rollercoaster

it really has been.

there have been highs and lows over the past month that have made feel dizzy, tired, elated, scared.

getting my first choice for externship next [academic] year? check.

getting the green light of ‘pass’ for dissertation proposal? check.

sending out my Nigeria support letters? check.

finishing my second year of school successfully? check.

crawling through comps [currently] and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel get bigger? check.

and then there’s life. while simultaneously welcoming new life into the world, full of joy, this also means slowly saying good-bye to those loved ones who are moving on.

my grandmother is 96. she has gone from a strong, passionate, vibrant, energetic, independent matriarch, full of life and beauty, to a frail, thin, weak, anxious, scared, forgetful, old woman. i haven’t seen her in four years, and thinking about her current emotional, mental, and physical state is too hard to bear. i know her time is coming, but i can’t imagine her being gone from this world. and it’s made me think even more about my own recent existential crises.

know i can’t control everything. i know change happens and it’s part of the beauty of life. i know God knows and is in control. i know that i’ve internalized this desire to be loved and sometimes i don’t know if i am. i can’t feel it. so many things i know. but all the same, it’s hard. so very hard.

there’s been opportunity these past few weeks to experience joy. and there’s been opportunity to sit with grief and pain. but i think i need to find a moment [when will that be?] to sit and reflect upon who I am in the midst of all this stuff.

so that i don’t just know, but that i am.

 

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“though i have not seen Him, my heart knows Him well.”

taking a break from a current homework assignment to meditate on this song and blog a bit. during these past few weeks, my experience is like that of making a teeny-tiny chip in a huge block of ice, not sure if i am making any impact or headway. at the same time, i know i am in it. i know that i am going through the tunnel, and soon i will be at the other side, gazing into clouds and feeling radiant sunshine.

it’s like this journey of faith. i can’t see the reward, but i’m experiencing it. i’m attempting to hold firmly to the fact that all will be well and i will emerge victorious on the other side, because of the price already paid in my stead.

** to be continued **

fast|reflections

it’s coming to the end of this fasting period, as 2016 has opened its doors and consumed me. i’m taking my first steps into the water, and am already a little overwhelmed by what the spring holds, school-wise, but i’m determined to wade in with all the supports and skills i already know i possess, and with those who are walking with me.

i finally came to a point in this period of fasting where my heart, body, and brain calmed down. where i was able to sit through the hunger pangs without so much than a forethought, where i was able to say, “i don’t need all of this — i don’t need facebook or instagram or netflix, or carbs or meat, or sufficiency from the world.”  during the past week, i had struggled a lot with unanswerable questions and fears and anxieties, that threatened to shatter and break all that i had built my foundation, my life, my identity upon. “is God real? does He even exist? He’s not even a person. I can’t see Him. what if I am alone in this world? what’s the use of life and a future? i want to go to heaven when i die. what if there is no heaven? i can’t. i’m scared to even think like this. but what if God is not real? what if i have been fooling myself, my entire life?” it was a running, endless commentary in my mind, with the usual distractions of noise and social media absent and unable to complete their task of occupying my mind with senseless activity. i began to pray, with my only prayer being that of the tax collector in Jesus’s parable[is that the one?], where he cries out, “Lord, help me in my unbelief! I’m not even worthy to pray to you.” and God, a Voice, saying to me the words he spoke of Mary all those years ago: “She has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” At the end, all I could be convicted of was, I may never know the answers to all these questions, but I still need to believe. I may never understand God or the complexities of this universe, but I still need to trust and keep going.

So here I am, virtually at the end of this fast – 8 days after i began, and i’m almost sad it’s over, because it feels anti-climactic to just let it go, and i want to create some accountability, some sustainability, out of it. but i don’t know how. i don’t know how to modify my pre-fast living habits so that i can still keep some sort of mindset active and strong. too soon, i could jump back into fb, instagram, catching up on all my Hulu and Netflix obsessions, filling myself with bread and carbs and meat and sweets, and all of these reflections and lessons soon forgotten. i shudder. help me keep some semblance of the past 8 days please.

i can’t otherwise.

