It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cry If I Want To

(Okay…so maybe not quite my birthday…but kinda close!!! And the title for this came after writing the below…)

I’ve felt the urge to write and it’s been awhile. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m to share right now so I’m just going to keep on typing and see where this all leads…

Times have been full. Full of me, actually. And I don’t mean that in a self-centered way but in the most self-loving way (Mark 12:31). At nearly 40 years old, I’m finally discovering who I am which is who I’ve always been…but for me, it’s all new. I’m basically meeting myself in ways I never have before and I’m learning to embrace and love myself like I never have before. It feels pretty weird simply because it’s so different than what I’m used to, but it’s all soooooo good. So good.

It’s a little hard to believe that I started this blog over six years ago and six years ago, life as I knew it was so beyond anything I ever expected. And yet, it still is…and maybe it will always be…or at least until I finally let go of what I’ve expected, of all my expectations.

But that goes without saying what I’m about to share…that about two months ago, Pink’s latest and greatest song came out and it has rocked my world. I’ve listened to it REPEATEDLY since it debuted. Literally, I’ve set it on repeat and it’ll play over and over for hours and I don’t tire of it…because it resonates deep in my soul, it’s my heart’s cry…and it just so happens to be playing right now on repeat…

What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?
Read more: Pink – What About Us Lyrics | MetroLyrics

After about two weeks of repeat, I told my best friends that these words seemed so similar to David’s…the man after God’s own heart. To me, this song is my modern-day Psalm…” The sentiments are all too familiar…

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Psalm 13

I know there’s so much going on in the world. SO MUCH. And honestly, I have always been so wrapped up in everything and everyone else going on around me that I couldn’t see my own needs. And to take it one step further, I felt shame for even having any needs with everything going on around me.

So today, at nearly 40, I have balance like never before. I grieve…I GRIEVE over the world and all that is happening, but it doesn’t consume me like it used to. But also, like never before, I feel all of my own grief…yes, dammit, I’ve had so many expectations of what I expected at this point in my life…and I know they’re all healthy, good desires…namely, for love, for intimacy…for marriage. And it just hasn’t happened. And I don’t know why, but there’s something about turning 40 in about 3 months that presses on me in a way that I have to fess up to so I can let go and be free. Again, Pink’s words couldn’t be further from my own truth…

I don’t want control, I want to let go
Are you ready? I’ll be ready
‘Cause now it’s time to let them know we are ready
What about us?
Read more: Pink – What About Us Lyrics | MetroLyrics

And by the way, I thought I was excited about this upcoming birthday until just a week ago when I found myself a weepy mess in a conversation with my best friend. I realized how fearful I was of how I could feel it [40] just coming for me and how I had now way to stop it.

So I write because, yes, I know there are big problems in the world and, yes, if there is one thing I am sure of it is that Jesus is my everything.

But then, there’s my humanity. There’s my need for affection and intimacy and sharing this life with someone in a way that is different than the most intimate relationships I have…and let me tell you, I have THE BEST FRIENDS in the world. Truly, THE BEST…the deepest of friendships I could ever ask for and I’m holding on to them for dear life now and forevermore.

And having been single for 15 years, I’ve heard it all…about God’s timing (which I’m well aware of and agree with) and that maybe it’s not God’s plan for me (which I don’t believe and will not come to agree with). I’m also not seeking pity. I guess I just want to lament like David did…and I’m pretty sure God’s absolutely comfortable with this.

In so many ways, personally…and globally, the world doesn’t make sense to me. But I’ve also learned I don’t need all the answers…I don’t need it to make sense.

So I’m not seeking answers but just to be…to be heard in my confusion and grief in all things.

Because the good news is, this no longer consumes me. While I’ve learned that these emotions will be there whether or not I choose to acknowledge them, I’ve found that when I actually feel them and face them, then I am set free.

Free to feel hope, hope that is genuine. And to express gratitude with the same authenticity…to experience true joy is everything.

