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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Fridge Hums At Night

It's that feeling I get, when I know I have to protect myself from crumbling into a million pieces. When I've been vulnerable and nobody reaches out to hug me and say, You're going to be okay but for now it's okay to cry. When the familiar voice echoes in my head, You know what you have to do, right? and I know. It hurts like hell, but it's preferable to withdraw now, to quickly throw up that glass wall everyone thinks they can see me through, me smiling on the other side, but when they come close they realize I'm merely a hologram.

There is a secret key, though. Only the one who can look into my eyes and see the pain and fear of being alone will know where to find that key. And so very few try. . .

I've always put my entire being into connecting with you, trying to understand you, to encourage you, to build you up. But who wants me? Not the platonic--you're such a good person--type of dedication. Who is fascinated by me, wants to understand my mind, looks to dream my future with me?

When I fear you are only being polite, I backtrack hastily. I have no need to intrude. I only want you to smile at me if my round belly, blotchy skin, ragtag curly hair, and uneven jaw are the most beautiful parts of me.

Sometimes I think my grief and need for you is too much for anyone to handle. So I go silent and I refuse to make eye contact when we pass, as I fold in on myself like an armadillo, the polite greeting dismissively relegating you to a corner of my mind, even as you will never know that I will hurt for the rest of my life.

It's because I loved you too much. I didn't know how to let you know without losing you. So I pushed you away. Somehow that was easier. One less person to care about--one less person to love me, but I never trusted that you loved me out of free will. Maybe in the beginning, because I was new and interesting, like a shiny toy, but nobody stuck around for long.

I tried. God knows I tried. Even though I was the one to leave, I wrote, I called, I flew the thousands of miles to see you. And it was fun for a while, and we swore we would always stay connected. Boyfriend to best friend to aunt, it mattered not who, I tried my hardest to thread the connecting strings between us, like a game of cat's cradle, except you quickly lost your concentration and dropped all the strings so I was left holding a jumbled mess that only you could make sense of.

Only this time I decided I wasn't going to hurt again. So I walked away. Maybe not physically, but in my mind, the glass wall went up. At least now I knew I was safe. Even if I hurt for a thousand years.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Thy Will Be Done

I grew up reading my Bible, whether it was the little white NIV my Granny gave me for my baptism which I covered in stickers both on the back cover and every blank page I could find, or the little red NIV I found for sale in the library, or the large leather-bound NASB I toted religiously to church, feeling proud that I was reading a literal translation which would meet the scholars' approval. I brought a small blue ESV with me when I first arrived, as space was limited and I knew I needed an actual Bible to read from. I was still old-fashioned enough to want to read from a proper book instead of on a device that could never feel real and personal. It was hard enough not seeing my God, hearing Him, or touching Him, so I needed some form of tangible connection to Him.

In the summer, though, I returned with a larger Bible. This was a translation I had not allowed myself to read before, having been taught for 17 years at the conservative campus I lived on that anything other than the KJV, the NKJV, and possibly the NASB, was not sanctified or holy enough of a translation. I fought that stereotype for those 17 years but it was ingrained enough in me that I was somewhat suspicious of translations that leaned more towards the paraphrase than the literal.

Then one day, I was browsing in the library and my fingers touched the beige cover of an NLT. I casually opened it, and my eyes filled with tears as I saw a familiar name inscribed inside. It was the name of a man who had become a dear father to me, he estranged from his daughter and I from my father, we found acceptance in the not-by-blood friendship we shared. I paid the 50 cents and, taking it home, carefully wrote in my name after his, knowing he would never see it yet knowing he died with the assurance of what he'd never seen.

Even in hospice, battling the cancer that had viciously returned to eventually claim his life, he painstakingly typed up emails to me. They weren't long, but each word conveyed his love and how proud he was of me. I remembered his flowery Hawaiian shirts, his gruff manner that hid pain from the evil disease eating him up, and how quick he was to go to battle for me so I could work as a student in a job that helped me grow rather than stifled me. When I heard he'd died, I buried my face and cried. Was he afraid of death? I hoped not.

Yet even though the Bible was meaningful to me because it belonged to someone special, the words still didn't reach past the outer protective armor I'd learned to don at an early age from my TCK experience. You didn't allow the emotions to sink deep because then you felt and when you felt, you started to crack. And there were only so many cracks you could handle before your pieces couldn't be put back together again.

Until recently. I was reading a verse and instead of it automatically marching past my sensory grasp like many other verses had done in rote manner before, it seemed to assume a life of its own. The verse was no longer a fact--it was now a reality. My reality. Instead of being black lines on a page, they were words being spoken from a Father Who loved me even more than the man whose last name I never had.

The LORD has chosen me. He chooses me. At just the right time He will respond to me. He has written my name on His hand. If I wait for Him, I will never be put to shame. (Isaiah 49 & 50, paraphrase mine).

Those cracks? They are slowly being glued together piece by piece, with each word of truth that I allow to sink deep into my heart. Til one day I will be whole again.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Holding Hands Across the World

Sometimes we can't do it all on our own. Sometimes we need to reach out and ask others to hold up our hands. There is nothing to be ashamed of in doing this. Nobody should be strong enough that they never need their community. For that I am grateful.

I've been having a crash course in learning to trust God lately. Of course I recognize this is a course that will likely be repeated again in the future for even if I get a passing grade, I will need a refresher as I tend to, like with most of my university courses, forget the information learned as soon as I pass through the next open door. I'm amazed at how patient God is with me.

In the midst of my ashamedly toddler-like trantrumming at God's failure to follow my timetable or shape events in the way I envisioned them to be, the insistent drumbeat of my frustration increasing in volume like the militant band accompanying the shouts of young schoolchildren in the valley at 10 o'clock at night, I was still not blind to God's persistent yet gentle reminders that He was with me.

The daily verse on BibleGateway, Matthew 6:33, which I'd just finished reading an entire book on. Practicing songs for Friday home vespers and one was, you guessed it, based on Matthew 6:33. The courageous director of the Beirut Marathon whose accident with a bus 16 years previous and 36 surgeries had failed to deter her from walking again and creating a movement that would bring together peacemakers from around the world who would stop running from and run towards--determination, endurance, perseverance. The script I edited for my freelance side project, reminding me that God loves to show up in the impossible. A simple bowl of warm rice for supper when my lunch had consisted of hastily made cold couscous salad.

As I thought about the need I had to understand God's will in my life, I felt the impression that now was the time to reach out and connect the hands that were holding me up around the world. From Asia to Europe, from Africa to North America, from islands to continents, I knew I already had a small army praying for me for a very specific request. Now it was time to press the red button and ask for help. I had been praying by myself and I had been praying with a friend here and there. But I hadn't been praying collectively.

I began to send messages and emails to my friends in different time zones. Please pray for me, I said, giving a short synopsis of the specifics. The replies began to come, some short and affirming, others taking more time to encourage while talk through implications of answered prayer in either direction. And as the prayers ascended, the peace descended.

I'd spent several days coexisting with a restless heart and soul. With no outlet at the gym, as it was under renovation, no social outlet as friends canceled for activities I planned off campus, and despite listening to songs that echoed my questions while promising hope, the deep sense of peace that had floated over me the week before seemed to have vanished like morning mist in Scotland.

Yet God is the God of miracles even when it comes to calming the storm inside of me. I felt like the windows that you see flung about buildings slipped in between glass skyscrapers all over Beirut, their glass panes shattered, metal railings long since peeled or wooden shutters missing brown slats. I knew I needed the intercession of others who could pierce the ceiling of indifference with their faith. So I asked. And God heard.

I do not know the future. It could be that the answer I hope for is not to be. This is one of those trusting times when I have to learn the very difficult lesson written on a fortune cookie slip that The principle part of faith is patience. I keep that by my bedside to remind me daily. This is a testing time when I have to stand very still, as my Father allows the thick fog of uncertainty to surround me even while He knows what is beyond the cloud. What I cannot see must remain unseen for now. It has to be enough to know that someone is praying, God is listening, and all He asks me to do is to find my safe place in Him even as I wait.

I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me." ~Psalm 16:8

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Are You Telling Me To Go?

I stared at my monitor, unseeing the flickering blinker in front of me, as my mind went round in anxious thought. Do I go? Do I stay? What do I do? It was a simple question and yet I couldn't answer it. Too many factors to weigh. I'd signed up but hadn't paid yet, so there was still a way out.

Then it dawned on me why it was so difficult to decide. See, I've been conditioned to make my decisions in life based on what is best for others. I go to church even if I don't feel like it because I know other people notice my absence. I practice healthy living with regular exercise because I know my life is being observed. I stay late at work, go to week of prayer five nights in a row, and volunteer with the health expo because I know this is part of being a good Christian. My life is to be built around service--this is the foundation of who I am--my identity.

I've been processing this concept, though, from another angle. In a previous post, I talk about how Jesus told His disciples to leave the bustle of life and rest a while (Mark 6:31). Though it's only mentioned this one time, I think it's significant in its implication. Ministry is good but I need to take time to rest. Life can become so full of serving others that I lose the connection with Jesus which even allows me to be effective in service in the first place.

The argument may then be that the only acceptable self-care when it comes to taking time to rest and rejuvenate is Bible study and prayer. I would tend to argue against that. A friend once talked about the different ways that God talks to us. He mentioned that some people sense God's presence when they are listening to Christian music, others when they are out in nature, and still others when doing deep Bible study. As many ways as we connect with God, He is creative in His expression of love. When He touches the deepest part of our hearts, it is then that we change. If I participate in a prayer conference simply because I think it's my duty as a Christian, it is likely that it won't be as effective in my life then if I would go to a Christian concert where I can settle into the lyrics for understanding.

