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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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.

dad at naia

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.

Nothing to Prove

It was only a dream.

But it was the kind of dream that wakes you up feeling like you need to stare at the scrolling credits of a movie long enough to process what just happened.

None of it was real.

But the truths were all to real.

I was me: same person, different back story. I lived with my mom and siblings in a split level condo. From the living room, there’s a narrow set of L-shaped stairs that lead up to a platform which receives the front door. There is a doormat.

I don’t have a father. I mean, I know I do, but I don’t know him. I don’t know what he looks like. I don’t know his name. I wonder if he knows mine.

Here’s where the narrative of the dream begins – my father is coming over.

I scurry around, cleaning and preparing. I’m distracting myself from the fear and anxiety that grips my heart. “What if he doesn’t like me? What if he leaves again? What if I’m not good enough?” I’ll carry the burden for my siblings, I’ll face him first. I’ll protect them.

I consider the fact that he’s missed out on over two decades of my life. He doesn’t know what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished. There is no basis for his approval.

I fold a blanket and put away a dish. There’s a knock at the door. I look around at my family; we freeze.

I walk up the stairs to the landing. Opening the door slowly, I peak out as soon as I’m able to glimpse the man whose genes are a part of mine.

He looks kind.

I open the door wider and he walks in slowly.

He looks at me, carefully. Then he sighs. “My daughter, you’re beautiful.”

I’m stunned. My brain races to make sense of this. He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know what I’ve done, where I’ve been, who I am. And yet…

“You’re mine. You’re beautiful.”

I wake up.

My mind is alert and my eyes still closed. I am loved simply because I am his daughter. I think of my own dad, the man who loves me more than I know. The man who gave me his curly hair and taught me how to fly a kite. He loves me just because I am his daughter.

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In The Message‘s translation of Psalm 5, verse seven says: “And here I am, your invited guest – it’s incredible!” I read it and I’m that girl again, the girl from my dream. Now I’m in the banquet hall, looking around at the spread of the feast and the elaborate decor. I catch a glimpse of my Father and I know that I belong. I’m His invited guest. And I’m here not because of anything I’ve done, but because of who He is and who He says that I am. I’m not an impostor trying to prove my worth. I belong.

But I spend many days trying to prove myself. I feel the burden it in subtle ways: when I compare my life to others’, when shame cripples me from trying to speak this new language, when I struggle to say no to things that aren’t mine to do and I thinking my value depends on it.

In those days I’m not living as the girl in the end the dream or the girl in the banquet hall. I’m missing out on the joy of the spread of the feast and the elaborate decor. I’m missing out on the freedom to embrace what I have, to fail, and to say no. And I’m not able to truly extend that grace, that truth, to those around me as my energies are spent on striving toward worthiness myself.

During a season filled with those days, the dream comes to mind. The words of the father – not my earthy father, though I know he would say the same, but what if, instead, those words came straight from my Heavenly Father.

It’s been years since I woke up with those images fresh from the dream, with joy and a heaviness from another world. I’m reminded of the words spoken and the freedom felt. I’m reminded on the days I forget it, when I need to hear it, when I need to remember that my worth isn’t based off of how I compare to others. And that the worth of others isn’t based off of how they compare to me.

…when I need to remember that my worth isn’t determined by how well I accomplish something or how many times I fail or don’t measure up. And that the worth of those around me isn’t based off of how they succeed or fail either.

…when I need to remember that I can say no to things, since my value isn’t determined by what I do for others. And that the people around me can say no too, because their value is based on what they do for me.

While I may keep these truths in my head (though they’re so easily forgotten), how they take root in my heart? How can I live from them rather than striving to them? How can my first response be grace to myself and to others?

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The first step, I think, is to try.

To accept and offer grace, without fully understanding it.

To offer forgiveness, to someone I don’t feel completely deserves it.

To write about it, to create something from it, when I don’t adequately live it myself.

