A 10 minute reflection

I’ve been here for almost two months! But y’all grad school is hard, and no one is admitting it. It’s ironic b/c we talk so much about stigma and mental health in our courses. So here I am, admitting that yes, it is hard, and I’m struggling. But also to proclaim over myself that this is not abnormal or bad and that there are ways that this could be healthy.


In general, I think these hardships are exacerbated by an intersectionality of factors.

First, school is a lot of work LOL. And for someone who has never really studied…the learning curve is REAL wow. A never-ending list of readings for class, practice problems, lectures to review, emails to send, the list goes on.

Secondly, transitioning to a completely new environment and culture is always hard. I think I talk about this a lot, so I’ll keep it at that.

But thirdly, and possibly most importantly, certain aspects of public health are largely social justice driven and require a lot of self-analysis of where one’s own power and privileges lie, as well as the disadvantages inherent in the broken systems in place that affect them on top of the microaggressions and oppression and other factors that increase risk of ill health for each individual.

Consequently, I now have a heightened awareness of my upbringing (and a few of the resulting privileges and consequences) and how society places me in the larger sociocultural, political, and economic contexts. And y’all. I’m really privileged. It’s hard for me not to feel guilty about these factors that I never even chose. But it’s even harder to translate this to empathy for more disadvantaged groups and the perseverance to be an ally and proactively advocate for them to realize health as a human right.

On the other hand, I have to admit to times the system failed me and I must recognize the forces (whether they be social, cultural, etc.) that placed me in a more disadvantaged position and to translate THESE to healthy ways of advocating for people like myself. Also even if this sucks, it’s cool because I can more easily empathize with other groups unlike myself!! The human connection is really cool but also complex help sos LOL.

This increased self-reflection on top of the demanding school, work, and extracurricular obligations lead to a confluence of a stressful grad school experience. It’s times like this in which I need to fight harder than ever for that time with the Lord as my Sustainer, my Giver of Life, my Stronghold, my Hope in times of tumult. Even if I feel like I never have the time to even breathe, it doesn’t do any good let these thins overcome my well-being. I have to translate it to positive and enjoyable and impactful endeavors to improve health care, and it’s a blessing that I can do a lot of that through the things I’m already doing. But also, I’m human, and it’s ok to take naps, to enjoy a hearty meal, to destress, to chill out sometimes, and to miss people from back home. Learning, growing, hurting, but celebrating altogether.

ok that’s it i was just feeling borderline overwhelmed but now that i’ve externalized it all i feel a lot better [‘: dunno if any of that made sense but this was for my own mental health/well being anyway so ya it did it’s job lol. ok have a gr8 week, friends! always feel free to reach out and tell me how i can be praying for you!! we all strugglin’ fam l o l

Advertisements

still human.

Social media is not reality.

My snapchat/instagram documentation of my transition into this new life stage seems hyper-exciting–free Yale swag, lots of happy hour socials, ministry/church hopping, biking around, exciting classes in this first week of graduate school. But admittedly, my life is not as it seems.

I mean the experiences are real, I’m definitely here in New Haven, CT doing my MPH at this amazing institution called Yale. But the assumptions of happiness and peace and excitement are all facades to the incessant feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, directionlessness that have come to a near-breaking point, and it’s only been half a week. I think I’ve spent more time creating to-do lists than actually doing the things I need to do, and I’ve had two mini-crises about potentially switching my public health concentration, I even considered all the dual degrees: joint MPH/MBA, joint MPH/MA in Global Affairs, joint MPH/MA in International and Development Economics, and more. LOL QUARTER LIFE CRISIS ??? (this is also a good problem to have tbh)

I think a big part of why I’ve been feeling this way is partly due to the inevitable freaking-out that happens in transition. And by being at a place like Yale. And because my main sources of community are far, far away. But mainly, it’s because of my own hypocrisy.

Most of my undergrad experience revolved around my investment and my faith in an incredibly loving and generous and amazing and wonderful God who desires to have a personal relationship with me despite how much of a mess and imperfect human I am. My relationship with God grew exponentially in college, to the point where I could honestly say that my faith was my top priority. My times spent talking to God (prayer), listening to God (prayer + reading Scripture + hammocking ?? + coffee-shopping ????? all very spiritual experiences, 11/10 can attest), and with others who really love God (community) provided an environment for me to thrive, to feel grounded, rooted, even in the midst of trial and confusion.

