A Chicagoan Climbs a Mountain in the Highlands of Scotland…

Sitting on top of a mountain with my Bible and journal in hand, I look down onto the valley that stretches for miles. A rainbow disappears as the sky clears and the only noise is coming from my own breath — I am a Chicagoan who doesn’t understand altitude — and yet, this breathlessness is more than just exertion. This moment is overwhelming.

I am not overwhelmed by this view (though it’s worthy of adoration in its own right) but it’s everything that has led up to this very point in time. A mixture of past, present, and future possibilities; an integration of hope and fear; the known and unknown; an assault on all of my senses.

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My 32nd Birthday

My favorite number is 32, so it comes to no surprise to my friends that I wanted to do something memorable for this birthday. Set it apart from the rest. As God would have it, I was going to spend my birthday in the Highlands of Scotland at a lovely cabin. Yes, a cabin in December, far from the city — my introverted haven.

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I had expectations of this trip. That not only that my experience would be filled with rest, but also answers. Answers to questions that I had for months but was consistently told to wait. So, I did. I waited. I anticipated. And then the day came when I knew that God would reveal and share some of His Will for my life. So, I put on my sneakers and took a walk.

Without going into detail as some things are not ready for the public and some may never be told, I wanted to share some of my experience.

But first…

Mountain Lady?

I am not one to be outdoors. I’m a comfy chair, tea, blanket, with a good book, type of lady. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good walk. I love commuting by feet and train to work, but me and nature have never been on the best of terms. I appreciate it from a distance.

It’s not that I don’t like trees — I love them. I would hug them if I could. I don’t like insects and creatures that can bite, sting, or eat me. I am also not a fan of the sun as my skin likes to burn. I also lack coordination and will fall. And falling on carpet is much better than falling down rocks — just sayin’.

So the ultimate irony of my life is spending my 32nd birthday outside in the Highlands climbing a mountain. Although it was in winter when everything that I am afraid of is fast asleep, dead, or hidden. (Except for the sharp objects to fall on.)

Don’t worry, I didn’t fall.

Climbing a Mountain with God

I spent my birthday on a journey with God. After praying over with God on some things, on some questions I’ve had for a couple of months, God had me take a walk with Him. The walk turned into climbing a mountain.

As I went up this hill, He reminded me of everything I had learned in the last five years. The people I have met. The grace that had been given. The love shared. The community created.

With each step also came fear. Fear of what was before me. Where was I going? How far was I going? What would I experience on the top?

Also, the fear of what was behind me. Knowing that soon I would have to turn around and climbed down the mountain. Afraid of slipping into old ways.

Overwhelmed by emotions and just the exercise, I would stop and yell to God, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t.”

He would tell me stop and to turn around. So I would.

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And I would see a valley before me. It’s beauty indescribable. And I would weep.

“Do you trust me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Then keep going.”

So I did. I continued going up the mountain unsure of what was before me but knowing I was with my Lord. Seeing what He just brought me through gave me the courage to continue on.

When I finally got to the finish line, I saw a rainbow stretched across the sky covering all that I could see.

Honestly, tears were just flowing.

You know how there are just those moments where you are so overwhelmed by God’s love that words or even pictures can’t do it justice? Well, I tried taking a photo my face to always remember this moment.

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Proof of tears

At the Top

When I arrived to the top, the answers flowed. I had to be real with where I was at, what had transpired these last years, and how I felt before I was ready to hear answers. I spent hours up there cherishing each moment.

I even talked to an older gentlemen who climbed the mountain too and he was heading down. I laughed at the situation — this man, in his 60s, having no issue walking up and down which was a momentous hill for me. I realized that our maturity in Christ has a lot to do with what we can handle. This was a mountain for me. A nice afternoon jaunt for him. And yet that doesn’t discourage me at all because I know anything is possible with Christ.

And how do I know this?

BECAUSE I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN.

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I had the best 32nd birthday.

An adventure for the soul and the body.

A time of rest and restoration. A time of resetting my heart, mind, and body.

I am incredibly grateful for a God who answers prayers and who knows me intimately — and it’s my heart’s desire to know Him intimately.

Hearing the Call of God is Not About You

Hearing the Call of God is Not About You

“The call of God is not the echo of my nature; my affinities and personal temperament are not considered. As long as I consider personal temperament and think about what I am fitted for I shall never hear the call of God.” – Oswald Chambers

This quote by theologian Oswald Chambers is powerful as it is humbling. How many times have I thought about my life and following God in terms of what I can do? What I can bring to the table? I somehow turn God’s Kingdom into something about me.

