easy money

This is a true story.

Have you ever been scammed? I mean, like completely fell for something that wasn’t real and then found yourself robbed at the end of the day.

I almost did. It was months ago. I was trying to sell my hair. I found out that my hair was really valuable, that it could actually earn a pretty penny for my family. So I did some research, found some free online sites, and put up an ad for my hair.

The responses I got were encouraging. People wanted to buy my hair! I’ll have to admit that the communication style I was getting felt a little strange, but I plowed through. We needed the money! One guy made me an offer but wanted the hair that was STILL on my head in addition to what I was already selling. I had to turn him down.

Then there was the transaction that got as far as me holding a check for almost $2,000 in my hands. My family thought I was crazy. Why had I even given out a mailing address to someone who was only communicating to me via text? Why did this guy even have my number in the first place?

We needed the money.

I’ll admit I was torn. The whole thing felt weird, a little too good to be true even. All I had to do was cash the check, right? And that money would be mine.

Maybe it was my lack of adulting experience stateside. I had barely been back in the States for 2 years. I didn’t know how things worked. Maybe it was because I wanted to believe the best about people.

But I know what it really was: we needed the money.

I felt desperate. Desperate enough to be fooled by a check who’s credentials didn’t even match the identify of the guy who had contacted me, that was written by a company that didn’t even have a physical address, that came in a package that didn’t even bear the same address as the check.

I was desperate, not stupid. So of course after the whole scenario was broken down and dissected by my family, I handed the check over to the bank as fraudulent. Even as I explained the situation to the bankers, I could see in their faces that I had been scammed.

Flash forward to a week ago. I get a phone call from a man who tells me I’ve been selected to be the recipient of a $10,200 personal grant from the government, an amount of money I’ll never have to pay back or pay taxes on. Would I like the money, which was being held in the federal reserve for me, to be transferred to a bank account, card, or have in my hand as cash at the nearest Western Union store?

After some very brief post-phone call research, I discovered I wasn’t special even to receive such a phone call from the government. These phone calls were only made…by scammers.

I’ll admit, though, that I almost gave him my bank information. I thought about marching over to the nearest Western Union and following all the instructions he gave me over the phone. I mean, I went through with the phone call, inquired as to the authenticity of it, and just went with it. I didn’t hang up on the guy.

$10,200 (as arbitrary as the “200” part is) would change my family’s life.

Again, we needed the money.

I was desperate enough to stay on the phone, write down the instructions, and get butterflies in my stomach at the prospect of simply being given such a large amount of money. But I wasn’t stupid enough to follow through with my desperate yet momentary belief.

Scammers every where have a profound and emotional stronghold on those of us who need money. Who hang on paycheck to paycheck. Who try to hide the fact that we’re checking our bank accounts on our phones while waiting in line at the grocery store.

Scammers play on our desperation.

I’m done being desperate. I’m done being in constant need of more and decreasing the food budget so we can pay the month’s bills.

I’m not saying that money solves all of life’s problems and brings happiness. I am saying that there is a problem when a stay-at-home-mom like me, who has plenty of work experience, has even lived abroad, can speak two languages, and is a very gifted and passionate teacher, feels like her family is barely making ends meet WHEN WE LIVE IN ONE OF THE WEALTHIEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD. And my husband, who works the full time job, still drives for LYFT late at night not for EXTRA income, but to supplement our income. Because we’re not making enough.

No wonder scammers hit my soft spot! We need the money!

Unfortunately, that check I held in my hand months ago was fake. Had I cashed it, I would have been robbed, not to mention being suspected by the bank for just possessing the check in the first place. Unfortunately, the $10,200 that man on the phone offered me doesn’t exist.

THE MONEY WAS FAKE.

Why? Why should fake money even be a temptation when there is so much REAL MONEY to be had out there in the world? Why is fake money so easy to jump at, but making real money sounds scary – and possibly even difficult?

I consider cashing a fraudulent check, but I chicken out at the prospect of talking to people about making REAL MONEY.

Easy money is not real money. It does not make you a better person, or teach you how to budget, or challenge you to be financially independent, or empower you to help others. Easy money is fake and is usually always too good to be true anyway.

REAL MONEY, for some reason, always sounds too good to be true. And we always doubt it, like there’s some catch that will just cost us more in the end. What we seem to forget is that REAL MONEY TAKES WORK.

Real money is the stuff you earn through innovation, creativity, late-night work sessions, sweat, tears, and time. And when you make it, it changes everything and drives you to make more. And you are worth every cent you earned.

