Ber Lessons

While there’s a tribe of like-minded people on the internet listing out their lessons from the fall months, I realize that “fall” doesn’t have a bit to do with this time of the year for me. September first in the Philippines begins the “-ber” months and the start of Christmas time. Forget waiting until after Thanksgiving to listen to Christmas music – the malls are playing it while the northern hemisphere is still in full summer mode! While last year I resisted because of years of tradition (and pure stubbornness), this year I embraced the four months of Christmas decorations and celebration.

Along with embracing a new set of traditions, here are some things I’ve been learning and reflecting on:

If you can’t beat ‘um, join ‘um.

My full head first jump into all things Christmas came this year after the realization that not all countries celebrate Christmas. Many friends live in places where there are no Christmas trees, no Christmas music in the mall, no garland and lights and anticipatory time at the end of the year. For my whole life, I’ve taken this for granted. Then I thought – I get to live in a country that not only celebrates Christmas, but celebrates it for FOUR MONTHS. Why would I not embrace that fully? So the tree went up as October came to a close and there has been Christmas music in our condo (and coffee shop) for weeks. My sister isn’t too happy about it, but I truly am!

Every good story contains tension.

Advent almost slipped me by. We’re in soft opening of our coffee bar right now and a lot of life outside of that has slipped me by. But earlier this week we had two days off (an intentional day off and a holiday we forgot about – bonus!) and I finally sat still. I asked God how I could prepare my heart for Christmas – what I could reflect on or read that would draw me to Him. I ended up starting to read the stories from the minor prophets. I read Joel first and then Amos – I think the last time I spent any time in these stories is back in college.

What I noticed this time is that while so much of their words are delivering messages from God – how they have failed him, how they have not listened, and He’s calling them back. But he’s also speaking words of destruction if they don’t listen. But in both books, there’s a message of hope. God tells the people what He promises to do for them. How He promises to pour out His spirit on them and how He promises to bring them to a place of stability.

These words are filled with tension – destruction and hope, disobedience and love. But as I read, I think of the taste of a promise fulfilled that came at Christmas. I think of my own story and how often it feels like it’s filled with tension and questions – but if every good store contains those things, I can rest in the One who has come. I can rest because it’s His story to begin with.

I really can’t drink coffee in the evening.

Come on, I knew this. And even as I write this, I’m sipping on a flat white from Toby’s Estate. Why? Because it was free and a part of the Netflix Gilmore Girl’s promo. How could I pass up a chance to celebrate the Connecticut girls I know and love in my new far-away home of Manila?

But the problem is that I made the same mistake earlier this week. Why? Caravan Black had Christmas drinks and they tasted like holiday cheer. So I didn’t sleep that night.

Holiday celebrations have hereby captured my heart and my sleep schedule.

I can choose my attitude.

I know it’s something that’s on a lot of memes and motivational posters. And honestly, sometimes I feel helpless to it. I’m tired, weary, reactionary. I hurt people with my words and my lack of words. A few months ago, I realized that if I changed my expectations, I can better manage my attitude. I can expect things like traffic. I can also choose gratitude in the midst of frustration. I say “choose” but what I really mean is that I can fight for gratitude – it’s a battle against my own will and flesh, but it’s a way to live in the freedom that I crave.

Marriage is a wonderful gift, not to be taken for granted.

We opened a business this month. Life.Has.Been.Crazy. We get little sleep and there’s a lot of stress and my husband showed me a video of how a woman is literally a zombie in the morning before she has coffee and he told me that’s me on our ride to the shop. Ouch. But true. And this is related to my last lesson (about choosing my attitude), but it’s a big one – I get to go to work most days with my husband. We can bounce ideas around with each other – not just our dreams and lessons, but also our business strategies, concerns, and ideas.

I catch myself sometimes, in those tired moments, not thinking much of how special this is – how wonderful it is to grow together, learn together, and even be tired together. When I sit back and think about the shared life and friendship we have, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. After all, when I’m a zombie, he makes me coffee.

