Monday, February 28, 2011

A lesson in receiving...

I'm a gift person! It is definitely one of my top love languages...but when I say I'm a gift person I'm not talking about flashy jewelry, expensive purses, or a $500 pair of shoes. I'm talking about little things like the ping pong ball one of my students in Thailand gave me years ago, a handmade card or note, or wildflowers picked off the side of the road. I also absolutely LOVE to give gifts! Birthdays and Christmas are always so hard for me because I feel so pressured to get a great gift for those I love and treasure...something that truly expresses my heart and appreciation for them. I find I give better gifts at random times...when I happen across the perfect tea cup for Heather, the picture frame that completely screams Katie P., the floor pillow that reminds me of movie nights at Meghan's, and the cutest scarf for Katie G. It's in those moments that I get giddy with excitement about the way in which I can tell the people in my life that I thought of them today.

But something that I'm realizing more and more is that I'm not too great at receiving gifts, or more accurately I don't open myself up to be in need of help from anyone. I find that I'm really good at listening to others and helping them along their journeys but when it comes to me...well I'm ok thank you very much! This thought came pouring out of my mouth in class a couple of weeks ago (yes I'm back in school...well sort of...that's a blog for another day!) and it started me thinking about how difficult going to see a spiritual director was going to be (part of my school program)...I have to talk about me for an hour? That's not what I do...I do the giving, the listening, the caring...I don't play the recipient very well!

A few months ago, when I had my surgery, the beginnings of this thought process came up. I didn't want people visiting me in the hospital, heck I had a hard time asking people to pray for me...I mean this was a routine surgery right, I was going to be fine! Then a day or two after my surgery a dear friend shows up at my house with a bag full of brand new beautiful scarves so that when I go out I can cover up my super large scar. I didn't know what to say...and I instantly thought how can I pay her back? What can I buy her to show her I appreciate her? Oh no, I made too big a deal about wearing scarves all winter and she felt guilted into buying me these scarves!

So back to present day. Last week I went down to the Rainbow Sandal Factory to help my mom pick out a pair of Rainbows and while I was there I texted several friends and asked them if they needed any sandals. A couple of them responded so I bought the sandals and throughout the week I delivered them (knowing they would pay me back). Then on Sunday night I was dropping off the last two pairs with a friend at church. He hands me a $100 bill and I was like...umm I don't have change on me, you can just pay me next week. His response, "Don't worry about it, keep the change." I think I actually laughed out loud and responded with "No way, that's like $30! There is no way I can keep your $30! I will bring you change next week." He sort of chuckled and told me that he wanted me to keep it, that he wanted me to have it, that I needed it more than he did. I admit, in my mind I was really offended! "What, I don't need your $30! I'm fine financially thank you very much!" But thankfully I didn't say that out loud! I said thank you, but I feel like I had a quizzical look on my face...why was it so hard for me to receive a gift from a friend who is well aware that I haven't worked in 9 months? Wouldn't I have done the same thing for a friend? Probably, but that's different!

The whole rest of the evening I tried to figure out how I could give the money back, how could I give him something that would be equal (or better yet greater) than what he had just given me? Basically I wanted to be the giver, not the receiver...receiving things is very humbling! And that's when I began to unravel the real issue, my pride! I don't like receiving because it means that I am in a position of need, I have to admit that there is something out there that I can't provide for myself...a place in life where my accomplishments, abilities, or strength isn't going to be able to cut it. And I'm pretty sure the pride thing goes deeper than just receiving gifts from my friends...I think it cuts to the core of my spiritual being. I have a hard time receiving grace and love from God...I get in the way, thinking that I can take care of myself, that I can solve my own problems and make my life wonderful...but what I'm basically saying is, God you are awesome and I think your gifts of grace, mercy, and redemption are pretty wonderful, but I've got it...I can handle it. But the God honest truth is that I am so desperately in need of my Savior's grace and He died to give it to me! And there is absolutely no way I can ever pay him back, say thank you enough, or get God something bigger or better in return! His love for us is truly a gift!

I don't want to become a "needy" person, but I am in need of grace and forgiveness and the only way to relieve that need is to learn to receive. So for the journey ahead I will continue to give with my whole heart, but I will also begin to let go of my pride and learn to receive the most amazing gift ever given.

Just to Catch You Up

I haven't blogged in about 8 months, which probably is not a record for me! It isn't that I haven't had anything to write about that's for sure, I just haven't really found the ability to put into words my thoughts or emotions and/or was too worried about what people would think if I really wrote what was truly going on in my mind.

