Valentine’s Day

This has always been a weird thing for me. I grew up in a fairly Filipino household, but my parents wanted me to be culturally mixed. They let me play around with the cultures I was to be a part of and never questioned too much of it. This includes Valentines Day. I remember growing up Valentines day was this odd day to make a bunch of heart shaped cubbies and stuff them with Valentines. I remember writing obvious notes to my crush – who I believed I would grow up to marry. I remember writing love notes on my friends’ behalf and stuffing their object-of-affection’s cubby.

Then I moved schools, and it all kind of came crashing? I got really jaded to Valentines day. Maybe it’s cause my friends in my old school were far more fun and a lot more playful. In this school, everyone was stuck up and took themselves far too seriously. Anyways, I got pretty embittered and realized that Valentines day was some childish game. Though, I did learn one of the many variations of St. Valentines, ultimately I figured: Valentines Day is a stupid holiday.

It’s not the best attitude for a nine year old. It’s not like I outwardly retaliated against it. I didn’t run around shoving it in anyone’s face. It just turned into apathy. I didn’t care for the holiday, the cute cards with the stickers or kisses. I didn’t care for passing around cookies or cup cakes in festive enthusiasm. It was just another day to me. It continued like this, even when I had my first… boy friend. Quick digression: Depending on how you look at it, this would have been my second boyfriend… but he was not. Anyways, when we were dating, Valentines day came 9 months into our relationship. I was well aware of the day approaching. It was hard to be oblivious to a well-advertised capitalist holiday. I will admit some part of me was somewhat excited over having a boy friend during Valentines Day. But we were in high school. I got box of chocolate and a teddy bear, which was exciting I suppose.

The following year, I wasn’t expecting anything and I don’t remember if he did anything. I will say this, in grade 11 my high school did flower grams. Basically, students order flowers from other students. They can send a small message attached to one flower – remember in mean girls? You go, Glen Coco. Except… flowers and not candy canes. Anyways, I remember the student council released the announcement and some girls had started chatting. Some saying, “I don’t think will get one“, as they beat their eyelashes at their unsuspecting and oblivious boyfriends. My boyfriend turned to me and asked if I liked pink or red, because the carnations were pink or red. I specifically said, “Look, I know other girls are hinting and stuff, but don’t get me flowers.”

“Suuuure.”

The following day, he again asks if I prefer pink or red and which class was my period 3 class. Again, I knew he was asking so flowers would be sent my way. Again, I told him. “Seriously, don’t get me flowers. I don’t like flowers. I have allergies”

“Okaaaaay. Aaaallergi-i-ies

A week goes on and no questions about flowers comes up. My cousin approaches me and asks if he can drop something off at my period 3 class. You can predict what will happen, yeah? Well, he actually did drop something off for me in my period 3 class, so I let my guard down.

February 12, 2010 arrives. I dismiss it. My cousin really did hand me something in period 3, and my boyfriend had since stopped pestering me. The Friday goes by. With the way my class rotation worked my period 3 class happened in block 2, so right before lunch. The student council cupid arrives, and hands out the flower grams. Eager students run up, receiving their flowers. Some girls walked up with a confident strut. Some shocked, mouth agape, before allowing a beaming grin to stretch ear to ear. The room was filled with rosy-cheeked girls. Groups gathering to ask about the flowers. Had this happened nowadays, I’m sure snapchat and instagram stories would be flooded with whatever stupid filter, and girls showing off their flower grams. Occasionally, a boy would be called up and he would either be surprised, then laugh at the joke his friends had sent or be pleasantly smiling to himself at whatever his note would say. I look at the clock, relieved to see cupid was running out flowers and relieved that I had to wait a mere 15 minutes to lunch. “Aaaaand, the last one goes to…” All eyes are on me now. I hate it. My boyfriend and I, at this point were together for 2 years, voted cutest couple the year prior. We were well known for being… I don’t even know, I guess the 2018/19 term would be we were a real OTP, a major ship in the school. We were not the “it” couple, but we were just really popular. I think it’s because we were two cute little asian nerds who had our straight-out-of-a-kdrama romance, and stayed together. I honestly could not tell you. Deep down everyone else believes, is confident, that it’s for me. I keep my head down. Anticipation building in us, for different reasons. Finally the name is called, my classmates look up and watch the quiet girl stand up and stumble to the cupid, trembling hands reach out. I sigh a sigh of deep relief, and a smile paints across my face. I did not expect him to listen. I’m not sure if my classmates pitied me, or were embarrassed for me, but I was honestly happy.

