Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2-26-08

I’ve always had my questions about God. I can think of very specific times in my life when I either felt incredibly close to God or incredibly far.
I felt incredibly close to God when I was a Sophomore in high school. I had a series of 7 surgeries during my time in high school. I honestly thought at one point that I probably wouldn’t make it through one more surgery to remove the tumor that was growing inside of my ear. I’ve never felt so humbled to realize that I had no control over my life. I felt so powerless, I couldn’t help but realize “something” was keeping me alive and it wasn’t me. I went on a youth retreat up to the beautiful mountains of Colorado. I felt God, or something.
I felt incredibly close to God when I used to attend a Christian church on Friday nights that provided a service geared to college students. I wasn’t a college student, but the worship was honest and raw and real. I saw God, or something, differently than ever before.
As mentioned, I’ve also felt horribly far from God. I felt far from God when my cousin Jake died of cancer. How do such tragic things happen without reason or justice? He was a young firefighter and he left behind a 6 year old daughter he was raising on his own. She is now a beautiful reminder of her daddy’s face each time you look at her. I didn’t understand why or how, so I was just mad.
I felt horribly far from God when the eating disorder took center stage in my life. I didn’t have time for God. I was too concerned with myself. ED is an incredibly selfish disease. There isn’t room for life goals or silly things like, “purpose”. Not much else matters but self. I remember last year, my freshman year at Union, I purged one Saturday night. In my car driving home with my sister, I told her. On the rainy drive home I sobbed uncontrollably. I shouldn’t have been driving. I could hardly speak I felt so awful, guilty, ashamed, disgusting, unlovable, and hopeless. The weeks and months that followed that night were spent just trying to put the pieces back together and start to believe that God just might still love me. I didn’t see how, but that is what I was told.
I’ve never felt farther from God than I have the last 6 months. Yes, that is when I first came to Cambodia. Aren’t I the strangest, most oxymoronic (word?) student missionary you’ve ever heard of? I am a girl in a foreign country labeled as a “missionary” yet I am questioning my beliefs in God at all and I continue to fight an eating disorder that tends to dominate my thoughts more that I’d like to admit. But well, I guess I just did.
The last few days I’ve been reading through my journals from high school up to now. I’ve been battling the same self-defeating thoughts and questions about God for most of my life. So does that show progress or “stuck” ness? Because I feel stuck. I feel like from almost 2 years ago, when I was first told I had an eating disorder, up to now, I’ve hardly moved. The same thoughts, the same struggles, the same state of mere existence. Deep down I know that isn’t true. Two years ago I fully believed that my “only” worth in life depended on my appearance, or that is what I was practically being told. Two years ago I counted every single calorie that entered my mouth. And in its place I ran, long and hard and painfully with arthritis. If I ate more than the amount I had decided on that day, I took care of it in whatever way necessary. I was existing painfully but at least I was thin right?
I am not there anymore. But my current situation doesn’t always feel much better. Sunday night, I pleaded, pleaded with God to heal me. I gasped my way through several minutes of inability to form words. When I could talk, I just sobbed instead. I looked at the ceiling, because we assume God is above us right? I begged God to show himself to me. I begged God to show me, without a doubt, that he was there. I just needed one sign. I stopped crying and listened. But I didn’t hear a thing. I stared at the ceiling, half-expecting nothing to happen. I crawled into bed, and turned out the light. I prayed the same thing the last two mornings. Isn’t the SM “experience” supposed to bring me closer to God? Instead I just feel more filled with doubt than ever before.
If God does not audibly or physically show himself to us, then what are we supposed to be hanging on to? I don’t want to believe in a God that I am just supposed to see in happy little children, the sunrise, or the breath in my body. When can I hug him? When can he “actually” wipe the tears from my eyes? If the breath in my body is our only proof of a loving God, then I suppose he’ll have to kill me for me to understand. And I guess that sort of defeats the purpose right? Is the whole idea of reading the bible just mean we learn how God thinks so that we learn to answer our own prayers? Sure it is much more hopeful to believe that there is something bigger and greater in control of everything. But what if we are wrong? I also despise the argument of, “Well, if we are wrong in the end, what did we lose? At least we lived with hope!” I don’t want to live only with hope; I want to live with proof. I want to believe in something that makes sense.
Maybe I just don’t know enough about the Bible. Maybe I haven’t done my homework. Maybe I still have so, so much to learn. God didn’t say our lives would be easy, but He said we’d never walk alone, right? Well then why do I feel alone? I feel deserted.
Here in Cambodia, spirituality is self-sufficient. There are no youth groups. There are not moving speakers or beautiful praise songs. There aren’t weekend retreats or deep conversations about God. I am empty, empty. But shouldn’t I be able to maintain a spiritual life without all those things? Because if I only had a spiritual life “with” those things, than what is my spiritual life really about anyway?
Do I have this all wrong? Am I making up a God that doesn’t even exist? Am I all wrong? Please help me understand if I am. I just feel very confused about what God is with no one to talk to about it. I haven’t turned cynical, but I am critical. I am convinced that God wouldn’t want mindless, numb robots. I think He wants to be chosen and believed in because of what we know, not what we’ve been told. Questions are not evil, they lead to understanding. I just want to understand.
I guess I am just horribly tired of counseling myself. I mean I am “reading” my way out of depression and trying to think and talk myself out of an eating disorder. Now I am trying to answer all of my own questions about God. I am tired of comforting myself. I am tired of wrapping my arms around myself and saying, “Ssshhhh, ssshhhh, it’s ok. It’s going to be ok. Try again tomorrow. It will be ok.”
I continue to get up in the morning and read the bible as I search for answers. I continue to pray at 4:30am. I haven’t given up. I just don’t understand and I am desperate, desperate for a reason to believe, again.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

