reunion

this journey is indeed a strange one.

sights, sounds, sensory input that, though i may have experienced these things in another way-at another time-during another part of the journey, do such a wonderful job of flooring me and dizzying me over and over again.  experiences that make me want to simultaneously recoil while also getting excited at the prospect that, maybe, just maybe this time it’ll be different.

i feel myself screaming at myself to withdraw into a closed-up posture, while my mind tells me to sit in that awkward moment of discomfort and just soak it in, because i know it’s only my brain playing tricks on me and i’m no longer the person i once was, i will no longer react to that stimuli the way i used to. gripping onto a shaky foundation with bare-faced, white-colored knuckles, wanting so much to reach the end of all this so i can look back and ask God, “So this was it? This is why you lead me through those valleys?” 

it’s not the end. i can’t discern the end. i can’t see what’s gonna happen next. that’s probably why everything feels so unsettling and confusing in the current season. and, again, i’ve been here before. that overpowering anxiety of feeling like i’m losing my grip on something, though really i never had it in the first place. learning to have peace. be okay. Be okay, this quiet voice whispers to me. Is that you, God?

can i please just sit in peace with myself, claiming who i am and who i was created to be, and being okay with all of that? as brené brown says, that i can go to bed at the end of each day knowing that i am worthy simply because of who i am and not because of what i have failed or accomplished that day?

that no matter what, it will all be okay in the end, and will be okay in the end.

because i am loved. because i may not know, but He knows. that this journey, though it may be a strange journey with moments of confusion and dizziness and restlessness, will ultimately end at the exact place where i am supposed to be, in a better version of myself.

 

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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.

 

heartstrings.

heartstrings being tugged, both directions.

sometimes the horrors of this work that i do is unimaginable. and i’ve realized that i keep much of it to myself because (a.) I want to protect others’ emotions, and (b.) nobody really understands. for example, how could anyone respond to the following?  – –

i went to visit a family yesterday afternoon at the tail-end of my day at CII. the referral was for a 2 year old who presented with extreme disruptive and ADHD-like behaviors, who currently lived with a relative. this relative was at his wit’s end, trying to make meaning of why this child was so hyperactive and disruptive.

it turns out that when this little blond, blue-eyed boy was 8 months old and living with his parents, he witnessed his dad pull the trigger on his mom. while he was being held by his mom, he watched her getting shot in the head, all of the insides of her brain spilling onto him. i can’t even imagine what his reaction must have been: did he freeze? did he cry?

and though he is in a safe place now, he continues to carry the memory of that incident, and possibly several memories of other incidents, around in his little body. no wonder he can’t sit still, doesn’t know how to use his words, screams and flaps his hands when in distress, throws toys all over the floor, and can’t sleep.

my heart cries out, “God, why?” 

i keep the information in my head, intellectualizing, so that i can explain to the relative how trauma affects very young children. meanwhile, i don’t quite know how to process and what to do with all of this stuff. i think, in a way, walls are necessary as a protective factor. but the sad part is, that many of us are all alone and isolated from sharing stories like this one to our closest friends and family, to our communities.

it’s sobering, but it’s a confirmation. confirmation that this work is necessary and someone  has to be there to walk with these broken families.

but why me?

this morning, while at LLU hospital, I made my routine visit to see one of my patients, a teenage girl with a relapse of osteosarcoma that has since metastasized, who actually placed herself in foster care because she did not feel safe living with her parents. this young girl had decided a few months ago that she would no longer pursue another round of chemotherapy, because previously the cancer had returned more aggressively after some rounds of chemo.

today, she told me and her attending physician that she had decided to give chemo another chance. my heart fluttered. i told her how proud i was of her decision, and she blossomed into a shy and happy smile. i asked her what had changed her mind. she told me that God had told her that morning that He would protect her, watch over her, keep her safe. my heart swelled.

again, confirmation.

this work is exhausting and draining. but these are the moments, good and bad, when i realize this is the work i have been called to. i’m slowly processing the events and experiences of this past week. it hasn’t been easy, but my heart is stirred by something deeper and bigger than myself, telling me it shall all be okay… someday.

in the meantime, those heartstrings… they will continue to be pulled.

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. 

