ANNOUNCEMENT…

It brings me GREAT excitement to share that I’m moving… on the web!

I’ve been working on sort of consolidating space for awhile… and it’s nice to have a more customizable space.  All the present content on this site will stay here, but for all future content please visit: http://whitneyisahuman.com.  Please change your bookmarks and subscriptions.

Thanks for being on this journey with me!  Excited to continue on with you!!!

Hopeful Creating

Me being “artsy” and “inspired” by my Passion Fruit Iced Tea from Sack’s in Berkeley

One of the highlights of my “job” is working in coffee shops.  (I use the term “coffee shops” to encompass a number of places that, basically, have tables and chairs that I can sit at comfortably, at-length and be outside of my apartment… WiFi, excellent background music, and tasty drinks/food are bonuses.)  Some may enjoy the cubicle/office thing and consistency and mini-fridges, but I prefer the chaos of hauling my life (my MacBook Pro and journal) on my shoulders and camping briefly in some space fashioned precisely for the thirsty/hungry nomad.  It’s also a lot of fun to be around other humans once in awhile.  I mean… my stuffed-animals and I are very close and they make great company, but even we need some breathing room every so often!

I tend to write almost all of my prayer letters from the well-worn seats of these very places (I would list some for you, but I’m afraid you’ll go there and then take up a valuable seat in these oft-crowded spaces).  And the reason isn’t that my desk/chair at home is not comfy enough or anything… but being around other humans, drinking well-sugared beverages, unusual smells, different Pandora playlists/stations, etc. all bring a surprising amount of inspiration to write–to create.

Epic has a site entirely devoted to various resources developed “in-house”–by the creative and brilliant minds of its own staff (check it out!!).  Recently they came out with a series of nine elements that describe what Epic is About.  I recommend reading all of them (the first one is here), because they are extremely well-written, thorough, and encouraging!  But recently I’ve been resonating with this one: Epic is About… Hope.  And particularly this one line: (Agh!  I know, it’s totally unfair to just highlight one part because it doesn’t nearly encompass everything that’s so awesome about the truth shared… but then this post would be EVEN LONGER–so uncool)

Hope is fueled by love to create: whether through works of art, exploring innovative solutions or possibilities, the development of people, or the shaping of a culture in which leaders can grow and thrive.  When our hearts have truly been shown a better reality than what we see around us, we cannot help but work to create that for others.

Sunday in church, the pastor shared what he called, “the theology of work:”

Genesis 1:1 (ESV) “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

And the whole sermon was on this idea that it is in the image and character of God to create.  The first impression God gives us is that He creates–He works!  And when He makes us in His image, we also work… we also create.  And it’s not just “creative” professions (like artists, creative directors, etc.), but ALL of us… in our work/jobs/lives we image (it’s a verb!) God!

I couldn’t help but think about the “Epic is About…Hope” article as I sat in service this morning.  And even as I ponder the calling the Lord’s given me right now–which is to share of His calling on my life, His work already done on college campuses, His plan for the future, and to invite others to join in His work–one of the most poetic ways to describe what I “do for a living:” I am hopefully creating the Kingdom here with God.  

A portion of the wall above my desk–inspiration for when I don’t want to go out

And what inspires me to create, to tell stories and terrible jokes, to pursue passions… to paint, even, are the glimpses into the amazing and intricately diverse world He’s placed us in.  Those odd smells, different people and languages, great music, sweet treats that I find so wonderful at coffee shops are part of this crazy world that the Lord loves to death.  I believe what John 3:17 states: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  We need the variation and the weirdness and the surprises in our lives to get us out of our M.O.’s and into the infinitely good possibilities and combinations of people, talents, passions, and flaws in order to taste the Kingdom.  And we ALL participate in bringing the Kingdom to our doorsteps by bringing our full-selves (talents, passions, flaws) into our workplaces, homes, church communities, neighborhoods and cities.  Simply by doing your work (even if unemployed and even if homemaking) and doing it to the best of your God-given ability–we create the Kingdom around us.  Doing our work well reflects the image of a god who also works well!  Asking the Holy Spirit to fill you at work images God!  Even if the workplace seems so dark, God’s not far off because the Holy Spirit’s in you.  And what the pastor said so truthfully yesterday morning: “God wants to establish His Kingdom where you are.”  

