Silk Road Seoul (1)

           I am back in the US as I type but hear me out. So after my unsatisfying jaunt through grad school, while I was pitying myself and working temp jobs, my friend Kyle said, “hey wanna teach in China for a year?” Me teach in China? Let me get this straight, you want introverted me to stand in front of a room full of people and relay information to them and you want this to happen in a place so far from my comfort zone that it may as well not even exist in the same universe? No way. Not happenin’ partnah. However, Kyle always encourages me to do things out of my comfort zone and sometimes I listen, so I told him I would apply and I did.

             I forgot all about it and was confident that I would never be chosen yet I was called in for an interview and started to get excited about doing something new and different. The interview went extremely well, which was surprising because I usually sabotage myself. Then some communication issues popped up. The company asked me for documents I had never received, I was being told conflicting information, and they took way too long to respond to me once the problems arose. There was no way I was going to feel comfortable having to rely on them in China when I couldn’t even rely on them in DC.

            Once I extricated myself from Chinagate I set my sights on Japan. “Ok God, China didn’t work out so what now, Japan?” I found the JET program online. It was government-funded and I met the qualifications so I thought I hit the proverbial jackpot. I went through the whole process; filling out forms, doctor’s appointments, shots, getting my international drivers license just in case, and running people down for recommendations. I harbored an unfounded and inexplicable affection for Japan since I was in high school so I was convinced that God was sending me there but so far, so wrong. I got the second most painful rejection letter of my life, which I saved because I want to occasionally find it and relive the pain, obviously. I did not even make it as an alternate. I heard the program was getting increasingly difficult to get into but a rare wave of confidence had swelled up in me and it quickly dashed me against the rocks of disappointment.

             “God…whaaaat are You doing?” “No, what are you doing?” was the response. Well, I was trying to circumvent God. I thought that somehow if I went through the church, I would be the lowest on the spiritual totem pole wherever I went due to religious standards I just could not measure up to but who am I to compare when God does not? So what if I not Supermissionary, no one starts out that way. I went through Adventist Mission and could not believe I had wasted so much time. As I was looking through the list of countries with mission trips available, repeatedly scrolling back and forth over Japan with the little “0” in brackets next to it and holding my breath, South Korea caught my eye.

“God, you have got to be kidding me”.

“I’m not.”

“Not Spain or Mexico? I can get by with Spanish but I don’t know any Korean and I know next to nothing about South Korea beyond K-Pop, Naver, and hanboks!”

“South Korea. Trust me.”

            I was a little upset about China, crushed concerning Japan and all God would say was, “wait”. I trusted Him and though I was disappointed, I was not angry, I did not get frustrated like I usually do nor did I whine or complain; I prayed. For the first time, I completely handed all my stuff over to God.

Dear Friend,

This is a letter I wrote to someone who just up and disappeared months ago. My mom said I should post it. I thought about it and agreed. I hope it can help someone else who is suffering.

_____________________,

How are you? If the answer is “not good”, that’s okay. In one of our ******group meetings, you shared that you have struggled with depression, so for you to disappear for so long makes me think that you are hurting right now. I too have struggled with depression. I’ve battled with it since I was ten years old. It’s been so long that I don’t remember who I was before then. Please don’t think that no one knows how you feel. Sometimes I hate myself so much I can’t stand it. I even tried to kill myself in high school and have experienced a myriad of dark thoughts of that nature. I am a lot better now but my most recent breakdown was July 2013. I stayed in bed for three days and even prayed that I wouldn’t wake up when I went to sleep. Meds, psychiatrists, psychologists, I’ve been there. I’ve cursed God, hated Him, doubted Him and tried to cut Him out of my life but in spite of all that, He still has me in His hands. Prayer, talking it out, I felt like it was pointless but I take confidence in God’s word that He is working things out for my good and that He loves my broken, incompetent self. I decided that I could not let Satan rule my life and miss out on the blessings God has in store for me, even if there was always this lingering feeling of self-hate and worthlessness. I decided to trust God and He has turned the bile of my doubt into the sweet nectar of faith. I’m far from where I want to be in my relationship with God but I am reaping benefits and blessings by giving Him the reins. One of these blessings doubles as an act of faith. I feel like God has called me to go on a mission trip to South Korea. The journey to acceptance and discovering what God wanted rather than what I wanted was long, hard, and painful but I have come through it all and will be on a flight to Seoul on December 15th. For the first time in my life I am stepping out completely on faith and for the first time I am not afraid! Living my life in fear hinders me from reaching the potential that God has granted me. Though I still do fear quite a bit, I am looking forward to this new chapter…Please just let me see you before I leave. As my departure draws near, God has brought you to mind more and more! I love you, miss you and hope to see you.

