A year ago today I hugged my friends goodbye and wove through hordes of people at the Phnom Penh International Airport with three bags of luggage and two carry-ons. I took about eleven steps towards the front door and began crying. Thick, hot tears streamed down my face, splashing onto my glasses and it took everything in me to keep walking and not look back. When I got to the ticket counter, the woman behind the computer looked up and her face was concerned and confused, and through my crying I told her that, yes, I know I’m only allowed two checked bags unless I pay for the third, and no, I don’t mind paying the third bag and an overweight baggage fee. Just give me my freaking ticket and point me to my gate, please.
I sat in that terminal for what felt like hours, crying and sniffling and second guessing my decisions and going over the last nine months in my head, every bit that I could remember. What could have been better? What should I have done differently? Would it have mattered? Do I really have to get on this plane? I should text Lily and Hannah and tell them that I miss them already. What if I had done that instead? What if I had chosen my words better? What if, what if, what if.
My mind reeled, and my eyes were red and puffy, and my face was blotchy and I was just one big hot mess.
Boarding the plane and taking off wasn’t any easier. If you can imagine, it was the perfect movie scene: I sat in the window seat and stared out through the window, my hands on the glass as I cried and watched Cambodia get smaller, and smaller, and smaller, and eventually disappear beneath the clouds. I think the person five rows back could hear me sobbing uncontrollably.
If all this is news to you, you probably missed my blog on surrendering.
Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait.
Now that you’re caught up, let me back track a little bit.
The last year of my life has been the most difficult, beautiful, revealing, formative, and frustrating year of my life.
I slept on a mattress in the living room of my parents’ house.
I was jobless for 75% of the year.
I was friendless, or seemingly so, for half of it.
I was depressed, and bitter, and sad, and angry for most of it.
I “surrendered” emotion after emotion, memory after memory, desire after desire. It felt like I was giving up everything, being emptied of all of what had made me me over the last 23 years. Still, there was more to surrender.
God opened my eyes. Instead of thinking about how wronged I felt, God showed me how wrong I had been.
And He healed my heart, because instead of being bitter and angry about my time in Cambodia and how my expectations hadn’t been met, He showed me how I wasn’t always living up to my part of the deal and ways that I could have been better.
It was like the more I surrendered Cambodia to Him, the more healing I was able to receive, the more intimacy I was able to experience, and the more knowledge and wisdom I gained.
I spent a lot of time sitting on the edge of my bed staring at my feet last year. I didn’t have a job to go to in an effort to stuff all my feelings and issues away. I didn’t have many friends, for the first half of the year, so I didn’t really hang out with anyone.
My time was spent with me. Alone. In the quiet.
It was really sad, you guys.
But then somewhere around August or September, Jesus got a hold of my heart in a way that… I didn’t even know was possible.
I experienced Him in a way that was so completely foreign, that all I could do was surrender myself to Him. Surrender my Greek mindset of logic, surrender my heart to let Him work in it how He needed to, surrender my time so that He would have more of it.
The more I sought Jesus, the more I had a hunger for His Word, for His presence. He walked me into this intimate place and I finally realized what it meant to “come back to your First Love,” because I had come back to mine.
Since then, things have been on the up and up. I have a vision for my life, a dream that was planted and watered by the Lord. A little seed that I didn’t even know was there has started to bloom inside of me, and now I finally feel like I have a direction and a goal to work towards.
Jesus wouldn’t let me get through the rest of 2014 without one more major surrendering moment, and that’s when I felt prompted to move to Pittsburgh. In an effort of obedience that scared me, annoyed me a little bit, and excited me all at the same time, I started the process of getting rid of my stuff and packing up my car and saying goodbyes. I let go of the comforts of my home of 22 years, the relative closeness of all of the friends I’ve accumulated over the years, and the warmth of the sun for a house that wasn’t mine, a caretaker role (though I think I will always be unsure of what that actually looks like), a strange new city, and cold, wet snow (the absolute worst part of the whole thing).
Now I’m here. Sitting at the dining room table in my grandparent’s house. My grandmother is upstairs and has been all day. She is tired, and not feeling well, sleeping, and mourning the loss of my uncle as today would be his birthday.. My grandfather is sitting on the couch watching a football game, beer in hand. My uncle is cooking dinner. There are familiar noises and smells and people, but I am still out of my comfort zone.
This year, my word from the Lord as the theme for my year is “endurance.” I’ve seen the theme began to manifest in my life in a few different ways, but none that I am fully prepared to expound upon yet. The biggest one, which needs to be unfolded more and will always need to be constantly bathed in prayer, is my decision to return to school and work towards two master’s degrees. It will be an exciting year, because it started off exciting. Every bit of my 2015 so far has been exciting in some way or another. It’s also been a little bit sad in some ways. Bittersweet in others.
But this is a turnaround year, the year of the whirlwind. As long as I keep my focus on Jesus and remain in the eye of the storm, I know I will be well. Because God is good, and faithful, and kind, and loving, and generous, and He does more than I am able to ask or imagine, and I am thankful.
So that has been the last year of my life. One year after I left Cambodia, I left Florida and begin a new season in the coldest place I hope to never live in again. Seriously. Grandma said it gets in the negatives. My Florida blood cannot handle it.
Happy 2015, friends.