David cried out his grievances, but he also expressed his hope…

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.
Psalm 13

At the end of the day, I too, practice gratitude. I am SO GRATEFUL. So effing grateful. Just a few things that immediately come to mind:

  1. My health
  2. My family
  3. My inner circle…that I’ve waited so long for
  4. My large circle…full of people from all over the world and I’m pretty sure I’m likely to encounter someone I know wherever I go in the greater Phoenix area…and none of this is taken for granted
  5. Doing whatever I basically feel like doing outside the hours of 8-5 M-F
  6. Wine
  7. Potato chips
  8. Chocolate
  9. Saguaros
  10. Sunrises and sunsets
  11. Warm Hugs
  12. Experiencing new places/cultures and the people I get to meet through these experiences
  13. Hiking, yoga and all kinds of physical movement
  14. Deep connections with strangers
  15. Love
  16. Peace
  17. Self-compassion and care
  18. Laughter
  19. Work I enjoy with people who are like family
  20. SO MANY PEOPLE I LOVE AND AM DEEPLY LOVED BY
  21. Everything…just everything

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So there you have it. Me at 39. In practicing gratitude, I know that everything around me changes. And when I couple that with acceptance, I may have just found the secret to the good life.

After all, Jesus didn’t say it would be easy…

32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
John 16

Take heart and hope, friends. I’m becoming convinced that the Hope of the world is counting on us to change our way of thinking so that we can be the Hope of the world and the change that we all seek.

xoxo

Heart work is the hardest work

WOW. It’s been awhile since my last post so obviously a lot has happened.

We’re a month into 2016 and I’ve moved back in with my sister and Olaf, resigned from my job, and just got a new one yesterday.

And I also ran myself into the ground. AGAIN.

I vowed to never let this happen after the first time nearly ten years ago…but I know better than to never say never.

So this week, I find myself experiencing the aftermath of pushing myself beyond my limits. I feel exhausted, vulnerable, anxious, and a bit defeated.

Oh I also celebrated my 38th birthday which always comes with a check-in of life.

Still singlecheck.

Still figuring out what to do with my lifecheck.

With each day, I’m getting closer to each of these, though, right??

Given the first check-in above, it’s been so long since I’ve been in a relationship, so I find myself in relationships with the circumstances of my life. There was the one with medical school where I tried so hard, only to be rejected…

And this most recent relationship, with a job that I knew from day one would be a challenge, ended up just not working out no matter how hard I tried. I was fully committed, all in…and probably should’ve broken up with it months ago…but its redeeming qualities seemed to outweigh the bad…I felt supported by and loved my manager, and the same goes for all my  colleagues…but the job itself was killing me.

So on my final day I walked out the doors of the building and to my car with tears streaming down my face…and by the time I got into my car, I was full on bawling and nearly got hit by a big white truck before I even got out of the parking lot due to my tears!!

I hesitated to make eye contact with the other driver certain that he would have some curse words for me…instead, upon making eye contact, it was clear he noticed my distress and I could read his lips asking, “are you okay?”

To which, I nodded with even more tears, and pulled out  in front of him as he signaled me to go ahead.

The stress of the job took such a toll on me that you’d think I would feel such relief, but instead I was heartbroken…and to the very end, I needed the assurance that it was okay to leave…and not only was it okay to leave but I was loved all the same.

Oh and one other moment to note, after telling my manager of my official plans to resign, I ended our meeting with, “can I have a hug?” To which she kindly obliged.

So here I am…at 38…resigning from jobs and hugging it out after I do…definitely not what I imagined!!!

But it’s so my life…

And while the emotional and mental toll was more than I could bear, HIS GRACE…it was sufficient. It’s always sufficient.

When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. Romans 5:20-21 MSG

And without going into all the details, God gave me a new opportunity that I’m thrilled about and while it will have its challenges, I’m confident that based on our first couple of dates and what I learned from my previous relationship, we’re a good match.

My desire is for a long-term relationship…in more ways than one!!!

So the journey continues but also the journey of embracing the journey. This is my story…mine all mine, and it’s a really great one. Perfect, actually.

And when it comes to work, I’m becoming convinced that my greatest accomplishments are the work that is being done in my heart…and the source of my job satisfaction are the relationships I get to have.

And I’ve learned that when the going gets tough, the tough require lots of hugs and assurance to keep going…

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
 Philippians 3:14

Pressing on…xo

 

 

Failure, F-bombs and Freedom

I’ve been waiting for the time to sit down and write…and I’ve been pondering the things I would write about given all that I’ve experienced recently. A lot has been going on. I actually wrote something yesterday but just wasn’t feeling real led to share it…

So I’m sitting back down again because I know that I know that I know how good writing is for my soul. For me, it’s like working out, I never look back thinking it was a waste of time. I feel really good after I write.

