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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your Savior has come

I was looking through some prayers and messages I’d written down in my notebook in the course of the last year or so, and I came across this that I honestly don’t even remember writing down. But it was the word that I received from God at the time, and it’s an encouraging one:


Your Savior has come. I am right here with you. You are My child. I see where you’re prone to stumble. Trust Me during those times. Fall into Me when you fall. Make Me where you turn, not yourself, not your old habits, not what you’re used to protecting yourself with, not what you think you deserve. I will protect you. I will catch you when you fall over, and I will heal your wounds. Your Savior has come, Daughter; I am here. I came for you, and you have Me.

“Liar” is not your identity. “Prideful” is not your identity. I wash these names that you have seared into your heart. I remove the scars you’ve inflicted upon yourself on account of those names. Trust Me from now on. These “identities” are no longer there to “save” you. Only I am here to do so. They will trap you and ensnare you if you give them the chance. I will release you. I will set you free.

Fall into Me. Let Me be your identity. Don’t try to live up to what you think I want. I want you. As you are. Let Me make you what I want you to become for My glory. I know you, and I still want you, I can still use you, and I will still use you. I finish what I begin.

Don’t ever lose sight of that.

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.

just lucky, i guess

I seriously don’t know what it is, but for whatever reason, I seem to always get into conversations about singleness. In particular, conversations where I have to convince someone I don’t need to be cured from it. It’s the most bizarre thing.

Anywhoo.

At my age, most of my friends are getting married or have gotten married and are starting families. So when there are oddballs like myself around, one of the first things I get asked from people is whether or not I’m seeing anyone.

It’s a seemingly harmless question, but what kills me is when it’s used as a measuring stick. “Oh, good. She’s still single. I’m not so badly off.” “I just need to find someone before she does.” Or, “well, at least I’m dating someone right now.”

(I suppose this entry is a little more tailored to the ladies because well… I don’t know the guys’ perspective on the subject.)

The second most popular question I get asked is “how/why are you still single?” I get it. I’m awesome, and it doesn’t make any sense (just kidding… but seriously). Sometimes people are well-meaning and think a single friend of theirs is great, and can’t fathom why it is that someone that could be a significant other hasn’t figured it out yet.

But listen to that question.

“Why are you still single?”

“Why are you still single?”

It doesn’t ask anything of Mysterious Person X who hasn’t got the brains to be attracted to this person, but it speaks everything of the person you’re talking to.

“What is so strange or incomplete about you that you’re not married yet?”

I’m not saying this is on everyone’s mind when they ask this also seemingly innocent question—chances are it doesn’t even come into thought—but it does linger in the air for the listener and receiver even if we don’t realize it at first. I don’t doubt people have had their confidence shaken up by that question. I know I have. To the point where I had to talk about it to justify myself. But why should I have to?

Why am I still single? I don’t know. Why is it so important for me to not be? I don’t know that either, except that society tells me it’s a big deal.

Now, if any of you have had these conversations, you know what’s coming next.

Consolation.

“I’m sure he’s out there somewhere; you just haven’t met him yet.” “Guys are idiots (I really don’t find it reassuring when we just put guys down either, but I know we’re all guilty of playing the blame game). Someone’s bound to figure out how awesome you are.” And my personal favorite: “God has a purpose for you while you’re still single.” (And yes, He does. It’s called serving God. Which I’m pretty sure is not limited to just me and my single friends.)

And then sagely advice and wisdom.

“The moment you’re completely satisfied in your singleness is when God will bring someone to you.” “When I decided I was done with guys, I met my husband.”

Well, that’s great, and I’m glad that’s how God decided to provide for some of you, but that’s not the formula for all of us. There is no formula. God doesn’t work in formulas. If we’re all unique, and God created us to be so, why would He impose formulas to blanket us with?

Also, there is some really bad theology going on.

For those of us who do desire to be married someday, we will never be completely 100% satisfied in our singleness. And Scripture doesn’t tell us to be. We are called to find our worth and satisfaction in God alone and desire God alone above all else (Deuteronomy 6:5; Romans 12:2; Psalm 139:14; Psalm 62).

Besides, it seems cruel for God to suddenly give me a boyfriend the moment I’m fully satisfied in my single status. What a jerk! (I’m sorry, I guess that should be “Jerk,” capital J.) And should that not work out, then I have to go through it AGAIN? Yikes.