After my senior year, I spent my summer dedicated to God’s work–telling other people about Him and continuing to grow and thrive, even in an environment that tried to suppress that. I felt so ready and equipped and excited for grad school, and given that I viewed this next life stage as another experience to accelerate my relationship with Him, I expected it to be easy from the start, to the point where I kind of forgot all about God, even though I came back from my mission trip a little over a month ago.

I no longer looked to my Guide to give me direction, I neglected the solidity of my Rock, I stepped off of the strong Foundation that rested underneath me. Once I got to New Haven, I stopped praying for divine appointments. I didn’t ask about what church He wanted me to go to, or if I should even get involved in an on-campus fellowship. I didn’t ask for direction for my future and chased after what seems the most secure and prestigious and glamorous–very opposite of what led me to public health, and why I’m even here in the first place. I thought I could figure it out all on my own.

Time and time again, I should have learned by now that that simply doesn’t work. At least not for me. All power to people who don’t believe in God and can figure out their lives by themselves, b/c I cannot.

And I know this sounds dark and a little self-deprecating and pretty over-dramatic after just 3 days of going over syllabi (LOL), but I think the magnitude of my experience tells to a greater reality that has far greater consequences if not addressed immediately, especially b/c I’m usually not very self-aware.

Actually, it’s kind of nice experiencing these lows because it’s all the more of a reminder that I am indeed human and points to my continual need for a God who’s much greater and wiser than myself. And honestly, it’s these low points that come before the highs because they show me that my great Shepherd would go so far to call back this lost sheep. (ok that sounded deeper and cooler in my head LOL kinda sounds lame typed out sorry)

And at the same time, there have been really cool things that i got to experience!! I’ve made quite a few friends and have started to #adult a little (but not very much LOL). I like the people I live with, and the material really does seem super exciting to learn about. The workload will become manageable once I figure out my groove. I have an on-campus job that I really like so far, too. Additionally, I’ve visited a graduate/professional student ministry, a really great church, and had some really cool conversations that I can only attribute to God (like sharing the Gospel with people already!! #ironic b/c I need to tell it to myself lol).

I’m taking risks, growing up, and starting to take it one step at a time. My roomies and I even set up wifi on our own !!! I’m also telling myself over and over again that my MPH experience here at Yale doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. I can kind of do my own thing, and that’s ok. Another big reminder is that I’m here to be a learnerI mean people are here b/c they want to know more, right? Just because some of my classmates have work experience or are several life stages ahead of me (aka MARRIED???) or seem to know more of what they want to do, doesn’t mean that my experience shouldn’t be any less than theirs.

Idk if any of that made sense, I just kind of word-vomitted haha. But ultimately, I’m starting to reclaim my faith, my sanity, and what’s going to be a really amazing two years here in this post-grad life stage (:

P.S. it’s kind of weird posting this since I’ve added so many ppl on fb that I just met/had superficial convos with, but that’s ok. I think quality friendships come out of vulnerability, and I hope to be humble enough to admit my weaknesses, even in person. [‘:

FullSizeRender 11

 

E A S M 1 7 [i]

Part i.

In my last summer of undergrad, I spent a little over a month living a lifestyle encompassed by an intimate, inflamed love for my God and His heart that can’t compare to anything else I could ever desire in this life.

I had the privilege of being sent on an international mission trip to East Asia for five weeks! In short, my experience was challenging. [Disclaimer: I’ll talk more about these points in the following blog posts to come! I’ve dedicated the remainder of this post to my thought process in applying, what it was like leading up to EASM 17, as well as a broad overview of our schedule. TBH it’s kinda just details and non-personal stuff–wrote this mainly for my own memory. Feel free to read it though!]

Immersion in a country of such a foreign culture and language and way of life posed extremely huge frustrations and challenges for me. Yet I simultaneously saw how the  Gospel goes beyond cultural differences and how God loves all people. My month in EA affirmed Revelations 7:9–that all people need God and that he truly loves all nations, tribes, tongues, peoples.

I learned more about how God created me uniquely and has gifted me. I saw how He is the one who places specific people in front of me in His timing to be the fragrant aroma of Jesus Christ. I experienced how this was only possible through surrender.

