How India changed me

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 § 4 Comments

I should have written this weeks ago. But when your mind’s in a limbo, when you can’t find words for what you feel, when you don’t even know what you really feel, it’s not fair to drag someone else into your messy mound of unnamed thoughts and emotions.

But my writing now doesn’t mean to say I’ve got everything defined. In fact, I’m not even counting on the day that I’ll understand everything, because I won’t and I can’t. Let’s just say, everything is starting to make sense now. And I find that as I read my prayer journal from last year and early this year, and view my prayers in light of what happened recently.

Let me back up a little here and give you some history. I went to India on a mission trip last April. And this, my friends, is a big deal for me, not only because it’s a mission work, but also because I’d had the desire to go there on a mission trip since 2010. It was a long time coming, and it’s partly the reason for my restlessness that stretched for years.

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The cold, mountainous city of Shillong (Meghalaya, India)

I’ve been told that missions would change you. That it would make you do it again and again. But nobody warned me that going on a mission is an emotional journey. That you would arrive home knowing that you left part of your heart, part of yourself in that country you served. That it would take you days, weeks, months even to get a grip on what has just happened because it’s overwhelming and you couldn’t believe that you went through a lot in just a short time. That you couldn’t pinpoint the reason why you want to burst crying one moment and you end up crying in another. And that you’re asking God why you’re feeling what you’re feeling and you find no answer except for his comforting presence.

All of it feels weird. But it’s a beautiful kind of weird.

VBS Kids

Vacation Bible School Kids

If there’s one thing I can say with definite clarity, it is this: India changed me. From start to end, it changed me. From the moment I prayed for this mission opportunity to the time I was raising my funds, it roused something in me. From the time I boarded the plane to Delhi to the moment I met my family after two weeks in Manila, India messed with my life—in a subtle, gentle, and divine way.

Women's Leadership Meeting

Women’s Leadership Meeting

How would you feel when you’re aware that something significant was going to happen in your life but didn’t know it yet and then you went to a new place and after a time you realized something and could say to yourself, “I think I have an idea what this might be”? The nagging feelings finally made sense. The prayers of long ago found an answer. The desires that you easily dismissed as random were not random after all but had been ingrained in your inmost being—and although they seemed diverse in nature, they fit together in God’s master plan.

It’s so amazing how one act of obedience could be an answer to many of my prayers. It never occurred to me that the prayers are a lot more connected than I allowed myself to believe, and they all point to the same things.

Changes. Transition. Shifts.

I am reminded that one act of obedience puts us in a good position to acknowledge and receive God’s plans for us. In that act of obedience, we get acquainted with our own desires and dreams and view them in his perspective. We see our confusion melt away as we begin to understand how faith is required to live out the plans of God. And with an attitude of total submission and self-abandonment, we can freely let go, leave the safe place, and move in the direction he’s leading us.

Kynshi VIllage Kids

Kynshi Village Kids

I’ve been asked what the highlight of the mission trip is for me. I could think of a lot. Vacation Bible School. Praise dance with the kids. Home bible studies. Dinners with the church members. All the time I spent at our host church. Strangely, as I think of it now, the highlight really happened after the trip. It’s when I got home and sought God about this restlessness and these desires, and when God gave me an answer in the form of a glimpse of his plans. That sparked a greater, powerful sense of purpose and direction in me. He planted seeds in my heart long ago, and only when I went to India and came back home did I really have a good look at them.

Brave

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 § 3 Comments

I was the kid who couldn’t run fast enough or catch a ball or balance in roller skates. I didn’t try athletics or anything that would demand a ton of physical strength, because what’s the point? If you grew up believing you’re weak, you’d eventually live it. And so I led a life of a weakling, living in fear all my life. I was hesitant to try new things. I didn’t dare to be adventurous. I put myself in a box, thinking I was secure in it. Put another way, my life was boring.

But when you’re in Christ, you’d know that life with Him is rarely a bore. He would push you out of your comfort zone, taking you on adventurous trips you wouldn’t have otherwise chosen for yourself. You could only tug on Him and plead to spare you from this, because, “God, I’m afraid.” But that’s exactly why you have to get on it, because it’s when you’re afraid you completely rely on Him. After all, He knows what He’s doing, and you are left with a choice to obey or disobey.

