A day in the life

I spent yesterday at Disneyland.

Wahoo! Right?

Well, not so much. I didn’t exactly have a bad time, but I didn’t have a great time either. The reason I’m bringing it up is that I’m adding it to my list. I have an imaginary list of things I’ve done this year that were new and also scary or just hard. here’s a few:

  1. I went to another country.
  2.  I taught in Sunday School more than as just a one-time thing.
  3. I wrote a challenging saga about something I like, but found difficult to get onto paper.
  4.  I went to Disneyland with an almost total stranger.

Here’s how it went down. My aunt has a foreign exchange student living with her, and she wanted him to get the chance to see Disneyland. She thought I might like to go. And after some hesitation I agreed. It wasn’t a smooth ride, because then she wasn’t sure we’d actually do it, finally it was settled that we would. And yesterday she dropped us off there. Where I live it’s been almost unusually cold this month and it was freezing at Disneyland. (Were any of my readers there I wonder?) the place was packed. I’ve been four times before I think, and I don’t remember it ever being so packed, but I never went on a holiday. The line to get in and get tickets was over an hour’s wait of standing around. Then we finally got in, and started walking around. But we went on one ride total, and the lines were so long on the others that we both didn’t feel up to it. We were exhausted by then. We ended up leaving at around 5:00pm, though we were supposed to stay later than that. On top of this, I lost one of the two things I bought. And it was the thing I got for myself.

So, a total bust right?

But that’s not to say I totally regret it. I maybe did not have a good day, but that wasn’t the only point for me. I wanted to challenge myself.

I’m the type of girl who’s terrified of being around a guy, alone, for any length of time–let alone all day. Of course there were crowds, but that only makes you feel a little safer. But I did not spend the day feeling afraid. I felt bored, tired, sad, but not afraid. If you’ve read some of my previous posts about my life, you’ll know that’s a big thing for me.

I used to ruin every fun event I went to by being  a nervous wreck the entire time. I am by nature an introvert, but I used to have it on steroids. Until I was at home and safe, I wouldn’t relax. I literally felt ill every time I was in an unfamiliar situation. People knew I was shy, but they probably never guessed exactly how much agony I was in. Talk about painful.

But that’s a thing of the past. I almost can’t remember it anymore.  As bad as yesterday was, compared to how my life used to be, it was great. I went from hiding from new things to embracing them. As much as I could.

I still get nervous, but it doesn’t rule me anymore. That’s a day in my life, doing things I once was afraid to do, and doing them because I want to or need to. I don’t always look at it that way of course, but sometimes I just have to stop and look back to where I was and be glad I’m not there anymore.

You must have those moments too, I’d love to hear about them, until next time–Natasha

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Good?

100_1572So here’s a deep question: do you ever doubt if you’re a good person?

I know I do. Quite a bit. Because people who care what the answer is will ask the question.

There’s a couple different ways to answer it, depending on your world view. Some might say we’re all good, we’re all not good. No one’s different from another.

I’m not saying this show is vein of good morality, but it works for this example, Phineas and Ferb has one minor character who actually believes evil does  not exist. The villain’s ex-wife, ironically enough. She deliberately sees no evil, no evidence of it, to the frustration of her daughter.

Unfortunately the show is realistic on this one point: that kind of thinking will lead to exactly the kind of confusion the daughter experiences. Her dad owns being evil, and pushes her one way, and her mom’s view doesn’t exactly have the backbone to resist the pressure. The daughter, Vanessa, has a whole personage that reflects the confusion between the two points of view.

The sad thing is, like most of us, she is not naturally a mean or insensitive person. Like all of us, she is confused.

Aren’t we? Can you imagine a generation of more confused people than us? Gender confused, race confused, morally confused, and doesn’t it all come back to what’s acceptable, or what should be?

One group denies that there’s any real boundaries, that we should all be whatever we want. Another group just seems to want to corrupt all of us. (I’ll leave you to think of who this is, we all think there is one.) And sadly, a lot of people don’t know of any other options. Like Vanessa, we have only the two. And it’s hard to imagine anything different.

