Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Three Book Recommendations

I've recently turned over a new leaf and am actually finishing the books that I begin reading. It's quite fulfilling.

Recently I've finished three books that I would consider some of the best I've ever read. Here they are, in order of my completion.



My favorite book genre is biography and one of my favorite subjects is comparative religion. This book is a beautiful medley of both. I love that he recounts his experience of growing up in Islam with such respect and love for Muslims. He succeeded at enabling me to understand why so many would devoutly follow Islam, while also making me very thankful for the unique message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Nabeel's an incredibly gifted speaker and has tons of videos on YouTube sharing his story, including this promo for the book.



I'll be honest. I bought this book because I thought the cover was pretty and decided it would look good sitting in my bedroom. Before purchasing it, my only previous exposure to Heidi was a classic film adaptation that I saw as a child (which I don't remember anything about other than Heidi shouting "Grandfather! Grandfather!":). Well, once I started reading it I was blown away. Not only is the book incredibly relaxing due to its beautiful imagery of the Swiss Alps landscape, it is also filled with rich spiritual truths. In fact, I can see God's hand in guiding me to this pretty book as its lessons deeply comforted me in the midst of struggling with a lot of unanswered prayer. This book has even renewed my interest in fiction. For some reason since my teens I've considered reading fiction a waste of time. However, this book is proof enough for me that we can learn so much from stories, even if they are completely imagined.



I've read a number of books on depression. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the very best. Zack Eswine, guided by the teachings of Charles Spurgeon, presents practical tools for dealing with sorrow of all kinds, whether you're the one who's struggling or simply trying to help one who is. Every aspect of the topic is addressed with such empathy and understanding that I think any reader would come away feeling comforted and in no way condemned. Read it. :)


Okay that's all for now... I really hope to soon finish some books that I've been slowly inching through for years (literally), such as When Helping Hurts and Good News About Injustice.

Bye!


All images via amazon.com

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The God Who Sees

This past Friday was one of those days. It was a leave-work-early-and-cry-half-the-way-home kind of day. Soon after pulling out of my work parking lot, I decided to stop somewhere to grab some comfort food. I’ve been sick with a cold all week so a hot bowl of soup sounded like just what I needed. So, I drove to the mall near my house to stop inside the Panera.

Well, when I got to Panera the line of customers was almost to the door. I was not about to stand for that long so I figured I’d just quickly walk over to Starbucks to get some hot tea and a snack. As soon as a chai latte and heavenly slice of pumpkin bread were in my hands, I began heading for the car. Now this particular Starbucks is connected to a Barnes and Noble and I always like to exit by walking through the bookstore first. As I strolled between the rows of bookshelves, I somehow caught glimpse of a book entitled Unafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe World. I opened it up to a random page and whatever I read immediately struck a chord with me. Next thing I knew, I was at the front counter paying for it.

I went home. I called my dad and emailed a friend to vent about the troubles of the day. Though that did help me detox and process things a bit, I still felt very defeated. I finally curled up on the couch with a blanket and opened up this random book I’d just bought.


People, it was creepy… in a good way. I have never before read a book that so precisely described pretty much everything I struggle with. I really can’t get over it. It was as if God had emailed the author Susie Davis a list of all my lifelong and current issues, writing “ideas for your new book” in the subject line. It got really weird when she quoted and discussed a song by Penny and Sparrow. Penny and Sparrow, my favorite and not very well known musical duo that I’ve seen in concert three times in the last year and have an inside joke about yoga pants with. ;) What?!

As tears rolled down my face in light of the comforting relatability and transforming truths of this book, I couldn’t help but be amazed at God’s guiding hand over the day. I realized that if I had not had a bad day at work and had not been sick with a cold, I never would have left work early and driven to the mall. If there had not been a long line at Panera, I never would have ended up walking through this bookstore. All of the little frustrations of the day had a domino effect of leading me to this book that God knew would connect with me right where I was at.

At some point in the book, Davis mentions the Genesis 16 story in which Hagar is fleeing her mistress Sarai. After the angel of the Lord comes to speak to Hagar, “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me’” (NIV, v. 13). On Friday God showed me how intimately He really does see me. He saw the truth about my life better than anyone else and desired to tenderly care for me through it.

