Sunday, August 27, 2017

one year in Hong Kong and wow

It's been super hard and super good. 

August 28, 2016, it was a Sunday, I landed in Hong Kong with my purple suitcases stuffed full of my favorite stuff. My best friend picked me up with a sign and a fresh sunflower, bought me fancy icecream, and we sat down in the airport and had a moment. I was in shock and not sure what to feel, so I ate my icecream and asked God for help. 

A year of living in Hong Kong has gone by.

During this year, there's been some Singapore, the Philippines, Holland, England, Thailand (twice), the U.S., China (several times), countless fall-apart meltdown cries, miracles, fun, confusion, and experiencing God be really really good. 

A year ago today, when I landed in my new home in Asia, I had no idea how weak I was. I thought I was pretty strong and pretty ready to take on this new overseas-missionary-living-the-dream life. 

It turns out that my heart is still quite selfish, it's incredibly hard to live 8,013 miles away from my loved ones and my sweet American life, I'm not that great at surrender, I'm spoiled, my emotions are wild and severe, my heart isn't able to love the people He's called me to love, I miss my nephews and niece, and my faith is a pitiful little barely-existing pile. 

Let's all look at God and say "wow."

He loves me. 
He still loves me. 
He still chooses me to be His girl, His companion, His lover, His prize. And when He first picked me to be His, He already knew about all of the selfishness and weakness and sobbing and tiny faith. But He picked me anyway. He's made of mercy. 

Tomorrow, August 28, 2017, on my one-year-in-Hong Kong-celebration day, I'm flying to India for two weeks. That's where I first felt Him nudging me into Asia. I love India. 

He'll love me there, and He'll let me give that love away to lots of pretty Indians. I'm excited. He doesn't let me go to India because I'm selfless. I don't live in Hong Kong because I'm an amazing, qualified missionary-sort-of-person. He's in love with me and in this messy process of becoming the kind of Bride He wants to spend forever with, He enjoys me. That truth- God enjoys me right now- is one I'll be wow'd by forever. 

I wish I could say that living my dream, it really is my dream, in Hong Kong was easy and I'm great at it and I've stopped with the sobbing. But I can't say that. 
What I can say, so truthfully, is that God loves my weak heart. And He loves your's too. And there are weak hearts surrounding me right now, where I sit in a red light district, that He's in love with. And His dream is being together with us. So I'm going to keep living in Hong Kong and letting Him make my weak love stronger, and letting Him love people here through me, however He wants. 

Yeah it's been hard. But it's been amazing. He's pulling people out of dark places and putting them in His family.

When we hold on to our lives, we get to decide what we want to do with them. But what God decides to do with our lives is way better than anything we could come up with. Hard, yes, but so good. And free. And joyful. And fun. 

If you were here, I'd give you a big bowl of cinnamon toast crunch. I've got a giant box because my best friend/boss bought it for me as a one-year-in-hong-kong celebration. Best friend/boss has been with me through the sobs and tantrums and I'm amazed at her steady love. She's patient and God-like and friendship is really important. 

Since you're not here to share a bowl of cereal with, how about you pray for me, that I'll live together with Jesus like what He wants, and that I'll help other people get together with Him, too. 

God loves us. Wow. 

Teach us to surrender, Lord Jesus. And to keep saying "yes" to You. You're big and beautiful and I love you. 

As the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seed to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
-Isaiah 61:11

Friday, August 25, 2017

I'm glad I didn't die

"Together" is one of my favorite words. 

August 25, 2012; it's been five years since I was bloodied up in a hospital in Thailand with missing teeth and a swollen brain and life support helping me breathe. 

When mom and dad flew to Thailand to sit with me in the hospital, 
I was unconscious. I couldn't offer them a nice Thai meal or tell them stories from the past months I'd spent in India or thank them for flying across the world to see me. I couldn't even hug them. 
I laid there bloodied and broken and offered them nothing. Days went by before I even opened my eyes. 

But, like the Lord Jesus when He came down here to show us what God's like, they didn't come so I could impress them. They came to love me. 

It's been five years- my brain has recovered and I got some new fake teeth and mom and dad are still flying across the world to love me. 

They just got back home after spending a month with us* in Hong Kong; loving, sweating, laughing, building stuff, fixing stuff, feeding us, parenting us, being so so good to us. 

I cried when they got here, I cried when they left.

That's the best part of all of it. They're so generous with their together. When they were sitting next to my hospital bed in the ICU in Thailand and when they were building a new dining room table in Hong Kong, they were giving their together. Just being with me; that's all they want, and that's all God wants, too. 

 There's something about someone wanting to be with you that brings life to your heart.  

Our friends, from South Africa to India and several places in between, got loved by them. Dad hugged them all, said, "I love you." Mom smiled and called them "Sugar." My parents are showing me and all my friends from around the world what God's like. He's wonderful. 

