So This is the New Normal

time just flies by and now it is april. time is like sand. i try to hold on it, but it keeps slipping between my fingers.

things have changed a lot in the last few months. i know. it’s on everyone’s minds lately. the virus. the coronavirus. or COVID-19. whatever name you put to it, you can’t go a day without hearing about it (much less a few hours).

an unknown virus has changed life as we know it. everyone has been effected, whether in big or small ways. we can hope that things will go back to “normal” soon, but for now this is the new normal.

unfortunately, so many people are struggling in this time. we have people working in the medical field or working for the government or working in the food industry. there are more, like all the first responders out there. i could go on.

these people are essentially risking their lives day in and day out, some more than others. either way, there is always a possibility, always a chance that they could come into contact with the virus. they still work though, because they are needed and necessary.

then there are all the people without jobs. people who are trying to figure out how long they can survive like this. how will they take care of their families? their relatives? themselves? no one knows when things will get better. everything is up in the air.

but while many struggles are visible, there are some struggles that go unseen. those who have mental health problems. for many people, they now have to practice social distancing. they have to stay at home. if they go out, it’s only for necessities or the occasional walk…by themselves. for those who struggle mentally, i can’t even begin to understand what they are going through.

(thankfully, here in taiwan we have yet to practice social distancing. we are just trying not to travel a lot or associate with too many different people. and we’re always wearing masks and washing our hands.)

and lets not forget all the plans that were cancelled. weddings, graduations, birthday parties, and more. some of these were monumental events that people only experience once, but the virus changed that.

people are stressed. worried. anxious. the list goes on. and what is God’s purpose in all of this? i’ve been asking myself that a lot lately. and honestly, i’m not sure that i’ll ever know, not until i see God. that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use this time for good.

there’s a lot of fear in the world right now. people are scared. while they have no hope, we, as Christians, do. we have hope. we may be scared, but we can act despite the fear. we know there is someone who is greater than this virus and he is in control. even if we can’t see him, he is with us. we may not know his plan, but we know that he is good.

“i pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

-romans 15:13

in this dark time, let’s be that light to others. send a text to that friend that you haven’t heard from in awhile. call up that person you’ve been meaning to talk to. it can be something as simple as that. you don’t know fully what people are struggling with. you never know when something as simple as a message saying “i care. i see you.” may make all the difference in his/her life.

Christ poured out his love for us. we can definitely take the time to show that love to others. small acts of kindness really do make all the difference.

and i hope that when things do go back to “normal,” that we, as a people, won’t. we will be changed. i hope that we learn something from this time. that we appreciate the small things. that we don’t take for granted the time we have with our families and friends.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

what have you been doing during this hectic time? what have you learned or taken away from this time?

Word of the Year: Invest

we are already almost in the third month of the year. i barely feel like this year has started and we are almost a quarter of the way through it.

i say all of this as i see some kind of spider or bug crawl across my screen. ugh. apparently it is not cold enough to make all the creepy crawlies go away. i really dislike all insects. i love snakes and lizards, but i can’t stand bugs.

anyways, back to the topic. i didn’t have a word for this year as the year began. i felt like i could still work on the word that i had last year (that is, trust), but i think that’s how i’ll think about every word that i have. just because a word isn’t my “word of the year” doesn’t mean that i’m not still working on that word. it only means that it is not what i’m focusing on for the year. it’s still important.

well, i racked my brain for a word that would fit this year.

i first thought of the future, one which is full of unknowns. i know that the beginning half of the year i’ll be spending in taiwan. as for the rest of the year, i have no idea of what it is going to look like. of course, do we really know what even the next hour will look like? only God truly knows.

then i thought of the past, was there something that i could see from last year that i could work on this year? last year was full of travels and change and adventures and transitions. from home to australia to the u.s. to four countries in europe to the u.s. to taiwan where i’ve been living since august. so much has happened. it’s been quite the whirlwind of a year.

and that’s where i found it. something that was lacking from my life.

last year i was so focused on what was coming. i was always looking towards the future. and that’s not a bad thing. it’s good to look forward. you can’t always be in the present. then how will you ever prepare or make plans for the future?

