Category Archives: Personal

As laughter and tears collide

Our hearts are as heavy as they are light,* and it feels contradictory–a great paradox. But who hasn’t laughed through tears or felt their highs mix in with their lows?

This weekend I cried tears of sadness intermingled with tears of joy. Laughs were indistinguishable from the few sobs that escaped my pursed lips. Memories brought on floods of emotions from opposing sides and met in a wave that threatened to knock me over. And it’s hard to reconcile the highest of highs existing simultaneously with the lowest of lows. It feels like the existence of one should diminish the substance of the other–like the smiles mean I don’t feel the grief, or the tears mean I don’t cherish the memories.

But what if the existence of both further substantiates the other? What is joy, if we have no sadness to contrast it with; and what is redemption, if we see no brokenness from which we yearn to be redeemed?

I’ve felt grief and laughter that falls hollowed out and empty. I’ve seen death. I’ve seen the grave. And through it all, I’ve seen a hope that’s stronger.

It’s a hope that does not trivialize my grief, but a hope that is substantiated by its existence. It’s a hope that creates in me a deeper longing than ever before, because…

I now know for what it is I hope.
I hope for no more crippling pain, no more tears, no more despair, and no more death.
I hope for redemption of our broken bodies and our sinful pasts.

And it’s not a trivial wish–a “that would be nice”–but a deep longing for a Savior and a heavy realization that I am in a world that needs to be saved.

It’s looking into the grave of a man I love and clinging to the hope that this is not the end. It’s seeing cancer and sickness and pain and looking expectantly to a day when our weakness will be no more.

My father spoke this Saturday at my grandfather’s memorial service and declared that this is not a “hope that” or a “hope so,” but a confident expectation. This hope is faith–true faith, grounded faith–the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.

It’s a hope founded on promises that have been fulfilled and lives that have been changed. It’s founded on glimpses of redemption, reconciliation and transformation–in my own life and the lives of those I love.

So this hope is not trivial. It’s not a fairy tale or a shallow illusion. If despair, depression and death are real, I hold that hope is real even more.

I looked into the grave of a man I loved this weekend, but I have the confidence that I will see him again. Because while I know the pain of death and suffering, I know the joy and the promises of the One who overcame the grave. I know that in this world, he promised tribulation. But I also know that he told me to take heart, for He has overcome the world.

I know that nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus–not death nor life nor things present nor things to come, nor anything in all of creation.

And I know that one day my hope will find its confident expectation fulfilled, because:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Though tears will fall, though grief is real, my voice cries hallelujah for the hope of heaven and the day when all will be made new.

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See you soon, grandpa.

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*Heavy and light is an idea I heard first from To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) at their recent Heavy and Light show. It was an amazing show by an organization I admire.

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“Tell That One About Heaven”

Every year, I live in a different place–a new apartment, a new address. This summer I lived in a hotel in Central Asia for a month and a half. So when I heard my family and I were moving to Santa Cruz, I thought it wouldn’t affect me much. I’m hardly ever home anyways. I don’t even go to Calvary Chapel Gilroy for the majority of the year, because I’m here at school. “It will really affect my family more than it will affect me,” I kept telling people. “How are you doing with it all?” people kept asking. I would always respond, “It’s really crazy, but I know God’s in it. It will be good.”

All of that is true. God is in this move, and it will be good. I believe that with all my heart. But that answer did not prepare me for the tears that came last Sunday at church. It was my family’s last Sunday at the church we started 12 years ago. Old friends flew out, we had a huge reunited worship band up on stage… and I could not take it. I could not get the words out, I was so choked up. I left the sanctuary during worship to calm down and get some water; and when I came back in and saw my church family worshipping together, I lost it. I was sobbing. And that was not going to be the last time I cried.

We watched a slide show of the last twelve years of Calvary Chapel Gilroy and I was undone. I cried watching all the pictures of people whom I never realized I loved so much. There were baptisms, church camps, barbecues. I remembered that crazy move in the middle of the night, when our church came together to move all our stuff until three in the morning. I remembered that Sunday school class. I remembered helping my mom paint those palm leaves. And more than that, I remembered the hearts behind all that. I’ve seen people truly find life and life more abundantly in Jesus Christ. I’ve seen strong friendships formed, and I found a family bigger and better than I could have ever imagined.

