faith like a child

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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.

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The Promise of Easter Sunday

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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 

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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

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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

The Philosophy of Adventure

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The alternative title to this post was “This is the hike that never ends”, and the lyrics of the theme song would have gone as follows:

This is the hike that never ends
Yes, it goes on and on my friend
Some people started hiking it not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue hiking it forever just because…

I have experienced this hike, and lucky for me and the three people I took on it, it did eventually end. However, I would like to insert here that “forever is a feeling.” When you feel something, good or bad, is going to last forever, you do not see the end. And that is where my story begins.

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If I were to write my mother a post card about the hike I just went on, it would have this picture on one side, and these words on the other side:

Dear Mom,

I took my two new roommates (brand new to Taiwan!) and my friend Michael on a hike the other day. I told them we would hike to this wonderful place in the mountains called Wulai, where we would swim in the river and eat mountain vegetables and wild mountain boar.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

And then the letter would have to stop there, because the truth is, there isn’t enough room on the back of a post card to tell this story. In fact, it’s one of those stories that can never be completely told in full. The full version was experienced by myself and my friends; the story is told at a person’s level of verbal interpretation and is based on how many events they remember in sequence, and that’s also the entertaining level of all this. There’s nothing super entertaining about experiencing complete lack of provisions and clothing and knowledge of the trail.

So in retrospect, here’s what I would write to my mother on that postcard:

THE TOP 3 LESSONS I LEARNED FROM THIS HIKE:
3) Always bring more than enough if terms of water and food, especially if you’ve never been on the trail before.
2) When in doubt, turning around is not the worst decision, especially if you’ve been going in one direction for 3-4 hours already, don’t have any more water or food, and you’re not sure when it’s going to end!
3) Always, always, ALWAYS, research a trail before taking it. Details and information are a source of survival out in nature. 

I commence my tale.

The first deception came in a Line message:

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Sounds like a reasonably fun, well-thought out plan, right? We adjusted the time a bit, so we ended up leaving at 10:00 instead of 8:30; but after we got off the bus in Chenggong, everything about that plan shifted dramatically. However, we didn’t realize this right away. Things took a dramatic turn when, after 3 hours of hiking, we weren’t where I had expected us to be.

It was an absolutely beautiful hiking trail. Butterflies everywhere. The sound of the river. Green, green, and green. I was especially fascinating by the “leaf” that landed on the sides of trees and other plants, completely disguised as a dead, brown leaf, but when in flight showed bright shades of blue and orange. We encountered millipedes, frogs, snakes, huge grasshoppers and noisy crickets (Michael silenced one by flicking it off its leaf). We cooled our selves in the river and let ourselves exist in the scenery. Everyone was having a great time.

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There we all are! From the back: Rachel, Britta, Michael, me.

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And I was SO EXCITED about hiking to Wulai. In fact I even made this bold declaration on the trail that I have already happily and quickly denounced: “I’M NEVER TAKING THE BUS TO WULAI AGAIN!”

Now let me share with you a few honest words about this hiking trail (this whole post is honest, I promise). I had never been on this hike before. We normally always take a bus out to Wulai, but a couple weeks ago while I was taking some friends on a hike from ChenggonIMG_6083g to Sanxia (that trail was almost 30k of AWESOME) , we stopped at this resting hut. There were these locals who pointed to this other path, telling us that was the way to Wulai. We hiked on to our destination that day, but I kept in mind that I wanted to try that “hike to Wulai.”

So the other day was the day to try that unknown trail! In the words of Robert Frost:

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
 
I wanted to take that “road” to Wulai. I wanted to travel BOTH! So I went back to where those two trails divided and started up the other one. A completely unknown trail that DID NOT take us to Wulai. This is how unknown that trail was: I hadn’t bothered researching it since the day the locals pointed it out to me. I had no idea or PROOF or blog that could tell you that this trail ends in Wulai. I didn’t even know the distance or estimated time. Does it go in the general direction of Wulai? Yes, but then it does all kinds of other things that keep you from getting there. Did I know this? No. Did I go ahead and try with three other people, none of us having enough provision for the unknown journey ahead? Yes.
 
I’m an optimist when it comes to hiking trails. Because of my own insatiable curiosity of where it goes, I don’t ever want to turn around. I’m convinced it will eventually take me to where I need to go. I don’t want to miss out.  About 4 hours into our hike, while we were still having a pretty good time, the trail had not ended nor given us any signs that we were almost to Wulai. Michael even put the GPS on his phone to use; the results weren’t actually very hopeful, but we kept on going. At one point, he asked me if we should turn around or keep going. And that is where my optimism drove us forward into adventure.
 
This is what you will find in the dictionary:
 

adventure [ad-ven-cher] 

noun 1. an exciting or very unusual experience. 2. participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure. 3. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome. 4. a commercial or financial speculation of any kind; venture. 5. Obsolete. 1. peril; danger; risk. 2. chance; fortune; luck.

