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

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

The Hard Truth

Nearly three years ago, I did some incredible healing work through the most loving and caring couple and am so grateful I did. It uncovered many lies that I had lived most my life believing. And I was aware of them, but not aware of how I had taken hold of them in a way that was hindering me…for all intents and purposes, allow me to share one specific lie that was exposed:

I am not a skinny blonde with blue eyes, so I’ll never be good enough.

Part of my process with this most wonderful couple was to reveal the following truth:

I have been created in God’s image and as I walk in my healing, I choose to accept that He has created every aspect of my being for His pleasure; my skin color, my hair, my almond-shaped eyes, my body type…they are all beautiful and lovely in His sight.

Fortunately, this is the hard truth!

On the other hand, truth can be difficult to accept when you’ve believed a lie for so long…so I have been walking out my healing around this for the last few years. But let me tell you that the fact that I’m still single can attach itself to this lie. Also, the fact that I’ve moved back to the States after living in Asia for a year, to live in a city well known for the beauty of its women who share attributes of the lie I have believed can make it difficult to believe the truth.

So all this being said, I reached out to a most beautiful and incredibly talented friend who brings healing in a unique way through Freedom Sessions. As we drove up to the spot picked out for our session, we had the most enlightening conversation about the plight of women when it comes to comparison…by the way, this friend is also so stinking wise…I loved when she told me that we need to be women who “wave the banner of freedom” over what culture deems beauty.

I also loved when she pointed out that if we’re really tuned in to what we envy in other women, we’ll likely find that it’s not the beauty we seek, it is their confidence. That was so telling…

Because my ongoing prayer has been to fully embrace me…to be confident in who He has created me to be…to stop questioning if I’m too much or not enough…to stop shrinking back, but also, to stop being prideful when I find myself feeling I have one up on another (because I do that, too!)…dangit…I just want it all to stop.

So this is what He showed me this morning…and if I can start to embrace this truth…then I can be confident like never before, and all that comparing and shaming and ickiness can start to go away.

First, I must share scenes from my session of freedom…

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Okay, so you can’t argue with the fact that my friend is crazy amazing talented with her gift in natural light photography. And okay, we can’t deny that creation clearly declares His glory (Psalm 19:1).

So often we need to allow the awe and wonder of nature to remind us of His Presence…I needed it a few weeks ago so went on a road trip for this…

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The Grand Canyon is a sight to behold. Breathtaking, indeed.

Yet this is the truth:

When He was creating all things…it wasn’t until He came to us that He spoke, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” -Genesis 1:26

So if we should be most in awe and wonder of His beauty and handiwork, it should be in light of exactly as He created us to be.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. -Genesis 1:27

In all of its wonder, beauty and majesty, the Grand Canyon wasn’t created in His image…but little ol’ me was.

Now that is some hard truth, and I’m so humbled by that but also embracing more and more that there is much to be glorified in that…

Father, may I wave a banner of beauty over others…may I be overwhelmed by the awe and wonder in every person I meet…first, starting with little ol’ me.

Amen.

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

Whine and Cheese

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

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

Case in point…

Friend: How’s work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

cm

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.

dennis 2

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

Where do I go from here?

Where to begin…?

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

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

babylove

But where is home, anyway?

Great question!

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

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

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

So may the search begin!

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

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

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

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

walking

joy

churami

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

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

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

Stay tuned…

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

1 John 4:19

xoxo