undivided attention

how has my faith been this summer? this summer has been an interesting one, to say the least. my faith has been so up and down… the constant seesawing is exhausting… and i just want to stop…

after kenya, i was excited about who Jesus was and what he had in store for me. i was coming back from a third world country where people with nothing worshiped as if they had everything. i wanted that passion. i challenged myself, if i had nothing in this world, would i still praise Jesus? if i had no family, no support, could i still worship? if everyone around me was successful, and nothing was going right for me, would i still give God all the glory? I asked God to show me to love Him the way they loved Him. at the back of my mind, i thought that’s a dangerous request to make, Janet.

God really takes your challenges to heart. the second i came back, i fell into a period of deep loneliness. it  was left over from hurt that i had faced the last year in school, but was mainly was stemming from the fact that my family moved churches for the first time since we moved to texas. it’s been hard to find a new church. my parents go to one church, my brother stayed at our home church, and i have tried various churches throughout the summer, failing to find one where i felt i belonged. without a “Christ loving” community to call my own, my faith faltered more and more. i grew bitter and sad, and the enemy found it much much easier to attack me. i believed that i was unworthy of love, of community. i put myself down and refused to believe that i was the image of Christ. i hurt myself, and others in the process. my jog with Christ slowed to a walk, slowed to a few steps, slowed. i felt like i was going backwards. i was angry at God, questioning what he was doing in my life. yes, i wanted to love like i had nothing, but i realized i still wanted everything.

fast forward to july 14th.

the next day, i was to go to a retreat with a friend’s youth group to help lead worship. i sat at my piano, staring at the keys and thinking, what am i doing? why am i going to stand on worship team when i’m not sure i can worship God completely and genuinely? i was so ashamed. however, at the retreat, being the loving being that He is, God began to break through to me. the sermons centered around walking by faith. i realized that i had not been walking by faith. i had sins chaining me down, i had confessions that i had yet to make. i had hurt buried deep in my heart. i had been resisting God, and in that process, i had hardened my heart. but God began to tap at those walls, creating chips and cracks. i poured out myself to God, and He responded. i confessed my sin, my acceptance of the enemy’s lies. i repented for not being the daughter He had called me to be, and believing the enemy rather than my God. the song broken vessels hit hard.

i came back refreshed and ready to tackle life. i immediately failed. following God is a hard thing. i realized how easy it was to go back to my past sins, and how subtly they crept up on me and consumed me. hating myself, putting myself down, blaming myself, subsequently dragging others down with me… i was so frustrated… why couldn’t my flesh just die?

and then last night, something happened in my personal life that completely rocked me to my core. i realized that i have not been giving my God my all. i realized that he is a God of undivided attention. have you ever noticed how almost every worship song talks somehow about giving Jesus our all? take everything, God. you can have my life. nothing matters but You. i desire only You. i don’t think i consciously processed what those words meant. give your all to me, janet.

i was a mess last night, to be completely honest. it was the pinnacle of my flesh battling my spirit. God asked for everything. He reminded me (still is reminding me) that nothing belongs to me. it is all His, and at the end of the day, i need to lay what is His down at His feet. i flipped from book to book in the bible, reading any scripture that came to my mind. do not be anxious. do not store up your treasures on earth. the kingdom of heaven is so much more than the treasures on earth. where your treasures are, your heart will be also. i kept reading, kept reading, kept reading. i needed something. but i kept feeling this feeling of emptiness. out of desperation, out of bitterness, out of my soul’s weeping, the words everything is meaningless came out of me. what use is loving something if God is not at the center of it? what. is. the. use? i desired this thing so badly, this thing called control… i wanted to be in control of my life, my future, my relationships. i was gripping stability so hard that nothing else mattered, and God was not pleased. my heart was divided. half His, half mine. janet, but your heart wholly and completely belongs to me… i prayed over and over that God would take everything off of my hands. that he would take what was His. that i could find peace in giving everything up. that i would believe that God would transform what i was clinging on to, and give me something so much sweeter, so much better. but it’s… so … hard.