But I don’t live this way. I live with the same struggle as everybody, that is of choosing good things over bad things, and growing my character instead of destroying it. Let me share with you a metaphor that a father gave his son once:

A  Man’s character is like a house. He can build on it, adding boards; but every time he takes away from his character, it’s like tearing boards of the house, till eventually there’s nothing left.

I’m afraid I couldn’t quote exactly what he said, but you get the idea. (I recommend the book, Little Britches.)

I struggled everyday with whether I was evil or not for a long time. And the thing is, the struggle won’t end by simply coming to the conclusion you’re good; that only makes it a little less, for a few minutes; then you do something bad, and it’s back on. Harder than ever.

Man’s search for goodness is the realest part of his earthly journey. Trying to pretend it’s null and void doesn’t make it go away, it only robs people of the awareness they need to find the answer. Honestly, only silly people believe that evil doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean I think we should focus on it, no , I think you all know me better than that.

Who of us started out wanting to be the villian? Who of us thought evil was the way to go when we were young? Why are we teaching our own children that?Is it to spare themt he dissappointment of realizing what we realized, that we can’t keep it up. Did we accpet being at elast partly bad, becuase we found no way to avoid it.

I accept that I’ll make mistakes, but I don’t accept that I have to be that person. Not because I am stronger than anyone else, but because I have someone who  took the burden of goodness off my shoulders. That’s what Christianity is really, it’s getting the goodness of another applied to you. A human court would not allow an innocent person to take the punishment for the guilty. Even if it was willingly.

This is interesting, the first skepticism I ever ran into, as a little child, was skepticism that God could really give up His own son, to die, for us. Why would He do it? What good human parent would do that? Aren’t we christians crazy, if for no other reason, because we think a Good God would do that?

Hey, if you think that is crazy, that’s okay. I won’t judge you. I don’t even blame you. But I do have this to say, Love knows no bounds. Human love can, at it’s best, forgive people for doing horrible things, and even lay down it’s life for someone. Take Batman as an example, or Superman, the represent the epitome of human sacrafice. They are wiling to die, even to save the lives of their enemies, because they value  life. And real life pilcie officers, fire men, soldiers, and everyday citizens make those sacrafices too. More often than the news lets on I’m sure.

But if you read any of the minor prophets of the Bible, (or watch the news) you’ll know that God has a laundry list of things against us. Whether you beleive in Him or not, you’d agree that the stuff He accuses us of is pretty heavy. Sometimes so much that you think “what is wrong with us?” Why would God stop accusing us, and actually make His son, the only sinless person ever to walk the earth, take the punishment for us?

Because as beautiful as the Greatest of human loves is, God’s love is greater. He loves not just His friends but His enemies. More than we love our own family, He loves His enemies. And that is the hardest thing of all to beleive.Many people will believe He exists. But to beleive in His love, even his own children have a hard time with that. I speak from experience.

This is what keeps me free.This is what I can say when I start to wonder about my own goodness. That I might not be good on my own, but God made me good, and He paid for it.

To all the Vanessas out there who are confused about life, and themselves, you don’t have to be. If you look for truth, eventually you’ll find it. As long as you don’t settle for second best.

Signing off–Natasha.

Popular–Stupidity

My obviously blunt title was chosen because this subject is pretty blunt.

I’m thinking about what is popular in the culture. Culture is a tricky word because it is different for every family, every community, every state, and every country. Culture means the food you eat, the language you speak, the clothes you wear, the ideas you have, the music you listen to, the art you admire, and so on.

What is popular varies with the culture and so making generalizations leads to stereotypes.  A homeschooler is in a different culture than a public schooler. Any religion has a different culture from another.

But in some people’s’ minds, there is a hierarchy of culture. That is why they might say of one person “They are uncultured.” See, culture  is also the word for the microbes in cheese and yogurt that make it healthy for you. Read the package of any of them, if it doesn’t say it had “active cultures” then you’re basically just eating pudding. No real nutritional value. (The more sour the better usually, but I can’t stand the really sour stuff myself. If it has chunks of fruit in it it’s also not so good, Google it.) To be uncultured usually is referring to anyone who has a small range of tastes, and especially if that person like only modern stuff, and is from the wrong neighborhood. you get the idea. We’ve all encountered it. Whether you’re on the giving or reciving end of Good Culture Pride, you know it exists.