When I moved to college, I missed my family so much. It wasn’t until I left them that I realized how much I loved them and how hard it was to be away from them. And now, I’m realizing the same hard and beautiful truth. I didn’t realize how much I loved everyone at Calvary Chapel Gilroy until I had to leave. I can’t tell you how closely my heart is knit to every person at CCG. I’m going to miss the hugs on Sunday mornings and all the people I’ve known for so long. I’m going to miss hearing people say a million times, “How is school?,” “When are you going back?”, or “We’re praying for you.” And knowing they meant it. And these people care about me. I’ve never doubted that. What a blessing it is to have a huge family who loves you, who prays for you, and who is bonded together with a common love for the same Savior.

Even though I’m here at USC right now and I’m busy with school and ministry on campus, I’m still thinking about this move and about the home and family I am leaving at Calvary Chapel Gilroy. And you know what I realized? I think God gives us family and homes and churches to give us a flicker of what life will be like someday. This feeling of home is just a snapshot of what we have to look forward to. All of us who know Jesus are living for eternity, waiting for heaven. And because of this, we have purpose. We have hope.

I am reminded of Lenny and George in Of Mice and Men. They work and work, because they have a dream of having a home someday- of living in peace and companionship with each other. As they work long hours, day after day, they are sustained by this hope.

An’ live off the fatta the lan’,” Lennie shouted. “An’ have rabbits. Go on, George! Tell about what we’re gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that George.”

Don’t we all want to feel like we have a home? Like there is a place where we belong?

In Revelation, John has a vision where he says,

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:9-10, ESV)

This is home. This is where we belong. This is where my whole family in Christ, those at Calvary Chapel Gilroy, those at Calvary Chapel Santa Cruz, and those from around the world whom I never met; will come together and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Leaving friends and family is hard, but having them in the first place is a blessing I could never measure. It’s a glimpse of my true home. And when life gets tough, when moving is hard; I can look upwards and say, “Tell that one about heaven again.”

Video for My Family
(My dad my made this video for my family. It’s to the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips. I started crying during the first three notes..)

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You can follow me on twitter @bekahvalencia. Thanks for reading!

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My Great Power, My Great Responsibility

“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Spider-man, Churchill, Voltaire (you pick..)

I’ll venture to say that every person reading this post has heard this quote (whether you recognize it from Spider-man, Churchill, or Voltaire). I always thought of this quote as an almost passive responsibility. I.e. You have this amazing power, so make sure you don’t abuse it and use it for evil. It wasn’t until I saw the Amazing Spider-man and heard Uncle Ben reiterate the concept that I finally understood it. It’s an active responsibility. As Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) says it, it’s a “moral obligation.” It reminds me of another quote that has always thoroughly confused me:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Really? That’s our “deepest” fear? I’ve always been perplexed by this concept of fearing power. And perhaps, this is not what Ms. Roosevelt meant, but for me, I now understand this fear as being a fear of the responsibility that comes with that power–a fear of a moral obligation.

When we recognize that we are in the possession of power, we recognize that we have to do something with it. The moral obligation is instinctual. And this responsibility… this is terrifying. Because, with power and with responsibility, also comes a cost. For Spider-man, it costs his physical health, his relationships, lives of those close to him. And it requires vulnerability. It requires him to be on the front lines, to see people die, and to allow himself to feel the magnitude of evil in this world.

My Great Power

I know what great power feels like. Not because I am powerful, but because I have been in the presence of great power. I believe in a God who formed the heavens and the earth– a God who is intimately personal but also infinitely powerful. A God who has the power to destroy evil and who is mighty to save.

Most people who know me, know that I value my faith. They know, because I tell them about what Jesus has done in my life and what he continues to do in my life.

My Great Responsibility

I recently had a discussion with a man in an airport about people sharing their faiths. He was upset that people felt the need to tell others what they believe. He was offended that people wouldn’t keep it to themselves and stay out of others’ lives. And I understand where he’s coming from. I’ve had people debate me and berate me because they believed something different than I did. It’s infuriating. I’ve seen the people who stand at sporting events with signs and megaphones telling the world that they are condemned. It’s frustrating.

