Once Broken, Now Beautifully Restored

Life definitely is not easy. And this has perhaps been one of the most difficult, painful seasons I’ve faced so far with March, April and May being the hardest months of 2018. Though it’s been extremely difficult, I know I will emerge from this season with new thoughts, new revelations, and a new understanding of God’s unchanging love.

I’ve been broken by life before. Being broken is honestly terrible, but I’ve learned so much from it. I know what it’s like to be heartbroken over a relationship that didn’t work out, and to feel so much pain that it’s like someone punched you in the stomach. I know what it’s like to be depressed after something that I hoped for so much and for so long falls to pieces. I know what it’s like to want to stay locked away and not move or do anything because everything just hurts. But you know what? I didn’t stay depressed or broken. And you don’t have to stay that way either.

It’s okay to be broken, to feel as if our hearts are shattered. Go ahead; scream, cry, write a letter full of feelings then tear it up, but don’t hole the pain up inside and not deal with it. That doesn’t fix anything; in fact, it makes it all much worse. Covering up the hurt is like putting band-aids on: the wound may heal a little bit, but the band-aid isn’t actually doing anything. Beneath it, the wound is still throbbing and bleeding. The band-aid provides the illusion that it’s all okay, however, the person with the wound feels nowhere near okay. Of course, the wound eventually closes up and that’s when the healing actually begins. However, if we attempt to heal ourselves without God, the effect will be damaging instead of helping.

There’s nothing wrong with with reacting to the hurt we’ve experienced; it’s a part of life. But to remain broken and not accept the healing that God is holding out to us doesn’t make any sense. When we try to heal ourselves, we become a haphazard mess of bitterness and pain. But when we allow God to heal us and put back together, we become more like who He made us to be. Sometimes opening up to God and giving Him our hearts to heal requires us to be broken all over again. As painful as it sounds, we have to be broken again so God can put us back together the way we’re supposed to be.

We cannot achieve healing on our own. If we could, we would not need Jesus. Our God offers the healing we desperately need but we have to be willing to admit we can’t do it by ourselves and that we need His healing touch in our lives. We have to lay down our pride and our pain and let Him take over.

As Christians, we often place so much value in our brokenness that we forget we have been made whole through Jesus Christ. Yes, we have been broken, but we do not have to remain that way. We have the choice to be whole.

During one of our 3-hour phone calls, my best friend told me her testimony. Afterwards, she mentioned how so many Christians dwell on the brokenness of their past and present rather than focus on who Jesus made them to be, which is whole and free. I’ve never forgotten what she said: “That brokenness is not my identity. I was broken but I’m whole now. I refuse to call myself broken because I am not broken anymore.”

Her statement has stuck with me since. Don’t wallow in your brokenness. Although our past is broken, we are not made to dwell in our brokenness. Our brokenness is not our identity. Our wholeness in Christ is now who we are. Even when we feel broken, we must remind ourselves that we have already been made whole.

Jesus was broken for me so I could be put back together. He experienced the deepest pain so my heart could be healed. He felt unimaginable sadness so I could have true joy. His sacrifice was not in vain. The same goes for you as well.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re saying, “But Kayla, I still feel broken.” I understand that feeling, but do not let it drag you down. Remember that you are made whole in Christ and that you are not made to remain broken. Do not let those thoughts convince you otherwise.  Fight with everything you’ve got against those feelings of distance between you and God. Run back to Him no matter how far you feel. Refuse to be defeated by the trials of this life. Don’t give up hope. Hand over every disappointment you face in this season to God and lay all of the pain at His feet. There is no one more caring and gentle than He.

Despite the pain I have experienced during these past months, God kept reminding me how much He loved me. He would remind me through worship songs, the words and prayers of good friends, and the Bible itself. I was constantly reminded, even if I wasn’t completely certain, that He was there through it all. I wasn’t lost nor was I forgotten by Him. When you feel broken, it’s easy to feel as if you’re alone. Even when I felt so far from Him, blinded by my own hurt, He was still there drawing me back to Him.

I’m not saying that God causes disappointments to happen so that we’ll be broken or hurt enough to turn back to Him. I don’t believe that’s how the Lord works. However, I do believe that He takes the pain of our lives and uses it to draw us back to His heart. He turns our hurt and brokenness into something beautiful. He redeems even what feels or seems irredeemable in our lives. With God, not even our brokenness is wasted.

There is something beautiful about a broken object being put back together. In Japanese culture, there is an art form that uses broken pieces of a porcelain vessel and repairs it through a process called kintsugi. Instead of repairing a broken cup or plate with glue, the process uses melted gold, silver, or platinum to fuse the pieces together. Through kintsugi, the cup becomes a valuable work of art and although it isn’t the same as it was before, the result is something more precious and beautiful than the original.

The thing is, when a plate is repaired with kintsugi, it is now stronger than it was before because it’s been ‘glued’ back together with metal instead of actual glue. Repairing the plate with glue may work at first, but it won’t hold as long and the plate won’t last.

When I think of kintsugi, I think of what it means to be made whole in Jesus with all of your cracks repaired. Your past does not define you and your past brokenness does not make you any less valuable. In fact, through Jesus, your brokenness is used in the restoration of your present. Because of Jesus, our brokenness is redeemed.

Our scars don’t disappear but through Jesus, they are no longer something to be ashamed of. Instead, they are evidence of what He brought us through and what He delivered us from. Brokenness is not exactly we are proud of, but our wholeness is something to celebrate! We celebrate that although we have been broken, Jesus put us back together. For once we were sad, but now we have joy. We were lost, but now we are found. We were broken, but now we are beautifully restored.


