Saturday, August 28, 2010

My last wednesday in Malawi

I was so excited I found this clip. I know it's delayed, but I've been feeling super nostalgic recently.

Friday, August 27, 2010

España (click for blog)

I'm leaving to study abroad in Spain in a week. Honestly, I don't want to go. I don't know why God said yes this time. And to be completely honest, I chose to go to Spain for shallow reasons, the cobblestone paved roads, the floral decorated houses, the beautiful architecture, tapas and wine, siesta, the idea of me being in a beautiful foreign country. I guess they're not completely shallow because all those are part of Spain's culture. But, having relived Malawi through recent photos, I'm almost disgusted, repelled by my reasons for going to Spain. I could have chosen any other country. Peru, Portugal, somewhere in South America, India, or Africa. Somewhere where I know help is needed and I'll be there to help.

But then I realized. Isn't it so much easier to serve and help others when they want to be helped? Isn't it so much easier to love a bunch of poor adorable orphans than it is people who validate their worth on so much of the world? Children have this trusting innocence and will let you in immediately. But as you grow older, and especially if you live a lifestyle of brokenness, you're bound to build walls upon walls. How do you get through that?

Is that why I don't want to go? Will it be too difficult for me to love these people because they bring up so much of my past?

Or is it because I'm a person who's vastly interested in different cultures and I easily adapt and connect with others because I'm not afraid to do as they do? To eat their food, speak their language, walk in their shoes, breathe their air, and live their lifestyles. Am I afraid that I'll be influenced not because I want to fit in, but because I feel that to truly connect with people is to experience what they experience?

Am I afraid that I won't grow, that instead I'll backtrack? That I won't heal, instead, I'll hurt? That I won't have a purpose?

I think it's a little of 'all the above'.

I know God has a plan for me. And I'm trusting all I can trust right now. I know for sure there's something he wants me to learn, many things. I guess I shouldn't anticipate, it'll drive me nuts!

When I think of me going to Spain. I am reminded of the story of Jonah. I wonder why Jonah didn't want to go. The Bible never really explains. Maybe he was worried about the exact same things, who knows? But there is no way running away from God, don't want to be swallowed by a fish now ahah bad joke. (Interesting and ironic fact. The place that Jonah tried to run away to was actually somewhere south of Spain, and that's where I'm headed! Shows that there is brokenness everywhere.)But there's one verse in Jonah that really resonated with me.

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Jonah 2:8

As long as I remember that His grace is enough, I think I'll be okay :)

I hope heaven's a place where you can do your boyish things

A couple days ago, I heard that Vanessa had passed away due to malaria complications. It's such a weird feeling, knowing that someone was once there, and not anymore. Just last summer, I was playing with her, holding her. Watching her climb trees and do all the boyish things. She and her twin brother, Chifuniro, have both made such an impact on me. I hoped to come back and see them, all grown up. And even if I couldn't physically see her, my mind could rest assured, imagining and calculating how big she would be and what a beautiful girl she would become.

I was looking through the new interns' photos of Malawi. I felt like a worried mother, clicking through picture after picture, looking for the familiar faces, MY familiar faces. And to be honest, I think subconsciously, I was looking more to see if they were alive. Is that too candid? Because usually when you look through pictures, you look at peoples' smiles, poses, silly faces, you don't look for evidence of their existence because that is assumed; you don't take a breath of relief when you see them and you certainly don't think "oh good, he/she is alive". But I've gone a full year without any contact, pictures, updates, about these kids; you can imagine my anticipation/anxiety for these pictures. But more importantly, it really IS a matter of life and death for them.

I just can't grasp how such a preventable and treatable disease here is claiming so many lives, SOO many childrens' lives, in countries like Malawi. It makes me angry. It makes me feel helpless. It makes me sad. It makes me afraid for my kids. It makes me selfish. It makes me wonder if God makes reservations in heaven for kids like her. It makes me hope.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's the beginning of summer

but it feels like the end of so many things...

Monday, June 7, 2010

YouTube - funniest kid in the world

I don't know what it is about little kids that make me laugh so much

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

so rich

"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

22Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

23"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
24"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Luke 6:20-25

I'm reading this book called City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre. It depicts life in the slums of Calcutta, amongst the leperers, the pariahs of the pariahs. As I'm reading it, I'm amazed at how much love, joy, compassion, and hope these people have. It seemed like the poorer they were, the more they were willing to give and give up. It reminds me of my time in Africa. So poor in the material, but so full in the spirit. I go downtown to talk to the homeless. Again, you see people holding onto and being thankful for what they have, even if it's something as small as laughter. And compare it to our culture. Sometimes the more we have, the less we're willing to give. And then it dawned on me:

When people have absolutely nothing, they focus on (and are thankful for) what little they do have. But when people have everything, they focus on what they don't have.

This is apparent in our rich culture. We have everything, but why aren't we happy? Why can't we find joy? We're looking, but we're looking in the wrong place. We buy things that we think will make us happy, we wear clothes that we think will make us look good, we do things we do so we can create this image of what we want people to see. But, that's never enough...and it will never be enough. If we keep doing those things, we will never truly find joy. We're mistakenly filling our emptiness with material things when what we really need is in the spiritual.

