Tuesday, November 5, 2013

life // a story of fulfilling hope - 4

This is the big finale.  Or more like, the big commencement to another adventure.  Big - but it's worth the read, because it's the grand story of how God speaks and provides and encourages.  It's the testimony that illustrates God's faithfulness and goodness.

one / two / three.

So where we last left off, I was offered to be a part of the STN family - but not just working here, they invited me to live on campus, as there are multiple benefits of being a part of the STN family (read: character growth), and being immersed in the community I am serving.   Granted, this did mean a rise in expenses... that thing called rent.

Despite the initial bubbling joy of dreaming and casting vision, my humanity was still prevalent.  I have no money.  So the following day, I spent it prayer and seeking.  I needed God to affirm me, needed Him to tell me that this isn't just another "good idea," but that I feel excited because He is excited.

And He is faithful.

The cup of coffee that accompanied the decision-making.

I have a very good friend, who also happens to be a barista missionary.  Like me, she needs to raise support for what she does; the difference is that she actually gets to keep her tips (SCB donates our tips to support surf clubs in Bangladesh).  For the past few months, she had been reserving portions of her tips for an unknown reason - only that God told her to.  And then God told her to sow into my future. Only two days after that invitation to join STN, just one day after spending it in prayer and seeking, I receive that check in the mail.  And it is the EXACT amount I need for one month's rent.


But the goodness does not stop there!
It gets better!
Actually it just keeps on going on a rollercoaster.

Coffee Bar keys.  A journal from Bangladesh.  A welcome note.

About a week after this happened, Katie, who runs STN's after school program (Ulu Pono), approached me and mentioned that she was looking for another housemate.  She and some others who are also a part of STN, chose to live off of STN's property.  This way, the house would be a place for the kids of Ohai Street- known for its prevalent drug use and abuse of different forms- to feel welcomed, loved, mentored, cared for.

My heart wanted to leap into this opportunity!  A chance to be even closer to this community.  As a child, I would not be caught dead on this street.  And now, I'd be living on it.
The catch? Housing would be three times more than being on STN's property.  Three times more?  Abba, I still have school loans to pay!  Give me faith!

I would be foolish not to recognize that the financial blessing from my friend was a gift from God.  So I took it as my commission to search for support.  Unfortunately, I didn't really get the response I was hoping for from people who were close to me.  In many ways, I felt that my decision wouldn't changed based off of people's opinions, but having their approval would be more than enough encouragement to pursue this.

Tuesday, July 23.
It had to have been no more than two weeks after the door opened.  I was in my bedroom, and accidentally knocked down a glass of water over my segmented Bible.  I was so distraught!  This has been my Book for the past 18 years, come November.  The nature of my Bible is that the binding is broken, and it sections off, so I spread it apart to dry... and I was drawn to a section in Genesis about Jacob.

This was the passage about Jacob's Dream, the Stairway to Heaven.  And my reading began here, with God speaking to Jacob:

"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
- Genesis 28.15

I was destroyed; it felt as though God was speaking directly into my heart.  I remembered five years ago when God spoke through multiple people - God says you're supposed to go back.  And I fought (FOUGHT!) against the thought of coming back to Hawai`i, when my life was starting to take off in the Midwest - an amazing home church, an incredibly diverse art community, a budding library career, my own (affordable) apartment... but I listened and obeyed, and came here.. and struggled with the repercussions of my obedience.  A separate post can relay this tale.  But the story ends with God giving me His heart for my city.  It begins with me being here.

With these thoughts in mind, I continued reading:

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
- Genesis 28.20-22

If I was at first destroyed, I have now been demolished.  This had to be my response back to Him.
And how convenient - it was probably less than an hour after that occurrence that Katie texted me:

Yet again, I would be crazy if I didn't recognize the way that God works; His timing, His words, His absolutely relentless love.  In my spirit, the verses resounded - that if God would be with my heart, if He would watch me on these streets, if He would provide my daily bread - this will be the House of God.

In that moment, the reality began to quickly invade my rationale.  What the heck am I thinking.  How the heck will this work.  What did I just say yes to.  But I cannot negate the promises that have just been spoken into my life.  God, Your Word is true, and You are faithful.  You are always faithful.  I cannot ignore this.

Over the next 48 hours, my emotions rocketed in every direction.  Happiness. Fear. Joy. Doubt. Peace. No peace.  Peace again.  Frustration again.  I did the crazy thing and looked at my bank account.  Anxiety.  Anxiety.  Seeking Jesus.  Calling His promises back to Him.

Thursday, July 25.
Worry is exhausting.  I had no more energy to fight Him, to seek answers, to wrestle as Jacob wrestled.
I came to this conclusion: I don't have to beg for my destiny.  If God has promised something to me, then I can believe, by faith, that God will fulfill them.  He asks that I live every day by the sound of His voice and by His promptings.  I don't have to scrape eyeballs to get the things that He promised; I can share my story and trust that the hearts of the right people will be touched, and these will be the people who will give.  I don't have to stress out about it.

Bubble wrap catharsis.

That very night, a couple sat me down.. they said that they have listened to me share my story, and were so moved by what I was doing - not just ministry wise, but the way I chose to abandon my life to walk on a narrow path, solely because Jesus was leading me.  And they wanted to invest in my future.  

They paid for six months rent.


I was floored!  I cried!  I had goosebumps!  I had no words!  Only weak "thank you's" were all my lips could muster.  God is so faithful to fulfill His promises.  I cannot deny Him.
Even now, I feel limited with words.  He is good.  

After school, the boys snuck into the Coffee Bar to say hello.

Friday, July 26.
My future housemates told me that they just had a youth group session, "Jesus Saves," in our new, un-furnished apartment.  And these kids prayed.  They laid their hands on the walls.  They worshipped on our bare floors.  They asked Jesus for a couch and wall plates for our exposed electric outlets.  "Take me to our new home!" I exclaimed.