I chose to obey when I sensed God calling me on an adventure. It’s totally out of my comfort zone, but I realized it was that one thing I’d been waiting — praying — for.

But no sooner had I said yes than I also realized that for me to finish this adventure, I had to be strong. That’s something I knew I wasn’t.

Fear easily found a foothold once again. Discouraging me. Paralyzing me.

And I’m tired of it. Tired of being afraid, scared. Tired of cowering. Of backing out. Of taking cautious little steps. Of being uncertain. Of finding the courage you couldn’t see.

***

When you’re facing a mountain, you have to find the strength in yourself to climb it. Otherwise, you’re going to be stuck where you are — and I’m speaking literally here as much as figuratively.

Just this weekend I joined a mountain adventure with wonderful, beautiful, passionate-for-Christ ladies. When I say mountain adventure, I mean passing through caves, trekking toward the summit, crossing a hanging cable bridge. My fearful self would have liked to back out, or at least would have used a lot of pep talk. This wasn’t what I was used to doing.

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But my fearful self surprisingly wasn’t around. I was able to hold myself together and put on some amount of boldness. I didn’t panic. Okay, maybe at some point I did, especially when I saw the cable bridge and considered my fear of heights.

But here’s the thing. I squeezed myself into the tiny spaces in the cave, climbed rocks, trekked in mostly muddy terrain, trod toward the summit, and balanced myself in a thin cable with a strength I didn’t know I have.

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I didn’t know I have it because I was too afraid to know. Because it’s the kind of strength you’d only learn of when you throw yourself into uncomfortable, unfamiliar situations. True enough, only when I freely embarked on a seemingly scary adventure did I find out that God had already deposited His strength in me. What’s there to be afraid of?

I have already given my strength to you.  You are strong. You have it in you.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

***

There’s confidence in awareness that when He gives you a task, God provides the strength you need to carry it out. But more importantly, there’s power when you allow God to unleash His strength in you.

So here I am today, a changed woman. It’s amazing how a weekend of adventure uncovered the brave and strong me. The past mindsets that have limited me and thwarted my potential are gone. God has parted the lies that have covered my heart for so long, revealing a fresh heart beating with His energy and strength.

Now I choose to live without fear.

I have come to terms with uncertainty.

I can take bold steps, confident that God has made the ground stable.

In the end, it all comes down to this: I am weak, but if God is living in me and God is strong, then I become strong.

Now that I realize how strong I am in Christ, I cannot begin to understand the magnitude of His work in and through me. So I say, “God, let’s get that adventure rolling.”

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“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Tomorrow

Friday, January 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tomorrow I will go out, one sure step after another. Tomorrow I will feel the sun sinking deep into my ashen skin. Tomorrow I will let the breeze whoosh against my body. To listen to the sound of life. To witness moments of activity. To see random faces I will never again see, but learn to understand that behind the creasing of the forehead, the curving of the lips is a motivation to live. The sky is the roof to dispense light down on me. Seeping into every pocket of my soul. Revealing. Into every pocket I will deposit the sound, the smell, the taste, the texture, the image of being out there among them. Out of my tiny corner. Because tomorrow, I’ve decided, I will really live.

Psalm 90:12

The kite philosophy

Saturday, January 5, 2013 § 2 Comments

My niece is tugging hard on the string, shifting her weight from one foot to the other to keep her frame stable. If she wobbles, she will lose control of the kite, which by now flies higher into the sky as she lets go a length of the string at a time.

A swift moment after, the kite reaches the highest height its string will allow, stable up in the air, its tail dancing to the rhythm of the wind.

Happy with her feat, she then hands the string winder to my sister, effectively giving her all control of the airborne kite. My sister jumps at the chance, pleasure written all over her face. She pulls the kite a little, then turns to me and says, “Try it.”

I hesitate. I doubt I can control the kite against the wind. But she urges me and I give in. From where I sit, I can see the kite battling it out with the wind. It gives a slight pull. I answer it with a gentle tug.  Staring at the kite, I exclaim, “It’s such a nice feeling!”