I took the time to set this up so I’d have context for my point. Why is the word Stupidity attatched to Popular in my title? It is not, as one might expect, because I think popularity is stupid. That is a conversation for another post. No, my problem this time around is that Stupidity itslef seems tobe popular now. Again, this is a cultural thing. But whetheror not you think Stupidity should be popular, you canat least acknowledge that in areas like the movies and media and (worst of all) TV shows, Stupidity is certainly in. It’s the new way to connect with the audience. If they are all laguhing at how dumb someone else is, pretty soon everyone starts thinking “Hey this is pretty funny, I should watch it again.” Then they tell their friends “This is a great__” Movie, show, whatever. Or maybe if it’s a news byte you’ll get this “Hey, did you hear about that guy/lady who did so and so?” If this goes on ling enough we get a thing called culture. That word again.

Why, oh why, do we celebrate the stupidty of others? And better yet, why is it contagious? When the mood is high, and peer pressure kicks in, we actaully start imitating what others do just to show we are part of the group. I have an example, once these guys at a youth group got in trouble for climbing on the roof. It was a weak roof anyway, and the guy with the house next door called the church to complain that it wasn’t safe. You’d like to think that put a stop to it, but it happened again. It wasn’t a regular thing, but still. However that’s an example of teenage antics that will probably be grown out of. what about the more serious examples?

Let’s go back to some of the things I mentioned a the beginning. Language, food, music, etc.

Language: Is it just me or is English getting more abbreviated and slurred all the time? We speak in text acronyms, or shorten long words down to one or two syllables. Did you know that movies actually intentionally use two syllable words to keep it simple (i. e. dumb)? And what about rap? Some rap is good, and intelligent I’d even say, but it’s more well known for making slip shod words; using slang; or even cussing. Plenty of people are making fun of our English deterorating, but very few are doing anything about it. I use poor language too, and I’mnot proud of it, but I slip into it brcuase it’s wha tI hear most.unfortuantely I’m sur this is the case with lots of people who could speak better if challenged.

Food: At first, food doens’t seem like it would be popular, or smart or stupid. But think about it, what are we pushed to eat? What do those darn TV shows depict people preferring to eat? Junk. Always junk. And if there’s a health food person, it’s always portrayed as extreme and freaky. Maybe there are some exceptions, and it’s not the most common problem on TV shows, but more on the commercials between. A nice juicy hamburger, a lot of chocolate, or soda; that’s what we should all like eating right? And we all know it’s bad for us, but we’re such idiots we’ll eat it anyway. That’s what TV and posters tell us.

Music and Art: Why are bug-eyed freaks the new cute? Seriously, am I the only one who has screamed at the sight of some of the toys out there? Or gagged at the songs that get popular for two weeks or so. Remember “What does the fox say?” Or “I’mma gummi bear.”? They were so annoying but that was why they got stuck in your head. Enough said. Yet I heard them played at events that were supposed to be fun. And I’ve heard the freay plastic things called adorable. I still don’t know why.

Ideas: Last but not least. Daredevil stunts. Trends to be part of. Challenges to do. Taking foodies. Snap-chat. Who came up with these ideas? Not to say there aren’t reasons to do a challenge, or a stunt, and maybe if you have a medical condition, taking a picture of your food to send to your mom makes sense (If you’re a kid.) But it’s rare that there’s any valid reason at all to do this stuff. It’s just supposed to be funny.

There you are, it’s funny. And funny is popular. This is way too long already, so I’m going to end with this thought: Is this really what we want? Do we want to settle for the popular things, just because that’s what they are? Or are there more important things to consider?

Until next post–Natasha.

Sample: Gandhi and government.

I don’t know if any of you have ever wondered what kind of schoolwork I do, but this is a sample of the kind of essays I write for the class I’m taking on Leadership. This week’s topic was a speech by Gandhi given when he was being tried for his actions of inciting civil disobedience.

