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.

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God knows your need…

This day started out with some big decisions I had to make…  ugh, i hate those moments… and the rest of the day was followed by many other decisions I need to make in the upcoming weeks and months that will have some big implications in terms of ministry, finances, health, life, etc… ugh, i want to crawl into a hole…  all these upcoming decisions is making my heart feel very uncomfortable, unsettled, confused, conflicted, etc…

Strangely enough as I was trying to settle my heart (even in the midst of our 6 hour long staff meeting), God put Isaiah 61:3 on my heart:

To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Of course, this thought was followed by a song in my head:

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

When sorrow seems to surround you
When suffering hangs heavy o’er your head
Know that tomorrow brings
Wholeness and healing
God knows your need
Just believe what He said

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

When what you’ve done keeps you from moving on
When fear wants to make itself at home in your heart
Know that forgiveness brings
Wholeness and healing
God knows your need
Just believe what He said

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

I once was lost but God has found me
Though I was bound I’ve been set free
I’ve been made righteous in His sight
A display of His splendor all can see

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

On an exciting note, I received a message that the Sports Ministry in South Africa is currently testing “Coaching for Life” curriculum that my friend and I wrote earlier this year… and so far, so good… Thank you God!!!

life altering decisions…

Have you ever made any decisions that could change the course of your life?  I know, this sounds really dramatic… but I believe I’ve made some of those decisions in my life whether I knew it or not at the time.  One was choosing to go to Berkeley over UCLA for college. At the time, I just wanted to get far away from home as much as possible… and I just wanted to prove that I’m just as good as my two cousins that went to Berkeley.  However, after my first year, I was completely miserable,  and I was sure that I had made the biggest mistake of my life.  In fact, I had even begun the process of transferring to UCLA my sophomore year.  Thankfully, I was lazy and never finished the paperwork… and my four years at Berkeley ended up being the most wonderful and influential time of my life.  I believe a huge part of who I am has a lot to do with my time at Berkeley.  That’s also where I first had the calling to go into ministry (although at the time, I didn’t realize that it was a true calling).

Since then, I’ve had few more decisions that I’ve made a long the way which had huge impact in my life.  Each time I started or left a ministry, it was a big deal because I felt that would change my life in a drastic way… and to an extent, it has.  Recently, I’ve had to make few more decisions… and to be honest, I suck at making these huge life decisions. Why???  Because it’s SCARY!!!  It’s really hard to go into something without knowing the outcome… and of course, that’s where faith comes in.  Apparently I lack faith…

The latest big possible life-altering decision came very hard… I kicked and screamed to God for months… I kept telling Him “I’ll do ANYTHING for you, but this…”  I kept looking for a way out… I was ACTIVELY looking for a way out!!!  But in the end, God sent amazing friends to talk some sense into me and challenged me.  It’s taken me awhile, but God has been working in my heart… and I can finally say today without a doubt that I AM AT PEACE.

I think I’ve lived long enough to know that God uses every experience and situation to prepare me for the next step of my life… well, I’m now preparing to enter into that next phase of my life… and I look forward to seeing how the next phase will change my life to further experience God’s goodness and perfect plan for my life!

commitment-phobe…

Wow, it’s been awhile since my last post.  The past month has been a crazy month filled with sadness, joy, celebration, mourning, refreshment, frustration, etc… you name it… i probably felt it!  I went from my grandfather’s funeral in Kansas to a conference in Louisville, Kentucky where I was ministered to by great friends… then onto Toronto for a conference where I went through some culture shock (not because they were Canadians, but because they were all Koreans–haha, I know, go figure…) and a crazy great time connecting with my KidMin friends at Group’s KidMin Conference in Chicago.  Being busy kept me from processing a lot of what’s been going on in my life.  Now that I’ve been back home for over a week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I have experienced and learned the past month as well as where my future is headed… and my insomnia seems to be making its way back into my life–insomnia usually means I can’t turn my brain off… uuuggghhh.  😦

Well, one major thing that has been preoccupying my mind these days is where God is calling me next to do ministry.  I’ve been praying and exploring for the past 5-6 months (i know, a long time…) and it seems to be getting down to the wire now.  I must admit that I’ve really enjoyed the last nine months of not having “church” responsibilities.  But I also must admit that I have missed it.  If you know me, you know that I love talking, thinking, and breathing KidMin!