This all provides comfort as I look ahead to the next few months that, Lord willing, will be filled with several changes. Next week I will finish working at the preschool that I have worked at for the last two years. In June I will work in an administrative position alongside a friend at an environmental testing company. In July I will be hosting friends visiting from Kentucky, visiting my sister and friends in Oregon, and packing up most of my stuff. In August my dad and I will road trip out to Missouri where I will begin training with New Tribes Mission. Though I'm so excited about it all, I definitely have had long nights of lying awake, dreading it all out of fear... Fear that I'll be bad at my temporary position in June... Fear that I'll get in an accident during one of my summer travels... Fear that I won't make any friends while in training... The list goes on and on.

As I begin a new season of life this coming Friday, I hope that I can hold onto what I learned this last Friday. I hope I can remember that He is the God who sees me, who is sovereignly guiding me through the story He has written of my life, and who will tenderly care for me through all of it.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Brave

A few years ago I went to China to visit an American friend from San Diego. One day she introduced me to a national friend of hers that she thought I’d have something in common with. That woman and I hit it off pretty well and we ended up deciding to go find someplace to eat while my friend got some work done.

My new acquaintance and I hopped into a cab and started heading for a restaurant that she liked. While riding in the cab she said to me, “You are very brave!” I couldn't figure out what she was referring to, so I asked. She replied, “You just got into a taxi and are going across town with someone you don’t even know!”

I kinda laughed it off but inwardly thought, Oh shoot, didn't even think of that… Should I be more cautious? She’s a friend of a friend so this can’t be that dangerous of a situation, right? I almost wanted to correct her by saying, “Actually, I’m probably just a little too trusting and laid-back to have even considered why I shouldn't get in a cab with a practical stranger in the middle of China!”

It actually turned out to be a really fun day in which this new Chinese friend questioned if I was truly American due to my ability to handle the heat of the traditional dishes she introduced me to :) But I just recently remembered her comment about me being brave because I have been getting that kind of comment a bit more lately. Often when I talk about my interest in doing church-planting in an unreached tribe in the middle of nowhere, I tend to get some form of “You’re so brave” in response. And just like in the Chinese cab, I still find the word “brave” a bit unfitting.

However, this time it’s not due to being too trusting or laid-back. More like the exact opposite. In fact, I often wake up in the middle of the night in a hot sweat, panicking about the various disasters that will surely befall me once my ministry goals actually come true. My mind paints vivid scenes over the darkness of my room of what horrific things could happen out there in the middle of nowhere. 

But then I wake up in the morning. I rush to get ready and set off on my regular commute to work. As I get on the freeway I have a wide open view of the sky and can’t help but imagine myself flying through it on a plane to somewhere far away. Gone are my worries from the night before and I want nothing more than to be transported to a village in which I can sit on the ground and chat with ladies in their local dialect.

I tend to vacillate between these two approaches on life -- complete paranoia and daydreamy denial. Often before I travel, I enter into the paranoia state. I'm convinced that either my plane is going to crash or if I actually make it to my destination I'm going to contract some rare form of Hepatitis there. The daydreamy denial segment begins once I step foot in the airport. Airports give me some kind of adrenaline rush that convinces me I'm officially living life to it's fullest and my wildest dreams are about to come true. 

Do either one of these approaches reflect a spirit of bravery? Ha, probably not. The Merriam-Webster definition of “brave” is “having or showing courage.” The definition of “courage” is “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”. I think if I were able to take my two above-described ways of thinking and calm them down a bit, I might be on my way to a bit of bravery. If my paranoia were reduced to a healthy acknowledgment of danger and my daydreamy denial were turned into hopeful excitement -- and if I could maintain these perspectives simultaneously -- I think I might be brave. Does that make any sense? I mean that if I could consistently charge onto my goals with hopeful excitement while acknowledging (or experiencing) the likely dangers, I could say, "Yep, I'm pretty brave." 

I can’t help but write this without thinking of the classic Joshua 1:9 reference. “I repeat, be strong and brave! Don't be afraid and don't panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do” (NET). It seems that both my fear and denial are rooted in the realization that I cannot handle the hard things that come in life. Luckily, as this verse points out, the recipe for being strong and brave is knowing that He's the One who has to handle everything.