This is so rambly and all-over the place.  But I hope you take your place as co-workers with God… co-creators with God… to help create the reality of a glorious Kingdom with an almighty and gracious King here in the places you work.

So Close You Can Almost Taste It…

I have less than $1,000/monthly left to go before I am 100%-funded and can report!  Praise the Lord!!!

Thank you so much for praying and for being part of the answer to these prayers!  I’m so grateful for you and your outstanding faith in the Lord!  WOW.  Please continue praying for that last push!  And if you know anyone who may be encouraged to hear what the Lord has called us to, I’d be honored to meet them and share about my calling with them!  Please feel free to let me know: whitney [dot] chen [at] cru [dot] org*.


SUMMER PROJECTS
Students and staff are going on summer missions trips this summer (in Epic/Cru they’re known as “Summer Projects”) all over the world!  When I directed the 2010 Japan summer project, the Lord taught me so much about His people, His love for those people, and Himself.  It’s also where He reinforced my calling to full-time campus ministry.  I just couldn’t taste a nibble of God’s glory and plan for Japan and our Epic students who served there and then do something else with my life.  Needless to say, God does a lot on these missions trips!!  Please be praying for our Epic trips to the following locations:

  • San Francisco, CA
  • East Asia**
  • Southeast Asia**
  • Tokyo, Japan

Pray that the Gospel is preached both to all the people students/staff interact with but also to themselves as they wait upon the Lord to reveal His redemptive will for their own lives too!  Please also pray for travel, physical, and spiritual safety and protection.  **Some students and staff are venturing into closed-countries where it is illegal to share the Gospel with people.  So please be extra-vigilant in keeping them in prayer!!

And since I know YOU all are such avid blog-readers and fans of yours truly’s (it’s okay if you really aren’t… I choose to believe my version 😉 ), I want to share with you a couple of blogs that will be our inside looks into these two projects:

Bro-mantic: Daniel is giving Danny a piggy-back 🙂

Daniel (above, bottom: our very-own Southwest SoCal Team intern!!) is in SF: http://danielgima.tumblr.com/
and Danny (above, top: a student at CSULB Epic–him and Tommy, a student at UCI Epic) is in Japan this summer: https://jesuslovesjapan.wordpress.com/

Thank you for partnering with me!  We’re so close!!  Hope you have a GREAT summer!! (HAGS :D)

*Note: My e-mail has changed to this address… the uscm.org address still works at this time, but please switch my e-mail to this cru.org address in your directories/contact lists!  Thank you!

“It’s time for the voice of summer”

The title of this post comes from billboards last year to promote LA Dodgers baseball (above).  The billboards were gorgeous–a photo of Dodgers announcer, Vin Scully, in his announcer booth with the ball field in the background.  Just looking at the billboard again makes me all excited for baseball AND summertime.

Now, I’m reminiscing summer memories from my childhood–going to the pool (I lived in Houston, TX until I was eleven and during Houston summers you stayed indoors or went to the pool unless you wanted to be a sweaty, itchy, unhappy mess), visiting cousins and grandparents in California, rollerblading (I’m trying to make this a reality in my adult life now, but I keep being deterred by my embarrassment from asking Sports Chalet employees where they sell rollerblades in adult sizes that aren’t for roller hockey…), avoiding fire-ant hills, not avoiding fire-ant hills, getting scolded and tended to after stepping into a fire-ant hill, watermelon…

When I think back, I don’t remember them all, but I’ve had summer adventures every year of my life.  Even the years I didn’t go on any cool vacations or go on a summer project/short-term missions trip and attended summer school or something turned out to be full of new, strange, fun, exciting, terrifying experiences.  Andevery summer has looked drastically different from the others with its own quirks and moments.

I often protest–and by protest I mean passively sigh until someone lets me complain to them–at how quickly life moves these days and how there’s so much change happening and how ministry is living in a state of constant transition.  But this past year of raising support and reflecting has me gratefully embracing that, just like my summers, it’s all an adventure.  Every day is going to look differently, simply by virtue that it isn’t the 31st anymore, it’s the 1st.  It’s not a Thursday anymore, it’s a Friday.  The Lord had me share my calling with those people yesterday and not today.