You can show up at a job and get paid. That’s real money, too. But being paid by the hour or the month is not the same thing as being paid according to how hard you work.

As a teacher with big dreams for my future, this was a challenging reality. No matter how good of a teacher I am, how many students love me, how many students succeed and improve and excel under me, I will always be paid the same.

And the thing is, I never taught for the money. I want to help people, but somehow I need to help myself financially as well.

So when a scammer calls with easy money, I answer. That’s a scary place to be.

A company that offers a $1000, $5000, $7500, $10000, $15000, $25000, $50000 bonus for the first time in its history – is that a scam? Or is that real money waiting to be made?

It’s real. I know it’s real because I’ve talked to the women who went after this money, worked hard day in and day out for it, and retired their husbands with it.

THAT SOUNDS INSANE. But it’s real, not easy. And it’s a possibility for ANYONE AND EVERYONE who will go after it. And put in the work.

I don’t know if I’ll retire my husband one day, but I do plan on working hard enough so that my husband doesn’t need to call me about buying a coffee. So that I don’t feel guilty for wanting to sit at a coffee shop and journal for an afternoon. So that a little thing like my google storage payment of $2.99 doesn’t get declined. So that there’s more than $50 sitting in our bank accounts at all times.

Again, I’m not saying that money is everything. I’m saying that too many of us are desperate and need money to the point of being scammed. It’s not right. We live in America, the land of opportunity.

I have found this opportunity through It Works, a company that is offering real money to anyone willing to work for it. People who are completely broke grab on to this opportunity, and they’re no longer broke. Someone went after this opportunity in a homeless shelter and completely changed their life.

People literally become millionaires with this company – and it’s not because they’ve managed to climb to the top of some pyramid where all the cash is. It’s because they’re getting paid according to their work ethic.

It’s because they’re putting in the work. They are helping people. They’re coaching and supporting others to get on board and earn real money for themselves.

You can’t fly solo and be successful with It Works. You have to build yourself up so that you can build others up, because this kind of success starts on the inside. It starts with how you feel about yourself.

Those who dream big and believe their dreams are possible get there. A single mom of 5 buys her dream after 4 years of hard work. And she’s not finished.

Now I’ll be completely honest. I’ve been with this company for almost a year, and I have nothing to show for it because I didn’t do the work. I’ve been stuck in that desperate mode, where fraudulent checks and fake grants are tempting.

I’ve finally come around to see what this can be be for my family. This isn’t a fraudulent check or a nonexistent personal grant from the government. This is real money.

And I’ve been watching real lives of real people that I have real conversations with being changed.

It’s my turn. This is my month. And I want anyone who feels like they can’t afford this venture to join me. Work with me. Because this isn’t a scam; it’s real, and it will change your life.

Money doesn’t wait around for you to make it in this business. You either make it or you don’t.

I’m gonna make it.

 

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Running Solo: a gift & a lifestyle

No time to read? Then listen! Click here to listen to the audio version of this post. 

I’ve been thinking that the time we have to be single is really the time we have to get good at being alone. But how good at being alone do we really want to be? Isn’t there a danger that you’ll get so good at being single, so set in your ways, that you’ll miss out on the chance to be with somebody great?

The thing about being single is, you should cherish it. Because in a week, or a lifetime, of being alone, you may only get one moment. One moment, when you’re not tied up in a relationship with anyone. A parent, a pet, a sibling, a friend. One moment, when you stand on your own. Really, truly single. And then… it’s gone. ”

-How to Be Single (2016)

When the movie How to Be Single came out, I took myself out on a date. It was Valentine’s Day.

“One for How to Be Single, please,” I said at the movie ticket counter.

By the time the narrator was speaking the words I quoted above, I was in tears. As a “chronically single” female at that point in my life, I was feeling every word. It was so true!

I also felt the words of Paul:

 “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do…

“Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgement as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

-I Corinthians 7:8, 25-28

Without getting too theologically deep but also to avoid taking Scripture out of context, Paul was basically addressing certain lifestyles that were being practiced among some of the Corinthian church members and SEX. Sex was everywhere, just as it is now. Sex has always been there, from the very beginning of time!

Movies like How to Be Single and shows like Sex and the City (I’ve seen every episode of every season, btw) just prove that sex is everywhere and, in many cases, sex is everything. This doesn’t make it easy to be single, and it makes it even more difficult to be celibate.

Because unlike some of the characters of the movie, I was chronically single and celibate. No past boyfriend or relationship. Had I experienced pain and heartbreak? Oh, yes – one does not need to be in a romantic relationship for that. (Can I hear an “Amen!” from anyone else who was experienced unrequited love or affection?)

