Marriage Excitement & Likewise Ramblings 👰🏻🤦🏻‍♂️

On August 25th, 2014, I remember sitting in a session at Pais GB’s Foundational Training, where Pete Baker mentioned having a non-negotiable characteristics list when it came to your future person.

On November 3rd, 2015, I finally wrote that list.

Today is August 21st, 2017, almost two years later, I am a month away from becoming Mrs. Hamilton, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Zachary is the human depiction of that list for me, and I am so happy I was somehow patient enough to wait about 26 years to meet a significant man like him. Though his faith is newer than most, his heart always longs to love and care for the ones Jesus longs and cares for. Though we may argue from time to time, he is the most patient person I know and continuously takes care of me, even if he has to go out of his way to do so. Though he may have gone through rocky times, he is still the smartest man I know (my walking encyclopedia), and I couldn’t ask for a more reliable and dependable man.

I’m the luckiest gal in the world to get to marry this stud, and I can’t wait to discover the opportunities we’ll receive as one to get to serve God and show love to other’s. God has blessed me with a person who is everything I’ve prayed for more, and I can’t wait to see where we get to go in the forever part of the rest of our lives!

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God told Me to Shut Up and Nonsense about Teacups

Over the past couple months, I’ve been processing over the concept of “listening to God’s voice.” It’s something I’ve been focusing on during personal study, we’ve been studying it in our Tuesday night group, it even came up coincidentally as the topic for the weekend of our youth fall retreat.

I never thought this was a true issue of mine. I always seeked His wisdom when I was going through difficult situations (sometimes a little better than others), and in my inquisitive manner, I continued to ask Him questions that I didn’t know the answers to.

A couple weeks ago during our Tuesday night Bible study, we meditated on what God was telling us at that moment. For me specifically, it was what piece of wisdom did I really need to focus on? 

I had way too many questions in my brain — too many questions where my anxieties pondered His intentions with me:

  • “How do you want me to grow?”
  • “Where do you want me to go?”
  • “Who do you want me to specifically show grace and mercy to?”
  • “Why can’t I specifically love this person?”
  • “What do you want me to do?”
  • “Is there anything I can do better?”
  • “How are You content with me?”
  • “What does my life specifically look like?”
  • “How do I continue to remain strong when I get into tough situations?”
  • “Why do I feel strongly passionate about these subjects?”
  • “Why am I so apathetic towards these things?”

…the list went on and on.

It was in that fifteen minutes or so where I specifically, and shockingly, heard Him tell me to shut up.

“Shut up.” A phrase that was always taboo for me growing up. My mom hated whenever Jason and me using the phrase, and even though my friends used it all the time and it was in all of the popular movies (remember Mean Girls?), I tried to take that phrase out of my vocabulary. 

And here God was telling me to shut up.

After I got over the initial shock of it all, the questions continued to overflow:

  • “Why would You tell me that?”
  • “What did I do wrong?”
  • “Am I not actually as close to You as I feel right now?”
  • “What am I specifically listening for?”

And with that last question, I realized my issue. In all of my inquisitiveness, I never stopped to ever hear a response. How could I think I was good at listening to God, when I never even tried to listen?

I suppose, I always had good intentions. I knew the purpose of my heart was to love others as He has loved me. I wanted to see people grow closer to Him and learn to truly rely on Him. I had done when He had told me years ago, which was to go away to share my story with others (which ultimately was His story). All of my intentions had been focused towards God, but I never stopped.

I never stopped to listen to Him when all He wanted was to answer or guide me towards the questions I had asked. I never stopped to rejoice and dwell in all that He had given me. I never stopped to give Him my trust and my anxieties and to rely on His wisdom.

I may have thought I was seeking Him whilst I asked all of these questions, but if I didn’t stop to pay attention, did that mean I wasn’t actually seeking Him? 

I was gutted. Somehow along the way, I had decided to follow my intentions, whether they were good and bad, rather than following on the path He had actually wanted me to be on, and I wanted to get off that train.