And in a place like EA, where being a missionary is essentially illegal, I felt the freedom that comes through knowing Jesus as a stark contrast to the restrictions that the government placed on my abilities to communicate with others and talk about spiritual things openly. This caused my own personal times with God so much sweeter and intentional as I became dependent on prayer and the Bible.

Above all, I hit wall after wall, becoming frustrated with how unfruitful my work seemed. I was forced to and continue to be challenged to have greater faith that true “successful” evangelism is simply obeying in love and the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results up to God. 
Continue reading

When You Give Up #1 for #14

Word’s out: I’ve committed to attending Yale University in the fall to pursue my Master in Public Health!!!

IMG_0084

TEXAS FOREVER

For anyone who talked to me during the process, you know how anxious I felt throughout the whole process.

DISCLAIMER: ANOTHER LONG POST SORRY WILL EDIT LATER

// GRE, APPLYING, DOUBTS //

Back in October, I had a life crisis/mental breakdown and finally committed to pursuing graduate school instead of medical school. It took a lot of humility and sacrifice to give up on a dream that I had for so long. People kept asking, “Well, why didn’t you just apply to med school? Why give up before you get a no?” (background: I completely switched. Like I no longer desire to become a physician.) // READ MORE ABOUT THAT TIME HERE!

Throughout the whole process of applying to grad school, I faced a lot of doubt: what if I should have just applied to med school? What if I go into public health and have a rude awakening that I hate it? What if I don’t get in anywhere? How will I do on the GRE?

I felt really anxious because all of my close friends were getting full time job offers that they really wanted & they knew where they were going to live geographically the next year. But there I was, just figuring out my life, in the middle of first semester of my senior year of college.

And so literally a month after I decided to switch to this life path, I took the GRE on November 16th and started my first week at my new part time job, and two weeks after that on Dec 1st, I had applied to my first three programs. By December 31st, I finished applying to all 8 programs, all out of the state, struggled to finish my senior thesis, and had some personal stuff to deal with. That season was absolute madness.

The doubts didn’t stop. More than half of the programs I was interested in required a minimum of 2 years, public-health related work experience, so I couldn’t even apply to a lot of programs. And once I submitted and paid for my applications, I realized that some of my “back-up” choices were actually really prestigious. For example, I applied to one of the best health policy programs (George Washington University) as a back-up, but when I heard that it’s one of the best I began considering if I should apply to other programs, like UT/A&M.

But God is just so incredibly faithful.

With my GRE, I spent half a week in Houston to “study” for it, but really I just hung out with people. I walked into that exam not even knowing the format of the exam tbh. You basically get your scores right away (except for the writing portion), and once those numbers popped up, I stared at the screen for a long while because I performed a lot better than I expected. A couple of weeks later, I got my writing score, scoring in the top 7% of the nation on that portion of the exam. (HAHA THANK YOU, UT COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS. I guess all of those incredibly lengthy literary reviews and thesis papers paid off?)

And less than a week after I applied to GWU (the health policy program I mentioned), they gave me my first acceptance!

I couldn’t believe it. I remember the overwhelming joy that took away my doubts. It confirmed that I was, in fact, going somewhere, and that I made the right decision to choose public health. I messaged so many people, and I felt so supported as my friends and family celebrated with me. More than those things, though, I heard a strong voice of the Lord telling me,

“Janet, have peace. Do you not trust me? Didn’t you say that you knew that switching to PH was from me? Why do you doubt? Why are you worried? I am the Lord. I am faithful. Believe that I am who I say that I am.”

// THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS //

As time went on, I God proved faithful again and again.

At one point, I considered applying for a joint degree at Yale to get my MPH and my M. Div (Master of Divinity, a professional ministry degree). I emailed and later called the Director of Admissions to talk about it, and she was so excited for my passion for public health and my desire to understand God’s heart for the field! Though I ultimately ended up not applying for the joint degree, the Director of Admissions continued to follow up with me and even sent me personal emails to congratulate me on my acceptance and to give me contact information of others in the joint degree, just in case I wanted to talk to them!

And then I was invited to interview for UPenn, my dream undergrad school during a conference I was attending LOL.  A week later, I got my second acceptance. There’s a really long story behind this one, but this acceptance led to a lot of greater things and emotional healing regarding my family, in ways that I didn’t even know I needed healing.

I then received my acceptance to Boston University, another top 10 program, and they also gave me a $20,000 merit scholarship!!

