Monday, December 21, 2015

Moving Forward.

A year ago, on this very day, I was at the lowest point of my life. You see, the one thing that made me really happy was taken away. I didn't even see it coming, but it happened. The next thing I knew, I was alone. I can't quite explain how I felt in one word, but I knew that I felt hurt, lost, and confused. 

The timing couldn't have been worst. Not only was it a few days before Christmas (seeing as I already felt sad that it was my first Christmas away from home), but it was also a day before my trip to LA. What followed within the next few days were countless breakdowns, a loss of appetite and really, just pure confusion. I'd go out, put a smile on my face and do all the touristy things with my friends but at the end of the day, I'd lay in bed wide awake just overthinking things. I'd wake up super early in the morning to lock myself in the bathroom and I'd just sit against a wall and cry my heart out. It was a daily occurrence throughout the week.

At that time, I didn't understand why it happened. I didn't understand why God did what He did. I could've easily been angry at God and really, it was tempting to do so but I decided that I was going to trust God. From the moment things ended, I made the choice to trust God and to pursue Him even more. I chose to move forward.

Instead of feeding my sadness with emotional songs, the only 2 albums that I listened to on my seven hour bus ride to LA was Steffany Gretzinger's The Undoing and Bethel's You Make Me Brave. These two albums really got me through this season, especially The Undoing - it was constantly on replay for most of the seven hour journey. This explains why the album is really significant to me. Also, after my morning breakdowns, I'd pick myself up and spend time with God right then and there. I spent hours just seeking Him and choosing to remain in His presence.

As time went by, the pain started to ease a little. I was more optimistic and I remember constantly praying that God would give me the opportunity to serve Him here in the States. What came out of that prayer was the opportunity to start an International Student Ministry small group with InterVarsity. It's crazy how the ISM small group came together but it was then that I was slowly starting to understand why God did what He did. 

Fast forward. I can now look back at how my life has been since then and I must say, the things that happened in the past year made me understand why things ended. I wasn't growing as a person and I was pretty much miserable here in the States because my heart was stuck back home. At times, I'd even feel guilty for leaving home and being able to have this life overseas. So there I was, having this amazing opportunity to study overseas but all I wanted to do was to go home. I was throwing away my golden ticket. 

My God is amazing and because He loves me, He wanted what was best for me. He took away what was not only causing my focus to shift away from Him, but He also took away what was holding me back from being able to fully experience life here with no guilt. I had to learn to trust Him even more and to let go of certain things in order for Him to truly move in my life in the way that He wanted it to. When my focus shifted back to Him, everything started to fall into place over time. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that time heals the pains of yesterday and God can not only free you from that pain, but He can also use it for His benefit. Today, I'm the best version of myself for now. I know that it can only go up from here. Although I was at my lowest on this day last year, I'm at my highest today. I have truly experienced His joy in my life and I don't ever want to turn back. This past semester was so crazy amazing because of the countless experiences that I was able to have. God gave me so many opportunities this past semester and it doesn't even end there. He continues to let me have amazing opportunities and experiences. I mean, here I am, sitting in SFO waiting to board what is only my first of many flights for the next three weeks. If I was still the person I was last year, would I be where I am right now? Would I allow myself to do these things so freely?

I think the most important lesson to me was that even though I felt so hurt and confused initially, I was not alone. God was with me and He was moving through my situation. Again, I didn't see it then but now when I look back, I can see how He was working through every detail of my life. If this situation didn't happen, I definitely wouldn't be the person I am today and I probably would not be doing what I'm doing today. I know that God used my situation for His benefit. Not only did my relationship with Him grow stronger, but my relationship with those around me grew stronger too. My family was a constant pillar of support during that rough season of my life and even though they were miles and miles away from me, their love and support was so evident. 

Today, I can look back and smile because I know that all that has happened was for the best. I'm proud of the person I am today because I know that God has brought me a long way from where I was. I may not have understood it then, but I now see the bigger picture of what He is doing in my life. The best part? I know this isn't the end. I know there's so much more to come, so much more that I can't even imagine.

He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.
Ephesians 1:9-11

Love, Ainsley.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Who am I?"

I woke up today and felt ready to head back for the last few weeks of school. I had a great thanksgiving weekend away from the realities of life and I got to just sit, chill and not worry about assignments or finals. Even though I didn't want to leave Sacramento, I was looking forward to the next few torturous weeks of school that I had to endure because I just wanted winter break to come already. By some miracle, I had some time to spare before I had to head to school today. So, I decided to sit down and I spent some time with God. As I got further and further into my journalling, I realised that I was starting to go deeper into the things that were bothering me but did not really want to address. So many questions began going through my mind but the one question that kept repeating itself was, "who am I?" 

I'll be honest, I've been struggling with my identity. Yes, I know that I am a child of God and that I shouldn't have to struggle with these kinds of things but I'm still human, I have my doubts and fears. It may come as a surprise but those close to me know that I struggle a lot with my self-worth and often put myself down. I won't go too much into it for now, but it's just something that I've been constantly going through. Every time I struggle with something that has to do with my identity, God tends to show up and remind me of who I am. Today, it wasn't any different.

