Today’s Warm & Fuzzies

I love getting warm & fuzzy stories from parents! This one landed in my inbox this morning!

Hi Gloria-  I have to share a quick story for you to pass on to M’s teachers at church.  Her teacher told me that yesterday, on the playground, there was a little girl who was crying because she had to get off the swing because her turn was over.  M went up to her and said “Listen, it’s OK because at church I learned that the first shall be last and the last shall be first!”  

This is especially precious because M is a super shy girl… who has only said “HI” to me once! We just learned this lesson couple weeks ago, and for her to have the boldness to comfort another girl with what she learned at church gives me the warm & fuzzies all over!  Have I said lately that kids are the BEST?

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!

What Is Enough???

To change the world, we must change our country. To change our country, we must change our city. To change our city, we must change our community. To change our community, we must change the room. To change the room, we must change the table. To change the table, we must change the conversation. The greatest way to change the world is to change the conversation. The more world-changing conversations we have, the greater chance for the world to change.” -Jim Doggett, excerpt from More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger

2 years ago, I read a book that completely rocked my world… so much that I went on a 7-months of fast, and I chronicled my experience starting with this post. What was amazing to me throughout these 7-months was that the less options I had, the easier my life was! For example, knowing that I could only wear 7 items of clothing saved me so much time from standing in front of my closet, trying to decide what would be the most fashionable, most sensible, most flattering outfit to wear. And it hit me that my life was easier when I had less… However, living in Los Angeles, bombarded by fashion, brand names… and being around people who had nice things to wear, brand name purses and shoes… it all influenced me to want more and better things! It’s really not other people’s fault. I’m just not strong enough to resist some of those things. I may not be a big shopper, but I still love my purses and shoes. It was the same for food, technology, etc.

more or lessWell, just last week, I finished a book called More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger, and it rocked my world again! Jeff reminded me that “my enough could mean more for someone else who has less.”  What a concept!!! I know, it’s not rocket-science… but it seriously rocked my world because I was reminded how excessive my life is. I may not live in a mansion nor even a house.. yes, I still live in the same apartment I’ve been for the past 10 years… I may not spend lots of money on shopping because I really hate going to the mall… but I still have more than what I need. My life is not inconvenienced in any way… and let’s face it–all my problems are really first world problems–like wanting a new iPad because mine is three years old and the home button sticks!

The good life is not found in luxury. Rather it’s found in the life that enhances the life of another human being.

Generosity is not about giving money. Generosity is a lifestyle that seeks to understand the needs of others in strives to end that suffering. True generosity is a choice. Generosity seeks to live with less so others can have more. (both excerpts from More or Less)

Sure, I try to do my share of helping others. I am passionate about sponsoring kids through Compassion International and World Vision. I try to help people that I see in need such as homeless that surrounds this city that I live in. If I have food or even leftovers, I’m usually in the habit of giving it away to them. However, I usually give out of excess that I have and because it’s convenient for me to give. I don’t think about what’s actually enough for me… and I haven’t made real conscious to live on less so I could do more for others. That’s what really messed me up!

I won’t lie… this isn’t as easy as it sounds. As I decided to sponsor one more child this past week, I thought to myself “I could just eat out once or twice less per month.” And then I started to think about where I go out to eat. I really do enjoy trying out new restaurants and fine dining. And I sure enjoy my sushi, oysters, and crab. I thought about giving up my favorite dining experience, and I immediately started to feel sad… How ridiculous that I’m getting sad about eating less sushi or seafood when I could be feeding a child for a whole month? It’s an internal struggle…

So… I’ve decided that some things really need to change! I need to do something to make conscious decision to determine what is ENOUGH for me! I need to make conscious decision to understand and meet the needs of others to help end their suffering. It’s a choice!

As I’m still processing all this… I took my first step: I decided that I could surely sponsor another child overseas. That’s why I took one more child through World Vision last week. I’m also starting to clean out my life–to declutter, to donate what I don’t need… and I’ve been thinking through “an enough experiment” that I want to do… I don’t know yet, but stay tuned. As soon as I get that figured out, I shall be sharing! That way, other people can keep me accountable, and I can share my experience and how God has worked in my life.

But for now… go read this book… or at least ask yourself “WHAT IS ENOUGH?” for your life!

Lover of My Soul…

Today was a very looooooong day (I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately…).

It doesn’t help that I haven’t been sleeping well for the past few weeks… and I also just feel like I fully haven’t been myself physically, mentally, and emotionally… Perhaps I am stressed…  Well, anyhow, I was so tired today that I got lost driving from our main church campus to the new campus… And then I missed the freeway to get home TWICE after my 12-hour day.  Oh man… Yeah, I’m kind of a mess… geeeeesh…

As I was sitting half-brain dead during my last meeting tonight, we had a time of worship.  Usually, I can pretty much sing most of the songs on pilot-mode.  Our worship pastor decided to end the evening with “Jesus, Lover of my soul…” Initially, the words would just flow right out of my mouth without much thought… but the third time we repeated the song, the words all of a sudden registered in my half-dead brain… and I found myself smiling through these words: “Though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go. My Saviour, my closest friend, I will worship you until the very end.”  And as we repeated the words over and over again, I found myself smiling bigger and bigger (I probably looked pretty dorky at this point).