You Are Worth Fighting For

You may be looking at the title and thinking, “No, I’m not.” I’m here to tell you that yes, you are worth fighting for. I feel that we often forget that we’re worth fighting for. We look at what we’ve done and who we are, and we wonder who would ever think we should be fought for. Sometimes, we may even look at ourselves and think that we wouldn’t even fight for ourselves if we had to.

You may think of yourself as someone is not worth fighting for, much less rescuing. But you are worth fighting for because you are worth dying for.

Sometimes, we can’t believe that the King of Kings would even think of us, much less want to rescue us. We’re convince ourselves that He has the wrong person. It most certainly can’t be us. Oh, but it is us. It is always us. But in our sin, weighed down by the darkness and shame, we forget how true that is. We forget that Jesus fought for us to be free by dying for us. We forget that His death makes us worth dying for.

For too long I allowed how people treated me and thought of me to determine my worth and decide my identity. When they had gotten all that they wanted out of me, they would discard and ignore me. It was an ugly, painful cycle that would eat away at my self-esteem until I decided that their treatment would not affect who I was as a person. If I am valued and dearly loved by the Lord, then I needed to believe it and act like it.

In the same way that both men and women deserve someone who will fight for them and alongside them as life partners, we all deserve someone who believes we’re worth fighting for because that’s what Jesus thinks of us. And if we can’t find someone who thinks of us the way He does, then we can turn to Him with the confidence that He will always fight for us because He’s already won.

So if you ever feel worthless or unimportant, remember: if God thought you were worth fighting for and worth dying for, then what right do people have to determine your worth? God already decided your worth and gifted you with a new identity so whatever people believe about you doesn’t change who you are.

Your value lies in what God thinks of you. If He sent His Son to die for you, then there’s no way that He can love you any less than that. And if His Son’s sacrifice is evidence of His great love, then you are beyond priceless. Don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise. If the Lord believes that you were worth dying for, no one else has the power to determine your value.

You know what blows my mind about God’s love whenever I think about it? That Adam and Eve’s sin deeply hurt God’s heart. They betrayed His trust and severed their relationship with Him because of their disobedience. And yet, He created a plan that would ensure the redemption of the people He loved so dearly in spite of all they had done.

It’s amazing that the God of all the universe would still be so desperate for us to be with Him that He would do anything to get us back. He could’ve chosen to create another race of beings that would obey Him so He wouldn’t have to save them. He could have turned His back on Adam, Eve, and all humanity. Instead, He was willing to do anything to save us, even if it meant having His Son die for us instead. Of all things God could sacrifice to save us, He chose Jesus to die because it was the surest way to save us and I believe that there was no way God was going to do anything less than fully save us.

As humans, we can’t imagine loving someone or even wanting to maintain a relationship with them after they deal us the most devastating of blows. But God is not like us. I’m so thankful that He is not like us, that He does not love conditionally like we do. He loves us not how we deserve but how we need to be loved.

It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that Jesus died on the cross so that we could be fully loved by Him. Jesus died because He loved us and so that we could experience that love as originally intended in the Garden of Eden. That kind of love is impossible to fully process. It doesn’t make any logical sense to us. We could never do what He did. We can’t ever love as fully as He does.

Human love often comes with the phrase “If you love me…” That is not the same with God’s love. When it comes to His love, God does not expect anything in return. Can you imagine that? A love freely given with no strings attached and without any expectation of being reciprocated. However, after being loved like that, it’s impossible to not love Him. After being rescued, you cannot help but love Him.

One of my favorite worship songs ever is Cory Asbury’s “Reckless Love.” I’ve been thinking a lot more lately about the lyrics. The idea of reckless love is a powerful one and it fully captures the idea of God’s love. If you think about it, God’s love is not a timid love nor is it limited by natural and human boundaries. It’s a risky love given to those who don’t think they deserve it. It’s a powerful love that fights through walls built so high and so strong that nothing should break through, but it still does. It’s an impossible love that would go through the expanses of time and space to reach you. Reckless love does not care about who you are and what you’ve done. Because God is love, He does not think of us as worthless or undeserving. Instead, this love envelopes around us, invades our darkest corners and loves us as we are and who we will become.

God does not withhold His love from us. He reaches across time and space, both of which He created, to love us. Those boundaries have no limit on His love. Nothing we could ever do would make Him stop loving us. He defeated death itself to love us. It is such an immense, powerful love. There’s nothing – not even our sin or death – that can stop Him from loving us. Only a love like that can cross heavens and oceans to reach you. Only His love can fight for you like that. Only a Man would die on a cross for you because He loves you like that.

His love never changes. It’s still as solid as it was at the beginning. In a world where emotions constantly change and human love that doesn’t last, His love still remains as it was in the beginning of it all. There’s nothing that can ever make it change. There is nothing on this earth and the universe beyond that can alter that fact. So rest in that truth. Rest in the fact that you can never change God’s opinion of you, that you can never convince Him to love you less. He’ll just love you more.

If you still think that you are worthless or not worth fighting for, I beg you to reconsider. You may be thinking, “Why would God go through all that to save someone like me?” I could answer that it’s because He loves you. And if you ask again, “Why?” I would tell you this: You didn’t have to earn God’s love so why would you ever think that you would lose it? That’s the beauty of the Lord: it’s all about what He’s done. If He believes you worth dying for because that’s how much He loves and cares for you, then nothing can change His mind. No amount of sin could make Him love you any less.

