I love my in-laws.

I am no less than blessed with the family I married into. They are easygoing, incredibly helpful, and have a great relationship with Isaac. When I was on bedrest my mother-in-law did our laundry and the dishes and it kind of just continued. My father-in-law is a handyman, personal assistant, and chauffeur. They do all this willingly and lovingly.

And at the same time the parents I currently have makes me think of the parents I no longer have. I can't help it, comparison is a bitch.

Whenever we go out to Chinese food and chow mein is ordered, I'm reminded of a life where it never was. I get either mad or sad (I can't tell which it is, probably both) that nowadays eating Chinese food with family really means eating American food. Honey Walnut Prawns? That's the dish the non-Chinese at wedding banquets want.

Grief over my parents being gone is this: the life that I live is not the life I thought I would live. Everything is different.


Hope vs. Expectations

Lately I've been feeling more irate and it's been difficult not to be short with people. It's not a pretty sight - my words more cutting, my tone obviously annoyed, and my sighs of impatience loud and clear. Maybe it's because of busyness and maybe it's because the anniversary of my dad's death is coming up, but I know I don't like this "me." 

God challenged me to consider how my expectations were being misplaced. Expectations come from wanting people to be a certain way. Hope is when everyone fails to meet your expectations and the belief that even when that happens, God won't disappoint. And hope is the belief that God can and will transform me and those around me.

... but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering brings about perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has as been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

In the progression of suffering to perseverance to character to hope we tend to get stuck in the suffering and have a hard time moving towards hope. Maybe it's because we hope in people and not Jesus. Instead we tend to move from suffering to disappointment to hardheartedness to bitterness to cynicism. 

Perhaps one of the hardest things I've had to figure out in my faith is getting from suffering to perseverance. I was really challenged when I read a blog post recently - A Prayer of Indigenous People.  

After again being shut out of key legislative discussions with evangelicals on the topic of immigration, Mark Charles had this to say:

I guess my only alternative is to go back to the drawing board and once again get down on my knees.

Wow. Some might call him naive. Others might get angry for him and the injustice he's experiencing. But I am floored and convicted by this perseverance, character, and hope. Talk about living out this scripture.

So I say to myself, if he can do this, then maybe so can I.


Last week was sobering. One friend's mom died after a decade long battle with cancer. Another friend's mom who had been fighting cancer found out she has 2-3 months left. Having been through the deaths of my own parents I didn't want to say anything to them, because I knew how little words mattered. I wrote a little email to each, trying not to sound too cliche, fearing I was anyway. No words could really express my joining with them in grief.

L had been keeping us updated and asked us to pray for a miracle, to pray for a complete healing for her mom. What a bold way to pray! As I was getting her emails, I couldn't help wondering to myself - in some ways isn't complete healing found in physical death?

When my parents died, there was this part of me that could access that thought. My mom was no longer trapped in her sick, physical body. She wasn't in pain anymore. And my dad was no longer being tortured emotionally. He wasn't in pain anymore. And that part of me could feel glad for them... and perhaps a bit envious.

Even with that thought, it didn't assuage the feelings of longing, the sadness of the void their persons left behind. There's not much you can do about that other than to just let yourself feel it. Feeling it meant they meant the world to me because as their kid they made up so much of my world.


Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. I like that in this verse there is a promise of future comfort. Not necessarily present comfort, but the hope that one day down the line comfort will come.


Full of it... Part Two

Ego strength: a person's capacity to maintain his/her own identity despite psychological pain, distress, turmoil and conflict between internal forces as well as the demands of reality.

Something I sometimes say about myself is that I have a lot of ego strength. On the positive side, I appear sure of myself and strong. On the not so positive, I come across as intimidating and difficult to approach.

I have never been one who was confused about my talents and strengths, my likes and dislikes. Even through teenage angsty years, I knew the places I could excel and gravitated towards those places. I think I can be pretty amazing!

But... at the same time I don't think or expect others to think I'm all that.

In fact I'm usually surprised when someone affirms me as being outstanding in a certain area. The desire for this kind of affirmation is unfortunately a bottomless pit. I love it and crave it and I can't get enough.

A paradox, yes. I think I'm pretty awesome yet I have a hard time believing others think I'm awesome.

My therapist is getting paid well.


Full of it...

When it comes to pride and humility, Paul can be very confusing! 

He says things like:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

He also says things like:

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

When Christians read Paul, we have to wrestle with how arrogant he comes across. We are uncomfortable because very few of us would dare make these claims out loud. When's the last time you told someone to be like you?

There's a lot preached about how sinful and broken we are. We are depraved people, there is nothing good about us. We are at the bottom of the barrel.

I think this is natural for many people to think because they have low opinions of themselves. They struggle with unworthiness. What to do for those of us who don't deal with low self-esteem?

I think I do a lot of things well. I try not to say it out loud because it bothers people. Recently I was asked to close a seminar where we weren't sure if *#&$ was going to hit the fan. When people asked how it went, I purposefully minimized it and said - oh, I just spoke for a few minutes, it wasn't really anything. With only a few did I dare to say - I rocked it.

I wish it was more acceptable to be excited and happy about accomplishments and have the freedom to convey that to others. Do I really need to wait for others to say, good job? Isn't that relying on the praise of men?

At the end of the day, I fully believe that any good that came out of me came from God. Whether it's natural or supernatural giftedness, he is the source and I'll proclaim that any day and any time. Also, I don't have much trouble recognizing how far I am from God's perfection. I just happen to do some things better than others. Does saying that count as pride?

With any sin there is a spectrum - pride is an obvious sin. We don't see self-deprecation as being as sinful, but I think it's a twisted form of godly humility. In some ways when we minimize our accomplishments, we also minimize the good God is doing through us.