Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Goodbye, For Now.

My month back home is coming to an end. Come tomorrow morning, it'll be time for me to board the (slightly) dreaded 7am plane ride back to San Jose once again.

Where did the time go? It feels like just yesterday, I was giddily boarding the plane back to Kuala Lumpur from SFO. My parents had no clue that I was coming home for a bit and I was really excited to surprise them! 

I wish that I would've had more time to spend with friends and family. Although, I must say, I'm really happy that I got to use my time wisely by meeting up with those who really matter me. As someone who's love language is quality time (and words of affirmation, incase you were wondering), I felt so loved every time someone was willing to have a meal or just hang with me.

This past month has been amazing. New memories were made in places that once held somewhat bitter memories. I also got to eat all the good food that I missed with the people that I missed the most. Not only that, I also got to experience life back home once again. 

There are several things that I'm grateful for this past month - starting with Daddy Yap's willingness to skip golf to spend time with me. Not only that, he finally trusted me with his babycar (although he did almost get a heart attack every time I tried to park it). I'm also grateful towards Mommy Yap for lending her car to me whenever I needed it, and for also constantly trying to make my favourite foods while I'm back here. I love the both of you sooooo much! (:

Of course, with good times comes bad times too. They were, however, pretty minute, so they're not really worth a mention. But overall, I'm glad that I made the decision to come home, even if it was just for a little bit. This summer back home was so different compared to last summer. I'm actually finding it very hard to leave this time around!

Malaysia, I'll miss you and all that you have to offer. Keep my loved ones safe and I'll see you in a year, <3

Love, Ainsley.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Finding My Identity - Part 1 // Why I Took A Break From Instagram.

A few months ago, shortly after I turned 21 in October, I went through a period of confusion and uncertainty. I wrote this post in December and although I was getting small revelations here and there, I was still suffering from a lot of self-doubt and was really insecure about myself. To put it simply, I struggled with my identity. And I struggled with it for a while. I knew that it was something that I needed to address because it wasn't helping me grow in any way. It took some time, but I'm at a place now where I can safely say that I feel more secure about myself and I know who my identity is rooted in.

As I reflect back, I can see how God played His role in this transformation that took place. I can point out a few significant moments that got me to where I am today. Starting with this - my decision to take a break from Instagram.

I know it may sound a little silly but, I decided to take a break from Instagram towards the end of last October. When I first decided to take a break from it, I didn't know how long the break was going to last for. All I knew was that I was getting addicted to it and that it wasn't healthy for me for several reasons.

Firstly, I was trying to find worth in the amount of likes that I had gotten. I don't know how or why, but it suddenly became a competition to get an xx amount of likes on my pictures. I'd spend a lot of time trying to edit my pictures so that they would look Instagram-worthy. Not only that, I would often sit and spend as much as fifteen minutes to half an hour just trying to come up with a caption that would be able to summarise what I wanted to convey without making me sound stupid. I kid you not, I would read and reread my caption several times to make sure that there were no grammatical errors and that what I said made sense. I overthought it and suddenly, what was supposed to be a fun thing for me to share my moments with others, became something that I had based my worth in.

Another reason why I took a break was because I was stuck in a comparison trap. I was comparing myself to everyone else. Like I said, I was insecure about myself. I would often look at other peoples lives and wonder why I couldn't have that. Or why couldn't I look like so and so? I was caught in this trap and I always felt that I came up short as compared to everyone else. In a way, I was trying to live through someone else's Instagram feed instead of feeling blessed with what was right in front of my eyes. Instagram was supposed to help me share my experiences with others and to also feel connected with my friends as I got to see their experiences. But somehow, it made me feel more insecure about myself.

Like I said, I didn't know how long I was going to take a break for when I first did it. I just deactivated my account and deleted the app off my phone. It wasn't until a week later, when I had tried to reactivate my account and found that Instagram had a bug and deleted it, that I realised how addicted I was to Instagram. I panicked in that moment. I thought that I had lost my account forever and tried so hard for two days to get my account back. When I finally got control of my account again, I saw just how much this social media platform had its grip on me. That's when I decided that I wasn't going to go on it again until I had overcome these issues. (I also learnt my lesson and just deleted the app off my phone, leaving my account the way it is.)

