9.17.2017

oh father, no

I'm trying to learn to be more and more real. Real with myself, real with others, real with God. I'm honestly still trying to figure out what being "real" actually looks like; in a lot of ways I feel like I'm a very genuine, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person. But over this summer, I've felt like some of the deepest parts of me are hiding, even from myself. Especially in the process of grief, I knew I was (and still am) stuffing down a lot of my emotions because I'd just rather not wade through the pain. I haven't mourned like I thought I was going to, and I don't want to avoid it to the point of unhealthy self-ignorance. I want to be real.

During my Sabbath today, I went to the music rooms on campus to play the piano. I needed the music, needed something to make my feelings tangible, even through sound. I wanted to cry out to God in song... but I couldn't find a song that was just... sad. Because I was sad. I even googled "worship songs for grieving," but the top results were things like "Great Songs for Overcoming Grief," which was not at all what I wanted. Grief is like a chain that keeps you attached to your loved one; it's heavy and painful, but you don't want to break it because you still want that connection.

I asked God to help me be real. To face the grief head on. To say what I need to say. This song came out slowly, line by line, chord by chord, but oh, it is so real. This isn't how I feel every second, don't get worried about me, but it's how I feel in the lows. It's how I feel when I'm surrounded by people singing ultra-happy praise songs which are wonderful but not reflective of my heart in that moment. I know God welcomes my point-blank honesty because it's all over the Scriptures, especially in Psalms and Job and in Jesus. So here I say some things that are scary to say, scary to speak out loud because they're questions without answers, or without answers I want to hear.

But singing these words, even as it seems almost disrespectful to God, brought down walls. It brought me closer to Him as I began unveiling more of what might stand between us as I learn to mourn.

I didn't think I would share the words of this song, at least not so soon, but I hope that if anything it will help you to also be real with yourself and with God. Don't be afraid. He will not forsake us. He is with us. He created our hearts, our emotions, our craving for Eden. He says, "Come." This is my heart's cry tonight.





Oh Father, no. 
Oh Father, no. 
Oh Father, I don't understand. 
If You are crying with me, why don't You just fix it all? 
If You are God of power, why don't You just fix it all? 
If You are making all things new, why can't You?


I wanna say I trust You. 
I wanna say I trust You. 
But I don't know if I do. 
What does trust mean to You?


I wanna trust You so bad. 
I wanna trust You so bad. 
But I don't know if I can, yet. 
Trust is not what I had planned.



Oh, I have hope, 
I'm not alone, 
But my heart is breaking.

 
Oh, I have hope, 
I'm not alone, 
But my soul is aching.
 

You're here with me, 
You will redeem, 
But this is not how it's supposed to be. 
This is not how it's supposed to be. 
Oh, this is not how it's supposed to be. 
This is not how it's supposed to be! 
Why did you let this happen to me? 
Oh my God, I don't want this story! 
This is not how it's supposed to be. 
Oh Father, please.









9.10.2017

blessed are those who mourn

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."


Really, Jesus?


I'd rather just not need to mourn and not need the comfort, thanks.


It doesn't make sense. It definitely doesn't feel like I'm "blessed."


Well, I guess it does in some ways. I've been so blessed as I've seen You love and comfort us through people. Through anonymous gifts. Through unexpected insurance policies. Through sweet notes. Through long embraces. Through conversation. Through sitting with me, making sure I'm never alone, like you promised.


Those things have been a comfort, yes. But none of it is comfort enough.


I don't know if I know how to mourn. I'm not good at displaying brokenness or neediness, as You know. I want people to think I have things under control.


I want to be the one who helps, who comforts, who welcomes, who leads.


I don't want to be the one who needs, who seeks comfort, who imposes, who seems to fall behind.


But maybe I'm thinking about everything backwards. Maybe my values are skewed. Because You said "Blessed are those who mourn," which turns upside-down all the values I had.

You said that needy, hungry ones will be filled.

You said that those who seek will find.

You said those who knock will have the door opened.

You said that the last will be first.


So to mourn, to begin to let my inner emotions and outer countenance live in harmony, means believing You. Believing that You will comfort, believing Your opinion matters more than anyone else's.


I feel so comfortable coming directly to You with my heart, letting You see the best and the worst, because I know You already see and love me completely. I so eagerly seek You because I know I will find love.


