5/23/2020

stars aligning & a sea of yellow



I probably started the draft of this entry back in September or October, when I was diving deep into a rocky period of wrestling with the uncertainties of my circumstances and exhaustion from daily defeats. "Here I am! This is where I'm at!" is what I caught myself saying pretty often in a sarcastic tone. Realizing that I wasn't in the right place to think through anything in a healthy way, I decided to hold off on writing anything down and closed both my Blogger tab and my physical journal. Weeks of mini identity crises turned into months of feeling out of place, unsupported, and forgotten. I couldn't formulate into words what was going on in my head, and I couldn't figure out what to do with myself.

But the thing is, I'm a doer. I'm not the best at just being. I'm also very present-minded (which is one reason why journaling isn't exactly my forte), so I made up my mind that the only thing I could do was to obey the Lord and be faithful to whatever it was that He had placed in front of me—because our God is an intentional God.

And guess what? He done did it. He really blew me out of the water, as always.


To preface: I entered the new year (and new decade!) with Philippians 1:3-6 instilled in my heart.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
As many unexpected turns came my way at the very beginning of my post-grad journey, I wanted to grasp, accept, and fully trust these truths that 1) He is my God, and 2) He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Throughout my last year of college, I had witnessed remarkable breakthroughs and milestones in my walk with the Lord, which in turn led to learning to grieve losses well, finding stability in friendships, incorporating sufficient rest into my everyday, and securing a more grounded sense of self. Thus, I blindly sauntered into "adulting" with very specific expectations set for what my career aspirations were going to look like, whom I was going to be surrounded by, and how my foundation in Christ was going to solidify.

Boy, was I terribly wrong—and incredibly humbled.


The first unexpected turn was when my "dream internship" did not follow through with the full-time offer they had originally promised. As distraught as I was in the moment, I let it pass and reminded myself that it was faaar from the end of the world. In hindsight, I had already been growing troubled by the prospect that the fashion industry wasn't as fulfilling for me as I had hoped for it to be. And so, I immediately plunged into the job hunt—that gruesome process many of you relate to of endlessly scrolling through listings under the keywords, "marketing", "design", and "social media", pouring hours upon hours into applications and project requirements, and applying for positions that I honestly couldn't tell if I actually even wanted. Two months in with nothing but rejections and doubts about staying in Philly, there were two more unexpected turns: I acquired a part-time gig as a barista at a specialty coffee shop after a simple Instagram DM exchange, and I serendipitously committed to serve for a year as a small group leader for my church's ministry at Temple University, a campus that I had no prior personal connection to.

With a now or never mindset and zero knowledge of how to make a proper pour over or decipher tasting notes, I jumped into the coffee job with the intention of being productive and practical whilst full-time job searching for something in the creative field. Although, as a coffee enthusiast, working at a coffee shop had been a longtime dream of mine that I never thought I'd be able to achieve anytime soon because I had "other plans". What's pretty amazing is that I was pleasantly surprised by how fun and rewarding it was to work as a barista and how there's so much more to being one than just looking super cool while pouring cappuccino art. What initially had been a I probably won't be here for longer than three months idea turned into eight months of immersing myself in a wonderful community outside of the bubble I had trapped myself in, fighting the pain of constant dry cracks in my skin and blisters on the soles of my feet, doubting my creative abilities and soul searching behind the espresso machine at six in the morning, and being gifted with an abundance of support and care from both my co-baristas and customers.


Serving at Temple was also pivotal in the refreshment of my sense of self. Where I had imagined I'd be giving and giving, I ended up receiving tenfold and learning to just be. My family group, Shiloh, became a safe haven of its own for both my members and me. Don't get me wrong, there was a countless number of moments when I was emotionally exhausted to no end and felt extremely inadequate to serve on a campus (after already having graduated myself) where I knew zilch about the school culture and student experience. I was often misunderstood and battled bouts of loneliness both at Temple and within the church community itself.

But, my loving Father took good care of me. I established the sweetest friendships with the kiddos I was taking care of and was inspired every week by Moses's obedience to God as we studied Exodus. And, amidst a period last fall when feelings of being forgotten and unheard were excessively heightened, two mentor-like figures in my life separately prayed for me and each received an image from the Lord. The first was of a girl in my small group whom I had grown a special heart for—she was happily surrounded by a sea of yellow flowers. The second was of me handing those same yellow flowers to those around me without hesitation. I chose to believe God was affirming that he had indeed placed me in Philly and at Temple for a reason. The yellow flowers symbolize His precious promise to me that I am doing well in His eyes, that I am in no way forgotten by Him, and that I am deeply loved by Him no matter what. Man, this makes me well up every time.

During my time at Temple, I reflected on the river in Ezekiel 47—a river that brought to life anything and everything it touched (and flowed from a temple ha ha). Temple was a place of rejuvenation and a place where I was able to witness God's presence truly come alive.
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."
I've since developed a passionate desire to seek His presence above all else like Moses did and to declare that He is my God and my Banner (Exodus 17:15) wherever I am. :')



Now, I've come to realize that what seemed like frustratingly unexpected turns being thrown at me were actually stars aligning beautifully. That alignment completely crystallized recently.

Five months ago, a girl walked into my coffee shop and asked me who I was outside of my identity as a barista while I was putting together her iced oat matcha. In a matter of minutes, we discovered that we had the same alma mater, she had previously worked at the same company I had interned at, and she was in the midst of trying to hire someone to help her with social media and content creation at a budding startup. It was a startup with an indelible mission to design thoughtful sneakers (fashion!!) for the most deserving people (fulfillment!!) in today's climate—healthcare workers. I sent her my portfolio, we set up a meeting, and I began freelancing. Last week, exactly one year since graduating, I officially joined their team as a full-time creative.

*🤯😭*

As difficult as it was to adjust to the unexpected paths that unveiled over these last twelve months, I trust with 100% faith that those paths were purposefully paved by God. It's through these unexpected paths that I've recognized the cruciality and freeing nature of my identity being rooted in Christ alone; not in capabilities or status, not in community or others. I am where I am based on not only my own determination and strength, but also the immense privileges that I have been allowed in this society and patience and gratitude that stem from the Lord's extraordinary providence. Most importantly, I've learned that the question should never be, "Why, God?" Instead, I can ask, "How are You using this to further Your Kingdom? How are You stretching and molding me?"

It can never be a WHY question, because He is always working. He is unchanging. He is a miracle worker. He is faithful. He is a promise keeper. He is good. He is my God, and He. Is. Lord.



I'll wrap up this post with these verses that have also been very meaningful to me during this season.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:16-21

It's about time that I finally finish and publish this draft! I guess at the back of my mind, I was waiting for the perfect moment of things coming full circle (how I adore full circles). I'm excited to be entering a new season and to be breathing new dreams. I'm counting my blessings. I'm striving to be active and mindful inside and outside of the communities that I'm a part of. I'm thankful.

Friends, I think there's no better time than now to go with your gut and give your all to whatever or whomever it is that God has placed in front of you. I pray that I was able to encourage you in some way with this lil story of how my first year of post-grad life unfolded. Or heck, maybe this will be an encouragement to my future self, because life is an uphill battle, ain't it?

Much love,
Chaereen