I'll go where you will lead me, lord

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. -Psalm 27:4

My Testimony

 

Before I begin, I’d like to preface this testimony by saying that I share these personal details of my life and sinful past with a purpose in mind.  This is not merely a confession to get guilt off my chest.  This is not a cry for attention or consolation.  This is a true story of God’s glory and relentless pursuit of me, a sinner.  This is proof of the living God who loves me and cares for me.

Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me.

Psalm 66:16

As a child, I recited the same definition of sin over and over again: “Sin is anything I say, do, or think that displeases God.”  While this definition is not wrong, and is just simplified for children to understand, it implanted a wrong image of God in me as a little girl.  “Say, do, or think”?  I began to watch every little thought I had that was “bad.”  I was afraid.  I had to be good.  I had to be fake.  “Displeases”?  I saw God frowning upon me.  I saw God ready to punish me like a parent waiting with a rod, staring me down as I cried in the corner of the room.  I grew up wanting to please God and people so intensely that at times, that desire to be good became crippling.  I let myself become a doormat to friends who made fun of me about little things.  I let myself laugh whenever my family said I was dumb or silly or forgetful.  I let myself apologize for every little thing I did wrong, and only apologized more when people told me to stop apologizing so much.  This terrible habit of fearful submission spiraled into me thinking I had to obey whatever my boyfriend at the time asked of me.  And eventually, I made the biggest mistake of my life by letting myself say yes to sex before marriage.

And at the end of it all, was I good?  Did I please my parents?  Did I please God?  Or did I please myself?

I’ll always remember this quote from one night at my youth group that changed my view on sin: “God commands us not to sin – not because He is just waiting for us to fall and is out to get us and punish us. God commands us not to sin because He knows it will hurt us.”

To hear the word “sin” in a context of love rather than of punishment was revolutionary to me.  My sinful past came hurtling towards me, but this time I did not feel the shame that had gripped me and silenced me for years.  Instead, I felt loved by my Father.  Instead of thinking, “God is punishing me because I lost my virginity,” I realized the truth – God commanded me not to have sex before marriage because He knew what emotional turmoil would follow.  Because He loves me, He does not want that pain and brokenness for my life.  And even more importantly – God still loves me even though I have broken His commandments, and is just waiting for me to return home.

I would continue to struggle with these new realizations in the summer before college, swinging back and forth between feelings of shame and forgiveness.  Old habits still remained, and I would cry and hide myself from the world whenever I remembered that I could not take back the sin I had committed.  But God was still pursuing me, and He finally caught me at a fall conference I attended with my fellowship.

My group got to the conference late.  We snuck in through the back as the speaker, Jim Rinella, continued his message.  I praise God for His perfect timing, because the first words I heard Jim say were, “Sex made me stay longer than I wanted to stay.”  At that moment, my heart cried out to God.  I knew He wanted me there at that very second, surrounded by those very people, listening to that very message on healing sexual brokenness.  Jim continued to teach about the prodigal son, quoting the following Scripture:

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

While he was still a long way off.  What an amazing image – the father stood at the door, hoping and waiting to see his beloved son long before the son was even in view.  I saw Jesus Christ standing at the door with His hands raised to His face, shielding His eyes from the sun and peering into the distance, longing for me to come to Him before I even knew I needed Him.

Looking back now, I see for just how long God has been waiting for me.  His pursuit of my heart did not only begin when I sinned.  It did not even begin when I was born into a sinful body and a broken world.  It began before He created the world, before He created man.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16

And so I realize the paradoxical thinking of my childhood years.  How could God have created me so intricately and with so much care if He was only out to punish me?  How could a loving Creator want to destroy His own creations?  And hear this – why would He send His only son to die in our place and receive the necessary price of sin for us?  It simply does not make sense to see God through a lens of fear of condemnation.  The only possible conclusion is that God wants us and loves us, and commands us not to sin because He wants us to live completely and to be with Him in Heaven someday.

