Boxing Day Reflections.

{Disclaimer:  This entry really isn’t about Boxing Day.}
In reality, I don’t exactly know what Boxing Day is, but I’m choosing to reflect upon Christmas on this day because Boxing Day is special enough to have a spot on an annual calendar.

As this holiday season comes to a close, I can’t help but ponder the growing beauty of Christmas that strengthens as my childhood years have given way to young adulthood years.

Dentist Barbie.  Don’t you want to hop into the chair?

My mind travels back to one particular Christmas morning when I was about four years old. My family was getting ready to open the gifts that were neatly and colorfully wrapped underneath our tree. I opened a “Dentist Barbie,” which I adored, and I unpackaged the doll and her dentist chair out of their cardboard casing as soon as I could. How I loved that gift and its contents (somehow playing with that doll made going to the dentist less scary to me!).

Throughout the years, I asked my parents for gifts such as an Easy Bake Oven, a Furbie (quickly regretted by my entire family), “Finding Nemo”, more Barbies, an American Girl doll, and many other girlhood dreams that I thought would satisfy my requirement for a “successful” Christmas season.

As a child, I clung to the tangibility of what I could receive at Christmastime in order to quantify my happiness.

As a young adult, I find that I increasingly cling to that which is intangible, or perhaps better explained as that which I believe can only be captured by the heart and not in neatly-wrapped (and with my wrapping skills, not-so-neatly wrapped) packages.

This Christmas was not-so-different in regards to family traditions, 
but something was different in my heart.

~ ~ ~

This year, I soaked in the smiles of my dad, mom, and brother as we were all gathered around our artificial – but still breathtaking (and balsam-smelling thanks to nifty scent sticks) – Christmas tree. I admired my family’s laughs, their sparkling eyes, and the togetherness of the moment.

This year, I was touched by a small moment of silence as my dad and mom gave thanks to the Lord for the Christmases we got to spend with my older sister Katie before she went to Heaven.

This year, I was blessed to listen to extended family share their hearts, passions, and future plans with me. I immersed myself in the family gatherings on both my mom’s and dad’s side, realizing anew how fully blessed I am to share my heritage with these amazing men and women.

This year, I took a prolonged moment to gaze at our family nativity scene. I gazed at each member in the stable and pondered the beauty of the Incarnation. I was blown away once again by the truth that God sent His Son to live among us – despite the world’s brokenness – so that we could be redeemed by His being among us, dying for our sins, and rising from the dead. I even showed my rabbit “Buttons” the nativity scene, and he kept staring at the sheep and donkeys (perhaps he wishes he could’ve been at the birth of Christ!).

This year, I appreciated the joy of simply being.

~ ~ ~
I feel contented, recognizing my satisfaction with throwing away every requirement of a “successful” Christmas season. The true, qualitative success has been to be with those I love, soaking in the beauty of conversations, smiles, and the Prosapio family recipe of lasagna (yay for leftovers!).

Merry Christmas (and Happy Boxing Day) from my family to yours.

Purity is More Than a One-Time Commitment.

When I was twelve years old, I begged my mom to buy me a purity ring because I felt I was ready to make the commitment to stay pure (and I really wanted the neat sterling silver ring). I signed the cardboard commitment card in the ring’s package and thought that by signing my John Hancock, I was “officially” a pure young lady.

For the next few years, I wore my purity ring proudly, answering questions about it when asked and ever-confident in my classification as a “pure individual.” Whenever I read in the Bible about being “set apart,” I didn’t consider there was anything else involved except my promise to remain a virgin until I got married.

However, once I started high school, I realized that my one-time purity commitment was not helping me in everyday life. My thoughts were regularly contaminated, and I didn’t know how to control them or keep them from running too far ahead from me. I was confused why my mind didn’t always seem squeaky-clean, and I was even more confused at how much I struggled to maintain pure thoughts.

Throughout my high school years, I continued to struggle with stopping the thoughts I was thinking and taking them captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).  I didn’t know how to submit them to the Lord. The more I tried to control my thoughts, the more I felt out of control. I felt guilty and stuck.

It wasn’t until my first year of college that I began to understand that purity is much more than saving sex for marriage. Purity of heart is a conscious decision to dwell on things that help us nestle closer to God’s heart. It’s an everyday commitment to align our hearts with His so that we can feel His heartbeat. It’s an understanding that what we fill our hearts with is not only important–but vital–to maintaining a purity before the Lord.