If you're broken, weak, have a bleeding head, or missing front teeth, God is crazy about you. He wants to sit next to you and put life back in your barely-breathing body. 

It's Who God is and it's how He made us to be. With Him and with each other, we were built for together.

It's August 25, 2017 and I'm glad I'm still alive.  

*"us" is me and my new Hong Kong family God's given me, made up of beautiful folks from all over the place 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

an invitation to live fascinated

There's this company, iHerb, that delivers health food from America to Hong Kong for a reasonable price and ordering from iHerb is oh so fun. Last time I made an order, I longingly studied the page that was selling Justin's Maple Almond Butter. 

Justin's Maple Almond Butter is the very best of all the nut butters. Justin's is a nut butter company and everything they make is awesome. But it's expensive. I was already ordering a bunch of stuff that I didn't exactly need, so I drew the line and decided I could do without any Justin's stuff. So I didn't order any. 

A couple days later I got an unexpected package in the mail. Unexpected packages make me wanna dance. Especially this one. 
It was from my friend, Cass, in Illinois, who has cool big hair, a sweet and frequent laugh, and listens to God's voice. 

In the package was a jar of Justin's Maple Almond Butter, two varieties of Justin's Chocolate Peanut Butter candy, Justin's Almond Butter pretzel snacks, and a letter that said Holy Spirit had whispered to her in Kroger that I liked Justin's Maple Almond Butter, and that He wanted me to have some. 

My friend had to buy that stuff weeks before my little iHerb sacrifice. God knew I'd be craving it, so He talked to Cass in Kroger in southern Illinois. Three weeks later, I sat at my kitchen table in Hong Kong, fascinated by this love He's loving me with.  

I wish I could tell you I'm strong and stable and not still having extreme ups and downs and not sometimes being tempted to quit it all and fly back to America. But I can't. 

I'm still a weak mess. 

If I were God, I'd be so tired of me. But He's not.  He's holding my insecure heart and helping it to keep saying "yes" to Him. 
He sees me. He see that I want to eat Justin's Maple Almond Butter, so He ships me some. 

He cares so big. 

He's not tired of any of us. Messy, weak, failing; it doesn't matter, He still wants you. He wants to pick you up and hold you and tell you who you are. And He may even want a friend from 8,000 miles away to ship your favorite snacks to you. 

His Love for us is fascinating. 

May you experience the Love of Christ, though it's so great you'll never fully understand it.
-Ephesians 3:19

Thursday, June 15, 2017

freed up

Today I wore a saggy t shirt and my grandpa's ball cap and zero makeup and I ate a few cookies and it felt good. 

There's not a standard God's holding above my head. The bars that I can't ever seem to reach no matter how hard I jump or how many people I try to help or how many sit ups I do or how long I stay on my knees in prayer; God didn't put those bars there. 

He, in fact, doesn't like those bars. 
 He loves me and it's finished. 

The perfect role model, the perfect body, the perfect daughter, the perfect evangelism techniques, the perfect diet, the perfect prayer life, the perfect budget, the perfect friend; 
I can't reach any of it. And that's ok. 

God sees me exactly how I really am, very un-perfect, but very covered up with the perfect righteous ways of Jesus. And He's thrilled with me. 

2 Corinthians 3:5 
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.

God's not disappointed in me. 
God's not disappointed in me. 
God's not disappointed in me.
(Try saying it out loud. That's what I like to do)

I'm not trying to tell you to get lazy, stop trying, or to eat the whole pie for lunch. God's about excellence and sincere effort, while at the exact same time, He's about enjoying helpless little babies who are un-talented. And messy. That's me. 

When I hold those stupid standard bars above my head, I can never reach them. They're unattainable. When I stretch up big and reach hard to touch them but still come up several feet short, it makes me feel like a big pile of ugly awful.
Yeah. I never knew I had these unholy standards, but God's Spirit showed me, real gentle-like one night, that I did. And He told me He wanted to remove them. I told Him He could. He started blowing on all those standard bars (there were several), and when He blew, they disappeared. And I started getting freed up. 

Then He showed me a fabulous verse that's full of good news; 
"bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame." 
Jesus said that in Luke 14:21, talking about who He's wanting at His table. Me! I qualify! I'm poor and crippled and blind and lame and good enough to sit at the same table as the King of kings. 

"You're good enough, you're good enough, you're good enough."
This is the sentence God keeps saying to the deep part of me and those words are going deeper.

The stupid standard bars still pop back up, but He's helping me notice them sooner, and He loves when I invite Him to blow them away. He's the Great Standard-Remover and I love Him. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 
-Romans 8:1

comparative adjective: freer

not or no longer confined or imprisoned.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

steady, deep, give-everything-kind-of-love

Twenty four years ago I heard a Story that changed my life forever. I was five when my mom told me about Jesus. She asked me if I wanted Him to come live inside my heart and I did.  

