Thursday, August 1, 2013

streams

Aw, my poor, neglected blog. :(

Just because I've been silent online doesn't mean I've been at peace. Quit the opposite, actually. But God has been so very, very gracious to me throughout this time of my life.

I feel so torn. My heart is still in SLO, in college, when I was just a teenager learning what it means to be loved and accepted by a community. But my reality is here, in a big city, where people don't care to know me or share life with me. Where I'm expected to give and give of myself, my time, and my energy and to be satisfied with a paycheck in return.

I'm nowhere close to where I thought I would be post-graduation. I think it just hit me how much of my life has changed from college - how my relationships are so different, how I've lost people that I was close to, how I've gained new ones. It's a blur of ups and downs, laughter and uncomfortable silences, mistakes and life events and trials. So much life lived in such a short amount of time. The city moves at such a fast pace, and I think I got caught up in its quickness for a while, but I stepped out for a moment to realize I desperately want it to slow down. I desire clarity and peace and restoration.

I feel the loneliness of the city. I know exactly how it feels to be in a room full of friends and still feel so alone. Untouchable. I feel very uncared for and not valued.

At the same time, I just had a glorious time this evening spending some quality time with my Creator. I turned on some worship music and read Francis Chan's Erasing Hell, and I just couldn't shake the feeling that I was deeply valued and intimately loved.

Abiding joy, yet I feel so unsettled at the same time.

My soul is crying out for rest in green pastures, beside streams of living waters.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

moves

Life is tough sometimes. Thankfully, God is still good.

I'm writing this as my left ankle is swollen, elevated and freezing under a bag of frozen green beans. Just another incident in what has been the worst week to date of 2013.

After an exhausting week of technological difficulties at work, a public calling-out of a mistake made at work, and an overall sense of general discouragement and disappointment with myself that was topped off by me spraining my ankle Friday morning, I can honestly say that God's presence has been the only thing keeping me sane.

Monday was Reality's prayer night. I was struck by a prayer that Pastor Tarik shared: "We are reaping where we did not sow." He said this in regards to Reality's explosive growth in the past few years, but it felt so relevant to my life, personally.

The last few months, my coworker has been asking questions about God and spirituality. More specifically, he's been asking me why I believe in what I believe, and has even asked me to pray for him on multiple occasions. I was slightly crushed when he told me, two weeks ago, that he was quitting. His last day was yesterday. I felt like he was so close, and I didn't understand why God was bringing this person in which I've invested over the last few months, out of my life already. And I realized that God was saying that I got to help sow the seed, and someone else will reap where they didn't sow. Likewise, there are other people God has placed in my life around me where I will reap where I didn't sow-I will see God work in their lives in tremendous ways that previous believers have prayed for before I even knew that person. I feel so at peace now with my coworker leaving.

On Thursday, when I got chewed out by my boss, I felt so shaken and discouraged and kept wondering why I was even here at my office. I didn't (and still don't) feel like what I have to offer is a good fit for my role here. And then, I felt the Lord speaking gently but with so much truth and conviction, I knew I had to listen.

Why am I here, God? I have nothing to bring to this company. I keep making mistakes and I don't even really enjoy what I'm doing. 
But who will go? Who then can I send? Who will represent me to these people? 

And just as a person taking off a blindfold opens his eyes and has his sight restored to him, I felt like God opened my eyes to the bigger picture at work in my life. I was sent here. This is a divine mission, and earthly discouragements are not enough to persuade me to leave. This is my assignment for God's kingdom, and until I'm transferred elsewhere, this is where I will serve and love the lost.

(Not so) Coincidentally, on Thursday, my roommate and I decided to fast for certain nonbelievers in our lives. I have never fasted before, and doubted my ability to make it through without eating for a full day, but man, what a way to emphasize the fact that I'm there for souls, not finance. Every time my tummy growled, I would look over at my coworker and pray for him.

What a savior our Jesus is.

