learning to say "no"

NoMy mom has a cute plaque in her house that proclaims "Stress is what happens when your gut says 'no' but your mouth says 'yes.'"



As one who longs to please others, I thought I had to do it all.  If someone at church asked me to do something, without even thinking I would respond "sure!"  If one of my friends asked if I was free, as long as that spot on the calender was open regardless of what I had personally planned for that time, I answered "of course!"  Only thing is that later, I would regret my "yes."  I would begrudgingly go--mad at myself and resenting the person who asked me.  Or even worse yet, sometimes I would call at the last minute and cancel. 



In some warped way, I thought telling all people "yes" all the time is what I was supposed to do.  I was being a "good girl."  But, really telling people "yes" made me angry, stressed, resentful, tired, and at times even unreliable.



In America, full time for college classes is considered 12 hours.  My second semester, I took 18 hours, worked part-time, and was a member of at least half a dozen groups, and my door was always open to visitors, and I never said "no" to anyone  Why?  I wanted it all.  I wanted to please people and make friends and graduate on time because "I was perfect." 



Once, at about midnight, I was in the midst of complaining to my roommate that I was stressed and tired and worn out from school work and always helping people.  Knock!  Knock!  Knock!  An sweet international student was at our door, "Amanda, I need help. I can't . . . . by myself.  Will you please come?"  As, the words, "sure I will" were forming in my mouth, my roommate placed her hand on my shoulder, "she can't tonight, but I can." 



Why?  Why could I not say no? 



I had several conversations with a dear college friend, Melissa, who began to share with me her convictions about how God had not designed us to be so busy and stressed.  That we were to live more simply and enjoy him and enjoy who he had created us to be.  I saw how much peace she had, how she enjoyed doing what she did choose to do, and how effective her impact was on campus.  She might not ever have known it, but she was the one who taught me that it was ok to say "no."



After that semester, I never took more than 12 hours a semester.  I choose my classes carefully, and I only graduated one semester late (and that was because I chose to be a exchange student for a year).  I carefully selected to be a part of the one group that matched my talents and gifts.  And, I began to feel free to tell people no.  Life was worth living again.  I wasn't so stressed.  I enjoyed my courses.  I enjoyed helping people again.  There was joy in the service--not guilt and resentment and frustration.



I also had a classmate who was legally blind.  He often needed help.  He was actually one of the first people I told "no."  He asked for something that wasn't pressing on a week of a big test.  Years later, he told me, "Amanda, would you like to know why I feel comfortable asking you for help?"  Of course I would.  "Well, you were able to tell me 'no.'  If someone, tells me 'no,' I know I can always ask and not ever become a burden to them." 



Now as a tent-making missionary who teaches college students there are many, many things that can fill my time.  I have choosen to keep things simple.  To invest fully in the things God has created me for rather than the things "I could do because I have time for them" or "I could do because someone asked me to do them."  That doesn't mean the welcome sign on my door is gone and that I am a hermit.  It simply means, I no longer feel guilt when I say "no."  It means I choose wisely my commitments and how I spend my time.  It means my "yes" is truly a "yes, I'd love to."



Taiwanese people do not understand why I don't easily add a few classes for lots of extra money--I am single, have no kids, why not fill every waking moment with money making opportunities while I can?  Well, its simple really, I want to be the most effective Amanda I can in order to glorify my God.  If I don't have time to rest, to be with Him, and to refuel, I am not effective and can't enjoy life or Him. 



Knowing my limitations is a beautiful thing.  Being able to say no--to myself and others--is not easy for this reformed people-pleaser and perfectionist, but the benefits it yields are well worth it for me and for those who ask for my time! 



contentment and grace

19993450Not too long ago, I wrote about how hard it is to be content (with singleness) and how I longed to know Paul's reciepe of contentment that he writes about in Philippians.



