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

My date at 38

Sooo…big news. After six years of not having a date, it happened. I had one and it was great!!!
But not because it was love at first sight and I was swept off my feet by Mr. Right.
Hardly the case.
In fact, I just texted Mr. Not Right yesterday to let him know that I didn’t feel a connection to go on a second date.
Crazy, right? Well, let me explain.
Back in January, when I turned 38, it seemed so fitting to wish for a date. So I did. I didn’t need to worry about if this was the year that I would FINALLY meet my husband…but instead, how about a wish for just a date?
Now back track to a little over a month ago, I was in my sweet spot worshipping Jesus at a women’s conference. Hands lifted high, I was overcome by His love and delight over me that my heart’s immediate response was,
“I’m good. I. Am Good. I’m good being single for as long I will be. I’m good with just You and me.”
Now hear me, I’ve said this before and when I have it did not flow freely. All the times before were simply me “crying uncle.” You know, like forced into submission.
But this time was soooooo different. And different because when I was saying, “I am good,” I was truly aligning with the truth that I am good, and rejecting the lie that because I’m still single, something must be wrong with me. So since then, I’ve felt the shift in my heart. He has entered that space and I have no doubt is sustaining me for whatever the time it will be. There is no more pain to be felt in this area, only the hope of the promise He has for me.
So with that, two weeks ago, without much thought, and honestly, because I had taken a break from Facebook and since I don’t have television, was a little bored, I downloaded the Tinder app.
So downloaded out of boredom and I guess, just to see…see what’s out there. I’m not sure I thought a date would come out of it since I tried it for all of 24 hours about a year prior and it scared me a bit so I quickly deleted it.
So being that my Father is who He is and I’ve learned that His love knows no limits and He likes to surprise me, I began to get excited over the possibilities.
And so after some swiping, some connections were made and a few messages were exchanged…and I had a date scheduled!!
Truly, I knew next to nothing about this guy other than his first name, age and the assumption that he had served in the armed forces based on a picture he posted. And of course, I met him in a very public place.
And it ended up being the best date I could ever ask for after a six year hiatus.
God showered His love on me from start to finish. After parking and heading for the place we set to meet, I walked right past the very shop I had just been to a few months before while a close friend shopped for wedding dresses and I found myself full of so much hope as I doted over her as she did.
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My date and I met at a brewery that served kombucha on tap which I’d never had before and it was amazing!
Then I was surprised by my date’s suggestion that we move on to dinner at a Korean BBQ restaurant…say what?? Korean BBQ? I was just talking to my sister recently about finding a place in Phoenix because I LOVE Korean BBQ. Not to mention the last time I had Korean BBQ in a restaurant setting was in Seoul, Korea!!
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And then rewind to the night before the date, when I went into panic mode thinking I had nothing cute to wear for my first date in six years!!
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So if there was still any doubt, upon walking into the Korean BBQ restaurant, the hostess exclaims,
“You have THE BEST outfit on!”
I died. I knew that was God’s specific way of showing me just how much He sees me, and that He was in this with me.
And if that wasn’t enough, after our check was paid and we were getting ready to leave the restaurant, the hostess came over to our table and said to me,
“You have THE BEST laugh ever…I have so enjoyed hearing you and watching you have a great time over here…”
And with only 500 characters allowed, this is part of what I wrote about myself on my Tinder profile:
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I won’t go into all the details of the conversation with my date but I’ll summarize by saying we covered so much ground, and it was rich and deep…which I would have it no other way. The shallow waters are painstakingly difficult for me.

So I had the opportunity for deep, meaningful conversation which I got to be transparently me.
And honestly, I’m not so sure I’m going to abide by the cultural norms of what you shouldn’t talk about on a first date moving forward. Because I’m so grateful we talked about all we did.
There was some heatedness over taboo topics, but in then end, it was all discussed with maturity and respect. And what more could I ask for?
Not to mention, go me for speaking my voice and stating my opinion!! That’s a big win!!
So all this said, it was clear to me that our difference in opinion and values helped make me realize that there was no potential for a second date. And how awesome to be able to recognize that and respond in the healthiest and most gracious of ways?
So thank you, Jesus. This was more than I could have ever asked for on my date at 38..of course, not what I imagined…but as always, so much better!
And to recognize the presence of my Good Good Father in the midst of this epic night and experience His deep love for me is all that matters when all is said and done.
If you’re wondering, I’m still on Tinder and in my short time, I’ve had some negative experiences, including a horrible and offensive conversation with one guy. And another guy who I was super excited to meet and was super bummed when he cancelled and has yet to reschedule…but through it all, I’m learning and growing.  It’s a constant journey of replacing the bad with the good of my Father who cares for me.
And being true to my word, I’m believeing more and more that I’m good in the depths of me. I am so good just as I am. My Father’s delight and care for me is all I ever need.
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
        reflecting our nature…”
God looked over everything he had made;
        it was so good, so very good! Genesis 1:26-31 The Message

Holy Ground…it’s all around.

