Tuesday, March 15, 2016

goodbye, NOE [part I]

4 years, 11 months, and 17 days ago I wrote, “I can already tell I will easily fall in love with this place, and that I am at peace.”

I’m sitting in the middle of suitcases and last-minute things waiting to be packed away that are sadly still strewn on the floor. And I cannot surrender my eyes to sleep until I find my way, in words.

March 23rd would mark five years of loving NOE, but in just a matter of hours I will be navigating the night with five suitcases and I’ll be leaving behind a trail of tears.

I feel like I started the grieving process a couple months ago, but at the same time, it felt like today would never get here.

I lived in the state of denial for days and I ignored the fact that goodbyes would come in rushing like a sudden tide and try to sweep me off my feet.

I didn’t want to feel too much, but I didn’t want to be overtaken at the last minute, either.

But. I’m here on the other side.

I’ve had my share of goodbyes and surprises; my heart is overwhelmed.

I knew God was up to something when He placed that book in my hands. I knew He was up to something, when my nervousness that first night in my pink room was replaced by an all-consuming peace. I knew He was up to something when my idea of perfection became pale in comparison to what He had in mind.

I knew all of this, but I never would have imagined what it would mean.

I never would have imagined that I would settle into a family of two sisters and a brother and feel at home in the unfamiliar. I never would have imagined the incredible tug on my heart that would cause me to love on my students as long, as I could. I never would have pictured holding a pair of house keys and the innumerable times I threw them out my window.

I came for three months.
I stayed for five years.

That is what happens when God shows up.

I thought I was out of my mind, but He knew that I wasn’t.
I thought I was a hopeless cause when it came to making simple conversations, but He saw something different.
I thought a few months served as a good distraction, but He said that a few years were worthy to be deemed a calling.
I thought that I would never be able to fully share my faith, but He gave me the courage to find my voice.
I thought I would never make it off the plane, but He gave me the courage to stay.

NOE loves:

Your letters are stowed away in my carry-on, because I don’t want to let our memories out of sight. Your words these past few days are embedded upon my heart, forever.

You are staying and I am leaving, but let me be honest and tell you, that I will never fully leave.
I will never fully leave, because with you God has given me the best years, a full heart, children, families, and a love.

There are no words to tell you the pain that comes with this goodbye. 
There are no words to tell you the impact that you have had upon my life.

I’ll spend days grieving your absence, but all the while I will still be grateful that God graced me with five years.

My words won’t end here, but daylight is coming soon…and with it means the last of goodbyes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Talitha Koum, [five years at NOE]

"He took her by the hand and said to her, "talitha koum," 
which means, "little girl, I say to you get up!"
Mark 5:41

I wrote this last September 4, 2015. It was one of those moments when words stirred up unruly emotions and I had to rush to fill up the glaring screen, before it was too late.

I claimed them over someone else and now, I am realizing that God was and still is claiming them over me.

You see after braving the field for ten years, my body finally started giving in.

After months of striving to keep my feet firmly planted on the foreign ground, I have realized that there is no shame in saying it’s time.
To the resilient warrior,

Thank you for rising up and relentlessly seeing my dream to fruition. Thank you for never losing sight of why you were here, even when people misunderstood the meaning. Thank you for fearlessly defending what we fought for five years ago. Thank you for realizing that while there maybe a number of people solely criticizing your choices, that in the end they don't name you, and sadly they don't even know you.

They don't know the burden of bearing a heart between two countries or the culture shock that takes a toll on you for more than just a couple times a year. They don't know the pull on your heart that keeps you overthinking and up at all hours of the night with the vicious truth that fixing people is just too much of a feat to even frustrate yourself for trying. They don't live with the guilt of living with bare necessities and occasionally treating yourself with a cup of coffee.

But you tread the treacherous waters and you brave living in two worlds. You keep your hands steady, at times emptying them to fill up others. You carry the roles of director, mother, teacher, friend and confidante simultaneously, and you bend at times until you do break.

But the truth is you don't really ever reckon with the breaking, you push it underneath the rug for safekeeping and you refuse to take time to address it.

But just the like the billions of others sharing this side of Heaven, your heart heaves a heavy, hurried sigh and there are moments when you deserve to revel in rest.

Your heart deserves to break every once in a while, to be able to redeem its’ misshapen mess of a shape.

Thank you for bearing the burden that so many look over. Thank you for believing in the overlooked, unwanted little ones that walk into your office on a daily basis. And thank you for not giving in to the questioners and the misunderstood.

You are just shy of five years stronger, today.

And you deserve to know that I'm proud of you.


Love, you are a warrior and you have kept the pace of loving with abandon, up until this very point.

There’s no shame in going home,

instead you should see how brave this makes you.

Because in your leaving, you are letting me resume your loving.

You were brave enough to come here and you are going to be brave enough to leave.

However, the same world that told you that you were crazy and reckless for forgoing a life of normalcy is now going to tell you that you are a quitter and you are fleeing, instead of facing your fears. They'll show up and say it's fight or flight, but don't you dare think for an instant that you're wrong in this. 

But please remember Sunday, remember your Sundays.

Remember that sweet stranger resting her hands upon your face and telling you that she was sorry.
Remember the hope that you felt rush into your hopeless veins with those two dear people, who took time to unravel your tangled threads of hurt.
Remember the love you found here, when you least expected it.
Remember the dear ones who let you love them even in your absolute brokenness. Remember the conversations that happened when you just showed up and sat down.
Remember the loves that sat around your table and the glimmer of thankfulness that lit up their eyes when they said your name.
Remember your students that rose from their ruins.
Remember the children who found Jesus in the midst of studying English.

Remember the moments around the table, on the street, and in the classroom.

Remember all of this and please remember, that your five years were not spent in vain.
What others deemed failure, I deemed fearlessness, because you braved the brutal commentary and you delved into the depths of uncertainty…because you knew that you couldn’t go anywhere that I hadn’t already been.

I was there and just like I was there, I am right here.

You have had your share of goodbyes and you have realized over time that your heart is a thriving village- and there’s more than enough space for every single heart that you have met along the way.

You are leaving, but sometimes love comes in the form of leaving and other times it comes in the form of holding on.

Your life doesn’t end here, your love doesn’t have to take your heart hostage when it’s time to say goodbye.

Instead, go in peace, daughter. 
Remember your Sundays. 
Rest in knowing that you've done more than enough. 
Trust that you deserve to get up. 

talitha koum, little warrior, talitha koum