 

 

good

“as 2014 draws to set on the horizon, i wonder what 2015 holds. i believe [i hope] myself to be slightly more comfortable in my skin, ensconced in the beauty of who I am within the beauty of Who is within me, growing into genuine-ness with my relationships and those who surround me, and unafraid of what the future holds.

that last one, i’m not so sure about. i am desperately afraid of the future. i always have been. but i have also been open to living each day one day at a time, and withholding myself from leaping too far ahead. it’s tough, especially when my brain’s natural tendency is to anxiously rush ahead into territory that it has no place in being there. take each day at face value. take each person at face value. bless others. be blessed. there’s a Plan. i’m a small part of it.”

words i had written on the eve of 2015, as i looked back on 2014 and wondered what was ahead. i’m sitting in that very moment again, as the year is passing onto a new one. am i older and wiser? in many ways, i feel like i’ve regressed – like i’m much more of a child, as i realize there is so much more growing and developing still to do. 

it’s been a year of challenges and triumphs, from my dad’s Hep-C-free status to crawling through another year of this Psy.D program. the new year rings in very soon, and another fast begins in less than one week. hopes and dreams have been realized, and others still wait on the horizon, with little resolution. this year, i have re-learned and been reminded of what it means to be “mindful” and “intentional”, but i often forget to integrate these patterns of living into my daily emotions and thoughts. as always, there is so much more on the horizon and i’m scared to even lift my head and look, lest i be disappointed. 

yet, through it all, through my mind, this endless commentary runs: He is good, He is good, He is good, He is good. He is faithful. He is good. He is good. He is good. 

He is good. though nothing else may come to fruition, He is good. He has always been good, and will continue to be good. He does not change like shifting shadows. He is not whimsical, as I am. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And He holds good in store for me, whatever that may look like. 

With 2016 on the horizon, i have one wish – one resolution: to be a better friend. i know i’m not perfect. and i know my friends are far from perfect, as well. but somehow, He has placed upon my heart this desire, to live and look just a little bit more outside of myself. to reach out when necessary, and even when unnecessary. to be open and bright, not because i have to, but because i want to. and to take the risk [shudder] of sitting in those somewhat awkward and uncomfortable spaces, because that means i need more of Him. and when i’m especially lonely, to remember that He is by my side. 

2015 is very much a blur and already a distant memory. the past.

i want to look ahead, even when i fear the future. not to conquer the fear, or the future, but to remember that in all things, He will be good. love has come to cast out fear. i want to be a better friend, whatever that means. i want to grab a hold of joy and hang on for dear life. this is always the time of year when it seems like anything can happen. possibilities are endless and limitless. exciting. i want to be in the middle of that. and be consumed by His goodness. 

seasons

looking ahead to the ultimate prize.

2nd year is in full swing now. UCLA, Union Rescue Mission, classes, clients, homework, assignments. getting used to this way of being, and thinking, and organizing. adjusting to and soaking in new feelings and new thoughts, new worries, and just trying to take everything in. left my CII community at the end of July, amongst a midst of mixed emotions and a heavy heart, knowing this was best for me, but wanting to drag it out as long as i possibly could.

the restoration and renewal is here though, poking its tentative head out of the cover of leaves, peeking at the sun, winking at me. months of thinking, brainstorming, desiring, planning, praying, and worrying turned into a wonderful night of community on Saturday, as people of all ages and life stages gathered to talk and hear about fost-adoption and God’s heart for being missional in this way. i am blown away, still, by the presence of the Spirit moving through that room and in the hearts of those in attendance. And as i sat up there, moderating the panel discussion, my heart felt so at peace, like this is where i want to be and this is what i want to do – equipping and mobilizing others to serve the Kingdom and chase His Dream.

someday i’m going to go overseas and serve, i cannot deny that, but for now my heart and my passion is here. for the first time in a long time, the wrestling and frustration in my heart has settled, as i find myself in the midst of a company of believers who are intent on doing the same work that i am. for me, then, this doctoral degree is just fluff and icing layered over that which i am already a part of.

to be working and dreaming alongside partners who feel very much the same way i feel, and yearn for the same things that i yearn for… this is doing the ultimate work of what i was designed for.

in the struggle of learning to remain congruent inside and out, to be seen as i see myself, to realize the wonderful-ness of Someone who loves me regardless of who i am and where i come from, and how dark and dreary i am, but pours out His grace, and that there are things to dream of, to look ahead to… i’m overwhelmed with it all.

but i love the thought. i am Beloved.

