stand by me

Hello to my handful(?) of faithful followers.

I wanted to say thank you for walking with me through my blogging journey thus far. As you may have noticed, my regular posting has declined in recent years, and I have made several promises on my Facebook page for more posts, and I haven’t followed through.

There was a long, dry season where I felt as though I was going through the motions. I didn’t write because I didn’t have anything to say. I did not pray very much during this time because I was struggling with shame and probably depression (though I was not diagnosed). It was difficult for me to get out of bed and do anything because I just felt like I would screw up the rest of my day the moment my feet hit the floor. I felt like the biggest screwup on this side of eternity, and I saw no way of God ever wanting me. Yes, I knew that I’d walked this path many a time, and He has always taken me back, but there’s always that one little voice that says, “What if that was it? What if you’ve exhausted God’s grace, and He’s tired of cleaning up the same messes over and over? What if God has no purpose for you anymore? What if you never hear His voice again?”

I leaned into all of those thoughts and did not look to God for answers (which just perpetuated the shame and sent me deeper into the spiral).

Then one day, I bought a used Playstation and Final Fantasy XV off a seminary student.

Not where you thought I was going, was it? But bear with me for a bit.

I started playing this game and seeing how well-written the characters were. Rather than feeling like a game that I was trying to beat, it felt like I was among friends, exploring a vast and gorgeous world (albeit a little daemon-infested). I started piecing hints within the game together and seeing how the world works, seeing the stories within the story, and putting all of that together to assemble the overall narrative and the history of their world.

Around this same time, I was also waiting to hear if I got accepted to seminary myself. There was a time in my life where I was very interested in seminary, if not for the money. I got one of my BAs in Bible/Theology, and I’ve pretty much always enjoyed exegesis and inductive Bible study. I love seeing the way things fit together and how perfectly they connect. I love finding out the cultural context for why God did things a certain way. I also loved seeing the meanings of words and the message they convey. Funny enough, this sounds like all the reasons I loved FFXV.

So June comes around, and I get word that I’d been accepted, and we’d figure out the deposits and such in the next week or so. At this time, now that it was real, and there was a deadline, I started asking if this was what I truly wanted to do. I was going to be able to do this at a discount, but did I want to spend years and money on a degree I didn’t know what to do with? One I wasn’t sure I still wanted? I went back to leaning on my logic (which has failed me every time in decision-making when what’s logical doesn’t line up with what I actually want), and I thought that I should do this. It seemed wrong to not want to study the Bible and theology when this opportunity was open for me. And I needed to do something different to get me out of my funk.

That weekend, I took a drive to see a former English student of mine graduate from university. Heading home, I was stuck in two hours of traffic, so I had lots of time to contemplate the meaning of life and what I was doing with it (hint: it wasn’t much). Since I had time, I called a friend (hands-free, of course, because I’m safe like that) and kind of verbally vomited on him, discussing my conflict between seminary and suddenly feeling pulled back toward storytelling. All those times leading up to this conversation when I was talking about the depth of the story of FFXV were times I was most alive. You could hear the excitement in my voice inflections, and I could not stop talking about it. My friend suggested I take a few days to pray about it and decide what it is I really want to do, and I realized I didn’t need a few days; I knew I wanted to create worlds that people will want to visit, characters that people will fall in love with, and stories that will make people cry tears of joy and sorrow. We realized that seminary was not the right environment for what I wanted to do, and I withdrew my application and acceptance.

I’ve said that fiction has a way of getting past people’s defenses to teach them lessons they were too stubborn to learn head on. It seems God agrees and used the same tactic on me. Don’t ever tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor when He is the same God that used a video game to set me back on the path of writing. Writing has been the way I connect most to God, and it is the way I worship Him best. I spoke to another friend after getting home from that long drive, and he asked me the same question. What is it you really want to do? I answered a little more confidently this time, just an hour or so later. He then asked me if I thought pursuing this would hinder my relationship with God, to which I answered that I think it would be the exact opposite. He replied that he figured this was the case, and when it is, when our passion and our talent brings us closer to God than anything else, then this is a God-given gift, and we need to use it to worship Him because this gives Him our best worship. It becomes less of “I want to write” and more of “I need to write,” and I definitely feel this when pen meets paper, and I fill several pages with ink and story.

