Tis the reason for the season

I’m overwhelmed. So much to process, so much to celebrate.

I returned back to the states from Mozambique just ten days ago. Christmas is in exactly one week. 2013 is upon us and two weeks into the new year will be my 35th birthday. Oh me oh my.

But I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the greatest gift I could ever receive. The gift that keeps on giving. It’s Him. It’s always been Him and it will always be.

He is the same. Yesterday. Today. Forever.

He is the reason for this season, but He is ALWAYS the reason.

And I’m grateful for this TRUTH. In the midst of my transition, in the midst of great tragedy… He is constant. His love never fails.

He is the same. Yesterday. Today. Forever.

And me? I’m not the same. I’m different. But the beauty is I am the most me I have ever been.

In Mozambique, I experienced the love of my Heavenly Father in deep and tangible ways like never before.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:6

I am a daughter of the Most High God. All that is His is mine. But most importantly, I am His.

And I am free to just be me.

worship

I can’t wait to share all that has come with allowing this truth to penetrate the depths of my heart.

But for now, I want to remember the reason for the season…

I’m all the more grateful to celebrate Christmas this year. To celebrate the One who came just for me. My sweet Jesus. Yes, He’s the gift that never stops giving.

He’s the reason for the season. He is my EVERYTHING. Yesterday. Today. Forever.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

May His Presence be the greatest gift you receive this season!! MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours!!!

So much love, joy and peace,

Michele

PS. Thank you for all your love and prayers during my time in Mozambique!!

LOVED.

Tomorrow I’m off to Pemba, Mozambique for nine weeks. And never in a million years would I have dreamed I would be headed to Africa for missions school.

When you truly surrender your life to Jesus, you just never know what to expect. And I’m living proof.

As I packed all my belongings for storage, I wondered how on earth I could have so much stuff, all of which fits in my Blazer. I chuckle at the fact that all of my stuff once occupied a 2,200sqft home.

And as I go all by my lonesome, what comes to mind is when I broke up with the last boyfriend I had (ten years ago) with an explanation that went something along the lines of, “I just need some time on my own for awhile…”

To think that at the age of 27, I was debt-free (excluding my mortgage) with rock star credit and feeling pretty proud of the $40,000 I had in my 401k. Now I’ve got a significant amount of debt, a non-existent 401k and my credit took a big hit a couple years back when I had to short sale my home.

I imagined that I would be married with a family, overly comfortable financially and settled…

Instead, I am single with no children, relying on others for financial support and living out of my car.

It’s all pretty humbling and needless to say, my life at 34 years old is just not what I imagined… Not. At. All.

But the beauty is it is so much better than I ever could have imagined.

Along the way, I experienced the depths of Jesus’ love for me. And I have never been the same.

He has changed me in ways I can’t fully articulate, but I am different. I am completely different.

I know I am loved beyond all measure no matter what I do or don’t do. And that has changed EVERYTHING.

There’s such freedom in love.

And I’m here to say that as I get ready to head out, there’s still parts of the old me. The old me that feels she has to “make the grade” at missions school. The old me that needs to know what is to come when the nine weeks is up. The old me that is terrified of failure. The old me that can be completely debilitated by her concern with what others think. The old me that feels like no matter what, she’ll never measure up.

Sometimes I don’t experience the freedom there is in love.

But that’s ok because it doesn’t change anything. I am loved always and forever.

And so are you.

We love, because He first loved us. -1 John 4:19

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.

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

Mama Linda and Mom
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.

What is He saying?

So much to write, not sure where to begin… I’m chuckling inside thinking about how the seemingly important things in life are just not what I feel most compelled to share. That is, the update on work, where I’ll live, etc. Actually, I am going to share a little but it’s so secondary…

Since my last update, I learned from that particular Apple Store that they were not interested in moving forward with me. I knew it wasn’t a good fit and I admit, the old me would have wanted their approval… dare I say, needed it?! I’m pleased to say that this approval-seeking girl is becoming all grown up!!