I stood there in our new home, no cabinets, no sink, unfinished bedroom floors - and I loved this home.  "We prayed over this place," one of my housemates said.  "We decided that this home would be called 'Hale Akua' - in Hawaiian, means House of God."

I began to tear up.  I remembered the Scripture in Genesis.

And this shall be the House of God.
- Genesis 28.22

It was meant to be.

Welcome Home.


This story was lengthy, but I want this very post to be a stone of remembrance - one that I always look back to, whenever money is tight, whenever situations get rough, whenever I begin to question why I chose to do this.

I am doing this for love.  I am doing this because I have been loved, because I am loved.  I am doing this because I love Him, sincerely. And like the lion's mane, there is nowhere scarier, but nowhere safer.  I have found a home in His heart, and He has made me His dwelling place.  This is where I belong.

Movies and naps.


currently reading: Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton
currently listening: Solo Piano II by Chilly Gonzales

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

life // a story of fulfilling hope - 3

I suppose I never actually finished the story.  But I couldn't wait and had to keep posting.  Anyway, this is installment three of how I ended up doing what I am doing now.  Parts one and two.

Behind the Bar

Timeframe: June.
The more that I committed to that non-profit, volunteer-run cafe, Surfers Coffee Bar, the more my heart felt at home.  "Home" as in, this place is assuredly flawed and imperfect, but my soul is comfortable here.  I relished in the little moments where I saw Life flowing.  And yet, SCB was feeling the reality of Life Flow: when you say that something "grows," you are also alluding to change and transition.  And some of the SCB crew felt that persuasion to follow the call of God onto other paths.  We know and understand this; people leave, and in sadness and trust, we release them to do what God ordains over their lives.

Inside of me, as people stepped out of this SCB arena, the need was present- and I wanted to step in.  But was it my place?  Was it my place to volunteer to take on a staff position?  There are steps, orders, programs - I should do Internship and Leadership School and make a long-term commitments and find support (!!) et et etc...

And why was this a pressing matter?  Why am I so preoccupied by wanting to be a part of a business that could pay me nothing, much less guarantee a fulfilled heart?  Seeing the cloud over my head, my sister spelled it out for me: it's obvious that God Himself impressed this upon my heart.  This is something I believe in.  If it were any other occupation, I would have passed it on, and looked for something else.  But I held out for it.  And I didn't know what to do with the uncommon urge to serve in SCB.

... except wait. Wait on His words, wait on His confirmations, wait on His promptings.

I've realized how much joy it brings to Abba when He sees us wait.  I think He delights to see us committed to the unknown.  In the waiting, we trust that whatever He is about to bring is good - and in the waiting, He remains good.

You could say that there have been holes in my heart when it comes to belonging.  And Abba has done a remarkable job filling those gaps, way into the hairline cracks.  After over a month of waiting on God to speak, Tom and Charis sat me down that June evening and officially welcomed me as a part of Surfers Coffee Bar.  And not just into SCB - I was invited into the family of Surfing the Nations (the fraternal twin of SCB, if you will).  And they affirmed me, encouraged me, extended the Love of God... and challenged me to extend the Love out again.  To serve with this non-profit wouldn't just be "doing good, being good," their whole motto is meeting needs and changing lives.  If we needed to label it, this is also called being a missionary.  The fact that I'm from this town- that would make me a local missionary.

It wrecked me.  God didn't just make a mild impression on my heart, He went into those hairline cracks and filled them, and kept on filling, until I couldn't contain Him - and I felt an explosion of His presence.  I am broken for the better, and He is rebuilding me.

A little meeting like that, and I felt like I belonged.

When God places His hand upon your heart, and gently nudges you to move forward, He prepares the way.  Doesn't mean that the path is smooth, but the path is straight.  I chose to follow wherever the Light leads.  The Light has been only centimeters ahead of my toes, but it led me here - right back to my city.  The Light led me back home.


Monday, October 14, 2013

On Finances, Fear, and Faith, and Words.

On my doorstep.

Keep your lives free from the love of money
and be content with what you have,
because God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
Never will I forsake you."
So we say with confidence:
"The LORD is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?"

Remember your leaders,
who spoke the Word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life
and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13.5-8

I read this aloud tonight to my housemates; mostly to build up my faith, but also because I felt like I destroyed theirs.

It was a horribly long day today, and I became so exhausted, I could cry myself to sleep, quite literally.  While tired, thoughts of finances and provision for me, as well as our household, started to swarm in my mind.  It made me half frustrated and half fearful.  And I began to address financial issues - definitely not the wisest action, because it stirred doubt into all of us.  We became worried, and as we began to consider different ways to raise finances, one could tell that these ideas were bred out of panic, and not strategies from a heart in peace.  I obviously killed a pleasant mood.

When I went into my room, I realized that I brought this fear in.  Sure, I was tired, and we can say that it was my flesh speaking - but there is no valid time for me to justify the actions of my flesh.  I have been called to live by the Spirit.

The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is Life and Peace.

Romans 8.6

I apologized for these things, and read that passage from Hebrews - mostly for me, but also for my sisters who I have wronged.  There is no reason for us to fear or be consumed with finances.  Jesus promises that He will never leave or forsake us, and there is nothing to fear.  He is the same God Who performed miracles in the past, and He can do them again today, and will continue to prove Himself though the future.

Sure- when we look at our bank accounts, it strains our minds to comprehend how God will provide for this place that He promised to us.  But that is just it - He promised this House to us, and we have named it Hale Akua, the House of God, and because He started this work, He will be faithful to see it through.


So Abba, I approach you tonight, still tired, but I'm coming in faith, thanking You for being faithful in more ways than I can remember.  Thank You for caring for our hearts, and caring for our well-being, and for blessing us with a house that serves as a home for lonely souls.  Teach us how to trust You; help our unbelief; strengthen our faith.  You give grace in the places we constantly fail, and help us to receive it as freely as You give it.  Guard my words from destruction; rather, let them be instruments of peace and hope.  Give us Your heart, and let us enter into Your rest.. And in our lives and in Hale Akua, Abba, make Yourself known.

