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Juan received a call from his father on his 30th birthday. He asked him whether he could come over with a DVD he was bringing from CVS. When he arrived, he handed Juan the disc and said, “Happy Birthday.” Juan figured it was a movie that was probably on sale at the pharmacy. He didn’t expect, when he pressed play, to see images of himself as a child flash across the screen. His dad began to narrate. Here was Juan and his mother walking through the Boston Commons when he was three. Here was Juan walking down Thornley Street in Savin Hill when he was seven. And here were pictures of Juan as an infant being held by his smiling father. For twenty minutes, Juan relived moments from his childhood captured by his dad’s old 8 mm film camera, moments that he never realized his dad had recorded and kept. And for the first time in more than twenty years–twenty very hard years marred by fear, brokenness, anger, resentment, chaos, violence, and poverty–he could finally feel the love of God through his father. And he wept.

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to meet God at the end of your life? I used to think that I would ask him to reveal the answers to all the scientific mysteries of the universe. Demand an account for all the horrible things that have happened in the history of humanity. Maybe even ask him to clarify all the contentious and confusing parts of the Bible. But I think, the question that matters the most to me, that I care most to hear the answer for, is simply, “Were you there?”

tiramisu cheesecake

tiramisu cheesecake

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

John 1: 47-49

tiramisu cheesecake

I always wanted to know, what happened under that fig tree? Why was it so important to Nathanael? I used to wish this story had more details, but now I realize that it wouldn’t make a difference. It doesn’t matter if Jesus had said, “I saw you under the fig tree when you were at the lowest point in your life and couldn’t find another reason to live.” Or whether he had said, “I saw you under the fig tree as you rejoiced the birth of your first child.” It doesn’t matter whether we know the details and circumstances, because we could never understand the significance of any moment in somebody else’s life unless you were walking in their shoes.

What if, when you meet God, instead of a series of questions and answers, you were shown a movie of your life? And in this movie, you saw every instance that you’ve experienced sadness, fear, despair, anger, and embarrassment. What if you relived your life through the eyes of God and realized that he was there to see everything, including the moments that you hoped nobody would see or prayed that somebody would? And what if you knew, that even if nobody else could ever understand what you’ve seen and how you’ve felt, God does, because he had been walking beside you from the beginning?

I can see myself that night, standing under a light drizzle, gazing across the deserted field in front of Doe Memorial library, and felt sadness. I can see myself, braving the wintry streets of Cambridge, gingerly picking my way over the icy brick sidewalks, and felt loneliness. I can see myself, standing behind the bedroom door, listening to the uneasy stillness of the household, and felt helplessness. I can see myself, huddled up in my chair in the solitude of my room, and felt despair.

These are my fig trees.

Tiramisu Cheesecake

Lady Fingers from The Cilantropist and Tiramisu No-Bake Cheesecake from Guilty Kitchen

I baked this cake because I finally passed my qualifying exam. Now that I’m officially a candidate for the PhD (my mom was surprised to find out that I wasn’t a “real” graduate student before the test), I can finally do things for fun again. This called for something really indulgent, like a cheesecake or tiramisu.

Instead of the cookie crust in the cheesecake recipe, I made a lady finger base from The Cilantropist. I also halved the recipe to fit my six inch pan (mostly because I forgot to buy enough mascarpone for a full sized cake). I also used Philz Coffee instead of espresso, since it was pouring rain outside and didn’t feel like leaving the house to get espresso. I’d get the espresso if I wanted a stronger kick.

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My friend invited Juan and I to go rock climbing at Planet Granite in July. I agreed, reluctantly, buoyed more by Juan’s enthusiasm than my own affinity for thrill-seeking, physically exerting activities. As I strapped myself into the harness and surveyed the beginner’s wall, I told myself that it was okay if I don’t reach the top. Halfway would be respectable. Except that I’ve seen six year olds dauntlessly and effortlessly scale these routes.

Juan belayed me as I hoisted myself up the wall. The first few feet were easy. The rocks were easy to grip, and there were plenty of them. But my nerves failed at the halfway mark. I peeked down, nauseated by the seemingly enormous distance between the ground and myself. I desperately clung to the rocks, elbows contracted as I fought to keep my body as close to the wall as possible. I was really glad that Juan and Vicky were out of earshot, because something like a whimpering whine escaped from my throat. They were chatting down there with each other, oblivious to my physical and mental anguish. I could give up. I could shout for them to lower me down. I could tell them that I’ve tried it, and it just wasn’t my thing. But I looked up at the endpoint, so tauntingly close, and I knew that I didn’t want to take the easy way out.

