Godfidence

It’s gotten to the point where my phone is autocorrecting God to Godfidence. This new phrase, given to me by my small group leader on a recent church retreat, has caught fire in my heart.

I’m naturally shy and self-conscious. Talking to strangers makes me nervous and sometimes panicky, even if I’m with other people that I know. I’m also a worrier who stresses about school and the future. I’ve been on the self-discovery train for most of June as I’ve read Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman, looking into myself and examining my behaviors, and I’ve realized these things. I’ve also realized that because I’m so afraid of talking to others and of general failure, my comfort zone is my number one priority.

God has used many things to show me this, including Grace for the Good Girl and the recent church retreat. One of the phrases that really stuck out to me from a message: “If you’re really a daughter of God, what do you have to lose?”

What do I have to lose? Not God’s love – I can’t lose that. Not His acceptance – I can’t lose that. Not Jesus’s grace and forgiveness – I can’t lose that. As I began to remember during this message that God is on my side and His love is legitimately unconditional, I felt His freeing power releasing me from worry. Afterward, I was able to socialize happily and without worry. I’m much less nervous about the upcoming school year. I’m feeling so at peace with the knowledge that I’m in the hands of the creator of the universe – I will be just fine. He’s got me.

I can talk to strangers, because I am confident that God loves me. I can survive three AP classes next year, because God gives me strength. I can do things that would normally make me panic, because I am covered by God’s grace. I am Godfident – in His plan, in His provision, in His grace, and in His love.

And Godfidence so far? It’s pretty amazing.

Review: This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl

This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl is the journal entries, blog posts, writings from friends, and artwork of Esther Grace Earl, a girl who passed away of thyroid cancer in 2010 at the age of sixteen. This book is both heartwarming and heartbreaking in different parts, and shows cancer not only from the perspective of the patient, but from the perspective of family and friends. I’m not going to rate this book or do a “like/didn’t like” for it, because TSWGO was really different. I don’t think my rating system or usual review system would work very well. (I’m still going to talk about the book though.)

One of my favorite parts of the book is the way it includes the point of view of family and friends. The part where I cried the hardest was honestly when I was reading Esther’s father’s eulogy, because no father should ever have to eulogize their child. Friends and family all seem to feel similarly about Esther: missing her absolutely sucks, but loving her was worth it. This particular idea in TSWGO gives me a lot of hope. I have struggled in the past with feeling like my flaws make me unloveable, but the story of Esther disproves that entirely. Her friends and family all view their time with her as a privilege, despite her ultimate “fatal flaw” of cancer. Though I do not want to compare my struggles with those of a cancer patient, the willingness of Esther’s friends and family to love her with all of her flaws gives me hope about being loved with all of mine.

Another thing I like about TSWGO is its transparency, which I talked about in an earlier post. No part of this book tries to ignore flaws, both the “fatal flaw” of cancer and Esther’s other flaws. Instead, the book shows bad mingling with good, messy mixing with lovely. There is no sugarcoating: it’s transparent, but it also makes sure to include the happy parts of the story with the sad parts. Sugarcoating would have made the story much less relatable and ultimately less inspiring. Real life is the ugly and the beautiful crashing together into moments of despair and moments of hope; Esther’s story captures both of those.

The other part of TSWGO that I really like is its storytelling media. Instead of telling Esther’s story through one medium, such as narrative or her journal entries, TSWGO uses a variety of sources to paint a full picture of Esther’s life. I feel like this really gives the reader the complete idea, while still making the book entertaining. This complete picture of Esther made me laugh out loud and cry quite hard. It was a privilege to relate to this wonderful book about life, love, and the tangled mess they leave behind.

The Fault in Our Stars Movie

I just saw The Fault in Our Stars, and it was quite honestly the most beautiful movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I cried and cried and cried some more, and in between the tears I laughed a little, too.

One of the many reasons that I find TFiOS so beautiful is the way its message resonates with me. This story questions, among other things, whether suffering is worth it in the end. What happens to us after we die? Do we have to be remembered to matter? Why do we even want to matter? Through it all, there is this constant appearance of pain as Hazel and Gus continue on their lives with cancer. They wonder how much good can outweigh the bad, and whether the good needs to outweigh the bad at all.

Though I am not comparing my struggles to those of a cancer patient, these questions are still important to me. Sometimes, I feel like Hazel, doomed to hurt those I love because of my imperfections and wanting to push them away to keep them from pain. I guess the most important thing TFiOS taught me is that sometimes, it seems like the joy will never make up for the suffering; yet, we still have joy and we still suffer. Even if it seems like the human life has no destination but death, and that we have to struggle and struggle along until we get there, life is still worth living. We go on, and that is beautiful and worthy in and of itself.

Thank you so much to John Green for writing this amazing story, Josh Boone for making it happen on the big screen, and Shailene, Ansel, and all the other actors and actresses for bringing these characters to life. Thank you to everyone involved in this story for the message it tells. Thank you for the big helping of hope I received tonight.

Transparency Is an Art

Recently, I’ve been reading This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl (review to come soon!), which contains the journal entires, blog posts, and other memorabilia of Esther, a teenage girl who passed away of thyroid cancer in 2010. One of the ideas in TSWGO that has stuck out to me is transparency about life’s imperfections.

“It could have been easy to just recall [Esther’s] laugh, her idiosyncratic typing, her sense of bouncy fun, even her unbounded love, but it’s more true to her own way of loving to remember all the little cracks in her image through which she occasionally permitted us to access her deepest concerns and fears. She would want us to remember her authentic self, including all the imperfect parts. What’s the point of opening yourself up to your friends if they don’t notice you in your vulnerable state?”

-Arka Pain, Esther’s friend from the group Catitude

I feel like in general, people tend to think of cancer patients as fighters with resiliently good attitudes and circumstance-defying smiles. However, when you read Esther’s innermost thoughts in her journal, you see the suck that isn’t often admitted to. She was sad. She felt guilty about her lack of physical activity and energy. She was lonely. She was frustrated. She definitely wasn’t all smiles. Esther eventually confided these things in her friends, especially those in the online group Catitude. Her vulnerability and her willingness to accept others’ vulnerability are some of her most remembered qualities.

Let’s face it: everyone has flaws, unfun emotions, and negative experiences. Why is it so hard to admit it? Instead of realizing and accepting that life isn’t always rainbows and cupcakes, we hold ourselves and others to unattainable standards of perfection. We shame celebrities when they make mistakes. We only talk about cancer patients when they have consistently positive attitudes. We hide our own screw ups, hoping that others will only see the front that we want them to. Though we know that everyone has something icky, we’re rarely completely honest about it.

Covering up our flaws and ignoring others’ isn’t the way to happiness, and Esther knew that. She embraced others for who they were, and she revealed her true self to her friends, such as those in the online group Catitude. Now, she is remembered fully and beautifully in TSWGO, and her story is inspirational not because it is one of a perfect girl: her story is inspirational because it is a reminder than pain and sorrow and hatred and absolute crap cannot cancel out good. Good certainly doesn’t make the bad go away, but the bad doesn’t make the good go away, either.

Flaws are never fun to deal with, but hiding them cannot make them disappear. Esther’s story reminds us that icky things do not make our lives futile; good matters even amidst overwhelming amounts of bad. No matter how many flaws you have, you can still be your own little star, shining a good light that cannot be extinguished. Don’t cover up your true self; you be you, with all of your quirks, imperfections, and pieces of awesome. You are not alone, and your “bad” parts do not make you bad. Be yourself. All of yourself.