I'm still a traditionalist, so I do believe that Bible study and prayer are important. But they cannot be prescribed any more than the wind can be captured and required to travel a certain path. Jesus described this to Nicodemus, who wanted to understand the formulaic approach to being born again. Just as the wind was free, so the Holy Spirit was to change people (John 3:8). I reach for my Bible at lunchtime, when I'm in my room and trying to work through a difficult situation in my life. I read a passage at midnight, because it's then that I have time to be still and contemplate what I'm reading. I don't wake up at 4 am for quiet time, it isn't in my DNA. I could try to force it but I think this would be going against the way God made me.

See, I'm not a traditionalist when it comes to worshiping and connecting with God. I cannot be tied to a specific time, a way of praying, a liturgical lip-service of nothing more than human laws learned by rote (Isaiah 29:13). Yes, I attend church because I believe in the importance of community and I enjoy the predictability of the routine. Yet every once in a while I wish we could do church among the people who have not dressed up and found their way up winding roads to the top of the hill. Every once in a while I wish there would be less how-to's on practising the disciplines of a Christian life and more space to live out of our brokenness with a focus on the Healer.

So the decision has been made for me. I will not go.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Of Marmite, Bus Kaarts, Fresh Figs, Harmattan, and Camels at Sunset

The phone line is gone. In a moment of carelessness, not the first and assuredly not the last, some unthinking person dug in the wrong place and instantaneously severed a connection to nearly 19 years of history. To them it was just a thin piece of cable. To me it was a piece that anchored me to a place in my past. Now it is no longer there. Intangible yet I am tangible. I wonder how many more pieces will dissolve into the invisible and will I too, at some point, cease to exist if I can no longer go back and reassure myself that I did indeed live in that time and place?

Perhaps this is why I carry a worn fading bunny around the world with me, its insides thinning as string by thread escapes through multiculoured sides that insist on gaping open. As long as my bunny comes along, I can hold on to who I am even if I can't always bring the memories to mind. At least my bunny is Real even if I am still placing myself within a context that makes sense.

Last night I turned over in my bed and heard a car drive by outside. For a moment, disoriented from lack of sleep, I was in my bed in Egypt. I was surprised because I don't have many sensory memories from those years. It wouldn't make sense for a car to drive by out my bedroom window as there wasn't a road on that side. But regardless, I was there.

This afternoon I smell coffee, not the thick Turkish kind so strong you could dredge it for gold, though the guy delivers it in little cups for the bus driver and the passenger in the front stop when we stop at Cola station. The familiar smell, light in its fragrance, instantly brings me to England. I am in Dartford at the Bluewater shopping centre with my aunt and granny as we look for bargains in Marks and Spencer, or maybe the older shopping centre in Bexleyheath where my dad buys me an oversized white fluffy stuffed dog nearly half my size, and I am about to eat baked beans on toast.

This is the beauty of remembering. For that microcosmic second, I am there. I existed.

Heart-Healer

You are behind me and You are before me. . .

One of my deepest grieving comes from the loss of not having the continuity I only dreamed of as a child and later queried everyone I met. Where did you live? Did you live in one house all your life? One town? One state? One country? One continent? I didn't have the luxury to answer in the affirmative to any of those questions. I had always been the one moving.

I did my best to thread continuity like beads on a necklace by writing letters, then emails, and finally one-line chat messages with those who had become dear to me in each country. Yet life seemed to happen without me and selfies of smiling faces on Facebook at times were the only connection I had to each phase in my life when I knew I was loved.

Entering my 30s and beginning to explore my identity as a TCK through graduate studies, I began to more earnestly search for that stability in a place or person. I knew it couldn't be where I lived at the time so I returned to the last place I knew happiness as a teenager.

I went to a conference and talked about sharing your story as part of tying together the carpet scraps into an experience that made sense. I knew I hadn't completed the process yet but was learning to be patient with myself. I began to spend my free time exploring, writing, listening to music, crying, as I let the emotions prohibited from being expressed for so long because I had to adapt, adjust, and be strong to survive, now free. I rode the public bus, hair blowing in the wind, completely oblivious to safety or destination, absorbing the simplicity of motion, moving forward without expectations. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, hiking with strangers on goat paths, snorkeling in an ocean where I couldn't touch the bottom, and eating pumpkin strudel in a castle in Salzburg.

Yet even as I created new memories and remembered the old, I knew I was still searching. I was searching for that touchstone to connect my past with my present. I'd lived too long fragmented; who I was before I left, who I was after I left, and now who I was after returning. Nobody could fully enter into my experience or understand the fears mixed up with the anticipation, the pain with the peace, the belonging with the loss.

Til I heard the song by Tenth Avenue North and I knew. There was One Who had walked with me through every moment, every tear, every joy, every worry, every sensory memory, from the moment I was born in a little clinic in West Africa to today, when I sit in my small room in the Middle East. He was behind me and He was going before me. He was the only One Who could bring together each piece of who I was, gathering them from countries scattered around the globe, to redeem meaning in my life. It was then that I knew I could stop searching. In Him I'd found my home.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Fight of the Continents

We played a game in our welcome party for staff/faculty today. "Go stand with your continent!" the facilitator said. North and South America was on the left, the Middle East and Africa were on the right, and Europe was in the middle. For a moment I stood frozen. Where do I belong?

I fit in all of them. One--half my life. One--where my heart was and I was born. One--where I held citizenships and extended family lived but I'd only lived there briefly as a very young child. A friend shouted out, "You're Lebanese, come join us!" Strangely enough, I didn't respond to impulse. My heart pushed me to go there. After all, this was the very reason I'd stayed. I wanted to fit in, to be one of them. Instead I dutifully stood in solidarity with the Europeans. They were the smallest group and I felt sorry for them.

But where was my country? Where did I belong?

I've lived on visas most of my life. There was only about 3 years, when I was very young, that I lived in a passport country though not one I was ethnically related to. Residence visas, missionary visas, work visas, student visas, dependant visas, from country to continent, I've traveled along a very long rope of red tape that has somehow kept me from unraveling.

Geen wonder, (or no wonder), then that I am confused as to where I belong. If I have never claimed a country where my nationality allowed me to live there without question, then I am, as my friend put it, "homeless." Without a home. Without a country. Without a continent to call my own. I drift between what others would call known, but for me they are the unknowns. Never known fully to me; I am never known fully by them. This is why I still search for belonging.

It's not where you come from, it's where you belong. . .  ~Kari Kimmel

Friday, August 25, 2017

To Be In Destiny

It had been more than a year now since she’d first walked down the cobbled sidewalk to the cafeteria that first morning. Hesitant, she’d been unsure what she would find when she stepped into this world that seemed so foreign and so familiar at the same time. The memories had faded with time; would they suddenly burst into 3D colour? The tired streets were so much more crowded now than before—cars elbowing their way to get into that tiny inch of space they’d seen between a taxi and a camouflage green military tank. This was the life she would soon become accustomed to.

Taxis everywhere, though you wouldn’t know if you just looked at the top of the car because taxis in Lebanon weren’t painted in the customary yellow and white or black pattern found in New York, for example. They weren’t a certain model of car, like the old Beetle style found in London. Sometimes they had a yellow or white rectangular sign on their roof, if they belonged to a company. More often, though, they were only recognizable by their dull red license plate. The military trucks were comforting yet unsettling at the same time. She was never quite sure whether to be thankful they were there to protect her or worried that someone would suddenly start shooting one of those heavy duty machine guns mounted on the top of the tank.

This was just one aspect of life in a war-torn country that was struggling to rebuild itself in glass. She was amazed every time she managed to slip off the campus and take a drive downtown where the multitude of crystal skyscrapers seemed to mushroom overnight. It was a sure sign the builders were confident there would be no more wars. If not, they would have built in sturdy brick and gray cement. Instead, the city sparkled in the noonday sun with a promise of hope and a twinkle of return to the Switzerland of the Middle East it had once been known as. She decided that if the country, who had been through 7 wars and rebuilt itself each time, could be certain of its destiny then she could also be sure.

It was here that she returned to in search of that elusive word. Destiny. Was it really as formidable as it sounded? Was it something already decided or could she decide? She had spent 17 years stuck in a feeling that she couldn’t walk another path. Then, in a few short months, she found herself where she had once thought her happiness had ended. When she’d left as a teenager, the joy had sunk deep down into a darkness that seemed to cloud every memory she’d had. She couldn’t put herself back into the photos—they had already cut her father out of each one. Just as he was deleted from memory, her memories hid behind the merciful curtain of time.

Now she sat on one of the benches lining that cobbled sidewalk, her students scattered on the grass, diligently working on their creative writing project. The luxurious winter sun warming her face, the cold cement bench, and spring bird song mixing with city buzz made her smile. The memories once buried were now surrounded by explosive sensory moments wrapping her in new dreams for a destiny still to be seen. It was enough to be here. That was all she knew.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

FlashBack

She was sitting on the black leather chair, laptop at the ready as her fingers flew, transcribing the boss's dictation She breathed in and suddenly she wanted to be walking red brick streets in winter, fingers pushed deep into her warmest black suede trench coat, as her breath caught in the crisp chill. She wasn't exactly sure why she was sitting in an air-conditioned office set in the milieu of humid Lebanon when she should be getting acquainted with the musty smell of cigarettes by the underground entrance, diving into a paper tunnel of frites buried under thick mayonnaise, hearing the sound of still silence in a dark night, or getting properly lost in the architectural wonders of castles ancient with time. Europe was playing tug-of-war and it seemed it would soon win.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Drop Drop Drop, Drop in the Bucket

I think it's time to make a new Bucket List. I made one more than 7 years ago. That's a really long time when you think about it. So below I shall review my list and then update it accordingly.