this morning, i was sitting at my piano, and i started to play the worship song good, good father. you’re a good, good father.. it’s who you are… and i’m loved by you.. it’s who i am. my voice broke when i was singing those words. desperately i want to believe them. i want to be assured, not only in my brain, but in every essence of my being, that my father is good. that he has the best in store for me. whether what i am giving up is returned in a purer state, or kept by my Father… i want to rest in the knowledge that He knows what is best… earlier today, i opened my bible once again. i read through matthew, and noticed something i hadn’t noticed before. throughout the gospels, Jesus predicts his own death many times. however, he also foretells his resurrection. yet the disciples are distressed. in matthew 17:22-23, Jesus says, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day”. i thought immediately of how there was the promise that Jesus would be back. why were the disciples distressed? what was there to worry about? he was coming back! and at that moment, God spoke to me. that is you. i’m telling you to give up your life, to pour out your cup so that i can fill it up with something better. janet…i have promised you something so much better. why are you distressed? what are you worrying about?

i am just now realizing, just now getting a taste, of what it means to follow God. to consider everything else meaningless. that if Christ is not only at the center of everything, but saturated in every single thing, it is meaningless. it is bound to fail. but when God is present in every second, every inch… it is so good. it is so worth it.

the cry of my heart is that i be like Jesus, of course, but also to be like abraham. in genesis 22, God tests abraham. He tells abraham that his son, isaac, doesn’t belong to him. God wants him back. and abraham obeys. in the end, God blessed abraham for his faith, for his fear of the Lord. i want obedience like abraham. i want obedience like Jesus, that when he so greatly did not want to drink of the cup of wrath, that when he was so afraid of taking on the sins of the world, he still asked that God’s will be done… i want to give God my undivided attention.

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beautiful poverty

i’d like to start this post by thanking my friend jacob rha. his constant reminders of how long it’s been since i’ve last blogged causes me to remember that my writings do indeed possess space on the internet.

kenya.

it is a vibrant, beautiful place. discard your illusions of safari and the lion king. certainly, there are places in which one experiences the knee-high grasses and the herds of elephants, but the place i spent the majority of my time was a lush plateau which can only be described as ‘alive’. from our view on blue shed rock, we could see miles and miles of green. uninterrupted nature, pure and beautiful, extending all the way down the plateau. however, not only was the landscape breathtaking (there is no denial of my God’s existence there), but the people were vibrant and full.

full of what?

at first, it can be hard to tell. the beings i encountered have very few material luxuries. flushing toilets are practically nonexistent (if you would care to know, ask me about the latrine on the plateau), and clothes were second/third/fourth-handed and tattered. questions asked at the registration desk of our temporary clinic included such as “does your home have a latrine?”, “do you have electricity?”, “do you sleep on a bed or the ground floor?”. people flocked to our temporary clinic from miles away, many on foot, for a chance to see a doctor for free. these people are the poorest people i have met in my life. yet, they had a peace in them that was indescribable. they had a fervent love for Jesus, and an air of contentment that i did not understand.

when we visualize success in America, we envision shiny cars, designer brands, fat wallets. we see college degrees, six-figure incomes, multiple-storied homes. it is easy to worship success. it is easy to never be content with our success because of a desire for more. i stepped into a foreign world when i stepped on the nyakach plateau. the people i met are the embodiment of philippians 4, where paul speaks of being content in abundance and in need, in plenty and hunger. they understand that there is more to life than materialism. a part of me wonders if it is that way because they simply have not had a taste of “the good life”… and if it is, i must admit that i long to know exactly what they know. i wonder how such an impoverished group of people can be so generous, so kind. how a child who has been tested positive for malaria can smile so shyly but widely as she tells me about her day. how a woman who came in to see the doctor for an abscess in her foot can wipe my chair with her scarf without a second thought because it got wet in the rain. how the elders can sing amazing grace so loudly, with such passion and truth in their voice, when at the end of the day they’ll still be left with their aches and pains.

it’s mind-blowing. i just don’t understand the joy of the lives i encountered. it’s completely upside-down. completely.

there were a variety of tasks that we were to work on throughout our time on the plateau. a temporary clinic was set up, with three physicians working daily to see patients. we, as undergrad (there were nineteen of us), would (with the assistance of some amazing, intelligent, and insightful translators) scribe for the physicians, run the registration desks, check vitals of patients, and draw blood/run lab tests as needed. a pharmacy was in place for prescriptions and vitamins to be doled out. this year, a man (erick) from the plateau who had just finished pharmacy school was there to work the pharmacy, and we helped him out as needed. we could also volunteer to read to or play with the students at the bethlehem home academy, the school across the street from the clinic in which many of the orphans in the bethlehem home attended. still others could hike up and down the plateau, garden in the maize fields, and visit elders’ homes and interview them about agriculture and faith. each one of these activities showed me how big God was. from learning about various symptoms that composed various illnesses, to giving pills that could heal a person. from stopping tears of an infant who had just had his blood drawn with a sweet and a glove-balloon, to breathing a sigh of relief when a patient’s malaria test showed negative. from the leg and back pain that came from tilling the soil in a maize field for 2 hours, to the amazement that many did this daily (for far longer than 2 hours a day). from reading books about snow and animals to fascinated school children, to hearing their giggles when you completely mispronounced how to say thank you in their mother-tongue, Luo. from conversations with our drivers about their families, to conversations with our translators about their studies in university. in every task that i did, i could not help but be reminded of my God.

