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I Do

The Christian faith, into which you now come to be baptized, is affirmed in the Apostles’ Creed, which we confess:

“We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;”

“And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”

“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church of Jesus Christ, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”


Will you be baptized into this faith?

I will.

Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and do you believe that He saves you now?

I do.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, will you follow Him all the days of your life, growing in grace and the love of God and neighbor?

I will.

Meg Crisostomo, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


August 7, 2014.

Somewhere in the middle of a field off a beaten path. In a pool no larger than the size of my dining table. With Congolese and American people standing nearby. Dressed in Brandy Melville black, flared cloth pants and a 2014 PLNU LoveWorks t-shirt. There… I was baptized.

I said my “I will’s” and my “I do’s” in a way I can only imagine reflects the covenant one makes for marriage. But instead of marrying a spouse or committing myself to another human being, I was dedicating my life to Jesus. Promising myself that I would follow Him. Declaring to those around me that I was allowing Jesus into my heart now and always. Believing that God would be with me all the days of my life. Making a covenant that goes far greater than a life on earth.

Naïve is not the word. I was not more naïve in 2014 and now less naïve in 2020. As if being naïve is what makes faith simpler. But in 2014 I was fired up on faith. I had lived through God doing incredible things in my life. Showing up, making a way, taking my life on a journey that I could have never expected. And now, here in 2020- six years later, I am frustrated with my faith. I have been questioning what God is trying to do. I have been wondering why I am doing everything that I possibly can yet I still feel so empty inside. I am trying to have faith, but faith does not make a whole lot of sense right now.

And then I’m reminded of the decision I made. The “I will’s” and the “I do’s”

In sickness and in health. For richer or for poorer. Til death do us part. But in this case, through the valleys and the mountaintops. For the days when I feel God right beside me or the days when I have no idea where He is. Then in death, do I get to be closer to Him.

It’s a commitment I made. A commitment to honor and worship and follow all the days of my life. And some days it’s easy, because it makes sense. And some days- like the past few days, weeks, months, year- it’s not so easy, because absolutely none of it makes sense.

And I’ve been here before. This season of nothing making sense. Of everything not going how I had thought they would, of questioning what God is trying to do, and of wondering when God would fulfill the promises He made.

The last time I was here, I came to a crossroads where I was forced (by myself of course, no one put this pressure upon me) to make a choice. Do I choose my head? Or do I choose my heart? Because what my head is telling me is that God is good and He’s always been good even if right now it doesn’t seem so good. Then you have my heart that is screaming “Meg you are in so much pain! How could God possibly love you.”

So as the extremely emotional girl that I am, I chose my heart. And it was the greatest mistake I have ever made. Because my heart pushed me into pain. It constantly reminded me of hurt and betrayal and disappointment. So instead of running to God, I ran away from Him. Away from His hurt and His betrayal and away from the disappointment I was feeling because of Him. And it nearly ruined me, because it led me to believe that I can do just fine all by myself without God.

But I will not make the same mistake twice. Even as tears rush down my face and pain overwhelms my soul, I will not be deceived by the hurt I feel in my heart. This time around, I am choosing to follow my head. To listen to the thoughts that were planted in my mind from the many years of reading my bible- God’s living and breathing word. The notion that God has plans to prosper me and not to harm me; plans to give me a hope and a future.

Because six years ago when I was fired up on faith I made a commitment. Now here I am, trying to do the same. So, I will God, because I do love you.

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After A Wildfire

I’ve seen quite a few wildfires. Not up close, thankfully, and not ever in action. I’ve seen the damage it causes and the destruction it leaves behind. One summer we were driving through Yosemite and I saw the black, barren land. How trees were singed to twigs and how the grass was void of all color. Another time I was driving out to Waianae, and I could see the line where the fires ended. As if someone had taken a Sharpie and only colored in half the picture, this was what the mountains had looked like- half covered in black ash.

I think about these wildfires and how they ruin everything. No one is safe, and once it gets started there is no way to predict what path it will take. You can fight it and try to make the damage as minimal as possible, but a wildfire is most often times out of one’s control.

