Friday, April 26, 2013

Finals Time

As of yesterday, I am FINALLY done with classes, so I have a full, undisturbed day to prepare for exams today. It is such a relief to be done because by the last couple weeks of the semester, you get to the point when all you want to do is actually study for your exams, but every time you sit down to get something done, you have another class to go to. So, classes are done done done and it feels so good.

I have today, tomorrow, and Sunday to prep for a whirlwind week of exams. Monday at 9am I get a copy of my statutory law take-home final, which is due at noon Tuesday and requires me to write a 12-page motion to dismiss (oops! don't know how to do that) based on statutory provisions I'll be given. I've been told to expect it to take me by far the better part of the 27 hours I have to take it. So, Tuesday afternoon will be last-minute studying for my exam in wills, trusts, and estates, basically described like this: 9 short answer questions, average of 15 topics that have to be discussed in each short answer, plus 3 long essay questions, average of 30-40 topics that have to be mentioned in each, all in 3 hours. (Not exaggerating about the topics, by the way--the short answer we discussed in class had 15 components--you need to talk about testamentary freedom, default takers, incorporation by reference, revocable trusts, the intestacy statutes, transfers to minors, ERISA, the advance directives, custodian accounts, and the pension plans, among other things. Don't know what all that stuff is? Well, neither do I, so it's all good.) Then a week from today I have my domestic relations exam. That's a little more run-of-the-mill, with everything about marriage, divorce, child support, custody, alimony, etc., but it has its own challenges (anybody know what the putative spouse doctrine is? How about condonation? Or a qualified domestic relations order?) Then after that exam, it's on to studying intellectual property like there's no tomorrow because I haven't exactly kept up with that material over the term. That one is on May 7th, May 8th I'm revising my appellate brief for writing group all day, and then I will be DONE and flying to Chicago to see one of my college BFFs. I can't wait!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

No Condemnation

I was reminded of this verse today and want to share it with you: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1). None. Nothing. NO condemnation. So if your heart and mind seeks to condemn you and keep you enmeshed in guilt and regret, remember that you stand in a place of freedom in Christ and you are not condemned. You are not bound by guilt. You have a clean slate, a robe of righteousness. You don't need to strive and labor anymore to please God or to be right with God, because if you are in Christ, you already please God because you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ and bought with his blood. He has made you worthy, and if God himself doesn't condemn you, it's a pretty fair assumption that no one else can either! No condemnation, because in Christ you are set free. And because of this truth, we are more blessed than we could ever even grasp.

Since I am not condemned, I will not live as if I am. I refuse to live as if my past defines me, as if my mistakes define me, as if guilt and regret can ever have the final say in my life. I refuse to live defeated. Instead I choose to live in this beautiful truth, that I am in Christ, and that Jesus commands my destiny, and that in him alone, I am not condemned now, nor will I ever be.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Big City Living

I love these few moments of quiet and peacefulness in the early morning, when I've got sunlight streaming in through my window, some cereal and fruit, and some uninterrupted time to think, read, pray, and plan my day. Before I leave for church I want to pull together a study plan for this entire week, as my first exam is a week from tomorrow. And I have 3 exams next week, which I don't really want to think about at all!

This week has been a little bit of a whirlwind, but it's been good, because I got some very important things taken care of once and for all--such as finding and signing a lease on an apartment for the summer. I finally was able to drive into the city yesterday, look at the place, and sign all the paperwork, and I can't tell you what a relief it is to know that my home this summer isn't going to be the Best Western or Holiday Inn!

And just like that, I, the self-declared small-town girl who's never really wanted to live in a big city, will be living right smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest cities. There will be skyscrapers right outside my 9th floor window and the dull roar of traffic on the street far below. I couldn't be closer to the rhythm of city life. I've never wanted to live in a big city because I've always been afraid. Afraid of not knowing my way around, afraid of driving in heavy traffic, afraid of not being able to keep myself and my stuff safe from unsavory characters, afraid of the constant noise, chaos, and activity. The introvert in me who prefers my quiet spaces--my early mornings, untarnished by the chaos of the day--is still a little afraid. The girl who has struggled in the past with a fear of driving that's pretty much borderline driving anxiety disorder (is that a thing? It should be, because I have it, or at least I have had it before) is still a little afraid of waking up in the morning and fighting my way through the traffic and trying not to get lost or have an accident.