And right now I just want to say that life feels really hard…and I constantly feel so dang needy.

I’m not looking for a pity party…I’m just keeping it real. My insecurities overwhelm me. And I want them to disappear but it doesn’t happen like that…or does it?

You tell me…because I’ve done my fair share of work…and yet it seems constant…there is always more.

Oftentimes, the process of healing is likened to an onion, layer by layer, we heal…so I’m pretty sure I’m the most layered onion there ever was and if onions also make themselves cry…then I’m that onion.

The last five weeks of my job have been devoted to studying for the Series 7 and 66 Financial Licensing exams. And studying just isn’t my thing, and when it consists of content like what I was studying…it makes things REALLY hard…and then when you throw in the need to achieve in me…that’s just a ticking time bomb waiting to happen.

But as I write this…there was NO EXPLOSION.

Oh me oh my. Now that’s some serious business.

It’s rare that I don’t tear up when I think back to the call I made years ago to my poor Momma and Daddy in the Philippines, who were completely helpless upon answering the phone and without any explanation had to listen to my wails of devastation over my rejection to medical school.

That journey taught me so much, and I was sure there were no more lessons to be learned…but turns out, Paul knew what he was talking about when he said:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

And gosh, I hesitate to call it lessons. I don’t subscribe to the notion that God’s heart is for hard times so I can be taught hard lessons. That’s just icky and I don’t want to think of it in that regard.

What I am certain of is this: I want freedom…and He knows better than anyone this desire. And freedom comes with a price.

It’s why Jesus went to the Cross. For my freedom He has set me free.

And I confess to you right now…what I know gets in the way of my freedom is my worry over finances and my people-pleasing…and my fear of failure and rejection…

For me, early on in life, my identity became attached to my academic and athletic achievements…success, really.

The possibility of rejection and failure paralyzed me for so long. And my journey to medical school really helped me move beyond that.

Having basically everything I could ever want and then losing it all also helped to redefine success and make me dependent on Him as my financial source like never before, which I still struggle with daily.

I’ve definitely tasted freedom from the things which have bound me but it’s easy to get triggered when you’ve measured yourself for so long according to test scores, and then you’ve gone on to work in settings that rank you weekly based on your performance…not to even mention the measures that exist in your mind…like, I’m 37 and still single…what else do I need to do to make the grade??

So at some point, enough is enough. And on Saturday evening, I had enough…

As I was wrapping up studying for my final test…I melted into a puddle on my floor asking God to take away the fear of failure in me.

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And wouldn’t you know…for as long as I have been full on pursuing Him, out of that, I realized that that fear was in the way of truly believing in the depths of my heart that His plans for me are for good.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So in my weepy mess I told Him that I wanted to believe, I wanted to wholeheartedly believe that.

And if there was any ticking time bomb set off, it was the anger that rose up in me against the enemy of my soul…I don’t like to direct any attention there, but let’s face it, he stops at nothing to steal and kill and destroy…and in response to that, the words spewed out of me…

F*#& you, satan. F$(#. You.

Sigh.

Anger is hard for me to express and that was so needed…so so needed and in my heart, I just knew I was taking a stand like never before.

So the next morning when I took my test, I had nothing more than your old run-of-the-mill test anxiety, and deep confidence in the One who was with me.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

So when I walked out with a “Fail” and no earth-shattering sense of failure. That was the greatest victory.

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Failure, nor success defines me.

I’m His. And that’s all I need to be.

I continue to laugh at my current role in the financial services industry. I still have no idea what I’m doing there and I’ll need to retake this test and pass to stay…

That said, when I look around at others doing amazing things so in line with their passion and talents…I have my weak moments of doubt and envy…

But I know that He knows and I’m learning more and more just how deeply He cares for my heart.

Because the reality is I’m in this world that now comes with social media…I’m also working in Corporate America. And neither are terrible, but both offer much opportunity for comparison and rankings and measurements.

So as much as I want to avoid everything that’s hard for me and hide in a hole and never come out…He wants the most abundant life for me and FREEDOM is my gateway.

He called me back to the desert. He’s shown me the beauty in it. He’s promised to make all things new. And I do believe that.

