zoe

Usually I don’t use names (real ones, at least) in my writing, but Zoe is an exception.  Zoe is not her real name; she’s an exchange student from China and has chosen Zoe as her English name.

Zoe is wonderful.  She’s funny and thoughtful and so very Chinese.  Sometime I joke that if I wasn’t dating the bf, I might date her.

I don’t really know how to describe her…but I know that I can’t get enough of her.  I love taking her to Sprouts each week to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables.  I love sitting next to her in our Chinese Civilization class.  I love praising Jesus alongside her.  I love talking about China with her and feeling like I understand a bit of her world.

On Thursday we went to the store and she made me an authentic Chinese meal…just like those I ate last summer.  We talked and laughed and even ate watermelon together afterwards, because everyone knows that watermelon absorbs fat so you should always eat it after a meal.  Well, at least all good Chinese know that.

On Friday we had class together and as the bf and I drove her home, she talked to us about “the gays” and her opinions on them.  She called me later in the evening to invite me to go out to a Chinese restaurant with her.

On Saturday the bf and I dropped by her apartment after going to his brother’s concert a block away.  She fed us watermelon and strawberries.  Us Americans have a lot of fat to be absorbed, you know.  What was intended to be a ride to a going away party turned into us not only attending the party but also eating hot-pot, playing mahjong, and enjoying the company.  Zoe drank beer, and was the only one doing so – kind of weird/funny/awkward all in one.

Yesterday she came to church with me.  For the first time.  It was so great.  Bringing internationals to church with me is always an exciting, wonderful adventure.  She spent a good portion of the service either falling asleep or whispering to me.  Yet standing beside her and singing to the King makes any doubt that she’s just coming to church to make me happy fade away.

Today?  She’s moving in with me.  My roommate moved out a month ago, and has yet to find a new one.  Thus, I have offered up the vacant room to her and she is coming.  With her humor, with plans to join the Communist party, with her Chinese tea, with her Bible, with her habits, customs, and beliefs.  She’s coming, and ready or not, I’m ecstatic.

A couple of nights ago, as I sat with the bf on the couch, he lifted my head and as he looked in my eyes, he noticed that I had been crying.  He asked why, and I didn’t know quite what to say, other than, “Zoe’s coming to church with me tomorrow.”  I was so excited.

I cry out of my deep love for her, out of my deep desire that she come to know Jesus and begin following Him.  Jesus has burdened me so, and for that I am forever grateful.  I had been praying that I would care, that I would have compassion.

Then Zoe came into my life.

I read cute little things on Pinterest that say things like “God doesn’t give you the people you want, He gives you the people you need.  To help you, to hurt you, to love you and to make you the person you were meant to be.”

The thing is, I both want and need Zoe.  God is good in giving me so many good and perfect things.  Friendship, tears, laughter, good food, hope, passion, concern, and countless blessings.  Things that I want and need, things that He’s giving me in Zoe.

May these next twelve days be full of grace and goodness as I live with this dear friend.  May Jesus work in miraculous ways in both her heart and mine.  Above all, may God be glorified and may His name be lifted high through his friendship.

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language

I’m sitting in the main office at the refugee center (where I’m doing my internship), listening to two people speaking in Somali.  They’ve been talking for almost 45 minutes and I have no idea what they’re saying.  It’s just them and me here today.

I can’t help but wonder…what are they talking about?  Their childhoods?  Their families?  Or something more, like injustice?  Life in the United States?   Their experiences as refugees?

Language is crazy.  They’re saying words and phrases and sentences that result in laughter, tears, a serious mood, a friendship being formed.  Yet for me, all it results in is confusion.  Maybe not confusion, seeing how I’m not trying to understand what they’re saying.  But if they’re in light, then I’m in the dark.

As I’ve told my Chinese friends, they don’t have to talk to God in English.  He speaks Chinese.  And Somali and Norwegian and Haitian.  Imagine being able to speak every language…

What about those that don’t speak, those who are non-verbal.  Or those who communicate through sign language.  Or one that we all use: body language.

At the root of all these, I believe, is the heart.  God not only speaks every language, He understands every language.  He understands the language of your heart – the language that you cannot express in words, the language that your heart cries out in, the language you are speaking through your actions.  Because God looks at the heart, He understands what you are saying without having to ask you or tell you.

1 Samuel 16:7 confirms this:  “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,  but the Lord looks on the heart.’ ”

I love that.  God understands the language of my body crying out in pain without my having to tell Him.  He speaks the language of heart, and I know it through the way He comforts me, guides me, and heals me.  God sees my every action – the good, the bad, and the ugly, he hears every word I speak – the kind, the mean, and the rude, and he reads my mind – the judging thoughts, the unspoken apologies, the dreams for the future.  And He loves me.  He speaks every language that I do, even the ones I don’t know that I know, and He understands them fully and completely.  And He calls me His daughter. 

nothing really

I don’t have a lot of time.  Just like twenty minutes.  I just want to write some stuff about my life…what’s coming up, what’s been going on, that kind of stuff.

