Monday, July 22, 2013


I have been pretty absent from the blogosphere lately. I could say that I have not had time to blog, but that would not be true. I could say that I have not had anything to write about, but that is not entirely accurate either.

The truth is that I have not written here because I am afraid. I do not consider myself a fearful person. I do not shy away from things new or risky. But, I do care about the reactions of people...

...and every darn thing I have wanted to write about in the past couple months is steeped with controversy. So, I have been sitting on my hands, afraid to say anything. I am not sure that simply "pleading the Fifth" has benefited me much in this scenario, but I have been feeling the need to play it safe.

In all the silence and the playing it safe, I have realized there are things that I am missing. I miss diversity. I miss heterogeneous communities. I miss multilingual meetings. I miss spice. I miss debate. I miss passion and intensity. I am not sure that I miss controversy, but I think I might be willing to take a stab at being a little bit more controversial.

Ultimately, I want to grow and change and become a more beautiful, more loving, more generous, more understanding person. And, I am realizing that engaging with controversy is one of the things that helps me become better.

Monday, May 27, 2013


In a pickle.

Okay, so maybe the last one is a little bit extreme. But, some days it feels pretty true.

I have been a bit absent from my blog over the past several weeks for a number of reasons, but largely, it has been a lack of words, a lack of being able to articulate life. And, I do not want to complain. I do not want to seem ungrateful. I do not want to seem selfish. I may be all of those things...but I don't want to be. So, I am going to make an attempt at trying to articulate what this transition has been like.

I left Cambodia nearly three months ago. I left my apartment, my moto, my familiar fruit sellers, my conversations with parking guards. I left the feeling of being constantly damp. I left morning agility runs through the streets. I left the smell of boiling rice pots. I left the sound of the egg man, the bread man, the ice cream man, and the recycling cart. I left the sweet taste of mangoes in the middle of the season. I left a whole lot of very dear friends. I left the ability to switch between languages mid-sentence.

Someone asked me just the other day if I was happy to be back from "over there." My honest response was, "It depends on the day." Because it does.

Some days it is great to drive in my car with the windows down and sun roof open. Some days it is nice to snuggle in a hoodie. Some days it is overwhelmingly exciting to be able to pick up my phone and call one of my best friends without navigating time zones. Some days it is nice to know that I will easily be able to speak with anyone I encounter. Some days it is really nice to run on sidewalks and trails and not worry about rogue motorbikes. And, everyday it is fun to know that there are new adventures ahead and that I get to enjoy them with Adam.

But, some days those things lose their luster.

I cannot go back to the way things were, and I do not want to do that.

Yet, this shift, this segue into what is next, this transition is difficult. I knew it would be. It did not catch me by surprise. It is not that kind of challenge, not the kind that comes in a gust and knocks you down.
Instead, it comes in waves of mourning. It comes in a random evening of lonely tears. It comes in a sudden longing for curry. It comes in a pang of hurt when you miss a friend's wedding. It comes in a deep desire for a resurrection of independence. It comes in a knowledge that no matter where you are in the world, you are missing something. It comes in a boring Friday night. It comes in a realization that it still says "lives in Phnom Penh" on your Facebook page...and changing that seems really you don't. It comes in being left out on both because I was gone and will be again soon...there because I am gone already. It comes in ripples. It comes in deluges.

But, the thing about transition is that it is temporary. Eventually, the transition ends. The dust settles. The open wounds heal. The pain subsides. The memories become sweeter.

So, I suppose I am just holding onto the hope that I will be both filled with grace and extended grace through this transition.

Monday, April 1, 2013


I was unprepared for a frozen hot chocolate this big, and thus, I was more than prepared to share it with one of my favorite people. I was equally unprepared for its utter deliciousness! Thanks, Serndipity 3!
I was unprepared for the awesomeness of Wicked...and for the silly exhaustion that jet lag plagued me with throughout the show...

I was unprepared for the beauty of the Brooklyn Bridge. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical of Laura's insistence about walking the bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan...she was most totally right! (I was also unprepared for how much I would love my iPhone and all of its capabilities...)
I was unprepared for the fun of gliding around Rockefeller's ice rink...ok, so maybe "gliding" is used pretty loosely. Perhaps, scooting or shuffling or stumbling would be more accurate...but hey, I only fell twice.

