Video clips from IF:Gathering Racial Reconciliation Roundtable

Quick post for those of you who may not have seen the article earlier this week in Christianity Today. The video clips at the end of the interview were filmed at the IF:Gathering after the audience was excused. I’m encouraged to hear of new relationships formed as a result of our time. Please pray for humble hearts, for restoration, for walls to come down. So fitting as we enter Holy Week to think on the final prayer Jesus prayed for His disciples and for each of us:

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“All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.  And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” John 17:10-11

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/march/modeling-healthy-gathering-on-race.html

IF:Gathering Racial Reconciliation Roundtable

Greetings from Austin, TX. Amazing city. Amazing food. Amazing people. Took part in the IF:Gathering yesterday and the day before. Click the link to sign up to hear the sessions. Powerful weekend. The leadership and women I met were humble, down-to-earth, Kingdom-minded warriors. Warm. Welcoming. Brave. Courageous. I’ve always held strong to the belief: you become like those you are around. Grateful for every woman I met. I want to be more like them, because of how I saw Jesus in their lives and in their eyes. I was invited to contribute. Taped several mini Bible studies for IF:Equip and an interview on unity and diversity.

IF:Equip bible studies

IF:Equip bible studies

Yesterday, in a remarkably intimate setting, even though surrounded by 2000 in attendance at the venue and over 20,000 women watching live stream, seven of us discussed the elephant in the room: racial reconcilation. We began unpacking issues of awareness, ethnic diversity (or the lack thereof), racism, unity. The 20 minutes onstage continued for another full hour of taping as we continued to share stories of discrimination and barriers. We sat around a table, looking into each other’s eyes. Through conversation we risked and brought our stories into this space of grace and truth. Our perspectives of the God we love deepened through exposure to each other’s stories.

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Among the many “God’s perfect timing moments,” my article for Today’s Christian Women, “Rocking the Small World Boat” went live right in time for the conference. In it I share about awareness and included resources and tips to help further the conversation. You can click the link to access the article. TCW graciously unlocked the article so IF:Gathering and IF:Local women would have access to the resources.

I’m still turning over in my mind the content, the names, the faces, the experience. Anticipating how God will move, trusting Him for movement in the right direction.

Changed lives. Changed world.

 

Did you participate in the IF:Gathering? If so, I’d love to hear your feedback!

 

Gearing Up for Fall

Hello again. I’m back.

Three months. No blog posts. Actually, I wrote some great posts in my mind. They just never transferred from thought to actual words on page. All sorts of things fly around in my little brain each and every day. Entire conversations take place in my mind with “invisible Darrin.” (Darrin is my wise and wonderful husband of 23 years. He is not very fond of invisible Darrin). Invisible Darrin and I work through problems and reach all sorts of agreements the real Darrin learns of later. Lots of “Whaddya mean? I thought we talked about this already.” “Uh. No, Viv. You talked it through with invisible Darrin. Not me.” note: this method of conversing with an invisible spouse is extremely inefficient.

A lot of terrific happenings occurred these past three months:

  • My first Susan G. Komen, Orange County speaking event:

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Honor Roll and VIP reception for team leaders for the Race for the Cure

  • We spent a month living in the University of Hawaii dorms helping train and equip these wonderful staff and student leaders:

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“Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”(1 Thessalonians 2:8)

  • helped with our church’s annual Kid’s Fun Club and Mom’s Fun Club

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Some fun events happening this fall:

  • After a five year detour, you know– battling cancer, writing and releasing a book and stuff, I have returned to Talbot Theological Seminary to work on my Masters Degree in Bible Exposition. This fall I’m taking Hermeneutics (how to interpret, understand and apply the Bible). First on the agenda: learn to spell Hermeneutics correctly.

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  • I have joined the Epic National Field Ministry team directed by the wise and wonderful real Darrin. Epic is the Asian American ministry of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ)
  • I was interviewed by Worldwide Challenge, Cru’s magazine for the September/October issue on “Suffering Together”:10527706_10152227685976073_929868995084747981_n
  • I’ll be giving the message at our home church, Crossroads Community Church on Sept 14th at 10 a.m. Join us if you’re in the area!
  • Excited to speak at the Texas Epic Fall Conference at the end of the month! And a couple women’s retreats in October and November. I’m writing my first article for Today’s Christian Woman and participating in a Webinar with Elisa Morgan and Fulfill Magazine.
  • Several friends will be hosting Warrior In Pink book giveaways on their blogs in the coming weeks in light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’ll be sure to connect you to those sites.