As I received these acceptances, I grew more and more selfish and ambitious. I joined this forum that in which a bunch of people posted their stats & their acceptances/timelines of their decision. I began comparing myself to them. The newness of the acceptances wore off, and honestly, I became really impatient. At this point, I had heard back from all of my “backup” programs and was waiting on the “dream schools”. The most commonly used phrase that came out of my mouth was, “I just wanna knowwwww.” (To my friends: IM SO SORRY. I was so annoying but thank you so much for staying patient and walking me through this journey ugh im so lucky wow.) I stopped praying, I stopped thanking God. Instead of praying, “God just lead me to where you want me,” I prayed, “God, just give me an answer.” “God, why is it taking so long? I just wanna know where I’ll be next year.”

I hated it. I constantly felt so impatient, anxious. This pit in my stomach never just got bigger and bigger. I constantly checked my email. literally. every. 5. minutes. Each day felt so painstakingly long.

A couple weeks later, it happened. I got into Yale!!! I literally dropped my phone outside of CLA after class. I told EVERYONE. My parents almost didn’t believe me. I got so excited I LEGIT DELETED THE EMAIL. I Googled how to un-archive emails on my phone HAHA. Imagine getting the email, deleting it, refreshing your inbox, and then it not being there?? I honestly thought I was just imagining things.

About a week after that, I got into Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, one of the best programs. Then, I got into the one that I thought was impossible: The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Literally ranked #1, and has been for decades.

I couldn’t believe it.

But life is just so twisted. As I received these acceptances from literally the TOP ranked programs in the nation, and possibly the world, I didn’t thank God, the only One who made it possible. Like y’all. I had a 3.2 GPA when I applied. I didn’t deserve it. I really didn’t.

Then I started to feel guilt. I felt as though I should have trusted God a lot more in the process. I should have prayed not only at the beginning of this whole adventure, but throughout. At that point, I felt just so spiritually dry and far away that more than excitement and worship, my response was pure guilt. And I knew that this guilt was not from the Lord. It just got worse when I realized that it affected my personal life–my friendships, my ministry, my discipleships.

[[Eventually, I heard back from Brown and Harvard, which I didn’t get into. But honestly that’s totally ok because it made the decision-making process so much easier.]]

// ADMITTED STUDENT DAY VISITS //

So because I wasn’t seeking God for clarity, I visited three programs for their Admitted Student Days: Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and Yale.

Super brief, but those visits gave me a lot of clarity. At Columbia, I realized that it was an amazing program, but not for me. I felt very affirmed though and was really glad that my brother’s there for his MPH.

For JH, I came in thinking that I would hate it, mainly because of the stereotypes that I had: that JH was full of competitive people who only cared about research. Long story short, I ended up loving it and getting to spend time with my best friend while I was there. I really really enjoyed the visit, and basically made the decision to attend in the fall.

But something kept me wanting to visit Yale. Maybe it was b/c I just wanted to get out of UT. Maybe it was the Ivy League name. Maybe it was b/c it gave me another opportunity to visit brudder Yim. Regardless, my parents didn’t think I needed to visit b/c it seemed like I was just so set on Hopkins.

But God really wanted me to visit Yale.

A couple of people know this, but I literally almost missed my flight for that visit. The boarding time was at 8:20AM, BUT I WOKE UP AT 8AM???? UM HELLO IM A MESS. I sped down I35 and got to the gate by 8:30, before my boarding group was even called up HAHA. Thank God I woke up and that I didn’t run into anyone or anything and that no police were around omg.

Overall, this visit made me super torn between JH and Yale, so I came in wanting clarity, but came back more of a mess than when I left. And let’s be real: I was SUCH a mess when I left HAHA.

// DECISIONS AND COMMITTING //

And so literally on the plane back, I started this extremely crazy excel file, comparing course schedules of the two, weighing pros and cons, planning out my 2 year plan at both. I spent the next couple of days perusing the websites for both and figuring out what I would get involved in. I stalked literally hundreds of people on LinkedIn to gauge what the future could look life for me if I went to either institution.

