Friday, September 29, 2017

September 29. A Day Worth Celebrating.

As a young college student, the way I imagined success to arrive in my 30s was to be measured by my career, house, children, and accomplishments. And now as I turn 34, I realize my "arrival" is not quantified but rather, qualified. My life is made richer and fuller by the relationships I have, beyond what my 20 year old brain could have even begun to ask for.

Much of this has happened to me, so I can't boast about what I've done to bring myself here. And while relationships can't be neatly measured, I do have dates I can pinpoint as the beginning of many life-defining experiences:

October 16, 2009
I began employment at World Relief in High Point, NC as the Match Grant Coordinator. This experience has forever changed my life's trajectory, passion, and purpose, and opened the door to a world of new people to love and connect with.  

March 22, 2013
Shivani Shrivastav came to our house for a temporary place to stay. 4.5 years later, we have gained a sister, a "Shi-Shi", and a lifelong friend.

December 3, 2013
Brian and I went out with our friends, Evan & Heather Blackerby, to discuss what it would look like to be in an intentional community together. After dinner, we drove around High Point praying about where God might be leading us to live. Four years later, we have homes and amazing neighbors in the same area we had originally driven and prayed through.

May 31, 2017
The beginning of a new season. Staying at home with my girls, ages 5 & 3, are a part of this season; my relationship with God is at the center of it. Putting all of the faith and trust I have on the line, I'm already coming to a deeper understanding of God than I've ever had before.

Daily, I struggle with the need to be in control. In control of my home, my kids, my life. But in this, I give a big sigh of relief, and a oh-so-genuine "thank you, God" that He took the plans I had made for myself 15 years ago, scrapped them, and gave me this simple, lovely life I lead.

Happy birthday to me, indeed.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

the mission is the same

It has been less than 2 weeks since I left my job at World Relief, which I currently and emotionally refer to as “the best job I will ever know”. I have experienced a range of emotions, many of which have knocked me off my feet, as I did not realize just how deeply I would feel taking this new path. Since my mind is a jumbled mess these days, I’m only going to attempt to process these thoughts in a bullet point format; forgive me.

  • Not having a schedule is underrated! Freedom has been redefined for me. Shackles are gone, and I am reveling in this newfound, non-Finance Manager kind of lifestyle. My days are no longer bound by the chores I need to get done because - heck! I don’t work; I can always do it tomorrow!

  • Being home with my girls 24/7 is not as scary as I imagined it to be. Ok, ok - so before you judge, I have always enjoyed spending time with my girls. But there are layers of stress like any parent would understand. Much of the stress I anticipated, however, has eased now that I’m home. They are not constantly vying for my attention or needing to be held any time I’m around. And I am not always distracted by what household responsibilities need to get done before I go to work the next day. We can just BE together, and it’s been wonderful.

  • I have felt lost. While I *know* my identity is first found in the grace of God, I identified so deeply with my role, mission, and relationships at World Relief. And all of a sudden, it’s gone, or at least changed. And it has taken some time to figure out what crosses over and what needs to be edited in my new role as a stay-at-home mom.

  • This next one needs explanation - so bear with me - but my world feels much smaller, and if I’m completely honest, less purposeful. Working at World Relief brought the world to me. It taught me large life lessons, stretched the way I thought about humanity and my community, allowed me relationships with people who thought like me and who didn’t think like me. There was exposure to the wealthy, the middle class, the working poor, and those who can’t afford to pay rent and utilities. I met people of all different countries, cultures, and perspectives. And now? Well, now I spend the majority of my time at home, in a community with very similar social and economic luxuries.

A pendulum of these thoughts have swung back and forth in my mind for the past 10 days, making me a teary mess each and every day. I have felt consumed by my loss and overwhelmed by the responsibility of moving onto a new season of life. For some reason, I had put up this mental block that I needed to “break up” with World Relief. Sure, take what I learned and apply it elsewhere, but move on to something new. So, it was truly an enlightenment when my husband helped me come to this realization:

Being at home with my girls, ages 4 and 2, gives me the freedom and the responsibility to create an environment with eternal value. First and foremost, my role is to be a representative of God’s grace to my girls. And as I think through the “how to’s” of this, I realized that one of the most meaningful ways I’ve seen Christ in the world is through my work at World Relief, so why not start there with my girls? Teach them how to love by...loving; novel, isn’t it? But yes, show them God’s grace by seeing other people’s experiences of rescue. Allow them to understand justice by knowing stories of injustice. Grow in them a spirit of mercy, gentleness, and compassion as they understand and love others who have suffered hardship and who continue to love and give without judgement.

