The Hard Truth

Nearly three years ago, I did some incredible healing work through the most loving and caring couple and am so grateful I did. It uncovered many lies that I had lived most my life believing. And I was aware of them, but not aware of how I had taken hold of them in a way that was hindering me…for all intents and purposes, allow me to share one specific lie that was exposed:

I am not a skinny blonde with blue eyes, so I’ll never be good enough.

Part of my process with this most wonderful couple was to reveal the following truth:

I have been created in God’s image and as I walk in my healing, I choose to accept that He has created every aspect of my being for His pleasure; my skin color, my hair, my almond-shaped eyes, my body type…they are all beautiful and lovely in His sight.

Fortunately, this is the hard truth!

On the other hand, truth can be difficult to accept when you’ve believed a lie for so long…so I have been walking out my healing around this for the last few years. But let me tell you that the fact that I’m still single can attach itself to this lie. Also, the fact that I’ve moved back to the States after living in Asia for a year, to live in a city well known for the beauty of its women who share attributes of the lie I have believed can make it difficult to believe the truth.

So all this being said, I reached out to a most beautiful and incredibly talented friend who brings healing in a unique way through Freedom Sessions. As we drove up to the spot picked out for our session, we had the most enlightening conversation about the plight of women when it comes to comparison…by the way, this friend is also so stinking wise…I loved when she told me that we need to be women who “wave the banner of freedom” over what culture deems beauty.

I also loved when she pointed out that if we’re really tuned in to what we envy in other women, we’ll likely find that it’s not the beauty we seek, it is their confidence. That was so telling…

Because my ongoing prayer has been to fully embrace me…to be confident in who He has created me to be…to stop questioning if I’m too much or not enough…to stop shrinking back, but also, to stop being prideful when I find myself feeling I have one up on another (because I do that, too!)…dangit…I just want it all to stop.

So this is what He showed me this morning…and if I can start to embrace this truth…then I can be confident like never before, and all that comparing and shaming and ickiness can start to go away.

First, I must share scenes from my session of freedom…

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Okay, so you can’t argue with the fact that my friend is crazy amazing talented with her gift in natural light photography. And okay, we can’t deny that creation clearly declares His glory (Psalm 19:1).

So often we need to allow the awe and wonder of nature to remind us of His Presence…I needed it a few weeks ago so went on a road trip for this…

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The Grand Canyon is a sight to behold. Breathtaking, indeed.

Yet this is the truth:

When He was creating all things…it wasn’t until He came to us that He spoke, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” -Genesis 1:26

So if we should be most in awe and wonder of His beauty and handiwork, it should be in light of exactly as He created us to be.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. -Genesis 1:27

In all of its wonder, beauty and majesty, the Grand Canyon wasn’t created in His image…but little ol’ me was.

Now that is some hard truth, and I’m so humbled by that but also embracing more and more that there is much to be glorified in that…

Father, may I wave a banner of beauty over others…may I be overwhelmed by the awe and wonder in every person I meet…first, starting with little ol’ me.

Amen.

Free Spirit

I’ve been back in the good ol’ U S of A for one month now. WOW. Where did a month go?

Two things that immediately come to mind are Conrad and cruising.

My nephew continues to light up my world like no child has ever done before. Gosh, there are no words to express the joy of being an aunt. No. Words.

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And as for cruising goes, having given my car away before I left for Japan, I had to borrow my sister’s wheels.

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And during my cruising, I made some friends along the way. One of them was incredibly perceptive and affirmed what I know to be more and more true, “You keep being the free spirit you are. Don’t ever make plans.”

Thanks, Obie! I’m taking that one to heart.

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So after much Conrad and cruising, the plans that I made to visit my old desert home didn’t go as I had planned, but the good news is, they came a little earlier than planned. (Go figure. Thanks again, Obie!)

So I’m back in Arizona, where I moved to after college and spent 12 years of my life. 12 years full of lots of planning, striving, fretting and longing to be anywhere but here.

Yet during the familiar and normally dreadfully long drive from L.A. to Phoenix, I was overly expectant and full of gratitude for how He has redeemed this place (Revelation 21:5). I get to see some of the best people I know.

And I don’t believe it’s where I’m going to settle, but I’m pretty sure it’s a resting place in between where I came from and where I’m going… sigh.

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Again, redemption at its finest.

But of course only He knows, and what I do know is that this once lost soul is found, and embracing the free spirit she was created to be.

I love my Filipino roots, I love the Japanese culture, and I love the country that serves as the birthplace and launching pad for this free spirit.

And I know I’ve been talking non-stop about Japan, but I love you, too, America. There is no place like you and I’m beyond grateful for you. Yesterday, I celebrated your independence and mine, too!

Thanks for the freedom you offer but above all, Jesus, thanks for setting me free.