2-23-08

I think the two hardest people to leave in Cambodia will be, without a doubt, Tim and Fay Scott. I’ve made several references to them throughout the months. But let me introduce you.
Tim and Fay are 50 or 60-something year old missionaries who have been in the field for over 20 years. They have two daughters who came along for the adventures as well. They started in Alaska, and then went to Africa. They stayed there awhile before then going to Sudan. This took them later to Egypt and then here to Cambodia. They are two amazing human beings. I’ve said it before and I will say it until the day I die, were it not for Tim and Fay Scott I would not still be here.
Tim and Fay are my parents here. We can sit and just be together or we can jabber endlessly about absolutely nothing at all. I love it when they tell me about their mission stories: getting robbed 3 times in Kenya, Tim getting a metal blade thrown at him in the dark, difficult people, difficult places, interesting food, and less than ideal living. Most of their stories start with, “Oh Tim remember that one time we were traveling across Africa…” to which I usually reply, “I wish I could start my sentences that way!”
They’ve been married for 35 years and they are perfect for each other. Fay is more of the talker and Tim is agreeable and easy going. She scurries around the house and Tim just sits and reads a book, he’d probably just get in the way anyway. Tim was home at lunch time today and Fay hadn’t seen him. She came in and squealed, “Look, Mr.Tim is home! Hi!” as she hugs him from behind. I’m actually convinced these two people love each other. Something I’m not always so easily convinced of back home. I figure it is because, they have been through so, so much together: different countries, faith testing trials, a few dozen needy SM’s like myself, and much more. They’ve been to places where all they had was each other. They’re only entertainment was each other. Some days the other person was the only thing to look forward to at the end of a long day leaning the language, the culture, and feeling horribly out of place.
Fay jokes about getting old, “Ya know, maybe it is just because I am getting old, but the traffic today was awful!” Most of their daily stresses would send most normal people spinning of control. I try to remind her that she cannot consider her life normal and should really give herself a break. They are a healthy couple, good Christians, and who everyone comes to for advice. I’m just so blessed to live with them.
I get to wake up in the morning to Fay’s beautiful and cheerful smile, “Good morning. How’d ya sleep?” I like Fay. She smiles when she talks. She laughs. She listens. She does what she can and leaves the rest in the hands of God. Tim isn’t such a morning person. So usually Fay and I chat as if so much has changed since we both went to bed 8 hours before. We share duties such as hand-washing dishes, filtering water, locking all the doors and windows, and eating leftovers. Speaking of food, Fay hates, loathes, dreads, cooking. She jokes that Tim knows his way around a kitchen because it was what he had to do to survive. But Fay knows her way around a kitchen too, she would just rather spend a lot less time there. Friday afternoons we usually cook together, to share the load. I talk about my grandpa, my little cousins, my memories growing up, and traditions from home. Other times we talk about how crazy Cambodia is and how crazy we are for living here. Tonight I made some weird tofu, quiche, casserole, mush thing. Bless their hearts. Tim just said, “Food is food and at least Fay didn’t have to make it!” Poor souls. They ate happily and never complained. That is how much she hates cooking!
The Scotts do not understand that they are far from normal. They are extraordinary. I don’t know how to help them understand how important they are to me. I try to pull my weight around the house. I try to listen and be attentive when they talk. I try to give them their space and peace and quiet as much as possible. I cook for them whenever I have time. I put the toilet lid down.
Since moving in with the Scotts about 2 months ago, much has changed. My burden of depression has lightened. I binge far less frequently. I’ve started doing yoga again. My prayers and time with God have increased. I laugh much more and cry much less. I enjoy teaching more than I have all year. I have more energy to play. I have a place to invite friends to for movies or birthday parties.
I’ve told them this and randomly tell them, “Have I thanked you yet this week for allowing me to live with you?” If the Scotts had said no, I would be at home right now.
But here I sit, on a Friday night, Sabbath candle flickering. Some days still really stink sometimes, literally and emotionally (I wrote “sucks” the first time. But that word seems much more harsh and unflattering for some reason when I write it).
I’m not ready to settle down in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I am far from in love with my location. But I am falling hard for the people. I’m realizing I want to see my kids graduate. I want to see who they marry (Will Sear and Thavy from 10th grade ever hook up? Or does he really like Chan Mariya? I may never know). I want to see if my 8th grader Sen Vitya becomes Cambodia’s next prime minister, because if anyone does, it will be him! Though I worry because he talks often about bombing other coutries, including the States. I want to see the day when Channavy from 11th grade speaks confidently in English and does great things with her life. I want to see Pen David become a pastor and change this country for the better. But I can’t.
I should’ve seen this coming. But these incredible people have really snuck up on me and I don’t want to think about leaving them.
Hey, the other night, I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote a poem. I wrote it about all the Cambodian people here and how their life differs, yet relates, to ours. It is so easy to see them as lazy and unproductive. But in reality, being productive doesn’t get us too far when we are all in the same boat in the end.