A celibate life from the ties of a romantic relationship: that’s what Paul is saying would be better for everyone living for God, but he knows that it’s also not possible for everyone. And it’s definitely not a requirement for following God, either!

So many people get married. And many others don’t. And there’s a myriad of reasons for both cases.

But the both the movie and even the words of Paul imply that being single is a gift. “I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (I Corinthians 7:7).

I was single until Sunday, April 17, 2016 (the same year that movie came out!) when I went on my FIRST DATE EVER with my husband, then a single dad. It changed everything, my future, my life plans, even my goals. It’s true what Paul says about the troubles you will face if you marry; anyone who is married can testify to this!

Before that moment, I believe I did get good at being alone. Being good at being alone doesn’t mean the loneliness and longing goes away, either. You just get good at it. At filling your Friday nights with friends and community and your free time with new adventures and meaningful experiences. You get good at dealing with nasty pests, like mice and cockroaches, and watching a movie all by yourself because you want to – not because there’s nobody else to watch it with you.

I took full advantage of not being tied down. I left the country after graduating from college. I traveled and explored cities and did things other people would tell me later were dangerous to do alone. But I did them anyway, because I could, because I was free. I was overseas for three years before I came for my first visit!

I made so many friends. Had so many adventures. Experienced so many life changes. I learned how to depend on other people and still maintain my independence. And I learned the hard way that even good friends are not everything. I still needed God, and forgetting about that always threw off my single equilibrium. 

Staying celibate was not easy. I faced several situations where I could have changed that easily, but I didn’t. Because it’s not just marriage that brings trouble. Sex brings trouble as well; and I’m not talking about forgetting to use contraception. 

The single life is a lot like training for a marathon and then maintaining the fitness level it takes to complete such a race.

One mile can feel extremely difficult at first, but every week your mileage increases; and soon 10 miles feels like a walk in the park and 5 miles becomes your morning jog. The whole time, you’re building up your stamina, speeding up your metabolism, and strengthening your body. Even when it hurts and your muscles are sore, you’re still getting stronger and faster just by sticking to it.

And then, on race day, you know you’re ready. You might be nervous, but you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that YOU CAN DO THIS.

Once you start running, the craziness really begins. Muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, emotional sabotage, hills, the last 6 miles – all of these begin to threaten all you have worked for. But you keep running, because you can; you know you can. You even start yelling at other people to keep going. You become a cheerleader for others on the same course, because no one is running this race alone.

Then, THE FINISH LINE. You feel so awesome and so strong, and the most insane thing pops into your head: you want to do it again! You have no regrets about all the hard work and the early mornings and disciplined eating because of what you’ve become: an independent, caring, and strong person. 

I have no regrets about choosing a single and celibate life. It made me the person I was when I met my running partner, and God decided that it was no longer good for me to run solo. Being single was amazing, and to be perfectly honest, I still miss it some days when I admire the lives of my single friends from afar.

For those of you found a running partner, grab their hand and never let go. Don’t look back unless it is to be grateful for where you are now. Hold on to them even when you feel like you could run faster on your own. Hold on to them ESPECIALLY when you begin to regret having a running partner in the first place. They need you now, and you them; you two will finish this race together.

For those of you who are still running solo, keep running. If you feel like doing something new, just do it. If you feel like Netflix on a Friday night all by yourself, just do it. If you feel like going to 5 different events in one night, do it! Get good at taking care of yourself, for that’s a more challenging task than people give it credit.

You don’t know when your time of running solo will be over, nor do you have any control over that. (When I met my husband, I ate the words I had said to a friend only weeks earlier: “I won’t meet anyone.”)

So.

JUST. KEEP. RUNNING

And my baby was born…

I am 12 weeks out from the most…

…painful?

…profound?

…physical?

…powerful?

experience of my life: the birth of my daughter Clarissa Rose.

Don’t get me wrong – it was beautiful. It was also unbelievable. I am still struggling to get my mind around two things:

one, that baby came out of me

and

two, this infant is a potential 30-year-old adult, like the one sitting here writing this blog for all of you to read. 

So here’s a breakdown of what you’re about to read: it’s going to be a tastefully detailed account of Clarissa’s BIRTH DAY. For some of you, you’ll be nodding in agreement, feeling my pain, and completely understanding what I am talking about. For others, it might be an informative and possibly educational anecdote of what giving birth is like. And it will inevitably be too much information for a handful of people.

