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In the Darkest Moments: On Peace That Transcends.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.

Long before I was diagnosed, I saw the pain and hurt of my friends and family. Divorce, deaths, diagnoses tore them apart from the inside-out. It ripped their hearts into pieces and they dove into depression or became addicted to whatever vice to briefly fix their pain.

Sometimes, bad things happen to me.

Sophomore fall was my hardest semester of college. I suffered from betrayal of those who were close to me, I became bitter and distraught. My life felt desolate and isolated.

I wandered in my own desert, longing for Christ’s eternal water to quench my thirst.

My diagnosis last year tore my world apart. I honestly thought I peaked in college and that I would never be able to work, function or love again. I feared that my life would amount to nothing and I’d be stuck in a constant cycle of major depression and minimal joy.

But during even the lowest of lows, I remembered core truths:

  1. God works for my good.
  2. God loves me.
  3. God never changes.

When my world shatters, I get down on my knees.

One of my very favorite Bible verses is Philippians 4:7. This is how it goes:

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (NLT).

It’s hard for me to pray when I’m hurt. My instinct is to get mad at God, to put on my gloves and smack a bag and scream until I weep. I feel forgotten and used and trapped.

It’s easy for me to pray when I’m whole. I’m madly in love with my God and my friends. I feel joyful and independent and confident.

But God pursues us when we’re both: when we’re black and blue, and when we’re silver and gold. He seeks us out with his never changing grace and mercy. He scoops us up in His strong, brave arms.  He says, “You are allowed to feel, just know that you are always mine.”

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with peace.

I’m in a strange period of life: ending a PR internship, seeking something more. I’m open to new opportunities near and far, similar and unfamiliar.

I’m ready to dive headfirst into my next adventure, because I just know God’s cooking up something good.

I experienced the deepest heartbreak in 2016, but God’s brought so much healing in 2017. In the most painful moments when I doubted, He met me while I was curled up in bed in a puddle of my own tears.

He said, “There, there, dear daughter. Let me stitch you together with my love.”

When you are down and when nothing seems right, when you’re right in the eye of the storm, remember: God works for your good. God loves you. God never changes.

You can be angry, you probably have a right to be so. You can be sad, you probably have a right to be so. But you can also rejoice, because in the hardest moments, God’s already ahead of you, prepped to heal you, ready to make you whole.

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Unashamed: Life Since Diagnosis

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I was diagnosed bipolar on March 18, 2016.

At first, I didn’t believe the doctor. Mostly because I didn’t understand or know what bipolar was. A little bit because I believed I was normal. The doctors just didn’t know right, their tests and observations were surely wrong.

But they were right.

I’ve lived a lot of life in the past six months–heck, in the past 10.

I finished school in December. Moved to Nashville in February. Came back at the end of March. Was diagnosed the 18th, and then life. moved. on.

It’s been awkward.

There are moments when I feel uncomfortable, because I think people treat me differently. Sometimes they do, but usually it’s all in my head.

There are people who have left my life, unable to understand or meet me where I am. I am not surprised, but nevertheless hurt by their absence.

It’s been hilarious.

I used to joke that I threw out the “adoption card” every chance I could. Now, I can throw out the “bipolar card.”

When I’m overwhelmed, I blame it on bipolar. When I’m anxious, I blame it on bipolar. When I need to go to bed early, I blame it on bipolar.

I do so jokingly, because in reality, I don’t dare let bipolar diminish or handicap me in any way.

It’s been hard.

Some weeks are great. I feel strong and confident and just like me before the diagnosis.

Some weeks are terrible. I feel depressed and alone and unlike any version of myself.

There are ups and downs, the ups are high and the downs are devastatingly low. The downs leave me silent and afraid, timid and misunderstood. I usually avoid friends, stay at home, and pray for the sadness to depart.

It’s been fun.

God gives and takes away. He gave me a new diagnosis, and took away the old pride of having a fully functioning, downright healthy brain and body.

God tears and mends. He tore apart my old identity in my life’s success (in academics, involvement, and at work). He stitched my new name, “Little Christ,” across my heart.

Though some have gone, some have stayed, and many have come. Such wonderful, Christ-loving, delightful people who know my diagnosis, pursue my heart, and encourage my dreams.

The other night, my friend Abbie got in a car wreck. Our pals Bryan, Freddie, and I stayed up all night (until 3 a.m.) to make sure she got home from the hospital safe.

That is how Jesus works. He brings together four quirky friends, wraps them up in kindness and laughter, and holds them together in the toughest moments. Praise Jesus, Abbie is alright!

And I know if I was ever hurt, Bryan, Freddie and Abbie would show up in a heartbeat. Prepared with prayer and petition and probably a present. Ready to do what Jesus does best: love others where they’re at, not where he wants them to be.

Bipolar isn’t the best. But life is.

On the days that I feel the worst, I remember how I felt during the best. Then I hope for even better days ahead.

My brain doesn’t function like everyone else’s, but my mind, body, and spirit are sure working well these days. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit need to be three-in-one, just like me.

Lately, I’m thankful.

Thankful that a bent brain is the only physical issue I have to battle. Thankful for the wonderful new and old friends who love me through and through. Thankful for the pain, because the Joy tastes even better.

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Unashamed: I have a disorder, but I’m not disordered.

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Call me Mae. I call this man Pops.

Bipolar.

That’s what the Doc said.

I received the diagnosis this week–shortly after a big move to a new city, new job and new life bombarded me with stress, anxieties, restlessness, insecurities.*
I was once a singular, candle-like flame. But I exploded into a raging wildfire.

I’m not disordered.

I believe a man, Jesus Christ, loves me through His Father, The Lord, and dwells within me, The Spirit.

Those are personal beliefs, personal “problems” even. The best problems I’ve ever and never had.
When the world says “bipolar is a disorder,” The Man says,
“You are not disordered. You are not defined by a chemical imbalance in your brain. You are made up of mind, body and Spirit. Three in one, just like me.
I live in the most peaceful state of mind. Every morning, I choose to wake and see God’s Mercy in the sunrise. Each evening, I can rest easy basking in God’s Grace.

I’m a human, so I matter.

Dear goodness, my heart breaks for those who’ve journeyed before me in fear, or those who follow behind me in shame on similar paths.
A diagnosis is almost never good. It’s usually a physical illness or disease, or a psychological or cognitive disability. Slapped on your wrist as a patient, or tattooed to your foot like Toy Story’s Woody, which read “Andy.”
I’m not a toy. I’m not Andy’s. I’m human. I’m Christ’s.

And I’m not damaged. I’m not out of order.

I don’t care much for labels. People call me different names, like Daughter, Sister, Hipster, Asian, Christ Follower.

But first, please first, call me Mae. It’s my favorite.

Then call me: Caring, Compassionate, Christ-like.

A diagnosis does not, and will not ever change me, or my wiring: the ISTJ, lion and beaver-esque, strategic, intense, and purpose-focused “Mae Mae” who was born 21 years ago, adopted 20 years ago, left home 3.5 years ago, and returned home as “Mae” two days ago.

Call me Mae.

Call me human.

Call me Christian. Call me Writer, Dreamer, Creative, Thinker, Lawyer, Love, Mockingjay, Mae Flower, Mae Bae. Or just Mae.

Because I’m called by Christ. And I’m qualified by the Cross. And I’m me, and will always be me, a girl with a disorder. But not a woman who’s disordered.

* This post was originally written on 3/20/2016. It was saved as a draft and published at a more appropriate time.

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If it ain’t Jesus, it ain’t worth it.

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As a Believer, I’m completely biased when making this statement.

But as a Believer, I know it’s true.

I was born in China, which is 7,724 miles from Dallas, where I grew up.

From there, I attend school in Waco 95.07 miles away, and ventured up to 5,473 miles away for a summer in Italy, not including a weekend trip to Switzerland.

After graduation, I moved to Nashville, 665 miles from home, and 7,808 miles from my birthplace.

No place, no person will fill you on this earth.

