daughter day one

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”Luke 8:48

“Daughter.”

In a time and culture where fathers advocated for their daughters, this woman came to Jesus alone and ashamed. She was known to all as unclean, and there was no father to defend her or speak on her behalf.

Upon touching His cloak, she was healed from her ailment, from what made her unclean.

Yet, it is the word “daughter” that restores her identity and heals her soul. In a situation where no other defended her, Jesus chose to be her father. With one word, Jesus filled the lack and accepted her. She was clean. She was directly addressed. She was seen―seen by a man who would call her His child.

I have always been uncomfortable with this relationship of father and daughter. It is the identity of God that I relate to the least. While I never expected God to hurt or betray me in this role, I simply didn’t get it. I didn’t understand who I was in this relationship or who He was. I didn’t know how to be a daughter to a father, and I didn’t know how a father would normally relate to a daughter.

Several months ago, I felt that God was inviting me to discover this with Him. I felt that He wanted me to know Him fully, and this was the relationship that was most awkward for us.

So I did what any daughter who grew up with an absent father would.

I turned around and walked―no―ran the other way. I could not get away fast enough.

Because I know that exploring this would ultimately bring me back to the father I never had, the father who never wanted me.

I spent years trying to heal, forgive, and move forward from the abandonment I experienced at his hand. While in college, I had finally done it. I was at peace that he was not there, and I decided I would forgive him so as to not be eaten alive by the pain and anger I felt toward him. His sin was my sin―just manifested differently.

This was the place I refused to go. I already healed. That was it. I would revisit this no more. So I built up my walls, hardened my heart, and wondered why I felt so empty.

(Pro-tip to those who receive an invitation from the God of the universe, Maker of heaven and earth: take it.)

Last night, my mom and I somehow got on the subject of my father. My mom asked me a question about his new family, and I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. So she told me about an article she found, and I looked it up.

Within seconds, I realized this was the biggest mistake I’d made in quite some time.

What I was looking at was an interview about my father, conducted by a girl who could possibly be my half-sister.

I read about his upbringing in China, which was similar to my mother’s. I read about how he did not want his children to experience not having food or clothing like he once did. I read that he came to America in 1988 and struggled until he learned English and could open his own business.

And I was angry.

In one sentence, he managed to insult both my mother and me, as he didn’t seem to care if we had food or clothing. The factual error of 1988 tells me that no one knows about my part in his history because we were a family in America by 1987. There were no details of how he came to America because that would have to include the ugly story of how he married a woman so that he could join her family, who was beginning to emigrate from their side of the Pacific. And then sired a child with her that he did not raise.

And then at the end of his interview, he boldly proclaimed that what he was most grateful for was that he would not have known Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior had he not come to America.

I was livid.

We may have happened before this, but we still happened. There was no attempt to reconcile, despite having been in contact with one of my uncles for years. This made me furious, but my anger only served to mask the deep hurt that was coming from a wound I thought was long closed.

This was why I didn’t take that invitation. This was why I ran. I had been hurt by this man long enough, and I did not want to invite him to live rent-free in my head once more. It took too much to heal the first time.

I have written countless letters, journal entries, and at least one poem regarding what I was feeling toward him, how I was processing, what I needed to do. And a few years ago, I wrote him an eviction notice. I was free from him. Finally.

I do not regret my life without him, despite having wondered more times than I’d like to admit, “why not me?”, “what would it have been like?” I was sent into the fire early, and from there, one can burn, or one can rise. It’s no one’s choice but your own.

But in the midst of this, God blessed my father and allowed him to gift the character “phoenix” toward my name as part of His plan: before I was even born, God declared that I would be victorious.

I was afraid to come to this place because I did not want the wound to reopen. I feared returning to a place of darkness, anger, hatred. But it seems the difference this time is that the wound is shallow and uninfected, and I am pressed to address it while it is so. And it is God who will have to help me keep it this way because my natural leaning would be to pick at it.

To be here now, as difficult as it is, God had gone to drastic measures to barrel through all of the walls I had built up, for the sole purpose of extending His invitation to me again.

God is a God of second chances, and when your heart is as hard as your head, He will break that rock-hard heart to give you one that beats and lives, and ask you to try again.

A spiritual mentor recently told me that because I have endured this much pain, my capacity for hope is this much greater. My wounds and scars run deep enough that the foundation is set for hope and love to be poured in to fill these broken places.

Months have passed since I was invited on this adventure. I was not ready to accept it then, but I think I am now.

It feels like the first step toward something huge.

I am terrified of the idea, but I am also feeling something I didn’t feel the first time.

Hope.

The one gift my father gave me is also my greatest burden. To bestow the name “phoenix” is ironic and fitting and everything I don’t want to bear. But it is a name that is redeemed because God called me something else.

Daughter.

He saw my lack and chose to fill it. He saw my wound and chose to heal it. With one word, He claimed me as His own―His own daughter. With this word, He chased away the hurt, shame, and lies that I had chosen to believe for much of my life.

He gifted me the bearing of a phoenix to fulfill the promise He made to me with this name. I will be refined with fire in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)

And a phoenix will always rise.

Above the ashes.

I am a daughter―His daughter. And I will learn to live what that means.

This is day one.

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ohana

Dear Family,

What does this word actually mean for you? You toss that word around when it’s convenient for you, and when it’s not, you hoard it to yourselves and keep it exclusively. When has that word ever been used to describe us?