Summon Your power, O God;
Show us Your strength, O God,
as You have done before.

Psalm 68.28


If you would like to donate to any of us at Hale Akua (Katie, Kirsten, Lila, and myself) we will welcome the blessing! Hale Akua also has faith that random families will step up to donate to paying off months of rent at a time.  Help believe with us!  Anything is possible!

PS. Part of my day?  Getting certified to save lives.
God help me if someone taller than me is choking....

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Expecting Love

By September, I clocked excessive hours in what I had endearingly christened as the "Cave of Wonders" - the Coffee Bar office.  I took on managerial responsibilities I had no training in (except the stewardship of budgeting my own finances), and had little time to grasp it and do it well. Without question, God's care over my life was manifest through the wonderful staff around me - they grounded me with peace and joy.

And yet, I was terribly frustrated.  Mostly because I had lost my wallet, I was recuperating from a cold, and the last thing I wanted to think about was the unpredictability of human interactions across the board - work, friends, family.. humankind in general.  I became sensitive to anything that rubbed against the grains of my self-pitying soul.  I was pathetic, and lost the energy to putter around and kick lightweight furniture.  The bedroom floor was my closest friend.

But even being lame, I still (unfortunately) have my self (my thoughts) to deal with.  And in my sensitivity, I honed in on specific frustrations.  I expected these certain people to treat me with consideration in regards to the season that I am currently in- and it never happened.  How can they not see how overwhelmed I am?  How busy I am?  How sick I have been?  I wanted to add this to the list of my frustrations.

But then I thought about an old post and came to the conclusion - I cannot expect people to love me.

That may sound very brash, and it's not an exclusive statement.  But here is what I mean: I cannot demand people to love me rightly.

I cannot expect love from people as a reaction or reward for giving love.  I cannot love with the expectation to be loved in return.  It defies the point of real Love.  At least between people, it is not a sow/reap system or a fair-trade organization.  It gives freely.  Two people who love freely pour into each others vats and remain filled - instead of depleting one source.

Also, I cannot expect love from people out of entitlement.  I cannot place myself above my fellow brothers and sisters; I cannot think of them as "lower" than me, and I as one who deserves their good sacrifices.

If my love is motivated by a void in my heart that I long for others to pour into and fill, I will be unsatisfied- without a doubt.  "I want to be loved (in this way), so I will love tremendously (in this way) so that they will love me back (in this way)." This is faulty- what if the other end does not interpret that as love?  What if the other end loves in return, but in a different form, causing disappointment?

I cannot love with the expectation to be loved in return.

With these thoughts as a preface, I must accept every act of love as a gift - as an act of supernatural grace that I have done nothing to deserve or earn.  I must take love with sincere and pure gratitude, even responding in praise to God for His goodness.  To be loved is a blessing, an undeserved gift, mercy manifest in grace.  When we give and have been given unconditional love, the pressure of loving rightly is alleviated.  And both of us are full.

A recently-found doodle from last years moleskine.


I don't think anything's changed with the sources of my frustrations, except the grace of God calming me down.  But my eyes were opened to a totally separate phenomenon - that in the moments I am most overworked and stressed, someone always comes to visit, either home or work, and blesses me with food.  It seems so simple, and yet, the provision is a reminder that God cares about the minute details of my life - what more with the greater things!  He proves His faithfulness meal by meal.

I thought about my ingratitude, and how I expected love from sources that left me dry.  I could have completely missed out on the goodness that is before my eyes.  And this goodness is undeserved - acts of love and supernatural grace that are absolute blessings.


God is drawn to the voids in our life.  He fills the gaps, the emptiness; He is like a river that rushes to the lowest places.  He seeps into the cracks and crevices of our rock-solid, cold souls.  And He softens us and breaks us, and He is gentle, meek, and kind.  He is a Love that we can always expect to satisfy every need and every longing.  To seek the Love of God is a hope that will always be fulfilled.

I am letting my soul soak in this Truth.  If I give love, it must be because I have His love.  And if people disappoint me, His love will keep surrounding me.  And I can rest in this.

BTW, if I ever lose my wallet again....


currently listening: Lent, The Brilliance
currently reading: The Root of Righteousness, AW Tozer

Sunday, August 18, 2013

life // a story of fulfilling hope - 2

sudden influx of encouragements assured my heart with the hope that God will fulfill His promises.  However, in the same time frame that those words of encouragement were spoken over me, my body began to fail me miserably.  I had no choice but to quit my job as an Assistant Manager in order to maximize the benefits of physical therapy.  There was a possibility of an auto-immune disease.

As distressing as it seemed in the natural, the few months of forced ceased labor was a blessing in disguise.  It gave me time to refocus my life and participate in opportunities that contributed to this "dream fulfillment" -
I returned to the worship ministry of my church to teach and encourage.  
I began to work/volunteer at multiple coffee shops.
I participated in an art show that unexpectedly changed my life.

Finally, I was out of the slump, the gears were turning, but my physical body was still in pain.

That was a portion of my journal when I first found out about my condition (and teared up in the doctor's office) nearly three years ago.
In the first year of the struggle, I battled fiercely in prayer.
In the second year, I was terribly discouraged by seeing no improvement, regardless of the faith and prayer.  It left me depressed, to say it lightly.
So in this third year, one could say that I reached a place of contentment.  Surely, it would be better to be pain-free, but I held onto the promise that my body will be restored, even if it will happen in the age to come.  I shouldn't have lost my persistence in prayer, but at least my faith remained.  If God were to heal me, I will welcome it with joy.  And if the healing does not arrive, I will still face Him with joy.

It happens like clockwork - on the path of faith, tremendous promises walk beside impossibility.  I have been released into my callings without the physical capabilities to do so.

