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May 13, 2012

cardboard boxes and dreams

If you're like me, you sometimes wonder what God is doing. You question His ways, His timing, His thoughts. He gives you dreams, but He doesn't seem to provide the wherewithal to pursue them. Your vision of your life and the way life is going seem so disparate. You're tempted to ask Him to get on your schedule. If you need a reminder of His benevolent sovereignty, this story is for you.

For the first few years I lived in this city, the only bedside "table" I had was a cardboard box. It served its purpose, and I was perfectly content with it. But a few years ago, when my parents came to visit, they came across an affordable bedside table and bought it for me. I came home from work one day only to find my box replaced by its more durable wooden counterpart.

I almost cried.

To me, my cardboard box was much more than poor man's table. It was a symbol. A reminder that to me that this city (or earth!) was a temporary dwelling place. My dream wasn't to live here forever and the box was an everyday reminder of that.

As I have spent nearly the past five years living and working in an ordinary North American environment, I have learned countless things. This is just one: I have learned about finding joy everyday life. I've watched people groan about the daily grind, and I've (mostly) refused to participate. While they post photos of exotic vacations, I enjoy uploading photos of green onions on my cutting board or the flowers I found on my walk—because everyday life is beautiful.

But at the same time as I sought to learn contentment, I thought this season wasn't necessarily leading me toward my life goals. My dream wasn't, and isn't, the American dream. I often wondered why God had me living the American dream of a good job and progress in my career, when that wasn't what I set out for. The next normal step for someone my age would be to "settle down" and buy a house, but nothing in me wants to own a house here. (Please refer to cardboard box story). So I wondered, "What am I doing here, God?"

He hasn't been wasting His time.
He doesn't do stuff like that.

Around the same time I was introduced to working in graphic design, when I lived in rural southern Alberta, I was also introduced to chai lattes. Graphic design became my career pursuit. Chai began my introduction to southeast Asia, a part of the world I knew little about. When I moved to the city, I had opportunities to grow and expand my horizons in art, photography and design. When my life intersected with that of a gathering of believers made up of 50% immigrants from southeast Asia, my vocabulary (and girth) expanded to include foods like "samosas," "tandoori" and "naan". The kids in my Bible classes were (and are) mostly of Asian descent. I began to learn about their culture.

The first time a friend mentioned the idea of me getting a job in Asia, I resisted the idea. The culture seemed overwhelming. But as the conversation continued, off and on, over the past few years, the idea grew on me. The picture of what I might do there became clearer as my friend's company flew me to the other side of the world in February for a brief visit and lots of conversation over chai or fresh pineapple.

While I thought I was just living the North American life, I now realize that I was actually in professional, cultural and life training.
I should not have second-guessed God's sovereignty.

After consulting family, friends and leaders, I've accepted a one-year contract to work with my  American friends' company in Asia.  I am excited about this opportunity to use my professional skills to work alongside others who share my vision. If the year goes well, I may stay longer. We have many ideas how we'd love to use our presence in Asia to spread joy to individuals and communities there. 

I'm leaving the country to which most southeast Asians would love to immigrate...and I'm looking forward to it in so many ways! But when I leave Canada I will be leaving some of my dearest friends and family. I will also be limiting my ability to communicate with you as personally as I might like. But I can send some stories and news. And when we get together for chai, I can fill in some blanks...until that great day when everything God is doing is "fully known" (I Cor. 13:12).

I may also get rid of my wooden bedside table. Maybe you'd like it?


  1. God makes no mistakes, and we'll continue praying for you as you make these changes.


  2. I love how you write! And thank you for the most obvious reminder that God really does know what He is doing. I too am learning what it truly means to live content. Love you, girl, and am proud of you for following God's will and direction for your life instead of the American Way!! Debbie G.

  3. Thank you for this update - I'm sharing in your joy over what God has been doing in your life!

    It's beautiful to go through a season of "what are you doing, Lord?" and then suddenly He is moving things and pieces are falling together and some of His purposes become clear. Blessings to you in this new and very exciting season!

  4. Beautifully written, Julie - thanks! And how uplifting and encouraging it is to read what God has been doing and is doing in your life! Sharing our journeys is so helpful - and binds us together as our different journeys lead us to the same glorious place! Aunt Vicki

  5. So sorry about taking away your daily reminder of your temporary dwelling! I hated to see the lamp and clock sitting on a tipsy "table".
    Love you! Mom

  6. Thank you all for your sweet feedback and your prayers. Mom - you're forgiven :).

  7. Thank you for the comment you left on my blog. I came here and found a like-minded fellow TCK who is also a sister in Christ. Lewis said something once about the "secret thread" that binds books we love, friends we cherish together. I think there is a secret thread between us through Rosaria's books and writings. =)

    1. I guess she has only written one book that I've read, but it sure is a weighty one.

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