the song from Princess Diaries is playing on repeat in your head like it is in mine.

So for those of you who have followed this blog in the past, one thing is very clear:  I definitely did not stick to my goal of posting once a week.  (3 week streak though, hooray!)  In fact, I’ve been putting off posting for months now, and I’ve been making plenty of excuses for myself along the way.

However, something miraculous happened this past weekend.  God touched my life in a way that I never expected, or even thought possible.  And I’m pretty sure that now, He’s calling me to talk about it openly without shame.

For the last four to five months, I’ve been dealing with a condition known as Red Skin Syndrome, an ailment caused by steroid withdrawal from medicine prescribed to me by my doctor for eczema. Unfortunately, my body reacted negatively to the steroids and went into a severe relapse after the treatment ended, flaring up at extreme levels.  This, plus the combined methane toxins in the air from the Porter Ranch gas leak, led to my body becoming an absolute mess.

The symptoms included unbearable itching, skin breakages, rashes, severe skin shedding, nausea, insomnia, hair thinning, and chills.  

Side bar- DON’T TREAT YOUR ECZEMA WITH STEROIDS.  

After consulting a doctor about it, I was advised to take medical leave from both work and school for a few months.

I was devastated.  Lying idle at home for days on end isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be.  Especially when it’s physically painful to even move around the house.  I hated the fact that I couldn’t get out of bed without wanting to break down.  Part of me became angry at God because I couldn’t understand what the purpose of this suffering was.  

In the past two weeks, my condition eased up enough for me to be able to return to my work and classes.  But I was still hurting, still miserable, struggling to re-adapt to being amongst crowds of people every day.  Worst of all, my neck- one of the most eczema-ridden parts of my body- was constantly tearing and breaking, and it was visible to anyone who wanted to make conversation with me.  I could barely tilt my head up towards the sky without it coming apart.  The constant comments about it have eaten away at my self-esteem.

Fast forward to last Saturday.  My boyfriend, Josh, had been telling me about an upcoming event called Azusa Now that was happening that day- a huge gathering of thousands and thousands of people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where the crowd was dedicating the entire day to fasting, prayer, proclamation of the Gospel, and signs and wonders for Christ.  I’d never been to an event like this, and I was intrigued when I heard that people would often pray over the ailments of others for healing.  Since I couldn’t attend the event myself, I decided to live stream the whole thing while catching up with some work I was doing on the side.

It.  Was.  Beautiful.  You’d think that watching it online would take away from the magic of it all, but there were over twenty thousand other people watching that live stream with me, all of us being touched and moved by the music, the prayers, and the healing that was happening at the Azusa Revival.  In the chat room, people were sending out prayers and encouragement to strangers around the world.

Around 8:00 PM, a woman named Heidi Baker went up on stage.  “For those suffering from skin ailments, allergies, digestion problems and the like…we pray for your healing now.  We pray that God give you healing.”  She told us to focus on John 6, Jesus’ Feeding of the Five Thousand, and to remember that no matter how broken we were, God would fill us and make us whole.  I closed my eyes and let her words seep in.  A warm sense of peace came over me.  I felt so blessed that God had gathered all of these amazing people together to pray over one another so selflessly.

8:06 PM.  I got up to use the restroom when I noticed that something was off.  I felt..lighter.  My hand reached for the wounds that I’d become so accustomed to feeling on my neck.

But nothing was there.

I ran towards the mirror in my room and moved my neck around little by little. No pain.  No tearing.  No bleeding.  No eczema.

full comparison 2

For a second I thought I was daydreaming, so I leaned my head back and took a photo of my neck.  But it was as real as ever.  I started to tear up.  I rolled up my sleeves to check my arms.  The tough, red skin had faded into soft, pink patches.

arm eczema.jpg

“God…what have I done to deserve this?”

Even with all of my doubts, my anxieties, my shame, and my sin, God somehow thought that I deserved to be saved.  I think that was a lesson I desperately needed to relearn.  And I did.