The bell rings and the teacher gives us a dismissal for lunch. I hear some classmates asking if they should check on me. I hear some girls gossiping about if we broke up or not. I turn around and flash a quick smile, waving to my classmates wishing them a happy valentines day. I don’t know if that was believably happy, but it was genuine. I remember running to my locker. My cousin calls for me, joining me and we chatter happily. He hadn’t received any, but he hadn’t expected it. He seems genuine. He asks me, “X (my anonymous boyfriend) didn’t get you any flower gram?”

“Nah, I didn’t want one.”

Of course he asks why, and I reply, “I’m really allergic to some flowers. They swell up my eyes and congest my throat.”

We continue our merry way onwards. Our other friends approach, one girl carrying a bunch of flowers all bought by her boyfriend. The other two had one flower, each. One of our friends – who I will call Nick – hands me a small box of chocolates. “I remember you didn’t want flowers, so I got you this.” He had gotten the other three girls a flower, but not wanting me to feel left out he gave me a small box of kisses. I turn back to my locker, to glimpse around. No sign of X. I finish the combination and pull the lock, then unhook it from the lock handle. Before I can open my locker, X comes out with balloons and greets me happy Valentines day, I smile and tell him he didn’t have to – not the cordial, surprised ‘you didn’t have to’, but the ‘seriously, I wish you didn’t’ – he holds onto the balloons for me, knowing I have to grab my stuff. Finally I open the door to my locker. To my surprise, pink and red carnations fall on me. X is grinning, turns out he had the flower grams delivered to himself, then stuffed them into my locker. I remember turning to my cousin and asking him to take me to the nurse. He and Nick help me stumble over. X is confused and I hear my girl friends telling him I’m actually really allergic to most flowers.

Anyways, to shorten this already long story, I went home and spent the rest of Valentines day in bed. The weekend rolls in and X is calling me apologizing profusely. I won’t sugar coat it, I was pissed off the whole time, fuming and just unforgiving. It was bad. I didn’t forgive him until like, the Tuesday after and even then, I held it over his head for a long time. It was a pretty bad time, and overall it did not help my already pacifist outlook on Valentines’ Day. Eventually, I went from being bitter and resentful back to just not caring and letting it be another day.

TL;DR, you can be in a relationship and still really disdain Valentines day.

If you read this, I hope you had fun even at the expense of my real life experience. I can only wish I hadn’t made all this up. But, hey, it made a great story.

Happy Valentines’ Day!

God Bless
w/ love

Ari

Character Development

I’ve definitely held back on this post for sometime, because I feel it is a bit of a downer, Maybe not a downer, but it is one of those truths that people don’t often like, and I kind of hesitate to write about it. However, it is now past the pushing point of going from ranting or venting to something I have mulled over since the end of December. It’s on a topic we often focus on of fictional characters, be they from movies, TV series and books. We also focus on these when watching the life and story of some of our favourite celebrities, and those we admire and raise on a pedestal.

Character development.

It’s something I see many people pay close attention to in fantasy and fiction. It’s something I see many people try to work on in themselves, but in the wrong way. That is to say, what I perceive wrong – I, myself, could be wrong.

But anyways, my real point is character development. It’s so important, that in movies and TV shows if a character does not change or grow as a person from start to finish for movies, and season to season for TV shows, they’re generally a flat character. It’s kind of the same thing in real life. You have to develop. You have to grow up. That doesn’t mean you go out and get yourself really educated – though it is helpful. Sometimes, I see really smart and rousing debates occur on Facebook, where two people fling facts and sources at one another. All it really does is prove they are educated. In this specific scenario character development would be to allow your opposition to educate you. After all, the best essays are the ones that can argue against themselves as well and see the other point. Or, for some the best thing to do which shows good character is to simply accept, you’re probably not going to change your opponent’s mind and to stop. Or you see your opponent is not looking to educate you, but change you and you’re not willing to change either, so again, you stop. At least, that is what I think the wisest options are. I acknowledge, I could be wrong. This is a pretty bold statement coming from someone who rarely engages in online discourse.

