July 27, 2015

Am I In Love?

Howdy, everyone! So the Love is In the Air series has been going quite well so far! Thank you for reading up on it and leaving your wonderful comments! And thank you so much to those of you who have followed my blog. It means the world to me that you guys take the time to read what I write--because everything I write on this blog is for you! That being said, if you have any questions or suggestions, please don't hesitate to leave them in the comments and I will always do my best!

Have any of you guys ever asked, "What is it like to be in love?" or "I love ______"? The question that I'm trying to get to is: How do we know if we love someone?

But maybe to answer this question, we must first ask, "What is love?"

I think that society tells us that love is this:

I mean, who isn't a sucker for those stories where boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, and everything is happy?

But if I were to conjure up an image of love, it would have to be something like this:

This is a picture of my grandparents <3
We want to believe that love is this strong wildfire that sets our hearts on fire, a feeling that consumes us from the inside out. I think we want to believe love is a mutual feeling that we have with someone--a crazy, strong feeling that we act upon in our youth. We want to believe that love is a feeling because it is simple. Feelings are obvious. Feelings are only one aspect in our lives that we consider.
We know, however, that love is so much more than a feeling. It is a relationship. It is what you prioritize. But above all, love is an action.
Love involves doing. I mean, just think about it. If you love your friend, in a bromance or best friend sort of way, don't you do stuff for them? Aren't you there for them when they need help? Don't you offer comfort or advice when they're feeling down? How can you call someone your friend if you guys don't depend on each other? Well, the same goes for romantic love.
That being said, the answer to the question "Do I love _______?" can be answered if you rephrase the question into, "Am I willing to make significant sacrifices for this person?" or "Will I put this person's needs before my own?"
Answering whether you love somebody or not is a simple thing to do, but it isn't easy. But more about it in the next post ;)
In the meantime, smile on. 

July 23, 2015

10 Tips for the First Date

So you've gone with that gut feeling and are going out on a date soon. Whoa! How did that happen, right? First dates are exciting. It's hard to know what to expect, how the other person will be, how your own nerves will be, etc. But--have no fear! Here are ten things (in no particular order) that we can do to help make the experience run as smoothly as it can.

  1. Dress comfortably and nicely. Let's face it, nobody wants to go on a date with someone who doesn't look like they care. So if you have something that's nicer than, say, a T-shirt, that is always a good option. But no need to wear anything so crazy that you're thinking about how tight or loose something is the whole time! Comfort can do wonders to make you feel confident on the first date.
  2. Start off with something active. And by active, I don't mean in the sense of running a marathon. I mean to do something that requires some attention. Like taking a walk along a nice bridge or park, or listening to music, or mini golfing--an activity that will engage you a little bit. This way, if there is a pause in a conversation, it is easy to come up with something new to talk about ("This is a nice view"), and even if there is silence it's not necessarily uncomfortable or awkward because there is stuff out there to draw both people's attention. 
  3. Make eye contact. This one's just a communication tip. Making eye contact shows the other person that you're paying attention to what they're saying, and that you're interested in the conversation. It is an easy way to make a connection with people.
  4. Don't put too much pressure on this date. It is only the first date, after all! Just look at the date as a time to have fun with someone who you want to get to know better. It's only one date that you've agreed to--not a lifetime commitment to a spouse.
  5. Be on time. Show that you value the other's person's time and efforts! This tip may be coming from a Type-A personality, but I must say that a guy who meets me exactly on time--or even plans to arrive a couple minutes ahead of the date--makes a far better impression than the guy who is ten minutes late after I've gone through a whole routine to be ready for him on point. Being on time is an easy way of showing the other person that you respect them and are excited to hang out with them. Of course, things happen, so timeliness isn't a make-or-break deal, but I say it is always good to make an effort.
  6. Sit next to each other. If this date involves food, try getting a booth where you can sit next to each other. This tip sort of depends on your comfort level, but to me, I tend to feel a little self conscious when I'm eating in front of someone who I want to impress. Eating isn't the most attractive thing you could be doing, after all! (I mean, just think about eating a salad... Is there something stuck in my teeth?) So if you sit next to your date, s/he will think, "Oh, they want to sit closer to me. That's cool!" Little do they know...
  7. Have fun! I mentioned this a little bit in Tip #4, but I just wanted to reiterate the having fun part! Either you or the other person put in some effort planning this date, so make the most of the moment by living in it.
  8. Don't be afraid of conversation. And what I mean by this is, don't be afraid to direct conversation one way or another. Some people like going through small talk, others like getting into those real conversations discussing politics, interests, and emotions right away. If you feel like you've only been having small talk and haven't learned more about the other person, just ask a question that steers the conversation toward something deeper. On the other hand, if your date is talking on and on and on about something s/he really loves but you have heard enough about it, don't be afraid to (politely) shift topics and find different connections by saying something to the effect of, "That is awesome. I kind of feel the same way when I do..." or ask a question that mildly redirects, like "Why do you like doing _____?" or "When did you start doing _____?" Hopefully, this will get the conversation to get flowing naturally if it isn't already!
  9. Have confidence. Did you know that confidence is one of the most attractive qualities in a human being? You have a lot of things to be confident about, whether it's who you are, what you do, where you've been. So don't go into the date thinking, "Oh, if I mess up, they're not going to like me anymore." Think positively and smile!
  10. Be yoself! This is a really cliché one but it is absolutely true! There is a reason why you're going on a date with this person--it's because they see something attractive about you (regardless about if you were the one asking or asked).  Be happy with who you are as a person because you were wonderfully and fearfully made. Take it from somebody who's seen it happen firsthand: You will avoid many problems in the future by simply doing what comes naturally to you. So, be honest with yourself and your date.
Good luck with that first date! And as always, smile on.

