remember who you are

My grandmother passed away on 11/11/16.

She had the strongest will I’d ever encountered in a person, which perhaps was the bedrock for her ability to say ANYTHING, out of love – including the things that no other person would say.

This was often dreaded by me, and my insecure, sensitive soul. She would say all sorts of things that I didn’t want to hear – about my appearance, my life choices, my finances, my relationships. It didn’t matter if you weren’t ready to hear it and certainly mattered not if you welcome the criticism. It was coming when she wanted to tell you, whenever that may be. But I suppose  when you grow more mature, you are able to see more of the love and less of the criticism. Or we just grew to understand each other better. She understood that she needed to say things in a gentle tone and to verbalize that she loved me, every single time we talked. I would visit and try to show her that I understood what she was saying in my few mandarin words, though she spoke english and cantonese.  She would always pat my hand and say she was proud of me.

And even though I was always causing trouble with my selfish actions, trying to find my way through life even when it lead me away from family, there was a huge part of me that wanted to make her proud. Actually all of us grandkids had that desire. When I graduated from college, moved out and finally bought a brand new car, I felt I had finally reached the point where I could say that I did what I could to make her happy. I was taking care of myself, and would be in a position to take care of others.

While that made her so happy, to see me grown up, making the “right choices”, in my heart of hearts, I think I know now what really made her happy was the ability to love others, more than myself. But of course, you don’t understand that till you spend your last minutes with someone.

This year, I spent a little less time with her than I had the other years I had lived in Norcal. Her health had been fragile for some time, and the past couple years, every day we had with her was a gift. I was ashamed that I wasn’t working for the first part of the year, and to be honest, I wasn’t happy or proud of my life. I was lonely, unemployed, worried about finances and still single. I didn’t have happy developments to share about my life with anyone, let alone my harshest critic.

Maybe this year, I withdrew not just from her, but from people in general. I spent the last day of 2015 alone, recovering from the flu, watching TV. That carried into more days than I would have liked this year. This is not the person she wanted me to be, nor the one that I want to be resigned to.

On her last day on earth, I drove through the night from San Jose to Sacramento after a full day of work. My worries about my new job and being responsible followed me the whole way there, intermixed with tears about knowing the time to say goodbye was finally here, after all these years. The girl who I had become and wanted the approval of others was worried about missing a day of work the next day, but a voice inside of me kept saying “What is wrong with me? This isn’t as important!” I knew, this was it. There were no more days together. No more phone calls to say “Popo, I love you.”

I got to the hospital and while her heart was still beating and chest still breathing, we wouldn’t see her eyes open again. But I could touch her face, hear her snoring for a few more hours. To say to a body and soul, that I loved her and to thank her for everything she had done for me, to make me who I am today. To be brave in doing the right thing, to put others before yourself, left nothing unsaid so that others know what you feel and think, to care for family even when you don’t feel your best, to work hard so you can be a resource for others. This woman she had worked hard to invest in, allowed her self to be pulled under the tide and waves of 2016.

But on the day of her memorial, I stood before my whole family and testified to not just who she was as our family matriarch but who she was as child of God. The rest of my family who didn’t acknowledge God as the creator and sustainer of their lives, were the ones I reminded that God was the one who ultimately my grandmother desired for them to know. I also acknowledge the faults and shortcomings in me that they all know well, and showed them that those things don’t define me of who I am – Christ, my hope and savior does. I needed to come to the surface instead of choosing to drown amongst difficult circumstances in the other parts of my life.

When I said goodbye to her, I had no regrets – she and I left nothing unsaid to each other because of our common salvation in Christ. Our trust in God had gotten her through blood transfusions, canker sores, strokes, pacemakers, high blood pressure…it had gotten me through divorces, rejection from friends, crushes and potential employers, difficult confrontations, moving away from my family to a city where I’m all on my own.

Her reminders to me still pop in and out of my mind day to day. And in the wake of an incredibly difficult year, remind me of who I am. They remind me of all the love and sacrifice that have been invested in me by God and my family, to help me to face the unknown and difficult things in life that are still to come. I suppose this is the beginning of my understanding of leaving a legacy, of leaving this earth behind with marks that you were there. Because she leaves behind a strong legacy. There will never be another Doris Lau. There is sorrow about the reality that she isn’t here when life seems dark and lonely, to feed me and pat my hand as she says “I know….I know God loves you.”