Yet, it’s not about me. Sometimes God calls us to do something that we’re not gifted or talented in because it gives more glory to God. Why? Because we are stepping out in faith and obedience when we do something new and different. Yes, it may be easier to do something when you’re talented in it, but it’s much harder if you’re not talented and still do it.

It shows a deep level of faith when we attempt to do our impossible. We have to trust that God is going to show up and help us. It forces us to be dependent and obedient at every step because we have no idea what we are doing.

What Am I Fitted For?

I am not discounting that God doesn’t equip us (Hebrews 13:21; 2 Timothy 3:17) or give us gifts (1 Cor. 7:7) to use for His Kingdom. This is all true. But when we begin to rely on our gifting (whether or not they are from God) more than Him, we are in trouble. It becomes about us. About what we can do. What we can build.

And then we begin to assess the ministries in our lives in terms of what I can offer. “Well, I am shy and introverted, so I cannot teach in front of big crowds. Yes, I have this gift of teaching, but it should be used in this area of my life only and only when I feel comfortable.”

That quote is literally what I have been saying the past month.

Yet Oswald and Scripture has humbled and convicted me. I have been placing too much emphasis on me and less on what God can do through me.

 

What is My Personal Temperament?

I have also learned that my perfectionism and desire for personal peace gets in the way of God’s calling. I want to do it the best or I won’t do it at all. I want to know all the things before I commit to something because I want to do it well, I want to control, and I want an excuse to back out. That’s my sin. That’s my excuses. And that’s me ignoring God’s call.

God has gifted and equipped me for many good works, but when I concentrate on those giftings I don’t see God. I instead see my own failings and unworthiness and pitiful gifts before the King and it causes me to retreat.

Yet, Consider This…

So, if you’re feeling like God is asking you to do the impossible and you think you’re not worthy, consider how much you are looking at yourself instead of your Creator. If you think you’re burnt out because you’re doing all of the things, consider how much you’re doing in your own power and your own talents than relying fully on God. And know that God may call you to do something that may seem contrary to what you’re gifted in, but remember it’s His Plan, His Kingdom, and He knows what He is doing, so just trust and follow Him.

Easier said than done, I know – but the hard things are worth doing.

It’s 2003 and I’m Dreaming

While cleaning my apartment I started singing an old Damien Rice song from his album O. I then decided to put it on and sing to it while cleaning and I had a sudden flashback to when I was 17/18 in my room at my parent’s house.

I had an entire wall dedicated to posters, ticket stubs, band advertisements, and wristbands from past shows collaged onto the wall. And this wall went ridiculously high as it was in the center of the house where the two sides of the roof met. I had a hard time getting to the top of it, but thankfully my dad was a general contractor and he had access to the tallest ladders.

I remember laying on my bed with my feet against the wall looking at the posters dreaming of my future. I had a boyfriend then who was in a band, so obviously he was going to be successful and I would get to go on a tour with him and see the world. Get away from California. Get away from the depression that marked my life. Escape. You know, the usual dream of a high school punk.

What I find most surprising about this flashback is how different my life is compared to then and what I thought it would look like.

My 17-year-old self would have never dreamed she would be living in a flat in Chicago. Ever. And not only that, but as a Christian missionary.

It’s amazing to see what God has done in my life and what He continues to do. He surprises me every day and I am so incredibly grateful that He came into my life and showed me better a dream.

Lesson learned as a missionary in the city

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I have learned many things these past five years whilst being a missionary in Chicago. And maybe one day I will write it all down, but for today I wanted to share the biggest difference of living in a city verses a suburb while being a follower of Christ.

But first, context.

Where I came from was weird

Riverside, California, was where I did most of my growing up and it’s one of those weird places that has several mega-churches. It’s also surrounded by other mega-churches all throughout Southern California. There is a substantial Christian bubble in Orange County and the Inland Empire that I didn’t realize was there until I moved out of it.

It was the norm to see Christian owned bookstores, cafes, bakeries, etc. Anytime I would walk into a Starbucks I could find someone doing a Bible study or see advertisements for Christian concerts at churches or major venues.