But the job I wanted was there, not here and not somewhere else. And I felt God telling me that it's time to face this fear, once and for all, because I can't let it hold me back forever. And telling me that the only way to eventually do something unafraid is to first do it afraid. I mean, think about it. The first time I went to school, rode a bike, spoke in front of people, had a job interview, went to a college class, and spent the night in my own apartment all have something in common--I was totally terrified. But imagine if I never did any of those things because I was afraid. I'd never get to the point where I am now--where every single one of those things feels like second nature.

So I'm still afraid, but I decided that this is the summer that big city living gets stricken from my laundry list of fears. I don't predict that I'll end the summer as an absolute convert to that lifestyle or wanting to pursue it long-term after graduation, but that's ok. I just need to know that if I want to or need to, I can. So I'm not going to just live on the outskirts, in a suburb, allowing myself the bare minimum necessary exposure to the place--I'm going to live in the middle of it. Where I can open my window and practically touch the skyscrapers next to me.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Praying for Boston

There are just no words for what has happened in Boston today. To think that something as exciting and fulfilling as finishing the Boston Marathon had to be shattered by a senseless act of violence makes me sad and angry. To think that my sister and I have talked for years about running that very race, and if we had more seriously pursued that goal, we may have been there today, makes me so thankful that that's one goal I haven't achieved yet. And then I feel angry all over again for what these people have had to experience today, people who DID meet their goal of finishing the race. It's cruel and unfair, and such is the world we live in. The pain that some people are willing to cause others never ceases to amaze me.

I don't really have a response to all this, only that it makes my heart ache for heaven just a little bit more. And I want to be able to declare these truths over my life and over the broken world I live in:
"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. . . . He will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. ~Lamentations 3

Friday, April 12, 2013

Social Media: Desperately Seeking Influence

My generation is the generation of social media, and it's kind of amazing to me how some people seem to live more of their lives through these websites than they do in reality: constantly posting every little thing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you name it, and then scrambling to check and see if any more people "liked" or commented on or retweeted their latest pictures and updates. And I see people acting on Facebook in ways they probably wouldn't act in real life: yes, sometimes tearing people down and being jerks (but that's a topic for another post), but also bragging about their lives like no other, constantly updating the world on everything they've accomplished just to elicit praise from others. There's nothing wrong with posting your exciting news on Facebook or Twitter, and I'm not saying you should never share these things with others online, but I think there's a pretty clear line between sharing and oversharing. And some people post obviously boastful items so often that everyone more or less gets tired of liking them and commenting on them--leaving those people, metaphorically speaking, walking around with their hands raised for the high five that never comes. And it makes me think that part of becoming mature is learning to let others honor you first instead of always trying to honor yourself.

But why, then, do we act this way in our carefully crafted online worlds? Why is it so easy to become addicted to the rush of posting every tidbit of our lives for the obvious purpose of receiving more accolades--accolades we'd feel pretty silly about asking for in real life?

And the problem runs deeper than just having others thinking your ego's a little too big. You can receive the recognition you want at first, but eventually it fades away. Of course, this is true for all of life, not just the personas we forge on the Internet, but it's especially obvious in the online context, where people can so easily become absorbed in things that don't really have any lasting significance and can't really offer them any lasting fulfillment. The high inevitably fades, and then we rush to find more recognition, or success, or power, like an addict desperately seeking another fix, and then we race to tell the world about it online. This validation seeking, this online posturing for position and influence, points to a heartbreaking epidemic of chronic emptiness in our culture, one that leaves people clutching vices of all kinds just to escape their hollow dissatisfaction with life. These vices aren't limited to our desperate quest to find approval in the virtual world--they can really be anything we grasp in an attempt to escape, even for a little while, from the emptiness that pours out of a life that seems to lack an overarching purpose.

But you're just trying to escape, and then you realize that you're a great escape artist, but yet you're never free. And the reason you strive so hard to craft a venerable virtual identity is because, just like everybody else, you crave influence. No one wants their life to mimic the drop of rain that falls into the sea and is gone. We want our lives to be like the pebble that, though small and inconsequential when you hold it in your hand, leaves ever-widening ripples when it contacts the surface of the water. We all want our lives to have that ripple effect, to have a wide sphere of influence, but it is so easy to be fooled by mirages of purpose that soon disappear.

