in which i learned to belong

Lately I’ve resorted to the use of writer’s prompts because I’m at a loss for things to write about. Creative juices are running slow this year. Today the word is, ‘belong’.

It conjures up so much emotion for me; especially when preceded by the word ‘I’.

I belong.

Growing up, I did not belong. I was the ugly duckling. Not that I was ugly, I don’t think… I just stood out. A lot. I wasn’t really like anyone else. When I was home in Latin America, I didn’t look like anyone else. When I would visit America, I could physically blend in easily enough, but I couldn’t change how I was made or how I thought about life. I never belonged completely to either group. Common TCK dilemma.

Where's the white girl?

See if you can spot the white girl…

Typically in life, you belong with the people you share common interests with. Ever since I can remember, my parents have said that I was born in the wrong era. I never liked the same things people my own age enjoyed. I had developed from a young age a deep-rooted love for: jazz, reading classic literature, classical music, baking, gardening, old movies, and ballroom dance… These loves continued to manifest in my life and you can just imagine how many kindred spirits I found through the years — very few.

I was the middle kid in a larger than average family of 9. I didn’t feel like I belonged with either the olders or the littles. I mostly just did my own thing and bounced back and forth between the siblings, whichever I could profit from in the moment. I was also the only white girl my age living in a town full of boys and was considered to be ‘one of the guys’. I’m taller than average for girls and I grew taller than many of the boys I was friends with too. The only thing that was ever average about me was my shoe size (US 7.5); and even in that, I am female bigfoot in Mexico. From a young age I was taller than and had bigger feet than most full-grown men.

It really does wonders for a girl’s self esteem…

These were my closest friends from age 13 until I graduated high school, plus 2 visitors from Canada.

My best friends from age 12 until I graduated high school (and 2 visitors).

To belong.

Although my college friends would never be down to fox trot with me to ‘A Foggy Day’, they do share my love for food; specifically, Korean BBQ. We’d frequently go into the heart of Koreatown to share a late second dinner. I’d look around the table at the people who had become my friends in a short amount of time and I began to view our group as an outsider would see us, realizing we were probably the most diverse group of people you could place together. If I were to give each friend a label identifying them based on the surface: race, sex, background, and genetics, there’s no way we’d be friends; let alone sharing a meal together; let alone be in the same room. Picture Jets vs. Sharks. I’d totally be with the Sharks. We Latinos gotta stick together, man.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, it wasn’t until my senior year that I realized: ‘belonging’ has nothing to do with sharing physical characteristics, the same interests/dislikes, or having a history with a person. It doesn’t even have to do with race, background, or age. If you were to go around our table and label us based on our hearts, you would find a commonality. We are no longer defined by our pasts. Jesus Christ died for our sins. We are bought. We are chosen. We are redeemed. Because we first belong to Christ, we can then belong to and love each other; because we see one another as God sees us — a new creation. Belonging is rooted in the deepest fibers of us; the parts being made to look more like Christ. Because of that, I can look at the diversity of my friends and think…for now anyway, belong here.

I’m linking up with SheLoves Magazine‘s February writing prompt…in March.
Because I’m a rebel.
Just 
kidding…

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Gratitude Lately

Lately I’ve been thankful for my inherited love for music and how it’s a perfect example of how we should never stop learning.

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For these lovely journals that have been my constant companions.

And my new comfy leggings that have kept me warm many-a-night during the storms.

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For a sunny day in the midst of a typhoon and picnic lunches with friends.

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For church that sang a song in English and how that always blesses my heart.

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For this piece of home. Not once have I regretted the space it took up in my luggage.

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And for FaceTime, which allows me to have late night chats with these beauties.

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Lately I’ve been working on intentionally finding reasons to be thankful and seeing how much my attitude on life has improved. I didn’t even have to look hard.

What are you thankful for this week?

Chinese New Year & 2014 via my phone

恭喜发财 Happy Chinese New Year!

I’ve decided to ring in the ‘Year of the Horse’ by doing a recap of 2014, so far – according to my phone.

This is how it happened:
“Hi, I’d like the panini pesto and a bottle of water.”
“What’s your name?”
“Hannah”
“Hannah??”
“Yes, HANNAH” (Just picture Squints from The Sandlot over-enunciating, “FOR-EV-ER”. That’s pretty much how it was)

…a few minutes later, “Hot panini pesto for Hyena”

Meh - close enough...

Meh – close enough…

We were eating at Burger King at the airport in Manila and every table was occupied. There was a guy sitting next to us eating lunch and reading his kindle, when this family of 3 plopped down and joined him without saying a word. I found it humourous to watch him try to become as small as humanly possible in his little corner.

This would never fly in the US. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to even breathe on freeways in America, let alone walk and sell on them.

Drive through store on the freeway...and I'm pretty sure he's giving me the stink eye.

I think he’s giving me the stink eye.

I've been traveling for 15 hours and Manila bus stations are wicked hot.

