Tag Archive | Inspiration

Of Bugs and Women

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When I was a freshman in college, my worst enemy was science, and the most evil science of all was biology. On a really good day I might be able to be talked into tolerating chemistry or even physics, but all my politeness escapes me when you put a preserved frog in front of me and ask me to pull out its tongue to see how long it is, or when my teacher serves me a plate of dead worms and asks me to dissect it with a couple of straight pins. So it goes without saying that the only reason “Environmental Biology” was on my class schedule was because it was a mandatory class. I tried to tell myself that since it is environmental biology, we might just be looking at things like weather and not have to take any body parts out of dead animals. Halfway through the semester, I still didn’t need to dissect anything so I figured I was safe. Still, I had to work to find positive aspects of the class, and on one particular night, I didn’t have to work that hard (at least at first) to find a positive. The class was doing a field study in the park a couple blocks down from my mom’s house. That meant I didn’t have to drive thirty minutes to class, and I didn’t have to leave home that early. When I got to the park and received my instructions however, I would rather have driven two hours than do what my teacher wanted me to do.

 

“Now I want you to walk down to the edge of the pond and start digging with your hands and collect any insects that you find into this cup.” The woman was actually serious about this! With our hands?! You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m the one that uses the kind of glue where my hand is a foot and a half away from the glue so that I don’t get my hand sticky or dirty, and now you want me to stick my hands in the mud to find those horrible loathsome crawlers? However, I was in college now, and grades mattered so I held my breath and did as she asked. The first few minutes were gruesome, but as the class went on, it wasn’t as bad. Now don’t get me wrong. It was still bad, just not as bad.

 

Afterwards, I made a point to forget about that night, or at least pretend I forgot about it. Then one night I saw a huge bug on my bedroom wall. Normally I would have screamed bloody murder (yes, even in college) and run downstairs to make my brother kill it before I would even set foot in my bedroom again. This time, I just took a tissue, grabbed it, threw it out, and went back to what I was doing. I had seen and picked up so many insects at the pond that they don’t have the same effect on me as they used to.

 

I am reminded of that change in me regarding insects as I think about what God has done in the past few months. If you have been reading my blog from the beginning, you know that God has performed some marvelous victories on my behalf and brought me through several breakthroughs. I remember my church cheering when I told them about my victory against suicide and the thrilled smiles on the faces of those who care about me when I told them God had defeated depression and the pain resulting from the sexual abuse I endured as a child. A few weeks after I’ve given those testimonies of victory however, I’ve often sat in stony and painful silence (or sometimes wailed in agony) over a suicide temptation or a horrible bout of depression or anxiety. Sometimes God would bring me to another victory, and I would blog about it, but the enthusiasm (both mine and my hearers’) would wane as we think to ourselves, “But we thought she was already over it. How do we know this isn’t just a ‘good spell’ until the next crash comes?” I know I may be putting thoughts in your head, but I know these thoughts have definitely crossed my mind, and maybe, if you’ve been along for a good portion of the journey, it may have crossed your minds as well. That is what I’d like to address today.

 

Remember my field study at the pond? Did that experience guarantee that I would never see another insect again? Of course not. I have seen lots of insects more frightening than any I saw that day. Sometimes I still gasp and cringe as I pound it with my shoe, but the bottom line is I go after it instead of run from it. This is not because I’m all of a sudden braver than I was before that field study. I just saw the insects for what they were – a lot smaller than me, and very ugly, but very defeatable.

 

After I got my hands dirty and dealt with the ugly insects of depression and suicide, it didn’t mean I was no longer going to see those insects again. It just means that when they do show up, even though I gasp and put up a noisy (and sometimes clumsy) fight, I now see them for what they are – a lot smaller than me because of Christ in me, and very ugly, but very defeatable. That is the real victory. Even though the emotional crashes still come (I had an ugly one today) and they’re painful, I can thank God that in his wisdom he has chosen some healings to be a process instead of an event, and that in his infinite love and power he has defeated all my enemies and and put them under my shoe, I mean feet. This must be why they call the Christ in me thing the hope of glory!

I Can’t Help It!

I’ve always had a major issue with the disciple John, until today that is. The issue I had with him was that he called himself, “the one that Jesus loved.” Every time I read that, I wanted to strangle him. “So you don’t think Jesus loved any of the other disciples?” I wanted to ask him. “What makes you better than all the rest?” Even when my professor at Moody Bible Institute explained that John was just stating a fact and that he wasn’t comparing himself with anyone else, I still thought of John as a bit arrogant for saying that. After tonight though, I understand perfectly where he’s coming from.