FALL is here. waiting for the leaves to change, the night air to grow crisper, Starbucks red cups to emerge, and more dreams to dream.

center

lately, I’ve lost sight of it. i’ve been riding on a bumpy road, mostly smooth pavement, but every so often a huge pothole that knocks the wind out of me for a brief moment of time, until i’m able to digest the pain and get back on my feet. the potholes have been in context of interpersonal relationships, and i’ve been questioning the priority of certain relationships in my own life. do they see me as i see them? it’s difficult because i am definitely a people person, but i’m also pretty sensitive. i feel a lot. i analyze, but i relate via feelings and emotions. i enjoy connection and intimacy. i’m introverted, but i love spending time with people, laughing with them, talking to them, getting to know them, connecting with them. doesn’t that sound lovely?

there’s a difficult part in there, though. in growing deeper with another, pain must be an element. conflict happens. and if the conflict can be processed safely and correctly, then the deepening happens. and that’s so hard. during these moments, i’m reminded that i don’t want to grow complacent. i want to be challenged. i want to grow and learn. step out and take risks. but the very risks that challenge me are the ones that cause pain. and often, nobody on the outside sees it, not even my closest friends or my family.

this weekend was a rough one. rough because it’s the first 4th in two years that i have spent locally. rough because i felt so alone. rough because of posts on social media that reminded me i was alone. there was one bright and beautiful spot in the midst of it: my dad watched fireworks outside for the first time in almost 20 years. but over that bright and beautiful spot loomed a shadow of darkness and doubt that spread through my mind and heart like a virus.

a particular community of people i’d once thought some of my closest friends no longer seem safe to me. at least, will not feel safe for awhile. and it hurts. putting up walls is hard. taking a step back feels counter-intuitive to what growing closer is all about. we hunger for relationship because we were created by a God who loves being in relationship to us. so much so that he sacrificed His only son for that very purpose. i just think, this is not the way it’s supposed to be.

but i am convinced that i’m going through a period of restoration, redemption, and renewal. and God is telling me that i need to experience this pain for a little while, in order to make the redemption that much sweeter. so that he’ll get the glory and the honor. He must become greater, I must become less.

and another thing? this evening, during a worship service, He spoke to me distinctly. He said, “You are strong enough to carry this burden.” I almost cried. He has faith in me. I will carry it then. Carry it and keep a quiet heart. He Knows and He Understands.

redemption. it’s coming.

still loved

it’s such a strange process to think back to one year ago and realize that i had no idea, back then, where i would be at this very moment in time. one year ago, i was overwhelmed with confusion, anxiety, nervousness about taking risks, despite my desire to do just that. knowing He had asked of me to trust in Him, and wishing i could just… hide. i look back in hindsight, and i have finished my first year of this amazing and ridiculous doctoral program.

it’s a little bit anti-climactic. all of that, for this.

i wouldn’t take it back though. the wonderful community i’ve met at pepperdine. people from all walks of life. professors who push me. push me to speak my mind. advocate for myself. take more risks. take chances. realize it will be challenging and scary. but we’re all in this together [cue ‘High School Musical’ theme song].

the beautiful, heart-breaking community of Skid Row. The Union Rescue Mission. coming alongside those men who desire to heal, but have so many blocks stacked up against them. homeless men who were shot by police in front of our doors. protests erupting in the street. #livesMatter. women and children who have no where to go. who just want a roof over their heads, and a clean bed. a place to shower.

a client who can’t shower because he is so depressed. we, who have so much, are so blessed. i am blessed.

never mind the several-times-per-week that i felt like dropping out. it was too much for me. having to say good-bye to a job that i enjoyed. that i was good at. an agency that i have come to call home over the past seven years. but on the other side of the see-saw, looking into a future that granted so many more opportunities.

He’s guiding me.

other blessings too. my dad being healed of Hepatitis C [crossing my fingers still…]. a roommate who is more like a sister. a faithful, loyal little puppy who i get to see on weekends. new relationships in my faith community. promises for the future. and a heart being moved by a Dream for the people of Westlake. It’s not my Dream, but i’m a part of it.

I’m loved. ultimately, supremely, unabashedly.

recklessly, extravagantly.

things may not work out in quite the way i’ve foreseen them to, and the next year will be even tougher than this past year was, i’m sure, but at the end of it all, i will have been poured out like a sweet and fragrant offering for a higher purpose. and i will be so utterly thankful. thankful that I was created for a reason. thankful that i can use my gifts and heart to serve and minister to others. thankful that i was wired in a particular way. though it causes me so much pain to see others in pain, their stories are what i walk alongside to, for in our journeys together there is healing.

i’ve said, often, “I wish I could just have a job working in front of a computer screen all day, not caring about other people.”

but in all honesty? i’d be cheating myself of this wonderful life i’ve been created to have.

Yes, He is good. I am loved. And for now, that’s all I need to remember.