I feel silly that this is even an “aha” moment; it’s honestly more like a “DUH” moment. But all the same, it’s a “i’m so thankful” moment. I am excited to marry this passion of mine (serving refugees) to these loves of mine (my two beautiful girls). I have regained a sense of purpose and mission, and I know I wouldn’t be anticipating this new journey without where I have already been these last 8 years at World Relief.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

it's not just a career decision; it's a life shift.

It’s not just a career decision; it’s a life shift.

When I began working at World Relief in October 2009, I couldn’t have imagined how this job would change my life. I was introduced to a world I never knew existed just 5 miles down from where I grew up. And refugees were just the beginning of it… Everything cross-cultural. World crises. Social services. The struggle to survive.

World Relief slowly began to shape my life, my faith, my heart. At first, I worked in direct client services, doing everything from airport pickups to ESL enrollments to celebrating a newly found job. After 3.5 years, I made the transition into a more administrative role as a Finance Manager. In this position, I learned more of the whys and hows of World Relief’s mission (empowering the local Church to serve the most vulnerable). Each new role has increased my passion for refugees and particularly the Church’s responsibility in it.

I have loved working at World Relief and with refugees much more than any other job I could dream of. Theoretically I was even willing to use my entire salary towards daycare, if necessary. So when I felt this God-tug on my heart over Christmas break to be more open-handed with my job, it was a big step of faith to even consider the idea. However, I believed my God is real and present, so I committed to praying through the possibility.

I asked Brian and some close friends to pray with me, and for the first month, I felt or heard nothing. Then on January 27, the Executive Order on Immigration was signed, and that rocked my world. I realized with renewed passion how deeply my heart connected with and cared for this work, these people. And then, I knew there was no way I could intentionally walk away from my job. As I continued to pray, I don’t know when and I honestly don’t know how, but within a few weeks’ time after the EO, I felt 100% sure that I needed to leave World Relief, and I felt 100% heartbroken over this knowledge.

As I’ve walked the steps to follow through on this decision, I’ve cried a thousand tears. I cried because I still wanted it; I cried because my identity was so strongly rooted in my job; I cried because my coworkers are like family to me; and to be honest, I cried because I was afraid of this new role as a stay-at-home mom.

Through the tears though, I have felt a deep sense of peace. I can’t understand it, but I trust it. I can’t quite explain it, but it carries me. In this 3-month journey, I have trusted God in a way I’ve never done before, and therefore, have experienced God in a way I never have before. It’s been so incredibly life-giving.

As I slowed down on all the tears, I have been able to slowly embrace this change and prepare my heart for this transition. What I have been pleasantly surprised to find is summarized in these 3 points:

1.      My work with refugees doesn’t end here. I see a great need for advocacy, especially within the Church. Also, what better way to advocate for those lost and hurting than with my own children? We will finally have the time to visit refugee families together and to begin the larger conversation of ‘serving the least of these’.

2.      Being a mom is the greatest gift and responsibility. Parenting by Paul David Tripp has been a timely read, and I am challenged by my role as an ambassador, a representative of God’s grace, sacrifice, and love to my girls.

3.      I am finding God more and more real as I learn to trust Him with areas of my life I want to guard extra closely. An excerpt from Anything by Jeannie Allen reads, ‘To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through. He starts to get real when you live like that.’

This decision is not a career move; it is not even a ‘what’s best for our family’ move. It’s a God-initiated, God-trusting, God-everything move.

I don’t know what’s in store for the future; I don’t know why God placed this on my heart over Christmas. But I do know that there is nothing more important to me than following the God I know and love and trust. And here’s to that grand adventure.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

just a coincidence, i'm sure... (and a second coincidence as well)

the following is a post i wrote on March 2, 2013, but i didn't publish it then.  but now as i look back at my drafts, i reread this and think, wow. how long do i need to learn the same lesson....?  

so here it is, 6 months later, but just as relevant...

two days ago, as we were putting illy down to sleep, we read her a bedtime story out of "the sweetest story bible".  it was the scripture where the disciples and Jesus are at sea and Jesus falls asleep.  then a huge storm comes, threatening to capsize their boat.  the disciples call out in fear, Jesus awakes, and commands the wind and the waves to cease.  they are amazed.
yesterday night i was doing dishes and overhear brian reading to illy from "children of God storybook Bible". this particular story was titled "Jesus calms the sea".  hmmm, i thought, that's funny - we just read that same story last night.  i continued doing dishes.
and this morning illy is taking a rockstar nap...working on 2 hours!  i read my proverb and a bit in mark, like i have been doing the past several weeks.  and i decided to just read a bit more.  the next passage guessed it -  mark 4:35-41, "Jesus calms a storm".
so what is going on in my life that so desperately needs to hear this word?  ooh, idontknow.  i'm not sure i realized just how stressed this week has been, except for the fact that i word vomit on brian as soon as we get home from work.

ironically, life did get a lot more complicated (and stressful) just a couple of weeks after i originally wrote this post.  thankfully though, the story is the same: Jesus can calm any storm.

so maybe it's no coincidence.  maybe it is His sovereignty looking over me and i finally had eyes to see.    