WAITING
Sitting, standing, waiting,
Statues on the street,
They take their place, everyday,
People I long to meet.
They watch me as I pass them by,
Their eyes so hard to tell,
I want to know the thoughts inside,
That tired looking shell.
Their stares are full of questions,
And thoughts they can’t express,
So as I round the corner,
Again, I feel so helpless.
Every morning I see them,
And is where they’ll stay,
Until the sun has tread it’s path,
Through yet another day.
Not sitting in anticipation,
For the arrival of a friend,
But sitting just to pass the time,
Waiting for it’s end.
Isn’t it so pointless?
Have they nothing better to do?
Is there purpose in their lives?
Are they just waiting till it’s through?
Waiting for something better,
Waiting for hope to fill,
Those long deserted places,
That reality tends to kill.
Is there something I am missing?
Or something I can’t see?
Until I live one day like them,
It will always be foreign to me.
But home is more familiar,
And things are different there,
We do things on purpose,
And without a minute to spare.
Yes, we fill our day with “things”,
Tasks, priorities, and such,
But when we close our eyes at night,
Does it really amount to much?
Aren’t we just waiting at our jobs,
And waiting our way through school?
Waiting to feel wanted,
When the world is being cruel.
Aren’t we waiting through entertainment,
To distract from what’s outside?
Aren’t we waiting in distractions,
To avoid the things we hide?
Aren’t we all waiting for something,
The hope of so much more?
The dream that it was worth it,
The “This is what life’s for!”.
We are sitting, standing, waiting,
Statues in the world,
Our postures may be different,
Same destiny unfurled.
The differences seem so vast,
But no one wants to be alone,
One thing we have in common,
We’re all just waiting to go home.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2-21-08