In my worst moments of pain, I would mull over the whys - why did this happen to me, did I do something wrong, is this my fault... and surely, those questions were never answered because they were the wrong questions.  But I could not help but feel sorrow for the loss of ability in art and music and simple exercises.  Nonetheless, the inabilities taught me how to worship sincerely, from the foundations of my heart, without those external expressions.  

From my sketchbook in June 2012.
Distraught that I could no longer draw a straight line.
Ironically, the sketches were for the following piece:

I work in Surfers Coffee Bar on Saturday nights, when Surfers Church holds community dinners in the Cafe, followed by a service in an adjacent building.  On an ordinary slow night in June, I chose to attend the service in the middle of my shift - I was exhausted by the workload of the weeks prior, and needed restoration.  There were no special guests, no special event.  It was a simple evening.

Jonas, the Surfers Church pastor, spoke on faith.  As normal as the service seemed, one single phrase resonated in my spirit: God cares about the little things in our life.  I thought about my physical exhaustion and recounted to the Lord that my health must still matter to Him, that He must still care about my healing and my wellness, and that I can believe that He is faithful to restore my body.

When I got home that night, I sat on my bedroom floor ready to begin my usual routine: work the knots in my leg muscles and apply heat or ice.  But in the moment I held my legs, I noticed something significant - I had no pain!  I poked my legs repetitively, just to make sure that what I supposed was actuality.  No pain. I even punched my legs in different problematic spots - NO PAIN!  

It overwhelmed me that this is how much my Abba cares for me - that though there's power when the miracles are seen by many, that it didn't take a trip to the altar, or have a tangible experience in front of the congregation. But in the silence and quiet of my bedroom floor, in my pajamas, behind closed doors, God decided to show up in His glory - a glory that is so personal and so real.  He cares about my heart.  He cares about the things that matter to me, no matter if I've lost hope for it myself.  He HEALED me!

That night, in my Gratitude Journal

My hands, arms and knees are not completely healed yet, but the pain has subsided, and my legs are not stressed.  So while I wait for the full healing, I rejoice knowing that God is watching to perform His word.  And in the meanwhile, I am full of joy, just to be able to stand and walk - pain-free.

He is faithful.


currently reading: Don Potter, Facing the Wall
currently listening: All Sons and Daughters

Monday, August 5, 2013

life // a story of fulfilling hope - 1

At the beginning of 2012, I felt that God would make it one of hiding.  Little did I know how much "hiding" and "anonymity" would be prevalent themes with unforeseen proportions.  2012 was full of solitude, stillness, and the self-discipline of preparing myself for things I could not imagine (granted, I felt as though I failed at this "preparation.")  The "hiding," the concealment, the confinement had ruined my hope and motivation; this was evident in my words and actions.  The breakthroughs were few, but cherished.

Recently I looked back at that year.  I cried as I read the posts even here.  As a whole unit, they confirmed what I know of 2012 - I really did face so much hopelessness.  And that is why I wrote on hope and on contentment (and even the raw post about my health) - to encourage myself foremost.  So as I reflect on those posts, I cry not because of regret or disappointment, but because of joy.  I now see how that season of struggle is woven into this current season of rejoicing.
It's easy to forget that where there is hopelessness, there was once hope.
And where there is hope, there is an initial promise for fulfillment.
And where there is hope fulfilled, there is life.

Jan 2013. Quick illustration on John 1.46

When 2013 began (and around my birthday in February), I wanted to claim a promise for the upcoming season.  One of the words that I felt was the promise of "hope fulfilled." Granted, my hopes are numerous, and I could not tell exactly what the Lord referred to.  But this much I knew: 2012 indeed was a year of "hiding," but like a seed, underground.  And if this is the year of hope fulfilled, it could mean anything - maybe I will see the produce, maybe I will see a mere sprout, but it will be enough to reassure that Abba is watching and taking care of my heart.

After my heart had been comforted by this promise, over the course of a few weeks, three significant people had spoken directly into my heart about the things that weighed upon me, without being aware of my struggles of the past and the anticipations of the future.

The first person spoke to me about my spiritual life, my ministry, and my health.
He released me back into worship and intercession, and encouraged me that physical ailments are not hindrances to loving God, and receiving love by another.

The second person spoke to me about my character, my childhood pursuits and my finances.
He reminded me to be a person of integrity, to have faith and dreams bigger than my checkbook, and to be a good steward of the visions God has given to me for years by setting measurable goals. (A double rainbow appeared after this conversation - the second one is faint, top left).  It was the day after my birthday.

The third person spoke to me about relationships - friends, family, and my future family.
She reiterated the importance of respecting the family I have, and respecting the irrevocable covenant of marriage.  She also gave me hope for the waiting.

When all of this was said, my heart was so overwhelmed.  Every major area of my life was tackled; I was convicted and encouraged.  So I approached my mom about this, and her reply:

The LORD is bringing a huge wave your way, and when it comes to you, two things can happen: either this wave will crash over you and break you, or you can stand up and ride it.  RIDE THE WAVE.

But Jesus.. I've never surfed before...


Thursday, May 23, 2013

current crossroads

I mean, this time in my life doesn't have to be a crossroad point; I could very well continue to do everything that I'm currently doing, moving at a steady pace, making small attempts to progress out of the mud pit known as school debt.  My job is okay, my commitments are alright, I only give so much of myself so my soul is not in drought.

For a good number of people, this predictability is ideal.  And I'm surviving alright. Except.. I'm fidgety. Where passion should exist in my heart, restlessness multiplies in my mind.  If my heart is not fully alive, I will drag my feet through the smoothest pathway.  I will be my own obstacle.  However, my heart, when fully alive, will find strength for the most menial, absurd tasks - the ones that demand the most and earn the least.

Now all these things said...
It's funny (not really) - every career move I've made in order to pursue my dreams has successively increased my knowledge and understanding, but has also successively provided less and less.  And right now I'm on the brink of making a greater decision that will give me even greater strides in fulfilling that dream.  Yet, it makes me so nervous - I mean, SO NERVOUS - that I've been losing sleep, crying while I talk, eating everything.