Today, I decided that I am ready to get back on Instagram. I know it isn't a big deal to others. I mean, who even cares that I took a break in the first place right? But to me, going back to Instagram kinda signifies my "recovery" and how far I've come as compared to the state of mind that I was in a few months ago. I'm in a much better state now for several reasons (which I will continue in Part 2) so, I feel like I'm ready again.

My break from Instagram has brought me good. It made me realise that there was no point in me comparing myself to what others posted because I was simply comparing my whole life to what I saw on the surface. Just like how I was only posting the highlights of my life up for people to see, other people were simply sharing the highlights of their life too. Again, just like how the things that I post up do not reflect the whole picture of what's going on in my life, what someone posts online doesn't reflect the whole picture of what's going on in their life too.

I feel like I now have a clear mind. Going back to Instagram, I want to do so because I want to share my pictures and my experiences with others. It's my creative outlet so I shouldn't have to bother about what others would think. It isn't a competition and my worth isn't in the amount of likes that I get. Sure, it's nice to be acknowledged for something that you share with others but it doesn't define who I am. I'm actively reminding myself not to fall into the comparison trap again because I know that God created me to be the way that I am for a reason.

I know that it's easy to fall into the comparison trap but, imagine how much more happier we would be if we remained grateful for the things that we did have.

Love, Ainsley. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Deeper Meaning of CNY.

The Yap Family, CNY 2014. (Yes, we're all sepet.)

It's my second Chinese New Year away from home. You would think that I'd be used to the lack of CNY festivities after having gone through it once before but, it's actually harder this time around.

Being away from family during any holiday season or celebration has been pretty tough for me. Whilst studying abroad, I realised that it's usually around these periods that I feel homesick the most. It just doesn't feel right when I'm not spending time with my parents and brothers.

My family has always been big on celebrating birthdays or even holidays like Christmas or CNY. Seeing as how my brothers and I are all grown up now and have our own busy schedules, celebrations and holidays like these are usually opportunities for us to gather together as a family. And this is what I miss the most! Other than the amazing food, I miss being with my family.

After having been away for yet another year, I realised that CNY holds a much deeper meaning to me now.

CNY is about so much more than collecting ang paos - it's about family and traditions.

I always did know that this was what CNY was about but, it was not until I came overseas that I really understood it for myself and appreciated it. I mean, I grew up receiving ang paos from my parents and relatives every year. It was something that I'd look forward to because that was extra money that I could spend! This year, however, I realised that more than anything, I missed my family and our CNY routines terribly. That's when it hit me! CNY was about something much more important - it was about family and traditions.

Although it's been the same routine for my family every year, the Yap CNY traditions is what makes CNY feel like CNY to me.

To me, CNY isn't CNY without the annual tradition of cleaning up the whole house as a family in the days leading up to it. It isn't CNY without our annual MidValley shopping trip. It isn't CNY without the vegetarian breakfast, the go hoon, the Kajang satay or my mom's mee sua. It isn't CNY without the lychee and chrysanthemum packet drinks. It isn't CNY without our coffee table being filled with all kinds of different biscuits and snacks. It isn't CNY without all the house visiting and rare clear KL roads. Most of all, it especially isn't CNY without time spent with family.

It's disappointing to know that I'll have to miss yet another CNY next year. It definitely won't be easy to have to see pictures and videos of friends getting to spend time with their families on social media but, I know that it'll only be a matter of time til I'll be reunited with my family once again.

Happy Chinese New Year. 
Missing all of you terribly. <3

Love, Ainsley. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Urbana15 Experience.

I would first like to thank those who supported me on my journey in getting to Urbana15. As you may or may not know, Urbana was held in St. Louis, Missouri - that's about 2,000 miles away from San Jose, which meant that I had to get on a flight to get to St. Louis. Not only that, because I signed up for the International Track, I had to stay in a specific hotel where most of the track events were held at. Lastly, I of course had to pay for the conference fees. When all of these costs were added up, it felt nearly impossible for me to be able to afford such an amount as an international student but I trusted that God would provide and He did! Together with your financial contributions, prayers, and a scholarship, I was able to make it to Urbana without having to worry about how I was going to afford it.