My friend, you are worth fighting for. You are worth loving. You are worth dying for. Because Jesus fought for you, loved you, and died for you. And that truth is still as true today as it was over 2000 years ago. Accept the love He has freely offered. No love redeems like His. No love gives freedom like His. No love can save like His. His love is all you need.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord – Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)

Into the Great Unknown 

I am short and that’s not an exaggeration. To give you an idea of my height, I’m barely 5’3″ when I’m balancing on my toes. I’ve heard of the benefits to being short and the negative things about being tall, but that hasn’t kept me from thinking that life might be a little bit easier if I was taller. Because of my height, I get lost easily (or maybe it’s that people lose me). When I think of all of the times I get lost, I’m not exactly embarrassed, just resigned. After all, I’m not going to get any taller! I mention all of this because sometimes I wish I could blame my lack of direction in life on my height. I know that the whole idea is silly, but in reality, I can’t blame my reasons for not understanding my future on God.

I like to know what’s going on with my life and I think that’s how it is with most people. Sometimes I wish I could fast forward my life and see where I end up and how I can get there so I can do it properly. You may call it being a control freak, I call it wanting to do everything right and not make any mistakes. I don’t want to mess up and miss out what I’m supposed to be doing.

I have recently graduated from college and now I am without a job. It’s an odd feeling to go from student to unemployed. I usually have a plan A or even a plan B. However, all I’m doing now is looking for a job. In between job hunting, I’m writing and photographing again. Other than that, I don’t have a plan B. In fact, I think I’m on plan C or D now and I’m not even sure what they look like. I have a vague idea, but they’re not concrete plans. For someone like me, it’s definitely not the ideal situation.

It’s difficult when you think something good (like a job) is happening and that God has His hand on it, but then it doesn’t work out. I thought everything was going to work out. I thought I was heading in the right direction, but now I’m not sure where I’m going. Situations changed, and now I’m left confused. I’m still working on understanding that God still has His hand on it. Sure, I thought my plans were pretty good and it seemed like it was all going to work out, but apparently that’s not where I was supposed to go.

It may not look like it’s working out the way I planned, but that’s because I can’t see the big picture. I know I’ll look back one day and be thankful that some things didn’t work out as I wanted. I know because it’s all happened before. It may not look like it’s working out to me, but I’m confident that it’s working out all according to God’s plan. It probably doesn’t make any logical sense, but I trust Him.

When these situations arrive, the key is to not go to people for help or advice first. I mean, good friends are there for a reason, and seeking the advice of wise people is a good thing, but they are not there to replace God. Always ask God first what He wants for you to do and where to go. Your friends’ words should confirm His words.

I remember when I was rejected from the university I wanted/needed to get into (more here). It felt like I had made a wrong turn. So naturally, I thought that I wasn’t supposed to go there, that the rejection was a sign that I was supposed to leave as I wanted. I wanted to run and get away. I tried to find ways out of the town I was living in, but no matter how I tried, everything would lead me back here. I looked into year-long internships in other cities and thought of going to universities that were somewhere else. After all, they were accepting me so why not? But nothing would work out for me. I also didn’t feel any peace when I considered leaving. Much to my annoyance, I knew in my heart that I was supposed to stay. I knew God wanted me to remain where I was, but the moment things weren’t working out, I began doubting my choices.

Just because the door closed doesn’t mean it’s all over either. Closed doors may mean that it is not what was intended for you. A closed door does not mean defeat; it often means there’s something better in motion. In the moment, that is a difficult concept to grasp but time and time again, I’ve experienced its truth in action. But sometimes, I think we are too accepting that a closed door means defeat. There are doors that we have to ‘knock on’ to open. We just have to know when it’s time to to step away and move on from a closed door.

Even though I’m short and have no idea where I’m going half the time because I can’t see what’s ahead of me or above me, I am constantly reminded that God is so much bigger than I am. He’s not lost like how I feel. He’s not short either, which is a relief because I always need someone taller than me who know what’s going on. With this knowledge, I draw comfort from the fact that God knows what’s going on. But just because He knows what’s going on doesn’t mean I shouldn’t seek to understand His ways.

That’s exactly what I am doing in this season of adjustment and discomfort. It’s like when I didn’t get into the university of my choice the first time all over again. However, unlike last time, I know a little more of what to do. I won’t waste this season on doubting God’s word or trying to make things happen. Instead I will spend the waiting and the uncertainty seeking Him and resting in His promises for my life. It’s easier said than done, but I’m determined to spend this season the best way possible.

Do I know what’s going to happen next? No, but I hope it’s good. I know the Lord has a plan for me, but sometimes I find it difficult to believe how it could be any better than my own plans. But that is only because I know my own plans and not His.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do or where I want to be, but I’m going to continue to seek the Lord and His wisdom. He knows where He’s guiding me. I shouldn’t have to worry about my life because He’s got it all under control. I only have to remain open to where He’s leading me and trust that He knows what He’s doing because He does. He knows infinitely more than I ever will.

When the Church Hurts

I’ve been a long time attendee of only several churches in my life, but two churches have impacted me deeply, for better and for worse. Unfortunately, those same two churches also hurt me and I have had to face the pain and learn how to deal with it.

I didn’t really think much of it till I asked myself a fateful question: which church did the worse deed? The church that turned their backs on me without a second thought? Or is it the other church that left my father jobless? One left me with emotional pain, but another one affected me and my family. It’s difficult to say which one hurt more because I shed many tears over both. I thought one church couldn’t be worse than the other but I realized that they’re both severely flawed. In all honesty, both churches failed me.