Last time I wrote I was summing up the first 3 weeks of a month long trip to Asia...that truly feels like a million years ago! Since June both of my grandmothers have passed away (about a month apart) and my dad had knee replacement surgery. A few weeks after my dad went back to work I found out I might have thyroid cancer - talk about a reality check! You know it's not a good phone call from the Dr. when she asks you if you are sitting down and have some time to talk. So ensued a rapid fire couple of weeks of dr's visits and surgery a mear 3 weeks later to remove my thyroid. The verdict was that my thyroid was really big (my dr. couldn't believe that I hadn't noticed...sure cause I know what a normal thyroid should feel like, that's why I go to the dr.!) and that there was a possiblity of the surgeon suggested I just get the whole thing taken out...fine with me, it's not like it has worked right in years! LOL! The surgery went super great and I was never in any major pain (though the morphin in the immediate hours after the surgery may have helped a little with that!). I was even able to eat some macaroni and cheese the next day, which I wasn't planning on any "solid" food for a few days. The worst part of the whole surgery was getting the drain and the stitches out...I almost threw up on the guy who was taking out the drain...he even made a comment about me not looking too good at the moment and wanted to know if I "typically have issues with medical procedures?" I wanted to respond..."well typically I don't have to deal with people pulling tubes out of my neck while I'm awake!" But I think I just mumbled something to the effect of "it just grosses me out". (I can't believe I ever wanted to be a neuro-surgeon!) The lab results from the surgery came back and the good news was that there was no cancer...though my surgeon said he is certain that within a couple of years cancer would have developed.

One possible side effect of the surgery was the possiblity of my voice permanently becoming raspy and/or losing my ability to sing. Now for those of you who know me you know I have been singing since I was a little kid. I'm definitely not a rock star, but it's something I have always enjoyed. Prior to the surgery I didn't think too much about the possibility of actually losing "my voice" or the emotions that would come along with that reality. For about the 1st week after surgery, it didn't even occur to me to try and sing - my voice was still really raspy and my throat was still super swollen; but, by the second week I quickly discovered that I could sing 2 notes to a song that was playing on the radio. I freaked out! It was so weird...I could hear the pitch in my head but I couldn't sing it, it was like my mind and my vocal chords weren't acknowleding each other. Then came the weirdest moment...a church service. I couldn't sing! Nothing would come out! I literally began to cry, for the first time that I could remember I couldn't use my voice to worship. My prayer during the next few weeks was twofold - God, please give me my voice back! and God, if you aren't going to give me my voice back then teach me how to worship you without singing! Worship is so many many things, but singing had been my way of connecting with God for so long and now it wasn't there. At Christmas I couldn't sing Christmas carols or rock out to my favorite Mariah Carey and N*Sync Christmas sounds weird but I felt so lost. And then it happend, one day in the car a song came on and without thinking about it a few on key notes came out of my mouth. I hoped and continued to pray that over time my voice would come back...I'm sooo excited to say that it's almost back completely! I have been so very blessed to be given this gift!

The other big process that has been going on is "the job search." During grad school I took a class and one of the topics we discussed was how when people lose their jobs and can't find a new one they easily become depressed and really struggle with their identity because so much of who we are in society is based upon our jobs. I remember thinking...that would never happen to me, I know who I am whether I have a job or not....HA! I ended my temporary position at APU in May and within a couple of days I left for Asia with full confidence that once I returned I would quickly find a new job...yeah 9 months later I'm still jobless!! The process has been painful, depressing, hurtful, and has caused me to spend many many days and weeks really searching out what my role is in this big big world of ours!

There was the job that I interviewed for and quickly became one of the top two candidates for; the job would have required a move and wasn't exactly the kind of job I was hoping for but I felt honored to even be considered for the position. Then as quickly as it had materialized I found out that they chose the other candidate. It's a weird feeling - relief and rejection. Relief that I didn't have to move away from my family and friends. Rejection that I wasn't the person that fit into their mold. There was the job the popped up in December that seemed like an amazing mix of opportunities! The VP basically told me after the interview that I had the job...I couldn't believe it! I had nailed the interview, they liked was going to be awesome. Then I got the email...we're sorry, we aren't going to hire you. Really??? Then there are all the applications in haven't lived over seas long enough, oh you don't have an M.Div., you are too qualified, we lost our funding and won't be hiring for that position at this time...ahhhh!!! After about 50 rejection emails it starts to get to you!

So here it is a couple of hours from March 1st and I stil don't have a job! My friends have been so supportive and so encouraging, making sure that I don't give up and that I continue to hope and trust. But I admit, there are still many many days when I wonder what this elusive job is actually going to be...because at this point I have no idea!