Yet you asked me this week—no, you shamed me—in order to convince me you’re my family. You tell me that you can’t believe I would trust an outsider over my own family. It’s not the first you’ve shamed me with this either.

But let me ask you something.

Where were you?

Where was my family when I had to put a restraining order on one of our members? You were on the side of my abuser. Where was my family when I longed to belong to it? You were abusing me and shunning me from your presence. Where was my family when the inheritance I received from my grandmother disappeared and the account closed? You were the ones closing it. Where was my family when I was suicidal in high school because of the abuse? You were oblivious to your role in my suffering, and you could not be found.

How do you ever expect me to trust you? How could you ever ask that of me?

I have not allowed you to define this word for me for quite some time now. The word “family” does not belong to you.

It belongs to the Person who guided me out of suicide. It belongs to the Person who redeemed my greatest abuse to lead me to my greatest salvation. It belongs to His children, who have walked beside me and carried me these past fourteen years when you were nowhere to be found.

“Family” does not end with blood.

Blood may be thicker than water, but grace runs deeper than blood.

You made me feel that I needed to earn a place in this family. Was being my mother’s child truly not enough? Yet in this grace community, there is no such thing as earning a place in the family. We are family because of Him.

This word is still being redeemed for me, but here and now, I claim it as my own. It is not a word for you to throw at me to acknowledge your authority. This word will not be reduced to something so petty.

This word means hope. It means acceptance. It means love—love unconditional, love to the point of sacrifice, love for life.

This word is too precious to me now. You cannot define it for me any longer because I know what it is now.

My Father told me. He showed me with His loyal love.

I have a new family now. Maybe you can join it some day. But you’ll have to understand, it’s on His terms, earned by His death.

I hope you can give up your small definition for His great plan.

It’s a Wonderful Life

I could have died when I was fourteen.

No, I didn’t run up against any near death accidents or get kidnapped by a maniac or anything that dramatic. No one was threatening my life either.

Except me.

My dear reader, I know by now you’ve picked up a bit on how traumatic my childhood and youth were. What I haven’t really talked about is how I’d coped at the time. Yes, I’m a tougher, wholer, person today, but then? Then, I was a mess. Then, I was tired. Then, I was sick of it. Then, I was ready to end it.

Day after day of surviving, of doing everything possible to not go back to a house and see the relatives who had invaded what was home for eleven years—it wears on you. Not having a home, not having a place to belong, to feel safe—or rather to have had it ripped from you—it wears on you.

I sat in my bathroom one day; my eyes were dried up from tears long shed. My heart was weary, and my body followed. I sobbed a tearless fit, and I wondered, “how much longer?” How much longer do I have to feel so cornered? How much longer do I have to feel so broken? How much longer do I have to feel so oppressed? How much longer do I have to feel so unwanted? How much longer do I have to feel so unloved?

And a solitary answer drowned all other thoughts.

Not much longer… if that’s your desire.

I could end it. I could finish it. I could finally stop feeling lonely and hurt because of my oppressors’ actions and words. The power was in my hands to never suffer again.

But then a rebuttal resounded through all of the dark corners of my battered soul.

If you do this, they win.

What did they care about what happened to me? Would it have filled them with remorse?

No. No, I doubt it would’ve. They were incapable of remorse.

Instead, my last action on Earth would’ve been breaking my mother’s heart and leaving her completely alone with them.

What a legacy that would’ve been. I would’ve proven to them that they could overpower me.

If I ended it this way, it would’ve been my loss.

And I have never been a gracious loser.

My focus shifted at that moment. I was going to come out of this a winner. I was not willing to allow anyone that much control over me to the point where I no longer had the ability to fight back, prove them wrong, and heal.

So instead, I thought of how I could win, how I could make something of myself, prove that they couldn’t break me.

Being that I was fourteen, plans to change the world weren’t exactly on my mind. I started small. I was going to be a leader in my extra-curriculars, and I was going to graduate high school, and have a life defined by my own terms.

What prompted this entry… you know, I’m not completely sure. I just started thinking about the people in my life and how much I would’ve missed out on had I not chosen to live.

I would’ve died never knowing what family really was.

I’ve just started figuring it out within roughly the last year. I would’ve missed out on redemption: the experience of real family and unconditional love. And I would not have hope for everlasting life but would be living in everlasting death.

Looking back at this time, it’s clear to me that, in this moment before I even knew Him, God had His sight set upon me.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”—John 10:27-28

It makes no sense, right? As far as I know, there has never been a Christian in my bloodline. I was a Buddhist in an abusive situation.

And God said, “I want her.”

In the midst of a hopeless situation, God saw me and led me into His arms and shared with me His family.

No one else can write a story this good. What a legacy this will be!

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you know just how loved you are; that when you see no hope, God will shower hope on you; that when you want to give up and let go, you find something to live for, no matter how small it is.

Because you never know when a small thing can change your life in a big way.

deeper than blood

Family is a loaded word.

For some, happy memories come to mind first. Smiles, laughter, enjoyment, safety, love—these are the things that encompass their family.

For kids like me, that is the family we long for.

Sorrow, pain, brokenness, fear, humiliation—these are what come to mind for me.

Never enough, always alone; surrounded by people who share half my blood, yet I was the stranger. I was the intruder. To me, they wore a mask that showed kindness and offered me terms for admittance. The mask was all I saw for most of my life. Beneath it lie deception, pride, hatred.