BUT FIRST! Here’s some of what EVERYBODY reading this wants: baby pictures! Here’s just a PEAK at how gloriously adorable my little one turned out to be and how much she has already changed in the last 12 weeks:

Braxton Hicks is the name. No, that’s not a name of a person; that’s what you call “practice” contractions when the uterus tightens in preparation for “b-day” when it will move a living creature down the birth canal and out into the world. I was pretty well-versed as to the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and the real thing, thanks to the internet, my own research, and my midwife. So when I woke up the morning of January 4th (eight days before baby’s due date) at 4:53 with a distinct pain in my lower back, I had a feeling it wasn’t Braxton Hicks.

I still remember the moment like it was yesterday, the moment my relatively fast labor began: I opened my eyes, turned to look at the clock, took note of the time, rolled back over to sleep, and woke up exactly ten minutes later to the exact same pain. The contractions didn’t stop until Clarissa Rose was born that night at 10:11, 7 pounds and 19 inches long.

I recorded every single contraction until about 4pm. I don’t even know why I was still doing it; it was painfully obvious to all that I was in labor. But I’m getting ahead of myself and skipping all the delightful details!

After about an hour or so of contractions that were averaging 8 minutes apart, I alerted my husband. The entire morning I was recording contractions like my life depended on it. I happened to have an appointment scheduled with my midwife later that morning, so I decided to ride it out until then. It was my first birth, after all, and heaven forbid I jump to conclusions.

I normally drive Ella to school in the mornings, but we decided it would be safer and wiser if Kevin took her instead. Just the night before it had dawned on me that Ella needed to pack a bag as well (Kevin and I had nothing packed yet) so I voice this realization to her as I’m timing contractions. She promptly packed a bag and then asked if she should bring it to school. I literally didn’t have an answer for her (which is rare). She decided that she should. Smart girl!

Before going to see my midwife, I tried to take a nap, which was constantly being interrupted by contractions. So I took a hot shower, which really helped. Driving to my midwife’s office, which is only right down the road, was less than enjoyable; but I wasn’t about to make that walk  when my contractions were now an average of 6 minutes apart.

It was 10:30am when my midwife checked and announced I was 3 cm dilated. It was happening. Go home and pack your bags, she said. Try to get some nutrition and rest. Let it be known that I did try all three of those things, but all attempts on my part were futile.

As I left my midwife’s office, I called Kevin and told him I was basically in labor. There was a chance the contractions could stop, but my body was telling me they weren’t. At the time, my phone was unprotected because the case I had was beginning to break down. As I was getting in the car, I dropped it. The screen shattered. Happy birthday.

Needless to say, I put the beginning-to-break-down case back on the phone so I could still use it without the risk of getting microscopic pieces of glasses in my fingers and face. 

Back at home, I make some phone calls. Hi! I’m in labor! I’m literally bouncing on my exercise ball now. When the afternoon hit, the contractions were an average of 4 minutes apart, and the pain was getting INTENSE. I took a hot bath. Kevin came home and basically started doing everything because it was all I could do to keep breathing and bouncing.

I tried getting some nutrition and ended up puking all the carrots and hummus I was hoping to consume. I didn’t make it to the toilet, either. (In retrospect, the fact that I threw up was indicative of how far along in labor I was.) I immediately googled a remedy for nausea during contractions and started popping ginger chews.

During my contractions while Kevin was running around packing bags and grabbing food and cleaning out the car (we really weren’t prepared for Clarissa to come early), I was frantically looking up and writing down scripture references for women in labor. My plan was to be reading these at the birth center. What I didn’t realize then was that I was already in the stage of labor when I should have been reading them.

I had tested positive for GBS (Group B Strep – you can google it if you’re curious), so I needed to have antibiotics before I went into labor to protect my baby from possibly contracting an infection. Kevin and I went to the midwife’s office for it to be administered; my midwife felt it would be a good idea to get it out of the way before laboring at the birth center.

By this point, walking was a joke because every 3 steps was contraction. It was 3:30ish when my midwife checked and declared I was already at 8 cm. I did the math later and calculated that I had dilated about a centimeter an hour since 10:30 that morning. I was already in active labor. And we weren’t at the birth center yet.

After a bag of penicillin was emptied into my bloodstream, I tell everyone I need to pee. The contractions are STRONG at this point, and my water had yet to break. As I’m sitting on the toilet, a very intense contraction comes on, immediately followed by a warm plop. A plop literally fell out of me. That’s what it felt like.