So, what’s been happening in your corner of the world?

#amwriting

Unless you count writing in my mind (aka: attempting to make sense of the jumbled thoughts tumbling around my little noggin, clunking endlessly like a pair of sneakers in the dryer) I #amwriting–not really. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter the number sign is a hashtag. Hashtags help people who tweet find and follow interesting topics. #amwriting is a popular hashtag used by writers. Other hashtags are just funny and have nothing to do with specific categories or subjects. I’m not explaining this well, so google hashtag or read about Twitter in Wikipedia or #askateenager.

I received, however, two invitations from two writers I admire, to participate in a Writers’ Blog Hop. A new writer friend, Kate Motaung, asked first so I jumped in with her. We met through my fellow Redbud Writers Guild friend and gifted writer, Browyn Lea, who generously hosted me along with a “Warrior In Pink” book giveaway on her blog. Kate won the giveaway. We emailed back and forth. Drawn to her heart for God, shared experience of walking the cancer road, and interest in learning this crazy world of writing, I instantly felt bonded to Kate. I could tell we would have a lot to talk about over coffee irl (text abbreviation for “in real life”). Her skillfully woven words blessed me deeply as I read the book review she wrote on her website about “Warrior In Pink.”

The way the blog hop works is I answer four questions about what I’m writing and introduce you to three writer friends who will also answer the same four questions and introduce three of their writer friends, and so on. A bit reminiscent of those chain letters from back in the day sans the horrible omens from failure to participate. For those of you from more recent times, chain letters refer to a practice long ago involving envelopes, handwritten letters, stamps and the use of the metal box, commonly known as a mailbox, found at the end of your driveway.

Anyway, I figure what better way to return to a place where I #amwriting than to introduce you to other writer friends and answer a few questions about writing. So here goes:

 1. What am I writing or working on?

Can I count the “writing in my mind” material? Or the fact that I downloaded Scrivener (a word processing software helpful for organizing and writing books)? I have as a goal to have a book proposal for my second book to my literary agent by the end of summer. I’m excited and nervous about embarking again on the book writing path. So many lessons learned along the way the first time around. Now with one book under my belt I return with a little more experience but a whole host of new insecurities and fears. I wonder if marathon runners feel the same sort of excitement and dread after enough time has passed and they begin training for the next marathon? I wonder. But I’ll never know. Ever.

 2. How does my work differ from others of this genre?

As a nonfiction writer, I bring myself, my worldview and experiences into my writing. I naturally weave in aspects of my Asian heritage into my writing. Unfortunately, at this time, very few books by Asian-Americans authors are found among the bookshelves in any given library, bookstore or online. I’d like to see the landscape change to include more Asian, Latino, Native-American and African-American voices. We grow a more robust understanding of life when exposed to people who see the world through different lenses.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m a teacher at heart. Usually there is some teaching point to whatever I write. My greatest satisfaction comes from helping people regain perspective, expand vision, or consider a life principle through daily life experiences. As a Christian the why of what I write is summed up in this verse: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

4. How does my writing process work?

In my pretend world, my house is spotless and quiet. My clothes are ironed, teeth brushed. I spend hours sitting comfortably in my little nook upstairs typing diligently on my laptop with classical music playing softly in the background. Occasionally I would need a tissue to dab my eyes when writing and recalling a particularly painful memory. My giant mug of coffee would magically refill as needed.

this is my nook

this is my peaceful nook

 

But the reality is usually the dog occupies the chair (unless I cover the chair with books, but even then he still seems to find open space to sleep). And the dog passes gas. Choking, tear-producing foulness. My house is in constant chaos and covered in dog fur and dust. The unending piles of paperwork, laundry, and dishes makes it hard to concentrate and write at home.

 

dog in the chair. me on the floor?

The dog in the chair. Me on the floor? What!?

Even if the stars align and some semblance of order is established, I have a hard time staying in one place for extended amounts of time. So I write a little here and a little there.  I’ve been known to write in my car during soccer practice, at “my Starbucks” with earbuds stuffed in my head, the dining room table, my closet floor and a myriad of other places. I haven’t developed a habit and discipline of writing. And honestly still feel painfully insecure about how I write and what I write. When someone mentions anything regarding author or writer I usually turn my head to look behind me to see who the person is referring to.