Tonight, I stumbled on to an article by Carolyn McCulley about Contentment in the Wait.  Near the end of her article she says:

Contentment calls for humility. We have to intentionally humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand when our circumstances don’t work out to our liking. Without a doubt, it is humbling to go year after year with a hope deferred! It’s very humbling to keep showing up at family events as the only single sibling, or to go to the wedding of a former boyfriend without a date. But we have to remember that, as Christian women, we’re not here to promote our personal success stories, anyway. We’re here as trophies of grace — broken clay jars carrying around incredibly valuable treasure. Even if the Lord should grant our petition for marriage and a family, our witness and purpose do not change. Only our circumstances change. [emphasis mine]

I had forgotten that I am a trophy of grace.  For most of my life, I have spent too much time trying to earn my already gifted salvation trying to prove my worth.  What a joy it is to celebrate that I am a trophey of grace.  How underserving I am to be one--but I guess that is the whole point! 



I mean . . . really now. . . imagine that!  God considers me a trophy--a symbol of success or victory--that he prominetly displays in his dwelling place.  He is proud of his work in my life.  He was victorious, and I am the trophy.  The trophy of grace.  I am not on display on his heavenly shelf because of the things I have done . . . but because of of what he has done.  Just like athletes earn the trophys they receive, it was God who did the work in me.



As a sidenote: Carolyn alludes to the same concept that I blogged about a few days ago, she just approaches it in a slightly different light.  Its not the focus of her article, but she reminds me again that my goal in life--to know and make known God, to glorify him by enjoying him--does not change if I one day wed.



Father, may my contentment be found in you alone.  Thank you for placing valuable treasure in this messed-up broken clay jar.



false gods

Thumbnailserver People all over this globe are worshiping false gods.  And I am not talking about TV, work, food, or football.  I am talking about physical idols representing false gods.





Check out this video of a worship song from India (a "Telugu folk song").  I found it while reading about a project to help India become more literate. 





How the people of this world are so blinded and living in darkness!





Oh how they need Jesus!



making scripture important

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For 2006, I want to make Scripture an important part of my life.





First, I would like to memorize whole sections of the Bible, not just a verse here and a verse there. I am praying now about what to memorize first.  I found this list of articles on scrpture memory.





the gifts of singleness and marriage

Wife_and_mother_1 The desire to be a wife and mother has been lingering in my heart for a few months now.  When I was 16 or 17, God and I had a conversation.  I had just found out I had PCOS and might not be able to have children.  At that time in my life, all I wanted to be was a wife and mother.  To be a stay at home mom was my career goal.  I was an avid Elisabeth Elliot reader and had several other books on my selves such as A Good Man is Hard to Find Unless You Ask God to be the Head of Your Search Commitee.

My conversation with God went something like this:
God: Amanda, would you be willing to not have children if it meant serving me better?
Amanda: But, God, I love children and want to be a mother so much.  However, now I know I might not be able to birth children, could I adopt?
God: My question is: would you be willing to not be a mother if it means serving me better?
Amanda: Oh.  Well, I would be very sad if I could not be a mother, but if I could serve you better, then OK; I am willing.
God:  What about being a wife?  Would you be willing to be single if it meant serving me better?
Amanda: Yes, Lord, if it means serving you better.  Yes, I am willing.

After that conversation, I realized that books about singleness and marriage were more important to me than my Bible.  I also had great peace about being single and enjoyed growing closer to God and finding out some of his neat plans for my life that never could have happened if I had followed my own "life plan."



Then it came time for college.  My friends and classmates started dating and getting married.  It was very hard to not be jealous of them.  It was at this time that God and I had another discussion.  He showed me 1 Corthians 7.  He convinced me that my friends were exchanging their gift of singleness for the gift of marriage, but that my singleness was still a gift.  That I should celebrate with them, knowing my God is a good gift giver (Matthew 7) and both mine and their gifts were good.  Again, I had peace about being single and was able to celebrate with my friends.



I have never truly been on "a date."  I am now almost 28.  American media makes fun of people who haven't had sex in a month or even in a week--I have now gone my whole life without a real date and with never even being kissed by a man.  Oh, what would the media do with that?!?  But this is an off topic blip in my post. 



My point is this: for the first time in over 10 years, I am starting to long for marriage and motherhood again.  Why now?  Is it me not being wholly satisified in my Father?  Is it because my younger sister is getting married?  Is it because my best friend from college became a mother this year? Or, is it because my Father is stirring up the desires of my heart because something is going to change?    



In November, I read 1 Corinthians 7 nearly every morning.  I really like verse 17: "And don't be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life."  And I wrote about my longings in my first blog in June and November.   