And it’s not just in this warm-months-wanderlust that I can suddenly embrace “the vast unknown.” I think it’s that the Lord is growing me in my understanding what it means for Him to give us sufficient grace (2 Cor. 12:9).  Change–unexpected or expected, pleasant or unpleasant–means unknowns, responding, risking.  When Jesus says in Matthew 6:34 to not be anxious about tomorrow, that today has “sufficient troubles,” I take it to mean that today (ourselves included) has brought us sufficient unknowns, opportunities to respond, and risks, but the Lord gives us sufficient grace for those “troubles.”  And once we’ve tasted the freedom of grace we’re able to finally take hold of the fact that we MAY fall into a fire-ant hill and it will be uncomfortable, but we will make an experience out of it and potentially laugh about it later!  And what is “adventure” but a lot of unexpected laughter at how we thought we wouldn’t make it past certain situations/risks/choices/grievances?

The “voice” of my summer will be the Lord’s.  I’m not fully-funded yet, but I’m almost there and am SO SO grateful for how this journey has brought me to you.  I’ve been learning so much from you.  You’ve been opening your arms to me and I’ve been overwhelmed by the love, faithfulness, compassion, and courage you each possess.  So I’m following in Paul’s constant footsteps, in yours, as we go out and listen for and see all the Lord’s going to share with/show us.  🙂  Thank you for your partnership!

AND as a bonus for reading this madness… here’s this month’s prayer newsletter!! 😀
May 2012 update

My Love Letter to Women

Jill and Mary (middle & right, respectively), just TWO of the MANY amazing women I’ve met through Epic 🙂

I’m so grateful for the women in my life.  There are many… so many who’ve left an impact.  But one of the things I’m especially grateful for in Epic, is how it platforms women and how there is much exposure to how awesome REAL women can be.  

Okay, not that the men in Epic aren’t cool or anything.  There are many amazing men as well, but I will not write love letters to them–ew.  

So this is my love letter to so many women I’ve met in and through Epic Movement… please forgive me for the mushy/rambly-ness!

Dear Princesses of Strength, Beauty, and Wisdom,

Thank you.  If that’s the only thing I could ever clearly muster in this post, it is the first thing.  Oh, and this next thing too: I love you.  And this: you’re amazing!

I’ve been moved and shaken to my very core by your beings.  You accomplish so much–graduate degrees, international missions, blogs/articles, books, marriage, babies, screenwriting, deep friendships, conferences, sermons, speaking gigs, decor, and SO much more… while looking AMAZING!  I’m so blown away by all you do.  But I’m even more amazed at your sense of voice, your pursuit to follow Jesus for yourself, your loyalty to the things that are you.

You’ve taught me to follow in your stead.  Though I know you’ve faced and carried much pressure in your lives, the fact that you have followers (both Twitter and non) hopefully doesn’t bring you much more.  I’ve seen you let Jesus move despite yourselves.  I’ve seen you laugh at your own desire to control.  I’ve seen you cry when receiving pressure from places you hoped to receive encouragement, grace, and safety.  And as you’ve grieved and grown and laughed, the Lord has lifted you.  And this has brought me MUCH comfort in difficult times.  The Lord lifts us.

Please continue to fight for your relationship with the Lord!  Please continue to allow yourself to feel and be.  Please continue to reach and push boundaries and stretch as far as you want.  Please let the Lord remind you what a glorious and delightful daughter you are to Him… without you having to do/earn anything.  🙂

With love overwhelming,

Whitney

How did I get here?! PART II

[This is the MUCH LONGER continuation of another post!  See PART I here!  And please bear with me… :)]

It was very late at night–I think 12 AM-ish–when I sent that e-mail to Tommy.  I remember feeling scared and puzzled at how he would respond… actually I wasn’t even thinking he would answer back.  (I have a hard time trusting e-mails.)  But when I woke up the next morning, Tommy had e-mailed me back that he had been in the middle of fasting and praying for people with hearts for the lost and he had brought up my name with his team!?

I got goosebumps.

He then forwarded me on to Viv Mabuni.  At the time, I had no idea who this lady was… nor how I in the year to follow, I would just replay the conversation I had with her over and over in my head–especially the part about how to share this with my parents.

Viv and I, a couple years after our very first conversation at Starbucks...