That night, I told Him I wanted Him to completely wreck me. I wanted Him to break my heart for what broke His. I wanted Him to strip me from all of the assumptions I had, no matter how focused on Him they were, so I could follow Him to where He actually wanted me to be.

Unfortunately (yet it’ll someday get to ‘fortunately’), I forgot that when you ask God to work in your life, He works in your life.

I could probably say my last couple weeks have been like a rollercoaster, but I think the more accurate term would be that it’s been a whole damn amusement park. The Jenn Amusement Park of Fear and a Whole Ton of Crying.

There’s the Ferris Wheel of Emotions that doesn’t like to stop to let you off, so you keep on going in circles. There’s the Overthinker Rollercoaster that once you finally feel like you’ve thought through everything and how they play out, nope, there’s just more ups and downs (they’re called the “what ifs” on this rollercoaster) that you need to process through. (And it’s wooden and almost scary, sorta like the Texas Giant at Six Flags before they renovated it.) There’s the Anxiety Bumper Cars that almost gives you bruises because you just can’t stop getting hit by the other bumper cars. And my least and most favourite, there’s the You-Have-To Spinning Teacups. And God’s doing the spinning. And believe me, He spins it so fast you wonder if this is why you get nauseating motion sickness in real life.

You can’t escape the teacups. You’re sorta trapped once you’re in them. Sometimes you’re on those Teacups for awhile, and it gets to the point where you’re unsure if you’ll ever get off, especially when you’re knee deep in funnel-cake vomit. Sometimes the Teacups can make you angry, because you’re unsure why you’re strapped on so tight when you didn’t want to get on it in the first place. Sometimes the Teacups can hurt, because you can feel your sides turning inside out and wow, there is so much acid reflux. And by the end, the Teacups will make you happy or at least, a person with a stronger stomach, because the ride is over.

Because then, you remember that you asked for it. That you decided to give Him control. That though it’s uncomfortable and not necessarily what you would’ve chosen to go on, you can’t say that you finished the amusement park without it. He wants you to complete the amusement park. He wants you to win with Him by your side.

And that’s when the Teacups become the most exhilerating ride you’ve ever been on, and you realize why it’s the last ride in the park.

Because with Him in control, you able to get over the Ferris Wheel of Emotions, the Overthinker Rollercoaster, and the Anxiety Bumper Cars. With Him in control, the other rides don’t even need to exist.

By the time this is going to be posted and shared, I’ll be on my next adventure in Texas, learning to “shut up” and giving Him control of the Teacups. 

There are a lot of questions I still have that I’m sure others will too (which includes the “what’re you doing next?” question, which is also my least favourite question in the world, even as a type A planner). Everybody’s guess, though, is as good as mine, because God’s the only one with the instruction manual, and it doesn’t look like I’m receiving a copy anytime soon.

It’s been sad to leave British Columbia prematurely and to have to say all of the goodbyes that were involved (and believe me, they sucked), but I’m excited to see where He leads me this time and how I grow during this process. I’m done with these Teacups.

She Ran, a super short story

She loved to run. It was something that has always been natural to her, and she always felt more peaceful when she did it.

She ran when she was happy. She ran when she was sad. She ran when she was frustrated. She ran all the time.

But this time, she needed to get out. She needed to get out of her house, she needed to get out of her head, she needed to get out of chaos, and she needed to enter her happy place.

For the past few weeks, it’s been like this every day. Her heart would start beating faster. Her body would start to feel weak. She would cry, and she would shake, and she couldn’t stop any of it. She couldn’t control herself.

She didn’t know how she got to this point where she was so unhappy. Nothing was wrong, per se. Her life was great. She had great friends, a great family, she was doing well in school and succeeding at her job, but she felt restricted, she felt unhappy, she felt mundane. Which only frustrated her more, because there were people with bigger problems out there. People who didn’t have what she had. People who were truly suffering. But she was the one who felt imprisoned. Thoughts kept on rushing through her head: “You selfish girl. Why do you always want more? Why isn’t this enough? Why can’t you appreciate what’s been given to you?”