July 18, 2015

Love at First Sight?

One of you guys recently asked me if I believe in love at first sight. It was kind of interesting because, well, I've never really thought about it long and hard before. Certainly not long and hard enough to write a solid post about it yet. As I let it marinate for a while, I realized that there may actually be a lot to say about this...

It's a common thing to say "Don't judge a book by its cover," but let's face it: First impressions count. Especially when I reached college and started meeting hundreds of people (as opposed to, say, my middle school that only 60 kids in the 6th-8th grades), I've found myself liking certain people due this little feeling that I get when I'm around them.

Before I transferred universities, I hung out with these two kids, named Eric and Eric. Eric W. I met through a mutual friend, and our personalities just kind of clicked. We didn't think that we'd see each other around much until our friend groups melded together, and then we eventually became best friends--close enough that he was able to tell me some of his darkest secrets. The way I met Eric T. is a more interesting story, though. Basically, he dressed up as a fairy for Halloween, and when I met him, we just instantly became best friends. (He was in my new profile picture the next day. The legitimacy of our best friendship was pretty hardcore.)

There was another instance when I decided that I liked my Organic Chemistry TA the first time we talked. The conversation went a little something like this:

     "Hey, I forgot to staple my lab report."
     "That means you're gonna fail then!"
     "..." (I was thinking: This guy is either super cool or is the biggest jerk ever!)
     "Haha, just kidding! I'd never fail someone for a silly thing like that. Here's a stapler."

Simple as it sounds, it was right then and there that I decided that my TA was cool and maybe Organic Chemistry wouldn't be as bad as I was thinking it would go.

On one hand, I could list off a whole bunch of times when a positive first impression led to a good friendship. We can gain a lot of insight into a person from the first time we meet them, especially if we ourselves are willing to be open and vulnerable about who we are too. Actually, it's a known fact that the average American decides whether s/he likes his/her date within the first 20 minutes of the date.

But on the other hand, "Oh this person seems cool" is way different from falling in love with him/her at first sight.

I guess part of it depends on what you think love means. When it comes to romantic love, I think of it as dedicating yourself to making the other person happy. It involves seeing marriage in the future. And I'm sorry if I offend you in being extremely blunt, but being willing to marry somebody and being willing to make major sacrifices for this person you've just seen/met...it's a little crazy.

Seeing someone across the way and feeling a connection--that's a connection, not really love. It could potentially turn into love in the future, and if you have a feeling and reason that you should pursue someone, then try it and see where it takes you. But true love takes time. It takes time to trust someone, to place your hopes in them and to share your dreams with them. It takes time to show them how much you care and to learn about their character and flaws. It takes time before you can say to another person, "I'm ready to fight with you. Through whatever life throws at us, through whatever valleys we must cross. I'm ready to fight for you, even if you hurt me. I want to rejoice with you in your joys and comfort you when you weep. I'm ready to dedicate a big part of my life to you."

Long story short: Attraction at first sight? Undoubtedly. Love at first sight? Unlikely.

What do you guys think about love at first sight? I know there are some opinions that must be different from mine--I do have much to experience, after all! Please let me know in the comments below!