Usually a blog posts come to me as I’m going along with my regular activities. I start writing in my mind getting ready in the bathroom or out running the dog or waiting at a stoplight. Sometimes the ideas come out of conversations with friends over life’s challenges.

So that is a peek into my writing life.

Now to introduce to you some great women writers:

First, my dear friend, Ann Suk Wang.  Ann and I met back when she attended UCLA and Darrin and I were Cru campus staff assigned to that great campus (go Bruins!). Our paths crisscrossed back and forth over the years but recently we have been able to connect over writing. Ann is also a Redbud Writer, newspaper journalist and writes children’s and young adult fiction. She usually has at least a half a dozen story lines going simultaneously. I’ve been blessed by her friendship. Through Ann I’ve learned to appreciate the work and mind of fiction authors.

Ann’s Bio:
Ann enjoys painting God’s goodness in words, helping others come one step closer to Him no matter where they are in their journey.
     She has loved writing since she was in elementary school when she made her best friend memorize her original rainbow song (they are still best friends and still sing the song together willingly, 30 years later.)
     Now, Ann is a columnist for a Los Angeles based newspaper, writes features for a San Gabriel Valley magazine and enjoys creating fiction for children. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s teaching a Hot Hula Fitness class, playing board games with her 3 boys (includes her infinitely patient hubby), sipping tea or cuddling with the only other female in the house — Bree, her hairy daughter and 4-legged writing partner.
Connect with Ann:

Twitter- @imwonderingwhy
Facebook- annsukwang

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My next friend is fellow Cru staff, Terry Morgan. I haven’t spent time irl (remember the text abbreviation: in real life) with Terry, but I know we share a similar heart, Terry’s writing is laced with themes around changing the world, developing leaders, especially women leaders, personal growth and appreciation and love for coffee. We have many mutual friends. Conversation over coffee, I’m sure, would last all afternoon into the late night. I’ve admired Terry’s ability to share honestly as well as bilingually. She writes her posts in English and Spanish!

Terry’s bio:

Terry is an international mentor, coach, and leadership development strategic partner at Cru. She is on a heart journey as a wife, mother, ministry leader, friend, and daughter of the King… taking on life with a strong, black cup of coffee in hand.
Connect with Terry:
on twitterLinkedIn, or blogging at MaturitasCafe.com.

terry coffee web

 

Finally, I’d like you to meet my friend Karen Yates. I met Karen through the Redbuds. Ann, Karen and I meet regularly to encourage each other and affectionately refer to ourselves as “Palm Tree Buds” as we represent writing in community here in Southern California. Wise, generous, fun, humble, and kindhearted, I’ve been blessed by Karen’s friendship and insight. Karen is pursuing her Master’s at Talbot Seminary in Spiritual Formation. This major fits Karen well as she is one person I admire who integrates a keen mind, tender heart, and a soul sensitive both to God and the people God has placed in her life.

Karen’s bio:

Karen Yates lives in Orange County, CA and is a Jesus chaser, mother, adoption advocate and loved of sushi. She has worked 12 years in the Christian non-profit industry and has a passion for missions and the global Church.

Connect with Karen:

her blog: KarenEYates.com or on Twitter @KarenYates1

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I’m so glad to introduce you to these wonderful writers! Hope you’ll check out their websites and the writers they introduce to you next week. Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting in my nook, avoiding the piles and trying to stay true to the hashtag: #amwriting.

Leadership and Apologies and the Open Letter to the Evangelical Church

I don’t use the word “retard” or “retarded” anymore when I refer to myself after I mess up.

I have two author friends, Amy Julia Becker, author of “A Good and Perfect Gift” and Gillian Marchenko, author of “Sunshine Down.” They both have daughters who have Down Syndrome. Knowing a bit of their story and their heart, I understand with a new awareness why flippantly tossing that word around is hurtful. This is true even when my intention has been to make fun of myself and not directed at another to harm or insult. In the past I have used the word, but now that I have faces and a connection with my friends, I have woven the understanding into my daily life and word choices.

I don’t put my hand up to my head and form a pretend gun and act like I pull the trigger when I feel frustrated with someone, or try to be funny and use that motion with “you’re killing me” when something ridiculous happens.

I had a friend and former student who took her life in this manner. I am personally aware how this action, even when done in jest, can be hurtful.