God’s love and grace is completely, utterly, and infinitely unconditional.

These last couple days have been such a huge blessing.  I haven’t felt this painless, this happy, in months.  I didn’t realize how much I’d taken stretching my neck around for granted.  I spent a lot of Sunday just looking up at the sky, beaming like an idiot.  It was worth it.

It’s amazing how powerful God can work through the hearts of those who have faith in Him.  And what’s just as amazing is how much we can touch the lives of those around us when we put Him at our core, asking Him to do good through us.

I still have so much to learn.  And to be honest, I still don’t fully know what God intends to do with my life.  But this is only a ripple in the ocean of his plan. I think I’m finally ready to take the dive.

Thanks for reading!  And if you’re looking for more amazing sources of inspiration, check out the blogs below.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Taylor // Brian // Xing // Judy // Justin // Hnou // Esther // Josh

#MindFartMondays 3: Dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow, dis-

“Jenine…cut that out, you’re embarrassing.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase.  Granted, a lot of the time, it’s said in what I think is an affectionate tone.  (You tell me.)  But after being given this week’s topics on what it’s like to be a vulnerable person, I started to actually think more about what I’m really ashamed of, and what keeps me from being truly vulnerable in front of the people that I surround myself with.

To be perfectly honest, I am in no way secure enough with myself to be “100% Jenine” at all times.  Heck, when I’m meeting new people, I’m usually setting myself at “25% Jenine” at the most.  And the reason that I do that?

I’m deeply ashamed to expose everything that I am, because of the possibility of rejection that comes with it.

For years, I’ve reasoned with myself that if I do get rejected by the people that I meet, and I wasn’t completely being myself at the time, then my real self still has a chance at being accepted by other people.  But training your mind to believe that it has to protect who you are from the rest of the world until it’s safe is just like telling someone you care about, “Hey. Don’t be you right now, because you’re kind of embarrassing to be around.”

Over the summer, I was lucky enough to be accepted into Jubilee Project’s 2015 Fellowship- a gathering of 13 aspiring filmmakers from around the world who wanted to use their love of film to “Live for Something Greater.”  And when that happened, I was ecstatic!  But what I’d forgotten was that during the application process, there was an end portion that I had filled out where it asked us to give a short bio about ourselves to help them get to know us better.  “Alright, that’s easy enough,” I’d thought at the time, thinking it was just some short and sweet thing that they’d read before going through the rest of our applications.  I was wrong.

As it turns out, that bio was going to be sent out to all of the accepted applicants on a single PDF, with everyone else’s bios included on it as well.

Recording artist/actress…producer…photographer…recent graduate…VFX artist…dentist…biomolecular engineer?!  What the heck did I even write for myself?!”

I could feel my heart stopping in absolute shame as I took another look at what I’d submitted for my own bio.

jubilee project bio

You can imagine me slamming my head against my bedroom walls.

“JENINE, YOU DORK, WHAT KIND OF FIRST IMPRESSION IS THAT?!”  

The program hadn’t even started yet, and I’d already managed to let this group of professional people know what a complete goof I was.

dishonor

But then, the first day of Fellowship came along.  We sat around the living room of our house that night after a couple of ice breakers, and our director, Eugene Choi, sat front and center with a white board and a marker.

“This is you.  And these are the three layers that come with being you.”

He began to draw three concentric circles on the board.

“The outermost layer of the circle is the one that you show the world.  Underneath that layer is what we call the layer of shame.  It’s the layer you use to cover up and hide your true self out of fear.  And underneath all of that, is the layer that is you.  This is the you we want you to be while you’re here at Fellowship.  You are here to be yourselves, without any judgement, and we are happy to have you here.