Just A Blessing

            I do not remember if I have mentioned it before but I am the Administrative Assistant at my church. One of my duties is to print the bulletins for Sabbath. Normally I would do it on Friday but I did not like that I had no room for error if our janky printer went loco and for other reasons I have been doing it on Wednesday since I am there anyway.

            This past Wednesday I knew the toner was low. Last time it was low I printed about 350 more bulletins (4900 pages) and then put in a new toner but someone told me to basically milk it until I can not get any more out of it. Well that was a terrible idea because I got half way through printing the quarterly inserts and the printer is like, “Hey, you know what time it is. Get that toner girllll.” No problem right? Wrong. I put the new toner in and the printer would not recognize that I put it in which meant I could not print anything else.

            For weeks I had been trying to get an appointment with a technician to work on the printer because the staples would misalign both randomly and obviously but due to scheduling conflicts it did not happen and I worked it out myself (like a boss). Wednesday I call the company and try to get a technician over but they were all busy and emergency service would cost $300-$400 an hour (Jesus take the wheel). I set the (standard, non-emergency) appointment for Friday and prayed for a solution.

            Friday around 10:00 am I confirmed with the company that a technician would be out and at 11:30 am Mark called to say he was on his way. I got to the church about 12:00 pm (praying all the way) and Mark was in and out before 1:00 pm (bada-bing bada-boom). The part that Mark needed just happened to be in his truck (I see you Jesus, wink). He put the toner in and even got another one down from the shelf that my short self could not reach. Mark said that he had been calling us for days but when we looked into it, we realized the company had sent him an incorrect number (strange considering our history with them but whatev). I printed with no problem and finished the same time I normally would have. It was such a relief. I do not ever recall a week where we did not have bulletins and I sure do not want it to happen while I am in office.

            Now that I think about it, I must have grown. Normally I would get really frustrated, angry and probably try to kick the machine out the window (really impractical, glad I didn’t go that route) but I did not even get upset. I just rolled with it. I kept calm and carried on, if you will. You see, I am doing this thing where I just trust God and not get bent out of shape when things do not go my way and I am truly reaping the benefits. It is really difficult, I had no idea I was such a control freak in so many aspects but God is working it out.

Month of Miracles (Part 3)

            After my Artscape adventure, next up was my Vacation Bible school voyage (heh).  My mom had been the VBS director for the last nine or ten years and for the last two years she has declared, “I am not doing it anymore; I’m tired; no, no, no.” etc. and the youth led out. This year she was standing firm until whoever was supposed to lead out had some scheduling conflict and could not do it (about 2 weeks before VBS was supposed to start). Then our pastor began to lean on her…long story short, we ended up at Sam’s Club (a members-only warehouse where most items are in bulk) to buy snacks for the week of VBS.

            Neither one of us has a Sam’s card so we planned to meet Sister Boyd (love you!) there since she has one. Well mom and I figured we could get there early and shop for everything and all Sister Boyd would have to do is meet us at the register with her card since she was coming from work and all (long day).

            Mom and I stroll across the parking lot with our cart toward the entrance. I notice that a lady ahead of us give her Sam’s card to the checker (I guess) and proceed into the vastness of this glorious retail complex known as Sam’s Club.

            I whisper, “Ma..we need a card to get in, the lady is checking cards.” Of course, right? We do not shop at Sam’s club often (because a family of three doesn’t need a 60 pack of jelly, am I right?) so we forget there is a bouncer carding folks before we can enter Club Sam’s (anyone else hear music?). We look at each other and keep on moving. In my mind I am like, “Ok God, here we go”, and putting together the story of why we do not have a card but someone who does is going to meet us yada, yada. Right as we approached the bouncer who had not yet made eye contact with us, her radio, which was on a stool about six feet to her left, received some sort of alien transmission (communication from the mother ship) which was a loud, shrieking, crinkly noise. She immediately turned and went over to it and we kept on walking into the store without breaking our stride or registering in the bouncer’s line of sight. We smiled at each other and said, “Amen!” then we handled our business and got out of there quicker than a bartender could say “last call”.

            I may refer to that as a small miracle because of its simple nature (it’s all semantics) but I do not believe there is such a thing. To me all miracles are BIG and I will never forget that. Others may call it coincidence but I believe my God is just that capable so I attribute it to him rather than a random act of serendipity.

