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!

 

Meeting Warriors In Pink

Cancer is no respecter of age, race, faith, socio-economic status, life-stage. All of us have been touched by cancer whether personally or someone close to us. The day after receiving my cancer diagnosis, Darrin and I sat in a cold, sterile office with a nurse practitioner. In addition to receiving a crash course on all things breast cancer, a bulging folder stuffed with pamphlets about treatment, we also learned statistically most everyone will deal with some form of cancer in their lifetime. Sobering news. Sadly, I’ve found the nurse’s words to be true.

This past weekend I enjoyed the company of the wonderful women from Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles. The theme of this retreat: “A Willing Heart.” Several women shared how cancer touched their lives. Our shared experience connected us; the theme applying on an entirely different level. What blessed me was seeing their warrior hearts, their willing hearts and also seeing the loyalty and love of friends and family who came alongside to help.

Following the retreat I had the privilege of FaceTiming and joining, via technology, a gathering up in San Francisco. My dear friend, May, pulled together an impressive team of women who walked 40 miles (not minutes, which would be about what I could handle, but MILES!) this past July in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. This photo is missing two others who were part of the team.

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They sweetly included me as an honorary team member. I was out-of-state during the walk. Honestly, if I joined them they would have had to dump me into a wagon and pull me along. 40 MILES. Wow. I did, however, wear my matching shirt, personalized with surVIVor, on race day. My heart remains grateful for these women and their families. Their willingness to train and walk, raise money and awareness blessed me. My heart is especially grateful for May and her loyalty and love throughout our cancer battle.

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With the continuation of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to highlight a blog post I wrote following the Webinar with Fullfill Magazine on “Helping Those Who Hurt.” I am grateful for this book review written by friend and Cru ministry leader, Andrea Buczynski. You can read it here.

And here is another place to enter for a free copy of Warrior In Pink. Asian American Women on Leadership blog is giving away a free copy, you just need to comment to be entered into the drawing.

Another five copies of the book will be given away later on this week over at Today’s Christian Women magazine and several more bloggers are also hosting giveaways. I’ll be sure to let you know when and where.

Still more to come!! Stay tuned!!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

“I hate cancer. I hate thinking about another person having to battle cancer. I hate that you will walk the painful treatment road. As much as I hate cancer, I want you to know from my experience that God used cancer to expand my heart. I have met some of the most remarkable people on this journey. I have been blessed in thousands of ways by the thoughtfulness and generosity of so many. I am not the same woman today because of cancer.”

-excerpt from letter to a newly diagnosed cancer patient in “Warrior In Pink”

What? October!? I’m seeing pink everywhere. Two enormous horses towering outside PF Changs Restaurant at the Mission Viejo mall are painted pink. It must be October.

This is going to be one crazy month! The first Breast Cancer Awareness month after the release of Warrior In Pink. Yesterday I relished the sweet reunion of half of the Oasis group, Mellanie, Paula and Annie, along with Leila of the Awesome Threesome (those of you who haven’t read the book yet, these descriptions will all make sense after you read the book).

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The five of us drove up from Orange County to Los Angeles to participate in Kaiser Permanente’s Pink Day Celebration. I shared a bit of my cancer story with 1000 folks comprised of cancer patients, friends of survivors, employees at Kaiser, and fellow “Warriors In Pink.”

signing "Warrior In Pink" for a fellow warrior in pink

We marveled together thinking back over the past five years, never imaging the doors God would open. These dear friends are at the top of my list when I think of examples of people who love well.

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The Pink Day Celebration served as a great kick off to what will be a very exciting month filled with book giveaways. I’ll be linking up on this blog to other websites hosting book giveaways or highlighting the book. This is your chance to win a FREE book. Or if you have friends who are interested, please let them know about the giveaways. FREE COPIES. What’s not to love?