i was talking with one of my friends on my team about how my professor said that there was an ugly poverty, and a beautiful poverty. she said that the nyakach plateau was a beautiful poverty. and i see why that is the case. there is so much beauty on that plateau. there is so much of God’s love pouring out from every shadow, every corner, every home. from the youngest orphan to the oldest elder, God has had His hand on their lives from the moment they were created.

there is just so much that went on in the two weeks that i was out of the country, i know i have forgotten so many little details. i will end this blog post now (how’s that for a smooth conclusion), but if you want to know more, hear more personal stories, or have questions on something i wasn’t clear about, contact me! i will gladly talk more about this life altering experience!

erukamano (thank you),

janet

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new year’s resolution?

i’ve never been good at new years resolutions. i’ve probably successfully done a total of 3 in my entire life. yet, i make a new list year after year, hoping that when december 31st rolls around, i can look back at my list and proudly cross everything off of it. most of the time, i can’t even remember where i wrote my resolutions, and give up looking for it after fifteen minutes of looking through every journal i own. but this year feels a little bit different. maybe it’s because it’s my twentieth year of life, and i’m feeling the need to grow up, or maybe it’s because i’m in college and i’m feeling the need to grow up, or God’s telling me that it’s time for me to grow up. who knows. i think i’m also beginning to see things more realistically, and instead of setting crazy goals that are just extremely difficult to accomplish over the course of a year, i’m taking smaller bites of life and self-improvement. we shall see in a year, whether they are realistic or not, right? so, here they are.

  • text less, meet in person more.
  • read the old testament through.
  • others > me.
  • think more before acting.
  • get an A in physics and ochem

for the most part, i think they’re doable (please, God, help me on the last bullet though). i’m pretty excited about 2015, for sure. so much to learn, so much to do. life is full of surprises.

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how sweet is this grace

amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me?

one of the most well known hymns in history, amazing grace. in one of hillsong’s newer albums, there is a song entitled broken vessels. i was listening to it a few weeks ago, and the lyrics captivated me again. how sweet is the grace that saved someone like me? someone… like… me. how powerful, how wonderful, how amazing is that grace? how is it possible to save me?

at the end of summer, i was rejuvenated, full of things i’d learned from retreats and from spending more time with God than I had in previous summers. i was so in love with Jesus, and with everything he had, and i wanted to worship him because my life was so good. i was ready to come back to baylor, to be a small group leader, to be on the worship team in my campus ministry, to get closer with my friends, to do fantastically in school, to be a super human. i had no idea that i was going to be put to the test, that who i was was going to be refined. i never realized how painful of a process following Jesus was.

this semester has been the toughest time of my life. i felt like i was being attacked in every aspect of my life, every waking moment, abandoned by those who i thought loved me, punished for all the wrongs i’d committed. i was honestly very, very lost.

haha, i know i’m being dramatic. it was rough, indeed. but there have been many blessings coming out of it. i grew up as a person a lot, i learned how important intentional relationships were. i learned that Jesus is truly the only one you can depend on when the world is against you. i saw where i still have room to grow and be refined– and i’m combatting that today.

i began to see Jesus in a completely new way: i was so angry at Him, so confused at what was going on. but why was it that even when i was being slayed, i was being drawn to worshipping him? at the point when everything seemed as if it couldn’t get worse, i would sit on my bed and repeat “even when my life seems terrible, God is God, and God is good” until i fell asleep. i didn’t know if i could believe it, but moping only resulted in me feeling more miserable. praising Jesus became the only thing that brought me peace. having faith that there was a higher purpose to this, and that my suffering was not meaningless, even when (to put it bluntly) life sucked; there was a certain comfort that came from it. and eventually, Jesus responded to me. He began to show me where i was being complacent with evil in my life, where i was pretending that certain sins did not exist. he pointed out areas that he was displeased with, and that “the fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil”. he began to refine me. i sought after the Lord, and he sought after me. the words am His, and He is mine became more real.