Before my mom had kids, she told God that if she couldn't raise them up to love Him, then she didn't want Him to give her any. God gave her kids, and she and dad raised us all up knowing and loving Him. 

Jennie Short is my mom. It's one of my favorite things God has ever done for me. He's kind. 

Being loved with a steady, deep, give-everything-kind-of-love changes us, and that's the kind of love mom has loved me and my sisters with. It's the kind of love I want to love everybody I know with, because I've experienced what it does for a heart. That sort of love shows us what God is like, so it's what I want to make up my life. 

Now I live 8,013 miles away and I miss her like crazy, but I'm here because that Man she introduced me to wants me to be. That Man is where the steady, deep, give-everything-kind-of-love is coming from. 

I want to love like Jennie Short loves. 

So thanks for showing me what God's like, mom. Thanks for introducing me to Him. I love Him and I love you.

Happy Mother's Day! And I wish you'd move to Hong Kong. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

painting freedom in the living room floor

I've got a million and 2 distractions. 
Insecurities and doubts and lies and endless to-do lists and thoughts I don't want to be thinking; life's been swamped with them lately. 

We had family painting in the living room floor tonight. Old cardboard boxes and newspapers were our canvases and freedom was our subject.
"We can draw a picture as a prayer. And just let the Holy Spirit speak to us."

I told God I'd like freedom from those million and 2 distractions. I named a couple off, and they seemed huge in size. Like, blocking my view of Him. 

My eyes were closed and Holy Spirit knew He was welcome to fill my imagination, so He did. 

I pictured all those rotten distractions I was stuck in and then pictured the beautiful Man, Lord Jesus, lifting me out of them. He put me on a mountain, way above all the distractions.

Then the best scene filled my mind; 
me and Jesus standing forehead to forehead. 

The distractions had shrunk down to pitiful tiny-looking things way way below us, and me and Jesus were in a clear space, simply focused on each other. Forehead to forehead. Eye to eye. So close we're one. 

I got the idea this is how He wants us to live. And He's gonna help make it happen.

A bride who doesn't want to look at her groom isn't a great bride. But a bride who can't take her eyes off her groom, that's the kind he wants. Jesus said His people are His bride. And He wants us to look at Him. 

Jesus, help us stand forehead to forehead with you and to live like that. You're worth looking at. 

p.s. today's my big sister's birthday. she's played a huge part in making me want to look at Jesus. she's awesome times 100. happy birthday, kara jo. i love you from garden gate to the cheesecake factory in hong kong.

Lift up your eyes on high and see Who has created these stars...
-Isaiah 40:26

Monday, April 10, 2017

how high-fives & parties could help us all

Hearts that are hurting and big disappointment for the way life is turning out and confusion and boredom and other hard stuff. Life is a bummer sometimes. I get it. 

But I also know there are trees who's branches bloom flowers. There are ladies who are leaving the sex industry and getting to know Jesus as their closest friend. The sun is shining today. The clouds are moving like they know what they're doing and they feel peace about it. The Maker of life is good and He loves us.  

There's plenty of hope to go around, enough for all of us to get handfuls and heartfuls, and hope likes hanging balloons up above doorways. So that's what I've been doing. 

Celebration seems to sort of step on the pain and disappointment and squish it down a little so it doesn't seem so big and have so much say-so as to how you feel. So I've been celebrating. 

God likes celebrating. He likes celebrating visitors and little changes happening in our hearts and friendship and thoughtfulness and you and me. I don't think He hesitates before handing out high-fives or inviting a friend out to her favorite restaurant or buying a present for someone who's sad. He's eager to love us big and loving big sometimes involves celebration. 

The more thankful my heart becomes, the more I want to celebrate. I'm thinking life should be full of celebration. Daily parties. Celebrating doesn't mean we have to pretend like the hurt and bad and dark isn't there, it means we face it and just decide to cheer anyway. When we know there's a Being stronger and bigger than all of the hurt and bad and dark, we get to celebrate. 

Sadness isn't a stranger to me. I cry sad cries several times a week. I'm still homesick. I still sometimes sit around wishing I was better than what I am. During my time with God today, I got distracted and started googling brownie recipes. Last night, I was laying in the floor crying because I miss my family so bad and continuing life 8,000 miles away from them seemed like more than I could chew. 

But tonight, with my new Hong Kong family, we made a banner out of newspaper and marker that said, "CELEBRATE." We blew up a couple balloons, made an awesome dinner, baked brownies, and celebrated that God is our dad and provides for us. It was like a birthday party minus the birthday and it was fun. And it felt like He was proud of us.  