So how do we respond to an addiction born of emptiness and the ubiquitous craving for influence? How can we stop trying to escape but yet discover that we are truly free? I think it starts by realizing that each one of us has a unique role to fill and a unique purpose that God specifically designed with you and me in mind, and with knowing that He will fulfill that purpose for us. It starts by understanding that the identity we have in Christ--as beloved, as valuable, as righteous, as significant, as worthy--is worth far more than any other identity we could create for ourselves. And it starts by acknowledging that we are not working alone to have influence--we have God working through us, empowering us and giving us the grace and strength to carry out the callings He has placed on our lives. Once we start realizing who we really are--worthy, loved, valuable--the crazed pursuit of recognition, honor, and validation can fade into the background as we start to see that who we really are can free us from who others think we are.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dealing with the "Deal With It" Pile

I don't know about you, but I have a huge "deal with it" pile most of the time--partly a literal pile, in the sense that I seem to always have an enormous stack of paperwork and mail to be organized and filed, and partly a metaphorical one--all those stressful "to do's" that never seem to get done and languish on my to do list for weeks, just waiting for me to have the courage to tackle them. Yes, courage, because I don't put off the simply unpleasant things as much as the stressful things--having important make-or-break conversations, sending out professional emails where I'm worried about the response I'll receive, applying for jobs, taking care of finances, etc.

But yesterday, I decided that it was time to Deal With It. First, I was already pretty motivated because of all the extra time I now have because of the competition being done. Next, I decided that I need to free up as much time as I possibly can for studying for finals. And on a side note, doing too much is a real pride issue for me that God has been working on my heart about. I like feeling like Superwoman and making myself out to be the girl who can handle everything and multitask and juggle responsibilities like no other. To me, "I don't know how you handle everything" is a bigger compliment than it really should be. But I can't be Superwoman right now, not like I ever could anyway! And while I really hate saying no and relinquishing responsibilities because I struggle with feeling like it's a sign of weakness, God is slowly but surely teaching me that sometimes, I have to do that and He's asking me to do that.

So, I emailed people at my job in the admissions office and told them that I just wouldn't be able to work anymore this semester because I need time to study. As I knew they would be, they were very understanding, and just like that, I had another 6 hours a week freed up. From there, everything started falling into place, everything I've neglected to deal with in the past few weeks. I emailed the firm where I'm working this summer and confirmed that A) I still have a job (huge sigh of relief), and B) I will start work on May 20th. I had an important conversation with a friend about an issue I've been putting off forever because I've been worried about it damaging our friendship. But as I should have predicted, she was so kind and understanding about it. I sent out a bunch of other emails that had been building up, finished up my FAFSA to get financial aid for next year, applied for some additional loan money to help me with housing deposits and such for the summer, got my eyebrows and lips waxed, got gas, deep cleaned my bathroom, and returned my library books.

Once I got even one of those things done, it was just such a relief that I wanted to keep plowing through all those things that have piled up for so long. I mean, I know exactly why I've put off most of those things: because I'm worried about how they're going to turn out. I had not dealt with the financial aid because I was worried I wouldn't be able to get the loan I needed. I hadn't emailed the firm because I was freaked out that there would be some glitch with me working there that they would tell me about last minute. I hadn't talked to my friend because I was concerned she'd be upset about a decision I'd made. But as I just did one thing after another, I felt more and more relieved going through my day. Every single one of those things that I've literally been on the verge of losing sleep over turned out to be not a big deal after all.

Moral of the story? Just do it because it probably won't be nearly as bad as you're making it out to be. And I need to learn how to relinquish some of the control, how to be ok with saying I can't, and how to stop identifying so much with everything I DO and start learning that I don't have to do everything and be everything. And neither do you.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Catching Up on Life

Y'all: I HAVE MY LIFE BACK!!! Meaning, I am finally done with Moot Court and will no longer have to spend every night in practice plus countless more hours every week researching constitutional law and the Defense of Marriage Act. We had our competition yesterday and today, and while my team didn't make it to the finals, I am so so proud of everyone. We ALL gave the best arguments we've ever given this weekend. There's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of getting up in front of the judges, knowing you know your stuff, and being able to respond to whatever questions they throw your way. Our case was based on the real arguments being heard before the Supreme Court these past couple weeks concerning the constitutionality of DOMA. Our competition rules prohibited us from listening to or reading any of the real oral arguments, so now that it's done, my teammates were like, "I can't wait to go listen to the actual arguments!" Sorry, not me--after pouring everything I've got into this for three months, I'm not sure I ever want to hear about DOMA again! But I'll take a break for awhile and I'm sure sometime I'll check those arguments out.

