Taiwan: The Rundown

Here it is.  The really long post about the Taiwan trip.  Bear with me.

We arrived late after a day and a half of travel and crashed.  Then we hit the ground running and we didn’t stop until we got home.  We went to visit and support the missionary family that lives there, Clay and Rhonda and their three little girls.  We pretty much just got in step with their lives in Taipei and did things like go with them to take the girls to school on the metro and join them in their ministry and outreach efforts.  Our first day we got to go to the girls’ school and present bible verses during their weekly chapel.  They go to a small English-speaking Christian school, but they are also learning Chinese.  We got to go to a professional basketball game because Clay ministers to a few of the guys on the team.  That was unexpected and less touristy.  We went to church with them on Sunday and met their friends.  It was awesome to worship with people from all over the world.  They have a Chinese service in the morning and an English service in the afternoon.  Clay took us to the famous Shi-lin night market, which was a whirlwind of light and sound and people.  There were vendors selling everything you can imagine.  One guy was grilling squid on a stick.  We visited a Buddhist temple and learned about how people there buy food and other items to burn for their deceased family members and to appease the spirits.  There’s a temple in every neighborhood and the temples make millions off the people.  It was an eerie feeling in there.  We babysat one evening so Clay and Rhonda could go on a date.  We read the girls bedtime stories and then watched some comedy DVDs.  It’s not your typical mission trip activity but it was really needed and appreciated.  We had some ministry time with their friends and got to know them a little.  We also did some prayer walking around the city and visited the campus of National Taiwan University, where some friends of theirs have a student outreach.

We also did some tourist things.  We visited the Chaing Kai-Shek memorial.  It’s a gigantic building with one bronze statue inside but it was awesome.  We went to the Taipei 101 building which used to be the tallest building in the world with 101 floors.  They have an observatory at the top where you can see the entire city.  One day the guys went on a hike to a waterfall in the mountains and Rhonda and I took their 3-year-old to the beach.  It was an hour away by train, but I loved getting out of the city and seeing the mountains and the rural areas.  The beach was beautiful, and they were having a sand sculpture festival.  The sculptures were huge and incredibly intricate.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

The rest of the time we spent eating.  Just kidding.  Kind of.  They took us to all their favorite restaurants and ordered lots of different dishes for us to try.  Some stuff was really good, like fried rice and dumplings.  Some not so much, like the seaweed and tofu dishes.  They do some pretty weird stuff like put peanut butter on hamburgers and eat them for breakfast and put mayonnaise on fried shrimp and top it with rainbow sprinkles.  I liked trying new things but by the last day I was pretty excited about Taco Night at Clay and Rhonda’s.  They invite people they know and people they meet along the way to their home for some good ol’ Tex Mex.

Traveling back home was exhausting.  We had to get up at 4 am and travel for 36 hours.  We had a seven hour layover in Seoul and then had to fly for thirteen hours to Toronto.  Then a short hop to Atlanta but then we drove three hours home.  I was pooped.  It took several days to finally recover from the jet-lag, but it was definitely worth it.  I had an amazing time and I would do it again.  But not for a while.

We did so many exciting things and yet the biggest thing that came out of Taiwan for me was the fact that I did it.  I packed one carry-on, got on a plane with two dudes, and flew to the other side of the world.  A year ago that would have seemed impossible.  Now, it’s a memory.  And it seems to have sparked a bravery in me.  The idea of travelling and going far away from home is no longer scary.  It’s exciting.  Because of Taiwan I have the confidence to try.  That is seriously not nothing.

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Holy Fortune Cookie

Do you read the fortunes in the cookies when you get Chinese food?  I usually do and then gripe about how they’re really advise more than fortunes.  They tend to tell you things like “Eat more fruit.”  So when I opened the fortune cookie three weeks before my mission trip to Taiwan, I wasn’t expecting what came out.

I’ve written a couple times on this blog that I was struggling with self-doubt.  I wrote that I wanted to be chosen because I had something to offer and because I was unique.  I also wrote that I need to start seeing myself like God sees me, as a mighty warrior.  I knew God was calling me to go on this trip.  He made it possible for me to get a week and a half off work despite having been on the job less than a year and he provided the funds a long time ago.  It was obvious that it was His will.  And still I doubted that I had made the right decision.  I doubted I was worthy to be taken on a mission trip.

Then I got Chinese and opened the fortune cookie just for a laugh.  It read, “If it is meant to be who are you to change that?  Time to believe it.”  And I sat back and said, “Whoa.”  Cause if there was ever a fortune that was written just for me, it’s that one.  I needed that right then and Jesus put it there.  It just proves that He loves us and never stops pushing us toward our destiny.  And I think it proves that Jesus has a pretty awesome sense of humor.