I am still a sinner, and as long as I am on this Earth I will continue to sin because that is human nature.  But I can live in confidence that God loves me and is constantly at work in my heart and has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).  I can rejoice in my suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance (Romans 5:3).  And as I continue to seek Him, allowing Him to sanctify me for His glory day by day rather than striving to sanctify myself in order to please God and people, I can look forward to that final day when I can stand before Him and hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

I leave my testimony with you in hopes that you too will come to know this amazing, loving God, and see the great work which has been completed for your sake through His son Jesus Christ.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Galatians 6:14

Stop Compromising.

The ultimate purpose of us being here on Earth and of Jesus dying on the cross is to make God’s name known and glorified.  While being single allows us to carry out that purpose alone – or perhaps faster and more efficiently, if you’re a solo worker – marriage can be just as instrumental.  Two people working together to advance God’s kingdom not only holds so much potential to impact the hearts of others, but also glorifies God within the relationship, therefore keeping it alive and prosperous.  So how much impact are you really making for God’s purpose if you are not pursuing someone who understands that same purpose?  How can that significant other love you like Christ does and sacrifice himself like Christ did if he or she does not understand Christ’s love in the first place?

As it is written in Song of Solomon 8:4, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.”  Wait on the Lord, and do not waste time – precious time God has given us to spread the good news while we are here on Earth – pursuing something or someone less than the perfect plan God ordained for you before you were even born.  Do not replace God’s amazing design for marriage – the union of two people called according to His purpose – with the lie that your heart can be satisfied by compromising.

Be Still

Upon coming to UCLA, I expected to learn how to become a better musician.  I expected to learn how to be independent.  I expected to learn how to build relationships and make connections for my future career.  But I never realized the biggest lesson I would have to learn was how to let God fight for me when I have done all I can.

On one of my first nights after moving in, a debate about abortion starts up in my lounge.  It’s about ten people arguing for pro-choice against one person arguing for pro-life.  I sit and listen for quite some time as I hear these friends turning on each other.  I sit, and listen, and tremble with fear and anger all at the same time at the injustice I’m witnessing…until one guy arguing for pro-choice says something I could not stand.  He says, “We give the decision to abort to the older, wiser people in the situation.  If I were to get a girl down the hall pregnant, don’t you think it should be our decision to abort since we know we can’t handle having a child?”

I walk right into the circle, wait my turn to speak, and ask him, “You say you give the decision to the wiser person?  Then how come you had sex when you knew you weren’t ready to have a child?”

What intrigues me is that no one can respond.  The very person who so confidently argued against me is now silent, scrolling on his phone until someone else speaks up.  Eventually, they all exclude me from the conversation and I have to leave the room to calm down.  I cannot tell if I won or lost.  All I know is that God triumphs in the end.  All I know is that God will fight for me – I need only be still.

Fast forward to a week ago.

People are smoking weed down the hall, and it’s obvious.  It’s happened before, but this time their door is open and the smell is making me nauseous.  After taking some deep breaths and gathering all the courage I can, I knock on their door.  Twice.

A girl I know from choir answers.  I ask, “Is someone smoking in here?”

After a quick glance down the hall, she whispers “yes.”  Something in me becomes brave and I respond, “The smell is making me sick, and if you don’t want me to throw up on your front door, I suggest you stop.”  She closes the door slightly behind her and frantically explains that she doesn’t personally smoke.  I tell her I understand, but it’s still a choice to have those people in her room.  After some hesitation, she says, “Okay I’ll tell them.”

I leave, still shaking with adrenaline.  I can feel her friends in the room call me ugly things.  I can hear the Enemy whispering that I’m weak.  I message the girl later that night, apologizing for scaring her but not apologizing for doing what’s right.  I tell myself again and again, God will fight for you.  You need only be still.  Eventually, I fall asleep.