Last week, as I was thinking about different opportunities that God has set before me, it hit me that I’m a total commitment-phobe!!!  Yuck–that’s a trait I don’t like in people, especially my volunteers…  Sure, I’m up for any spontaneous adventure.. if you ask me to forgo cleaning tonight to go watch a movie or even go on a road trip, I wouldn’t hesitate much!  However, a decision with this much gravity paralyzes me.  The type-A in me starts making pro & con list of what would be the best decision in the long run.  I start playing my own devil’s advocate.  I start imagining what my life would look like in each scenario.  And I… can’t… stop…  because I’m convinced that this decision could potentially change the direction of my life forever…

People that know me know that I take FOREVER making “important” decisions… but once I commit, I’m in 110%!  Many have called me “super picky” on many occasions.  While it is important to go through the discerning process of making an important decision, I find that I get lost in the “what if’s” more than trusting in God to direct and guide me.  The honest truth is, God can and will use me regardless of where I go… sure, one may be a better fit than other options… but I can’t possibly know the outcome of my decision NOW…

Sometimes, God clearly closes doors.  Other times, God opens several doors, and this is where the decision-making gets difficult. Perhaps there isn’t always just one right door to go through, but what matters more is my heart and attitude more so than being preoccupied with choosing the “right door.”

Is God Messing with Me?

Ever feel like God is messing with you?  I don’t mean to sound heretical.. and of course in my head, I know that God doesn’t do that.  But that’s how it feels.

For the past four months, I’ve been asking God for direction.  And I’m very thankful that opportunities have been presented to me… and while each one of them sound amazing, there has always been a huge “BUT…”  I’m trying to seek God’s will and calling for the next phase of my life, and I don’t want to just settle into a ministry out of convenience or comfort.  But the past month has been a crazy one… just when I think I’m close to making a decision, something else pops up and throws me off-course!  There’s been so many curve-balls thrown my way this past month that it almost feels like God is totally messing with me.  It makes me feel like I’m going crazy…

As I read through my devotional, I haven’t been able to get past this page:

Taste and see that I am good (Psalm 34:8).  The more you experience Me, the more convinced you become of my goodness.  When adversities strike, the human instinct is to doubt My goodness.  My ways are mysterious, even to those who know Me intimately.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways and thoughts higher than your ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Do not try to fathom My ways.  Instead, spend time enjoying Me and experiencing My goodness.

I know that God is good.  I know that His ways are better than my ways.  I know, I know, I know… and I believe… but it doesn’t stop me from going crazy trying to discern where God is leading me… I keep telling myself to just enjoy my time with Him… but much of my days are consumed by thoughts of trying to think through where God wants me to go next… this is ONE tough journey, and I know that when it’s over, it’ll have been an amazing one… but right now, it feels like it just kinda sucks!

“seen, rarely heard, and always underestimated!”

Last night I finally finished reading The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  This book is for young readers, and it was A New York Times Bestseller back in 2008.  Of course as soon as I finished the last page, I googled the book and the writer!  I actually came across an interview with the author on KidsReads.com where he said that the idea for The Mysterious Benedict Society came from his belief that “children are often seen, rarely heard, and always underestimated.”  No wonder I like this book so much… because I often feel the same way.  We live in a culture and society where we value children so much… but ironically I agree with Stewart that children are rarely heard and always underestimated!  This book definitely empowers kids… and to make it even better, the four kids that save the world are kids that feel more insignificant, unloved, and unworthy than any other kids!  This is not a book review.  In fact, if you’d like one, I found an excellent one on Bugs & Bunnies Blog.

I have conversed with many church and kidmin leaders in the past few months.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means for a church to value children and children’s ministry.   Trust me, every church I’ve talked to says they value and support children’s ministry.  I guess saying they value children’s ministry is right up there with “we value worshiping God.”  Well, my big question for the past month has been “what does it mean for a church to value children’s ministry and what does that look like?”  I have heard many great answers:  good portion of budget going to kidmin, allowing kids to help shape culture of the church, sharing resources, providing volunteers, etc… But my MILLION DOLLAR question is what does that really look like?  Sure, I’ve had a lead pastor stop ALL events at church during the week of VBS so I could have all the volunteers I needed.  Sure, I’ve been given great budget for kidmin in the past… and those all contribute to how a church values kidmin.  But am I crazy to think that there has got to be more???