A lot of the time, we are afraid to be at our most vulnerable because we fear that no one will stick around to love us when all of our walls come down.  We fear that what we are isn’t good enough, and that the person we are is a person who won’t be liked by the people we like and look up to ourselves.  The thought of every imperfection, silly obsession, and little quirk we have being laughed at feels like a giant slap in the face.  So our pride tells us that if we want to make a good impression, we have to be anything but ourselves.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned from Fellowship, it’s that even a big group of “professionals”, ones that I’d been so intimidated by and terrified of meeting, can be full of the most quirky, loving, childish, goofy, and selfless people you could ever meet.  And it’s something I probably would’ve never found out had I not been given the encouragement to take off my layer of shame.

Our lives are a masquerade of people putting on their best faces for one another. But when it comes down to it, I don’t think any of us are as cool and calm as we make ourselves out to be.  And we shouldn’t have to be.  We live in a generation where we want people to know all of the awesome things we’re doing, and none of the mediocre.  But what we think is mediocre is what makes us to be these beautiful, multi-faceted creatures of God who deserve nothing but all the love and acceptance that the world has to offer them.

Bottom line: I’m a cheesy, pun-loving, poetry-writing, cartoon-watching, easily scared, super emotional, childish mess of an adult.  And to be honest…there’s nothing wrong with that.  I think it’s about time I start taking off my masks.

Thanks for reading this far if you have!  Don’t forget to check out everyone else’s amazing blogs!  As always, they’re worth the read, and I couldn’t ask for a better source of inspiration than these guys.

Taylor // Brian // Xing // Judy // Justin // Hnou // Esther // Josh

#MindFartMondays 2: It’s just emotions.

First off, welcome to my blog!  Today’s post is actually going to be the first I’ve ever shared openly with the public.  Terrifying, but a big milestone for myself since this is something that’s taken me a very long time to rally up the courage to do.

To reiterate on what exactly this is: “Mind Fart Mondays” is inspired by my friends from Jubilee Project, Taylor Matsunaga and Brian Zhang, who started a tradition called “Word Vomit Wednesdays”, where they speak very openly about a randomly given topic, and put forward their raw thoughts into a blog post every Wednesday night.  Since then, other Jubilee Fellows have been following suit, and we’ve been finding comfort and inspiration through writing about our own personal journeys, allowing us to be vulnerable with both our families and our friends.  Since Wednesdays are a little more hectic for me, my posts will be going up on Mondays!  Hence, “mind farts.”  I mean, I’ve got to have a little bit of my immaturity in here, don’t I?

If you’re interested in reading some of those amazing, well-written blogs, please click on the links below!  I promise, you won’t be disappointed, and there’s definitely more to come.  And, I definitely encourage you to start writing for yourselves if you feel the urge to.  It’s a tradition worth starting, and it’s always great to have more reading material from inspiring individuals!

Taylor // Brian // Xing // Judy // Justin // Hnou // Esther // Josh

This weekend, I finally had the opportunity to watch what is now one of my absolute favorite animated films- “Inside Out.”  Thanks Pixar for reminding me just how easily you can bring me to tears.

sadness

But what I learned from watching it was that my perception of strength has always been centered around this flawed idea that those who can control their emotions- show that they can be happy when times are rough, or bring joy to other people when they themselves should be sad- are the ones that should be looked up to.

In reality though: our sorrow is what paints us to be the amazing creatures we are now.

Nowadays, it’s become more than a habit for us to hide those darker emotions away.  Expressing our sadness to those around us is sometimes looked at as a weakness.  Personally, I hate crying in front of other people.  I feel vulnerable, awkward, looked down upon, and judged.  I want to show them that I’m a positive person, and am strong enough to pull through tough situations and obstacles.  But if I’m being completely honest with myself, I am far from the image of a “well-put together individual.”  If you’ve seen my last blog post, you’ll know I’m actually a huge mess 99.999% of the time.

However, (spoiler alert), if you’ve seen Inside Out for yourself then you’ll know this too- our sadness and joy go hand in hand with one another.  Because if we were never to experience our low-points in our sorrow, how could we ever appreciate our highs in experiencing joy?