in the same way, you can’t be looking towards the future all the time. how will your ever be present if your eyes are turned towards the future? can you truly live if you are unable to focus on the present?

this past year i spent way too much time focused on the future. even when i was home and not traveling or anything, i didn’t really feel “there” most of the time. i spent so much time last year adrift. never present, never home. i felt somewhat lost, always scrambling or looking for the next thing.

and from personal experience, that’s not healthy. i felt out of touch with the world and the people around me.

i want to change that. i want to be present. i want to invest in the people and the community that i’m surrounded by. i want to be someone who is “there” and active in the moment.

instead of always worrying about the future, i want to enjoy the moment that i’m living in right here and now.

so whether i’m in a place for a few weeks or a few months, i want to invest. God has placed me where i am right now for a reason. i want to make the most of my time, wherever i am.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

what’s your word of the year? do you struggle with being present? please, share your thoughts!

It’s Been Awhile

i didn’t mean for three months to go by without a single post, but look where we are. we’re nearing the end of february and i haven’t posted since the beginning of november.

november and december were two hard months for me, if i’m being honest. i was working on a eight week college course. it shouldn’t have been that hard, but i procrastinated every single thing in that course. it didn’t matter whether the assignments were big or small, i would wait until the last moment to do them and turn them in.

it was my own actions that brought on so much stress in my life. i hated myself then. i hated what i was doing, but i didn’t change. no matter how much i told myself to stop procrastinating, i kept procrastinating. and that made me feel depressed. it didn’t help that this was the first time that i wasn’t spending thanksgiving or christmas with my family.

it was hard. on christmas day, i went to bed crying. i wasn’t sleeping enough. i wasn’t drinking enough. and i just in general wasn’t taking good care of myself. i couldn’t seem to get out of this loop of stress and depression.

then, the day after christmas, my friend celebrated christmas with me. we went to dinner and she showed me all these videos that her and my mom had worked to get from family and friends wishing me merry christmas and telling me that they were thinking of me. i cried.

it made me realize that God has a plan in the mess. things began to look up after that. there’s still stress at times. there’s many choices and big decisions that i have to make soon. but i’m trying to put God first in all of it. that’s something that i haven’t been doing much at all. sometimes the easiest/simplest things to do are the hardest things to do, you know?

i have a lot of things that i need to work on in my life. one of those things is prayer. prayer is something that i’ve really neglected lately. but i want to do better. it’s a new year. a new day. i want to change. i want to grow. i want to improve. and i want God to be at the center of everything i do.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

Mere Fragments #1 // Lost in Taichung

i guess that it is about time that i share about some of my adventures in taiwan. hahaha.

maybe i should start with this past weekend. i think what happened this weekend will give you a good taste of what taiwanese culture is like.

originally i didn’t have any plans for this weekend. so i decided that i needed to do something, but i didn’t know what. at the time, i also didn’t have any friends to do anything with so…

it’s not that i’m afraid to travel by myself. i did somehow get myself to taiwan, didn’t i? i am going to be living here for an entire year too.

it is just that usually i have at least someone with me (even if i don’t know that “someone” very well) or at least i am traveling to a place to meet up with someone. either way, i am going somewhere and i will end up being with someone.

anyways, through a roundabout way, i met this girl on instagram who recently moved to 台中 (pinyin – táizhōng) from the u.s. taichung is not that far away from me, a mere two hours at most by public transportation. (it’s kind of funny when you get to the point that you think two hours of travel time isn’t that much.)

we made plans to meet up for lunch. so i got up, a little before 4:30am, and headed to taichung. i finally arrived at the taichung main station at 8:00am.

this is the original old taichung station. it is now right in front of the taichung main station.

i went by the nearest 7-eleven and grabbed a 飯糰 (pinyin – fàn tuán). just a side note, 7-eleven and family mart can be found anywhere and everywhere. it doesn’t matter how small the town you’re in is, you’re 99% likely to still be able to find these convenience stores.

i didn’t have any plans until lunchtime. so i started googling what to do in taichung. (it’s not because i’m a last minute planner or anything. haha.)