Some of the remarkable people I refer to in the excerpt above are authors like Robin Lee Hatcher. She has won every award in existence for Christian Fiction authors. Robin was the first author to endorse my book. A fellow Warrior In Pink, she has generously promoted my book from the moment she read the unedited version sent by my literary agent. Robin has posted an interview on her blog that I did with my friend and fellow Redbud Writer, Dorcas Cheng-Tozun (also in the remarkable category), who interviewed me about my cancer journey and road to publishing. Thankfully Dorcas is gracious and understanding. I forwarded the interview we did together to Robin thinking I would reconnect over the content, and then didn’t follow-up (#newbieauthor #loopybrain #notgoodwithdetails #thestruggleisreal). With Dorcas’ permission, we have reposted the bulk of her interview.

I will be linking in the different websites and book giveaway opportunities on this website, so you will be receiving a good chunk of short posts in the next four to five weeks. Please share with your friends. And if you are the praying type, I would deeply appreciate your prayers during these next couple of months.

  • Book Giveaway over at Robin Lee Hatcher’s website here.
  • Blog over at CaringBridge (the medical blog I used during cancer treatment) here.

Stay tuned! More to come!!

 

#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.

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?

Keep On Praying

We lived at the base of the mountain named Pine Brook Hills. The name, Pine Brook Hills, might suggest grass-covered mounds, but hairpin turns and steep inclines required the use of snow tires and sometimes chains during the winter months. These were, without question, mountains. The houses were sprinkled far apart and the driveways were long and the views, breath-taking. From one of those houses surrounded by pine trees too many to count, a mom and one of her daughters faithfully prayed. The prayers drifted up to heaven like smoke from their chimney. The daughter, my sister’s classmate, prayed that God would bring my sister and me to Himself.

The prayers went up. And life went on. And years went by.

Much later on God would answer those mountain prayers. Our family would move from the house at the base of the mountain in Boulder, Colorado clear across the ocean to Hong Kong. And there in Hong Kong my sister and I would fully commit our lives to God.

When I returned to Boulder to attend the University of Colorado, I spent the next five years teaching Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church where Jill Wedlake, the mom who prayed for us, was the director of the children’s program. Our lives would continue to criss cross. Then they moved to Italy when I moved to Berkeley.

And years went by.

Last month, in Grand Junction, Colorado, we had a sweet reunion with the Wedlake family. I was able to introduce Jill and her husband, Jerry, to Michael and Julia. We stayed overnight at their house. Sydney, the daughter who prayed, came over for dinner with her two kids. And sitting over chips and salsa at the kitchen counter, I thanked them both for praying all those years back.

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And as we drove away from their home the next morning my heart was renewed to not give up. To keep on praying. And to pray with my own daughter for God to draw her friends to Himself. This side of heaven we may not see exactly how He answers the prayers we pray. But each of us had someone who prayed for us. And each of us has people God has placed in our lives for us to pray for as well.

God hears prayer and He answers.

Don’t give up. Keep on praying.

Halfway Around the World

The jet lag and cold medicine worked together in tandem. At different points during our four hour bus ride out of the city I would find myself suspended between a dream state and the reality of being halfway around the world. And there, in the half awake, half asleep state with my eyes closed, I would hear women speaking different languages, or speaking English with different accents. Now back on this side of the world, I find myself wondering: Did we really travel halfway around the world? Was it all a dream?

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I stop during the times when it feels like Central Asia was a lifetime ago and close my eyes. My heart returns halfway around the world and I picture the faces and hear again their voices. Beautiful women, women of character, courage and depth. Their different accents represented different countries: Brazil, Finland, countries in the Middle East, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Australia, Trinidad, Canada, Central Asia, England, Russia, and from all across the United States. Fifty-two women. Six infants. Different sending agencies, different life stages, teachers, business women, expats in the oil industry. The group was mostly composed of women who had lived and worked in a different land, for different lengths of time. They were at different places in their spiritual journeys, carrying various life experiences, some carrying deep pain and disappointment.

I was tasked to teach from the Bible and share my life and journey with them. I taught from one of my favorite passages of Scripture: John 15. The theme was Abiding in the Vine: Revive, Renew, Remain. I taught about all the things closest to my heart.

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Leila, wondrously gifted in asking questions and listening, met with women during the afternoons for spiritual direction and led times of guided prayer during personal reflection time. Her years and experience studying Spiritual Formation at Talbot Seminary blessed the women with both space and skill in navigating the deeper places of the heart.

