I'm sitting in the airport in Hong Kong, waiting to fly to LAX in an hour! I will update on China and the last few weeks of the trip when I get home. For now, here's my latest Travel Writing story about seasons from the trip. :) Looking forward to coming home and continuing to process all that has happened in these past 4 months.
Growing as Children: Games and Revelations
It started out as a guessing game, similar to the endless rounds of I-Spy on a family road trip. I would take a guess, write it down, and hope for the best. It seems like just as long ago that I started to ponder the vast lessons of world travel. I expected to be changed, to have new experiences, to expand my perspective and to fly far away from my comfort zone.
After months of planning, I realized how completely unprepared I was to face the whole world with one backpack and nineteen textbooks. That morning came quickly, like a road sign that flashes by before you can read the words. That first airplane ride took me away from everything I knew. I remember it, a distant day. I was on a mission: to experience everything with new eyes.
Argentina: I am now an English-speaker and a Spanish-listener. I am a consumer. I want to take the perfect picture. I want to capture the experience in a single frame. It will be the experience I am supposed to have. Yet these first two weeks teach me I know very little about myself, and even less about those around me. I have 29 new acquaintances and am hesitant to share my life with these strangers. We share a common bond and our desires to learn and grow are the foundation for new friendships.
Russia: I have to take a second to check the road map. The GPS shouts contradictory directions at me in a British accent. I am confused and scared of what the future holds. I grasp for anything I can hold onto. A plan, I need a plan.
We pile into an old building, some speak too loudly. This place cannot hold us. I hide inside, wishing for more tact and a greater awareness. And so it is. I am changing. We cannot stay the same. Flowers, cold, wind bites, rain falls. These jackets and shoes are from another place. It was the wrong list. I resent it. But isn’t that a part of it all? Going beyond what I choose and control. We cannot stay the same. I fight it, yell inside that I won’t. Yet forcing me, I learn humility.
Egypt: Loss resonates and my mind plays it over and over. It is the longest van ride ever-from Cairo to Sinai. I resent it even more than the false packing list. Emotions run higher than the temperatures outside. Sand mixes with sweat and tears as we drive through the desert. It is a process of purification. Loss of material possessions has a cathartic effect on my heart. But I fight it the whole drive.
Eight hours later and I will myself to exit the van. We pour into the hostel, exhausted, spent. I cannot stay the same. I press on and climb a mountain. I beg God to reconnect with my heart, to fan the flame that had been choked by earthly desires. The Word is like water or breath or cold air in the hot desert. On the top of Mt. Sinai, I thank God for helping me endure.
Israel: We made it to the Promised Land. This is where Jesus walked. Sit and wait for the moment where your heart will change, as though willing the rain to come, the flower to bloom, the autumn leaf to fall. A frustration overshadows any other emotion. Why am I the same? Did not Jesus die so we would never be the same? I sing worship songs under my breath, in order to have a familiar context for these unfamiliar sites.
The day salvation was gifted to my heart is the day I refused to be the same person. I cannot stay the same.
Lifting my face to glory, I celebrate the loss of my self, my former life. The true self looks at Jesus, face to face. Don’t miss what I want to show you; don’t look around at the things you think you want. He speaks this to me.
Jesus asked, God, my God, Why have you forsaken me? When he could no longer see the Father, never was he more near. There is safety in suffering, affliction, death to self that He might reign in me. At our last breath we cling to the Father who is well-pleased to draw near, and promises such. At this point I realize that I am not the same.
Egypt: Woe to those who go back to Egypt for comfort: because there are no comforts in Egypt. It is not just a disclaimer, it is practical advice. There are no options but to sit on a sailboat for endless hours and pray to God. My heart is restless and I try to fill it but there is nothing around me but the Nile River, pita bread and flies. And so I pray, out of both boredom and out of necessity. It is a necessity, I realize. I cannot stay the same.
Kenya: I fear the whole continent of Africa-the place notorious for capturing missionary hearts for needy, orphaned children. So I come prepared. I plan the saving of Africa, of Kenya, to be exact. I make endless lists to save the children. Bullet points, color-coded, categorized. This structure is the only way I can protect myself from heartbreak. \
I come to realize that Africa is big. There are many needs and my highlighted lists cannot save anything, at least on their own. I leave feeling changed. Saddened that I cannot save the world, but emboldened to know that Christ can. I continue on, ambitious for India.
India: How did I get back to Egypt? I am back on this silly sailboat with nothing to do but endure the heat and pray. I am frustrated. I continually remind myself that I cannot stay the same. Part of me is still the same. I do not like being uncomfortable. But God, if that is where you are going, take me along too. If this suffering is producing something in me, do not remove me from this humid purification.
Indonesia: God, you captured my heart in Bali. Not through the green trees, rice fields or ocean breezes, but through a supernatural power. I can no longer operate on human abilities and man-made strategies for advancing the Kingdom. God’s pervasive presence has fallen on my heart, on my new heart. The earth is saturated with His presence. God pulls me in to experience more of his power and provision. I have been invited to encounter His divine existence in my daily life. I am made new, changed, purified and refined by fire.
China: Part of me would have been content to skip these last few weeks in China. But almost immediately, my heart warmed towards this place. I had two host families in my three weeks here; both were amazing and helped me learn more about Chinese culture. I taught English to 8th graders. The teacher told me, "I want to learn from you. I want to see how you teach students." Since I have never officially taught a class, this was an ironic challenge. The three weeks flew by, and God continued to soften my heart and surprise me by moving through me to impact others. I know the next step is to process and share all that has happened here. I look forward to this new challenge and I expect the intense impact to resonate into the future.
I am still guessing: I-Spy for grown-ups. Or, rather, for those who are growing up. I am a work in progress, refining my guesses, asking better questions to discover the true nature of God and his people. I have new eyes that are continually being refined to see more like God sees. It is the child’s hope for guessing well and knowing the Father’s heart. He is showing me that child-like wonder is more than a road trip game. It is the only constant theme in this quickly-passing scenery.