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Eclectic Musings of a Recovering Overthinker

Saying Goodbye

love-pen-bed-drinkingNot everyone gets to say goodbye to a loved one before they pass away. Not everyone gets to pass into the next life in such a peaceful way. I guess I should have been grateful when I booked a ticket to California with little hope that anything good might come from saying goodbye.

A small part of me didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to see my feisty grandmother reduced to lying in a hospice bed. I was even given permission not to come.

“There is a good chance that she won’t remember who you are.”

Maybe I didn’t really appreciate the way my friends encouraged me to go. Some people were quite blunt, but then again maybe I was overly sensitive.  I am glad that I went though. If I hadn’t gone, I would have missed out on a miracle.

A year or two ago, I felt the need to share the Gospel with my grandmother. I had been praying for her salvation, but recently had little hope to actually share the news about Christ with her. She had been battling short term memory loss for a while now, and on top of that she barely spoke English anymore. I do not speak Chinese, and in my shortsightedness I thought that not only will she not understand what I say, but she won’t remember it.

Fast forward a few months, to almost a year ago. My grandmother had turned 90 years old. I flew out for her birthday celebration. My gift to her was a letter telling her that I loved her and that I wished she could know the peace that I have through my Savior, Jesus Christ. A good friend was able to translate it into Chinese for me. I gave it to her hoping she would read it but not expecting much.

Fast forward six months, still unconvinced that anything I was doing was helping; I sent her a photo book of my artwork. Many of my pieces depict biblical concepts, and one in particular was designed to share the Gospel with her. With her waning memory, I didn’t have time to have the book properly translated, so I did the next best thing. I used Google translate, and shipped the book banking on the belief that God was powerful enough to fix any mistranslations.

Now to this past Friday, I arrived at my grandmother’s house late in the evening. She was just as I thought she would be. Frail but at least she was sleeping peacefully in her hospice bed.

I knew friends had been praying many things for me leading up to this moment. That she would recognize me. That she would recover. That she would be able to hear me say goodbye. That saying goodbye wouldn’t be so hard. That I would have some assurance of her salvation. I, myself, thought that was perhaps asking a lot. All I asked people to pray for was her salvation. No confirmation for me was necessary.

But God…

He is so compassionate. That evening sitting at her bedside in the midst of a very long conversation, my aunt gave me a short description of life with my grandmother in her last few months. At one point in the conversation, almost if said as an afterthought, my aunt said she had caught my grandmother praying.

Over the past few months, she would regularly find my grandmother sitting in the back room reading my letter and my art book while drinking bottles of Ensure nutritional shakes. (Apparently she had become a little Ensure-addict, keeping a case of the shakes near her chair and putting the empties in a little waste basket. That’s a funny image.) At other times my aunt would catch her puttering around the house, quietly praying to herself.

“Dear God in Heaven, I do not know why You have me here, but I thank You for giving me another day,” she would quietly say.

My aunt said she would sit my grandmother down and they would talk about her prayers and who this God in Heaven was to whom she was praying.

I had not asked for assurance of her salvation, because again, I thought it was asking a lot. This whole past year, I thought my efforts were in vein. Despite my lack of faith, God chose to give me peace about my grandmother’s passing. I don’t know what her faith was like, but I believe there is a good possibility that she knew Jesus as her Savior.

Sunday afternoon shortly after I returned to Texas, I got a message from my dad that my grandmother had passed away. I hadn’t been overly emotional this whole time. Maybe a few blinked-back tears, but no sobbing breakdowns like I had anticipated. I was beginning to wonder if I was cold, uncaring, or that there was something wrong with me. In fact, I cried more writing this blog entry than I did all weekend. But maybe I finally gave myself a moment to process everything.

Saying goodbye wasn’t easy, but God was there. In spite of memory loss and a language barrier, He spoke to my grandmother. And, in spite of my limited view of Him, He performed a miracle.

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An Act of True Love

Photo by Sean Brown
Photo by Sean Brown

Yesterday morning I witnessed love in one of its greatest forms. I was sitting in a women’s Bible study at Our Calling, a discipleship ministry to Dallas’ homeless population. Sometimes you never know what to expect at Our Calling, and yesterday was no exception. Over this summer, we had gone through the Sermon on the Mount and since then had continued on further into Matthew. This week, one of the volunteers, Carolyn, was teaching on the first half of chapter six, particularly on the Lord’s Prayer and the subject of forgiveness.