June 2010 Bucket List
  1. Lose 30 pounds. I didn't write down my original weight so it's hard to know how much I've lost but I'm going to be on the safe side and say I lost 10 pounds. On the positive side, I'm learning how to eat healthier and exercise more.
  2. Write a book. Hmmmm, does a blog count? 
  3. Be involved with some type of ministry for at least a year. I worked with an organization against human trafficking for several months and led out in depression recovery programs in the community for 3 years where one woman shared how she felt empowered at the end of the 8-week program.
  4. Keep my place tidy for more than a week! Don't quote me but I think I've managed this.
  5. Visit the Seychelles, Switzerland, Austria, and New York. Austria--check.
  6. Become a certified Marriage & Family Therapist. Got my graduate degree, albeit in Leadership instead of counseling.
  7. Earn my PhD in Psychology, Higher Education, or English. Not sure this is my final goal.
  8. Work at a mainstream SDA college (as an assistant registrar or registrar or executive assistant). Check! Executive assistant.
  9. Be published in Adventist World. Check! Article on pain published.
  10. Get my green card. Check!

August 2017 Bucket List (For the next 5 years)
  1. Lose those other 20 pounds.
  2. Buy a house.
  3. Travel to at least 5 new countries (preferably one in South America).
  4. Settle down permanently.
  5. Be published in Huffington Post.
  6. Be conversant in Arabic.
  7. Resolve conflicts openly.
  8. Coordinate a women's retreat on embracing who we are as daughters of God.
  9. Do at least one public speaking engagement--sermon, conference, in-service training.
  10. Go to a museum by myself.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sweet Delights

I cut through the grapes, every single one, even the tiny half-inch ones, peering closely at the halves. I will probably do this for the next few months or so until I forget. But the shiver of little white wriggling bodies that seemed to seamlessly slide between the deep purple of the grape's skin and its inner sweetness is still imprinted in my mind. So I cut the grapes in half in almost OCD fashion, popping the tiniest ones right into my mouth and tasting the sultry summer on my tongue. I think I'm thirsty but if I satiate my thirst with cool water, I won't want to eat a grape and I really want to eat this bowl of grapes. Then I think I'll have a cup of tea. It's finally cool enough at night now to enjoy the steam of sweetened rosehip peach Lipton herbal tea.

Heavenly Tears

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted. . .~Psalm 34:18

I was working through the grieving process--one that seemed to come without a reservation and at the most inconvenient of times. My mother had told me to set aside time to grieve the loss but after a couple of blog posts and processing it with my family and a couple of close friends, I was ready to move on. Or so I thought.

I'm very good at pushing away feelings of loss when it comes to relationships. I go into autopilot mode where the person who was close to me is no longer an important part of my life. I am able to disconnect because I've had a lifetime of learning to disconnect. Ironically, the part of life that should have rooted me the most to who I was, shaping my understanding of how it worked and what was really important, this part was the one I lost far too often. Each time I had to pack up my cloth bunny, often the only constant from country to continent, along with mementos acquired along the way, I dismissively let go of the ones who meant the most. Just as I didn't shed a tear when the church ladies bought a spray painted gold chain that was once a handbag's strap but I'd removed and connected into a single loop, so I shed few tears when we left. After all, we were headed to a new adventure and there were many exciting things ahead.

My mother tells me that when we left West Africa, I cried for days. Somehow I was not convinced that life could be any better than the one I lived, in a simple house with blue tile bathrooms and mosquito nets over our beds. I loved my bicycle that featured prominently in many photographs, our next door neighbor who played GI Joes with me and occasionally invited us over to play on monkey bars that we envied through the dividing wire fence, and driving out to our agricultural school on a dusty road with a crossroads I just barely remember. But we had to go. Which meant I pushed the memories so deep down that I no longer existed before age 9, at least in the tangible for the sensory memories still come with a flash. Summer rains hard on earth with that deep salty smell is the strongest of them.

When I left Lebanon, it hurt all over again. Only this time I was leaving two very close friends behind and it was almost too much to handle. I cried on the way to the airport; I cried in the plane; I cried when I saw one friend drive off on the back of a motorbike after he'd skipped school just to come say goodbye. Even today, when I take the time to grieve a deep relational loss, my emotions instantly return to that day and the pain compounds in intensity. I'm grieving all the losses previously unrecognized in each loss I encounter today.

That time was dark. I had to be strong for my mother as we both figured out life in the New World and she learned how to be the sole provider for me and my two younger siblings. Slowly we began to trudge out of the shadows into a reality that held hope and light but it took many years. During that time, I could not let the losses overwhelm me. I could not let them dictate who I was. I had to evolve once again into the perfect immigrant who spoke the slang in the correct twang whilst blending in so well that even my close friends forgot I wasn't American.

I buried so much so deep down that I began to fear I was becoming someone I didn't know. There was my life before the US and my life after with all the longing in my heart to return to the life before. I knew it wasn't realistic. I had to get a college education, get a job, and start living the adult life. Yet that yearning never failed to disappear even as I felt the biggest loss of all--the loss of who I was. I had not brought together who I was before with who I was now. I constantly fought with the system where I lived and worked, refusing to let it dictate what I had to become to be acceptable. Yet I sadly saw myself changing in order to be part of the community because belonging seemed to be more important than becoming.

Somehow, my mother instinctively understood all of this and worked hard to create a safe haven in the midst of the emotional turmoil that I couldn't express let alone relinquish. She made sure I knew that at home I was accepted for who I was and not what I did. She pointed out that the community's attempt to control was not acceptable and constantly directed me and my siblings to the Bible and its practical balance to help us navigate the intricacies of solidifying our value systems.

Then I returned. The past 18 months have been soul-healing for me. After years of battling what I knew to be wrong even as I tried to figure out what was, of struggling with the paradox that I wanted to fit in even as I didn't want to be identified as American, of pretending my childhood was perfect even as I pushed its memory beyond recall, I can finally rest my weary heart. I can begin to slowly put together the jigsaw puzzle that has been tumbled into a million pieces and see who I really am. I can take joy in knowing that each piece has mattered and, whether good or bad, has been a valuable part of my identity up to today.

I can mourn the losses, yes, but I can also embrace the joys. It's a paradox we live in as TCKs. I am afraid to fully live in the joy because I know from experience that its end will be sharp with pain. More than a child crying at the end of an afternoon spent in the nearby playground, this pain is tempered with finality. Yes, we may see you again, but we may not. And even if we do, the seeing will never be as deep as the knowing. This knowing is what I miss the most and try the hardest to keep as an adult, even through my self-sentenced moves.

Today a dear friend stopped by to see me. It had been too long and distance, unwanted by me but dictated by circumstances, was wide between us. As they left, they reached out for me once more in gesture and the sting was once again strong. I returned to my room in the dorm and poured out my pain to my Heavenly Father.

As I did so, I began to feel the sorrow lift. A time of mourning turned into a time of empathy as I realized these emotions were not new to God. When I mourn a loss it is because I love that person. Yet my love for them is negligible compared to God's love for humankind. God is love. He is defined by this characteristic.

Each human on this earth was created by God. Me, you, every person. God doesn't make mistakes. He created us to be relational beings because He loves to be in relationship with us and wants us to experience this joy both with each other and with Him. Yet He also had to make us with a free moral will and the ability to choose whether or not to love Him back. This breaks my heart. I cannot imagine, if the pain I feel seems overwhelming when I must say goodbye to someone who is so dear to me, how God must feel when the person He so lovingly created rejects Him. God's heart must be strong to carry the pain of millions of people who have chosen to turn away from His love.

When God says He is close to the brokenhearted, it is not just a careless statement. God has empathy for me in my pain because He has lost too. Beginning with Satan and a third of the angels, then down through the centuries as humans have chosen to believe the deceiver and his lies rather than their Creator of love, He has lost far too many who He has dearly loved. John said God will wipe away our tears. But who will wipe away His?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Mailbox Isn't There Anymore

My mom forwarded me an email this week. The place where she both worked and lived was changing their PO Box number and as a result, everyone was going to get their own street-side mailbox. Gone would be the communal number that all mail was sent to, collected daily from the little post office 4 minutes away, then carefully (or haphazardly, depending on the person) sorted into individual metal-plated slots in the admin building.

She reminded me that I would need to start compiling a list of addresses to send the new PO Box number to. I heaved a huge sigh at the thought. I was thousands of miles away and for the matter, how did one notify of an address change? Did the US postal service provide a free address card? Did you have to send out little postcards and pay for every one? Now I would have to go through the tedious task of updating all my legal addresses, such as bank statements and driver's license. It was tiring.

Frustrated, I shot an email back asking all my questions. I wondered why I was so upset about something so small. After all, people moved all the time and somehow their mail got forwarded to them. Or was it really that simple? It was then that it hit me. I was mourning yet another loss.

I lived with the same PO Box number for 18 years. That was nearly half my lifetime. Granted, I wanted to leave the place associated with the number for about 16 of those years, and though even today, when I return, I don't do so with a happy heart to be in that physical location, it still represents something more than a number; it represents stability.

For 18 years, my mail came to the same address. When a PO Box number disappears, what happens to the mail? It's impossible to remember every single business that has sent mail to that address. Does the mail get lost? Does it disappear forever, dropped into one huge bin in the middle of Kansas labeled "unknown?"