An hour or so earlier, my sister and I were in the open field trying to fly the same kite. We took turns launching it and pulling the string in, but we never got to fly it at such a height. Worse, the kite crashed to the ground a number of times. It didn’t bother me, though, and in my mind I wasn’t as bad as I really was because from the get-go I was clear with my intention: I wouldn’t struggle with the wind and have the kite airborne like what the other kite flyers were attempting to do.

I know I couldn’t do it anyway.

I would just fly the kite at a height I could manage.

Kite-flying

I now think back to the times I underperformed because of the limits I subconsciously set for myself, and the many opportunities I passed up because I thought I couldn’t deliver.

I didn’t fly the kite as high as the string would allow not because I couldn’t but because I’d said to myself I wouldn’t. Even before I started, my mindset worked against me — not the wind, not how the kite was launched, not how I tugged on the string.

I could have flown that kite high in the air, or snagged that writing opportunity, or approached certain people of note, or planted my feet in that lovely place, if I didn’t start out drawing my boundaries, telling myself what I could only do and how far I could only go. Doing so made me weak, and it inevitably became my excuse to back out at the bleakest prospect of difficulty and failure.

The reason for my past failures is that I allowed the limitations I’d predertermined for myself to set my course when in fact I am bigger and better than my limitations.

Truth is, I am that kite. I can fly high only if I let go of everything that holds me back — like how a kite flyer supposedly lets go of the string, with a trusting knowledge that each time he lets go, the kite glides higher.

What holds me back?

Fear holds me back.

Insecurity holds me back.

Pride holds me back.

Procrastination and laziness hold me back.

Wrong frame of mind holds me back.

Here within me is a suppressed potential. Everyone of us has. We are created to do greater than what we currently do — not necessarily greater in scope and size, but greater in significance and eternal value. We are destined to fly higher than where we are now, with our Ultimate Wind propelling us in the right direction, His character even magnified in our flight.

But first, we have to let go. Shall we?

As the new year unfolds, may we commit ourselves to being assertive, a doer, an action-maker, not putting limits to what we can do. Let’s not just sit idly and watch things happen; let’s make things happen. Let’s not just just seize opportunities; let’s create opportunities. Then we’ll be surprised at how far and high He can actually take us.

When I am the answer

Friday, December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I asked one important thing from God, one thing every Christian would pray for. Because I asked Him to increase my faith, I was confident He wouldn’t say no.

I sat back, waiting for Him to do wonders in my heart. That I’d wake up one morning already with vigorous faith, boldly believing for all the things I had prayed for, doubt no longer lingering in the corners of my heart. Instant miracle right there.

I came up empty instead. It felt like my level of faith was still the same on the day I prayed. Even worse, I found myself in tight situations and I had to tell God this was not what I prayed for. I prayed for bolder faith, didn’t I, Father?

Impatient thinking — foolish if I might say — is when I expect God to address my prayer that way. Like magic. That would make me one lazy woman, I know.

I have come to understand that He doesn’t deal with the matters of the heart that way. Because in dealing with everything that has to do with my heart attitude and beliefs, He leads me in a process — oftentimes a laborious one. And He requires my willing participation.

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It’s the same when we pray to God to make us more obedient, or generous, or patient. He doesn’t put obedience, or generosity, or patience in a neat gift box and pass it down to us. Instead, He puts us in a situation where we are forced to flex our spiritual muscles and train our hearts to respond in the way we pray to. Because a healthy Christian walk doesn’t only involve feeding on the Word; there need be some spiritual workout.

And it means that whatever it is I want to practice in my life, I need to work it until it becomes part of who I am. There is a conscious decision and involvement.

It could be uncomfortable at times. Difficult. There’s plenty of unlearning, undoing, and breaking to be done until all wrong attitude and beliefs are exposed before God and myself. I’ve got to be far removed from where I used to be and what I used to do. There’s a great deal of inward activities going on, and if I truly desire real transformation, I have to resign myself to them.

Some days I want to throw in the towel. But I also begin to understand that discomfort and difficulty are what reshapes the attitude, develops the discipline, and makes the muscles firm.

In many cases, God doesn’t hand us down the miracles. That’s too easy on our end. He works us to be the miracle.

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