I have several African American brothers in the faith. Men I admire and respect. Men of impeccable character who are adoring husbands and dads. I have heard them share stories of how they, or their sons, have been pulled over by the police and mistreated. How, when they walk down the street, women move their purses to the other arm when they walk past. My friendships with these men have opened my eyes and my awareness to the reality of the injustice they experience on a regular basis.

Over time my circle of relationships has grown. Life experiences and challenges have introduced me to new worlds across different landscapes: ethnic, socio-economic, religious, cultural, life-stage, lifestyle, to name a few. I’ve watched courageous women and men navigate parenting kids with special needs, walk through divorce and being a single parent or trying to build trust in a blended family. I’ve seen first hand the heartache of infertility, the joys and challenges of adoption, prodigal kids, broken engagements, addiction, chronic pain, depression, job loss. As my awareness has grown, so has my appreciation for people who walk a path different from my own.

Relationships grow awareness.

Awareness brings about change in attitude and action.

As an Asian American woman, I have experienced first hand both blatant and unintentional racism. Everything from being teased on the playground as a kid to more recently when a well-intentioned missionary spoke slowly, in broken English, and asked me, “You China?” To which I answered in perfect English, “Well, actually, I was born in Wisconsin.” She still went on to ask, in slow, broken English, “You Mommy, Daddy China?”

Two women I deeply respect, Helen Lee and Kathy Khang, wrote an “Open Letter to the Evangelical Church” earlier this week and a group of 80 Asian American leaders issued a call for dialogue and building bridges after multiple cultural misses from influential leaders in the church. You can read more about the situation here in this article by Christianity Today. Nearly 800 have signed in support of the letter. I have added my name as well with the hope that this important conversation will continue; where relationships will deepen and grow awareness, and awareness will bring about change in attitude and action.

I don’t in any way question the intention of any of the men involved in the offensive depictions. Intention is rarely the issue. I think the issue being brought forth is a call and the need for continued conversation. Good leadership is willing to graciously address hard issues, and good leadership graciously receives and responds to feedback, and when needed offers apologies.

Darrin and I, just a couple of weeks back, had a friend and co-worker who asked to talk with us. We didn’t know what it was in regards to, but we held this friend in high esteem and looked forward to connecting. It was brought to our attention how our inactions brought about hurt, frustration, disappointment and a blocked goal of completing what this co-worker had been tasked to accomplish. Our friend was gracious and kind. We were genuinely sad and sorry for what we did (or in this case didn’t do). All of us believed the best. Darrin and I didn’t try to excuse our actions or get defensive. Once we understood how what we did affected our friend, we were able to see from their perspective and apologize from a place of identification and understanding. We were grateful that our friend cared enough to express to us our miss. We wouldn’t have known otherwise. The beauty of reconciliation is that now the air is clear. No hard feelings. Our relationship has been restored and even deepened as friends and co-workers.

All of us make mistakes. Leaders make mistakes. Sometimes intentionally, most of the time unintentionally. All of us have much to learn from one another. All of us can take away a new level of awareness through what we walk through and experience.

I welcome your thoughts.

 

Everyone Needs A Prisca

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who takes the time to truly listen and understand the struggles of the heart.

Someone who models an authentic life of faith and grace and prayer.

Someone who has survived the current life stage you are seeking to navigate.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who believes wholeheartedly in the goodness of God and lives for eternal things unseen.

Someone who reminds us the ministry is unending, but the window interacting with our own children is small. And taking time to be good to ourselves is crucial.

Someone who applauds steps of faith and prays diligently. And then prays some more.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who is humble, a learner, compassionate, and incredibly, incredibly wise.

Someone who doesn’t fix problems, but knows how to hold emotions.

Someone to model after because they so reflect the heart of God.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who is mature, who speaks words of hope, who knows how to laugh at herself.

Someone who helps restore perspective.

Someone who loves well.

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Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7) 

I have six names written in the margin of my Bible next to this verse. Prisca is one of them. I’ve been blessed to know her for twenty years. She is one of my heroes of the faith.

Who do you have written on the margin of your Bible?

Who has your name written in theirs?

Letter to Epic Student Missionaries

Our Epic (Asian-American ministry of Cru) international summer mission teams are currently taking part in project briefing. The teams are receiving input, participating in team building activities and preparing for six weeks of: Loving the Lord, Loving their team, Learning a New World and Launching Movements. Here’s a letter I’ve written to them about some Scripture I read this morning.

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Dear Summer Mission Project Participants,

Each of you has a different story of how God led you to apply and how you ended up here on the Vanguard campus preparing to embark on an international summer mission project with Epic. I have to be honest. I’d give a kidney to jump on an airplane and join you and your team.