Here we go…I write because I know no better way to fully process and record my life and everything that is going on in it.

It’s ongoing and it’s beautiful and there has been oh so much since the last time I wrote.

Life hasn’t been the same without Olaf, and it never will be…but I’m grateful for memories and all his saved photos in my phone, which I often return to.

Plus, the last video I captured of him.

This was holy ground.

And I continue to learn that all ground is holy. There is no divide between the sacred and the secular, like I once believed.

Jesus is living in me…breathing the very breath I breathe so nothing is ordinary. It’s all magnificent and extraordinary.

Case in point: Coldplay concert. Soldier Field – Chicago. Reunion with a beautiful friend I made and hadn’t seen since four years ago in Pemba, Mozambique.

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Sometimes, you just have to follow your heart and the need for adventure and trust your Good Father’s provision when you splurge on a flight for less than 48 hours in another place.

Because every penny spent proves to be worth its weight in gold when you find yourself in one of the most worshipful experiences you’ve ever had as you’re jumping up and down in the pouring rain while Coldplay sings, “A Sky Full of Stars.”

With every sense awakened, you find that your only response is, “YEEEEEEES, LOOOORD.”

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Not to mention the words that your precious friend places on the experience that you found so hard to articulate but when she says it it resonates deep in your bones…”Don’t you get the sense that that is just like what heaven will be like?”

Me: “Ummm…yes, that is exactly what heaven will be like!”

But also, heaven experienced now…the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

This was holy ground.

Or there is the instance that you are connected with the most beautiful soul who starts to spend time with you and listen to your meandering thoughts with all compassion and love and reflects back to you what your heart already knows deep within, but your mind and body need reminded of.

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So because she is truly hearing and seeing your heart, she suggests, “you should check out this thing I recently watched on YouTube…about a hummingbird…because you’re a hummingbird.”

So you go home and watch that thing, with tears streaming down your face because for so long you have been searching for this one thing, but you can finally let go of that thing, and embrace everything…because you know you are a hummingbird and this is your journey…

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This was holy ground.

And then there is the date at 38 you asked for. It’s been 6 years since you’ve had one…you truly want to be married, but you lower the stakes and say, “I’ll take a date, God. If you could just bring that my way, I’d be so happy.”

So you’re six months in and there’s still no prospects and you can’t bring yourself to force it…but in all honesty, you do try the latest and greatest dating apps for all of 2 seconds…

But it’s just not your thing…and suddenly, you connect with a guy in the stairwell you walk up and down for work every day.

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And you’re thrilled when he formally introduces himself when you have your third run-in and hands you his business card, and as you accept it, you say, “we should have coffee sometime!”

Something your best friends have been prodding you to do when the opportunity presents itself but you’ve felt too insecure and old-fashioned…but now, with all fears aside and in full confidence, you follow through!

Sadly, your hopes are a little dashed because this guy is a bit more flakey or something (you’re trying not to judge) than you thought…

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BUUUUT…but!! You got over that hump…you conquered your fear of asking and rejection…and the even deeper insecurity of believing the lie that there is something majorly wrong with you, which explains why you’re still single at 38.

Suddenly, confidence is rising and you’re walking so much taller than ever before.

So much so that you make eye contact with the hottie in a business suit that you would have considered way out of your league and never in a million years even looked his way, but now you do as you walk past him and down the aisle to board your seat on a recent flight. 

There was no wink. No smile. Just eye contact. And that’s huge. That is a win in my book and I’m taking it.

This is holy ground.

So A LOT. A lot has happened. And I haven’t even touched on the leaps and bounds and healing happening in my workplace and in my physical body. I’ll save that for next time. I promise.

For now, I’m taking off my shoes and basking on the holy ground I’m standing on.

With every opportunity, I get to experience His presence with me, in me, and the promise of life lived more free and abundantly.