I'm not saying that we need to be poor to be happy, but we need to open our eyes and try to see how blessed we are. We need to shift our attention from what we don't have, to what we do have. And by doing so, we realize how much excess stuff we have that we don't need. Ultimately, we realize that we only need God. Having realized that gives us strength to give up what we don't need. It allows us to be free from worldly riches. We become, in a sense, poor, yet, so rich. "Blessed are those who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Renew your mind

As a psychology major, I've come to realize how complex and powerful the mind really is, and that's an understatement. I guess the whole reason I was attracted to this field was because of my own experiences with my mind, my thoughts. I'm fascinated by sensations which alter perceptions, cognitions that evoke feelings and emotions, emotions that cause behaviors and actions. I think everyone should be a psych major, or at least take a couple psychology courses.

Anyways, I guess all of last year, I was really battling my mind. Questioning not only my thoughts, but also why I thought those things. Where did those mindsets and ways of thinking stem from? Did something happen to me that caused me to think this way? And because I thought this way, it caused me to feel a certain way, and act a certain way, which made me who I was, who I am. All of last year, I was trying to figure out what was normal, but what was normal? To understand normality, you have to try to understand abnormality (and my 2 abnormal psychology classes really helped me, especially with self-diagnosing..ahah) Why wasn't I "happy"? Why was joy so hard to come by? There must be something in me that's not right. Then realizing that it's all in my mind and in the way I perceived my world.

So I set a goal out to try to combat my way of thinking. I caught myself being cynical, skeptical, having major trust issues, over-thinking, dwelling on the negative, beating myself over dumb things, over-regulating, monitoring my every action, being super self-aware. I felt like a scientist, but I was dissecting my own brain. It was a very internal struggle. And from the outside, I must have seemed so awkward and inhibited. But internally, I was trying to break my usual mold of thinking. It's like waking up one day and realizing that all you're life, you've been thinking one way, when it's actually the other way. It's so hard to break that pattern, and even if you break that pattern, you have to adopt a new way of thinking. Everything is trial and error. To be self-aware is to be able to emotionally put yourself out there. To be able to have the courage to get hurt because you know you will heal.

This year, after having learned so much about my mind, I'm still figuring things out. Something I learned (it's so simple, yet so hard to do): to focus on the positive. To be grateful for what you have. To not focus on suffering and pain. I think in Christianity, there's so much focus on suffering, pain, endurement. But when the focus turns into what we're losing, what we're sacrificing, we lose sight of what we have. Plus, wouldn't suffering be so much easier if you're unaware of it. From personal experience, suffering is magnified by 100 times if you're focused and conscious of it. Then it becomes this self-pity sort of thing and it's you against the world. Sooner or later, you fall into a negative way of attributing situations. Everything is taken personal, everything becomes you're fault, hope seems to fade, joy becomes distant.

I can see how people with everything can still fall into depression, while people who have absolutely nothing can still find joy. I remember what the homeless man said to me: "When you're where I'm at, you just have to laugh". He had nothing but laughter, and he held onto that. It got him through 18 years of homelessness, and it's still getting him through.

Everyday, I fill my head with positive thoughts, no matter how dumb it is. I try to mentally compliment every person that walks by, no matter how lame or cheesy, it works. You really have to train your mind to think this way, an exhaustive step by step. You have to be able to catch yourself falling into that familiar trend of wrong thinking, and combat it with the right way of thinking. With a positive scheme of thinking, comes positive perceptions, emotions, behaviors, and actions. By letting God renew your mind, you will be able to find that joy and hope that He has promised.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
2 Corinthians 5:10

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Romans 12:2

Recommended reading: Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyers

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Just smile

Went downtown yesterday for Love the Homeless. I came across a homeless man lodging under the "no illegal lodging sign". Despite his situation, he seemed so chipper, so full of joy. He was cracking jokes left and right, and I commented on how joyful he was. What he said next will never leave me. "When you're where I am, you just have to laugh". He has been homeless for 18 years.

As we walk back to our cars, I was just struck with awe. I have everything. I really do. Yet sometimes, I can't even manage to force a smile. Why is that? Our society has everything, yet it's so empty. You truly have to be willing to lose everything you have to be able to just laugh. It takes having nothing, to smile, because you have nothing to lose. This was something I found in Malawi. Absolutely nothing in the physical, but so full of something in the metaphysical. That something: love, joy, hope.

Maybe there's something in my life I'm not willing to give up. Something that I'm holding onto so tightly. I don't know what it is, but I have a feeling I'll find out soon. The funny thing is that I thought I had let go already. Let go of something I would never have the strength to let go. But I'm realizing now that I'll always going to be called to give up things, things that are the hardest for me to give up. Something that's not physical, but mental.

Maybe it really takes willing to lose everything to be able to smile again.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

thought this was funny and cute
playing games
at the bottom of a Baobob Tree
us and our nzimbe!
home visits
our art project!
my kindergarten class!
silly monkeys
transporting water is normally a woman's job, but he was doing anything to get my attention ahaha
walking through the August Rush fields into Mgwayi village
sausage tree!

doing laundry by hand can be fun?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Guarding your heart

Coming back from Malawi, I learned this the hard way...