I was the relative. They were a family. Of sorts.

I think I feared the word “family” for many years. Aside from my mother, there was no one else I was related to that I would ever call family. I hated being asked about “my family.” It was a simple question that to me was the most complicated thing to try to answer.

What do you want to know about my family? Do you want to hear the truth? That the people I called “family” for over a decade tried to destroy my soul? That I had to prove myself and overcome my last name—both of which were impossible stipulations that shouldn’t have been in place—in order to be allowed access to the small ounce of hope of feeling accepted by those who should’ve accepted me for the simple miracle that I was born?

This was what I thought of family for years.

And this is what God is unteaching me.

There are many things I see and have seen in my life that bluntly tell me God works to redeem us for His glory. The simple fact that my heart still has the capacity to love is one. That I can praise God for using my loaded past to get me to who and what and where I am now is another one. At our current chapter, however, the biggest thing I’m seeing Him redeem is family.

I’d always been taught that your family is your greatest asset, that, in times of strife, it is your family that will stand by you and get you through.

I was taught this, but I didn’t see it. I couldn’t believe it.

And then here come all these people who become my greatest asset, who, in times of strife, stood by me and got me through.

And not a single drop of blood is shared in common between us. There had to be a catch. If those related to me couldn’t love me, how can those not bound to me by blood do so?

Blood is thicker than water.

But grace runs deeper than blood.

By grace, I’ve been given new life. This new life includes new family. Of course, it it does. Why wouldn’t it?

What do you want to know about my family? Do you want to hear the truth?

I have been blessed with the best people biology couldn’t give me. From the hard-working airplane mechanic (and future pilot) who didn’t give up on me when I probably gave plenty of reason to do so, to the tea-loving freedom fighter who gently encourages me, to the best friend who saved my life and led me to Jesus over a decade ago, to the talented brother who emboldens me to be the faithful servant I was meant to be, to the hug-givers, Asian food-eaters, tender rebukers, positive speakers, and warriors of prayer, to those who radiate love from the centers of their souls—this is my family. This is where I’m accepted, forgiven, built-up, and loved.

To be able to say this is testament of the holistic healing I’ve been given:

I have the best family.

And I’m spoiled; more people keep coming into it.

To all of you: I’m so grateful for you in my life. I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to express it, and I know I haven’t said it enough.

But thank you. And I love you.

God’s pretty great, isn’t He? ^__^

Perfect Life

Background story on this entry: in Friday’s counseling session, my counselor had me speak to my cousin as though he were in the room and tell him what it was like for me growing up and what it was like living in the situation I was living in upon entering high school. At some point, I also went into who I am rather than what the family has labeled me as. And it hit me that no one else is living in reality. This was the first step in returning shame that didn’t belong to me back to the people who put it on my shoulders. This song shuffled on as I was driving to work, and everything that it said was more or less what I saw in this relationship with my relatives. And after work, this entry was born.

You pretend what you say you feel 
You pretend that you’re something special
All the lies that you hide behind
I see right through you, see right through you 
Paint it on, cover every inch 
Any flaw will expose your weakness 
I’m immune to your fantasy 
I won’t become you, won’t become you…

I never deserved how you treated me.

I never volunteered to be the family scapegoat.

I never asked to carry your shame and guilt.

So why did you make me?

The more I think about it, the more strategic I’ve realized this was: in order to protect a grown man’s damaged image and honor when he threw it away by his own decision, you targeted the most vulnerable person you had access to – the only one without the protection of a father. When did this decision take place, and why wasn’t I invited to be a part of making it?

We all got along fine the first few years of my life. We played together. The adults treated me like we were family. Because we were. We were.

Weren’t we?

So what changed?

When we moved to the West Coast, I still hadn’t started elementary school. And I was blindsided with that change.

You all treated me so terribly all of a sudden. And I didn’t understand why. Can you imagine how confusing that is for a child? I still don’t understand. But considering how loyal the kids in this “family” are to the parents – to a fault – I don’t doubt the parents were involved in this decision.

Guys… all of you.

I was three. Maybe four at the most.

How did grown men and women decide that the four-year-old was going to be shamed for no reason but to save your own faces? How did you even think it was okay to get your children to agree to it – to be the ones who treated me the worst while you passively observed? How did you justify this to yourself? “She’s not one of us.” “Her surname belongs to someone outside the family.” “We’re not harming our family, we’re protecting it.”

Did it go something like that?

That’s just… pathetic.

You want a perfect, PERFECT LIFE
Nothing wrong, nothing real inside
All I see is a perfect lie
I don’t want your perfect life

I don’t deserve this shame. So you can have it back.

I am not defined by what I lack. I am not defined by what kind of man my father was. I’m not defined by his sins. I’m not defined by who my mom is. I’m not defined by who I’m not.

I’m defined by a whole lot more.

You think I’m hateful. You think I’m disrespectful. You think I’m selfish. You think I ruined your lives because I stood up for myself against you.

No. I think you’re looking at the wrong person when you say those things. Maybe you should walk into your bathroom and stand in front of your mirror. And then say those things. Because that’s who deserves to hear it. And that’s who still needs to stand up for him or herself.

I refuse to be defined by your fantasy, no matter how much you’ve convinced yourselves it’s reality. I refuse to carry the burden of your sin against me any longer.

I refuse your shame. It was never mine. It was never about me. It was always about all of you.

