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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2013 in review | 13 memories

My main moments from the past year (at least ones with pictures) are from various trips I took. Pretty typical for a third culture kid. 2013 was a good year for me. I was able to see and experience so much life and growth: I graduated from college, visited a state I’d never been to before, went to Europe for the first time, and I moved to the Philippines! Here are 13 of my favorite moments:

The first few days of January were spent finishing off my sister’s and my UK trip! English tea & pudding, balderdash, falling down the stairs daily, intense jet lag, trying to stay awake (& warm), and laughing with these cool cats late into the night:

Trying to get tan at Formby Beach;)

Trying to get tan at Formby Beach;)

After returning from Liverpool, I spent one jet lagged day in California before flying home-home to Oaxaca to spend the rest of my holiday with the family. I was able to check this off my bucket list — well, I had to first add it to my bucket list, but then I checked it off…

While home and still recovering from jet lag, my youngest sister, Debbie, and I got to spend a couple days at our favourite beach in the entire world: Puerto Escondido. Do you see my jetlagged eyes?? I shouldn’t be allowed in public.

Ah, to be warm again!

In the midst of school (trying to graduate in May) & work, I got to be reunited with one of my favourite people ever – my partner from massage school! She came to LA, so I had an excuse to do the touristy things I hadn’t even done yet myself: the Griffith Observatory and the L.A. Zoo!

How I love her and her sweet son!

How I love her and her sweet son!

My friend Karina and I went on a spontaneous road trip to Seattle right before finals. It was one of the worst ideas I’ve had, but actually the best decision. I got to see my childhood bestie in Cannon Beach, which has been a lifelong dream to visit!

This girl and I have been friends for 20 years and counting!

This girl and I have been friends for 20 years and counting!

From Cannon Beach, we drove across the most epic state line ever, making Washington my 41st state visited. I didn’t want to leave!

Seattle in April was a brilliant idea. Those trees…swoon!

Seattle in April was a brilliant idea. Those trees…swoon!

Soon after the Northwest trip…Donna and I got our friend, Nicole, married off!

Nothin' like a Wednesday wedding to liven up the week!

Nothin’ like a Wednesday wedding to liven up the week!

Then I graduated from Eternity Bible College!

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After graduating, I flew home to Oaxaca to spend a week with my family before moving to the Philippines!

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These two deserve a gold medal in the friendship department! They put up with so much of me last year and they’re really the best of people. Have I mentioned I get to see them in a couple weeks?? I’m beyond excited!

And here are the people I spent the majority of the year with! We trekked all over Mindanao and even to Luzon together in 2013, we make good travel & living buddies;)

These were moments I knew would make the best Facebook statuses. Livin’ the life!

I ran my first 5k in November! I placed 8th for women and won an award for being the only white female racing. Check that off my bucket list — after adding it first;)

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Although it was hard to keep it at 13 memories, 2,013 seemed a little extravagant…

Until next time!

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.)

on discovering duck dynasty was not a remake of ducktales

It’s about that time again. Time for a little deactivation date with my Facebook account.

I’d be lying if I said my intentions were entirely noble. I would love to be able to say that I’m deleting my Facebook so that:

-I can spend more time with God.
-I can better love other people.

Although these usually play a role in my thought process, the truth of the matter is:

Social media feeds my hate plant of discontent.

There’s a process to getting to where I am today. A journey, I should say. This is what it was like for me.

Once upon a time, I was part of a wide circle of friends. I had deep relationships. I understood the culture I lived in–mostly. I thrived and I felt independent and secure.

But soon after nestling into my seat on a plane bound for Seoul, I became rid of all earthly things to which I could be identified–college student, massage-therapist, nanny, US resident, driver. I was then transplanted in a new environment, which spoke a language I didn’t know, and given a new set of things with which to identify myself, effective immediately–missionary volunteer, teacher, expatriate.

Once past the honeymoon season of transplantation, which some people skip entirely, you typically go straight into shock season. This usually includes late night conversations, which you might still be jet-lagged for, it all depends on how long your honeymoon stage lasted. These conversations are typically one-sided and go something like this,

“What the *bleep* am I doing here? I suck at ____ (pick your poison). God, You clearly made a mistake.”

After you’re finished telling God how to do His job, albeit you may still have doubts, you roll up your sleeves and decide you’re going to make the best of it; so you get to work. You build relationships, you start to learn language, and most importantly–you learn how to laugh at your mistakes.

Then, you reach the coveted “mountain top” stage of transplantation. You get high – figuratively, of course. It’s exhilarating. This is what you were destined for. Your ministry is booming. People are getting healed, there’s a mad dash of people running to pools of water, wanting to take the plunge…life is going darn-tootin’ well.

The mountain-top days are short-lived when the flaming arrows of doom burn down the sails on your ship, and you, my friend, are stuck in the middle of the ocean. It’s stinking hot and you are not going anywhere anytime soon. Finally, the sun begins to set and you sense relief coming, when out of the blue, a storm breaks. All the while, you’re trying to sew new sails and not sink your ship.

Your ministry might teeter back and forth between the ‘mountain days’ and the ‘storm from hell – boat’s about to sink’ stage, until you finally land in the plateau stage. Life has calmed down considerably, enough to the point of maybe feeling slightly mundane. ‘Lull Land’ is where discontentment really takes root. At least for me.