So as soon as she stopped shaking, she started to run. And run. And run some more.

After a period of time, she realised she had no idea where she was anymore. She was surrounded by trees, and it was dark. She’s only seen these kinds of surroundings in movies, and in the movies, these situations were not good. It meant danger was coming and that she should find familiarity.

But she didn’t want to be comfortable. That’s what she was running from in the first place.

But the sounds of the night were scary. The trees felt like they were closing in on her. She had no idea what else was out there.

So she did what she did second best. She cried. She cried about her selfishness. She cried about her guilt. She cried about feeling inadequate and that she couldn’t do more. She just cried.

But the wind started to blow through and oddly enough, it was soothing. Her fears of the dark forest were calmed, as she felt tranquil and composed. She felt like somebody was around her, but she couldn’t see a thing.

Then a voice popped into her head: “You are more sinful than you could dare imagine, and you are more loved and accepted than you could ever dare hope. [Tim Keller] Your sin is not greater than God’s mercy. [Nouman Ali Khan]”

And then suddenly, she understood.

Five Years.

I was nineteen, and it was Thursday.

The Summer Set’s “Papercut” was playing on repeat in the background, and it was one of those days where nothing was really wrong, but it just felt like the worst day ever. Daddy’s 10-year mark of his deathiversary was coming up that Sunday, and I honestly just couldn’t deal. I didn’t feel connected to any of the friends that I had, I couldn’t stand where I was, I couldn’t stand who I was. I just felt like I was in a lose-lose situation.

I remember seeing that Aaron Carter was playing a comeback show in Philadelphia, and at that moment, all I wanted was to go back to the city of Brotherly Love that I was forced to leave after three weeks, because I was irresponsible and lost all of my documents. It was during those three weeks that I felt like I was starting to understand who I was and the things I wanted to achieve (Boy, was I wrong), and so when my mom said I couldn’t go visit, I just blew it.

It sounds so stupid that I just blew it over not being given permission to go to a concert, but it was so much more. I wanted to leave the shell of the life that I had in Arlington. I wanted to erase the ugly memories that my dad had instilled into my life. I wanted to escape.

I felt so worthless. I felt like nobody actually cared about me. I felt like if I disappeared, the world would just continue spinning, people would just continue to do what they were doing, it didn’t even matter. I didn’t even matter.

So that night, I tried to escape in the way that I thought was best and would hurt the least. I found a bottle of extra strength Tylonel in the medicine cabinet, and I swallowed in two swallows the entire contents. All 40 capsules of the bottle.

I knew suicide wasn’t the answer, but at that moment, that wasn’t on my mind. In the least dramatic way as possible, I thought that it would be what was best for everybody. I wouldn’t be the person that people had to worry about anymore. I wouldn’t be the person that people had to come up with excuses for anymore. I wouldn’t be the person that that people even had to think about anymore. The world could carry on without me.

Once I swallowed the pills, the world around me stopped, or at least, go in slow motion. But also in a weird sense, the rest of the night was somewhat of a blur. I remember tweeting the word “f o r t y,” thinking it was my private twitter. (Surprise, it wasn’t.) I remember picking up Lexi’s phone call and saying the word “Tylonel.” I remember her showing up and then somehow arriving at the hospital. I remember being forced to drink liquid charcoal and realising I had an allergy to Zofran. I remember being pushed through the emergency room to my own private room, and I swear the show “Scrubs” is so real. (JD and Turk high-fived above my bed, and Lexi confirmed that two male doctors did do that. Either she was lying to make me feel better or it happened. I’m betting on the latter.)

