A Wonderful Night in Muscatine

I have a smile that I can’t wipe from my face.

As I tramped up the stairs just now, my breathing became heavier, yet my smile widened.

I feel at peace. I’m happy and content with this new season of life.

This evening, I returned home to my beloved downtown dwelling after a long day of meetings and writing that ultimately ended with a nice reception event to honor the new community college president. I was ready to take a breather and relax on my new couch. I have to admit that spending time in my living room gets me all excited because having furniture is seriously the bomb. I never use that terminology, but I’m going to use it now because having furniture rocks. For nearly 7 weeks, I lived in an apartment without furniture before moving to my new place, only to wait a handful of days before the furniture was delivered. That being said, I am glad to have a place to relax. :)

I sat down for a moment before realizing that I wanted, and essentially needed, to take a walk.

Walking has played an important role in my life over the past several years. The idea of going out and exploring a new place on foot makes my heart race with excitement. It’s even better if it can be done after waking up in a hostel… Oh, traveling, how I adore thee.

While a wonderful way to experience a new destination, walking has also served as a way for me to decompress after a long day. While in China, the stress of my large workload as well as the language and cultural barriers made walking an appealing outlet. When I was missing my family, home or Jonathan, I would put on my tennis shoes, grab my iPod and walk circles around the campus. Some days, I’d meet up with my coworkers and go on a 4-5 mile walk just for fun. We’d tell stories and laugh about the crazy things we’d experienced. It was delightful.

Tonight, I ended up going out alone. I walked briskly, while taking in the soft breeze and warm evening air. It began to get cooler and cooler as the sun set. I ventured past Pearl City Station and toward south end along the Mighty Mississippi River, passing some faces I knew and other I did not as I went along.

When I turned around to head back toward home, I passed a group of three gentlemen with a lady a handful of yards in front of them. I commented to the lady that it was a beautiful night and that sparked a discussion between the two of us. We ended up walking and talking the rest of the way, which was a real joy.

That’s one of the things I love about Muscatine – the opportunities for community to blossom. While I had never met the woman I encountered, she knew my family. We were able to have a genuine conversation and enjoy each other’s company as we finished our individual walks together.

Living in Muscatine makes me happy. Tonight is just one example of why I adore this river city.

A Labor of Love

3. Ribbon CuttingMan, am I wiped out!  I had a busy week, full of planning for a big event. I work as the Communications Manager for my beloved hometown’s local government and absolutely love my job.

On Thursday, we joined some of our Chinese friends to host the ribbon cutting and opening the Sino-U.S. Friendship House. The house is located at 2911 Bonnie Drive in Muscatine and is significant because it is the home where Chinese President Xi Jin Ping stayed in 1985 when he first visited Muscatine and formed relationships with the people here. To this day, he fondly remembers that visit and has spoken highly of his time in Muscatine, so much so that he even returned for a visit of the “old friends” in 2012.

Here is a little more information about the opening of the Sino-U.S. Friendship House.

All that is to say that this week was full, but also enjoyable. I really appreciate my colleagues at the City. We all work hard, but have a good time while doing it.

I am ready for a little rest and am embracing the mundane. Sitting here in my nearly empty new apartment, I have been thinking about how I live my life. As I folded laundry, did dishes and scrubbed the floors this week, I thought about what it means to truly do everything as if to the Lord.

In my past campaign experiences, I would repeat Colossians 3:23 to myself on hot days as I’d go door to door. I wanted to remind myself to “work willingly at whatever [I] do, as though [I] am working for the Lord rather than for people.” While I did not love every minute of campaign work, I wanted to help the candidates succeed because I believed in their message. Because of that, I volunteered to help. And –Whatever I do I want to do fully as if it’s for the Lord.

I thought about that verse as I got down on my hands and knees to scrub the hardwood floors of my new apartment. At first I was excited to have a cleaner place and knew they needed to be done before my furniture was delivered, but after a little time I was tired. I used that time to blow off steam from the relatively stressful week, but after that steam was gone I was wiped out. It was then when I reminded myself why I was doing it.20150918_215951

There’s a greater purpose behind why we do most things. It may not be clear at first, but as you dig deeper and examine your heart there is a reason. For my life and yours, I pray that the reason would be to glorify God.

It would be easier for me to not clean my floors very thoroughly. It would be easier for me to only eat out. It would be easier to hang out at home and watch Netflix all night. There are a lot of things in life that would be easier than what’s most meaningful and purposeful. But, the easier things may not have the greatest rewards. The greatest rewards are ones of eternal significance.

I have decided that I want my new apartment to be a peaceful place where friends can come and connect. I want it to be a place where deep conversations happen and true fellowship blossoms. That’s why it’s important to spend time cleaning, cooking and preparing a place that is welcoming and inviting. Sure, the alternative would be easier. But, the choice I have made is to labor in love.

I have a vision for a greater source of community, where friends gather and discuss the tough issues.

I’m praying for this space to be a gathering place, where true God-designed community happens.

Furniture will come tomorrow, so for now I will cuddle up with a good book and embrace the calm.



A Colorful Life

Lately, my life has been…colorful…I suppose that’s the best way to describe it. It’s funny because as my Chinese students would come up to me and ask questions about my life, they almost always replied back with something relating to my “colorful life.”

“Oh, teacher, you live a colorful life.”

“How colorful is your life?”

“Your life is so colorful!” they’d say with a smile.

At first, the placing of my life into the “colorful” category left a bad taste in my mouth. I had only thought of “colorful people” as being a little out there, perhaps strange. I thought they may be into some sketchy stuff. However, I’ve come to appreciate the way the Chinese refer to my life as colorful.