So, what is Urbana? Urbana is a missions conference organised by InterVarsity. It only happens once every three years and is catered mostly for college students. Held over a period of five days, Urbana is a unique opportunity for 16,000 students to come together and discover how our gifts, dreams and calling meets God's global mission. I wanted to go to Urbana because I felt that not only was it a unique experience, it could very well be my once in a lifetime opportunity to attend this conference as well. I mean, at this point in time, I'm not sure where I will be after I graduate. My other reason for wanting to go to Urbana was because I also wanted to see what it was that God had to speak to me as I learnt more about His call for the rest of my life in my relationships, in my future workplace, as well as in missions around the world.

Prior to Urbana, I had a few expectations. As someone who has a heart for worship, I was very excited to have a musical worship experience with 16,000 other people. Just the thought of hearing 16,000 voices sing in unison unto one God put a huge smile on my face. Another thing that I was expecting was to know what God was calling me towards for my future. Personally, I'm someone who is passionate about different things and I'm also serving in multiple areas. So, I was hoping that God would be able to give me a definite answer as to where He was calling me to specifically. Also, I was hoping that He'd make it clear to me if He intends for me to stay here in America after I graduate, or whether He is calling me back to Malaysia.

Honestly, my questions weren't answered. In fact, I actually felt more confused at the end of the conference. I remember desperately needing to speak to my staff leader on the last day of the conference because I felt so lost and frustrated. I wasn't getting answers to any of the questions that I had! As I'm writing this, a few weeks have passed since Urbana and now that I've had time to process things, I realised that I'm actually at peace with not getting the answers to the questions that I had. In fact, I'm kind of glad that God didn't give me the answers. Why? For one, I know that God will reveal His plans for my life when the time is right. I love this quote that someone shared with me during our last country prayer night, "The Lord is seldom early but never late." It comforts me and reminds me of how in the past, God made things fall into place according to His timing. Another reason why I'm at peace, is because I believe that God still wants me to grow in these different passions and areas that I'm involved in. By trying to figure out where my specific area of calling is, not only am I limiting God and the gifts that He has given me, but I'm also limiting myself from being fully used by God.

Aside from that frustration, I had an amazing time at the conference. Other than being able to experience this with friends from my campus' IV chapter, I also got to meet other Malaysians at the conference through the country prayer groups! There were about 15 of us that gathered every night to process through the day and to pray with one another. It felt so comforting just being able to meet people from back home who understood my Malaysian references! More than that, I felt a sense of togetherness and complete love for our country as we talked about and prayed for the different issues that were going on back home.

It would be hard for me to share every single thing that I experienced and learnt at Urbana with you through this blogpost. However, here are a few of my top moments and things that I learnt at Urbana15!

1. Singing Good Good Father with 16,000 people.
As I said, worship was something that I was really looking forward to at Urbana. The moment the worship session started, the atmosphere changed and you could just tell that God was moving so strongly. I myself felt deeply moved. But, it wasn't until we sang Good Good Father that I was a complete wreck.

During worship, I had a deep revelation that hit me as we sang the line, "I'm never alone." I realised that not only was God saying that I'm never alone because He is with me always, but I'm also never alone because He has surrounded me with such a loving community that is on this same journey with me as well! I mean, 16,000 of us gathered at Urbana because we all had the same purpose - to pursue God and His calling for us. It was in that moment that I felt a sense of unity with not only my own friends and other Urbana participants, but with the larger global church as well. We're all a part of His family and we're all in this journey together!

2. Worshiping in different languages with 16,000 people. 
I loved how the Urbana worship team made sure that worship was a cultural experience for everyone. What do I mean by that? Well, we sang songs in different languages and we worshiped in different cultural styles as well. From songs in Korean, to Arabic, and even Hawaiian Pidgin, we were constantly being invited into a different culture's story throughout the conference.