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William Thomas (Happy 3rd Birthday!)

A few days ago was this little dude’s third birthday. Today, my family is gathered to celebrate Willie T and his super rad parents. I really miss my family and days like this make me miss them even more – I guess it’s a little bit of that sehnsucht I felt the day Willie was born.

To celebrate three years of life (and also celebrate him becoming a big brother in the spring!), here’s what I wrote to mark this new generation and remember the one that’s gone before. I’ll celebrate with a few tears too, and by sending ghost emojis around to say that I’m there in spirit. Happy birthday, Willie!


Original post: October 15, 2013


The summer I was seven, I lived in the woods. Well it wasn’t just me; I was with my brother and cousins. And it wasn’t the whole summer; it was only a week. And we came back into Pop and Nana’s house for meals and to sleep. The hours spanned like years made up of minutes that felt like days. We made up stories and we “fed” ourselves on acorns wrapped in maple leaves. We even built our shelter. Okay, my cousin Evan built our shelter while we claimed it was a group effort (we know better now). Evan is three years older than me, and he knew what he was doing. Each summer he’d come alive in those Pennsylvania woods. It wasn’t just the woods that made Evan come alive – it was being with Pop. I remember our fathers’ father, William Lindemann, in his waffle breakfasts, his hearty laughs, and his warm welcome of “Hello there, sweetheart,” every time I walked through his front door. Evan had a deeper relationship with Pop, one that I can’t quite explain. Even now, almost twelve years since Pop’s death, I see so much of Pop in my elder cousin – in his loyalty to his friends and family, in his hard work, and in his moccasins and old man clothesLast summer Evan got married and we celebrated a new cousin joining the family in his wife, Emily. At their reception, my father gave a blessing to the new couple before he asked God’s blessing on the meal. Dad shared with the friends and family gathered of Evan’s bond with Pop and spoke aloud what many of us were feeling – we wished that he was here to celebrate. We wished that he was sitting at the ceremony with a smile on his face as his young partner-in-crime watched his bride walk down the grassy aisle. We wished that he was there to eat with us, to drink with us, to celebrate life with us. Dad told Evan that if Pop were here, he’d say he was proud of him. And he’d have added, “It’s about damn time.” We all laughed, with tears in our eyes, hearing Pop’s voice in our minds. I laugh, even now, to think of it.

I learned a new word this weekend – sehnsucht. It’s German and I still can’t say it quite right, but I wonder if it’s a little of what we were feeling in that moment. Hard to translate, it has meanings of “intense longing” and C.S. Lewis spoke of it as a “deep joy.” As we sat there laughing and crying, I felt a longing for what couldn’t be and a joy for what was.

Yesterday afternoon Emily gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. As pictures flew around the family through texts and Instagram, my heart leapt with joy over this new life – this new beautiful life in our family. Soon after the pictures arrived, we received the text with his name – William Thomas. Instantly I felt what I could now only describe as sehnsucht. I felt a longing for what can’t be – that Pop will never hold his great-grandson and that he isn’t here to celebrate. And I felt joy for what is – a new generation beginning, bearing the name of a family legacy.

I wonder what will make Willie come alive. Will it be the woods and art? Maybe waffle breakfasts and being with family. I can’t wait to hear his laugh and welcome him through my front door. I know his dad will tell him many stories of his namesake, and because of that he’ll bear it well.

The Rainbow of Home: Vancouver Island

The Rainbow of Home: Vancouver Island
We lived on Vancouver Island for three months during our first year of marriage. A few years ago, my husband’s family moved to the island, planted some palm trees in their front yard, opened up a bed and breakfast and called it home. As they dig their roots in deep in their new home, we also begun to call it home – home is where people we love are, right?

On this trip, we only got to spend five days with our family on the island but it was both restful and memorable. We got to explore local coffee shops (photo above at Regard Coffee Roasters in Nanaimo), visit an Indian spice store (we bought rose water, but it was later confiscated when we accidentally left in a carryon), window shop at the thrift store (and wish we weren’t tight on luggage space!), and spend good time with family. Again I tried to keep mindful of the colours around me (spelt with a “u” because this is Canada, after all) and found that by doing so, I felt even more grateful for the beauty we saw!