And the question hasn't been so much, "Should I do it?" but, "Why am I so controlled by the approval of other people?" Yes- the one gargantuan hindrance, more than the provision factor, is this anxiety of getting rejected for making this choice.  It is an immature obstacle, but it is still an obstacle.  Apparently, my heart has found something right about this decision, to want courage and faith this much.  If I didn't believe in this, I wouldn't wrestle as much as I am.

Pray for me.
I'll have to make this decision, this commitment, very soon.  And I cannot be afraid of man's opinions, when God's opinion shifts atmospheres and galaxies.  And I cannot be afraid of being in need, or being in want.  Abba provides for the journey He brings me through.  And I cannot be ashamed of walking by faith, and living from my heart- God is the strength of my heart, and my portion (my inheritance) forever.


currently listening: "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus," Page CXVI

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Story on Kindness, and Thoughts on the Future.

Alternate title: "A Story on Future Plans, and Thoughts on Kindness."

at the end of today, this reminder of faithfulness

Three years ago, I left the Special Ed field to pursue my childhood dream - a mix of coffee, art, and community.  The whole miraculous story of transition has unfortunately been lost in cyberspace.  It ends with me landing a job at CL's - blessed that my first cafe experience was under leadership who loved the Lord and who were set on this service as ministry.

I quickly found out that a lot of my "ministry" was being kind, and being a listener.  Sure there are customers who are "compulsive talkers," and don't notice whether or not you are listening (they just like a human being to talk at - so I let them talk as I worked) (of course, all situations take a dosage of wisdom and moderation).  But there are also those people who, when your heart His Spirit are in tune, God highlights and says: "This person.  I want to share with you My heart for this person."  So then God gives grace with His mandates; God gives grace to listen closer, to listen with compassion, to listen with intercession rumbling in your spirit.  

I did a lot of listening in that season, sometimes to a fault.  On occasion, they would ask me the little bit of my thoughts, and I would echo what I felt the Father say.  And it would lift my spirit that I had that one chance to minister.  It brought me joy.

I soon became convinced that if God gave me all those dreams and all those aspirations, only to take me on the numerous paths that led me to minister to this one person, I will be satisfied.  If tomorrow comes and all my aspirations fall apart to no rescue, I will be content knowing that I had the opportunity to reach out to even this one person.  And I still have that blooming in my heart.  I am pressed to live this moment to its fullest, and ask the Lord for His heart for the people I encounter.  I try to treat each person as if they are that "one person."  Am I consistent or successful?  No, I'm a failing human with filters and pride and offenses.  But I have a willingness to love more.

It also doesn't mean I've disposed of all my plans.  I believe it's still wisdom to live in the faith that these dreams could and will come to pass.  I still prepare as if tomorrow, someone could knock on my door to jumpstart these dreams (with funding? My business plan better be ready) - even though tomorrow is not promised.  I cannot live with my head set on fulfilling tomorrow; so living each "now" with ardor has freed me from the fear of: "what if it doesn't happen?"  My hands are open.

Three days ago, I had the above conversation with a friend who asked me how work has been going.  I am no longer at CL, but I've adopted the same mission when I began to volunteer at SCB.

Two days ago, while volunteering at SCB, I drew this chalk art:

This morning on the bus, I was meditating with this song in the background: "Give Me Your Eyes" by United Pursuit Band.  It was also my resounding prayer for that day.

Nearby CL's is a drug rehab/therapy facility.  It's right to say that we have had our share of caution (also why I need a lot of wisdom in being a "listener").  About 18 months ago, there was a young man who would always walk through CL's and ask us for a cup of water.  Honestly, he was a gentle soul.  He was a good man with a bad problem.  But in kindness, we all offered him that cup of water.  Some days, he was worse than others.  I gladly forgot those bad days.  I recall him wanting so terribly to return to his home on another Pacific Island. But we encouraged him to stick with the program.. Encouraged him, and gave him that cup of water.  On his good days, he offered to put things on high shelves, or carry the ice chest, or clean up small messes.  After a while, I recall him coming in simply to say "hello," tell us about his progress, and we were the ones who asked him if he'd like a cup of water.  He was like an adopted brother.  Around Christmastime, he was finishing up his program, and picked up a small job making money on the side.  The last time I saw him, he came into the shop and bought something from the drink merchandise.  He was so proud.  And I didn't see him for over a year.


This morning, I saw him.  More like, he spotted me working downtown and rushed in to say his grand hello.  And he improved so much!  He told me that he's finally working, and not only that, an organization had offered to pay for his college tuition.  Yes- this young man was going to school, working, and supporting his family back home.  And he remembered those cups of water.

It made me want to weep.  He made me so incredibly proud.  I don't think those cups put him through college, but I think that the bits of kindness were enough to make him assured that he was in a safe place; that despite his problems, we saw him as a person who needed to be treated like a person.  His gratitude was genuine.  And I thought - you never really know how much your kindness, or words of truth, or acts of generosity can impact the heart of someone.  It made me think of the passage when Jesus said:

For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in.
- Matthew 25.35
My heart overflows with so much joy.

The funny thing about working with coffee is that it's not a necessity, it's quite the luxury.  Sometimes people spend a few bucks every day for that cup of coffee.  You can do the math, and I try not to judge.  So if they are going to spend, then they might as well have each cup with a dose of kindness.  It's the one moment in their day when the "how are you?", the conversations, the smiles are all genuine.  And if they don't have a cup of coffee, only a cup of water, then you can do the math, and we all try not to judge.  But they will have that cup of water with a genuine greeting, a genuine conversation, a genuine smile.