However, looking back, I can say that I’m honestly thankful for what both churches taught me. It took me a long time to come to terms with what happened and move on because there are good things about those churches too. I have had to focus on the good I’ve found in them to keep myself from becoming bitter. One church gave me beautiful friendships that have stayed steady in the face of such awkward transitions and painful moments. Another church gave me a foundation in faith that has remained solid even when I doubted its stability. Both churches gave me wonderful memories, even if it used to be difficult to admit it.

In the end, only one church apologized to us. They were remorseful but we’ve come too far to go back to how it used to be; the most we can do is now move forward. However, their apology changed my perspective of them. I no longer viewed them as cruel or unforgivable. I saw them as humans making mistakes, regretful and ashamed of their decisions. Even then, there are still times where the anger and pain hits me out of nowhere like a tsunami at the hint of a memory. Those are the hardest moments because I have to forgive all over again, especially when I don’t want to. But I’ve had to allow God to heal me and help me forgive them. It’s a daily struggle to do so, but it has slowly gotten easier.

The other church never apologized, but the reality is that the one church did what was right when it came down to it. Was it the resolution that I wanted? No, but it was probably the best one. It was the one that I most likely needed most.

It’s no wonder people leave churches or abandon Christianity all together, citing everything as bogus and hypocritical. It’s because we’re doing it all wrong. Churches are filled with messed up people and that’s how it is because there’s no such thing as a perfect Christian, but if we remain messed up then something’s not right. I know the human race is a sinful mess, but we’re Christians. We shouldn’t be letting our flesh take control because we’ve been given the control. Backstabbing and gossip shouldn’t have such a prominent place in church. We are not supposed to allow ourselves to be divided so easily, but that’s what the enemy wants. A house divided cannot stand, and he knows that if he can split us up then we have no chance of standing together. We need to recognize these tactics for what they are and stop them before they start.

Enough of this “We’re only human.” That’s just an excuse to make more mistakes and hurt more people. We are children of the Most High God, and we need to start acting like it! Saying we’re human does not excuse our behavior. Saying we’re sinful does not excuse our hurtful words. We are human and we are sinful, but we’re not supposed to stay that way if we truly follow Jesus. We have to start from within the church’s walls and learn how to love those people who are among us. I believe that if we can’t treat those within the church properly, then how are we going to treat those who are new to the faith or the congregation? You can’t reach the lost if you have no idea how to treat those within your own four walls.

So why do churches hurt people? I’ve asked myself this question countless times and I still don’t know the answer. All I know is that it comes down to people and sin. People hurt people and churches are made of people. It’s a natural outcome, but we are called to be more than natural. In the end, I can’t say I know why churches hurt their own. It doesn’t make any sense, but I do know this: The Lord is with us, holding us as we cry. He feels our pain and He understands it all. He offers peace and healing so we can trust and love others again. He will take care of us and if we’ve been wronged, God is our advocate. However, He can’t do anything if we insist tying His hands up by trying to do it all ourselves. One way we can do that is forgive those who’ve hurt us, step out of the way, and let Him do the rest of it. He has to be allowed to take care of us.

When the church hurts, forgive then move on. However, don’t let what happened in a church to keep you from trusting and loving people. Don’t allow the fear of being torn apart or let down by other people stop you from reaching out.  It’s not worth it because if we do that, then we give into what the enemy wanted and we miss out on people that the Lord wants to bring into our lives. We lose both ways when we hang onto that fear and hurt.

So if a church hurts you, don’t let it stop you away from going to another church or seeking after God. Not all churches are the same. Each one has its past and a laundry list of faults, but there is good in churches, specifically found in the people who love without reserve. That is how I found the good even in the churches that hurt me. That’s the proof of the redeeming power of God. What is meant for evil and even what causes us pain, God creates goodness out of it.

If you’ve ever been hurt by a church, I am so sorry. I truly am. I have had a taste of what it’s like, and I deeply wish you did not have to experience that pain. But I also desperately plead with you to understand that the church as a whole didn’t hurt you; the people in that church did. It hurts and trust me, I know. However, they’re just people. They are not an accurate reflection of God’s love and grace. There are those who are trying to set the right example, but then there are people who don’t care. That’s not God; He cares.

Humans are flawed and churches are full of holes. But our God is so much stronger and more loving than all of that. There’s a God who loves us despite our mistakes; the bad stuff that may happen in a church is NOT Him. God chose to love a scrappy, unworthy human race. There’s a promise in that. And that’s where our hope lies: when we have deep wounds and many tears in the aftermath, He is there. He patches up our wounds and wipes our tears away. He loves us more than we ever could imagine. There’s no one more kind and merciful than He. So even when the church may hurt and the world may rail against us, we’re not alone.

What’s in a Name?

I have been a Christian since I was six years old. When you’ve been a Christian for nearly all of your life, it’s easy to think that you’re not supposed to struggle with what other people are dealing with. With me, I used to feel as if I couldn’t live up to the meaning of my name. Perhaps I put too much value in my name but I believe that names and their meanings have a profound impact on who we are as humans.

My name means pure. Everyone struggles with different things, but in the back of my mind, purity should have come the easiest to me because it’s literally my name. However, in reality, it didn’t seem very easy to do. And I’m not just talking about purity as we are used to discussing it in terms of sexuality either, but purity of the heart and mind too.

