re-cap

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I like closure just as much as I like boundaries. I also enjoy order and organization and experience minor bouts of frustration and anxiety when my expectations aren’t met.  I hate not finishing anything, but it’s been a few weeks – months now? – since I’ve picked up Yell Less, Love More or How to Deal with Your Strong-Willed Child; and quite frankly, I haven’t felt like I needed to. So I’m not going to finish the parenting books I’ve started reading. WHAAAT!?!

You see, life never happens the way we expect it to. It took me 30 years to learn that, which, when you think about, makes sense. And the unexpected, non-sequential path of my life has me laying aside unfinished parenting books and picking up another topic with which to feed my mind: pregnancy.

PREGNANCY!!!!!

Before I go on, however, I must rewind and quickly catch you up on how non-sequential my life has been. (Now, if you have been reading my blog or have followed me on Facebook, you might already know that I spent six years of my life in Taiwan after college.)

It all began the summer of 2015. I was home for a visit from Taiwan. I was scheduled to fly back to my lovely overseas life in August and start down the path of pursuing my Master’s degree. I never flew back to Taiwan. I’m still here, in fact.

After that drastic change of plans, I sought out therapy, which many do these days in the midst of crisis or life trauma. I started job-hunting, which made me immediately miss the easy work situation in Taiwan for native English speakers. And I re-learned how to live under the same roof as my parents. (It had been ten years.)

I was pathetically dependent on my parents for finances at the very beginning, which I hated, but I kept track of every penny I borrowed and paid it all back by the end of the winter of 2017.

Meanwhile, I had graduated from my therapy sessions and was ready to step out on my own. I was in American now, not Taiwan. Things were different. Coping with homesickness and culture shock and lack of closure with my family in Taiwan made things difficult; but in true fashion, it wasn’t long before I had filled up my time.

I had landed a job as a teacher, which kept me immensely busy throughout the week. I enrolled in a mountaineering class, so I could learn to climb the mountains of beautiful Washington State and meet other people who loved the mountains, too. I pulled back from church involvement. (Again, in true fashion, I had jumped in head first to help out and fill holes; but I was in a unique time of life – after a life of chronic ministry involvement – where I realized I actually didn’t HAVE to do anything. It was freeing!) And, of course, I was running a race once a month with other running friends and training for a full marathon.

You could say I hit the ground running  (literally and metaphorically) once I committed to the idea of living in America.

But that’s just it. Living in America remained an idea until some rather permanent things began happening. 

At the very beginning of April, I got on TINDER. (For those of you who may not know what this is, there’s google. For the rest of you, I had my reasons!) I’ve always been a loyal tinder-hater due to the bad wrap society gives it as well as the horror stories I hear from people using it. Well, I was on spring break when April started, so I actually had time to flip through and read the articles my iPhone likes to suggest on a daily basis. One of them happened to be about Tinder success stories. It was a positive spin on this dating app that I’d been hating on for pretty legitimate reasons. Come on, it’s basically a hook-up app!

Well, Tinder is free, and I like that, and I had already done my free trial on match.com and was not interested in paying a dime – let alone a dollar – to meet a guy. I was interested in meeting people but didn’t believe in subscriptions. So I started swiping right if liked the guy and swiping left if I didn’t. All you see are pictures the person made available and whatever blurb he decided to write about himself. These blurb bios were anything from “Call me ;)” to paragraphs about interests, personalities and work lives. “Matches” occurred when two people mutually swiped right on the other’s profile. I made sure the age-range and distance radius in my settings were appropriate. If something did happen, I wanted the guy to be relatively close in distance and age.

Being on Tinder was kind of a joke, and after a day or two of swiping and exchanging pointless words with my matches, I deleted it. The positive part of the whole arrangement was that no one will get my phone number without my permission and I can delete someone forever if I want to. Or delete the app altogether.

Don’t ask me why, but I decided to give it another chance a mere day later.
“Hi, Victoria! I saw ultimate frisbee and couldn’t help but swipe right!”

I had decided to mention personal interests in my own blurb, so anyone passing by on the Tinder train would know I liked running, hiking, and playing ultimate frisbee. Apparently, it worked, because those words began a conversation that has yet to end. And I don’t ever intend on terminating the life-long conversation I have begun with this man, who became my husband on September 10, 2016. 