I felt somewhat shaken, as if losing a PO Box number meant losing a solid marker that affirmed I was there, I existed, I was. When I returned to Egypt, I found my picture up on the Wall of Fame, along with pictures of other missionary families. I looked carefully at a smiling face, innocent still of the many collisions in the road of life ahead. In that moment, I stood still, dressed in a frilly blue dress, and I knew who I was and where I was. I never knew more than 25 years later I would return to the photo to reassure myself that I was indeed there.

This is the difficult part about life that TCKs must learn to accept. The reality that the things and places and people which defined our identity are not grounded in our present time. The years pass and things grow old, like my see-through thin bunny my mother made for me when I was a year and a half old, its filling replaced thrice over, its sides clumsily re-stitched with red and white and black thread. Places go through political turmoil, or a PO Box number changes, or the lawn where we caught lightning bugs and kept them in a jar has disappeared beneath a clunky health spa dusty from disuse. People let us fade out of the pictures of their lives, like a 50-year old sheet of yellowing onion skin paper, and when we pass again they introduce us to their kids who are the age we were when we climbed trees together.

I heard an earth-shattering song today. In the middle of the words about accepting a call and following where God wants us to go, the author wrote, I will go and let this journey be my home. I cried. This is it. This is our life. Our homes must, of necessity, be mourned as losses simply because our identity was never one that could hold to a single existence. The PO Box was always going to be transient even as we were. Yet in the midst of the ethereal was this knowing. We are not searching for, holding on to, or waiting in anticipation of finally finding a home.

Our journey is our home.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Mourning Comes Again. And Again.

Set aside some time each day to mourn this new loss, my mother texted me. I was processing a change in friendship, navigating a new reality where we weren't as connected as we had been before, and there were some consequences that came with it which I was having a hard time dealing with. As with any friendship that goes through stages, this one was going through the stretching-and-moving-apart phase. It remained to be seen whether, like a new rubber band, it would snap back into place, just as before, or like a rubber band that had sat in a filing cabinet for two decades, it would break with brittleness of age.

Giving space and distance meant that I no longer got to spend time with my friend or with their family, who had become very dear to my heart. It hurt. I knew I needed to respect their wishes and not push myself into their lives, but it still hurt. The past year seemed to have disintegrated into nothing. There had been late night meals with lots of laughs. Spontaneous trips to town navigating the insane afternoon traffic. Chats about life and love and the all-consuming winter chill or summer heat. Now it was gone.

I've always been the pusher; never the pushee. I've always been the one who, knowing a time of change was approaching, stoically built my wall, brick by gray brick, until it was high enough to block out the calls of dear ones who were reaching out to stay connected. It hurt too much to say goodbye.

Sometimes they just gently drifted away. They came and went because life called them and I was never enough reason for them to stay. I still thought about them, though, and every now and then would try to reach out and reconnect.

Even in today's age, with technology that allows us to call or text someone instantly for very little cost or free, we still struggle to stay genuinely connected. Texts are random exchanges of memes we found on BoredPanda; a phone call is rare. Facebook is now a bulletin board of everyone's political opinions, gym habits, and meals for the day. Instagram, with its endless strings of disjointed phrases, has replaced proper conversation. Now, if you want to know what happened in someone's life, they refer you to their insta. Even Instagram is disjointed in its name.

So when I try to reconnect, it lasts for a week or two and then they return to their world and I to mine. I miss them but I can't change the reality that they have their own life and I am no longer a part of it because I'm not physically there.

Now I am the one who's being asked to leave. It's not a simple thing--dissolving a friendship. You can't pack a suitcase, hug them goodbye, and drive away. There are no tangible mementos, physical touch is now pushed away, and often you continue to see them on a regular basis. The leaving must take place in your mind, even as you wish not to do so.

Tomorrow perhaps I'll mourn the loss of the little ones who made me smile and brought such joy to my heart, never asking for anything in return other than to know they were loved. The ones who laughed at me as they stayed just out of reach, asserting their independence, but then rushed back when they needed help getting a favourite object from a high place. The ones who reached out for me unhesitatingly when the room got a little too loud and many people were crowding around, the lost look on their face disappearing as they held on to me tightly knowing they were safe.

But for tonight, the mourning will be one that recognizes I'm on a different side now. A side where I do not regulate the pain; it comes without my acquiescence. In this learning, I hope I can see with a tender heart so the next time change approaches, I will gratefully hold each one who is dearest to me and instead of pushing, bring them close.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Give Me My Pigs

the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone (Mark 5:17).

If you've read the first 18 verses of Mark chapter 5, then you're already familiar with the story. Jesus and His disciples cross the lake and when they reach the shore, a man who's been demon possessed for years comes screaming to meet them. I imagine it was a terrifying sight, the unkempt man frothing at the mouth, rusty broken chains dangling from his wrists and ankles, clothed in a ratty dingy loincloth, his body bearing fresh scars from hurling himself on pointed stones in the cemetery.

Perhaps the disciples stayed a few yards behind Jesus when they saw him and I can just hear Peter whispering loudly to Jesus, Don't get too close, that man is dangerous! Maybe we should get back in the boat. . .

The Bible says the man ran right up to Jesus and fell down in front of Him. The demons within the man knew they were facing the Lord of the universe and they bowed in obeisance to Him even as they shrieked at Him. The demons begged Jesus not to send them far away, preferring to go into the nearby herd of pigs. Jesus allowed their request, perhaps not so much because they asked but because He knew what would happen next.

The demons went into the pigs. The pigs plunged into the lake and drowned. The pig herders rushed to the city to tell everyone what happened. The story could end here. But it doesn't.

As the inhabitants hurried to see what had happened, their curiosity was overcome by fear when they saw the demon possessed man sitting by Jesus. They had no need to be afraid. He was no longer shouting gibberish. The wild look in his eyes had disappeared, replaced by a calm inner peace. One of the disciples had found an extra robe for him. He looked like a normal human being. The man they once chained was now free.

The crowd begged Jesus to leave.

Jesus honoured their request. Just as He always has, He never forces Himself into our lives. He comes, He waits, and then it is up to us to decide whether or not we want to invite Him to change us.

This story is not about the demon possessed man. I mean, yes, it is, but in reality it is about the inhabitants of that city. It's about you and me.

You see, I think we are both the demon possessed man and the frightened city dwellers. There are times in our lives when we recognize clearly that we are trapped by some evil force that is far stronger than we are and we cry for help. In that instant, Jesus is there, freeing us, cleaning us up, and then giving us a mission--to go and share our story with others just like the demon possessed man did.

The sad part is when we are the frightened city dwellers. These people had Jesus right there, ready to bless them in ways they couldn't even imagine, and they were more concerned about their pigs. Their pigs were their livelihood and they now were worried that if Jesus stayed any longer, they would lose more than they already had. They didn't trust Him to provide for their needs. They didn't trust Him to replace what was lost with something even better.

They just wanted their pigs. Sadly, the pigs were more important to them than a human life. Jesus was ready to give them not only physical healing, as He had done in many villages before them, but also spiritual and emotional healing. Yet they refused to welcome His presence.

As a city dweller, there are times when all I can think of is how I'm going to provide for myself. I am an independent woman. I've had to learn to be as I come from a single-parent home and in my teens was already paying for all essentials other than food. It was not ideal but I learned how to do it well.

There are times, though, when this independence can distract me from my focus. Am I, like the city dwellers, spending my free time worrying about money? Am I asking Jesus to leave, because I'm convinced that He's taken away the good things and left me with very little or nothing at all? Am I blind to His power? Do I push Jesus away and in so doing, miss out on being able to share His miracles in my life with another person? Do I see my needs as more important than a human life?

I've been pondering a thought for some time now. It's one that irritates me with its simplicity; one that my close friends and family insist on putting in front of me over and over again. God will meet your needs in His perfect timing and in His way--which may not be the way you had imagined. It's Biblical, you know. God's ways are higher than ours and He has said that His promises will always be fulfilled (Isaiah 58).

Am I able to step out of my city dweller persona and instead, sit at Jesus' feet like the now-whole man, living in the reality of God's mercy and joyful in the blessing of healing? Can I be brave and vulnerable and share my experience of healing with others so they too will want to know Who this Jesus is?

Or do I want my pigs?

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Feeling Comes Only Once

The feeling came again. That one of being content, knowing that this is where I'm meant to be. Perhaps I'm a little of an idealist but I like to see life through that lens--it makes those moments glaringly beautiful when they happen.

I had another job offer yesterday. Was sitting in the court watching our team play an outside university, cheering on the spikes and clapping for the clever plays, when my phone vibrated. I knew it wasn't a WhatsApp or Line message, since those light up my screen, so curious, I turned on my phone to see. There was a short succinct message from my previous boss. Would you consider ever coming back? Pray about it and let me know. 

Uncharacteristically, I replied right away, asking for more details though I already knew I would be saying no. They were looking for more employees who believed in the organization's mission as they neared an accreditation phase and my name came to mind. I thanked him for the offer but simply said I knew I was where God wanted me to be. And I'm happy here I ended my message with.

In all honesty, I wasn't happy. I felt like the peace that had pervaded my soul in the past year had dissipated in the face of personal challenges and I was questioning my long-term plan to stay. I was struggling with the When I'm here, I want to be there and when I'm there I want to be here dichotomy all TCKs grown up seem to face.