One of the most prominent memories of mine where my acceptance of sadness and willingness to share that sadness with others helped mold me into a greater person was in my freshmen year of college.  I had just started taking classes, and I was still recovering from my hair loss from my senior year of high school that left me with an obvious bald patch on the back of my head.  It was humiliating for me.  I couldn’t hide it very easily. and hats would only irritate it further.  But I told myself that as long as no one mentioned it, I’d be okay.  Then unfortunately, a few boys in my class did.

I was sitting in the middle of a lecture hall, and could hear the boys behind me chuckling and whispering about my spot, unaware that I could hear their every word.  The entire class, I tried to reassure myself in my head, “You should be happy they’re making themselves look like complete idiots right now.  And be happy those aren’t your friends.  Be happy that you’re being the bigger person in this.Be happy.  Be happy.  Be happy.  Repetition was key.  But in my heart, I grew depressed.  Every week I had to attend that class, I sat myself far in the back, or skipped the class entirely if I couldn’t.  I even went out of my way to buy this disgusting black hairspray to cover up the spot, just so it would look a little less obvious.  And I never told my parents about it, or explained to them why I was doing it.  I refused to acknowledge that my sadness was getting the better of me.

Then, a few months later, in one of my favorite classes- a speech class taught by Professor Derek Tang (highly recommend him to any CSUN students by the way)- our professor told us to talk freely about how brokenness can build our character.  “Look at yourselves, and tell me how your weaknesses can give you strength and joy.”  For the next week, I thought deeply about how my weaknesses could possibly make me strong.  “If anything, they make me feel worse,” I thought to myself.  Finally, desperate for help finding answers, I went to my parents, and came clean to them about how depressed I’d become with my physical appearance over the year.  I couldn’t see how any of it made me a strong person, and the tears finally came pouring out, taking them by surprise.  And then, I found my answer as they took me into their arms and told me that I was going to be okay.  “You are beautiful.  You may not see it now, but you are beautiful.”

That openness of emotion showed me that by accepting the sadness in my life, I could discover the joy that God has blessed me with in the gift of my family and friends.

Later, when I finally made my speech, I went without the disgusting black hair spray that I hated putting in my hair.  I spoke about how my physical appearance and bald spot had made me feel worthless and hideous for so long, but now, gave me the courage to speak out more about the results of bullying, and the need for people to foster the worth of inner beauty in those around us.

Now, working as a teacher myself, I realize that all of those experiences now help me to comfort some of my students who find themselves thinking the same way that I did.  “It’s okay to feel sad about it.  But just remember…you are worth it.  And you are beautiful.”

joy and sadness

Our sadness may make us feel like we are weak, fragile, and defeated.  But truly, it does the opposite.  It allows us to grow into more mature, understanding individuals who can appreciate true happiness.  And when we embrace that sadness, and accept as a necessary part of our lives, we can use it as inspiration to find joy and bring joy to those who need us.  And when it comes down to it, there really is only happiness in that.

(P.S.  Thanks for reading this far!  I hope Destiny’s Child is now stuck in your head thanks to the title.  You’re welcome.)

#MindFartMondays 1: A few wrongs can make a right.

So it’s been just over a couple of months since Fellowship has ended, and yet, I still find myself being inspired by the people I’ve met there on a daily basis.  Since then, #WordVomitWednesdays have become a thing with some of the Fellows, and I’ve never really looked forward to reading peoples’ blogs so much until now.  With that being said, I’ve decided to start making it a weekly goal to spill out my thoughts every Monday as well.  Vomits and farts are kinda close in similarity, right?  Right.  Moving on.

I’ll be honest.  My blog is probably going to start off as what I like to call “organized chaos.”  Kind of like my room at the moment.  And my classroom.  And my life.  But I think that’s what makes this exciting for me.  As a screenwriter, it’s become so much easier for me to write about the problems and trials of a fictional character, rather than face the reality of my own internal struggles.  As of today, I want to challenge myself to give my mess of thoughts an outlet for me to look back on and learn from.  And hopefully they make an interesting read along the way.