Can you imagine feeling as if you could not live up to the meaning of your own name? It’s unnecessary pressure, but it’s what I believed and felt. It’s tough to live up to your name when you feel anything but that. When you don’t ‘feel’ pure, even when you know you’ve been called righteous and redeemed, it’s difficult not to feel as if you’re letting yourself and God down. As a result, I dealt with a lot of condemnation and felt as if I needed to prove myself. I did many church-related things to combat the feeling of inadequacy and silence the condemnation. All of the striving to make myself pure exhausted me to where even talking to God was painful.

One of my microchurch ladies once told me that the meaning of my name was not something to aim for but instead it described who I already was. I was already pure because Jesus made me so. It was a revolutionary thought for me at the time. I didn’t have to try and be pure like my name suggested because, through Jesus, I am already made pure.

I learned that I needed to accept the gift of freedom that His sacrifice granted to me. I could not seem to accept that He made me pure and freed me from all of my sins. By walking around thinking as if I could become pure on my own, I was minimizing the effect of His gift and implying that it was not worth the price He paid. But it’s because of Jesus that I am pure. I did not deserve such a gift and I never could deserve it. That’s the point. In all of my lifetime, I could never deserve it but Jesus gave it anyway. He was not looking at how much I was living up to my name. He was not measuring how pure I was or could be. He was looking at me for who I was: His daughter. He loved me no matter what.

Even now, that blows me away. Who does that? Who loves me in spite of all that I could become? Who loves me no matter what I do or don’t do? Who loved me in my past and promises to do so in future? Who loves me when the waves of tears and fear threaten to overwhelm me? Only Jesus.

Who loves you like that? Only Jesus does.

Because of His love, I am not the same person I used to be. After experiencing an unconditional love like that, how can I stay the same?

Sometimes, condemnation comes creeping back to tell us why we shouldn’t deserve the love of God. Condemnation is always a lie. It always tells us what we are not and calls us by something other than our names. It calls us damaged, enslaved, and unworthy. But when we are in Christ, that is not who are. God calls us what He sees us as because of His Son, Jesus. Because of Jesus, our names are no longer the same.

Instead of failure, He calls you victor.
Instead of worthless, He calls you priceless.
Instead of broken, He calls you whole.
Instead of sinful, He calls you righteous.
Instead of bound, He calls you free.
Instead of nothing, He calls you enough.
Instead of dirty, He calls you pure.

Our names no longer describe who we were but who we are now. No matter what you have done or how you feel, you are who God says you are. Turn away from the condemnation and embrace what God has created you to be. That’s when we can really see and experience how much He loves us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)



In the Interim

I often feel as if I am stuck in the interim. Always waiting, never moving. It’s as if I’m frozen in time while people around me are traveling, getting married, taking the next step in whatever they’re doing. I know it’s a matter of perspective, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking like that. However, moving is relative. Just because it doesn’t look or feel like I’m not moving doesn’t mean I am actually standing still. No doubt, those who are in motion around me have already passed through their interim stage. For example, two of my best friends have gotten married this summer and my other best friend has moved FAR away. Everything is slowly becoming a reality and it’s becoming quite apparent that I have not reached that stage in my life yet.

This season has happened to me before, but this summer feels as if it is full of so much … something. Even I’m not sure what it is exactly because I can’t place my finger on it. Perhaps it’s possibility. Maybe it’s the calm before the storm… I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m in that in-between stage.

I think what has made me really think this way was the stark and slightly overwhelming fact that I will most likely be graduating from college without a boyfriend. Forget a ring before spring; that’s more than impossible for me! It seems like a silly thing to be concerned about, but when two of your best friends got engaged before college graduation, the pressure can be a bit nerve-wracking. Thankfully, I have many friends who also slap some sense into me when I start thinking that way. I know it’s my own self-imposed timeline getting in the way, reminding me of how ‘behind’ I feel. It’s something that I have always struggled with. After all, I live by timelines. College has forced me to live with the goal of accomplishing assignments by the assigned deadlines. In a way, deadlines have crossed over into my personal life as well.

Right now, I’m waving goodbye to my friends as they enter the next stage of their lives. I’ll watch as they say their vows and join their husbands. I am now a spectator of their biggest moments and I couldn’t be happier for them. At the same time, though, I am disappointed in myself. Granted, I can’t actually do something about getting married right at this moment. But I can do something about about the other goals on my list.

Maybe it’s in these pregnant pauses that I feel like I’m not achieving as much as I could be. I worry that it’s of my own doing that I am not accomplishing my goals, even if there’s nothing I can do about some of them. I honestly thought I would be dating by now, but I’m not. I thought I’d have my own place, but I’m still living at home. Technically, I should’ve graduated from college by now, but even then my timeline was sabotaged in a sense. There’s a lot I feel like I should’ve accomplished by this point in my life. However, I am constantly reminded that there’s a time and place for everything. Just because I have self-imposed deadlines does not mean that everything will happen according to my plan. After all, my plan is nothing compared to God’s plan.

Just because I feel this way does not mean that I am not content with where I am in my life right now. I’m not sure how I feel about every development (or lack thereof), but I can actually say with confidence that I am content with myself and my life. Of course, that would be impossible without the knowledge that God has already planned out my steps. This summer has definitely been an exercising of my trust in His plan. And I know that whatever He has for me will be amazing.

The Power of Asking for Forgiveness

A few years ago, I was able to experience something rare: a really good friendship. Then someone new entered my life and I was worried that my friendship would ruin my chances to get close the them. There was nothing wrong with my friend; they were one of the nicest people I knew and they were a great friend. At one point, I believe we were best friends. But I was willing to sacrifice what I had with them for someone I barely knew. I think the saddest part was that I liked our friendship for how it made me feel. They were always very affirming and encouraging and I used them for it. I called them when I felt depressed or had really low self-esteem, and they gave it without hesitation. They cared more about me than I did for them, and that’s where I went wrong.