Before we left this side of the world, we invited a group of prayer warriors to pray and fast for us. We sent them our schedule. Their prayers and the prayers of so many made all the difference on the other side of the world. My cough kept me up most nights. I coughed through meals, conversations, everywhere, all the time…EXCEPT for when I spoke. Several women commented their surprise about the talks being cough free. It was as if an angel covered my throat and kept the cough at bay.

Unlike here, on this time conscious side of the world, where conferences are broken down to the minute, and speakers have time keepers, I never once looked at my watch when I got up to speak. This gave room and space for me to go off on rabbit trails, elaborate on stories, and not feel rushed to squeeze everything in. It was pure joy to speak at this retreat. I was reminded so clearly, with a room full of women from countries around the world, that God is not an American. And I was also reminded that the truths from the Bible transcend language, time and culture. I felt honored and humbled to have time with these heroes of the faith. And in my heart I sensed God giving a nod of confirmation in this international setting to continue to teach in different capacities with different audiences and contribute to Kingdom building through speaking and teaching.

943241_514625625240758_3823783_nOur accommodations were top notch. Turns out, because it was off season, the five star hotel was cheaper than staying in the city at a Ramada Inn. Both our husbands thought we would be at some kind of campsite using outhouses. Leila and I were giddy with happiness as we sunk into our comfortable beds and looked out at the view of snow capped mountains outside our balcony. Meals were prepared by the hotel. I tasted flavors I had never known.

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The initial invitation to come and speak at this retreat came from Jenni a year ago last May. Darrin and I met Jenni almost 20 years ago when she was a student. Now she is an incredible mom of four girls, speaking the language, driving like the nationals and skillfully dodging potholes and cars that don’t really use lanes. She has lived through winters with frozen pipes and no hot water and has come to love this country she lives in. Jenni took Leila and me around the city for several hours after our bus returned and before our flight took off. Time with Jenni, seeing her world, watching her warm up soup in her kitchen, overhearing her conversations with her kids and husband, seeing how God has worked in her life and the woman of character, depth, maturity and excellence and beauty she has become was my personal highlight. A close second was traveling and ministering with Leila.

IMG_1777Thank you to all who prayed for us. Thank you especially to Darrin who not only took care of me and the kids the entire week before the trip while we were all sick (seriously, it looked like a MASH unit downstairs with me passed out on the bed and each kid on each couch), but then he came down with the same virus the week I was gone and still held down the fort.

IMG_1891This trip, and the many wonderful people I met, the country and all the sights and sounds will be treasured in my heart all the rest of my days. I’m thankful for the blessing of photos, souvenirs, and the ability to close my eyes to return again and again to a beautiful land halfway around the world.

Mount Hermon Writers Conference: One Year Later

My eyes keep scanning the feed on twitter and Facebook for updates. Incredible people who were strangers last year, but have now grown to become friends, are descending today on hallowed ground surrounded by towering redwood trees. They will enjoy time, deep in the Santa Cruz mountains, connecting with God and each other over the art of crafting words. The cover photo on my Facebook page of the redwood trees was taken outside my cabin last year at the Mount Hermon Writers Conference.

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And though I sit here, tapping away on the keyboard at my dining room table, with faithful canine sleeping nearby, my heart is up north. In my mind I picture the pathways, the dining hall, the fire place, the spots where conversations with just the right people at just the right time took place. Gratitude and awe for all God has done since last year at this time.

I’ve met remarkable people over the course of this past year who steward well the gift of painting pictures with words. They have been generous, kind, helpful and inspiring. I pray to be a blessing to others like they have been to me.