In the Land of Opportunity, living life in Your Spirit is the best choice I ever made.

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So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. Galatians 5:1

Christmas Cake in July

I hate being evaluated, being watched. I detest it. I also do not like role-playing.

Role-playing isn’t natural, and being evaluated and watched makes it hard for me to be natural… to be free.

Last week, I began training for my job as a one-to-one English Teacher. And this may sound over-dramatic (probably is), but in the role-playing and evaluation portion, I felt like I was in a lion’s den. Seriously, the level of anxiety I felt was so intense and so horribly uncomfortable.

And what I’ve heard in times past was heard again, “Just relax, Michele. You’re too hard on yourself. You’re over-thinking.”

And maybe I am.

But I don’t know anything else.

At the same time, I’m embracing the ambition in me. I don’t want to reject it because it’s how He created me, to seek excellence in what I do and that’s not a bad thing.

What I’m finding is that in seeking excellence, I am seeking Him because I can’t do it on my own.

A short summary of my time in Japan: I can’t do ANYTHING on my own.

I have never been more aware of my need for Him in every aspect of my life as now.

When I’m at the grocery trying to make sense of things, when I’m in the midst of training for my new position trying to make sense of things, when my building manager stops me on my way out and goes on and on in Japanese and I’m trying to make sense of things…

Jesus, help!

I need Him… every hour I need Him.

During training, we were advised on several topics that should not be discussed during lessons. And age was one with the disclaimer of how especially sensitive this topic can be regarding women…

According to Wikipedia: In Japan, women had traditionally been expected to marry at a young age and those who were unmarried after the age of 25 were sometimes scornfully referred to as Christmas cakes (unsold after the 25th).

So shortly after realizing I was a Christmas cake, I went to the restroom and looked in the mirror to see a gray hair sticking out plain as day.

Really???

It  was actually quite funny to me… so I hope you are laughing about it, too.

And the bottom line is that I so want to be a strong and patient little Christmas cake.

But I’m not going to lie. It’s been really hard lately.

And this one I don’t even attempt to make sense of…

In this case, I rest. I rest in His goodness. I rest in what my Father spoke to me months ago in Mozambique as I tried to make sense of it:

I’m not holding out on you. I’m just not ready to share you… I am jealous for you.

Oh Jesus, thank you. I need you. Every second of every day. I need you.

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

Matthew 6:6 MSG

This is not Christmas cake, but it is the dessert I enjoyed with this beautiful friend to end my week!
Obviously, not Christmas cake but next best thing… delicious desserts enjoyed with beautiful friends to end my week!!

Why Japan?

February 17, 2012… after giving away everything but my car, I said good-bye to to these two favorites of mine…

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He said, “Go.

So I went.

And it proved to be beyond colorful.

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Everywhere I turned was a scene right off of a postcard.

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And He gave me a wonderful opportunity working on cutting edge technology in a super hip office while also filling the void of leaving my dog!

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Within a month, it was clear that the position was not a good fit, but some amazing connections were established while a key re-connection was made resulting in an inter-continental friendship, which began to flourish via Skype.

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And then, I was offered a great job at this place…

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Values I could easily stand behind…

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But, He had other plans…

I thought I would be planting roots in Colorado, but it turned out to be a much needed watering hole.

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And a launching pad to a continent I had never been with the opportunity to make more beautiful connections…

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And another key re-connection.

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But the deepest connection of all…

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My Father’s love for me sunk into my core.

I experienced His delight in me like never before in Mozambique… and I’ll never be the same.

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I know I can’t live one second without Him, so when it was clear He wanted me to go to Thailand, I went.

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And it was in Bangkok that the desire to live overseas began to burn inside of me. So within a month, my car was packed all over again.

And Colorado bid me farewell with this…

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Surprised by His love, He led me forth, breaking open the way into a beautiful broad place! I’m rescued! All because He delights in me! Psalm 18:19
And I received a warm welcome back to Arizona…

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And an even warmer welcome into the Valley of the Sun.

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And in less than a month, I will journey onward from the Valley of the Sun to the Land of the Rising Sun…

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When you let go of all that you ever thought and all that you had, you open yourself up to all that you are and receive more than you ever thought was possible.

Trust me… better yet, trust Him… and brace yourself for the ride of your life…

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

In the eye of the Beholder

I had such a rich experience in Bangkok. And I’m pretty sure I’m in the midst of a post-Bkk depression…

And as the blues lift, I plan to write more about my journey… but for now, I want to share an unexpected gift I received during my time there. A photo therapy session from a new, beautiful and precious… and insanely talented friend. Though, the photos speak for themselves…

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And this is what I wrote in response to her work:

Fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, my soul knows this well.

I have been on an incredible journey over the last year. Lies have been exposed and the truth has set me free.