People always talks about how they want to go an adventures. Adventures, by definition, are NOT planned outings. They are exciting, but there is always risk involved. A scary ride at the amusement at least assures you a safe return; it’s more about that moment of exhilaration, the adrenaline pumping through your body – you know it will end in a few minutes. You don’t know when an adventure will end.
 
After our little stop where we played in the water, enjoyed the beauty all around us, and then embarked on the part of the trail I was so unfamiliar with, I had announced to everyone, “THIS is where the real adventure begins!” Our adventure didn’t end until 5:00 the next morning.

 
The trail went up and up and up. It was marked by flags in the trees. Never once were we lost, but never did we reach Wulai. When we finally reached our first sign post, we were excited about the possibility of ending up at a temple, where there would be people and water (we were all practically out of water) and a way to get to Wulai. At this point in the game, we were hungry and ready to be off the trail, as none of us had been prepared to be on an all-day hike. 
 
The situation was bleak. We had filled up our water bottles at a mountain stream we went by and the steepness of the trail was not letting up. I knew things weren’t ideal, but I wasn’t quite sure what should be done. I just felt like we needed to keep going. It’s what I love about hiking anyway. It’s a commitment, once you start, you have to keep going. There is no choice. I had given my cliff bar to my roommates. Rest breaks were becoming more frequent. 
 
Then at the top of one of the peaks we had scaled, there were more signs. This time, we had to choose: the temple (which theoretically was in Wulai, as I later affirmed with research) or Chenggong, the very place we had started hiking hours earlier. This trail wasn’t taking us to Wulai any time soon. According to the GPS on Michael’s phone, the trail was definitely near Wulai and we were “headed” in that direction, but it didn’t go there. The hike was never going to end. 
 
After a quick evaluation from the ridge, Michael said the trail to the temple was steep and went straight down the mountain. We opted for the one (which ended up being probably just as steep). At least we knew we were headed back. We just had absolutely no idea how long it was going to take. 
 
Evening began drawing near. We had absolutely no idea when or how this hike was going to end. For a few moments, however, before the sun went down, we got to see just how high we were. We could see Taipei 101, and the rest of Taipei for that matter, on the other side of the mountains next to the mountain we were on. It was a breath-taking view, and the trail was so forested that it was actually rare to get such a clear viewing point.
 
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The nature around us didn’t end, but the sun did go down and that changed our situation drastically
 
And here, I will comment on the resilience of the group of the people I was with. I couldn’t have been more grateful for the general attitude that was being generated during the whole thing. Everyone was such a trooper. It was one of those situations where the wrong person would have just made everything miserable. We’ve all been there; we’re human. Those times when you think, “It is such a good thing so-and-so isn’t here right now…” This was one of those times! I definitely challenged my credibility as a hiking leader with my roommates, this being their FIRST HIKE EVER in Taiwan, but I was also definitely grateful to have a friend there who had known me in the good and bad for more than just 2 weeks. I would have died or come out of the forest an emotional wreck if i had gotten myself in that mess all alone. 
 
It was BAD. When you go camping or hiking all day, you pack accordingly. We were completely unprepared in terms of everything: clothing, food, water. After sitting a bit near cave that we found, we prayed and then continued. At this point, I was in need of all emotional assurance and even went over to my friend Michael for some. We also kept up conversations of what we were going to do as soon as we got off the trail, which was excellent for morale upkeep. 
 
We were using our phone flashlights, keeping them on airplane mode to conserve as much battery as possible. And then the trail just got crappy. There’s no other word for it. It was completely dark, and the trail simply insisted on being relentlessly stupid. 
 
Pathways marked by flags had given way to steep, steep downward slopes of gravel and loose dirt and mossy rock through trees and along ridges, which required you to step carefully and walk sideways to keep from slipping down the mountain headfirst. There were some areas that had rope to help you down. We tried to use trees for support as much as possible, and in some places you had no choice but to get on your rear end and scoot down. AND IT WAS DARK. At one point, all four of us were holding hands, carefully walking sideways down mud and gravel as we ascended the mountain.
 
For the sake of morale and survival, we made a goal: the river. It was past 10 o’clock at night already; we didn’t have any water or food. But thankfully, Britta, one of my roommates, found an apple in her backpack! We took a rest break and partook of the apple she so generously shared with us. And after that, we didn’t stop until we suddenly found ourselves on a very familiar looking path. The insanely steep and stupid trail spilled us out on to an actual path. That we had been on before! The end was actually in sight. The signs on the tree confirmed this. 
 
It was past midnight. We found a stream of water, filled up our water bottles, and washed our faces. And then we quite literally camped out for the night, crickets singing in our ears, creatures glowing in the dark, the stars above our heads. We had a view of the valley in front of us. It was beautiful. All the cellphones had died, so we had no more light. We would go home in the morning. And that’s exactly what we did. 
 