In trying to be someone else’s friend, I neglected a very good friendship and they suffered for it. I was only thinking of myself. The new person seemed so cool and I was willing to do virtually anything for them to notice me and become my friend. I wanted the new person to really like me and getting them to like me even meant dumping those who got in the way.

For a long time, I regretted my actions. I ignored my friend and I had abandoned them. I never told them what was going on because deep down, I knew what I was doing was very wrong. I never offered an explanation; I just stopped talking to them. It was so wrong of me to do so. Here I was trying to get close to someone else and become a good friend to them, but I was blowing off someone who had been my friend for a long time. My actions were so hypocritical and I felt guilty whenever I thought of them. So one day, I messaged them and asked if we could talk. I hadn’t spoken to them for over a year and I wasn’t sure if they even wanted to talk to me, but I thought I should try. When they called, I took a deep breath and answered.

After I finished my long-winded apology, the line was silent. Then they spoke quietly, telling me that they had forgiven me a long time ago. I was blown away by their response. I wasn’t expecting them to forgive me. I expected them to tell me that they accepted my apology, and that would be it. However, it wasn’t long before we were catching up on life, my apology still fresh in my mind. We haven’t spoken since then because we can never go back to what we were before, and in all honesty, I don’t expect that at all. If we never become friends again, I’ll be fine with that. What I want is us to be on good terms because I hate leaving anything, even my friendships, unresolved.

I realized that they deserved so much more credit. As my friend, they put up so much with me. I was there for them, but they were there for me more than I ever was for them. I had made some stupid mistakes regarding that friendship, but I was very sincere in my asking for forgiveness. I wasn’t asking them because of how bad I felt, but because I was aware that what I had done had hurt them. And I was desperate to make things right between us.

Asking for forgiveness, no matter how big or how small, should never be downplayed or ignored. But we do it anyway. Forgiveness has often been referred to as a solution to feel better about yourself so the guilt no longer weighs you down. However, forgiveness does so much more than that; it helps not only those who are asking for forgiveness, but those who are giving it. Yes, it relieves you of the shame you may be feeling over, but asking for forgiveness often looks like a difficult price to pay.

When they called me, I remember my pulse was racing and my hands were sweaty. I had written down what I was going to say, but I couldn’t bring myself to give a speech when they deserved my honesty. Asking forgiveness requires humility. It requires putting your pride aside, even if you weren’t in the wrong. It forces us to give up and make ourselves vulnerable. But forgiveness – asking for it and receiving it – brings healing. The risk we take in asking someone for forgiveness is outweighed by the peace and healing it brings.

We expect forgiveness to be granted to us, but when someone asks us for forgiveness, we sometimes forgive them halfheartedly. My old friend did what I thought was impossible: they wholeheartedly forgave me long before I even asked. Somehow, the fact that they even forgave me surprised me. Unintentionally, they showed me who Christ is and what He did. They showed me that He’s loving, merciful, and forgives us no matter what. Even though I had asked for forgiveness and they assured me that they forgave me long ago, I didn’t feel forgiven. What I had done still hung over my head, taunting me along with memories of what I had done to former friends, even though I had asked for forgiveness from them as well. I knew I had to forgive myself for what I had done and not give into the condemnation.

I’ve said that I deeply treasure my friendships, and that is now more true than ever. In the past, it’s not that it wasn’t true. It was just that I was willing to sacrifice them for the chance of something else. Since then, I’ve learned that good friendships cannot be replaced. Each one has a purpose, even if we can’t see one. I may not be able to resolve all of my past friendships that have long ended, but I can try to fix some of them with the simple act of asking for forgiveness.

Strangely enough, the roles were reversed when I recently found myself as the one on the other end of an abruptly ended friendship. I’ve realized what my former friend experienced and I would never wish that on anyone. The rejection is real and the pain is vivid, but so is the forgiveness. It’s something that I am continuously learning, especially when I don’t understand why our friendship collapsed without warning. As a result, there is so much confusion and awkwardness. Forgiving someone is easier said than done, even more so when it’s someone who was once close to you. In the wake of such events, I admire my former friend for choosing to forgive me and I aspire to do the same, even if it hurts and those who’ve hurt me never ask for forgiveness. Because everyone, you and me included, may not deserve forgiveness, but we sure need it.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you – Colossians 3:13

The Waiting Game

Ahhh, Valentines’ Day. The day when people are supposed to be in love while teddy bears and chocolates crowd the shelves, surrounded by red roses and plush hearts. It’s kind of overwhelming as sappy social media posts take over your newsfeed, filled with people celebrating a relationship they’ve only been in for a month.

That last part sounds bitter, right?

It’s also the day when single people come together to mourn their existence and their lack of a relationship. I used to be one of those people who would curl up into a ball and desperately wish I wasn’t so alone. I would watch rom-coms on Valentines’ Day, only to see the main characters fall head over heels in love, reminding me of my own loneliness. Pictures of my friends with their significant others would flood social media. I would ‘like’ it all while the bitterness and sadness would build up inside of me. I would deny it, saying that I was perfectly fine being single when I was actually far from it! I would try to look at the bright sides of things, but that never worked either.