So after my sweet victory yesterday, I went to the desert to celebrate and officially take my stand against the measuring stick that I’ve been working way too long and hard at measuring up to.

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And yes, I’m needy. So so needy…and I’m pretty sure that will never ever go away…and I’m okay with that because it gives me opportunity after opportunity to fall into immeasurable depths of LOVE, MERCY and GRACE.

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Lord, I pray…may I never ignore the call of Freedom.

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.

Philippians 1:6, Jeremiah 29:11, Zephaniah 3:17, John 10:10, Isaiah 43:19, Ephesians 3:20, Galatians 5:1

Desert Life

I can hardly believe that this time last year I was kicking off my final month in Japan, nursing a sprained ankle over a missed step because I was so overcome with tears all while wearing a beautiful kimono (a memory I’ll never forget marked by my deep emotions and His deep love)!!!!

**See my friend's arm holding the ice to my ankle!!!! Also, see the puffy eyes from the bawling that just went down.
**See my friend’s arm holding the ice to my ankle!!!! Also, see the puffy eyes from the bawling that just went down.

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And now, I’m back in the desert with much CONTENTMENT. Ah yes, I unwrapped this precious gift a couple months ago shortly before this selfie was taken.

contentment

My Father surprised me with this one. In fact, when He gave it to me on top of this mountain, I wasn’t even sure what I was receiving but I responded with tears of joy hidden behind those big sunglasses! I’m so grateful that He knows exactly what I need.

And apart from His love, this could be the second greatest gift I’ve received.

Being back in Arizona has been nothing short of amazing…simply because when you have received the gift of contentment and circumstances would try to dictate otherwise, you cling to it with all that you have and amazing is all you receive in return.

So that being said, the last few months have had its struggles…

My job challenges my mind and emotions on every front. I deal with people at a level like never before. The financial need I tend to wears on me bringing out some ickiness within…and the ickiness I have to face in others can bring me to tears like nobody’s business…effectively dealing with mean people is a skill I’m cultivating in my new line of work!

And last month, I said good-bye to the very best of friends here. She moved on to a beautiful and exciting adventure, which took her and her husband to another state…

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I decided to give e-harmony [another] go round. My three-month membership expires this Friday and in the last three months I have had no dates and am still single…that’s the short and sweet update on that!

So on the heels of my last post, with all sincerity, I can say that I am full of so much joy and peace because these are the gifts that contentment brings…

Sidebar: Except when I’m on social media…HA! Without getting into too many details but enough to keep things real here…between all that is going on in the world (since sadly, this is mainly how I know what is going on in the world)…and all that is going on in the lives of others (which of course always seems to be moving along in such a more desirable way than my own), social media can really overwhelm me with questions, and pain…and comparison and envy…and just lots of icky things…

But I’m not giving up on social media because He never gives up on me. And all those icky things surfacing through my many circumstances are working themselves out because my Father is the Giver of Grace and I am Grace’s greatest receiver.

He has given me new eyes to see the beauty of the desert like never before. What used to be dry and desolate now represents much beauty and life.

desert place

A most remarkable friend so sweetly encouraged me that “some beautiful things only bloom in this place…the cacti (so prickly) bloom too” and shortly thereafter shared this spectacular picture posted by our mutual friend on Facebook (another reason to not give it up…there is good to be had there!).

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And I rest in the hope of that…that in the ickiness and prickliness within and around, beauty blooms…

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of helping a new friend launch her summer line of clothing for her amazing business…in which another incredibly talented new friend captured this…

because im happy

There is so much life in the desert. There is so much joy found in contentment. I’m beyond grateful.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. -Hebrews 12:1-2

Whine and Cheese

I’m really good at whining. And it’s something I’ve decided I want to not be so good at. After all, nobody likes whiners…I mean, who on earth enjoys listening to complaining that comes in the tone of a whine?

And sometimes I find myself share my gripe, but end it on a positive note…not sure why but it’s what I do.

Case in point…

Friend: How’s work?

Me: So hard, so much information…I’m in a call center…tied to a headset…but, I’m super grateful for a job with great benefits!

It’s my very own version of whine and cheese! A whine ended with some cheesy, half-hearted sentiment.