Since then, I’ve been trying my best to write regularly. I’ve been going through an online novel workshop, taking a few hours to put pen to paper, and occasionally meeting up with a friend to do some work. I am also trying to find a mentor to walk this journey with me, as I am not a very skilled storyteller. I’m not sure I’m really even a novice—novices seem to be ahead of me in this area—but this is what feeds my soul and makes my heart sing.

yes, i’m a grown woman, and i like video games.

Writing has also propelled me into other interests. I picked up sewing because I wanted to have a bag for my notebooks and pens, and I couldn’t find anything that was the right size and feel. I don’t usually like carrying bags, so I figured if this was the best way, I’d carry a bag that I liked, and since I couldn’t find that, I decided to make it. It actually didn’t turn out half bad, and it fits everything perfectly. I have more fabric to try so I can have more writing satchels, and I’m pretty excited about creating things. I’ve also turned a few old t-shirts into totes.

reversible tote, ftw!

Aside from sewing, I’ve also acquired an interest in hiking. I suppose with how epic things have been in my brain, I feel that real life should be a little more epic, too. Or I’m going through a quarter-life crisis and just want to try all the things (I also want to learn how to ride a motorcycle and am currently learning self-defense). Either way, I get out of bed a little easier these days.

All this to say, I think my season of regular blogging has run its course. I hope to still post irregularly (as I have been) when I have something to say or ponder, but I am going to be focusing on a new writing adventure. I’ve been thinking I’d create a weekly episodic blog with connected short stories every week or bi-week (like a podcast for readers). This may well happen once I build my world and work out the rest of my outlines and character sketches, and I will announce it here once it does. I am most definitely not a good novelist presently, but I may do all right in short bursts, and the practice can’t hurt.

Anyhow, I just wanted to close with another thank you to all of you who have stuck with me to this point, and also to those of you who will walk with me in this next season of writing. I can’t do this without you.

Walk tall, my friends.

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One More Choice

I’ve had Facebook for the last 3 elections, and I have never seen things get as personal as this one. Discussions were not being had; people were being talked at. If someone voiced a different opinion, they were not welcomed into the discussion, but belittled and attacked.

And this happened among friends.

The damage has been done, the words have been said, and the wounds have been inflicted. We are tired. We are all tired of hearing one thing or another, and being made to fit into one box or another. We are numb and weak from fighting back.

But I’m asking that we all make one more choice.

Decide if it’s more important for you to be right, or if it’s more important for you to be in right relationship with those in your community and your circle of friends.

These are the people who will go to your kids’ soccer games, run the booster club with you, or sit with you for coffee or a meal. The politicians will continue to be faces in the crowd and our TVs, and they will be perched on a mountaintop we cannot scale. They will never love us back, nor will they feed and clothe us when we are broken.

But we, the people, will be in each other’s lives, day in and day out. We, the people, must be each other’s community, and we must hope for a successful term, whether we voted him in or not.

Because what he does in these next 4 years does not affect only those who voted for him, but it affects all of us and even the world, and the generations that follow. If the captain doesn’t know what he is doing, the ship will sink with all aboard.

So pray for our neighbors, pray for our leaders—both locally and federally. Decide if a relationship is worth it, and say what you need to say in order to mend it or move on from it. Think before you speak and act. Listen before you pass judgment. Learn what it means to truly love, sacrificially and unconditionally, to the point where it is uncomfortable and asks us to give everything we have.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a nice sentiment. It is a command. Love your neighbor. Love your African American neighbor. Love your Mexican neighbor. Love your Asian neighbor. Love your gay neighbor. Love your hypocritical neighbor. Love your white neighbor. Love your Muslim neighbor. Love your racist neighbor.

Love like Christ loved the church and gave all for her.

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.

Good job, baby

Good job, baby! Good job! Daddy’s so proud of you! Good job!