Replaying it now, I don’t remember all the words that were said.  But I remember feeling instantly comfortable and at ease as Viv enthusiastically greeted me and kept saying, “Wow… it’s a God-thing!”  Just us two, sitting in the Starbucks at a local mall… I felt like I had all these questions, but had no words to put to them.  Later, I realized my real question was: “Is it worth it–you know, following Jesus wherever He leads?”

I have goosebumps again.

One weekend while staying at my parents’ house, I decided to talk to them about it.  I walked downstairs to their room and knocked on the door, they were getting ready for bed, but somehow I managed to share with them what I felt God was calling me to do.  Bracing myself, I asked them what they thought.  Very calmly they both asked a few questions and shared that it might be good for me to work a little “in the real world” to gather some perspective before jumping right back into the “college-scene.”  We kinda struck a deal–I’d take a year to focus on working “in the real world,” and then revisit whether or not I want to do campus ministry vocationally.

After talking with them, I agreed and prayed about it some more.  So I shared with Epic that I was going to not going to intern with them and because I wanted to work for a year.  I was sad to not jump into it immediately but I agreed with my parents that it would be helpful.

Thus, I went to work.  Followed through with the job lined up right after graduation.  Worked at a bunch of different places, actually… tried anything and everything I could find.  And made lots of observations and mental notes about the workplace environment, management styles, work-ethic, and interviewing.  I made friends and enjoyed my time!  Although, don’t know if putting my supervisor’s “easy” button (from Staples) in Jell-O was my best idea ever…

"That was easy." did not apply to this task... it took a lot of planning and time and energy and Jell-O packets

Probably the most significant moment during my “real life experience” (sorry for all the quotation marks…) was when I was working as a full-time temp.  The manager of the department and I were talking one morning and the conversation turned to my future plans:

Manager: “Would you want to stay here?”
Me: “Sure!  I’ve really enjoyed working here and I could really see myself working well with all the people on your staff.”
Manager: “I’ve noticed you take pride in your work.  You’re not doing anything exciting or challenging but you show up early with a smile on your face and do an excellent job… you even seem to have fun while doing it.”
Manager: “You mentioned before that you’re a Christian.  I can tell based on how you carry yourself, your positive attitude and how you take pride in what you do.”

The conversation continued, but I couldn’t believe he said what he did.  At the time I was confused on how to really integrate my spiritual life into my professional life.  I would say I’m a Christian, but people didn’t seem drawn to that initially.  So, I just didn’t really talk about it or mention it again.  But then he connected the two for me and I realized how narrowly I saw spirituality.  And I couldn’t help thinking, “Do other recent Christian grads know how to un-compartmentalize their lives?  Do college students know how to do that?  God is relevant and connected to all areas of our lives… I was involved in a fellowship in college and I still missed this… what about others who haven’t even heard of Jesus??

A year after I applied to intern with Epic the first time, I was offered a lucrative sales position!  Though I didn’t think the job was a great fit, I thought it might be able to launch me into some exciting territory.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of working with college students, so I turned down the position and called Epic to re-apply for an internship with them.

My mom was in the room with me as I called.  She looked at me and said, “You seem happy.  You really want to do this don’t you?”  I just smiled big, nodded and ran up to my room to jump up and down for at least ten minutes.

Can YOU tell if I'm happy or not based on my face here?

A month later, I showed up at the intern kick-off weekend in Orange, CA.  Though I was excited and thrilled to be following the Lord… I was scared out of my mind!  I didn’t know anyone, and was supposed to find a guy named Don Diva–the Epic Intern Coordinator at the time.  “What does he look like?  What kind of name is ‘Diva?’  Asian?  Is he Asian because he works with Epic?  I don’t see any Asians here… Am I at the right place?  What am I doing here?!  Why did I decide to do this?!” = my thoughts at the time.  I was spiraling.

Before I could run out the door and away from this, Don introduced himself to me.  I started meeting other interns and other staff.  It was hitting me slowly–these are all people dedicating at least a year to the Lord!  The excitement began to build again!

When I registered and introduced myself to other interns and staff, they kept asking me: “Where are you assigned?”  And it dawned on me… I have no idea!  So I went back to Don and asked if he knew where I was assigned.  He just smiled, and said “I do know!  But I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you yet.”  What!!!?  Then Don smiled and laughed again, “You want to know don’t you?”  I nodded as enthusiastically as I could without seeming too uncool and desperate.  “You’re at UCI!”