“Ggg-ooo-d Mmm-orrrr-nnn-iing Ttt-eeach-er!” was the surprised response I got through giggles from Sophal this morning after I touched his shoulder and said, “Hi”. I wish I could have somehow captured his voice and the look on his face. Sophal is the maintenance man at CAS. He is a 30-something father of a 7th grader at school and his wife is a teacher. He has a ridiculous smile that is so endearing. I see him everyday and I smile each time I pass him. But while his wife and son are learning English, I figured he only spoke Khmer. So I thought I would just try this morning to talk to him and to my surprise he spoke very clearly, well through the school boy giggling of course. I laughed out loud as I walked away past students walking to class.
When I was about 10 years old I had the thought, “If I don’t get busy, I will never make it in the Guinness Book of World Records if I don’t do something amazing while I am young!” You know like, youngest person to write a book or youngest person to produce a CD. I figured my only chances were, youngest person to graduate college, but I knew I was too far behind that. So then I thought I could wait 80 years and be the oldest person to do something. But here in Cambodia it has become somewhat of a joke with people at the mission that, I may be the SM who took the longest to adjust! Hey, it’s something. It may not be record book material, but either way I feel better today, then I did 6 months ago.
I could be ashamed or embarrassed about this, but truth is truth: This has not been easy. No one could ever convince me of what this “should” have been or what I “should” have done. They could say it I suppose, but I wouldn’t listen. Emailing a friend the other day, he reminded me that, I can regret my way to my grave or I can enjoy the last 4 months of this incredible adventure. The adventure didn’t just start recently; it started the day I stepped into the thick Cambodian humidity. But the adventure has just become noticeably more enjoyable since Christmas.
I like to make lists. I make lists of things to do that day, food I need from the market and books to read. I write lists of my favorite movies, ya know, just in case I forget and want to watch a good movie. I sound like that guy in “Stranger than Fiction”. I can be really regimented sometimes. Either way, instead of making a list of all my regrets, I started a list of things I will miss about Cambodia, so I better enjoy while I am here. I also wrote “another” list of things I want to do before I die. You see, my Dad probably instilled this in me. Each year at Christmas time in our stockings, my Mom would put things like funky pencils, little perfume bottles, and chocolate. Amidst the fun stuff, Dad put a black leather buisness planner for the upcoming year. He would sit us down on the couch and stress the importance of time management and long-term goals. All I was thinking about were the rest of the presents under the tree. But nonetheless, something sunk in, because I am Ms. Plan Ahead.
So, here is my “Unofficial: must-do-before-I-die” list:
-learn more about Karl Marx, Gandhi, and C.S. Lewis
-learn how to play guitar and how to make those origami cranes
-learn more about anarchy, post-modernism, feminism, Judaism, and Islam
-read “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers
-read more Ellen White and some Jane Austen
-become a licensed personal trainer
-act in a theatre production
-sing the National Anthem at a big sporting event, again (I did this once at a big hockey game in Colorado. But ya know that really high, really important
at the end?“And the land of the free…..!!” Let’s just say it went a bit flat and
a lot squeaky. My Dad, sitting proudly in the audience, captured it all on video tape along
with the comments of the man sitting behind him who said, “How embarrassing! Geez,
I’d hate to be that girl right now!”)
-write a book
-write to Oprah
-hug a giant redwood tree
-walk the streets of New York City

As I looked over my list, I thought it looked a bit weak. Granted it isn’t complete, but still lacking. I made much more exciting life lists when I was younger. The lists back then had things like: walk on the Great Wall of China, play in the Women’s National Basketball Association, and visit Paris. All of these things are great and I would still love to experience any one of them. But I suppose my priorities have changed a bit.
Now, I seek less extreme and record-breaking, and more simple and enjoyable. I can’t even fathom ever wanting to leave the country right now. So international travel is kind of out for awhile. At least international travel, alone! I hope that my goals in life now are a little more intentional. I would like to think that learning new skills and reading more books will help me to better understand the world I live in. I like to think that taking risks or taking risks “again” will just be practice for taking even bigger risks for God. I find that now I just want to understand people more than I want to change them. I can’t reach the prostitutes down the street from me, if I only ask what they do and never ask who they are.
I don’t think writing to Oprah has anything to do with anything. That is just for fun!
I am rebuilding in me a very warped sense of self. As I spoke with my parents this week, my Dad said, “Ya know, maybe things haven’t worked out with your ED counselor back home because this was something you needed to do on your own.” Before I left I was meeting with her weekly. But when I left for Cambodia, all ties were cut and we have talked only twice.
Yeah, I could say, “On my own” because it has felt that way most of the time. But even the skeptic in me knows better.
“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG) I read this verse every single day before school.
I still have my questions about God. I’m still learning. But I’m not dead yet. And I guess we’ve made it this far.
Even after 6 months of struggles, I know that leaving all of this will be really, really painful. Oh good, I just get comfortable and then, more pain! But I’m not thinking about the future any more than I am choosing to dwell in the past. I am here now.
As the song goes, “All we can do is keep breathing.”

