I bet I remember those months better than most of you do—I knew my life was about to change
You know that feeling that you’ve left something out of your suitcase? Like your toothbrush? Or left the oven on back at home? Well, I didn’t have that feeling as I got on that airplane to move to the other side of the world. But now, ten years later, I know I should have.
Something was missing.
But before I get into these last ten years, let me tell you (in a nutshell, bear with me) about the first twenty—the twenty I thought would give me exactly what I needed to go to Indonesia.
I grew up as an Army kid, moving all over the place as often as every six months to three years. When I didn’t move, everyone else did around me. So, I developed some important skills over those years.
Skill #1: Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Skill #2: Make friends really fast, then say goodbye just as fast.
Skill #3: Leave everything behind and don’t look back.
So, when I left for a country where I’d never been, where I didn’t know anybody and didn’t know the language or culture, I knew these three skills would come in handy. And in some ways, these things certainly helped. It wasn’t too difficult for me to leave a home that wasn’t really a home and friends who I knew would forget all about me soon enough to go to a place where I didn’t belong when I never did belong anywhere anyway.
This was my thing: finding my way in new places. And now, I could do it for a good purpose.
I stayed a couple of years in Indonesia , did my thing while sweating it out, and then I was ready to do it again—move, I mean. I thought I was ready. I’d kept all my boxes stored under beds just like I’d learned to do as a kid. I braced myself for the goodbyes that I figured would come soon enough. And I waited for the news of a move.
It didn’t come. We stayed. On this very (very, very) small island.
And it felt like the opposite of what I knew about how to do life. My life really did change when I moved to Indonesia. Just not in the way I thought.
I grew up knowing the world was a huge place and that I was a tiny part of it. Miniscule. Forgettable. And if my part started to grow, like say, my problems were getting too big, I learned to hide my struggles away and become as small as possible so as not to bother any of the friends I figured didn’t need the new girl who was too much trouble already just by being new. My family and home (whatever the address was) were a life-giving haven, but I felt a bit disconnected from everyone else around me, afraid to truly trust friendships. Afraid to let anyone see me.
So, when we stayed on this small island with many of the same friends, and then when my part started growing—literally—as I started having my babies, I felt less like I was finding my way, and more like I was about to get lost.
When you can hardly get through a day of pregnancy without throwing up or fainting and when your other kids are sick and when the electricity goes out all the time and things are breaking and other hard things are happening, you don’t really have a choice. You have to become trouble to those around you.
But I did my best to do as much as I could without help and when people helped me, I did my best to repay it. Quickly.
But then it kept happening. I kept staying. And many of my friends were staying. And pretty soon, I was living life with friends for double, then triple, then quadruple the amount of time I’d ever done before. And it was scary because these people saw me and my mess and I knew the island was too small for them to get away from me. I felt trapped, too, in the staying sometimes. I knew it would only be a matter of time before these people would leave me anyway and if I wasn’t leaving, too, I’d be stuck with no one and nowhere to go.
Besides, who was I and what good were my good adjusting skills if I didn’t keep moving?
And then life got even harder.
These past couple of years happened and fears were becoming reality, but then grace was coming after the fears. And soon I felt exposed, vulnerable. My struggles and I were forced out of hiding.
But when the dust settled, I looked around and things looked the same. Same people. Still with me. Same life that I’d grown to love. Same place where I still am living with my flattened boxes that are getting moldy.
And yet it all looked very, very different.
I looked different, too.
When I first moved to Indonesia ten years ago (and really up until recently), I thought that what I was good at was living life wherever, whenever, with whomever until the next set of whatevers. I grew up feeling tied to nothing, and I thought that was my thing. My strength. The way I was supposed to serve God.
Send me, God. And I’ll go wherever. I can take it. It (almost) doesn’t even hurt anymore. And when it does, I can just call it ‘worship.’
But now I know it was a cheap, painful imitation of Christian devotion.
Because something was missing out of that calling. Me. The real me. The one God really created.
I figured out I was more than the pain I’d experienced, the struggles I’d (kinda) overcome and the skills I’d developed to survive life up to that point. I had things to offer this world that were good for the world, and good for me, too. I figured out it was much less about me trying to sacrifice myself and more about God already sacrificed for me, and then inviting me to live more fully in Him.
So, here it is. This is me. What I most like to do is connect. Connect on a deep level with people. Connect people to other people. Connect people to their dreams in a way that can help with broken, hurting things in this world. Connect people to God.
That’s pretty much the opposite of what I thought I was good at.
So, after ten years of knowing I was called to this life, knowing that I was supposed to be here, I’m now seeing who that “I” really is.
I’m learning that God didn’t make me to hide away who I am—even the struggling, messy, getting-things-wrong me. He didn’t make me to be a nobody who doesn’t belong anywhere. He made me to be a big part of this hurting world that needs connection, that then gives me the connection I’ve always needed, too.
And as I figure out the “I,” I see God more clearly, too. He’s not the sometimes distant, confusing, hard-core God I thought He was. He’s the loving, creative, attentive God I’ve been telling others He was…for all these years. Now, I see it more clearly. I believe it more strongly.
I live it more fully.