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.


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. 


days like this - part 2

I came across the blog post I wrote three years ago this week. It was just recounting the beautiful day I had lived on that July 27th, 2014. You can read it here. Today had uncanny, beautiful similarities. I'm so grateful that I recorded that day three years ago, so I wanted to simply record today in light of it.

By the time I got up, Grandpa Jerry was already working on installing baseboards on our newly laid flooring. I made breakfast, Grammy volunteered to take Jasmine to the church where she went to school last year, and she was so excited to see all her friends. Destiny and I headed out early for a "sister date" at a new bakery in town. It's wonderful how just a few years of growing up means that I'm not out to entertain my little sister anymore; instead I bought her a cup of coffee for the first time and we just sat and talked until it was time to head to church. We walked into that same school cafeteria where we met three years ago with most of the same dear people. Tim, the pastor, kept teaching through Ephesians, and while he was talking about the concept of respect, he told a story about Dad showing him respect like very few people ever had. It was so special.

As we pulled out of the school parking lot, the field full of Queen Anne's Lace was too tempting, and I'm too aware of the frailty of time, so I pulled over and got Destiny out of the car to snap a few pictures. She's beautiful, and I just want her to know it. This one was her favorite.

We got home and heated up leftover Mexican food for lunch and ate on the deck outside with Grandpa Jerry and Mom. I came inside and wrote thank you letters for the additional scholarships that Trinity Western University gave me for school this year. It was my Sabbath, and honestly this week has been a bit more difficult emotionally, even though most of that still happens on the inside. So I wanted to get some alone time, which can be a bit hard to come by with this house full (of wonderful people). I grabbed my Greek New Testament, thinking maybe I could pre-read the text for church later that evening. I poured a cup of iced coffee and went into Dad's darkroom.

Dad dreamed of having his own darkroom for years, and he finally completed it not long ago. He installed all the plumbing, lights, and equipment, and loved to go experiment in this last year with developing, dodge and burn, and other terms I heard and didn't understand. Some of the stuff he developed was old, and some were new ones he took on the cool old cameras he has stashed all over the property.

Back in 2014, Dad and I spent this afternoon together, him reading a book about a photographer and me trying to read the Greek New Testament even though I'd never taken Greek. This year, I've studied Greek, and I was going to read my New Testament, but I saw a stack of his books by the enlarger in the darkroom. I pulled one off about Edward Weston, a name I've heard Dad drop quite frequently, and started flipping through pages of black-and-white images, many of which I've heard Dad tell me about or seen him imitate. One of Weston's famous images is on the wall above Dad's desk, right next to me at the moment. I remember him quizzing us to see how many of the famous photographer we could name; the only one I got consistently was Ansel Adams, of course. Usually I just look at the pictures and then move on to my own projects or readings, but today I started reading the text describing the photos, their context, their meaning, and Weston's vision when taking them. It was enthralling. Dad was good at capturing images, but he was never much of a writer. Reading Weston felt like someone was explaining this passion Dad had for photography. It was more than just taking pictures, it was a whole new way of seeing the world, one where nothing is more valuable than life itself.

It was time to head off to church downtown; I went with my neighbor and met two more friends at church. The teaching series is going through the Sermon on the Mount, and today was about Jesus' teaching regarding taking oaths. The heart of Jesus' command not to take oaths is that we always tell the truth, that we be people of such integrity that no one would question our "yes" or "no."

Walking out of church, I realized that I had forgotten to bring the sweater I promised to Michelle, the homeless woman outside the church. She was there, trying to sell a painting that she had done with the old art supplies I brought a few weeks ago. I would rather not have written here that I forgot to bring her the sweater she asked for last week, but since the sermon talked about telling the whole truth, that had better be part of it. She was distraught with the problems of the week and her failing health, and I told her I was so sorry and I'll try to bring the clothes next week. It's so hard to see her life falling apart and feeling like there's nothing else I can do. She was on that corner three years ago too, and the only difference is that she has lost some much weight and has gained a wheelchair. Emily got our usual fries and a small frosty on the way home and talked about what it means to be truthful, honest, people of integrity.

I came home to find friends on the porch, one in the pool, the first swim of the year. It has taken so much work to get this pool up and running; we're so grateful for the many people who have helped do what Dad always did for us. I made myself a drink and came in to write this post, but was pulled away as Mom turned on some home videos. A friend from church came over this afternoon and fixed the I.T. problems we were having with our TV, and we had enough time before bed to watch a disc of videos; mom picked one from 2001, and we watched Macaela's 5th birthday and Dad teaching us to ride bikes.