As she asked the group, “What does ‘Give us our daily bread’ mean?” one woman got out of her chair and made her way into the center of the room as she angrily shouted accusations against God and others in her life for not providing for her when she had provided for others prior to becoming homeless. The more she explained the louder and angrier she became. The tension in the room started to escalate as the rest of the volunteers were wondering how to handle this situation. Was the Bible study was being derailed? Was this woman’s accidental misquoting of Scripture going to lead others astray?

Just when I thought this woman was about to really lose it, Carolyn stopped everything and opened her arms to pull this woman into a hug. She held onto her tightly and simply said, “I know you’ve been hurt, and I’m sorry.” As soon as Carolyn touched her, the woman melted in her arms sobbing.

How often do we offer advice or correction without really seeing someone? How often do we as Christians attempt to share the love of Christ without actually sharing love? This woman was angry and rightfully so. Betrayal by close family members was the cause for her homelessness, and since then she has been through a lot. I saw an angry woman causing a scene, but Carolyn saw her pain. She didn’t need to be corrected. She needed to be heard. This may have been the first time in a long time for this woman to experience any form of love.

I am a bit embarrassed and ashamed thinking about how I was so concerned with staying on task and sharing a Biblically sound message that I completely missed her need to be loved. After all, isn’t love the most defining aspect of the Gospel? A perfect God, who sees His creation broken and in pain, becomes vulnerable like us, and in the most beautiful act of love dies in our place to bring us back to Him whole and made new.

I needed to see Carolyn hug that woman. I needed to be reminded of what true love really is. Seeing Carolyn hug that woman, probably spoke more to the other women than any lesson plan could have. Maybe, just maybe, the Gospel message that won me over, the Gospel message of love, is the same one that will heal and save others.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Sleepytime – Celestial Seasonings

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s tea is Celestial Seasoning’s Sleepytime Extra. For those of you who have trouble falling asleep, this may be a helpful aid.

I myself have not been sleeping well so I thought that I’d give this Sleepytime Extra a shot. I will admit that I was hesitant at first, because I’m not overly fond of many wellness teas. They usually taste pretty medicinal to me. But! This wasn’t bad at all. I had been given the original Sleepytime herbal tea years ago, and actually didn’t care much for it. Maybe my taste buds are changing. This tea still tastes “healthy”, but the added spearmint and lemongrass probably even out the chamomile.

I do think that this tea can help someone “wind down” before going to sleep, but it obviously isn’t going to cure insomnia. I’ve been drinking it before bed for about a week now, and unfortunately still struggle to fall asleep. But, who knows, maybe it will help you.

The packaging is rather cute. I was sold on the “promotes relaxation” and “with calming valerian…a natural sleep aid”.

Tea Company: Celestial Seasonings

Tea Name: Sleepytime Extra

Type: Wellness Tea / Herbal Tea

Brew Time: 6 mintues

Color: Clear orange tone (you can see to the bottom of the mug)

Smell: Chamomile! No mistaking that! You can definitely smell the herbi-ness of this tea. It smells healthy and slightly medicinal.

Flavor: It’s actually not bad. It tastes less medicinal than it smells. The flavors that I could pick up on were chamomile, mint, and orange. (The real ingredients are: Chamomile, spearmint, lemongrass, hawthorn, and orange blossoms.)

Caffeine Content: zilch! None…makes sense if we are trying to fall asleep.

Perfect for: Late evening, especially if you are trying to fall asleep.

Additional Notes: Valerian is a root herb that has been added to this tea to make it extra sleepytime. It seems pretty safe, but do not WebMd it. You will probably keep yourself up late if you read all the *possible* side effects.

Finny Rating: *** (3) – Good Every Evening Tea

Overall Rating: ***^ (3.5) – If you like wellness teas, you’ll probably love it.

My First Zine – “Life Questions for Kira”

A friend of mine approached me with the idea for creating an artist collective with the purpose of entering a local Zine-fest in Dallas (that’s where I live now. Yes, I’m sorry. It has been a long time.) “What is a zine?” you ask. Good question. I didn’t know what one was either, but as far as I understand it is a self-published mini magazine with the intent of sharing ideas. Apparently, people have been doing this since the photocopier was invented. For a more detailed explanation, I suggest you Google it or look it up on Wikipedia.

