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? ^__^

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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

permanent marker

So believe it or not, I got a tattoo. Surprise!

Many have asked me why I chose to get it, and well, there’s a lot of things, I suppose. I definitely didn’t get it for anyone else as it is not visible. I chose the rising phoenix because it is very symbolic for me. It’s been emphasized on a lot of my posts. Refer to this one if you’re lost.

Thinking back, I probably could’ve given this a whole lot more thought than I did. That’s not to say I regret it, though I’m pretty sure there were a few times (like when the needle was working its magic on my sensitive skin) when I was pretty close. Actually, I think when I had finally realized what I had done, my stomach knotted a bit. Ha.

But looking at it now, this is me. I think it depicts me very well. Blazing and beautiful and looking up always… this is it!

A tattoo is essentially a scar. But when I look at this, I am reminded of myself. Scars are supposed to be ugly things that come about after your skin has been damaged. But here where my damaged skin is lies a pretty picture that represents a lot of things in my life. My life is like one big scar (or a million little ones, I suppose), but Jesus makes it a pretty picture.

This image reminds me of the ashes that I have risen from. It’s kinda like a mini representation of me – I should be marred and bruised, but Jesus makes me beautiful when I rise again. This is my reminder that Jesus provides for me, that I can always be looking up.

Forgive me if this isn’t as smooth-flowing as my other entries. I haven’t written in the first person in a long time. Ha. =)

Here are some photos of the process!

(yes, I was crying a little at this point. Outlining freaking hurts!)

one other reason I’m thankful it’s in this spot is I didn’t have to look at the needle. =)

this is the end result of the outlining

And this one’s really crappy quality cuz I zoomed in on the mirror a lot with my cameraphone (didn’t have a friend there for very long while the shading was being done, so no pictures of that process)

this part took 2.5 hours. Had a 10 minute break in the middle. Yeah, the blood rushed to my head after I was done, and I almost fell over when I got up. O.o

yep.

Moses

God walked alongside Moses, growing him for a special purpose. At the beginning of his story, Moses was saved that God may carry out His plans for Moses as well as use Moses to carry out His plans for Israel….. which I guess was God’s plans for Moses. O.o

In the beginning of the story, the main character was a feeble man who seemed full of excuses. He was reluctant to accept the plans God had for him. He claimed to be slow of speech and lacking in eloquence. Before even that, he asked questions that were seemingly impossible to answer for anyone but God. And though God did answer them, Moses eventually asked God to send someone else.

The Lord was displeased, and His righteous anger burned against Moses, yet He continued to pursue him. The harder Moses ran, the harder God pursued him. He assigned a helper in Aaron, who would be Moses’ voice to the Egyptians and the Israelites.

Moses and Aaron were a tag team with God coaching them from outside the ring. God passed the message to Moses, who passed it to Aaron, who in turn passed it to the masses.

Moses felt he had no authority to speak to Pharaoh. At the beginning of their interactions, Aaron performed the miracles and spoke. As time passed on, it was noted specifically that Moses went into Pharaoh’s to speak. Aaron was sometimes not even mentioned in the verbal duels.

For the last battle, Moses proclaimed the final plague that was set upon Egypt. After delivering the message, Moses left Pharaoh’s presence, “hot with anger.”

God provided Moses with help and education, and with every message and every mission, Moses learned to be the leader God wanted and needed him to be for Israel. With every message and every mission, his boldness and courage grew to the point where he did no have to hide behind Aaron any longer.