I was reminded that Jesus is indeed the lover of my soul…  He is the One that I need…  He is the One who made me and formed me… He is the One who knows me inside and out…  He is the One that I love and worship…  and those thoughts brought much needed smile to my face tonight… (on a side note, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many of my blogs this month has been about music and lyrics–since I’ve been on media-fast, lyrics have made a bigger impact… God is so cool that way!)

Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Jesus, I will never let you go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You’ve set my feet upon the Rock, and now i know

I love you, I need you,
Though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go
My Saviour, my closest friend,
I will worship you until the very end

It’s So Quiet In Here…

August has come and gone… and to be honest, I have no idea where that time went!  It started out sane… and then it got crazy!!!  With our church’s new multi-site launching in about a month, my brain, time, and energy has been drained out of my being… It’s exciting, but it’s been CRAZY!!!

Well, this past week, 2 people have asked me “so has this 7 thing changed your lifestyle at all?  or did you just binge after your fasting was up?”  And my answer was “it definitely has changed my life!”  Here is how:

1.  Since 7 Foods, my food budget has hit its all time low.  During the month of August, I came under $300 on food… that’s ALL TIME LOW for me!!!

2.  I’ve started giving out granola bars to homeless people on the street when I come across them.  It’s not much, but I’m doing what I can to share Jesus’ love with them.

3.  I’m more mindful about going out to eat just because I’m too lazy to cook.  In fact, I’m currently trying to eat everything I have in my pantry and fridge before I go food shopping again… And I have a lot of stuff to eat through!

4.  I still haven’t shopped for clothes in over 2 months… I’ve only bought 2 accessories this month… I just couldn’t resist, but I had to get a new purse that was on 65% sale… and a laptop bag that was on 70% sale!  (I know, I’m weak…)  but I have not missed shopping AT ALL!!!

5.  I’ve been continually cleaning out my apartment to give things away.  Due to my busyness this month, I’m a bit behind on giving away 217 things during the month of August… but I have committed to giving away 217 items, and I will keep that promise as I go into September.

So… now it’s the month of September (it’s 12:34 am on 9/1).  “What’s your  next 7 things?” has been the big question… And I have to admit that this is the hardest one so far: it’s MEDIA!!!  What’s so hard about it?  Well, I’m personally surrounded by media… and since I was a latch-key kid in elementary school, the first thing I did when I came home was turn on the TV for background noise… I would fall asleep to either TV or Radio in high school… I’m on my computer majority of my days during the week…  Between my iPhone and iPad, I’m rarely unplugged.  My life is surrounded by media!!!  There’s a part of me that wishes to banish myself from all things media… but reality is, I need to be on email and check my email periodically for work.  And realistically, I do a lot of work via social media (yup, weekly blogging and fb is one of my current roles)… thus it’s not realistic to be completely unplugged… but since part of this experiment is to simplify my life but also do something that would help me change the way I live my life now, this is what I’m committing to:

1.  NO TV!!!  (i have officially put the remote in a cabinet so I won’t even be tempted.)

2.  NO RADIO in the car… I often like to listen to music and sing along… none of that this month!

3.  NO MOVIES!  (I often get movie screening invitations, and that’s how I usually watch movies… I already have 2 tickets for this month… Guess I’ll be giving those away!)

4.  NO SPOTIFY, NO YOUTUBE, NO HULU, NO AMAZON INSTANT MOVIES–so NO entertainment on computers!!!

5.  NO GAMES!!!

6.  NO iPhone nor iPad apps unless it’s work or productivity related such as banking, taking notes, etc… A lot of discernment needed here!

7.  LIMITED Social Networking:  I say limited because I fb message as much as I email re: work, ministry, network for work purposes… once again, a lot of discernment is needed here… as my goal is not to just sit read every fb and twitter post, but to use it only for productivity.

So when I re-read my 7 media fast above, one thing screams to me:  NO NOISE!!!  I love background noise.. I just love noise! But with giving up all these things above, I’m sensing that it’s going to be super quiet around here!  God, help me!!!

Only 7 Clothes for the Next 31 Days!

Yup… you read that right… Month of July will consist of 7 articles of clothes, 1 purse, 1 computer bag, & 3 pairs of shoes… yes… you read that right!  So there are a bunch of women (and some men) participating in Summer of 7 throughout the country!  Check out this blog hop as many chronicle their journey!  I also thought about doing the 7 things for 7 weeks rather than 7 months… but as I thought about them, a week to eat 7 items or wear 7 items of clothing didn’t seem like a big stretch for me… and I REALLY wanted to be S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-D!!!  Besides, I think I only wear 7 articles of clothes per week already…  That’s why I decided to super challenge myself and go for the 7 month stretch…  And then today, I thought to myself–AM I CRAZY???  How am I going to wear only 7 items of clothing for the next 31 days???