Yet even in a wildfire, life finds a way to rebuild. After everything is gone. After everything has become unrecognizable, nature- and life- finds a way to come together again. Animals that were once driven out of their homes return. Plants that were burned to the ground regrow. And where there was once nothing but ashes, beauty returns again.

COVID-19 hit my life like a wildfire. Everything I once knew has been ravaged in the flames. There was no stopping it. There was no predicting its path. And no matter how hard I fought, there was no controlling it. Life, as I knew it, was gone. And I gave myself time to grieve. I cried. I cried again. I cried more. I wondered why things had to change and why this had happened to me. But now I am ready to rebuild. I am ready to return home- wherever and whatever that may look like. I am ready to grow again and add color to my life. And I am ready to live a true and beautiful life.

Glennon Doyle- in my now, current favorite book Untamed– posed the question, “What’s the truest and most beautiful life you could live?” And having had everything burned down, I don’t think there’s a more appropriate time or season to start rebuilding my life into its truest and most beautiful form.

Because in its truest and most beautiful form, my life looks like me taking care of myself.

This is not limited to- but it certainly includes- the form of self-care where I get my nails done and my eyebrows threaded once a month- because this truly is a form of self-care, but it also calls for a life where I take care of my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. A life where as much effort is put into toning my stomach and gluteus maximus as is put into taking care of my mental health and addressing the emotions I have on a day to day basis. This is a life where I protect myself rather than putting my heart on the line for the sake of others.

While the fire may have striped back most of my life, there were some key components that withstood the destruction. These are the pillars I want to keep in place as I rebuild. I want to continue cooking for myself, because not only is this girl capable of making a breakfast worth waking up to, but I now have a few more recipes under my belt where I won’t always be bringing mac and cheese to the youth leader potluck. I also want to keep exercising- evening walks and at home workouts (because let’s be real the gym is going to have to wait). I will power through the uphill climb of Mokulele if that means on my way back down I get to say hello to the sweet old man who picks the weeds out of his front lawn every evening. Then there is the pillar that I have just barely started to form. The one that reminds me that seeking help is ok. That speaking to a professional is not frowned upon. Where seeing a counselor once a week is not a punishment for having too many emotions, but rather it’s the privilege I get to partake in as I try to sort through my feelings. These are the things that have helped me take care of myself. These are the ways that I will start to rebuild.

According to my Google search of “How long after a wildfire will it take for plants to regrow?” it will take about 35 to 50 years for fir trees to reach full maturity and 50 to 75 years for pine trees to do the same. I surely hope my rebuilding process doesn’t taken 35 to 50 or 50 to 75 years, but I accept and understand that it will not happen overnight. It will take time. It will take commitment. And it will not be easy. But I am willing to commit the next 75 years of my life to taking the absolute best care of myself in whatever way that may look like. Rebuilding starts now.

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15 Fridays

15 Fridays. 105 days.

It was 15 Fridays ago that I said goodbye to Royce and that I’d see him after spring break. I took my stuff out of the teacher closet, waved goodbye to the kids, and walked to my car. Later that night I was supposed to board a flight to San Francisco, but to avoid feeling rushed and because I hadn’t even begun packing, I postponed my flight to Saturday. So instead of getting home, rushing to get ready for a flight, and then running my way out the door, I rinsed off, cleaned my face, and put on something nice to wear to church. I was late- as usual- so I walked up to the front row where I normally sit while the worship set had already started. After service I went outside to the courtyard, gave some friends a hug, then went to have dinner at Zippy’s with a friend. All in all, it was a pretty normal Friday.

Who would have known that the world- my world- would soon completely flip upside down.

No one knew! No one saw it coming! COVID-19 came and put a screeching halt to the way the world was running. Soon schools would close, businesses would shut down, stay at home orders would be put into place, and quarantining at home would be the one thing everyone had in common.

At first, I was overjoyed. Extended spring break! Who could say no to that? I wouldn’t have to wake up early to commute into town. There would be no kids screaming my name. I could go to the beach! I could have a slow morning and eat breakfast at home! It would be wonderful. This was the kind of break I needed.