So, keep your dream with no consequence
You’d damage me just to feed your senses
All you fake for reality
I see right through you, see right through you
Take your pride, take your vanity
Can’t you see that your ego’s empty?
I will turn, I will walk away
I won’t become you, won’t become you…

If you’re tall because you’ve forced me to kneel, you’re not tall at all. You just rob me of what belongs to me. You clothe yourself with my innocence and stand tall, and clothe me with your shame and force me to my knees with this burden.

How was it okay to have done that to a four-year-old?

You want a perfect, PERFECT LIFE
Nothing wrong, nothing real inside
All I see is a perfect lie
I don’t want your perfect life

I’m still living the repercussions of your decisions. I’m still learning to shed your shame. Why should my relationships be damaged just because you damaged ours? Why should I be damaged just because you tried to make me damaged?

It’s clear now.

You’re afraid. You’ve always been afraid. You’re not afraid of me – or if you are, you’d never admit it.

You’re afraid of yourselves.

You’re afraid of what you’ve all done. You’re afraid that your fantasy can never become a reality.

And so you’ve convinced yourselves that I was the cancer, that I was what kept your perfect image of yourselves from being true.

And you tried to destroy me.

But isn’t it ironic? Can’t you see?

Those actions are exactly what prove that your fantasy is fantasy. Those actions prove who you really are: small people who have to make other people be small in order to be big; broken people who have to break other people in order to be unbroken; selfish people who have to pass their guilt onto other people in order to be gracious.

My eyes are wide open
I see the enemy, the hypocrisy
Your cover is fading
Secrets pouring out, castles falling down
There’s nothing to hide behind
I know who I am inside

I’m perfectly broken

I’m not without fault. Why else would I need a Savior?

But I don’t own your faults.

And you can’t make me.

No more.

I’ve got enough of my own, thanks.

I don’t have resolution to this yet. I wish I did. I wish I can be past this and moving onto greener pastures.

But this is my first step toward those.

This is me. Handing your shame back to you.

And if you refuse it, one day I’ll learn to drop it at your feet. As well as Someone else’s.

I don’t want this burden anymore. Carrying it for over two decades is too long – I will not carry it any further. This lie will no longer damage the good and true things in my life.

I see that I’m not perfect, that life is not perfect, that people in my life aren’t perfect.

And the imperfections are what make my life so beautiful.

You want a perfect, PERFECT LIFE
Nothing wrong, nothing real inside
All I see is an empty lie
I don’t want your PERFECT LIFE

I am not the abuse you dealt me.

I am perfectly broken.

And adopted into one heckuva family with the only perfect Father.


Lyrics from “Perfect Life” by Red on their album Release the Panic © 2013 Provident Label Group LLC, a unit of Sony Music Entertainment. Find them at http://www.redmusiconline.com

i am not my abuse

Side note: I took the photo on a tripod with a timer cuz no one else was home at the time. >.<” At first I was a little unhappy with the focus being on my eye and the part of me behind the hand, but then I realized that that’s how it should be. The focus should be on me, not on the things that happened to me. My life isn’t about my past. It’s about my redemption. *end fluke philosophical soapbox moment*

I struggled with calling it abuse for a long time. First of all, it came from those I knew as family. We’re supposed to be loyal to each other, right? So everything said and done should be beneficial even if it shames us in the moment. Right? Secondly, it wasn’t physical. That’s what abuse is, right? Thirdly, when it was, it only happened once. So it can’t be abuse… right?

Wrong.

Emotional abuse is abuse.

And abuse is abuse no matter where it comes from, no matter how many times it’s done.

No matter from whom it comes from.

I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience. I don’t pretend to know the magnitude of your suffering. But please, let me empathize. And let me give you the truth that I need just as much as you.

You are dearly loved.

Not only by warmhearted friends that have become family, but by the God who created you. He knew you before you were born, knit you together in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). He loves you enough to settle the debt you owe Him—the debt I owed Him: when we were rebelling against Him and breaking His heart, He died for us (Romans 5:8). He loves you enough to create you with a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11). He loves you enough that He will be found by you if you seek Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13-14).

Do not doubt that you are loved. Do not doubt that you deserve love. No matter how much has been denied you, know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and wonderful are His works (Psalm 139:14).

I had difficulty naming it.

But I name it now.

I was abused.

I was dehumanized. I was made one-dimensional.

Because they needed me to be for their sake. Because if I were human, it would be abuse.

But no matter how much someone tries to take your humanity away, they can never do so. It is not for them to take but for God to give. He made you in His image—no matter what gender or ethnicity you are, you bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

You bear the image of God, Beloved!

And He has an adventure in store for you.

Please, do not allow your abuse to become your identity. It is not. It only has as much power as you’re willing to give it. There may be a small sense of control in making it your identity, but it is not real. Owning the shame will only tear you apart.

Trust me.

Letting go of that identity will not be easy. It will probably be the most terrifying and powerfully freeing moment of your life. And it will hurt. Very badly. But He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). The battle will not overcome you because He is with you to rescue you (Jeremiah 1:19). And He will redeem your past for the glory of His Name.

As He did with mine.

I once heard at church a woman quoted saying, “My past explains me, but it does not define me.”

You are not your abuse.

Your identity is only given by the one who created you, who died for you to live (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

I am not my abuse.

No matter what I’ve been told, no matter what’s been done to me, I am not my abuse.