What I’m trying to communicate is that we cannot allow ourselves to be defined by our relationship status. If we did, what would happen if or when that status suddenly changes? We cannot allow the world to define us because the world has no right to do so. The world did not create us; it does not provide us with purpose.

Only God can define us.

We’re not more or less holy because we’re more or less married. We’re holy because God has set us apart for His purposes. We were all created to bring God glory. The purpose of our lives is to serve God and give Him glory, and we can do that no matter what our relationship status is.

The purpose for single people is to serve God. The purpose for married people is to serve God. That doesn’t change. The only thing that does a little is how.

Single people, God does have purpose for us at this point in our lives. He doesn’t need to bring us a significant other before He can finally use us to our fullest potential. But only He knows if “this point” will ever actually end. Will you still believe and trust that God is good even if He decides not to change your relationship status?

One of my absolute greatest fears in this area is settling. “Well, he’s close enough.” I’m deathly afraid of rationalizing all the reasons some guy may not be right for me.

And for me, for all of us, the greatest defense against that is being rooted firmly in the God who created us and everything beyond us (Jeremiah 17:8). He defines my value and worth, and if I believe that I am worth the death of God, then I will behave as though I do. From our heart, from our identity, will flow our actions.

The advice that often follows that last one is to “wait for God’s best.” Okay, yes, but don’t leave it there. Waiting is not a passive verb; it can be as active as we want it to be. Yes, absolutely wait, but don’t wait for God to sit a husband in front of you and part the clouds to tell you he’s the one. We deserve more than to just twiddle our thumbs and wait for our soulmate to suddenly appear. We deserve to live and be alive before we ever meet someone.

Another meaning for “wait” is to serve.IMG_3113

Serve God because that is your purpose. That will always be your purpose. But don’t play games to try to get God to submit. Reverse psychology doesn’t work on Him (trust me).

Don’t do great godly things in hopes of attracting a great godly guy. Do great godly things because you were born to serve and belong to a great God.

We’ll never be able to “trick” God into doing what we want. He does not exist to make all our dreams come true. We exist to make His.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have absolutely made my relationship status my idol at some point in my life.

But I don’t live for men, I don’t live for marriage.

I live because He gave me life. And I won’t waste it waiting around passively for someone to finally see my worth. God has already seen it. I will submit to Him and wait on and for Him because He deserves to be praised and worshiped for the sole reason that He is God.

So single people, rejoice! Married people, rejoice! Rejoice because we have one God, and that God is good and gracious and pours love and grace with a generous wrist (Ephesians 3:19).

a prayer for Hong Kong

Three Sundays ago, I browsed my Instagram and Facebook feeds as I was getting ready for church. I was overwhelmed by photos taken by my friends and former students in the midst if a peaceful protest in Hong Kong—a peaceful protest that was interrupted by police armed with tear gas and batons.10628432_536877118441_8472212080523922738_n

These are teenagers and young twenty-year-olds. My heart was and is still heavy concerning over their safety and the future of their city—a city I had fallen in love with long ago. These young people are fighting for their rights as promised to them by China: the right to free election and to be semi-autonomous as they had been for so long. Part of me wanted to stay home and find all the news articles I could on the subject, but I felt I should let the matter sit and go to church, and that God would give me a blessing then.

And He did. There was a devotional sharing from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young that day that spoke to my nerves.

From 22 September:

“TRUST ME AND REFUSE TO WORRY, for I am your Strength and Song. You are feeling wobbly this morning, looking at difficult times looming ahead, measuring them against your own strength. However, they are not today’s tasks–or even tomorrow’s. So leave them in the future and come home to the present, where you will find Me waiting for you. Since I am your Strength, I can empower you to handle each task as it comes. Because I am your Song, I can give you Joy as you work alongside Me.

Keep bringing your mind back to the present moment. Among all My creatures, only humans can anticipate future events. This ability isa blessing, but it becomes a curse whenever it is misused. If you use your magnificent mind to worry about tomorrow, you cloak yourself in dark unbelief. However, when the hope of heaven fills your thoughts, the Light of My Presence envelops you. Though heaven is future, it is also present tense. As you walk in the Light with Me, you have one foot on earth and one foot in heaven.”
Exodus 15:2; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 10:23

God also placed Scripture on my heart that more or less let me know He was listening and aware. And it has been my experience for these last nearly dozen years of walking with Him that if God is listening, if God is aware, then God is working, God is prepared. However minute the detail may be, God is very much moving.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all [a]comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

My prayer for Hong Kong stems from 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and Isaiah 9:6. I pray, and ask that we pray together, for the leadership and those in authority in Hong Kong and even Mainland China. And I ask that we remember that ultimately the government stands on a firm foundation. It is on Jesus’ shoulders that Hong Kong rests and is subject to.