Only a year earlier,  I had been faced with the proverbial “road not taken” and, “sorry I could not travel both,” made a rather difficult and life-altering decision. The life-altering part of that decision had just begun. 

As you can imagine, my time was no longer filled with mountain-climbing and running and late nights of lesson planning and grading. I was marriedNot only was I married, i was also a brand new step mom to my husband’s (then) 8-year-old daughter. Single life had ended; family life had begun.

Halloween 2017 is almost upon us. I will be 29 weeks pregnant this Friday. It’s been 2 years, 2 months, and 4 days since I was supposed to board an airplane back to Taiwan and start on the path of pursuing my master’s degree.  A lot has changed.

I’m not in Taiwan anymore, and it’s actually rather painful to admit I don’t know when I will be again. I’m living in little 2-bedroom apartment in the town of Snohomish, Washington, with my husband and step-daughter, expecting a baby girl to join us in January of 2018. 

So much for closure and boundaries. 

There you have it: why I’m laying aside the unfinished parenting books in exchange for pregnancy ones. The adventures never stop, but it’s like what Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

 

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home sweet home

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It’s the age-old interrogative sentence that haunts all of at some point, no matter how physically far away we are from “home.” And where is home exactly?

Today in social studies, I warned my students that after the lesson they were going to want to leave America and travel the world for the rest of their lives. (Most of them are  more or less convinced I am from Taiwan (like literally of Taiwan blood), and they were rather shocked when I explained that I actually had roots right here in Washington and am, in fact, FROM America.) 

My lesson took them through a running tour of Taiwan, Mongolia, North Korea, & South Korea. I inspired them with time-lapse videos, geography videos, pictures, and horizon-broadening facts about each country. (I could tell the diversity of my presentation had everyone captivated; that’s a win in the teaching world!)

For me, this was actually the first time I had taught anyone about Taiwan. For years, I have been teaching people about America and the confusing and varying customs of the West and have even walked fellow-foreigners through the process of moving to Taiwan from their home country.

At first I was overwhelmed; where do I start, what do I say? But then the researcher mentality of an educator settled over me,  and the lesson I gave my students made me crazy homesick. And happy at the same time.

It felt like every part of me was glowing with unexplainable feeling as I showed them my home city of Taipei, the forever-long changing of the guard at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and the video of my dragon boat team’s championship race. My students were immediately enraptured by the beauty and all the people, their fascination being expressed through words like, “It’s pretty!” “Coool!” “I wanna move there!” “I wanna go visit you!”

 

Mission accomplished. The seed of world travel and exploration and expat living PLANTED. 

I was simultaneously overjoyed to teach them about something so integral to my life and yet also so fiercely gripped with nostalgia. 

And the whole thing had me thinking…

6 years ago, I was torn to be so far away from all the marriage, birth, and even death that my friends in the States were experiencing. I wanted to be with them still, but I knew I could only be in one place at a time and was learning to accept that.

Over 6 years down the road, I’m undergoing the same extent of emotion; but now all the friends and loved ones I so dearly miss are in Taiwan. I want to be with them, but I know I can only be in one place at at time and I am learning that it’s not easy to know where you’re supposed to be in life.

I could simplify this issue and say I have two homes now, but I’m no longer sure that’s entirely true, either.

Home….. bittersweet home. 

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Why I Run, Part III: the bucketlist

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wearing the medal after the halfThat weekend at the Taroko Gorge, my roommate wasn’t the only one running the half marathon. Our friend Andrew ran it with her. In fact, there were a few people on that trip who wanted to run the race but didn’t register in time. Andrew ran it anyway, bandit style.

On the train ride back to Taipei from Hualien, Andrew and I sat next to each other. Our conversation got on the topic of races and training and I expressed my interest in wanting to into distance running. I remember him talking about the races he was training for. This guy was already signing up for races and he had only been in Taiwan a few months!

I met Andrew in August when he moved to Taiwan to teach English. He had been in Hong Kong the previous year, doing the same thing, traveling and running in Asia in between. He was a consistent part of our community in Taipei until a tragic bike accident ended his life here on earth. The last thing I talked to him about was how he needed to plan his bike trip around Taiwan. It was on that bike trip that he died.

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To read more of Andrew’s story, you can check out previous posts I have written about him, his influence, and how he inspired my own running journey. Here is a list of some of them:

Andrew had a to do list for his life. (His mom posted Andrew’s list here.) After he was gone, I couldn’t get out of my head how much Andrew had accomplished. He just went out and did things. He traveled and ran and stayed in touch with friends from all over the world. With or without companions. He just did it. 