And to live fully now, in the banquet hall, practicing gratitude for who I am, Whose I am, and leaning to live in the freedom that comes from knowing that I don’t have to prove anything.

What I Really Need

How can I prepare for reentry?

We’d gone just an hour outside of the city to a hotel with the view of the skyline. Looking out the window we could almost make out our building, almost. I wasn’t looking too hard because to me, it didn’t matter. We were far enough away to see how big the city really is, how many skyscrapers and how much smog. The day before I’d physically felt stress leave my body as we rolled onto the express way and away from the metro area.

I forget how much subconscious stress I carry just from living in close quarters with 20 million people.

We soaked in each moment of our getaway – no emails to answer, no urgent decisions to make – just books to read, food to eat, and long, hot baths to draw.

The day before we made the journey back on the long, elevated highway back into the city, I was determined to create a plan for reentry. I had come to this break limping, gasping for fresh air and a new perspective. How can I build more space into my daily routine, I wondered, so this doesn’t happen again.

I made lists.

I love lists.

I made categories for my responsibilities and numerous bullet points under each heading. I took the  thoughts and concepts swirling around in my head and gave them letters and words and put those on paper where they could stay and where I could see them. I made a weekly schedule, plugging in the responsibilities to numeric points on each day.

And I didn’t feel any better.

I still didn’t feel prepared to enter back into the city, swirling with pollution and people and priorities.

I’d made lists before. I’d tried plotting out my monthly schedules in a planner and keeping a weekly routine. It even worked for a couple of months.

But in a place where plans are made just as quickly as others are cancelled, where traffic can make you two hours late (or keep you from an event altogether), and where energy gets sucked by the heat alone, I can’t live in such a programmed manner.

I felt sad by this. Hopeless, even. How can I keep myself from coming to the point of exhaustion again? How can I guard myself from over committing?

I wrote my prayer in my journal, after my realization that making lists wouldn’t make it better. I asked God to help me see this from His eyes, to stay open and willing, and for Him to teach me how to keep margin.

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These past few weeks have been heavy with unknowns, decisions, and an incredible amount of questions. We’ve been seeking advice and asking for wisdom and are learning and being stretched in the process. I haven’t gotten great sleep. My heart tightens when I wake up in the morning. I’d rather watch a show or scroll through Facebook with my free time because it feels like a break for my mind and heart.This morning I read the second chapter of the book of Proverbs.

“My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commands with you,
making your hear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding,
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek for it like silver
and search for it like hidden treasures…”

“Yes, yes!” I thought as I read, “Tell me what happens! I’m seeking! I’m asking! I’m calling out! What does it look like when it comes?”

“…then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.” (2:1-5)

Fear of the Lord. Understanding the fear of the Lord, that’s what comes first. This made me realize – when I seek wisdom and all out for insight, it’s not my questions that are answered immediately – God’s presence, His very self is the answer. He provides Himself and through Him, we find His knowledge.

When we wait for the things our hearts long for, we wait on God.

When we seek for wisdom and answers to questions, we seek God.

He promises to provide His Presence.

I didn’t come back into the city with a game plan, and honestly, it made me a little uncomfortable. But I did come back with an overwhelming sense of what I need, of who I need. I can’t rely on lists and schedules. But I can rely on God Himself.

Waiting and Arriving

One year ago today we landed at NAIA in Manila, Philippines. Our pug, Gordon, made it through immigration, as did we. Johann picked us up from the airport and drove us to the guesthouse where we spent our first week.

It feels like a blur, to think of it now. Scary and exciting and very much high on adrenaline and low due to jet lag.

We brought coffee from Canada which we brewed in our room. Trent looked for condos online while I tried to sleep. We explored a little and ate as much as we could and I grasped, only as much as I could, how my world was changing.

We’d spent those last few months in Canada raising the support to go. We’d spent the last few weeks waiting for the green light to book our flights. We’d spent the last few days finishing our packing and spending time with family.

