Holy Ground…it’s all around.

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

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

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

Plus, the last video I captured of him.

This was holy ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was holy ground.

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

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

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

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This was holy ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is holy ground.

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

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

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

Nothing is ordinary. Everything is extraordinary.

Nothing simple. Everything sacred.

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

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

The 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.

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

In the eye of the Beholder

I had such a rich experience in Bangkok. And I’m pretty sure I’m in the midst of a post-Bkk depression…

And as the blues lift, I plan to write more about my journey… but for now, I want to share an unexpected gift I received during my time there. A photo therapy session from a new, beautiful and precious… and insanely talented friend. Though, the photos speak for themselves…

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And this is what I wrote in response to her work:

Fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, my soul knows this well.

I have been on an incredible journey over the last year. Lies have been exposed and the truth has set me free.

Growing up as an Asian-American, I did a better job of embracing the identity of the world around me instead of the identity within. Having friends who had blonde hair and blue eyes, and who the boys always seemed to gravitate towards, fed the lie that I wasn’t pretty enough, nor was I ever going to be…

Instances of the world around me rejecting my identity through racial slurs and even well-meaning comments made by friends didn’t help my cause.

And within my family, I’m the “smart” one. Second in birth order to the “beautiful” one.

Beauty runs skin deep. Yes. But there is freedom and healing in embracing all that you were created to be… inside and out.

I am embracing me. I am beautiful. I am smart. I have a heart that beats with deep compassion.

But above all, I am loved in spite of my beauty, intelligence and compassion. And this, my soul is beginning to know so well.

Please click here to hear Lucia’s heart and see all the photos. I am so stinking blessed.

My insanely beautiful and talented sister from another mister.

I am Asian woman. Hear me roar.

Or in all honesty, meow may be more like it??

Though as most of you know, my laughter can be roar-like.

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So in exactly one week, I’m headed back on a jet plane. This time, the destination is Bangkok, Thailand and I’ll be there for three weeks.

While I’m going with a heart wide open, I have some clear purpose and a bit more focus going in to this trip.

Women. Asia. Justice.

I wrote this in the personal statement of my medical school application in 2008:

I believe that the health of women is absolutely vital to the health of every community. And if there is any patient who benefits from a connection on an intimate level it is that of women. The complexities and intricacies of their health concerns and unique issues greatly inspire me. I seek to understand the physiological components specific to women’s health all the while making genuine connections that make a real difference in their comprehensive care.

I believe in women in a big way. In fact, I could probably take what I have stated above one step further and say that the health of women is the health of the community.

Women create community. After all, God gave Eve to Adam. And so community began.

So God is fulfilling my desire to care for women’s health just in a different way than I had imagined…

And I confess here, I have carried much shame around my Filipino background. Mainly from the standpoint of looking in the mirror and finding it hard to see beauty looking back at me.

But as I journey into my Father’s heart, I’m beginning to see myself more clearly. I’m seeing the beauty that is me.

And how else would I be able to recognize the beauty in my Asian sisters in Thailand???

This is the redemption I so love about God. He works all things together for good. He’s so amazing.

Amazing and just. And oh me oh my there is so much need for justice in the world. So much.

It’s overwhelming to me. And it’s moments like this that has stopped me in times past from doing my part… it’s so much easier to not do anything.

But not now. My flight is booked. I’m on my way.

I know that what I’m entering into will take more than a meow.

But the good news is I carry a Hope within that has a roar like no other. (Colossians 1:27, Revelation 5:5)

That He would choose me to carry life, truth and freedom makes me one lucky girl. Er, I mean woman.

Yes, I am Asian Woman. Hear me rooooooooaaaaaar.

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. ~Mother Theresa~

To learn more about the organizations I’ll be serving with, click below:

NightLight International

Iris Bangkok