I was conscious of not isolating myself. I made an effort to let people in because so many times, I've been told that God works through people. While this is true, the reverse isn't. I found myself just letting anyone in, thinking anyone would and could lift me up. They didn't. People are people. They are not God. God works through people, yes, but just because you let people in, doesn't mean God will use them. I feel like God uses all kinds of people, the most unexpected people in my life to bring me up.

Looking back, I made the mistake of thinking that guarding my heart was isolating myself. How did I ever come to think that? It was just the information I was getting at the spiritual, emotional, mental place I was at. There needs to be a balance. And though it took so many mistakes, so many embarrassing moments, so many regretful thoughts, I'm glad I went through them because had I not, I would probably have never realized this about my life. It's kind of like an inevitable thing I had to go through and probably still will go through. Yea it hurt some, but it's not the kind that can't heal.

I'm glad, thankful even, that I've come to realize this now better than later. I've been walking on a path of eggshells, so focused on not cracking any, that I go the wrong direction. Maybe we're supposed to crack some eggshells along the way. Wouldn't it make getting through so much easier? It's going to be messy, but its cleanable.. and....they're just eggshells.

Somewhere in between

That's where I need to be...
I've realized that my whole life, I've been pretty extreme. Every time I find something new and exciting, I keep at it until i get sick of it. It doesn't matter what that something is, a sport, a hobby, a song that I play on repeat until my ears fall off, anything. I love trying new things, I think its the thrill of a new experience that keeps me going. Though I like to feel in control, I can't live a predicted life. I guess I'm so consciously anti-routine that I make sure I'm constantly learning and stepping out of the bubble every time I know i'm being sucked into one. But... i'm realizing right now, that its to the point where I can't even commit. I can drop anything any time and not feel any sense of loss. Find a new band, get their album, listen to it a million times, get sick of it, throw it in the huge collection of old cds. Start a new project, buy everything i need for it, finish it, admire it for a couple days, then realize what a space waster it is, throw it in the closet. Discover a new lifestyle, learn everything about it, befriend the people who live it, live it for myself, find out why I'm not happy, then realize I was trying too hard, ditch it, ditch them and find a new lifestyle, usually on the other extreme. I guess it's been happening for a while and I just didn't know it. It's come to the point where I'm not only hurting myself, but other people, and I know this is something I need to change, i just don't know how.

So having lived both extremes, neither good nor bad, I see that I'm neither, or both? Somewhere in between. I think I caught myself before wanting to plunge back into the other extreme.

This self-discovery thing, it's so tiring. But it's necessary, and the only way is to make mistakes. There's no guidebook. It's trial and error, and it sucks. It takes courage, it takes strength, it takes hope. It takes knowing that you're about to jump off a cliff into shards of glass, and somehow believing, knowing, that you will come out alive. Yes, you are alive, but you're badly beaten, broken, suffering, and it'll take months, years, to recover if at all. It takes resilience, and a will to move on instead of hiding in the hurt.

How I wish i could so easily bounce back after a terrible fall...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"A heart can break a thousand times before it finds, the love that makes it beat again."- Chris and Conrad

It's been almost 4 months, and I still find myself clicking through these pictures. It seems like I can stare at them forever. I close my eyes and try to imagine the kids right in front of me. It's hard, but for a moment, nothing else in the world matters. Everything is just so trivial. Everything that bugs me, every hardship I'm going through, everything that once mattered so much means absolutely nothing to me, and I'm just reminded of how small my problems are.

And it is in these moments when I'm most upset about the world, my world, and what it has become. It's so hard being surrounded by people who just don't know or don't care, and the worst, don't care to know. It saddens me to see people drowning in their own seas of not even problems, but anything, infatuations, obsessions, whatever. It's stupid. I don't get it. I do it too, and I hate it.

I know I'm here for a purpose. I know people are as lost here as anywhere else. I know there's a lot I can do here. I know. I know. I just need to vent and be anti right now. anti-people, anti-things, anti-world, anti- stupidity, anti-i don't know. maybe i'm just bitter. Maybe I just see Malawi as a place that escapes all the silliness of our culture. It's simple, and I miss that, so much. Why can't it be like that here? I hate being caught up in all this silliness, and then feel like I don't belong here.

Sometimes I contrive these plans in my head of how I can logically go back to Malawi within the next year. What if I just up and left right now, this instant? Of course it makes no sense, but why does it have to? Nothing ever really makes sense to me anyways.

So that's why I go through these pictures. Because that's all I have that's tangible at least. I look at these faces and my heart breaks again and again, and again, and at the same time, it's these very faces that keep my heart beating. It's times like these when I know I'm going back, I can't not.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"A Smile Without Lips"

Just wanted to share something from a book I'm reading, A Hole in our Gospel by President of World Vision, Richard Stearns

" In the midst of war, true evil abounds; unspeakable atrocities are committed; brutality is endemic. War is never benign. But war is more than just an impersonal term that we can brush aside at will. It has a face-- and it is human. One human face of war, whom I will never forget is that of a woman named Margaret, who was caught in the violence of Northern Uganda's war against the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. One day Margaret, six months pregnant, was working in her garden with several other women when rebels--a group of child soldiers led by an adult LRA commander--emerged from the bush. They had come to steal food and other supplies. But stealing was not enough, and they attacked the women, literally hacking Margaret's friends to death with machetes while she watched. But as they approached Margaret to do the same, the commander noticed that she was pregnant. Believing it would bring bad luck to murder a pregnant woman, he instructed his child soldiers to not kill her. Instead, he gave the order to cut off her ears, nose, and lips and leave her to die; that way, he reasoned, her subsequent death would not be on their hands. So they carried out the unthinkable and left Margaret maimed and bleeding to death.