I decided extremely last minute that I would go to City Rock Fest this last Friday. It had been several months since I’d seen Disciple live, and I didn’t know when the next opportunity would be.

This small decision healed my heart in a way that I didn’t expect to ever experience on this side of eternity.

When Kevin shared a story about teaching his daughter how to walk, a door in my heart that had been swollen shut from the ache I felt beyond it had managed to crack open. This story let me see what a father should be like, what it’s like to be loved like a daughter. As she learned to walk, she fell often and sometimes with great harm to herself. And with patience and joy, he would pick her up, place her feet on his, and show her how to use her little legs. She would still fall; he would still pick her up and teach her again, never tiring of doing so.

Then one day, she propped herself on here feet and walked, and he applauded her and rejoiced with her. “Good job, baby! Good job! Daddy’s so proud!”

This is how God teaches us to walk. He picks us up and walks with us, showing us how to do the same. This is how we learn to give up our sin and choose Him—because He had been tempted in every way but remained blameless.

In Isaiah 65, God talks of allowing Himself to be found, to be sought after, of having His arms open and ready.

And no one looked for Him. No one received Him. No one asked for His help.

But when we do seek Him, He still allows Himself to be found (Jeremiah 29:14). When we ask for His help, His arms are still open, and He is still ready. He picks us up, comforts us, puts us on His feet, and teaches us to walk all over again.

And the day we prop ourselves on our feet, the day we take one step… and another… and another…

Good job, baby! Daddy’s so proud!

The day I take my first step away from my addiction.

Good job, baby!

The day I decide that sin will not ensnare me any longer.

Good job, baby!

The day I stop shaming myself but accept His redemption.

Good job, baby!

The day I stop atoning for all He’s already atoned for.

Good job, baby!

The day I choose Him above all else.

Good job, baby! Good job.

Daddy is so proud.

This is the relationship I’ve been missing my entire life. This is what a father looks like. This is how a daughter can be a daughter to her Father.

I have lost sight of what it means to call you “Papa.” After last night, I wonder if I ever actually knew.

But I’m thankful that with you, it’s never too late.

You are my Papa.

I am well loved by You.

Good job, baby.

2/20/15 Disciple

wake your dreams

“A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.”

I came to Seattle in chase of a dream. I was positive that this dream was in my future, so I looked for reasons to be up there. The ones I found were so good that I myself was completely convinced.

In my time in the Pacific Northwest, I’d grown leaps and bounds spiritually and emotionally. I attributed the growth to being far away from home and therefore having only God to rely on and no one else. So I thought I needed to stay here in order to keep growing. But really… God is all I have no matter where I am.

I wanted to have more experience in my writing and learn more in order to use this gift properly, so I decided to check out a graduate school. I fell in love with the Bothell campus of UW. Then I got my first student loan bill for my Bachelor’s, and the honeymoon was over. While it’s not as bad as it could’ve been, it is enough to rethink grad school and postpone it indefinitely.

So then, where does that leave me?

I’ve enjoyed this past half-year in Washington. God taught me a lot about trusting Him and growing with Him. He taught me truly what it meant to have faith in Him when all that was around me made no sense, and I had no way of providing for myself.

I’m waking from that dream now, but the end of one dream allows the birth of a new one.

I’m going home.

It’s time to go back to California.

Four years ago this month, I set off on a quest to finish college and get a degree. I’ve gained so much more than an expensive piece of paper in these four years. I’ve become emotionally healthier (though there will always be room for more growth); I’ve healed from wounds I’d numbed myself to and hadn’t realized they’d never properly healed; I gained new family; and I learned to love deeply from the part of my heart that I’d thought was too broken to love at all. It’s time to put that healing to use and stop running from the past.

I love who I was in the Northwest, and that person will always be me in some way, shape, or form.

“Times change and so must I. We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives and that’s okay. That’s good. Gotta keep it moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.”