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All of a sudden, life isn’t exotic enough – when compared with others. You question if it was all worth it. Friends from “home” seem to have moved on without you. You don’t feel needed like you once thought and you now have no clue what anyone is talking about pretty much on a daily basis. I thought Duck Dynasty was something like DuckTales and I was stoked about that possibility – until someone finally let me in on what it was. Disappointment on disappointment! I haven’t heard of most of the movies people are seeing in cinema and I still have no idea what the heck the fox says, and you know what? I don’t really care.

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So I am deleting Facebook. Again. And I will probably keep deleting it every few months as long as it continues to be a source of pain, stress, or as long as it is something I attempt to find security in. It’s not that I don’t love or miss people. I surely do. It’s hard for me to be here when I’m constantly reminded of a former life that isn’t waiting for me.

You should go love on a missionary today. More than likely, they aren’t in a ‘mountain-top’ season right now and holidays in general are pretty hard on those living overseas!

2013 Reading Challenge

Here is the list of all the books I finished in 2013! The ones with an asterisk are books I have read before and chose to re-read just because I like ’em or because I read them aloud to my students. The rest of the books I read were all new to my soul.

  1. Stuff Christians Like – Jon Acuff
  2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe – Douglas Adams
  3. Life, the Universe, and Everything – Douglas Adams
  4. Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams
  5. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
  6. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish – Douglas Adams
  7. Young Zaphod Plays it Safe – Douglas Adams
  8. *Mr. Popper’s Penguins – Richard Atwater
  9. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles – Julie Andrews Edwards
  10. *Emma – Jane Austen
  11. *Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt
  12. The Theology of the Book of Revelation – Richard Bauckham
  13. The Rules of the Road – Joan Bauer
  14. Peter and the Shadow Thieves – Dave Barry
  15. Peter and the Star Catchers – Dave Barry
  16. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  17. To Sir, With Love – E.R. Braithwaite
  18. The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
  19. Little Lord Fauntelroy – Francis Hodgson Burnett
  20. The Secret Garden – Francis Hodgson Burnett
  21. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
  22. Frindle – Andrew Clements
  23. The School Story – Andrew Clements
  24. The Adventures of Pinnochio – Carlo Collodi
  25. Boy – Tales of Childhood – Roald Dahl
  26. George’s Marvelous Medicine – Roald Dahl
  27. Going Solo – Roald Dahl
  28. *James & the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
  29. Matilda – Roald Dahl
  30. The Minpins – Roald Dahl
  31. The Twits – Roald Dahl
  32. The Book of Revelation – Matt Dorff
  33. Crime & Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  34. A Room With a View – E.M. Forster
  35. Who Calls Me Beautiful? – Regina Franklin
  36. An Abundance of Katherines – John Green
  37. Paper Towns – John Green
  38. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
  39. *Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K. Jerome
  40. The Fun of Being a Fat Man – William Johnston
  41. The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster
  42. *The Gammage Cup – Carol Kendall
  43. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
  44. If I Perish – Esther Kim
  45. One False Note (The 39 Clues #2) – Gordon Korman
  46. Into Thin Air – John Krakauer
  47. *To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  48. The Wind in the Door – Madeleine L’Engle
  49. The Sword Thief (The 39 Clues #3) – Peter Lerangis
  50. A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis
  51. *The Horse and His Boy – C.S. Lewis
  52. Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis
  53. *The Last Battle – C.S. Lewis
  54. *The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  55. *The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis
  56. *Prince Caspian – C.S. Lewis
  57. The Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis
  58. The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
  59. Surprised by Joy – C.S. Lewis
  60. *The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – C.S. Lewis
  61. This is a Book – Demetri Martin
  62. The Toothpaste Millionaire – Jean Merrill
  63. *Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
  64. Anne #2 – L.M. Montgomery
  65. Anne #3 – L.M. Montgomery
  66. Anne #4 – L.M. Montgomery
  67. Anne #5 – L.M. Montgomery
  68. Anne #6 – L.M. Montgomery
  69. A Woman and Her God – Beth Moore
  70. Look! The Finished Work of Jesus – Mick Mooney
  71. Home – Toni Morrison
  72. Absolute Surrender – Andrew Murray
  73. Humility – Andrew Murray
  74. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  75. *Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
  76. Third Culture Kids – David C. Pollock
  77. *The Chosen – Chaim Potok
  78. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs
  79. The Maze of Bones (The 39 Clues #1)- Rick Riordan
  80. Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
  81. *The Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
  82. *The Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
  83. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  84. Affliction – Edith Schaeffer
  85. Pygmalion – George Bernard Shaw
  86. Fight – Preston Sprinkle
  87. *Of Mice & Men – John Steinbeck
  88. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
  89. The Hiding Place – Corrie ten Boom
  90. The Pilgrim’s Progress (Retold in Today’s English) – James H. Thomas
  91. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
  92. Banner in the Sky – James Ramsey Ullman
  93. *Around the World in Eighty Days – Jules Verne
  94. The Sound of Music – Maria von Trapp
  95. Every Drunken Cheerleader, Why Not Me? – Kristine Waits
  96. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  97. The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells
  98. *The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
  99. In God’s Underground – Richard Wurmbrand
  100. Where is God When it Hurts – Philip Yancey

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” -Confucius 

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.