“I think my water just broke!” I announce through the closed bathroom door, “And I’m about to puke!” My midwife throws open the door with the garbage can too late. At this point, all dignity was lost. My water had broke, so there was no turning back now. Not that it was ever an option. Just saying.

For exactly two minutes, there was brief and futile discussion about whether we would make it to the birth center or not. Our apartment was too small. The office was an office, not a clinic.

The walk back to the car was miserable. The car ride to Kirkland was not fun either. Kevin said traffic was horrible, but I don’t remember any of it. I just remember getting there and saying, “I want to get in the tub.”

We reached the birth center around 5:15. I started pushing pretty much as soon as we arrived. The majority of my labor was in the water. I experienced intense lower back pain every contraction, and being buoyant was the only way to rest between contractions. I drank water and almond milk during labor.

The proverbial “they” always say that it’s at the very end, possibly moments before the baby was born, when the women doesn’t feel like she can do it anymore. It’s true.

I asked for pain medication and cried, “I can’t do this!” multiple times. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and just cry but I physically couldn’t even do that! Every fiber in my body was screaming, and I was spent.

When Clarissa started crowning, Kevin referenced the two marathons I had run. This impressed my birth team, and they all started drawing motivation from that, but I recall saying something to the effect, “This is like running a marathon after you’ve already run 4 of them!” I even refused to reach down and touch the top of my baby’s head when my midwife offered. I just wanted her out of me!

I remember being there, in the tub, gripping my husband’s arm. For almost five hours I had been so intensely focused on enduring the intensity of each contraction, on funneling all my energy to push. My baby was strong. She had been showing no signs of fetal distress. She was coming out in a posterior position, however, which was why she and I were having to work so much harder to make this birth happen.

Kevin started to tell me he could see her. He could see our baby. She was almost here. He could almost see her eyebrows! Everyone was chiming in with their encouragement. It was like the noise of spectators you start to hear as you near the finish line of a race.

I pushed. Good! Good, Victoria! Almost there!

I pushed again. Yes, yes, that’s it, you’re so close!

I pushed, and screamed (or something) as I felt this indescribable pain, immediately followed by the feeling of a newborn baby on my stomach. Still attached to me.

Kevin helped clamp and cut the cord. He took our newborn baby, and I was helped out of the tub and seated onto a birthing stool. My placenta pretty much fell out of me. (There are now only a couple of capsules of my dehydrated placenta powder, as well as a keepsake cord, left of my placenta, which was discoid in shape, deep purple in color, and just over 1 lb in weight. That’s right, I ate my placenta; but that’s a whole other blog post for later!)

Clarissa was having trouble breathing. Respiratory distress. They were able to give her oxygen and resuscitate her. I prayed the entire time for out loud as I sat there in the bed. I was somehow not worried and at perfect peace. My baby girl was here now.

We were there at the birth center for 4 hours after the birth, going through all the routine things. I was operating on adrenaline at that point. I couldn’t stop talking. I had something to say about everything, not to mention I WAS SORE ALL OVER. Nobody told me that my WHOLE BODY would hurt, not just the parts you expect to hurt. Or that it feels like YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO MOVE AGAIN FOR MONTHS.

I tore pretty bad. While I was getting sown up, I was literally demanding as much pain medication as possible and would vocalize any pain I felt during the stitching. Peeing was my ticket home, so I felt pretty accomplished when I finally went.

I had no idea my butt could be so sore. It was likely due to Clarissa’s posterior position. Let’s just say I sat on ice for a while.

When we were finally strapping our little newborn baby into the car seat, it was almost 2 in the morning. We drove back home to a whole new life. A life full of more life, more care and responsibility, more love. I sat in the backseat next to my baby, watching her, talking to her, letting her squeeze my finger with her tiny hand.

(Call me crazy, but when Clarissa started outgrowing her clothes, it made me want another baby – just for a few seconds.)

I still can’t believe she came out of me. 

 

faith like a child

I’ve been on vacation. Ok, that’s not entirely true, considering I’ve been back for a week now; but let’s be honest: family vacation recovery is real. And I’m not talking decompressing from all the insanity that may or may not have relapsed. I’m simply talking about the process of unpacking and resting – which, mind you, still isn’t finished yet! (Which reminds me, I need to go air out the tent fly before I forget; I’ll be right back.)

Anyway, I have understandably been taking a break from this blog due to vacation; and today I am picking up on Day 3 of the Yell Less, Love More challenge. 