But this week, I felt like you reminded me that much much more of Your love comes through people. And you told me that I need to seek out people in the same way I would seek out You.


Yikes. I get it. But I don't know if I'm there yet.


But I'm getting there, step by step. Each decision to let out a tear is a decision to believe that "Blessed are those who mourn." Each request, each spoken need, each honest conversation, each knock on another's door is a step toward seeking You in other people.


Still, more often than not, I succumb to the fear of not being comforted, and so I stuff emotions, don't speak up, or don't seek others out to share my burden with, because what if they don't want my burden? Or what if they realize after a while that my burden is heavy on them too, and they resent it? What if it just results in more pain?


That's when you tell me to trust: trust You, and trust others who have You inside them.


Now I understand why You had to seek us first; there's no way we would have believed You really love us unless You sought us out.


Thank You for coming and finding me. Thank you for teaching me that I can trust You. Help me to really believe that "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."







9.03.2017

who is like God?

One night last week, during student leader orientation, we had an open worship and prayer night. I honestly didn't feel like going, and I wasn't sure why, except that I was tired, and other emotions were mixing around unidentified inside me. But I went anyway.

I stayed near the back, curled up on a couch, singing quietly because honestly, I was struggling to shout praises. I so believe our God is worthy of praise, but... I was in a place of lament. Lament for the hope that seems so far away, for perfection that is unachievable, for dreams that won't come true.

I felt like leaving; I thought about all the people I could go to as a refuge, but for one reason after another I didn't go, I stayed on the couch. Michelle, my mentor from my first year at Trinity, was somewhere in the room, and I thought about going to find her for prayer... but I didn't even know what to ask for prayer for. But I knew she knew what was going on in my life. And I knew that we were singing the lyrics, "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal," and it didn't feel very true.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw Michelle moving across the room. She was looking around, and I looked away; I didn't want her to feel like she had to come over to me if she was looking for someone else. Then I realized she was looking for me. She came through the people, sat next to me, and without saying a word wrapped her arms around me.

I cried like I'd been waiting to cry for days. And she cried with me.

The song lyrics were singing, "Fall in His arms." And I thought, this is it. This is what it would feel like to be in the arms of Jesus.

He knows what is going on in my heart.

He seeks me out, even when I make excuses that keep me from seeking him.

He doesn't necessarily say anything, it's His presence that speaks the most.

His arms are firm and unrelentingly holding me.

His body shakes with sobs over the brokenness of this world, over the things that were never supposed to happen, over the confusion and chaos.

I thought that Michelle would sit through the song with me and then go find another student to pray with. But she didn't. She stayed song after song, until the service was over, and even longer still.

And later that night, I thought of how appropriate it is that Michelle's name comes from the Hebrew that means "Who is like God?" She showed me yet another taste of what He is like.

I'm learning to let God love me through people, and this was so tangible and physical and real and flesh and bone.

Thank you, Father, for bringing me into your family, and for giving me brothers and sisters who are like You.



8.27.2017

close

I'm back at Trinity Western University! I've been counting the days. I've been so so eager to see my beloved people. But as the days drew closer, I started to realize how hard it was going to be to leave home. Or most of all, to say goodbye to Mom.

Pulling into campus today, I experienced some of the strongest mix of emotions I've ever felt. So much excitement that there were butterflies in my stomach, but so much sorrow that there were tears in my eyes. I've never felt the word "bittersweet" with my entire being like I did today.

The tears didn't really stop from the time I arrived until after Mom had left. Even greeting my many friends and acquaintances, my voice was shaky and eyes brimming as we conducted just small talk. The hugs of people who know what's going on meant so much. The people with tears in their eyes for me meant so much. The people who were waiting so eagerly for us meant so much.

It's strange how sometimes good and bad don't cancel each other out, how joy and sadness can both coexist. I know that's what the whole idea of "bittersweet" means... but wow, bittersweet is strange.

At dinner with my group of fellow RAs (Resident Assistant), there was a card on the table asking our group to share an adjective describing how we felt spiritually coming into the year. Right away, the answer I felt was close. Even with all the hard stuff, I so know He is with me. I know I will talk it all through with Jesus. I know the Spirit is all around me, soaking up everything I'm missing, able to give me what I need.

I know that so many of you have prayed that I would feel Jesus, feel the Father close. Thank you for those prayers; they have been answered.