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.

risk

risk. trust. taking a risk in trusting. trusting Him.

this summer has definitely pulled me into places where I’ve had to trust Him. where I’ve been stretched. where I’ve worried and been anxious, and done things that are way out of my comfort zone. reached out and met people and had intimate connections with, and later wonder what all that was about. registered for fall courses and wondered how I’m going to manage it all. going forward with church and community, pushing myself all in, even when that means I’m over-stimulated and just want to run away.
and my mind constantly wonders. I’m constantly wondering about the past, wondering about choices I’d made and how the outcomes could be different with different choices… very Sliding Doors-esque… and then needing to reprimand myself, ask the Lord for mercies, and re-focus my mind on something other than the mere temptation of thoughts, dreams, fantasies, fleshly desires.
the need for connection is a drug that I get high off of; whereas others feel the rush from drugs, speed, gambling, illegal activities, etc., my rush comes from genuine intimacy with others, and what takes place in that sacred space between myself and another, where smiles are exchanged and laughter dances across from me to him and i realize we both just get it. and then I wonder, will I ever experience that connection again? coming off of it, i feel depressed and melancholy and sad, and I can’t stop thinking about what happened and didn’t happen, all at the same time.

this summer, He’s been teaching me to take risks. so i’ve taken small ones. and He’s responded with His perfect timing. I hate waiting, but I’m realizing it’s something I must do. Instead of trying to control outcomes with my own choices that seem okay and successful in the beginning but then flounder and dry out after awhile, things seem to fall perfectly into place, like dominoes, when His timing is involved.

and i feel like the present is crackling more and more with the vibrant possibility of something. Something that will happen soon. Not quite sure yet what that something is, but the possibility is there. I’ve realized that our God is a BIG God, and when I focus too much on my wants and my needs, my anxieties and worries, my questions and doubts, that I am essentially reducing God down to this little person who is only in it for ME. But keeping a large and diffuse heart, I sense… feel … the possibility in the air.
The energy is potent. The possibility crackles and lures. It makes me confident and hopeful, if only for a little while. But I want to say there’s something different this time around. I need to say that, so that I can make myself believe it. It’s real. the more I can take those risks in trusting Him, the more He will respond.

He knows and understands.

He’s got the whole world in HIs hands.

young

life passes by at an alarming speed. and often i don’t understand clearly where i am going or what the purpose of all of this is, until it’s in hindsight. i look in my rearview mirror, and there it all is – the way it has been planned out by a sovereign God who is fifteen chess movements ahead. the timing is always perfect when He is involved. the encounters, divine. 

i’m at that place again, now, where much change is on the horizon, and although i anticipate it, i am not fully looking forward to it as of yet. though some of it promises good things to come, much of it is uncertainty, haziness, fogginess, a teeny-tiny white light at the center of a very long, very narrow, very dark tunnel. i know the light is slowly and gradually approaching at the opposite end, but there is quite some distance to travel first before i get there. 

i just imagine that when i graduate from a doctoral program in five years (hopefully), i’ll be another decade older. i can’t even wrap my head around that. and i wonder, at that age, at that decade, what will my life be worth? what will i have to show for all this time that i have spent working, going to school, building relationships, serving at church… living life? I hope He is glorified at the end of it all. but then, for me, will i be fully satisfied? will i be fully satisfied in Him as He is fully glorified in me? 

i know He holds the future. I know He’s already won. i know He’s set me on this earth for a specific purpose. i know what that purpose is. my head knows all these things – logically, rationally – but my heart wonders about Me. i know i can’t compare myself to others. i know we are all broken. we all have our drama, our baggage, our emotional pitfalls, our selfishness and moodiness, and we are continually, daily, being crucified with Christ. i know there’s this process of sanctification where i fall, over and over again, but i look forward with the hope i have, that i am being renewed little by little, day by day. 

but in the daily grind, i lose perspective of all of this, and i feel just… sad. and confused. and i wonder, if i feel this way daily, how am i supposed to feel 5 years from now?

 

my only comfort is in the realization that i am not alone. as clichè as that may sound, it’s in the walking-together on this journey where the strength and comfort prevail, even as much of my sin lies in my insecurities of those relationships i have with my wonderful community and friends. perhaps i will be alone at 40. perhaps not. i dearly hope not. 

i hope the fogginess is a little bit clearer by then, the light of the tunnel a little nearer. for now, i choose to live day by day, season by season, one step at a time. 

“Because i know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives.” – hymn.