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!

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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!

The Distance Between the Mind & the Heart

We should handle it the best way we know how and get on with it. That’s what my mind says, I just wish somebody would explain it to my heart.
~M’Lynn, Steel Magnolias
 

This is one of my all time favorite quotes from the girliest movie that I actually love… Steel Magnolias!  The reason why I love this movie so much is because it has so many awesome quotes, tearful moments followed by laughter…. and besides how could you not love anything with Sally Fields?

4play-Heart-vs-Mind2The first time I heard this line by Sally Field’s character after her daughter’s funeral, my heart just sank because it resonates with me so much! I always feels like there’s a long distance between my mind and my heart… Over time, I’ve learned to build my mind to be strong and focused (probably as self-defense mechanism) but I haven’t honed in on building my heart as much. My mind often feels strong but my heart often feels weak. I get hurt easily. I get disappointed easily. My mind says not to mind what other people say or do… but my heart can’t help but to feel sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, hurt, and unsettled.  I know in my mind what I should do… but I wish somebody would explain it to my heart because it often doesn’t accompany my mind. I often wonder why God made the mind to think differently from the way the heart feels. It would be so much easier if they just cooperated and worked together.

This morning as I was thinking about this quote, I was reminded that my only source of direction and answer is talking to God and turning to the Scripture. I always wish it was “yes” or “no”… but I often don’t get those direct answers from God, but I know that He has given enough truths for me to follow. Besides, I was reminded that “yes” or “no” isn’t what God wants us to have, but  He wants ME to seek Him… and that’s when He grants us clarity! Now, let’s go tell my heart that!

Failing does NOT make me a Failure!

failing

The feeling of failing SUCKS! There is really no way to sugar coat it… because no matter how you try to justify failure, the yucky feeling is still there! In the past few months, I’ve had to deal with few failures I had the “privilege” of experiencing. Each time, my heart just sinks to the very bottom of my stomach, and it hurts… sometimes it hurts like hell.

However, I’ve always been a big advocate of failure.  I won’t lie… it sucks when it happens to me… I think about the time, money, energy, heart, and resources that were “wasted” but I still wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a constant reminder that I went out of my comfort zone… and I took risks. It’s a constant reminder that I’m not perfect nor invincible. It’s a constant reminder that I don’t know it all, especially the future. It’s a constant reminder that life isn’t easy. It’s a constant reminder to persevere and try again when I fail. It’s a constant reminder that I need to rely on others for help and grace, and most of all, rely on God for wisdom, guidance, healing, and refuge.

I’ve had sleepless nights. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve shed tears. I’ve been disappointed. I’ve been angry. I’ve been sad. I’ve been hurt. But I still wouldn’t have it any other way… because without failure, I wouldn’t understand the glory of success as well. And failing does NOT make me a failure, it makes me human…  who won’t settle for less nor complacency, but who is determined to persevere and have great expectations in this life… because I believe God has amazing plans for my life!

A Tale of Three Boundaries…

This past weekend, I had the privilege of leading a workshop on teaching preteens and teens about helping them to say YES to God’s plan for dating, marriage, and sex!  I know, God’s crazy sense of humor in that…  🙂

As we’re discussing setting rules for teens, we shared a lot of stories from our own teen years.  Three distinct stories stood out to me:

  1. One attendee shared that his parents set strict rules, very strict boundaries without explaining them to him.  He had questions upon questions.
  2. Another attendee shared that while she was given distinct boundaries, her parents never brought God into the equation.  They were rules for rule-sake, and she still rebelled.
  3. Another attendee broke out in tears as her friend next to her shared the hurt she was recounting as she thinks about lack of boundaries she had growing up.  She had many, many regrets of the mistakes she had made simply because there were no boundaries in her life.

boundaryAll of these stories made my heart hurt and yet rejoice in God’s amazing grace.  Yes, I believe without a doubt in my mind that kids and teens need boundaries at every age.  However, we also need to explain to them why these boundaries exist.  Boundaries without why’s only lead to confusion, questions, and even rebellion.  No boundaries lead to lack of discernment and sometimes even conscience to do what’s right.  We give kids and teens boundaries because we love them.  We gives kids and teens boundaries because we want to protect them.  We give kids and teens boundaries because we want to help them make good decisions.  We give kids and teens boundaries because we want to equip and develop them to be responsible, God-loving, God-fearing, and wise adults.  Boundaries are needed… but they cannot be given without the why’s… and the biggest and the most important why is because of our relationship with Jesus.  We make our life-choices based on God’s leading because of our relationship with Him.

What’s also beautiful about these stories is that regardless of the questions, confusions, rebellion, and mistakes, God redeemed all these beautiful people.  I don’t even know their names… but their faces are super clear in my mind.  I just remember thinking–wow, they’re here!  They’re at a Christian Conference, and they’re sitting in a workshop that talks about helping teens commit to Jesus Christ and making life choices that reflects growing relationship with Jesus!  What a beautiful picture of redemption!  God is so cool like that!  God uses our past experiences and even hurts to help others… and these faces were so beautiful to me!

Set boundaries for kids and teens but explain why!  And regardless of what decision kids make, know that God can redeem even the worst questions, confusions, rebellion, and mistakes.

monkey see, monkey do…

monkey see monkey do

Yes, it’s been a very long time since I last blogged… The last few months have been crazy non-stop… Well, last week, I stopped by my friend’s house because I was in the area.  I got to spend some time w/ her 2 kids.  Her older one just turned 3 years old.  As I was trying to talk to my friend, he kept wanting to play with me.  We started building a tower on his colorful pegboard.  Once we finished our tower, he took the four pegboards and started quizzing me:

pegboardB:  What color is this?

Me:  Blue!

B:  Greeeeaaaaat Joooooob!  Now what color is this?

Me: Red?

B:  Veeeerrry Niiiiceeeee….  How about this one?

Me:  Yelloooooow.

B:  Yesssss!  Gooood.

This quizzing continued for about 15 minutes.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  First, it was ridiculously cute.  Second, I was dying because I could definitely hear his mom’s tone and and intonation in the way he said “great job,” “very nice,” or “good.”  He was talking to me as if I was the child. He was only repeating what he hears from his mom and other adults… We often talk about how scary it is “what kids pick up from adults.”  They pick up words, actions, context, attitude, and even intonation.  They truly observe everything…. and often repeat in the right context!

I was reminded how important it is for us adults to model for the little ones around us!  I’m also guilty of not being the best model around kids at times.  But if you’re around kids often or all the time, you really need to think twice about how kids are catching your behavior, actions, words, and attitude.  As they say, monkey see, monkey do!

How can you change what your behavior, actions, words, and attitude to be a better model this week?