It's one thing to worship with 16,000 people but it's another thing to worship with 16,000 people in a completely different language that most of us did not understand. Seriously, I didn't know what I was singing, and I'm pretty sure that most of the other Urbana participants didn't either, but that didn't stop us from going all-out and immersing ourselves in a different culture as we worshipped the same God. It was such a beautiful experience. Again, the idea of unity under God's name was so apparent for me during these cultural worship moments. We may all come from different cultural backgrounds but the one thing in common that we all share is the fact that we are all singing and worshiping ONE GOD. How amazing is that?!

3. Awareness of the injustices that are going on around the world. 
Seeing as this was a missions conference, there were many speakers who spoke about different issues that were going on around the world. Topics like Black Lives Matter and the persecuted churches around the world were brought to light during this conference.

In all honesty, I'll admit that prior to Urbana, I've always turned a blind-eye towards the injustices that were going on around me. Sure, I'd see countless articles about racial issues on my newsfeed. I'd also see many hashtags that were meant to bring awareness and support for these issues but I never actually went deeper into them to find out more. I never really showed my support or compassion for these people. It's almost as if I deliberately chose to be oblivious to the things that were happening because I felt like there was nothing that I could do. Urbana changed that though. I realised that it was important to address these issues. Not only that, I could play my part by simply praying for these brothers and sisters of mine who were facing persecution for their faith.

4. My Story, My Role - I am an ambassador of my country and God can use me WITH my cultural differences.
As a part of the international track, we had several track sessions where the speakers would share on topics that we, the international students, could relate to. Ate Lisa's sermon was one that really stood out to me.

Ate Lisa was originally from the Philippines and was an international student herself, so she really loves to work with international students and understands us. My takeaway from her sermon titled "Your Story, Your Role," was this - despite being from a different background and culture, I am capable of using my differences to teach and challenge those of different backgrounds from my own. Instead of immersing myself fully in the American culture, I can actually use my differences to bring something different to the table. This is why I shouldn't lose myself while studying overseas because I AM AN AMBASSADOR OF MY COUNTRY.

5. Women are capable of going out into the missions field.
I attended a seminar entitled "Women in World Missions" during the conference. I'm not quite sure why I felt compelled to attend that seminar but I'm glad that I did even though I had to walk through the rain just to get to the hotel it was held in.

The speaker's goal for this seminar was to name 50 women who have gone out into the missions field. Why? It's because oftentimes, we don't really hear of many women in the missions field. Yes, there have been women who have gone out into the missions field but unfortunately, they've been subjected to patriarchy. My takeaway from this seminar was the realisation that I, as a woman, am also empowered by God to go out into the missions field. I am entrusted with the gospel and I am capable of sharing that gospel with those around me. I am not subjected to the ways of society that lessens women against men but instead, I am chosen by God because He can use anyone who is willing.

6. The way that I dress sends out a message. 
Another seminar that I attended during the conference was entitled "Leading like Jesus: The Intersection of Embodied Service and Power." This seminar was lead by MaryKate Morse who spoke about how we are image bearers of the Trinity and how wherever we go, we bear the image of God and His likeness. We should appreciate the authority in our body and pay attention to how we take care of our own body for God's kingdom.

Although she didn't mention this, I felt convicted to think about the way that I dressed. I already knew that the clothes that I wear on my body sends out a message to those around me. Despite this knowledge, however, I never really thought much about it. But MaryKate's constant repetition of our bodies being used as a means for God's mission caused me to question myself. Does the way that I dress glorify God? Does it cause others to stumble? As a women, this is really something to think about seeing as all the trends these days involve crop tops and super short shorts!

In conclusion, Urbana15 was truly an amazing experience for me. It was a great end to my 2015 and it was definitely an experience getting to usher in 2016 by praising Jesus and proclaiming "Yes Lord!" with a crazy bunch of Jesus-lovers! If anything, Urbana reaffirmed my commitment to doing God's Will as He spoke to me and revealed many things through the many worship sessions, sermons and seminars. Once again, I would like to thank those who supported me in getting to Urbana - be it through your contribution to my funds or even through prayer. I'm just very thankful for having gotten the opportunity to attend this conference!


P.S. I attempted to log at Urbana but gave up halfway. I was tired and it was hard to do so while trying to process everything. I did, however, get some pieces of footage and put it together into one video. Enjoy!

Love, Ainsley.