The Only Gift

A few days ago, my brother called me while I was at work and asked for my Christmas wish list. I opened my mouth to answer…

…then closed it again when I realized I had no idea what I wanted for Christmas.

Okay fine, I was just a bit too busy with work to really focus on those seemingly insignificant things. So I asked for time and tried to think of something, and I still came up short. I eventually managed to text him a few items I wanted later that day, but they weren’t things that I really, really want. In fact, some of them were just things I put there for the sake of having a wish list – nice to have, but not necessarily necessary.

It’s not that I didn’t know what I want, or that I didn’t want anything, really. I suppose we can count this as a sign of aging maturity,  as I haven’t made a wish list for my birthday or for Christmas ever since I turned 27. However, as I pondered on it further, I realized why I didn’t have a lot of things on my wish list this year.

It’s because God has granted most of them already.

Well, the ones that I asked for in all my prayers, anyway, which were the ones that I really, really, really wanted.

Direction.

And no, it’s not One Direction. ;) Early this year, I prayed for direction, because I felt like this year was the time to move, the time to do something new, especially with my career. My personal deadline was mid-2014, but God answered the prayer earlier, which led me to transition, which led me to one of the craziest adventures I’ve had this year.

I will write about it eventually, but let’s just say that this adventure led me to hold on tighter, to choose joy more, and to learn to be grateful. When I asked for direction, God really gave me that, and funny thing is that He kept me in the dark so I would learn to trust that He was leading me in the right path. In answering my prayer for direction, God made my faith stronger…and well, there’s a lot more to learn, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I got what I prayed for.

Open Doors.

This is connected to the prayer for direction, as I often prayed for doors to open when I asked God to lead me. But the more concrete thing with this is what had happened recently: I thought I lost one opportunity because I chose not to acknowledge it, so I let it go. I didn’t think it would come find me again, which I took as God telling me that that was one door opening for me again.

You know sometimes it still surprises me how swiftly God moves when the much-awaited perfect timing comes. Either that, or I just have these expectations that God’s timing is just slower, when really it’s on time.

But other than that semi-cryptic things I wrote up there (which I will write about eventually), there were many other doors that opened to me this year, in terms of travel, writing, and speaking. I realized a lot of things about myself, and what I really want to do in my life, and it’s both exciting and scary.

But I think that’s what open doors should really make us feel: excited and scared. But more excited because how can we be scared when we’ve got God on our side? :)

Forgiveness.

One of the things that I really prayed for this year is the grace of forgiveness – forgive others, forgive myself, and be forgiven. I ended 2013 with thoughts on this, and carried it over until 2014. I pondered, struggled, and worked on this in my heart, up until I had finally accepted that maybe there are some things that will really take time and that there are some things that I will probably never get, so I told myself that maybe what I wanted isn’t necessary anymore. Maybe I should just learn to live with what I was given, you know?

But you know what? It’s always when we surrender that God starts to move in ways that will always surprise us. It’s as if He’s just waiting for us to give Him the reins, and the moment we do, He moves like that, and we get the things we want in such an amazing package that we wouldn’t want it in any other way than He had given it to us.

And so forgiveness. Of all the gifts I received this year, this is the one I am most thankful for. So much of last year and early this year had me asking so many questions about what happened, had me feeling angry and sad at myself and at others because of the things I did and what they did and what I lost. I honestly didn’t think that reconciliation would be possible. But God had other things in mind, and He answered my prayer in the most perfect time, and I am just in awe and so grateful that He did.

It is a great grace to really experience forgiveness. How humbling it is to be able to give and receive it face to face. And as my friend said, truly, God works for the good of those who love Him. :)

All I want for Christmas

Looking back, this Christmas is now a lot more special because instead of asking for material things, I find myself just giving thanks over and over again. It feels like a huge bonus – not only did Jesus come down to be human, but He answered my prayers even if I didn’t deserve any of it. I believe He answered them for the same reason why He came down to be a child on this day: because He loves us.

And because of that, what else can I ask for? :)

ขอบคุณ กรุงเทพฯ!

My first international trip was about 10 years ago, before my dad went to Saipan for work. We set off to Bangkok, Thailand that summer before junior year in college, which was a lot of firsts that I unfortunately wasn’t able to document. I never got to blog about it in my old blogs because I didn’t know what to say, nor what to write about, partly because there was a time that I was a bit of a brat back then. :P

But I remember one time while we were there, I told my dad that I wanted to go back, and that I wanted to travel more and he said that it’s a good place to visit with friends. I remember planning a trip mentally with my college friends but that never materialized, and Bangkok didn’t become a priority destination for me…

…until some book club friends brought up the topic of an Indochina backpacking trip. And of course I said yes.

