2011 – Year in Review

A brief timeline of how the year went for me. I know I’m not usually very brief, but I’m going to be as brief as possible this time. I’ll go through each month and list the most interesting, important, or influential things that happened to me. I won’t go into details, I’ll just give a short description of what happened. (I might go back and reflect on some of these things later, and write a separate entry for them.)

January – Decided to get re-baptized. I had been baptized as a baby, but this was different. I chose to get baptized this time, and boy, has it been an amazing ride since then. God has done some incredible things in my life, and I’ve gotten to see him work in so many ways. This really set the tone for me for the whole year.

February – Helped with Disciple Now, a youth retreat with a neighboring church. A lot of fun, and a great experience. Also, attended the Gathering.

March – Went to the HIM conference, a Christian convention in Honolulu. It was a great time of learning and growth, and was a lot of fun.

April – Helped make this Easter video with a kid from my church:

May – Started working at an elementary school.

June – Summer school started, and I began leading 5th & 6th grade.

July – Went to Cambodia.

August – Came back from Cambodia / the regular school year started at work, and I began leading 2nd grade. Also, started playing sanshin at various bon dances.

September – Turned 25, and I started this blog. (Previously my postings were just posted on facebook or shown or emailed to various people. I decided it was time to get a more organized and consolidated place to post.)

October – Decided to start playing baseball again, and began work outs. Also, started leading Royal Ambassador’s at my church (a missions education group for boys in grades 1-6.)

November – Started teaching Children’s Sunday School at church as a substitute teacher.

December – Decided to go back to school, and registered for the next semester.

It was a lot of fun, but not everything that happened this year was spectacular. I was sick a lot. I had so many bouts of tonsillitis that I lost track. If we added up the total amount of time I was sick or recovering from a sickness, I’d say it was at least 1/4th of the year. My bouts of tonsillitis usually lasted about 2 weeks at a time, plus an additional 2 weeks to recover and get back up to full strength. It really sapped me of a lot of energy. But I know God used this to teach and grow me. Thankfully, it seems that he has healed me of this disease.

But overall, it was a great year, a year in which I really grew with God. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for me in 2012.

Big Girls Don’t Cry…But Little Girls Do

Some of the kids, like Mary Ann, stand next to me, then bang their head into me before asking whatever question is on their mind. It’s their way of getting my attention. A simple, “Mr. Robert?” would work just as well, but I guess it’s not as fun that way. Mary Ann also likes to hug me from behind, or hug me and face-plant into my stomach.

Mary Ann is a really nice girl. I think she’s a bit more mature than the average 2nd grader. But for some reason I frequently find Mary Ann and Michelle butting heads. They tend to disagree and have conflicting ideas and opinions, different ways of doing things. (They also happen to be the same height. They’re the two shortest kids in the 2nd grade. That doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but I thought I’d just throw that in there.) Michelle, on the other hand, is also a very nice girl, but being one of the youngest kids in the 2nd grade (she’s young enough to be a 1st grader) she’s one of the more immature of the bunch.

Mary Ann is an only child. I find that only children and oldest children tend to struggle with pride. So when Michelle sees things a different way from Mary Ann, it’s sometimes difficult for her to comprehend.

One day they were playing jump rope, and for whatever reason, Mary Ann and Michelle just weren’t seeing eye to eye. (Which is funny, because they’re both the same height, so seeing eye to eye should be no problem for them. Haha. I know. Bad joke.) Mary Ann was doing her best to be patient and to try and work things out with Michelle, but they just couldn’t seem to get on the same page. Finally her frustrations got to her, and she put her face in her hands and walked to a corner, crying silently.

“Uh oh,” I thought. Some of the kids make a big show of crying, and I don’t like that. I can tell when they’re crying just for the attention. And then there are kids like Mary Ann who try their best not to cry when their feelings are hurt. But sometimes they just can’t help it.

I went over to Mary Ann to try to console her.

“Are you okay?” I asked. But she wasn’t responding.