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It’s been four months and I’m still climbing. There’s so much I’ve learned. How I should hang from my arms, instead of bending my elbows. How to step up with my legs, instead of pulling up with my arms. How to balance with feet apart, instead of standing with feet together. I have come to love the smell of chalk on my hands. The way the rocks feel under my fingers. The scraped hands and bruised knees. I love the triumph that comes with every conquered ledge, the exhilaration with every successful climb. But more than anything, I love that when I’m up high, there is nothing left except for me and my fear.

meyer lemon chiffon cake

A few weeks ago, I found myself stuck in one spot on a particularly difficult climb. I needed to step right with my foot, so that I can grab the hand-hold that was out of my reach. I needed to trust that this rock would catch my weight as I made this lunge. I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t want to do it. Or rather, I didn’t think I could do it. So I clung tight to that spot for a good 20 minutes, straining to keep from slipping. I felt my grip loosen from the rock as it became slick with the sweat pouring from my palms. I called down three times for Vicky to let me down. But she wouldn’t let up. She told me, do it even if you fall. Try something even if you slip. Just don’t do nothing.

What if every instance we had accomplished something that surpassed our own expectations and self-estimation was not a fluke nor a stroke of luck. What if every time we break out of the box we put ourselves in, we were meant to see a much greater truth. What if those are the moments when God breaks down the deprecation and the doubt, so that our real selves can shine through. What if this is His way of showing us that there is a presence in our hearts that cannot be contained, deeper and more powerful than we can ever fathom. What if this presence is what determines how we fall on the precipice between victory and defeat.

meyer lemon chiffon cake

For the past month, I have struggled with writing my qualifying exam proposal. For a long time, I had no idea what I wanted to study for my thesis. Didn’t know if anything I did was going to amount to anything. Every day, I found new ways to tell myself that I didn’t belong. I wasn’t smart enough, or as thoughtful and driven as my classmates. I feared that somebody would see through my guise and discover my mediocrity. I spent countless hours re-reading the same phrases and sentences in my proposal. Second-guessing every point that I put down on paper. Suspended and frozen in my fear of failure.

Rock climbing wall

Sometimes the hardest part about climbing is trusting that the harness will catch you when you fall. I know that the rope will hold. I know that my knots are good. Yet I can still imagine myself plummeting to my death. I am terrified that if I don’t fight with every muscle to keep from letting go, then there would be nothing there to hold me up. So I waste so much energy, put myself through so much pain, until I realize that the easiest way to move forward is to let go. And every time I do, every time I get back up on that wall, I believe a little more. I don’t want to be afraid to try, I don’t want to be afraid to fall. I know, and I believe, You will catch me.

Triple Lemon Chiffon Cake with Meyer Lemon Curd from Notes from my Food Diary

My dad and I, we have never been close. We moved to California when I was four, but he chose to stay in Hong Kong for work. I say “chose,” because despite what he may say about the lack of job opportunities here, he made a choice to live away from us so that he could pursue a career that never went anywhere. I never knew if he intended for this arrangement to be permanent. But for as long as I can remember, we have always been a family of four minus one.

I used to picture my dad, selflessly driven to support his family financially while sacrificing the comforts of home. But I’ve seen the look of relief on his face as he leaves for Hong Kong after each short visit. I’ve seen it enough times to know that, maybe, he actually prefers living without us.

I remember the few weeks that my dad had spent here once. It was possibly his longest stay yet, I don’t know. I was in middle school. He had just lost his business. With creditors breathing down his neck in Hong Kong, he had flown here to ride out his bankruptcy woes. My mom didn’t take it very well, of course. And between the fights and screaming matches, I’d sit with him at the table offering my quiet comfort. I helped him scour the newspaper for jobs, secretly glad that his unemployment meant the possibility of him finding work here permanently. During a particular somber moment, he turned to me and asked, in a way that I knew he really needed to hear what I’d say, “Am I good father?”

I looked him right in the eyes, and I said yes. Because who’s going to kick a man when he’s down? But even as I assured him, I knew that I would look back years later and wish I could have said something different.

A few weeks later, he left for his new job in Hong Kong.

