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It's interesting to look at your life, past to present, and think: "It has all led up to this...." And then wonder where it will lead to next.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Morbid Truth

Martyrs for the Lord:

From the time the church was birthed on the day of Pentecost
The followers of the Lord have willingly sacrificed themselves
Tens of thousands have died that the gospel might prosper
As such they have obtained the crown of life.

To be a martyr for the Lord, to be a martyr for the Lord
I am willing to die gloriously for the Lord.

Those apostles who loved the Lord to the end
Willingly followed the Lord down the path of suffering
John was exiled to the lonely isle of Patmos
Stephen was stoned to death by an angry crowd.

Matthew was stabbed to death in Persia by a mob
Mark died as horses pulled his two legs apart
Doctor Luke was cruelly hanged
Peter, Philip, and Simon were crucified on a cross.

Bartholomew was skinned alive by the heathen
Thomas died in India as five horses pulled his body apart
The apostle James was beheaded by King Herod
Little James was cut in half by a sharp saw.

James the brother of the Lord was stoned to death
Judas was tied to a pillar and shot by arrows
Matthias had his head cut off in Jerusalem
Paul was a martyr under Emperor Nero.

I am willing to take up a cross and go forward
To follow the apostles down the road of sacrifice
That tens of thousands of precious souls can be saved
I am willing to leave all and be a martyr for the Lord.

These are the Lyrics to a song that Brother Yun and fellow believers sang through the night, as they literally risked their lives in order to meet and worship in unity. I hope that you did not skim over the words, but that you read them and let them sink in deeply. Though it may seem foul and morbid to us, this song is sung as a comfort and encouragement by people who face bone-breaking, life threatening persecution each day. After reading it over a few times, letting the disgust and deep hatred for evil pass over, I tried to imagine singing this song in an American church service. I imagined the look of confusion and disgust on people's faces, mother's covering their children's ears, or leaving the service all together. There would be straight up outrage by the congregation, demanding to know why such horrible graphics were necessary in a place of good, God-fearing people. Why would a church expose our children to such morbidity? We have movies for that! This is church for God's sake!

We are a shallow nation. I am not an America-hater, I love my country. But let's be honest, we are a shallow people. When our pastors preach on persecution, our minds picture things like kids being made fun of in school or unfair treatment in the work place. We think of nasty looks or words spoken of believers. The "prosecution" we face in this country is rarely more than a blow to our pride. We sing songs about how great God is and how we'll trust and follow Him to the grave, but how often do we process the severity of those words? If instead words of mutilation, amputation, and deadly abuse were used to declare our dedication, would we sing so loudly? Would we raise our hands so high? Would we be able to sing with closed eyes, smiles, and peace in our hearts? Or would we shake in fear and disgust? Would we even be half as willing to tithe our measly 10% to a place that promised pain and suffering on this earth, instead of coffee and catchy tunes?

Whether we are called overseas or serve from our home country, we will not be able to hide behind our country's claims of freedom forever. When that day comes, will God still be our refuge? Will we still run to the church to praise? I ask myself these questions and too often I am unsure of the answer. God is my strength, I say. But too often I can not even admit my own weakness. God's name is slapped onto many faces, causes, and systems in our country. We have replaced His cross and crown of thorns with rose petals and pillowed church pews.  We will easily be swept up and lost in the waves of shallow morality if we do not take to heart the severity of what it really means to be a follower of Christ. Does that scare you as much as it scares me?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

As our anniversary approaches, I like to reminisce... *Cheese-Alert*

The first time I saw Aaron was the first day of college at the opening chapel. I had just moved back to the States a few months earlier and I was feeling nervous as I stood there in the chapel pew, hoping I had not made a mistake in attending that particular college. I was determined to make the best regardless, and determined to keep an open mind and make as many friends as possible. As he made his way toward me down the pew, I remember thinking he was a cute little snowboarder kid, but not my type. He wore a beanie low, his brown curls completing the veil over his brown eyes (I had yet to discover they were the deepest, most heart-capturing brown eyes!). I immediately introduced myself, confidently thrusting my hand into his space for a hand-shake. He hesitantly shook my hand, quickly pulling away, saying his name as briefly as one possibly could, then resumed facing the front of the chapel. What a jerk! I thought. I labeled him as one of those self-consumed guys who assumes any girl who says hi is hitting on him, and made sure I made a mental note that he was not even attractive. I later found out he had a girlfriend at the time and thought I was pretty, therefore felt it inappropriate to converse with me. But for the time being he quickly vanished from my thought.