I call this: ‘I’ve been traveling for 15 hours & Manila bus stations are wicked hot – and Daisy is pensive’.

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It rains a lot in this country. This is the result of two back-to-back typhoons.

You know how McDonalds is unique to each country? Germany – beer; Mexico – jalapeño sauce; England – brown sauce? Well, the Philippines does rice…and ube ice-cream. Ube is a purple yam that is eaten as a snack by itself and in desserts. How else are you going to make your kids eat their veg?

Ube is a purple yam, which is used here for snacks and desserts…even at McDonalds. Ube McDip, anyone?

Ube McDip, anyone?

Not shown is my reaction to waking up at 3 this morning to find a mouse in my bed with me… I’m still a little traumatised.

The Year of the Horse is looking bright so far. How are you ringin’ in the New Year?

i am from… celebrating heritage

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Sololá, Guatemala – circa ’93

I am from a brew of freshly roasted coffee.
From the smell of tea tree oil and the jasmine outside.
Cilantro home-grown and limón freshly squeezed.
From a triangular dining room table that seats fifteen people.
A house worn in with well-loved nooks and too many books.
I am from jacaranda trees in bloom and a rainy season that brings everything to life.

I am from failing at pictures, because we’re a small village.
From sleeping in the mountains to watch shooting stars.
From belly laughs, midnight feasts, and happy half-birthdays.
Odious matching dresses with my mom and sister (only kidding – they were lovely).
From mom’s pancakes every Saturday morning.
I am from grammar fiends and a shared love for music and literature.

I wasn't lying about the matching dresses.

I wasn’t lying about the dresses. That is produce on my dress, people. Produce. I know you’re jealous.

I am from fields upon fields in Illinois and Ohio.
From sweet tea and pulled pork in the deep sultry South.
From English truffles and pudding; and maybe a duke.
From volcanoes and cold in luscious Guatemala.
From heaven on earth in southern México.
I am from anywhere and everywhere in between…

I am from tacos al pastor, mole negro, and fresh conchas from the panadería.
From competitive game-players; a life without screens.
From seeing the world from a very young age.
From outrageous road trip traditions; people who enjoy traveling together.
From music to sports; and books too, of course.
I am from a childhood of scraped up knees and playing ‘lost kids’.

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I am from seventeen years spent in Latin America.
Fresh sushi in California to the snows of Colorado.
From the tropics of Asia to no home at all.
From awaiting my flight to the next far off place.
From an adopted family wherever I bed.
I am from life on the move and ecstatic reunions.

I am from regrets and mistakes made endlessly.
From exceedingly broken to truly redeemed.
From days I can’t face the world, to learning to trust.
From a family that supports and encourages when life gets hard.
From friends that become family when mine is far off.
I am from a Father who Loves unconditionally.

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(Inspiration for this post came from She Loves Magazine.)

holiday melancholia & choosing joy

Christmas hurts.

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, there’s a steady influx of holiday-related posts; baby’s first Christmas, new traditions, old traditions, fancy meals and dresses, a time to reminisce, and families long apart – together again. I never knew something to make my heart feel such joy and sorrow at the same time.

It’s my second Christmas away from home, yet the ache I feel far surpasses last time.

My parents are moving to America.

This is the last Christmas in my childhood home – and I’m not there for it.

I’m losing something that I didn’t know I needed to say goodbye to.

It’s not that I’m sad about missing Christmas day, or even the Christmas season; it has and always will be about the people. Christmas is the one time of year I get to fly home to ‘my country’ and be with ‘my people’. People who have scolded me, watched me grow from a wee tot into who I am today, in complete support of me in any endeavor I pursue. The people who were my adoptive aunties, uncles, and grandparents; people who most influenced my life.They know what part I play in my family dynamics, they saw me through my awkward, embarrassing years, they know my talents and weaknesses, they care to know what I’m learning, and they constantly tell me how proud they are of me… they cherish me unconditionally.

I’m far from home this year, experiencing the holiday season in a different continent than I have before. It’s been so fun to see how a different culture does Christmas and get to spend this season with an adoptive family, but we’ve been so busy that it wasn’t until I checked a calendar this morning that I even realised today was Christmas Eve.

I found myself swallowing a lump in my throat I didn’t even know was there.

I’m grieving a season in my life I know to be ending very soon. Not a literal season, but a season of international terminals in order to go home on holiday; of sleeping in my own bed – not the guest bedroom in a strange house in a new state; of using different currencies on break; of being with the people I consider to be my family, who value me; to see my childhood friends – grown TCKs who are scattered all over and whom I’d never see any other time.

We don’t get a lot of say in the direction God takes our lives, but mine is going somewhere I hoped it wouldn’t… and damn it, it hurts.

Life. Goes. On.