Arriving in Manila, we’d reached the time and place we planned and waited for; the time we’d spoken and dreamed of from the time we were dating – we were together in the Philippines.

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Photo: @trentrollings, Instagram

One of those early mornings I sat on the guesthouse balcony with my cup of coffee, grateful for its flavor and familiarity, and reflected on this transition and this new season through writing. The words ring true and powerful in my heart, even still, as God testifies through it that He’s at work in us and is faithful to provide and to show us glimpses of what He’s doing as we follow Him. Here are those words, typed close to a year ago today:

I know this feeling, I’ve experienced it before – once, though it only lasted a year or so. I had just started my job as a mobilizer. I just moved into my apartment and finally had things unpacked, settled, and semi-decorated. I was stable. There was no more support to raise, no more classes to take, and no more “So what next?” questions from friends and strangers. I was where I was. I had a job, a place to live, and a decent amount of student loans tethering me there for at least a few years.

I had gone through elementary school to get to middle school, middle school to get to high school, high school to college and college to a career. Now what? The feeling was uncomfortable for about four seconds and then it was freeing – no more “next.” I learned to paint a room, to manage money, and to get upgraded to first class on domestic flights – but only on Saturdays.

But the feeling only lasted a year (and the first-class upgrades along with it). There was this lingering sense that this wasn’t it forever, the desire was still present and growing stronger – I wanted to be married and I wanted to live overseas. Those two things, at the time extremely out of my control, drew me closer to God as I began to ask the One who guides my life for what His plan was in all of this.

One Advent, the season of waiting, I did a word study on the word “waiting” in the Bible. What I found intrigued me – throughout the Old Testament, it wasn’t a particular thing that people were waiting for – they were waiting on God. And while, for most, their longings targeted a specific thing – a home, a child, a spouse – the object of their waiting was God Himself.

So while I sat and began to wait on God for my future, He used the waiting to tether me to His heart. What I thought was waiting for a spouse or an opportunity to travel, was really waiting on God as He drew me closer to Himself.

When Trent and I started dating in late 2012 and when the doors started opening for me to move with him to the Philippines, the waiting took a different shape. No longer was I waiting for something intangible – but for something that seemed more possible, more comprehendible. The waiting then drew me to Jesus in a deeper way – as Trent and I dated from across the world and as I began learning more about a country I’d only visited for a couple of weeks.

Then once we were married, waiting continued as we traveled from state to state, from the U.S. to Canada and from providence to providence, raising support to return to the Philippines. We waited on God to provide our needed support and prayed with faith that we would be able to leave by the time my visa in Canada expired.

My visa would have run out in the middle of April and now I sit on a balcony at a guesthouse in Quezon City. We’re here – barely into our second day and about to go look at some condo units, our first stable place of our own in seven months of marriage.

So the thought strikes me – we’re done. We’re done waiting. We’re married and here and may have a condo by the end of the week. God provided our support and God provided each other and favor at the check-in counter so that all our bags and our pug arrived safely. But there’s a thought that immediately follows – we’re never done waiting on God. We may be entering a season where what we’re waiting for is not tangible, but that has never been the foundation of our waiting. We wait on God daily for provision, whether we can see that or not. We wait on God daily for each breath we take – which would feel cliché if it weren’t for Abby’s story of waiting on God for her daughter to be healthy and have her lungs and heart do what they’re supposed to do. We wait on God daily for grace toward each other, in sickness and in health, when waiting for something tangible or waiting on God Himself directly.

And so in this season, we continue to wait on God with expectation for Himself, His provision, His life, and His grace. We also wait to overcoming jet-lag, but that’s another story.

(March 2015)
Waiting looks different now. Sometimes I consider these thoughts when I wait for the train or in traffic or in line for the toilet. (I laugh at myself – “Waiting? We live in the Manila, we’re never done waiting!”) I think of it also when I wonder God’s timing for the coffee shop and when I’ll feel comfortable speaking Tagalog. We have our condo now, and life is more stable than it used to be, but we’re still waiting for tangible things and for God Himself, who continues to draw us while we wait.