Not long after that first day, I made friends with your typical Tennessee party-boy, the kind that aspires to be an Abercrombie and Fitch model and says things like, "You're unlike any girl I've ever met!" while checking out your butt. I knew this friendship wasn't going anywhere, but I appreciated the attention and I liked the people he hung out with. It took me awhile to even notice that Aaron was one of them. He was so quiet and non-intrusive, I automatically thought of him as the back-ground filler friend, like those that movies use to show the main character has more than one friend. It wasn't until one day when he didn't join us that I realized the impact he had made on me. I asked where he was, and his best friend Bradley told me he had gone home to visit his girlfriend. I felt my heart sink! I could not understand why I felt this way, I didn't even really know the guy, much less care if he was available. He wasn't even my type!

The next few weeks I slowly stopped hanging out with Mr. A&F, but found myself hanging out more and more with Aaron and Bradley. Ok, mostly Aaron. I refused to admit any attraction even to myself. After all, he had a girlfriend and I respected that. We always hung out with other people and I even pursued short-lived flirtations with other guys, but Aaron was quickly becoming my best friend. When the homecoming dance arrived and I decided to go at the last minute, plans were automatically made for me to ride with Aaron and Bradley. Bradley ended up picking me up alone. When I got in the car he immediately asked, "Did Aaron tell you?" He did not. Bradley dismissed it, telling me he would. He seemed like he was excited for me. I was very confused.

Setting: Monreat College Homecoming Dance '05. Slow Dance. Aaron and I had barely said hello, we had been dancing with other people, but as the loud poppy music slowly faded into a slow and very cheesy love song, Aaron made his way toward me. I remember thinking it was a little too much like an '80's movie high school dance scene, but when he put his arms around me to dance, I could think of nothing but quieting the Godzilla-sized butterflies in my chest. When did he get so good looking? I thought to myself. I felt the song coming to an end, and Aaron still hadn't told me the news so I nonchalantly brought up the fact that Bradley had mentioned something in the car. At first he was confused, then when he realized what Bradley must of meant, he casually told me that he and his girlfriend had broken things off that weekend. I knew I needed to act apologetic, but it took everything in me not to scream like a little girl! And that was the first moment I allowed myself to admit it. I really liked this guy. For the rest of the semester Aaron and I continued to hang out as friends. We spent a lot of time together and my heart ached anytime he talked with girls I felt could be a threat, but nothing was outwardly spoken. I did not feel rushed to some final destination, I enjoyed the process of getting to know him. I knew he liked me and I liked him, but we were content with where we were at. I only had one fear. Losing my new best friend.

We were hanging out one night at the end of the semester after a group trip to Denny's and neither one of us felt like going back to our dorms, so we sat in the car. There was a tension in the air and I could tell Aaron really wanted to say something. I knew what it was, yet somehow I didn't feel nervous at all. I simply felt peace. When he finally spoke, his words came out rushed and even sounded a little frustrated. He said something about not believing he was actually taking Bradley's advice. It was all very jumbled and would have been confusing had I not known where he was going with it. Finally he came out and said it. He liked me! I smiled. The moment felt so perfect I did not want to ruin it with something dumb I would doubtlessly say, so I simply sat there in silence, soaking up his last words. Finally, Aaron broke the silence. As he asked me for a response to what he just said I suddenly realized he had been waiting there nervously for me to respond! I could not believe he didn't already know my answer! Until this moment the only time I had touched Aaron's hand was for helping me up a big step or in passing. After growing up in China, I had a severe complex about being big, and he always seemed so small to me. In fact, I was convinced he was shorter than me despite the fact that he was at least an inch taller. So when this moment came and I put my hand in his, I was pleasantly surprised to find his hands were much larger and warmer than my own. For the first time in my life I felt my hands were not too big, but just the right size. The rest is history.

I once expressed to Aaron how awful it would have been if we hadn't both gone to Montreat that year and had missed out on meeting each other. His reply was honest and matter of fact, "We would have met some other way. We're soul mates." I do not regret a day that I have spent with Aaron in the last six years. He has held me up when all I've wanted to do is fall. He has held me close when all I've wanted to do is run. He has kept his promise to cherish and to honor me and his faithfulness will never be in doubt. Our marriage has been filled with both hardships and joys, but mostly love well spent. I was worried when we started to date that I might lose my best friend. Instead, I gained one for life.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I have a love-hate relationship with reading. I love to lose myself in a good book, and well-written words feed my soul like a good song. But I also sometimes find myself wanting more than anything to avoid reading. One of the problems with reading for me is I get sucked into writer's world. I critic every piece of writing and either pass judgement, or am pleasantly inspired to write myself. I often find myself narrating my life through out the day in my head. Sometimes this can be amusing. That is, until I realize how sadly pathetic it is.