Nothing is ordinary. Everything is extraordinary.

Nothing simple. Everything sacred.

And this makes life so much worth living on earth as it is in heaven.

“…put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground..” Exodus 3:5

The Tale of Olaf George

There once lived three sisters whose parents decided it was time to call it quits. So they did what they always said they would do and called it an early retirement moving back to the land from which they came…which happened to be a tiny island a 24+ hour trip via plane and boat away.

During this time, the oldest sister lived in NYC, the middle called Phoenix home…and the little was in a small town in Ohio.

Growing up the three sisters had to always rely on each other because Dad’s work would take them all over the place. Transition was the norm and friends would come and go with each move, but they always had each other.

So when their parents left, they decided to do what they only knew to do during big transitions, stick together.

They met up in Ohio, and proceeded on to the long road trip across the country with a shady motel thrown in for good measure along the way.

From the Midwest to the Southwest, they would settle into a beautiful home in sunny Scottsdale.

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A month after buying their humble abode, they did the next natural thing by adding the sweetest addition to their family. They adopted a Golden Retriever named Olaf…and based on his curious nature, he was endearingly given the middle name of George.

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Nine months or so later, the big sister would realize Scottsdale wasn’t a good fit and move on to L.A.

Olaf George would make visits to see her there.

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And go everywhere he could…LGO was his favorite hot spot.

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After seven years, they would sell their cozy home and the two sisters that remained would go separate ways…and Olaf would reside with the middle sister…only for the three to be together again a year later.

And then, the middle sister would move to Colorado with the plan to get settled and come back for Olaf. So as heart-wrenching as the good-bye was, she knew they’d be back together again…

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But instead, a year and a half later, Olaf and the little sister were seeing the middle sister off as she hopped on a plan to move to Japan indefinitely…
IMG_4126So FaceTime became the greatest thing…IMG_4913And on a visit home from afar, Olaf would be the first one ready and waiting to greet the middle sister upon her arrival…IMG_7643What a gift technology was to allow for the middle sister to be a part of moments like this upon returning to Japan…IMG_9274

The middle sister knew Olaf was getting old in age and would pray to not bear the weight of his loss while abroad…and much to her surprise, she returned to the desert.

Nearly four years later and just three months ago, the middle, little and Olaf  were reunited under one roof again…and within two months, Olaf moved on…

Words escape me to fully articulate what a gift Olaf was. I’m so grateful for his presence and love in my life all these years. I’m so grateful for how he became a precious bond between three sisters.

I asked God to let me be alongside him in his final days and they were really good days together…so for this I’m especially grateful.

Yet, loss is hard. I’ve wept more than I can handle. And when I can’t handle it, potato chips, chocolate, and endless scrolling through Facebook and Instagram help me cope.

I know there is so much grace in the grief.

I also know that the loss is causing unresolved grief to surface, and the emptiness felt is also attaching itself to other things, namely my singleness.

But it’s all good because it’s all part of the process. And I’m in it wholeheartedly like never before.

Last night, I spent four hours and a few glasses of wine in a most beautiful conversation with my best friend chatting about everything under the sun in our crazy, wild, beautiful and painful lives as we know them.

I pleaded with Jesus on behalf of her, and she pleaded for me…with full hearts, we expressed our gratitude and with the same breath, our confusion…

When life is not your own, it’s beautiful but it can definitely be confusing. And I’m learning more and more to be good with that…I don’t want it all figured out…

His ways are so much higher. I mean seriously, who am I to know the ways of the Creator of the Universe?

And while I may not understand His ways and strive to stop trying to…I know His Heart and it is good. It’s so so good. 

In my confusion, He meets me and covers me with His Love. I know that without a shadow of doubt because I experience it over and over and over again.

His Love is everything to me.

For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. Isaiah 61:7

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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.

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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.

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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…

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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

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.

desert beauty

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

jules and t

I had the most precious reunion with my family.

family

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.

interview

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

Working the Plan

Like many, I’ve clung to the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 through life’s ups and downs. But yesterday, the stakes just got so much higher.

jeremiah

Phoenix marks the place of a lot of loss for me. And when I got the green light to leave here, I never imagined coming back. But I also never imagined going to all the places and nations where I’ve been since I left.

Wanderlust has definitely left a mark on me, so there has been a little resistance to live here again. Not to mention, my biggest fear in leaving Japan was that I would lose the complete dependency I became accustomed to and truth be told, comes much easier in a foreign land.