Red: My in-laws live within walking distance of a quiet lake. There’s a path around the lake and an area to swim. When we go, we see people walking dogs, people on paddle boards, people jogging, talking, children playing, it’s a lovely place to be and breathe. A few weeks ago, after much research, Dad bought a red tandem kayak. He rigged up his truck to carry it and even bought some equipment to bring it on the ocean (which also isn’t too far from their house). We got to take it out on its maiden voyage at the lake during our visit – taking it to the middle of the lake, surrounded by pine trees and quiet. A perfect place to breathe.

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Orange:
When we visit, we get to stay in the bed and breakfast. It’s a large room with two big beds, an elegant chandelier, and an electric fireplace. The rug, bedding, and and two large housecoats in the closet are fluffy and white and the accent colour found in the throw pillows are a lovely shade of orange (you can see photos of the room, and book your next trip, at their page on bookings.com!). With cozy colours, textures, and lighting, it’s the most comfortable room in the world. (Shout out to my mother-in-law who has an incredible eye for decorating and hospitality, both of which she passed along to her son!)

Yellow: Off of the room where we stay (where you, too, can stay if you wish!*) is a small patio area with adirondack chairs and a small table with a potted plant. There’s a tall fence around the yard so you can’t see or be seen by the neighbors, and the grass is a lovely shade of green that’s sprinkled with dozens of yellow dandelions. Each morning, I made a cup of tea and took my journal to sit outside, reflecting on our trip and meditating on God’s word. It was just the perfect place to rest and slow down before the day.

*While I wasn’t paid or even encouraged to give an advertisement, I will also add that the breakfasts provided here are delicious and nutritious.

Green: Something I love about the West Coast becomes more noticeable in the winter, but is also a delight all year round: evergreen trees. The lake is surrounded by green year round. This trip, we also drove up to a look out point, looking out onto acres and acres of evergreen trees in the middle of the island. First of all, I didn’t realize Vancouver Island was so big. And also, we found it fun that both Trent’s dad and I went out close to the cliff while both Trent and his mom stood back, eagerly beckoning us to not stand so close.

Blue: We rode the ferry to and from Vancouver Island from Vancouver. Going there we traveled at night and missed out on the view, but we left the island on our last day on a sunny, clear afternoon. The sky was a radiant blue and the water was a deep indigo making for a stunning two hour boat ride onto the mainland. (Note: While BC Ferries is definitely the way to travel, two years ago we took float planes from the island to the mainland and that was an incredible experience! Plus, it gets you there in just 20 minutes.)

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Indigo:
There’s a new coffee shop in town! Well, new to us as it opened just as we left for the Philippines two years ago. Regard Coffee Roasters is where we went once a day, with Trent’s sister, Shae, and got to try their delicious coffee and tea.  Inside their shop (which has just two benches and a long table) in their roaster, an old Probat they bought from Drum Roasters in Duncan, BC (another awesome shop we visited last time). It’s indigo and metal and from what we tasted gives the roasters a tasty cup.

Violet: One of our adventures was to the mall with Trent’s other sister, Kay. She came to hang out with me for a bit while I was writing this list and she wanted to make sure I mentioned how lovely she is. Kay is a teenager and wonderful. She’s hilarious, creative, and deeply cares for people. I love watching her serve her family around the house and see what she’s drawing and writing. My sisters-in-law are all so cool. When we were with Kay at the mall, we ate lunch at the food court and then did some browsing. But after our meal, we took our trays to throw away our trash and we met with six bins. One of them was violet (making me think it was a good story for this rainbow). I stopped before them with my tray in hand and stared for a good, long, while. Kay stood next to me and laughed. “Compost, trash, recyclable, paper, plastic…” In Manila, you leave your trash on your table and someone cleans it up. In most places in Connecticut, you throw it all away into one bin. I really like it when recycling options are available (I’ve carried around plastic bottles before until I could find a recycling bin), but in that moment – I felt overwhelmed. Kaylee helped me figure it out and we may have thrown stuff away we shouldn’t have, but we laughed about it as we walked away.

