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

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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

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

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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?!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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

I’m #1

A friend told me that it sounds like I’m experiencing classic culture shock… “Typically with culture shock there is a honeymoon, then a low period where all you can see is the bad, then a period of embracing both the good and the bad.

I think I’m in the period of embracing both. Last week was three months for me! Woo hoo!!

Three months in but I’m still pretty helpless. For starters, I’m so grateful for my incredible apartment and the grace of my landlord. Money has been pretty tight so when I asked if I could split up September’s rent payment, he obliged.

I was supposed to pay the remainder last Friday, but as my day progressed, I didn’t find myself near a proper ATM. So, he gave me more grace… and I tried again to make the deposit on Saturday, but I arrived to the bank as they were closing. So when I realized there was no one to help, I spent about 10 minutes at the ATM pushing random buttons hoping I would miraculously make the deposit.

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But, I didn’t… so then I went to a restaurant near my apartment where I met more language barriers but this time, a very kind stranger having lunch in the restaurant met me outside and offered his help. He was from a country I had never heard of… Kyrgyzstan have you?

Anywho, he shared how he has been living in Japan for eight years so obviously knew the language very well. I shared that I had decided on other lunch plans but asked if he could help with my ATM deposit. To which, he kindly obliged.

Unfortunately, I was still unable to make the deposit. But he totally went out of his way and tried!! And I made a new friend and learned about a new country I was not aware of!!

So on this Monday, I went to the bank and in true Japanese customer service, I was welcomed with the most gracious kindness, but then anxiety set in when I started speaking in English… yet in her anxiety, the dear woman who greeted me helped me. It took her awhile to figure out just how, but she did and the remaining amount of rent due was deposited! Yipee!! Check that off the to-do list.

I walked home feeling so accomplished and so grateful for the kindness of the people here…

Only to learn that the worst case scenario for my job had played out… as I mentioned in a previous post, I HATE being evaluated, which is the case for my current job. I hate the pressure to perform and there is a scale of one to five stars. Five being the best. One being the worst…

I got a one.

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And upon first discovery, I didn’t care, which was good. But after five minutes… things changed.

Oh my. The crazy talk started… I’m terrible at teaching English… and what am I doing in Japan, anyway? It’s time to pack it up and go home. I suck… and so does this job…

But then, my dearest friend came in just in time to put an end to the crazy talk… reminding me that Jesus’ evaluation NEVER changes…

And I recalled His Word(s)…

God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! Jeremiah 31:3

Keep me as the apple of your eye; Psalms 17:8

Bottom line: He loves me and evaluates me with a one… because I’m His #1.

And yes, I’m teaching English. And yes, my clients are paying for the best of English lessons. So I will learn what I did wrong and do my best to make the necessary adjustments.

But at the end of the day, I know I am loved and I rest in His evaluation. An evaluation that never changes.

The Cross proves that.

So I stood at the foot of the Cross, and taught more lessons this evening with the assurance of His love upholding me in the midst of this evaluation… and for an overachiever and people-pleaser like me, that, my friends, is nothing short of a miracle.

And that is what True Love does. I’m so grateful to be loved.

Knight in Shining Armor

Nearly five years ago, he arrived on the scene. And not too early, nor too late, but just in time. He saved the day, helping me navigate the decisions that had to be made and rescuing me from the mess I was in.

I first met his wife while we were both volunteering in the nursery at church and I knew from the moment that I met her that her love was pure and limitless.

So, as a couple, that made for a whole lot of that love.

God totally brought us together in His perfect timing and this precious couple became a steady, loving presence in my life.

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Man, I love how God works. How He intersects our lives just when they need to cross. And I truly don’t know what I would have done over the last five years without them.

I even call them Grandpa and Grandma. What an honor and privilege that went beyond the title. They filled this role in my life, but more importantly, my heart, where there was a definite void.

He is so faithful to fulfill our every need.

And in a land far from home, I received an email yesterday morning with the news that Grandpa is no longer with us.

He went home. He is with Jesus.

As I mourn this loss, it uncovers the depths of my gratitude for Grandpa. I learned so much about God’s grace through his heart. He poured out his love and concern over me in a way that had me constantly wondering what I did to deserve it and also trying to figure out how on earth I could pay him back time and time again…

But grace doesn’t expect anything in return, nor did he. Grace simply gives… and gives… and never stops… because that’s what grace does. Grace doesn’t know anything else.

And Grandpa knew no other way.

He was my knight in shining armor. The grace he came armed with rescued me. And from that point on, my heart was never the same. I will forever be grateful for the love he expressed to me in countless ways on this side of heaven.

And I’m grateful that Grace always rescue me.

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So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. -2 Corinthians 5:6-8