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It’s Not About Them

Why am I different?  Why do I always have to be the odd man out?  Why am I on a different path from everybody else?

Of course why is irrelevant.  I’ve already talked about that. But I seem to always end up on a different road.  And sometimes that’s uncomfortable.

It’s so much easier to be seen doing the things God calls you to do.  When your calling matches up with what church folks expect, it’s pretty easy.  You get to talk about it and share it with the people around you.  You don’t get funny looks or the “What are you doing for God?” kind of questions.  It’s so much harder when you’re the one God called to abide.  Harder when you’re called to a solitary activity.

I’ve been hearing a lot of noise around me lately.  Noise about what everybody’s calling is and what they’re doing.  My church preaches relationship and obedience to God.  No matter what that looks like.  And yet when you know you’re being obedient, people still expect you to be something else.  In my church lately it’s been all about creating extended family through home group fellowship and study, becoming a prayer servant who prays for healing, and hearing the Father’s voice and giving prophecy to others.  These are all great things and I’m so happy that there are so many people participating and building family and reaching out to the community.  It’s awesome.  But I do not feel called to any of that at this time.  In fact, the Father has been quiet lately.  And that’s okay.

That’s okay.

And yet, I have all this static around me saying that it’s not “acceptable,” not good enough.  Everybody’s got all these stories, experiences, words, and they feel they have to share every one of them.  And me?  I don’t have anything to share because what God has for me right now is intensely private and quite frankly, no one’s business.  What right does anyone have to tell me that’s not good enough?

I feel like obedience is being lost in a sea of goals.  Life isn’t a video game.  Gifts of the Spirit are not levels to be beaten.  Your growth should never be measured against anyone else’s journey.  You are where the Father wants you.  Turn your eyes to Him, not to your friends or the church leadership.  Don’t join something just because your friends think you should.  Don’t do something just because the leaders preach it from the pulpit.  It may not be for you at this time.  And if that makes you different, then so be it.

Make obedience your goal.  It’s about Him.  It’s not about them.

“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”  Luke 11:28 (NIV)

Deep Water

Back in December a friend of mine suggested that the members of our church group ask the Lord to give us words for the coming year.  Mine were growth and friendship.

Now, I knew better than to try to predict what the year was going to look like based on two words.  But I admit I thought it would look something like God calling me to serve somewhere in the church and I would build deeper relationships with my friends at group.  My dog died in March so I thought maybe that was a sign God was going to send me somewhere. Or send me someone.  I wouldn’t have any strings.  I could go anywhere and do anything.

After seven months of 2016, I feel more isolated and alone than I think I ever have.  I feel distant from my group.  I don’t feel any call to serve at the church.  I haven’t been on a date in over a year and I feel really rejected.  All I want to do is read and write and sleep.  I’m moody, snappish, fatigued.

And somehow, I feel like I’m exactly where I should be.  When I read, I feel like me.  When I write, I feel like I’m moving forward.

I can feel myself changing.  It’s almost like gears and cogs moving around inside me, making me into something new.  It’s very hard to describe.  It’s like I’m becoming a hybrid of my hard, surly teen self and the much more loving and compassionate twenty something self.

I know I’ve been chosen for a different path.  I’ve always been different from everybody else.  I’m getting better at appreciating that.  He’s leading me somewhere.  I know it.  I just can’t see it.

This is deep water.  This is where a lot of Christians fear to go.  It’s much easier to go to church and visit God than to bring Him home with you.

But this is where you find out who you are.  When it’s hard and uncomfortable and you can’t see any point in it.  When the water is over your head and you have nothing but Jesus’s hand pulling you up and Him saying “Oh, ye of little faith.”  This is where you let Him pull you out.

This is where you walk on the water.

I’m That Girl

I’m that girl in class who never raised her hand.

I’m that girl who was never invited to the party.

I’m that girl who didn’t get drunk with you.

I’m that girl in the photos from the Maymester.

I’m that girl in the sorority you never really knew.

I’m that girl you didn’t call to catch up.

I’m that girl you didn’t think was good enough.

I’m that girl who solved the problems.

I’m that girl who always gets it done.

I’m that girl who used to go to your church.

I’m that girl you passed over on EHarmony.

I’m that girl you went on one date with.

I’m that girl who’s only funny if you’re drunk.

I’m that girl who takes the punch.

I’m that girl who gets back up.

I’m that girl who listened to you.

I’m that girl who forgave you.

I’m that girl who still prays for you.

I’m that girl who has Faith.

I’m that girl who Hopes.

I’m that girl who Loves.

Because the greatest of these is Love.

Yeah, I’m that girl.