I was uneasy making this decision. I was so sure I was supposed to be up here; if I was wrong about that, I could be wrong about this. But when I could finally see past my pride to remember the dream that brought me here, it did not seem such an ordained step after all. Still, I can’t call it a mistake, not after all this place has given me.

Sometimes you have to take the long way home to know that you belong there.

“He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?'” —Hebrews 13:5-6

One of my life verses of this year has been this: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” —Joshua 1:9

I will wake and live this new dream and do so bravely. I will trust in God’s sovereignty and believe that I cannot escape His will. I will take this step into a future known only to Him.

See you soon, California.

“Our destiny is in the stars, so let’s go and search for it.”

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? ^__^

a prayer for Pancho

Pancho Gusto is a gentle person. He’s an older man, probably fifties or early sixties. There is a weight of something like guilt in his lovely green eyes – a physical feature he’s unable to explain since both of his parents were full-blooded Mexican. Pancho is a war veteran. Which war, I can’t quite remember – I want to say Vietnam. He walks with a slight limp from a bullet that is still embedded in his leg.

I met Pancho in 2008. It was a chilly winter day in Orange County, so probably about 68 degrees. I had just walked out of Berean Christian Bookstore in Fullerton, having purchased a jewelry box for a friend’s birthday. Pancho asked me if I had some change so he could get some food. Being that I rarely had cash on hand at the time, I told him I didn’t, but I’d be happy to go with him and buy him a meal nearby.

His jade-colored eyes widened in surprise and while he didn’t seem to step back, it was as though his bewilderment at my offer knocked him backwards a few notches. He very quickly said he’d walk over and meet me so I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable with him in my car. I offered to just walk with him. We crossed the parking lot, talking the entire time. Pancho told me that he’s had a bullet in his leg since the war, that he didn’t want to shoot anyone but others were shooting at him. Memories of the war seemed to weigh heavy on him still.

Yet he spoke of God with reverence and love.

When we got to El Pollo Loco, he quickly told me what he likes (beans and rice, and lots of it) and went to sit outside. I only realize now that he might’ve felt embarrassed or ashamed and didn’t want to sit with the general public in the restaurant. He was probably considering me as well… and this makes me feel kind of sad. This is such a kind man, and there are very few people who will be blessed to know.

I ordered and paid for his meal (a chicken burrito with a side of rice and beans and a soda) and went outside to give it to him. I asked if I could pray for him. He said, “yes,” and we bowed and prayed together. I then went back to my dorm and my cafeteria food.

I’ve been thinking about Pancho for about a week or so now. He started coming to mind recently, and I don’t know why. I hope he is doing well and is alive and healthy, but I have no way of knowing, especially now being 1000 miles away from the place where we first met. At this point, I suppose all I can do is pray and have faith that God has Pancho in His grasp, and that grasp is firm. I wish I could see this nice man again and share a meal of burritos and rice and beans.

Who knows… maybe Pancho will make it to the Northwest at some point. Or maybe I’ll run into him again when I’m visiting the place I once called home. Or maybe we’ll have burritos in heaven.

Please pray for my friend if he comes to mind. Pancho Gusto is a good amicable man who loved good food. This is how I will always remember him.

Shattered

A creature created from the earth, living with borrowed breaths from the Sculptor. Her heart is weak, and her flesh is ever more so. How does a creation with these qualities come to gain so much pride?

She had asked for brokenness. She had asked for a glimpse of His heart for His people, for the students He’s blessed her with this summer. He hears her prayers, and He answers in His time.

His time came a few hours ago. In fellowship with the body, she felt the weight upon her heart called “conviction.” She wasn’t giving her all, and she’d known it for some time. Going through the motions and giving only half her heart.

But no one can survive with half a heart. In order to have life, it must be whole. No one can love with half a heart. It is all or nothing. Completely devoted or completely not.

Her hardened heart was shattered in the most remarkable way. While gathering to pray, she suddenly experienced it: a glimpse of His heart for His children.

Oh, how beautiful is His love and how perfect. A love that He wants to flood into His creation. A bigger glimpse into the heart of God to see the great love He has for the young lives He’s entrusted her with this summer.