In the first year, life had been a mad whirlwind of activity and adapting, affirming accomplishments as small as refilling my phone balance when it ran out. Then suddenly the mundane kicked in. The world became a whole lot smaller as I realized I didn't have enough money to buy a car and I wasn't brave enough to take taxis or Uber on my own on a regular basis. Grateful for friends who let me borrow their car, yet frustrated that there was a myriad of things happening without me that I couldn't be a part of, I began to resent planting myself in a land where once again I seemed to be isolated in space.

Life moved on without me, it seemed. And then I realized why I was so restless. I needed a challenge. I needed to have some goal to pursue. Ever since I left college, I had pushed myself to continue learning. Every year, I would do something that stretched me, whether I traveled internationally, took a course in disaster training, published an article in Adventist World, volunteered with an organization fighting human trafficking, or enrolled in a graduate degree in chaplaincy. After completing my graduate degree in leadership in two years, while doing full-time work in part-time hours, God sent me on my next adventure.

Now the adventure seems to have settled into the routine. Now I'm facing the difficult, such as finding a dentist and a family physician, thinking about retirement and do I really want to ship all my stuff over here? Am I ready to commit to that long? Or should I scan all my photos and important documents, throw a huge yard sale, and then pack two suitcases and head to Europe as I country-hop for the next 5 years or so? I always wanted to settle down but suddenly somehow facing the reality of really settling seems to be more than I can handle.

My boss wasn't here so the honours of welcoming and celebrating the July birthdays fell to me as my usually Type-A coworker and friend was occupied on her phone. Though not naturally one to enjoy being up front, I went to the front of the room and warmly welcomed everyone, then gave each birthday celebrant a chance to say a few words. As they were speaking, I realized in that moment that the feeling had returned. It was a simple flash, not the deep abiding that I had been missing for some time, but perhaps, like a car whose starter has died and just been recharged, the peace will eventually return to stay.

Later in the day, I stood in Haber Freres, the fruit and vegetable market at the bottom of the hill, picking through the apricots to find a few good ones to buy. In that moment I realized, I'm doing this. I am living life here and I'm succeeding. After my college years, having been raised in Adventist bubbles, I was terrified of doing life on my own so I did the easy thing and, using my legal status as an excuse, stayed home. Granted, I'm still in a bubble but this time there's a whole lot more I'm responsible for since I'm the adult and thousands of miles away from my mom.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, said Neale Donald Walsch. It's true. I try to challenge myself to do one thing every day, as far as possible, that pushes against what makes me comfortable, whether it's a household chore I'd rather not do, saying hello to a stranger and starting a conversation with them, or traveling to a country I've never been. Then it's those moments that I remember later as being the ones where I really lived.

So here I am, a young woman in my late 30s, questioning the grand scheme of life while learning to find peace in the small.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

We Buy Kleenex

Remember? We didn't buy paper towels, we used cloth towels instead. We were really frugal in those years, my mom said as we sat in Souplantation, enjoying the 10th meal out since our holiday had begun two weeks earlier. Yeah, and we didn't buy tissues either, we used toilet paper, my sister chimed in. I buy Kleenex now, I confessed. Me too!, my sister exclaimed.

As a single working woman in her late 30s, I felt it was only appropriate to treat my sore nose with a little tender care so I bought tissues without a second thought. I even stock-piled them so I wouldn't run out. I used them to wipe up spills, dry dishes, clean my mirrors, or any other little task that needed to be done around my spacious ensuite dorm room. Where I lived, tissues were actually cheaper than toilet paper so, yes, while I was continuing the habit of living frugally, I was doing so with balance.

It's funny, the things we change as we grow up, become adults, step outside of one identity and into another, and figure out what's important to us. As a former MK (missionary's kid) who has chosen to continue that lifestyle and live overseas, I find it fascinating to see which habits I've continued and which I've discarded.

Growing up, we never drank Coke or Pepsi or Mountain Dew. Fanta was the soda or fizzy drink of choice until my mother read the ingredients and switched us to Sprite for special occasions only. Several months ago, I had a sip of a friend's Pepsi and realized why it was his beverage of choice whenever we went out. I liked its bittersweet hint of root beer flavour. The next time a friend invited me for lunch, I chose Pepsi when offered a drink and relished the full serving. Surprisingly, I wasn't on a caffeine buzz and decided that its caffeine content, similar to a cup of green tea, didn't affect me like I'd always been told it would. While I'm still hesitant to drink Pepsi, since its sugar content is exorbitantly high, I now know I won't be struck by lightning if I made the choice to drink it.

My mother says we never ate out during those lean money years after the separation when our extra pennies went towards schoolbooks, clothes, and other necessary items. From the moment we started working for our tuition, she made us responsible for our personal expenses including toothpaste and toilet paper, so we couldn't afford to waste money on meals that we could cook for a fraction of the cost at home. Which meant, of course, that we never ordered appetizers. I order appetizers now. I know they are exorbitantly priced for their size but somehow the luxury of being able to afford an appetizer overrides my frugal upbringing in this scenario. I still cringe when the 4 pieces of fake chicken nuggets arrive, as I think about how each 2-inch nugget cost $2 but then I relax and enjoy the previously forbidden treat.

I go to the movies now. When I was 17, the Titanic was released and all my friends were going to watch it. Me, being the daughter of highest authority in the church in the country we were missionaries in at the time, was forbidden from joining my friends to see the PG-13 rated movie. It was not appropriate for a pastor's daughter to go to to the movies, I was told. However, that summer my father told my sister and I, when we were visiting family in England, that he would take us to see the movie as long as we didn't tell our friends back in the mission field. We refused based on principle. In my late 20s I began going to the movies, first to see cartoons such as Ice Age in 3D. Now I go with friends to watch dramas, comedies, true stories, and I no longer enter the screening room with the absurd worry that God will punish me for being in such a place.

It's not that I don't appreciate the principles learned from my experiences in the mission field and after. I've learned to be careful with my money in a healthy way, to practice a healthy lifestyle, to value the important things in life, and to be open to other ways of life. It's just that sometimes I realize that the way things were done before weren't always necessarily the only way. So I buy Kleenex.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Leaving

I have a difficult time with saying goodbye. 18 years ago, I had an evening to say goodbye to my closest friends. It was one of the hardest days of my life. Lebanon had come to take a very special place in my heart and the sudden uprooting due to family circumstances created a fear of leaving that stayed with me through the years.

Tonight, a dear friend texted me from the airport. About to board a last-minute flight, they were saying goodbye. I'd been expecting to see them before they'd left as I too was about to take to the skies, though for much longer as they would be returning next week and I was leaving for a month. In January, when I'd left, I'd made sure to say goodbye to those who were close to me. It was part of the leaving ritual, I realized. Even though I was only gone for 10 days that time, I still had to see each person. I had to reassure my heart that if I didn't return, I would have said goodbye in a way that would allow closure.

As I realized I wouldn't have the chance to give them a hug goodbye, mumble all the usual Take care of yourself while I'm gone, Keep in touch, Yes I have my passport, that were usually exchanged on a sidewalk or at curbside drop off, or pray together for safe travels, the panic returned. A whole month was a very long time. Nearly five weeks. It seemed like a lifetime. Or like a lifetime ago.

I still have to remind myself that this is home now. When I leave, it's just for a short while, and then I will return. It's not half a lifetime ago, I'm not leaving behind everything that meant something to me to try and adapt in a world that often didn't make sense. I'm here.

They say home is about who you share life with more than a physical place. The more places I go and the older I become, the more I see value in this concept. Perhaps each goodbye has represented a leaving of someone who defined a piece of my home and to see them go meant I was now living in what was less than completeness.

Maybe this is the answer then. . .to the leaving or the staying.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Returning Comes Twice

Maybe this is part of the integration process on my journey, I explained to my mother after midnight on a Saturday evening, relying on the verbal cues to communicate as best I could as the frustratingly limited internet forbade me from seeing her face through a video chat. I'd been sharing a little of the emotions that had been coming to the surface in the past week or two, initiated by sparks of sudden memories which were oddly enough, not from here or from my past BC (before California). These memories were from the country I'd simultaneously despised and struggled to adapt to for nearly half my life. These were memories from California.

I'd spent 17 years in California resigning myself to unfulfilled yearnings when the sensory flashbacks would come. A smell of ketchup on kebab, a misplaced call to prayer, dancing lights on a runway, all evoked memories that no longer had a home to attach to so they floated in my mind, pulling me while even then knowing that I could no longer return. At least that is what I thought. Until I found myself on a plane heading for home.

Yes, I struggled with culture shock and adapting and proving wrong the assumption that just because I'd lived here before, it would be easy to fit back into the fabric of people's lives who had continued to thread colours into the empty spaces after I'd left and would now to have to find a place for me in whichever way felt most comfortable for them. At last the flashbacks would end, I assumed. After all, I was now home where the majority of these memories had been created.

I walked the campus I'd been as a teenager, solaced my heart with the reassurance that I wish I'd known all those years ago that I would be able to return, and began creating new memories. I spoke at a conference, sharing my life story in 6 minutes and 40 seconds, a coalescence of a lifetime of loss and love that made me who I was today. I blogged, I processed, and I decided that I was ready to leave behind my TCK label as the sole definition of who I was and assume a new identity that I was yet to completely unfold.

Then these memories began to come. I found myself emotional once more, wanting to visit such idiosyncratic places as the mall, favourite restaurants, or the local public library. The missing was not for the campus where we had lived for so long, but it was for the life I had created outside of that campus, escaping at least once a week for retail or food therapy, and through the repetitive finding the familiar. Now I was listening to Sara Groves Painting Pictures of Egypt and realizing she described my journey exactly.