There was also enough space to create your own silos. You defined yourself by what church you went to, “I’m Harvest” “Well, I’m Sandals” “Oh, I’m the Grove.” And there was a hierarchy about it too. Christians felt like they were better than you if you didn’t attend their church. It didn’t even depend on doctrinal issues, just proximity, and sometimes unfortunately, cult of personality.

Where I live now is normal

Now I live in Chicago where the bubble does not exist. In fact, just the other day I got into an Uber and I saw that the driver had a cross hanging from his rear-view mirror. I literally yelled, “Are you a Christian?” He seemed a bit nervous and then confessed he was. “Oh, me too! I love Jesus too!” It is so rare to find someone else who loves Jesus in this city that I cannot help but yell with joy.

He then asked me what denomination I was, and that’s when I realized this man wasn’t from the city. In the city we cannot survive within denominational, location, and personality silos.

Do you love Jesus?

Yes.

Hello my brother or sister!

Oh, you disagree on this doctrinal issue and this one too? Well, I still love you. I will still call you family. Why? Because there’s no one else around here. It’s you and me kid.

I did learn that the Uber driver was indeed from a suburb and that our “denominations” were different, but it didn’t matter. We talked of our Savior all the way home and it was refreshing.

Regular church attendance is vital

Living in Riverside, if you missed Sunday it wasn’t that big of a deal. There was surprisingly enough weekday activities all throughout that region that led to many encounters with God. I am not encouraging lack of church attendance by any means, but I have learned there’s another very important reason why God calls us to worship Him weekly that was not apparent to me whilst living in the bubble.

It’s to remind us that we are not alone. It encourages us in our faith. I can go an entire week without meeting a Christian in Chicago and Sunday is the only day that I can breathe and worship my King without restraint. It’s that “you too?” question when you walk through the doors.

Not taking it for granted

Unlike many other cities in the world, Chicago still offers the freedom to gather together in worship. Unlike other countries where Christians have to conduct services and meetings underground, we can still meet publicly.

I recently watched Silence and I mourned with a deep sympathetic cry all throughout the film. Without giving too much away because I am not sure if you have seen it, there is a scene where a Japanese man sees the cross hanging from the priest’s neck and he falls to his knees and cries. It’s the first cross he has seen in over 15 years.

I looked at my bookcase of Christian textbooks, a picture of the Wailing Wall, Scripture art, and large and small crosses stationed neatly throughout my shelves, and I couldn’t help but cry with appreciation. I can openly worship God without any fear of death.

And then I thought about my own experience of living in Chicago. The feeling I get when I meet other Christians. The feeling I get when I walk into our rented out space on Sundays to worship with my church. The feeling I get when I meet for Wednesday night Bible study. I would have never experienced that sweet gratitude, that hopeful glimmer, that peaceful release of being around my family, of being my true self, of worshiping God in truth and Spirit together, without leaving the bubble of Riverside.

It’s undeniably a gift.

And one that I will not take for granted.

 

Don’t Feed the Monster

Don’t Feed the Monster

MonsterRecently, I had a conversation with some friends over lunch about depression. For those who don’t know me, I have become a spokesperson on depression as I’m open about my own depression. Last fall I spoke at my church’s Women’s Ministry event about depression and suicide, which for some was a radical idea. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma when it comes to being a Christian and being depressed — some think they cannot go hand-in-hand. Well, they can.

It’s important for me to say that now because if you don’t think it could happen to you, you are going to ignore it. You are going to ostracize people who do have it. You are going to judge them or yourself. You will not be real with yourself, others, and even God about what you are going through. And if you can’t bring sin into the light, it will surely keep its control over you.

So, with all of that said, during the meal I made a nonchalant statement in reference to depression, “I have learned to not feed the monster.”

Later on my friend asked me what I meant by that. And this is what I said.

Feeding the Monster

I look at depression like a monster. The more I feed it, the more it will grow and take over my life. What is this food? Well, it’s lies, negative self-talk, and hyperbolic statements. I know that I am feeding the monster when I start to use the language, “never or always”; when I tap out of my day-to-day activities; when I isolate myself; or start using phrases like “I should…” as guilt and shame are high calorie foods.

This monster will grow and grow until I become the monster.

God says we should be filled with the Holy Spirit (and not this monster). So what do I do when I notice that I am feeding the monster? I decide that it needs to be fed by the Holy Spirit instead.