Run-down of each:

  • Both
    • Small cohorts (15-20 at JHU, ~25(?) at Yale)
    • Financially about the same
    • Baltimore & New Haven felt similar to me tbh
    • Grad student ministries
  •  JHU:
    • Baltimore, proximity to D.C. Really interesting place to study populations.
    • Lots of parks nearby, campus next to the harbor
    • Hipster and cool vibes
    • #1 program
    • Curriculum super rigid, but I would enjoy basically every class in my proposed 2 year plan LOL
    • THE leading public health institution in the world
    • Endless opportunities to work with the leading public health professionals, whose office is probably just down the hallway
    • 75% tuition cut the second year
    • Very hands on/practical courses
    • 2 internship opportunities: one domestically in the summer, 1 internationally in the fall (can carry over to the spring)
    • I already know of pastors and other contacts that could help me grow spiritually
    • INTENSE courseload: 18-22 credits per QUARTER omg
    • I would grow a lot as a student and in time management/discipline here. I would be trained as a highly effective public health professional in basically any field.
  • Yale
    • More theoretical/research-focused courses
    • BUT I get to take any course from the entire University. Like I could take Systematic Theology from the Divinity School, I could take classes from the #7 business school in the nation, the #1 law school in the world.
      • Flexible curriculum
    • More established connections with organizations around the country/world, but not necessarily in PH
    • Access to the Yale network, not just the YSPH network
    • Only 1 internship opportunity (summer)
    • 50% off of tuition through scholarship/grants
    • No prior knowledge of churches/personal contacts in the area that would help me grow spiritually
    • Everyone I met was just so nice and genuine and helpful

Honestly, I had all of the facts. I had all of the answers. But at the end of the day, I felt like I was comparing apples to oranges, and I felt paralyzed because I was afraid of making the wrong decision.

But one of my friends put it well: When I weighed the pros and cons, they were about equal. I just needed to figure out what I wanted, and to commit.

finally began to seriously seek the Lord and His heart for this time. I heard a voice loud and clear saying,

“Janet, more than the right/wrong decision, I want you to remain full of joy and worship in the process.”

And that’s exactly what I needed to hear. I was letting fear cripple me from making a decision–fear of the JHU curriculum, fear of lack of job prospects if I don’t go to JHU, fear of moving away, etc. etc. etc.

And as others prayed for me and listened to me, God covered me with this immense sense of peace that put me in a place to listen intently to His voice and His alone.

Once I sought out God’s heart, the decision was so easy. I began to realize that with JHU, there are SO many perks. Like why wouldn’t I go?? It’s #1! But I would go for very selfish reasons–to simply further my own career, to grow as a student, to more easily fulfill my dreams and ambitions. I initially had doubts like, “WHAT IF IM JONAH IN THE BIBLE AND GOD WILL MAKE ME BE AT JHU BC I KNOW THAT’S WHERE I’LL STRUGGLE??” As I described it to others, at Yale I’ll thrive. At JHU, I’ll struggle to survive. I assumed that God always calls us to take the harder road.

But God started telling me that I’m his daughter, and that there are times in which I can enjoy myself HAHA. 

With Yale, I was already thinking of ways I can start outreaching to my fellow classmates/professors/the community. I had a Kingdom mindset already. That was the biggest indicator for my commitment. I also started to see that maybe not having many contacts there would be better for my own faith–to become more independent, and seek growth and Truth individually. And I know that I’ll continue to have a community from back home that will keep me accountable with this. And the people really were amazing. The opportunities at Yale seemed better fit for me, too! I know that at Yale, I’ll grow in really incredible ways, and I know it won’t come easily. But I’m up for the challenge!

Most people probably may think that I made the *wrong* choice. But I don’t. I’m definitely not saying that Yale is a terrible program. It’s amazing. And I’m so so SO incredibly blessed and humbled to be able to attend–with financial help! But what I’m trying to hone in on is that my life is not my own. I serve a God who is so faithful when I am far from it. I am loved by the Father who lays everything out in front of me and blesses me when I least deserve it, even when I turn my back on Him. I worship the Gracious Redeemer who blesses even my mistakes. I follow the Lord who calls me to things bigger and better than myself, One who uses a broken vessel like me for His glory. 

