Saturday, February 8, 2014

blessed assurance

Life's events can force you to re-evaluate your beliefs and afford you an opportunity to renew/deepen your faith. Which, in my opinion, is always a good thing. It's good to remind yourself of why you believe in God and assess how it plays into your life. A fresh shot of perspective can do wonders- even if it doesn't come in the most gentle way.

The most recent event that rocked my life was the loss of my grandpa. I love him and miss him very much, and the event also made me face death one more time.

A dear friend of mine recently confided in me that she is afraid of death and the mystery of it all; "Is this it?"

For me, as a Christian, I know this is not "it," and that I am not afraid of death. Dying is something I don't like to think about it, but I'm sure of my salvation so it's not the scariest thing in the world to me.

I decided to put together a collection/poem-ish of recent verses in my Bible readings that have been a great comfort to me while dealing with the recent loss. The verses were a great reminder to me of my living hope in Christ for eternal life. Hopefully it can encourage you, give you food for thought, and/or show you how truly wonderful it is to be saved in Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is from John 14:27; the verse continues:
"I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil

For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 
We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. 
Death no longer has any power over him. 
When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. 
But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 

And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

God created this world and sent His Son to us. When Christ came he overcame death- he will never die again. (Ee, so cool!) And I know that my faith in him will grant me eternal life, so I am not afraid. Yay!

Praise God!

*I have all of the verse passages written down, so if you want to know where a certain verse is from and Google search isn't helping, just message me or leave a Comment! :)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

my one and only harabuhji

It's been a couple of days since we received the news, but I wrote the bulk of the post right after I heard... And today is his funeral. I really wish I could be there, but need to be resigned to the fact that it just wasn't possible for different reasons. It's been hard for me to share this with many people- in fact, I feel awkward bringing it up at all. But, I would like to thank God and my family and friends for their hugs, prayers and overwhelming love and support. You have all been wonderful. 


God is so good.
[On the left] A super sweet & thoughtful sympathy card from J.
[On the right] Beautiful orchids from K that show me I'm loved.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

[2 Corinthians 1:3-5] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

2014.2.4

When I was born, my paternal grandfather had already passed away. So, I've really only ever had one person who fit the title "grandpa" or in Korean "할아버지" (harabuhji).

His name was 안심원 (An Shim Won) and our family lost that person today.

Someone asked me if the loss was unexpected, and I can't say it was, because his health had been failing during the past few years. So much so that each and every one of my family members had gone to Korea to visit him within the past 2 years. My visit was something I will never forget.

He had gotten so thin, but he was still the same old grandpa, still holding his utensils with his pinkies up. He scolded me a little for having flown all the way to Korea by myself to see him, but was smiling a little bit. I think he secretly liked that I was stubborn and did my own thing.
When I said 'goodbye' to him, I remember he looked so sad and said "You're leaving already? You came and went, just like a dream."

I think the same could be said of his presence in my life. But, I thank God for each and every one of those moments with him. Soli Deo Gloria.


진짜 보고싶어요, 할아버지. 고이 잠드소서.

Dear 할아버지,

Even more than for my parents, I wanted to do well in my studies so that I could tell you about my grades and projects and which university I got into. I think it was because ever since I was a kid, you would always tell me how important it was to study and how you hoped that I would go to Harvard. (You later told me that UCLA is just as good. ;) I think it's because you were a teacher and it was a natural part of who you were to tell young people to dream big and work hard. Thank you.

I remember how much you loved to take long walks and go for hikes. You would walk for hours to get drinking water from the mountains for you and grandma every other day, before your health waned. Unni went with you once- and I wish I had gone, too! I remember how you would always walk with your hands behind your back, with your lips set in a line and a baseball cap on your salt and pepper hair.

One of my funnier memories of you, was when you visited our home in California and really loved the pop-up birthday card I made for dad. You tried to take it with you!! Ha ha ha!! Even when I made you your own, you said you liked his better. Silly, grandpa. And you really loved eating pistachios, reading the newspaper and writing in your journal (and telling me to write in mine, lol). I miss trying to tickle you while you read the morning paper.