We’re so grateful for such a good time with family. In the midst of these five days, we also got to host a coffee cupping of Philippine-roasted coffee, meet a couple in town who are setting up their own coffee shop (with a focus on cinnamon buns!), visit a new tea shop along the harbour front, and have many conversations and meals with family.

The Rainbow of Home: Wisconsin

The Rainbow of Home: Wisconsin

I didn’t expect Wisconsin to feel like home. I’ve known it for a while as other people’s homes. And I’ve heard of its cheese. But something about spending time with new family in a new place and helping dear friends start their new lives together as husband and wife makes a place feel like a new kind of home.

I noticed the colors here too. The fields of corn stalks that went on for miles and the dark blue star-lit nights took my breath away and again I tried to capture their beauty and the way they made me feel small. We drove through towns with populations like 185 and stayed in a place where the only fast food chain for miles around was a Subway. We ate farm fresh corn and poured maple syrup on our breakfast plates that was just poured form the tree itself.

We strung lights and set tables and ate food and made friends and worked together to celebrate some of the most wonderful people I know – a guy that I’ve gotten to call “brother” for the past two years and his new bride. And while the colors for their day were a light blue, mint, and lavender, the colors of my week were even more numerous.

Red: Greg and Susie got married in an old, white wedding chapel in the middle of a small town. The couple who run it have operated their business as a wedding chapel for over twenty-five years and know the show. They take pictures throughout the day and sell them afterwards (printed, framed and all!), they decorate the pews and offer rentals of unity candles and whatever else you’d need for the perfect ceremony. And out behind the chapel there’s a small gazebo covered in bright, red roses that were the perfect photo backdrop.

Orange: This week was one of food-on-the-go. We grabbed granola bars often as we ran out the door and stopped a few times for a snack at a local store. We ate a light dinner of fresh corn-on-the-cob one afternoon to hold us over until a late night dinner. One of the foods we always had on hand was oranges. These were easy “throw in my purse” type foods that were also a good immunity booster for an intense wedding week.

Yellow: I wore my wedding shoes for the whole weekend. They went with the blue dress I wore for the rehearsal and I wore them with my long blue and yellow dress for the day of wedding festivities. When I bought these shoes for our wedding day, I wanted them to be something I could wear again and again and again – not just that one day. I love that I got to celebrate another wedding, of two people I think the world of, while wearing these yellow shoes!

Green: The fields! The trees! The grass! Susie’s family owns a golf course just down the hill from their house and one day we got to go to the putting range. It was my first time to hit a golf ball, aside from mini-golf, and it was way more fun than I expected. We loved learning from Susie and getting to experience that part of her life.

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Blue: Greg and Susie’s wedding theme was travel. For their engagement photo shoot, they used maps and their passports as props. They met in Haiti and got engaged in the Philippines (with us!), traveling between the U.S. and Canada while dating (long distance is tough, yo). One of my favorite multi-purpose props during the weekend was this set of suitcases that was probably scored at a thrift store. Multiple suitcases of varying sizes fitting inside each other – and they were used for things like collecting cards and serving bags of chips. It suited the travel theme and added a little vintage flair!

Indigo: The sky always makes me feel small, in the best way possible. Living in a city, we don’t see a lot of stars at night (but often I can see Orion from our rooftop!). Out in the fields, driving around the empty streets, I’d catch a glimpse of the indigo sky as the sun was completely gone and the moon in its proper night time place, and I’d go weak at the knees. The pinpoint stars covered the indigo sky in white glitter every night and I couldn’t take it in enough.