But just in case you are wondering about my new job, work in a call center is very structured and efficient. I have two scheduled 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch each day. I actually like structure and strive to be efficient, but the job in and of itself is pretty tough and the people I speak with aren’t always pleasant…not to mention, I believe I interact better in person than on the phone…

BUT, I get to rely on Jesus in a new way for wisdom and strength. And for the most part, those precious breaks and lunch are quality time with Him.

I’ve been reading the sweetest little devotional that often points to Jesus’ suffering and I know it sounds super dramatic to compare my current work struggles. But the fact of the matter is, He’s not apart from it.

And I have no doubt He’s led me into this role, but I guess I expected it to be pretty effortless and a little more fulfilling. Instead, I’ve found out how much more I need Him and am reminded all the more that nothing will ever fulfill me as He does.

Again, not to sound dramatic, but Paul rejoiced in prison…and let’s just say that being tied to a headset is a bit confining!! So I want to be like Paul and choose joy over whining.

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. Acts 16:25

While I’m struggling in this position, the good news is I’m not jumping ship, which is where my struggles would have taken me in the past. I’m sticking with this simply because I know He’s in it with me…and I’m certain it’s where He wants me. And believe you me, after the adventures I’ve had as of recently…a cubicle in corporate America complete with a headset is of an entirely new kind that I’m trying to embrace as much as the others.

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I know I’m still on the steep part of the learning curve and trust that things will level out. And while this position offers constant challenge and the opportunity to help people, I’m not sure that you’ll hear me raving about my passion on a headset.

That’s some hard, but good truth for me!

And my hope is that moving forward, there’s less of a whine in my tone and a passion that stems from being with the One I love wherever that may be.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:3

Risky Business

Jesus said, “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!” (Luke 8:48MSG)

This morning, I came across this verse noted in a journal from four years ago and it was exactly what my heart needed to hear.

You see, I used to describe myself as one who doesn’t take risks. When I first moved to Arizona fourteen years ago, I came because it was safe. At that time, I had family who owned a home here so I had a place to land and if it didn’t work out, it would be easy to change course.

Over the course of the years that followed, I did all that I set out to accomplish as far as securing a good career and living comfortably.

In 2005, I made what was somewhat of a risky move by quitting my job to pursue medical school. I say it was only partially risky because I had evaluated my finances and felt secure in that regard with what I was setting out to do.

So with all determination, the risk of not getting into medical school wasn’t even a factor.

And that cost me everything.

This morning, I related to the precious woman in Luke 8 in a whole different light.

In the crowd that day there was a woman who for twelve years had been afflicted with hemorrhages. She had spent every penny she had on doctors but not one had been able to help her. (Luke 8:43-44MSG)

I spent twelve years in Arizona in pursuit of everything I hoped would fulfill me…only to come up short over and over again, and leaving me more desperate with each try…

And eventually I would have to ask others for help, which I needed to learn to do…but not only would I find that they could only do so much, but I would also find that, in some cases, promises would go unmet.

When finances were running low and the opportunity to do some innovative investing presented itself, I quickly asked, “where do I sign?” And just like that, the equity in my home and the proceeds of my 401k were in the hands of another.

When the terms of what I had signed up for were not being upheld, I sought trusted legal counsel to help…and let’s just say, that proved to not be so trusted.

Over the years, I’ve carried lots of shame for the poor decisions I made regarding my finances, namely my 401k.

Like the hemorrhaging woman, after 12 years, I had exhausted all options and was at the end of myself…

So I reached for Him with faith like never before.

But unlike the woman in the Bible, I wasn’t hiding after I did nor did my healing come instantly.

When the woman realized that she couldn’t remain hidden, she knelt trembling before him. In front of all the people, she blurted out her story—why she touched him and how at that same moment she was healed. (Luke 8:47MSG)

I reached for Jesus fully exposed and my healing would come in the experiences and adventures He would lead me on that followed this act of faith…

Jesus said, “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!” (Luke 8:48MSG)

After the first risk, I can’t say it gets any easier because the stakes keep getting higher.

But healing and wholeness is always worth the risk.

Yesterday, I got a job offer. For a job I would have never imagined myself doing and one I didn’t apply for. (Okay, so some backstory is that I applied for a different one with this company but got a quick response that they were pursuing other candidates, so my resume entered their system that way.)

So I like to think that they chose me. Just like He did.

