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! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

a year in review

Okay, so the title of this post may be a bit deceiving. I am not going to review the entirety of 2012 in this post. Rather, I am going to reflect on my reading accomplishments for the year because, well, I love books. I have enjoyed reading as long as I can remember, and at the beginning of 2012, I compiled a reading list for the year. I determined that this time of my life might be the most suited to devouring the written word, and I want to take full advantage of it. I was not able to cross every book off my list this year, which may have partly been due to the fact that I continued to add new ones to the list or that reading about social work policies and theories absorbed far more of my reading time than I might have otherwise chosen. (To be fair, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the social work reading, but it wasn't exactly what one might call leisure reading...) So, because I know that many of my friends are always looking for some good books to read, I will share my book list of 2012 with you. Be forewarned, that I like an eclectic collection. These are in no particular order (not even the order in which I read them). I will highlight my favorites with an asterisk. You know, so you don't have to waste your time filtering through the boring ones...

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry*
2. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe*
4. Breaking Intimidation by John Bevere
5. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
7. Love Wins by Rob Bell
8. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle
9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins*
10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins*
11. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins*
12. Plan B by Anne Lamott*
13. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
14. Persian Girls by Nahid Rachlin
15. Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle
16. The Notice by Sean Chandler
17. One Day by David Nicholls
18. Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis*
19. The Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards
20. Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan
21. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows*
22. Where Am I Wearing by Kelsey Timmerman*
23. Secondhand Jesus by Glenn Packiam
24. Tell a Thousand Lies by Rasana Atreya
25. Nickel Plated by Aric Davis
26. Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
27. Lulu in the Sky by Loung Ung*
28. The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning*
29. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman*
30. Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Danae Yankoski

I am not sure that I read a "bad" book this year, so I would probably recommend every one of these books for different reasons. And, the best part of a "year in review" is that a whole new year of books and reading and learning is ahead! A good year it shall be!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

fairy tales

As a little girl I embraced the wonder of princesses. I liked pink and puffy skirts (when my mom would allow me to pick my own party dress) and clip-on earrings and fancy tiaras. I sang along with Snow White, knowing that someday my prince would come. I imagined pumpkins turning into chariots with Cinderella. I tried more than once to go on a magic carpet ride like Jasmine. I wondered what it would be like to fall in love with a beast in a castle with talking teacups.
But, none of that was real. I wanted it to be, but it just wasn’t.
I think that many little girls have grown up wanting to live inside these same fairy tales, to dress in beautiful ball gowns, to be sought after by Prince Charming. Unfortunately, most of us do not live in castles (even if we are only the servants) and we do not get invited to balls, some of us do not even get invited to prom.
But, sometimes reality is better than the best fairy tale one can imagine.
I am confident that I am living a real-life fairy tale. I am not sure how it happened, but I am sure that I do not deserve it. To be honest, I have wondered many times why it is all happening to me when there are so many amazing women in the world, many in my own life, who are completely worthy of such beauty and wonder. I do not know the reason why, but I am thankful. I am ridiculously blessed.
On Christmas morning in Paris on the steps of the Sacre Cour Cathedral, I became engaged to an amazing man. He is far better than any prince charming. He loves me well. He makes me a better woman, and he points me to Christ. He shattered my expectations and revealed something so much better. There is no one else with whom I would rather spend the rest of my days.
We met in Cambodia in June 2010 at a mutual friend’s birthday party. He had been in the country for just a few days, and I was preparing to leave in just a few days. He returned to the US, and I returned to Cambodia. A few months later, we began emailing back and forth, which started as somewhat professional correspondence then turned to friendly notes. Unbeknownst to the other, we planned simultaneous trips to Le Rucher, a retreat center in the French Alps, in the fall of 2011. He was spending the autumn volunteering, and I was planning to go through a de-briefing session prior to a brief furlough in the US. Shortly after both of our plans were solidified, we discovered that our trips were going to coincide. We were both hopeful but unsure of what that time could mean. While in France together, we spent hours chatting, watched The Sound of Music and Nacho Libre (save your judgment, please), explored Geneva, shared dinner and wine, and he mourned with me when I learned that my Grandpa had passed away. He took me to the train station and prayed with me. Then, we emailed nearly daily for the next several weeks while he remained in France and I returned to the US. We planned to meet for a day in December when I would be visiting my brother and his family in Tennessee and he could drive the few hours from his family’s home in Georgia. The day ended with hugs and huge heartaches. In January 2012 I returned to Cambodia with a heavy heart. He remained in Georgia with a hurt of his own. After a long couple of months that include a lot of prayer, a few random phone calls, a painfully honest letter, a couple important conversations with good friends, we decided that while the situation was not either of our ideals or something we knew what to do with, we would give it a shot. Thanks to emails, Skype, Facetime, gmail’s 1 cent/minute calling rates, and a lot of patience and intentionality, we have spent hours upon hours falling in love with each other over the last several months. We spent a great week together in Indiana in June with my family. We had an amazing 2 weeks together in Cambodia in August and September. We had a better-than-fairy-tale time together in Paris and Edinburgh for Christmas and New Year’s. And, we have the most wonderful future ahead of us…happily ever after will simply not be sufficient.
I love you, Adam.