i had been formerly told by a friend that i should visit rainbow village when i get the chance. it was only 30 to 40 minutes away (partially by train and partially by bus). so i decided i had the time so i might as well go there.

easy peasy, right? i don’t actually have that much confidence in taking the bus, but i figured since they are numbered and since i had google maps it shouldn’t be that hard.

shouldn’t be. well, i promptly got lost when i tried to go from the train to the bus. i missed the bus station and ended up walking down a highway to another bus station that took me to back to the train station. then i found the right number bus and got on it. only to find out that it was going in the wrong direction.

i got off it as soon as i thought i could, but i still had to walk a ways back to find another bus station. the bus i got on took me back to the station for the second time that day. everyone started to get off the bus, but i stayed on for it was supposed to go to rainbow village. then the driver said something in chinese and one of the passengers asked me “where are you going?”. you do not know how happy i was to hear english. i told him and he told the driver.

i won’t tell the story behind rainbow village here, but it is definitely worth looking into if you’re interested.

i finally got there…2 hours later. what was supposed to be a 30 to 40 minute trip took 2 hours. i wandered around and a lady approached me and with gestures and a little english offered to take some photos of me. i was much appreciative, since i am honestly awful at selfies.

later i saw a family of four and what looked like the grandparents trying to take a picture selfie style. i gestured, offering to help them take their picture. well i did so and what to do you know? the wife knows a little bit of english and they had many questions for me.

anyways, i found out that the family lives in new taipei city but they were visiting their parents in taichung. i got the wife’s line (the most popular messaging app in taiwan) and she messaged me later telling me that i could stay at their house when i come to visit.

most of you reading this are probably from the u.s. and you know that that kind of hospitality is very rare. strangers just don’t offer you to come visit them and stay at their house.

but i have found it to be much more common here. wherever you go, if you spend enough time with the people, you are taken in as family. and in all honesty, it doesn’t take that much time to become a part of their family.

i was able to get back to the taichung main station in 30 minutes, much to my surprise. haha. i met up with sarah and she was kind enough to bring her battery pack to charge my phone because my phone was practically dead. (that’s what happens when you get lost and are using google maps for hours.)

we wandered around, found a place to grab lunch, bought some tea, and just chatted for a few hours.

just ignore the fact that i started to eat it before taking this picture.

after she left, i walked over to taichung park, not before grabbing a 奶油餅 (pinyin – nǎiyóu bǐng). i love those things so much.

the park was really relaxing. it was cute to see the families or grandparents with their grandkids playing together.

at one point two ladies came up to me, saying something in chinese and pointing at one of their phones. i thought they wanted me to help them take a picture, so i nodded. only to have them both get on either side of me and take a selfie with me. lol. i don’t know if they thought i was someone or if maybe they don’t see white people that often or maybe it was for some other reason entirely. either way, i’m on some stranger’s phone out there.

this is just one of the two cute bridges i found in the park!

well, i’ve gone on for long enough. i could go on further, but i think i’ll stop here for now. i hope that you’ve enjoyed a little taste of my adventures. it’s only a mere fragment in the story of my life. there will be plenty more adventures to come, i’m sure!

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

People are Still People

if you know anything about me, anything at all, you know that i love to travel.

sure. traveling can be stressful. there’s booking all those flights. finding the balance between price and location for places to stay. figuring out how to get from one place to another (and hoping that it doesn’t cost a small fortune). and let’s not forget, trying to decide on what to pack.

then when you’re on the actual trip it is a race between needing to do, see, and eat all the things and exhaustion. you usually end up acquiring too many things and then you have to somehow figure out how to get it all back home. of course, there’s the whole living out of a suitcase the entire time. it isn’t necessarily the most convenient thing.

despite all of that, i love it. i love the thrill of going to a new place i’ve never been before. every place is different and unique in its own special way. some places are more different than others. it all depends on your perspective. and the more you travel, there comes another realization: that there are similarities. you start to see how have different places have little similarities that connect them in a way. it is fascinating to see how one things relates to another which relates to another. things start connecting like links in a chain.