I'm exhausted in every way going to bed tonight, and I do still dearly value your prayers, especially as I prepare to welcome a whole dorm of incoming students on Saturday, and as my family back home starts to try to find a new "normal" for this fall.

But we know Jesus is close. Praise Him.





8.20.2017

resting with jesus

This morning, I slept in as long as I wanted, and then rolled out of bed at my Grammy's house down by the lake. I put on a sweater, grabbed my Bible and journal, and curled up in a patio chair where I could just be with Jesus for a while. 




Be with Jesus. 




Many of you know that the word "with" has become one of the dearest words to me. A few years ago I wrote an in-depth explanation of the importance of this word, and it has only become more beautiful to me since then. In short, I've come to realize that being with God, with the Father, with Jesus, with the Spirit, is the most important thing - more important than doing things for God or getting things from God. The entire narrative of history, the entire story of the Bible, is of God creating people to be with Him, them rejecting Him, and Him pursuing them to bring them back to be with Him. The very name of the long-awaited Messiah is Immanuel - with-us God. Jesus' final prayer before his arrest was speaking of us: "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am." (John 17:24) 


But what does that mean? How can we actually be with God? It's one thing to mentally assent to the truth that God is with us. But if you're anything like me, that mental assent doesn't make it very real. There's no way I feel like I'm with God like I'm with another human. At least, it didn't feel that way until recently. Through this teaching from Bridgetown Church, and through the book Seeing is Believing by Greg Boyd, I have learned an absolutely transformative and beautiful way to be with Jesus, for real. I'd honestly recommend the podcast or the book way more than this blog post. These teachers call it "imaginative prayer," but put simply it just means allowing the Holy Spirit to use our mind's ability to create images in the same way we recall memories or daydream up possible events. In the same way, with a foundation in the knowledge of Scripture, I can close my eyes and imagine that Jesus is beside me wherever I am. It feels like I'm making it up, but I know that it is actually true, that Jesus actually is beside me, in me, all around me. I can sit with him and just enjoy the silence together, like I do with a close friend. Or I can ask Him questions. Or I can pour out the emotions of my day and watch his face as I speak. 


Most important is to stop and just rest with Jesus. A huge block for many Christians is the constant need to try harder, to do more for God, to prove that we're good enough or humble enough or active enough or diligent enough. There is more and more talk in Christian circles about "enjoying God," but it seems that few people really do because we're caught up in doing more and trying harder. The teachers I've learned from lately cannot emphasize enough the importance of resting in Christ. Doing nothing, just sitting in his presence, picturing his pleasure in being with you. Maybe neither of you say anything. This is essential for our souls because it reinforces the truth that God wants to be with us, enjoys us, desires us, and loves us enough to want to simply rest with us. And even if we don't fully believe it, just picturing it can begin to help. 


There is so much more I want to say and share about how transformative this practice has become for me in just the past few weeks. It is so different to actually feel like I have memories with Jesus, I've re-experienced memories with Him, I've seen His smile as I ask Him questions, I've seen His broken heart in His eyes as I tell Him where my life hurts. Some days more than others, I still feel like Wait, am I just making this up? But I go back to Scripture. I go back to the things I know He has said, and I imagine Him saying them to me. If you want to know who He says you are, here is a small list (scroll down to "Believers are:"). Just pick a few that seem hard to grasp or believe and imagine Jesus speaking them to you. It might take a long time to really believe it, but that's okay. It is true, and eventually you will believe Him when He says it!




But I cannot say all I want to here tonight. More than anything, I urge you to listen to the podcast teaching or read the book that I just finished. I really believe there is nothing more important than being with God, and I'm learning that it is not just important, it is wonderful. He is wonderful


8.13.2017

how are you doing? - part 2

I'm sorry that my blog has become more of a diary than anything else these days. Thank you for reading; I learn and process as I write. 


In the last few weeks, I've felt like I'm kind of lying to everyone I see. Almost every "How are you?" gets a "Good; how are you?" in response. In many ways I am good - read last week's post! But lately, for the most part, I'm not so good. It's nothing personal - if I've given you a "Good; how are you?" it's not because I didn't want to be honest, it's just too much sometimes. Too tiring, too time-consuming, too interruptive of whatever I'm doing, or too complicated for me to even get into words yet. So thank you for your patience with me; don't be afraid to ask, just know that we might need a lot of time to get a real answer.