Anyways, the purpose of my zine was to share questions that I have asked myself at one point or another in my life. If you haven’t guessed from the subtitle of this blog, I think…a lot. (Often times too much.) I spend a lot of time reflecting on my past (and desperately trying not to plan too much of my future). A friend wanted a list of my “life questions”, and my zine, “Life Questions for Kira” was born.

Zine - Life Questions for Kira
This zine was super easy to make. (Time consuming to sketch and then go over with ink pen.) When printed and folded correctly it opens accordion style. This picture is just formatted so that you can see all the pages.

I don’t have answers to each of these questions, but I do think they are good to ask and re-ask yourself every once in a while. This was a fun project, and eight people actually did buy my first very rough zine. It’s kind of encouraging. Who knows maybe, I’ll start a series of zines…someday.

What questions do you ask yourself?

Irish Breakfast – Harney & Sons

Happy Tuesday! I know these posts haven’t been very frequent, but I’m happy to share another great tea with you! This week I am reviewing Harney & Son’s Irish Breakfast Tea!

Very robust flavor! – A nice big mug to jolt me into productivity!

Company: Harney & Sons

Tea Name: Irish Breakfast

Type: 100% Assam Black Tea

Taken: No cream, No sugar

Brew Time: 5 minutes

Color: Dark Brown – coffee color

Smell: Rich tea scent (again, not helpful) – a very strong tea smell, you can smell the “awake-ness”

Flavor: Very smooth for an Irish Breakfast. A robust flavor, stronger than your average English Breakfast

Caffeine Content: 40-60 milligrams per teabag

Perfect for: Early morning, especially those very early mornings when your eyes just don’t want to open. Very helpful for getting started when you need a little something to kick you into gear.

Additional Notes: Some Irish Breakfast teas that I’ve had in the past have been so strong that the first sip felt like it hit me in the chest. Sometimes Irish Breakfasts are almost too bitter for me. This one, however, was a pleasant surprise. Very smooth, like most of the Harney & Sons teas I have tried.

Finny Rating: **** (4 Stars) – This is a very good tea. Would probably buy again.

No Point in Fearing

Fear is a powerful thing. It paralyzes us. It makes us afraid to be ourselves, to do the right thing, and to stand up for what we believe. Fear of people prevents us from doing anything that others might disagree with, and it also keeps us from serving God and pleasing Him. I will admit that I struggle with this almost every single day, and this struggle has even caused the delay of sharing what I am about to share with you now.

Why am I afraid of sharing this? I am afraid, because I am going to share about fearing Satan. He is not a pleasant subject to talk about, and many people get upset when people talk about him. Many people, including some who claim to be Christians, do not believe that he exists. This is unfortunate, because he would want us to think that. He would want us to think that there is no consequence for our actions, and that we do not need a Savior. He is a liar. Jesus tells us that Satan is the father of all lies (John 8:44). He lies to me, telling me, “Who are you to talk about me? What knowledge or degree do you have to support your claims? Will anyone actually believe you? They will think you are crazy. You should not talk about me, because it will make others feel uncomfortable.”

But these lies are excuses not share what God has placed on my heart. It’s true I don’t have a seminary degree yet. I haven’t even started classes at this point, but a seminary degree is not required to find and speak the truth. God has given us the truth in His Word. Will anyone believe me? Will they think I am crazy? Will it make them uncomfortable? The truth is that some will not believe me; some will think that I am crazy, and it will probably make a lot of people uncomfortable. But, who am I serving? I take great comfort in Galatians 1:10. Paul writes, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” I am reminded that God is the only one that I should seek to please, and that if He has placed this on my heart to share then I should do so regardless of the consequences. With that off my chest, I will now explain how this got started.

About a month ago, a friend discovered that I was accepted into seminary and would be starting my first semester in August. The friend was very happy for me but also warned me saying, “You might meet Satan in seminary.” He wasn’t trying to scare me. Having gone through seminary himself, he was just trying to warn me that spiritual difficulties are common for students in seminary. “If Satan can get you out of seminary, he will try. He does not want you to go into the ministry that God has planned for you.”