Saturday, February 16, 2008

2-16-08

If I go for a walk it is sometime after 5pm when the heat and humidity are bearable right before sunset. I set out with ipod, tennis shoes, pepper spray, and house keys in hand. My parents bought me the pepper spray in Thailand. I’ve almost used it 3-4 times now. And the house keys I bring to put the keys in between my fingers, sorta like brass knuckles. So, now I am all set.
I leave the gated compound where I live, walk past the guard, and brave the streets. I put on my music, usually some acoustic folk music or Norah Jones. As I walk the eternally chaotic streets of Phnom Penh, I like to pretend like the world around me is as peaceful as the music I am listening to. I have a 30 minute walk that takes me down the least busy roads I can find. The road closest to home is a dirt one with pot holes usually full of muddy water and food wrappers. At any time during the day most Cambodians just sit outside their “houses” and watch. So I just serve as entertainment.
As I round the corner I see a regular group of guys who play volleyball in an empty lot. Some play, others just sit and watch. I’ve learned to not make eye contact with men. I’ve gotten really, really good at noting their presence but never acknowledging it. This is a shame for any good men that exist here, because some may be genuinely friendly people, I just haven’t encountered them yet. So I note the 25 or so men that are gathered there, speed up my steps, and keep my eyes forward. I don’t wear shorts above my knees. My shoulders have never seen the Cambodian sun. I don’t wear even nearly tight clothing. And I live in sports bras for this very reason. Why draw any more attention than necessary? Over my music I can hear them whistling and yelling something at me. It is not flattering. It is not welcome. And it is far from appealing. I just keep walking.
As I walk past an orphanage on the next corner a young boy runs out right at me. My heartbeat quickens, my eyes get bigger, and I gasp for breath. The feelings from the last time an innocent boy approached me come back instantly and I eye him closely as he runs past me.
I cross the street of speeding motos and unfriendly stares. I’ve honestly started telling myself that the people really must have me confused with Nicole Kidman. They are just staring to decide if I am really her or not. I think, “Yup, the longer they look, they’ll realize I am not her and stop staring. Yup, any minute now. Ok, they are still staring. They’ll catch on soon.” It’s the only way to feel less like a circus freak and more like a human being.
As I walk the road with the least traffic, my thoughts turn inward. I think about my week. This afternoon we had a birthday party for Dina. Angie and I cooked all morning, then right after church, JC, DaRith, Sokcha, Angie and I surprised Dina with a party. It was a really good time. We ate curry, rice, fried bananas, and bean soup. Yeah, they eat beans as desert here! They don’t use salt. They’ll have black beans, sugar, and this weird pink jelly stuff. Not a favorite. Later we played charades.
This last week one of my students named Vitya, or Chia because it is easier, was in a particularly good mood. Chia is shorter than me and quite plump. He is the class clown and speaks, hands down, the best English. He almost always beats me to school and I get there an hour early! He usually acknowledges me with a slight nod, and pretends he has better things to be doing. When the students all make their way in to class each day, I stand at the door and greet them. Chia has started standing before me and just waiting. I put out my hand to shake, he shakes his head. I bow like the Japanese; he nods his head, “No”. I stand stiffly and salute, he looks exhausted at my attempts. After a few random tries, I jokingly give up and he greets me in whatever way I hadn’t thought of yet. Yesterday it was a high five! Of course, why didn’t I think of that?
During break time he always makes his way to my desk and tells me whatever happens to be on his mind. This week was a lot of politics. He explained to me why he hates Thai people, Vietnamese, and anyone else who has supposedly stolen land from Cambodia. He jokes about building a big bomb to send them a message. He talks very animated about the Khmer Rouge. He teaches me Khmer words I can use at the market. His laugh is a mischievous chuckle that automatically makes me laugh as well. Sometimes we arm wrestle. Sometimes I teach him Spanish words. Sometimes he tells me about the infamous Ms. Hong, who was his American teacher last year and about how fabulous she was! I secretly hope he annoys next years SM about the infamous Ms. Bo., that was the greatest teacher ever! Most of the time he just talks and I just sit there and try to understand him. Because there are really three languages being used at school (in order by most common usage): Khmer, Khmer/English, and English. You see they leave the last syllable sound off of most words. They add their whiney, nasal tone to it. They interject a lot of “uh”’s, “um”’s, “er”’s, and “oy”’s! So understanding their English is a whole nother language in itself. One girl came up to me and said, “Cha Bo, di I paw the eggsa ah nawh?”. I said, “What?”. Eventually we worked out that she was saying, “Teacher Bo, did I pass the exam or not?”
Wednesday there were two Khmer workers looking into our classroom. I was doing some work at my desk. Chia came up to me and almost jealously said, “I saw those guys. They were looking at you because you are so beautiful! Next time I see them I will hit them!” I consoled him and promised I was ok, but thanked him for watching out for me. I smiled proudly as he returned to his desk.
I am more aware again of my surroundings on my walk again as I dodge a little boy, maybe 2 years old, who is squatting in the middle of the street taking a dump. I shake my head, shrug my shoulders, and keep walking.
At the end of each day, the households burn their rubbish, or trash, in the street outside their homes. So I cough my way down one particularly polluted street. I pull my t-shirt over my nose and mouth and try not to think about the toxins filling my lungs as a little girl tosses more plastic bottles into the fire.
I am reminded again of how much money I would pay to be Cambodian for just one day. At least $200 if you are curious. I wonder what they think when they look at me. I do smile at women and children. They are safe. The women usually say, “Sa-at” which means “beautiful” and just smile at me curiously. I think they just look at me awhile hoping we could communicate just as badly as I do. Do they wish they could give their children a better education? Do they wonder what I am doing here? Do they think I am like the American women they see in the movies?
I round the corner to the mission where I live. Weddings and funerals are held on the street like everything else. So even with the honking horns, traffic, and yelling, they just carry on. They have set up a bright pink tent, tables and chairs, and a very large speaker system. This one is a funeral because blasting through the speakers is a droning, repetitive, nearly brainwashing recording of a Buddhist monk chanting their religious beliefs. The sound can be heard for blocks and blocks around.
I walk through the gates, past the guard I cannot communicate with, and come home. Yes, I can call it home and that doesn’t feel strange at all.