I miss holding your hands and bombarding you with kisses while you pretended to not like it. I miss your Japanese lessons to Unni (where I'd listen in and write everything down on a ghetto notepad I made). Not many people knew that you were a teacher during the Japanese occupation and that you were forced to learn the language and then teach in that language. I think not many people knew because you were so strong and didn't let it faze you- you just saw it as another opportunity to learn. (And you were so good at it! Jouzu desu!)

Thank you for your lovingkindness, your wisdom and for always cheering me on to do my best, in your own way. I miss you more than words can say.

할아버지, 너무 너무 너무 너무 너무 사랑해요. 영원히.

이진이올림

Saturday, February 1, 2014

turning point

Hello! Long time no post! >o<

I'll be honest-- I was in a bad life funk. I wanted to run away and not look back, but felt so icky inside that I couldn't even conjure up enough energy to follow through with my intricate escape plans. Boo.
But, praise God, I am feeling better! It's been a slow but sure journey towards more happy days and sunshine and all that pretty stuff. :)

What made me come back to write is that... I've been feeling compositionally constipated! (Yes, that's a thing, because I just made it up.) I haven't been writing much, except for reflections for my daily Bible readings, but those were like study notes at best. Nothing really personal. I've also felt like I've had nothing to share, because of all those messy dark feelings I described above.

But! Recently I read something that really made go "Hrmmm" and that I wanted to share :) Yay!

Lately, I feel like I haven't really been giving up what's in my heart to God. The heart is filled with some ugly things and I have just been letting them sit there, to fester. Of those things, I held judgment for people-- even my own brothers and sister in Christ. I was, as my friend Pearl would call it, "judgy wudgy." :(

I mean, yes, it's easy to judge and human, but the condition of my heart is what makes me so ashamed to admit this. When I proclaim that I am Christian, I am in effect saying, that I give my life to God-- including what's in my heart.

[Romans 2:29] And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

^Paul is talking about circumcision, because he's telling the Jews that just because they went ahead and did the actions of being circumcised, it means nothing if they don't truly follow the laws of God and, in effect, Christ.

So, whose praise was I seeking with my judgments? Obviously not God's, because God hates when we judge one another. As the sinful humans we are, we have no right to hypocritically turn our noses up at one another. In a way, I realized I was seeking my own praise.

I wanted things to be easy and by doing so, in my mind I cut down people in my mind who I thought were standing in my way. In that process, I forgot about God's love and His grace in my own life and just sought to have an easy peasy walk of faith for myself.

I confessed what's been on my heart to my small group ladies and immediately thereafter, I felt God washing away all the secret thoughts in my heart. Up until that point, I thought they were harmless thoughts and never even thought of saying "God, take them away, please!" But as soon as I voiced them, confessed them, I realized how deeply they had taken root and how they had been affecting my actions and the overall condition of my heart.

Life may have not been the kindest of late, but I believe that God is always good. And I believe from the darkness and ugliness of circumstances, God's glory shines all the brighter-- and He uses those times to show us how much we need Him.

All in all, please take some time to examine what's in your heart and see if there's anything you can give to Him. He can handle it- I promise.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Soli Deo Gloria for all the things!

They say our God is a jealous God. And it's true... He wants to have the solo center spot in our hearts. And while that may strike us as a bit funny, it shouldn't, because if we were God, the Creator of the Universe, it actually makes quite a lot of sense.

So, by God's grace, I've been keeping up with my one year Bible reading plan!! Whee! (I'm 1 day shy of the 5-month mark!) And, now I'm in the part of the Book of Judges where God commands Gideon to take an army to defeat the Midianite army. So Gideon rounds up all his peeps when God stops him and says that there are too many soldiers.

Hrm...?

God says: “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’"(Judges 7:2)

So, God dwindles down the army from 32,000 to 300.

That's how much God wants to be known in our victories. He can take away all the little things you can attribute your happies to, so that in the end it all comes down to Him.

I can see this in my own life, and especially just during the past few days. I had so many plans for this weekend, meeting up with my youth girls, a fun brunch, a beloved friend's bridal shower, lots of things to get done at work, etc etc... but nope. Evidently, I was destined to be SICK this weekend. Nyoooo! >o< It's the pits!!