This is a really specific answer, only because I see a lot of arguments occur on twitter and Facebook. I think this a really specific example. Too specific. When I say character development, i mean growth, maturing, wisdom – not knowledge. I’m going into full rant mode here, so apologies if this is no longer eloquent and intellectual sounding.

You cannot say, “I have a bad temper” and “I’m really sensitive” as a cover for these flaws and choose not to work on it. You can’t. It’s almost the same as playing the victim card. Using your trauma as a way to make people sympathy you and never put pressure on you to grow is not okay. Similarly, you can’t use “I’m just like that” as a reason. It’s like saying, “Sorry if I sound ignorant” and then proceeding to say a totally opinionated blast on someone, without opening the floor for dialogue and inviting this person to help you grow. It’s like saying, “No offences, but…” then going on to say something offensive.

Acknowledging your flaws, is only step one.

A bold opinion from someone who does not engage in a lot of discourse.

And it is true. First of all this is an opinion, and more of a self-reflection than it is a critique on others. Who am I to criticize when I have a plank in my own eyes, after all (Matt. 7:5). As I said this is a rant, I see a lot of people excuse their personality flaws as traits and then walk away with no intention to change. I wonder, don’t you want to become the hero that God has designed you to be? Don’t you want to be a better person? And not the better person like “a nicer person” the “socially conscientious” person. I mean a better person for yourself. So you can be happier. So you can radiate joy, and other can feel and absorb that from you, without taking it from you. You’re mature for being able to see and acknowledge where you fall short, I admit. However, it is not enough. When a child pulls another kid’s hair or hits them with a toy, we often make them say sorry, and they do, but they proceed to hit or pull again. It shows they have not grown, they have not changed. We realize when kids are maturing when they seek to change their behaviours and become a better person. They make a good decision to grow up, and get over this flaw. They don’t always have fun doing it. I see it my kids ministry classes all the time. I see a little boy in the three year old class, throw a toy at another child in his anger. I ask him to say sorry, and he does but he repeats the behaviour. Whereas the kids in the four year old class now know to exert their displeasure in other methods rather than tossing a toy across the room. They might pout, but hey thats step from throwing. These are the kids we call “big boys/big girls” and the ones who still throw we often ask them to follow the example of the big kids.

All that to say, if kids can change adults can and should too. I think the wisest thing I heard, was once on the radio the radio jockey was talking about their passing grandparent who said, “I want to keep growing, to keep changing until i breath my last breath.”

The world keeps turning, time goes on and we all have to keep maturing.

You might say “heavy words for someone who is also flawed”. And I agree with you, wholeheartedly. I excused my flaws, my temper, my anger and my hatred as just being a part of my personality. I did not acknowledge that I had to change and grow up. Now, I’m not any more perfect that another person, I have my flaws. However, I did and am working on my temper. I am working on my hatred. I’m letting god of my bad self-imaging and redirecting my eyes from the mirror to the Altar and looking to see what God says about me, not what I say and not what others say. What does God want me to change? Even in my faith, I am not perfect. I get highs and lows, too. It’s part of the battle. I’m doing better than where I was last year, in that I genuinely look forward to church and ministry again. I push my husband and I to pray together and individually every night, we do a devotional once a week and I do my best to do a short devotional nightly, with the goal that it become meditation, devotional and contemplation.

In terms of my personality, I think I am far more joyful than I used to be. I am checking my temper and my words, praying before I yell. If my temper gets ahead of me, I seek out to amend it and apologize. I have told my husband if I lose my temper on him, he has every right to correct me, lovingly. I’m also a very lazy person, so I am pushing myself to prepare for the day. I fail a lot, and I get disappointed. Still ” for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity (proverbs 24:16 ESV)”. My husband and I have a meal subscription and I used to cook one out of the three meals, wasting the other two. So far, I have been able to finish all three these past few weeks. This blog also pushes me to update on at least a biweekly basis. In terms of friendships, I am striving to put less pressure on people to like me and fulfil me and get my satisfaction from the Lord. I seek out others to enjoy them and their company, not for my own gain but to celebrate and uplift them. I want to develop community. I want to get to know the friends I already have and be someone who is there to support and celebrate them, to love on them and pour energy and effort into them, rather than absorb all theirs. (This is a checkpoint for me, hopefully I read this again sometime later this and next year and see if I have made progress. I apologize if it sounds like one big huge brag). Again, I am not perfect. I get insecure in my place with people, I overthink actions and still have a fear of missing out. I still take things personally that should not be taken personally, but I am trying. I invite any and everyone reading this to follow me, after all I named this blog GrowingUpwithAhri.