One of my students asked me specifically to pray for hope—that whatever the outcome, Hong Kong does not lose hope. She is wise for such a young girl. With God, in God, because of God, there is always hope.

Things escalated again near the end before businesses opened back up and students went back to school, but the protestors have been above reproach throughout the entire situation. The government and officials, however, have been significantly less so.

While the protest itself is done, Hong Kong has a long way to go on the road to desired democracy. While I alone feel powerless to help you or support you on the other side of the ocean, please know—my students, my friends, my family, my beloved Hong Kong—that prayer can moved mountains, and I will be on my knees praying for you every chance I get.

You’re a part of something greater than yourselves. I feel it in my bones.


Since the writing of this entry in my journal, the government has chosen to cancel its meeting with the people and have blamed the Occupy Central movement for deflating its chances at negotiations. Please keep praying for the city, that the corruption will not be tolerated, and that hearts will be changed. No matter the outcome, the new generation has a lot on its shoulders, and Hong Kong will be subjected to many challenges.

eternity

Where the desert is covered in roses [Isaiah 35:1]
Where I can outshine the stars in a single day [1 John 2:25]
The face of God isn’t hidden [Revelation 22:4]
When I wake into eternity [1 Corinthians 15:51-53]

Where the shadows are never discovered [Revelation 22:5]
Tears are nothing more than a memory [Revelation 21:4]
Death isn’t alive any longer [Revelation 20:14]
When I wake into eternity
Eternity (Horseshoes & Handgrenades), Disciple

ben

This is what he opened his eyes to when he closed them for the last time on earth. This is his life now. This is the life that awaits all of us who love and seek after God. He lives now where death has no home, where death itself is dead. He dances with his Savior on streets of gold.

Friends and family came from all around to remember and honor him, to give praise to God for allowing us to be blessed by his friendship in the time we had together. In twenty-nine years of life, he loved deeper than some do in eighty.

Everyone who knew him describes him to have been a man of incredible faith and love. Those two things in his life drove each other forward, shaping and perfecting each other to prepare him for eternity. He was probably more equipped for eternity than many of us will be at the end of our lives.

I miss his smile, his joy, his absolute thirst for life, and his evident passion for his Lord. He was a man who never let life knock him down, who never took himself too seriously, who rescued ducks and appreciated serious conversations about Batman.

We miss you dearly, Ben Price. We rejoice that you are finally cancer-free and worshipping God at His feet. And we love you.

See you in eternity, where nothing will part our friendship again.

Death isn’t alive in eternity.

home sweet home

Hard to believe I’ve been home for a little over two months now. I keep promising an update, but truth be told, I haven’t really been in the mood to say much. Not a whole lot is going on in my life right now, and I guess I want to write when something takes a turn for the better for me in this chapter. I keep thinking that I want to write when things are finally going properly in my life.

But that’s not why we’re here. That’s not why we write.

We write through the pain and the awkward, through the rough times, through the valley, as well as on the mountain, during times of peace, through healing. Otherwise, it gives a false sense of who we are if all we show is our highlight reel.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” —Ernest Hemingway

Whether I realized it before or not, I’ve always lived (or survived) like life can only happen after the transition; I just have to hold out until I get through the awkward part and into the life part. That’s when I’ll write. That’s when things get good. That’s when I’ll be alive.

I was reminded yesterday that living happens during transitions as well as during times when roots have become established. And it’s in these times of upheaval where we can live the most freely, simply by choosing to live. “Transition” is kind of a fancy word for “fork.” At this fork, you can choose to go God’s way, or you can choose to take it on yourself. (*Hint: God gets His way eventually, and it’ll really spare you some heartache and wasted effort if you pick the former to begin with. I need to take my own advice on this one.)

These forks are the most exposed area, however, and your indecision can open you up to an ambush from the one who wishes you harm. It’s in these times when the enemy advances his ranks and tries to overtake us. It’s in these moments when we are most vulnerable to his attacks. He got me pretty good just a few nights ago.