In a recent conversation with the founder of Sports Serve, he reminded me that we need to teach and disciple our children and youth right now to be the leaders and the church of TODAY, not of the future.  I couldn’t agree more!!!  I think a lot of churches fool ourselves into thinking that we’ve done our job of valuing kidmin by providing them with money, volunteers, and supplies… but how much are the churches investing in developing these kids to be lovers of God, followers of Christ, and leaders of the Church?  In how many churches is the kidmin just an extra appendage that follows them everywhere they go, and thus need to provide something to keep them occupied?

I know I’m a dreamer… but is it a crazy dream to think that our kids can be like The Mysterious Benedict Society where they are the ones who can lead and change with their great ideas?   NOT just seen, rarely heard, and always underestimated, but where their ideas are heard and acted upon???

“Having devoted more than two decades of my life and all of my professional skills to studying and working with ministries of all types, I am now convinced that the greatest hope for the local church lies in raising godly children.” – George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions.

I would SOOOOO love to hear any ideas/thoughts you all have on this… please leave me a comment or email me directly!!!  This has been keeping me up at nights!!!

U2 tickets & bargaining w/ God

Yup, I’m a BIG fan of U2… therefore, when U2 360 tour tickets went on sale in October 2009, I waited by the computer and waited for the clock to hit 10 am, and bought the first 4 tickets that I could.  Due to Bono’s back injury, the concert that was to happen in June 2010 was postponed to June 2011.  I was sitting on these tickets until the week before the actual concert date.  And due to rescheduling, friends that were suppose to go cancelled out, and I had the chance to go with other friends who had general admissions tickets… So long story short, I had these 4 tickets to sell.  Now, I’m sort of no-nonsense gal… like it is what it is!  So when I put these tickets on Craiglist and emailed friends to see if they knew anyone that could take them, I started to get a lot of responses…

“I would totally buy them if they were cheaper…”

“I would totally buy them if they were better seats…”

“I really want to see them but I can’t go on Friday.  Do you have tickets for Saturday?”

“I’m interested… but are you trying to make money off of these? If so, I think they’re too expensive…”

“I really want to buy them but Anaheim on Friday night is too far…”

and the emails and texts went on and on and on… No, I was not trying to make money!  I was just trying to unload the tickets I had bought and let someone enjoy this amazing show… As these emails poured in, I started to get really, I mean REALLY annoyed… What part of “selling 2 tickets for $220, Friday, June 17, Section V___, Row R, Seats 7 & 8” do they NOT understand?????   I don’t want to hear their “buts and ifs…”  Just contact me if you want them… I don’t need to know why you can’t go, especially if I don’t know you!!!  Seriously, I was really annoyed with those that were taking up my time sending me useless emails!

As I sat deleting all these annoying emails, I started to wonder “why do people do such annoying things???”  (and I ask this question quite often).  And then it hit me… It’s human nature to want to bargain… We want the benefit of everything without it costing us anything!  We only want what’s convenient and comfortable for us… and then it hit me even harder!!!  This is EXACTLY what I do with God!!!  Uuugghh, harsh reality…

“Yes God, I’ll go overseas if you guarantee me that all the funds will be taken care of.”

“Yes God, I will take that job if you somehow show me that I’ll be financially stable and I will have a great ministry.”

“Yes God, I will take that risk if the returns are good.” (i know, then it wouldn’t really be taking a risk.)

“God, if you help me get through this difficult part, I’ll give a lot more…”

“Yes God, I will do this if…” continues from big to small things…  from important to petty things…   I’ve been spending a lot of my time seeking for God’s direction and calling… but in actuality, I’ve really been bargaining with God.  I’ve equated His calling with assurance that things are gonna go my way… not His way.  You would think after decades of being a christian, I would have this figured out… but once again, I guess that’s why it’s a journey.  Some lessons never get old…  and I don’t learn so easily.  This faith thing isn’t easy… nor does it get easier… but I’m still learning.  Oh, and yes, I was able to sell my tickets to someone who was just happy to see U2 in concert without bargaining!  I should learn from her!!!  🙂