How do you forgive someone who isn’t sorry?

Forgive

I’ve been trying to forgive the same person for the past 20 years… and for most of that time, I thought I had forgiven this person…. but then something else happens and then I’m right back where I started.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my unforgiving heart… and I finally understand why it’s so hard for me. I’m quick to forgive someone who is full of remorse, someone who repents, someone who apologizes. But this person, no matter how many conversations we’ve had, has no remorse, no apologies… in fact, this person plays the victim and sincerely doesn’t believe that they’ve wronged anyone else. Therefore, it feels like a never-ending cycle.

One side says “just forgive and forget”–but have you tried forgetting pain? It’s really not that easy. The other side says “just cut that person out of your life and don’t even care about it.” Once again, it’s a lot harder when this person is in your life not by choice. I always want to do what is right… what is just. And I finally realized that this is going to be a life-long process for me. This may be something I struggle with for the rest of my life… and I have to accept that.

Couple years before my grandmother passed away, she told me that it took her over 30 years to forgive a relative of hers. At the time, I thought “that’s ridiculous… how horrible of my grandma to hold a grudge for so long…” But now I totally understand her heart, and her struggle.

I used to think forgiveness was a one-time deal… but I’m now understanding that it’s a process… it’s a journey. I don’t have the bitterness I once did… I’m more compassionate and patient towards this person… but I think I can safely say that I haven’t completely forgiven this person because it really doesn’t take much to take me back to that dark, hurt place. Before, it used to bother me that I couldn’t just get over it… but today, I understand that it’s okay for me to have these crazy feelings about it because I see how God has slowly been putting my heart back together one piece at a time. Forgiveness is a journey… and I’m not a horrible Christian for not being able to “forgive and forget” because I think God is the only One who can really do that in the purest way!

2016: the year of mourning

Definition of mourning

1:  the act of sorrowing

bg-grievers

Mourning is often associated with grief over death of a person. Death is one of the most painful experiences in life. I’ve experienced mourning over loved ones. But this year, I also learned that mourning happens when you experience loss in other ways… and it’s even necessary. Nothing super catastrophic happened this year, however, 2016 felt so yucky. I’ve been thinking and processing through why I’m so eager to get rid of 2016 for the past few months, and I think it’s because I’ve spent great part of this year mourning, or sorrowing over loss of people, places, things, and ideas.

This year, I’ve mourned end or change in relationships. Some people come and go based on circumstances, proximity, or life stages. It’s hard to accept that some friendships change over time… and some even end. but I’ve had to accept the fact that some people who was once very close to me is no longer in my life for various reasons… and it’s okay.

I’ve mourned not being able to call myself an Angeleno. I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 13… and while I’ve lived in Northern California for few years during and after college, Los Angeles became my home. I thought I was ready for change and move to the bay area… but after having established Los Angeles as my home for close to 30 years, I realized how LA I’ve become… and how much of a city girl I’ve become. I still think Los Angeles is over-rated, but I’ve grieved over my familiar taken out of my life. I’ve grieved over not being able to go to the beach to clear my head, for Gloria-days, and just because I love the ocean. I’ve grieved over not having access to my favorite restaurants, museums, theatres, and even Disneyland. But most of all, I’ve grieved over not having my close friends and family at my arms reach. Texting and calling is just not the same as face to face interactions… and that was harder than I had ever imagined.

I’ve mourned aging of my grandfather and my dad. My last-living grandparent is 99 years old. He was so lucid and active even until couple years ago. But he is no longer than grandpa I’ve known and loved for so many years. He doesn’t remember that I’ve moved. We’re no longer able to talk about ministry nor life. Our conversation now consists of “please eat,” “are you well?” and “i love you.” And because he doesn’t remember our very short conversation 5 minutes ago, it’s groundhogs day for 2 hours that I see him whenever I visit LA. I miss my old grandpa who inspired and encourage me. My dad also turned 74 years old this year… and now that I don’t see him regularly, I see how much he has aged each visit. My heart aches as I see his physical ailments that come with aging. I grieve as I see him struggle through life of modern technology which is not-so-friendly for the aging population. I sorrow as I see the heartache he endures caring for his aging father and the frustrations of his family. He’s grown impatient. He’s grown less considerate. I have to work harder to recognize him because he’s not the father I grew up with. He used to take care of me… now he’s grown dependent on me. He’s aging… and that means he’s changing in ways that feels unfamiliar.