So yes, that has been my life for the last 9 months! Full of busyness and extreme bouts of rest, full of love and loss of loved ones, full and empty all at the same time.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Week 3 in Southeast Asia

I was going to start this off by apologizing for taking so long to update everyone about my trip...but then I realized that writing a new blog every 3 weeks is actually way better than how often I typically update my blog - maybe I should work on that!

So what have I been up to the last 3 weeks...

Day 1... Took a really long plane ride from LAX to Taipei. Watched more movies than I can count, tried to sleep, avoided airplane food, and had swollen feet (this is a new occurance for me!)

Day 2... Hung out in the airport in Taipei for a few hours and then flew from Taipei to Bangkok. We arrived at 2 am, headed straight to our hotel (thank you Thong Ta Resort and Spa for sending someone to pick us up in the wee hours of the morning so I don't have to worry about finding a taxi and finding the hotel) and went to bed (much needed after over 24 hours of little to no sleep).

Day 3... Explored Bangkok (despite the rioting). We had breakfast at an adorable little waffle shop across the way from our hotel (we meaning Chelsea and I) entire breakfast including waffles and a mocha was less than $1.50. Hired a driver (that's right we had a driver for the day!) who said we wouldn't go near the rioting that was happening in the business district of Bangkok...ohhh how things get lost in translation!!! We headed out...and guess what...we drove on the freeway that goes right over the street where the rioting was...smoke was rising on both sides of the road...super safe! We spent the afternoon checking out the Royal Palace, several temples, and seeing the giganitc reclining buddha (so amazing...but such a reminder of the need for the Good News all over the world!).

Day 4...Chiang Mai! (Home sweet Home). A 6:45 am flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, checked into our guesthouse (Bed and Terrace...exceeded all my expectations!), had lunch at a great mexican place (ohhh how I love non Thai food!!) with the Director of the organization Chelsea is checking out, shopping at the night market, a foot massage, and of course we wrapped up the evening with a banana roti!

Day 5...Rioting in Bangkok is put to an end by the Thai military (it took all day...and unfortunately several people lost their lives), rioting broke out in Chiang Mai (about 1.5 miles from where we were staying), and a curfew was put in place by the government (from 8 pm to 6 am). We spent the day watching the news, walking around the Day Market and just enjoying the sights and sounds of the downtown Chiang Mai.

Day 6... Most things were closed in Chiang Mai because of the rioting (including Starbucks and all the banks). We had the opportunity to go up to Doi Suthep (the temple on the mountain that overlooks Chiang Mai) and had dinner with my friend Cynthia who lives in Chiang Mai.

Day 7... Factory Tour Day! This is a must for 1st time visitors to Chiang Mai! We went to the leather factory, the silk factory, the jade factory, the silver factory, the lacquer ware factory, the umbrella factory, and my personal favorite...the jewelry factory! Today I also made some new Thai friends during our many excursions...I love hearing people's stories and being invited into random families' homes during rain storms!

Day 8...Long bus ride to Mae Sot (sooo thankful it was air conditioned!). We got picked up at the bus station by staff of the organization...on motorbikes! My first experience riding a mortorbike was uneventful and not as scary as I's to trying new and adventurous things!

Day 9...Spent the morning at one of the children's houses the organization runs. This house is for children whose parents are in prison...typically the children would just stay in the prison with their mom but this house allows the children to not have to grow up in the prison environment and if they are school aged to go to school. I spent the morning going for a walk with two of the little ones, painting, coloring, and eating lunch.

Day 10...Mae Sot Day!! We walked around Mae Sot with one of the staff, had tea at a Burmese Tea Shop, and went to the Thai/Burma Border...heart breaking (the only words I have...but they don't come close!). In the evening we went to the Safe House...another house the org runs which house 8 children who were living on the street 2 years ago...the children are thriving and getting to go to school. They have so much energy, I was worn out after playing with them for just a few hours...blessings to the house parents!

Day 11...The Drop In Center, a place for street kids to come and have time to play and have a meal or two. If the Burma border broke my heart this was a million times worse! I met a 7 year old boy who crosses the border everyday with his 1 year old sister to beg and collect things to recycle...he also looks for several of his siblings who have disappeared. All I could find myself praying is "God you see them, please surround them and take care of them...there is NOTHING I can do to fix this!!!"

Day 12... Mae Sot Garbage Dump to visit families who make the dump their home. The thing I was told to remember...the living conditions at the dump are better than their lives in Burma...this blows my mind! The families we met were so wonderful and the org we went with is being so intentional about building relationships with the families in order to share HOPE with them. My mind is still spinning with the reality of people whose reality it is to live in the sewage and waste of society.