After a spending a cold and sleepless night with the bugs, we watched daylight creep over the mountains again and walked on familiar trails back to the Red Bridge, back to Chenggong, back on the bus, and back to Xindian where we ate the biggest breakfast of our lives. At least, it felt like the biggest breakfast of our lives. At the breakfast shop, I also charged my phone (I HAD brought along my phone charger!!!) and assured all of our friends who had lost track of us the night before that we were indeed alive. Alive, tired, and sore. Fortunately, not hungry anymore and thanks to the river, not dehydrated either. After refueling our bodies, we rode the MRT to Ximen, where we all live, and went home. 
 
I took a shower and slept from 9am to 4pm. I still have bites and itchy spots all over my body from those forest bugs. Who knew my “hike to Wulai” would have ended this way? But how many things in life would we have NOT chosen, had we been able to know the end result? 
 
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Photo credit here goes to Michael.

 
(On a more informative note, after some research I found the map of the trail we were theoretically on and actual blogs and pictures of the trail and a map of how it can indeed take you into Wulai. Not in 3 or 4 hours, though! The two mountains we hiked were 拔刀爾山 [Badao Er Mountain] – which literally means SWORD – explains the crazy steepness! – and 高腰山 [Gaoyao Mountain]. Well, there you go, you live and learn; and the more you know, the more you know. In the meantime, there’s adventure. And a lot more trails to hike!)
 
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The oh-so useful map. The day MIGHT have turned out differently if I had this…MAYBE. Here’s what we actually hiked: 紅河谷 (Red River Valley) >> 工寮 (The Resting Hut) >> 拔刀爾山 (Sword Mountain) >>高腰山 (Gaoyao Mountain) >> 紅河谷. See 烏來 over there on the right? Yeah… never got there.

 
 

designed

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SHE WAS DESIGNED to live in union with her Maker. This union does not negate who she is; it actually makes her more fully herself. When she tries to live independently of Him, she experiences emptiness and dissatisfaction. She may gain the whole world and yet lose everything that really counts.

She must find fulfillment through living close to her Maker, yielding to His purposes for her. Though He may lead her along paths that feel alien to her, she must trust that He knows what He is doing. If she follows Him wholeheartedly, she will discover facets of herself that were previously hidden. He knows her intimately – far better than she knows herself. 

In union with her Maker, she is complete. In closeness to her Maker, she is transformed more and more into the one He designed her to be. 

**Taken and paraphrased from the book Jesus Calling


Teacher, I know!

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The possibly two most frustrating and refreshing words in the industry of education are I KNOWPut together, these words can create a rather powerful sentence. A very short sentence (V.S.S., as my high school English teacher taught me – Thank you, Mrs. Tyner!).  This V.S.S. can mean two very different things in the classroom. One, your student actually gets it for once. Two, your student is being a smart alec.

The latter has been my more common experience. However, when a student actually does get it…my world changes.

Today, I administer the Final Exam of the semester. Upon grading these tests, it doesn’t take long to sort out the academic wheat from the chaff. However, though I am forced to organize my students’ English abilities according to the institution’s standard, high scores aren’t always coming from the best attitudes in class. They’re simply coming from the students WHO KNOW.

One of my level 3 students took 2nd place in the Speech Contest this year. The school I currently work at alternates every year between Spelling Bee and Speech Contest, which keeps the events fresh and competition among students even, as not every student is a speller and not every student is a public speaker. His name is Tsung-Han, and I’ve known this kid since he was in Level 1, when I was also his teacher. He did his speech about Legos, and delivered it with so much personality and confidence that other kids in the school were quoting him! Those are the students who get it, and those are the students who make a teacher proud. 

Tsung-Hang’s test scores? Low at best. According to the educational standards of Taiwan’s society, they’re low. According to the American school system, he would simply be ranked as an average student. But this kid has gone from misspelling every word to getting a 100% on a spelling quiz. His performance in grammar and vocabulary has surprised even him. I’ve coached him in grammar, in hopes of seeing him rank a little bit higher on the academic ladder. But I didn’t coach him in the gestures and voice inflections and  funny noises that put him and and his speech up on top of the performance ladder.

Those talents and his motivation to win came from a heart WHO KNOWS what it takes, WHO KNOWS what is important and who has been told, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Because THAT is what every students should know. 

So next time a students says, “Teacher, I know!” ask her exactly what it is she knows.

silver silence

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It was happening to her again. Her words were stuck in her head and the silence that was coming out was not golden. There were so many things she wanted to say, so many more questions she wanted to ask, but she held them inside. 

She couldn’t tell if she was holding these thoughts back intentionally or because she was scared or if she simply didn’t think the timing was right. She knew all of them needed to be expressed eventually. To him. She just didn’t know how right now. 

For now, feeling safe was good enough. Feeling supported and loved was good enough. Conversation was good enough. But she knew the word enough wasn’t going to hold for long. It was already coming a part at the seams. She could feel the pressure of the pending break.

And after everything finally broke free, she had no idea what would happen. How she would feel. What he would say. 

Would there just be more silence?