Remember, you lived this life for 17 years, it is part of who you were, my mother gently reminded me. She understood the angst I felt at having to fold into who I was today the difficult years where we lived in fear of my father popping up unexpectedly or attempting to kidnap my baby brother, where we fought to keep a semblance of normality on a campus where spirituality had been twisted into a false religion, where our accents and ways of relating to life were just different enough to make us stand out but not enough to make us interesting.

As I listened to my mother, I realized that this too was part of my integration journey. Perhaps for the TCK, integration necessarily becomes the lifelong journey. Perhaps we can never completely leave behind who we are, or believe that the process of bringing together all the pieces is ever finished.  

And the places I long for the most are the places I have been. . .But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I've learned, those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned. . .

Friday, May 26, 2017

Come Thou Fount

It was one of those days. A day when you just barely caught up to your breath and there was no time for thinking. Processing. A day when you smiled but the smile didn't reach the crinkles in the corner of your eye. A day when you were thankful for the small things because suddenly they became the big things. A day when you asked for that little bit extra grace to help you walk those extra five miles in aching feet. A day when you shook your heart's fist at a Father Who lived in the invisible. A day when you dug your finger deep into your palm to keep the tears still, frustrated that the pain from too-short nails wasn't stronger than the silent keening.

It was one of those nights. Except this night was a little more intense than the others. He'd had nights like this before. When He'd escaped the crowds that had pushed around Him, jostling for a chance to be close but not knowing why, though they felt the inescapable attraction that drew them near. He loved each person dearly, whether they knew Who He was or simply saw Him as another novelty to gawk at. Yet He needed to find strength to meet their needs and having limited His power by choice, He retreated in the blackness to reconnect with the One Who freely filled His heart. 

His friends didn't understand why He chose to spend a night praying instead of sleeping. "Don't You feel tired in the morning?" they queried, confused as to His priorities. Long trudges through village after village, or standing in the desert heat, wearied them physically and at night their eyes often closed before their bodies relaxed in sleep. Yet He treasured those quiet hours when He would pour out His heart and feel the power revive His body that was not wearied physically as much as emotionally. 

See, He was an emotional Person. That was another part of His being that His friends couldn't quite connect with. Most of them were simple fishermen whose experiences were set in a night on a boat. Sure, they felt emotion, but they weren't emotional. He cried when Lazarus was in the tomb. He cried when He saw Jerusalem and envisioned its destruction. Now He cried again. Yet this grief was of such intensity it was almost hard to breathe. And as He cried, His friends slept. 

It didn't matter as much the other nights. He preferred to be alone with His Father so, as His friends snored deeply, He knelt under the stars and lifted His hands and eyes up to heaven in a gesture to connect closer to the One He desperately needed and quietly missed. Tonight, though. Tonight He felt a deep need for their prayers. For their presence. Yes, He was God but He was also Man. Vulnerable in sorrow. Aching in grief. Questioning in loneliness. He knew rationally that His Father was close by but in this moment He could not see and longed for reassurance through those who knew Him best here on this earth. 

Even His three closest friends were oblivious to His pain. The three He'd brought into more confidences, spent more time counseling with, and entrusted with responsibility succumbed to sleep not once but twice. He faced the future-altering decision alone. Anguish, distress, and grief pressed down heavily on One Who had done no wrong but now must assume all the wrongs every committed or still to tear His Father's heart through thousands of years. 

In His time of deepest need, Jesus turned to find all had failed Him. When He looked for support, there was none. Though we know the end of the story, and that an angel came from heaven to give Him strength, this part of the story is one that isn't often spoken of. Jesus needed community. He needed to be close to those who could speak encouragement to His heart.

Somehow this is encouraging to me, particularly on days like today. I am finding myself in that limbo-land once again as I prepare emotionally for my soon-departure. Unlike the four we had a farewell for today, I plan to return within the month so it is not a goodbye of finality. Yet each time I step onto a plane that takes me from my heart-home, I shiver inside at the thought that something unexpected could happen and I would not be able to return. Just like before. Except before it was planned and I was supposed to be happy about it.

As I process the tension of emotions, from grief that I must leave to relief that I can have a long vacation to longing for my family to unresolved bitterness with the place my mother still lives at, I think about how very much I identify with Jesus' experience in those oppressive hours. I don't mean the decision to take our place. I mean the very real need to be with loved ones who He could see.

I sat alone in vespers tonight. The closing song, #626, brought a flood of memories back as the congregation sang In a Little While We're Going Home. I was back in my Opa and Oma's previous apartment, my Opa jubilantly pedaling away on the organ as he played and sang while we provided the accompaniment to his enthusiastic singing. It was 2004 and we didn't know if we'd be going back home, to the home we now knew in the US. Ironic, then, that now I was singing it and preparing to return to the US for holiday whilst once again pleading silently with my Father to let me come back again. Same song, different stanza.

My friends left after vespers, their little ones ready to go to sleep, and I texted them saying I was going to bed early. I was tired and it had been a long day. It was true but I was missing out on Friday evening tea with snacks, laughing around the dining room table. Instead I retreated to my room, then slipped into comfortable clothes, black suede flip flops that exposed my freshly painted black-red toenails, and headed to the parking lot to walk.

I was texting a friend, having a casual conversation about the day, when I invited them to join me walking. They fell silent and I didn't ask again. Pushing the ear buds further into my ears, I listened to a favourite mix from Women of Faith even as I wondered whether I would always feel this way. Then a young man walking by stopped me.

He was one of the students on campus, a quiet guy, who faithfully did his work and went to classes but didn't draw much attention to himself. He'd asked me to pray for him several months ago, and I had for that week, but figuring his prayer was answered, I'd moved on to pray for other items on my list. Tonight, though, after small talk, he asked again for prayer. With some emotion, he shared his need for daily prayer as he tried his best to follow God. I reassured him I would keep him in my prayers and then I asked if I could pray for him right there. He quickly agreed.

I never thought of myself as much of a praying type of person. Yes, I pray privately, but whenever I was asked to pray in public or with a friend or two, my prayers tended to feel canned and lifeless, as if I was reciting one from a prayer book. I hated being second or even last in a prayer group because by the time it got to me, the others would have already covered all the highlights and I would be fumbling to find something of substance to pray for. Yet in the last couple of weeks, God has been drawing me into prayer as, whether praying for friends or being prayed for, I am beginning to see the community found in prayer is as precious as the community in every day connection.

After I finished praying for my friend and he carried on his way, I realized that God had answered a previous prayer in a very meaningful way. I had asked Him to clearly show me that He had a long-term plan for me here. I needed some sort of indication that my life had purpose, meaning, and a mission. Otherwise, I figured, I might as well return to the US and sink into a life devoid of joy but following the responsible career path that a single woman as the eldest daughter of a single parent should do.

In asking for prayer, my friend showed me that I was someone he trusted enough that he could ask for prayer from. And in those couple of minutes, as our heads were bowed and we earnestly approached God, I realized that prayer was a ministry I could embrace and engage in with my whole heart. I had a purpose--to be available when someone needed prayer. I had meaning--to intercede with sincerity and conviction. I had a mission--to pray.

Yes, it was one of those days. A day when God hid behind the thick fog of the morning, peeking out in a stunning sunset, then withdrawing once more as the melancholy of solitude swept in. Yet it was also a day when God turned all my expectations upside down and replaced them with a knowing that surpasses man's greatest intellect of today. He brought someone to me who was struggling to see Him, and in prayer we both saw the heart of One who cares immeasurably for us. Thank God for one of those days.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

And I Am Not Lost Anymore

How are you doing? Do you need a job? There's openings for academic records personnel, graduate enrollment coordinators, etc. 

I stared at my phone's screen, the email from my graduate program's advisor staring back at me. It was a face-off and I wasn't sure who was going to win. Sure, he'd sent me links to apply to before, he'd recommended me for positions within the department, or departments he had connections with. I'd even been flown in and put up for the weekend when short-listed for assistant registrar three years ago and then put back on the short-list for a similar position in distance education just before I came out here.

Now I was settling in to life in Beirut, Lebanon. I had a good job with a variety of tasks so I was never bored, an excellent boss who valued my work and my opinions, dear friends who brought such joy to my life, a wonderful church family where I felt like I fit in, a cozy little room that had just enough room for all my things, and the most stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea just out my front door. Life was good. Not perfect, but good.

Then the email came.

In the past, I would have sent back a quick Thank you for thinking of me but I'm happily settled here email as I had done a couple of times before. Now, like that second thought of an old boyfriend who was never right but you couldn't quite shake, or that second glance that leads to the second slice of cake you know you shouldn't be eating at midnight, the doubt began to creep in. Maybe this was a sign. Maybe I should apply and see if doors opened. True, I had a life I was happy with here but there were still some things missing and maybe if I moved back to the US I would find those.

Every time I closed and locked the door to my studio-apartment-sized bedroom with ensuite bathroom in the past 15 months, I sent up a silent prayer. Please God, let me come back. Each time the plane lowered itself down to touch Lebanese soil just after gliding over the sea, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was home again. So why the angst at a suggestion, a hint, that is entirely my choice to ignore, delete, pretend it never existed?

Perhaps it's because I still feel that weight of responsibility weighing heavily on my shoulders. True, here I am serving on sacrificial wages, particularly when compared to what I could make if I were to work in the US in a position comparable to my level of education. Yet I don't think about that. For me, being here is being home, so I'm just happy to have a job that allows me to stay and pay for my expenses while saving up a little for the future. The question still nags though. Am I being responsible enough? Should I be working a job where I could save five times as much so I could buy a house for my mother far sooner?