Growing up as an Asian-American, I did a better job of embracing the identity of the world around me instead of the identity within. Having friends who had blonde hair and blue eyes, and who the boys always seemed to gravitate towards, fed the lie that I wasn’t pretty enough, nor was I ever going to be…

Instances of the world around me rejecting my identity through racial slurs and even well-meaning comments made by friends didn’t help my cause.

And within my family, I’m the “smart” one. Second in birth order to the “beautiful” one.

Beauty runs skin deep. Yes. But there is freedom and healing in embracing all that you were created to be… inside and out.

I am embracing me. I am beautiful. I am smart. I have a heart that beats with deep compassion.

But above all, I am loved in spite of my beauty, intelligence and compassion. And this, my soul is beginning to know so well.

Please click here to hear Lucia’s heart and see all the photos. I am so stinking blessed.

My insanely beautiful and talented sister from another mister.

I am Asian woman. Hear me roar.

Or in all honesty, meow may be more like it??

Though as most of you know, my laughter can be roar-like.

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So in exactly one week, I’m headed back on a jet plane. This time, the destination is Bangkok, Thailand and I’ll be there for three weeks.

While I’m going with a heart wide open, I have some clear purpose and a bit more focus going in to this trip.

Women. Asia. Justice.

I wrote this in the personal statement of my medical school application in 2008:

I believe that the health of women is absolutely vital to the health of every community. And if there is any patient who benefits from a connection on an intimate level it is that of women. The complexities and intricacies of their health concerns and unique issues greatly inspire me. I seek to understand the physiological components specific to women’s health all the while making genuine connections that make a real difference in their comprehensive care.

I believe in women in a big way. In fact, I could probably take what I have stated above one step further and say that the health of women is the health of the community.

Women create community. After all, God gave Eve to Adam. And so community began.

So God is fulfilling my desire to care for women’s health just in a different way than I had imagined…

And I confess here, I have carried much shame around my Filipino background. Mainly from the standpoint of looking in the mirror and finding it hard to see beauty looking back at me.

But as I journey into my Father’s heart, I’m beginning to see myself more clearly. I’m seeing the beauty that is me.

And how else would I be able to recognize the beauty in my Asian sisters in Thailand???

This is the redemption I so love about God. He works all things together for good. He’s so amazing.

Amazing and just. And oh me oh my there is so much need for justice in the world. So much.

It’s overwhelming to me. And it’s moments like this that has stopped me in times past from doing my part… it’s so much easier to not do anything.

But not now. My flight is booked. I’m on my way.

I know that what I’m entering into will take more than a meow.

But the good news is I carry a Hope within that has a roar like no other. (Colossians 1:27, Revelation 5:5)

That He would choose me to carry life, truth and freedom makes me one lucky girl. Er, I mean woman.

Yes, I am Asian Woman. Hear me rooooooooaaaaaar.

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. ~Mother Theresa~

To learn more about the organizations I’ll be serving with, click below:

NightLight International

Iris Bangkok

My Manang

I have been going non-stop for the last 72 hours, surrounded by my favorite people on the planet. I haven’t seen my parents in over a year. They are here.

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My Mom’s best friend and sister aka. Mama Linda.

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And my Dad’s older brother, Tito (Uncle) Resty and his wife, Tita (Aunt) Becky. My Dad’s younger sister, Tita (Aunt) Nene and her husband, Tito (Uncle) Armando.

Tita Nene and Tito Resty
My cousins, Kuya (denoting older male cousin) Rex, Rodney, Christian and Chaddy Boy. Sidenote: Kuya and Kuya Richie were missed.

Chad, Mindy, Rodney, Kuya Rex, Me and Christian
And my sisters, Manang and Pinzie (better known as Melissa and Mindy). And the latest and greatest addition to my family, my sister’s husband and my brother-in-law, Mark. (All truth be told, I’m really hoping he’s cool with being Marky to me from here on out!)

There is nothing like the comfort and familiarity of family. Sigh.

Before coming here, I asked for prayer. Prayers that this time would be peaceful, that we would enjoy this wonderful celebration of my sister’s marriage, that I would be especially loving and respectful to my parents. Because yes, I shamefully confess, I needed specific prayer for this.

And thank you, Jesus. Our time has been sweet. We celebrated Manang and Marky with all that we had. Lots and lots of time together. Lots of laughs. And LOTS of eating. Yep. That’s how we roll. And it was perfect.

AND, honoring the wishes of the most lovely and radiant bride and fine-looking groom, there were no speeches made during their wedding reception.