Special thank you and shout-out to these highlights from Mount Hermon folks I met last year:

  • Janneke Jobsis Brown, helpful buddy who answered dozens of my newbie questions and encouraged me to pursue application to the non-fiction mentoring track
  • Karen O’Connor, who accepted me into the mentoring track on the last possible date and took time to meet and encourage me
  • Steve Laube (President of the Steve Laube Agency). So humbled to be agented by this incredible literary agency.
  • Karen Ball–literary agent extraordinaire.
  • Sara Baysinger–roommate and soon to be mama!
  • Mary DeMuth–her initial blog about MH was what first started the ball rolling. Her open-handed posture for helping writers at every stage of their publishing journey has been refreshing and one I hope to adopt.
  • Jan Kern–incredibly skilled intermediate writing mentoring track mentor leader, coach
  • fellow MH authors/writers: Erin Taylor Young, Gillian Marchenko, Kim Van Brunt, Bethany Macklin, Cheri Williams, Susanne Lakin, and many, many other gifted wordsmiths.

Our life journey is full of twists and turns. Writing, for me, was a completely unexpected twist and turn. Grateful God calls us to travel together. Grateful He allowed my path to cross with each of these lover of words. Grateful for their example.

Eyes up and out.

I wonder: what will life look like next year at this time?? One thing for certain–God willing, I will be up at the Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference again next year at this time.

 

Grateful Goodbye

The heels of my boots clip-clopped against the asphalt as I rushed back to my car. High heels still sound so grown-up and mature in my ears. I was late to pick Julia up but wanted to squeeze out every possible last moment because soon the miles would change from tens to thousands. I blinked back grateful tears as I pulled out of my parking spot. My mind replayed the history of our friendship. Twenty-four years ago we met. We were both recent college graduates attending a Cru winter conference before heading south to Arrowhead Springs for staff training. We had mutual friends who introduced us. At the conference we decided to become roommates and from there we became fast forever friends.

I was drawn immediately to Donna’s tender heart for the Lord and her missionary zeal; perhaps in the same way Jonathan was drawn to David in the Old Testament. Though our temperaments were different, we were bonded in Kingdom vision. Our hearts were captured by our King. It was obvious loyalty to Him ran deep in Donna’s life. We spent hours talking, praying and worshipping in the little prayer chapel on the grounds of the Cru Headquarters (Campus Crusade for Christ back then). We dreamed of going together: Yak Back to Mongolia. We were willing to go where no one wanted. We were willing to go to the farthest corners of the world to share the message of God’s love and forgiveness.

Twice we returned too late from a pie eating study session down in San Bernardino. We waited in her car talking and singing songs like “The Battle Belongs to the Lord” by the front gate until the top of the hour, usually two a.m., when the guard would come by shaking his head to let us in. We shared secret crushes, we discussed discipleship, ministry philosophy and difficult passages in the Bible. We waited together in anticipation to find out our first campus assignments. She would be at the University of Washington. I would be at her alma mater, UC Berkeley.

I’m convinced part of the reason my monthly financial support came in so quickly was God allowing time for us to be in the same location to continue to deepen our friendship. When I arrived in Berkeley it was Donna who first took me to Fat Apples and introduced me to Peets Coffee. My first summer assignment was to staff the Lake Tahoe project. Donna remained in Berkeley to continue raising her support. Twice, on my days off, we met half way in Sacramento.

We roomed together at our first staff training in Fort Collins, Colorado. The training took place every other year. We sat together mesmerized as the vision for Manila 1990 was shared with the 5000 staff. Together we decided we would go. We walked the grounds of the CSU campus praying and sharing secret crushes. We watched the married staff and the mom’s pushing strollers and wondered about their lives–wondered how they maintained an eternal perspective in their daily lives in their different seasons.

The following summer I received special permission to join her Pacific Northwest staff team so we could minister together in Manila. We started off roommates but circumstances caused the bulk of the team to relocate to Bangkok, Thailand. I stayed back in Manila and over the course of the summer fell in love with my co-team leader, Darrin.

By Christmas time Darrin and I were engaged. The following summer Donna and I walked the grounds of CSU. This time as we talked she shared her secret crushes and I wore an engagement ring on my left hand. She was one of my bridesmaids at the wedding following the conference.