I bought my tickets to Nashville!!  I’m going to see my beloved teammate from our trip to China last summer and I absolutely can’t wait.  Her university is about two or so hours away, but it was far cheaper than flying to the local Chattanooga airport.  I’ve never been to the south (besides Disney World and Texas) so this is a big deal.  Not to mention that I haven’t seen this sweet girl for nine months!  In exactly one month from today, I’ll be there, and I’m staying for six days!  Woohoo! 

This past Tuesday the bf had an interview with Wells Fargo and he got offered a job!  Even though he didn’t take it (due to his leaving the country for two months), I’m so proud of him!  Look at him getting offered a job on the spot!  He came up to my office after his interview and he looked so dashing and handsome. 

Only one week of school left!  I’m not sure what to make of that, other than crazy.  I know that life will never be the same…college is pretty awesome. 

On Monday the bf and I celebrated our two-year anniversary.  We usually celebrate in some small way on the 16th of every month, and on each six-month increment, the bf does something awesome.  Each time I tell him he’s going to have trouble beating it.  And every time he outdoes himself.  Afternoon tea at a gorgeous teahouse I’ve been dying to go to, The Cheesecake Factory, canoeing on the lake where we went for our first date.  We also had quality conversations and we looked pretty quality, too.  Make that really quality.  I always knew I liked khaki pants with a white shirt, but I didn’t know I loved it until the bf wore it on Monday.

(Half of) a Cranberry-orange scone from Starbucks.  This afternoon. A nice little pick-me-up, as my mom might say.

clean

Stepping out of the shower, clean water still dripping off.  Taking warm clothes out of the dryer. Brushing my teeth and running my tongue over my smooth pearly whites.   Drinking cool, purified water.

I love the feeling of being clean.

White clothes.  Wet dirt and damp sidewalks, raindrops on my windshield.  Taking apart and washing out my vacuum.

I love the newness, the rebirth that clean brings.

Kind of like how God likes clean.

[Caveat: I do not have the same fierceness and desire for cleanliness and purity that God does.  But I want to!]

What kind of offerings did God request in the Old Testament?

— “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”     Genesis 8:20 (ESV)

In Leviticus, 59 verses have the word clean in them.  Here’s just one…

–“You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statues that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.”     Leviticus 10:10-11 (ESV)

God knows, and God sees, our cleanness (or lack thereof).

–“And the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.”     2 Samuel 22:25 (ESV)

Neither man nor woman can make something clean.  On our own, we cannot create anything pleasing to the Lord, or clean in His sight.

–“Who can bring  a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.”     Job 14:4 (ESV)

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Psalm 19:8-10

“The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is  pure, enlightening the eyes;

the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

the rulesof the Lord are  true, and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than  gold, even much  fine gold;

sweeter also than honey and drippings of  the honeycomb.”

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Not only can I not create anything clean, I cannot make myself clean.  At least not my heart, which is what the Lord looks at (1 Samuel 16:7) and cares about.

“Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?”     Proverbs 20:9 (ESV)

The Lord is in the business of making things clean.  Not only does he make beautiful things out of dust and saints out of sinners, but he takes dirt and filth and makes it clean.

Black to white.

Unrighteousness to righteousness.

Wicked to holy.

Old to new.

It is right that I should like clean.  I like a clean house and a clean body, but more importantly, I like a clean heart.

Sometimes the cleaning process is not fun.  It’s gross and time-intensive and frustrating and sometimes even embarrassing for someone to see how dirty you are.  But it is good.  Very very good.

Because from that mess He makes something that pleases Him, something that glorifies Him and honors Him.  As a follower of Jesus, isn’t that what I should want?

acquire a teacher and choose a friend

I’ve been reading “The Chosen” by Chaim Potok.  There have been a couple of lines that grabbed me, made me think and want to come back to them.  Here’s one dialogue…

” ‘Ah,’ my father murmured.  He was silent for a moment.  Then he said quietly, ‘Reuven, listen to me.  The Talmud says that a person should do two things for himself.  One is to acquire a teacher.  Do you remember the other?’

‘Choose a friend,’ I said.

‘Yes.  You know what a friend is, Reuven?  A Greek philosopher said that two people who are true friends are like two bodies with one soul.’

Acquire a teacher and choose a friend.

I have a couple of women in my life who are significantly older than me.  I look to them as mentors, as role models, as people who will guide me and correct me.  They are not technically teachers, but they do teach me a lot.

I have a couple of women in my life who are about the same age as me.  Give or take a year or two.  I look to them as confidantes, encouragers, supporters, and so much more.  They’re the ones who show up three minutes after my bf breaks up with me even when I don’t want them to, the ones who know my parents and my awesome kid brother.

I don’t have ONE teacher and ONE friend, but I do have a couple.  I see the value in having one – no mixed messages, no confusion over loyalties.  One friend that you go to when crises arise or when you get the internship you’ve been praying for.  One teacher that you trust completely and don’t question.

Can the friend change as circumstances dictate?  What about when the friend you’ve chosen gets married and moves away?  When someone new comes in and takes you by surprise and you are so captivated and blessed by them that it can only be from the Creator and Giver of friendship?  Or does the friend endure, superseding the hurricanes and tsunamis and sunny days?  Is that what makes the chosen one your friend?