While my sterling silver ring may be a token of a purity commitment, Scripture informs us that the true fruit of a life fully committed to purity is a heart that’s so filled with things of the Lord that His love flows out of us (Luke 6:45).  Psalm 86:11 states, “Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.” The psalmist communicates the message that there is a direct connection between having purity of heart and honoring the Lord.  

May God’s truth so fill our hearts that it flows out of our mouths in abundance. May that abundance honor the Lord with a purity that is more than a one-time commitment, but rather an everyday fidelity to the Lord that we will honor Him not only when it comes to sexual purity, but also emotional, mental, and spiritual purity. 

In our most tempted times, may we remember that our Lord sympathizes with us in our weakness (Hebrews 4:15), and that His power is truly made perfect when we offer that weakness to Him (2 Cor. 12:9).

He is with us on our journey to purity in every step, molding us day-by-day into becoming more like Him.
~ ~ ~

 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
think about such things.” ~Philippians 4:8

Christmas Carols & Little Voices.

One of my favorite memories in Bangladesh was having the opportunity to teach Christmas carols to little ones at a children’s home. Though it was only the month of June, the children wanted to learn these carols so that they might be able to practice and perform them for a special program in December.

With our best a cappella renditions of commonly-known songs such as “Joy to the World” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” my roommate Bethany and I led the children in learning these songs line-by-line, and sometimes even syllable-by-syllable (I felt like Maria in The Sound of Music when she first teaches the children do-re-mi!).

My personal favorite tune to teach was “The Little Drummer Boy.” With its repetitious rhythm and slower pace, the children caught onto it quicker than the other carols. However, they always seemed to have a little trouble singing “Pa rum pum pum pum” whenever the phrase came up in the song. Though the children were familiar with English, I think they were confused as to why we were leading them in singing nonsensical syllables.

After we explained that “Pa rum pum pum pum” was supposed to sound like the beating of a drum, they began to catch onto the silly syllables as we clapped to each syllable together to keep on beat.

Though it was challenging at first to teach songs in English to Bangla-speaking children, I found it refreshing to have the opportunity to explain the meanings of these songs to the children so as to simplify the sometimes outdated conversational English (“Let men their songs employ” can be tricky!).

In simplifying the meaning of the lyrics down to the very heart of what each song meant, I realized the power of the words that I so often overlook when they’re playing on the radio here in the States. I appreciated anew the truth of the words as Bethany, the children, and I sang in unity–eliminating any language barrier so that we could praise our King together.

It was truly a privilege to communicate the meaning of Christmas to these little ones through music and to remind them that their Savior does not only get to be their focus at Christmastime, but He can be their focus and their hope in every season.

I pray that if they’re singing these carols for a Christmas program this season, they allow the truth of the words to sink into their hearts beyond this season to their days ahead.

And I pray I will do the same.

Smita: My Princess.

As referenced in my previous blog entry Healing, it’s taken me a little longer than I thought to process through my overseas experience this summer.  I think perhaps that instead of processing Nepal & Bangladesh one bit at a time, I felt compelled to process it all at once.  Thus, anytime I tried to write about any of it, words would not come to mind, and I’d become so overwhelmed about all of my emotions that I would choose just to stuff down my thoughts.

Now that I have some good break time over Christmas, I feel moved to finally sort through the beauty of my Nepal & Bangladesh experience piece-by-piece.  I want to reflect on the loveliness of the places I encountered and the hearts I came into contact with.

If you’re reading along, I hope you enjoy my descriptions of the places and the faces that have truly become some of the dearest memories of my healing heart.