But I decided that if Jen Hatmaker and bunch of other people can do it… I can do it too!!!  So here it goes.  I’ve thought long and hard about what I’m going to wear during the month of July… There are few things that are throwing me off-course:  4th of July Beach Trip, leading children’s ministry at a camp, pastoral staff planning retreat, a bachelorette party, and a wedding–all happening in the month of July… I thought about doing 7 clothes another month, and switching it out with Possessions this month… but once again, I found myself looking for an easy way out!  So… NO EASY WAY OUT FOR ME,  I decided!!!  Here it goes:

For the month of July, I will wear:  

  1. brown maxi dress
  2. pair of dark blue skinny jeans
  3. khaki shorts
  4. Inspi(RED) shirt
  5. blue top
  6. black tanktop
  7. purple tanktop
Accessories include:
  • Coach swingpack as my purse
  • Computer bag for work
  • flip-flops
  • pair of TOMS
  • Nude Sandals
  • My usual rings
  • one pair of earrings
7 clothes will NOT include underwear, sleepwear, and workout wear–because well… that’ just gross!  And I will NOT shop for any clothes or accessories in July.

Compared to Jen Hatmaker’s 7, I feel like a wimp because I’m trying to plan everything out for the whole month.. instead of just going for it and dealing with it!  She had speaking engagements, and she just showed up wearing jeans and a t-shirt… I’m not that brave!  But I’m giving it my best shot!!!

At least I can go back to drinking coffee… and I’m sure God will do awesome things throughout the month of July as I simplify my life in clothing, just as He did this month!

How Will My Life Change After 7-Food Challenge?

So I have 2 more days left of 7-food challenge!  To recap, I have allowed myself 7 items of food to eat for the whole month of June… and I’ve allowed cooking condiments and few sauces.  I cheated 3 times:

1.  I was invited to my cousin’s house for a meal, and it was early in the month.  They didn’t know that I was doing 7 foods, so they made me my favorite meal–sashimi rice bowl and crab.  I couldn’t turn down such hospitality, and I hadn’t given them the heads up because I though we were going to go out to eat.  So ate yummy seafood!

2.  Staff Meeting Lunch was catered in.  It was one of our extended meetings… and although they knew about my 7 foods, they had forgotten what they were, and thought I could eat noodles… so Chinese noodles they were… It was going to be a long meeting day, and I was feeling starved… and knew I wouldn’t have access to food for several hours… so I gave in, and ate my portion.

3.  I went up to our church’s singles retreat for one day to connect with them.  None of the food that was served at the retreat site included any of my 7 foods… They even served spinach and coleslaw rather than regular lettuce.  I skipped breakfast in hopes that I could eat something for lunch… But once the menu became known, I gave in and ate a little at lunch and dinner.

Now that I’m at the end of the month and reflecting on my experience, below are some of my thoughts and decisions:

  • I spend a lot of money and time on food.  My monthly food budget is about $450-500.  I go out to eat fairly often especially since I use meal times to connect with people.  But when I go out to eat, I like to eat well…  This probably won’t stop… but there are ways to cut down.  For instance, I usually order a drink instead of water.  I don’t have to deprive myself of tea, coffee, or soda all the time… but I don’t have to order them every time.  So I will cut down and be mindful of what I order in restaurants.
  • I also spend a lot of money on groceries because I have to try everything new I see.  Once again, I don’t believe in going cold-turkey with anything, but I need to be more mindful of what I purchase, especially since a lot of it also goes to waste.  I would like to cut down my food budget… My new goal is $300-350/month.  Wish me luck!
  • If I ate out 2 times less, I could support another Compassion Child!  In the past month, several flier regarding sponsoring older kids through Compassion International caught my attention.  Statistics is that older kids (10+ years old) tend to be overlooked by new sponsors.  I think that’s the nudging of the Holy Spirit.  So I will eat out less, and put that budget towards supporting an older Compassion Child.
  • I waste so much produce because I can never finish a whole bunch of cilantro, green onions, etc… I already grow few herbs… but I’m gonna try growing more things on my balcony so I don’t waste so much!
  • I always see homeless people as I exit the freeway.  In the past, I used to carry McDonald’s gift certificates to give to them… but I decided more effective thing might be to carry granola bars and water in my car to give to those who need food on the street.  This is something that’s easy to do… and as I’ve been blessed with so much, especially in terms of food, I would like to bless others in small ways that I can.

So have I learned a lot in the last 28 days!  Food is something I never lack!  A simple dinner easily contains 15 ingredients!  There are many people who would just love a little portion of what I eat every day!  I’m challenged to be more mindful of how blessed I am… and learn to bless others!

I’m currently thinking of 300 kids that came to daily feeding scheme at a community center in a township in South Africa!  They start lining up 30 minutes prior to the door opens because this meal is often the only meal they have per day.  As you look at these sweet faces, and how could you not share what we’ve been richly blessed with others?