She truly is in my heart, and the Lord has used her to shape my future, to make me the woman I am and am going to be. I want to remember everything she’s taught me and live that out. I remember who I am, as a child of God, and as her grandaughter. She lives in my heart and reminds me, that come what may I know the way and know how this is going to end. We’re both going to be together, in Heaven, some day.

 

 

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decisions.

The job search sent me into a worried flurry the week that I got my first rejection…and thankfully, for this particular search, it was actually the last rejection I got.

By the end of the week, it looked like I had three options for moving forward – but none of them were perfectly ideal. The first offer I received was perfectly aligned with the industry (advertising) that I had been in, but it wasn’t a very “exciting” role nor a promotion of any sort. However every person that I had interviewed with was a really positive conversation. The second (and most likely to make an offer) was a start up where I would have a ton of ownership in the role…but it was a start-up, which is an ocean of opportunity I had never swam in before. The third and most exciting role was for a company who’s work I really admired and was really excited by the thought of joining their staff…but their decision on actually making an offer would be a month away.

After several conversations, prayer and reflection, I decided to take the first offer. There were things about all these opportunities that were appealing and at one point I felt like burrowing myself in my bed and bemoaning that I didn’t even know how to decide. It exposed a weakness of mine…being able to make a decision based on having trust and faith, with limited facts. I had never had to really face my anxiety over decision making like I have this year, with career choices. When any emotion besides fear is in the mix, it’s a little easier, but truly, without resting in God’s sovereignty, I would be a mess.

But this time, I was aware that there was no one to tell me what to do and no one to blame if things didn’t go the way I hoped. S0 I made an initial decision, and then slept on it for about two days. And for one of the few times my life, I was more sure at the end of 48 hours. There was no more anxiety about where my next paycheck would come from, how much longer this season of unemployment would last or even if I was jumping into something I wasn’t going to be able to do. There was only thanksgiving to God for being big enough to control the situation and all my crazy thoughts and for His word, to remind me that my value is found in Christ’s love for me. And I praised Him that even though we have the Bible outlining God’s numerous promises for His people, I was seeing the particular promise to care for His children in Matthew 6:26, come to fruition.

Decisions. It’s the process that is truly is a tool in the Master’s hand to cut away layers of pride and expose my soul, so in need of The Father’s grace. Which He so freely gives. Hallelujah.

 

faith > fear

Rejection = one of the scariest words in the human language.

And yet one that we can never fully escape from. The first rejection in this search came in and i’ve been trying to process for the past 24 hours. It was for a job that I thought I had a really good chance of getting, and yet it didn’t work out.

Though i’ve been able to maintain a positive outlook on finding a job, it’s even more tempting to worry and obsess over what went wrong, especially when it seemed like everything was going right. Likely there will be other rejections that will follow behind.

Trying to remind myself that I only need one, and that The Lord will provide. He knows exactly what opportunity is the right one for me, in this season. Praying to let my faith in His word and character to be what gives me hope for things to work out. Though I can’t see how its going to work out while my fear is almost so strong I can feel it more than anything other emotion, I shall keeping reminding myself of what is true: He is my shepherd, and I shall not want.

6 months.

Today is the first day of another unexpected season of unemployment. It’s been 6 months since I was last out of a job and going through one of the scariest seasons of my life.

My family has always extolled the priority and value of hard work and security. If graduating from college in 4 years to moving out and supporting myself was the greatest pride I could bring my family, it was a scary reality that not being able to get another one could be what brought me shame. When compounded with the reality that I have bills to pay and live in one of the most expensive areas of the U.S. as well as the pressure to not keep moving laterally in my career, there was a lot of anxiety.

So now I’m back at square one, in a sense. Except my outlook is completely different from 6 months ago. When I went back to my company as a contractor, it was actually my last option and basically equivalent to me pushing the panic button. I wasn’t terribly excited about the opportunity but taking it meant that there were a lot of things I needed to do that it was going to allow me to.

And it was basically the BEST 6 months of my professional life. My coworkers and teammates are some of the smartest, hardest working, humble and kind people i’ve ever had the chance to work work with. I genuinely was excited to see them every day. We were always willing to go to meetings with each other and partner up and support each other in putting together plans, decks and big ideas. They were genuinely concerned for my wellbeing and from day one, wanted to set me up to pursue work I cared about. The work itself opened up some new interests that I wouldn’t have been able to pursue previously. I am really sad that I won’t be able to see them as often or to be a part of this hard working group.