My identity is in Christ. By His wounds I am healed (1 Peter 2:24). I am His daughter, made in His image. It’s an identity I’m still trying to grasp. But it is an identity with a foundation and a promise.

I am not my abuse.

I am redeemed. I am loved. I am spoken for. I am bought with the blood of an innocent Man.

I am not my abuse.

I am a child of God.

featured in WitnessLA May 2013

abuse, Buddhism, and Christ

I suppose these are the ABCs of my life.

When you grow up Buddhist—the branch that mixes in Confucian and Taoist beliefs—and Asian, one message rings loud and clear: your family comes first before all other things. You’re nothing if not viciously loyal to your surname and all those who share it.

But this gets complicated pretty quickly when you’re me.

No one else in the family I grew up with shared my surname. I was lucky enough to inherit my father’s name and live among my mother’s relatives: three brothers and their families who share one surname. My relatives were loyal to those with money and power. They were prideful, and pride will choose the illusion of family loyalty over the real thing.

So my relatives acted like family to me, stringing me along so that I’d feel indebted to them and allow them to stay under the illusion rather than work and sacrifice to make us a real family. Guilt, manipulation, shame—all these and more were employed full throttle, and my abuse started early on. Before it was physical, it was first emotional and mental.

But when it got physical, I was faced more intently with some decisions. Do I submit and keep quiet like a stereotypical Confucian Buddhist? Or do I fight like an American for my rights?

I’m not one to take abuse lying down. I will kick and scream and bite and punch and swear like a sailor. I shattered the illusion, I tore up the security blanket. And after the law got involved, we all went our separate ways.

I was fourteen at this time, trying to take on all these big people issues. I was pretty traumatized—more than I was willing to admit. Life had just smacked me in the face and kicked me in the gut, and I wanted to mope a little. But I didn’t. The way I saw it, success was a much better plan of revenge. So I got up, dusted myself off, and told life it hit like a sissy.

I’d started going to church at the beginning of a lot of this, and it was hard for me to accept who this guy Jesus was from everything everyone said. Where was He when my family told me and treated me like I was useless? Where was He when I was scared out of my mind about what they would do to me? Where was He when my uncle hit me in the face?

It’d be about a year before I’d begin to realize He was in all of it. I’m still learning and seeing it now. Who would I have been had He not been there? I’m not sure I’m willing to think about it. No matter what, this is my story. And when you put it next to Jesus, it’s amazing to see how big His love is, and how strong His faith is. He had to have quite a bit of faith in me and so much more in Himself to pull this off: to save me, to heal me, to redeem my story, to bring me to Him, and to bring Himself glory.

I am not my abuse. I am not a Confucian. I am not a Buddhist any longer.

I fell in love ten years ago today. Reflecting on that now astounds me when I think about how gracious God is, but also, how invasive faith is. To be with Christ meant I had to redefine my values, whom I submit to. Somehow, there was suddenly Someone I didn’t share blood with that demanded and deserved all of my devotion. And I wanted to give it to Him.

When Someone rewrites your entire history to redeem and heal your heartache… that’s pulling out all stops to love you.

Ten years ago today, I was in a room with hundreds of Asian teenagers, bawling my eyeballs out cuz I didn’t know how to respond to a God who had been pursuing me from the day I first learned to breathe.

I don’t understand how He can be so patient, so gracious, and so loving.

But I’m thankful for it.

Happy anniversary, my Love. Here’s to several more decades and a new alphabet defined solely by You.

Identity Crisis

I am a girl that one man thought was not worth his time, money, or life. He told me I was unwanted when he left me to fend for myself. He told me I was unworthy of being called his. He taught me that in order to get what you want, you have to lie, cheat, steal. If it means marrying someone, having a kid with her, and abandoning them both and scarring their lives beyond recognition, you do it. But he also taught me another thing. Never meant to, I’m sure. He taught me what it means to love an enemy, to forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it in the least.

But get this.

I am a girl that one Man thought was worth His life to save. He told me I was broken but not doomed, scarred but not disfigured. He told me I’m not unloved, that I can see Him because I am very loved. He told me that He can fill the void the first man left and so much more if I allow Him to. He told me there is healing for my heart because He is the ultimate Healer; there is love for my life because He is the ultimate Lover; there is salvation for my soul because He is the ultimate Savior.

He told me I can be His daughter if I accept Him as my Father. But I don’t understand what it means. How do I be a daughter to a father? How do I risk another father coming into my life and my heart when the first one shattered them both?

Two men. Two messages. Two very different definitions of who I am.

So who am I going to believe? They can’t both be right. And they can’t ever be reconciled.

Am I worthless, or am I worth the life of God? Am I unwanted, or am I pursued to the ends of the earth? Am I broken, or have my scars been turned to jewels?

The latter all sound too good to be true, but the former sound so hopeless, so destructive, so irredeemably dark.

So why are they so much easier to believe?

Yet the latter is actually what’s true. There is so much hope in those words, so why are they so difficult to accept?

My Father loves me. He loves me. Yet my father didn’t think it was worth his while to raise me. With such a father, how can I not crave the love of a divine romance? How can I not crave the embrace of hands once nailed to a tree for my sake? How can I not fall in love?

Have I been seduced by the Gospel of grace and ruined for all others? Yes. I have tasted ultimate love and what I never had can never compare. I have been called daughter and can no longer be an orphan.

There is a Man who told me I was worth His life. So I think it’s only fair that I give Him mine.