And so here the day ends, in many ways similar to three years ago, and in many ways so vastly different. I'm grateful for the things that have not changed: our church in the cafeteria, iced coffee, a love for Greek, photographer books, that I'm writing this post on the same laptop he and I bought that day, deep conversations, bridgetown church, stopping at Wendy's, hugs before the girls headed to bed. I'm grateful for many of the changes: beautifully maturing sisters, the fulfilled dream of studying Greek, the installed darkroom, the closer relationship and intimacy with Jesus. But of course I miss the biggest things that have changed, Dad most of all. I still can't believe I'm even writing about Dad in past tense; it feels like my past self will read this post and think, "No, that can't be." But there was beauty today, and there is more to come. There is hope in this life, and in the resurrection that Jesus began.

He is constant. He is faithful. He does not change. He is with us.


steadfast love

Today marks two months since the accident; I'm already tired of counting the months, knowing just how many are yet to come. It still doesn't feel real to me yet, still feels like Dad will get home from some trip next week or something, still look at the pictures and feel like someone who is so foundational in my life can't just be gone, can he? There is so much life in those pictures; can it really have been two months? Why haven't we woken up from this bad dream yet? That is the inner battle, but there are so many other forces of comfort, encouragement, and truly steadfast love that have been the most incredible support.

In the aftermath of such a blind-siding tragedy, people kept telling us, "If you need anything, just let me know." I don't know if I really believed them. But I do now. In the last two months, the generosity of people who love Dad and us has left me speechless, bewildered, and unspeakably grateful. The fundraiser for my tuition has blown away all my expectations; just look at how incredibly generous people are, even anonymously! Mom has been working on projects all over the property, trying to maintain or finish things like the pool, the kitchen, the flooring, etc. There is too much for us to do, and honestly we can't even lift half of the tools we need to do these projects! But people have given hours upon hours upon hours of their time, energy, and sweat to make these things happen.

Yesterday, as we were preparing the living room for the new flooring to be laid, we wrote things all over the old floor boards as a way of blessing the future. I wrote a phrase I had read that morning, translated into English in so many ways. In Hebrew it's only three words, kiy le'olam chesdo. Kiy means "for," le is a prefix roughly meaning "until," olam is "forever," and chesdo is the noun chesed with a 3rd masculine singular possessive affix, making it something like "his steadfast love." This noun chesed is translated differently in each version of the English Bible, anything from "steadfast love" to "mercy" to "lovingkindness." The entire phrase is perhaps most commonly known as "His love endures forever," though the verb "endures" isn't actually found in the original Hebrew. Rather, the psalmist (Psalm 118) is reminding the reader that God's deep, steadfast, faithful, merciful love is already stretching out to... forever. Eternal. Never-ending. Adding the word "endures" might make it seem like His love for us is pushing forward, trying to make it, enduring and bearing with us despite ourselves. It could tempt us to fall into a rather self-depricating view of ourselves as recipients of begrudged love. But rather, "His steadfast love is to forever," in the present tense, means that there is no end, no bound, no escaping His love.

I wrote those words on the floor last night because that is what people have shown us these past two months. They've shown us free, unconditional love that is anything but begrudged and duty. From the person who anonymously paid for our new flooring, to the mom who brings us a meal, to the friends whose home is always open, I know I am loved. If I ever doubted it, God has been using everyone around me to prove it otherwise.

And I wrote Psalm 139 down as well; go read it - it is such a beautiful declaration of God's unfailing love.

Thank you. Thank you for your steadfast love. You are a glimpse of God, a taste of his kingdom, an in-breaking of his kingdom here and now.


psalm 42

I feel like I have nothing to write this week. It's been a week of ups and downs, laughter and tears. Please continue to pray for our family, that we would be able to love each other well. More than anything I want Jesus, I want to know my Father, I want more of the Spirit in me. I opened up to Psalm 42 this morning, and it continues to be true. 

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty Oned
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.


still - a psalm

I've always been told that you can find any emotion in the Psalms, and I'm sure that's true. But I've had a hard time finding psalms that match where I'm at right now. I'm not angry at God, I don't feel abandoned or alone, I just want... I just want. I'm not sure what. Dad back, probably. And just for this world to not be so broken. But I love my Father in heaven, even as I am bewildered here on earth. I couldn't find quite the right psalm or even many songs to sing. So I talked with a friend, and decided to try writing my own. I waited for two or three weeks, waiting for it to come, praying for it, listening for it, and this week it came. And it has helped me, given me words to pray when I didn't know what to pray. Maybe it will help you, or maybe you can write one too. 

still - a psalm 

I have fallen, fallen on a firm foundation. 