To be honest, I was a little freaked out by the comment. I appreciate it now that I know it’s a possibility, but it’s still a scary thought. I do not think he meant that I would literally meet Satan, but that life challenges and spiritual attacks would arise more frequently than they had before.

I’m not unfamiliar with spiritual attacks. I have had some experiences where I have felt an evil presence in my room late at night, and I have several friends who have had far worse experiences. The thought of this intensifying was rather scary to hear. As far back as my childhood, I did not like talking about or even saying the word, Satan. As a kid I used to think bad things would happen by just by saying “Satan” out loud. (I’m talking about the simple usage of the word, Satan, in a sentence. I am not advocating Satanic chanting or worshiping of any kind.) I would gloss over any mention of him in the Bible. If I didn’t think about it then maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with the fact that he exists. And then I realized that I was giving him power that he didn’t have. The name of Satan has no power in it. That’s all it is, a word.

How did God reveal the truth of this fear of mine? Harry Potter. I know you’re skeptical. I’m not saying Harry Potter is biblical or a Christian book…it’s not, but I do believe that God uses common everyday things to teach His children.

Not long after my discussion with my friend about seminary, I finally watched Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part 2. (Yes, I realize it has taken me two years to see this movie.) Anyway, there is a scene in the movie right before the battle of Hogwarts where Professor Flitwick tells Professor McGonagall, “You do realize that we can’t keep out You-Know-Who indefinitely,” to which she replies, “That doesn’t mean we can’t delay him. And his name is Voldemort, so you might as well use it. He’s going to try and kill you either way.”

That helped me to realize, I feared saying Satan’s name the same way all the characters feared saying Voldemort’s name. If you aren’t familiar with the books or the films, the main villain, Voldemort, is never called by his real name. He is usually referred to as ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ or ‘You-Know-Who’ by most of the characters simply out of fear. In the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry having grown up in the muggle world (non-magical world) does not understand why everyone refuses to use Voldemort’s name. Professor Dumbledore instructs him by saying, “Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” (Rowling, 1992, p: 298). In essence, the other characters were giving Voldemort more power than he actually had by elevating his name as something to be feared.

I’m not a Harry Potter expert, so I apologize if I say anything inaccurate about the Harry Potter universe, but I came across the fact that in the books Voldemort’s name had a taboo spell placed on it. The spell made it so that Voldemort would know the location of whoever spoke his name, thus jeopardizing their safety. This is exactly what I was afraid of if I said Satan’s name out loud, and you know what…he already knows where I am. How else has he been telling me lies my whole life? This is nothing new, and it doesn’t give his name an ounce of power.

The name of Jesus, on the other hand, is the most powerful name of all, and it should be feared. This fear is different though. It’s not fear of being attacked spiritually, or fearing that God will smite you. It’s a respect and awe of the one true God who has already defeated Satan.

The fact that we carelessly throw Jesus’ name around all the time is a bit of a shame. I’m not saying we shouldn’t say Jesus. We should! We should proclaim His name from the mountain tops! We should praise it any chance we get! But His name is sacred and holy, and we use it as a curse of frustration. We slap it on bumper stickers to reprimand tailgaters that we disapprove of their driving habits and on t-shirts to proclaim that He’s our homeboy. (I’ll admit, the bumper sticker that says, “Do you follow Jesus this closely?” is pretty funny.) The bumper stickers and t-shirts aren’t necessarily bad or wrong. It is important to follow Jesus closely and to have an intimate relationship with Him. I just wonder if using His great name in these ways, causes us to forget that there is real power in the name of Jesus Christ.

The name of Jesus has power to cast out demons, heal the sick, and perform miracles, and those that believe in Jesus can do great things in His name: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14) Jesus gives us the ability to come to Him with any God-glorifying request in expectation that it will be done.

The name of Jesus is the name of the almighty eternal God who has us securely in His hands: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

The name of Jesus is the name of the perfect and blameless God that humbled Himself to die on a cross for us sinners who would mock Him and turn our backs on Him, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Finally, Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (vs 9-11). There is no higher name than that of Jesus!

There is no reason to fear Satan or even the word, Satan, because Jesus has already defeated Satan, and the name of Jesus is the name above all names! Praise God! Praise Jesus! He has the sweetest name of all!