This is us. These people are like family now (I mean, I've spent tons more time with them since January than I have with my actual family!)
Anyway, I could not be happier that it is done. Don't get me wrong, I have learned so much and it was so worth it to do this competition, but I'm ready to once again have time for my life, like studying for exams in a few weeks. School, sleep, and pretty much everything else has been put on the back burner for this competition, and I need to get back in balance.
I feel like this is going to be a long rambling blog post, but I just feel like there is so much I want to catch my readers up on (there's also a TON of blog posts I've been wanting to write but just haven't had the chance to put them in words yet, so hopefully there will be some good stuff coming soon). Here's some other things that have been going on with me:
The law review book that my article got published in finally went to press! I got 30 little booklets with just my article in them, as well as one copy of the full edition that included it. So that was pretty exciting to see what I wrote in print:
I got to spend a day over spring break with my lovely best friend, Anna, in Asheville:

She has lived in South Korea since 2010, and this is only the second time I've gotten to see her since then, so any time I get with her is pretty precious! As usual, we talked and talked and talked--and talked some more--about absolutely everything: our love lives or the lack thereof, my school, her job, future plans, philosophy, God, psychology, American culture, Korean culture, and what's going on the Supreme Court today (somehow that seems to be our usual list of topics). We also went to some thrift stores, driving around a lot more than was really necessary because I kept missing my turns because we were too absorbed in the conversation. And going back to one of our favorite activities from high school, we went to the mall and tried on endless dresses and took some photos of ourselves in our favorites. Here's mine (love the dress, it's from Charlotte Russe):

Anna and I had lunch at my favorite restaurant in Asheville, this cute little hard-to-find place called Tomato Jam Cafe. This is their amazing chicken salad sandwich with goat cheese and cranberry mustard: 
And she brought me a gift bag of Korean goodies! :)

The rest of spring break (well, the part when I wasn't at school getting ready for the competition) I mostly just hung out with Mom and Dad, relaxed, watched some movies, worked on some class outlines, did some pleasure reading, etc. I finished John Grisham's book The Confession (very good but missing the plot twist I was expecting. Oh well, I can't blame the book for not ending the way I hoped it would!) Speaking of reading, I just put in holds at the local library for about 10 books now that I'll finally be able to do some regular reading again--I can't wait.
Anyway, here's what's on the agenda for the next few weeks: study for exams, get ready for my summer job, finish some law review assignments, and also try to relax and enjoy the spring weather we're finally just starting to have. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Make Time.

So, here's my hopefully inspirational thoughts for this week:

I don't have time to blog.

I don't have time to exercise.

I don't have time to eat healthy.

I don't have time to read intellectually stimulating books.

I don't have time to keep my apartment clean.

I don't have time to read the Bible and pray regularly.

And I'm guessing you don't either. We all have huge commitments and demands on our time, whether it's jobs, school, children, our families, volunteer work, or something else. In my case, I spend about 60 hours a week, and often more, reading cases, preparing oral arguments, doing my work-study job, editing manuscripts, getting ready for meetings, writing papers, preparing for exams, reading, reading, and reading some more. That's just regular law school life, and I would assume that many of you readers have very similar demands on your time no matter what your main responsibilities are.

And I so often fall into the trap of just saying "I don't have time": no time to do any of the things I mentioned earlier, things that are really important to me, good for me, and/ or necessary for keeping my life running smoothly. But it's occurred to me lately: so what? So what if I don't have time? I never have enough time in my day. There will always be an excuse available if I choose to rely on one, and I'm kind of tired of settling for my typical excuses and ready to be better. If you wait till you have time, it will never happen. Make it happen anyway. Go to the gym anyway. Spend some time in prayer anyway. Just do it anyway.

I don't know exactly what this will look like for you, or even what it will look like for me, since I'm just now really starting to make a concerted effort to fit in the Really Important Things no matter how busy I am, regardless of the fact that my Moot Court competition is this Friday and I have an important paper due Thursday. For me, today it meant that I spent 20 minutes running the stairs in my 10-story apartment building even though the day was too jam-packed to make it to the gym. It looked like me coming home from Moot Court practice at 9pm and baking sweet potatoes and cooking brown rice and ground turkey to have food ready for healthy meals the next couple days. It may mean spending less time online to squeeze out a few minutes for prayer, or delegating or rearranging some tasks to get work done as efficiently as possible so that truly important things get done. I am ready to stop settling for less than my best, to stop making excuses, and to stop acting like a busy schedule is a reason to avoid taking care of my home, body, mind, and spirit.

You're always going to be too busy. Just do it. Make time.