I think God, in His divine Love, knew this would be a hard pill for me to swallow, so He orchestrated a way for me to go home one last time before the move. In October, I strongly felt that I needed to go home after I return from Asia; as my place to rest and figure out my life. I moved to the Philippines directly after graduating college and I haven’t had the mental capacity since then to plan out a blueprint of my next year. I found an affordable flight that would give me 6 weeks with my family before I’d move back to California. It was a month later that it became clear my family would be moving to Michigan in June, in order for my parents to take on a new role in ministry.

In other words, God had planned out for me to go home before we knew the move would happen. Are you kidding?? It’s humbling to know that unbeknownst to me, God loves me so much that He’d prepare in advance a way for me to get the closure I need.

That being said…

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Knowing my Creator and recognizing His plan to be the best, I hereby choose to not wallow in self-pity over the upcoming changes in my life; but instead to face them head on with my eyes mostly open. I might scrunch my face a little, because I do that sometimes…but I will rely on my Saviour, taking it just one day at a time.

So for today, at least — I am choosing joy.

life lately according to my lens

I love the Philippines. Everything is so bright and colourful. Here are some pictures from this past week of festivities: Grandma’s visit from Oregon, a trip to the local monastery, and evening jaunts around town…

These beauties are made specially to decorate for Christmas.

These beauties are made specially to decorate for Christmas.

Teamwork!

How many people does it take to get a lantern into the sky?

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My favorite kind of restaurant: the silent ones.

Someone's ready for some grub. Just look at that sweet boy's face!

Someone’s ready for some grub. Just look at that sweet boy’s face!

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Even the meat here is bright.

Snuggles with mom. No, there aren't any seatbelt laws in this country.

Snuggles with mom. No, there aren’t any seatbelt laws in this country.

Halo-Halo

This yummy dessert is called Halo-Halo. Inside you’ll find anything from fresh fruit to corn, beans, ube ice cream, and fish eyes. Anything goes here!

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Cute little hipster man at the market.

The weather's been a little strange lately; makes for beautiful sunsets!

The weather’s been a little strange lately; makes for beautiful sunsets!

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We were a little too rambunctious to stay long at the monastery, but it was beautiful up there!

Soon I Will Rest…Earned It I Have

Our home just accommodated 27 people for 3 days. 

On Wednesday last week, we had a family of 5 come stay with us, so that pushed our usual number up to 12. Then on Thursday, to kick off the long-weekend of partying, we celebrated a belated-Halloween and invited another family of 4 over to party with the 12 of us. I know you’re all dying to know what I went as. I won’t hold you in suspense.

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Mr. Smee from Peter Pan!

This past Saturday, the Moffits threw a huge birthday bash for the 18-year-old living with us. For the party, we ordered enough food to feed a small planet, then invited everyone we could think of. Remember how the Philippines had a huge typhoon doomed to hit on Friday? Although it didn’t hit our island, the likelihood of it raining still on Saturday was uncomfortably high. We were scheduled to have somewhere around 100 people come to party on Saturday morning and there was a heck-of-a no way that that many people were going to fit inside our home if it were to rain during the party.

Lo and behold, early Saturday morning: blue skies. Hallelujah! Ready to party…

But they'll usually have cake as well. Basically, just a lot of food in general.

Some pig!

I was given the job of photographer for the party. I’m not even kidding, it was probably 100˚F + incredibly high, post-typhoon humidity, then factoring in an estimated 90ish sweaty bodies hacking away at a pig and little old me, maneuvering my way through the crowds, snapping away — I was a hot, sweaty mess! But here you go, one of the few pictures with me in it:

Stopped taking pictures so I could be in one with the birthday girl.

With the birthday girl!

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Too cool for school.

Friends from church

Friends from church

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I love this one, it’s so bright and cheery!

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This photo was at his request. I believe that is a pig foot?

As I wangled a route through the masses, sweat no longer just dripping, but cascading from my body, I found my way upstairs to discover these kids conked out on mats in our school room; which had been renovated into sleeping quarters for 15 of our guests from out of town.

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Poor kids from the mountains aren’t used to our “sea-level” humidity.

This is our master chef who prepared the cornucopia of delicious food, minus a pig. His precious one-year-old, Zoe, stole the show and won the hearts of everyone at the party. Every time I spotted her, she’d have a little crowd following her, snapping away.

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And lastly, these are the beauties I get to live with while I’m here.

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Voila. I’m in 2 party pictures!

Gradually today, all of our guests made it to public transportation to wheel themselves home again and we found ourselves just a ‘small family of 7 Moffits’ once again. I kind of feel like I need to talk to a shrink. I’m going through people-withdrawal and I’m finding myself trying to use words like wangled and cornucopia as frequently as possible. Not only that, but I sound like Yoda when forming sentences, “When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good, you will not, hmmmm?” Never a good sign.

What do you mean there’s not a waiting list to use the toilet? All the utensils and glasses are already clean and I no longer have to wash one each time I need to use it? Is anyone else hearing crickets?

Sleep now we will. Earned it we have, yes?