As I said, I kept questioning who I was. Why? For one, the things that I was once confident about was in a way, being taken away from me. I thought my skills weren't sufficient enough and it felt like I was no longer needed. In my mind, I was being replaced. I was also feeling hurt because in certain situations, credit wasn't being given where credit was due. I know I shouldn't expect anything when I give, but a part of me just always hoped that I'd at least get a bit of recognition or gratitude from whoever I'm doing a favour for. After all, it's a basic thing to say thank you or to give credit where credit was due, right?

Anyway, I went about my whole day feeling down and unsure of myself. I wasn't in any mood to be social. I couldn't wait to get home and to just be by myself but God's always funny, isn't He? I got home and everyone happened to be home too so I had to be social. Then, I decided to take a nice, hot bath to escape from everything but I was interrupted for a bit. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming anyone. I actually find it quite funny right now. But at that time, man, it was hard. I wasn't getting what I wanted. On top of that, I was also developing a headache and was strongly considering skipping this meeting that I had to attend in the evening. I somehow ended up at that meeting in the end and I'm glad I chose to be present.

I once went through this tough week where I struggled to feel God. I was so tired and stressed up that I just wanted time to myself. I had so many weekly commitments to attend to and I just wanted to skip out on them but for some unknown reason, I chose to attend all those meetings even though I was quite reluctant. I found, however, that with every meeting I attended, God spoke to me and He slowly revealed more and more of Himself to me. It was crazy but it was happening. By the end of the week, I had been able to feel God once again. In fact, I felt Him so strongly at church that Sunday and it just so happened that the theme for that week was about perseverance. That's when I knew that it was God and that I wasn't alone that whole week. It didn't matter that I didn't feel Him, He was still there. He never left. "Faith > feelings." I will always remember this line that I heard from a sermon sometime ago. That's exactly what got me through that week and I'm glad that I held onto that.

Back to today, I made the same exact decision. I chose to attend the meeting even though I wanted to use my headache as an excuse and to just rest at home. In the end, the same exact thing happened as the previous time too. God showed up! I wasn't expecting anything and I definitely wasn't expecting for God to speak to me about my situation so soon but that's exactly what happened. I'm not quite sure what happened but during a time of prayer, I popped into one of my staff leader's mind. Later, he told me what he felt so strongly about. To my surprise, it had to do with what I was struggling with today. I was just mind blown at that point. God was reassuring me of my identity again and in a way, He was showing me the bigger picture. In my own blindness, I couldn't see that God had blessed me with multiple skills that I could use in different areas. I was so focused on the little details and thought that I was no longer significant that I couldn't see the bigger picture. My insecurities tried to take over once again but God wasn't having any of that!

I'm blessed because God placed certain people in my life to help me see things that I myself can't see. Whenever I'm in doubt of my own abilities, God uses the people around me to reassure me and remind me of the things that I fail to see. I'm ever grateful to Him for His faithfulness towards me. God is real, He is so SO real. It's amazing.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord.

Love, Ainsley.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Life Update.

WARNING: Super long post ahead!
Also, all pictures are unedited so forgive me if they look really bad..

I've been meaning to blog more since I got back to the States but life's been so busy that every time I get some time to myself, I'd spend it either lazing around or just sleeping. I have tried to be more consistent in trying to blog but I'd usually go as far as writing half a post down, getting distracted by something else and then forgetting about it. I do want to at least write some brief things about my memories here however.

So many things have changed ever since I came back. I honestly wasn't looking forward to coming back to San Jose but at the same time, I was excited for a fresh start after my not-so-great summer break. After boarding that flight back to San Jose though, I got just what I wanted - a fresh start. The past few months have been a rollercoaster and I'm so glad for this journey that I get to experience. I've built closer relationships with the people around me and I genuinely have found people whom I can call family. I've also grown so much as a person and I've made big life-changing decisions that I know will cause me to grow even more!

I wanted to write down some of my memories of the past few months, just so I can reflect on what happened and see just how much I've been blessed since I came back.


Had our first bonfire for the semester a few days after we landed. We drove up to a beach in Santa Cruz and ate a bunch of hot dogs while we chilled around a fire pit. The bonfire was meant to be a way for us to get to know some new people who were interested in InterVarsity. It was also an opportunity to catch up and spend time with old faces again after not having seen them over the summer.


Decided to head up to SF for the Bersih gathering with a bunch of friends. In true Malaysian fashion, the event started late. It was pretty hot and stuffy but one thing's for sure, I have never felt so patriotic as I did then. It was such an overwhelmingly great feeling to see hundreds of Malaysians gather together because of their love for their home country. Despite being so far away from home, these people still cared deeply and wanted their voices to be heard. After all the speeches were done, we Malaysians did what we did best - we  ate till our hearts were content! There were tables filled with delicious Malaysian dishes. I was so glad to be able to eat authentic Malaysian food once again! It truly did feel like I was back home in Malaysia.