A job in the US would mean financial stability, a hefty retirement package, being closer to my mother, the increased possibility to marry an American, and a recognized job within the SDA system at my alma mater. The campus has a large international body, the employees are kind and intellectual, and I could start working on my doctoral degree, taking one free class every semester. But would this bring my heart joy?

I'll admit, there have been many days recently where life hasn't been as easy as it was in the fall. I've started to see the cracks in the makeup, started to see my days slip into weeks too full of administrative responsibilities and too few chances for service, started to realize that life is mostly made up of the mundane and it's not possible to keep up a constant round of activities and excitement. The joy seems to have shrunk, like a teenage boy's polyester t-shirt accidentally mixed in with the hot wash.

Even in the swirl of this, though, there is still hope. There has to be. Hope that the deep joy will once more fill my heart so that I cannot even breathe in anticipation of tomorrows. I catch glimpses of it and for now, that is enough to keep me going.

Should I apply? I picture myself, trudging through snowfall up to my waist, sitting in an office where day after day I must look at the same paperwork, then returning home to a small apartment filled with books but devoid of memories. Suddenly I know why I must stay. This country is the keeper of my memories, the sacred trust of who I was, and for the past 15 months, who I am today. Lebanon is slowly bringing together my two identities, while helping me forgive the years lost between. I cannot pick up and move now. It would be disrespectful to the process, shattering the puzzle before I had even built the border around it.

Tomorrow I'll send a little email to my advisor. I'll thank him for his consideration and remind him that I've accepted a position here. But I won't say what's really the reason I'm still here. I need to be here to feel fully alive, fully at home, and fully at peace. This is why I stay.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Wings of the Morning

I woke up this morning with the words of the song God Hears My Prayer in my head. It was a song that Rachel had taught us one summer when we had a little choir and ever after, the tune had drifted into a corner of my mind and refused to leave, just like the other encouraging choir songs we'd learned in college. I left for work rather hurriedly, trying my best to make it in time for worship. I arrived just before 8 but after I unlocked my door, my boss had a couple of things to share so I managed to slip in to the conference room just in time to hear the last part of the devotional thought. Then, because I rarely joined them, my colleagues asked me to pray, so I did.

I returned to my office, flipped open my laptop, and quickly typed in my password. My mind began to scramble as I reached for a bottle of water. There were too many deadlines looming all at once and I was worried about getting everything done on time. Someone came asking for a letter they'd emailed me about the day before. I hadn't managed to type it up yet, as I had to wait for verification from another person first. My boss promised I would get it to them before noon. Someone else emailed me with a project that needed to be done that afternoon and when I replied, saying I wouldn't be able to get to it before the next day, they insisted, saying it had already been delegated to me. This was how the first hour went, until the office was quiet.

I hurried downstairs to the women's restroom, locked myself in the farthest stall, closed the toilet lid, sat down on top of it, and cried. I couldn't handle all of this. It was too much.

When you first get to know me, you may assume that I'm an open person who easily shares her burdens and joys with others. While I will get into debates about hot topics, or gripe about how I haven't had a chance to do my laundry because the washing machines have been full every time I passed by them, I don't as easily share personal things. I will talk about things that others can relate to, that are disconnected from my deepest heart, but I will not be vulnerable. I have to know that I can trust you first and that trust can take years to earn.

I hate getting emotional in public because as a woman, I am automatically stigmatized and any words that may accompany the tears are dismissively seen as PMSing or not based in logic. So I keep my emotions to myself, try really hard to be positive and kind, and if I have nothing nice to say then I try not to say anything at all in order to avoid conflict.

I realized, sitting there in that bathroom stall, that I needed prayer. I looked through my phone contacts, wondering who I could ask. My family was fast asleep in another time zone, my sister busy at work. I sent them a message but knew they likely wouldn't read it for several hours and I needed prayer now. Finally, I settled on one name. I knew he prayed, it was part of his vocation after all, so I sent him a couple of lines, saying I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at work and would appreciate a prayer if he thought of it. Then I promised to pray for him in his work that day. He replied right away, which was somewhat unusual for him as he often wouldn't see my texts for some time, and said he would pray.

I left the bathroom and returned to my office. Less than 10 minutes later, I realized that I no longer felt like bursting into tears but felt calm and at peace. Did prayer really work that fast? I wondered. Later that morning, after a chat with a good friend and colleague, I asked if I could pray for her in an upcoming transition and she agreed. When the prayer was over, my heart felt full.

In the afternoon committee, I was asked to pray. Being the recording secretary, I don't usually speak, but I had yet another opportunity to pray. Miraculously, the committee finished early and I had just enough time to do two loads of laundry before hopping in my friends' car to head down the hill to our Arabic church for Week of Prayer. My family sent me encouraging text messages as they started their day and then an email came through from AVS. I stopped and looked at my screen, amazed at how perfect God's timing was. The email was titled Praying for you today.

The last time Andrea had sent me a little email reminding me that the AVS staff were praying for me was February 28 so it had been nearly 3 months since my name was on the rotation for prayer. Andrea said they were praying for me and then said May this be a reminder that His love is constant, and He is always with you as you serve Him in Lebanon. She included Psalm 139:9-10 and Hosea 12:6 in the email and closed as she always did by asking me to let her know if I had any specific prayer requests.

Live as if your prayers are already answered. I struggle a lot with believing God answers prayer. It's really quite ridiculous, because I have some very tangible examples of how God has answered my specific prayers. I can say with certainty that every day I've been here in Lebanon, God has been close to me and pursued my heart by personalizing special moments just for me. His heart's intent towards me is only good--I know this logically but am struggling to feel it emotionally.

There are glimpses, though, like today when I feel His love especially close. Today, I had seven different encounters with prayer. I prayed for worship, my friend prayed for me, I prayed with another friend, I prayed for the committee, I went to week of prayer, my family prayed for me, and AVS prayed for me. Truly, God was sustaining me and holding me up through those prayers today.


If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me. . .Wait for your God, and don't give up on Him--ever!

I'm not a front-lines missionary, I'm not giving evangelistic meetings to thousands, and I'm not running a school for refugee children. I'm leading out in song service during Sabbath School, when only 10 people show up. I'm bouncing a 15-month old on my lap to give a pregnant mother a few moments rest. I'm sitting through an hour-long sermon in Arabic and smiling and nodding at the visitors afterwards because it's all I can do to communicate in a language I don't understand. I'm staying up late to edit a student's paper so they can do well in their class. I'm sending an encouraging email to someone I've never met, thanking them for their prayers and reminding them of how important their work is to strengthen and support others. But these are just simple offerings. They are not grand, they are only a widow's mite. Yet somehow I hope God will bless these efforts just as the prayers multiplied to wrap me in comfort today.

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

To Find Home In

I didn't get a chance to call home this weekend. I think in a way, that is the hardest part about being away from home. It's knowing that I can connect but finding that the reality is I can't connect as much as I would like. Sure, we have a family chat where we share photos and jokes, ask questions, plan family vacations between three continents, or just keep each other updated throughout the day. But it's not the same as being in the same room as each other. A video call is a poor substitute but at least I can hear voices and see facial expressions. When I can't have even that, I struggle.

The streaming quality here somehow manages to let me watch episode after episode of Masterchef but can't handle a video call properly. Usually I'm left peering at a screen where my mother's face has frozen in a strange position, or I'm trying to decipher a sentence out of the disjointed syllables and partial words that have jerkily filtered across the airwaves. Occasionally, and then often only briefly, I will see them crystal clear and it's then that I study their faces intently, memorizing, and wishing they were closer so I could feel happy that I was with them.

My sister had other priorities on Sunday and my mother's laptop was on silent, as usual, so she missed my messages til it was too late and I had given up and gone to bed. Last week I'd talked to my mom and brother and it had been two and a half weeks since I'd spoken to my sister. I realized that perhaps this was part of life, the slow separation as we each lived our lives, but I wasn't ready for it. I needed to stay connected.

I know why the ache is so strong. It's because my mother, my brother, and my sister are still the world to me. No one has taken a parallel place in my heart until now so I find my home in them.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

To Be Home

5 weeks till I go home. I use the term rather loosely, when asked the other day where home was, I said it was here, because I was here. I've called my best friend's house home, even though I don't live there, but I spend more time there than in my little room. Home is my aunt and uncle's place in Apeldoorn, if I'm visiting them. Home is a very fluid term, usually tied to where I and my passport reside.

Yet as I look forward to going home, or the place where my mother and brother live, I am also struggling not to focus on 9 weeks from now. It is then that I'll be leaving home. Leaving to return home, paradoxical as that may seem. I can almost anticipate what it will be like, a short night, all my souvenirs carefully packed and ready to go, rushing out the front door of North Hall, and then driving the empty early morning streets to the airport whilst praying earnestly, Please let me come back home. It's a prayer I pray every time I leave. Somehow the memory of 18 years ago still hasn't resolved itself with the reality that I am here and here is home now.

I watched a short CBC clip the other day. I don't often watch 5+ minute clips all the way through when I'm scrolling through Facebook, as my attention and patience span are limited. This one, though, had me in tears. The one phrase I heard held my heart. She's my home. A young couple, deeply in love, from opposite sides of the continent. He had found his home in her.

It's something I dream of, when I find myself restless, rootless, and uncertain whether I can stay in this country or that. The worlds where I am permitted to reside without question or visas are foreign to me. The places I find myself feeling at home query why I should feel such a strong attachment to them when they never claimed me as their own. It's the conundrum the TCK-grown-up must always face. Yet perhaps one day I too, will be able to find my home in the heart of one who understands I no longer need to travel to be home.