FAITH LIKE A CHILD. That is what all my reading inspired this morning, this beautiful and biblical concept that Jesus himself taught and proclaimed during His ministry on earth. It’s incredible how clearly I notice separate pieces of my life come together in a thematic shape whenever I seek to be spiritually in tune with my Creator, and child-like faith has been the thread pulling it all together recently.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

………

“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”

………

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such of these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Mark 9:35-37; 9:42; 10:13-16 (NIV)

Mark’s Gospel account of Jesus’ life makes it clear that our Savior did not view children as lesser, immature humans that needed to be constantly scolded and corralled to behave. Jesus loved children, and He even showed us what we can learn from them. Wow, there’s a biblical parenting tip: learn from your kids. 

Sheila McCraith explains how she created the “Orange Rhino Game” to incorporate her sons’ help in her journey to stop yelling. She realized her children could read her emotional cues and facial signals that led up to yelling better than she could brace herself for it. And it not only instilled a sense of empowerment and confidence in her kids but was also an example of asking for help that spoke louder than words. I’m realizing more and more lately that a relationship of accountability between parent and child is not only biblical but also beneficial to the whole family. 

What does this system of accountability look like? It’s simple, really. Both parent and child are accountable to God for our actions; and when I realize I have sinned against God in something I have done to my daughter, it’s my Christian responsibility to apologize for my behavior and ask my daughter to forgive me.

Ok, I fully realize that last paragraph is LOADED. When I was first introduced to this concept, I was moved by it. What a good idea! Then I listened to a sermon one Sunday morning that drove this concept home, and I found myself writhing in spiritual pain and conviction. And then when the moment came for me to apply this concept to my life, I didn’t want to. All my “parent pride” was getting in the way. (And I’m not talking about being proud of being my kid’s parent kind of pride.)

I overthink things. It’s one of the burdens of being an experienced adult. If I had lived while Jesus was on earth, I would have generated my own list of questions for Him and a bullet-pointed summary of why I should travel to wherever He might be to listen to the man. Children don’t overthink. That is what makes them such glorious and delicate people. This is why they can receive the kingdom of God while the twelve disciples, who bore firsthand witness to Jesus’ power, were still dumbfounded by His teachings and miracles. In fact, I find it rather ironic that the disciples felt like they should turn the children away after Jesus had told them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.”

Time to tie all of this together with a personal anecdote.

I stood up in front of about 20-30 people this past Saturday and shared how none of my knowledge and experience from all the years of teaching and children’s ministry has helped me over the past year of becoming a parent to a child I did not give birth to. Parenting books offer guidelines for ideal situations. My patience runs dry. I am at a loss at the end of the day. But God is not! He’s still going strong when I am ready to thrown in the towel avoid my daughter for the rest of the night. He can step into any situation and make it right – as long as I let Him.

So I’m learning to let Him. To bring my daughter to Jesus in all of our interactions and let Him comfort her, show her the way, convict her of own sin. And I need to do the same in my own life – turn to Him, be comforted by Him, and seek His love and forgiveness.

I apologized to my daughter last night for not treating her in a Christ-like manner. It was one of those nights when attitude was getting out of hand and I lost it. Then just a few moments later, I almost cried when she asked God to forgive her when she prayed for dinner.

The conclusion I’m drawing from all of this is two-fold: Jesus Himself pointed out that we can learn from little children. He also demonstrated that children can come directly to Him, just like us. So as a parent, I teach my kids, and I learn from my kids; but – most importantly – point my kids to Jesus. He will not cause any of these little ones to stumble.

The Promise of Easter Sunday

With death comes the promise of new life. With sadness comes the promise of restored joy. With pain and sickness comes the promise of healing. 

That is the promise of Easter morning – the promise of hope despite the present difficulties and tribulations.

The apostles and the rest of Jesus’ followers and friends waited; they waited three long, depressing, agonizing days. In fact, they had locked themselves in a room out of fear after Jesus died. All was bleak. All was dark.

We live through many dark and bleak moments here on this earth. A lost loved one. A broken heart. A failed relationship. A lost job. A financial crisis. An addiction. Psychological trauma. Physical handicap. Depression. Anxiety.

The list goes one.

In our own lives, we experience death – a metaphorical three days before the resurrection, locked in our own room of fear and sorrow, not daring to hope for the impossible, doubt and unbelief at the helm. 

I was locked in my own room of fear and depression for the better part of 3 years. All was bleak; all was dark. I lived in a world of pain, sadness, and shame.

And then… JESUS.

Jesus walked through the walls of the room and back into my world, just as he walked through the walls of the room the disciples were hiding in, bringing them peace. He had come back into the world, three days later; Jesus was alive! He is alive; HE IS RISEN!