So that spring, the memory of Andrew my fuel and inspiration, I started doing things. I signed up for my first race with a bunch of girlfriends, I joined a champion dragon boat team, and I got some friends to run with me all the way to the Taipei half marathon that December.

 

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Team Max

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Taipei Half

The active lifestyle I had always wanted had only ever been a choice away. In the wake of Andrew’s inspiration, I finally made the choice. I was going to start ticking things off my own bucket list. Life was a gift that I had barely started to unwrap, and it is truly the gift that keeps on giving. 

Andrew’s last race (on this earth anyway) was the Taipei Marathon. Running all 26.2 miles of a marathon was definitely something on my bucket list. Thanks to Andrew, my bucket list was now a  “life to do list.” 

> > Read WHY I RUN, PART I

> > Read WHY I RUN, PART II

> > Read WHY I RUN, PART IV

Teddy

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Reading and writing opens the toolbox. Inside the toolbox are the tools to break down the doors and the walls keeping you from bigger worlds. 

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Meet Teddy. NOT the bear – I’m talking about my student who made me cry this morning. And this is why I want you to meet him; because I won’t be teaching English anymore very soon and I was reminded by this child of why I’m going to miss this job so very much.

Everyone always says they miss kids the most, that the kids are the best part of the job, and it’s true.

Because in all honestly, these kids cut us foreign English teachers who move here to Taiwan without any kind of teaching degree the biggest break of all: they let us be their teachers. They look up to us, they love us, they point and yell at us, they hug us, these little people who don’t even share my same culture or language. And in being their English teachers, we make more than they will make when they graduate from college with a degree in engineering or accounting.

Education can be a cruel system, and every teacher has a choice in how they will paint their students’ experience; the heart-gripping and complicated part of all this is that every student is different. You CANNOT treat them all the same.

Teddy is a triplet. He also happens to be the bigger and slower one of the three, but he’s still adorable. And he’s funny. But as many have already personally experienced, being slow causes problems in the classroom. In order to survive, the student must compensate. So Teddy compensates by being goofy, laughing, talking loudly about anything he can think of. He entertains the students, infuriates the teacher. Both student and teacher are familiar with this drill. In Teddy’s case as a kindergarten student, it’s very easy to push him to the side, throw toys at him to play with and ignore him for the most part as I push my other more capable students to soaring academic heights. But I know that’s not right. So I fought all my frustration and began to intentionally work with him one-on-one, EVEN though it would have been easier to let him play with a book he completely couldn’t read and EVEN though nobody holds me accountable to any academic standards at my school.

IMG_7595 This morning, Teddy started writing on his own. This child couldn’t write without tracing over fully written letters in the past; he can’t even draw pictures like his classmates can. So this whole school year I’ve been giving him the guidance he needs and endlessly coaching him on his ABCs. But this morning, as all of the students were in literal awe of the new books we just started, I decided to push Teddy to try it by himself. I didn’t let him say, “I don’t know” or “I can’t.” I told him to say, “Teacher, help me.” So he tried, and there on white space where no previous letter had been, he formed “A” and then “l” and then “i” and then “t” and then “T” and the “I.” And he was so happy. In fact, he and I were both so happy, that we clapped and cheered after every letter he formed at the beginning. Teddy was so happy that he declared, “I know!” and “I did it!” for his classmates to hear, and the other students gathered around accordingly and started encouraging Teddy with teacheresque words: “Great, Teddy!” “Good job!” “Teddy can do it!” “Teddy knows!” I composed myself, but tears had already pooled in my eyes.

This morning I felt how much I was going to miss teaching these kids. 

Teaching children to read and write is one of my favorite things, a favorite thing I’m going to lay to rest for a while starting February 17. Having only four more days of this job made this morning even more meaningful, like I’ve accomplished something my short year and a half of teaching at this school. My students can read and write now, and I’m going to miss watching and coaching and monitoring their progress.

And I will always remember Teddy. He likes to be my partner when he has no partner walking from the playground to the school in the mornings. And he rewarded me with the greatest reward any teacher can ask for; in a sense, this is the student who completed my mission as an English teacher here in Taiwan – for now anyway.