Day 14... Back to Chiang Mai...spent the rest of the day just hanging out around town.

Day 15...Back to Bangkok...took some time to process.

Day 16...Chelsea goes back to California and I stay in Bangkok for 1 more day.

Day 17...Meet Heather at the Bangkok airport and head to Vietnam! Arrived in Danang to Audrey and Robin's huge smiles! Then there was the trick of getting my luggage to the house...Robin took my huge suitcase on the back of his motorbike...I'm impressed!!! I rode on Audrey's motorbike...traffic in Vietnam is CRAZY...literally every one just goes and weaves in and out...ahhh I closed my eyes for most of the ride!

Day 18...International Children's Day Event...spent the day with Audrey and Robin at an event they helped organize for the children who live in orphanages in the city. I painted faces for 5 hours painting skills were much much better by the end of the day!!!

Day 19... Hung out with friends! Coffee, manicures, pedicures, dinner with friends...literally such a great day!! One fun adventure...Kait took me for a ride along the waterfront and on our way back it began to rain and then POUR! We were soaking wet by the time we got back to the was hilarious!!!

Day 20... Climbed Marble Mountain! Ok there were steps so I didn't actually "climb a mountain" but it was such a workout! The view from the top was so beautiful! The rest of the afternoon I spent reading while Kait was at work and then last night we had dinner at a cafe called Bread of org. that trains and employs deaf individuals to bake (baked goods are all the rage here!!) of my other friends volunteers there. It is so fun to see where all my friends live and work!

Day 21...Today...hanging out with Kait at work (writing this blog) and helping out where I can.

Plans...(and we all know how those work in Southeast Asia)... tomorrow we are going to Hoi An and then next Wednesday I am heading back to Thailand for a few days to explore/travel with Heather...I'm super excited!

How's that for an update!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I'm Off...Again!

Well it seems like May is always "that time of year" when I pack up my bags and head off to Southeast Asia...and this year is no different! In just a few hours, 5 hours to be exact, I will be boarding a plane to spend a month overseas - I couldn't be more excited or blessed!

For the first two weeks I will be in Thailand with one of my friends Chelsea, who is looking to commit to serve with an organization in Thailand for 2 years. Before she made a 2 year commitment she wanted to visit Thailand and the organization (smart move) and well I sort of volunteered myself to go with her (I think she is excited about me going with her though...I hope!) since Thailand is my other home. We will be spending 1/2 of our time in Chiang Mai (being toursits...which will be an adventure) and the other half with the organziation in a Burma border town seeing what they do and meeting their staff.

The second two weeks I will spend in Vietnam with a bunch of friends who live in Danang. I have no formal plans with them...but all I know is they live near the beach and there are tons of coffee shops...I think I will survive just fine! I promise I won't just be lounging around for 2 weeks...I will also be helping out however I can at the organizations my friends work for.

I know some of you may have heard about the protests in Thailand (and some of you have even voiced some concern about my travels)...I promise I have taken a lot of precautionary steps for my time in Bangkok, including only being there as little as possible. However, the situation is still unstable and I would ask for your prayers for peace. Chelsea and I are not feeling fearful about the situation and really belive that the Lord has created this time and space for us to be in Thailand specifically - so we go in full faith that the Lord will guide us, strengthen us and use us as He sees fit (whether or not we are "safe").

My hope and prayer for this journey is to really encourage and love on my friends who have committed at least a portion of their lives to overseas service...they give so much and my hope is to pour back into them as much as possible (and to maybe ride an elephant or two!).


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Go ahead...throw a wrench at me!

On Thanksgiving weekend you would think that I would be well aware of how many things I have to be thankful for...but I think it was tonight on my super long drive to church (literally an hour...I love my church!!) that I had one of those moments where I was in awe of how blessed I am. I was driving west, into the sunset, on a cloudless and pleasantly cool evening with a Venti Non-fat Peppermint Half-caf latte (with whip cream instead of foam) while listening to Coblie Caillat (that I got for $6.50 @ an after Thanksgiving sale at Target)...and it hit me...well actually IT hit my car...but it hit me...a wrench (an actual wrench) hit my car (and actually it was my mom's know the almost like new Honda Civic)! I saw the car in front of me run over the wrench and the wrench banged around underneath it a bit before it flew out the back end and started bouncing on the freeway towards me. A million thoughts ran through my head...can I get over? NO...I am surrounded by cars; if I slow down will that make a difference? I don't know? What if it hits my windshield? Will my windshield shatter? Will I be knocked out...oh man this could get real bad real fast!!! But...thankfully it just hit the front of my mom's car and flew into the lane next to me where it had time to settle on the road before the car in the lane next to me got to it. My next thought...why is there a wrench flying around on the freeway? Next thought...oh man...I hope the front of my mom's car isn't damaged...the one time I take her car! (Actually last Thanksgiving weekend I took her car to go meet a friend and while it was parked in a parking spot some other car that was trying to park totally hit her car...I think I shouldn't drive her car anymore!)