Feed it with the Holy Spirit

How do I do this? I read and memorize Scripture. I pray and mediate. I worship and remember God and His faithfulness. I count my blessings and make gratitude a priority. I spend quality time with friends. I take a posture of humility and I tap back into my life.

No longer is it fed with lies, but instead it’s fed with truth. It’s fed with fruit of the Holy Spirit and it is nourishing. And instead of acting like a monster, I am kind, patient, loving, self-controlled, faithful, and gentle. Everything that the monster attempts to destroy.

How This Has Worked For Me

For the past three years I have been actively doing this and I must say when I fall into depression I don’t stay there that long.  I recognize my triggers, and instead, go to God for help.

Because in the end that’s what I have learned the most. Depression sucks, but I don’t let it go to waste. I use it to be a catalyst to strengthen my relationship with God. It reminds me that I can’t do it on my own and that it’s okay! I have a Father who loves me, who pursues me, who cares for me, who heals me, and who reminds me that I am not alone.

The Monster may always be there. It may be a thorn that is never taken away and I have learned to accept it because I am no longer afraid of it. It’s not a monster that stirs up fear, but rather pity. It only knows what I give it. And if I give it the Holy Spirit instead of my sin, God can redeem it.

*I apologize to all spiders for using you as an example of a monster, but let’s be real, you are one. 

Saturday Sippin’ on Tea…

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It’s Saturday evening and I am drinking some Moroccan Mint Tea, smelling some Eucalyptus leaves, and listening to Housefires.

The evening started with reading some more chapters in Taylor Lyall’s book, Humble Walk: Lessons from a Simple Man Following Jesuswhile I waited for my water to boil for my mint tea. And in that time, the Holy Spirit gave me the biggest, deepest hug I’ve had in awhile. I don’t know how to explain it exactly. It’s like all of my barriers and walls I’ve built around me (that I didn’t know I had) just fell and He swept me up and told me that He loved me. It was vulnerable. It was raw. It brought me tears. And then I just started singing to God. It started with “Good Good Father” from Housefires and then it just moved into my own words of praise and worship.

I am not sure if my landlord below heard me, and I do apologize if he did because it wasn’t necessarily pretty to human’s ears. It had a lot of broken words, sobs, and sounds I didn’t know I could make, but I know it was beautiful to my Father.

Sometimes I am so desperate for God and other times I am not. I wish I were more desperate for Him. I wish I actively sought out those healing hugs. Instead, I spend so much of my time rejecting Him either because I don’t feel like I am worthy or because I think I don’t need Him — both are so incredibly wrong and damaging. I am thankful for the moments when God pushes my sin out of the way and shows me, loudly and plainly, the depth and width of His love. It’s so powerful. It’s so real. It’s so… beautiful.

I write this post so that you would be encouraged. You have a God who is desperately pursuing you; who loves you despite of your sin and rejection of Him. He loves you. And He won’t stop loving you. Embrace His love tonight.

Cheers.

Looking for a Roommate Sucks

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It’s strange looking for a roommate. I’ve been blessed in all of my years of living on my own to move into a home instead of trying to have someone move in with me.  I was usually the one in the tight spot of having nowhere to go. And now that I have a place and I am trying to find someone, I realize how much this side of things suck.

It’s good though. It’s definitely reinforces what I know to be true: God is in control. His Will not mine. He will provide. And it may be frustrating and tough, but it’s how I react, how I submit, that will determine the success of this temporary season.

I’ll be honest, my brain and heart are in a state of flux. I have gone hours where I am okay, completely trusting God, and then I have a moment that throws me and I have a good five-minutes of just fear and worry.

Thoughts have ranged from:

  • “What if? What if I can’t find someone?”
  • “I don’t want to be desperate and say yes to the first person because I need to trust in God’s timing.”
  • “God, can you get rid of this student loan so that I can just live on my own?”
  • “God, I will be patient. I will wait. Bring someone.”
  • “Let me do all of the things to find the roommate.”
  • “Well, looks like I am living on the streets. Here, let me sell my books.”
  • “I need help.”
  • “I don’t need help.”
  • “I am not alone.”
  • “I feel so alone in this.”

Suffice it to say, I am learning to trust God in this. I am not all the way there yet.

He has reminded me of what He has brought me out of and how He has provided for me.

And I also keep repeating Philippians 4:6-7:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

God will get me through this and it may not look how I envisioned either. Who knows what will happen by May 15.

If you’re reading this, please pray for me.