my ideas of worship changed. i had known that worship could not be based on how i felt, on my emotions, but i had never lived that philosophy out as if i believed it. i learned worship was a discipline. if i worshiped because of how i felt, i was selfishly and blatantly ignoring that worship is supposed to be based on who God is. God is love, he is unselfish, he is perfect and whole. he is everything. there is no situation in life in which the Lord is not worthy to be praised. no matter what is going on in my life, God is God. And God is Good. amen

i once was lost, but now i’m found.. i was blind, but now i see…

broken vessels

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holy spirit, you are welcome here

there are so many things going through my brain right now… it’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest. i spent this week at binnerri youth group’s summer retreat, and to say that it was a blessing to me would be an understatement. to walk through the entire four days would mean i would be writing a book, so i’ll just write about what i consider the most impactful takeaways.

i went into this retreat not knowing what to expect, not knowing any of the youth kids, only knowing 3~4 counselors. all i knew was that i had volunteered to be on the praise team, and we would have six sessions total.

i came not expecting anything in particular, and left with a heart full to bursting.

we all know that for things to work, we must do things God’s way rather than my way. in the area of leading worship, there had been so many times where i have disregarded God and tried to worship my own way. kind of ridiculous, that i would aim to glorify God while taking God out of the equation. it only led to stress and burden and a mass buildup of hurt. this retreat was the first time leading worship in over a year. this time, God “wrecked me” in a way that it was impossible for me to worship on my own. i was singing, but not singing for me. not singing to impress the congregation, not singing to garner compliments. i was worshipping to glorify my Father, and the lyrics were more than just words. they became truth. my throat was killing me, i forgot lyrics, but i was enveloped in God’s love… and there was no burden. there was no stress that i would mess up. there was no stress of whether the congregation was responding or not. there was just me and Jesus. 

the third night, as we were worshipping, i kept thinking of what it meant to be childlike. a child is open to everything. she views everything as an exciting adventure, depends on her parents to guide her through the unknown. she is able to easily get back up when she falls down. Jesus calls us to be his children, to gather around him and to depend on him to lead us through our earthly life. i looked at my life, and wondered if i had that innocent, childlike faith. and i found that i… did not. and that hit me kind of hard. i had been born into a christian family, i had grown up learning all the bible stories, i had all this head knowledge, i had experienced the holy spirit’s power a few times.. and i had grown content with that. i had begun to think that i had grown up, that i was old enough to be independent. at some point, i had traded in recklessly following Jesus with becoming comfortable and thinking that i knew enough. i felt this massive rush of sadness and regret.

but then, i looked out into the congregation. the youngest kids were in the front, oldest ones behind. and i saw something amazing. there were sixth graders closing their eyes, lost in worship. there were seventh and eighth graders putting their arms around their peers and praying for each other. high schoolers, almost running to receive prayers from pastor tim. seniors, linking hands and interceding for their youth group. everywhere, i saw the Lord working, and breaking down barriers that the enemy had placed. he had taken away pain and hurt, and replaced it with joy. i eventually left the stage to sit down and pray. i sat with a group of sixth grade girls, and holding their hands, prayed for them. after i prayed, one of the girls looked at me and just kept repeating “i’m so happy right now”. my heart was so full. i was experiencing kids as young as 10, children who the world kept pushing down and calling ‘too young’, fall in love with Jesus Christ. i didn’t know these kids, i didn’t even know 90% of their names… but i felt a love for them, something i could only explain as the love that Jesus had for them. it was so pure and perfect, this love that i felt. and i began to understand the Father’s love for his children.

the speaker for this retreat, pastor tim, was phenomenal. not because he was an eloquent speaker or a charismatic being, but because he was so in line with the spirit. he had so much love for those who Jesus loves, and spent much of his time praying for various students. i had my turn, and he began to pray for me. what he told me will stay with me, but it was amazing to hear through prayer how God does care about what goes on in my life. my struggles, my past, my present, hints of what was to come.. were revealed, and i was comforted and encouraged.

i could go on and on about every single detail, about every single thing that the Lord did during this retreat, but it would take another four days to write everything down. the Lord had planned this retreat, had planned for the healing and the redemption to occur, had planned for the return of his children. i am so thankful to have a God who loves me unconditionally and passionately. God is so good. all the time. amen

jeremiah 29:11, romans 4:20-25, 1 corinthians 13:13, 2 corinthians 12:9

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he delights in blessing me

i realize i haven’t written a post since march… i guess it’s time to reflect a bit on the rest of that semester.