But Margaret was found and rushed to a hospital for treatment. Remarkably, she survived and three months later gave birth to a son, James. She and James were then brought to World Vision's Children of War Center, where she received trauma counseling, support, and, later, skills training as a seamstress. Margaret, traumatized and permanently disfigured, was trying to rebuild her life and be a mother to her child. This is where I met her, perhaps a year after her ordeal.

To our American sensibilities, Margaret's story seems beyond comprehension. There is nothing in our frame of reference that allows us to understand such brutality. What happened next can only be understood through the miracle of God's love--as a demonstration of the incredible power of the gospel to redeem even the darkest kinds of evil.

One day, months after her son's birth, Margaret saw the commander who had given the order to main her, arriving at the same rehab center. He had been captured and had also been sent for counseling and rehabilitation. I cannot imagine the emotions this must have triggered in Margaret. In great distress, she frantically told one of her counselors that she had to leave immediately, that she could not be near him, and that she wanted to kill him. In response, the man was moved to a different rehab center several kilometers away. But Margaret's anxiety remained.

World Vision counselors began working with this man. At first, he denied that he had committed the atrocities. They worked, too, with Margaret, tying to lessen her anxiety and exploring the possibility of forgiveness. After weeks had passed, the man confessed to his involvement in Margaret's attack, even as she worked through her own fears and anger. Finally, a meeting was arranged. The man asked Margaret to forgive him. And Margaret, reaching deeply into the source of all forgiveness--Jesus Christ--forgave. Here again was the power of the gospel to redeem and restore, and to meet evil and turn it back. On the wall of the Children of War Center are photographsy of that day--Margaret and this man who had mutilated her.

He is holding little James in his arms as she stands next to them--smiling without lips."

And so people ask me why I believe in God, this is why.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

If you know me

If you know me, you know that I'm an honest person and I genuinely care about people. I get frustrated with labels and social clumping because I believe everyone is unique in their own way. I appreciate people as individuals and would like to be viewed as one as well.

If you know me, you know that I have a heart for people and it breaks for their pain. I can't sit around knowing others are hurting; I have to do everything I possible can to alleviate it, even if it means sharing that pain with them.

If you know me, you know that small things mean the world to me. The smallest gesture, the slightest smile, truly warms my heart.

If you know me, you know I dance when I get excited.

If you know me, you know I have an odd sense of humor and can be really weird sometimes.

If you know me, you know I love to laugh and I appreciate so much the people who can laugh with me.

If you know me, you know that I love my doggies

If you know me, you know that I love adventure, doing spontaneous things in the middle of the night are what I live for.

If you know me, you know I fight for what I believe in

If you know me, you know that I'm passionate about music. Music is the only thing that makes sense to me. Music isn't just a sound, its a feeling, its an emotion, its a release, its an expression. Its my way of telling my story without words.

If you know me, you know that I'm fully in love with God.

If you know me, you know I'm still trying to get to know me.

If you don't know me, you should really get to know me.

Love, Love, Love,


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Small things, with great love

Mother Teresa once said, "
We can do no great things, only small things with great love." This quote epitomizes my two months spent in Malawi this summer. I've learned so much about humbleness, about life, pain, hurt, hunger, joy, hope, but mostly, about love. I saw God in the smiling eyes of children, in the little hands I held, in the tears of their pain, in the sound of their laughter, in the passion of their song, and in their footprints on dirt paths. Sometimes I struggled with inadequacy, why did God want me here? It didn't feel as if I was doing much. But that's when I'm reminded of this quote. What we see as nothing, can be everything to these kids. What we see as small, can make a life of an impact to them. So why don't we put all the love we can possibly pour out, into these little things? Into singing, dancing, playing, hugging, and hand holding.

I remember this one little girl named Tiyajane. Now, I was surprisingly good at remembering all their little Malawian names, but for the life of me, I could never get her's down. Every time I saw her, she would call my name and come hug me or hold my hand, but I could never call her name back. I would always ask her, and she would always tell me, Tiyajane. Sometimes I even asked the other interns to ask her for her name so I wouldn't have to. But one day, while I was doing administrative sponsorship work, I came across her name, Tiyajane. I was so excited to know that she had a sponsor, but, I was even more excited that I finally got her name!

That afternoon, I went into the village, eager to say her name to her. As I walked up the dirt path, I saw her from a distance, and instead of her calling me first, for the very first time, I yelled out, TIYAJANE! When she heard her name, her face immediately lit up, her smile exposed two missing front teeth. She ran to me and hugged me. At that moment, I knew I had made her day. That's when it dawned on me how appreciative these kids are. They can find so much joy in you just remembering their name, in you just thinking about them. But, I wanted to give her so much more. That's when God called me to sponsor a child.