I learned to read at age five and by age seven was attempting to read the Bible cover to cover. By age eight, while still making my way through the Bible and bored with adolescent mysteries and the Babysitters Club series, found myself reading my mother's novels. Because we lived in a small mountain town in China, books in English were in small supply. People occasionally sent us books in packages or along with visitors, but I guess because we were missionaries, they felt that the only appropriate books to send were Christians novels. Not to disregard all Christian novels, but even as an eight-year-old I felt severely cheated by the selection. I quickly moved on to John Grisham and the likes and dabbled in and out of the few classic literature books I found in local book stores when we moved to a bigger city.

Since then I have gone through kicks of Christian inspirationals, depressing classics, embarrassingly romantic fairy tales, and good educational biographies. The one consistent book in my life, however, and the one I struggle with the most, is the Bible. I have read through it more times than I can remember since I was eight and still come back to it torn, confused, and thirsty, but also hesitant. Sometimes I can read it for hours and still feel confused. Other times I pick it up for a moment and everything makes sense. I am lost in the love and mystery it holds. Repelled by the challenges it forces me to face. Confused by its simplicity.

I have been up since 5:30 this morning and though I knew I would not return to sleep, I did not want to read. Reading my Bible before all else has been ingrained in me since I was young thanks to my parent's example and dedicated reminders. I don't always read it first, or at all, but I feel a definite tug of will when I don't. Today I decided I was going to start my morning with God another way. I turned on  the Jon Foreman station on pandora and prayed as I cooked my breakfast and picked up the living room. This is good, I thought. But my food and tasks were distracting, the music a little too Chris Tomlin, and I soon found myself thinking about my high school days in China and what I would cook for dinner. Eventually I found myself sitting down with my Bible to read. My eyes began to blur over, as is my usual reason not to read (I may need glasses?), but I pressed on for a few chapters more. I believe God speaks through more than just the Bible. He is not limited to words on a page (not even living words!) or poppy Christian lyrics. God speaks to me in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of places. The one thing I know for sure is, He is faithful to speak when we are faithful to seek. I am glad that He tugs at my heart to seek Him, and the time I spent in the word was meaningful and filling. So why is it that more often than not, I crave to crave God's word, instead of actually craving His word? I want to want it, but it's a fight to get myself to actually pursue it. How does this make sense?

Today I will begin to read The Heavenly Man. I know Brother Yun's story, and I have been wanting to read this book for some time, but I have been hesitant. I know truth will be spoken. Things I will not be able to unhear. My soul is desperate for a challenge, but my mind is comfortable in my ignorance. I have been asking God a loaded question for years now. He is slowly answering. I'm a little nervous as to what I am going to find, and how it may change my life. Or worse, how it may not. Does that make sense?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Joy of Pregnancy...

As my good friend's due date has come and gone and she still remains pregnant, I can't help but sympathize. You reach a point in pregnancy, usually weeks before your due date, when people start asking in sarcastically accusing tones why you haven't "popped" that baby out yet. As if the achy back, swollen feet, and sore ribs (among many, many other things) aren't reminders enough, these remarks are like extra jabs to the uterus, tearing away at the little energy that remains to help you endure to and through labor and delivery. Many women find they do not even want to leave their house those last weeks for fear they will not be able to control their reactions to unsuspecting offenders. There are times I wish I could literally set up a soap box and preach it to the uninformed! But lets be realistic, I'd probably be interrupted by every other person asking my due date, not to mention the 15+ bathrooms breaks I'd undoubtedly have to take. So for now a little blog of harmless venting will simply have to do.

As surprising as it may be, not all pregnant women want to discuss their pregnancy at every given moment. And no pregnant woman needs the friendly reminder that her body is expanding in seemingly unnatural proportions as each day goes by. It's not that every pregnant woman is constantly grumpy and sensitive, but I wish people would keep in mind, especially as women reach their third trimesters, that they are probably asked the same questions you may want to ask, 8-12 times a day. And though we may love to discuss our pregnancies and children with friends, family, and maybe even while waiting in long lines, sometimes we just want to make it through a grocery list without having to discuss our bodies and their functions with every passing Joe. If anything, may I suggest waiting until she brings it up before unloading questions like a gatling gun.