By the end of that weekend, countless people had come to visit me. Countless phone calls and text messages had come in. Countless people had prayed for me. It was such a weird situation. People that I didn’t know cared about me actually cared about me. The encouragements showered over me were words that I never thought anybody could describe me with. When I left the hospital a few days later, I slowly had begun to realise my worth, my purpose, and my value.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t until Mary texted me earlier tonight with a screenshot from her Timehop from five years ago that I had even remembered that this was even an event in my life.

My whole past seems surreal. A lot of it doesn’t feel like it’s actually happened. It feels like they’re just stories that I once read in a weird book that sorta come up when I get asked to share bits of my testimony, and though life is still sometimes pretty hard, I can’t believe that I have the life that I have now.

I’m currently sitting at the Clitheroe flat with Meredith, Leon, and Haley, and I just had chili mac a la Haley, buttered popcorn a la Meredith, and I beat everybody at Monopoly. (I had 9 $500 bills and 11 motels… Suckers.) I’ve laughed, I’ve smiled, I’ve even touched Leon’s feet through his socks just to be a weirdo. And I honestly couldn’t ask for anything too much better.

These past five years have been crazy. So much has happened. But by the grace of God, I’m here, I’m alive, and for the most part, I’m happy.

Nowadays, I get to spend the majority of my days, talking about Jesus, in a weird island of a country with young people in a team of people I can call my friends. I get to read out of that weird book called my life to others when I get to tell them about how God crushed the darkness and despair in my past just to show other people how He could make me, the most annoying, most selfish, most unbearable person in the world, be a light and how He could do that in other’s lives too. I get to spend my days praising Him and loving people. How cool is that?

Sunday will be the fifteen-year-mark of my dad’s death, and it’s the first year that I can remember where I’m not dreading it. It helps me to understand that I’m forgiving, that I’m growing, and that that person doesn’t define me because it shouldn’t define me.

I am now twenty-four, and it is Thursday. (Okay, it’s now past 1AM, so it’s Friday.)

The Upside to Anxiety

*Disclaimer: This post is not to glorify anxiety, depression, or any other mental diseases.
*The featured image is taken from Katie Crawford’s “My Anxious Heart” portfolio and is quite a heartbreaking, yet beautiful thing to view.

 

Anxiety (and other mental illnesses) suck. And for as long as I’ve known, this is something that I’ve always struggled with, and it’s not something that I see going away anytime soon.

My anxiety pushes me to repeat conversations to an unhealthy amount that further makes me break it down to wonder the genuine intention behind it. My anxiety pushes me to cower alone in bed underneath my sheets in the dark, while I think about the fun everybody else must be having without me because I’m not there. My anxiety pushes me to tear myself down to the point where I feel fragile, shattered, and damaged, because that is how I feel everybody views me also.

Sometimes, my anxiety pushes me to go to a state where it’s hard to breathe, I can’t stop shaking, I can’t stop crying, I can’t speak, I feel like throwing up, and I feel like everything is either moving too quickly or not quickly enough, and I’m not just alone, but I’m lonely and disconnected, and I know this is the worst run-on sentence ever but this is my mindset during these attacks, and please just let me remind you again, anxiety sucks.

But this isn’t the point of this blog post.

The point of this blog is to explain that sometimes there is an upside to this anxiety.

And the upside is that even though yes, my anxiety pushes all of the negative things and more on me, it pushes me closer to God.

Sometimes it takes awhile and I go through all of the other stops in the cycle first, but when I get to the phase where I absolutely remember I need to praise God, that’s when I remember that my anxiety has pushed me there.

I have to admit–

When things are going well, I forget to pray. I forget that God has all of the glory in my life. I forget that He’s created every single piece of me and that He’s created me to be a lover, a warrior, and a princess.

It’s when things are questionable and scary and ridiculous that I remember that He is there for me always. That I am forever in His heart. And that He’s sent me on a ridiculous mission to show people the same love that He’s shown me. Even, and especially, when I don’t want to.

Cause when I feel like I’m falling apart, His voice is the thing that holds me together. And I can never ask for any better reassurance than that.

