We will pack a mental picnic
for years before we go.
Some will say the sky’s the limit,
but we will answer: No,
the mind was made to travel.
So, too, indentured hearts,
and knitted fears unravel
with adventure in the dark.
- “Come Picnic on Mars”
It’s bewildering to feel how quickly America sinks right back in.
It’s almost as though Laos never happened.
I wish I wasn’t typing these words.
But they’re truthful words, and I can’t say anything but.
It seems odd that just 3 days ago (or is it 2? I’ve lost track of time), I was standing under an narrow eave next to my friend and his motorbike, shivering, laughing, waiting for the monsoon to pass.
A week ago, I was skipping barefoot between the three houses we shared. My new best friends, now safely tucked into their respective states and provinces. I miss them so much, it hurts.
A week ago, I was eating with my fingers and laughing over rotten fish sauce, and perching precariously on the backs of motorbikes.
Now I’m in America, smack in the middle of big box Sacramento. Wearing a new dress that falls above my knees. Wedged in between (with adequate personal space) people all with headphones plugged tightly in their ears. The sun is so bright. The air is so clear. The people are so tall and beautiful. I’m even wearing earrings.
Such a stark contrast, yet it feels like I hardly skipped a best. I’m using American money like it’s no big deal. In Laos, the money I spent today equates to approximately how much I’d use in 2-3 weeks. I’m driving my car at 70 MPH and changing lanes like your everyday California driver. I’m not smiling as much—it’s a bit of a bummer if you’re the only one who’s smiling.
It almost disturbs me that culture shock hasn’t happened in a greater way. I’m not falling into puddles of tears. I’m not gasping over price tags. I’m not slipping into Lao-speak.
I just miss it, you know? I miss the hugs and the smiles and the harsh bouncy language and the babies hugging my neck. I even miss the humidity. I just miss it all.
I’m here in the States and I’ll enjoy it and “be here” for as long as I’m here. But maybe, in the long term future, here is not my “here.” Does that make sense?
Maybe dusty, littered streets are my place.
Maybe weathered, leathered faces are my people.
Maybe in the past year, God showed me the rest of my life. Or at least a small part of it.
I don’t know. Maybe.
"God is neither hard hearted not soft minded. He is tough minded enough to transcend the world; He is tender hearted enough to live in it.
He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.”
It begins with this question: How can love be my language?
Because these are the moments that will count when my eyelids are wrinkled and my arms are weak:
Prolonged conversations when hearts are thudding over bared feelings and dreams.
Bumpy bus rides to places dusty and unfamiliar.
Drinking the rain.
Breathing in the soft scent of children who’ve fallen asleep with their arms wrapped around my neck.
Those brief and precious frames of life when everything is simpler and somehow realer than most of the rest of my life.
When everything makes more sense. When honesty, purpose, and action align and, for a moment, my eyes lose their shadows and focus in on what truly matters.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the things I likely will not dwell on in the end: Money and my resume.
If I think about it now, I don’t want anything more than I want love. Nothing is more important. I just want love. (Is that too radical?) I want it in all of me, tracing itself in my footsteps, on the people, and in the places I come to know throughout the rest of my life.
No matter who you are, where you live, what you look like, what you believe—I want you to feel and believe that I truly love you. And through that unmistakable love, I want you to know that Jesus loves you with the most gorgeous, the most perfect love.
I’m not there yet. Not even close.
My harshness with those closest to me. My impatience with the faultless. My quickness to defend. The way I dwell so relentlessly on my insecurities. How quickly I allow emotions to make the big decisions for me. All of these make me cringe in retrospect.
Despite this, here is yet another thing that matters more—
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
I’ve done a number on myself with my short life already. Layers upon layers of brittle hurt and anger, He’s painstakingly rubbed out from inside my skin. It’s a long, painful, two-steps-forward-one-step-back process, but the change is visible.
Hallelujah, for He is faithful. And someday, hopefully soon, I’ll learn to speak with the language of love.
like, 93% humidity, sweaty armpit hot,
and yet i’m all wrapped up in a sheet, from neck to toe, and the mosquitos are still managing to find a way to snuggle up to me. in three hours, i’ve got a bite on my butt and a bite on my thigh and a bite on my left pinky toe and a bite on my right heel and a bite on my right big toe.
it’s been at least six new bites a day.
whatever. i’m past the point of excessive complaining. i just want to say, i hate you mosquito. you useless creature that i’m too helpless to do anything about except pathetically say i hate you. BLAH. seriously. i hate you.
(thanks leah for being the inspiration for this rant.)
It was early in the morning, but he knew exactly what was happening in his chest and woke my mother to ask her to call an ambulance. Our telephone was in the living room, but before she could leave their bedroom to use it, he asked for something else. My father asked that the ambulance not use its siren.
Weeks later, when the fear of death had receded like some strange tide, my mother asked him about the siren. My father said simply that he worried it would have woken and frightened his three sleeping daughters. It is true that we were all light sleepers and that our farm was usually blanketed by the polite silence that comes from having no close neighbors, but what impossible kindness there was in my father’s request.
I have called it an act of kindness, which I think it was. It was considerate in a way I cannot begin to understand; generous in a way no one would expect, much less demand. Years later I still do not comprehend how in what very well might have been the final moments of his life, my father thought to ask for quiet so that his daughters might continue sleeping.
Kindness is like holding an ice cube in your hands. It stings, but then the cold dissolves; what at first you could barely hold becomes something you cannot let go. My father’s request for a quiet ambulance came from a man so familiar with kindness that the sting was completely gone: the ice was no longer cold, but one with the flesh.
Henry James, it turns out, was right.
Do your soul a favor and read Cep’s full essay.
hey andrew (andy? drew? a?). yep, still in laos. :) would you want to follow my other blog for pictures/updates, seeing as how i don’t have ig anymore? let me know, and i’ll give you the password.
i deactivated my fb a couple weeks ago and then made the decision to delete my pinterest/instagram/everything else this week. this devotion triggered the latter decision.
something that triggered all of this is that i’ve really been trying to fight pridefulness, and social media is definitely something that eggs pride/self on. i don’t want “self” in a form of something as trite as “like/follower/comment”-receiving to get in the way of what’s really important.
for example, i’m in southeast asia as a missionary with a million ways to serve God and the people here, yet sometimes i’d stay in my room for hours at a time, scrolling through facebook. the fact that social media is a huge time vacuum/ego booster is true anywhere in the world, but it just became more startling to me here. plus, people were really starting to get the wrong idea of the work i’m doing here, because my pictures were so smiley and seemed so vacation-y. i don’t want people to get the wrong idea of what mission work is—it’s hard and emotionally/spiritually/physically draining—and that wasn’t coming across on facebook.
so yeah, i guess i’m trying to hate social media too, haha. it’s a big part of my identity. it used to be a big part of my job description too. but even still, it’s never as necessary as you might think it is.
this is long. i’ll end it here. i hope you’re well! i enjoy your photos! i think you’re immensely talented! :)
bah! i didn’t mean to post it publicly, and i don’t think i can leave you a message this long on your “ask me anything” thingy. sorry! :(