I’d been surviving, redirecting what little energy I had left in order to keep me going to the next day and the next and the next. I was not prepared to defend myself. I was not equipped to resist and flee. And so I fell on my face. But rather than dwell and dig myself into a pit and allow my life to spiral out of control like I’m prone to do, I was surprisingly able to get up, dust myself off, and choose to live for Jesus.

It’s in these moments of transition where we can see God work most clearly. In these moments, we can choose God. In this moment, I can choose God. In God there is life, and in that life is the light that overcomes darkness (John 1:4-5).

If Israel simply sought to survive in the desert, would that mentality have allowed for them to get through forty years of wandering? It was one big transition time out of captivity and into freedom, where they had to learn to take on a new identity as a free people and shed their slave identity. They were completely physically removed from what they knew to be a way of life so that they can achieve the promise of something more. The entire identity had to be re-written. You have to be alive to allow for such a shift, or you cannot survive it.

I have not been alive. I have been existing, surviving. I’ve allowed my circumstance to define my being. Unemployed, passed over. Failure. This is the identity I’d taken on in the last five weeks. I survive in hopes that I can live again.

But I’m living now. Or rather, I can live now. Life is happening whether I choose to live it or not. My tomorrows are about as guaranteed as anyone else’s. Each breath I take is a breath borrowed from God.

I have a lot of fear in this time of unknown, this fork. However, the sky’s the limit every single day, especially now. I don’t have to protect God from my fear and lack of faith; He knows they’re there. The only thing to do is bring them to Calvary and leave them at His feet.

“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

Beyond my strength, beyond my ability, beyond my means, God is greater, bolder, and He is with me always. Because of this, I can have joy even now. There is life and joy in the tension and the transition.

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” —Romans 5:3-5

God pours grace with a generous wrist. I will have what I need to make it through.

What is Grace?

(Someone sent this to me in an email. it meant a lot to me, so I wanted to share)


The following is from a book by David Jeremiah called Captured By Grace. I thought his insight here on the difference between mercy and grace was quite illuminating, and make sure to see the illustration below. It will most likely bring tears to your eyes:

Mercy is God withholding the punishment we rightfully deserve.

Grace is God not only withholding that punishment but offering the most precious of gifts instead.

Mercy withholds the knife from the heart of Isaac.
Grace provides a ram in the thicket.

Mercy runs to forgive the Prodigal Son.
Grace throws a party with every extravagance.

Mercy bandages the wounds of the man beaten by the robbers.
Grace covers the cost of his full recovery.

Mercy hears the cry of the thief on the cross.
Grace promises paradise that very day.

Mercy pays the penalty for our sin at the cross.
Grace substitutes the righteousness of Christ for our wickedness.

Mercy converts Paul on the road to Damascus.
Grace calls him to be an apostle.

Mercy saves John Newton from a life of rebellion and sin.
Grace makes him a pastor and author of a timeless hymn.

Mercy closes the door to hell.
Grace opens the door to heaven.

Mercy withholds what we have earned.
Grace provides blessings we have not earned.


He also includes this story which is quite amazing:

It’s autumn in New York. November 2004. Freezing rain, weary drivers. One carload of delinquents on a joyride. Got the picture?

Their spree begins at the local Cineplex. Bored with action flicks, the teenagers decide to act one out. They break into a car, grab a credit card, and proceed to a video store. There they charge four hundred dollars’ worth of DVDs and video games. Why not pick up a few groceries while they’re at it? A surveillance tape catches the kids selecting a twenty-pound turkey. Remember the turkey.

Pedal to the metal in a silver Nissan, the kids move along an irregular line intersecting with a Hyundai containing one Victoria Ruvolo. The two cars cross paths at approximately 12:30 a.m. Victoria Ruvolo, forty-four, is heading for her Long Island home. Having attended her fourteen-year-old niece’s vocal recital, she looks forward to home and hearth—particularly hearth. She’s ready to unravel the overcoat and scarves, burrow under an electric blanket, and rest her weary self.

Maybe the silver Nissan, approaching from the east, catches Victoria’s eye—maybe not. Later, she won’t be sure. She certainly won’t recall the image of a teenage boy leaning out the window of the Nissan as the car approaches. Nor will she retain any memory of the bulky projectile taking flight from his hands. This is the part about the turkey.