When I read 1 Corinthins 7 again this fall . . . 2 things stuck out to me 1) I can use my time as a single to become more intimate with my Savior and 2) "marriage is spiritually and morally right and not inferior to singleness in any way" in other words marriage is not a step up or a step down from singleness. 



I was just now surfing the net when I found an article by Albert Hsu entiled "Demystifying The Gift Of Singleness."  The end of his article further explains/supports the second idea above:

Furthermore, the gift of singleness does not determine an unalterable lifelong destiny. In fact, everybody starts out with the gift of singleness. The "gift" of singleness is descriptive, not restrictive. It does not prevent singles from getting married if they so desire and circumstances permit. Neither singleness nor marriage is a permanent state; both can be temporary.



In addition, the metaphor of a gift exchange affirms that singleness and marriage are gifts of equal value. It is rude to refuse a gift, to tell a giver that you don't want what you received and throw it back in his or her face. However, it can be entirely appropriate to exchange a gift for a different one of equal value. Think about taking a Christmas gift back to the store. You can't exchange it for something that's more expensive. But you can exchange it for something of the same value.



So it is with marriage and singleness. When a single gets married, it is not a promotion, a step up to a more valued position, as though marriage were a more expensive Christmas gift. Rather, it is an exchange of one gift for another of equal value.

Still not sure what my heart is doing right now or why it is doing it.  Still not sure what I am longing for.  But I do still rest in the One who gives good gifts and trust Him alone to satisify my desires.



76-107 of 100 things that make me happy

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76. stepping on the scales and seeing the numbers get smaller
77. chocolate chip cookie dough
78. sitting close to someone I love
79. making someone else happy
80. reading
81. checking things off my “to do” list
82. feeling successful
83. encouraging others
84. doing/saying things that make others smile
85. new office supplies (especially pens and paper)
86. walking barefoot in green grass
87. riding my moped
88. chatting with my 81 year old grandmother online
89. getting scanned in handwritten notes from my neenee emailed to me
90. pink things
91. pizza with cheese in the crust
92. frozen oreos soaked in milk
93. hearing stories from the “old days” from my grandparents
94. watching someone else fulfill their dream
95. spending all day alone (in my pjs) and doing nothing
96. rolling down a grassy hill
97. having a clean apartment
98. successfully preparing a new dish
99. getting a great deal on something (finding a bargain)
100. giving someone a gift that they love
101. walking barefoot on the beach
102. helping others
103. getting a massage
104. hearing other people laugh out loud
105. listening to the logic of children
106. rays of sunlight from the sun rising or setting falling into my living room
107. hearing the laughter of a child



new photos uploaded



I have posted many of my Christmas 2005 pictures to my flickr



I still need to upload pics from my time with the Minnich family and the ones from the memory card on my broken camera (which will take 2-3 weeks because the camera in the repair shop and my card-reader won't read this card for some strange reason).



Anywho . . . below are some random pics (everytime you reload/refreash the page they should change) from Christmas 2005--surf on over to my account on flickr to see the rest. 



Please leave a comment on flickr or here to let me know you stopped by! :)  By the way, comments in Chinese are ok too.



www.flickr.com



51-75 of 100 things that make me happy

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51. smelling new/old books
52. being in a library
53. my mom’s chicken and dumplings
54. my grandmother’s homade rolls
55. hugging my paw-paw
56. having my feet massaged
57. using scented lotions
58. using a new phrase in Chinese correctly
59. having painted toenails
60. a new haircut
61. dark chocolate
62. oatmeal
63. ginger candy or snaps
64. playing on swings
65. sitting in a rocking chair
66. hearing the crunch of leaves underfoot
67. watching butterflies flutter
68. a new book
69. new gidgets and shiny gadgets
70. getting off an airplane in a different country
71. laughing till I cry
72. having pictures of friends, family, memories
73. snowmen
74. blowing giant bubbles
75. popping my gum



merry christmas!!

Dsc042013_1 This has been a great Christmas weekend!!



I spent the weekend with the Minnich family--we opened presents on Christmas Eve, and had "Christmas Dinner" on Friday and Saturday night!  Then today, Christmas Day, we worshipped in the park.  I got to hold the Minnich's youngest son while he slept.  I think that truly might have been the best Christmas I got this year.  What a blessing!!