I acknowledged my flaws, I figured out what I need to change, I made a plan (with God) for how to change them and I am putting that plan into action – seeking the grace and humility I need to keep changing.

I hope you do too.

God Bless
w/ love

Ahri

Community

To my church, maybe I am just one person, a face among many. But among the many faces, there are some that absolutely bless my heart.

I have been through some really tough times this past month, but God has truly met me in my need. It’s been hard, choosing to cleave myself off of a friend. I was not good for her. I was not healthy for her and I was not helping her to grow. But, in that loss and I have learned great joy. I truly believe God meets your needs and fills them to the brim, if only you let Him, lean into Him and move with Him. For a long time, I was resisting Him. I was pushing against Him, trying to figure out my own way. I have recently begun surrendering my will to Him, letting Him lead and guide me. I have given up friendships and choices to Him, and it has been tough.

I have asked Him for grace to accept the situation. I wholeheartedly believe I have. Through many steps, I have given up my will to Him, and forgiven myself for my mistakes and let Jesus really pay the price for my sins, all the while still knowing I’ll fail, but doing my best and giving my all to being obedient to Him; if only to glorify Him.

All this to say, today has truly filled my heart with so much joy. I volunteer my time to the children’s ministry at the check-in desk. Here, I can move and float between classrooms, and help new families settle into this huge church’s giant kids system. In these moments, I have learned children’ names, their quirks and I’ve been able to connect to families. While I was helping another family, a mother waited by the desk with her son, waiting for me to have a moment to take a step back. When I was finished, I heard saying, as she waved her son’s hand at me “Say bye to Ariana!”

Another family passes by, as I travel the hallways, greeting families and bidding them a good week. One family, who’s youngest daughter I simply adore and just love to pieces, sees me. As they pass they call to their daughter, “Ariana’s saying bye! Say bye!” She runs past me, waving and smiling, shouting bye quickly. I happily respond my goodbyes and wave a goodbye to her parents as well. They flash a grateful smile, “Bye, Ariana. Have a great week.”

Such small gestures, but such a huge blessing. As He has promised,

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8

I was also able to help a family by putting them into the system. I try to be as bright and cheerful as I can so that the kids feel comfortable and excited to join such a large and new classroom. The eldest daughter was so happy to say her name and birthday, and guide her younger sister through the sign-in as well. She also told me her baby sister’s birthday, which is required for our kids ministry to sort children into their age-appropriate classrooms. I commented on how she was so helpful, and she seemed to seem with pride. And after classes, as the left to go home, waving them good bye and calling them by name seemed to help their parents feel comfortable that they would belong.

And finally, one of my church members and her husband pass bye. She greets me with a warm hug and we walk together, laughing and talking about dogs. My husband joins us and we laugh about various things. Racial ambiguity, languages, dog-sitting, and we all sit in service together. For her and her husband to treat myself and my husband like life-long friends and to ask to see more of us outside of church, for her to offer babysitting my dog and ask for me to baby sit her own children; it was the prayer for friend sand family at our church to come true. It felt like the pieces of my heart were coming together, and it is all because God. I have let Him in and let myself be vulnerable to Him, and as He has promised He is here to cherish and protect my heart. “…To give me life, and give it in the full” (1 John 10:10).

I also really wanted to bless someone, and today this woman sat behind me in sermon. As we wrapped up our Sunday with a final three worship songs (Jesus Paid it All, Tremble and O, Praise the Name), I had the blessing and privilege of hearing her absolutely beautiful voice sing praise to God and cry out to Him in worship. Before she walked off, I had to turn around to her, and just tell her how much I loved her voice and found it so beautiful. I hope she felt blessed. I pray that she felt joy, God’s joy through my words.

I am so thankful and so grateful for these small moments that have passed and may fade into the many Sundays of the year. This is why I want to – to the point of having to – write about it. So one day I can look back on it and see God’s amazing love and remember it. Remember how much it means and meant to me. To see how much I mean to Him.

I want whoever is reading this to know, you might be one person. But to God you can be used to love and spread joy.

I pray blessings for anyone and everyone who reads this.

Have a happy Sunday!

God Bless
w/ love

Ari