If I can remember that He's kind, present, and ultimately in control of it all, I can react differently when I wake up in the middle of the night in a hot sweat. I can remember all the mind-blowingly* awesome things God's taken me through so far and look forward to the even more mind-blowingly awesome things He's probably leading me into next. I can acknowledge that some of the scary things I fear could actually come to pass. But He'll be with me, so there's no need to panic. 


* I am aware that this is not a real word. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Delete

I just hit the "delete" button on a lot of this blog's older posts. Why? Well, because I'm going to actually start telling people about this blog instead of keeping it a secret among close friends. I'm hoping to be able to use this as a place to update people on my journey with New Tribes Mission. So, given the chance that I'll start receiving a tad more traffic here, I felt it was time to delete the most embarrassing things I've put up (emphasis on "most"... there are still plenty of things on here that I find embarrassing:).

One way people might find out about my blog is through this little card I made:


It's not my favorite picture of myself but it's the best I have right now:) I had a bunch printed and hope to hand some out at an event I'm speaking at on Saturday. On the back it has info on how one can financially support me if they would like to. I need $340 more dollars a month to cover housing and training fees. Then I'm thinking I'll need at least a few more hundred a month to cover food, gas, etc. I'm trying to save as much as I can right now in case I can't get much in donations.

Anyway, at the event I plan on showing this video about my friends Mark and Holly's completed church plant and Bible translation work. You should check it out!

Monday, February 2, 2015

News


Hi:) So the last few weeks have been filled with one bizarre physical ailment after the other, the latest being an infected nerve in my mouth. I don't even really know what that means. But thankfully I'm now on antibiotics and a couple different pain relievers, so my mouth, jaw, head, neck, and back should stop throbbing sometime in the next few days. 

Anyway, one good thing about not feeling well is you finally have a legitimate excuse to not work on your to-do list. So with this pain-induced downtime I've got, I figured I should pop on this old blog and say hello. 

Here's the latest news in my world:

In December I was officially accepted to begin training with New Tribes Mission this August. I'm very excited to begin a new phase of my life. I'm excited to move to a new place, meet new people, learn new stuff, etc... Most of all I'm excited that this means (Lord-willing) I will get to work full-time in missions for the rest of my life! I can't think of anything more awesome:) A year ago I was paralyzed by fears and had no direction on what next steps to take in life. I can't believe how far God has brought me from that depressing time. It's not that I don't ever have doubts or fears anymore... It's just that God seems to overcome them everyday for me... He's continually reassuring me that He will continue to guide and care for me just as He has up to this point. 

So what am I doing until August? Well, I am...

- Trying to develop a bit of a "support base". I'm mainly just trying to figure out ways for people to get and stay informed on what I'm doing. I also of course want to let them know how they can financially support me if they'd want to. My church's missions committee is hosting an event I'll be speaking at this month, so that should help a bit. I also hope to get an email list going and use this blog for more missions-related stuff in the future.

- Trying to get rid of junk. Literally. I've been digging through my closet, my attic, my cupboards... Anywhere there could be excess stuff that I don't use or hold a strong sentimental connection to. I'm going to probably be moving a lot over the next few years (or the rest of my life) and really want to simplify things as much as possible. I think it's helping me be honest with myself about my materialism and evaluate what is really essential. 

-  Trying to work hard and save up money. I work at a preschool Monday through Friday and I work at a church doing childcare on Sunday (often right after teaching Sunday School at my church... but that's for free:). It's honestly very exhausting and very poorly-paying work. I had a little meltdown last week when I thought about how little I make in light of all of the higher education I've received. It can be discouraging, but I try to remind myself daily that God has me exactly where He wants me and that He will provide for all of my needs. I'm also doing my best to not spend money on more junk:) 

- Trying to read The Bible more. Honestly, when I was getting my Bachelor's in Biblical Studies and Master's in Missiology, my Bible reading habit suffered a ton. I got really into books about theology, ministry, and culture... but somehow felt less of a need to immerse myself in Scripture. That makes absolutely no sense and so I'm working to reverse it. What has really helped me lately is simply leaving my Kindle at home and always having my little ESV in my purse. I just pull it out at random free moments throughout the day (I will never be a "morning devotional" kind of person:).