To my surprise, Michelle came over to try and cheer her up. They had been arguing just a moment before, and now she had done a complete 180, and seemed to have a lot of compassion for her classmate, saying that they could do things Mary Ann’s way. But Mary Ann just kept her face in her hands, walking away not because she was trying to avoid Michelle, but because she was trying to stop crying.

“Just give her some time,” I said to Michelle.

A few moments later, after she regained her composure, Mary Ann was back playing as if nothing had happened, and the two girls got along.

2nd Grade – The age where kids might argue and bicker, but they’ll put it behind them at a moments notice and seek reconciliation, especially when they can see that their friend’s feelings have been hurt. And they’re all friends. No cliques here. (Well, the boys are friends with the boys, and the girls are friends with the girls. Boys and girls aren’t friends. Not at this age.)

Inspiration


The following video is about a bunch of people who were all very different from one another. They each did different things, and lived mostly in different times. But they also have a lot in common. They were all rejected by many people, people who were supposedly more knowledgeable and successful than they were. They were told they were no good at what they were doing, and that they should try something else. But all of these people had a vision of what could be achieved if only they stuck with it. And when they refused to give up, people thought they were crazy, delusional, or just wasting their time.

All of these people went on to become legends. They rose to the tops of their respected fields, and changed the world around them. To this day we feel their influences, and I’m sure we will continue to for a long time to come.

“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”

The Beatles were rejected by Decca recording…but they were also rejected by many other recording companies before they finally found one that would give them a chance. Walt Disney dealt with so many people who thought he could never achieve his dreams. He had this idea for a film project that people thought was crazy. His own wife thought it was doomed to fail. He invested all of his savings into it, and even mortgaged his house in order to pay for it. People around him called it “Disney’s Folly.”  But he had a vision of what this project could do. That film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and turned the Walt Disney corporation into what it is today.

Visionaries are rarely understood by anyone when they’re in the process of making dreams come true. Like everyone, they have their good moments, and they have their bad moments. But even when they’re doing well, people around them don’t always understand the bigger picture. Really though, that’s okay. If everyone understood a vision, it would no longer be a vision, would it? Even after Thomas Edison invented the quadruplex telegraph, did anyone really think he would go on to contribute some of the most influential inventions in history? Even after Abraham Lincoln won his first election and became a state representative, did anyone really expect him to eventually become the president who would keep America from falling apart, while leading it through a crisis in which we saw economic modernization and the end of slavery?

Everyone dreams. Some people dream only at night and when they wake they leave their dreams behind, keeping them only as wishful thinking, often forgetting that they had even dreamt at all. And then there are people who dream awake, who refuse to let someone else’s skepticism bring them down. In doing so they become a dangerous adversary to the opposition, for even if the entire world were to think them worthless, they would be able to rise above it, for the worthy dream of one person is worth far more than the words and actions of millions who were too disdainful to try.

“Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.”

MLB player helps fight human trafficking

Stop Sex Slavery

 

As you may or may not know, I’m a huge baseball fan. There’s a player named RA Dickey. He came up with the Seattle Mariners (my favorite team), and is now playing for the New York Mets. Unlike some major league players, who were drafted out of high school or college, given big signing bonuses, and touted as “the next big star,” RA Dickey was never a shoe-in to make it big. He worked hard to get to where he is today.

See, Dickey is a pitcher. When he first came up, he pitched the way most pitchers do, using traditional pitches like a fastball, curveball, slider, and change up. But after struggling for years, he reinvented himself, and became a knuckleball pitcher. Knuckleballers are rare, especially these days, since it takes great skill to succeed as one. Professional baseball is a cut-throat process. There’s always someone trying to take your spot. It’s so extremely competitive that scores of players are routinely fighting for jobs. Countless players are cut every year, and are forced to retire. So for Dickey to try something as risky as becoming a knuckleballer took a lot of courage. It was an arduous task he undertook, but his hardwork paid off, and now he has a multi-year contract with the Mets.

During the off season most players go on vacation, or spend time at home with their families. But this off season Dickey decided to do some charity work. He scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in order to raise money and awareness for a charity in India that fights human trafficking. The Mets told Dickey that if he got hurt during the climb, his contract would be voided, and he would lose millions of dollars.  But he resolved to carry it out, feeling the cause was worth it.