God has used these past several months to prepare your hearts for the task ahead. And just like how it felt to prepare to attend college–all the books/blogs you read, the stories you heard, even the campus visit you might have taken–all those things could not and did not capture the experience of actually being a college student and attending classes, living in the dorms, etc. Our staff have drawn from their past missions experiences to come up with helpful content, but actually arriving in country and walking the streets, breathing the air, smelling the smells–that’s when the change begins. The next six weeks will grow you and transform you as you experience life and dependence on the Lord with your team.

I’ve been reading through the “One Year Chronological Bible” this year. Currently camped out in the time of the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings. I was reading this morning and wanted to share a few thoughts as it seemed to pertain to God, missions, perspective and stuff I would share with you over a cup of coffee if time allowed.

  • 2 Kings 6:8-23 Elisha in the city of Dothan surrounded by a great army ready to take him out. His servant sees the troops, horses and chariots everywhere and freaks out, “Ah, my lord, what will we do now?” Elisha responds, “Don’t be afraid. For there are more on our side than on theirs.” And Elisha prays for God to open the eyes of his servant to see what was really going on…The LORD opens his eyes and he sees the hillside was filled with horses and chariots of fire….

Remember: you are not alone. God has got your back. People back home are praying for you. There are spiritual forces at work all around you that our human eyes cannot see. You and your team plus God is greater than any earthly opposition.

  • 2 Kings 7:3-11 Four lepers are starving because of a great famine that has taken over the land. They decide to go and surrender to their enemy, the Aramean army, because they figure they have nothing to lose. Turns out the army abandoned their camp and the lepers have a heyday going from tent to tent eating and plundering. They realize they can’t keep this good fortune to themselves. They return to the city and God provides for all the people from an unlikely source.

Remember: you and I are poor lepers who have found the True Bread and Living Water. We cannot keep the One who is the true treasure to ourselves. He has the Words of Eternal Life. Sharing our lives, sharing our stories, sharing the Gospel is one humble beggar who has discovered unlimited resources pointing another humble beggar where to find Food. Keep an attitude of humility and point people to Jesus, not the Christian life or a moral ethical code, but to Him who is Life.

  • 2 Kings 8:1-6 Earlier in 2 Kings (2 Kings 4:8-37) Elisha becomes friends w/ a woman from Shunem. He performs a miracle and brings her boy back to life. In this chapter Elisha instructs them to leave to the land of the Philistines because of the famine. They are gone seven years. She returns back to Israel, hoping to get her house and land back. The king had been talking to his servant about Elisha and the woman and her son appear at that exact moment to confirm the story of the son. Not only is her land restored, the king also compensates her for the value of the crops that had been harvested during her absence.

Remember: there are no accidents. God has determined the exact places we should live (Acts 17:26). As you engage in conversations, know that God has been orchestrating events before you arrive on the scene. Also remember: you can never out give God. He is able to provide from unexpected places in unexpected ways. Seek Him first.

I’m so excited for all God will do in you and through you. I will be joining so many who are praying for you and look forward to seeing you back on this side of the ocean.

Proud of you, excited for you, expectant with you,

viv

feel free to add additional comments about missions or encouragement for the epic summer teams….

Hatwalk Follow Up and Guest Post

The days have been full. I am earnestly seeking to finish writing the book by Thanksgiving in order to not go into the holidays all crazy. Well, not more crazy added to the normal crazy.

The Hatwalk Gala event was as incredible as the hotel it was hosted in. What an impressive and extensive labor of love. It was a blessing to see 700 guests dressed to the nines, supporting and giving so generously to help others battling cancer. The evening wrapped up with a powerful visual of the purpose behind the Hatwalk. We watched a stream of beautiful women of all ages, all cancer survivors, take to the catwalk modeling various hats. We cheered each of them on with grateful tears in our eyes. The strength and courage they exuded caused the bright runway lights to seem dim in comparison.

I spent most of the weekend giddy–romping around my room in the signature Fairmont hotel robe, trying to act all writer-like. Leila’s sister, Jacqui, was able to connect me with a hair and makeup person who came to my room Saturday afternoon to perform a magic transformation act. She used some kind of silicone based spray on foundation, then dipped her extensive array of brushes into rows and rows and trays and trays of Mac make-up. False eyelashes, a billion bobby pins and hairspray, hairspray, hairspray followed by instructions to not lie down, not nap, or cry, rub my eyes, move, and to use cold spoons to take down the puffiness under my eyes.

