To be fully honest, I’m feeling a little awful right now. I just finished a pretty intense week of goodbyes and then transplanted myself from one world to another. Though I am loving being able to spend time with my family and having all sorts of experiences I have missed, I feel torn and exhausted. Last night didn’t help; I had a restless night full of haunting dreams about some the terrible realities of the world I just left. My heart is achey and overwhelmed, this is not how I wanted to start my first Thanksgiving back in America. But as I turn to God for comfort, I feel a nudge to focus on the good things. It is Thanksgiving, after all, a time to reflect on our blessings and be grateful.
Last week, I watched the last installment of the Hunger Games. That whole series does a number on me. When I finished reading the books years ago, I felt depressed for weeks, it’s an intense storyline full of all kinds of painful things. At the end, however, there is a scene with our heroine and her newborn child where Katniss soothes her, after she stirs awake, with these words:
“Did you have a nightmare? I have nightmares too. Someday I’ll explain it to you. Why they came. Why they won’t ever go away. But I’ll tell you how I survive it. I make a list in my head. Of all the good things I’ve seen someone do. Every little thing I could remember. It’s like a game I do it over and over. Gets a little tedious after all these years, but… There are much worse games to play”
I am forever changed by this season I have spent in Thailand, in good ways and bad. But today, I would like to spend some time focusing on the good things that came from it. So here I am jumping on the “blogging about how grateful I am in celebration of Thanksgiving” train:
- NightLight 10 year anniversary– when I moved to Thailand 6+ years ago, I had no idea how attached I would get. To Thailand, but also the organization I came to work with. I have had the privilege of seeing it grow and change over the years in amazing ways. It’s had it’s struggles and heartbreaks, yes, but God its faithful. NightLight has been able to provide assistance and hope to so many people and I have loved being a part of something so much larger than myself.
- CityLight Coffee- If someone would have told me that I would be helping to open a coffee shop in the middle of a red-light district in Bangkok, I would have told them they were crazy. This experience, however, has been by far one of my favorite in life. It has delighted my heart to help bring this place to a reality, using unique gifts I didn’t even know I had and working alongside of some amazing people doing it. I felt so sad to leave it, but so proud to be leaving it in the capable hands of my Thai staff who have been sharing this experience with me. Also, free coffee every day is the best.
- New soulmates- It is rare to find people you truly connect with. There are people you are close to, but then there are people who make you feel deeply understood and “at home” even when you are not. I had the privilege of meeting and having in my life so many of these people over my time in Thailand. I may have went to Thailand by myself, but God sent me a family of some of the most amazing people I have ever met.
- Travel- I once heard someone explain traveling like falling in love. The thrill of discovery and newness, becoming enamored with the beautiful intricacies at every new place before it becomes “normal.” In a way, even Thailand stayed thrilling like this for me. When you live in a culture that is not your own, almost every day is an adventure and you are almost always in awe. What a privilege it is to have been able to experience the world like this. I have visited 13 countries since leaving America and don’t ever want to stop!
- Losing joy and finding it again– Bangkok is a tough place, heck, the world is a tough place. Sometimes, it feels like too much. I went through a season there where I was not sure I was going to make it out, faith in tact. It was a dark time. Thankfully, God pulled me through. We probably have all had seasons like this, and though they are rough, I think it’s good to be thankful for them. It is journeys like these that deepen our faith and help us to cling to our God. (you can learn more about that journey here)
- Health– This is one I take for granted far too often, but I spent 6 years in a developing country with no major heath concerns or accidents. No tropical illness, no broken limbs, I didn’t even have any serious food poisoning, which is unheard of! For whatever reason, God has protected my health in amazing ways.
- So many hats– I have had the privilege of filling almost every role there is at NightLight. And though it has been frustrating at times, I have gotten to explore so much about what I am capable of when I have God at my side. God knows me so well and has used every single one of my gifts, even ones I didn’t know I had. I have done communications, website managing, marketing, graphic design, sales, jewelry design, product management, grant writing, English teaching, team coordinating, case managing, public speaking, Bible teaching, interior design, baristaing, cafe managing, menu/recipe building… just to name a few. It has been a rich and full experience to say the least.
- Perspective- Though I love my roots, I often get frustrated with the American worldview. It is not often that one gets to leave her cultural bubble that she grew up in and expand her horizons. To be able to understand that my cultural worldview is not necessarily the right one is a gift and one that I hope to keep with me as I grow.
- My supportive family– My family is amazing. It is so true that separation changes things and helps you to see what you appreciate most about the people you love. I know that my family would always help me if I needed it, and this is not a privilege everyone shares. I have made some crazy choices with my life, moving to Thailand being one of them, and though they have not always understood them, they have always allowed me to make these choices without guilt-tripping me into a “safer” life. I am so grateful for them.
- Privilege- This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because, as westerners, we have affluence. Whether you believe it or not, we are rich. But because of that, we are blessed to a blessing. Someone like me can afford and find the resources to move to the other side of the word and help people by choice; this is more of a privilege than a sacrifice. So please do not put me on a pedestal, I am only doing what any of us could do given the will. But privelage can be a curse too; it can blind us and make us unaccessible and selfish. It is a blessing I must be careful with.
- Good food- This seems broad, but seriously guys, since moving to Thailand I feel like I have been on a food revolution. Thai food, first of all, is some of the best food on the face of the planet. What they do with flavors is unmatched. But since I live in such an international city, my food horizons have expanded beyond my wildest dreams. I stopped missing most American food long ago! Our God is a good God that he would provide me with not just sustenance, but such tasty goodness.
- All the “good things”– Just like Katniss, I have a mental list of all the good things I have witnessed. I have seen so much pain, but I have also seen so much good. One of the benefits of living in such a dark place is that the God’s light in his people shines brighter. People often ask me how I deal with seeing all the brokenness everyday and I tell them that I get to see the other side of it too. I get to see the restoration and the transformation of these beautiful women. Everyday I get to work alongside these women and know, that even though sometimes the work can be slow and difficult, we have a good God who can make beautiful things out of dust.
I have written parts of this over the past week, before, during, and after leaving Bangkok; it has been therapeutic. Being grateful can get you through some pretty tough stuff. So as I venture out into this new season in the States, filled with all sorts of questions marks, I am probably going to have to come back to this list again and again, and probably even add some things to it.
One more thing for now, though: I am beyond thankful for all of the people that have supported my time in Bangkok. Whether through finances or prayer, I have been thoroughly taken care of. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would find enough people to support that work I have been doing in Bangkok for SIX plus years! So, THANK YOU, support team, for all of your faithfulness, I am blessed.