 

I’ve talked at length about the love that I’ve received from my church. Tonight though, as I drove home after Bible study, I really began to connect the pieces and truly own the lessons that God has been teaching me through their demonstration of love. I was driving along as usual and then I suddenly had a deep rooted understanding that I was safe, I was cared for, and I was valued, of course first and foremost by God but not only that, by other people too! As that understanding grew, a light bulb went on in my head as I added the parts of the equation together. I thought, “Wait a minute, if I’m safe, cared for, and valued, why, that must mean I’m loved – a lot!”

 

You know what’s the first thing I wanted to do after I realized that in the core of my being? You got it! I wanted to tell everyone! I hesitated a bit because I thought it might sound stand-offish, but then I thought, “I’m so excited I have to share this! I can’t help it” Then I thought of the disciple John and I understood. He wasn’t arrogant, he just really gets it, and when you really get it, you can’t stop talking about it because it’s too amazing to keep to yourself.

 

I’m quoting the entire song “When I was Lost” because it’s the first thing that erupted from my mouth when I understood how loved I was in a fresh way tonight. It describes the exhilaration perfectly.

 

When I was lost you came and rescued me
Reached down into the pit and lifted me
O Lord, such love: I was as far from you as I could be
You know all the things I've ever done
But Jesus' blood has canceled every one
O Lord, such grace, to qualify me as your own

There is a new song in my mouth
There is a deep cry in my heart
A hymn of praise to Almighty God - hallelujah!
And now I stand firm on this Rock
My life is hidden now with Christ in God
The old has gone and the new has come - hallelujah!
Your love has lifted me

Now I have come into your family
For the Son of God has died for me
O Lord, such peace: I am as loved by you as I could be
In the full assurance of your love
Now with every confidence we come
O Lord, such joy to know that you delight in us

Many are the wonders you have done
Many are the things that you have planned
How beautiful the grace that gives to us all that we don't deserve
All that we cannot earn but is a gift of love

Hey wait a minute, this is the same song that erupted out of my mouth on the night of my salvation! I told you! Every time you start to understand this kind of extravagant love, you can’t help but open your mouth and shout, “I am the one Jesus loves!”

Lessons From a Bad Hair Day

Somethings are so horrible you have to blog about it, namely, my haircut. If you are a guy reading this, please excuse the drama, for there’s no way you could understand. Ladies, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Last night, I looked in the mirror and got disgusted with my previous haircut which wasn’t even straight and grabbed a coupon and headed to a local salon. When I came home, I was in tears and vowed never to leave the house until my hair grew out and I had it fixed. I didn’t even want to go to church this weekend. To make it worse, I had a wedding to attend today.

 

It’s strange how one spark can ignite a whole house. All of a sudden I became convinced I was ugly and worthless. I didn’t have a job, my finances are a disaster and now I look disgusting. When I went to bed, God tried to tell me I was beautiful but I wouldn’t hear of it. “Ugly, ugly, ugly,” I lamented and started thinking about how I could excuse myself from all activities like the wedding and church.

 

You know what I did next? I went to the bathroom and tried to avoid the mirror while I washed my face. Then I went online and looked up Tricoci University. Part of me wanted to learn to bring out the beauty in everyone and make sure no one ever went home calling themselves ugly over a haircut. I dreamed of one day volunteering my services at a women’s shelter so that ladies whose lives are falling apart can look in the mirror and see the beauty that God created.

 

Is this new career choice just a “fad” like all my other pursuits and desires? I don’t think so, but time will tell. However, I have learned a valuable lesson about hope. Several weeks ago, God told me that he has placed a strong seed of hope in me, and that seed has kept me alive thus far. If I let him, he will cultivate it so that it will bear much fruit. I doubted God then, because I’ve spent most of my life feeling depressed and in despair. However, I learned last night that hope is not a feeling. I still feel horrible about my haircut and still wish I didn’t have to go to weddings and church. However, Biblical hope speaks of expectation. All throughout the Bible, God has shown himself to be the redeemer, redeeming what has been lost and making new all which has been destroyed. Even before giving my life to him, I have known that somehow he will make things right in the end. It is that expectation that causes me to “prepare my fields for rain” even in a drought (as quoted in Facing the Giants). I know God will send rain in his time, and when he does I want to be ready. Besides, it would be just like him to turn a disastrous haircut into a ministry, don’t you think?