that leads me to my made point. people are still people. that’s a silly statement, isn’t it? but think about it. think about how we have the tendency to act different towards people different from us. now, some of it’s required. like having to speak slower for someone who doesn’t know the language as well or you may have to treat a little differently someone with a disability. then there’s the age difference. you wouldn’t treat a baby the same way as you would an adult. still, think about how often we treat other people differently for unjustifiable reasons. it happens a lot, doesn’t it?

people are still people. no matter where you are, the people you meet have hopes and dreams. they have beliefs and values. these people have emotions. they experience happiness and sadness. they know what it is like to be scared and excited.

and when you realize that people are just people, you’ll come to realize that they are a little bit easier to talk to. it becomes a easier to communicate with them. there’s no reason to be afraid. they are people, just like you and me. just treat them as you would want to be treated. that’s all it takes.

so maybe you’re like me. maybe you’re in a new environment. or maybe you feel like you’ve been “stuck” in this environment for awhile, but nothing has changed. you still feel alone. don’t wait. don’t wait for someone to reach out and connect with you. for all you know, they could be just as nervous and afraid as you might be.

you take the initiative. you reach out. they are just people. give them a chance. you may be surprised. we were not made to go through life alone. relationships are important. of course, our relationship with God is first and foremost. but that’s just the beginning.

having other people walk through life with you is essential. i can not say it enough. it is so important. i can’t say that the same people will stay with you from beginning to end. people come and go, some stay longer than others. but God will bring the right people into your life at the right times.

just don’t be afraid of taking an opportunity and reaching out.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

So Let’s Love

recently, i read a chapter from the Bible with a friend of mine. we discussed some of our thoughts afterwards. i hope that i can make this kind of thing more of a habit in the future.

anyways, 1 corinthians 1 brought some very similar thoughts to our minds and i think they are worth sharing and exploring more.

first of all, God invites all sorts of people to salvation. it doesn’t matter what you’re from. whether you’re from the united states or brazil or germany or saudi arabia or ethiopia or china or anywhere, all can believe in Christ.

your background doesn’t matter either. it doesn’t matter if you were buddhist or muslim or atheist or any number or religions or beliefs. it doesn’t matter if you’ve come from a wealthy family or a poor family. all one has to do is realize he or she is a fallen, broken human being. he or she must also realize that God is the only one who can save him or her. there are no exception to the rules. one can’t be saved by doing good works. one can’t be save by believing just as faithfully and diligently in another god. no. God is the one and only true god.

this invitation is open to all. all people. isn’t that incredible? there’s no discrimination on race or gender or background. the only division is between those who believe and those who don’t. and whether someone believes or not does not change the fact that we are to love all people. and when i say all people, i mean all people.

just because we love someone doesn’t mean that we’re encouraging his or her lifestyle or that we agreed with everything he or she is doing. no. when we love someone, we love him or her with all our hearts. we may disagree with the choices she or he is making, but we love her or him anyways. love is unconditional. love has no bounds. that it something i think we easily forget.

i think the world could use a little more love. in all honesty, these are very dark and depressing times. technology is continually advancing, but i think our interpersonal relationships are quickly degrading. the family and all the different relationships involved is becoming a rare thing to see. we are more “connected” through all the technology that we have, but we are relationship-wise more lonely and lost than ever before.

so let’s love. let’s spend a little less time on the internet or social media and spend a little more time with the people God has placed here and now in our lives. we are all where we are for a reason. the people that are in your life right now? they are there for a reason. you never know when the time you spend investing in others may be life-changing for them. it also works vise versa. the time you invest in others may be life-changing for you. you never know.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

You Have Meaning; You Have a Purpose

the rain continues to pour outside as i start to write this post. it has been cloudy outside ever since i woke up this morning. apparently the weather is like this because of a typhoon.

don’t worry about it much. typhoons are kind of a common thing here. it’s just another day of life in taiwan. typhoons are nothing special here. haha.

i love the sound of rain. the sound of the water falling and hitting the ground. it is very soothing. the smell of nature and the outdoors seems so fresh and new when it’s raining.

i’ve been learning so much lately. living in a foreign country where you know absolutely nothing forces you to learn so much at once. even the most basic things become complicated and hard. it doesn’t matter how much you prepare or how much you are expecting everything to be different and new, it still hits you when you are surrounded by it.