Now even though I may not always like it, the adoring stares are one thing I can bring myself to understand. For all the havoc pregnancy wreaks on the mind and body, my pregnant belly is the one thing I absolutely love. For nine months my dance instructor's voice in my head screaming at me to suck in my gut finally shuts up, and I am free to enjoy the roundness far more than I have ever enjoyed my flat stomach of old. Sure it gets in the way, makes putting on shoes a chore, and bathroom stall doors become death traps, but I love it all the same. Probably has something to do with its function of housing my unborn child. With all the frustrations that come with giving up your body to host and grow another, its helpful to be reminded the purpose behind them. Each turn, flip, and kick, although may send you running to the restroom, are priceless reminders of a life that has already transformed yours forever. So when unknowing dunces refer to my child-bearing abdomen as a "balloon ready to pop" or a "beach ball" or anything else that is round but otherwise has no true reference to my womb, I prefer they keep their comments to themselves. And for goodness sake, keep your hands off unless I offer you a feel!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Early Mornings

My heart longs...
For truth with no lies attached.
Life with no death to follow.
Morning with no darkness to come.
Hope without lingering doubt.
My heart always longs. For more.

Early mornings reveal our hearts desires. I haven't had an early morning in quite some time. Getting up with sick babies doesn't count. While in classes I'd get up early to do homework before Aiden got up, but I rarely raised my head from the books long enough to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, so those don't count much either. Today, I got a real live early morning. All to myself. I didn't love the idea at first. Thanks to achy muscles and a grumbling belly, I didn't fall asleep until 1:30 a.m., only to wake at 6:00 a.m. to a full bladder, even hungrier stomach, and a very energetic baby in utero. So after a trip to the loo, I headed to the kitchen to make myself some eggs, toast, and coffee. Breakfast in hand, I made my way to the couch to sit in quiet and read a good book. Is the Bible actually more powerful and clear in the morning, or is my heart simply more honest and open? There is something beautiful about desire, when you quit your whining, admit its there, and soak up the moments you have to dream. Suddenly the unwashed dishes, the blocks scattered across the floor (that you keep stepping on), the laundry you can never catch up on, the child's attention you can never quite fill, the husband you can never seem to spend enough time with, all fades to the background. In the bliss of early morning light when everything that needs to get done simply sits, that is when life makes most sense. There is a peace there that doesn't require answers, plans, or fulfilled goals. The feeling may fade through out the day, but fortunately God made each day to begin with a morning. For that I am eternally thankful.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fairy Tales

After a 30 minute conversation about the weather with a good friend over the phone, I realized something. I have nothing to talk about. This may be a shocker to some of you who have listened to me ramble on and on about this or that, but I have reached a point where I just don't have anything to say. In fact the other night when I couldn't sleep, I almost blogged about my nightly routine before bed and its importance to a good nights sleep. Thankfully, I opted not to (your welcome). I could go on about my inner struggles or the hardships of winter, but I myself am bored with these things. So I picked up a few promising fictional books from the library to lose myself in. Don't be surprised if the next few blogs are based on what I find in them.

It's always hard to write after a good fictional read. I find myself wanting to portray my life in a fairy tale fashion. Me being the heroine, of course. However, this can be difficult when my battles as of late consist of stacks of dirty dishes and the seemingly never-ending process of potty training. Little things I can never seem to conquer. In reality, I am nothing close to the poised, strong princesses with hearts of gold that are described in my favorite tales. I do not see the good in everything and everyone. I do not possess a voice that charms wild beasts. Not that I spend my time walking the forests singing to birds. I am more likely to be yelling at my dog who I just tripped over for the millionth time because I cannot see anything that lies below my ever growing abdomen. I often wonder how these fairytale princess characters, often isolated to the company of small birds and rodents, manage to be so positive and peppy, even while longing desperately for something more. I complain about the small things and pray to God for strength to make it through the big things, while dragging my feet through my fears and petty insecurities.

I just finished reading a fairy tale novel called The Goose Girl; a retelling of a Grimm Brothers' tale called Goose Girl. The main character is a princess who relates more to animals and nature than people, is found unfit to claim her mother's throne and therefore is betrothed to a prince in another kingdom to prevent a war from breaking out. Half of her guards turn on her while on their way to the other kingdom in order to replace her with her lady-in-waiting. Long story short, she escapes and ends up having to work as a goose herder in that kingdom for almost a year while trying to figure out how to either escape back to her land or convince the king she is the real princess. I found myself relating to her most during her goose herding days. I felt her agony as she waited, slowly discovering herself, even as she pretended to be someone she was not.