Are You In?

Ever since I was five, my parents decided that they were going to turn me into a stereotypical Asian if it was the last thing they did. Of course they didn’t say that exactly, but that was my interpretation of the “We want you to be well-rounded” explanation they gave whenever I asked them why I had to take so many music lessons, ballet lessons, ice skating lessons, and so forth. For most of my life, I had very little say in what I learned and whom I learned it from, especially whom I learned it from. They would pick the best teacher they could afford and make me submit to whoever it was who greeted me when I walked in those doors. Whether the teacher gave me candy or called me names, I was to wholeheartedly follow whatever they said. Such is the life of the stereotypical Asian child.

I remember one exception to that however. I was a junior in high school, already pretty “well-rounded” as far as my parents were concerned, and I suddenly developed a intense fascination, okay, maybe more like obsession, with the oboe. The second I heard the oboe solo in one of our orchestra pieces, I knew I had to learn it. My mom was willing to pay for lessons, but I had to find a teacher on my own. I asked around and got referred to a teacher who lived not far from my house. The minute I stepped into her home, I felt warm and welcomed. She had strange methods of teaching, such as making me lie down with a book on my stomach to make sure I was breathing properly. However, her methods worked, and her encouragement was so refreshing I couldn’t wait to practice and get better so that I could hear her words of praise. I was willing to do anything she asked me to do, because I knew she wanted me to be the best that I could be, which was what I wanted too.

Thinking about my oboe teacher reminds me of a lesson I learned this weekend. I had been continuing to read the book The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee when I stumbled upon a chapter that made me want to throw the book against the wall…again. It was the chapter about presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices. Nee discussed how our lives and our bodies do not belong to us, and therefore we should not treat them as our own. Instead, we should for one, take really good care of it, but we should also be willing for God to do with it as he pleases.

All at once I felt myself recoil and sink into despair. First of all, I thought, there are certainly things that I would not be willing to do if God were to ask me to do them, so I guess that must mean I’m not a very devoted Christian because I’m not willing to do whatever God asks me to do. Furthermore, since our presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is an act of worship done out of gratitude for what God has done for me, then I figured I must not be grateful enough for what God has done to save me.

After a reassuring conversation with my pastor, I felt God say, “If you’re thinking in your heart that I would ask you to do those scary things that you dream up, then you still do not know my character. I am not one to make my children do scary things to prove their devotion to me. That does not come from me and is not my heart for you. Those who know my heart and my character gladly follow me because they know I love them and will only ask them to do what is best for them.” I thought of the slaves on the year of jubilee who had the option of going free or staying with their master permanently. I figured the only reason a slave would want to stay with his master for life is if the master was kind to him. I also thought back to my oboe teacher. Unlike my childhood years, if I didn’t like my oboe teacher, I could just look for another one and never return to her. I chose to stay with her and do whatever she asked of me because I knew she really cared and wanted the best for me. So I realize that once I truly understand the heart of God towards me, I will have no problem presenting myself to him to do as he wishes, because whatever he wants for me would be what I want for myself too, and abundantly beyond that.

My college pastor once said, “Jesus’ ways are opposite of the ways of our Western society.  When someone asks us to follow him, we want to know where he’s going first, then we’ll decide if we’re in or not.  Jesus wants us to follow him first, and then he will tell us where we’re going and what we will be doing.”  Of course the disciples were not so clueless that they would abandon their lives for any stranger.  They have seen Jesus and known enough about him to convince them that trading their lives for his would be a good thing.  So I am convinced that as I continue to learn more about the heart of God, I will soon say with joy, “Count me in!  I’m all yours!”

I Have A Treasure!

They call it the Marley mumbo. If you’ve read the book Marley and Me, you know what I’m talking about. The author of the book gets this adorable yellow lab puppy and soon finds out he’s quite a handful, or should I say, mouthful? In other words, it wasn’t long before the majority of the author’s household possessions have come into contact one way or another with Marley’s mouth. Even though many dogs are supposed to be smart, one thing that Marley definitely has not figured out is how to keep a secret. When he is concealing some forbidden object in his mouth, he gets so excited he cannot hardly contain himself. The result is the Marley mumbo. He dances and wiggles so fiercely his limbs look like they’re going to fly off any minute. Whenever the author sees Marley doing the mumbo, he pries open Marley’s mouth to retrieve the hidden treasure which has ranged from paychecks to gold necklaces.