Violet: Susie showed me pictures of her flower girl a few days before she joined the wedding adventures in Wisconsin. At the time she met Greg, Susie was living and working in Haiti at an orphanage called God’s Littlest Angels. That’s where she first met the little girl who would walk down the aisle before her in an adorable violet dress, diligently sprinkling violet rose pedals to grace the white path for the bride. Now adopted and living a few hours away, this little girl beamed with each flower-girl task and also skillfully led the dance at the reception by showing us how to whip and nay-nay.

We loved our time with Susie’s family and ours in Wisconsin. Not only did we grow in our love for cheese and breathe deep in the open spaces, but we gained a whole new group of friends to thankfully call home.


Greg and Susie had a wonderful photographer (and friend) capture moments from their wedding day. You can see photos of those red roses and the beautiful flower girl dressed in violet on her blog here!

The Rainbow of Home: Connecticut

The Rainbow of Home: Connecticut

A few days after my plane touched down at JFK International Airport and my dad picked me up and drove me to the house, I received a package in the mail. I saw the box on the front porch and thought little of it with our flurry of Amazon package deliveries happening. But then I saw the paint swatch. Alison’s paint swatch.

For as long as I’ve known her, Alison’s powers of creativity and thriftiness have collided with the use of paint swatches – you know, the ones you grab at the hardware store before making the huge decision of what color to paint your living room. She’s used them for cards, for signs, for prayer requests, and on this particular day she used it as an address label. And there was my name and address front and center.

I hurried inside to open the package (carefully, as to not disturb the lovely blue paint swatch) and inside I found a pile of things that made my heart feel KNOWN. Books, journals, a pen, chocolate (dark!), and a magazine.

alison package

This magazine is one that I’d never heard of before and once I skimmed through the contents and flipped through the photo-filled pages, I realized that this was my thing. The best of all blog posts bound in actual, tangible paper. I could flip through it as the plane was taking off and when I wanted to step away from technology for the afternoon.

While I soaked in my time at home, trying to capture and bottle each memory, smell, and conversation, I read one of these delightful articles from a woman noting her surroundings in this life’s season through the colors of the rainbow. As her rainbow looked like a laundry load of blue washed jeans and her daughter’s favorite purple glasses, I wondered what my rainbow looked like. I looked around my on my parent’s back deck and began to focus my eyes on the colors: the blue sky, the green leaves, the beige umbrella that both kept me cool and dry. As I sat reflecting, I realized that I could capture these memories after all, in broad strokes of small stories, from the colors around me.

Red. We ate entire meals of strawberries and raspberries. Every trip to the grocery store brought joy and gratitude of those affordable red berries (blueberries too!). We ate them with delight on my family’s back deck – putting them in yogurt, pancakes, and eating them straight from the basket.

My mom’s car is red. It got us back and forth from church, the lake, and on family outings for ice cream (once or more it was for dinner). Dad drove it multiple times to and from the airport whether to pick us up or my brother from his internship in Brooklyn. That red car contains of lots of conversations, laughter, and empty Dunkin Donuts bags.

Orange. We took a day to explore a few coffee shops in Manhattan and started our day with espresso drinks from Cafe Grumpy in Grand Central Station. They have the most beautiful orange Synesso from which I enjoyed a delicious cappuccino!

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My family is big into breakfast and orange juice was also an important part of the week. Though toward the end, my little 5 year old friend, Asher, observed that our orange juice was actually more yellow, leaving me confused as to its category and us with a new joke about “yellow juice.”

Yellow. We were in Manila when we watched the Netflix series, Cooked, describe the process of fermentation. One of the places featured on our screen was a quaint abbey in Bethlehem, Connecticut, a mere seven miles from my brother and his wife. And at that abbey, there is a nun who makes cheese. After learning about her process, her technique, and the unique way she makes cheese from a wooden barrel with unpasteurized milk, we wanted to try! So one day on our trip, my three siblings and our two our spouses piled into a couple of cars and went to go buy cheese from the Cheese Nun. After getting a little lost in the woods, and marveling over the simplicity of the abbey, we bought the last two wedges of cheese from that week’s batch – celebrating all the way home. (P.S. It’s delicious – especially paired with honey that we bought from the abbey.)

