I know, I know, it’s hard to believe that I’m still alive. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody was even left checking this blog (except for my two biggest fans… *cough* mom *cough* sis) But I’m alive. Alive and well, actually.
After our parents left Taiwan, we went straight into some intense finals at school, including economics and Chinese literature, and I was bulldozed over by a series of unfortunate illnesses, including a cold, the flu, some variation of strep throat, and intense allergies…all within the course of two weeks. And the combination of saying goodbye to our parents, final exam stress, and sickness put me in a really dark, negative space. And I didn’t want to write in that space. Because as big a fan as I am of reality, I didn’t want this blog to just be a place where I purge all of my negative emotions…because nobody wants to read that, right?
So here I am…in a much better place in every way – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically. Ever since our winter break started, we’ve felt that our lives have finally fallen back into place. We’ve been able to catch up on our service time and even make some extra time this month. We’ve had time to catch up on publications, programs, and other personal study that we had fallen behind on. I started exercising again (shameful to say for the first time in like, two years). And with the combination of these healthy habits back into my regular routine, I really do feel like a new person. The exercise has released months and months of stress and tension from my body, and I have more energy and sleep better at night. Not to mention, it puts me in a really good mood. I didn’t realize what a direct connection exercise and stress have, but after seeing the instant difference it made in me, I’ll never let myself forget it. In the quiet time I’ve had to catch up on longer personal study sessions, Jehovah has directed me to so many points that have helped alleviate my emotional and mental stress.
Let me give you an example, but please bare with me, because the backstory is a little long. I just finished reading chapter 32 in the book of Numbers where the tribes of Reuben and Gad asked for the land to the east of the Jordan for themselves. This land in some accounts was generalized as “Gilead”, and so those who lived there, including these tribes, were known as “Gileadites”. I came across an article from an old Watchtower magazine that talked about the courage of the Gileadites. Come to find out, these men were not cowardly for wanting that land as an inheritance. In the first place, they agreed to cross over the Jordan and fight with their brothers until the land to the west was conquered. Second, the land to the east of the Jordan was a boundary territory, and as such was extremely exposed and vulnerable to attack on one side. The article then mentioned Jacob’s prophecy for the tribe of Gad at Genesis 49:19 where he said, “As for Gad, a marauder band will raid him, but he will raid at their heels”. In short, the Watchtower article said that Jacob’s prophesy had one simple meaning: “Fight back!”. Even though the tribes on that side of the Jordan would be attacked by marauder bands, Jacob’s prophecy was a command for them to fight back, even to the point where they would chase after the marauders “at their heels”. When they were attacked they were not to simply “take it”.
The Watchtower then compared our situation to the Gileadites. Living in this world, we are very vulnerable to attacks from Satan – in whatever form they may come in. For me, personally, this “attack” has come in the form of having to adjust to the Taiwanese culture. I’m sure most of you have read enough of my previous posts to know about some of the difficulties that we’ve had with the friends here, and in some ways, they probably will never end. But I don’t need to “take it” anymore. I can fight back. Fight Satan, that is. And over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve realized that nothing is harder than fighting back. And yet, nothing feels better. Satan wants us to resort to our imperfect human nature and give in to our gut-instinct, which may be to ignore, hold a grudge, lash out, or alienate ourselves. This may make you feel “powerful” in the moment, but you’re not fighting, not even close. You’re doing exactly what Satan wants you to do.
Showing patience, self-control, taking the initiative with a brother who has something against you, being active peace-makers in the congregation…now those things are difficult to do. So difficult that they could very well be compared to fighting in an actual battle…draining and exhausting in every sense of the word. But at least you’re fighting. You’re doing something! You’re not simply “taking it”, and you’re definitely not letting Satan get what he wants. I’ve tested this mentality out in the past few weeks, and I can tell you that it makes doing certain things a lot easier. When a brother or sister is holding a grudge for a completely trivial reason, but I gather up the courage to go talk to them anyway, in the back of my mind I think “Did Satan really think I was just going to stand there and take it?” We know that the true victory belongs to Jehovah in the end, but feeling that we can have a small, ACTIVE part in fighting against Satan today is just so empowering and inspiring. I guess Jehovah really knows me better than I even know myself. As someone who absolutely hates being forced to take a passive stance, He helped me to see that making peace is not sitting back and “taking it”. It’s a way of actively fighting back against Satan. And it has helped my mentality in such a big way.
We’ve also learned to put our foot down with the friends here…which means saying “no” to certain gatherings and invitations, even if we have no reason to except for that fact that we’d rather be at home watching a movie and eating popcorn. And let me tell you, it has done wonders for our happiness here. Do some of the friends get upset? Yes. But that’s not something I can control. There is a balance between being willing to give of yourself and taking care of your own well-being, and for over a year we have completely neglected that delicate balance. But not anymore. Jehovah cares about the emotional and mental well-being of each and every one of us equally. So He is not going to want us to burn out just so that another friend is satisfied that we’ve accepted an invitation. Of course, balance is needed, like it is in all things. But this has also greatly improved our mood and general happiness here. The art of saying “no” 🙂
Aside from that, there hasn’t been much else new on this side of the world. We passed all of our exams and have been able to maintain our scholarship for the rest of the school year, which is great. This past Monday we took a trip to the south of Taiwan with some friends from our congregation, and enjoyed a very pleasantly relaxing time at some hot springs. Chinese New Year starts tomorrow, so I’m off work for a week, which is also wonderful 😉 Our parents brought us our Wii when they came to visit, so we’ve been able to relive some childhood nostalgia by playing Mario games to unwind in the evenings. I gotta tell you, it’s the simple things in life… 🙂
Other than that, here is a collage of pictures from the month our parents visited us here in Taiwan because I don’t think I’ve posted it yet:
And some other random pictures…
We were required to participate in volunteer work through our university at a local high school helping students with their English. At our last session, Tiffany baked M&M cookies that she brought to the class and we placed over 10 Young People Ask books!
And so that’s about it. You know you’ve really got your life together when you’re caught up on your blog, right? 😉
I hope that I can continue to ride this positive wave, and that things will continue to fall into place. I don’t want to let Satan win anymore. From now on, I want to be counted among “those who fight” 😉