The twenty-pound bird crashes through Victoria’s windshield. It bends the steering wheel inward, smashes into her face, and breaks every bone it encounters. Victoria will remember none of this—frankly, a stroke of mercy. Eight hours of surgery and three weeks of recovery later, however, friends and family fill in the blanks. Victoria lies impassively in a bed in Stony Brook University Hospital and listens to every detail. Yet her emotions are difficult to discern, given the mask her face has become: shattered like pottery, now stapled together by titanium plates; an eye affixed by synthetic film; a wired jaw; a tracheotomy.

The public reaction is much more vigorous. The media has run with this story; weblogs follow every new detail of arrest and arraignment. Over Thanksgiving, New Yorkers whispered prayers of gratitude that they were not Victoria Ruvolo. Over Christmas, they cherished their health and their fortunes a little bit more than usual. Over the New Year, they cried out for justice. Internet bloggers and TV pundits suggest what they’d do if they could be in a room for five minutes with those punks in the Nissan. They’d especially love to lay hands on Ryan Cushing, the eighteen-year- old who heaved the turkey. His face should be shattered. His life should lie in ruins. That’s how the man in the street sees it.

But it’s all in the hands of the justice system. On Monday, August 15, 2005, Ryan and Victoria meet face to restructured face in the courtroom. Nine agonizing, titanium-bolted months have passed since the attack. Victoria manages to walk into the courtroom unaided, a victory in itself. A trembling Ryan Cushing pleads guilty—to a lesser charge. Sentence: a trifling six months behind bars, five years probation, a bit of counseling, a dash of public service. People shake their heads in righteous indignation. Is that all the punishment we can dish out? When did this country become so soft on crime? Let’s lock up all these criminals and throw away the key. Who is responsible for this plea bargain anyway?

The victim. That’s who. The victim requests leniency.

Ryan makes his plea and then turns to Victoria Ruvolo, all the essence of tough guy long since drained away. He is weeping with abandon. The attorney leads the assailant to the victim, and Victoria holds him tight, comforts him, strokes his hair, and offers reassuring words. “I forgive you,” she whispers. “I want your life to be the best it can be.” Tears mingle from mask of reconstruction and mask of remorse. It takes quite an event to bring tears to the eyes of New York attorneys and magistrates. This is such an event. TV and radio reporters file their stories in voices that for once are hushed and respectful. The New York Times dubs it “a moment of grace.”


I’ve looked at grace as the thing I could never deserve (which is true), so that means I can never accept it (not true).

Aside from my cultural heritage, my religious upbringing taught me exactly this: we have to deserve the gifts we receive. We have to deserve the good stuff as much as we deserve the bad stuff. In life, there’s suffering because we are broken, messed up people. After death, there’s more suffering because we were broken, messed up people.

It is difficult for me to fully experience grace because I have to rewrite 15 years of theology from my developmental stage in life. And slowly work toward completing 11+ years of new theology that is personal and very, very strange.

Grace should move me to tears in gratitude, not reduce me to tremble in fear.

This is the prayer I need you to pray for me. And if this is the prayer that you need for yourself as well, I will be overjoyed to pray it for you as well.

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.”

above the ashes

God has given me a powerful name: “the appearance, the bearing, of a phoenix.”

It’s this name that the devil must destroy in order to defeat me.

Names make one strong, mighty, significant, but they can also make one vulnerable. It is at the name of Jesus that every knee will bow, that expels devils (Mark 16:17). Yet in other cases, naming something gives one power over it. In Bible times, demons were cast out only after its name was learned. Naming our sin releases its burden over us. Naming an animal endears it to us.

Naming and names should not be taken lightly.

The lie that is attacking my name, my identity, promises fire, ash, destruction, desolation—nothing more. There is pain. There is misery. There is suffering. They will keep coming, I will keep surviving—no more, no less. There will be no redemption, no healing, no hope, no end.

This is to be my fate: forever waiting—waiting faithfully—only to have promises broken and dreams dashed.

But that is not what God has promised me through this name.

The phoenix does indeed burn, but it is not reduced to ashes.

flip

And neither am I.

From the ashes a new creature is born—stronger than the last with 1000 more years to thrive. It will emerge from them with eyes that carry all the wisdom of a previous life and wings spread wide to challenge the skies.

“A simple step of faith for you as you move towards what God has in your future is always rewarded with a God-spoken promise for the now.”—Andrew Gardener, The Vine Church HK

This is my promise bestowed by my God through two men who would cause me to live up to it over and over again.

“‘They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,’ declares the LORD.”—Jeremiah 1:19

Take heart, little phoenix; the fire doesn’t burn forever.

I will burn.

But I will rise.

I am above the ashes.