I’ve mourned over feelings of disappointment after disappointment after disappointment this past year. As cynical and pessimistic as I am, I still expect more and better of people in my family to people in my life to people in this world. I expect people to be loving. I expect people to be kind. I expect people to extend grace. I expect people to think of others ahead of oneself. I expect people to be honest. I expect people to have more empathy. I expect people to be more forgiving. I expect people to be responsible. I expect people to own up to their mistakes. Although I know that we’re all broken, nobody is perfect, and in need of redeemer, I expect people to try harder (I’m sure I’ve disappointed many people as well). Perhaps my expectations are too high or unreal… but as I’ve grieved over my feelings of disappointments throughout the year, I’ve had to reassess my expectations of people… and that was hard to swallow.

Throughout the year, I’ve learned that when something changes, whether it’s relationships, people, location, or even ideas, it’s important to mourn the loss of what once was and face new reality. It’s not easy… in fact, it often felt painful and sucky. But one can’t live in the past because that feels suckier. All this mourning throughout this year taught me more about myself… the way I think, the way I feel, the way I process, the way I react. I don’t expect 2017 to start off great all of a sudden. I expect to stay on this journey of mourning the loss but learning the embrace the new… and live each day with hope that comes from Jesus.

22 years later in KidMin

chalk-let-children-come-960x250-960x250

My very first paid position in children’s ministry was in August 1994. I was only 21, and I had no idea that I even wanted to go into ministry. However, my college pastor saw the potential in me, and hired me as an intern… to run preschool – elementary of about 80 children. Honestly, I don’t know what he was thinking… but I’m glad he gave me this opportunity. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I’ve changed as a children’s pastor over 22 years.

22 years ago, I felt the need to prove myself. I mean, how is anyone going to take a 21 year old seriously? I was obviously not a parent, so why would parents trust me? I immersed myself in creating the best events–Fall Family Festival (man, college students really do have lots of time… we transformed our sanctuary into the inside of an airplane and handmade 100 luggages, luggage tags, passports, etc. We transformed our sanctuary into a castle, a spaceship, etc.), VBS (2 nights/3 days of VBS Olympics–seriously, what were we thinking?), field trips, not to mention “Summer Camp” for 8 hours/day for 6 weeks. Man, I must have had lots of energy back then. And to be honest, they were great events because I was fortunate to have an amazingly talented and committed team. They really made me look good. Parents and volunteers gave me praise for a job well done.

When I started seminary and became a part-time staff, I thought I knew all the answers to the tough questions of ministry. I was excited about all the things I was learning, and I desperately wanted to impart my newfound knowledge to those who didn’t have the privilege of attending seminary. Each Sunday, I taught elementary kids on the theology of prayer, the Trinity, survey of Old & New Testament, etc. These weren’t all that bad… but I was focused on the knowledge.  Parents and volunteers gave me praise for a job well done.

Everything I did 22 years ago wasn’t all that bad. But when I look back, I was often driven by my insecurities. I did’t have a firm grasp of why I was doing what I was doing. I simply said “I want to teach kids about the Bible!” However, I rarely shared the gospel. I rarely talked about God’s grace. I was focused on knowledge and great events!

I still believe knowledge and quality events are important. However, the most important is giving kids Jesus! I want to share about the sacrificial love of Jesus every chance I get. I want to share about God’s undying love every chance I get… because my calling is to bring kids to Jesus so they can live for Him as soon as they can. It’s not my job to convert these kids, but it is my responsibility to seize every opportunity to share the gospel… afterall, we never know who’s experiencing and hearing the gospel for the very first time. Now, my events and lessons are based on giving kids Jesus… and not driven by having to prove myself in any way! I still feel the need to prove myself–don’t get me wrong! After 22 years, I still feel the need to make sure parents and volunteer approve of what I’m doing. I want that praise. However, our mission of bringing kids to Jesus has to be #1. Our value of investing in relationships has so we can share Jesus has to be #1. And that has to drive what we do… because Jesus said “Let the children come to Me.” So 22 years later, I find myself very focused. I find myself discerning more about what we provide in our ministry. I find myself unapologetic for not pleasing everyone. Thank you God for the last 22 years of this journey so I can bring Jesus to kids!