 

Puddle of Faith

Why do I stand in the shower

Holding my hands together

Letting water collect in my hands

Like a thundershower filling up a leaf?

Why do I watch in awe

As the soap bubbles swirl around

Only to let it all go

Seeping through the cracks

Between my wrinkled fingertips?

It hits me as I see the last drop

Exit the safehaven I have created

I like to have control

But I love to give it up

 

 

Dear Hillary

YES. Modern feminism has actually devalued women! By suggesting that women can do everything men can, you are also taking away from the fact that both men and women bring special features to the table that God inherently gave them.

BeautyBeyondBones

Alright, that’s it.

I’m doing it.

The time has come.

I’m taking on …

the pantsuit.

dlGtWst

Womp. Womp. Sorry if that was a let down.

But in light of the recent political conventions, I have finally worked up the courage to talk about something that I have wanted to “tackle” for a long time.

The Pantsuit.

Or rather, what it stands for.

Now, some people may have watched the conventions and gotten all hot and bothered about the political “superheroes” in attendance. The brilliant/moving/potentially lifted speeches. The cause-for-concern weight of former presidents and their affinity for oversized balloons.


But I was focused on one thing: The Pantsuit.

Now, I must begin with this…it was so unfortunate that both the headlining women wore white. I mean, for the love, Melania Trump is a gosh darn vision in white. Not that Hillz wasn’t beautiful in her own right, but her stylist should have realized…

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Dear God,

I had a dream last night about my best friend of 14 years.  For the sake of anonymity, I will name her K.

For our entire friendship, I have prayed for K and wanted to share my faith with her, but it seemed I could never find the right timing.  We always had something else to do, something else to talk about.  Whenever I did share a little about church and what I believe in, she always seemed like she cared but did not want to be involved.  This dream has caused me to believe that the time is near for me to finally share with her.

School just got out, and she spontaneously invited me to her house.  Suddenly, I thought, This is the perfect opportunity for me to share the Gospel with her.  So I went without saying a word to my parents or anyone else about where I was going.  As we walked up her driveway, we saw her next-door neighbor doing something in his yard that suggested he was a Christian (I can’t remember exactly what he was doing.  Perhaps he was hanging a cross on his door or something similarly symbolic).  I looked at K and she responded to his actions with a negative comment, something along the lines of how strange and superstitious her neighbor was.  It bothered me greatly as we entered her house – that this was the image she had of Christians – and she probably thought the same of me but never admitted it.  So I stopped in the hallway, causing her to look back at me in question.  I stood there and said firmly, “I think it’s time for me to tell you what I really believe in.”

Still confused, she replied, “Okay…but it’s not like you need to.  I already know.”

“I don’t think you do.  I just want to make sure it’s clear.”

Next thing I know, I’m sitting on her bedroom floor with K and her younger sister B.  As a side note, I have been praying for B as well ever since I told her I was going to church and she replied with, “Ew…you go to church? That’s so weird.”  So I was surprised to see that in my dream, she seemed very open to what I was about to share with them.

I first asked the two sisters what their conception of Christianity was.  K spoke up first, saying she thought Christians worshipped the sun and did a lot of stupid rituals to worship things they could not see.  B piped up from behind her and said she had thought that too.  I immediately responded, “That is a huge misconception.  We do not worship the sun, nor do we do a bunch of meaningless rituals.”  K seemed to get annoyed and bored of the subject, so she brushed it off with, “We’ve been best friends for so long.  It doesn’t matter if I know or don’t know what you believe in, as long as we’re still best friends and we just respect each other.”  But I was not satisfied.  I said, “It’s because we are best friends and I want to stay best friends that I feel I must share what I believe in.  How else can we trust each other completely than to be completely open about ourselves?”

She shut herself off again, suggesting we go do something else.  I then realized I still hadn’t told my mom where I was yet, so I said, “Unfortunately I have to go home.”  Getting up from the bed, she asked, “So is that the only reason you came?”

“No, but I felt like it was the right time to tell you.”