This was the final outcome:

It actually was a huge blessing to have the time away. The gals from a freshman Bible study I led back in 1989, when I first worked at the Cal campus, gifted me with an additional night at the Fairmont so I could focus on writing the book. The beautiful environment somehow helped to break through a mental barrier which moved me ahead significantly in my writing. I have two chapters left to write and then two appendices. My amazing agent, who happens to also be an amazing editor, will go over this first draft before I turn it in to the editor at the publishing house. We are nearing the end of part one in the writing marathon and I am starting to hear the faint sound of Taiko drums in my heart.

I was invited by my friend and fellow Redbud writer, Natasha, to guest post and share part of my journey as an Asian-American. You can read the post here. It’s a two-part interview which is part of a series she has been writing on racial reconciliation. Hope you will pop over to check it out.

 

 

 

Hatwalk 2012

Greetings from San Jose. I’m sitting here in the Starbucks right next to the gorgeous Fairmont Hotel. The sun is shining softly on my unwashed face. I look all writer-like. Coffee. Laptop. Yoga pants.

Tonight I will have the honor of sharing part of my cancer journey with 700 guests who will be attending the Asian American Cancer Support Network Hatwalk gala. It’s a black tie fund-raising event. Good thing I borrowed those incredible high heels from the Amazing Viv Kawata. I’m having my hair and make-up done later on today. We’re talkin’ pulling out all the stops–even fake eyelashes (a first!).

I would appreciate your prayers for me. I’m also working to finish the second half of the book this weekend. Thankful I don’t have internet in my hotel room! Hitting the part in the book where I introduce Max and my heart is sad remembering him. Recalling those dark days of cancer treatment has my heart heavy. But as I remember, I also see in my minds-eye faces of so many of you who came alongside and supported our family. For each of you, my deepest gratitude.

I am guest posting this week on racial reconciliation series. I will be sure to link to the post when it goes up. Also, I am excited about what my web designer has been cooking up. My new website should be live sometime around or shortly after Thanksgiving.

Getting back to book writing.

Kind of stunned thinking about all the doors God has opened and all that has happened since last year at this time.

Read this morning in Joel 2:25

“Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”

Our God is able to replenish, redeem and restore the “lost years.”

I hope this encourages those of you who find yourself in the lost years….

 

One of A Kind

God showed up. He did. And He answered prayer for breakthroughs. His Spirit was at work in the hearts of the women from Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles. It was beautiful to observe their hearts respond to the messages of surrender, forgiveness, vulnerability, and the character of God. The core leadership team worked tirelessly to create an environment of safety and space for women to connect, be challenged and be refreshed. It was an honor to be with them and hear some of the stories of how God worked.

During the free time on Saturday afternoon an optional craft time was set up to make tile crosses. I am not very skilled in the craft department and not into precision and details. My stick figure drawings of people and animals hasn’t changed since grade school. I went into the time feeling a little reluctant. But the option was either staying in my room by myself and writing about cancer, or being in a room of amazing women and making a keepsake I could have to remember the weekend.

Wonderful Phoebe gave simple step by step directions which, to my relief, made the craft sound actually doable. She pointed out an example of the finished product, handed me a wooden cross, then directed me to bowls and boxes of various tiles in assorted colors. Different tables were set up for the staining area for the wood and the plastering part. I took a deep breath and plunged my hand into the nearest bowl and picked out handfuls of tile. I sat down and started arranging the pattern and glued it down. Sprinkled throughout the assembly process I heard bits of life stories from the women sitting around me. I watched as some women approached the project systematically, placing tiles in order by rows, others arranged by color with more of a mosaic feel. Some used just a few tiles spaced out, others filled their crosses with small tiles. Some worked quickly, others took a long time. No two crosses looked the same. But each one was beautiful.

The life lesson/reminder for me was simple.

My life/cross won’t look like anyone else’s. God’s infinite creativity makes room for every life, every finger print, every path to be unique. Rather than compare my life/cross to others and either get discouraged by the gifting of others, I need to focus on the tiles of opportunity God has placed in my own hand. I don’t have control with how many tiles or the shape, size and color of the tiles God gives, but my responsibility is to steward well what He gives in the one life I have to live.

What is the best way to honor God in my life with the tiles He’s given?

How about you?

Here’s what I came up with: