I don’t like change.
My parents lived in the same house for most of my life, and I cried for days when they contemplated moving (I was ten). I always order the same thing at restaurants, because I already know I’m going to like it—and why purposefully disappoint yourself? The majority of my friends have known me for 10+ years, and some of them, 20+ years. And this is especially where I don’t like change–relationships.
I have to laugh at the Lord’s apparent sense of humor–taking this consistency-lovin’ girl and transplanting her into the dynamic, ever-changing, transitional life of an overseas missionary. In the space of seventeen months, I became a wife, mother, and missionary…and in many ways, I think I’m still reeling from it all. I’m still trying to settle into these roles. I was single for so many years, that sometimes I marvel that I’m married. And a mother? Really? Those two adorable kids are mine? As for missionary–perhaps this has been the most significant change of all.
I knew that the missionary occupation would have its particular trials and challenges, but I don’t think that I was prepared for how incredibly transitory and inconsistent our life would be. Every day brings new changes–new challenges. It could be an unexpected five-hour power cut, or a (somewhat expected) car breakdown, on the other side of town. It could be the constant destruction and construction of buildings on our local streets. It could be the sudden, prolonged disappearance of the only recognizable baby cereal at the grocery store—leaving me with the unsettling choice of some product in a foreign language—and I’m praying that the ingredients are decent. On a superficial level—it’s the discontinuation of the eyes shadow that I’ve finally accepted as a satisfactory substitute for the one I’ve been bringing from the U.S. (makeup here tends to be really expensive, previously used, or containing questionable ingredients). And yes, missionaries are allowed to wear makeup.
But with all of these changes, the “people” changes are the hardest for me. When I came to Cambodia, I left countless dear family members and friends. This was, and is, my hardest sacrifice as a missionary. Relationships—their preservation and nourishment—are extremely important to me, and has always been a part of who I am. As I’ve tried to balance my U.S. loved ones and my Cambodia friends, I am more and more aware that I can no longer hold onto these relationships with an iron grasp. I have to give all to God—trusting that He will preserve my friendships in the U.S. and that He will give me the grace to handle the constant turnover of friendships here in Cambodia.
I knew that Cambodia was a transitional place for expats (foreigners), and that it was common for people to be here for a few years and then move on, but I didn’t realize how much this would affect me. There have been SO many occasions when I’ve met someone who instantly seemed like a kindred spirit, only to find out that they were leaving in a few months. Even the few deeper friendships that I have seem so incredibly fragile and volatile–that they could “poof” away at any moment. I am truly grateful for these women that God has brought into my life—my team mates, my friends from play group and other places—but really, none of them are a guarantee, since everyone is always coming and going. Several know that they’ll be here for a set number of years—even now, one friend is at her “half-way mark”, and that’s a hard thing to consider. As a self-preservation tactic, it is very tempting to not fully engage with people, knowing that they’ll probably be gone in a year or two. This is something that has weighed heavily upon me since I’ve been here. Why waste the emotional energy when you’ll just be saying goodbye in a short time? This goes against every cell in my being—superficial friendships—and it was destroying my spirit. More recently, the Lord convicted me to exist fully where He has placed me—not to withhold participation and investment in someone’s life, in an attempt to guard my heart from hurt. I now seek to embrace each friendship—even if I know that they’ll be here for only a few months. This has not been easy, and it can be exhausting at times, but what are we as Christians, if we are not willing to sacrifice inconveniences and disappointment for the opportunity of embracing another soul, if only for a short while.
Many of you ask how you can pray for me specifically—this is what I would ask—pray that the Lord would grant me the grace to give all relationships to Him, and that I would unreservedly invest in the lives that He has placed in my path. Pray that I would be content with changes—that I would not long for the seemingly consistent life—especially regarding relationships—that I used to have. Pray that I would find my ultimate relationship in Him—knowing that amidst all of these changes, the Lord is unchanging.
When discussing these struggles with Nate, he always leads me back to heaven, and what an amazing place it will be—where we can spend an eternity with those we love and everything will be…well…perfect. Heaven—where we can simply enjoy one another, without fears or disappointments—and this is when I ache for the souls of those loved ones who have not yet discovered His beauty and grace. Lord have mercy, and seize them for your glory!