Yup, we went to a bacon festival to satisfy Cassie's bacon-needs. It was crazy, there was a whole lot of bacon on everything! There were food trucks selling bacon cupcakes, bacon garlic fries, bacon and cheese chicken wings and even bacon ice cream and bacon chocolate chip cookies. It was all pretty innovative and we left with a very happy Cassie!


This festival was really cool! There were shops selling independently-made items and different kinds of food. There were also booths where you could make your own souvenirs from the festival for free! It really stimulates your creative side and it's really inspiring too. Khanh, Cassie and I made magnets, necklaces and even our own tote bag. Safe to say that we spent a few hours in there just going through every stall/booth. After we were done, we met up with Ivan for dim sum (yum!) and we then did some touristy things after.

We went to Twin Peaks and Bakers Beach after lunch. I love going to beaches and Bakers Beach was really pretty in my opinion. It had a view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background and there were huge rocks to climb on. Also, we were lucky enough to spot dolphins swimming around in the ocean! The wind was absolutely crazy though. 


Khanh, Cassie, Elle and myself stayed a night in Sacramento before driving up to Redding. David's family was kind enough to host us. He took us around to some spots in Sacramento with a couple of his friends. We went to Tower Bridge, Old Soul cafe, the mural and the state capitol. It was really nice getting to see these places but really, the best part was getting to meet David's family and friends. It really showed me that the people you surround yourself with shapes you into the person you are. David's parents were nothing but kind and loving to us throughout our short stay with them. His mom greeted each of us with a hug within the first minute of us stepping into his house and it was so comforting. It made me miss Mommy Yap so much! David's mom made bibimbap for dinner and it was the best bibimbap I've had. Meeting his parents was definitely a highlight for my trip. We left early the next morning to continue on our drive up to Redding. 

Our main purpose for this trip was to visit the Bethel church in Redding. After the long drive there, we finally reached just in time for the 8am service to start. It felt pretty surreal just being there. It was quite an experience for sure. After the service was over, we left for breakfast and decided to visit the Sundial Bridge. The bridge was really pretty and the nature surrounding it was pretty spectacular too! We walked around and took plenty of pictures there before leaving for Sacramento again.

We went to Gunther's, which was a famous ice cream shop. I didn't take any pictures with my camera but I have to say, the ice cream was pretty good! After we were done, we headed to Old Sacramento. There were plenty of shops to look at in Old Sac and we took our time going into interesting stores. I liked how Old Sac was full of secluded corners that made for great photo opportunities. I definitely took advantage of that, haha. After the sun went down, we had our dinner and headed back to San Jose.


Those close to me would know that I love the beach, especially during sunsets. And those super close to me would know that my favourite ice cream flavour is rum and raisin. For my 21st, my friends decided to plan a surprise celebration up on a beach in Monterey while the sun was setting. Not only that, I got homemade rum and raisin flavoured cupcakes! It was definitely the best surprise I've ever gotten. It was really touching to know that people were willing to drive up for more than an hour just to celebrate my 21st with me. Despite not being around family on that day, I was really happy just being around those close to me. In fact, a few of them actually spent my whole birthday weekend with me. It was crazy and we didn't get much sleep but I felt so loved and I knew that I was incredibly blessed to have these people in my life. It also made me super happy that Mommy Yap remembered my 21st. She actually mailed me a necklace that she'd been keeping for me for the day I turned 21. I thought my 21st birthday was going to be sucky but man, these people went all out. Can't wait to see how they're going to top that, (;

FALL CON 2015 

Spent my Halloween weekend in the woods with a bunch of IV students from different campuses all over the Bay Area. It was my first time at Fall Con and I had a pretty good experience. Over the course of the weekend, we spent time just worshipping God and getting to know Him more. It was definitely nice to see new and old faces from previous conferences. It was also nice to get to know and spend time with people from the same campus too! There was a Halloween party the first night and Cassie and I went dressed as sushi! That was my first time legit dressing up for Halloween, haha. My highlight from Fall Con would definitely be the decision I made during one of the sessions. God was definitely present and I'm glad that He impressed upon my heart certain visions and challenges. I'm super excited and can't wait for the things that He has in store for me in the future! 


Our International Student Ministry small group decided to take a trip up to SF for Veterans Day. We visited a few tourist spots like Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge and Union Square before having dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was a day well spent exploring SF and getting closer to one another as a small group. Unfortunately for me though, I fell sick towards the end of the night. But despite that, it was a good trip altogether. I was also blessed enough to have people care for me while I recuperated the next day. (:


I'm currently typing this from Sacramento, where I'm spending my Thanksgiving weekend with David's family who once again, was kind enough to invite us over. As I try to document all these events that happened over the past few months, I realised how incredibly blessed I am to be able to experience all these things. I know that I wouldn't have been able to have all these opportunities if it weren't for God. He first opened the door for me to come here at the right time and He's been so faithful ever since. I'm also blessed to have really supportive parents who worked hard to give me this opportunity to study abroad as well. Lastly, I'm so happy to be surrounded by people who have shown me genuine love and care these past few months. They've been a huge blessing to me with their endless support and friendship. It's crazy to think that all of this happened within a span of about 3-4 months, and this isn't even everything! 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

Love, Ainsley.