Happy endings always coincide with the Knight and Shining Armor showing up to save the day. I was lucky to meet my prince early in life, and though he has definitely completed my world in a way no other human could, I wouldn't say he rescued me. And though our wedding day was one of the happiest in my life, I wouldn't say it's been all hearts and roses since. My Christian heritage tells me I should compare the Knight and Shining Armor to God, but there are too many differences. For one, God does not wait till some climax to show up and save us, although it often takes hardship for us to wake up and realize we need His saving. Also, life is not pretty palaces and ball gowns once we allow God to save us. There are still wicked step sisters around to torment us, ugly green witches out to get us, and dreaded chores still await us each day.

So I guess its a sham, this fairy tale business. Perhaps I am thinking too small. Or maybe I'm thinking too much.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I've found myself avoiding God's word. I've found myself stirring up plans. I've found myself waiting for life to begin again. I have looked forward to this down time for months, and now that it is here, I am a restless animal. Restless and uncomfortable. Sickness keeps Aiden and I from visiting friends. Snow and inadequate winter gear keep us from exploring the outdoors. Lack of money keeps us from any other activity. I feel like a tied up dog. This is not what I was made for! I clean my house like a mad woman, only for it to be a mess again by the next morning. I start projects I cannot finish. I resort to imagining artificial confrontation in my head in hopes of releasing pent up frustrations. Nothing seems to work. I say to myself, I will rest. I sit to read. Somehow the reading doesn't happen. The book is open and my eyes peeled, but nothing comes of it. How does one live in the moment, when the moment is so very boring?

Tonight after putting my grumpy, sick son to bed and watching a basketball game with my husband, I finally decided to open my Bible. I had no specific passage in mind. I read about Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah, and the building of God's temple. With stories like these that I have read so many times, I often find my mind moving on to the next before I am finished reading the first. But tonight something different stood out to me. God did not simply give these men a command and stand back and watch them succeed or fail. He gave them directions. Their tasks took many years, a lot of faith, hard work, and perseverance. But God gave them directions, and He never failed to follow through on His promises. Sometimes I am afraid to seek God. Not because I am scared He will fail me, but because I am afraid I will fail Him. Ironic, I know. The encouraging thing is that God does not seem to choose people based on their adequacy, but on His ability overcome our every weakness.

"In the  curves of  each face, the eyes of every soul, the movement of each body, your beauty is revealed. In each unique laughter and every piece of song, your beauty is sung. The humble mountain tops raise the trees who lift their arms, pointing towards the heart of God, refusing to hide your beauty. Never still, the waters shake, reflecting your vastness in the skies. Never hiding, always revealing. If only we would use our eyes for what they were made for. No more would we ask, where are you?"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Years Resolution

As the old year passes and the new year begins, I can't help but feel a little melancholy. There is so much hard work and hype that leads up to the holidays, once they come and go I can't help but think about what comes next. For the first time in years, I don't have much of a clue of what that might be and this has left me feeling a little restless. I like plans. Growing up my parents referred to our family as bamboo. Flexible, we could bend and not break. In other words, we were at the mercy of the wind, or God really. Plans were made, but usually changed at the last minute. I thought because I was flexible, plans did not matter to me. As I've grown older I have come to the realization that plans matter very much to me. I like to be in control. Or at least feel in control. I know plans change, but as long as I have a plan, I feel a little safer.

As last semester came to an end, I began to formulate plans. Plans for work, for school, being a better wife and mother, and finding a way to be more involved in ministry. Every time I worked out a plan for one part of my life, I saw where I would have to sacrifice in others. I suddenly realized I was very thirsty and rather tired from trying to conquer this little world of mine. So I began to pray. What do I need to do God? I didn't want a whisper or a nudge, I wanted God to shake me and scream the answer in my face so that there would be no denying His answer. Instead, I have received an incredibly simple yet stomach-wrenching and heart-throbbing answer. Seek me and let me lead.

I think I wanted a little more detail and direction, you know, a long-term goal so I could formulate a plan, but at the same time, I could not argue with what He gave me. And so I begin this new year with no plan but to seek God, and let him do the leading. Sounds simple enough, right?