On Friday, I woke up and fell, spraining my ankle. At this point, I was starting to think that there was some kind of spiritual warfare going on. It was 2 of my coworkers' last days, and I wanted to spend time with them. I made it to work and to their happy hour afterwards. And again, God's grace was upon me-another coworker started opening up and sharing about his life to me. I invited him to church, and he agreed. There was another person we were sitting with, a friend of a coworker, and to be inclusive, I asked him if he wanted to go, too. I was totally expecting a polite refusal, but he seemed a little surprised and said yes, also! God is so, so mysterious in the way that He moves.

I'm ecstatic with how God is moving in SF, and I live for these little glimpses of Heaven, where I get a peek at God's heart for men and women, and even get to experience His vast, unending, and incomparably deep love for me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

baptize

There is something so powerful, so inexplicably moving about baptisms. I am so humbled every time I have the privilege of watching someone be baptized - it reminds me that the cross is indeed the power of God to those being saved.

I love redemption stories. At Reality, there were two that stood out. A young, burly college guy, who held himself with so much confidence, I assumed he was a business major, stood up and shared his name. But when he started sharing his testimony, there was a long pause as he began choking up. Finally, all he could manage to get out through his sobs was, "Jesus has changed my life!" Such a simple phrase, but it was powerful. Clearly, God's grace was so tangible in his life. It was a glorious day to share that moment with him.

Another girl, Jennifer, spoke so quietly I had to really strain to hear her words. Everything she said was well thought-out and very intelligent. But when she began to explain why she wanted to get baptized today, she also choked up. "I can no longer deny the grace of God in my life." Death to self never looked so beautiful.

Amazing how all of our intellect and strengths and self-esteem are rendered worthless in light of how wonderful and unjust Christ's sacrifice was for us. Sometimes God's grace feels close to me and other times, I wander far from Him, but moments like these remind me of what it cost to have my relationship with my Creator, and how much He still finds me worth it all.

"Oh, praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

stewardship

Happy 2013! A little belated.

I want to do a look back on 2012 to see what God has taught me in the past year, but first, I just wanted to get my thoughts out on why I spend the way I spend.

I never thought I would be that girl. You know, the girl who focuses on frugality and wants to have her own garden and stay home and enjoys cleaning and all that domestic jazz. And yet, the more immersed I become in the frugality mindset, the more I find myself longing for a little house in the country with a gorgeous garden and fruit tree orchards.

Let me back up. Frugality isn't just about money. It's about choosing the way you live your life.  As I try to be intentional in every aspect of my life, it isn't surprising that I would strive to be intentional in my money habits. Frugality allows me to live the life I want to live. I don't take for granted the fact that I have a job that pays me an amount that allows me to live comfortably. Yet in my field, I am on the low spectrum. In my city, I make below the median salary. I see my coworkers and colleagues constantly strive to earn more, because they feel like they "deserve" it. There is a rampant sense of entitlement to the excessive wealth in San Francisco.

Frugality is anti-entitlement. Who decided that we should be placed where we work making what we earn? The fact that I have a college degree has very much to do with the fact that I was born to college-educated parents in a first world country. I didn't ask to be born into my family. I could have easily been born to a very poor family in rural China. I am not entitled to my salary just because I put in 9 hours a day at my job - I was not in charge of most of the circumstances that led me here.

God is. Was. Will be. So I try to spend money in a way that is consistent with stewardship of God's gifts in my life.

I'm frugal because it allows me to use my money in different areas of the world to build God's kingdom. I love that I am equipped to make a difference in people's lives in such a tangible way. I don't really need all the money I make. Other people need it far more than I do, actually. It's easy to forget that, though.

I have never been so challenged by the lack of my participation in social justice and poverty advocacy than in San Francisco. Reading the Bible, I am constantly humbled and convicted by Jesus' teachings about loving the poor and powerless. If I have to be honest with myself, have I taken care of the least of His kingdom? Have I been obedient to His calling in all aspects of my life, including my finances? Does my spending clearly point to my priorities? Could people look at my expenses and believe I am a Christian who loves and cherishes and obeys God's commandments? 