The charity he did this for is called the Bombay Teen Challenge, aimed at stopping sex slavery in Bombay (Mumbai.)

“I have daughters 9 and 8 years old, so it’s a cause that really rings true to me,” said Dickey.

“Any time I can leverage the platform of being a major league baseball player…You just don’t hear professional athletes doing things like this in the off season. It got a lot of traction, and because of that we were really able to raise a lot of awareness for the Bombay Teen Challenge.”

I’m glad to see him say these things. I think it’s really important for celebrities to use their positions of influence as a way of raising awareness for important causes.

What the video doesn’t mention is how difficult it was for Dickey to make it as a major league player. He worked so hard to succeed, and he risked it all for a cause he believed was too important to ignore.

On Writing

I’m a slow writer. I usually start writing something, put it on hold, pick it up again a week or so later, put it on hold again, then maybe – maybe – I might get around to finishing it in a few months. I kid you not, most of the things I’ve posted here I started writing months before I actually got around to posting them. I don’t know why I do that. I still have a lot of unfinished articles I’m planning on finishing.

So it’s been a few days since my last post. It’s not that I’ve been busy – I mean, I have been busy, but that’s not what’s kept me from posting. I was busy before, but I still found time to post. And no, it wasn’t the internet blackout either. That only lasted for a day. (WordPress.com participated in the blackout, so I wasn’t able to access my blog that day, and I’m assuming you weren’t either.) There has been a lot on my mind, a lot of change going on, and not for the better, so it seems anyway. A lot of times I let negative things bring me down, and when that happens I become very unproductive. Hence the reason why I haven’t posted.

But I try to remember the story of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, but then became the head servant (a prominent, lucrative position) to a wealthy man in Egypt. Things seemed to be looking up for him. But just when things started to look good for Joseph, misfortune struck again. The man’s wife accused him of doing something he didn’t do, and he was thrown into jail for a couple years. While in prison he interpreted a dream for a fellow prisoner, predicting that the prisoner would be released shortly. His prediction came true, but the prisoner neglected to do anything for Joseph after he was freed, leaving Joseph shafted again. To top it all off, let’s remember that Joseph’s mom had passed away when he was young. Joseph experienced a lot of hardship early in life.

But  things changed for Joseph. He became the second most powerful person in Egypt (second only to the Pharaoh), which was the most powerful kingdom on earth at the time. Joseph predicted the world was in for a terrible famine, and because of his position, he was able to prepare Egypt for it. Because he was prepared for it, he was able to keep a lot of people from starving to death – including his own family.

God used Joseph’s trials for good, tremendous good.  If Joseph had never gone through what he did, he never would have become second-in-command of Egypt (a position that made Joseph incredibly wealthy.) And if he had never been second-in-command, he never would have been able to save his family from starving. If the line of Jacob had starved there never would have been the kingdom of Israel, and if that had never happened, Jesus never would have been born to us. God not only rewarded Joseph abundantly for remaining faithful during his trials, but also used Joseph in ways that were so much bigger than any one person could have imagined.

We may be disappointed when things don’t turn out the way we had hoped, and we may find ourselves in situations that seem impossible for anything good to come out of. But God uses our trials to do amazing things in ways that we could not have realized beforehand, not only in our lives, but also in the lives of our family, and others around us. We just need to be faithful to God, and not let bitterness creep into our thoughts, and God will reward us and use us in remarkable ways.

 

 

How-Many-Girlfriends-Do-You-Have?

Some of the kids were playing jump rope and asked me to play with them. They asked me to jump in the middle.

The girls started swinging the rope, singing: “How-many-girlfriends-do-you-have?”

“What…?” I asked. But they had already started to swing, so I had to jump.

They were counting, and every jump meant I had another girlfriend. “1, 2, 3, 4…” I ended up with 36.

“Wow, you have a lot of girlfriends!” said the kids.

“That’s not a good thing,” I replied.

