• Sheila Harkins

TEEN TUESDAY #10 (Paula)

I'm so very happy to introduce you to Paula today! I was privileged to get to know Paula well during her high school years. She was an encourager to many, a hard worker,and a humble leader. In addition, she had allowed her cancer journey to push her close to the heart of her Heavenly Father, and I could always see her special love for Him. I know you will enjoy hearing from Paula!

Tell us your name &year in university. If you are n ot still a teen, tell us how long it has been since you were a teen! And, some random facts would be fun, too!

My name is Pisudtiporn Tangsirisatian but that’s a mouthful - just call me Paula! I attended ICS for 13 years as a staff kid so it’s one of my home zones in Thailand. I am no longer a teen even though I like to think I am. I am a 20-year-old-about-to-turn-21-in-November emerging adult, so I’ve officially been out of the “teen years” since I turned 20 a year ago.

Random Facts about moi!

I loveee fish, I honestly have a separate stomach just for fish - the WHOLE thing, head to tail, and the only thing I leave is the tongue and bones (unless the whole thing is fried). I’m also just a big foodie person! Aah food. Korean, Indian, Ethiopian, Haitian, Thai, Chinese… you name it! Spicy and spicier is a bonus.

I’m an extroverted introvert! I’m shy but I lovee talking to people, hearing stories, and invest in how God’s story, my story, and your story connect!

I like to people-watch! People are weird, like me, and it’s fun to observe the quirks of simply being human.

I’m homesick, but it has helped strengthen my being independent as well as relate to others struggling with being far away from home.

Some of my coziest home memories is with my doggo.

Please share a little of your background with us.

I call myself an ABC: American-born Chai (Chinese-Thai)! My hometown is Highland Parks, Cook County, Chicago, IL but my home of 5 months old to my freshman year of college is Bangkok, Thailand. I am now a junior attending Calvin College, now changed to Calvin University, in Grand Rapids, MI, USA.

I was born into a Christian family as the youngest of three daughters. Being a (devoted) Christian has always been my choice, and I’ve made that choice since young.

Please share some of your spiritual journey with us.

First picture of my faith journey: Dad sitting up, pillow behind his back, Bible on his lap. Morning or night, middle of day, or any available time, this was an invitation to read the Bible together.

What I especially loved about this time was that my father (and mother) never moralized the stories and passages in the Bible, but posed questions and asked us what questions we had about what we read. This grew in me a mindset of seeking intellect and taking ownership of the values and thoughts I was developing by questioning them. My father’s way of reading and discussing the Bible together extended into countless conversations.

These particular conversations were often conversed in the endless car rides I had with my father from home to school, to the YFC (Youth for Christ) office, back home, and to countless other destinations including the Bumrungrad Hospital. At age 5 ½, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in my white blood cells. My cancer journey has been the most foundational building ground for my faith and one of my happiest childhood times. Looking back, it has shaped my lifelong self-transcendent goal: “Trust God always, be happy, and make friends”. Over the years of friendship drama, parent-child drama, and other minor health concerns, my self-transcendent goal has grown into “Trust God always, be content in the hardships, and make impactful and lasting relationships”.

During your teen years, what were your biggest areas of vulnerability and struggle?

Two things! 1. Feeling like I had to be different from my non-Christian friends and struggling when they wouldn’t see that difference or saw it and didn’t accept it: I felt like I was the one who welcomed so many new kids my 9th grade year that they became a group and then next thing I know, I’m the one who feels most left out. The one who felt bandwagoned against or the one who gets the butt end of inside jokes and friendship drama. I was open-minded then like I am now but I had not yet the tools or skills to articulate that into healthy, direct conversations. This challenged my faith but definitely has had a huge part in shaping the unashamed part of it as well as my taking ownership of my own faith since young.

2. Feeling like I had to prove my character and faith to my parents: I love them and would not trade them for any other parents out there and I know they love me just the same, if not more. But to put it simply, I had parent-child drama concerning mismatched expectations of where my priorities should lay and where they perceived I laid my priorities. I know they prioritized my faith over my studies but it felt like the opposite. I was active about prioritizing my faith and relationships by attending Friday Nights at ICS. However, due to stress at home and having all the attention the last bird in the nest could have, I did not verbalize this in conversation. Senior year came along with not just the stress of applying to colleges but some more minor friendship drama and my dog having to be put down that year. I had an amazing life everywhere else but at home it was a mess and I felt like a hypocrite: why is my character like this at home? Is this really my character? Why don’t I get any grace at home but just truth? These stressing questions only made focusing on academics that much harder.

What has God taught you through that journey?

* Refer to the above :) *

The most effective and best way to anyone’s heart is true and genuine relationship. This has also led me to my second most important goals in life subsequent to my self-transcendent goal: “Being shy before being yourself leads a very selfish life.” I carry this life-lesson from high school and it has helped made life even much more enriching than it was in high school for me.

The biggest two lessons I’ve learnt is that:

(1) communication with parents will be hard at some point but if you work towards reconciliation and take that first step of saying sorry, the tension will slowly fade over the years. Now that I have physical space and time away from my parents, I miss them more than I could ever be mad and frustrated at them. And it’s okay to have a dysfunctional relationships - every family has its dysfunction and it’s part of what makes the family beautifully broken. (2) In John 16:33 God promises us peace and it can take years of prayers to finally receive it. It took until my senior trip walking among waves under the expanse of His star-quality night sky that I finally felt the revelation of my prayer for peace in my heart despite the continuous stressful home life be fulfilled. Ever since then, every song that reminds me of the ocean, waves, the beach, sand, and being at the foot of the cross has been my constant reminder that His peace is with me despite the hardships.

What would you like to say to encourage teens?

Aah honestly I could ramble on and on (as I sorta have in this blog). However, the first two I would prioritize over anything: 1. Ask yourself honestly: where does God fit in my story? Where does my story fit in His? I’m not asking you to “be Christian”, I’m asking you to ask yourself if you want to try following Jesus’ steps. And if you already do, why do you? How does God’s story and your story intersect with others’ stories? In another context, challenge your character and your moral values as you know it. The world out there is big and scary and knowing where you stand helps it to not be overwhelming. And if you don’t know where you stand, talk to people around you! Find at least one person who you know cares for you because they’re more likely to have the intention of speaking life into you!

2. You never know the impact you will have on people! You always - ALWAYS - have the right to act on injustice of any kind. You are never in the position to not do what’s right - you are your own person and justice is always right. It is empowering for both yourself and others - even without acknowledgement - when you don’t shy away from doing justice!

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