When, a few years back,  Valentines’ Day rolled around, that all changed. That year, I wrote:
This Valentine’s Day, I have decided to change my perspective. Since I was a teenager, I’ve been caught up in feeling alone on Valentine’s Day. But this is the year that it all changes. So this Valentine’s Day, I choose to celebrate love. I choose to genuinely celebrate the love of couples around me and without any trace of discontentment. I choose to celebrate not just the love of others, but the love of the One who saved me. So I choose NOT to wallow in my loneliness and actually enjoy the life (including the single parts) that God has given me…

I had finally figured out how to win the waiting game.

So how does one play the waiting game, much less win it? For each person, the waiting game and the end goal will probably look different. As for me, the waiting game started as a teen and who knows when it will end, but the end goal is to be with the one God has for me. Of course, trusting God to bring along the right person for you is almost a no-brainer. It’s easier said than done, but what do you do after giving God your desire to be in a relationship? Here’s what I’ve learned:

Watch what you say. Stop complaining about how single you are. Complaining always makes things sound far worse than they actually are. It sours your vision and you’ll feel very resentful towards every happy couple you pass. Complaining has the power to make even happy and grateful people upset. In addition to complaining, don’t curse couples or their relationships. Bless them without underlying resentment or ulterior motives. This shifts your focus from feeling sorry for yourself to feeling happy for others.

No one needs to know how single you are. Okay, so sometimes there are posts about being single that are hilarious and very true. For example, anything with the words “single Pringle” get me every time! But outside of humor, there are posts about singleness and being lonely that just don’t help us feel better about ourselves at all. It just makes people sound extremely desperate and maybe even a tad pathetic. I try my best to not fall into that trap, but even I can’t avoid it sometimes. Again, no one needs to know how single you are because to be honest, your life of singleness probably doesn’t even register on their radar. And no, telling the world how single you are isn’t going to bring around a man or woman for you to date. The most it will do is give you comments from people who mean well telling you to “be patient, God will bring the right person along when it’s time.” And trust me, no one really wants to hear that said to them anyway.

You may never be truly content with being single. Contentedness doesn’t come from not being single. It comes from God. We can’t be content with being single on our own. If you’re not content in God, then it’s going to be difficult to be content in other areas as well. Just because you’re content doesn’t mean you’ll get what you want. God isn’t a wish-granting genie in a bottle. He is GOD. I’ve heard “You have to be content with what you have for God to give you what He has,” and that is very true, but what God has for us doesn’t always look like what we want for us. Even though we may be trusting Him with our desires, we won’t be happy about our situation at all times. We will struggle, but we know God will not only help us through it, but He’ll give us the hope to carry on. Also, don’t feel bad if you’re unhappy that you’re single. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad single Christian. It takes a lot to be glad about singleness, but let’s be honest here: it’s a season we’d rather speed through than spend time in. And I still go through those moments myself.

There will be times where you will still get lonely. Yes, you may still feel lonely sometimes. And when you do, it doesn’t mean you haven’t given your desires to be in a relationship up to God. What it means is that you’re human. You and I are built to crave meaningful, lasting relationships, and feeling the loneliness means we’re not robots. We’re reacting the way we were made to react. The difference is who/what we go to to get rid of the loneliness. God makes Himself accessible to us so we will never be truly and completely alone. When we are feeling lonely, like something’s missing, that is a sign for us to go to God. Don’t ignore it!

Enjoy your singleness. You’re probably have heard this a million times by now, but don’t roll your eyes at me just yet. You’ve also probably heard about all of the things you could do as a single person when compared to having a significant other, and if you were like me, then you didn’t care. You just didn’t want to be alone… So instead of telling you what you could do while living out the single life, I will tell you this: live your life the way you would if you were dating. Do what you would love to do with your future significant other, but you can do it all by yourself or share the experience with friends. You don’t need a boyfriend or a girlfriend to have fun and enjoy life for what it is. Just live. Don’t waste time waiting around. There are certain things the waiting game is meant for, but living your life isn’t one of them. Live your life as you’ve always wanted. Share your experiences with those around you. Go where God leads you. Do all that you’ve ever wanted to do, and if that special someone suddenly shows up in the middle of it, then bring them along for the ride!

I plan on winning this waiting game. It seems like a very long, seemingly impossible waiting game, but it’s only one of the many waiting games I know I’ll have to win in this life.

One more thing: Don’t allow your relationship status, single or not, to define you. The only relationship that should define you is the one you have with God. Having earthly relationships are important, but they should never have the ability to alter your identity. This Valentine’s Day, bask in the love God has for you and celebrate the life you have, even if you’re in the season of singleness.

Open Your Heart and Home

Recently, a family member came to stay with us for weekend. She had never stayed at our house before because she lives in a completely different state. I was so excited to finally have her with me, even if it was just for a few days. As part of the plan, I shared my room with her. People have shared a room with me before, whether it was another of my cousins, my grandma, or my little sister. I am used to giving up my bed and my privacy for a night (or a week). In fact, I am usually the one who is called to give up her room or share it. But it’s a small price to pay for the time I spend with them.

The evidence of her stay was made clear by the aftermath of my room. Well, my room was a mess throughout the weekend because of an inflatable mattress and the fact that I already have enough furniture in my room as it is. My room has just enough room for me; trying to fit another person is an enjoyable challenge!

Yes, my room was a mess, but it was a beautiful disaster. The mess meant that there was someone who I loved staying with me. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that it felt like my room was closing in on me or that you couldn’t really move much or actually walk without stumbling over something. What really mattered was that she was with me and we were spending time together. The disaster didn’t matter. So I left it there and I didn’t clean up everything until a day after she left. And, to be honest, cleaning up made me sad because I knew that once everything was put away, it was just me in my room again.