As I meditate on what God has planned for me in this upcoming life stage which seems so far away right now, I hope you will meditate with me on this passage:

“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:6-9

So friends, if you got to this point, thank you so much. I just kind of word-vomitted for an hour haha. Special shoutout to the friends that walked me through this whole journey: Christina for trying to listen as we worked out every TTH, Charlotte for always encouraging me and listening to me rant, Jacky/Nick/Joanne/Kyle/Ethan for reading my long messages and encouraging me every step of the way, Alyssa for your caring heart, Andrew for walking with me and being able to empathize as we journeyed through decisions together, Ethan for your insight and analyzing mind, the prayer warriors who at Luke 4:18 ministries, Lina/Jenny/Vicki/Bianca who listened to me during discipleship even if we didn’t get to read the Bible/pray as much together, and the Pastors (PG, P. Art, Pastor Steve) who texted and FB messaged me and prayed for me and asked me for updates. And anyone else I forgot to mention!! Really you are all so special and made me feel so supported and loved and cared for throughout this whole intense journey. Thank you for being in my life, and I hope that we will continue journeying through this mess called life together with joy and in worship! (:

FullSizeRender

Ok but before I leave I gotta graduate please pray that I pass all of my classes LOL

A Tribute to the Lady Friends

UM EGGSCUSE. WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE LESS THAN 2.5 MONTHS UNTIL GRADUATION???

Cue knots in my stomach, fears of moving out of the state, excitement for the future, spontaneous decisions that make every day a #treatyoself day, feelings of nostalgia and reminiscing of the craziness that was my undergraduate experience.

I’ll save all of the end-of-undergrad reflections for when I actually graduate, but today is International Women’s Day. And if I could point out the biggest blessing from the past four years in college, it’s been the lady friends I’ve been blessed to love and to know deeply and to invest in and to receive love from.

When I think about the women that have played critical roles in my life, I think of three groups:

  1. the unapologetic independent leaders who will change the world

…because they already are. When I think of “great leadership”, four women come to mind: Rachel A. Osterloh, Geetika Jerath, Yaneli Rubio, Katherine Coleman. They overcome adversity. They love mercy and seek justice. They do anything and everything they can to do good for the world around them, and all three happen to have really great eyes for fashion h e h. By their example, I’ve become inspired, starstruck by their passion. *insert heart eyes emoji* If I could reach even half of their greatness, that’s more than enough to make me think that I led a successful life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2. the “squad”

While everyone else sees the outward facades of looking like I have my life (sort of) together, these are the people that see right through me. They’re the ones that encourage me to challenge myself–to be a woman of action. They’re the ones that continue to believe in me more than I believe in myself. They’re the ones that aren’t afraid of my intimidating demeanor but instead call me an idiot when I do stupid things…even if it took a hell of a lot of courage to do the first time. They’re the ones who take my critiques and know that they come from a place of love. They’re the ones that also embrace my emotional side–the intense feelings that I never have any idea what to do with. They’re the ones that have stood by me in the good and the bad, and the ones that I know will continue to stand by me post-grad.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3. the cute, emotional ones aka the girls that I disciple/mentor

God is so funny. Traditionally in my life, I despised anything cute or anything about …emotions, really. Like all that kawaii or aegyo stuff? *shudder* And me? Crying? Especially in public? HAHA.

Yet, God blessed me with four of the most adorable, emotional, teachable, faithful, lovely, servant-hearted, genuine women to mentor. Lina, Jenny, Vicki, Bianca: I get to meet with these amazing humans weekly, and honestly these weekly meetings have been the biggest blessing of my final semester. The only regret I have is that I’m graduating soon and I don’t get to take them with me ]: AND YOU TOO, ERIKA ONG (even if we don’t meet up weekly u r an immense blessing please don’t be a stranger once I leave ATX).

Honestly, the majority of the time, I feel like I’m learning from them and that the roles should be switched. They’re all just so intelligent like what. I’M SO UNWORTHY AHHH. Ugh I love them all so much wow.

LOOK HOW CUTE THEY ARE AHHHHH:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~~~

I’m a firm believer that women rule the world. These amazing people have made my life such a fulfilling experience, more than any man ever could. Today, I celebrate each and every one of you great humans. Thank you for welcoming me into your life and for being just…so great. You all have touched me in such deep and inexplicable ways, maybe ways you don’t even know. So happy International Women’s Day, y’all. 💕

P.S. this list is not all-inclusive. If I talked about all of the lovely ladies who made me who I am today, then it would take me literal days to write h e h. I didn’t even talk about my mommy!! She the real superhero hehe (:

 

A Valentine’s Worth More than $597.18

How did you experience love this Valentine’s Day?