Month of Miracles (Part 2)

            Artscape, my favorite yearly event, was fast approaching. My dad who I had not talked to in about four weeks volunteered to give me a ride to and from the event because finding a legal place to park is an event in itself, but I declined (politely). I wanted to make things right with him but with the way I had been treating him, I did not think it was fair for me to accept his offer but I let him think I declined because I was still upset. Off I went. I scored a prime spot near the intersection of Park Avenue and McMechen Street. No “no parking” signs, no meters; cool. I made a note in my phone so I would remember.

            I had a wonderful Friday at Artscape with my friend; I got there around 9:30 am and walked around for miles before leaving. The sun set about 8:30 pm so I headed back to my car at 8:00 pm. Pastor T calls me and ask me to prepare something for Saturday. No problem, “I’ll be home around 9:00, I’ll call you back when I get in.” I walk back to Park and Mosher….(dude, where’s my car) I can not find my car anywhere. Up, down, across, back and forth in the dark; “I must be losing my mind.” I just knew it had been towed.

“Pastor T…I lost my car so I do not know when I can get back to you”, not a problem.

            Next, I called my mom knowing that she would tell me to call the one person I did not want to ask for help…dad, and she did. Before I called him, God stopped me in my tracks and said, “This is what you wanted, right? Well start talking.” I called my dad and he said he would come get me, just like that. I was so tired. I was tired when I decided to leave but in losing my car, I walked about a mile and a half on my burning feet and sore legs. My legs were so stiff that if I had sat down on the ground I would not have been able to get back up. I meandered some more still looking for my car. I called the number listed for towing services at a private lot (Greenwood towing is ubiquitous in Baltimore).

“Hi, I think my car may have been towed.”

“Were you parked on a private lot?”

“No, on the street but there are no signs that indicate who to call.”

“Well, we do towing for private lots, you will have to call the city at this number (410) xxx-xxxx.” (I thank God, there happened to be a highlighter and scrap of paper in my bag)

“Ok, thanks.”

            I call the number and some guy gives me some explanation for why that number is incorrect and gives me another number to call…which was not in service. I call him back and he gives me another non-working number (you had ONE job sir). Finally I have the bright idea to call “311” Baltimore’s non-emergency hotline. I call and give the lady my information.

“Ms., we don’t have that car in our system. What makes you think you were towed, were there “no parking” signs up?

“I was sure there were no signs, but now I see them everywhere. I thought maybe I overlooked them and got towed.”

“Well, your car is not in our system so it’s unlikely you were towed.”

“Ok, thank you, bye bye”

            Thank you Jesus! I wasn’t towed (probably) but I still can’t find my stupid car (misdirected anger). “Wait, it was Park Avenue and Mosher Street right?” I check my phone…”Park & McMechen”. After banging my head against the wall in frustration at my own stupidity I realized that I still had no idea where McMechen was. While checking the wall for structural damage, having used my head like a wrecking ball, my dad drove up.

“My car is at Park & McMechen. I don’t know where that is though.”

“That’s about a block away.”

“Of course it is.”  Thank God I was not looking for the Promised Land.

As I gazed longingly at the wall (just kidding about the wall part) I asked, “Why Jesus? Why?” and he said, “You already know.”

            I told my dad that I wanted to talk to him but I had to work on what Pastor T asked me to do first and he agreed. Well, I got in the house around 11:00 p.m. and finished my work around 12:00 a.m. I figured my dad was sleep and I reasoned that I could talk to him after I came back home from church that evening but God said, “If you procrastinate, you will regret it.” So I went to my dad who was surprisingly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and apologized. You know what? He forgave me, just like that. No condemnation, no anger, just love. That just reminded me of how God in his infinite love for me, forgives me for my sins and shortcomings in the same way. He did not understand everything I said, which was disappointing but our relationship was repaired, I got to witness God moving in my life and I got to tell my dad about my experience with God and how God had his hand in the situation.

Month of Miracles (Part 1)

            Finally, I get a little break! July was so busy but it must have been for God too because He was so active in my life! There were four miracles that occurred in my life that I have to share.