I would never have been able to know this is what I would walk away with 6 months later. This evidence of God’s grace is what is keeping me hopeful for the future, even now.

 

not quite an update.

It’s been a year since I’ve last spent any time here. (Do people even blog these days??) Well actually OVER a year since the last time I wrote.

I had some pretty ambitious goals, especially since i’ve been having big thoughts and questions that i’ve been asking myself in the last month. Perhaps the burden of putting my thoughts into cohesive thoughts have been something harder to do these days…not because i’ve I have a hard time wrangling them in but for the first time in my life, my mind has been vacant of abundant musings and introspection. Basically, I’m just not as pensive as I used to be.

While the act of writing always has been and will be a comforting friend, I did feel discouraged by the last few chapters of life – as documented by entries here. With every step forward and away from the past, there were four more moments that I struggled to get over and grow from. After awhile, you get tired of reading the same words, the same chapters in your life. And then you start to you wonder if that’s all you’re ever going to see. And a strange thing starts to happen – you expect the same old story each time you find yourself reflecting on your life.

Or perhaps that’s just me. I am still learning about myself but one thing about me is very clear – once I encounter a painful situation, I try to avoid it. Kinda like putting your hand a hot stove. You’d never see me putting it there twice. And such reminders are the things i’m barking to myself, mentally, when the red flags and sires in my head go off in regards to life situations. I’m still tempted of course, and still strong willed but i’ve never been as aware of fear as I have been in the last five years of life.

I’m afraid of a lot of things. Perhaps its the lightness of youth that masks that fear when you’re looking out at life with hopeful eyes. Or just maybe i’m just not as brave as I used to be. One thing is for sure…life experience and love have shown me that happiness and sadness go hand in hand. As soon as you experience one, you can just as soon be sitting in the middle of the other. I never thought I would be the type of person to avoid hoping for things because of the fear of disappointment – I grew up on Disney fairy tales for goodness sake! But its just the way life is….if you have a desire for something, there’s always a chance you won’t get what you want. Or in my case, typically the way things work out.

Yet while I sit here, in danger of being scared, jaded and alone (well not really in danger – that sounds really dramatic) this year has taught me to trust and to hope in God in a different way than before. The choice to trust His plan and hope in His goodness is not a tactic to bring about His good purpose…it doesn’t affect what God chooses to do in my life. Instead its all about choosing to see His Word, and His plans with a thankful heart…meaning that the fears that want to nip at the corner of my heart are contained instead of given free reign as a way of being “practical” and “prepared for the worst.” That if God says He will provide, I just wait on that truth to happen in my life instead of thinking about all the the horrible things that could happen to me if they don’t work out the way I want.

So I had originally thought I would start out blogging again by reflecting on all the things in my life that had changed since a year ago (which is almost everything…) as well as the chapter that is coming to a close this week. Maybe i’ll save that for another day. When I look back at a snapshot of this chapter of life, I want to remember that God was still working in my heart and changing me.

Which I suppose is the same as always. 🙂

that which is true joy

A friend and I have been studying the book of Philippians together over the summer. Though I haven’t been the most consistent this has been an invaluable time in the word for me. Two years ago, my prayer for the year was to learn to be happy for others – this was such a necessary and difficult goal to aspire to, completely impossible without God working in my heart. I have spent most of my life anxious, envious and jealous of others and what they have and it got to the point where I had to acknowledge the death that these sins brought. When my heart gives into jealousy and envy there is almost an overpowering darkness and ungodliness that is evident in my life. I couldn’t continue to live with it and to not glorify God in it.
Philippians is surely a popular book in the Bible and the book where I had most the most amount of scripture memorized. I had never studied it in its entirety and reaped the the themes and patterns of truth from it. And I clearly did not understand why it was considered the letter of joy. So this summer was the start of relearning this book familiar to me. These are just some highlights.
The joy of the believer is primarily knowing that we are glorifying God, as we hold fast to His promises and work in our heart to trust His work is for good.
Joy comes from loving and serving others when we have a submissive mind that turns our eyes and attention from ourselves to the needs of others for Jesus’ sake. (God’s glory!)
The ultimate example is in Jesus and how he lived as the perfect God-man. That is what the bulk of this passage focuses on. This is a passage that is very familiar to me and I had to pray that God would help me to see it with fresh eyes instead of list of ways to be and ways to not be.
Paul was writing this to the church that was struggling with division and is calling them back to unity: which is only possible by being motivated to care for each other with love instead of following their pride and own agendas. This is where the example of Jesus is calling them to be Christ like in their actions.
  • Jesus thought of others , not himself – and saw his position as a tool to be used for others
  • Jesus served: He WAS God-man, deity  and humanity united in one but did not pretend to be a servant – he truly was the servant of many. In the gospels we see that He served much more than He was served.
  • Jesus sacrificed. Jesus’ life was not just one where he endured suffering but about much that was give in sacrifice. The person that sacrifices for others and for Christ’s sake can be joyful because it makes us more like Christ….like we ready in the previous section, to share in His joy as well as His sacrifice
  • He glorifies God: the glory of God is the goal in submitting to others and sacrificing. When had done the worst to the Savior but God exalted Him and honored him. Every person will glorify God at the end of their life: either in rejoicing in their salvation or in being judged and condemned for their sin.
It is tough to wrestle with the sovereignty of God in both good and bad things that happen to us (and the bad is not a punishment for failing to obey God or someone else hurting us) which Paul certainly experienced …..but all the things that happen in our lives are tools in His hands to sanctify, humble and help us see HIS grace at work in our lives. But to reiterate, our joy in the middle of these trying circumstances is knowing that God is using those things to chip away at our sinful habits to make us more like Christ in our attitude (as we read about this week) – which brings God ALL THE GLORY.