And then, I heard from the University of Denver… they did want me!!! BUT, this bratty little girl has had her mind on missions school that she couldn’t be immediately grateful and overjoyed by this opportunity!! Oh Lord, have mercy! And of course, He does… He loves me in my grumbling and even sustains me in the midst of it (Exodus 16).

A few days ago I had a lunch date with a dear and beautiful friend who I’ve met since moving to Colorado and we shamefully admitted our Israelite ways. And she also shared a story of becoming reacquainted with someone by asking, “What is God speaking to your heart these days?”

So in my quality time (because this is hands down my love language) with Jesus this morning, I want to let you in on our dialogue…

Me: What are you saying to me, Lord?

Him: Fear not, for I have redeemed  you; I have called you by name, you are mine… Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you… (Isaiah 43: 1,4)

Me: Thank you that you are my Father who delights in me and approves of me.

Him: I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as Lord. (Hosea 2:19-20)

Me: Thank you for being my Husband who provides and loves me unconditionally.

Him: O barren one, you who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child! For the [spiritual] children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married wife… (Isaiah 54:1)

Me: Thank you for making me a mother.

When I decided to follow Him to Colorado, I felt a lot like Abraham responding to the call to simply, “Go.” And I came not knowing exactly where or what. And along the way, I have begun to jump ahead anticipating where He is taking me, placing trust in my expectations and hoping in what I feel is best.

And in times like this, I always hear Him say, My thoughts are completely different from yours… And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8)

This morning He also reminded me that, In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)

God called me to Colorado and I came unsure of just where I would land… I thought it was Colorado Springs and recently I was sure it was Boulder (and to put it all out there, I have started to believe it was just transition on the way to Mozambique, Africa!). And I have been sitting in Psalms 107 since the end of last year and verses 4-7 say this:

Some wandered in the desert, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and He rescued them from their distress. He led them straight to safety, to a city where they could live.

While I have enjoyed my time in Denver, it was never where I thought He would have me… and I still hesitate to fully settle in. I’m not sure why but I continue to take things one day at a time, trusting that His ways are so much higher…

And so my response to all of this?

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Child-like Faith

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything here, and it’s not because I haven’t had anything to share… in fact, now I’ve waited so long I feel like I have so much to write about! God has continued to pour out His unending love, grace and mercy on me, and I’m so stinking blessed.

I still have no job and no permanent place to live, but I feel so happy and free. And I’m at a place where my heart knows trust like never before… and I don’t want to leave this place… EVER.

Just a month ago, He spoke these words to my heart. And I have responded with child-like faith, with an overwhelming confidence in my Father’s love for me… and at 34 years old, I can wholeheartedly say I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Thank you, Jesus.

Child, be free! You have come to me and you are safe with me. And like a good Daddy, I am watching over you and you are free to be you. I want you to just be you. Nobody else.  Play like Michele wants to play. Sing like Michele desires to sing. Laugh as loud and as much as you would like. There is no judgment here. You are free to be. To be you. And you are here with me. Always. Always. Always. You never leave the comfort and safety net of me, Your Father. Your Daddy. I hold you in my arms and I keep you safe and there is no uncertainty and fear with me. Remember, my perfect LOVE casts out all fear. And in me, you will find rest. Only I can offer you the true rest that you seek. Only in me. So, come, my child, come to my arms and never leave. I will never let you go. Never. Never. Never. I will hold you in my arms and you will be safe. When the world tries to pick on you, I protect you. I say, “She is my child. Leave her alone. She knows the love of her Father and she won’t let you get to her. Your teasing will not harm my little one. She is little and she is precious, but she is also STRONG. She is so strong, because she knows I have her. She knows I protect her, I watch over her, and I don’t let anyone hurt my precious child. No way. No how. No one hurts my beautiful, precious, lovely Michele Grace. No one.”

I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. Mark 10:15

My Hubs.

All this new lingo I’m learning! perf = perfect adorbs=adorable. In recent workplace conversation, the acronyms “btw and p.s.” were often used. I really need to get hip to the scene. But this morning, I confess, I like hubs=husband. And come to think of it, has this been around for awhile?? Of course, with my status, I just haven’t had much use for it so it’s new for me. But for some reason, as of lately, I’ve been using it often in text messages… referencing the ‘hubs’ of my friends.