If you have been following my blogs or my life, you know that one of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced in my spiritual walk is trying to understand and believe that God loves me more than anyone else ever could. Although my pastors, teachers, and friends have tried to tell me over and over again that God loves me infinitely and completely, I never got it. To me, God always seemed upset with me over something, and I may not always know what that something is. So I was always scared to approach God because I never knew if he was going to be happy about me approaching him or if he was going to wield a rod over my head for something that I did wrong at some point. At my best moments, I might venture into thinking that God loves me, but never would I dare believe that God delighted in me.

As a teacher, I know that with certain students, timing is everything. You can say the same thing at two different times and one would generate blank stares while the other would turn on a light bulb. Today God provided the perfect timing and environment for which to communicate the precious truth that he has spent the last nine years getting me to understand. I had just been visiting my pastor and his family. His granddaughter was with him today, and as usual, I felt the sting that often comes when observing fathers/grandfathers with their daughters/granddaughters due to my past history. After I left my pastor’s house, I felt the hole in my heart burn from the sting of observing a loving interaction between a grandfather and his granddaughter that I wish I had. Suddenly it was as if the Holy Spirit splashed refreshing, cold water into that hole as God once again told me of his love for me. Unlike the countless other times however, this time seemed to be the right time for my heart to receive that message deep down into its core. Later back home, God completed his love song with a glorious vision of his ear-to-ear smile and outstretched arms sweeping me off my feet and spinning me in the air in pure delight over me.

Returning back to my introductory story, having this treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7) hidden in my heart made me act completely different than I have ever acted in my life. Don’t worry, I did not dance and wiggle fiercely, instead I walked different, smiled different, and talked different. My main mission this evening was to go to the mall and find places that were hiring and get applications from them. Halfway through the mall, I began to realize something was different about me. I walked with dignity, smiled at stranger, friend and foe alike, and talked with confidence and delight in my voice. You wouldn’t have to pry open my mouth to find the hidden treasure, because, as evidenced while I sat basking in God’s delight, my mouth erupted in songs of praise and adoration.

Those of you who are close to me know that once I receive affection from someone, I tend to bombard him or her with handmade gifts, cards, and other trinkets. God once told me that the day I want to give him a gift is the day I will know I have received his love for me the way he wants me to. Tonight, I found myself longing to make God something. As I pondered that thought, I heard God’s delighted laugh as he said, “whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Instantly my heart erupted in excitement as I thought of ways to share my talents with “the least of these” that God has and will continue to place in my life.

I get it!!! And it’s glorious!!! As the song so eloquently puts it, “I am loved by the king, and it makes my heart want to sing” (and maybe do a little mumbo)!

Dancing in the Desert

“ICE??? ICE???”

“Well, it’s kind of a winter sport, you know.”

“You mean winter as in ICE???”

“Maybe”

“You mean winter as in igloos and Eskimos and penguins and ICE???”

That’s one of my favorite dialogues in the movie Cool Runnings, a story about a bobsledding team from Jamaica. You don’t have to see the movie to know that bobsled and Jamaica don’t usually appear in the same sentence. Well, the story goes that the four unlikely athletes from Jamaica get a former champion to coach them in bobsledding. However, they soon find out that they are not the only ones who have to overcome some difficulties. Their seemingly infallible coach is hiding a regretful secret that makes the team even more the object of ridicule than they already are. Yet on the night before the competition, the coach speaks to the driver of the team and they’re talking about gold medals when the coach speaks from experience and says, “If you’re not enough without it, then you’ll never be enough with it.”

Today has been a very goofy day with my emotions acting like bipolar on steroids. I’m actually starting to think that peace and joy are as elusive as ice is in Jamaica. Sometimes I really wonder if I’m going to actually find lasting relief this side of heaven, or if this roller coaster ride is to be my destiny for life. However, tonight I received a powerful lesson about worship. I still remember how my worship changed the night I got saved. Prior to that October evening, I barely stood during worship, and even though I liked music, I would only mouth the songs that I really liked and enjoyed only the rhythm while the words flew over my head and at times tasted bitter in my mouth. That night however, I could barely contain myself in the bookstore and couldn’t wait to get home where I jumped up and down and sang on the top of my lungs. Since then, my jumping and clapping and singing have been the source of many sermon illustrations and many Sunday dinner discussions, not all of them enthusiastically affirming, mind you. However, soon the style came to be so much of what people expected of me that it became a performance in front of others instead of worship before God. When I went to church, I felt that people were watching for the jumping and clapping and raising my hands like I was a number on a program.