Hey, check out my Flickr account on the left-hand side bar thingy! I am about to post some new pics of Malaysia and where I live at the Scotts. Plus, the results of a particularly uninteresting Sabbath afternoon where I took pictures of myself doing yoga! Oh boy! The adventures never stop here in Cambodia!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2-14-08

Random thought: What is the opposite of “raw sewage? Cooked sewage? Sautéed sewage? Grilled….ok, ok I’ll stop. Just a thought.
I am much, much better this week. I got back from Malaysia on Sunday and was craving my own bed and routine. School started right away on Monday and now here I am near the end of another week.
My cousin, Angie, wrote to me back in November about her hunch that I may be depressed. I didn’t believe her mostly because I didn’t want to. I was thinking, “Oh great, another mental illness to add to the list”! She sent me a book about it and sure enough, I have minor depression. Basically, we all hold core beliefs in our lives. Some are true, some aren’t. So for those of us that live by false truths we’ve been telling ourselves for years, after awhile reality just gets in the way. I’ve been telling myself for years, “Heather, you are not enough.” So thus, I am an overachiever. I am never smart enough, involved enough, organized enough, my siblings-enough, friendly enough, sporty enough, pretty enough, or as I decided two years ago, thin enough. When I tell myself that I am not enough, any small setback seems like a huge failure to add to the list. That is why last week was so hard. I was feeling so hopeless and was literally unable to talk myself out of it. So after a rough week in Malaysia, I knew I needed to make some changes. For example: I’ve mentioned that I came here to find God, but feel farther away from Him than ever. It is hard to find something you are not looking for. Guilty.
So I decided that I had to make time for God. This week I’ve been getting up a half-hour earlier to do so. I get up at 4 to spend a good hour with my bible and in prayer. I thank those of you who have been joining me at this time each day. I am praying at 3:30 pm for Nebraskans, and 2:30pm for Coloradoans. I’ve known for awhile that I speak the Christian lingo, but I don’t actually know God for myself. I could preach a lovely sermon on almost any topic, but I don’t know what it feels like to fully rely on God and trust that He will carry me through. So with every verse I read, I ask myself, “What is this teaching me about who God is?”
At the end of every day, I finish this sentence as many ways as possible, “I am glad I woke up this morning because…” This has completely changed my perspective because I have to search for things to put on my list some days.
So for this week, I’m glad I woke up:
-to see a funny Chinese man waddling/jogging his way down the street flapping his arms like a bird
-to begin to trust my anxiety to God
-to laugh and play with Vitya (8th grader)
-to get an Oprah magazine in the mail
-to dance and sing with the 11th graders at worship
-to book tickets to Australia in April
-to get my 2nd Christmas package from Union College