~ ~ ~
I believe I must begin with my dearest Smita, whom I met while staying at a children’s home in Bangladesh.
Smita immediately captured my heart with her sweet smile, her bright eyes, and her insistence on asking me to “gan gan” (“sing” in Bangla) Disney songs.  She especially loved when I sang songs from Frozen
I would sing “Let it Go” to her numerous times, as well as “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and other songs from the movie. For the three weeks I had the pleasure of getting to know her, I would continually urge her to sing for me. I had heard her singing in hallways, and I knew she had a beautiful voice. Repeatedly, she communicated to me that she was too nervous to sing for me. I told her that it was okay, but I made her at least sing along with me as we heralded the anthems of Elsa and Anna and Olaf the Snowman.
Through each day’s activities, Smita began handing me sweet handwritten notes filled with encouragement and detailed drawings of anything from ducks to Disney princesses. Each time I received a letter from her, I would hug my little princess and tell her how much I appreciated her. Whenever I praised her for her thoughtfulness, she would always blush, give me a shy little smile, and utter, “Oh Auntie!” 
One afternoon while I was talking to her and some other girls in their dormitory-style bedroom, I noticed that Smita was playing with some Scrabble tiles.  Before long, I realized that Smita was arranging her tiles into the words “Smita Loves Laura.” Oh, how Smita’s tender heart filled me with such joy and happiness.
On another day, I was singing the song “The Call” by Regina Spektor, which has been popularized by being on the soundtrack of Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.  Because she had watched this movie with the other children at the home, she recognized the song and was beyond excited when she found out that I knew many of the lyrics. Within the song lyrics, the phrase “No need to say goodbye,” is repeated. She always appeared to delight in these song lyrics. I believe that they resonated with her ten-year-old mind.
At the end of my three weeks with her and the other children, I knew my goodbye with Smita would be especially challenging because she had become like a little sister to me. After a sweet “goodbye ceremony” that the children at the home conducted for me and my other three team members, it was time to pack up all of our luggage to head towards the capital city of Dhaka.
As I reflectively walked through the halls of the home for the last time, I saw Smita walking towards me with tears in her eyes. For the first time, she sang boldly before me without any fear. Though shyness was still present in her voice, her sweet tone resonated through the halls as she sang “Let it Go.”
As I knelt down on the floor to look her into her eyes, we shared a tearful embrace that lasted several minutes. Neither of us wanted to let go, and neither of us wanted to say “goodbye.”
She handed me a final hand-written note, in which she mentioned that she would pray for me day and night. She decorated the note with Disney princess stickers and with her own drawings of tiny flowers. I read the last line she had written in her note: “No need to say goodbye.”
I made an agreement with her that we would hold to these words, knowing that as we hold onto each other in our hearts, that we will never ever truly say goodbye.
I love you, my Smita.

Healing.

The past five months have been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. They have been filled with silence and a lack of inspiration. They have been filled with dark moments, confusion, and heartache. They have been filled with an awareness of my lack of control. They have been filled with testing, frustration, and sleeplessness. They have been filled with anxiety.

While the silence has been so tempting, I feel it’s finally time that I write. It’s finally time that I speak through my writing. I will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).
The difficult journey started during my final week in Bangladesh this past July.  Before I left for the States, I came down with a nasty virus. Fever. Chills. Full-body rash. Panic. 
  
I didn’t know what was happening to me. Never had a mild illness given me such an upset. However, this time was different. When I read a number of over 100 degrees on my digital thermometer, my body went into some kind of a primal mode that I couldn’t seem to control. Worry filled my mind about worst-case scenarios that could happen while I was overseas.  As worry uncontrollably filled my mind, worry uncontrollably filled my body.  My head was filled with a dull and achy pressure; my left hand and arm were filled with a tingly sensation.  My heart encountered a pace unlike its regular rhythm.  Little did I know then that I was experiencing my very first panic attack.
After my overseas trip reached a conclusion, I boarded one aircraft after another to take me back to my idealized home.  I figured that home was what I needed. When I was safe in my warm, comfy bed in my bedroom, then I would finally feel safe again. While my reunion with my folks at O’Hare airport was beautiful and all my heart had expected, home did not cure my anxiety. In fact, as the weeks at home passed, my anxiety seemed to worsen into sleepless nights and severe tingling sensations in both arms and a very real pain in my chest.
Four doctor visits, three therapist visits, and one blood test later, I had what seemed like no answers. While my therapist had me take an anxiety inventory to gauge my current situation, I was in disbelief of the results she calculated. There’s no way I was on the “mild end of the scale for severe anxiety.” I ignored the truth and instead insisted that there was something medically wrong with me.
It wasn’t until my parents were about to drop me back off for my third year of college that I hit a new rock bottom.  My left arm hurt and tingled, and it wouldn’t stop.  My heart was aching with a dull pain that wouldn’t stop.  Again, I felt out of control and unable to regain my bearings on my emotions and even my body.
Something had to be done.
Through a series of phone calls, my primary care physician prescribed me some fast-action anxiety medication that would reportedly allow me to sleep at night again.  I was scared to take medication, but I knew that was the best option.
Thus began the five month journey that has been sometimes all-encompassing, demanding attention that I never knew how to give before–attention that has been difficult to balance with schoolwork and the everyday upkeep of college life.  It has been a rugged journey on a seemingly uncharted path.
However, each day that I choose to be aware of God’s presence and Hand through this journey, I have noted His love for me through those around me.  They have been His tangible love in my life when I’ve felt moments of distance from His presence.  From my family to professors to bosses to mentors to classmates to friends to acquaintances to strangers to doctors to therapists–I have truly been blessed this semester with individuals who have uplifted me, encouraged me, supported me, and assured me that there is hope in the midst of the darkness of panic and anxiety.  I really can’t adequately express how very blessed I’ve been.
Though this semester has easily been the most difficult, emotional, and confusing, I have never before sensed God’s presence in a more intimate, fascinating, and precious way. 
This path really isn’t uncharted after all, for I know He is here through the hurting and the healing. And I will give Him glory with each step.