Friday, April 28, 2017

I Am Willing

Someone asked me today, Did you lose your job in the job axing? I looked at the email in disbelief, shocked that someone I considered a good friend would ask me that question. I tried to attribute it to their concern for my well-being but failed to convince myself. It felt more like an implication that I wasn't able to perform well enough therefore my position had been eliminated.

There have been some cuts that were recently announced but they were primarily due to financial reasons as the institution where I work is struggling with enrollment being down, which leads to reduced tuition income. It's not surprising, considering enrollment is down nationwide by 20% and even the larger universities that are well established are feeling the financial pinch. The responsibilities will be distributed among the current employees and I too will be adding to my work load. I worry sometimes whether I will be able to handle it all, as my days are already full and sometimes it feels like I am just treading to catch a breath of air, but I prefer to be busy than bored and I have confidence that God will help me to handle it.

A new employee to the campus looked at me the other day, when they were visiting a mutual friend whose house I was at also, and evaluated me as conservative and highly sensitive. I laughed, as they had arrived at a precise description of who I was--and without knowing me that well either. I've been sensitive since I was a child, often being reprimanded by a parent for being too sensitive and bursting into tears at perceived slights. Perhaps this sensitivity is what I carry into innocuous questions such as the one that was asked.

I've been officially in the workplace for a little over 11 years now though I began working as a student 18 years ago, so I bring a number of years of experience. During this time, I was never let go. As a student, I quickly became a highly valued worker who could choose where to work, running the library by myself in the summer when the head librarian was on holiday, and receiving certificates of achievement in the workplace that also included cash awards.

When I began to work as a full-time employee, I was diligent and conscientious. Only once did I face the threat of losing my job, when an incoming new supervisor re-interviewed me for my position. While none of the other continuing employees were re-interviewed, I realized that I was due to a clash of personalities. It led to me later resigning from that position, being the first but not the last as a new face filled that position every year for the next 5 years. God kept me in that position when I needed it for my visa's sake and then He found me another position at the right time.

Arriving here, I began by volunteering in a department doing a job that, had my college professor known about, would have made her laugh as I had gotten a C in my Journalism class and now I was reporting on events. Several months later, though, I transitioned into a role that allowed me to keep writing on the side but better suited my abilities, background, and academic training. I began to see a long-term future and asked if there was employment available.

Once again, God worked out the logistics, as the approval for full-time employment upon completion of my volunteer contract was given four months prior to the contract ending. This came three months before there was a hiring freeze. Then my application for some legal paperwork to facilitate staying as a missionary long-term was approved in 3 months instead of 6--yet another clear indicator that God had a serious plan for me here.

This is what I return to when I face uncertainty and insecurities of whether I made the right decision to stay. I know in my heart I did, but there have been several weeks of questioning my purpose and goals in life. I have a difficult time living in the US, as the culture evades me, but I keep returning to the question of whether I should be working there in a high-salaried job so I can earn money for a house to stabilize my future. Then the idea comes of moving back to Europe where I was rooted through citizenship, though I do not speak the language and haven't adopted the cultural traditions.

My mother used to tell me, I'll move on from here when God clearly shows me that it's time to move. She's been working for the same company for 18+ years now so God hasn't show her yet that it is time to move. Each time I shifted position within the institution I worked at for 17 years, I knew without a doubt that God was taking me there. Coming here, once again I felt that peace of certainty that I was in God's will.

So why the restlessness? Why the worry that if this person was asking such a question, there could possibly be some basis to it? How do I ground my feet so they don't pick up and go without me? Perhaps I'm coming to the crucial stage that every TCK fears when they move somewhere. Perhaps this is the rooting time. Perhaps now those roots are beginning to ground themselves firmly in the soil of everyday life, the mundane, while simultaneously spreading into others' hearts so we become interconnected.

This thing, this rootedness, is what will change me and I need to be ready for that reality. And I need to do so in the knowledge that regardless of what other people may assume, I am exactly where God wants me to be and doing what He has asked me to do. This is my life and this will be my reality until He clearly shows me otherwise.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

There

I knew there was culture shock going from country to country when it was a significant move. I didn't think it would hit this strong, though, after visiting a country I'd never lived in for just 5 short days. I'd like to blame it on a bad cold, my friends gone because it's Easter vacation, and too much to do, but I think I cannot. I think I really am experiencing a good old fashioned case of culture shock and I'm not happy about it one bit.

I booked a ticket to Austria a couple of months ago when fares were cheap and I knew my cousin and family were going to be around (the last time they were headed off for a weekend camping and hiking in the mountains with their church and that wasn't my idea of a holiday so I'd ended up not going). Splurging a little, I also booked tickets to a concert in Vienna and a Bavarian Salt Mines/Sound of Music combo tour in Salzburg, along with booking a nice little hotel in Lengfelden just outside Salzburg for the two days I would be staying there before heading back to Lebanon.

Bright and early on a Friday morning, after just two hours of sleep, I stepped into a shared cab, my arms filled with a stiff package that contained a wedding dress. Not mine, but for a Syrian woman who lived in Vienna. I was the courier, bringing it from her relatives, along with all the accoutrements that accompanied such a beautiful dress that was resplendent with tulle. I managed to get all said items through the various check points until the final security screening just before the gates.

It was then that some alert young fellow, awake so early in the morning, decided that the 6 feet of wiring that was carefully wrapped between the folds of the stiff skirt was not allowed on board. Perhaps it was seen as some sort of weapon, I don't know, but the poor young man's minimal English and my non-existent Arabic didn't help to resolve the problem.He went first to one colleague and then another, asking their opinion. I hastily brought up a picture of a wedding dress hoop skirt to show them what the wiring was for, to which they glanced at uncomfortably and resumed their discussion. A woman, re-dressing after security, shrugged her shoulders and wished me good luck.

Finally, the young man told me I would have to go all the way back through the 4 security and immigration check points to the front of the airport and check in the offending wire. He suggested I check the entire wedding dress, which was stuffed into an oversized khaki garment bag, but I decided to put it inside my backpack and check that instead. Then I looked at my ticket. Boarding time was in 5 minutes and there was no way I was going to make my flight if I had to go through all that hoopla. Plus, I'd already checked a bag and it was on my flight. I showed him my ticket. A more senior officer showed up just then and when asked what to do, shrugged nonchalantly, giving the okay for me to proceed to my gate, wire and all. I thanked the young man profusely.

Several hours later, the pastor of one of the Viennese churches was collecting the wedding dress from me at my cousin's house. I spent the first three days of my holiday with my cousin and family, thoroughly enjoying the culture, getting to know their vivacious kids, and drinking in the Viennese countryside. I was disappointed that the Danube wasn't really blue or beautiful, for that matter, and Vienna's industrialization was a bit much, but downtown more than made up for it with its opulence of architecture.

All too soon, I'd boarded a train for my second destination and slept most of the way to Salzburg. There I slid down wooden chutes, sang How do you solve a problem like Maria, dutifully ate the requisite apple strudel, and lost myself for a few blissful moments among storefronts that belonged in a museum. Reality had to catch up with me, though, and Tuesday morning found me on a train back to Vienna to catch my flights to Istanbul and beyond. Austria had been wonderful but it was time to go back home. At least that is what I thought.

I was at the beginning of a horrid cold so my trip was split between drinking green tea and sleeping, as I stumbled between gates and tried to find something reasonable to eat in the airports. As the plane descended over Beirut's night lights, I felt anticipation at my return. The drive home on now-familiar streets brought a huge smile to my face and I didn't even mind lugging my bags up the two flights of stairs to my room. I was happy to be home. I thought.

I'm on the tail end of the cold now, so just about back to feeling normal physically. Yet I find myself strangely unbalanced emotionally. I'm not sure why and it's somewhat discombobulating. It's strange to find myself wishing to return to Austria, Salzburg in particular, or even California, which I never wanted to feel homesick for. I can't place the reason, or even quite the feeling.

I'm tired of dusty grocery stores where I can't find what I need. I'm tired of driving down streets so congested, I can't find a place to park or turn where I need to. I'm tired of picking through a bin of aubergines to find just one that isn't soft and then being charged the wrong price when it's being weighed. I'm tired of cooking at a friend's house and trying to gauge how much I'll need for the coming week, though I'm thankful they let me cook there. I'm tired of waiting for the washing machines to be free so I can do my laundry, while making sure I have enough pegs and it isn't a wet rainy day so my laundry will dry properly. I'm tired of feeling stuck on a campus, but not sure where to do, who to go with, or how to get there if I were to find something interesting to do. I want a car, or easy public transportation that's cheap and clean. I want a grocery store that has everything in one place and in English, so I know what I'm buying. I want a washing machine that isn't full of someone else's balls of hair or lint.

I feel somewhat guilty writing this. After all, there are people who can't see colour, so they've never seen a beautiful sunset. There are people who can't hear, so they've never heard the voice of their loved ones. There are people who die every day from starvation, who struggle to get ahead because they were born into poverty, who live in war-marked countries and never know if the next bomb will be their last breath. I don't have any of those problems. I just have a bad case of culture shock and home sickness, though for what home I am completely uncertain. Perhaps for now, it's simply not this home. Though I thought, when I came, it would be forever, now that pronouncement is not quite as solemn as it was then.

I'm not exactly sure what to do. I guess I'll call home, eat some comfort foods, hold my friends' twin baby boys close, and remind myself that when I was there, wherever there happened to be, I wasn't happy either. When I tally the total marks, here is still ahead. Perhaps for now, that will have to be enough. I hope so.