“But I hold it a virtue to be disaffected towards a government which in its totality has done more harm to India than any previous system…I consider it to be a sin to have affection for the system. And it has been a precious privilege for me to be able to write what I have in the various articles tendered against me.”–Gandhi

Why would Gandhi make a plea of being guilty? Because he considered it a sin to obey the law of the land in this instance. He adhered to this basic idea: If a government ever tells you to do something it would be wrong fro you to do as a citizen, then it is wrong, therefore you should not obey it.

I’ve read this idea in books and it makes sense to me because it’s not hard to see that the government functions like a person, in a sense. Civilization starts with one man making an agreement or partnership with another person. Hence the idea of citizen government: The kind of government run by citizens, that must be held to the same standard as an individual.  As a citizen you should not steal from; invade the privacy of; kill; maim; or in any way injure your neighbor. You should act with justice and mercy in doling out punishment to your children, your employees, or anyone under you; and never punish them for something they did not do, or more than fits the crime. So if the government condones or commands the doing of any of these things, it is in the wrong, and good people should not follow it.

Yet this does not draw the line clear enough. People have different ideas about what is right and wrong, our own country is pretty divided over it. I believe there is only one Right System of Values, though the living out of it may vary, and clearly, if two sides have completely different values, someone has missed the mark.

How can we know who is right? This is where the need for religion comes in. Yes, I mean it is a need. Gandhi himself believed religion is a part of politics, unquestionably. He believed that anyone who does not think this does not understand what religion is. I think what he meant was that religion shapes your world view. Your world view will certainly shape your political views. Your world view is not what you profess but what you truly live by; and the problem with modern politics is that we listen only to what people profess and do not examine what they’ve actually done. Gandhi’s whole life was an example of his world view and that was why people listened to him; and why he was so unashamed to state that he was guilty of the crimes they accused him of. Because, by his religion, they were not really crimes.

When we have a religion to go by, knowing what way to direct our politics becomes simpler. We have a right practice and a wrong practice, (any religion that does not have these is not worth believing in, it requires no effort.) It is best when the majority can agree about the right thing, but when the majority is in the wrong and hurting the minority, or vice versa, it is the duty of the other to stand up for themselves and change things. (As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put in the Declaration of Independence.) Whether they use violence or nonviolence to do this depends on the people and on the situation, the important thing is for them to know that they have the ability and the right to do it.

Hakuna Matata

I was thinking today about how much I used to worry about things. I worried constantly. about the weirdest stuff.

Here’s a list of some of the things:

Worrying about getting sick, even diseases that it would be very unlikely for me to get.

Worrying about a natural disaster occurring, even ones that don’t happen where I live.

Worrying about getting poisoned.

Worrying about ending up in the hospital.

Worrying about whether I was crazy or not.

Worrying about someone breaking into my house.

Worrying about villains from movies that aren’t actually real.

Worrying about criminals that are real.

I think that’s plenty, but there were more. As you can see some of my worries were irrational, and I knew they were. But one thing I’ve found out is that your mind doesn’t know the difference between a real threat and an imagined one. (At least the immature mind doesn’t. And your emotions never do.) But you know what? I’ll bet you’ve had some of those worries. Most of us do, or we have other irrational fears. If you don’t you’re very fortunate. My worrying was the result of my soul being enslaved to fear. To the point where if I wasn’t afraid of something, I was a little uncomfortable, because it was abnormal.

That was years ago, and it has taken me a long time to get free of fear. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can simply choose not to be afraid, if fear runs deep in you; the choice method only works if you are not a normally fearful person and your fear is on the surface. When fear is rooted in your personality, it has to be pulled out. That’s not to say it’s always painful. Often the answer is just to experience love. That wipes out a lot of fear. I know for a fact that until you’ve felt love, really felt it, you can not even begin to stand up to fear on your own. You might have a few victories, but you won’t really change your nature. Fear is not always something you can walk out of, sometimes you have to be pulled out of it.

Take Elsa from Frozen, she really wants to be free of fear, but eve though she sings an amazing song, and changes her image, and leaves behind her old life, the minute she has a reason, she becomes ensnared in her fear again. In fact she sings about it, with Anna:

Anna: For the first time in forever…

Elsa: Oh, I’m such a fool, I can’t be free!

Anna: You don’t have to be afraid.