Oh Father, still I know you, 
Still I trust you, 
Still I love you.
Still I am torn and tattered by the fall.  

You have taught me who you are. 
You are my comfort; 
be my comfort.
You are my strength; 
be my strength. 
You are my hope; 
be my hope. 
You are my voice; 
be my voice.  

Find the depths of my soul and bring it to my eyes. 
Teach me to know myself so I can bring myself to you.  

Why do I still hold on to control? 
Why do I still live like I am God?  

Layer after layer, Father, you know.  

Deep, deep down I don't want this anymore, I don't want to learn the hard way.  

But deeper still I want you more than anything; still, even knowing how much it hurts, I would lose everything to gain you.  

Oh but Father, there are some prayers I wish you did not hear. 
But you hear. Oh Hearer of prayer, you are my lifeline; without you I am lost.
But with you I am still. 
Still, because my mind flies in all directions at once, and you are with me in the tension in the middle. 
Still, as my mind preaches to my heart that you are good. 
Still, waiting for your voice, your caress, your embrace. Knowing you come.  

I ask for results, not reasons. 
It wasn't supposed to be this way. 
This isn't supposed to happen.  

And you are not distant, you are not ambivalent, you are not stoic.  

You are the one who chases me with goodness and love. 

You are the one who weeps, who stores my every tear. 

You are the one who gave me hope before I ever knew how much I would need it.  

You are the one who makes all things new; oh Father, when will you make me new?


dear anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Your kindness has overwhelmed me. Through the memorial fund and through raising money for tuition, you have blessed me with thousands of dollars, literally thousands. I am staggered by you. 

I want to, as personally as I can, thank you for your incredible generosity. Whether your gift was $5 or $1,000, your initiative and desire to go above and beyond to help me has made such a huge impact on me. 

Jesus said, "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6) I never put myself in the "needy" category before, and compared to many, many people all over the world, I am not needy at all. But I do need help to keep on the track that God has been leading me on, especially returning to school in the fall. You saw my need and stepped up, even knowing I might never know who you are. 

I started off this year in Hebrew class studying Isaiah 1, and put to memory the central theme of the chapter (and the book): cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, please the widow's cause. It wasn't until we were preparing the Scripture reading for Dad's memorial service that I suddenly realized that I am fatherless. Never without my heavenly Father, but without my earthly one. But before I had realized this, you had. Before I could begin to fathom the depths of change that would have to happen in my life, you were already stepping up to minimize those changes. 

Your gifts have blessed me in so many ways. 

First, to help me return to school means that I will be able to keep pursuing the path that I have been following God on for years now, to work in translation of the Bible and literacy among unreached people groups. And while taking a year off to earn money was an option, I was also blessed to be given the role of RA (Resident Assistant) at school this year, a leadership position that I have been so excited about for months because I will get a front seat to see what God is doing at Trinity Western University as I invest in a dorm of girls. I'm so eager to fulfill this role. 

Also, your gifts mean that I can step back from 60+ hours of work each week and just work one job. This means I have time to spend the evenings with my family, which is such a gift. During the day, it still just feels like Dad is at work. Mornings and evenings it is especially apparent that he's not here with us, and I'm so grateful to be able to be with my family during the evenings. Working just one job means that I have time to take a class online this summer so I can drop one in the fall, giving myself a lighter workload at school this coming semester. I'll be able to take a bit more time to rest, think, cry, pray, and do whatever I need to do as I process this loss. 

One of the most significant ways your gift has impacted me is simply in how I view everyone around me. I know I am not alone - so far from it! Because of your anonymity, everyone could be you. I have a beautiful debt of gratitude to unknown people, which means the way I view each person I meet has changed. Instead of seeming like "Anonymous" is a blur of no one, I feel like everyone I know has stepped up to say, "We're here for you." It's a little scary to think This coworker I'm standing next to might have given me $200, or to think, This friend I haven't texted back might have donated their own money to me. It's scary, but I know I can trust you. 

You have likely prayed that I would feel the love of my heavenly Father, feel his arms around me. I do. And you have been such a huge part of that. This blog post is just words, just the beginning of expressing my thankfulness. Thank you for coming forward to do what my Dad would have done. Our Father in heaven will reward you where I never could. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you.