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For Teddy, and every other student I’ve watched cast off the training wheels and ride. This is also for my mom, through whom I inherited a spirit of teaching and who herself taught elementary school for 40+ years before retiring. (I plan to spend 40+ years doing something else.)

2014 in 365 words

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An unbearably rough start. An incredible 26-mile victory. Facing pain and beginning a journey of letting go. Creating new memories through celebrating the Lunar New Year the local way. An involuntary sabbath. Finding stability through maintaining physical strength. 8 weeks of counseling that changed my life. Rediscovering independence through shedding unhealthy layers of dependence. Rowing with my dragon boat team to the championship. Honesty; not just with the people close to me. The emotional phenomenon of simultaneous closeness and distance and coping with it. Emotions. Reopening up my heart. Rebuilding and re-establishing community between me and other people. Practicing thankfulness as a lifestyle and releasing my hopes and expectations. Crying all the time about everything – in a good way. Completely losing control simply to find the true meaning of happiness. Making plans, finally moving towards my future after almost 2 years of dormancy. Going home and finding healing, fostering connection, loving my family. Rediscovering myself. Saying good-bye to depression. Reaching new heights. Actually completing goals. Stepping into a radically different season: working less, studying more, moving into my own apartment, a new residency status. Launching new things. Getting completely knocked off balance in the storm of transition. Regaining balance through routine, relaxation, productivity, friendship, and rest. Sifting through thoughts in search for truth that has somehow been forgotten. Re-discovering contentment and personal fulfillment through independence, spirituality, and acceptance. Enduring the sea of transition and all the pain and victory that comes with it. Writing more. Reading books again. Reviving personal tradition and making new friends. Discovering the doorway of repentance, the only way that brings one closer to God. Accepting the constancy of change. Re-embracing progress. 

And as 2014 comes to a close and the eve of yet another year is upon all of us, I realize the only clean slate any of us get comes at birth. After that, a clean slate is a choice. So in 2015, I am saying no to self-pity, no to bitterness, and no to every distraction that has ever kept me from what I REALLY want. Because this is truly the only way I can start again.

To 2015! Happy New Year, everyone.

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A Tribute of Thanks

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Thank you, God, for all the big things and the little things, for all the successes and the failures, for the beautiful and the ugly, the frustrating and the fulfilling. Thank you for life and death and for dealing it out justly. Thank you for all the moments of color and the moments of dullness. Thank you for what each days reveals to us about ourselves, each other and you.

Thank you that even when we don’t see you, you’re there. Thank you for dreams and how they pull us forward, regardless of whether not they come true. Thank you for knowing us, for knowing the desires of our heart and not withholding them from us. Thank you for the pleasant and unpleasant surprises. Thank you for pain and comfort, for weakness and strength.

Thank you for granting us a multi-layered existence, for language and emotions and psychology and spirituality and sexuality and intellect and culture. Thank you for our physical forms that allow us to experience our world aesthetically and through our senses, forming a relationship with everything around us.

Thank you for the people who accompany us in life, thank you for the people who, most days, we take for granted. Thank you for the friendly faces and the mean faces, the quiet and the loud voices, the affectionate and the spartan. Thank you for putting in all of us a need for the other person.

Thank you for my conscience, for instilling in me a sense of when things are right and when things are wrong. Thank you for allowing peace when all is well but also allowing restlessness and sometimes anger when all is not. Thank you for the sense of justice you’ve impressed in our souls. Thank you for the ability to feel both the familiar and the unfamiliar and for what our reactions to these things teach us.

Thank you for the elated joy I felt when I learned how to ride a bike. Thank you for the anger I felt when I witnessed fellow students fighting. Thank you for the utter sadness I felt when my pet dog died. Thank you that there are always more opportunities to constantly learn and feel and then relearn all of it through another lens.

Thank you for weaving all of these together and giving us life, a living and breathing stream of existence in this universe, one day at a time.

A miracle, part three

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Not long after graduating from college, I left the country. One of my spiritual experiences during college had been a missions trip to Taiwan. I did this right after my freshmen year of college ended before going home for the summer, the only summer I did go home during college. Those ten days or so in that country opened my eyes to an incredible opportunity of attending language school, teaching English, and being part of a ministry solely based on relationships with people.