 I can find about 85,696,879 reasons to celebrate as I look around my life. I have a new washing machine because people on the other side of the planet believe in what God's doing with my life in Hong Kong and give me money (thank you, everybody). I'm living the life I dreamed about living for 10 years. I have more than enough of everything I need. My boss is also my black sister and BFF. I live in a wonderful home that I got to decorate with funny cool stuff. I'm watching God do what He wants to do inside of people's hearts and it's beautiful. God is my dad. I could keep going for a super long time. But I'll stop. 

Celebrating helps my perspective be more like God's and less like a sad little crumple crying on the floor because she's homesick.

I don't know what sort of things happen in your life to make you crumple in the floor, or maybe you don't crumple, but just live every day in a fairly boring routine and don't feel much joy about it. If you're in any kind of place that feels ugh and stuck, I bet if you looked around, you could find some reasons to celebrate. 

Let's do it. 
Let's hang up some just-because celebration banners, blow up some balloons, high-five the thoughtfully-designed person next to us, 
invite our friends over and bake their favorite dessert for them, cheer when we see how pretty the moon looks tonight, and then thank God we're alive.

"It's one of the big things. People don't stop and celebrate enough. 
I bet Heaven is full of balloons."

-Cindy Torres, 
missionary serving rescued kids in Thailand & 
one of my closest friends

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

changing flights for last days and a funeral

January 31, 2017 
4:32 pm

I'm somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. I have 4,040 miles to go until I land in Seattle.

It's my first trip home since moving to Hong Kong in August and it was planned last minute, kind of thrown together. 

My first trip home was supposed to be in March, I was going to surprise my family for my Neice and Nephew's birthdays. They're turning 1 and 3. But then my Grandma went into the hospital and they say she won't be coming out. 

I called Delta and paid a fee and got my flight changed; from a birthday party in March to a funeral in February. 

My Grandma Darlene and I are close friends. For the past five months, we've been penpals. She writes her letters on floral paper that reminds me of her pink lipstick, they're filled with who's been visiting her, who's been calling her, who's been taking her to the doctor appointments. They're filled with the connections her heart's been having with other hearts. So she'd write it down like diary entries on her floral paper, put it in an envelope with an international stamp, and mail it to her granddaughter in Asia. 

She ended each letter with how much she loved me and how much she missed me.

The letters became harder to read over the months. Then they stopped coming.

She's on her deathbed now, looking as pretty as ever. 

Celebrating a life's beginning is important. A life lived for 1 year and a life lived for 3 years; they deserve presents and balloons and a cake and fun games with Papa. But celebrating a life's end is important, too. 

Grandma wrote down the connections she had with other humans, the visits and meals and phone calls,  because those connections are what matter to her. So I'm flying across the ocean to connect with her in her last days. 

I'm not sure if she'll still be alive by the time I reach Illinois. But I hope so. I'd like to hold her hand again and tell her how much I love her letters and how pretty she looks and how excited I am for her to be in her Creator's Arms soon, in the place where everything is right. 

February 13, 2017
8 p.m.

Today I held my grandma's hand as she died. 

This morning I was on my way to the airport, going to fly back to Hong Kong, when my dad mentioned changing my flight so I could go to the funeral. I'd got to spend time with her, but it seemed that I'd be missing the funeral as the end hadn't come yet and I had a flight to catch. But today, my fly-back-to-Hong Kong-day, my aunt texted from the hospital, saying the end was very near. 

Was there any flight, any responsibility that mattered more than being with my grandma's last moments and funeral? No. Not that I could think of. I called my boss (and BFF) in Hong Kong, she said "change the flight and stay." So we drove to the airport, and $350 later, my flight was moved to Saturday and we were making the 3-hour drive to the hospital, mom and dad and me. 

She was still alive when we got there. Over the next few hours, I got to watch her move into Heaven. I got to hold her hand. I got to watch my mom kiss her on the cheek and whisper "I love you, mom."

It's exactly how grandma would've dreamed it. All four of her kids right next to her. God's kindness was on display. 

Her strong and rapid beating heart finished its task and angels carried her past gates made out of pearl, into a place where angels sing and love has won, and right up to the Man Himself. I imagine He hugged her big then kissed her, and she probably called Him "Honey."

I'm thrilled for her and waiting for my turn. 

Until then, I'm going to keep getting closer to the God who is good.  I'm going to spend a few more days on the farm, go to a funeral and celebrate grandma's life, then fly back to Hong Kong and let Jesus keep directing my days. What a trustworthy Lover He is. 

February 14, 2017
1:46 p.m.

Hanging out on my favorite farm, my heart's packed with thankfulness. God died so He could have a bride. I love that Grandma's with Him, I love that I'm on this farm, I love that He's writing my life, I love how our hearts are connected. 

Happy Valentine's Day.