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I remember the day when I found my mom in bed, crying. I climbed into the covers with her, and listened to her cry. For the years lost. For the years spent alone. For the trust that my father had broken. And in that moment, I had no more excuses I could make for him, no more words I could use to defend him. That was the day I lost my faith in my dad.

I write this post not because I want sympathy. This isn’t intended to be some self-pitying sob story of my “daddy issues.” But I share this because I believe that, at some level, my relationship with my dad affects how I relate to God. I used to think that sounds like bullshit. I’d tell myself that it may be true for some people, but it certainly wasn’t true for me. Because I turned out just fine without him. Because I don’t need a relationship with my dad to be who I am. Because his absence doesn’t matter anymore and hasn’t mattered for a long time.

But when you walk with God, He reveals all the things in your heart. Even the ones that you thought you had laid to rest.

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Recently, I shared a phone conversation with my dad. One of the few ones that we make when we remember to call each other. I asked him, after all these years, if he still thinks he could achieve his dream of being CEO of his own company. After the countless attempts and failures, if he had learned anything about his purpose in life.

He told me that there was no doubt in his mind that he can and will be CEO. That despite everything, he still firmly believes that he is meant to to be rich and successful. But I know, even though he wouldn’t say so himself, that he’s not pursuing fame and fortune for his family. It was never about making the money to take care of us. But it was all about making something of himself to prove to the world that he can.

I hung up because I didn’t want him to hear me cry. Because, despite how much I say that it doesn’t matter, I still wanted to hear him say he’s sorry. I wanted to shake him by the shoulders and scream, Don’t you feel regret? Don’t you feel bad? Look at what you’ve done. Look at where it’s got you. Say you’re sorry. Say you want to make amends. Say that our relationships matter more than your dead-end career. Say you wish you had the courage to share the daily struggles of being part of a family instead of cowering behind the 6,910 miles between here and Hong Kong. Say anything but this load of crap.

And even though I sat there, intensely hoping that he would never fulfill his stupid dream, a tiny part of me still cares that he would lose himself if he didn’t. And that tiny part of me sincerely hopes that when he loses himself, he would find his way again with God.

I will not deny that loving and forgiving my father is probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and is still trying to do. There are times that I don’t think I can, nor want to, embrace the person who fell so disappointingly short of my hopes. But the only way that I have found to do so is through my faith.

God is not a distant father. He will never be so blinded by his own pride that he cannot see me. He will never be so deafened by his own voice that he cannot hear me. He does not fall short. He does not break promises.
And he will not leave me.

We have received the spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘”Abba, Father.”

Red Wine Chocolate Cake from Smitten Kitchen

I love testimonies. I loved them before I was even a believer. I love the ones that talk about some dark, desperate moment in the speaker’s life that led to the discovery of God, self-transformation, and a happy ending. Most skeptics, I think, would agree that there is beauty to these stories, even if they don’t believe in the existence of God. I know, because I was a skeptic who found the stories of vulnerability and hope deeply moving.

But these testimonies, as raw and emotional as they can be, always made me wonder whether those life-changing events were really acts of God or just a turn of fate. Whether your recovery from addiction/self-destructive behavior was motivated from above or brought about by self-determination. Whether God was really there in your time of need or just an imaginary presence fabricated out of a profound desire for hope. I don’t think there is an answer to that if you are outside of the faith.

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But maybe the question we should all be asking is, “If there were no happy ending to your story, if there were no redemption, if things hadn’t turned out, would you still believe in God? Is your story still a testimony of the glory of God?”

Our stories of overcoming hardships aren’t meant to be validation for God. We don’t celebrate God because he saved us from illness, unemployment, or broken relationships, even though these things are worth rejoicing over. Our stories exalt God not because they end with victory, but simply because they demonstrate the tenacity and strength of our faith despite our circumstances. That even when we are caught in the midst of pain and heartbreak, we will still acknowledge something higher than ourselves. We do this because our faith saves us from being consumed by our circumstances. We worship because we refuse to let ourselves be defined by what happens to us. We are more than what others label us, more than what we can make for ourselves. Our hope isn’t in a happy ending or earthly salvation, our hope is in the promise that we are meant to share in something much greater than anything we could imagine.

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This is one of my favorite stories in the bible:

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon… Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

But three Jews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abenego, refused.