Anyway all that to say that I am so blessed! I am so blessed to have a car to drive (and a mom that let's me drive her car too). I am blessed to live in Southern California where I get to see amazing sunsets everyday and have amazing weather. I am soooo blessed to have a job so I can afford my Venti frou-frou latte from Starbucks (who a great company who works with coffee growers all over the world and gives them a fair price for their coffee...ex: the coffee growers I work with in Thailand) and a new CD that costs more than what a person lives off of for a week in a developing country. AND I am so blessed that I am alive and breathing and didn't have a wrench go through my windshield tonight! There are a million other things that I am thankful for many of which I probably don't think about most days...but I am going to try to be more appreciative for the little and everyday things! And I am also going to continue to be thankful even when there are wrenches hurdling my way at 50 mph (literally and metaphorically!)

Oh...and if you were wondering...there appears to be no damage to my mom's car (from my brief inspection in the dark!)...I am sooo thankful!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I freaked out today!

Today was a great day...I got to hang out with an amazing student who has decided that she wants to spend her life doing missions (I mean come could that not be an amazing conversation!); I got to hang out at my most favorite coffee shop in Glendora and have an iced vanilla chai while reading through my journal and reflecting on my life over the past 2 years; I was able to hang out with two amazing friends; and I ate Thai food (ok, not necessarily my personal choice but they love Thai food and I love Thailand so it seemed like a good option at the time)...

And then it happened... I pulled into my driveway after my long and wonderful day and I went to grab my book, my Bible and my journal, but my journal wasn't there! I frantically searched under the seats and in the back of the car and it was no where to be found. At this point I flipped out! Seriously not only are there some really profound observations and my life story in that journal...but also some pieces of information that I DO NOT want other people to know about... that is why it's my journal and not my blog!

So I storm into the house (quite literally...ask my mom) and throw down my purse and ask my mom if we have a flashlight. She responds with..."yeah, why?" I respond with..."I CAN'T FIND MY JOURNAL!!!!" My mom, "oh..." I go back out to the car and look this time all I can think about is that the last time I know I had my journal was at the coffee shop. Maybe I left it on the table or maybe I dropped it on the sidewalk as I walked to my car... ohhh my gosh!!! What if someone reads it! It's not like there is anything in there that would be completely awful if someone read it I guess, but it is just so personal.

I storm back into the house, with tears in my eyes at this point. I start to take deep breaths. My mom tells me she will go out and look for it because "sometimes another set of eyes is all it takes" (I love my mom!! She is so calm! I mean seriously she knows how upset I am and she just keeps me calm) She tells me if she doesn't find it she will drive up there right now with me to go look for it. Too bad the coffee shop is already closed and well...what would you do if you found a journal laying on the sidewalk? Leave it there? Hmmm that is a question to think about for sure!

Anyway, I sort of yell at my mom (not sort of...I do...sorry mom!!) and she goes out with flashlight in hand. I stand in the kitchen and try to collect my thoughts and say a prayer. I hear the doors of the car close. My mom walks into the house. She casually walks into the kitchen and says..."Here you was wedged in between the seat...only a little part of it was showing." Deep breath!

So that is my short story on life today... it was good, I lost my journal, I freaked out, my mom found my journal, and life is still good!

But you wish you knew what was in my journal huh???

Monday, August 31, 2009

Running Shoes...Oh how I've missed thee!!

So yesterday I did it! I braved the 90+ degree heat at 9 am and went for a run, or (if I'm being honest) a jog/walk. It has been so long since I have gone jogging that I forgot how much I love it (even when it is beyon hot outside)!

Only feet weren't so happy. I wore my old running shoes (which I absolutely love) which was a huge mistake. See I took the running shoes to Thailand and wore them in the village quite a bit so they got just a tad bit muddy. When I brought them home I washed them in the washing machine and well the heel part of the shoe is really worn through. I also wore really short socks, which when added to the shoe problem equals some pretty ugle blisters on the back of my feet. Oh's worth it!

Today I signed up for the Surf City Half Marathon. This will be my 3rd one in a row!! So excited!

Well I think that's it! I do have some exciting news to share soon...but it isn't 100% so I don't want to post it on my blog I'll let you know!