So thank you to my anxiety for letting me reach low enough lows that cause me to aim for the highest of the highs.

My anxiety pushes me to Him.

You of Little Faith

Just a few days ago marked the four month mark of when I’m coming back home to Texas.

Four months, and then I’ll be leaving this wonderful island-type country filled with tea, biscuits, and weird accents. 

It’s definitely been one heck of an adventure. One that’s been exciting and spontaneous, and that’s led me to meet so many different people from different parts of the world that I never found myself to be friends with, let alone best friends with, and that’s also led me to be closer to God in ways I never found to be remotely possible.

Sure, I’ll be coming home to start a new adventure, but there are definitely moments where I’m not sure if I’m ready for this chapter I’ve been reading to be over.

But as the bitterness and sadness starts to resonate inside of me that I’m leaving the place that I’ve called home for the last almost-two years, my heart gets so anxious and actually yearns for what is in Texas.

This doesn’t happen too often, guys, but I’m so incredibly homesick right now.

Y’all, I’m SO ready to cuddle in bed with my mom, to annoy the heck out of my brother, and to speak very broken Vietnamese with my grandmother. I’m ready for road trips to Common Grounds and to loiter in millionaire neighbourhoods with my best friends and to drink legitimate iced coffee and iced unsweetened tea, and eat fried chicken and mac & cheese again. There are moments where I can’t stop thinking about the next time I’ll get to eat a bánh mì or phở or bánh cuốn with a cà phê sữa đá or being able to drive a car again, or even simply just getting to worship with my Grace Community fam on Sunday mornings. 

Basically, I just miss all of the things that I left behind two years ago and again this past summer when God CALLED me to love the apathetic, hopeless-feeling teenagers of the United Kingdom.

 And don’t get me wrong. Things are going so impossibly well over here, and we’re seeing so many amazing things happen that I KNOW only God can do, and it’s all so, so great, so I still can’t help but to feel guilty that my brain and my heart aren’t present at the moment.

These last few days (or weeks even), I’ve been repeating the words, “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”

But everything changed today. Basically, I got hit by a semi-truck that’s driving on the autobahn, and that made me realise how much I’ve been leaning on myself and my own insecurities and feelings rather than the goodness of God and his strength and known facts.

During devotions, we talked about the world-famous passage of Peter trusting Jesus enough to walk on water. And excuse me, but that is some scary stuff. I mean, I can’t even swim. But Jesus didn’t tell Peter, “Yo, no worries. I’m going to have a bridge magically appear for you to walk across,” but instead, He told him, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Jesus didn’t give Peter the easy way out. He told Peter to walk across the dang water. So, though with doubt, Peter freaking did it. But he started to slip. And he cried out, “Lord, help me!”

And with that, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Peter was insecure and doubting in this situation and that caused Jesus to say the most convicting words (in my opinion) to him which was “You of little faith.”

Not gonna lie, y’all, I am currently Peter.

Jesus has given me the courage and the strength to help Him do His work out here in England — to help spread His Gospel to ones who’ve either never heard it or not truly understand it — and because things got scary or uncomfortable for me, I want to turn back to what is safe, what is secure, where I know I can pick myself back up. But Jesus isn’t telling me to go be safe, He’s telling me to walk across the waters, because He is in the boat, waiting for me. Waiting for me to trust Him and to go unwaveringly. 

Rather than being the one with little faith, He wants me to be so full of it, I can’t help but to trust in Him.

He is so much bigger than the thoughts that I could ever think or the feelings that I could ever feel, and it’s the mind-blowing moments like this where I realise that no matter how much I miss my mom or drinks with the correct amount of ice or even the idea of stability, I’m ready to follow Him wherever He is willing to call me. 

(…which currently is to continue working with these kids here in the UK, then onto my next adventure in the brilliant maple-syrupped land of Canada.)