Ashes

So this was my first assignment in my creative writing class. It was a personal narrative assignment, specifically about a difficult time. I played on a theme and talked about two. You might recognize parts of the second half of the narrative cuz I had to supplement the assignment with some old blogger posts since I couldn’t quite summon the same emotions anymore. Funny thing about healing, eh? XP

Some parts were pretty hasty, partly cuz I couldn’t quite figure out what else to describe and how else to describe it and didn’t want to conjure things that weren’t real at the time or otherwise. Not the strongest work, but hey, that’s why I don’t have a degree yet, right? 😛 Judge me if I’m still doing this after the MFA. ^^

Thanks, Cam & Levi and everyone who helped proof and look over it. 🙂 And thanks for all you guys who’ve walked with me in some way or another whether through these times or another (or another or another or another :P) and for bringing some light into my life (especially when it’s so overcast all the time up here). 🙂

I’ll take literary criticism if you wanna leave some (please don’t rip my heart out and stomp on it, though :P). Encouragement is good, too (primarily on the writing, but encouragement on life is nice, too). ^^ Both are needed for an (hopefully) up and coming (hopefully ^^) writer. And give praise where it’s due (::cough:: to Jesus ::cough cough::)!

But please, no comments about how much these times sucked or that you couldn’t do it if you were in my shoes (I wouldn’t have volunteered if I had the choice) or how “strong” I must be to get through them. I’m not strong. It’s clear from the text that I’m not. God could’ve given this life I’ve been living to anyone. Really, he could’ve split my story up into a dozen or more lives, and it’d have been traumatic for each one. But somehow he found enough faith in me to put the stories all into mine. So who’s really the strong one here?

Appreciate the thoughtfulness, but let’s give credit where it’s due, yeah? ^_^

~*~*~*~*~*~

I am a phoenix.

Sitting in the bathroom, tears sketching lines from her eyes down her cheeks, she looked in the mirror at the exhausted and unfamiliar face.

“What have I become?”

Living in a nightmare, surviving one day just to get to the next, she wondered when it would be over. Was she strong enough to put another foot in front and another and another? Her thoughts fell into the abyss of potential and plunged ever deeper.

It can end now.

Eyes shot open, the tears continuing their solemn brushstrokes along the canvas of her face. It can end now, the consideration echoed in the pathways of her mind.

The thought echoed down passageways she had never traveled before. “It can end now.”

“But then… what about mom?”

Can she truly forsake her and leave her alone in the nightmare?

If you end it now, you lose. They win. Don’t do it.

New voice. Logical. Hopeful.

No, she could never do such a thing. To be this selfish? To seek release when the one dearest to her needs her the most? This is something she could never bring herself to do. Instead, she would rise above revenge, her problems, and her abusers. With that in mind, she exited the bathroom.

When her uncle had moved in a few months ago, it was a difficult transition from a house of two to a house of five when he brought his son and nephew with him. It had gotten progressively worse as time went on. Arguments, neglect, emotional abuse – these things made an appearance more and more consistently, to the point where she and her mother avoided returning to the house they lived in for eleven years until late evening hours. Still, she never expected to find herself in her bathroom contemplating suicide.

Her uncle had probably been the closest to a father she had ever gotten, though his living on the other side of the world majority of the year hid many of his shortcomings and the dark part of his personality. Yet her mother had always described him to be an upstanding, responsible man, who sacrificed much to care for his siblings when they were growing up. His was the model to strive after.

And one fated encounter brought her to the road towards freedom. The road shook and the pedestal he was placed upon crashed to the ground, and it was shattered in the blink of an eye.

One morning, her uncle and his family waited in the living room for her and her mother as she left for school. With a video camera. An ambush. He advanced upon her, and fearing for her safety, her mother pulled him away. He grabbed them both, threw them down, and pretended to be assaulted to pose for his camera.

And all of this… over a phone bill.

A sudden strike against her cheek, even she wasn’t sure it would ever come to that. The endless war was ending soon. A restraining order was placed, and a fragile, temporary peace descended upon the two females.

Amongst the chaos and confusion, she was growing up too quickly. An outstretched arm reached toward her in peace and offered her the ability to be a teenager. Out of love and grace, a friend’s family brought them to a church, filled with believers who spoke her mother’s tongue, lessening the burden that fell on her shoulders.

In the courtroom, what she least expected to see was mercy, especially coming from the wounded. After hearing that this man could ultimately lose his visa and be sent back overseas, her mother chose to drop the charges because the crimson in their veins runs thick with the same blood.

A picture of the Gospel.

Unbeknownst to her, her steps had been guided down the path to her freedom from the moment she chose to listen to that second voice.

Don’t do it.

Thinking of it now, she realized just how much she would have lost had she listened to the first. Instead, she was led down freedom’s path, a road not frequently traveled – though well paved and well tended – by a mysterious voice, powerful enough to calm the crashing emotions on the shore of her heart, yet gentle like the sun drifting to sleep beneath the horizon.

He called to her again. Many times. Interspersed between the whispers of the velvet night, His voice could be heard echoing in the depths of her soul. And as she followed the path her uncle had opened for her, she found Him: the Man who commands the voice, seated in humble majesty, a lazy smile crawling across his simple face.

“You’re finally here.”

She dropped to the earth, knees caressed by the gentle brush of the grass, and folded into herself, tears cascading down her face, heart pounding erratically against the steel bars of the cage erected around it, begging desperately for release.