Speak the Dream

My dad asked me if I could have any job right out of graduate school, what would it be. I didn’t have to think too hard, though my answer surprised him: “I want to work at Starbucks.”

His points were valid. I’d just spent five years in a duel-level program and was about to graduate with both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and here I am telling him that I want to work behind a counter serving coffee. I worked that job in high school.

There was something about the job that drew me in still – working with my hands, crafting a beverage for someone to enjoy, interacting with customers. I’d spent the past five years working with my mind – reading books, writing papers, and research, research, research. My graduate program was in counseling which not only exhausted my mind but my heart.

It sounded like a good idea to steam some milk and pull an espresso shot, to work with my hands.

lattedreaming

I’d forgotten about it during this conversation with my dad that day on the cusp of my graduation seven years ago. But just years earlier, during my second year of college, I’d written out my dream for “some day.” You know that some-day-dream – the one you dare to hope for and sometimes dare to even write down on paper. These kinds of dreams I would barely speak out loud. But one day, nearly ten years ago, I typed my dream into a Word document.

I found that document a few weeks ago while looking through old journal entries from college. I have them all saved, along with every class assignment, on an external hard drive I only take out now when I’m backing up my computer. One recent afternoon as I was preparing for a backup, I opened a few random files. They’re named with the dates they were written, rather than with indication of the content.  I opened the file called “September 6” and I read:

I tend to get really into things. Like, if I think of an idea, I will get super excited about it for a week or so and then it goes away. But should the knowledge of that keep me from dreaming? I don’t think so. I think that the biggest loss is the loss of a dream. Worse still, when you prevent yourself from losing a dream, when you kill the dream inside of you. I cannot kill the dream inside of me. If the Lord decides to point me in a different direction, than that’s one thing. But if I were the one to say, “I cannot do this,” that’s not fair. I am here to use my gifts and abilities to glorify God and to live life to its fullest! So I should take what I learned in Missionary Life and Work from Jack O’Brien, and keep pushing ahead with what I know to do, and if God wants me to change direction, He will change my mind.

I’m preparing myself to put it into words. I can sense my fear. As I read now, I cheer on my past self. “Say it! You can do it! Write the words! Speak the dream!”

I do it. In my dorm room in 2006 on a refurbished brick of a laptop I wrote:

So if my dream is to open a bed and breakfast / café / pub, then who is stopping me from doing it? At this point, it would only be ME.

I stared at the screen for a second, rereading what I’d written so many years ago. I remember writing this. I remember the fear and I remember thinking, “How could this even happen?” And I also remember thinking, “Why not?”

In the following paragraph I wrestled with this dream for a business and my desire to be married. I write how having this dream gives me a sense of purpose, something to work toward. I dream a bit more: maybe I’ll start this business and then get married, maybe I’ll meet a man who shares the same dream and we can pursue it together. Maybe there are things I’ll miss out on by now dating during college, but maybe that won’t be something I’ll regret.

With resolve and focus I commit to follow God and I commit to taking action steps. I list out how I will “do the next thing,” as Elisabeth Elliot once wrote. I will speak this dream out loud to a mentor. I will pray. And I will do my homework.

I sent this piece of writing to that mentor. “Remember when?” I wrote. We laughed together that even though the dream doesn’t look exactly how I pictured it, God placed something in my heart that He is bringing about in a more beautiful way that I could imagine.

We may not have a bed and breakfast, but we have a lot of guests and may as well be.

We may not have a pub, but we’re interning at a Beverage Design Studio.

I didn’t date much during college, but I married a man who shares my dreams and commitment to follow Jesus, and was even the one who suggested we open a coffee shop.

We’re opening the coffee shop this year. It’s not in Europe, as I thought. It won’t have a beach-theme, as I pictured. But it’s even better than I could have dreamed.