Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pressure. and. Release.

I can't express how much stress I feel at the moment.As
much as I'm looking forward to Christmas break, there are so many things that I need to get done in order before I can be at ease.
The only way I can escape from the chaotic world is through my music. I know I can't stay away from the world forever, but music provides an outlet from the fast pace world that we live in. There are a lot of things that the world tries to take away, but one of the things that I won't let the world take away from me is my love for music. Music is what gives me release from pressure. It allows me to express myself. Sing my heart out like no one can hear me. Avoid all contact with the world.

Every morning, I wake up to music. Then I take my iPod off the speaker docket a
nd slip the little earbuds into my ears and listen away. As I walk to school, I'll hum along with the tunes playing into my little cochleas. I find peace. I live in my own world. (Random side note: I wish everyone had their own theme song everywhere they walked. So that when one walks around the corner, one can easily identify who that person is.) I contemplate the things that I am going to do, and what I need to do. Sometimes some of the songs I listen to are really meaningful and make me reflect on it. It isn't until I walk up the school steps and make way to my locker when I know I have to put my iPod away. I don't put it way until I close my locker: keeping the world out for as long as I can. Not going to lie, I often forget to put my iPod away because I become so absorbed in my music. The one thing I dread the most is pulling out those earbuds. Who knew two little things were so good at blocking out the world. I have to convince myself that it's better to put it away and listen later on the walk home... I pull out the earbuds and the sound of the world: students laughing, teacher's chatting, squeaking of shoes, closing of locker doors, rush into my now empty ears.
Thanks to this lovely piece of art (named Shane, meaning God is gracious) escapes have never been easier. I find myself writing music to express how I feel about certain aspects in life. Sometimes I just play just for the sake of playing. Sometimes I don't know what I'm playing, but if it sounds good, heck I'm happy. I know it's not a good habit, but sometimes when I don't feel like doing homework, I'll pick up Shane and play for two to three hours. If that's the only way I can find who I am again, fine. I love music with a passion. If I had the funds and the time and no restrictions what so ever, I'd definitely put together a band and travel. Apart from my faith obviously, music keeps me sane and alive. Music makes my world go round. Music is my escape. If nothing else in the world makes sense, music always finds a way. That's what I love about music. There are no rules or regulations to music. There are many different ways to express, whether it is loud, soft, sad, bright, jazzy, heavy. Music is the one thing that will always remain without boundaries. Sure, you can get all technical on me and say what about all the rules to writing music and what not. My response to this is simply this: You decide what happens in a piece. No one dictates how you should write something, you have a choice to perform or not perform. If only schoolwork were like music... but it's not.

...Welcome to reality...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Cancer Has Done For Me.

For those who are not aware of the recent difficulties that have come about the "Pham(ily)" household, as of April 2009, my mom was diagnosed with stage four metastatic lung cancer. It has definitely taken a hard toll on us spiritually, mentally and physically. No doubt that this cancer has changed my life and it still is changing my life. Just when I thought I had everything all planned out – although I was still questioning my future – along came cancer. Undoubtedly this has taken a harder toll on my mom because this cancer is living in, on and with her twenty-four-seven.
What I'm about to talk about is not about how this cancer has ruined my life, but how it has benefited my life. Don’t get me wrong. If cancer was a choice, I would definitely choose to avoid it. I’m not saying that I wish illness upon my mom, but what I’m saying is this: By God’s grace, he has taken this disease, this bringer of hardship, this bringer of suffering, this bringer of pain and agony and whatever else – and turned it into a gift. A gift that is meant to amplify Him even more so.
What The Cancer Has Brought Us:
God gave my mom cancer. As hard as it is sometimes to believe, God is always in control and uses every single factor in our lives to bring glory to Himself. God gave this "curse" to my mom and turned it into a tool to show me His power, love, and most importantly, His sovereignty. In this he showed me this: "Look at Me. Trust Me. I'm in control. I'm going to use this to glorify me and show you things you wouldn't see unless I put you through this." And to my mom, "Don't waste what I've given you." (<-Link)