He continued to call to her; she continued to cry. She knew that to follow Him would cost her everything. The face of her mother flashed across her mind. How would she tell her? Then the face of her late grandmother, humbly knelt in front of the family’s idols bent over and praying the sutras off the page. What would it mean to be eternally separated from her?

“It’s your choice.”

Again, an extended hand. She placed hers in the flat palm of the warm hand, calloused by labor, scarred by nails, and she found freedom in His embrace. She belonged to Him, thanks in part to her uncle.

Her uncle: the man who bestowed the second character of her name, meaning “the appearance or bearing of.”

The first burning of her nest, the first rebirth: complete.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I don’t want you.

This was the voice she heard as she read over a letter from an attorney in San Francisco. On the page was a short, quick, professional letter asking for her to contact this sender: an abduction lawyer.

I don’t want you.

The words on the page raged and swirled, the words pulled deeper and deeper into a black hole, where emotions went to die.

A year previous, during her last year of high school, their financial struggles brought them to the end of their rope. Her mother reached out and applied for welfare and was put into a training program and eventually found a job in which to support them with. During the time however, much information was collected, and it was revealed that no financial support came from her father, and he was to be informed and sought after.

No word – not for a whole year. Then again, it had been much longer since he’d left.

Upon visiting home for winter vacation after her first college semester, she received this letter in the mail. It hit her harder than she wanted to admit, especially to her mother, and weighed heavier upon her than she could bear to carry. No contact from him, still, just a letter from a stranger. She wasn’t even worth his time.

Her parents did not have the “fairytale romance” – or any kind of romance. They were barely friends. Their future together, decided economically by their families, and her father and mother were married. And his life continued to be shrouded in darkness – his life, his heart, his lover. His heart had left long before he ever had. It may not have been there at all.

On the day she received this greeting, she took her first step into the spiral of depression, anger. What about her made her so detestable in his eyes? Was she not flesh of his flesh, no matter what happened between he and her mother?

Struggling to banish him from her thoughts, she focused her energy into her studies, choosing to ignore the loneliness and bitter heartache that had already taken root deep within her soul. This pattern continued for years, and had it been her choice, would likely extend to today.

But He had bigger plans for her, and what marvelously creative plans they were.

From the outermost recesses of her mind and heart, a still small voice called out to her yet again. Thoughts, which she fought desperately to suppress with the weight of a thousand mountains, rushed through the cracks and flowed like lava, searing and transforming her rock-hard heart.

She needed healing – more so than she would admit in a million years.

And He wanted to heal her. Wholly. Make her an entire person. He wanted to mend her heart so that she could love from all of it and not just the parts that feel comfortable, the few unscarred parts she allowed others to see. This was the gift He wished to give her: a heart that is flesh and tender, a heart that is whole.

All around her, others speak of trivial requests from their fathers. They talk of ways their fathers have loved them, and the ways they wished their fathers would have loved them.
How much would she give to be in those shoes? The shoes that belonged to the fathered, the shoes that belonged to those who can say their fathers loved them even if it were just for a minute, the shoes that belonged to those who can talk hockey and culture and faith with their fathers.

How much would she give?

To be able to picture as a little girl a knight in shining armor with the face of her daddy coming to save her from distress. To be able to ride on her dad’s shoulders as they walked around, enjoying the kiss of the sun’s rays and the embrace of the autumn wind together. To be encouraged every time she fell down from learning to ride her bike as a kid. To have little trivial disagreements about the boys she liked.

But these things she could never have. In the years under her belt, the one gift she wished to have received from him was that he wouldn’t have given up, he wouldn’t have left.

But he did.

He left.

And he never looked back.

Still.

Though she may not be able to express love to a father she barely knew, she could be thankful for the physical life he’s given her that, in truth, came from the creativity of a Father who would never leave her heart lonely.

In the end, it is for His glory. He calls her His – in every sense of the word. She belongs to Him. She is His daughter, His princess. He gives her the love she’s always wanted from a father and gives it freely and abundantly everyday.

Yet she doesn’t know how to receive it.

Love from a father. What is it like? How does one go about receiving it? How does one go about giving back?

Forgiving her earthly father… she never thought she needed to. He had departed so early and abruptly from her life and growth that she felt he was a stranger in nearly every way. But he was not a stranger; a stranger would not be able to wound her heart so mortally. He was a man whose responsibility was to raise her and love her, and he threw it all away along with a daughter he wished he never had. He was a man who left her to fend for herself when she needed a father the most, in order to chase after his own fleeting desires. He was a man who broke her heart, shattered it to pieces, and scattered it to the four winds.

To pray for him? To forgive him? To… love him? Who am I that I can do such a thing? By the love and mercy of God, this daughter was called to do such. And by His strength alone she could pray blessings on a man she would rather curse for eternity.

Even so, as time has gone by, peace had begun to heal her heart. It continues to be painful to pray for him. To pray against the wrongs he’s done and possibly still doing… that’s simple. That is something she can do. To pray blessings on the man who trampled on her heart? To pray blessings on the family he replaced her with? How can she? They are the hardest prayers she will ever have to pray.

Struggling to forgive, straining for justice, she judged this man and labeled him a sinner. His sin cut deep and severed tendon from bone. He abandoned her, he cut out her heart and dropped it without a second glance. Yet she is called to forgive him.

