shift

i’ve been reflecting a lot lately. possibly because i recently returned from being overseas, or perhaps because i am going through a period of transition… another academic year over, another personal year soon drawing to a close.

there’s also the reality of summer, with its cool nights and fading twilights – being in that witching hour, in that magical period between dusk and nightfall, as the first stars emerge from their hiding places and begin to twinkle in the sky – that just draws it out of me. it’s called NOSTALGIA.

i constantly struggle with living in my mind, with looking back wistfully on what was, or wasn’t, while looking ahead in daydreams that have not been realized yet. i am constantly wrestling with these thoughts and feelings and hopes and musings (someone once called it, ‘scope for the imagination’) that pull me into shifting periods of lightness and darkness, until i catch myself and dazedly ask that they stop.

oh heart, wilt thou not quiet down?

it’s been one of the most amazing and yet challenging years in my recent memory. through it all, i have learned, and am still learning…

…to find joy in the process.

…to live each day with purpose.

…to do my work well.

…to love well.

…to wrestle and rest at the same time.

…that i am part of many communities.

…that He may never remove this cup from me…

…and that’s okay.

as a new year creeps up, i hope to receive it with grace. with hands open, palms up. with knowing that, as always, things may never unfold quite as i hope or dream them to, but that doesn’t mean the dreams will fade. that He always knows, better than i do, what i need.

it’s always a little scary. apprehensive. but i’m going to hold on tight to this journey, because, if nothing else, He will be faithful to the end.

 

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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.

hope

i’m slowly attempting to crawl out of the cave that i unintentionally, and gradually, wandered into. caring for others is so hard, and i often question why He gifted me in this way, to carry the burdens of others, to walk with them in their pain, and to hold them in their intense emotions, when i’m not strong enough to hold on. i wish i could just sit behind a computer and stare at a screen all day… to lead a “normal” life and be able to talk about work like a “normal” person. i know that wouldn’t be me though  – that wouldn’t be me living life to the fullest that He has called me to be, and that wouldn’t be enough for me.

the vicarious trauma has been difficult, tempered by the anxiety of being in school, with more and more seemlingly amount of work and responsibility being directed my way – from coursework to presentations, to reading to lit review, to researching for dissertation, to studying for exams and reflecting on my work, to writing and rewriting intakes, to administering personality tests and writing up assessment reports, to just being present and attending in lectures. i struggle with finding people who will understand, and i know no one fully will, because this is primarily my experience. i find comfort and support in my colleages and cohort friends who are each experiencing this in their own ways.

and then there are my friends – my people – who offer what they can. and i am fiercely grateful for it. i know that many of them would have no idea of the ways i’ve been feeling unless i open up, take a risk to put myself out there and tell them, even if they shouldn’t ask me first. it fights against every fiber of who i am, to be brave and put myself out there, and trust that they will listen, that they will empathize, that they will validate. not all of them get it. in fact, very few of them do. but what i can’t do is isolate myself, curl up into a little ball underneath my covers, and hide from the world.

her face is still burned into my memory. the tears streaming down her young face, with her mouth drawn into a thin line and her head held up high, and her declaration that despite all she and her children are currently experiencing while being homeless, she is grateful. she holds onto a sliver of faith, knowing full well that faith will not necessarily bring her stability or housing or her family the next day, but that at least she has a roof over her head and a little boy and girl who mean everything to her. this keeps her going on.

i’ve been crying all week as i’ve thought about her and the sense of helplessness she exudes, and how i wish i could help her. stop those tears. i know it’s her own process to find a way through all of it, but i wish she could seek help, find comfort, support, and a way out. i wish…

and i know i’m not adequate, and i don’t have the answers. in the midst of all this, we must cling to hope – both she and I, because otherwise there would be nothing else left to live for.

.to be continued.

 

waves

Two years ago, at the beginning of 2013, when I fasted with my new community for the first time, God revealed his Presence in a glorious way to me [read here]. This time around, the corporate fast was shorter. Five days. But i’m still fasting. Praying for breakthrough. For encounter. Though these things, in some sense, have already come. There’s more, however, on the horizon. Last night, God revealed Himself to me again.

We had closed our eyes in prayer. And I saw a fleeting impression of a starfish. The impression focused into a picture of a starfish basking on the sand of a seashore, as waves rolled in and out. The water was crystal clear, and as the waves rolled in and out, sand went with it. But ultimately, the sand was always present.

What He told me was this: We are the starfish. The trials and storms in our lives are like the waves. The waves roll in and out, threatening to consume us, overtake us, drown us. They are endless, and they are a force. But God’s blessings are like the never-ending, countless, millions of grains of sand on a seashore. And that’s what we, the starfish, are resting on. No matter how the waves wash over us and may fill us with fear and anxiety, we are resting on God’s blessings, and His blessings will never run out. Like those tiny precious grains of sand that continue to be a vast expanse, so are God’s blessings and promises admidst the waves and storms of our lives.

I talked to someone today who had experienced a season of profound pain, hurt, and loss in her young life. She described it as pure “blackness.” Even wanting to die. It’s a scary place to be in. And yet, in her tears, she wanted so bravely to step out into the unknown and reconstruct those broken pieces of her life into something beautiful. I saw such beauty in that. My heart aches for her. But as I was listening to her story this afternoon, I was again reminded of why I am placed in the field that I am. It’s more than just “talk”, “therapy”, “analyzing”. It’s walking with people in their pain, coming alongside them and sharing their burdens with them. Often I wonder why He chose me for such a role as this. But it all makes sense when I listen to stories of pain. The grief is real. But I know in that grief there is healing. In the brokenness there is such beauty. God sees that. And He’s using me as an instrument, His instrument, to walk with these beautiful people and point them towards His grace.

2015 is here. Already, His blessings have been realized. I’m waiting expectantly. The waves are going to come. But His blessings have already won.

wired

it’s been a sleepless night, as my brain waxed and waned into various levels of semi-consciousness. now it’s 6:00 a.m. and, knowing i must wake up to face this day at 9:00 a.m., i wonder how i shall survive on 3 hours of sleep. the year is almost over… 2 weeks left to go, and my heart is quite overwhelmed with all the change and transition that took place within. in the realm of work- Project Stable Home to Select Home Visitation, clinician to coordinator to supervisor back to clinician; in the realm of community- settling into myself at Tapestry L.A. and wrestling with growing pains, both within myself and with this new merged identity of two becoming one; in the realm of friendship- asking God to “expand my circle” and learning ways of being with people very unlike myself but finding joy in the common space that was developed; in the realm of school, …beginning; in the realm of home, finding a new family member in the presence of angel while giving up my ball of fur and pink tongue to my parents; seeing that God is constantly working over me and acknowledging the plans that come full circle, but that this crazy journey is nowhere near ending. if anything, ’tis just the beginning.

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.

looking back in hindsight, it’s amazing how God always provides. How faithful He is. and with that reminder, i’m also reminded to rest in His promises. Have faith. Hold out faith. and not just for myself, but for those around me. with a couple friends the other night, i thought about my love languages in order of how i best communicate: acts of service, words of affirmation, material gifts, time spent, touch. it makes sense. maybe 2015 will be a year to exercise those gifts more. scary and exciting at the same time.

taste and see that He is truly good.
my brain is still wired. but it’s been a good night, just the same.