i thank God for directing me towards baylor instead of UT or pomona or A&M or any of the other schools i wanted to go to. don’t get me wrong, those schools are fantastic and i’m sure God would have blessed me there, but baylor just clicked with me and grew on me as i walked through campus and experienced life there.
before college, i was very unsure of where i was with God. i felt a silence from God, a lack of support from my community, and a constant pressure that i needed to impress to be accepted. second semester, especially, blew those insecurities out of my life.

as you know (or maybe you don’t know), i was involved in a college fellowship organization called asians for Christ (now known as asian ministries interVarsity). and as you know, i met the people i consider my closest friends at baylor through that organization. they were people i hung out with, was loud with in the library the night before an exam, did crazy things like run across a highway to get to a torchy’s at midnight with, skyped with when we all went home for breaks… they were the people i talked about God with, worshiped with, went to church with, interceded for. they supported me, and i supported them. God placed them in my life because he knew exactly what i needed. because of my feelings of isolation in my past, God knew exactly how to let me know how much He loved me. he wept when i was lost, and rejoiced when i was found.

God showed me that he never left my life, not only through friends, but in so many other ways. he showed me that he would never leave me until the end of time. first semester, i didn’t do as well as i had hoped grade-wise. i was devastated by that; i had expected myself to adjust to college perfectly, and that wasn’t the case. i ended up dropping a class– something that everyone advises you not do if you’re pre-med. during the winter break, God asked me a question.
janet, why are you so afraid to ask me for something? you know i love you, and i want the best for you. i tell you– ask, and you will receive (matthew 7:7).
i realized that through being taught that God didn’t answer selfish prayers (james 4:3), i had somehow been deceived to think that God wouldn’t answer any of my prayers– that i was too selfish, too evil for God to even consider my prayers. but one simple question destroyed all the lies that the enemy had been planting in my thoughts. i had been limiting God, and i had been so scared of being let down. in the winter, i learned more that God was a loving God. i learned to dream big, to dream of the impossible, because my Lord is the God of the impossible. i learned to glorify God in everything through the semester– in every success, in every failure, in every hardship, to repeat the words thank you God, this is your will God every time things didn’t go my way. and at the end of the year, i looked back at what God had accomplished through me, and praised the Lord for loving me enough to entrust his vision to my life.

i’m not perfect, i’m still learning. i will get angry when it seems that life isn’t going the way i envisioned it to. i will forgot who’s in control of life, and try to take the wheel myself. but i will always be forgiven, always will be welcomed back, always will be cherished by God. thank you, Lord.

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oops…

today, i did something i’ve never done in my life– i didn’t go to church on a sunday.

i woke up late; my ride had texted me as well as called me twice, and i picked up the second time. i didn’t want to make them late to service, so i just told them to go ahead. i’d find another ride, or something. after my initial shock that i had actually overslept, i set out to text people what time they went to service, but after a bit, i felt bad contacting people so last minute and asking them to do me a favor when it was my fault for oversleeping, and i ended up deciding i wasn’t going to go today. i felt so guilty– i’ve never skipped church without a legitimate reason; if i wasn’t going to sunday service, it’d be because i was on a mission trip or a church retreat or on a mandatory school trip. but thank the Lord, there is technology today that is so advanced that i could live-stream worship services, or at least find a sermon online that i could listen to. i’ve always wanted to attend Elevation Church at least once in my life (and maybe i will this summer when i go to north carolina for my cousin’s wedding!), and i knew that since it was a pretty big church, they’d probably have a stream. and i was right. they had a 10:30 service, so i got myself out of bed and got ready for the day, then sat on my bed with my headphones in and went to church in my computer.

long story short, i’m not really glad that i missed physically going to church, but i’m glad that i took the alternative that i did. worship was amazing (led by 2 people i don’t know the names of.. but they sing the male /and/ female acoustic versions of ‘grace so glorious’!), and the sermon hit home in a lot of ways. they had started a new series called “consider the source”. the source being the LORD, and how our lives should be always fixated on remembering where we came from, and looking at our roots to help us proceed into our future. his points were definitely things that i’m still thinking about and things that i feel convicted to live my life doing. it was good.

anyways. i won’t be oversleeping church again in a while; i’ll be setting multiple alarms.. but in the case that that happens again (or if that happens to you fellow friends).. i know where to go. http://elevationnetwork.com/

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