           First is a 2-piece (no fries with that). It started about a week before July 4th, my dad and I had a disagreement about something insignificant and the last thing he said was “I can’t be bothered with it.” At that instant, I had an epiphany, “that’s how he lives his life, he can’t be bothered…with nearly everything.” Those words pissed me off to the nth degree and uncharacteristically for me I shut down. I did not talk to him, hang out, or let him know when or where I was going. I could not even stand to look at him. He knew something was wrong and asked my mom what was going on because I was being standoffish. His idea of asking me what was wrong was saying, “Guess I’m in the doghouse huh?” days later. “No” (that satisfied him somehow), he was not in the doghouse (although…). I was not angry; I was upset and hurt and could not be bothered with him. I could not remain civil in my own strength it was all God. My extra real side wanted to throw his words back at him; “What’s wrong?”, “Oh nothing, I just can’t be bothered with you anymore.” It was on the tip of my tongue and I prayed that I would not speak those malicious words because I KNEW I would regret it if I had hurt his feelings

            July 4th rolls around and I seriously considered not going to our family cookout because I did not want to interact with him. I went but it sure was a quiet ride. I sat at the same table and heck, I even poured him some soda but my heart was not really in it all. Back at home I was discussing all the rigmarole with mom and she startled me when she asked, “How can you just cut him off like that? Would you do the same thing to me?” I could not answer but I knew I was doing something terrible. She said I should not treat him that way and that life is short which, not to be morbid, held even more weight considering his old age (big age gap between them). Of course I knew that but I just was not ready to make nice and I was a little annoyed that he never seriously asked me what was wrong and asking mom instead. I prayed and prayed that something would happen that would lead us to hashing it out but little did I know what God had in store for me. (cont…)

The ABC’s of SDA (4)

God the Father.

          I have hindered myself in writing this post because I just could not get it exactly right. I just let it sit incomplete. Well, I guess God wants me to get on with it because the 1st lesson in our Adult Sabbath School Lesson was “Our Loving Heavenly Father”, which has helped me get my thoughts together. Amen to that!

          “God is.” That is a pretty accurate assessment of God if I do say so myself but I cannot deny that my image of God’s physical form has been influenced by how He is portrayed in media. You know what I mean, the booming disembodied voice of Morgan Freeman accompanied by rays from heaven, an old man with long gray hair and beard wearing flowing robes complete with glowing halo, or even Michelangelo’s depiction. For some reason my go-to image of God resembles mythological Greek god Zeus, a guy in a toga hurling lightning bolts. Of course, I know that no one knows what God looks like but for some reason those images stick.

          I am not concerned about what God looks like. He said we were made in his image and that is fine with me (Genesis 1:26, 27; 5:1) 1. God very well could have two eyes, two ears, one nose, one mouth, and all that jazz but “image”, in the context of scripture at least, seems to be beyond the physical. It makes sense to me that “image” refers more so to God’s character than His physical form. According to E. G. White, “A character formed according to the divine likeness is the only treasure that we can take from this world to the next.”2 That is amazing. Consider Adam, for him to be created in God’s image meant that he was granted the character (but not divine nature) of God and by extension, we have the same capacity. Just like God, we have the ability to love unconditionally, we can be kind, patient, holy, merciful, compassionate, just, fair, and keep our promises.

         Yeah yeah, that is all good but who is God? The Bible says God is our Creator, he is our refuge and our strength, a shelter in the time of storm, God is love and so much more. What else? He is all these big, lofty, far away things but He is also our Father, our loving Heavenly Father! Many think of God as some angry, sin-zapping, people-smiting, callous, divine entity and contrast him with Jesus who is seen as meek, mild, compassionate and just more friendly in general (hmph! Remember when he cleared out the temple in John 2:13-17?). Jesus said, “ Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father (John 14: 8-9)yet the perceived disparity remains.

          I know about God but do I know Him personally? Well, yes. He is my Heavenly Father but I can call Him Abba, my Father, as a sign of our intimate closeness if I please. We are all His children but He cares for us all as if we were the only one. Only my Heavenly Father can be completely devoted to countless children simultaneously and have a special relationship with each one. The things my earthly father cannot do, my Heavenly Father can. I got to know God, my Heavenly Father, the same way I got to know Pooky (yes, I call him that), my earthly father. I spend time with Him and talk to Him; when there is something I do not know o understand about him, I ask someone who does (mom says he used to dress like a cowboy…not God but my dad).

          A verse that stuck with me from the Sabbath School lesson was 1 John 3:1 which says, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…” There is no doubt that God loves me so much that He would refer to me as His child. Psalm 116 shows me that God is close. He hears me and walks beside me. He is compassionate and sympathetic. He is waiting for me to call on Him when I am distressed but of course, not only when I am distressed (2 Samuel 22:7; Isaiah 63:9). Sometimes I feel so alone but I know God is always there. Even if everyone around me should abandon me, God has got my back. I will never again feel the type of despair I felt before I knew God because I have confidence in His love for me!

 

 

[1] Also see Romans 8:29, Corinthians 15:49, Colossians 3:10.

[2] White, E.G. “Character a Quality of the Soul, August 3.” Maranatha (1976): 223. Web.  6 July 2014.

[3] Also see John 10:30, John 12:45, John 15:24, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3