Smile on :)

July 14, 2015

When Your Heart and Mind Conflict

My heart has taken me to some pretty cool places. The career I am aspiring to reach, some of the closest friends I have, starting Taekwondo despite a large amount of fear, a huge part of my personality--this blog--all exist in my life because I've followed my heart. But, my heart has gotten me into some trouble, too. Actually, it's gotten me really hurt before when I followed it foolishly. During these times, I think that if I'd thought about things just a little more, I wouldn't have had to go through as much pain as I did.

Sometimes, it seems like what our hearts want is at war with what our brains are telling us. I personally experienced this while I was thinking about gay marriage as a Christian. My heart told me to love and accept regardless of gender and sexuality, but my mind told me that Scriptures says that homosexuality and perversion of sexuality are sins. In this case, I let the thoughts and feelings marinate for a good while until I could finally formulate my overall viewpoint on the topic (which can be seen on this post #shamelessplug).

When it comes to loving another person, however, it oftentimes may not be so easy because we don't have to worry about how it'll impact us--it will impact the other person as well. Also, love is really a gamble. It is connected with your identity, sense of well-being, and happiness... Risking parts of these elements that define you is no joke. When I have a crush, and I'm wondering what I should do about my feelings, wondering if he feels the same way about me, this is how I feel:

But with a lot more violent hooks to the face.
What are we to do when the heart and mind are conflicting? Whenever I experience this inner war, it is either because I feel like I should do something, but there are many reasons against doing it. Like for example, when I was in a previous relationship, there was something that my partner did that bothered me. I wanted to speak my mind about it so that it would stop hurting me, but at the same time I didn't want him to get upset about it, make it too big of a deal, or get into a fight about it. Are the risks worth it?

The best way to deal with conflict between the mind and heart is to find a common ground between both sides. This is a very simple concept, but it's not as easy to execute most times. Here are two things to remind yourself when your mind is fighting your heart:
  1. Ask yourself what your intentions are. Do you think that entering a relationship would be better for you and the other person? Well, hopefully it would benefit both! Does a problem between you and your partner affect you or him/her negatively so that you should talk about it? Be real with yourself and try to understand your own feelings before you try explaining them to another person.
  2. Ask for advice. Sometimes, we feel like we are going through things alone. Truth is, we're never alone. It might sound a little creepy at first, but in reality, this is the greatest comfort for human beings. You could always talk to someone who knows you well, or someone who is in a relationship that understands what you're going through--or you could go to the Bible. Learning your friends' perspectives on your situation will give you an unbiased opinion that'll help you weed through all your feelings. (Just don't be offended if they happen to be brutally honest!)
And finally, here are some tips for you should you decide to go for making a change:
  1. Don't be afraid of being vulnerable! We tend to want to avoid feeling stressed, anxious, or crazy. Actually, we really want to avoid being vulnerable. It is pretty scary putting yourself out there for something or someone, especially when we could potentially be hurt or rejected (or both). But you know what? When it comes to love, it is all about being vulnerable. I look at the purest, strongest, most beautiful form of love when I see Jesus on the cross. He died for me. He died because he wanted my sins to be washed away. He didn't expect me to dedicate my life to him. He didn't even expect me to believe in him. He gave up his dignity, freedom--his life--to save you. Without requiring anything. And he conquered death as a result. If God loves us like that, sinking down to the absolute lowest level and dying a scoundrel's death, we could sum up the courage to do this one thing for this one relationship. There is something beautiful in vulnerability, after all.
  2. Be gentle, but firm. So you've decided what you want and have summed up the courage to bring it up. Be firm in your intentions. You want to make a change for the better. So hold onto that! But, don't go in hot-headed, waving your fist and screaming "I'M RIGHT!!" Be able to calmly explain how you feel, and also be ready to listen to their thoughts.
  3. Be willing to compromise. I mean, this is a relationship we're talking about and not the United States Congress. Don't think of the situation as a war.
  4. If things don't go your way, it's okay. No need to beat yourself up if things don't go the way you intended them to. You can only try your best, and it wouldn't be right if you controlled the other person. So hold your head up high if you did your best!

Smile on.

July 6, 2015

My Mind is on Love!

Hello, my friends! The last post was more on the serious side, but it is definitely good to be serious or political every now and then. We each have our own, individual thoughts. If we don't express what we think, then what's the point of it all?

Anyway, just thinking about all the things that are going on in my life, and thinking about the hashtag (#LoveWins) that has been exploding on the Internet about the legalization of gay marriage--my mind has been on love. Romantic love.