Green. My parents have a large collection of mugs that we’ve donated to them or given as gifts through the years. They display our colleges, activities, and some inside jokes. My favorite one, though, is the smallest of the bunch, a green mug that fits perfectly in my hands and holds the right amount of coffee. My favorite place to sip is on the back deck, surrounded by a sea of green leaves from the maples, birch, and other trees that I know by their shape and smell.

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Blue. My husband needed new shirts during our time in North America, since it’s hard to find his size in the Philippines. One day while we were preparing to go out, I glanced at his shirts hanging against the wall in the room where we slept: each shirt he brought was blue. Later that week, as he stepped inside the dressing room while we shopped, a hangers in hand, I noticed again that each shirt he had chosen was blue. He looks fantastic in blue (against his brown eyes), but we also took advantage of the opportunity to buy some other colors for his closet.

Indigo. The color of the ocean and of the giant comforter in my parents’ living room – both have certain and distinct smells of home and make my soul relax the moment I allow myself to be enveloped by them. It was Trent’s first time to the New Jersey shore and he walked to the water’s edge out of love for me. The comforter can also fit two of us at once. It used to keep my brother warm at night and since he moved out, it’s made its way to the stack of blankets for the family to use used while curling up with a cup of tea or a favorite television show.

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Violet: I ordered a flavor called “Unicorn Poop” at the cupcake shop just miles from where our wedding reception was. Now, two years later, we were able to go back to the bakery who catered our cupcakes and smiled at their new cupcakes, each trying one that had come out since we sat for our tasting just before saying “I do.” The frosting was a soft shade of violet while the inside a delicious cotton candy flavored cake. Not only were the cakes sweet, but so were the memories that they brought back to us – eating the cupcakes after we shoved them in each other’s faces, surround by a sea of friends and the sea itself.

Our time in Connecticut was filled with family time, delicious food, and colorful memories that I know I can’t carry around in jars, but I get to paint them in my heart for years to come.

Fear of the Lord (& other lessons from July)

The past few weeks have held a lot of realizations and lessons. They’ve come from blogs I’ve read, conversations with my husband, and verses that have cut me deep to my core. I’ve solidified some through powerful talks with friends and mostly, really, through times of prayers. It’s those prayers that don’t happen while the candle is lit or while my Bible is open, though. The prayers are said and realizations have been made when I’m washing dishes or on the back of our motorbike. A lot came in full force last week when I stepped away from Facebook.

That was hard. It was harder than I expected and more beautiful too. It felt hard when I had six minutes of eternity to wait for an Uber and the boredom drove me to swipe for the app that I know was switched to “off.” I stopped. I knew there could be better, more important things to do in those six minutes. I prayed, but it was the fast prayer of an junkie who just wanted her fix back. I stuck with it in those minutes and also used my eyes to look at the world around me, to slow my heart down, to remember that every spare second does not need to be filled with input, words, images, distraction.

I felt it when I laid in bed, anxiety gripping my heart in the form of cultural confusion. I wanted to hide, to run away, to take my mind off of these uncomfortable feelings. As I lay in bed, eyes toward the ceiling and heart racing, I remembered that God is bigger than these emotions. He’s bigger than these fears and these bouts of anger. He is the one who can calm my heart to sleep and who beckons me to lay my anxiety on Him. I knew that the temporary fix I seek will not sooth my soul. It is toxic poison that feeds an addiction.

I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller. It’s one that he first spoke in 2003 and I first heard in 2013 and it finally reached my soul on a Sunday afternoon this July. Jesus came to live the perfect life so we don’t have to. He came to die the perfect death so that we wouldn’t have to. Our goal isn’t to be like him, but to be freed by him. To stand before God, not because of anything we’ve done, but because what was needed to be done is already finished. I have a relationship with the Creator of the universe because of that. Not because I love my husband well or give alms to the poor or don’t make mistakes. It is finished.