 I was unprepared for how much fun it would be and how much I would once again thank my God for this most amazing friend and the joy of getting to live and love life with her!
 I was unprepared for both the thrill and the pain of running in the cold. I was unprepared for the wind that induced tears...and then froze them to my face. I was unprepared for numb toes and a nose that ran faster than my feet.
 I was unprepared for the snow. It is supposed to be spring after all...
 I was unprepared for a lot of things. I tried to prepare myself, but there is only so much that one can prepare. It is simply not possible to be able to anticipate what will happen. I was prepared for transitioning to be difficult...and it has been in many ways that are difficult to articulate. I was prepared for many people to have no frame of reference for where I have been, for who I have become and am continuing to become. I was prepared to be asked questions I did not really want to answer...or did not know how to answer.
But, ultimately, I was and am unprepared for many things. I am unprepared, but I remain confident.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. ~ Romans 5:1-5

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

bare walls

The books have been taken off my shelves. The clothes have been removed from my closet. The photos have been taken off my walls. They are bare.
This morning I wanted to put my computer in my backpack only to realize I gave away my backpack. It isn't mine anymore.
I hosted a party yesterday and watched my friends trifle through my "giveaway boutique." I offered reviews on a variety of books. I encouraged my teacher friends to take all the random crafting supplies...because surely a teacher's craft cupboard is never full. I hovered near the bathroom-turned-dressing-room to offer opinions. I sent coloring books home with my friend's daughters.
And, I was glad.
As I have been sorting through the stuff that has accumulated over the past 3+ years, I have often wondered where it all came from and why I have held onto some of it so tightly. Sometimes saying good-bye is really difficult. Sometimes it is exciting because it means there is blessing and adventure ahead.
Several of my friends asked me if it was odd to watch them go through my stuff and try on clothes and shove books in their purses. And, it wasn't. It was fun! It was good to know that they were being blessed. I loved commentating about good books and knowing that they were going to be brought joy in reading them. I liked knowing that my clothes would be a blessing to someone else, and I realize how nice it can be to just have something different, even if it's not new, but that typically means money. I could have opted to sell my things, but I much preferred to watch the excited faces of friends enjoying things I have loved.
So, my walls are bare, but my heart is full.
I think that statement says a lot about how Cambodia has changed me in so many ways. These past few years have stripped my walls, emptied what I thought I knew, and unshelved so much stuff that was hindering me. But, my heart is full. Sometimes I am still tempted to look for my old, familiar backpack, but it isn't mine anymore...and the things I know I really need can't fit inside it anyway.

(Please note that this post should not be construed to mean that I will not have very carefully packed, very full suitcases traveling across the ocean with me...)

Friday, February 15, 2013

changing the world.

On November 26, 2009, my feet first touched the ground of Cambodia. At the time, I knew I was to be here for 6-ish months, and I had a secret hope that I would find my place, my niche, my corner of the world to transform.

Now, I have called this land home for over 3 years. I have bled here. I have shed tears here. I have sweated here...lots...and lots. But, I am not sure that I could ever say that this is my place or my niche or my corner of the world to transform.

As I am preparing to leave Cambodia, I generally get asked a similar series of questions. How long have you been here? What are you going to do when you go back to America? Do you think you will come back to Cambodia? And on the list goes...

But, one question has stopped me and really made me think and has made me keenly aware of how much I have grown and changed since being here.

Have you accomplished everything you wanted to here?

Ummm...what kind of question is that?!?! Of course not!!!

I came here to end sex trafficking. I came here to teach English. I came here to implement programs. I came here to love people. I came here to help develop this country. I came here with the greatest of ambitions. I came here to change the world.

What I found was that sex trafficking, or any kind of trafficking, is far more complex than any book or documentary can portray. What I found is that people are people wherever you go and should be treated as such. What I found is that I am a terrible English teacher...seriously. What I found is that designing or implementing or facilitating programs takes at least 2 or 3...or 4 times as long as you expect...and they often fail multiple times before they succeed. What I found is that development does not follow the structure that you think it will and sometimes the repercussions of development are devastating. What I found is that loving people takes more patience, more listening, and more waiting than I ever imagined. What I found is that the greatest of ambitions and intentions are not always helpful. What I found is that the world, or at least Cambodia, changed me.