It took two decades for me to fully grasp this Truth, but after bouncing from place-to-place and friend-to-friend, The Joy of the Lord smacked me in my face and put me in my physical place: Dallas, Texas.

I’m back in my hometown, but it’s not home to me yet.

I still call Waco home, and my heart is pulled in every geographical direction: from Nashville to Florence, I can’t help but long for a past that’s freely roamed and deeply loved.

It’s a past that’s wandered this earth as a nomad, because I thrive most when picking up stories and traits of different cultures. I store such treasures in my heart.

But here I am, home.

I’m not sure how long I will be here this time, but The Lord’s already blessed my faithfulness to Him. His goodness and mercy will follow me all of the days of my life, no matter where I am geographically, mentally, spiritually.

One day, I’ll burst through my front door and say, “Honey, I’m home,” and mean it.

Until then, I will continue to bask in God’s presence that can be found on every corner of this universe.

And until then, I will keep shouting that God is good!

Because if it ain’t Jesus…

If it’s a relationship, a career, a GPA, a friend, an affirmation, a raise, a house, a kiss, a car, a goal, a trip…

It ain’t worth it.

Don’t seek those things. Seek The Kingdom of the Lord. Seek the presence of His Glory.

Seek the Adventure of Knowing The Lord on this earth, but not yet seeing Him fully until you reach Heaven. Seek these things instead, and you will find utter blessings among worldly battles, complete treasures among financial poverty.

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I Hope to be The Moon: On Light Among Darkness

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Tonight, I pulled into my driveway.

It was like every night of this week, of my life. The sun went to bed, and darkness covered. It sheepishly crept into the sky, and then stealthily ambushed all at once.

When I drove uphill in our alley, a full moon greeted me, suspended and strong, floating front and center of my path.

In that moment, a little voice within me said,

“See? There’s a light among the darkness. Even when the sun sleeps, the moon comes to outshine the harsh black and blue.”

This world is dark.

Terrorism, war. Cancer, disease. Kidnapping, theft. Adultery, lies.

It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see the hurt and chaos and sorrow and desperation aimlessly, recklessly, constantly swirling and twirling and spinning and gnawing away at mankind.

We are destructive, hopeless humans. An unfaithfulness that derives from selfish greed is rooted deeply within our feeble bodies.

My eyesight is poor, but my heart is passionate.

When I notice hurt, I search for healing. When I see pain, I seek a remedy.

Because despite the anger and bitterness within, there is room for so much good, so much life.

When we rid ourselves of the bad, of the imbalanced mind, body and spirit, a vacancy prepares the way for good, wholeness and fulfillment.

In the end, we’re all flames.

We are complex beings.

We have the nature of a singular, candle-like flame. I shine the best I can, I flit and flop and dilly dally.

We have the ability to burst into more. I explode into a wildfire, I barrel and break through and charge in every direction.

Sometimes we’re called to be a calm candle. We must be short, simple, and sweet. We must be gentle, we must be kind.

But other times, we’re called to be a raging wildfire. We must be abrasive, aggressive, and attacking. We must be strong, we must be serious.

Many times, the sweet spot is somewhere in between. We can be kind in our strength, or aggressive in how we care.

Most days, I start a candle. Some days, I become more.

Every day, I hope and pray that whichever flame I choose to be, or whatever impacts the flame I am, that I can be like the moon.

A greeting to the lonely, lost and broken.

A light among the darkness.

A beacon of hope.

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Go. And Be {You}.

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I choose wise, compassionate, hardworking friends.

My study abroad pal Jonathon Platt is all of these things. And more.

Today, good ole JP texted me:

“Just be you until you need to be somewhere else. Then go be you there.”

Wow. I needed to hear that.

Little did Jon know, I recently moved back home to Dallas.

To a bedroom that was once trademarked by a creepy pillow with Joe Jonas, and is today splashed with shades of whites, blues, and greens.

To a neighborhood that I never thought I’d return to, long-term. “Once I’m out, I’ll stay out,” I said.

To people groups who I mis-believed were far too beautiful, or far too broken for me.

I once doubted my ability to love and be loved by them well, softly, irrevocably.

But I am done long-term wandering.