When I came to the church that I now call home, I had been bouncing between so many churches and trying to stay away from suicide that I forgot all about my performance act. By the time I remembered it, I realized that no one here had heard a sermon illustration about my jumping or clapping or off-key singing and so no one was watching me expecting to see a show. I didn’t know it then, but stripping me of the performance aspect of worship really set the stage for what I learned tonight.

As I watched the movie Joyful Noise, I looked into the eyes of each member of the choir. Each of them was no stranger to pain, yet they sung and danced their heart out like it was the last day they were going to be given breath. As the movie ended, I realized in my heart what I had often resented others for saying, that God is worthy of our praise regardless of anything and everything we’re going through. He does not owe us an explanation, though he sometimes gives one out of his patience. He is worthy of our praise simply because he is. I looked at the weird day I had and thought, “if I have a thousand more days like this or worse, God is still worthy of my praise.” If God never did one more thing in my life or said one more word, if I’m out on the street tomorrow and if all my friends reject me, God is still worthy of my praise. In his great kindness he is working in my life and speaking to me. I am not out on the street, I have a roof over my head and friends who love me so much I’ve got to scratch my head in amazement. Yet all these blessings do not make God more worthy of my praise just as the lack of these blessings do not make him less worthy of my praise. He is always and forever infinitely worthy of my praise just for who he is.

That’s where the bobsledding coach came in. I heard the truly infallible coach, the Holy Spirit say, “If you can’t praise him when you’re in want, then you’ll never be able to praise him when you have plenty.” That struck me as odd at first. I thought, of course anyone would be able to praise God when things go well. It would be easy, wouldn’t it? And then I thought back to the times when I’ve been bitter towards God during my suffering. When in his mercy, God brought relief, the last thing on my mind was God during that season of joy and comfort. I became quick to indulge in selfish pleasures and fill my days with activity so as to crowd out any time to think about or be with God. However, when God has led me to praise him during difficult times, when relief comes, the first thing I do is run into his arms with gratitude and praise. What an eye-opener!

During these times when the emotional roller coaster flies between the extremes of heaven and hell, I can rest in the assurance that one thing will never change. God always has been and will always be worthy of my praise. One day, I will be able to walk on that elusive refreshing ice, but whether that day comes here on earth or in my eternal home, I will make sure the doorkeepers of joy see me coming with a skip in my step and a shout of praise on my tongue.

I Don’t Pay for Water!

Remember when I said I hated taking showers? Well, summer has a way of changing that. I came in this afternoon from walking my dog in 95-degree weather and my dog beelined to his water dish and I to the shower. I turned the water on as cold as I could stand and after the initial shock, I basked in the refreshing downpour as I felt my body temperature drop. As I stood there enjoying the cool water, I thought, “I can stay in here as long as I want. In fact, I can come back here as many times as I want because I don’t pay for water!” Having had to go light on the air conditioner because it will be on my electric bill, I was glad that water was not one of the utilities I have to pay in my apartment.

Then it hit me. I don’t have to pay for living water either – it’s already been paid for! In John chapters 4 and 7, Jesus talks about giving us the living water which is the Holy Spirit. Just like it is with my shower, I can enjoy the refreshing water of the Spirit all the time because it has already been paid for. I don’t have to check my clock and count minutes when I sit under his counsel or receive his comforting embrace because Jesus already paid for me to have as much of the living water as I could ever need or want! What an awesome gift! Thank you Jesus!

Getting Weaned

I have an embarrassing confession to make. Several weeks ago, my pastor read from Psalm 131 and he was talking about verse 2 which says, But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” At the time I didn’t quite know what “weaned” meant, I just thought it meant “fed.” I don’t know how I got this far as an elementary school teacher without knowing what the word weaned means. Call me sheltered or ignorant or both, but in any case, I know the word now, thanks to John Ortberg’s wonderful book, Love Beyond Reason.