I haven't really written a whole lot on what I think of romance yet, have I guys? It's kind of weird, especially since I think that it is such a big part of our culture. How many of us grew up watching movies about falling in love? How many of us see getting married as part of our happily ever after? Despite all of this, I think that love is also something that's very misunderstood in our society. It is so complex, so thrilling.

You guys, it's time.

Time to do a series on love!

What are some must-speak-of topics that you have in mind? Would like to write a guest post on this topic to share your thoughts and story? Please leave a comment or email me at smilesnomatter@gmail.com!

Smile on :)

July 2, 2015

A Christian's Opinion on Sexuality

As you probably already know, gay marriage was legalized in the U.S. This is probably the most interesting of all the news my Facebook feed has heard in a long time. It is really not surprising to me that gay marriage is legal. Our society has been progressing towards one that values equality and equity. Politically, this is a good thing. It is a good thing that we want people to have the same opportunities despite their race, ethnicity, sex, and gender. I think that it's a rather noble goal to overcome the long-standing barriers everybody must face concerning privilege and injustice. So politically, it doesn't make sense to me if we were to support women's rights, support interracial relationships, support equality--and not support gay marriage. Does anyone want a society that is based on gray areas and blurred lines?

But as a Christian, what are we to do? The Bible tells us that homosexuality is a sin (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9). There is really no denying that God's creation of sex is meant to be between a married man and woman. God wants us to prosper. He wants us to build up families, raise children to spread his love, comfort, and peace. He wants us to celebrate life!

God made sex to be a beautiful thing. It symbolizes love, vulnerability, and trust between a couple. We need to keep in mind that this beautiful gift has a purpose, though--to reproduce! Are we losing sight of this purpose?

Think of a flower. If you were to have this one, beautiful flower that you can offer to a person that you think you love. Giving this flower to anybody involves ripping the petals off this flower and cutting the stem into pieces. The value of that flower decreases as you give more and more pieces to more and more people. Sex is a lot like that, but more--it's a contract between a man and a woman. Giving it to multiple partners makes it lose not only its value, but its entire meaning.

Christians should be sad about the sexual immorality that our society has embraced. It is sad that this celebration of life has become perverted into something that advertisers use to sell products. It is sad that pornography has become a multibillion dollar industry in the United States alone. It is sad that rape isn't rare. And ultimately, it is sad that society has lost sight of the beauty--the meaning--of sex. Even marriage is losing its meaning... Just look at the divorce rates these days.

Homosexuality is a sin, but so is every other perversion of sexuality. No matter what gender/sexuality we each affiliate with, we all face tremendous temptations and trials.

It is up to us to remind those around us how precious our bodies are, how precious marriage is, and how precious sex is. It is up to us to hold ourselves accountable to God. Sin isn't only between you and one other party--it's between you and God. Does this strike any awe to you guys?

But let's face it, there are a few Christians that have gone around this the wrong way. There is a difference between being constructive and being judgmental. When I think about how to deal with another person's sin, I think of how Jesus dealt with others' sins in the Bible. He did not avoid confronting people about their sin. He brought it out into the light. The worst thing you've ever done? Jesus knows it. Jesus didn't just acknowledge sin, though. He healed it. He said, "Yeah, you've messed up a ton in your life. You know what, though? I love you. I am here for you. I'm here to take away the pain and trauma that you've brought upon yourself. I have so much love for you that I am wiping away all the darkness in your life--wiping it away so clean that it'll be as if you were born again."

There is no way I can do what Jesus did. The amount of love in my heart is a single drop compared to his oceans. Jesus made things pretty simple for us. He summed up how Christians should act in two sentences: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength... [And] love your neighbor as yourself."

How would I want somebody to treat me when it comes to my sin? Naturally, I'd want to be able to talk about it. I'd want to talk to someone who was patient and compassionate. Someone who didn't push for details or draw their own conclusions. Someone who is pragmatic, wise, and understanding. I look for somebody who considers him/herself as a friend. I'm not looking for someone to talk down on me, but someone who sincerely wants the best for me.

So this is how I want to treat those around me. With kindness, sincerity, patience, and love. Many people consider all of these to be signs of weakness, but although there is darkness all around us, it doesn't give us any reason to hide our light.

The problem of expressing gender and sexuality doesn't belong to the LGBTQ community. It is inherently a human problem.

Quick disclaimer: These are my thoughts and opinions looking through a Christian lens, but I do not claim to represent all Christians' viewpoints. We all differ in what we think, after all!

What do you think about the legalization of gay marriage and hypersexualization in our society? Does your political lens differ from your religious lens? What do you think we should do to address this situation? Let me know in the comments below!

Smile on.
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