[Note: I posted this up on the Facebook wall of my church’s youth group on December 31, 2014. Every year, in lieu of making a list of resolutions, I typically pray about a verse/passage that I will meditate on over the next year. In 2014, I focused on “abiding” a la John 15. 2015 is all about “being strong in the Lord” and “getting things done” in the spirit of 1 Chronicles 28:20]
I had a really hard time falling asleep last night.
I don’t think I suffer from insomnia, nor do I believe it was the fault of the adrenaline still pumping through my veins after singing T. Swizzle songs with Michael and Hubert. Instead, I place blame solely on the two adults in the attached photo. Many of you know them. They gave an… interesting… talk on relationships once. Getting back to my original point, I don’t know if your parents snore, but God saw fit to place me in a family where two were joined in holy matrimony.
As 11:30 rolled around, I tried to extract lemonade out of my situation by turning it into a game. Was that cavernous rumble the sign of a tongue base snorer? Dad, is that you? As the snores began to increase in volume and mingle, it hit me. An old memory of a family vacation, where we stayed in a two bedroom Residence Inn suite, came rolling through my conscious mind (http://www.residenceinn.marriott.com/tour?fp=2br-fp – scroll down for the floor plan). My mom and I were in one room, while my dad and little brothers were in the other. I remember missing out on the little window of opportunity to fall asleep before my parents (curse the temptation that was Nickelodeon to a girl whose parents refused to subscribe to cable). By the time I pried my eyes away from the umpteenth episode of Rugrats, at around 1/2 AM, and I headed for my room, my mom was already fast asleep and… snoring.
I must have tossed and turned for another hour before deciding that I had had enough. Thoroughly frustrated, I grabbed my pillows and marched out to the living room. I threw them onto the couch, curled up into the fetal position, and closed my eyes… only to come to the horrible realization that I was now stuck in a living room DMZ with my mom on one side… and my dad on the other. Let’s just say that I don’t remember being a very pleasant person later that morning.
But as the memory played out last night to the soundtrack of only more deafening snores, I found my reaction to be quite different: I laughed. Not the kind of wild laughter that comes from an attempt to dodge pain by untethering oneself from reality and going off the proverbial deep-end. Not the kind that succumbs to the pain, marked by a rueful sardonicism at being dealt “a bad hand” and no longer having the will to keep playing. No and no.
Instead, it was the kind of laughter that bubbles up from a soul that experiences what David penned in Psalm 27:13 – “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (NASB). It’s the kind of laughter that bursts forth from someone who can still feel all the feels, but now knows that they can thrive in the midst of it, because they are held in the hands of their loving Heavenly Father who has seen them through, and has redeemed their pain.
Too much? I mean, really? Not despairing over snoring? Is that really a noteworthy triumph/example of God’s goodness?
Well, the snoring didn’t just trigger the aforementioned memory with my nuclear family, but many others with my family in Christ. Like the first Friday back in April where we went through 1 Peter 1:3-9. The first Friday my family spent with my dad in Chicago (I had dropped him off at San Jose International Airport just the previous Sunday). The first and rawest (and not in the positive way Sam uses it) Friday when things were tumultuous at home, and between my parents, and my heart was so heavy thinking about how this felt like one of the “various trials” that God’s children would be grieved by “so that the tested genuineness of [their] faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” When I admitted that it felt like the flames were turning my faith to ashes and I was struggling so hard to be hopeful. When Pastor Johnson walked clear across the room and just had everyone in junior high lay hands on and pray for me. And KK, Matthew, and Teru provided me with enough handfuls of Kleenex to clog every toilet in the church… so I took one for the team and just used them to wipe away all my tears.
I had a really hard time falling asleep last night… because I was just so filled with gratitude.
On September 2nd, I booked a Thanksgiving flight for my dad. (See? Sometimes I can plan ahead!) He was supposed to fly in on November 27th, and then depart for Chicago on November 30th. The day after my birthday, September 19th, he sent me a text message saying that all of the contractors were being let go, and that he would be home in two weeks. On September 29th, I successfully converted his flight from a roundtrip over Thanksgiving, to a one-way flight into SFO on Saturday, October 4th. The following Monday, he had an interview with the Space Science Laboratory in Berkeley. A few weeks later, they offered him a full time position.
And on Thanksgiving morning, the screen of my phone lit up with a Google calendar alert that I had forgotten to delete, an alert telling me that my dad was going to be flying in that morning…
Yes, last night I reflected on how grateful I am to have my dad back (even if it’s gone from there being a solo snorer in the house to a duet). But I also realized that my joy is not solely tied to this change in circumstance; instead, I am overwhelmingly grateful to be able to look back on the chapter of my life that 2014 comprises, and say that even though it has been filled with a fair amount of trials, I have not gone through them alone. God has been there each step of the way, encouraging me through His word.
A few weeks ago, I was reading through 1 Chronicles 28, where King David prepares to hand the building of the house of God off to his son, Solomon, who he acknowledges is “young and inexperienced” (1 Chr. 22:5). In 1 Chronicles 28:9-19, David gives Solomon all of the building plans, from the layouts of the chambers and treasuries, to the weight of precious metals for lampstands, and then ends his charge with these words:
“Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished” (1 Chr. 28:20).
I can say quite honestly that I never envisioned being in the place I am now when I first came to San Ramon that first Friday, May 3rd, 2013. That is, single in terms of relationship status, and also in leadership. It’s easy for my mind to have that word connote being alone and abandoned in some ways. It’s easy for my shoulders to tense up as I think of all the things I need to coordinate and how little time I have to do it. It’s easy for me to feel the flames of this trial begin to singe my faith. It’s just all too easy to fear and be dismayed.
But God has shown me 2 things in 1 Chronicles:
1) He Can Be Trusted:
If God could help the “young and inexperienced” Solomon build His house, He can be trusted to build our youth group in 2015 and beyond, to make us even more of a family and united Body that reflects His goodness and love. Yes, there will be work for all of us to do, but above and beyond that, we can “be strong and courageous and do it” because God is with us.
2) He Has Given Us One Another So That We Can Build Each Other Up:
Does the phrase “be strong and courageous” sound familiar to any of you? I’m sure Joshua 1:9 was a memory verse for many.
I did a search of the phrase and it turns out that in Deuteronomy 3:28, God tells Moses to “charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him.” And later in Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of [enemy nations], for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
In the middle of tough times, I’m all too prone to retreat into myself and away from other people, to forget God’s promises and, once in self-imposed isolation, to falter under the weight of my own doubts and fears.
What I saw between Deuteronomy and 1 Chronicles, from Moses and Joshua to David and Solomon, is a pattern of mutual encouragement that is, from the very beginning, something that God desires for us to do for one another.
Speaking for myself, it has been such a blessing to know all of you! Each time I’ve faltered, whether that was over family strife or with ministry leadership changes, there has been no shortage of listening ears, prayer partners, encouraging words, smiles, hugs, offers of boba, etc. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the internal tide of my thoughts turn from worry, to joy and hope, and I know that I didn’t get there alone.
All in all, I had a really hard time falling asleep last night because I was just so filled with gratitude… as I reflected on how truly blessed I am to know all of you.
Happy New Year, brothers & sisters. Thank you so much for walking with me through the valleys and peaks of 2014. I greatly look forward to, as one of you so succinctly put it in a letter, “kicking butt in 2015.”