- Trying to get stronger. I have been living with chronic pain since 2009. I spent about four years going to different physical therapists, chiropractors, alternative medicine centers, etc. Nothing seemed to help. I think at some point I just kind of gave up and started simply avoiding anything that could potentially provoke more pain. One of those things is exercising. However, during my summer travels I had to do a lot of exercising, especially when I was in Papua New Guinea with New Tribes. I decided there that something had to change. I have been working on developing a discipline of regular hiking, jogging, pilates, and yoga. Some days are really hard, but overall, I am actually experiencing less pain. I'm hoping that over the next several months I will develop more consistency, greater endurance, and even less pain. 



Well, that's all for now:)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hello

Yesterday I lost a very special ring of mine and when I told a friend about it she said, "Now you gotta go retrace your steps like you wrote about in your last blog post." I didn't know what she was talking about for a few seconds... and then it clicked. Oh gosh. I have a blog. The last time I wrote on it I talked about losing two rings... and that was months ago... Oh shoot... People actually read that thing?! How embarrassing...

Yes, I get very embarrassed when I've found out that people have read my blog. Yet ironically it also makes me feel like I should write on it again. 

So here I am, writing something that potentially one to three people will read sometime in the next few months:) 

So what have I been up to since writing in May?

Well, here are the highlights:

June 2014 
  • Went to an amazingly fun Penny & Sparrow concert with friends
  • Traveled with my dad to upstate New York (to visit his family) and Montreal, Quebec
  • Traveled to Papua New Guinea  and decided what to do for the rest of my life (no big deal;)

July 2014
  • Began the application process to begin training with New Tribes Mission (the thing I decided to do for the rest of my life)
  • Came home from PNG

August 2014
  • Briefly came home to California then left for Portland, Oregon to visit my big sister and friends
  • Did a bunch of presentations on my trip to PNG
  • Got back to work (at a preschool)

September 2014
  • Started getting serious about managing my chronic pain (doing regular yoga and pilates-type exercise, trying to eat less foods associated with inflammation, increasing my intake of minerals like magnesium, trying to develop a better sleep habit, maintain better posture, etc.)

October 2014
  • Celebrated my 28th birthday

November 2014
  • Went to another awesome Penny & Sparrow concert
  • Attended a yoga class taught by Tara Stiles, founder of Strala Yoga
  • Traveled to Louisville, KY for a friend's wedding and to spend my Thanksgiving break with friends

And that's where I'm at right now! When I fly back home after this trip I will have been on 20 flights this year (besides the trips I just mentioned, I also came to Louisville in April).

Hopefully my New Tribes application stuff wraps up soon and if all goes well I'll be moving to Missouri in August to begin two years of training. Yay:)

Okay, bye!

P.S. I was going to post pictures to go with each point but I'm too lazy for that right now. So if you want to see pictures of most of those events, you can visit my Instagram:)




Friday, May 2, 2014

Seven Things I’ve Been Doing Instead of Blogging

1) Making a list of reasons why I should never blog again (e.g. it’s too trendy, I shouldn’t share personal information over the Internet, I have nothing interesting to talk about, etc.)

2) Traveling – I just went to Louisville for ten days to visit friends. It was incredible beyond words… I can’t believe there are so many awesome, caring, and encouraging people all in one little city.

3) Planning more travel – I work at a preschool and have the summer off. Two days after my last day of work I will be on a plane to Montreal, Quebec. I’m actually going to be visiting family in upstate New York but will get to see a bit of Canada on the way in and out. Two days after I return from the East Coast I will be on a plane to Papua New Guinea to volunteer for six weeks. Probably a week or two after I return from that I will be on a plane to Portland, Oregon to visit my sister.

4) Reading – I finished A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. Life-changing. Right now I’m working on Peace Child by Don Richardson and When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. After finishing those two, I hope to finish Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield. I MUST read two books at once!

5) Wearing Chacos – It seems like everyone in Louisville wears Chacos and somehow pulls them off. When I lived there, I tried a couple pair that I thought looked a little less crazy, but they weren’t that comfy. After my recent trip I decided to just get standard ones and they are the most supportive shoes I’ve ever worn. I feel like I could walk in them for hours.

 
6) Watching Portlandia – I don’t watch TV but at the end of the day when I’m in my bedroom, trying to get sleepy, I like to watch a clip or two of Portlandia (or The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon). Below is my favorite sketch:
 
 
 
7) Trying to Figure Out What to Do With My Life – Oh the ongoing struggle!