So for now, as of 10pm on a Sunday night, here's how I think I'm doing:



I'm tired. The song Worn has been a place of lament that has felt like my heartbeat for a while now. I'm tired physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually, mostly because all of them are intertwined so inextricably. Every morning I wake up and realize that this bad dream isn't over yet. Every hour, even the ones filled with good things, can feel like drudgery as I try to manage my emotions and control my thoughts. I remember years ago when we hosted Chinese exchange students, mom explained to me that they needed extra sleep because their brains were exhausted from trying to live in English all day. I feel like we're kind of living in another culture, in circumstances we've never experienced before, and our brains get really tired from trying to understand daily life through the lens of sudden loss and grief.




I'm sad. Sad for all the things that are not how they should be. Sad that Dad is not here. Sad that my little sisters only had him for five years. Sad that I can't fix things. My generation that grew up on Disney, on magic, on the deeply-engrained belief that anything is possible and that dreams come true. There's no cartoon or princess that taught us what to do when the important things are irretrievably lost, no movie that prepared us for the dreams that can't ever come true.




I'm struggling. I want to fix things. I want to have control. I want to make everything better, even though I know there's no way I can do that. Especially with the people who are closest to me, I want them to know their identity in Christ and the depth of love God feels for them. That desire is good, of course, but I can't actually make that happen. Only God can. I was praying for these people, and I felt Him ask me, "Do you trust me?" My immediate answer was, "No!" It caught me off guard. I've always thought I trusted God so well. But I'm realizing that my definition of "trust" was wrong. Even though I knew that following God doesn't mean everything will be perfect in my life, subconsciously I thought that if I trusted God enough, nothing bad would happen. Then the accident happened. Suddenly, I have to handle the fact that saying "I trust You" doesn't mean everything will be how I wanted. So I'm looking for His promises again. Right now, all I know is that He promised to work all things together for good for those who love Him, and I will hang on to that. He's so patient; He will teach me to trust, to let go, to surrender. It's so much harder than I thought it was.




I'm grateful. Oh, I am overwhelmed by what people have done for me and my family. If you are one of those who has chopped wood, donated, prayed, poured chemicals in the pool, test-driven cars with mom, brought meals, had our girls over, moved furniture, laid flooring, painted, or so much more, thank you. Please read more here and here to see the impact you've had.




I'm excited. I go back to school in two weeks! I'm excited for so much: to form a routine, to sit in the dorm lounge, to reconnect, to meet new people, to go to chapel, to study language, to walk through campus, to pray with others, to be mentored, and to sit and play with my favorite little boy and his family. I've been counting the days since I left. It will be so hard to leave home - I don't think I've really realized how hard it will be yet - but I'm so blessed to have a school that feels like another home.




I'm loved. Meaning, I know I'm loved by Jesus. Even before the accident in May, He was teaching me to pray, teaching me how to get myself into His presence so He can pour His love out on me. Jesus is so gentle, so patient, so glad to be with me. He is transforming me little by little as He continues to show me His faithfulness. If you long to be literally with Jesus, to hear His voice and feel His embrace, this teaching and book have helped me so much.




Thank you to all of you who have gone above and beyond in the little things. Thank you for Facebook messages, for prayers, for keeping up with this blog, for remembering the things I love. You continue to bless and amaze me.




8.06.2017

i am loved

Just a few weeks ago, my friend and boss Kelly called me to ask me a question. She said that she and my other boss/friend, Matt, had been talking about an idea on the way home from Dad's memorial service. She asked if she could start a fundraiser to help me get back to school, to ease the burden of worry, and to ease my workload so I could be with family. She said she wanted the goal to be $10,000. I wanted to say no, because honestly all these thoughts went through my head:


It will be embarrassing because it won't make it to that goal.

Eventually she'll regret how much effort it takes. 

Everyone has problems; people will be annoyed that I get such special treatment. 

It's a bunch of university students. I've tried doing fundraisers before and it's almost impossible. Especially without selling t-shirts or something cool. They won't get anything out of this. 

People will have more important things to do with their money. 