So what if I feel an evil presence in my room late at night again? Or what if it gets worse like the experiences that my friends have described? Or what if my life becomes so difficult? Turn to the Name above all names, the name of Jesus. In those moments when I am scared, I say out loud into the darkness, “In the name of Jesus Christ, leave me alone!” And then the presence leaves. My friends have done this as well as prayed out loud to God, and they have experienced similar relief. Evil cannot withstand the power of Jesus Christ. He is our only hope. I turn to Jesus, and take comfort in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Praise the God of our salvation! Praise Jesus!

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

Darjeeling Highlands – Harney & Sons

Hello! Happy Tuesday!! It’s my first real ‘Tuesdays are for Tea’ post! Today’s review is of Harney & Sons’ Darjeeling Highlands!

Nice golden color. Yes, that is a whale mug...
Nice golden color. Yes, that is a whale mug…

Tea Company: Harney & Sons

Tea Name: Darjeeling Highlands

Type: Indian Black Tea

Brew Time: 5 minutes

Color: Light Golden Tone

Smell: Light Tea Scent (I know that doesn’t help much, but that’s what this newbie smelled.)

Flavor: Mellow, light, black tea. Very fresh and brisk with a very slight herby taste.

Caffeine Content: 40-60 milligrams per teabag

Perfect for: A fresh spring morning, when you want some caffeine but also a flavor that is not as heavy as English Breakfast or Earl Grey.

Additional Notes: My sweet friend, Elizabeth, gave me a book on teas and with it I learned that Darjeeling teas have five seasons from which it is harvested: First Flush, In Between, Second Flush, Monsoon, and Autumnals. My best guess would be that this tea might be either a First Flush or an In Between Darjeeling.

Me trying to determine the season of this tea. As you can see, I'm in sweats...this was a good day. :)
Me trying to determine the season of this tea. As you can see, I’m in sweats…this was a good day. 🙂

Finny Rating: **** (4 Stars) – This is a very good tea! I really like it a lot and will probably buy larger quantities in the future.

Tuesdays are for Tea – Explanation

I love tea. It’s simply the best way for me to start the day…second only to my morning devotionals. And so I thought I’d review some of the many teas I’ve tried. My goal is to post a review for a different tea every other Tuesday.

How it started: I had the most amazing English Breakfast tea one morning with a friend at Paul Bakery in Washington DC. I loved it so much that I kept the tea bag wrapper in hopes of finding this amazing tea online. Short story…a quick Google search later lead me to Harney & Sons’ website, and I now own a pound of their to-die-for English Breakfast.

The Notebook: I started saving all the wrappers of teas I’ve tried and kept a little notebook of my thoughts. It’s just a simple way for me to go back and find my favorite teas.

Tea Notebook
Cute little 3″x5″ notebook my sweet friend, Brenda, gave to me. I glue the wrappers on left side pages for reference.

I even created a little rating system that meets my needs.

Tea Ratings
I lost the page! Glad I took a photo of it!

Rating System:

  • ***** Five Stars: One of the best teas I’ve ever tasted – my absolute favorites
  • ****  Four Stars: Very good tea
  • ***   Three Stars: Good every day tea
  • **    Two Stars: Ok tea, probably wouldn’t buy again
  • *     One Star: Not very good – or at least not one of my preferences
  • 0    Zero Stars: I don’t like this tea at all

Finny Rating vs Overall Rating: The Finny Rating is based on my tastes; however, sometimes I add an overall rating for a tea that I think other people would like despite my own disagreements. (Ex: I’m really picky about Earl Grey, so I might make note of that since I have friends who really love a strong bergamot flavor when I do not.)

I should warn you though, I am not a tea connoisseur, tea sommelier, or master brewer. I am simply someone who drinks a lot of tea and wanted to share my interest. My tastes might be completely different from yours, and my reviews should not be taken for professional opinion.

Flavor Biases: I drink a lot of black and green teas. I do not drink tea for the health benefits. I drink tea simply for the flavor. I don’t often drink herbal or rooibos teas. So if your taste buds are similar to mine, then this might be helpful!

I hope you enjoy my “Tuesdays are for Tea’ entries! Maybe you’ll find a new favorite for yourself!

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