But perfect love casts out all fear and complete dependence is just the life He intended for me to live no matter where I am.

And trust me, I need Him now like never before. I may be back where I was, but I’m not who I was. And everything I had then, I don’t have now.

Suffice to say, had I known I’d be back, I would have planned a little better. But my plans never went as planned, anyway.

But His?

Well, let’s just say when I left Arizona, I didn’t plan for any of this…

Hiking so many different spots in Colorado and basking in all the beauty of that place with old and new friends.

colorado

Making deep connections in Pemba, Mozambique where language was often a barrier, but love and kindness were always exchanged.

pacheco

Hanging out and meeting new friends on a street of the Nana Red Light District in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Being dressed in a most beautiful kimono one special afternoon in Japan by one of the most precious women I’ve ever met.

chichan

kimono

This life. It takes my breath away.

And it’s not that I didn’t have such beautiful experiences before this, but life lived with such a deep awareness of the love of the One who made it is so much richer.

And though I’m back in Arizona, I know that the adventure doesn’t end here.

Because when you have no plans, everything is an adventure.

And when the Master Planner is your Everlasting Father, and you’re His favorite girl, you can trust that it’s only going to get better.

For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

I left my heart in San Francisco

Soon as I knew I was leaving Japan and returning home, I wondered where I would live and what I would do. But continuing to trust Him with every step, I knew those details would come.

I love when a dear friend put it this way, “You’re on a need to know basis… you’ll know when you need to know!”

Yet I couldn’t ignore that San Francisco kept popping up on my radar. Knowing no one in San Francisco, I figured I would know someone when I needed to!

So within three days of being back on American soil, this pops up on my News Feed:

bayview

Hmm… so what’s a girl — who just landed in the States with no clue of what to do or where to go, but who has taken special note of San Francisco and who just so happens to be single and in love with Jesus — to do?

Well, first she totally over analyzes the whole dang thing…

Oh man, what would I do without grace?!?

After 15 minutes of craziness, I sent a message to my Facebook friend who posted the status, and after some messages were exchanged, I decided to go to San Francisco and get a feel for what’s happening in Bayview.

I met with my beautiful friend and heard her sweet heart and passion for the women and children of Bayview. Please check out how she is loving others deeply through Banner Over Bayview.

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She graciously gave me a brief tour of the sights and smells of Bayview, and I got to meet more incredible people with hearts for this area through Project Bayview.

bayview street

I also had the chance to volunteer with City Impact. True to their name, they are making a positive impact in countless ways in the Tenderloin district, another area of extreme poverty, crime and drugs in downtown San Francisco.

I had the opportunity to welcome and become acquainted with the residents of the Tenderloin while they waited in line for all the free services offered during the annual City Impact Conference. There was a tent for everything from dog washing to haircuts to a make shift cafe. And that was just at the site where I was volunteering, there was so much more going on beyond this.

cityimpact

But the greatest thing that went on for me was meeting Dennis.

dennis 1

From what I could gather Dennis showed up in line because another team of volunteers had met him on the street and wheeled him over. And I’m so glad they did because I got to wheel him through the different tents while we shared stuff that made us smile and other stuff that made us cry.

Not only is Dennis bound to a wheelchair, but he was recovering from a recent fall out of it so his right arm was in a sling. And overall, Dennis just isn’t doing so well.

Several times Dennis said, “I just don’t understand…” and would finish with tears. And all I could do was echo his sentiment. Tears and all.

And at one point with more tears, Dennis said, “He said we would have trials and tribulations… but when will it end?

…Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. -John 16:33

And through lots of tears, I told Dennis that I was sorry and I didn’t believe they would end here, but that it would end with Him.

Because that’s the Hope I hold on to for dear life, especially for times like this.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. -Hebrews 10:23

I’m not sure why Dennis is homeless or why he was shot and became disabled. But I’m sure of Hope.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. -Romans 5:5

And while Dennis was so grateful to receive food and clothing, I believe Hope is the greatest gift I had to offer him that day. And I needed it as much as he did.

Saying good-bye to him was gut-wrenching. Literally.

But three days later on my last day in San Francisco, I ended up back in the Tenderloin and found my friend in the same spot where I left him. And I’m so grateful we could have a little more time together sharing some smiles, shedding more tears and experiencing Hope that overflows.

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I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13

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