The next staff training found us again walking the grounds of CSU. She shared her secret crushes, I waddled next to her trying to keep up with short breaths, with swollen ankles, seven months pregnant. She looked over at me. Our paths were going in different directions. I was living out the life she always wanted. Donna went on to do everything I wanted: she attended seminary and got her Master’s Degree, she spent a year living overseas on Stint (short term international mission).

We joked about writing and giving a talk together called “Flies on the Window” about marriage and singleness. The flies on the outside want in, the ones on the inside want out. Though we loved much of the path God had us on, we were blessed with enough trust to share honestly about the harder parts.

Donna ended up living in the apartment across from me and Darrin and we served for a time together on the UCLA campus and finally, after years of failed attempts, spent an entire summer together overseas in East Asia. She was there the day Jonathan was born and the day he took his first steps. She was with me in the emergency room when Jonathan received his first and only stiches.

Eventually Donna met and married a godly, handsome, artistic Frenchman named Didier. I was honored to stand with her as a bridesmaid. The Lord led them to minister in France. Now Donna is the mother of three wonderful kids. Her oldest daughter is Julia’s age.

God has been good to us. Our paths, though very different, cross and recross despite the miles, despite the years. Today we met halfway for one final lunch. We had months of catching up, but conversation came effortlessly. We picked up where we left off and went deep quickly. On December 12th Donna and her family will return to France to minister in Paris. God has burdened their hearts to reach the lost through the medium of the arts. I’m grateful to Didier for sharing his gift of photography with me. The photo he took of the grapes from a vineyard in France now graces the header for my new website. How fitting my first post with my newly designed site would highlight my friendship with Donna. You can check out their website and other photos Didier has taken by clicking his name the photo credit at the bottom of the page.

I’m grateful for friendships that span the seasons of life. Grateful for the memories made with Donna over the years. We have both grown, matured, and lived through good times and hard times. But through it all our heart and vision for the world and the Lord remains the same. Donna continues to bless me by her courage, example, willingness and tender heart towards the Lord. Please join me in praying for her and her family as they pack, say goodbyes and transition to life in France.

My eyes are filled now with tears as I type and think about our goodbye and the miles, but my heart is full of gratitude to be blessed with a lifelong friend like Donna.

I love you, Donna, and miss you already. Look forward to the next time we are together!

What are some of the blessings you’ve received through friendship?

Three Years Ago

I knew something was significant about yesterday and today. Woke up in the dark to the sound of rain this morning and remembered: three years ago yesterday was the last of 33 zaps of radiation, which was preceded by six rounds of a triple chemo cocktail of Adriamycin, Cytoxan, and Taxotere. Three surgeries, 32 physical therapy appointments, blood tests, waiting rooms, nine prescription and over the counter drugs. Yesterday marked the end of active treatment three years ago.

Three years ago the Awesome Threesome hugged and cried with me in the waiting room following the last zap. They scooped me up and took me to RA Sushi for a surprise celebration with friends to mark the end of a long and unexpected medical trial.

Now three years later, I still feel gratitude when I remove my hair from the drain after showers. Three years later no one can tell from the outside what life was like three years ago. But somehow through battling cancer my heart was expanded and my soul was altered. I no longer look at life through the same lenses. Life has become simultaneously more simplified and complex. The “go to the mat” issues have become fewer and less important. Having more questions than answers about God and His mysterious ways has grown to feel more familiar.

Three years later and I am seeking to follow where God leads. Grateful for the gift of eternal life, grateful for my family and friends. Grateful for the hundreds of people who rallied around our little family in our greatest time of need. Three years later and I am still a little bit stunned with the doors God has begun to open. Three years later I am returning in my mind to those dark days, working on the book with prayers it will help others who walk the cancer road.

One thing I feel confident in: we have no idea what life will look like three years from now.

So for today, God, help me live in such a way to honor you.

Forever grateful to each and every one of you who came alongside us.

Thank you for your prayers and help.

Opps. Almost forgot. If you subscribe by RSS feeder to this blog, here’s the new link to connect you again. Not really sure how it works, but all of the RSS folks dropped off the feedburner thingy when we transferred to a new web host. Please update or resubscribe. Thanks!

feed://feeds.feedburner.com/APlaceOfAbundance