One of the things I love about Ortberg is his abundance of illustrations. For a visual learner like me, illustrations are essential in helping me remember a concept. He quoted Psalm 131:2 and talked about a weaned child. He said that an unweaned child will not stop making noise until he either gets what he wants or makes everyone else as miserable as he is. A weaned child on the other hand, has learned to live with unfulfilled desires and is a delight to his parents because his parents no longer feel like they are his slave. As soon as I read that, a lightbulb went on in my head and after looking up the word “wean,” I realized that for the past couple of weeks, I had been a very noisy, unweaned child making everyone around me just as miserable as I was.

Although I had shared an awesome victory over depression as well as a lesson I learned about self-pity in previous blogs, I soon discovered I had a lot more to learn. When a church leader confronted me regarding my self-pity, it took me awhile to realize that it was still there. However, since I had no idea how to get rid of it, I asked God to help me get rid of it. After reading about the weaned child, God told me that I am no longer to contact anyone when I am depressed. (I’d like to pause here to make an important note.  We definitely do need other people in our lives, but God gave me this direction for my specific situation as I will explain.) Since I really liked my interactions with the people that I call during my times of depression, I ignored him. I wanted to continue doing things my way because it felt good to me. Then, in his mercy, God allowed the pain of the depression to get excruciating. After several days of suffering unbelievable pain, God asked, “Are you ready to try my way now?” Reluctantly, I agreed and he repeated his instructions; for the next week, I was not to talk to anyone but him when I found myself in emotional pain. No calls, no text messages, no emails, nothing was to transpire between me and anyone else during times of struggle. I was to go to him alone and let him give me what I need. I was incredibly hesitant, and that’s putting it nicely, but I knew I didn’t want to stay in that kind of pain, so I agreed.

It is now two days into the week, and I have found that as always, God is right. The compassion I was receiving when I called people was fueling my self-pity and driving me deeper into depression. Now I must make another important note here. Compassion is a wonderful thing and often very healing for those who are suffering. However, when it comes into contact with self pity, it is very destructive. I like to use the illustration of a fire. Like fire, compassion is essential and a very useful and beneficial thing when used properly. However, when fire comes into contact with the wrong thing, it can cause a disaster, just like compassion does when it comes into contact with people indulging in self-pity. During the past two days, I have had a few incidences where I felt the depression sweep over me, but instead of picking up the phone and screaming and wailing like an unweaned child, I cried out to God and every time, he has given me exactly what I needed. As a result, the depression never lasted longer than a few minutes and it usually stayed away for the rest of the day.

Ever since I was a year old in the Lord, I have prayed that God would give me a heart of steadiness, one that does not rise and fall with my emotions or circumstances. I believe that God has begun to answer that prayer in these last few days and will continue to as I trust him to do what’s best for me. I look forward to the day when I will be a delight to those around me because my soul will be quieted within me.

Was That Supposed to Happen?

When I taught fifth grade science, my favorite unit was force and motion. This was the unit where I got to dress up as Issac Newton, take my kids ice skating (to demonstrate the laws of motion), and where the kids got to crash toy trucks into the wall and watch raw eggs crash from a fall unharmed. Our room doors were often closed during this unit because there were lots of flying pans, accidental water spills, raw egg yolks (from when the experiment went wrong) all over the room. It looked quite like a scene from a natural disaster film. My absolute favorite thing about the whole unit however, was the introduction, or shall we say the big bang theory.

Now before you call me a pagan and a hypocrite, let me explain. I’ve always believed in the educational big bang theory which basically states that any new lesson or concept that a teacher wishes to convey effectively to children must begin with a big bang. So for my force and motion unit, I do the Alka-Seltzer and water experiment. The first thing I do is pass out goggles to all my students. Immediately, you can see some students getting really excited while others are getting really nervous. Then I pair the students up and give each pair of students a film canister filled with water and an Alka-Seltzer tablet. One student drops the tablet in the water and the other student quickly closes the lid. Then they wait. I love using room temperature water because the wait is a bit longer and the students sometimes start to get bored. Just as they are about to turn away with disappointment, they hear a loud bang as the film canister lid shoots up in the air and the water explodes out of the film canister. This is often followed by screams of shock and delight. Some of the more timid students give me the look that says, “Was that supposed to happen?” Of course my calm, smug smile says it all. It happened exactly as planned.