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I read an article that talked about how we look for answers in the Bible, verses that speak to our worth and beauty, but we miss the beckoning of God to fear Him. Fear Him first. How our efforts to validate our being can be self-seeking and how our eyes need to turn toward Jesus before they can truly see our beauty and our worth. The first thing we are to do is fear the Lord.

Moving to a new place with new rules and new norms and a new language, not just the verbal kind but the nonverbal kind too, has brought out more uncomfortable emotions in me than I know how to deal with. My pride screams loud and clear when a guard reprimands me for rules I broke that didn’t know and when I don’t get the correct change at a restaurant or store. A system with seemingly new and ever changing rules reveal a part of my heart that aches to be in control, in a place of power, and right. My anger against injustice moves past righteous and straight toward self-seeking. While two years ago I would have described myself as kind, forgiving, and honest, I know I can no longer claim those attributes to be inherently true.

And if Jesus could submit himself to the governmental system under Pilate even to the point of death, can’t I too submit myself to a system to the point of losing my pride.

A few weeks ago, I thought that maybe it was better to not ask God directly for things. Maybe it was better, more kind, to passively share my heart with Him and explain my desires, and that then He would do what He wills. I don’t know the best anyway.

Then I found out that my dad was going to be in Korea on a business trip and I wept that I might not get to see him. He didn’t, after all, mention a possibility of coming to Manila. My friends encouraged me, “Just ask him! It won’t hurt anything.” But what it hurt was my pride and it made me vulnerable to ask for something he could say no to.

I asked.

I didn’t hear back.

God spoke to my heart, “Child, now ask Me.” That felt just as hard. At the Spirit’s prompting, I asked even still. “Boldly approach the throne of grace,” I thought, still timid.

I asked.

They both said yes.

My parents shared with me that they had no idea how close Manila was to Korea (a four hour flight from Seoul). My dad shared that it was an odd turn of events that led him to be the point-man for this trip in the first place, but now he could see why God wanted him there. He wanted him to visit me.

God brought my dad to my home in Manila.

God wants me to ask Him. He showed me that my earthly father would want it and so would He. He showed me that my earthly father would spend up to $500 on a plane ticket just to spend two days with me. Then He showed me that He would provide for my family by giving my dad that ticket for free.

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He showed me the delight I could feel by hosting my father, the man who gave of himself to raise my siblings and me. God gave me a glimpse into what it looks like to serve, not to get or earn, but because of deep gratitude for the one who gave first. I cooked dinner for my dad, we took him around town, made him coffee, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I could honor my dad by giving back just one, small ounce of what he’s given to me.

My obedience to God isn’t to earn anything. What I do doesn’t matter. I can, in fact, end each day with peace in the deep truth that whatever has been done is enough. That obedience is rooted in who God is – in my awe of Him, my fear of Him.

I asked God to show me what it means to fear Him.

When Dad was here, I felt dizzy with excitement and disbelief that he was here. I was never certain it would happen and I didn’t dare dream that the world would seem so small. The whole two days felt like an alternate reality where anything was possible. It felt big – bigger than myself. Powerful, too, that God would care for the longings of my heart I didn’t fully realize.

And that reminded me of the time I went scuba diving. When everything under the water was so magical and incredible that I couldn’t take it all in without feeling dizzy (not for lack of oxygen, either) and overwhelmed with the possibility of what God can do.

It reminded me of the moments I’ve walk out onto the Atlantic Ocean, sea reeds dancing in the wind and sand lying in stillness before the tumultuous sea. That feeling of BIG inside my heart as the waves crash on the shore as if to say, “Look what we can do” and yet they hold their power back to protect us all.

“That, my dear child,” the Spirit of God whispered to my heart, “that’s the fear I’m talking about.”

He’s so big it makes us dizzy. He’s so powerful it makes us feel weak. He’s so wonderful it fills us with joy. And while all of that reminds us that there’s nothing we can do to earn His presence, there’s our whole life to give to celebrate that gift.