The impossible happened. Life conquered death. JESUS IS ALIVE.

Whatever your present difficulty is right now, whatever dark and bleak moment you may be walking through, Easter is your hope that is WILL end. There IS life. There IS healing. There IS hope.

Jesus DIED; three days later, he came back – he fought the battle that none of us could ever fathom winning AND WON.

And he gave us the power to defeat death in our own lives – the same power that raised him from the dead.  

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

HAPPY EASTER!

31天之尋找智慧 (31 Days of Wisdom): Day 6 

懶惰人哪, 你去察看螞蟻的動作就可得智慧。 螞蟻沒有元帥, 沒有官長,沒有君王, 尚且在夏天預備食物, 在收割時聚斂糧食。 (‭箴言‬ ‭6‬:‭6-8‬ CUNP-神)

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭6‬:‭6-8‬ NIV)

基本上,對生活思考術來說,螞蟻是我們的榜樣;螞蟻究竟是我的榜樣!我最近什麼事都懶得做,都在沙發上想怎麼激發動機,但是看螞蟻的動機來自呢?動機來自體內,來自自己,來自本能生活的技術。哇,我真的比螞蟻懶惰。螞蟻感到自己的動機嗎?有可能有一點感覺都沒有,所以我需要跟螞蟻一樣,先做,認真地做,然後由於我是人士,因此激發我的動機,發揮動力。我不能再懶惰,這個選擇永遠沒有用。

Basically, when it comes to life, the any is out model; the ant is MY model! Recently I’ve just new sitting on my couch, too lazy to do anything, contemplating how to motivate myself, but where does the ant’s motivation come from? It’s coming from the inside, from itself, from a instinctual life skill. I am definitely lazier than the ant. Does the ant feel any of this motivation? Probably not. I need to be like the ant, working hard FIRST, and then in this way, because I’m human, stimulate self motivation and get motivated. I can no longer afford to be lazy; laziness will always be a useless choice. 

The Hardest Hike of My Life

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So I’m going to do something I haven’t done for a while and publish some raw entry journals that I wrote every night while I was a mountain woman for 4 days last weekend. It was one of the most rewarding physical endeavors of my life to date; yet even though the entire trip required 100% physical exertion the entire time, it ended up doing some needed healing in my heart. ENJOY!

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(This is all straight from my journal, including the Chinese! )

我們今天去爬山. 我從來都沒有背那麼重的東西. 一開始爬上去, 我就累死了. 今天爬了11.7公里.

Day 1 of the hardest hike of my life. First of all, I’m not used to carrying 21kg on my back WHILE going up a mountain. So that’s a first time experience that really wiped me out once we started up the mountain from the trailhead. The hike to the trailhead was 6.7k, and before even hitting the 2k mark I turned my ankle. When we did start going up, I thought I was going to die. Thanks to Ocean, I was able to work myself up to a mental level of energy and was NOT the last one the reach the camp. It felt like the slowest hike of my life – definitely the most strenuous physical endeavor to date. And I have 2 more full days of it!

Besides that, I love being up here on the mountain, wearing warm clothes, smelling fresh air. This is the highest I’ve ever been! It’s a little past 8 o’clock… 晚安

Lowering myself down a part of the trail
Lowering myself down a part of the trail
The lodge we stayed at the first night
The lodge we stayed at the first night

我今天高深症了, 把我頭得想要死了. 但是我還喜歡今天爬的南湖北峰, 那邊很好玩又漂亮.

Day 2 of the hardest hike of my life. The mountain owned me today; it’s called altitude sickness. Once we exceeded the tree line (!!!) the trail was completely exposed to the big bright sun. I was on this trail when my head started KILLING me. Up to this point, the trail was hard but fun. Now, I felt like dying.

All the other hikers on the trail who also stay at all the same lodges have been super nice and friendly. One man took notice of my “incompetent” packing and helped me secure my bag so there weren’t things falling off the back of it. He and his friends also to0k notice when I “fell” ill today and was lying under a bush, hiding from the sun. My sunglasses saved my life. After resting for a while and receiving the kindness of neighbors, Ocean and I hiked the last 2km to the lodge. It was an incredible climb along the north peak. I loved it and was able to ignore the pain in my head that was not going away.

The same man showed concern for me back at the lodge, and his wife gave me medicine she takes for altitude sickness. Then after dinner I slept some before looking at the moon and the stars with everyone outside. I started crying. We’re so close to the sky here. Time for bed again. 晚安!

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中秋節快樂! 今天我們開始下山了.