in itty bitty everydayness

dosmallthingswithgreatlove

Much needed reminder on a day of feeling discombobulated and slightly congested and a whole lotta laziness….

“Every one of us has a line of duty marked out for us by God. For most human beings, for most of history, there has been little choice available. We tend to forget this in a time when the options seem limitless and when ‘what one does’ usually means specifically his money-earning capacities. Duty, however, includes whatever we ought to do for others—make a bed, give someone a ride to church, mow a lawn, clean a garage, paint a house. It is often possible to ‘get out of’ work like that. Nobody is paying us. It simply needs to be done, and if we don’t do it, nobody will.

But the nature of the work changes when we see that it is God who marks out this line of duty for us. It is service to Him. When we see Him, we may say, ‘Lord, when did I ever mow Your lawn? When did I iron Your clothes?’ He will answer, ‘When you did it for one of the least of my children, you did it for me.’”

~Elisabeth Elliot

A letter to myself

January 9, 2015

Dear Courtney,

You are flying high above the clouds right now but about to descend back into your hometown.

After the most incredibly coordinated birthday festivities of last year, you’re tempted to fear that people think you are ungrateful and entitled to another lovely birthday celebration – but its not so.

Last years’ birthday celebration was a mitigation tactic for dealing with the fear of being outcasted, looked over and viewed as past the prime of life: what a fearful age to be. 30. But God has continued to be SO gracious.

Sure, relationships were really challenging in a way new to you. But it gave you the best opportunity to give up on yourself and your logic and to embrace that it is truly the Lord who changes hearts. You were reminded that the spiritual work of change is not done in small groups or hangouts but in going back to the quiet spaces where it is just you and God. You learned to be careful with what you share with others, especially out of frustration – once something is said, and you’ve influenced the opinion of another person, you can’t take those words back. You can’t undo the damage your prideful words and sinful thoughts cause, especially between two other people.

You learned that you nearly always look to the end result of actions, but few other people can or do – and you can’t fault them for that. Just be thankful that God has given you that gift and use it to live wisely to His glory. Use it to make a heavenly investment and to keep from the wayward path.

Perhaps the most important lesson you learned came at the end of the year. Love is not an economy and you can’t measure investments in relationships by that made up metric. You can’t live making up a debt of investment to a person in guilt nor expect them to do the same for you.

You don’t have to try so hard. That advice was given to you at the end of your 29th year. Perhaps you finally are starting to understand what that means. Just love, because God first loved you and is faithful to supply you with what you need to serve others.

My prayer is that this next year would be a joyful one, because of the joy of being safe in His arms, regardless of circumstance. Find your peace and security in the one who you are waiting to meet – Christ, your savior.

This one goes out to those who fell short, feel like they don’t have anymore to give others, messed up numerous times today, are bearing the wrongdoing of others, lashed out at someone today or regretted their decisions of either the past 10 minutes or past 10 years…

God has not turned away from you.

His truth is stronger than what you’re feeling.

His grace is going to keep your standing.

His plans are directing and orchestrating your day and your ways.

His love is bigger than the ocean.

He has initiated His relationship with you and will not leave you stranded.

He is good. And we can trust Him.