Looking for a sponsor child was not easy. God really put on my heart, the kids in the neighborhood I visited. However, most of them were either sponsored, or were unregistered. Coming back to the states, I checked the COTN site daily, waiting and praying for not just a familiar face, but the right face to pop up. Finally, Modesta, one of the girls in the family I visited every week showed up. I recently realized that God is using my sponsoring Modesta not only to reach out to her, but also to the 15-20 kids in her neighborhood, those exact kids I wanted to sponsor, but was unable to. Through this connection, I am able to send letters and pictures to her as well as all the other kids I have come to love so much. I'm so thankful that I can continue to pour my heart out into these kids. God knew what I needed.

Love, Love, Love,


Anyway by Mother Teresa

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People need help but will attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

God is here

Sometimes, I would feel the deepest pains in my heart, the type that is buried so deep in your soul, and you just can't figure it out. Sometimes this pain comes out in tears, sometimes in groans, or sometimes it doesn't come out. And it sucks, when you know you're hurting inside, but you just don't know how to express it. When I feel stuck, bottled up, the only thing I want to do is play my cello. When I play, its as if all my worries and pain are being played out. It's my release. It's as if I'm playing the strings of my heart. I'm so thankful I have music in my life.

"...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" Romans 8:26

An amazing thing happened a couple weeks after I moved down to San Diego. I was feeling this inexpressible sorrow and I knew I had to get it out. I wanted to play this song that was just so mournful, that song that sounded as if the cello was weeping. But, for the life of me, I couldn't remember how it went or what it sounded like. I searched online, youtube, everything, but had no luck. So, I said a little prayer, "God, PLEASE, just help me remember, I NEED to remember". As soon as I said that, I felt him tell me to pick up my cello and play. At first, I thought it was dumb, it didn't make sense, it wasn't like I was going to remember. But then I place hand on the finger board, put my finger on the note I thought it started on, but then my hand shifted down to another note, my fingers started moving, my bow swept across the strings, and a sound came out. After a couple measures of playing, I recognized the song. It was the song I had prayed for. At that moment, I completely broke down. I just felt this overwhelming sense of awe. God's awesome love enveloped me as I sat there crying.

I was finally able to cry, to let go of all those emotions. And as I was crying, I was reminded of my last day in Malawi (Refer to Post: "Back Home"). That day when I was caught in the middle of the path. I had a choice to keep on walking, or to run back and pick up little Lenard in my arms. I remember running back. I remember crying with him. I remember the pain he felt. I felt that pain, and I wanted so badly to take it away, to pick him up when he's being teased, unloved, hurt. I wanted to protect him from the world.

This time however, it was God running to me, picking me up, feeling my pain, crying with me, loving me, protecting me from this world. Til this day, I could hear God's words "Do you not think I'm hurting as well? I'm hurting for you, I'm hurting with you. I hear your pain, I'm here, in your pain. I'm crying with you. I feel it just as much, even more. I love you. I will never hurt you. I LOVE you. I always will." And as soon as God told me, "Me too, I feel it too", it took away that heavy pain. For him to hurt with me, really took the hurt away.

So many moments have been filled with inexpressible groans, but God hears them. Cry out from the depths of your soul. Speak out in the anguish of your spirit, complain in the bitterness of your soul. Do not keep silent.(Job 7:11) God is here.

Love, Love, Love,


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Testing, testing, one, two, three.

Every day, I browse through photos from Africa. Every day, I look at a picture of a kid I played with and have come to love. Every day, I reminisce and replay images in my mind, twirling and tickling the kids, singing and dancing with them. I even try to replay their voices in my mind. Though pictures in my mind have become a little more blurry and the voices are starting to fade, the feeling that I have towards them, that heartbreak, grows stronger.. every single day.

At first, I really just wanted to close myself in. I remembered my first week back. I stayed home, didn't answer any calls. I got anxiety whenever I had to drive, even when I thought about going to the supermarket. I got nervous when I was about to see my friends. Africa has opened my mind to so many new things, it truly transformed the way I thought. I thought that my perceptions of my friends would change as well. I was afraid that I was going to get angry at them, that I would flip out over the tiniest things. So I tried to avoid everything and everyone all together. But, I failed to see that while I was growing in Africa, my friends were growing here. And, I should be excited to see how God was moving in their lives. I realized that by isolating myself and distancing away from my community, I was damaging my spiritual life. I was being selfish. Instead of seeing the hype for my homecoming as an opportunity to reach out to others, I saw how overwhelmed I would be. By not putting myself out there, I was slowly destroying everything I had learned in Africa.

But, I'm so thankful that God provided a few people in my life, to really just pursue me. No matter how cold I was to them, they went out of their way to reel me back in. And I appreciate their patience and perseverance.

I think I have a glimpse of what God wants me to do back in the states. In Malawi, I thought I would immediately go back to San Diego, I never thought I would end up here in LA with my family. But God has really made me a light unto my family. In Africa, I remember God tugging at my heart, telling me to pray for my family, that they were going through some strife, and he was right. Coming home, I was overwhelmed with all the drama we were going through. It seemed like while I was gone, the undercurrent of tension in my family grew. At first I was angry. As if I wasn't overwhelmed enough already. But then I realized that Satan's trying to destroy all that I've learned in Africa, and what better way to do that than to start with the people I'm closest to, my family.