Those of you who know my story know that I’ve had a lot of explosions in my life. For some reason I seem to be a very volatile Alka-Seltzer tablet. It’s like every environment that I get put in, even if it’s as innocent as room temperature water, I seem to cause an explosion. A couple days ago, I went to God and my was-that-supposed-to-happen question sounded like this, “Well, it’s obvious that you have given me wonderful opportunities and placed me in awesome environments like Moody, Washington School, the mandarin instructor job, and many others. However, I seem to be an expert at blowing up all the good things you have brought me to. I guess that just proves that I can do nothing right and I have no purpose.” Even before I finished speaking, God asked me, “What is the truth that counters that lie?” My special-needs brain went zzzz and I responded, “Uhhh…?” Immediately God brought to mind the well-known verse from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” When I finished reciting the verse in my mind, God prompted me to continue on to the next verses. Though I didn’t know what the verse said exactly at the time, I knew, as I have shared before, that it is about relationship. This is what the verses say, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” God showed me that through every season and situation he has brought me to and through, he is accomplishing his two-fold purpose in my life: to draw me to himself and to free me from bondage (captivity). As I looked back through all of the experiences that I have been through, even and maybe especially the ones that ended in failure, I have seen that indeed, God has definitely used those experiences to draw me to himself and bring me to a greater degree of freedom from my past and my sinful behaviors. So when I look to him with that puzzled and bewildered expression, I see his calm smile that says, “Yep, it happened exactly as planned.”

Thank You for NOT Coming

“I’m just going to lay here in my soiled bed and be smelly and hungry and depressed until I either starve to death or get kicked out of my apartment, whichever happens first.” Those were the words that I muttered in my head this morning after I had just lost my mandarin instructor job which was my main source of income due to not having money for gas. When my legs got too antsy to stay still under the covers, I got up and checked my facebook page and email hoping that there would be some notes of sympathy from my friends in response to my post last night. In my post I had been lamenting over my job situation and telling people to come and take stuff from my apartment if they wanted any of it. “Please let me know if you want it or I’m going to call Goodwill to take it all. I don’t have the energy or the heart to move it to storage,” I wailed. Several people responded with possible solutions for my income situation and/or ideas for managing my possessions. I ignored all of those and instead gravitated towards the ones that sounded like, “Oh, I’m so sorry. You must be going through such a hard time. You poor thing.” (Please do not misunderstand me. Those of you who did express sympathy, I appreciate it. I am targeting only myself in my rebuke.)

You know what’s interesting about this whole thing? Well, several things. First, while I was in emotional pain yesterday morning (before I had lost my job) my pastor warned me about self pity. You know what my response was (in thought not in word)? “How dare he think I’m just feeling sorry for myself! He has no idea what kind of pain I’m going through!” In other words, “How dare he not come to my pity party!” Also, perhaps the most striking thought was that I was offered provision for gas, but refused it because I didn’t see how it would help. “Boo hoo! I’m never going to be stable enough no matter how much help I receive from those who love me. Woe is me!” Last night at 10:00 the mother of the kid I nanny for called me while the music for my pity party was blaring its loudest. She said that she has a friend in need of a babysitter tonight and wanted to know if I would be able to do it. Guess what I said. You guessed it! “(Sniffle, sniffle) I don’t have any money for gas. (Sniffle, hiccup)”

Do any of you want to strangle me yet? (Or at least slap some sense into me?) Well, that’s what God did through an email from my pastor. It wasn’t really anything he said, but the fact that he was still committed to loving me and helping me succeed deflated the imaginary black balloons I had hung all over my mind. Suddenly I realized that God was not going to let me give up (tangibly represented by the call at 10:00 last night). He has provided everything I need and continues to provide like a never-ending fountain of grace even after my blow-ups. At that moment, I also received God’s enabling to receive his provision of grace through the lifting of my emotions. I marveled at the mercy of God who not only provides his grace, but also the means to receive it. I got up, showered, accepted the provision for gas, and called the mother to tell her that I would be able to take the job tonight. Then I went online and searched for teaching jobs for the fall and found open positions in my favorite grade level. I instantly applied and loved how easy it was since I was already in the district’s system having worked as a teacher there before I got laid off a couple years ago.

Pity parties are deadly, and I had to experience a loud one in order to realize just how deadly they are. So to my pastor and all others who have persistently pulled me out of bed and torn up my black invitations, thank you for not coming to my party and insisting on life and joy for me. Most of all, thank you to my Savior who continues to relentlessly pursue me and never lets go of me!