Quote

I Can’t Make This Stuff Up…

giphy
Me:  I happen to log in today, and I see a charge on my card that I know is NOT mine.
CC Customer Service: Would you like to add an authorization so it goes through?
Me: Uhm… I’m the only one authorized to use this card. I think there might have been fraud.
CS: Are you sure?
Me: yes because I would never spend $700 on a wig.
CS: I’m sorry there are no other authorized users.
Me: Wait… do you understand what I’m saying?
CS: Yes… but we can’t do anything because it hasn’t posted. Why don’t you call them?
Me: Huh??? I don’t even know who they are… and there isn’t enough info for me to know who to call.  There is no  number… it just says “India Hair Int’l in New Jersey” and when I google, I don’t get a business under that name. And why isn’t the fraud dept calling me? They called me for a $15 charge last time because it was made in Pennsylvania… This is for over $700 in New Jersey. 
CS:  Yes… can I help you with anything else?
Me: WHAT??? are you serious? 
CS: Yes… I can’t help you at this point unless you want to cancel your card then none of your pending transactions would go through. 
Me: (having just made 5 travel arrangements with pending transactions… and just baffled…) So you’re telling me the best thing for me to do is just wait… and then file a dispute after it posts?
CS: Sure. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: I don’t even know… Bye…

Life Interrupted 2015

Okay… I have to be honest… I was starting to itch a little in the beginning of 2015. I was feeling a bit tired of the same city, the same routine, the same apartment, the same everything… But as I’ve always said, “I’m going to enjoy and live life to the fullest wherever God puts me… until He takes me someplace else.” I still very much enjoyed my ministry at the church I was at… but I was also starting to feel really comfortable there. Well, God knew my restlessness… and He had some crazy plans brewing…

My comfortable life was interrupted in a BIG way in May when I was given an opportunity to serve in a new church. This would mean moving 350 miles north–away from family and the place I had called home for the past 17 years. This would mean starting a new ministry in a church way bigger than what I was used to. This would mean starting a new life in a new city all by myself. This would mean no more Disneyland and Hollywood Pantages Theatre.

So this is the thing… I was feeling the itch and I had even prayed to God to bring new challenges in my life so that I would be stretched… but when I was given this opportunity, I froze! All of a sudden, everything new felt scary and daunting… and I wanted to retreat to what was familiar. Thankfully I had friends that prayed for me and counseled me… but most of all, I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit that said “let your life be interrupted!” So in July, I purged so much junk that I had accumulated over 17 years in Los Angeles, and packed up what would fit into my new 525 sq ft apartment and left for a very suburban town in the Bay Area.

And I have to be honest… I had romanticized my new church, my new ministry, my new apartment, my new city, my new life… oh boy… in reality, it’s been a rough transition. I had many moments where I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life! My new ministry seriously kicked my butt the first few months! I hated how quiet this town is. I missed my family and friends in LA. I missed my favorite foods in Los Angeles (especially my favorite Thai place that would deliver). I missed Disneyland.

But 5 months later, I’m starting to embrace my new life! I still can’t get used to this suburban life… I actually miss the sounds of helicopters and sirens in the middle of the night. I still miss so much of what I had in LA. But I’m reminded that I asked God to stretch me… and He is doing just that! He completely interrupted my life, took me out of my comfort zone, and placed me where I would be challenged and stretched. So lesson learned–be really careful what you ask for!

So this explains why I haven’t been active on my blog. I had so much to process and think through… and I couldn’t bring myself to write it all down! But I’m finally feeling like myself again… and have so much in my brain that I wanna get out… so I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot more in 2016.

Well, 2015 also had some cool highlights!

  • For the first time, I had a premium annual pass to Disneyland and used the heck out of my pass… their record indicates that I went to Disney parks 37 times in 2015. I event spent the whole night at Disneyland for their 60th anniversary and left the park at 6 am!
  • I got to spend precious weekend with all three of my mom’s sisters at the same time! That rarely happens since they all live in different countries… but I learned so much more about my mom through their stories! It was indeed precious!
  • I continued to write in publications and lead workshops at various children’s ministry conferences. This is life giving to me… and I love the people I get to connect with through these events!
  • I went to TWO U2 concerts in the same week! and I stood in line for 8 hours to stand right up against the guard rails! Yes, it was worth it!
  • I was on Jen Hatmaker’s launch team for her newest book “For the Love,” and I got to party with her at her house!!! Not to mention, I got to meet and interact with her 3 times this year! Yes, she is one of my favorite authors!
  • Most of all, I was the recipient of amazing love that was poured out to me by so many friends and family… especially with the big move! I’m truly blessed with so many amazing people that love me!