Then I remembered a book my friend from Africa recommended to me called the Battlefied of the Mind by Joyce Meyers. It talked about how the mind is so powerful that it can often times, trick the heart. I just remember in the bookstore, having a battle in my mind over whether or not I should get it, because there were so many other books I wanted to read. But something told me that I couldn't leave the store without this book. That was the night that I realized the root of all the strife in my family, and this book was going to help me fight it.

So the next morning, God really spoke to me through that book. And while I was reading that, my mom was listening to a sermon about the mind. She started to share that sermon with me and I was just so shocked. I knew coming back that I would have to team up with my mom to fight something, I knew she couldn't do it alone, that she was getting tired because she's been doing it all these years. So at that moment, I knew exactly what and for who I was fighting for.

A couple days later, I went down to San Diego to check out my new apartment, I was dreading to go because before coming back, I was worried about whether or not I would have a community here. Something held me back, I didn't call anyone, except one or two people. Something in my mind just told me that I wasn't part of that community, and I certainly didn't want to be thrown back into something I didn't feel apart of. I was afraid. But then, I realized that God would never discourage me, keep me from my community, make me think bad of people. I knew those thoughts weren't from Him. I was thinking so much in my unfurnished apartment, just trying to unravel these thoughts in my mind. I felt trapped in that apartment, in my mind, and I had to get out.

I went to the gliderport. It was at night for a change and instead of the sun, I saw the moonlight streaming across the ocean. And, despite the light pollution, I saw stars! (I'm only excited about that now, at that moment, I was pretty upset) I went to sit on the edge of the cliff. Just reacting to whatever emotion I felt. My mind was wrestling with my heart, I couldn't think straight. But, I let everything out, cried everything out, all my anxiety, fears, worries, pain, heartache, everything. I didn't even know why I was crying, it was just one heavy mass of anguish. But when I let it all out, I felt peace, God's peace.

I went back to my car and decided that I didn't want to go back to that apartment. I sat there, calling my friends on the phone, just wanting to talk to someone. So I sat there in the parking lot, talking on the phone with one of my best friends. I hadn't realized how much I had missed her because the whole time, I had been trying to avoid her. She's studying abroad in Hong Kong for a semester and my heart knew that she needed to find community there. That was when God convicted me to come home, back to LA. I had to see her, I had to tell her. I had to share God's love with her.

That morning, I drove home. Bought lunch, and brought her to a picnic at the park. It was so nice to just catch up with her, learn from her, and encourage her. She's the one friend that had always stuck by me. Through my highs and very lows. She's seen me where no one has seen my before, in my complete disaster. But, not once does she judge me. She doesn't draw back when I push her away. And when I come running back to her, she embraces me with open arms. She understands me so much. She is such a beautiful person inside and out, and I just pray that she sees that. She deserves so much more than she gets, she is constantly giving, putting everyone else before herself.

I realized that I never verbalized my appreciation for her. And that's the least I owe her. I love her so much and I realized that she's been fighting her own battle alone. So, this is a surprise for her, but I'm really excited about it, and she's probably busy packing so she wouldn't read this anyway. But, I wrote her a letter every week for four months. Each letter is about a specific Bible verse that I hope would encourage her. She's taking a huge step out of her comfort zone by going abroad, and that's HUGE for her. But I knew it is God who gives her strength. I hope that these letters will give her a piece of home, and a piece of my heart. I hope it will encourage her and help her not to feel alone. I hope it reminds her that I'm missing her and praying for her. Most of all, I pray that she stays in God while she's abroad.

God is convicting me to do things more than ever, and I already have a list of convictions I need to act on. I'm so excited to see what God has in store for my friends, for my family, and for me. Every day, I realize more and more of why God wants me here. Every day, His voice becomes clearer and clearer to me. I'm humbled by the fact that God wants me to be His partner. That he wants to work not only through me, but with me.

My roommate told me a story about singer, Jeremy Camp. About how he was cleaning his kitchen one day and his daughter wanted to help him. At first he didn't want her help because he knew it would take longer than it had to, but his daughter kept on insisting, so he finally agreed. She made a mess, sweeping and everything, and the whole process took four times it usually would.

But that's how God is with us. God can do everything Himself. But he wants us to help. He wants us to partner with him, even if we make a huge mess of things, even if we make the process so much longer, so much more difficult. He loves us so much that He doesn't care about those things. He just wants to be with us, and I'm so humbled by that.

I do believe that my faith has really been tested this couple weeks, and is still being tested, every single day. But I also feel like every day, my faith is growing stronger and stronger. I don't feel anxious to drive, or go to the supermarket anymore, and I'm getting less and less anxious about seeing people. I knew coming home that seeing people would be most difficult for me as my relationships with people are my weak points. Satan knew exactly where to attack, but God is giving me the strength. God is shielding and arming me. Though I'm still fighting that battle in my mind, I know God's victory is already there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Windmill project!

This was one of the COTN projects in Malawi, I actually got to help fix it. (Well, I was mostly playing with kids on the side, but I was there for moral support!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Doing instead of loving

I realize that I'm back from Malawi, but only physically. And I know I made this blog for me to write to you guys FROM Malawi, but in a sense, I'm still there, and I think I always will be there. So I'm just going to keep on writing, even if no one reads it (I know my mom does though :) I just need to for my own sanity.