So last October, after lots of planning, booking hotels, and grabbing really cheap airfares for a trip, some book club friends and I set off to our first international trip together, to Bangkok, Thailand (and later, Siem Reap, Cambodia). I was excited, mostly because of the company and the idea of traveling again before the year ends. I was excited about the place, but it has been so long since I was last there that I could hardly remember anything, except that I knew I wanted to eat everywhere instead of restaurants, because I didn’t get a chance to do that on my first time.

Sawasdee-kha, Bangkok!

Batch 1: All sleepy and eye-baggy, but ready to go to Bangkok! (Delayed flight, boo!)
Batch 1: All sleepy and eye-baggy, but ready to go to Bangkok!

(more…)

Things I Forget

Sometime around last week, I started to feel this tiny little worry because my word for 2015 hasn’t found me yet.

Delight, my 2014 word found me perhaps a little around this time last year, but it felt a little obvious given everything that happened in 2013. Courage, my 2013 word found me sometime in December, I think, but I think I knew it before I finally acknowledged that word (because I was scared of it). And now, we’re about 5 weeks away from 2015, and I was coming up with nothing and I was worried.

But then there was no room for worry because the last few weeks at work were very tough ones – as in really tough – and a part of me wonders why these things had to happen on the year when I said I’d be joyful, and not on the year when I said I’d be courageous. I am supposed to be done with having to live courage all over again — it’s the year of joy, joy, joy. Why am I wrestling with fear again?

I know, I know – joy is a kind of courage, it’s not just happiness, and courage is a choice, blah, blah, blah. I know that. Except knowing and living it out are two different things and there was a huge part of me in the past few weeks that keep on resisting to what I was doing, and what I should do, and there’s this loud part of me that just wants to quit. Because it’s hard. Because it’s not fun. Because I don’t think I can do this. Because I don’t want this. Because I didn’t ask for this.

I’m trying to recall where all the guts I had from last year went. I called myself brave last year because I did things I never thought I could do. Did they disappear when I decided to take delight this year? I hope not. Or maybe I wasn’t really brave then, but you know, faking it the entire time? I hope not, too.

I remember something I learned when I started working for my current company, about how we get called to certain levels of faith. When we reach a certain point, we get to start from zero again not because we’re back to square one, but because we’re at a new level, and we need to level up with the faith points. Or joy points. Or courage points. Those kinds of things. While I was reflecting and listening to the community events I attended this weekend, I realized that maybe I am at a new level of courage, and that is why I am scared out of my wits.

Over the weekend, though, I learned that courage isn’t really what drives away fear. Which makes sense, because I always thought brave people are people full of fear who still decide to go for it, anyway. What I completely forgot – because I let my fears ruled me in the last two, three weeks – is this: love drives away fear.

How could I forget that? Perfect love. Okay, sure, my love isn’t perfect, but I am loved by a perfect God…so why am I so afraid? I know I am capable of love…so again, why am I so afraid?

It’s so simple, but I know it’s going to be hard, too, especially since I tend to fall away and worry and lately I seem to be so overwhelmed with so many things. I forget so easily, and I get distracted by so many things, and before we know it, I am back to the worrying and wanting to get out…and then today I was reminded of two things (among others):

Surrender control. Seek His will.

You see, it’s really not about what I want. It has never been that. It’s always been what God wants, what His will is. I know that I will find His will in my deepest desires, but I will only know what those deep desires if I seek His will. And part of seeking His will is surrendering all of my control. The more I try to control, the more frustrated I will get, and the more fearful I will become.

I forget so easily.

I’ve been restless in the past days because everything felt hard, so hard, and all I wanted to do was quit. But earlier today, as the people in the Catchfire 2014 conference sang Refiner’s Fire, and I leaned onto my dad, I started to cry because I realized what I forgot: my heart’s one desire is to be holy, set apart for you my Master, ready to do Your will.

I forget so easily.

It’s Monday again tomorrow, and I am already bracing myself for another tough week. God never promised that it will be easy, but He promised that He will never ever leave us. He will never ever leave me. Hasn’t He been faithful all my life – why would He be less faithful now?

Here’s to a victorious week ahead. :) Pray with me?

Oh my strength, I will sing Thy praises!
Thou o Lord are a shield to me!
Oh my King, though the battle rages,
I look with victory on my enemies.
Praise you Lord, mighty King of Zion! ♥