Every couple of weeks or so they ask me if I have a girlfriend, checking, I guess, to see if anything has changed since the last time they asked. Kelsea, who is the biggest matchmaker of the group, keeps close tabs on this.

“Kelsea,” I said. “Tell you what. I will let you know if I get a girlfriend. Okay? You don’t have to ask all the time. If I get a girlfriend you’ll be the first person I tell.” She might also be the only person I’d tell. I’m not big on telling people things. But anyway, I don’t think it’s going to stop her from asking.

If the kids see me with any female roughly my age outside of the normal work environment (meaning, outside of the normal females they see me working with), they freak out. And if they see me with multiple girls, they freak out even more.

“You lied to us! You have two girlfriends!”

“No,” I said. “Those are my coworkers.”

“You lie!”

The irony of it all is that I’m so honest with the kids.

Some of the boys were snickering, thinking it’s cool that I have “so many girlfriends.”

One of my coworkers walked by.

“There’s your girlfriend,” said a boy we’ll call Ryan.

“No. She’s not,” I said.

“Yes she is. I saw you with her.”

“She’s my coworker. And one of my other coworkers was there with us. She was there too.”

“So you have two girlfriends!?”

“No. We’re coworkers, and sometimes we hang out together.” I don’t think they believed me.

Later, they asked me again to play jump rope. So I got in the middle, and they started chanting, “How-many-girl-friends-do-you-have?”

I felt this was a good opportunity to teach them a moral lesson. So I jumped once, and stopped.

“One,” I said. “Because you should only have one girlfriend.”

Girls, Dogs, and Tomatos

One day Yuna asked me to help her carry her backpack since it was heavy. I offered to carry it for her, but she didn’t want me to.

“Can you just hold the top?” she asked, referring to the handle at the top of the backpack used to hang it up. She wanted me to hold the handle while she walked with her backpack on, which would help take some of the weight off.

“Um…Yuna…I don’t want to do that. It’s like I have you on a leash.”

“Yeah,” she said. “I like to be on a leash. I did it before at home! Like a dog.”

“Um…” I said. Really. What am I supposed to say to that? “That’s cool…but we can’t do that at school.”

The next day Yuna came up to me carrying a folded piece of paper.

“This is for you!” she said. “But don’t open it till you get home!”

I wear those shorts that have lots of pockets on them. She stuffed the paper into my lowest pocket. But just a moment later she decided to show it to her friends, so she reached into my pocket, grabbed the paper, unfolded it, and showed it to them, while still making sure that I couldn’t see it. Her friends laughed and said, “That’s cute! And also funny.”

After showing all her friends, Yuna folded the paper and stuffed it back into my pocket.

“Promise, okay? Promise you won’t look at it till you get home!”

“Okay, I promise.”

“Pinky promise me?”

“Okay, I pinky promise.”

I had absolutely no idea what was on that paper, or why she wanted me to wait till I got home to look at it.

So I opened the paper when I got home. Turns out it was a drawing of a girl holding a dog on a leash…or rather, a dog holding a girl on a leash…or something like that. See, the dog’s head was on the girl’s body, and the girl’s head was on the dog’s body. The girl looked just like Yuna. Next to it was a picture of what I thought was a baby holding a rattle. She’s a good drawer.

Yuna's Drawing

[Sorry it’s blurry. I don’t have a camera. All I have is the camera that comes on my cell phone, but the resolution isn’t good.]

“That was a nice picture you drew,” I told her the next day. “It was funny.”

Yuna is a very outgoing girl, but she has her shy moments. “I remembered you’d said the backpack was like a leash,” she said bashfully.

I laughed. “Yeah. The girl looks just like you,” I said.

She glared up at me. “It’s not me!”

“Oh. Then who is it?”

“Just a girl!”

“Oh okay,” I said. “That was also a nice baby you drew.”

“What baby?” she asked.

“You know, the baby you drew right next to the dog and the girl, the one holding the rattle.”

“It’s a tomato!” she said, stomping her foot. I think I offended her. Of course it’s tomato. Duh. I should’ve known that. I mean, what kid doesn’t like drawing tomato’s?

I love it when kids draw for me.