I don't know why it hit my yesterday, but it did. We were driving from Anaheim after having lunch with my pastor and all of a sudden, I felt free. I, for the first time, felt like some chains were loosened, and I'm just waiting for the day they'll be broken. Anyways, I realized that all the things I've done in my past, and those things done to me, they don't matter. Well, they matter because they make me who I am, so I guess I mean that it doesn't matter in the sense that it's ok that they happened. I felt a light sense of joy, and all this happened while I was sitting in the car. God really does speak to you throughout the day, if you just listen, you'll hear Him.

So I'm continuing my devotions like I did in Malawi every morning. And I was reading some of the letters given to me by my friends in Malawi. We wrote letters based on the fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22). So I was reading chapter 5 and it was the "Freedom in Christ" section. It reminded me of feeling free, but it actually had nothing to do with freeing from your sins, it talked about circumcision, which made me wonder why I was reading it. But it was talking of freedom from doing legalistic things because those things turn what should be a lifestyle into a religion and law. So, it doesn't even become what it started out to be. It's so crazy how Satan can instantly pervert and mutilate things. God called Abraham to be circumcised to show a covenant in the flesh (Genesis 17:10-14). It was a manifestation (maybe not too public) of the sacrifices people would make for God. After all, God said to love Him with all your heart, soul, body, and mind and this was just a test for the flesh. But then, this test was twisted from a pure intention to something focusing on pain, rather than love which then turned into this legalistic thing where if you didn't do this, you can't be a child of God, ultimately putting words in God' mouth. But, who are people judge who can be God's? Everyone and everything is God's. He created the heavens and the earth.

God doesn't ask much from us. All he asks is to love Him first, and the 2nd, to love your neighbor as yourself. And reading it, I thought it was clear. But the world has put a rule before it. I remember studying this in philosophy. We were discussing morals and Kant's categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." So whether an action is morally permissible depends on whether that action could be universal law; it would be ok if everyone else does what you are doing. He goes on to saying it follows the Biblical rule "Do unto others as you would do for yourself", also known as the Golden Rule. I never actually looked up the rule in the Bible, but I found that it appears in 2 places. Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. Anyways, I feel like this rule has been distorted. God doesn't require you to do anything for people. That's not the main focus. I'm not trying to discredit the Golden Rule, it does show up twice. But the 2nd command shows up 8 times! (Lev 19:18, Matt 19:19, Matt 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Gal 5:14, James 2:8). The main focus is loving, not doing. If we do things without the root of love, it becomes this vain selflessness and obligation. But, if you first love, the doing and serving others will come naturally. It will become less obligatory and more willful. So the Golden rule, that mere name is ironic in that it is gold, an idol. It reminds me of the golden calf in that people, in their weak faith, formed their own image of God, something tangible, yet false. Similarly, people have manipulated God's rule, giving it a new intention, a new definition which raises questions and doubt. As we learned in Galatians, a little nuance, change in intention and focus can corrupt something that was once for God. So by changing the intention to doing instead of loving, the rule rules out that second command, to love. It blinds us by raising questions against it. It leaves room for arguments of subjectivity and that's when worldly philosophy comes in.

God's rule is unquestionable; there's no room for argument; it's simple. Just love. I guess you can ask, What is love? (baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more.. ahah). But love is something you can't answer. Everyone has experienced it at one point. It's a feeling, not a thought, a feeling so strong and dense, a feeling that can't be wrangled and dissected by the mind. I think whether you're a Christian or not, you've experienced it. Love is something so great that cannot be withheld from anyone. Love doesn't bias because its from God. The only difference I feel, is that Christians acknowledge that this love comes from God and non-believers have yet to acknowledge it. It's amazing how everyone has a piece of God, even unknowingly. And, even if they continue to not know, God will not withhold His love from them. That joy when they love, it's from God. This feeling, so indescribable comes from God, who is too great to be put into words.

The Golden rule should not be made into an idol. And, I think its called the Golden rule for a reason. Not because its precious, but because it is precious in the worldly sense, which ultimately makes it inferior to God. Anything from God is more precious and more pure than gold (1 Peter 1:7).

So don't let the world blind you. Let's love, and not do.

Love, Love, Love,


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hello again

I think I'm updating so much because there's so much I want to say, and the computer is so available now. But I was on facebook and I thought I would upload some pictures, some of the ones I have at least. I knew that I would probably get some dumb comments (being completely honest here) which would upset me because I have around 500 friends most of who I don't even interact with. But that's it. I need to share these experiences, these stories with those people I don't interact with. The people who read this blog are people who already support me and I love sharing stories with you guys. But because you're already my support, it's so much easier to tell my story. I can't just play it safe and hide in this bubble to avoid questions I don't particularly feel inclined to answer. I think this is a great opportunity to reach out to those who don't know Christ. It's funny because I've learned so much about myself in Africa. But the one thing that's really sticking to me is that I'm a very open person. If I'm happy, you can see me dancing, even in the lunch line, to the music in my head. But if i'm upset, I'll say it, and if I don't say it verbally, I'll say it with my face. And if shallow comments are what I get, then I'm happy because its a start and at least their looking through the photos, maybe they'll hear the stories next. I'm completely okay peoples' superficiality leads to genuine interest which leads to God, and maybe even serving in Africa.

