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

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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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

Sex sucks

Sexual exploitation, that is. It sucks bad.

Why do some women choose to sell themselves for sex? Why are some women forced  into selling themselves for sex? And why do some men buy women for sex?

And how on earth is buying and selling sex so prevalent since prostitution is illegal in Thailand… and human trafficking in the entire world?

So, I take it back. In this context, sex sucks. Period.

To even consider that prostitution is good for the economy is absolutely grotesque to me.  I know I’ve not been at the level of poverty that some of these women have come from, nor can I ever fully understand their circumstances. But to be ok with any woman choosing to enter this work at their own will does not sit well with me in any way, shape or form.

In fact, I’ve heard a statement along the lines of women do not choose prostitution but that prostitution chooses them since the majority of all women entering prostitution have been sexually abused.

All this to say, every part of me recoils over this and I know the answers to my questions are not simple. Through my experience, I observed how deeply ingrained this issue is in the Thai culture, leaving no aspect untouched.

And as far as sex trafficking goes, it is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world.

My heart breaks over it all and yet I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience it first hand.

During my time in Bangkok, I met women who were beautiful, smart, sweet, outgoing, caring, and the list goes on… Unfortunately, the work of these women entailed either 1) standing on a sidewalk dressed quite fashionably and even respectfully in some cases, making themselves visible and available to potential customers.

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2) Seated in a hotel restaurant with other women having a light meal, conversing, and texting while men walked in standing but ten feet away while weighing their options and making their selection. Or 3) standing on a stage in a bar with several other women wearing a small bikini and a red circular badge bearing a number to distinguish them to prospective buyers seated in booths with stadium-like seating around the stage.

Yes, they are but a number. And I witnessed the selection and buying process with my own eyes in each of these scenarios. And it sucks. It totally sucks.

But the good news is, to Someone, they are more than a number. Better yet, to Someone, they are so valued that the number of hairs on their head is known (Matthew 10:30). There is Someone who is absolutely crazy for every one of these women. He knows their name, He delights over them, and cares about them more than they’ll ever know.

And this Someone is stopping at nothing to reveal His love to them.

And I know this is true because I saw it with my own eyes. I observed God’s love demonstrated in the sweetest ways through the work of NightLight. Truly, grace in action. And true to their namesake, they are a bright light in a dark place.

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The grace, the love and the patience they pour out is like nothing I’ve seen before. Not to mention the incredible fortitude they possess. Thank God so much for NightLight and similar organizations who are doing all that they can to combat the sex industry.

They are my heroes.

And while I am so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Bangkok and spend time with the amazing people of NightLight, I know not all are so fortunate. So may my trip not be in vain.

I ask you to please take a moment to learn more about what NightLight (or any of the many organizations that exist to help women who are being sexually exploited) does, why they do it and consider how you can help. Here are some suggestions:

  • Follow this blog to get an up close and personal  perspective of the work of NL and the friendships they are cultivating with people working and participating in the sex industry: Love Never Fails
  • Like them on Facebook to stay informed on news and issues surrounding sexual exploitation
  • Buy jewelry
  • Pray

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Do something. Anything.

And please make no mistake. This isn’t coming from a desperate place, it’s from a place of Hope. After all, “No one has a right to feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

And your help is valuable and necessary for this work!

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I am sitting in the midst of the Nana red light district here, smiling because there is Hope.

People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.

 – Dorothy Day