Emmanuel (How to See God in Your Story)

The pieces of melody played previously still play a part in our song today. Only, perhaps what was once a lyric of despair has now turned into a song of praise.

RJ Rebby Johnson

My Life is a Hot Mess

Dr. Park threw my life up onto the chalkboard. It was a rough timeline of everything from my adoption to moving to Riverside. I saw my life’s work and major events circled with squiggly lines connecting all the words into what looked like some kind of undecipherable treasure map, or simply a hot mess.

Dr. Park was one of my professors, and when I said my “Goodybe” to him, he insisted on going deeper into my story to help me gain some clarity for this next season of my life.

As I looked at the pieces of my life that he had circled and brought together, I saw the pieces of my life story, and have since continued to ponder how they all work together. They certainly created an interesting story, hence my desire to write a book in order to better organize and share the messy mosaic on the chalk board.

This blog, My Mosaic Story could also be called From Hot Mess to Glory

As I’ve pondered the words written on that chalkboard, a few themes have consistently come up….

But if I were to Organize the Mess, These are the Categories…

Adoption over abandonment,

Provision of Family,

The desire to belong but always being the only,

and Emmanuel.

That was a lot of big heady ideas so I’ll elaborate a tad and connect the themes a bit. A tad and a bit. Here we go!

Adoption over abandonment. One of my pet peeves is when others are left behind. Call me obnoxious, but I get irritated with my husband if he starts walking away from the car without me, or walks too far ahead of me in the airport. I also don’t like it when someone is left out of a group. My eyes are always on the loner. When my husband gives me a loving “look” when I say, “Hey! Don’t leave me”, I just say, “What I have abandonment issues!” He rolls his eyes in the most lovingly of ways, grabs my hand, and promises never to do it again.

While I could have been abandoned early in life, instead I was adopted into a family.

Hence, the connection to the theme Provision of Family.

Though I don’t like being abandoned, I frequently have taken my own exits from home. I didn’t go too far for college, but eventually I traveled on missions trips, and eventually 3000 miles away from family for grad school. No one warns you how lonely it is making new friends as an adult. Yet, the Bible says that God places the lonely in families. And I found a family of mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles, and even little brothers and sisters in my church.

Yet even in my church family, I’ve always experienced….

The desire to belong but being the only.

Oh boy, story of my life. Being the mixed kid in a multi-ethnic family. Being the ambiguously brown one in a predominantly white school. Being the ambiguously brown one in a white church. Being the ambiguously brown one in a Black church. Being the half Filipina who knows little about the culture while ministering in a Filipino church…

For much of my life, I’ve felt a deep desire to connect with others in a kinship sort of way. I saw the instant connection that others had with those of the same race or ethnic background. I witnessed the sisterhood of being able to sharing struggles and likeness with others. There was an understanding of life that seemed natural. And there I was as the mixed kid and outsider of every culture, unsure of how to reconcile my ambiguously brown experience in the world.

During my undergraduate years, Dr. Craig saw my ambiguously brown skin and asked questions that revealed more of my hot mess mosaic. He was able to see how the pieces of my story, while jumbled and varied were actually a great advantage. He told me that because of my ambiguous color, and blend of cultural experience, I could have the ability and confidence to walk into any room, acting as a bridge builder and source of truth. I would be able to speak, and others would take special notice because I am a representation of so many worlds. I may be the only one who can see from the angles that others cannot. I may be the only one who can speak the truth in love and be heard.

So while I felt I belonged nowhere, I was told that in reality, I belonged everywhere. For there was only one mosaicly unique me.

Emmanuel. God with us, is simply the reminder that God has ordered each and every step of my life. By my faith, I believe He has taken the pieces of my story and glued them together with His fingertips so that many could see how He works all things together for His good. He has made me a one and only-“Yes”, to be a bridge builder, but also to be a voice for other Mosaics, other hot messes, other ambiguously browns, other nontraditional uncommon stories like mine, that I may help them see God in their stories.

The Practical: How to See God in Your Story

I want to make this extremely practical for you. You have a story, a history, a timeline. I invite you to take out a piece of paper and write it out. Do this during your quiet time, your prayers, your meditation, your way to start your day. This might take some time to do over several days as you think it through.

From birth til’ now. What has happened to you? What are your major life events? Did you go to school? What careers did you have? What personal events shaped you? Did you get married? Did your friends stick with you? Write down as many events and memorable personal decisions as you can. Chart the steps of your life. Does that life look like a hot mess? Or are you a little more organized than I (us creatives tend to be a little more scattered ;))?

Circle the major life events that make you who you are today, that have left the biggest imprints on your heart. What themes and commonalities do you see from what you have circled? Perhaps you saw…

Pursuit of education? Pursuit of knowledge? Perseverance through struggle? Recovery from addiction? Holding onto hope? Seeking joy in all things? Just trying to make it? Adoption? Abandonment? Love? Loss? Becoming a parent? Healing in your family? Learning to love others? Learning to love yourself? Conquering fear? Be real. What do you see?

And finally, how might God have had a part in your story? What things are there to be thankful for? Where was there provision whether financially, emotionally, or through the support of family and friends? Where was your life spared? Where was strength in the midst of hardship? Take some time to be thankful, giving praise where praise is due.

I write this post today because as you progress into 2020, I think it’s important that we don’t write off the past. Rather, everything before this year serves as the backstory for this one. It’s the overture which has played the thematic notes for the following scenes of this decade. The pieces of melody played previously still play a part in our song today. Only, perhaps what was once a lyric of despair has now turned into a song of praise.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me…. to comfort all who mourn, and to provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Isaiah 61:1-3

It’s only until we can recognize the hot mess puzzle pieces, the mosaic of our story that we can find thanksgiving for the grander picture of our lives. God has pieced it together not just to heal what’s been broken, but to provide beauty for others. The themes of our lives, the commonalities you found in your story are the very themes that will resonate with the hearts of others.

Our story is not meant to be only our own, but it is to inspire those who see and know us. They will see what God has done, causing thanksgiving to break out that is so loud, so vibrant, so glorious, that it sparks a praise party for everyone around. We’re not meant to have parties of one.

I’m not one for New Years’ resolutions or themes, but in looking both backwards and ahead, my heart has settled on Emmanuel. By sorting through the pieces my story, I’ve seen how God has been with me. Therefore, I go into 2020 all the more sure that whatever fear, obstacle, joy, sorrow, challenge, or adventure I face, I am not alone. He deserves the praise for He has turned my hot mess into a mosaic oh so glorious.

And I want you to continue into this decade of 2020 not only dancing over what God has done, but considering how He is going to use your mosaic for the sake of bringing joy to others.

Cheers to the Next Decade,

RJ

Shaxx the Pup knows you might want some help.
See below πŸ™‚

If you would like an individual coaching session with me to help you map the details of your story (whether it’s a hot mess or strikingly linear), helping to identify God’s work in your mosaic, feel free to shoot me a message below. I believe understanding God’s presence in your story will not only help you walk more confidently in who you are made to be (affecting your calling/vocation), but it will heal others who can relate to your life’s mosaic.

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