So He took away my ability to maintain a steady body temperature, the strength to drive in a car longer than 10 minutes without feeling like I want to pass out and a healthy enough immune system that would allow me to hang out with people without fear of infecting them/coughing on them...

>:(

Usually, I just think that getting sick is a part of life, but this time, I was quite upset. I've literally been bed-ridden for 3 days now and I cannot wait to get back out and frolic with the rest of humanity.

But all of these missed opportunities may have been more chances for me to go about my business without being grateful to God. On a daily basis how thankful am I to God for getting a report done on time or for being able to meet up with my youthies?

I guess this time in bed was able to serve as a reboot to my attitude that seems to have been on auto-pilot lately. Also, for the past few weeks in my small group, I have been asking for more opportunities to pray. What better time than the present? :)

Yay! With God's help, even sicky-time can be a blessing! (But, please please please, God, let me get better... Amen!)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

praying for the lonely

"Truth is, I've never felt so alone in my whole life."

He wore a tired smile but his eyes were filled with so much sadness. I had no idea what to say.

I was sitting with my coworker on a rooftop bar looking down into the Cardinals stadium. We were freezing cold, but stubborn, and huddled around the fire pit.

It's hard to tell, but I was shivering when I took this picture. Brrr.

A nice older gentleman was giving us the lowdown on the game since we arrived at the bar in the 3rd inning. He then proceeded to tell us his life story.

Which is when he dropped that sad bomb on me. I wanted to cry and maybe give him a hug.

He had moved to St. Louis (of all places) from the Philippines to find work and send money back home to his family. The man said if anything were to happen to him, like getting a flat tire or needing to go to the hospital, he didn't have anyone here to ask for help.

"Now that I'm in America, I can afford a phone. But, so what? I have a phone, but no one to call."

I was quiet as I absorbed his words. My coworker was quicker to respond and converse, which kept the dialogue flowing. Soon the man went back to talking about the game.

Even though I never got his name and missed my chance to offer some sort of encouraging word, I know I will remember his voice and the gravity of his words, and how he bared his soul to two strangers that chilly night.

I know lots of people, from all walks of life, who are struggling with feelings of loneliness-- physically and/or emotionally. It's impossible to bring each and every one of them out of their darkness; the one thing I can do is pray for them.

So, if you can and want to, please say a prayer for those who feel alone, who feel like they have no one to call, that they may know love. Only God can break the walls of loneliness and provide true comfort.

[Psalm 78:14] He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night.

[Deuteronomy 31:6] 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.

Amen.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My girls say the darndest things

I walked into church feeling depleted. And it showed. On my face. In my posture. In my lack of energy. I always hope to show up energized on Friday nights with the joy of serving and filled with the Spirit... But on this night a couple weeks ago, I was beat down. Boom!

People kept asking if I was sick because I seemed so lackluster. And I couldn't even muster up enough energy to pretend like I wasn't.

But, God is so good. During worship I felt His love and His outstretched hands. And each time one of my girls came up to me and hugged me, I felt a little more love and energy. Warm fuzzies galore.

By the time we had small group, I was feeling better. But, when I walked away that night I felt like I was getting more blessings out of this than my girls.

I honestly can say that the hardest I laughed this month was on all the Friday nights with my youth girls. It doesn't even feel right to call them "youth girls," because they exhibit maturity and I can see God really growing them... I feel so blessed to have this group!


This month our small group meetings were pretty informal, in that I am trying to have it be more about sharing and growing their relationships, so I decided not to plan a formal Bible study. We went around the table and shared about our weeks, prayer requests and then I had them practice praying aloud. (Praying out loud is something scary and daunting, no matter what age!)

It's really encouraging to hear how they seek God, even in small ways, throughout their days. I remember middle school and high school and how schoolwork occupied such a huge part of my life, and how hard it was to find time to pray or read the Word. So to hear them talk about how they journal at the end of each day, how they really want to pray more, or how they think about Him when something goes wrong at school makes me praise God. :)

I love these girls. They have such big hearts and such funny mouths. One of the big reasons I laughed so much was because of all of the slang I'm learning from them. "HMU," "Ew, bye," "thirsty," "beh," "ratchet." It's pretty funny to try and figure out what they mean. Lol. ;)

And, as per usual, the conversations after the serious sharing portion turned into talking about boys, which in turn, turned into their wish list for who they want as my next boyfriend.