I was both happy and bummed. Happy to avert the public speaking pressure. Bummed to not be able to share my heart about my Manang with the world. So, here is what I wanted to share:

My Manang

Truly, God knew just what I needed when He made Melissa my sister. And most of you know this, but for those who don’t, she is Manang to me. Manang is a term of endearment signifying respect for an older sister in my parent’s Filipino dialect. So she is my Manang. And the first thing that comes to mind is I always say, “We are sooooo different… She’s more liberal. She’s not a people pleaser, like me. She just is who she is and confident in that. She’s super independent…”

I love that when she goes on business trips around the world, she adds on some extra days so she can explore – all by herself, whether it’s to rent a bike and ride around Amsterdam or visit the Mayan ruins outside Mexico City, she does it! She’s truly the coolest!!

And when she travels the world, in some way, I do too, because I can count on her returning with something for me. I have a beautiful scarf I cherish from Italy and a most functional one from Machu Picchu in Peru… a unique salve directly from New Zealand and the list goes on…

And I love that while I don’t remember this, my Mom confirms that when we were younger, Manang was always so thoughtful. When she would go on field trips, she would always come home with something for Mindy and me!

But what I love the most about my Manang is that she has always protected me. I know, I KNOW in my heart that she would jump in front of a bullet for me.

Her love is fierce. (This was not part of my original writing, I just added it as I have transposed what I had handwritten… but wow, this single line summarizes all that she is to me.)

And I can give you proof of her protection… as far as I know, and she can correct me if I’m wrong, is that, Manang has been in three “cat fights” in all her life. No blood shed, but definitely some physical contact and words exchanged… and you know what started all of them?

ME!!!

Yes, all it would take is for me, her “sensitive” little sister, to get my feelings hurt, and Manang was always ready to throw down.

And so, Mark, you have a fighter on your hands!! But in all fairness, it’s the good kind. She protects those she loves to the extreme and so know you have the most loyal and protective wife you could ever ask for. I know she will have your back in all things.

And my prayer is that you’ll take care of her even better than she has always taken care of me. ((Enter tears))

And I’m comforted knowing she’ll always have company as she travels around the world.

Mark, you give some of the best hugs in the world so you’ve won me. And I’ve enjoyed all of our fun times together over the last few years. I’m really looking forward to having you as an official brother now.

You’re each so beautiful and together, incredibly generous. And I’m so grateful for the both of you.

I pray you would experience the depths of God’s love for each of you and you would stay rooted in His love so you would always have love for each other…

Cheers!

Ephesians 3:17-19

17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Humbled M.E.

I wanted to be a doctor because I had this amazing uncle who was a general surgeon. And not only was he highly gifted in his trade, he was a man of integrity and incredibly charismatic. And generous. So generous. I wanted to impact people in my professional and personal life as he did. I wanted to give like he gave.

((Enter my cultural background))

I’m so often asked, “Where are you from?”

I reply, “Ohio.”

They ask again, “No, where are you from?”

I smugly (yes, I confess) reply, “Well, my parents are from the Philippines.”

That said, I have AMAZING parents. They sacrificed so much for me. They set out to start and raise a family in the United States… the land of opportunity.

They had high hopes for me. And true to our culture, I wanted to be able to provide for them financially at this point in my life.

But, that’s just not the case. And the shame around that is surfacing as I move forward… as a missionary.

Oh my. I said it. I’ve put it to paper. I am about to embark on a journey that will require me to fully depend on God for everything like never before, and this includes my finances.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKS.

It’s hard enough for me to ask for a ride to the airport… what more of money???

I’ve been dragging my feet on raising support, which was was never part of my plan.

I planned to use the severance pay I was blessed with a few months back to cover my tuition and the rest of my expenses would come from my savings…

Because depleting my savings is far better than asking for help on this journey… right?!?

WRONG. I’m sooooo wrong and so very humbled in recognizing my need. I cannot do this alone. I just can’t… nor am I supposed to. That’s not His desire for me.

And I have this reminder in my Bible of His provision. This $20 bill was given to me by a woman named Rosie who I met while attending a church during a visit to Salmon, Idaho back in December. From our conversation I don’t believe she had much to give, but she handed this to me and said, “Merry Christmas!” And I haven’t spoke with her since, but am grateful for the tangible reminder of God’s faithfulness through her.

And in His faithfulness He blew me away through my folks… who I felt did not receive my plans for missions school so well at first… and I just revealed the shame I’m working through… and I owe them so much money… so I would have NEVER considered asking them for financial support…

And I didn’t have to, they offered. My heart had received the blessing it longed for from them and I was floored by a financial blessing that came with it.

And then, a couple I’ve never met but who are close to one of my dear friends in Japan wanted to give to me. And this, turned into a huge blessing.

I just love how my Heavenly Father is so gentle with me. He knows my fear. He knows my shame… I give it all to Him. He takes it and in exchange I receive greater grace. sigh.

James 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

Jesus, please keep on humbling me.