it can be overwhelming. legit so overwhelming. i don’t know how else to describe the feeling of being alone (though you may be with people, but only people you’ve recently met). the feeling of being thousands of miles away from everything you know. the feeling you get seeing all these different sights, experiencing all the different smells, tasting all the different foods, and just plain living an almost entirely different lifestyle from the one you lived before.

there are times when i feel absolutely exhilarated. i love it here. i want to experience everything. i want to try every new food and drink. i want to learn all the Chinese. i want to meet all the people. other times i am so tired. i miss having pizza. i miss being able to just “talk” to people. i don’t want to spend any time socializing. i just want to sleep or scroll through social media.

what is God’s plan for me?

what does he want me to do with my life? am i doing it? is what i’m doing right now really what he wants me to do? is there something more that i should be doing? am i missing something? my thoughts go around and around. i feel unfulfilled. dissatisfied.

other thoughts enter my mind. is anything i’m doing right now truly meaningful? it is hard to know whether or not something is meaningful or has any kind of effect if you don’t always get to see the results of it. that’s something i’m just going to have to trust God with. as long as i’m doing the work that he wants me to do, then it is meaningful. no matter how mundane or boring or normal it may seem.

and i think it becomes more meaningful, the more of yourself that you’re able to put into your work. God, no matter what we do, wants us to give our best. in everything that we do, we should give our best effort. now i’m not saying that you should over do it and give everything you have and then more to the point where you are literally hurting yourself. no. everyone has a limit. and that limit looks different for each person. you do what is your best for you. you give your all, in the way that only you can do.

wherever you are in life, i want you to know that what you’re doing. right here. right now. is meaningful. God has you there for a reason. you may not know the reason right now. and honestly, you may not know the reason until you’re in heaven with him. but that doesn’t make what you do any less meaningful.

you are you. there is only one person like you. and that’s you. you can only do what you can do. God gave you a purpose. and only you can fulfill your purpose. no one else is able to do it for you. everyone’s purpose looks different. each was uniquely designed for the person it was created for.

so don’t ever think that what you’re doing has no point. you don’t know God’s plan. only God does. and whatever that plan is, it is just what he wants for you.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

Relationship Struggles in a Foreign Country

lately, i’ve talked a lot about all these different uplifting things.

how love crosses language barriers.

how love makes all the differences.

but, as they say, life is not all sunflowers and roses.

life is not always fun or full of happiness.

last week was not a great week for me. at least, that is how the week started out. i made a lot of mistakes while teaching the kids. mistake after mistake after mistake. i forgot things. i didn’t prepare. i didn’t finish the entire lesson in the amount of time that i should have. the list goes on.

more than that though, was this feeling of isolation and loneliness. i have talked to very few people from back home since moving here. sure, i’ve sent some marco polos and texts here and there. but even those have been sparse. i think there has only been a handful of friends that i’ve actually talked to once or twice each since coming here more than a month ago. for me, that’s a very small amount.

if you don’t know me, i’m a very social person. i used to be more of an introvert, but now i tend to be more of an extrovert with introvert moments. so spending time with people is important to me, essential even. and not just spending time with people, but actually talking and building relationships with people.

and that’s probably one of the hardest things about living here. because of the language barrier, it is so hard to communicate and build those relationships. it’s going to take a lot more effort and time to do what would be so much simpler in a place where english is the official language.

that doesn’t mean that it is impossible to do so. it isn’t. you can still build those relationships even if you can’t necessarily communicate directly with each other. there are ways to bridge that barrier. but for someone who puts so much into the communication aspect of relationships, it’s a real struggle.

and communicating through that language barrier takes effort, mentally and physically. i’m realizing that it is necessary to balance the time spent resting and time spent socializing (both with people here and people who it is easier to communicate with back home). it is necessary to have both.

finding that balance is going to take some time. last week was rough. i didn’t balance things well and i could feel it. there may not be a perfect way to balance things, but i do need to find a way that works for me. and what works for me may change from week to week.

but nothing truly worth doing is ever easy.