The thought of moving to Taiwan after college never left me, despite the fact I explored other options and jobs for my post-graduation life. Then the team leader of that missions trip and her husband (he had also gone on the same missions trip to Taiwan I did) moved out to Taiwan after they finished college to start up a ministry that would let college grads come out for a year, teach English, study Chinese, and be involved in ministry in the specific area of Ximending. They left a year before I graduated. These two people were also very good friends of mine and knew how I felt about Taiwan and definitely contributed to the relational pull I began to feel in that direction. Every chapel service that mentioned what they were doing during their first year out there made me feel things I couldn’t explain and I would just start crying. I wanted to be there. I needed to be there.

Why did I move to Taiwan? This is the answer I still tell people today: I came here on a missions trip during college. While I was here, God put a love for Taiwan in my heart that has never left. That is why I came to Taiwan. 

Almost instantly upon arriving in Taiwan, I knew I was home. It didn’t take long. I was washing dishes behind the bar during a Friday Night Coffee House, the event that characterized the ministry before much else had been developed. While I washed cups and spoons, I soaked in all the faces and the voices that filled the 2nd floor of that building. And one word filled my heart and mind: home.

Since coming home, I’ve been living a life that many might consider lucky and exciting. I started out as a foreigner, living legally through a work visa and an English teaching job in another country and studying Mandarin Chinese, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. I’ve also been surrounded by a strong community of friends from the very beginning, never being deprived of native English speakers or a “little America” outlet. Life certainly has been an adventure, and I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.

It is in this context of home that I began to release falsity and accept truth, give up pride and depend on people, face embarrassment and then immediately find comfort in friends, say what I mean and mean what I say, give up my anger and learn to forgive.

I didn’t need a suitcase to pack everything away in anymore. I just needed an open mind and an open heart. I needed love from the people who knew and cared about me, and I needed to trust these people. I needed free conversation where I knew I wasn’t judged. And I found all of this and more when I came to Taiwan.

So I knew I was safe. I didn’t need to defend myself or argue to establish my capacity for independent thought. I could just be. And this was very significant for what happened next. 

When you’re on a ministry team, you pray together. You sing worship songs together. You go to church together. You plan things together. You, such as our case, plant churches together and run things…together. You get the idea. Any funny spiritual ideas come out into the open super quick, because the spiritual process is so key to who we are as people, and we were now processing spiritual ideas TOGETHER.

It became immediately obvious who was more into miracles and who wasn’t. I was handed a book by Bill Johnson called When Heaven Invades Earth during my first year in this country as required reading we were doing…together. I didn’t really know what to think of all of it. So I just read the book. And prayed. And watched CRAZY things happen around me.

Then one day I had a fever and was experiencing terrible stomach problems and didn’t feel good at all. I went to the doctor and got the word acute gastritis.Then I got medicine.

The next morning before I left for work, a couple friends shared that they felt really led to pray for me. I allowed them to lay their hands on my stomach and pray.

Another friend showed me where I could get congee for lunch. About an hour later at work, I went to the bathroom. It was like everything had passed through me because it was all gone.

That night, I had a beer and the next day ate sushi for dinner, two things I would not have dared consume if I was still having stomach problems. I was pretty much in shock for two days.

That was the first “crazy” thing to happen to me. At the time, I felt like there could have been multiple explanations for it: it was just a matter of time after I started taking the medicine and the timing simply lined up. That congee really did its job. I decided, however, after talking to loved ones and through encouragement from friends, to just accept it. So that’s what I did.

(Around this same time I was only half accepting the even crazier things that would happen to people around me. Fevers dropping, legs and backs being healed. It was all crazy.)

Life continued. My spiritual paradigm was constantly being shifted, especially living and doing ministry in the East, where spirituality is literally taken for granted. Praying, in any form, is common practice, and temples or some sort of shrine are set up on every street corner. The spiritual landscape is completely different here, and as I discovered and experienced this more and more, I became more open, allowed for more exceptions, and considered theology more of an educational tool than something to be used in evangelism.

As life continued, so did the ministry I am a part of here, and things were rapidly changing AND growing. We had gone from a weekly Friday night gathering that to running a coffee shop that served as the location for a weekly church service every Sunday night, among other multiple ministry functions. People were getting baptized. New costumers were becoming new friends and community members. Testimonies were being shared.

Lives were being changed; and when lives are changing, spiritual priorities naturally fall into place, right? Despite all the questions that still remain, just keep loving the people. Changed lives are the real miracles that happen everyday, all around us. These are the miracles we should all be seeking.