I've gone through today wondering if that young man was that "one person."  God, did You bring me down all those paths for this?  If it is a yes, I am, quite honestly, satisfied and ready if He called me to do something extremely different from the direction I am taking right now.  Any which way, my heart is content whether or not my dreams are fulfilled.  So whatever my lot and destiny, I will continue to live every day as if I have not yet met that one person.

Everyone deserves kindness.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

words from acquaintances

An acquaintance told me recently to be careful, else I'll burn out.  Smart words from an acquaintance.
A part of me wanted to say a favorite quote:

It's easy to judge those you have no investment in.

True statement by itself- and yet, I could not freely respond with that.  If I said it, it would've been motivated as a defense mechanism.
What this person said was right and wise.
What this person does not know, however, is that the surplus of activities and doings and beings have been stemming from a recent need to be distracted.  I do realize that I will exasperate myself and eventually collide with truth, but for the time being, I don't want to contemplate the circumstances at hand.  So I've busied myself in hopes that by day's end, I will be too tired to think.
On the contrary.
At the end of the day, I follow myself home, and I cannot sleep because my thoughts are with me.
So each Tomorrow begins with a tired mind, a sleepless body, but a hopeful heart and an unfazed ambition.
And I've yet to confront myself.

I cross paths with this acquaintance more frequently, and each time I do, it makes me sad.  This person, in my mind, has officially become the post-it note, the string around my finger, the temporary sharpie tattoo on the back of my hand.  I don't think this person was judging me, I think this person was making an observational and true statement, and the honesty has made me so aware of the pressing need for me not to ignore my heart.

I'll get there, slowly.  And as I work my way there, I sing in the car, sing as I bake.  It soothes me.  It's a distraction that pacifies me.  I'm building the confidence to deal with these situations, and also depending on the Spirit to administer His peace and joy.  I am a lot less sure about the course of my life, but I am more sure that God is trying to get my attention by means of strangers.  I need to be a better listener.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.
- James 1.22

Anyway, this post which uses my current life as an example can serve to teach a few things:
- to invest in people so you know how best to pray for them, or
- to speak in wisdom and honesty because you never know how you can impact people for the better, or
- to not spend your energy trying to escape from your circumstances.  Better to face them head on with the faith and confidence that God promises His nearness and His strength.  He also promises us rather kindly that He will go before us and fight our battles (with plans of winning), or
- to listen carefully, and be obedient, or
- all the above.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.
- Exodus 14.14


Friday, April 12, 2013

Love, Fear, Options.

My Lola used to always tell me that you can't grip onto the things you have; otherwise the blessings fall on closed fists.  But if your hands are always open, ready to give, then you will always be ready to receive.


Love gives options; fear does not.

If you operate in fear, there is only one option: to be in control.

Fear tells you all kinds of things, especially all the opportunities for failure, disappointment, and rejection.  Fear insists that if you relinquish control, everything will fall apart like a mad crisis, and you will be left alone, possibly rejected, potentially hated.  And fear convinces you that all those maybes are likely's.  Fear gives you one option, and that option is a lie.  But Fear won't tell you that.

Love, however, gives options - because to live in Love is to live in freedom.

That's the crazy thing about Love.  It gives with hands open- which means, after all you give, and pour, and sacrifice, this Beloved in your hands could very well fly away and never love you back.  But you never choke it into submission.  You never worry of its return.  You let it choose its home.  You let it choose whether or not it wants to love you back, or stay receiving, and either which way, you keep on giving.  Love always presents the Truth, and never without force or doubt or anxiety, but in hope, in trust, in faith.  Love is courageous like that.

But we slip into fear because when we don't know tomorrow, we aren't in control.  So fear pressures, and threats, and manipulates.  We'll make little compromises, simmer some depression - and we lose sleep over our irrational concerns, plotting all the possible outcomes, and how we can have the last snappy punchline.  

Not love.  Not real Love, at least.  It doesn't manipulate, but it knows how to correct, confront, reveal - beside accountability, mercy, and affirmation.  It doesn't compromise, it sacrifices.  And maybe it will touch sadness, but it will understand hope.  Love rests with peace, and wakes with joy.  It listens with humility and speaks with wisdom.  And you may never know what tomorrow brings, but you can bank that a heart full of love is ready to respond to anything.

Fear holds back; Love releases.
And when Love lets go, there's always more room to be loved in return.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Galatians 5.13-14


currently listening: Beautiful Eulogy, Satellite Kite

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


"Watch the deer, and you will understand my soul's longing."
My uncle once said this very casually, but it made me think.  Deer will usually run to water after they are wounded.  Some say they do this to wash their wounds, some say it's to replenish their blood, some say it's easier for them to run downhill, and there they find the waters.
Nonetheless, the imagery shed light onto the familiar passage:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for You, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go to meet with God?

My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember You
from the heights…

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him,
my Savior and my God.

- Psalm 42

Undoubtedly, the moments that we are most wounded, most defeated, and most discouraged are also the moments when we crave to be renewed.  And when our strength has been spent, it's easier to run downhill than pursue the heights.

And He is omnipresent.  God meets us in the depths.  God is found in the valley.  It is here where the streams of water lap across the rocks; here, He restores our souls.  He washes our wounds, He binds our wounds.  He cools our aching hearts, He refreshes our weary spirits.  He is the place rest for our dizzied minds, He is pure, He is clean.

I see the wounded deer, longing to be alleviated from their pain, longing for the waters.  So my weary soul also longs for the Living Water.  So my soul longs to find a place to rest and regain my strength.  So my soul longs for restoration.  So my soul longs for God.

If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.

- Psalm 139.8


currently reading: Don Potter, Facing the Wall
currently listening: Jon Thurlow, Songs About Jesus

Sunday, March 3, 2013

on worship // battle.

Absolutely: worship is a battlefield.  And not just the allotted time of worship on Sunday mornings (because let's face it - we do get distracted here and there), but a lifestyle of worship.  With all the demands of the day, and all the emotions and thoughts we've had to carry, we find ourselves too drained and too discouraged to press in to worship.  What?  Read the Word?  Sing?  We fall asleep.  Or we sing a lyric and our mind tangents off to areas that vie for our attention: relationships, responsibilities, imagination.