While my peers complain about the high cost of living and salaries, I will choose to be disciplined in an area where most people have forgotten discipline. Yes, it's counter cultural and that makes me weird, I guess, but I am seeking the approval of something far greater - Someone, who, at the end of my life, will say to me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

mornings

There is just something about mornings that make them irresistible to me. Most people don't understand it, but mornings just feel so fresh and exhilarating. There is so much I could do, so many people I could talk to, so many sights to see! They hold so much possibility.

Mornings are peaceful. Waking up for the sunrise every Saturday is probably the quietest time of day in the city. That's how I like the city best.

A few months ago, Pastor Bryan preached a sermon on Mark 5, where Jesus raises a dead girl by taking her hand and saying, "Talitha koum!" The NIV translates this saying into "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" But Pastor Bryan explained that this was a poor translation, as it doesn't take into consideration the cultural connotations. He painted the following picture: Jesus goes into the little girl's room where she is laid on her bed, takes her hand and sits on the edge of the bed and speaks gently to her what would be today's equivalent of "Sweetheart...sweetie, it's time to wake up."

 This image is so much more powerful to me. It just shows how tender Jesus' heart is for his children! And it may sound crazy, but when I'm awoken by the sun peeking through my window blinds, I feel that's God gently, tenderly, sweetly calling me His and awakening me. It's a powerful moment, and the same image I had of Jesus raising the girl from the dead has popped up in my head every morning this past week.

Lamentations 3:22 "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!"

Saturday, October 27, 2012

sight

I don't see things the way most people do.

I experience life in a movie scene of flashbacks. When other people see street signs and landmarks, I see the time my roommate and I picked up ingredients for chocolate chip cookies at a 24-hr grocery store at 10PM and spent the night laughing about life with friends. I see memories made with people that are no longer here.

I experience through emotion, not vision. I remember how I felt all those late night drive homes. I remember the sense of freedom I felt when I first came here; that warm night at Grover Beach for a bonfire, with that feeling of anticipation and the knowledge that my life was about to start. I even remember how I felt the last couple of months in town, impatiently expectant for my life to start.

I miss those days, and I miss those people. I'm not sure if it's a comfort thing, but I miss waking up to the sunlight streaming through my window, hearing my roommates puttering around, deciding which of my favorite places to eat at around town and who I wanted to hang out with that day.

I miss the ease with which I lived in community and the joy I felt when I got to walk around downtown on a bright, sunshiney morning.

I'm not sure if it's a comfort thing, but every time I come back here, it feels like a grand homecoming.

Monday, September 10, 2012

discontentment

I have been re-reading a book that we studied in Bible Study a couple years back called "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23." I will preface this blog entry by saying that I think Psalm 23 is one of my absolute favorite chapters in the entire Bible. The imagery is so evocative and serene, but when combined with practical knowledge of raising sheep, it adds so much more depth and insight to the Father's heart.

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want..."

The author talks about a sheep who was gorgeous-one of his prize sheep. But she constantly desired to escape his care and his pasture. She would find holes in the fence to escape, even though the author had the best pastures in the area, and escaping meant that she would be grazing on lower quality land. He likens her to the Christians who still flirt with earthly desires, even though they have the best care provided for them. They long to get to the other side of the fence, because they are not content with what they have. They have no peace.

Although I have come a long way in learning how to manage money, I think the Lord has so much more that He wants to train me in. It has been extremely humbling to realize I have been caught up in finding a job, caring too much about my potential salary or job status; basically, things of the world. I have been flirting with the notion that I need to be independent, so I can show everybody that I'm a success. That I've made it. That my $80,000 diploma was worth it.

But who really cares? I literally have all the riches of the world, because I have a place in God's kingdom. Surely that should be enough for me. He will provide for my needs, and if I really take the time to think about it, I'm reminded that I actually desire a simpler lifestyle.  The city has a way of distracting and warping God-given clarity sometimes.

Surely, I shall not be in want. I require nothing more than what Jesus has already provided for me. I think I need a heart change. I don't need a job; I need peace. I don't need money; I need joy and fulfillment.

Most of all, I need the daily reminder of God's great love and care for me.