25.

It was my birthday last week. I turned 25 years old.

It’s crazy to think how much God has grown me over the past year. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  1. My identity is in Christ. I applied for grad schools in this past year. During the process, I was reminded that my identity is not in school or my career, but in CHRIST. I felt so much more at peace with applying for grad schools this second time around because I knew that no matter what happened, God would be sovereign over the outcome. He is for my good, so no matter what happened, I could trust that God was working very purposefully for His glory.
  2. Christ-like love doesn’t mean loving those who are easy to love. I seriously struggle with loving people who I feel like I don’t “click” with and people who don’t affirm me (I’m a big words of affirmation person and I’m also very sensitive to people’s body language and facial expressions). But is that really what loving people the way God loves means? Not at all! That’s how the rest of the world loves, so how am I reflecting Christ in how I treat others if I don’t love those who are difficult to love? God pursued ME – a sinner, a rebel, someone who hated him. Yet he redeemed me, knowing my sinful heart and its desires, because he LOVES ME unconditionally and undeservingly. He saved me and bought me back through His son Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for my sins and whose righteousness was imputed to me so that I may have a right relationship with the Lord. How amazing is that? So knowing this, how can I choose not to love someone? Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I have all the more power in Christ to love others who I don’t naturally gravitate towards. People who I feel awkward with, people who are harsher in their words than I’d like, people who don’t have the same humor as me, people who have different interests than I do, people who I don’t have the greatest “chemistry” with. God calls me to love all people; oh how I fall so very short of that. But only God can do the transforming work, because I definitely wouldn’t have this heart on my own.
  3. I don’t deserve anything, including a relationship. Oh how God humbled me.
  4. My ultimate joy and satisfaction should be in Christ alone. I struggled during my first semester moving up to norcal. I lost the comforts I had in LA – family, friends, church family, good food, things to do. While all these things are good gifts from God, I realized how easily I turned them into idols or even distractions. I look to these things for comfort and satisfaction instead of our ultimate joy and satisfaction – Christ. Because I didn’t have access to these comforts when I moved up, I learned to depend on Christ even more and cling to him. It’s through trials that God humbles us and shows us our need for Him. And God was so gracious to provide so many things – my siblings up here in norcal, a few friends from college, a place to live in a great location with awesome roommates, the fact that I’m even in a grad program at all (so undeserving), and a church family. Yet how easily I looked at what I didn’t have and become discontent. How easily I turned my eyes away from God’s blessings and looked at what other people had and envied them. I realized how fickle my heart was and how prideful I was, thinking I deserve certain things. God reminded me that in this moment, I have everything I could possibly need. He is SOVEREIGNLY working in me. The specific circumstance I’m in is meant to grow me, challenge me, and sanctify me, so I can trust that He is at work and that He is good and faithful. I still struggle daily to set my joy in Christ alone, so I pray that God would continually work in my heart to make me desperate for him and that I would grow my love for Jesus.
  5. I need the church. Christians can’t run this race alone. We were made to be in community, and the church is meant to help us in our walks, rebuke us, admonish us, encourage us, point us to Christ, and bear our burdens. The church keeps us accountable, and we are meant to be under the care of pastors and elders to shepherd our hearts. We can’t do it alone. We need other people, and not just on Sundays, but we need to be integrated into the life of the church. Jesus loves and adores His bride. Do I love the church in this same way?

Praise God for another year. Praise God for how he grew me so much. Praise God for family, friendships, a church family, this season of life, and continual growth. Praying that God grows me more this next year to become more like His Son, and that I would fall in love with His Word and learn to treasure Christ above all things.

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I am not of this world

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

1 John 2:15-17

 

My earnest prayer for my heart.

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Today has been a frustrating day.

Sin is hard. I hate sin.

It cripples me, it blinds me, it distorts my thoughts. It makes me think things that are untrue. It makes me focus on things that are unimportant. It makes me take my eyes off Christ and makes me fixate on myself. This prevents me from looking at Christ as I forget the gospel, forget what He has done, forget what my hope is really in.

When I’m fixated on myself, I’m more prone to fear man. I fear what they think of me. My identity becomes controlled by thoughts of how other perceive me. And it makes my fellowship with them less genuinely because I’m so focused on myself. I’m not focusing on Christ’s love for me, a wretched sinner who deserves hell, and his undeserving grace and mercy in my life. I’m not focusing on God’s love poured out to me that should motivate me to pour out that same love to others and develop God-honoring relationships with his people.

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“Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strength you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

Lord, I am afraid. Help me to put my trust in you. Help me to trust that you are my good shepherd, that you are in control. Thank you for being my God. Give me strength over the next few days, and I pray that the peace of God will guard my heart. Help me to know that you are watching over me, that you care for me, and to believe that no matter what happens, you are still good and sovereign.

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“Dear Celeste,

Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you that you have been offered admission to the Jefferson College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy, Entry-Level Master’s Degree Program at Thomas Jefferson University for the Fall 2016 term.”

Evidence of God’s work alone, and nothing of my own doing! I really liked this program when I went to go interview for it and am thankful that God allowed me to get accepted. I really didn’t think I’d get in, as it’s a competitive program. Grace upon grace.

My heart is thankful. All glory to God. All glory to God.

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Above all things, I have Christ

Dear Celeste Li,

We are delighted to be offering you admission to the Samuel Merritt University’s Master of Occupational Therapy Program. We are offering this decision to a select number of students that are ranked at the top of our applicant pool in hopes that you will consider attending Samuel Merritt University for your Occupational Therapy graduate education. We would be delighted to have you as a student in our program.