And it was! It was truly a beautiful season of rest and rejuvenation. Because before COVID hit, I was working 40 hours a week, going to some sort of church related activity every night of the week, spending my weekends working at Madewell, and was only really home to shower, eat, and go to sleep. I was constantly moving and going and doing the next busy thing. There was no time to slow down, no time to do nothing, no time to rest. So when work from home became the new normal and church was no longer gathering in person, I didn’t have to be anywhere. I could just be home.

Being home meant I could finally just be. I did lots of reading- seven books to be exact. I organized the ‘junk’ drawer to the best of my ability only for more junk to get piled in as time passed. I did laundry and lots of it- my bedsheets have never been cleaner. I went through my closet sorting out old clothes and ended up trying everything on. I maintained a steady workout routine and for the first time in my four years of living in Kaneohe I walked up and down Mokulele. COVID allowed me to do the things I never make the time for myself to do but know I should be doing anyways.

As for being a preschool teacher from home, I struggled a little bit at first. I wondered how on earth am I supposed to teach students when I can’t even physically be with them. My first couple Zoom calls consisted of everyone yelling “Hi guys! Look at my toy!!” for a good hour. Then after a couple more calls we started to get the hang of it and built a routine- even building a curriculum you might say. I created projects for myself, did lots of professional development research, held virtual parent teacher conferences, and even made an effort to mail the kids something fun they could play with. I didn’t know what to do at first, but as time went by I started adjusting and learning a new way of doing my job.

Then weeks of staying at home turned into months of staying at home and our school reopening date kept getting pushed back and back and back. For a while, I saw no end in sight. And the joy of getting to be home and getting to take things slow started to wear off. I wanted to move again. I wanted to be working again. I wanted little kids to call my name and church connect groups to be my source of social interaction. I wanted connection, because in a season of social-distancing,  I felt so far away from the intimate, loving parts of my world.

I would watch as my sister and my cousins had picnics together. They would go to Golden Gate Park on a sunny day and read books or watercolor. Then on Mother’s Day they all got together and had lunch. And here I was, by myself, spending far too much money on groceries and baking far too many cookies. More than once I found myself crying, wondering how much longer I would have to be alone for.  

So after the third reopening extension was announced, I packed my things and hopped on the first flight to San Francisco. I was nervous and anxious. Was it going to be safe? Was it going to be clean? How many people were going to be on the plane? Did they sanitize the bins at the security checkpoint? No matter the worries that circulated in my head, I reminded myself that going home was what I needed. I needed people- my people. I needed social interaction, and for just a while, I needed to be taken care of rather than be all alone.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned that running away isn’t always the answer. That sometimes you have to muster up the courage and fight the battle head on. That’s the only way to get through it. But I kept telling myself I needed to be home. I kept telling myself I needed people. And while it was very true and it was very valid, there was also a battle I needed to fight head on. A battle that only came to the surface when I had enough time to sit with myself and not be consumed by the busyness of everything I was doing.

A worldwide pandemic, working from home, and being socially distant revealed to me my deepest desire- to belong.

To belong to a person: to be loved and cared for and appreciated. The desire for someone to want me and need me to be around just as I so deeply want them. It’s what I have always secretly and subconsciously craved, and in the midst of this pandemic I saw a glimpse of it before it vanished into thin air and disappeared.

To belong to a family here, because in California I belong to a family. There are lots of family members, and I meant lots. But here, there are very few places where I feel I can be without being the “I’ve got it all together” Meg. There was one exception though. One place I could plop myself down on the couch and take up space and not feel like a nuisance. One place where I felt welcomed just as I am and not who I was perceived to be. That too though, vanished into thin air and disappeared.

To belong to a community. This one vanished before I even had the time to realize I needed it. My work community and my church community were the first to go. Though I know they’re not disappearing forever, the absence of these communities in my life made me question my purpose and the reason I go about each day. Because when you don’t have work to go and you don’t have church to attend, where do you go to serve?

Belonging- and the lack of it- started floating its way to the surface of my life. Then the questions started rolling in. Followed by doubt and lies. Of course tears made their way into the equation. I questioned everything and had absolutely no answer in return.

Then God tapped on walls of the barrier I had been creating to protect myself from the pain and confusion, and He told me that He was always right here. He was always with me, but I was never trying to belong to Him. I had forgotten that important detail.

The image I had in my head was God holding out an umbrella in the rain. Under the umbrella He was protected and not getting wet. He was trying to hold the umbrella for me too, but I was too far away. I took steps in the directions I thought would protect me or offer me what I thought I needed, so instead of being under God’s umbrella where I could be protected and kept warm, I was getting rained on. It was the Kaneohe heavy rain too. Not the Manoa sprinkles you get in the morning. And I kept wondering why I was getting so wet, but all along I was never taking steps to get back under God’s umbrella.

Now I know- or at least have a better idea- of what I should be doing. Of where I should belong. Because my belonging is not placed in other people’s hands. It’s not even placed in how hard I work or how often I work or who I work with. My belonging is placed in the one who created me. The one who sees me as I rush through life jumping from one task to the next, and the one who is with me even when I feel all alone.

I had known that all the things I did were for God. I became a teacher so I could help children reach their fullest potential and be the absolute best versions of themselves. I volunteer with youth so I can help confused, pubescent teenagers know there is a God who loves them even when the world seems like it’s out to get them. But I am just now starting to realize that there are things I need to do for myself- when everything I do for everyone else is stripped away- that I need to do for God as well. I need to read my Bible. I need to pray. I need to be in connection with other believers who will encourage me in my faith. That’s how I’m going to avoid getting wet by the rain. That’s how I’ll be able to stand with God under the umbrella where I truly do belong.

0 In Hawaii/ Uncategorized

The Next Block

Will you trust me for the next block?


There’s this one beach access that I always walk down to get to my favorite beach. It’s my beach access to my beach- my happy place. I park my car on the same street every time, and I walk through the same beach access every time. It’s a familiar place, my preferred place, that leads me to a place of peace every time I’m there.

But with the stay at home order and parking restrictions, I can’t park on the same street I always do. I can’t walk the few steps down to the beach access I normally go through. So instead I park quite a ways away, and I walk. Lately I’ve just been walking the bare minimum. Going as far as I can until I hit the first beach access point and then turn to get to my destination as fast as I can. It’s the easy route- less work but equally great reward.

But the other day I felt a nudge to keep walking. To go a little farther, to spend a little more time, to push through the sweat and the sore feet, in order to get back to my familiar place. So, I did, because I know that my beach access always leads me to my favorite part of the beach. That when I go down that entrance I’ll end up with a fantastic view of beautiful waves and clear skies.

So, there I was. Holding my blanket, my backpack on my back, and a giant floatie hooked on my arm. I probably looked silly. At one point I definitely wanted to turn into the next beach access and just get to the beach already. I was probably only a block away too. But I kept being called to the place where I knew I wanted to be.

It was that defining moment where I had to decide what to do. Stop now, go my own way, and settle for what’s right in front of me. Or keep going, push through, and trust that what was to come would exceed any of my expectations.


I look back at my life and wonder how many times I stopped short of my final destination. How many times I went my own way and settled for what I thought was best rather than keep going, pushing through, and trusting that what God has to come would be amazing. I think I’ve done it quite a bit.

Too often I’ve gotten in the way of where God wants me to be. I’m my own roadblock. And most times it’s because I can’t wait, I can’t endure another second, I can’t keep wondering when it will all make sense. Worst of all, I believe in my head that I can do it fine all by myself anyways. And every time I go off on my own, I end up losing anyways.

So this time, God wants me to trust Him for the next block.

Rather than throw in the towel too soon and take the easy way out, God wants me to keep going. He doesn’t want me to settle for what I can see, because He wants to take me to a place I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams. It would be easy to stop following now. To say, “Ok God, you’ve taken me far enough but I think I’ll just stop right here.” It would be a whole lot less painful and there would be a whole lot less tears if I just stopped right here. But the growing and the stretching has never come easy. It has always been a process of surrender and heartbreak and confusion. It’s not fun, and I think that’s why I’ve always wanted to stop short- to end the pain because I just couldn’t bare it anymore.

But this time around, I feel God rooting for me to get to the end. He knows what it’s going to be, and He knows it’s going to be amazing. He has all the details planned, and it’s going to be a beautiful display. But He also knows He can’t tell me. Because if God were to tell me what the end result was, I wouldn’t trust in Him. I wouldn’t put my faith in Him, but rather I’d try to manipulate it into my on way.

So I’m trusting Him for the next block. Knowing that it won’t be easy. Knowing that there will be lots of tears from now until then. But also knowing that in the end, it will be all mine.

0 In Hawaii/ Uncategorized

Restoration

I just felt the enemy cower.

It has been an eight-month long journey of restoration. Of restoring my broken relationship with God. Of restoring my image of who God is. And one by one restoring the relationships that I hold close. I never would have thought that I needed this journey, but it just goes to show that God’s plan is always to do the unimaginable in my life in order to bring me closer to Him.

So, let’s go back to where it all started. My lowest of lows in the summer of 2019.

I was done. God wasn’t showing up. God wasn’t doing what I thought He said He would do. It seemed as if He was nowhere in sight and that He could care less about the outcome of my life. So, like the hard headed, stubborn girl that I am, I decided that if God is going to treat me that way then I was going to treat Him the same way also. I stopped showing up- I was physically there but mentally checked out. I stopped doing what I knew God wanted me to do. And I stopped caring about how God could transform my life if I only followed Him each step of the way.

It had been weeks of being done with my faith- maybe even a couple months, and I was perfectly fine. My life went on just as it does every single day, and I kept marching along in what seemed like the beauty of it all. I know I have a pretty incredible life, because look around- I live in paradise. In the depths of my soul, I would not trade Hawaii for anything else because this is where I’m supposed to be.

Then came the day when I was not only done with my faith, but for a moment I was also done with Hawaii. That’s what finally woke me up from months of sleepwalking through life. I was ready to trade my paradise for something far less spectacular because my complacency and brokenness told me it was ok.

It was that wakeup call that reminded me how God brought me to paradise, I foolishly walked myself into the desert, and if I wanted to get back to where I was supposed to be I would need God to take me there.

So little by little I let Him back in. I called for Him to come near. I trusted in His goodness again. Then I let Him restore every broken part of me.

The first relationship He restored was the one that would have hurt the most if I had let it stay broken. It was the one that if broken, would have thrown me years off the course God has for my life. Through tears, tough conversations, and silence God mended and strengthened a relationship that now stands as a pillar in my life.

The next would have taken another five months until I fully felt peace. It was a relationship that I held high expectations for, so when those expectations didn’t become a reality of course it came crashing down harder and harder each day as I was reminded of the disappointment. God didn’t do what I thought He would do with this relationship, but instead He said, “Give it to me. It’s not yours to carry anymore.” So, I did, and it wasn’t easy. I thought I could give God a piece of it and keep the rest to myself to control and manipulate, but He continually told me to give Him all of it. Then when I finally did, when I finally said, “Take it all God I don’t want it anymore!” tears ran down my face and I could finally breathe easy again.

I thought that was the end of my restoration journey. Those were two relationships I obviously needed healing from, and God did the work so I thought I was all better. But as always, there was something I didn’t see and one more relationship that God needed to bring back together.

It was the relationship with the one person I truly believes spearheads the way for me. My image of her has always been her walking in front of me, machete (or wand really) in hand, slicing away at the things blocking my path. In nearly every facet of life I’ve believed that she has made a way for me, and because she has done the unimaginable I could too. But for the longest time I let this relationship stay broken because I didn’t see the true, God given value in it. Until it came in an answered prayer- both in the words she said to me and the person she continues to be for me- that I could finally see how much she means to me.

Eight months. Eight months for God to fully restore my life to something greater than it had been before I fell down the rabbit hole. It’s ok to not see the bigger picture when you trust in a God who can always see ahead of you.