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. (John 15:16NLT)

And what have they chosen me to do, you ask?

Oh, I’ll be working for a financial investment firm helping folks in the area of investing and their 401k.

I laugh.

I don’t believe in karma or revenge.

I believe in the Redeemer and isn’t redemption sweet?!

He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name. (Psalm 111:9NASB)

Life as I know it

I’ve been back in the States for four months and in Arizona living with my most gracious friends and being part of their family for the last two…but who’s counting?!

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I don’t want life to be measured in that way. Instead of counting days, I want to be fully present breathing in every moment. I want to be focused on my journey today and not what it could or couldn’t be tomorrow…because let’s face it, I’ve mastered that.

Oh that my mind would fully rest…

But instead, it has the gift of going and going. And my wide open heart of feeling and feeling.

Taking me to this very moment and the need to put words to all this going and feeling. To write. To process. But most importantly, to stop and REMEMBER. Remember that nothing is apart from Him. Every moment is extraordinary because He is in it.

He’s called me back to the beautiful desert and I’m marveling at its beauty like never before.

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I’ve been reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

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I had the most precious reunion with my family.

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And oodles of quality time with my nephew.

snuggley Conrad

I’ve done some babysitting, dogsitting, and lots of school pick-ups and homework.

kids pick up

This past week, I got back into the interviewing mode, which is definitely not one of my favorite things. Anytime I’m putting myself in a position to be rejected just isn’t ideal for sensitive little me. But it’s all good because my perception of rejection is changing…slowly, but surely!

And my interviewing preparation is also changing. Instead of focusing on my qualifications, I’m prepping by focusing on His.

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He’s good. He’s so good. And while my circumstances try to fool me, my heart gets me back on solid ground.

I’m back in the desert, but this is not a desert season. As I write this, I’m careful to define any of it. My mind would like to do that, but my heart knows so much better.

The last few weeks have had their share of whining and moaning, and that’s all bound to still happen in the coming, but at the end of the day, my heart overflows.

My life is beautiful beyond reason and He is more beautiful with each moment.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
 who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
 who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
 who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5

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.

conrad collage1

conrad collage2

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

cruising

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.

obie

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.

rest area

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.

sparkler

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

Where do I go from here?

Where to begin…?

I came here to help me sort out all that is in me. I arrived in L.A. about 72 hours ago, and have slept for the majority of that time. And when I’m not sleeping, I’m doting over Conrad. Oh my. I’m deeply in love with my nephew. Everything about him is so perfectly perfect. He started crawling since I arrived!!!

And I sure do miss the beautiful baby girl I got to spend a lot of time with over the last three months. Within 24 hours, I was in Japan squeezing her telling her how much I’d miss her and squeezing my nephew in Los Angeles telling him how delighted I was to be home with him.

babylove

But where is home, anyway?

Great question!

That and what I’m going to do next is yet to be determined…

And the mere fact that I am completely at peace with this is a miracle in and of itself, but He promised me that:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; Isaiah 55:12

So may the search begin!

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2

I’ll be searching things out in a treasure/Easter egg hunt fashion. Indeed a treasure is what I will uncover, and while eggs are hidden in clever places, the intent is not to make it impossible to find.

And I’m certain my Father’s heart is just like that. He hides His treasures in places that aren’t so obvious, but offers enough adventure that I’m having fun searching rather than losing sleep.

So that’s my latest and greatest in its simplest form, but at some point, I want to share all about the epic adventure I had with two of my favorite people during my final month in Japan. For now, I’ll just say that His promise to go out in joy was fulfilled in a big way (Isaiah 55:12). Here are some pictures to give you a little teaser:

walking

joy

churami

I also want to summarize what the last year in Japan has meant to me in a future post. And here’s a little teaser for that:

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Ephesians 3:20

In both of these cases, words could never ever capture all that I want to say, but I’m going to rise to the challenge and do my best to put into words what I can…

Stay tuned…

And in the meantime, be loved… take it from me, there’s no better way to be.

1 John 4:19

xoxo

Finding My Way

I have so much to say. And the best part I’m not going to save for last. Last month, I held this little guy in my arms.

connie

My most precious nephew. He’s the best. THE. BEST. My heart has reached a new capacity to love and in turn my heart has extended its capacity for more of my Father’s love. And life just never ever gets better than that.