And I still believe this to be true, which at last brings me to the final part of my story, the miracle.

A miracle, part two

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I headed off to college in the fall of 2005. I was packed and ready to go, in every sense of the word. Even though I had been ready for college since kindergarten, it was still an emotional parting with my family when it was finally time for them to leave me in the state of Minnesota and return to the home state of Washington.

I spent four years of my life at Crown College, a small private Christian school located in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, a small rural town 45 minutes west of Minneapolis. This is what I told people for four years. During my time there, everything I believed or even thought might be true was thrown into the academic blender of spiritual, physical and intellectual development; and by the time the stuff was poured out into a glass it had all changed color, smell, and consistency. 

And this is where part two of my miracle story begins.

Going to a Christian college exposed me to all forms of Christianity. It quite literally changed my world and blew my mind. I already knew there were “crazy” Christians and was aware of the ultra conservative groups, but there were so many more hybrids and and doctrinal leanings that I didn’t really knew what any of this meant for my own faith.  And I had been exposed to quite a lot of growing up and considered myself somewhere in the middle, or so I thought. I considered myself rather tolerant though cynical, but everything was still throwing me off.

Thus my suitcase of Christian spirituality became quite meaningless. I, in actuality, had failed to pack EVERYTHING. In fact, that was a quite impossible feat. There seemed to be only one option after I realized this. I emptied the entire suitcase out onto the floor. The days of being a packrat Christian were over. I didn’t even know if I was a Christian anymore!

The examination of what was in my suitcase characterized my 4-year collegiate journey. The contents of the suitcase became cases against Christianity. Contents of the suitcase became shining beacons of truth. But all of it was questioned. I spent a lot of my academic energy debating and arguing everything. My favorite emotion was anger. I was casted as the queen on controversy on campus, and every leadership role I took on just gave me more fodder for my case against the institution.

And of course, I found new experiences, too. Some practices I just went ahead and threw out the window, like praying before every meal and reading my Bible everyday and raising my hands in worship and – for better or for worse – crying. But I did allow myself to attend prayer meetings. They were like experiments for me. I still prayed as well, because somehow the one thing I never doubted was the existence of God; but I questioned all explanations of it.

At some of these prayer meetings (specifically the ones that gathered in the prayer room – this happened every Friday night), I experienced things, spiritual experiences that had been secretly tucked away in my suitcase during high school. I let myself be slain with “holy laughter” one time. (Slain is one of those vocabulary words that I threw out most of the time.) To this day, I’m still not sure if I had any choice in the matter. I remember praying fervent prayers, because I did believe something was there. I hadn’t thrown it all out the window. But as soon as reports of miracles started happening, I pulled back again. It was like I had a whole new suitcase of contents to examine and question. 

I learned a lot in college. I poured myself into my studies, established myself as social butterfly, got super involved, and became editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, a post from which I scrutinized and commented on EVERYTHING. It was the perfect outlet, because if there was one thing I knew to be true, it was that all of us needed to think for ourselves. 

Life was suddenly and significantly slowed down for me at the end, however. During my last two years of college, I experienced great emotional and physical pain that threw a new flavor onto all of my skepticism. I was now cynical about people. After being significantly hurt by some close friends and tearing my ACL in the same 6 month swoop, the world looked different to this fiery feminist of a college student. Prayer rooms were the last place I wanted to be after tearing my ACL (though I still experimented) and I found myself leaning heavily on my community of friends as my knee was nursed back to health through physical therapy and exercise.

As the day of college graduation drew closer, I found myself itching to flee the life of studies and dormitories and Christian society. I had gained something. It’s called perspective. Perspective has this way of changing your life, and the perspective I had gained taught me that life is largely characterized by people: emotional, weak, and vulnerable homo-sapiens and I was one of them. And all of these people believed something different for a myriad of reasons from culture to social conditioning, and I was more OK with that than ever. And I was going to survive life without these people, these people who had became my family, my friends, and showed me love. 

It was time for me to go. It was time for me to enter part three of my story.

The Fluidity of Plans & the Chemistry of Community

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It’s really strange to think about the fact that I was supposed to be in Shanghai right now. Some of you may have already known this, but my school was going to send me to Shanghai to teach English at a brand new learning center over there for the months of April, May, and June. This three-month adventure would have started today.