Looking forward to 2016–perhaps more life interrupted!

Hard to Love… Hard to Trust…

TrustDo you have people in your life that are pretty much impossible to love? You keep trying… and trying… and trying… You’ve given a second chance, third chance, fourth chance… so many chances that you forget how many times you actually gave them benefit of the doubt. And you have told yourself that you don’t need their negativity and the stress in your life, and you vow to write them off… except… they’re family and it makes it pretty darn impossible to cut them out of your life!

Yeah, I have few of those in my life. And I truly feel like I’ve done all that I could do to reconcile, to forgive, to apologize, to love… but relationships are two-way street, and it can’t just take effort on my part. I’m not 100% innocent… and I’ve told myself that I can let go of the past… but when I think about it, it comes down to this: TRUST! They’ve broken my trust so many times, that I no longer have faith in them. Every time I’ve given them another chance, I was willing to trust them even against my better judgment… but then, they screw up royally again… and that trust is broken again. Because I no longer have trust in anything they do or say, I find it extremely challenging to love.

I tell myself it’s because they really need love the most and they have a funny way to expressing themselves. I tell myself that Jesus loved a horrible sinner like me thus I need to forgive and love those that have sinned against me. I tell myself that I’m a hypocrite for loving strangers more readily but not my own family members. I tell myself that I’m no better than a murderer if I have such bitter feelings toward them. I tell myself that I need to deny myself and love them regardless. I tell myself that I cannot continue to be a doormat to those that take advantage of me. I tell myself that God must have placed them in my life to teach me patience, forgiveness, and depth of His love. I tell myself I’m a horrible person for not being able to love. I tell myself a lot of things…

And 25 years later, I’m back right where I started. Just when I think I got it figured out… another conversation or incident happens, and I just wanna crawl into a hole and wish them away. I know the right answers… but the right answers don’t change the way I feel. Why is it so hard to love certain people? And how do I learn to love them despite all the trust they’ve broken… despite all the hurts, pain, and tears they’ve caused… How do I learn to trust them again?

Surviving, I mean Thriving, during the Holidays as an Introvert in Ministry

HolidayStress-SS

Yes, it’s true… I boycotted Thanksgiving the last two years. I stayed in bed and watched movies all day long. This year, I decided to be a good sport and participate in the festivities with family (although I did hibernate on Friday after Thanksgiving).

I don’t think it’s just me… but come November & December, everyone needs something from me… and my stress level just skyrockets! Between family needs, scheduling time with friends, and trying to meet all the demands of ministry needs towards the end of the year, I’m easily put over the edge! Let’s just say Gloria in December ain’t so pretty. I literally just wanna crawl into a hole and hibernate the whole holiday season. For those of us in ministry, every week feels busy because Sundays always keep coming right on time! But add all the deadlines of budgeting, calendaring, and all the Christmas events to the list, and you start to think why you should bother going home just to be back first thing in the morning…

As an introvert, all the demands that are put on my plate is very overwhelming… not necessarily because of the workload but because they all require dealing with people… and lots of people! Don’t get me wrong… I love people! If I didn’t, I would not have stayed in ministry. My passion is to help people grow… but as an introvert, even what I love to do is very draining. I often come home feeling completely depleted. Unfortunately this leads to cranky Gloria. I’ve been feeling horrible because I’ve been so impatient with my family, especially with my dad. I’ve been feeling like the worst daughter in the world. So how do we survive, I mean thrive, during this stressful season?

For me, I need to remember to take more “Gloria Time” for myself. I usually take “Gloria Days” where I go to the beach or do whatever I need to do to refuel! I usually go by myself or with one other friend who I find live-giving and refreshing! As this busy season is upon us, I find myself needing to take more “Gloria Days…” but since it’s just not possible to take that many days off for myself, I take shorter time increments but I take them more often or as needed. I purposefully block off certain morning or evenings to go and do what replenishes me. It could be a walk on the beach, locking myself in my room and relaxing, getting a shoulder massage, getting good coffee or a meal with a friend, etc. Refueling yourself is so important… because when I feel depleted, I just become cranky to everyone around me… and honestly, who wants to be around a cranky person? I know, I don’t!

I need this reminder to take the time to refuel myself regularly, and I find this practice to become especially more important during the holidays as demands and busy schedule grows. If you also feel like you’re on a survival mode, let’s thrive together by doing what we need to do to refill ourselves!