Sure, I've experienced finding out that relatives were diagnosed with cancer, but what about the person you've known the longest, gave life to me, nurtured me, loved me. We all live life as if we own it. As a matter of fact, we do not. With all these human advances, we forget how vulnerable we all are; even to the common cold. Through our daily lives, man is saying, "Look at ME," through designs, knowledge, success, fame, but what about God, whom is the creator of the earth. Does he not deserve any credit? In the Bible we read:
Isaiah 44:24-28
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: "I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by Myself, who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish, who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, 'She shall be inhabited,' and of the cities of Judah, 'They shall be built and I will raise up their ruins'; who says the deep, 'Be dry; I will dry up your rivers'; who says of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose'; saying of Jerusalem, "She shall be built,' and of the temple, 'Your foundation shall be laid.'"
And with this, God responds: "You are mine. I made you and you will bring me glory. All that I have given you, you will use it to glorify me."
God has taken this "curse" and used it to unify our family, both mom and dad's side. Not to go into too much detail, my mom's side and our family didn't get along so well, but because of this gift, strange as it may seem, it has brought out the kindness and understanding of both families. Now, we get plenty of phone calls each day and we get along better than ever. With this, we are able to continue witnessing to both sides of our family through our attitudes in handling the situation.
God has given us more support that we could have ever dreamed of. We have so many loving friends who pray for us daily. For this, I am truly grateful. Not only is this an encouragement to me, but it is also an encouragement to my mom. As much as my mom would like to socialize, her health would not permit her to do so, or at least as much as she would like. It's kind of crazy how God takes a vulgar disease like cancer and takes and uses it to unify the church in praying for my mom. I have become more familiar with faces around the church from those asking of my moms condition. I must admit, I do become weary of constantly having to repeat myself over and over again about my mom's updates, but as much as I'm tired of it, I find even more joy in that I can see God's love manifesting in my life through others' showing compassion toward our family.
Through this crazy roller coaster, God has allowed me to find joy in the littlest things. For example: Life. It is a gift. God's gift. He gave it, and he can take it. He'll use it, mold it, break it. I can find peace and comfort in knowing that if it is His will to allow my mom to live, than that is a gift, but if it is also to take her life, this is also a gift. To live, we would have many more memories and loving times together and from her experience, she can encourage others and let them know that they are not alone in this journey. To take, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more difficulties or hardships. She can be with our Father in Heaven!
I take great joy in my time with my mom more than I ever have before. Not going to lie, it has often become very frustrating providing for her needs, but when I perform these tasks, I take joy in it (or at least I do my best to).
I also take joy in the little cry of a child: showing how needy we were as little ones. How innocent, vulnerable; just as we are with Christ. We are needy; there is never a day where we do not go hungry, thirsty... Our dependence on God allows us to humble ourselves and come to Him, depend on Him.
I'm not trying to amplify my mom's condition because I know that there are others that are dealing with the same. The purpose of this was to encourage to you, so that if or when you encounter a tough situation or a hardship, that you would keep this in mind. It's funny. At Resolved, a christian conference, John Piper spoke about how God used sin to glorify Him. Just as this situation seems so big to us, there are millions of other situations going on also, all which are bringing glory to God. When struggling for joy, seek Him.

To this day, my mom is doing well. Sassy, as ever, but is doing well. As of recent, she has postponed her chemotherapy treatment due to low blood count. She should be starting up again in January.
For those who are always asking if we need any favors, thank you. The biggest favor you could bring us is prayer!
Thank you all for you love, support, and prayers! God bless! -- Sola Gratia.

Colossians 1: 9-14
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that
you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Aggravation, Frustration, Deliberation

Aggravation: an exasperated feeling of annoyance
I'm currently running a marathon that I don't want to run. I know I have to finish, but there are all these tedious things I have to complete before finishing the race. I have to make sure all my college applications are perfect and turn them in on time, keep up with schoolwork, keep my grades up, make sure I meet the expectations of my parents, have the ability to perform well in everything I do. I don't want to, but I have to. Aside from schoolwork, I also have personal issues. One, dealing with a parent who currently has cancer (I may post about this in a later blog). I currently feel as if I were on the 5th mile (out of 26), running up hill and everything's becoming a blur and long-winded. I want to quit so badly. I'm over it all. It was great running the race of senior year, but this marathon is so much different from what I've expected. "Senior year was easy..." Ha- riiiiight. You're killing me.

Frustration: the feeling that accompanies an experience of being thwarted in attaining your goals
My goal this year: To get through senior year in one piece. So far, I've lost an arm and a leg or so it feels. My grades aren't at all where I want them to be. 2nd goal: I'm struggling so much to attain. I do all my work and turn all assignments in on time, but it's not just about turning it in for the sake of just turning it in, but to apply it, which I find extremely hard to do with all these assignments bombarding me. It's just exasperating and frustrating at how much is expected from me, but I just can't deliver, no matter how hard I try.

Deliberation: the act of weighing and examining the reasons for and against a choice or measure; careful consideration; mature reflection
I know that what I do now will impact my decisions and will make a difference on the outcome. For example, to get into the colleges of my choice, I need to keep my grades up to par or else I can kiss my acceptance letters goodbye. Although everything that I do seems repetitive and futile, but eventually, I don't know how, I know it'll benefit me in some strange way...yeaaah. If I won't do it for myself, I would do it for Christ, so that I may glorify Him, who is more than deserving of glorification, in all I do.

In closing,

1 Corinthians 10:31
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

Psalm 73:25-26
"Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

Currently Listening To: Jack Conte's Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Women's Place in Society

Women: the weaker of the sexes...
Is this really true? Because the last time I checked, there have been a lot of women in history. For example, Rosa Parks - fought for racial equality, Susan B. Anthony - abolitionist and contributed to womens' sufferage, Clara Barton - the "Angel of the Battlefield," Harriet Tubman - helped free hundreds of slaves, and many more. Each had a passion to improve society.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare presents Ophelia and Queen Gertude as passive and submissive women. Perhaps instead of putting the blame on these women, Shakespeare is exposing the flaws of men. In the past, because of pride, women were usually at fault even if they had nothing to do with the issue. In domestic violence (more commonly known as abusive relationships), men usually blame the woman for making him beat her. For example, from the Tyra Banks show (I know its a controversial issue, but it's the only one I could think of at the moment), the boyfriend responds to the confrontation by saying, "She makes it escilate... Why did you make me angry?... Why did you make me do this to you?" To watch the episode in its full context click: (Skip to 5mins for the male response) (here).
I'm not trying to say women are better than men or men are better than women. Men are better at somethings, while women are better at other things. Unfortunately women are often discredited because of stereotypes and whatnot. What does this have to do with Hamlet? These women were used in the schemes of men. As society would have it, naturally women are supposed to submit to their husbands, whether their submission is meant for good or evil.