“This is hopeless.  Maybe I can sleep it off and deal with it in the morning.” 

Whenever I come across failure and misfortune, that’s probably the first thought that comes to mind.  I have a terrible issue with confrontation, both with people, and with myself, and at the back of my mind, I’m always desperately looking for ways to avoid it at all costs.  It all comes around to two of my biggest fears; (1) disappointing the people who are counting on me, and (2) being thought of as weak, and unable to handle my own life.

I have been blessed with some of the most supportive family and friends.  But at a young age, I began to groom myself with this belief that if I showed any of my weaknesses to anyone, that somehow made me less of a person.  So, whenever I found myself in trouble, I internalized it.  I made it out to be like I was some brave warrior who could handle anything and everything to the public eye.  And whenever I was alone, I would take that as my time of release to cry, and reason with myself that I was doing the right thing.  A good thing.  No one would ever need to know, and no one would ever have to deal with it but me.

However, this cycle of emotional self-harm never helps anyone in the slightest.  I began to bury myself under this private depression for so long, and years later, I found that I had lost my faith in God because of it.  Because I had kept things secret all those years, all I could view the damage as was God tossing another brick at me while I was already down on the ground.

Fast forward to my freshmen year of college.  I’m an absolute mess after another sleepless night, and my arm is throbbing in pain for some unknown reason.  I’d just found out I’d failed a midterm the previous day, and at this point, all I wanted to do was go home.  I got out of the car, and immediately got a text from an angry friend.  “You better not flake this time, you never go out with me anymore. It’s really annoying that I’m the only one trying.”  Normally, that wouldn’t phase me as much as it was about to.  But at that moment, I began to cry uncontrollably.  I tried my best to hide my face away and run to the nearest bathroom, and immediately, I was stopped in my path by a girl I had never met before.

“Are you okay?” she asked.  I looked up and saw this petite little Asian girl holding a bunch of books in her arms looking at me with a worried expression.  Without really thinking, I responded, “I’m sorry.  I’m just…I’m feeling really lost right now.”  I immediately regretted my word choice and mentally slapped myself for being such an idiot.

But to my surprise, she didn’t look at me weirdly at all, or even question my choice of words.  Instead, she followed up by saying with a smile, God will help you find your way, I’m sure of it.  It’s okay to feel lost.  Even when things are going wrong, just know you’re on the right path.”  I hadn’t expected such a kind response, and I was stunned.  Awkwardly, I thanked her as genuinely as I could and introduced myself.  Likewise, she did the same.  “I’m Minji.  Do you want to meet up and talk about things some time? I do bible studies every week if you want to join me.”   I realized then that one of the books in her arms was a Bible- something I hadn’t really touched or thought about since high school.  And usually, I would say no to talking about religion over lunch with someone who was literally a complete stranger to me.  But something in me felt so touched that I agreed and exchanged numbers with her.  And within a few weeks, I found myself slowly letting in a light that had been gone for quite some time in my life.

Hope can find you in the times, people, and places where you least expect it.   For me, it was in a stranger- the first person I had finally allowed to view me at my weakest, most vulnerable state after so long.  Often, I think we forget that it’s okay to not be able to handle things alone.  We close ourselves off to the aid of those around us, and by doing so, we fail to see God through them, trying to give us a helping hand.  But now, I can say that I am finally beginning to rediscover Him as I let my true self free.  I know I still have a long ways to go, unraveling the knots of my history and coming to terms with the fact that I’m a complete mess.  But as some amazing people have been telling me, “Yeah, you may be a mess.  But, really, we’re all a mess…and that’s okay.”  I’m going to be okay.

(P.S.  I also realize it’s technically Tuesday now as I finish this.  But let’s just call this Monday night, okay?  I’m still a mess.)