random, assorted teedbits overdue – of lessons learned:
[location: heng fa food market | mood: still]
I look at the 3:15pm milk tea on a middle shelf in the basement of Heng Fa and remember when I first came to Philly – excited, hopeful, and restless. I remember the tea that I’d make myself with Carolyn’s hot water machine, the way I’d set the colorful Anthropologie mug Marie got for me on the bunny eared coasters I obtained in Thailand. I remember the quiet of our brownstone apartment and the filtered sun-rays streaming in from the skylight on our roof. I remember the hours I spent on the couch, just sitting silently and asking desperately for God to reveal Himself to me as I ached to find a community, to be accepted into a new family, to find home in a foreign city. He met me in the mundane; He met me in the quiet; He met me in my loneliness.
My vision wisps out of focus; the colors splay in a blur in front of me and I feel a deep stillness come over me. “I am still with you.”
[location: closet | mood: discontent]
I go through perhaps four outfits before slapping the sides of my thighs in frustration. Why must I look like an abomination? Why must I feel like a cow? Why must this shirt hang so uncouthly about me? I am trying and failing to pray to the Lord as I stomp around my apartment trying to satisfy my inane desire to look perfect when I stop mid-tug on the unlucky blouse I try to pull from its place on the hanger.
“If you spent as much time as you did in front of the mirror trying to adorn your outward appearance as you did on the rectifying of your heart – what would that look like?”
[location: kitchen | mood: anxious]
There are a number of scenarios running through my head as I try to ascertain the best course of action to take to minimize the amount of damage it will do to me regarding my career, my health, and my reputation. I am thoroughly exhausted, panicking left and right, and at loss of what to do. I feel like I am at the mercy of my seniors and managers at work (conveniently forgetting that they are the most gracious people I’ve ever met); my mind is consumed with what I can do to appease them as I produce less and inferior work product as a result of my exhaustion. I foolishly will the microwave to tick time faster as I wait for my breakfast to heat and put my head in my hands. The timer pings and I stare bewilderedly at the dark screen as I get the strongest sense that the Lord is saying to me in a (holiest as can be) sassy manner; “Excuse me??”
“Who are you trying to please – them? What can they do for you? Shouldn’t it be Me you’re trying to please? For who is the one who gives you breath, who is the one who shelters you, who is the one who provides for you – the one who loves and cares for you that He died on a cross for you? How far can their love and care take you – and how far can I take you?”
[location: 15th and locust | mood: frustrated]
It baffles and irks me to no end how my coworkers are able to work past midnight every day and return the next at 7am and repeat – without fail. It confounds me even more how they are able to smile at me, offer to help, and faithfully work through the day with minimal complaints while I stress and complain and grow short of patience and energy. I jump at the first chance to leave and exit at 9pm; they are still there – I shuffle reluctantly into the office in the morning; they are already there. They who are without faith are working harder than I am; they without knowledge of Jesus Christ are faring better morally than I am and the self righteous, bitter heart of mine screams; “aren’t I better than this? Aren’t I better than them?” I contemplate this as I walk the streets of Philly at night – my back screams in protest as I twist and squirm in frustration – “why am I so weak??” I continue walking, head drooped low, eyes trained on the ground as the Lord rebukes and encourages me;
“No, you are not better than anyone. Yes, you are weak. That is exactly why you need Me.”
[location: ocean city, nj | mood: weary]
I still have yet to decide whether it was the best decision for me to attend retreat while half dead on my feet but as the pastor starts his sermon of the day, I twitch with anticipation. I am excited to be at the first retreat outside my college career and anxious to receive God’s blessings – in particular, I am in dire need of rest and pray fervently to receive it throughout the retreat. But, by the time the pastor wraps up his sermon (conveniently on Jesus and his disciples feeding the five thousand after retreating for the purpose of obtaining rest), I am hit with the startling realization that not only have I been praying for the wrong thing, but perhaps my heart had not been in the right place after all.
“It is not rest that you need – it is Me. Which did you come for?”
[location: bed | mood: confused]
With circumstances outside the realm of my control uprooting the plans I had for this weekend, I sulk moodily on my bed and ponder what in the world the Lord might be doing. I cannot in any way fathom why the Lord would let me catch a cold and what good it would do for me. The crackled white of my ceiling gives me no answer – neither does the Lord, but I repeat stubbornly to myself that He is good. How can I fathom that every single thing that happens in my life is for my good? Why do I forget that He is not a Father who pays attention to me one day and then leaves me the next. I don’t have a cold because He happened to attend to something elsewhere and subsequently left me at the mercy of these pesky little germs – I have a cold because He specifically planned it that way – because He loves me. How can I understand that there is Someone who every day is giving me the absolute best He can give me, not withholding anything from me, and how can I shake my fist at Him not understanding the blessings He has in store for me behind the disguise of a small cold? I remind myself desperately of how much He loves me and bow my heart in surrender – “when will I ever understand your love for me, Lord?” I can almost see Him laughing at me.
“I bless you every day…you have the rest of your life to figure it out.”
[location: chinatown | mood: wonder]
My head is tilted up as I make my way back to my apartment. The moon hidden in the little crevices between the buildings – violet, blue, pink – bright silver crescent in the midst of the neon hues. I remember it was the moon that first accompanied me when I came to Philly – the sky and its inhabitants, the stars and the clouds, that would charm me as I looked up past skyscrapers and remembered that home is wherever I find peace, home is wherever Jesus is with me, home is what I carry in my heart. Joy. I look up, disregarding the cracks in the ground, the bustle of the city at night, and the blinking lights of the vehicles in the streets. Hillsong United blasts through my headphones and I feel the familiar tingling of emotion at the tip of my nose as I realize it has already been a year in this wonderful place.
“I love you, my child.”
It feels like home.