i don’t claim to have all the answers. honestly, i don’t claim to have any of the answers. i’m still trying to figure things out. i’m still struggling. but realizing that i’m struggling is a step in the right direction i think. you have to first realize the problem to be able to fix the problem.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

Love Makes All the Difference

another week of teaching has started. and i find myself looking forward to it. it’s exciting to see new life enter into this camp. this is an entirely new and different experience for them.

i hope that i can make them feel right at home. i have learned more and more that kids need love. they need love in order to grow and mature. each and every single person has so much potential if we only give them the encouragement and love that they need.

just think of the people in your life who have shown you love and pushed you forward. those people were important to you being the person that you are today, right? can you imagine who you would be without those people in your life? you wouldn’t be the same, would you?

so these kids. they need people who love and support them. i don’t know where they are coming from. i don’t know their stories. they will only be with me for a week, not even that, before going back to their schools. it is really such a short amount of time when you consider the entirety of their lives.

but life is made up of moments, millions of little moments. and all it takes is one moment. just think of those few moments that had such an impact on you that you still remember them vividly. that’s how life is. just because time is short, doesn’t mean that i shouldn’t put forth all the effort that i can give to make it meaningful.

“give your complete attention to these matters. throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress.”

-1 timothy 4:15

so that’s what i want to do. i want to give all the love and encouragement that i can give these kids. every moment counts. they may not remember me. they may not remember this week. will that stop me? no, because you never know whose life you are going to impact. and i most likely won’t see how it impacts them.

but that is not what is important. what’s important is that i do my best to show them all the love and support that i can. what more can i do? that’s all i can do and it is worth it. they could forget everything, but i don’t think they’ll easily forget the love that was shown to them.

love makes all the difference.

so i hope that you have people in your life that you can rely upon for encouragement and love. and i hope that you can be the kind of person who loves and supports those who need it.

no matter what your situation, you can always rely on God. he is only true constant in your life. his love and encouragement are never ending.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi

Love Crosses Barriers

last week i completed my first week of teaching English.

wow.

where to even begin?

i was nervous. afraid. how do i teach kids when i don’t even know their language? will they really listen to me, some stranger from another country? i’m so new. what if i make a mistake? will i be any good at teaching? what if i’m awful at it? what if i hate this?

there were so many nerves going into last week. so many times the thought went through my head: i’m not ready; i’ll never be ready. but just when you want time to slow down and the day to never come, it seems that time only speeds up. monday came.

and with monday came my first class.

i work at a camp. so kids come in from nearby schools on monday morning and stay until friday afternoon. then the next week there’s a new group of kids. not every week do we have camp though, there are a few office weeks here and there.

class went well. it wasn’t as awkward as i thought it was going to be. most of the kids seemed to be very energetic. they looked like they were actually having some fun, even if they were shy.

and as i taught more and more classes throughout the week i found my enjoying it. i even started to look forward to my classes. outside of class, the kids started to warm up to me. during break times, we would play games or sing songs or draw together.

even though i know barely any chinese and they have very limited english, they still were willing to spend time with me. they didn’t care so much about the language barrier. somehow, those “barriers” just…didn’t exist. yes, it was still hard when they would say something and i didn’t have a clue. but that didn’t stop us from having fun.

so i found myself trying to spend every moment that i had with the kids. i knew that each moment was a blessing. time is short, especially here at camp. i wanted to hold tight to every single moment with these precious kids and make it last forever.

but i don’t get forever. nothing is guaranteed.

friday arrived. and i was giving the closing speech, i just started crying. i couldn’t even speak for a minute. even if i wasn’t an emotional person (which i am), seeing so many of the kids crying just took me over the top. i couldn’t take it. i was able to finish my speech, through many tears, but it hurt. it hurt to see them leave.

i miss their smiles. i miss their laughter. i miss hearing “hello teacher gabi!” when i walk by. i miss getting those “high fives.” i miss all the hugs. a few even told me “i love you”. just writing this makes me want to cry all over again.

my point is, you don’t have know the language to be able to love. love requires action. if you show that love, people will know, whether or not they speak the same language. i think those kids know that i love them. and i know that they love me.

maybe if we spend a little more time showing our love, the world might change a bit for the better.

hoping to lighten your burden,

gabi