So, back to what I was originally explaining. My life has been colorful lately. There have been big changes and some excitement. Life has been so full. I’m trying to treasure each moment.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the people I love .

I started a new full time job that I like a lot!

New friendships have formed, yet old friendships have stayed strong or have been rekindled.

This season of life has been refreshing. Trying to find purpose amidst long to-do lists is a challenge that I have taken head-on. I like it, though. I like working hard and then taking time to rest. Guarding my time leaves me feeling satisfied. With the give and the take, I must make decisions with wisdom to let myself be the Daughter of God I was created to be.

I don’t want any moment to go wasted. I can’t and I shouldn’t.

Here’s to this season. A season of change and of growth. A season of laughter and love.

A season of purpose.

I’m on this path, living out my calling as a Christian young woman and right now I’m thankful. I’m content. I’m at peace. And, I’m ready to experience more of God.

I hope to write more soon.

Thanks for reading.

Making It Count

20150416_151724 I am not content to live a life of routine. I don’t want to get trapped in the “American Dream.”

I know too much. I’ve experienced enough that I cannot just sit back and relax.

Now, I have an obligation.

With education and awareness comes a privilege to do something more. Now that I know of the hurts of the world, I will not let myself remain on the sidelines. If I looked into the eyes of the starving children in India’s slums, the 7-year old Thai girl being sold into sex slavery by her parents, or the Chinese grandmother who worships idols in temples every week, I wouldn’t be able to turn my face away. I would want to run to them, scoop them up, help meet their needs, and tell them of Our Father in Heaven who loves them deeply.

Why, though, is it so easy for me to brush away thoughts of the stories I’ve heard and the things I’ve seen? This is what can happen when I come back to my hometown, where life is easy. Why do I move about my daily life as if nothing has changed?

I know the hurts of the world. Yet, I don’t pour out my life as an offering the way Christ calls believers to do. I try, but I if I am not intentional I can easily be pulled away from that deep relationship with God. That relationship is what moves believers to be fully alive, truly being who God created them to be.

Jesus commands us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). He commands us to die to ourselves so that the overflow of Christ in our lives would spur us to act (Matthew 16:24-25). Jesus says to count the cost (Luke 14:25-34). Being a Christian is more than praying a prayer. It’s more than showing up for church every week.

Being a Christian is about submission. It is about giving the Lord your life and letting Him determine your path. On a practical level, this means showing up for God. It means having a relationship with Christ where you read the Bible, pray, and listen to what God is teaching you. Ultimately, on this Christian walk as God works in our hearts, we are going to become more and more like Christ.

So, what does this mean? Where am I going with all of this?

Honestly, I am not sure. I don’t know exactly what God is going to do with this in my life. What I do know is that a spark has been ignited. As my heart has been turned toward Christ, I have a clearer picture of God’s love for His people. I have better understood the way God loves me and I want to encourage other women to follow after their Creator.

Right now, I’m in a season where I am praying hard. I want to know Christ more. I am excited because I know that when I show up, I’ll meet God because He is always there. More than anything, I want to know Christ and make Him known.

That’s all I know for now.

Thanks for being with me on this beautiful journey. :)

Trials: Oh Joy!


Something I hate.

Yet, kind of sort of love.

It’s an interesting dichotomy. I loathe feeling like my world is crashing down. The feeling that I can’t control what’s happening around me is scary.

I feel weak and discouraged. I feel that I’ve made a mistake. AGAIN. Often times it comes back on me. I’m up all night thinking about what I did wrong or how I could have said or done something differently. Other times, I did what I could do but still didn’t get the results I’d longed for.

Sometimes, I’m in a trial. It could be with relationships or with a job or with depression, for which I can’t give a root cause. Trials can sometimes be pointed back to a source. That’s where it started. That’s what I can change. That’s what’s going to make it all better. Other times, I don’t know why I’m feeling the way I do or why things aren’t getting better.

Trials show me that I am weak.

But, they also show me that God is strong.

Trials remind me that I am, in fact, not invincible. Who would have guessed, right? 

Even more than that, they remind me that God is all powerful, all knowing, and full of love.

Wow! What a contrast.

Trials show me that I need God. They point me back to the source of life.

We read in the Book of James to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

How often is our first instinct to be joyful when a trial is thrown our way?

I don’t know about you, but my initial reaction is to push back. I want to talk my way out of the problem (or about the problem to whomever will listen), solve it, prove myself to people, or just convince myself that I didn’t even want what I lost anyway.

I do not do well with pausing and considering my trials a joy. My natural instinct isn’t to pray; I don’t want to thank God for trials that are going to show me more of Him. I just want the trials to go away. I want to aggressively fight through them, so that I will win.

Here’s the thing, though, trials are not our battles to win. They are the Lord’s.

Living a life fully for God means letting Him get the glory and Him show Himself victorious. In the bigger picture, we are but a small piece of God’s mighty puzzle. His purpose is to make Himself known, in all His glory and love; and He does that by weaving through the threads of our lives.

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

God gives us resources to fight through struggles with the enemy (satan), but we have to let God work! The whole point and purpose is to draw us back to Himself. God desires our hearts. He desires to change our hearts and make us more like Christ.

That’s why part of me loves trials. I love the way it feels to connect with God – to reach out for Him and have Him be right there for me. When I pray and open up to God, there’s a flood of peace that overtakes me. I know that no matter what happens, God is in control and He loves me. I have to admit that at first, God might seem far away… Sometimes I have trouble even opening my mouth to pray. But, I know and God promises that He will be there.

Trials don’t have to be seen as bad. They can actually be good and refining. At times it may be hard to recognize any sort of benefit of a trial, but God knows what He’s doing. He’s going to use everything for our good. That ultimate good is to draw us to Himself because He is the ultimate source of love and peace.