Then I woke up.

My first thought when I opened my eyes was, This is big.  Like I mentioned before, I have prayed for the timing and the ability to share the truth with K for years.  And for years, I have not received an answer.  Finally, through a dream – the most clear way God speaks to me – I see that it is time to turn the tide.  It is time to stop letting K and B brush off Christianity as a meaningless and superstitious religion and never find out the truth for themselves.  It is time to stop living in my comfort zone and share the most important truth with the friend I care about most.

Now of course, fear is a big reason why several Christians never speak out about their faith – even with their closest friends and family.  If K was as rude in real life as she was in the dream, I would feel discouraged by this dream.  After all, she did not receive me well in the dream.  However, I know her well.  I know for a fact that she is not nearly as quick-tempered as her dream self.  Yet, my dream self was not afraid to challenge her.  So what do I have to fear in real life?

 

Dear God,

So I’ve been leading a group this summer for girls.  It’s like a Bible study, but we’re also reading a book about building our relationship with God before we think about dating.  So far it’s been great.  I’ve learned just how far God is willing to go in order to show us that He loves us.  I’ve learned that sometimes we are more thankful for the things God has given us than we are for the Giver.  But most of all, I’ve learned that God is the best friend we could ever ask for.

Growing up, I was always taught in Sunday school to see Jesus as my best friend.  Unfortunately, this lesson seemed vague and irrelevant to my life – not necessarily because I didn’t appreciate God, but because I didn’t know the value of friendship quite yet.  I saw God as my Savior, but certainly not as someone I could have a casual conversation with.  It was not until the end of high school that I began to realize the meaning of friendship and intimacy as a whole.  I learned this by looking at my own friendships.

When we are intimate with our friends, we aren’t afraid to ask them things like: “Whatcha doin today?” “Wanna hang out?” or “What’s wrong?”  In fact, those very questions create the closeness we have with them.  I’m never afraid to ask my closest friend Catherine if she wants to hang out because I know she enjoys my company.  I’m never afraid to tell her what is troubling me or ask what is troubling her because I know she cares about me.  So why should it be any different with God?

I’ve learned my whole life that God loves me, cares about the details of my life, and wants to spend time with me.  So this morning, when I first opened my eyes – before I even turned on my phone to check my messages – I prayed, “Good morning God.  What are you up to today?”

 

 

The Inner Critic – Chapters 1 and 2

Dedicated to my sister, Leeann.  Inspired by Holden Caulfield, the voice inside our heads.

Chapter 1 

To Anyone Curious

Okay, so when I was growing up I kept like a million journals. I don’t think I ever finished them, except for one, because I was really impatient. Whenever I sat down to write, the more interesting my thoughts were, the more impatient I felt to get it all down on paper. I could never write fast enough, and by the time I wrote it all out, it wasn’t interesting anymore. Then I started writing shorthand, in order to keep up with my thoughts. Maybe that’s why I got to become a great notetaker, always abbreviating things and all. So anyway, I can’t tell if it’s a bad thing or a good thing. It might be bad because I never put much thought into my journaling, and I kinda imagine some scholars or whatever a hundred years from now looking back at all my journals, trying to piece together what civilization was like in my time, and maybe getting really disappointed and all because they can’t tell what the heck I’m talking about. But it also might be a good thing because the reason I journal so briefly is that I’m too busy living. There’s no time to write something down unless I really, really have to write it down.

Another problem I have with journaling is that if something exciting happens, I get all nervous and try to write a sophisticated poem about it. People tend to want to write poems when something big happens. My English teacher Mr. Smith told me about that. He said the day his father died, he saw meaning in everything around him and ended up writing a poem about it. The trouble with me is that halfway through writing the poem, no matter how excited I was in the beginning, I end up hating it. You know when you draw something or write a story? You’re real proud of it at first and you feel like showing everybody, but a few days later you feel like trashing it all of a sudden. Well that change of mind happens to me about ten times as fast, so I feel like trashing a poem after I’ve written the first few lines. But like I said before, maybe it’s alright because it just means my life can’t always be put down in words. Maybe it’s alright because things mean more to you when you keep them inside. Heck, I’ll try to get more than a chapter down in here though before I trash it, I promise.