As it is, I’m not in Shanghai today. I have not begun what I thought would be a five-month sabbatical from the ministry here in Taipei. I am still in Taiwan, and have another 3 months of the regular (and at this point in my life – grueling) teaching schedule, and another 3 months of full-on life and ministry before heading to the States for the summer in July.

When I was first notified of the change in plans (after a couple of months of myself and those closest to me thinking that I was taking off at the end of March for 5 months – a long time after rooting yourself somewhere for 3 years), there was no disappointment. It might have been more of a surprise than anything. And there’s also the factor of the whole project being postponed until September. So theoretically, as the plan currently stands, I might still be going to Shanghai for 3 months in September.

But September’s a long way from now. And plans are bound to change. And so is the course of our lives. And I know I’m supposed to be in Taiwan right now, doing what I’m doing, right here and right now.

With all of this mind, the losses and good-byes in life define the forward motion of the human journey. And in a sense, not being in Shanghai right now is definitely a loss. And right alongside that is the gain of three months with the people here, with the ministry, and even with my English students.

And to be honest, three months, 5 months, even two months, away from my life here, no matter where the other place is, is going to be a loss in itself. But every loss is accompanied with gain. And it is in this dichotomy we live. 

Alas, I have reached my final thoughts:

This last Tuesday, I shared my story of living in a foreign country with a group of university students who are majoring in hotel management and international trade. (Tuesday morning Language Corner at Jingwen Technological University has been a part of our ministry for the last 4 years.) I found myself rather overwhelmed in my preparation for it. I was digging through pictures I hadn’t looked at for the last couple years, pictures of my life that I forgot were even on file, pictures of people and moments that have been so monumental in shaping my life since I’ve arrived here.

One part of my presentation was about finding love in a foreign country. I knew what all those college students were expecting and threw them all for a loop when my four points were loving yourself, loving others, being rooted in community, and accepting grace. 

And that is exactly what I’ve learned to do here in Taiwan. That’s what I’ve been striving to do since setting out on this thing called life after college graduation. And that, my friends, is the chemistry of community. It’s the balance (and sometimes imbalance) of loving ourselves, loving each other, being rooted in the relationships we share, and accepting grace. 

Today, may you love yourself more, love the people around you harder, become even more rooted in your community, and accept grace without question. And may the losses and good-byes of life continue to move us all forward.

Happy Chinese New Year!

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2012 is the year something is going to permanently change in my life.

So, I’m going to look back and then move forward into the year of the dragon. January 23, 2012 was the first day of the Year of the Dragon, which means I am finally on vacation, people everywhere in this part of the world are celebrating Chinese New Year with family, and I finally have time to write. Here are, for the most part, the top ten moments of my life in 2011. And by Top Ten, I simply mean moments that impressed themselves into my memory a little more than the rest because of all the learning, the pain, the change, or the joy it might have induced. I’m not going in any chronological order here. I’m going by strength of impression. (These are all rather loaded events in my life, so if you’re interested, you can click on the line to read more.)

(1) Spending my grandma’s last moments here on earth with her.

(2) Seeing my mom for the first time in two years and throwing her a surprise birthday party here in Taiwan.

(3) Starting year number three of teaching English and feeling completely comfortable with the system, the students, my co-workers and myself.

(4) My birthday rooftop barbecue that 30 of the coolest people in Taipei showed up to, reminding me of how rich and diverse my social life has become over the last two years. 

(5) Having a man of faith prophecy over me on Easter Sunday that I am anointed as a mother of Taiwan. 

(6) Getting out of Taipei and actually travelling around the beautiful country of Taiwan, by myself and with friends.

(7) Having the feeling of settling sink into my soul a year and half after moving here when the Year of the Rabbit began last Chinese New Year. 

(8) Travelling to Korea with a Taiwanese friend to visit another Taiwanese friend studying in Seoul and speaking Chinese as an American tourist in Korea for most of the trip. 

(9) Finding my family in the people I serve with on a ministry team here with in Taipei and finding authentic community with the people I’ve been building relationships with since I moved here in July of 2009. 

(10) Designing the new logo for the Aroma Church and Coffee Shop. 

There you have it. My collection of 2011’s significant moments. Creating meaning is what moves us all forward. It’s all we can do or else, just like King Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes, everything is meaningless.

Also, I thought I was ready retire this blog, but I decided I’m not. So here’s a link to my latest gLoBaL pOnDeRiNg post. It’s called “on love, death and the other various colors of life.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR.