I’m going to get really real here for a bit, because I believe in the power of vulnerability.
Seventeen years ago today my dad passed away.
Grief is a “funny” and confusing thing, because today, seventeen years later, I’ll find myself crying, upset, or sometimes mad about it. Especially when I was little I was jealous of the people around me who had their dads in their lives. I know that some dads aren’t very good at being dads, but for me the hardest part was growing up without the chance of having an "earthly" father. It was not being able to enjoy all the things that a young girl or woman could enjoy with her dad.
I never wanted to try to hide my feelings or try to not talk about it, because, like I said, there is power in vulnerability. But over the years, my grief showed itself in many ways, and there have been other bumps in the road.
Today, I still cry. I still get a little upset and sometimes mad. But there is more peace than there used to be, and there is more serenity than there used to be.
For the past two months I have been working at a sub restaurant, and with every order we ask for the person’s name. About three weeks ago, there was a man who shared the same name as my dad - Gary. I appreciated hearing that name. I feel comfort in hearing that name. After that happened, almost every shift since then, I have heard that name. I couldn’t help but think how I have worked in many restaurants over the last few years, and I very rarely heard that name. Then all the sudden it was almost everyday. At one point, I told the customer he shared a name with my dad. He told me that he also had lost his dad, and he gave me the kind reminder that my dad is always with me. (Then I proceeded to bawl in the middle of the restaurant.)
In more recent years, as I have grown older, I have consciously tried to find ways to connect with my dad. Hearing his name so frequently, especially leading to the anniversary of his passing this weekend, was a “connection” I couldn’t have imagined. It was a simple and beautiful reminder that God, who created the heavens and the earth, knows my heart.
I don’t share these feelings lightly, but with the hope that something may come from this vulnerability.
I was recently asked to describe this year in one word. I chose “exhilerating.” The word sums up this year for me in the absolute worst and best way.
On January 1st, 2016, I didn’t know all the experiences I would have in Southeast Asia. I didn’t know the joy I would feel as my cousin got married, and I didn’t know the heartache I would feel just a couple months later as my other cousin passed away. I didn’t know what it would feel like to graduate from community college and just a few days later start my Bachelor’s online. I didn’t know what it would be like to move to a familiar but entirely different town, and not be in the community I called home for almost ten years. I didn’t know I would get to have a family reunion with a part of my family I honestly felt so unfamiliar with and began to grow relationships with. I didn't know all the wonderful people I'd meet along the way.
Through all the those things, God revealed himself in entirely new & fresh ways to me. Ways that allowed me to see his character, love, grace, & joy resound in not only my life but that of those around me and also in ways I may never know on this side of heaven. It is a beautiful thing to be a part of something so much bigger & beautiful than myself.
I didn’t know, but God did. And, as hard as this is to say sometimes, God orchestrated this year in its beautiful, messy, emotional, amazing, difficult, joyful way, and I am who I am now because of it.
Tomorrow, on January 1st, 2017, there will be countless events over the coming year that I don’t know are going to happen and how I am going to experience them, but what I am confident and sure of is God is faithful, constant, and he has already overcome any obstacle that I may face and is already preparing my heart and mind for it.
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
- Miriam Adeney
At this time one month ago, I was in Atlanta, Georgia beginning the process of unraveling from the last three months. It was something that I was entirely and wholeheartedly ready for yet so unprepared. The previous three months had been seeing parts of the world that I couldn’t have ever envisioned, experienced a sense of community that is now so special to me, meeting people in different nations & cultures that I left a piece of my heart with, and I believe I came home different.
I recently saw the quote at the beginning of this post, and it resonated so perfectly with how I feel. Since being home, I’ve wanted to share about what it’s like for me, but my heart & mind have been so all over the place it seems. What that quote means to me is not that I won’t feel at home where I currently am, and it doesn’t mean I will always be wanting to go somewhere else in the world, but what it does mean is because of where I’ve been, I feel at home because of the people i’ve met along the way. I feel at home in the states that I have family & friends, at Danita’s Children in Haiti, the ten other states of my teammates from Southeast Asia, at Outpour Movement in Thailand, at New Hope for Orphans in Cambodia, and all the people in between along the way.
It also hasn’t been the easiest transition being home, and there has definitely been some ups & downs both emotionally and spiritually. But through that, it has also been so good. What I learned is that this journey that began before going to Southeast Asia may continue inside and around me for a long time because God always has something new waiting.
As I sit in a coffee shop in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I can’t help but be thankful for this life.
Leaving Thailand was hard because there were a lot of goodbyes & see you laters to people who have captivated my heart, but our transition into Cambodia has been so good.
We left Mae Sot on the 25th of October, and headed north to Chiang Mai for a couple days. While our intentions were mostly to see the city and have a couple rest days in between ministry locations, we got to stay at a ministry that doubles as a hostel & cafe, who’s mission is to combat human trafficking. They employ women in their hostel & cafe and it was beautiful to see (even for a short time) the fruit of their work. Something as seemingly simple as that is helping to change the lives of many women. During our stay in the city, we visited the night market in the evenings, and got to go to an elephant sanctuary. It was definitely fun to be tourists for a couple days, to rest, and spend time with one another.
After Chiang Mai, we took an overnight bus to Bangkok and arrived in the city early in the morning on October 28th. We met up with the other part of our team for a few days for our Mid-Way Debrief. It was partly a means of seeing more of the city, but more importantly we got to reflect on our time in Thailand thus far, and look forward to our coming month in Cambodia. We worshipped together, we prayed together, and encouraged each other in what this next month may look like. On our last night in Bangkok, we went to a rooftop restaurant for dinner, and later prayed all together for the last time & shared Halloween candy on the rooftop of the hostel.
On November 1st, early in the morning, we began our trek to Cambodia. In a somewhat overwhelming effort to get our Cambodia visas, we successfully crossed into our new home for the next month. We arrived at New Hope Orphanage later that evening to around thirty kids giving us the best welcome into their home. The difference between Thailand & Cambodia is subtle but noticeable, and I quickly realized the greater sense of simplicity - mostly because we are in a village and not the city. Nonetheless, I appreciate the way of living here. Our hosts at the orphanage are wonderful people who have such big hearts for the Lord and for the kids.
Most days consist of English lessons in the morning, and computer lessons with some of the older kids in the afternoon. In between that we have mealtimes and free time to spend time with the kids, get to know them, and simply love them.
Because of the kids’ school schedule, we have more free time here than we did at our ministry location in Thailand. So, as a team, we have adjusted accordingly with no access to internet - we go for walks, take afternoon naps (because kids have so much more energy than we do), read, & journal. Last week, we started to read & study the Bible together. We started in the book of Matthew, and all eleven of us sit together, read a chapter at a time, and reflect on what we read. There have also been a couple days in which a few of us walked to a small clinic in the village to pray with and spend time with the people there.
I can't help but think of how often I have overcomplicated life. Matthew 6:19-21 says to not store treasures on earth, but to store my treasures in heaven. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (v.21). I want to concern my heart with what God's heart is concerned with. I'm reminded that what I have here is temporary, but what I invest my heart may have effects long after I leave this country. Some of my favorite memories at New Hope thus far have been the simple moments of watching the sunset, waking up early enough to see the kids off to school, braiding the girls’ hair, them braiding my hair, hearing them call my name, singing worship songs together, playing soccer, and seeing their unwavering love for Jesus.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Siem Reap, Cambodia
This is a blog about the ups & downs of early adulthood, God's goodness & faithfulness, & life in other countries.
“Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."
Habakkuk 1:5 NIV