Day 3 of the hardest hike of my life. Today we started down the mountain. FIRST, Ruby, Ocean & I hiked up the main peak of Nanhu Mountain. We didn’t get up for the sunrise because I needed to rest from my run in with altitude sickness and Ruby’s period was going to start. The morning on the peak was amazing; I took photo AND video. I was very grateful for all the pain in my head to be gone this morning; I have God and that kind man to thank. I was able to enjoy the altitude today! And enjoy it I did.

However, the beginning of our descent was a different story. Again, I was pushed to my limits. We had to climb up a rock basin and scale the 3-peak north ridge. The rock basin took everything out of me but I was determined. As soon as the going got easy again, I feel like I started running down the mountain. I rather enjoyed myself, going it alone, counting down the kilometers, climbing down ropes and rocks. And then it started to rain. And it RAINED. I used both ponchos I had to cover myself and my bag. It SUCKED. And it mostly sucked because of the part of the trail we were on. It was the last 2km, and it was annoyingly steep path of rocks and roots. The rain pushed me to my limits. I wanted to cry. I wanted to quit. I wanted to be at the lodge already! But I kept going. I was screaming inside, getting soaked, and running like a mad woman to the end of that damn trail. Everybody back at the lodge was recovering from the downpour. Of course, it stopped as soon as I reached the lodge.

It was awful, but a learning experience all at the same time. Ocean, who was behind me on the trail, praised my will power. That made me feel good. I feel like I’ve learned so much from this hiking trip. Medicine for altitude sickness, better preparedness for rain, packing my bag; a man even showed me how to tie my shoes in a way that would lessen the pain in my toes when going down a mountain. It’s been a challenge in every sense of the word. Tomorrow, we continue our descent down the mountain and then get off the mountain and go home! And shower.

Straight down
Straight down
Ropes to help hikers climb down the rocks
Ropes to help hikers climb down the rocks
Scaling the ridge's peaks
Scaling the ridge’s peaks
The view from the north ridge
The view from the north ridge

The Final Day of the Hardest Hike of my Life. I’m home now, sitting on my bed, showered, fed and about to start feeling very sore. I had a rush of stamina and energy on our final hike today. It started at 7:30 and ended around 1:00. But it was the end in sight that got me going. It does it to me every time. When I see the goal, I can be unstoppable. I felt unstoppable on that final descent today. After cheking my phone and responding to messages, I (we) literally bathed in the river. It was the best way to end 4 days of hiking.

And I did it! And I will most certainly do it again. I learned so much from this trip. Every outdoor skill of mine was stretched and added to. I was a freaking mountain woman for 4 days. And now I need to do my Chinese homework.

Down in the valley is lodge we stayed at the second night.
Down in the valley is lodge we stayed at the second night.

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Perfection

I wrote this reflection in a letter that I emailed out to  friends a few years ago. I decided to republish here, for everyone to read. 

“To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.” -Psalm 119:96

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Dear Friends,
I started reading Psalm 119 and was completely stopped by this verse. I couldn’t get past it. So I needed to stop and reflect and then felt compelled to share with all of you, who have been a part of my life in its varying seasons.
This verse forced me to rethink the essence of perfection. What is it? Is it just a philosophical ideal? Is it even obtainable? My mind wanders to another verse in the Bible, words written by the Apostle Paul that have always been a source of inspiration for me, found in Philippians 3:12: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
 
This verse also had me mentally tied up with the two antonyms used in this version: limit & boundless. Perfection is limited? Then I think of the concept “Utopian Society,” a subject that idealist authors have been writing about for years, spinning novels of a “perfect” world where mankind has finally achieved his highest ideal; and yet even in all this literature, the plot of every story is driven by the limitedness of man and the conflict encountered within. There IS a limit to perfection.
Perfection is defined by a set of human ideals, reached through human ability to think and reason about the universe around him. This perfection is guarded and perserved by human laws that rely on human strength and will to uphold, so perfection is maintained. Yet as long as there is weakness, perfection will always fail.
And then the truth: that God’s commands are BOUNDLESS, as opposed to the limitation of perfection. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus said (and still says to us) in Matthew 5:48. God’s commands are boundless, yet simple, His greatest command calling us to love Him first and to love other people (Matthew 22:37-39): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
And we can rest in this promise in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Perfection is only found in and achieved through Jesus Christ. But perfection does not follow chasing after God’s boundless commands. It is discovered and experienced through the pursuit, through pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. As a result, we actually press on BEYOND perfection and enter into the boundless peace and freedom that comes from God’s commands.  
 
I hope these words found you well.
Love,
Victoria

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