Please pray with me, as I do only have four more months here in England to make an impact (even a small one) and for preparation to go to Canada for at least the next two years soon after. Please pray against any distractions, including homesickness, and for that courage to still keep walking on that lake.
Thanks guys. Miss y’all, love y’all.

God is Greater than the Highs and Lows.

Sometimes it’s really hard to move. Not in the physical sense (though it’s a side effect), but to be active emotionally and mentally. A lot of times, it comes from fear.

Fear and guilt tend to run my life quite a bit. It tells me that I’m not enough, that I’m the most annoying person alive, that people will no longer like me or care for me if I’m a certain way.

I’m afraid of a lot of things, but mostly, most sincerely, I am afraid of being so completely unraveled and people not finding what they want there.

So sometimes I feel like it’s easier not to interact with people. If I don’t interact with people, I won’t disappoint them. If I don’t interact with people, then maybe they won’t expect things out of me. If I don’t interact with people, then maybe they won’t get tired of me.

It’s a cycle I’ve gotten used to for the past decade of my life.

But this is a rubbish way to live.

From a few blogs ago, I’ve mentioned that I’ve been trying to become more vulnerable with my thoughts and more open with my feelings. I’ve started to share about what my good and bad days look like. I’ve started to share how I view the person that I want to fight for the Kingdom of God together with for the rest of my life. I’ve started to share about my struggle to fight what is social norm and what I feel like God is calling me to do. I’ve given my heart to more people than I ever have in my life, in hopes of them standing next to me when I victoriously beat my struggle against the enemy and fighting my fear that they will rip my heart apart the first chance they get. 

I’ve been trying.

And this is a good thing, right?

Well lately, things have been different. And it’s actually scary to me. Things have been going so well, and it almost makes me uncomfortable. I’m the happiest I can ever remember being in my life, and besides a random health issue or two, everything just feels perfect.

But as things are going in the right direction, I’ve found myself reverting to the opposite.

I’m afraid I’ll lose my newfound bravery. I’m afraid I’ll lose my happiness and just all of these feelings I feel right now. I’m afraid somebody is just going to rip all of this from me. And it doesn’t just scare me, but it absolutely terrifies me.

It is currently easier for me to feel a genuine smile and to be *there* for people more nowadays, but I’ve realised that because I’m so afraid that this goodness will leave or that somebody could take it from me, I’ve started to guard my heart and my brain more. I’ve stopped opening up about my feelings and trust those near me. These are my feelings and my heart, and I’ve worked so hard to finally get here. Why should I let it go so quickly?

But it’s nights like this, where I realise that God is so much bigger than that. Why am I trying to hold Him back by my own insecurities?

On New Year’s Eve, I got a tattoo that I’ve been wanting for years on my right arm that I’ve been hesitating, because it hasn’t felt genuine. I hadn’t actually accepted that “God is greater than the highs and lows” in my life, so how could I ink something on myself that would be on my skin for the rest of my life if I didn’t truly believe it?

But my God, my friends, time has passed, and I’ve realised it is so true. Our God is more important than the feelings that we feel and truer than the thoughts that we think. Our God is more victorious than the depression and the anxiety that cripples my entire body and it’s organs and more wiser than what society can ever imagine.

If things are going well right now, I should let them happen. I shouldn’t doubt God and His want for pure joy in my life. I shouldn’t guard the happiness in fear of the possibility that someday it’ll leave. The thing is if my God has been there for me when the worst things in my life has happened and has been there for me when the best things in my life has happened, there’s no telling that He won’t be there with me for the rest of my life when everything else that can be worse or better can, and will most likely, happen.

I know that this has just been a 2AM rambling of how I need to trust in God more and less on my own understanding of how my body and brain works (hey, we’ve done assemblies on this this week), but I want to thank you all for sticking by me, even when I push you out, let you in, and anything in between.

Friends, our God is greater than our highs and our lows, and He will remain that way for the rest of our lives. Feel blessed in knowing that!

I love and miss you all (this includes the ones that are near and dear or far and abroad for me). You guys are legends.