But all these things - distractions and discouragements - they flood our mind only because the enemy will do what it takes to prevent us from taking up weapons of warfare that is found in Worship and the Word.  The enemy wars for our attention.  He's after our focus.

Anything can steal our focus.  A troubled mind.  A heavy heart.  Temptations of selfishness and pride.  Bitterness or resentment.  Affections.  Hopes and fears.  Anxiety.

And yet, the key remains, that the only way to grasp an undivided attention is to press into worship.  Yes, it is going to prove itself to be a difficulty.  But this is why we refer to it as "a sacrifice of praise" - because it is will cost us something.  It is costly to push our agenda aside - our thoughts, our feelings, our motives - all for the sake of honoring one who is more worthy of our thoughts, feelings, and motives.  It is to die to our flesh, to fully surrender, to lay it all down.

We sing a beautiful chorus and as it repeats and the lyrics become memory, it embeds into our spirits and we catch ourselves singing it throughout the day, throughout the week, sometimes subconsciously. And without realizing it, these repeated Truths transform into our second nature.  In the moment of struggle, and doubt, and anxiety, the lyrics become weapons: "God I look to You, I won't be overwhelmed...." Suddenly, our spirits are uplifted, and we have joy again.  We hope again.  And this is the power of worship - these are the repercussions of worship.

And you see, it is not that we hide our struggles, or ignore them like infected wounds.  No, these things matter to us, and we matter to God- He is in the business of taking care of our hearts.  The honest surrender in worship, of putting His agenda before ours, is saying, "I trust You, Jesus, to fight for me."  And the beautiful thing is, He does.  And He wins.

He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me...
- Psalm 55.18

In the place of difficulty and suffering, giving God the honor and praise in our worship is the way that we battle the enemy.  We recognize that we are weak and frail and failures, but that our God is strong for us, and that His grace covers our sin, and that His love goes beyond our capacity.  We recognize that He has made us to live free and to receive His goodness, and to let this gift of love overflow.

I may be weak, but Your Spirit's strong in me
My flesh may fail, but my God, You never will.
- "Give Me Faith," Elevation Worship

The Scripture passage to meditate on is Psalm 57.  David was fleeing for his life, and yet his response was to worship God and to recognize His faithfulness.  Ask the Lord what He wants to show you through this chapter.  And remember- you are more than a conqueror.  Not will be, but you are.

My heart, O God, is steadfast; my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!  Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
- Psalm 57.7-8

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.


Sunday, February 24, 2013


"Sundown" Process. September 2012.

I have a number of canvases in what formerly was my art studio / now storage room.  All the medium sized canvases are half-finished.  All the large canvases are still shrink-wrapped.  And looking at these untouched canvases, it dawned on me how much my mindset needs adjustment.

I realized I don't paint on large canvases because I feel as though something of grand size and attention deserves a "worthy" image.  Sometimes a beautiful concept will come to mind, and I will drizzle these pencil strokes in my sketchbook.  But then I never transfer them onto the canvas, because it still doesn't feel good enough.

There.  I said it.

Sometimes I don't paint because I don't feel like I am good enough.

But God did not create me with hopes, desires and ideas, only to have them collect dust on a shelf, to be read like distant fairy tales of impossible nature.  He did not give me abilities and ambitions, only for me to bury them in the ground because I'm afraid that if I use them they might break (or break me).  He does not weigh His heart on mine or His thoughts on my mind, only for me to talk at Him than communicate with Him.

I've lived with such a fear of failure that sometimes I shut down instead of dare to try.  I'm sure that is not at all what God intended for my life when He formed me.

In the past few weeks, I've been meditating on God's intentions.  And I think about how our God - the Creator of the Universe - has plans for nations, and governments, and people groups, and galaxies.  And this very God also has a plan for this island.. And He decided to share a part of this plan with me.  In fact, He's shared parts of different plans with everyone.  Imagine!  To think that God gave me a part of His dreams because He trusts me to carry out these plans.  Some days I wish He wouldn't trust me so much.  But it's only because He loves me that much.

So why am I not stepping out?  Why do I easily talk about these hopes and dreams, without actually pursuing them?  Why do I limit myself to familiarity and comfort?  Why is my whole life shrink-wrapped and hiding behind mounds of other stuff?

Right now, I've got the canvases out, and I'm dabbling a little bit.  And I am reminded that it is okay to paint over and start again.  That I don't have to get it right the first time, or the second, but that I must paint anyway.  That I can't let my art be trapped in sketchbooks, or as concepts in my mind.  And I am reminded that His mercies are new every morning, and today is another day to get up and walk by faith.  And I am reminded that I have to - I must - be a good steward of the gifts and dreams God has given to me.

And after I finish these canvases, I can always get a new one, and keep creating, keep dreaming.
And anyway, He didn't create us merely to be good enough.  He created us for greatness.  Amene.

The LORD confides in those who fear Him...
- Psalm 25.14

"And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.  Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary.  Be strong and do the work."
- I Chronicles 28.9-10

In other news, it's still comforting to know that God enjoys speaking to me through the art process.  How did rummaging through storage resurrect the deeper issues of life?  You're funny, Abba.


currently listening: Jon Thurlow.  reminded how much I miss this...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

living free

Our environment and circumstances may have been handed to us without our consent, such as where we grew up, the relationships that surrounded our upbringing, or the type of sustenance and allowances we lived by.  Some things, we made the decision for ourselves - what type of career we pursue, what kind of friendships we pursued, what kind of lifestyle we chose.   Some of these were excellent paths, others are mistakes- stains that we try relentlessly to erase.

And all these things, as we look back at our years, cannot be changed.  However, we make the choice how to react.  Will we be full of self pity, disappointment, regret? This is our human response.  It becomes a natural response to cringe, weep, and shrink back in fear from anything that could agitate the horrifying memories of failure.