Hospitality is all about opening up your heart and home and offering people a safe and comfortable place to be. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (unless you like doing that kind of thing). It could be as simple as feeding a friend who really needs a home-cooked meal or as elaborate as having an ENTIRE family to stay with you for a couple of nights.

As an introvert, being hospitable can be a stretch. People have commented on my extroverted moments, but I find I work best in one-on-one situations. So for me, being hospitable usually requires more energy and mental preparation than it would for others. But with constant practice, I’ve gotten better at being hospitable and welcoming to guests. I’ve also learned how to really clean an entire house in less than an hour, and that’s also important.

Being hospitable isn’t easy. Sacrifice is key: giving up time, quietness, your home, and even food. But there’s a reason hospitality is emphasized so much in the Bible. When people get together, it’s an opportunity for the love of Jesus to be experienced. But not once do you read that hospitality has to be perfect

After all, perfection is not required in hospitality. What’s required is a genuine desire for community and the effort to make someone feel at home. Homes are meant to be imperfect. My mom always said that if there isn’t some sign of living in a house, then is it really a home? As a result, our house was clean but not spotless nor was everything always where it should’ve been. But it was home to my parents and their four kids. It was our home, and our intention was to make it feel like home to everyone else who visited us, even if it was for just a few minutes.

Hospitality should not be complained about either. I’ve always thought of it as an immense blessing to have people over (perhaps because we never used to have people over at our old house). I find that all of the work and the preparation makes the time spent with people so much sweeter. Even when everyone is gone, and there are dishes to do despite my exhaustion, I am always left happy. For example: we’ve thrown many parties and afterwards, when the last of the guests are gone, we all help each other in the kitchen, talking about the conversations we had and laughing about the funniest moments of the night. In those late hours, we bond over dirty dishes and messy floors. And those are among the most precious and intimate moments of family life.

It can often be stressful to clean a house and make sure that everything is in its place and that you have food to feed everyone, but the payoff is so much greater than the sacrifice. Of course, there really isn’t much of a material payoff when it comes to hospitality (unless you’re counting the host/hostess gifts). It’s more of a spiritual and emotional payoff. People are always most impressed by the amount of kindness and love given to them. Hospitality is a form of that love and kindness. It’s also a source of joy and encouragement. When you are hospitable, whether it’s for a few hours or several days, you are showing the love of Christ to those in your home. As a result, your guests won’t be the only ones feeling loved and encouraged; you will feel it too!

You have no ideas how many times I’ve apologized for a non-existent (or a very existent) mess of some kind to only have someone say, “Please, it’s fine.” To be honest, as a guest, the mess is not what I look at or care about either. I’m just here to spend time with you. I’m honored to be invited into your home, even if it’s just to talk for an hour or two. I understand cleaning a house can be a sign of respect to visitors, a desire to impress guests, or because the house might be a mess, but it’s not the most important thing here. What matters is how you love people when they walk through the door. So don’t be so concerned that your place isn’t nice enough, clean enough or big enough. Be concerned about how you love. That’s what is really at the center of hospitality: love. A love for God and a love for people. And it’s that kind of love that actually makes a difference.

Waiting Without Boredom

I don’t think waiting on the Lord is supposed to be boring. I think it’s supposed to be exciting.

I had the thought featured above after ordering some books I had wanted for a long time. I love books, and almost nothing makes me more giddy than ordering books I’ve really wanted. In this case, textbooks don’t count.

Of course, after the payment for the order comes the waiting. I’ve written a whole blog post on it before (I’ll spare you a rehashing of the details and instead link you to the post), but I really don’t like waiting. It seems like such a waste of time. Like if I just ordered something, it should be at my doorstep immediately. But we all know that’s now how the world works. We wait for virtually everything in life: we wait on checkout lines, for stoplights to turn green, for customer service, for the next big thing. Our lives are all about waiting. That’s why we attempt to teach kids from a very early age the concept of ‘waiting your turn.’ The sooner they understand that we must always wait for what we really want, the better.

But waiting for something I ordered only makes me more excited. That’s how waiting on the Lord should feel like.

We see waiting often as a boring, mournful delay in our lives. In the 21st century, we go from one excitement from the other so we don’t have to know the ‘pain’ of waiting. We view waiting as a blank space between the lines. We think there’s nothing for us in the waiting, but that is so far from the truth. Waiting doesn’t have to be joyless or dull; how we approach waiting determines how we experience it.

While waiting on the Lord, we should have this joyful expectation, the kind that a child has on Christmas Eve. As a child, I could barely sleep on Christmas Eve because I was just so excited to see the presents I got. I remember one year I pulled a Christmas Eve all-nighter; I couldn’t sleep because I was that excited! That’s the kind of attitude we should have waiting on the Lord. Like children counting down the days till Christmas, we should approach waiting with excitement until we can barely contain our anticipation for what God has for us.

I won’t lie; waiting on God when you’re in the middle of a rough patch is, well, rough. Sometimes prayers aren’t answered right away and that can be discouraging. But instead of getting worried He won’t come through, we should instead focus on who God is. We should remember of all the times and ways He has answered our prayers. We shouldn’t be asking ourselves, “Lord, when will you come through for me?” We should be saying, “Lord, I can’t wait to see what you do!”

It’s really all about our mindset regarding God and what He can do. If we view Him for who He is as the Word says He is, then we can be confident that He will take care of everything. When His promises are on the line, you can be certain that He won’t break any of them! If you have prayed for something, whether it was recently or for many years, get joyful! God will come through for you. So go ahead and get excited for what He’s promised you. Be excited for what He’s going to do in your life!