Eyes on Jesus.

During this season in my life, the Holy Spirit has been reminding me of the importance of keeping my eyes on Jesus.

When I was in elementary school, I remember learning for the first time in Bible class about Peter walking on water (found in Matthew 14:22-33).  The imagery of the story was quite amazing for me to imagine.  I pictured the waves tossing, the disciples’ boat rocking, and Jesus’ voice peacefully calling in the midst of it all.  I was fascinated by the thought that Peter was (1) able to get out of the boat to meet Jesus on the water, (2) able to stay above the water when his eyes were fixed on Jesus, and (3) unable to stay above the water when his eyes were not fixed on Jesus.

I often wonder if I’d be able to get out of the boat if Jesus called my name.

However, I realize that in day-to-day life, Jesus ever calls us out of our personal “safety boats” and urges us to keep our eyes fixed on Him.  I realize that the fear can often grip our hearts so powerfully that it seems impossible to keep our eyes off the seemingly overwhelming waves.  Still, Jesus calls us to keep our eyes fixed on Him.

So what does it mean to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus?  From what I’ve been learning in my life lately, here are some of my ideas:

We choose to serve Jesus even when things don’t make sense.

We choose to believe that God has a purpose in the midst of life’s darkness.


We choose to give God glory in our weakness, instead of giving glory to our weakness.


When we fix our eyes upon Him, we gain His perspective.  We greater glimpse His love for us.  We keep ourselves from sinking in the depths of our doubts, the enemy’s lies, and the storms we cannot control.

May we keep our eyes on Jesus, for even “the waves and wind still know His Name.”

Perfect Peace.

I have to be honest.  There are times in my life when I ask myself, “Can God’s perfect peace really overcome my deepest fears?” And I doubt and question and wonder.  I often wonder how I can finally allow myself to constantly rest in God’s peace, not just experience it here-and-there only when I’m having a good day.

My fears become so seemingly real and overwhelming and gripping.  When they’re at their worst, they seem like the truest reality there is, and there seems to be no escape.  I fear for my family, my health, my finances, my education, my future…the list goes on and on.  It becomes obsessive, compounding, never-ending.  Fear is a trap, yet it’s so attractive.  I believe it presents itself as a way for us to have control over what happens–or at least to be prepared if the “worst” does happen. However, it is a dark spiral of despair that never gives us control.  Fear only gives us more reason to hold on more tightly to the things that God has called us to relinquish into His control.  The things we hold so tightly to are meant to be in His hands because nothing is outside of God’s control, while much is outside our control.

He wants me to give Him my fears for my family, my health, my finances, my education, and my future.  Why?  Because He already holds these things in His hands, and these things are way too heavy for me to hold onto on my own.    

I think it all comes down to where our thoughts are fixed.  Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” [emphasis mine]

This verse doesn’t say that God will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in their own ability and whose thoughts are fixed on their fears.  When we trust in our own abilities and fixate on our fears, we will not find peace because our eyes are not upon our Father.  

I believe that only when our eyes are fixed upon our Father will He keep us in perfect, life-giving, sustaining peace that will consistently sustain us in the midst of life’s uncertainty.  And when we experience God’s peace, the deepest fears of our hearts simply melt away.  

What a wonderful, peace-supplying God we have.  He is our truest reality.