So I could stop right here… but there’s so much more to share.

I spent three weeks in the States and returned back to Japan at the beginning of the month. A friend who spent three and half years as a missionary here warned me that readjusting could take double the time I was away. So doing the math, that would be six weeks. I’m on week four, and it doesn’t help that I have been living in a new city since I returned. And it’s a beautiful one in which I’ve traded convenience and isolation for living on a mountaintop in community. Definitely a trade-up, but it is taking some adjusting.

And in the last four weeks, I’ve had quite a few firsts…

First time striking up an acquaintance with a stray cat. I call him Graceson and he’s about the friendliest feline I ever did see. And for the record, I’m not sure that he’s actually a he.

Graceson

First time eating matcha soba, which is a spectacular first for someone as obsessed with matcha as me. Oishi! (Delicious!)

matcha soba

First time in a hospital in Japan and first time meeting a precious one within less than 24 hours of arrival! Kawaii! (Cute!)

baby

First time eating robata with chicken intestine and kidneys as a main highlight. I’m still trying to digest this one. Pun intended. I don’t know, maybe just one day this experience will come in handy… like when the Travel Channel looks to replace Anthony Bourdain?!

chickenguts

First time filing taxes in Japan. God bless you, Kenji, my tax angel and non-English speaking friend!

kenji

And this is by no means an exhaustive list!

One big first that I’ll add is that last week I booked a one-way ticket from Osaka to Los Angeles. That was a first.

Yep, you heard me right. One-way. I’m coming home.

A year to the day I left, I’ll be on a jet plane back to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

It’s crazy, and hasn’t fully set in. And did I  mention I have NO IDEA what I’m going to do and where I’ll live? But, I am so at peace. I mean, beyond at peace… and we know where that peace that passes all understanding comes from. Thank you, Jesus.

So going back to the mountaintop I’m currently living on. For the last month, probably 90% of the time I have walked up and down the mountain to get to and from the station. And it’s been a precious time for me to slow down, while speeding up my metabolism!! Kidding aside, inconvenience can make room for much patience and clarity… if you’ll let it.

Last night, walking up the mountain… this really spoke to me.

signpost

I can’t read any of it, except the obvious.

And so it was as I sought Him for my next step. Only one thing was clear… the still small voice in my heart that said, “come home.”

But this came just when some of the things near and dear to my heart have started to happen. Last week, I met with five others who have hearts for those working in the sex industry.

And last Friday, this happened.

yoga

Technically, I didn’t lead a  Holy Yoga class. But a friend wanted to host a yoga event and asked if I would help. So I opened and ended the class sharing some of His heart and prayer, while my friend handled all the yoga instruction. And I also had the opportunity to distract two precious ones during the class so their Mom could be free from distraction. And I would say that that’s all pretty holy.

outdooryoga

So how can I leave now?

And that’s where His peace enters along with some new perspective. These things that I’ve been making the end goal, I’m now understanding to serve as guideposts. They’ve helped guide my steps, and confirm that I’m right where I should be.

The end goal is always Him, and always His. That’s what I’m beginning to see.

This was also taken on my walk home last night.

highway

When I reached what you see at the end of this photo, I met a woman walking down the mountain with her two dogs. She asked me if I passed any wild pigs. I assured her I hadn’t.

Apparently, boars are pretty prevalent but so far, I’ve been in the clear. Just as I should be…

There will be a highway
    called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious
    is permitted on this road.
It’s for God’s people exclusively—
    impossible to get lost on this road.
    Not even fools can get lost on it.
No lions on this road,
    no dangerous wild animals—
Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
    Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed
    will come back on this road.
They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
    unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,
Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
    as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night. Isaiah 35:8-10MSG

I’m going home, and it’s definitely bittersweet. Yet what seems like the end for me in Japan, could very well just be the beginning…

I’m not really sure but I’m all the more sure that Jesus is really crazy about me. And I may not know what’s around the bend, but I know it’s going to be so, so good.

bend

“Set up signposts to mark your trip home.
    Get a good map.
Study the road conditions.
    The road out is the road back.
Come back, dear virgin Israel,
    come back to your hometowns.
How long will you flit here and there, indecisive?
    How long before you make up your fickle mind?
God will create a new thing in this land:
    A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God!” Jeremiah 31:21-22MSG