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now…if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king,

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3

“But even if he does not.” Even if God does not come through. Even if He does not answer our cries. Even then, we will still believe. And God is still God, and nothing that He does or does not do will change that truth. We aren’t Christians because we want to be protected when the going gets tough. We are Christians because we believe, someday, when the old order of things has passed away, He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or pain; and we will be His people, and God will be our God.

Apple Cider Caramels from Smitten Kitchen

I used to be embarrassed if I cried during church.  Actually, I still am.  I hate the sting of tears welling inside my eyes, the way my gut clenches and my jaw tightens.  I hate the telltale sniffle and the way I bring my hand up to brush away that stray tear.  I tell myself no, because I don’t have any tissues.  Because I don’t want to be a slobbering mess.  But mostly because I don’t want anybody to see.  I don’t even like to let my parents see me cry, let alone the stranger standing next to me.  But what is it about these tears that I fear so much?  Is it so terrible to let slip that your’e human, or is it the work of God in me that I want to hide?

It’s so easy to think that you can keep God behind the four walls of your bedroom.  Because that’s where you should shed those tears, right?  That’s where you can speak to God, clean and quick.  And yes, I do this all the time.  Because when I go out, whether it’s at work, in a restaurant, or in a conversation that veered too closely to religion, I find myself downplaying my faith.  I make excuses, smile apologetically, deflect probing questions.  I care more about earning my peers’ acceptance than receiving the acceptance that God already gives me.  And no matter how subtle you may be, no matter how innocuous those acts may seem, is it so very different from Peter’s denial?

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I have not seen God for a long time.  I spent awhile asking others if they hear God’s voice.  What does he say and what does he sound like?  And yea, it sounds crazy, but I wanted so much to hear Him speak.  Because I thought, if I can just hear Him say one word–please, just one word–I would never have to struggle with my faith again.  I wanted my encounter with God so that I can believe in Him, wholly.  But maybe it doesn’t work like that.  Maybe you have to believe in Him, wholly, before you find Him.

A rich man died and begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his family.  Abraham replied, “They have Moses and Prophets; let them listen to them.”
“No, father Abraham,” he said, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”
He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16

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I tell you, when you shut God behind the walls of your room, you will find less of him.  And less of anything to pray about.  Your requests and wishes will be about you and you alone.  What is there for Him to say even if He were to speak to you?

I’ve spent almost a year trying to find the right church.  And even though I’ve stayed at my current one for half a year now, I still feel incredibly disconnected.  I tell myself, the church is too big, I hate socializing, there’s no point in making an effort if I choose another church later.  I realized that it was never about choosing a church that serves me; but it’s all about choosing a church that I can serve.

I’ve put myself in a place where the only way I can see God is in the tiny confines of my room.  And I suspect, the way out of this bubble isn’t more quiet time or more prayer.  It means more risks and putting myself in situations that challenge me–financially, socially, and spiritually.  Because I think, the more I need to trust Him, the more I allow Him to work in my life, the more I will see and hear Him.  it’s not quite what I meant when I asked to hear God.  But maybe that’s how He speaks–in the ways that we choose to share our lives with one another.

When I cry, it’s because I am floored by God’s grace.  Not just by His sacrifice on the cross, because as amazing as that story is, let’s admit that sometimes Jesus’ death seems like an abstract idea.  It’s hard to remember that God’s work doesn’t just end at the cross.  He’s been walking with you your whole life.  So when I look at where I am and where I’ve come from, the prayers I’ve prayed and the blessings I’ve received, when I think about times I’ve been lost and the times I’ve been found, and all the ways that He’s pursued me, I cry.

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Hot Milk Cake from Kirbie’s Cravings.  Possibly the best chiffon/pound cake that I’ve ever made.  I would use this to make the bases for a double or triple layered cake.

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Lately, I’ve been doubting my faith.  It’s always troubled me that, if asked point blank to defend my faith, I wouldn’t know how to.  Yea, I could say stuff about how God changed my life, lifted me from darkness, endowed me with a spirit of rebirth, etc etc.  And I bet you that 90% of the Christians you ask out there will give you some variation of this.  It would sound like snippets of Christian song lyrics that make you seem enamored with God without really justifying anything.  But it seems silly to reduce God to a feeling, doesn’t it?