Yet, to live by the Spirit is to live apart from condemnation- self-condemnation! - and to live in freedom.  You were not meant to be a slave to regret.  You were not meant to live your life controlled by the fears of repeating the effects of weakness.  You were not meant to be paralyzed by bitterness, anger, or resentment.

You have the freedom to choose!  You have the freedom to choose joy and peace and patience, you have the choice to walk away from negativity.  Maybe you have that option to change your circumstances.  Maybe these situations cannot be changed.  And that is okay.  Your mind can change, your heart can change, your attitude can change - all by the power of God.

Why should we burden ourselves?  He means for us to live free.

The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.
- Romans 8.6

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.
- Romans 8.15


currently listening: Hillsong, A Beautiful Exchange

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fruit of the Spirit + Thoughts on Convent

I probably joke more about nunnery than I should be allowed to.  And the response I get from people don't surprise me as much as they sadden me.  They are usually bursts of "NO" and "I WON'T LET YOU" or "YOU'RE CRAZY."  I am not surprised by the degree reaction.  But what saddens me is how our society has deemed THIS as a radical life.  Nunnery: the surrender of your life to holy service from wake til rest and every dream in between.  Nunnery!? Radical?  To think: at one point the appalling, extreme choices of any young generation are now legal and normal.  I need not give examples.

The reality is, I could do it.  In case curiosity piques you, it has nothing to do with singleness, as most people associate the terms.  Honestly, a family would be nice.  But simply put, I would love nothing more than to devote my life to solitude, prayer, worship, mercy, simplicity, and gardening.  But here is why I will not do it: my faith would suffer.  Servitude is radical to those who do not understand; it is not radical under the light of what God would really intend for my life purposes.  There are no easy solutions in life, but this, for me, would be the easiest.  For me, to live the life of a Desert Mother would make my spirit a desert in itself, disillusioned that a life of righteousness is a life of holiness.  The Fruit of the Spirit would have little space to grow.

I cannot learn true love when those around me have learned to love deeply too, when those around me love me back with a God-based love.
I learn to love when I am surrounded by those who have no regard or care for me.  I learn to love when people hate me because I choose to be different in the midst of a changing society.  I learn to love when I come across people who live spiritually lukewarm lives.

I cannot learn true joy when I spend countless hours in devotional happiness and meaningful worship.
I learn joy when I feel the loss of relationships and the losses within relationships.  I learn joy when sorrow and loneliness are promised like the changing seasons, when uncontrollable and unfortunate circumstances befall me.  When I have no control.

I cannot learn true peace when I am in constant quiet and stillness.
I learn peace when the demands of the day, and finances, and work, and health, and human interaction all compete with my sanity.  I learn peace when I attempt multi-tasking and stress taunts me.  I learn peace when I have too many things to think about.

I cannot learn true patience when I have a predictable schedule and no demands, except to pray.
I learn patience when I make concrete plans - even God-given plans - and I do not know my next steps, I do not know where to go.  I learn patience when He makes me wait for His direction, but chronos time breathes down my neck.  I learn patience when I do not yet see His promises fulfilled, and I battle with waiting.

I cannot learn true kindness when giving to the poor and extending mercy to the needy prompts a natural response of compassion.
I learn kindness when my pride wants to rise against the prides of others, when I feel an urge to resist humility, when I feel revenge and retaliation, or when I feel that a person does not deserve my good graces.  I learn kindness after I consider the individual circumstances that others must face, and the weights that they too must bear.

I cannot learn true goodness and righteousness when holiness and the Sermon on the Mount is the utmost rule.
I learn that I must be good regardless if I am tired of upholding the Standard.  I learn to be righteous when the Law seems impractical and outdated, and I want so desperately to compromise and be accepted- but I know I must not give in.  I learn to be holy in a world that is unholy and mundane and profane.  I learn goodness when I must be Light and Salt in a dark and tasteless world.

I cannot learn true gentleness when a passive atmosphere has already been created for me.
I learn gentleness when I deal with an unpredictable family, with unpredictable strangers, with unpredictable circumstances.  I learn gentleness when anger and rage and frustration volunteer to be the launching pad of my words and imaginations.  I learn gentleness when others treat me rudely.

I cannot learn true faithfulness when I have already made a lifetime commitment to stay within a Godly community.
I learn faithfulness when it's easy to slip into the predictability of my loneliness, having no accountability, staying hidden and uninvolved.  I learn faithfulness good intentions turn into false motives and idolatry, when I am more concerned about the methods of worship rather than worship itself.  I learn faithfulness when I am fooled by infidelity.  

I cannot truly learn self-control when I have been depleted of all life's pleasures.
I learn self-control when I am plagued by indulgences that my flesh desires, and the compromise of "just one" or "once in a while" haunts my willpower.  I learn self-control when I need to restrain myself for any reason, and every easy reason has presented itself to me.  I learn self-control when I relinquish control; when I must depend on One who I cannot see, and I want to act upon what I can see.

The droughts of the world are what forces me to stretch my roots deep into the soil to find the Water of Life; they persuade me to stand firm, immoveable.  These hardships and difficulties urge me to increase my faith, and lean upon the hope of His promises.  For these reasons, I cannot live in a convent.  I would have less reason to fight for love, to fight for holiness.  I would have less opportunity to be a minister of the Word.  I would have less chance to spend myself like an offering on the streets of a broken city.  I would have less desire to be a living sacrifice, dying to my flesh so that the Truth of Christ can resurrect through me.

People are right.  I cannot be a nun.  It's not radical enough.
I cannot be cloistered in.  I must live outside.  I must Love aloud.

I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith..
Philippians 1.23-25


currently listening: Seryn. "Beach Song," This is Where We Are.
currently reading: Richard Foster, Celebration of Disciplines.
currently drinking: Stumptown Ethiopia Nano Challa, pourover