However, as I said earlier, I still share what I believe. I even told the man in the airport what I believed. Because for me, it’s not a door to door contest to see how many “souls I can save.” I’m not enrolled in any competition and I don’t win holy points for sharing truth with friends and classmates. It’s a moral obligation. I love my friends, and I see the hurt they go through. I see evil in this world and I see confusion. I see senseless crimes and I experience hate and animosity.

And through it all, I have hope. I believe that God loved us so much that he gave his son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for the evil in this world and the evil in our hearts. And I believe that whoever believes upon the name of Jesus can have eternal life and never die. I believe that in this world we will have trials and tribulations but we can take heart, because Jesus says he has overcome the world.

How can I not share this hope? If you had the antidote for your friends’ hurt, wouldn’t you want to give it to them? I understand that not everyone will believe the same thing. I respect that. And I understand that people may be put off by me talking about my faith and speaking of an absolute truth. But I believe so strongly in this hope, that I’ll risk it, to share with the people I love.

So, just know, if I am sharing my faith with you, it is because I love you. I love you so much and I pray that you will know hope and joy and a peace that passes all understanding.

“But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” – Jeremiah 20:9 (NLT)

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You can follow me on twitter @bekahvalencia. Thanks for reading!

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My Biggest Temptation

My biggest temptation right now isn’t a guy, it’s not gaining approval from others, it’s not workaholism. It’s running away–from everything and everyone–responsibilities, people, tough friendships, worries about my future. Every time I’m stressed, I just put on music and look through pictures of all the different places I can go. I fantasize about that one weekend where I won’t have anyone that I have to see–where I can just go sit in a café in downtown LA for a whole day with just me and Jesus.

But you know what? (And this is me preaching to myself right now). God never said life would be easy. And if loving people were easy, it wouldn’t be love. Love takes sacrifice, and it takes being concerned for others needs over your own. It takes loving even when all you want is to be loved. Love is loving someone even at the times when they can’t love you back; when they can’t give you what you feel like you need. Friendships and relationships aren’t about what you can get from another person. They’re about putting others interests and needs above your own.

And I can’t choose when my break comes. I’m reminded of when Jesus was led through the wilderness. He refused the temptation to change the rocks into bread and feed himself. He was waiting for God’s timing. And on that 40th day, he didn’t know it was going to be the last day. For all he knew, he could be wandering for 100 more days, but he trusted and relied on God to bring him rest and sustenance.

I pray I can do the same. For now, I press on to the goal to which God has called me through Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). And though it feels as if I am hard pressed on every side, I am not crushed. I am not in despair and I am never abandoned. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.'” -Matthew 11:28

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I Miss Her

I miss this girl so much.

“If my heart was a house, you’d be home.”

Take Heart

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

-John 16:33

Sophomore Year Splendor

Life is Beautiful.

I can’t stop laughing or smiling right now. Legitimately. I’ve been laughing for like ten minutes by myself in Seattle’s Best, and I know I look crazy, but I can’t stop. Could it be “Sherry baby” playing through my headphones or the Asian boy across from me who is dancing just like me? Regardless, I realize, I’m just extremely blessed. This year is amazing so far. It’s so busy, but it’s so good.

I have a job now (well after I pass training on Sunday… fingers crossed). I love it. I cart around students to all their houses all night, and end up with some pretty entertaining stories. Maybe I’ll start a Cruiser Confessions series on here, and bring along a recorder.

Example conversation:

My trainer: Whoaaaa, are you girls drunk right now?

Drunk girl: Noooo!!! It’s just our personality! We’re EXTRA- verted. EXTRAA verted. Not INTRAAA verted. I learned what that meant today!

I love my apartment. It’s huge! And I can watch the USC football team practice. (I love how I looked around me when I posted that link. I just know that he’s gonna walk up behind me while I’m looking at his google+ page someday). I also have amazing roommates! I tend to not get work done that well… but I think all the tears of laughter and friends who understand my craziness makes it worth it. My poor new roommate. She had no idea what she was getting into.

Christian Challenge is going wonderfully. So many new people are coming, and I’ve been meeting some awesome people. And I’ve been learning so much lately. God is good. All the time.

Man… too much to be thankful for. Sunny LA. Seattle’s Best. Friends. Crushes. USC Football!. Taylor Swift concerts. Sleepovers. Eating healthy. Working out. Eggs. Loving everything.

LOVING LIFE!