When I hear words like that from my mouth, I question myself if I really “feel” God is there.  I’m not saying that these feelings can be false or that they can’t be legitimate indicators of your experience with God.  But how can you base the beliefs, which fundamentally define who you are, solely on emotions?  Because if you do, then faith is a temperamental thing; inconsistent and unreliable.  And I realize, more and more, that I need to be able to say something more concrete, something close to rational.  I need that reason to cling onto when the feelings pass away.  Otherwise, I would live my life always hiding a fear that my faith can be shattered by the next mood swing.  And the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I’ve convinced myself to love a God just like how I can convince myself to love Football if I really wanted to…by thinking about it real hard or surrounding myself with football fans or forcing myself to watch a hundred games, whatever.

The main thing is, I need something more to support my faith.  Because where I am right now is not enough.  I can do my morning and night prayers, praise God for his blessings or cry out for his grace in my affliction, and still wonder in the times between despair and joy whether there is a God who hears.  Whether the things that I claim to see him do in my life are actually his works or just the desires of a mind too afraid to admit the alternative.

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I am not denying God.  I don’t believe in him any less; if anything, these doubts mean I care about my faith so much that I will fight for it.  And because I am responsible for my faith, I cannot ignore these doubts and just hope I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow.  This is the season where I question my faith, question God so that I can understand why I believe in him.  But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am scared of what I will find, or not find.  That is another fear, the thought that I could seek and lose heart; or seek and find myself right where I started.  And there is nothing I can do about that except to trust that God would bring me back.  He will pursue my heart even when I am too tired to pursue his.

This past Sunday, I spoke with a 70-something-year old retired youth pastor.  It was refreshing to speak with someone who was so seasoned in his faith.  In our conversation, he told me a story about his spiritual encounter with God.

I smiled and said, “A burning bush kind of encounter?”
He said yes.  And it was a story that I didn’t know whether to believe or dismiss.  But the point isn’t whether I did or did not want to believe; the question is whether I wanted it for myself.
So when he finished, I said, ruefully, “I wish I could have that too.”
“Ask him for it.”
“What if he doesn’t answer?”
“Keep asking him.  Don’t give up.”
He looked at me and I wondered if he knew that I was close to tears.

People always talk about having a relationship with God; but what does that mean, what does it look like?  What is that intimacy they talk about?  If I could have anything, it would be to know God.  I’m not talking about being able to recite all the verses in the bible.  But to know him, personally.

To know that my prayers are not one-way conversations.  To know the ways in which he speaks with me.  To know the ways in which he is undeniably, incontrovertibly true.  So that when I speak to him and when I speak of him, my words will carry the force of my conviction.  I don’t know how or when I will find that encounter, but I suspect it would start when I begin to know him.

Conquer me, overwhelm me in mind and heart.

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Sara Lee Pound Cake

I usually don’t like to eat pound cakes.  But I do, however, love the Sara Lee ones.  My brother and I used to devour those dense little cakes, fighting over who gets to scrap the remaining soft brown crust from the aluminum tin.  I tried to find a recipe that would re-create this and ended up with this one.  It’s not quite exactly a Sara Lee cake, but it’s delicious (actually, it’s quite unlike the store bought brand).  It’s the lightest, fluffiest, softest pound cake I ever made.

In the past few weeks, I’ve caught up with a few college friends.  Always in our conversations, I am asked what I’ve learned in Boston during the past two years.  How has Boston changed me?  Professionally, it’s easy to say that if I hadn’t went to Boston, I would not be where I am right now.  Yes, my job had redefined my research interests and inspired me to pursue this career.  But that’s not what I think about when I wonder what Boston means to me.  No, what comes to mind is God.  I’ve realized, the most important thing I learned in Boston was how to want God more.  

When I think about how easy it has been to move to San Francisco, I cannot help but remember how horrible it was to move to Boston.  I think about the shock of seeing the filthy apartment I was supposed to live in for the first time (I didn’t have time to visit before signing the lease).  I think about walking into a different church every other week and feeling lost and disconnected.  I think about the frigid winter days spent inside my room, wishing that there was somebody I could talk to.  I think about the disappointment of how even though I had moved across the country, I was still the same person after all.

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I turned to the faith when I was in college.  I went to a wonderful church where a strong community of fellowship was always available to me.  On Sundays, the atmosphere in church is almost euphoric when everyone is jumping to Christian Rock during worship.  When you are surrounded by peers who are feverish for God, it becomes really easy to believe.  But faith should be more than following the crowd and awesome worship music.  Because if you only know God’s presence in that context, then it feels like you’re lost from God anywhere else.  