This week, I helped my friend, Jules, since her hubs was out of town for work. She has a precious 3-week old peanut with the fine name of Shepard Brooks. And then there’s my little buddy, Joshua River (fabulous, strong names, huh?)

Joshua is 21 months and has been having difficulty as of lately sleeping through the night, so I cared for him during the wee hours, while Jules nursed Shepard throughout the night.

And after three nights of that, I am spent!! And I didn’t even do that much!!! Lord, help me when my time comes!

Jules’ hubs returned home last night and so did I. And now this morning, I am feeling tired. And with that tiredness, oftentimes, comes self-pity. boooooo. Why don’t I have a job? What am I doing here? Should I go back to Arizona? Where am I going to live come July? Why am I still single? When do I get to have a family? And the best, what did I do to deserve this????

Yet, in His perfect mercy and love He ministered to me this morning. I opened Facebook and saw this image created by my dear, precious, special friend:

And I remember a conversation with a friend earlier this week. She reminded me, “I’m spoken for.”

And this scripture has been on my heart for the last week or so:

For your Maker is your husband–the LORD Almighty is his name–the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. -Isaiah 54:5

I have not had much traction on the job front. Yet, I’ve seen this time as a perfect opportunity to volunteer. And if you’ve read my very first blog post, Ideal Job, I believe God is giving me the desires of my heart. Because that is so like Him. And that is exactly what I deserve.

Because, yes, He is my Husband. And while I don’t know the answers and reasons for all the questions that swirled through my brain during my moment of self-pity an hour or so ago, I do know this: He is my source for all things under the sun. And this I can rest in, this I can be certain of.

I want to set the world on fire…

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” -St. Catherine of Siena

I just came across this quote, and I LOVE it. It speaks to the fire burning in me. A fire that can’t be quenched, but it also seems a fire that might be burning me up (Jeremiah 20:9)!! eeks…

I know that God has placed treasures in my heart that are from His very heart to mine, and to noone else has He given such jewels (Isaiah 62:3).

And while His love is so intensely burning in my heart… my head is so hot from all the spinning and spinning, that I truly feel I could explode (or implode!) at any moment!!!

Thank you, Jesus, that you are all I truly have and all I ever need. You are mine and I am yours (Song of Solomon 2:16).

I love this reminder hanging in my house. And I love that I find Him in my heart, and not in my head (Jeremiah 29:13).

And I have so much to update you on… and the purpose of this blog could not be more true. The exploration continues on uncovering the jewels in my heart and sharing these treasures with the world (2 Corinthians 4:7). After just a little over a month in the initial job I took, I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me so my last day was last Friday.

And the second purpose of this blog, please know that the waiting continues… and is maintaining the turtle’s pace that it started at!

But just to recap all the love and goodness that went down last week:

1. Stayed true to who God has made me to be

2. Because of this, I was blessed with a month’s worth of pay!

3. Two dear, dear friends from Scottsdale were in town

4. Had three date nights! And just so you know, my definition of date night is any time spent one-on-one with a friend…

5. Woke up one morning with a special love note waiting at my door. Again, don’t be misled… to me, a love note is just that, a note full of love, and this one came from one of my sweet roomies

6. Received so many hugs that my heart was ready to explode out of my chest!

So, my heart is full… and sadly, so is my head!! But I’m focusing on living from my heart and I’m pretty certain that as I do… firefighters will be called on the scene wherever I go!!! And that just might not be so bad!!!

Love you guys and thanks for journeying with me!!

Debbie Downer

For starters, no offenses to the Debbies of the world…

I actually have one in mind who definitely doesn’t fit this description!

And it’s not that I’m feeling totally down, but it has been a LONG week, I’m tired and I’m about to wrap up all things in Scottsdale starting today and make this move official and final. So, I’m just feeling all kinds of feelings right now.

And I love that I just posted a picture on Facebook of me for one, not looking so great, for two, not smiling! I feel like I’m only to share the joyful me for all to see. But in keeping it real, there are other sides to me!