I wrote this note on facebook: All the animals I didn't see :)

SO, i knew coming home that I would have to answer a lot of questions, questions I don't know and may not ever know how to answer, questions I don't want to answer, questions I want to answer but won't get asked, questions that are going to annoy, hurt, and frustrate me, questions that are going to make me question: really? you're seriously asking me that?, questions that are going to make me lose hope in humanity, realize how small some people's worlds are, and how little people are wilIling to see I just didn't expect it to all happen so soon, which makes me want to close myself in and not answer anything.

But know I can't do that because I do want to share my experience with those who genuinely care and want to know. I don't want my frustration to these questions to compromise answers for the questions that will surprise me at how interested some people are, and though they have only seen little, they are willing to see more, questions that give me a sigh of relief, assuring me that there is hope, questions that will allow me to spark more questions, and questions I actually want to answer. So here are a list of answers that some people have already asked or will ask and I'd like to share it with everyone. Some might see this as a little harsh, but I've come to learn that I'm a very open person. I'm open not because I want you to see it all (why i'm sad, happy, annoyed), but because I want you to understand why I'm those things, the reason behind.

1. I didn't see any cool exotic African animals (lions, giraffes, zebras, leopards, rhinos). I did get to see crocodiles at the lagoon cruise at Lake Malawi (I even touched a baby croc!) But mostly I saw goats, donkeys, cows, chickens, dogs, a dead snake, a zebra carpet at the Joberg airport, heard hyenas, heard a hippo.

2. As you can see in my pictures, I did not come back "with black skin" nor did I get aids.

3. It was winter in Africa, which was still pretty hot, but not as hot as it would be

4. The Malawians speak Chichewa, not clicks. I've decided to use Chichewa as much as possible here in the states. So far, I've been calling my dogs and my brother "Iwe" (Hey you). I'll probably make a list of words you can learn.

5. I actually saw quite a few benz's, lexus's, and beamers, flat screens. My point is, not everyone was starving or dying or has aids. The ironic thing which upsets me is that while some people live in privilege, their neighbors can live in poverty. I can have a whole discussion about this so ask me

6. African sunrises and sunsets are amazing. But I really think that sunrises and sets are amazing no matter where you are, you just need to take the time to appreciate them

7. I didn't live in the huts in the village, though I would like to experience that some day. We lived in the COTN compounds. Not exactly America, but we had running water and electricity. Of course those would go out at times, but it didn't matter. It was very nice. The Chiwengo interns however didn't have running water so they had to pump buckets of water everyday at the borho (water pump) and ration that out.(Another discussion topic)

8. Nsima is the African staple food. It's made of ufa (flour) and made into a thick paste. You eat it with beans and some type of relish. You eat it with your hands (like Indian food!) and I come to like it alot. Our amazing cooks would prepare that for us a couple times a week. Most of the time we ate foods like oatmeal, bananas, pancakes, toast, PBJ (I think I've eaten more PBJ those 2 months in Africa than I have my whole life here in America), it was carbular, rice, chicken, sometimes we had chambo (fish from the lake), fajitas (the best!), salads, we had bbqs every Friday night

9. It's really true that all Malawians know and love to sing and dance. It doesn't matter the age. Put them in a group and you have an 8 part harmonied acapella

10. It wasn't physically hard for me to live in Africa, it was emotionally hard.

11. yea, there were lots of bugs, and lots of dirt. You're never really clean, but it doesn't really matter.

12. I don't know who had AIDS, there wasn't really a visible way to tell and it doesn't matter. I held so many hands, a lot of them I'm sure, of those who have AIDS, but a lot of them who don't. Either way, every child I to
uched has gone through and overcome something, not necessarily a disease, but an experience, a memory, a feeling. So often, we disregard emotional pain. We undermine it because we can't see it. But when someone is hurt emotionally, the same part of the brain triggers as when someone is being hurt physically. It hurts the same, and most often, even more because the feelings are usually suppressed or abandoned.

13. It's amazing how they can carry everything on their heads. (Huge heavy buckets of water, bundles of 5 ft+ fire wood). It's got to be some gene they have. AND, they carry their babies on their backs while doing so.

Anyways, I'm sure I can add to the list. I want you to know that it's completely okay to ask these questions. Don't feel stupid, I would probably ask some of these. But don't stop at these questions. Keep asking and keep finding out more, not because you feel obligated to ask, but because you genuinely want to know. And if you only want to know how many lions I saw, then fine, I can honestly say that you are shallow. But the reason behind my
unsettleness with some questions is the fact that they don't matter to me. I didn't go to Africa for those reasons. I've learned to not stress about things (not being clean, no electricity, running water, no transportation, even food) because there are people sick, hungry, cold, and hurt. So coming back, it stresses me to see people only caring about those things. And it may not even be that they only care about those things, but that its all they know and they're attempting to find a connection. If that's the case, then I appreciate you so much and don't be discouraged to ask. So be patient with me because I really do want to share my 2 months with you!!!

Love, Angela

I hope this gets the point across? And I hope it came off the right way.