When I’m ready, I’ll move out of my parent’s house, because it’s only a home for an extended staycation.

Free food, room and board.

A gift to dream big, with Dallas doors to open up small, endless opportunities.

Home is a state of mind, body and spirit.

I scoured the earth to find home in a place: from Texas to Washington, Tennessee, New York, and from Switzerland, to Italy, China, and England. I left empty-handed.

But with fullness within my heart, soul, and by my own strength.

When I travel, especially alone, I grant myself an utter freedom to explore, adventure and dare to fully dream, laugh and live.

Then I stay in a place. And become restless.

But we are humans, we are fickle and we will always become restless.

My restlessness bleeds into personal and professional decisions. And decreases my ease at committing to people, places or jobs for longer than two years.

Yet, I’m home.

“Home sweet home,” they say.

And this round, I’m glad to stay.

Delighted to deeply root in all things Dallas. Family, friends, faith included.

I don’t know how long I’ll be here. But I’ll be me here.

Then I’ll pick up and hit the books at a law school likely somewhere that’s not Texas. And I’ll be me there.

Here I stay. Here I am.

Later I’ll leave. There I’ll go.

Free to feel, love and embrace all things me, all things Mae.

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A Sheep’s Psalm: On Psalm 23 and Praise for Plot Twists

Mae Mae & Tim Pops
Mae Mae & Tim Pops

A few months ago, I praised God for plot twists.*

To my dismay and discomfort, plots kept twisting. And still do.

In September, I hadn’t the slightest clue what Spring 2016 held. By mid-December, I solidified an internship with Red Bus, and anticipated a big, potentially lasting move to Nashville.

Mid-January, weeks before my RBP start date, The Lord blessed me with host families who “adopted” me into their houses and lives.

Praise the Lord, He made a path to start 2016.

I arrived to Nash. Found a church. Found fellowship. Found friends. Almost instantaneously.

But wait. I started Red Bus. Found a family of fellow orphan defenders. Found Faith in the radical love from every person who showed Hope. Found forever–a big word for this weary traveler. Almost automatically.

BUT WHAT. I began to get sick. Real sick. Like coughing and hacking and draining of first my body, then myself: physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.

But Praise the Lord for plot twists: He paves paths every day.

Right now, I’m back at home. Home, home, in the Dallas suburb where I learned to ride a bike.

Same room. Same girl. New woman.

Now Mae, not Mae Mae–a cute nickname Pops/Tim still calls me on occasion.

Transformed by time (3.5 years), space (Waco, Houston, Nashville), and great life events (a Baylor education, a summer in Italy, internships on internships) and even greater people (hey, thanks for making me, Mae).

It’s good to be back. It’s good to be home.

It’s good to unpack and reorganize my life: books, clothes, journals, calendars, with an intent to extend my stay in Dallas, Texas, and America.

I memorized Ps. 23 a year ago. Now it has a whole new meaning:

  1. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want. (v. 1, ESV). This makes me a hopeless, desperate sheep, and some Shepherd Man leaves me with zero desires apart from Him.
  2. He makes me lie down, leads me, restores me, guides me (v. 2-3). To green pastures for rest, quiet waters for hydration. Along paths of righteousness, not a limited A-leads-to-B trail.
  3. I walk through the valley. But I will fear no evil (v. 4). I don’t run or flee in the valley, but Shepherd Man escorts me out. Or protects me as I visit.
  4. You prepare a table before me, anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows (v. 5). It’s too good to be true. I make it through the valley and into a Kingdom. On a mountain.
  5. Sureley goodness and love will follow me, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (v. 6). Satan will try to steal me, but God’s grace and mercy follow me. The Loser’s schemes won’t get him to Heaven. I’ll land there. And I will bask in the fullness of the presence of the Lord.

Right now? I’m basking in an awareness of God. From home, Dallas.

One day, on the Best Day Ever, I’ll see Shepherd Man face-to-face. In Heaven, Heaven!

I’ll welcome silly, earthly plot twists, because these paths of righteousness will reunite me with my Shepherd Man. One Day. It’s coming! And I feel giddy!