When I came home this afternoon, I waited for Gilby (he was being doggy-watched by a student), and then we took some pictures and opened our gifts from NeeNee and PawPaw. :)  He loves his new mini-kong. 



Then, I called my family and Ellen to tell them Merry Christmas!!  It was great to hear their voices.  Just wish I could have joined them for pancakes.



All in all . . . it was a nice weekend! :)



p.s. will post some pics from the weekend tomorrow.



it does not feel like . . .

Dsc0671711It does not feel like Christmas. 



Living in Taiwan has its pros and cons.  And, I suppose one of the cons is "missing" Christmas.  Sure we have red and green, songs about "one house [sic] open sleighs," Christmas trees, and santas galore, but we are "missing" Christmas. 



Because I don't get a vacation for Christmas (not an offical holiday here) classes continue, there are things to grade, finals to write, and life is "normal."



I miss Christmas.



I miss stopping to just be with family.  I miss thinking about and planning the gifts I want to give.  I miss seeing Christmas lights.  I miss decorating the tree with memories of years gone by alongside my mom and sister.  I miss making Christmas cookies.  But, what I really miss most is my family.  I want to sit on the couch and laugh with them.  I want to see their faces as they open presents.  I want to sit around the table that has been prepared in loving care.  I want to be with them for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.



Instead, here it is day before Christmas Eve, and I am trying to clear out my guest room for a bed that is coming, trying to find a way to get Gilby to a student's house for the weekend, trying to prepare something to take to a friend's house, trying to not feel gulity about not being ready, trying to not feel guilty about the huge pile of papers that won't get graded this weeked. 



I guess the most important thing for me to do this weekend, is to sit down and spend some quality time worshipping my Savior--to forget about the guilt, to forget about what I think I am missing--and focus heart and soul on the one I love most and who loves me most.



He is the reason for Christmas.  And because of that--I can't miss Christmas if I celebrate him.



Merry Christmas, Yall!



26-50 of 100 things that make me happy

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26. gazing at a star filled sky
27. holding a baby
28. smelling a baby
29. watching children play
30. seeing grandparents with their grandchildren
31. feeling like I look nice in a new outfit
32. noticing my clothes are getting looser and looser
33. being complimented by others
34. having a house full of company
35. playing games
36. solving a puzzle
37. be silly with friends
38. having sheets and towels that are dried in a dry
39. overhearing someone singing to themselves
40. seeing someone I haven’t seen in a long time
41. the sound of the ocean
42. daisies
43. sunflowers
44. electric blankets
45. good music
46. telling others about something I learned
47. bookstores
48. plum green tea with lemon
49. watching the sunset
50. watching the sunrise



my camera's bad day

40145_1My camera had a bad fall today.  It was attached to a tripod that got knocked over. :(



Immediately, I noticed the battery/memory stick door was a little loose (both popped out upon impact) and a chip on the corner.  My heart started to flip-flop at this point.  The camera turned on and could still take pictures; however, the flash was broke. 



So, I have dropped it off at a repair shop, and it should take 2-3 weeks to hear back from them.  If the repair is less than 500 NT, they will just fix it.  However, I seriously doubt that will be the case.  So, I have already started thinking about its replacement



This camera was excellent to me.  I've had it less than 3 years, but have taken nearly 7000 great pictures with it.  It stayed in my purse every day of those three years!  My purse feels empty without it. :(



gilby plays fetch

Dsc06659I got this little jingle bell ball on impluse.  Gilby LOVES it!!  He will go get it and then bring it to where I am sitting, drop it, and then bark.  He is inviting me to play.  My job is to throw it for him. 



Because it has a jingle bell, he can hear it, and he follows the sound of it.  He will play fetch with his other toys (squeeky stuffed ones, plastic bottle caps, and tennis balls with ropes), but he can't hear them.  And, if he is not paying attention he is not sure where to go to retreive it.  This, on the other hand, can be heard as long as it is moving which is great. 



I can sit on the couch and throw it into his crate, the bathroom, the study, the kitchen, or even my bedroom (if I bounce it just right).  He without fail will return it to me. 