Oftentimes, I can’t really pinpoint what I’m feeling. This morning, confusion is what I’ll call it. And I’ll say I don’t doubt for one second my move to Colorado. I LOVE it there and my heart is at peace.

But… it’s definitely peace amidst some challenges. And let’s just say, not how I imagined things to be!

The job I took? It is streeeetching me emotionally and mentally. I’m working for a technology start-up. We’re developing a platform for smart phones that at the end of the day should help people have richer, healthier relationships. It’s cutting edge, it’s a great cause… I’ve been hired to help with the Customer Care aspect of it all.

But, there’s not a lot of structure (which I thrive in) and the hours have been longer than I anticipated (which I’m complaining about an area I probably need to establish more boundaries in!). It’s like learning a whole new language for me, so imagine not really understanding much of what is being discussed on a day to day basis. And, I’m being asked to do work that I know isn’t an area of strength for me.

But then, I get to dress super casual and dogs are running around the office, and I can take a break and walk right outside the office building and grab a coffee or whatever I feel like eating at all the great places within a five minute walk. And the mountains are always in the background. And the people are really great and make me laugh…

Oh, and this week, I moved into a super cool house in Denver. It’s over 100 years old with lots of character. And whenever I share the location with anyone, so far they’ve each responded with how much I will love the area! So, it’s a great one… but it’s a four bedroom with two bathrooms, and limited hot water supply. So I have to coordinate with my other roommates each night the shower schedule and I’m moving my toiletries from one place to the next… and did I mention the 40-minute commute to work?

But, the three women I live with are AMAZING and have sweet, sweet hearts.

So why can’t I focus on all the good and leave out the bad?

Grateful today that God’s grace is enough. And grateful that I’m loved even when I know I have so much to be grateful for and I’m feeling the way I do.

And I hate whining and complaining… but I’m doing it here, anyway, for all to see.

Thanks, God, for loving the ‘Debbie Downer’ in me.

Image
Facebook picture.

Me+Mountains=Love

Before making the move to Colorado, on every visit, I just knew in my heart that there was something special about this place. And I’m so grateful that I’m here and I get to experience the beauty it offers on a daily basis.

In fact, I’m writing this from Whole Foods, where I get this view:

Truly, what did I do to deserve this? Nothing at all. sigh… God just loves me that much.

Before arriving here to have some lunch, I sat poolside at my friend’s athletic club, where I met a precious woman named Helena. She shared how grateful she was for the view (similar to the one I’m facing here) and the blue skies.

Since I’ve been here for just over three weeks, I’m awestruck every time I look at the mountains, but Helena was originally from the Czech Republic and has been living here for thirty years! Oh that the wonder of the mountains would never fade for me…

And so today, I’m incredibly grateful for the majestic mountains, the beautiful blue skies, and the strong sunshine… and to top it off…

I’m grateful for the new job I’m starting tomorrow in Boulder! I look forward to sharing more about this exciting opportunity, but for now, know that I’m employed!

I must admit, I was giving myself about three months to land a job before looking for a coffee shop willing to employ me! Instead, three weeks… and did I mention, I actually had two job offers?

Truly, what did I do to deserve this? Nothing at all… sigh. God just loves me that much.

Ideal Job

I can’t believe I didn’t start blogging two weeks ago! So much has happened in the last two weeks that I wish I would’ve started documenting this journey then.

One thing I have to share is this dialogue which took place during an interview:

Interviewer: If you could describe your ideal job, what would that look like?

Me: I would be married and volunteer.

I am NOT KIDDING. These were the words that swiftly flowed out of my mouth, and the interviewer, who happened to be a really cool gal and I had wished would be my new Colorado best friend (probably why I kept it so real!) was so gracious that she just rolled with it and continued her questions from there. And would you believe it wasn’t even until I sat in the coffee shop doing my post-interview assessment that it actually occurred to me that I said this?!? I suppose that if they’re looking for someone honest to fill the position, then I’m their gal!

Sidenote: They have contacted me since to say they are interested in meeting with me further so it appears they appreciated my honesty… stay tuned.