Elsa: No escape from the storm inside of me!…I can’t control the curse….there’s so much fear…

Anna:…we can change this winter weather, and  everything will be all right.

Elsa: I can’t!!!

See? She can’t. There are probably other examples. If you’ve ever been so frustrated with someone who keeps backing down from challenges, even though they know they shouldn’t, they are probably afraid. If you have that problem, then you’re afraid of something. It’s okay, we’ve all been afraid.

But it’s not okay to live in fear. I think everyone would agree with me on this except people on TV. Have you noticed how popular it is to give in to fear on Television? It’s considered funny. People pass it off that way because they aren’t willing to try to be great. So they make mediocrity humorous. This is not to be cruel to people in the entertainment industry, most of them do it because it’s what is expected of them.

I was miserable as a fearful person. But I did not wake up one day and decide I would be brave. In fact, when I came to the breaking point, bravery was far from my mind. When I became a Christian, I had no thought of being brave. To be honest, I mostly felt sorry for myself, because its not like it was my fault I was cowardly. But there was just a little tiny part of me that finally said “Something is more important than fear.” At the time that something was not going to hell.( It’s a long story.) Since then I’ve decided other things are worth more than safety. But even one thing is enough to get you started. God does the rest.

The choice part comes in when you get scared again and have to keep making progress. It’s never your own power, it is only letting yourself be led.

This may sound nuts to anyone who does not believe in God. But I don’t believe there is another cure for chronic fear and worry syndrome. I will say that people have helped me as well, but you always have to be willing to open up to them enough so that they can help you. Worry is like any other addictive substance, it’s hard to kick, but once you do, you don’t want to go back. Here’s to being worry free!

Natasha

What’s in a name?

Well it’s been over a week. It’s the Holidays you know, there’s more to think about, also I have other writing projects I work on besides this blog.

This may or may not be surprising, but blogging is the way I get out my more intellectual ideas and explore real life phenomenon. My real passion in writing is fiction. I love making stuff up. Writing about my own life usually bores me after awhile. Maybe because not too many things have happened to me yet. When you spend most of your time at home, even little things become important, but it doesn’t mean they’d be interesting to anyone else.

An interesting thing that happened last week was I looked myself up on the internet. Of course I can’t be specific, but I found out that a lot of people share my name, my fuller name that is (I knew there were other Natashas already.) And some interesting people have my name. I wouldn’t necessarily trade places with them, but one happens to be a writer of sorts, what are the odds?

It got me thinking about names. Some people think certain names give you certain characteristics. This may be true. In the Bible there’s a story about a guy who’s name meant “fool” and that’s what he was. But then there’s names that mean pretty basic things, like a plant or even a kind of metal, and you can’t say a person will become like that can you?

Maybe it’s all in why you choose a name for something. Plants that are given names thrive better, if the names are good. Naming anything makes you get more fond of it, unless you give it a name to express your contempt. We’ve probably all seen, or read about, or encountered a bully who nicknames their victim something awful, and it demoralizes them. We  know that what you label someone slants your view of them.

You’d think with all our knowledge we’d learn to be careful about what we call people, but knowledge never makes anyone careful unless they are careful already, by nature. I am fortunate to have good names, and very few people have ever nicknamed me, and eve fewer have nicknamed me something bad. But it only takes one time to teach you how much it stings. The worst thing is if you start believing what they call you.

I actually like to nickname people, and usually I don’t do it with an intent to annoy them, but I used to. (To my siblings.) So I’m well aware of how easy it is to start using this power of words the wrong way. And there are many wrong  ways, this is just one of them. I don’t want to hate on anyone reading who’s done this, because I shouldn’t talk. But believe me, it is so much better if you stop. since I stopped doing it, it’s like I can breathe better in my relationships with those people.

I’ve heard that I’m just too sensitive about this type of thing, but in my experience, it’s just better to clear the air and not antagonize people. (On purpose.) The bible has plenty to say about this, and so do plenty of other sources. Like Aesop’s Fables, and plenty of less famous books. You’d be hard put to find a story in which the use of words did not lead to trouble  in sooner or later.  So I think I’ve now made my point quite distincly. I’ve said enough.

Until next post–Natasha.