Chapter 2

Leeann

My second oldest sister is Leeann. She’s six years older than me, but we might as well be twins. The best thing about her is that there’s nothing bad to say about her, nothing at all. I’m real lucky I had her teach me lots of things when I was growing up. Something that stuck out to me was that at every family dinner, she always listened to the adults. If I poked her or pulled on her shirt or something, she’d gently motion for me to hush a minute because she wanted to hear what the adults were talking about. As a kid, I thought she was just trying to be the perfect child and all, but then I noticed she actually got their jokes and the adults started asking her what her opinion was about things. I mean if they ever asked me, I’d probably sit there and giggle awkwardly or something, then ask to be excused so I could go play the piano. That was my signature move, the awkward giggle. My cousins tormented me about it for years, but I’m alright, honestly. Anyway, Leeann never made fun of me, not even a little bit. If she said anything critical, it was always for my own good, and I could see that even as a little kid. And if she ever got impatient, I trusted her so much that I just figured she was tired or bothered by something else and didn’t really mean whatever she said. I remember this one time, she yelled at me because I was bothering her while she was doing her work. I looked down really quickly and felt that pain in my chest – that one where it feels like your heart collapses in your lungs a little bit – and I sniffled a bit. Then I went back to my room as quietly as I could, because I didn’t wanna be a spoiled brat and cry in front of her since I really was bothering her. Thank God I didn’t act spoiled in that moment. She came to my room shortly after, tears in her eyes. She stood in the doorway and said, “I’m sorry for yelling at you.” Man, that just about knocked me out. My perfect and completely justified older sister came and apologized to me for being impatient. I’m telling you, there’s not a single bad thing I can say about her, not then, not now. It kinda makes me cry still, thinking about how much I bugged her probably for all the years she lived at home. It kinda makes me hate myself, actually. But if Leeann knew that, she’d probably cry too and say I wasn’t a lousy little sister at all.

One of the hardest things for me to think about is what I would feel like if Leeann were to die in an accident or something. I can’t even really think about it without crying. It’s kind of a morbid thought, but sometimes that’s how you know you really care about someone. You wonder what you’d feel like if they were gone. One time, Leeann was leaving our house and going back to her own place in Anaheim. As she waved goodbye through the window, my mom said a real depressing thing. She said, “I always get this feeling that we’ll lose Leeann first.” Man, I almost broke down right there. But the thing is, I get the exact same feeling now and then. There’s something about the people you love the most that makes you feel like you’re gonna lose them first, especially if the people are angels. I prayed harder than ever as I watched her drive off and turn right out of our cul-de-sac. I think I’d die, honestly, if anything ever happened to her. But I’d die before anyone ever even told me the news, because right when something happened to her, it would probably happen to me too.

To be continued. 🙂

Tough Love

For too long now, I have been afraid to hurt you – to say unwelcome words that would stop you in your place.  I focused on the fact that you might be heartbroken, but failed to realize that heartbreak and conflict are necessary at times in order to improve relationships.  I realize I cannot continue this way, cowering away from speaking the truth, because I want my future son to be well-behaved.  I want my son to respect his mother and father, his peers, and even those who are beneath him.  I want my son to control his temper, to seek humility over pride, and to always, always fight for the weak.  To cower away from hurting you for the greater good would be to allow my son to live without discipline and sympathy and gentleness.  I think it’s about time I started using tough love.

Rust

“Are you my dream?” asks a girl,
Eyes filled with wonder and amazement
At the Greek god standing before her.

“Were you my dream?” asks a woman,
Eyes downcast with doubt
As she spins the ring around her finger.