OHHHHH SHOOT! UCI!!!?!!?! AAAHHH!!!! (these are all good exclamations, in case you're not sure)

😀  I wasn’t expecting to be assigned there… but as I thought and prayed about it more it made so much sense!  The campus I cried over was UCI.  The people I thought of that I missed out witnessing to while I was a student were all UCI classmates… the dreams I had for a campus being a beacon of God’s light and love were for UCI.

(Ooh… Fun fact!  This weekend is where I roomed with Heather who ended up joining staff with me this past summer AND being in my life group all summer!  She’s great and will be ministering at UCI too!!!  Whaaa??  So crazy!)

Me, Heather, and Megan (L-R) during our last night of our Colorado summers!

And that’s the story… sorry I wish I had a cooler “THE END” but really… the above stories really were a part of the beginning of my journey with Epic!

Thank you for bearing with me through the story!  This is been SUCH a joy to just… think about again.  I honestly feel so blessed to recall all these things and moments and people… God has been SO amazingly faithful and good.  Wow, what a gracious God we know!! 🙂  Thank You, Lord!!!

THANK YOU!! ❤

How did I get here?! PART I

This is one of my favorite stories to tell… The twists and craziness of how it all happened still surprises me and it just tells me more and more about myself and God… each time!

Why tell it now… and withhold from you all of my facial expressions in telling you this story live and in person? Well, I recently received an e-mail with all the upcoming events of the team I’m a part of in Epic (The Southwest SoCal team) and it said: “6 weeks left as a staff team…”  For those unfamiliar with the terminology, basically the end of the school year is less than two months away.  And all I could selfishly think was: “I missed it… I missed the entire year… because of support raising…”  Now this is simply not true as the Lord had things for me to experience and witness in this year, that I could not have seen/understood/felt had I not been in a support raising season.  He has been outrageously, exceedingly good and beautiful and gracious to me and so many others in this remarkable and redemptive season.  Yet… I still feel it…

So, I’m going to share some of how I started with Epic, because it is hilarious and so… so… like the Lord to call us to greater, yet crazier things! 🙂  And don’t worry, you won’t miss out on my facial expressions… you’ll see 😉

I attended UC Irvine for my undergraduate degree… aaaaand I loved it–so much so, I was a campus tour guide!  And like a “good Christian,” I attended a fellowship regularly.  Along with several other people, I got to serve in Asian American Christian Fellowship (AACF) while I attended college there.  Loved it–some of my coolest and closest friends came from it.

During welcome week of my senior year! 🙂

AACF is also where I met Epic National Director, Tommy Dyo (then AACF staff at CSU Long Beach).  He would often come to UCI and speak for us and offer to help us out in any way as we didn’t have any assigned staff to our campus.  After a church retreat he spoke at, he gave mehis business card and said: “Call me when you decide to do campus ministry.”  I joked, but I meant it, when I said, “I guess you’ll never be hearing from me then!”

Some time later, I attended a Passion conference where Francis Chan spoke and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman led worship in Los Angeles, CA and it was great!  I enjoyed it a lot.  And then the last day, part of the session was group prayer.  The guy leading it said, “Pray for your home nation.”  The person sitting next to me and I prayed together for the U.S..  Then the leader said, “Pray for your state.”  So, we prayed for California.  “Pray for your city…”  We prayed some more.  “Pray for your campus.”  He prayed for his high school.  And I started to pray for UC Irvine… and began to bawl.

What the guy sitting next to me looked like as I prayed for UCI

What I looked like as I prayed for UCI

Poor high school student who sat next to me that day… Later during the prayer session, I straight-up asked God… “What was THAT all about?!”  I heard the Lord say, “Campus Ministry.”  I said, “Uh, no way!  I have a job lined up after this… my parents will kill me… I’ll just… I’ll volunteer or something!!”  I heard, “That will never be satisfying enough for you.”  Still scared of what that might mean, I wept some more.  Then I heard, “Whitney, do you trust me?”  I replied, “Yeah, of course I trust You…”  “Whitney, do you trust me?”  “Yes, Lord… yes, I do.”

So many thoughts rushed through my mind… and I didn’t know what to do.  So, naturally, I did nothing… for about a week.  Then I started asking people questions–friends, people I know who are in campus ministry vocationally… and then I e-mailed Tommy.

the actual e-mail!

… to be continued 😉