So, when someone asks me if I accomplished everything that I wanted to here. I can respond with a resounding NO! I came to change the world, but in my efforts, in the process, I realized that was not really what needed to happen. Do I think Cambodia is a better place for having me here? I don't know. My best hope is that the times I have spent sitting on my friend's floor with her and playing with her daughters, the times I have spent praying with my friend and trying to figure out what it means to follow God, the times I have spent listening and trying to encourage are actually meaningful. But, while I am not sure Cambodia is any better off for having me, I am confident that Cambodia has made me better.

I am still determined to change the world. I have just given up on the ideal that doing so can be quantified or qualified or determined by a particular set of expectations or results. Changing the world starts with changing me, and just like the world, I am still in process...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


My fiance periodically informs me that I am a hippie.

I am okay with that.

While I am not a fan of tie-dye and do not condone the usage of hallucinogens, I do care deeply about life and love and people and the earth. I think life is meant to be lived, but I do not think that one person's life should ever be lived in a way that inhibits someone else's ability to live well. I think love--real, selfless, intentional love--could change the entire world. I think that people are beautiful and unique and valuable, regardless of color, culture, language, size, wealth, or any other silly "category" we assign them to. And, I like the earth.

I have been thinking much lately about how all of these ideals collide in my life and have shaped my perspective on faith. I think faith is holistic. I think faith has much more to do with ascribing to a set of beliefs or going through a set of rituals. For me, faith cannot be separated from any part of my life. My faith affects my relationships with people. My faith asks me to love more deeply and forgive more freely. My faith encourages me to wash my dishes promptly and keep my desk tidy. My faith forces me out of bed early in the morning to go for a run. My faith is why I eat less meat and more vegetables...because it is healthy for me and the environment. My faith compels me to genuinely get to know people and to be sincere in my interactions with them. My faith makes me give myself a pep talk about how it is completely and utterly inappropriate to take out my frustrations or disappointments on someone else...and then treat them with honor and respect instead. My faith quiets my soul when I feel like I am swimming in chaos. My faith leads me into the future and helps me learn from the past. My faith encompasses all things.

And, I am more than okay with that.

I also suppose that my hippie-esque qualities might also be reflected in the homemade granola on my shelf or my calloused, constantly bare feet...

No, I think those are actually reflective of my faith, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Sometimes I struggle to slow down, and occasionally (perhaps that this an understatement...) I expect more than is reasonable of myself. Over the past several months I have wondered more than once why I cannot seem to balance my life without feeling exhausted all the time. I mean, I want to think that it is completely reasonable to work part-time as a social work advisor, to study full-time for my MSW, to study Khmer a few hours a week, to maintain a long-distance relationship with my now fiance, to train for a half-marathon and maintain fitness, to cook (healthily) for myself and take care of my house, to maintain some semblance of a social life, to keep in touch with family and friends in the US, to be involved in 2 small groups and church, and to just keep my head above water in a country that is not my own.
That isn't too much to ask, is it?

As much as I wanted all of this to be reasonable for me, I have realized that it is not. That is difficult for me to admit. It is difficult because it feels like failure to me.
But, it is not failure. And, the reality is that I have been doing all of that for a year and survived. I made it through. And coming out on the other side of that year, I never, ever want to do it again because it is neither reasonable nor healthy.

So, this year the idea is slower...

And, to be honest, I think this might be equally as challenging as the manic year before it.
Well, because I struggle to sit through an entire feature length film without picking up my computer to send some emails or read some news while the movie plays.
Because I do crossword puzzles while I eat my lunch.
Because I take books with me to get my oil changed (It takes 10 minutes...tops.).
Because I make impossibly long "to do" lists ever day.
Because I fear being lazy.

And, it is for all of those reasons and many more that I know this year and the years that follow need to be slower, to be intentional and productive but slower, to be healthy and balanced but slower.

Healthy, balanced people are not lazy. These are not the people who are falling into ruin of which Proverbs speaks. These are the people who have learned to understand what it means to live in joy and abundance and contentment and with the One thing that matters.

"But the Lord said to her, 'My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42

Here's to a sloooooower 2013!