Thursday, January 31, 2013

proverbs 31

Open your mouth for the mute, 
   for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously, 
   defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9

You always hear about the "Proverbs 31 woman" - who knew such a call for advocacy also lay here?!

Monday, November 14, 2011

disguised in pain

four years or more ago i would have told you that one of my greatest fears is that i would never be able to be pregnant.  it was not a fear birthed (no pun intended) out of anything rational.  just one of those things.

three years ago, i got married.  :)

two months ago my husband and I found out we were expecting.  a very exciting time as we began to anticipate future.... everything...!  

(two months ago i had my first real fear of miscarriage.)

three weeks ago we received our first ultrasound and got to see and hear the heartbeat of our first baby. nothing in the world can prepare you for that moment.

about one week ago i went to my doctor for an emergency appointment and we were told our baby had stopped growing just a week or so before.

and that day, six days ago, was full of emotion, shock, tears, and disappointment.  it was the hardest.  especially seeing on the ultrasound image the same baby without a heartbeat this time.

so... seven days ago we were expectant, eager parents-to-be.  and one day later, we were crushed with a realization of an unfulfilled hope.  

brian and i took that day and the next off work.  we grieved and cried and prayed together.  and during those 36 hours, God has provided so much peace and care in our lives that i need this blog to 1) process it all and 2) tell of His blessings.  so here i go....

i know many people choose not to publicly share their exciting news until the end of the 1st trimester because the percentage of miscarriage is so high during this time.  i was one of those people.  i did tell family and close friends, and thankfully so, because their words of love and support was what helped carry us through last week.  and ironically enough, now that the unthinkable has happened, the last thing i want to do is hide everything.  to an extent, i have a natural desire to pretend like things are fine and dandy, but i don't know.....i feel insincere.  as a person, as a christian. doing that.  and for some reason, i've felt really convicted on that front to open my heart and life up to true community, to allow others to see transparently into our struggle and to give others the opportunity to love. which is, i suppose, another reason why i feel compelled to write it down in this way.

the day after the awfulness, i felt like i was able to do some processing, like a switch was flipped from emotional to non.  because well, sometimes, in ... life, my asian, realistic, objective self takes over at times (and this time, i am grateful).  i was able to see things a little more clearly.  and the clearest thing of all was how much i love, love, love brian.  experiencing this together makes me realize just how blessed i am to be his wife, and to love and be loved by him.  i feel 10x closer to him than before.  he is my favorite.  i would never wish that this for anyone (although i know many many women have similar experiences), but i am grateful in a way that i can't explain for having this opportunity to fall in love with my husband all over again.   <3

also, during this time, some people have shared 'encouraging' words like, God doesn't make mistakes.  meant as a reminder that God is in control, i know.  but i also know that God never causes something like this to happen.  this unfortunate situation happened because we live in a sinful world full of evil and hurt and pain that does not belong to the kingdom of God.  His kingdom is coming, but not yet.  and while we wait, i rely on the hope and promise that God does work good in all things for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).  with that in mind, i can't help but think maybe there is a direction God wants to take us in now.  we mailed off our completed peace corps medical forms just weeks ago (if only to get reimbursed for the expenses to get the forms completed).  but now, who knows?  maybe this is a new direction for us now.

so as we consider all these things, we can't help but be overwhelmed with thankfulness.  not only did God bless us with peace that day (and peace the day after and after), and not only did we feel His love pouring from those around us who hurt and prayed with and for us, we also have been able to grow in our understanding of our magnificent God, in bounding leaps toward Him and His mercy and grace.

oh, and one more thing.

remember four or more years ago when i was afraid of never being able to have children?  and two months ago when i was anxious and concerned about miscarriage?  well now i'm not afraid of either anymore.  when i was finally confronted with the unknown and forced to deal with it, i realized 1) i am not in control and 2) God is.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

::mercy:: the language of love

and in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me "My Husband," and no longer will you call me "My Baal."

and i will betroth you to me forever. i will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. i will betroth you to me in faithfulness. and you shall know the Lord.

and in that day i will answer, declares the Lord,
i will answer the heavens;
and they shall answer the earth,
and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and they shall answer Jezreel,
and i will sow her for myself in the land.
and i will have mercy on No Mercy,
and i will say to Not My People, "you are my people";
and he shall say, "You are my God."

hosea 2:16, 19-23