The Problem of Why

About three months ago, my dog died.  She was only six years old.  She got sick, she was in pain, and she had to be put down.  I only wrote about Patti on this blog once, about how it took me a long time to really love her.  She was stubborn, frustrating, difficult.  I struggled to train her and worked really hard.  I had to improvise a lot.  You couldn’t follow the rules of the training methods with her.  Patti made her own rules.

I started calling her my “little lesson in acceptance.”  I wanted a Westie because they’re adorable.  I really wasn’t prepared for her energy and her strong will.  She wasn’t a lap dog and wouldn’t sleep in the bed.  She always wanted to be in the middle of whatever was going on.  She wasn’t the dog I hoped she would be but I grew to love her and accept her for who she was, a loud, high-spirited, loving, sweet, adorable, playful terrier.  Despite her anxiety and refusal to be groomed, we had a good time together.  She would “tap” your leg when she wanted something and growl at you when she wanted to play.  We spent long afternoons sitting on the swing outside and evenings throwing the ball around the living room.

Her death hit me hard, a lot harder than I expected.  It was the middle of tax season so I had to get on with the work, get on with life, but I cried nearly every day.  There were holes all through my life where she used to be.  The dining chair no longer sits under the window in the living room so she can see out.  Her blanket isn’t on the left seat of the couch.  Her bowl isn’t in the kitchen.  And I was angry.  I asked God, Why?  Why take my dog?  She was still so young.  It wasn’t her time.  The Bible says you’re good, how is this good?  How is this grief, this hole in my life, this pain, good?

He didn’t answer why.  After a few weeks, on my Saturday morning drive to work, He simply said, “It’s My will.”  You see, He is the sovereign God of the universe.  When we sign up to walk with Him, we sign up to play by His rules.  And we don’t get an explanation.  We are called to walk by faith, not by sight.  I don’t see why as a question anymore.  I see it as a problem.  Every time I ask why He does something, I’m lacking faith.  I have to cut “why” out of my vocabulary.  Because the why doesn’t matter.  What matters is that He is good.

Do I still cry for Patti?  Yes.  Does it still hurt?  Yes.  Is He still good?  Yes.  Patti taught me a lot about dog ownership and myself.  Her death taught me about faith.  It taught me that even when the storm is raging and the pain is so bad that it’s like the world is ending, I still know God is good.  Because three years ago I chose to pick up my cross and follow Him.  Where He wants me I will go, no matter what it costs.

When the God who made the universe said, “It’s My will,” I said, “Okay.”

Mud in My Eyes

“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” John 9:10-11 (NIV)

It wasn’t mud. It was a fancy 21st century laser but it’s essentially the same thing. I had Lasik surgery recently and to say it was awesome is an understatement. It may not have been an instantaneous healing but it was a miracle nonetheless.

Let me back up. I became near-sighted at eight years old. I had to get new glasses every year and at 14 I got contacts. I hoped I could get Lasik done soon after high school but of course my vision had to stop changing before I could go for a consultation. Year after year I went for my annual exam hoping they would tell me my eyes had leveled off and year after year I was told I needed a higher prescription. It became really stressful to go to the optometrist. I hated going for that exam more than any other, even the gynecologist. Finally, two years ago my prescription stayed the same and last year I was cleared for a Lasik consultation. My eyes had leveled off at a whopping -9.00. If you don’t know how bad that is, consider yourself blessed.

I couldn’t make time for it last year and I was scared to have the surgery. I was afraid that I would be the one in a million who loses her eyesight to a botched surgery. I still wanted it because even with contacts I wasn’t seeing 20/20 and my glasses were Coke bottles I had a really hard time seeing with. But I was scared. I thought I’d just make due. My eyes weren’t getting worse anymore. Then I went for my appointment and was told the strain of not having my vision fully corrected with contacts was causing the prescription to go up again.

We see many miraculous healings in my church and I’ve said that if I could choose what God healed for me it would be my eyesight. At the Supernatural Conference I had someone pray for my eyes. Nothing happened but she told me God wanted me to trust Him. I admit I was disappointed. That night I woke up, looked around at the blurry (and I mean blurry) room, and sighed. Then God said, “I’m not done yet.”

Two weeks later I went for a consultation. I was sure they wouldn’t be able to do Lasik but maybe they could do a different kind of surgery. It would cost as much as a car but my student loans are paid off so maybe I could swing it. They told me I was a good candidate for Lasik and they could do my surgery in two months. I was shocked and elated.

On September 26, 2015, God healed my eyes. At -9.00 I fell just inside the parameters of Lasik and was the highest prescription they did that day. I had always been afraid of the surgery and I thought I would be a nervous wreck that day but I could have done it without the Xanax. It just didn’t make sense to be scared anymore. I finally released the problem to Him and He has blessed me beyond what I expected.

Finally, after twenty years, I can sit up each morning and see clearly. Lasik is truly miraculous.