I’m crying. I’m crying out of a thankful heart. I’m crying because I had such low confidence in my ability to get into programs and had a huge fear of what would happen if I didn’t get in. Yet God’s sovereign will opened this door for me. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time … and it’s overwhelming in the best possible way to think that I can finally pursue this. It’s finally here. And it’s all because of God, not because of anything I did or could ever do.

Looking back at the past year and a half, I see how God sovereignly orchestrated my life so that I didn’t get into schools the first round, for my own good and His glory. I was devastated – it really took a toll on my self-confidence, and to me it was a reflection of who I was as a person. Being rejected meant I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or talented enough or capable enough. I also felt the weight of societal pressure to be career driven and to already be on the track to pursuing higher education, so when I got rejected by all the programs, I felt stupid. I feared what people thought of me when I told them I had to reapply. I hated telling them I didn’t get in because it really made me feel so worthless. I think especially going to a church with brilliant people who all went to amazing schools and graduated from prestigious graduate school programs, I felt so inadequate compared to them.

God really revealed that part of my heart to me in this past year, and I’m thankful for that lesson that He taught me because of those rejections. Without it, my heart wouldn’t have been sanctified in that way to have been shown these idols in my life. And this time around, I definitely put much more effort into my applications, whereas the first time around I did everything at the last minute. I poured so much time and effort into my essays and studying for the GRE (which I still dislike with a passion – I barely got a better score the second time I took it this year), and I also applied for significantly more programs than I did last year out of fear that I wouldn’t get in.

Throughout this process of applying for graduate schools in the past few months, God has taught me to trust Him and to remember that ultimately, I have Christ and my salvation secured because of Jesus’ blood, so everything else pales in comparison. Whether or not I got into a program or not, God is still good. God is still sovereign. I am still saved. I am redeemed by my Savior, not because of anything I have done or could ever do, but because of His work on the cross. And because of that I’m so incredibly thankful. God taught me that He is of supreme importance, more than anything this world has to offer. Yes He’s blessed me with the opportunity to pursue occupational therapy and allowed me to be accepted, but I have Christ.

God is so faithful. He provides. He cares for me. He watches over me. He is my shepherd. He is my Father. He is sovereign. He is in control. God is so good. Thank you God, I praise you!! All glory to you alone.

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A Season of Sanctification

God has been gracious to me during this season of my life. I’ve been learning so much and God has been growing me in various ways. I’m thankful for His work in my life as I learn what it means to be a godly woman, what it means to completely trust God and submit my will to Him, and what it looks like to take up my cross daily.

  1. My heart has been challenged to consider what it is that I value when it comes to dating. I struggled a lot with the whole idea of attraction and compatibility and how important that is in a relationship. God taught me through various women in my life that I shouldn’t focus solely on physical attraction or compatibility, but more so on being able to identify godly traits in a man and whether he has a genuine desire to grow in Christ. I also realized how critical my heart can be as I battle between the world’s idea of dating and dating based on biblical principles. The world says that compatibility is crucial before two people can date, and that without that chemistry it’s pointless and a waste of time. But attraction is certainly something that can develop, and even if you’re not physically attracted to the other person, you can become attracted to them as you see their character over time. I’m thankful for the people who gave me wise counsel and really pointed me towards truth, causing me to check my heart and consider what it is that I value. What do I base my attraction to another person on? The fact that we “click” or have instant “chemistry,” or even basing it solely on physical attraction? I also learned that I have the freedom to choose who I want to date or not date. I don’t need to force myself to date someone simply because they show an interest. Obviously I still want to be gracious and loving towards that other person, but God gives us the freedom to choose who we date. As long as we align our will with God’s, then we shouldn’t have to worry about whether choosing not to date someone is the wrong decision. We need to trust in God’s sovereign will over our lives. That’s something I had a hard time letting go of.
  2. God has been gracious in allowing me three interviews next month. My heart is so thankful! It’s all by the grace of God. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I’d get interviews (I have such low confidence!) but God was gracious to provide opportunities for me. I’ll be traveling quite a bit next month, a few out of state, so of course that means a lot of expenses. Praying that I trust God to provide the funds and means to go to these interviews. I’m anxious about how the interviews will go, and whether I’ll even get into graduate school or not. It’s easy to cling to outcomes I’d like to happen, but I need to let go of that idea of being in control of the situation and let God be in control of my life. Do I truly trust that whatever happens in my life will be for my own good, and do I believe that God is still good even during seasons of trial? I pray that God would help convict my heart of these truths and that I’d find true joy and satisfaction in Him alone, not in my career or building up my reputation.
  3. I’ve been challenged to consider what “taking up my cross daily” really looks like, especially at home. I’ve realized how selfish I can be and how easy it is to want to be comfortable and focus on my own desires and needs, especially at home where I have a lot of things taken care of for me. God has been putting on my heart how dishonoring that is to be so inward focused, and I’ve been challenged to show love in action at home, whether it mean initiating to do the dishes, or cleaning my grandma’s bathroom accidents without complaining. My heart can be so full of grumbling, but there’s always so much to be thankful for. It can be easy to want to do these things to gain my parents’ approval or to receive verbal affirmation, but ultimately am I pleasing God with my heart motive? Am I doing things because I desire to honor God in my actions by showing the love of Christ in response to God’s love for me?

Thankful for these lessons God has been teaching and challenging me with.

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