His heart breaks for the lost, and she thinks of the lives and the faces she comes in contact with everyday. A glimpse of His love for them, His desire for them, His jealousy for them, His heart for them was all she could take. To have taken the entirety of His overflowing emotions for them would render her to her knees and flood her with great longing and heartbreak.

Her doubts have been washed away. This return shook her confidence. Is she truly meant to return after finishing her educational responsibilities?

The crash of her shattered pride and broken heart tells her yes. Her Father has shown her this night that He is not a God of confusion. He is the Good Shepherd, and she is one in His flock. This night, she can have confidence through Him that she will return here in His time, that she will go where she belongs, where He calls her to in His time.

A glimpse of His heart. To see and experience the intensity of His love shook her to the core.

All this time, she could’ve done so much more. Yet now, she has only four days left at her school with her students. What will she do?

Give me a tender and malleable heart, that I may love them with all that I am and give them the best for what’s left of the time we have together and after. If I leave without having a relationship with these students, then this entire summer was in vain.

Let my love overflow. Fill me that I may have what I need in order to pour into them and be fed as well.

This is the day her God gave her the gift of the answer she’d been waiting to know.

Tuesday 27 July 2010 – 12:54am Hong Kong

Here Am I

The beauty of Hong Kong is eluding. Here it is, yet still so far away. Beneath my feet and 7,254 miles away from home. Here and now, stepping on its soil (or concrete, if you will) and yet two more years away.

In a city filled with lights and buildings that stretch toward the heavens, the darkness looms among its streets and alleys. Yet the LORD is Adonai even in this place.

His presence in His people is not something to be comprehended or taken advantage of but rather to be revered. His glory dwelled in a box in old times. A very beautiful box, but yet it was still a box. Why did He choose to travel in a box? And one that only takes two people to lift and move?

Why does He choose now to dwell and travel in the hearts of His people? Fragile skin made of the dust of the earth. Within its fleshy confines, rests the glory of the Lord Almighty. Is it not humbling?

The Word of the Lord, the glory of His Name is not meant to sit silent and immovable. It is meant to be carried across distant lands and told to His creation. This is proof of His love for us that He should make us holy that He may dwell in us.

A creature of unclean lips, dwelling among a people of unclean lips. Touch burning coal to my lips and take away my iniquity and forgive my sin. Make me holy and send me, Lord, to these people. This summer and in the future.

Here am I.

Grow even the smallest amount of faith I can muster. Let me gather faith the size of a mustard seed from within my heart. And let my feet run the race, my hands touch the hearts, and my mouth speak Your love.

Here am I.

Sunday 11 July 2010 – 7:52pm Hong Kong

a key of tears

You have taken account of my wanderings
Put my tears in Your bottle
Are they not in Your book?

~ Psalm 56:8

An emotional day following an emotional day. Eyes filled to the brim with tears of longing and loneliness. Cries caught in the throat as mourning is bitten back.

She misses home.

She misses her friends, her mother, her old job (believe it or not), her old haunts. She misses them all. The sunshine, the laughter, the ocean breeze, the smell of the sand and the waves, the coldness of the rink. She longs to be near them.

Conversations are beautiful. Catching up with old friends, a gift. Keys to the door she locked tightly shut when she left. As the door flings open wide, emotions flood her senses and overwhelm her thoughts. How has she stayed up here so long without breaking down? Now that she has broken, what will happen?

How long has it been since she’s felt? How long has it been since she closed off her heart? How long will it take to swing the door wide open again?

Heart overflowing with emotions. It tells her it’s alive. It tells her she’s alive. It cries out in joy that it is heard, that it is no longer neglected.

Heart of flesh. This is what she wants. This is what He wants for her. Her heart of unforgiving stone broken to reveal a heart of tender flesh. A heart that is whole. A heart that can love from even its most battered depths.

Oh, God, a heart of flesh is so vulnerable.

But it feels.

And it’s alive.

The tears shed today will be collected in His bottle, recorded in His book. They mark the day a heart hardened by defense was broken with love.

It’s a new day.