I have struggled with trust for years. In the past year especially, I've been made aware of just how much I don't trust people. I really don't know why; I've never been hurt or betrayed by anyone in a way to cause the assumptions I live with. I think it's more a human dilemma, a result of Satan preaching to us the lie that we are not loved, we are not worthy, we are a bother, or anything like it. I think most of us face it somehow. It might look like this:

Someone says, "You're welcome at my home anytime!" but you assume that deep down, they're thinking, "I'm so glad she's gone and I can have my home to myself."  
Someone gives you a gift, and you assume they just had it lying around and thought it would be good to give you.  
Someone says they like your style, but you assume they really mean that you have a weird style that was noticeable and they thought you might need affirmation because you probably don't get it much.  
Someone writes you a card and says you're an inspiration to them, and you assume they just wanted to say something nice that's not too specific.  
Someone says they're praying for you and you flat out just don't believe it. 
Someone gives you a back rub, and you assume that their hands are tired and they wish they hadn't started and they're never going to offer again. 
Someone says they'd love to hang out with you, but you assume it's just because they feel bad about the circumstances or struggles you're going through, not that they actually want to hang out with you. 


These sound ridiculous, even more ridiculous as I type them out. But I'm typing them out because I want to get this out in the open. I want to figure out why I think this, why so many of us think this.

Why do we think we're not lovable, at least not if people really knew us?

If an almighty, completely holy, self-sufficient God truly loves us, why is it so hard to believe other humans could love us too?

Maybe they're related. Interrelated.

Maybe we have a hard time believing people love us because we have a hard time believing God loves us. Or maybe we struggle believing God loves us because we doubt it in people. More on that later.



I've started seeing how this disbelief can be broken, at least for me. I can think back to moments where I knew I was loved, really loved. A lot of them are little things, but the common denominator is that they are unnecessary, uncalled-for, above-and-beyond, nonessential. Like asking me to come over, just out of the blue. Or swooping in and paying for my ice cream even though I was already handing them my money. Or sending a care package. Or flying to Oregon on a moment's notice. Or remembering what I like to eat. Or saying kind things about me to someone else when they don't know I can hear them. Or initiating a text. Or donating to me and my family even when we'd never have known if you hadn't.

All along the process of this fundraiser, I've been making excuses in the back of my head. When Kelly said it was launched, I was almost embarrassed to check it because I thought probably no one had donated yet, maybe just $10 or something. It was already to $700, most of it from one dear family. I wanted to tell Kelly that it was incredible, but that if it only got to $1000, that would be fine, I'd be grateful anyway. Then someone anonymously donated $1000. After just a couple weeks, we had reached $10,000 between the online fundraiser and private donations people had given me. I wanted to tell Kelly we could stop now, we can explain to everyone that even though the website says $7000, we're actually done. But Kelly asked to keep going. She knew my expectations were still low, and she believed that people were really going to do it because they wanted to.


Today, we reached $10,001 on the fundraiser site, plus thousands more in private donations.

Thank you, to so many of you. So, so many.

Thank you because in addition to everything you've given me through finances, you've been an instrument of my heavenly Father to prove that I am loved. Loved beyond my expectations. Loved beyond ten thousand dollars.

No one needed to donate. But you did. And the fact that you were under no obligation means that I cannot make excuses, I have to believe it.

And that love is like God.

God is under no obligation to love me. But He does. He knows that I doubt it, that I am constantly fighting the undercurrent of performance, or trying to earn his favor - trying to make Him proud of me and assuming I cannot go further. And to prove me wrong, to prove His love, Jesus came. If I think that someone buying me ice cream or donating $25 is an act of love, how much more is God Himself dying, dying for me?

It seems as if every time I try to pray lately and I ask God what He wants to say to me, it is always, "I love you." It's like He knows I brush it off, that I don't let it sink in.

I wrote all of this post before going to church this evening, which I just returned from. Every song was about God's unfailing love. It got to the point where I thought, Shouldn't we have some other theology being sung about here other than just how much God loves us? But then I thought that maybe that's just the point we're missing. Maybe that single, foundational truth is the one we need to grasp above all else.



Pray with me:

Oh Father, my Father, I know You love me. You loved me first, You loved me before I ever wanted you, You love me at my best and at my worst, You sing over me and call me your Beloved. I know those words. But oh, I struggle to believe them. Break through my walls, find and fill the empty places that I have not given to You. Show me who You are. You are Love.