It is just too cute to watch him prance, jump, and run.  Oh how me makes me smile!! :)



01-25 of 100 things that make me happy

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01. watching my puppy play fetch
02. waking up to my puppy licking my ear
03. snuggling under a warm down comforter in winter
04. finishing a good book
05. talking to family on the phone
06. getting an email from my little brother
07. receiving surprises in the mail
08. the scent of cinnamon
09. a long bike ride
10. doing something I thought I was unable to do
11. hearing my parents say they are proud of me
12. getting and giving hugs
13. when my students finally “get it”
14. watching my students succeed
15. a cup of hot chocolate
16. a warm, candle lit bubble bath
17. looking a old pictures
18. telling silly childhood stories
19. having my boss tell me I am doing a good job
20. lighting candles in my home
21. decorating for Christmas
22. baking cookies
23. having clean sheets to sleep on
24. talking to my friends
25. writing something I think is well written



Today was a bad day

21540999_1 Oh me. . . not good.  I overslept this morning, but awoke with a terrible head ache.  You know the kind over one eye where you don't want to eat, don't wanna see light, and don't wanna hear a single sound.  It was bad. 



What was worse . . . is that I woke at about 9:45, but I had classes starting from 8:00!  Oh dear.  AND, to make matters worse, last week I had lectured them all on the importance of being on time.



I guess sometimes things our out of our hands.  But, I feel terrible--physically and in the "i'm sorry" sense of the word.  I also had to cancel a party for this afternoon. :( 



Yep.  Today was a bad day. 



started cataloging yesterday

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There was a time when I actually started to put the library of congress numbers on the spines of my books and arrange them in that order. Rumor has it, the First Lady kept her books arranged like this too.





It was too time consuming for me to continue that project, but using librarything sounds like something I would benefit from and could do easily.







Currently all books in my bedroom and living room have been added. Now to do my study . . . uh that will take awhile!







To click this goal off, I will have all books that i own in taiwan on my librarything. Not sure if I have more than 200 books (excluding sample textbooks) here in Taiwan or not—it is free up to 200 books.







However, adding tags, comments and ratings . . . don’t know if or when that will be done. And about all my books in the States—hmmm don’t know if that will ever happen either.







not knowing

1751062_1



Not Knowing” by Mary Gardiner Brainard (1837–1905)







Not knowing the things that shall befall me there.—ACTS XX. 22.











I know not what will befall me: God hangs a mist o’er my eyes;



And thus, each step of my onward path, He makes new scenes arise,



And every joy He sends to me comes like a sweet surprise.









I see not a step before me as I tread on another year;



But I’ve left the past in God’s keeping,—the future His mercy shall clear,



And what looks dark in the distance may brighten as I draw near.









For perhaps the dreaded future is less bitter than I think;



The Lord may sweeten the waters before I stoop to drink;



Or, if Marah must be Marah, He will stand beside its brink.









It may be He keeps waiting, for the coming of my feet,



Some gift of such rare blessedness, some joy so strangely sweet,



That my lips shall only tremble with the thanks they cannot speak.









O restful, blissful ignorance! ’t is bless√ęd not to know;



It keeps me still in those mighty arms which will not let me go,



And lulls my weariness to rest on the bosom that loves me so.









So I go on not knowing,—I would not if I might;



I would rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light;



I would rather walk with Him by faith than walk alone by sight.









My heart shrinks back from trials which the future may disclose,



Yet I never had sorrow but what the dear Lord chose;



So I send the coming tears back with the whispered word, “He knows.”







I love this kind of poetry. Oh, if I could compose like Anne Bradstreet or Mary Gardiner Brainard I would write poems. But, alas, I cannot, so I am left to quote them instead.









This poem, “Not Knowing,” captures my heart’s cry. It echoes the desires of my inner me. I could not express my own emotions better than Brainard does in this poem.









For most people, not knowing is a scary thing.  But as the Message translates Acts 20:22,  that even though "I'm completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there,” there still "is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go . . . ." Paul goes on to say that hard times matter little; however, “what matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.”









So, here I am.  I am following an unknown path.  I am compelled to follow it. So, I am sending back the coming tears with the whispered word, “He knows.” So, I am eagerly anticipating the joys that are to come as I attempt to focus on what matters most,  enjoying the privilage of being His messenger of amazingly good news!









And because He does know this path, although narrow and unknown to me, it is worth traveling.









O restful, blissful ignorance! It is blessed not to know!



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