I have never wanted to see God more than when I was stripped of friends and community.  I tell people that I hated my first winter in Boston.  But it was more than just the endless snow and biting wind that made it winter; it was the absence of God.  Yet, those periods of spiritual dryness is where I learned to desire God the most.  I have never prayed so fervently, never scoured the Bible so earnestly, never sought the comfort of His presence so sincerely than in that winter of solitude.

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It would be a lie to say that it never crossed my mind to question whether my prayers were heard.  But I could not stop, because even if I lost all other reason to pray, I will pray for His sake.  I will not ask Him to save me from my problems; I will not ask him to make things work out in the end; all I will ask is for Him to walk with me, everyday, for all the days of my life.  And this is all it takes sometimes, to fight for your faith.

I see now the purpose of my time in Boston.  It has never been about boosting my career, but it was all about pursuing Christ in my life regardless of any circumstances.  Right now, I am incredibly blessed to have family and close friends living nearby.  But I don’t think I would have really appreciate what they mean to me if I had not lived in Boston.  As excited I am about starting my graduate school career, I am even  more excited about finding community here.  I don’t know whether I will find success as a scientist, but wherever life takes me, I know that all I really need, I already have.

“No place I rather be, than here in your love.”

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This past week, I visited the farmer’s market at UN plaza and indulged myself in some local products.  I sampled some homemade chocolate covered candied oranges, bought a jar of deliciously fragrant lavender honey, a jar of smooth almond butter, and finally, some caramel sauce that I intend to use over some poached pears.  I cannot wait to use these ingredients in my next baking projects.

Foodwise, I also tried the Arizmendi’s pizza, which tastes a lot like Cheeseboard, in my opinion, except Arizmendi has a better sourdough-y crust.  Finally, I also discovered the Banh Mi sandwiches from Wooly Pig cafe, which is just around the corner from my apartment.  The raw papaya and mint leaves really make the sandwich.  This will  probably be my favorite go-to lunch sandwich from now on.

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Matcha Cake Roll

I’ve been wanting to use Matcha powder in something for awhile now.  I finally found it while shopping at a Japanese supermarket.  And I was pleased to note that you can really taste the green tea flavor in this cake.  I see many more Matcha flavored baking goods in the future.

A friend recently asked me, “What would God say?”  I was prepared to listen to his troubles, ready to commiserate and sympathize, taking care to leave my faith out of the conversation out of respect for his beliefs.  Because I figured the last thing a dejected friend needs is someone to preach at him.  So I was taken aback to have this question thrown at me.  I’m definitely not the fastest thinker and neither can I articulate very well in awkward situations.  All I could muster up was: “He would say, trust me.”

After stewing over this for a good couple of days, there’s nothing I would change about my answer.  It’s generic and cliche, utterly dissatisfying, I know.  But truth is, if we were looking to God for an answer to right all the wrongs in our lives, then I think we would be sorely disappointed.  He would never tell you what you have to do to get ahead in your career.  Or how to repair your relationships with your family and friends.  Whether you should make that decision or turn another direction.  He would leave those choices up to you.  But he would ask you to find him first.

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Maybe “trust me” isn’t what you want to hear when you’re down in the dumps, but maybe it’s exactly what you need.  We all pray when we feel helpless in our circumstances.  If you listen to those prayers, they’re all about getting into that particular school, getting that girl, getting that promotion, getting the perfect house; because we think that if we get all these things, then we won’t have to ask for anything more.  But there’s always another thing after that hurdle.  When we do get into that school, get that girl, or get that promotion, we rejoice: “Hallelujah! Our prayers were answered!”

But what do we do when things don’t turn out the way we want them to?  Are we prepared to say, that even though we have no clue how things can be solved, and even if he does not answer our prayers the way we want him to, and despite our confusion and despair, we will still trust that what he does is exactly what we need.  So the only thing that we ask for, above everything else, is that he stand by us for whatever comes.

If I can say this prayer genuinely, then I think everything else won’t be so difficult.  Oh, it’ll still be hard.  But at least now, I have peace.

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So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:31-34

Maybe the best thing you can do for yourself, is to stop trying so hard to solve everything.

White Balsamic Custard Tart from Bon Appétit