J, who is in 6th grade, gave me very specific instructions: "He has to really love the Lord and can't be weird looking." (AHAHAHAHA) She finished off by saying, "I hope you know that I have really really really high expectations of you." (No pressure.)

E asked me which celebrities I like and when I told her, she said "You seem to like creepy looking guys." (Thanks...)

K wanted to know if I liked loud or quiet guys, and told me that if a guy is shy it can be cute, but if he is too nice then it can be boring. (Duly noted!)

S told me that if I meet someone I like, that I should get to know them slowly and figure out if we get along well. (Very wise and mature words!)

I'm not set on finding someone right now, I'm pretty much just enjoying life and taking it day by day. But, I do know that I promised my girls that whoever I end up with would be someone who I could proudly introduce to them (it's sort of like an older sister setting an example for her super cute younger sisters). At any rate, my girls are the funniest and harshest critics... So, good luck to me. -__-

Saturday, October 5, 2013

being okay with gray

Oh, the gray area. How you are an opportunist's best friend and the object of loathing for those seeking answers.

"Gray area" can denote anything from a complicated relationship to a very bendy rule or regulation. When it's in your favor, you love it. When you feel like you'll die if you don't get a definite answer, you hate it.

In the Christian walk, the gray area can be a time of waiting. Waiting for a prayer to be answered and at the same time wondering if the silence is your answer. It can also be something you're struggling with that isn't addressed verbatim in the Bible.

For this post, I'm going to discuss the first kind of gray area... because I decided. Ha ha! :)

Lately, there has been a lot of things at the forefront of my mind... and they are all up in the air. It's maddening.

I tend to see (or want to see) things in black or white, because it's easier to preserve my sanity that way. If there's a right and a wrong, then it's easy to make decisions. If things become too subjective, where would we be? We'd all be doing our own thing and it would be crajee!

Obviously, I'm being a bit exaggerate-y, because that's more fun and better for illustrating what I'm talking about. (Just go with it, please. Ha ha)

Anyways! So, yea. It. Is. Maddening.

Or rather, it can be. If we choose to let it get to us. And this is what I'm learning.

You can demand an answer, or wait patiently for an answer (if it comes at all), or forget about finding the answer and concentrate on trusting in God to provide in His perfect way.

I am learning, the last option is the best. But it's definitely a learning process. An acquired taste, if you will.

Recently I've had this one conundrum on my mind, and it's really been weighing heavily on me. When I talk to my women's small group about it or any other female friend, we always laugh because towards the end of it we are sitting their analyzing every little thing, until finally we come to that constant conclusion that we have no idea what is going on. One of my small group sisters always laughs and asks "Why do we, as women, overanalayze everything?" Good question, C. Good question. :(

I've been praying more consistently for God's will to be revealed concerning this matter, and I've been met with silence and little ebbs and flows of activity that can mean something or nothing.

Then as I was driving to a friend's house and praying to God to just give me rest from even thinking about this thing, Proverbs 3:5-6 came into my mind.

Trust in the Lord, with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.

Oh, wow. I had been using up so much energy overthinking things and trying to interpret my situations as if I was it was an essay topic for a high school English class. When the answer was just to trust in God and not lean on my own understanding of things. And I wasn't acknowledging God's hand in every way. Only in the ways that I wanted to. Finally, I knew what I had to do.

Let go of my desperation to find an answer and just let it go.

It had been on my mind long enough that I saw that worrying about it didn't do a thing, but that time had been revealing things slowly. And in my search for a burning bush, I forgot to take a look at the big picture-- including committing that which hasn't happened yet to prayer.

Maybe I'm in a gray area now. But, I'm learning to be okay with gray.

Life is still not easy. So, this isn't some infomercial that promises that all your problems will be solved. But I feel less crazy. More peaceful. More positive. Because no matter the outcome, I know that it is God directing my path. :)

Be blessed!

*update: I wrote this post a couple weeks ago and forgot to post it. (haha, I'm senileee.) Since then, one of my church sisters has been praying regularly for me and God answered our prayers. Thank You, God & thank you, T! I'm still in the thick of a gray cloud but at least the one big mystery has been solved. ;)