She felt, however, that if she could forgive this man, she could do anything. She knew deep within that her lack of forgiveness for him and her anger that boiled into hatred would poison the fruit He wished to grow in her. She wanted to be fruitful for Him, and more than anything, to be made whole.

Forgiveness would come soon enough – soon enough on His time. To be forgiven, one must forgive. Were his sins really much different than her own? Had she not once left her Love, ripped out His heart, and spat in His face?

The sinless God came to the earth He created, relinquishing His right to be praised, clothing Himself in frail human flesh, and donning a servant’s clothes to wash the feet of those He taught. The sinless God, who had and still has every right to be angry and hateful toward us who break His heart over and over and over and over again, chose to forgive, and His love compelled Him to die for those who break His heart and His laws in order to allow them to come back into fellowship with Him.

The innocent sought the guilty for reconciliation.

So how could she, in her selfishness, justify hating this man for what he did? She was just as guilty as he. And their sins were against no one but Yahweh, God Almighty.

She would learn that forgiveness was the key to her freedom, and it was just within her reach. Forgiving him would release her from her anger, release her from her bitterness, release her from the cage she slammed shut long ago, and allow her to use all the wasted energy and time to focus on that which was more important and lasting like putting a smile on her Father’s face.

Her earthly father, having taken no active role in her life for over twenty years, taught her the only lesson he ever needed to teach her: how to forgive.

Her father: the man who bestowed the first character of her name, meaning “phoenix.”

The second burning of her nest, the second rebirth: complete.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Phoenixes are magnificent creatures. Through severe physical and emotional trauma, they are able to rise more beautiful than before, wearing their scars like jewels.

The appearance of a phoenix – a name given to her by the two people who would push her to live up to it for years to come; her name is a promise – a promise that life would not be easy for her, but also a promise that the scorching fire that licks her skin is a temporary sting that would lead her to be born anew.

Her name is a promise from God, a promise of a difficult life and a promise of perseverance through the fire. Scars etched deeply upon her heart and upon her past – they are being refined by the fire to shine like silver and gold.

He wants her heart. The heart that had been trampled on and forgotten about is the heart that the King of the universe wants to set His throne upon, to make His home in. He reveals to her from beneath a shrouded veil a heart that is whole, a heart that is radiant, a heart that is beautiful.

This is her heart. The scars that were once adorned on its surface have been healed and transformed by her Savior. These storms that were meant to batter and break and dirty this heart have caused it to shine even more radiantly than it once had, and more radiantly than it once could.

This is her heart. This is His home. There is still healing that must take place.

But He knows her.

And He will meet her in the storm.

And when the rain subsides, peace comes like waves spilling over each other before finally breaking on the beach, the scent of the sea an hour after a storm – the scent of peace – lingering lazily in the air.

In the scream of silence, the caress of a whisper brushes across her face. Born from the imagination of the Most High God, He seals her with His promise.

She is His masterpiece.

I am a phoenix.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-
featured in WitnessLA Part 1 Part 2

Father’s Day Thoughts

The build-up of Father’s Day from all around her. The hype of June 20th coming and now going. The number of cards purchased in the last few hours. All this reminds her that she cannot join in the festivities.

All around her, others talk about trivial requests from their fathers for this day. They talk of ways their fathers have loved them, and the ways they wished their fathers would have loved them. That he obviously didn’t read the Five Love Languages (=P).

How much would I give to be in those shoes? The shoes that belong to the fathered. The shoes that belong to those who can say their father loves them.

How much would she give?

To be able to picture as a little girl a knight in shining armor with the face of her daddy coming to save her from distress. To be able to ride on her dad’s shoulders as they walked around Disneyland together. To be encouraged every time she fell down from learning to ride her bike as a kid. To have little disagreements about the boys she likes and watch as he scares the pants off whoever comes to the door to take her to In-N-Out and a movie.

But these things she can never have. In the years under her belt, the one gift she wishes for from him is that he wouldn’t have given up. He wouldn’t have left. 

But he did. 

He left. And he never looked back.

Still.

Though she may not be able to express love to a father she barely knew, she can be thankful for the physical life he’s given her that, in truth, came from the creativity of a Father who would never leave her heart lonely.

“When ‘important’ individuals go away we are sad, until we see that they are meant to go, so that only one thing is left for us to do – to look into the face of God for ourselves.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

In the end, it is for His glory. He calls her His. In every sense of the word. She belongs to Him. She is His daughter, His princess. He gives her the love she’s always wanted from a father and gives it freely and abundantly everyday.

Yet she doesn’t know how to receive it.

Love from a father. What is it like? How does one go about receiving it? How does one go about giving back?

Just when she thought she had her journey figured out. He’s full of surprises. 

She has not been willing to let Him love her as wholly His. Loving in friendship, she understands. Loving as her Father, she has yet to fully grasp. Loving in marriage… that’s a whole new issue.

There is so much to learn about her Papa. And if she doesn’t give her whole heart into seeking Him, she will not receive anything from it. Her whole broken and dusty heart that only wishes to never stray but always does. Her whole broken and battered heart that has difficulty finding solace in His love. Her whole broken and selfish heart who keeps searching elsewhere for everything He’s already offered her.

Father’s Day 2010. I commit to learning about God as Father. My Father. There’s two more hours left. Plenty of time to start the journey.

It is not a fatherless Father’s Day. There will never be a fatherless Father’s Day so long as she remains in Him.