Ok let’s be honest–February 14th marks probably my least favorite day of the entire calendar year. Maybe because this “holiday” epitomizes the capitalism and the ridiculousness of consumerism. Maybe because it took forever for me to find a box of red velvet cake batter to make cake balls for my life group that night. Maybe because I felt lactose intolerant that day (b/c of all the cheese on social media looool but also omg this is tru in real life sos). Or maybe because, as much as I hate to admit it, being single kinda sucks sometimes.

This Valentine’s Day started off no different than any other Feb 14th. (If anything, it was worse than previous years because so many new couples have popped up recently.) As the day started, I made a point to avoid social media as much as possible, I got excited to mooch off of the homemade sweets people gave out, and expected to hang out with fellow single gal pals and my life group.

In the morning, I remembered that I had forgotten to mention something to one of the pastors at the church I attend, so I sent him a FB message. At the end, I asked him how I could be praying for him. He said that I could pray for one of the families in the neighborhood that our church serves–the father recently got deported, and the mother was left to take care of three children.

My mom has three kids. Well, it seems like she has four, including my dad, but technically she has three (LOL). She gave up her dream career and never fully utilized her graduate degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management for the sake of becoming a full time stay-at-home mom for us.

If you know anything about me, you probably wouldn’t expect me to become a domestic housewife. My mom’s a more extreme version of me, so for her to sacrifice her desires and time and education for a role like this–that’s huge. It also means that my dad is the sole breadwinner of our household.

So I pictured my family in that situation–imagining my dad getting deported, leaving my mom left to raise and support us three kids, financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually. Think about the heartbreak and the stress and the anxiety and the loneliness and the hopelessness this mom feels. The feelings of overwhelmed. The uncertainty of the future. The inadequacy to raise her kids on her own. The fear of never seeing her husband again. The fear of the deportation of the rest of the family.

Think about the kids. The questions of “where’s dad?” and “Why did they take him?” and “Will I ever see him again?” And the inability to welcome him home every night and eat with him and play with him. Think about the crushed spirits of finally making it to America, the land of dreams, but having reality hit that it’s not as great as it was supposed to be. And then your dad is taken away. Can you even imagine?

I couldn’t put myself in their shoes for more than a minute. I didn’t want to face those emotions. Empathy seemed all too painful.

But how can one know about this and not take action? Yes, prayer is powerful. Yes, it moves people in amazing ways. But sometimes, we’re called to act, too.

So then I asked Pastor Art what else I can do to help. He responded with this: “Could you round up some college students who might want to donate money? We can then buy some fresh food for the family to tidy them over.”

So I literally went to the FB group for college students at Austin Chinese Church, and I messaged every single one of them individually.

I expected most people to ignore my message. I expected to gather maybe like…idk $25.

But no. Within 13 minutes, a bunch of people donated, adding to a total of $133.50. Minute after minute, my Venmo count jumped up. People gave anywhere from $3.08 to $50. Within 24 hours, our total came out to be $577.18.

Let me reiterate that. Within 24 hours, 35 college students put their finances together to raise $577.18 to help a family in need, simply after of a lengthy FB message they received.

That’s crazy. It’s actually insane.

We raised enough not only to support the family, but also to support other families, as well as restock a food pantry that our church started in this underserved area of Austin.

Us. College students. Us poor college students, who refuse to buy soft drinks at restaurants to save $2. Us poor college students, who always look for the best deals and try to save as many pennies as possible. Us poor college students, who suffer to carry 5 handfuls of groceries to their dorms because they don’t want to pay 50 cents for a grocery bag.

What happened this Valentine’s Day is actually a miracle.

Wow. God is just so faithful. He goes above and beyond every. single. time.

I think more than the amount though, what humbled me was the immediate faithfulness that so many of these people displayed. It’s not the amount that matters, really. God looks at the heart. And I got to experience how the love of Christ compels us and moves us to action in such sweet and beautiful and compassionate ways. Jesus did it all. This sweet, sweet Jesus who cares for every single soul. This compassionate Jesus who forgave us and showed us love, even when we didn’t even want him (Romans 5:8). This great God. He’s just. So, so great.

It is because of this amazing God and His great Love that we love. Because he first loved us. This is God’s heart. That we love Him and love others (Matthew 22: 26-40).

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? // Micah 6:8

To everyone that gave, thank you so much. Honestly. You probably didn’t even realize what was going to happen. Maybe you doubted that your $5 donation would do anything. But know that it did. So thank you, so very much. You helped create a Valentine’s Day miracle worth so much more than $597.18.