Yes, it’s true, I got my “Christmas” package from Campus Ministries yesterday. Yay! I got some yummy foods, some nice pampering lotions, new music my friends burned onto CD’s, letters, and love. Any time I get mail, the love literally pours out of the box. And out of this package also poured a broken jar of Taco Bell hot sauce. But either way, I got mail and it made me so, so happy. Thank you to everyone who sent some love my way!
I think I have worms. Apparently, it is really common here. Either way it seems that I’ve been sick and miserable for several months now. So I hope that taking some pills will help. All I’ve seen of worms was in a Guinness book of World Records book that reported the longest one ever that they were yanking out of someone’s nose. Yippeee! Sign me up. I don’t think mine is that bad.
Tomorrow is Friday. This weekend I am planning a surprise birthday party for a teacher friend of mine, Dina. I am getting really darn good at making curry and Indian chapattis! I’ll take orders when I get back.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

2-9-08

“I’m waiting in the dark. I’m crying all alone.
I’m watching for a sign. But so far you haven’t shown.
I’ve tried to save myself. I’ve done all I can do.
And so my last resort, I finally look to you.
How did I get to here? Jesus, hold me near.

I’m so tired of my, self-seeking salvation, turns out
I’m so much smaller than I thought.
I was sick of playing “saviour”,
Than I realized, you never asked me to.
Maybe I’m not that strong.
Maybe you are what I needed, all along.

I’m waiting in the dark. I’ve set myself aside.
I’m ready to be changed. Lord take away my pride.
Still living with the pain. Still trying to get through.
How can I be so blind? This is also hurting you.
How did I get to here? Jesus, hold me near.”

This is a song I wrote almost exactly a year ago. I wrote it during Christmas break at home in Colorado and I sang it at Union college in January. The words were so true and so real. They still are. So after a year has passed, why don’t I feel any better? I’m still fighting the same demons over and over, every single day! It seems that nothing has improved. In March, I will have been living with this eating disorder for 2 years. And amidst the different opinions on the topic, some say that you never fully recover.
Today I attended the Koh Ching Seventh-day Adventist church here in Malaysia. As I sat through a very dry, uninspiring sermon, I of course, could not turn off my restless mind. I kept thinking about how very redundant church has become. The more non-Christians I talk to, the more their reasoning makes sense. Doesn’t it all seem kinda hokey sometimes? Maybe it only seems hokey to me because I haven’t truly experienced God for myself, whatever that means.
Last night, on Gmail chat I spoke with my brother-in-law Ben, one of the wisest people I know. I was telling him about a book I just finished, “Appointment in Jerusalem” about a Danish woman who prays to see Jesus for herself, promising that if she did, she would follow Him the rest of her life. She opened her eyes and the image of Jesus was standing in front of her. She asked for signs, she got them. She needed money to survive, she got it. She needed answers, she got them. What’s wrong with me? I’ve been working hard and pleading with God to heal me from ED and yet, I don’t hear a sound. Ben asked what would happen if I prayed for a sign from God and I didn’t get it. I told him that, I probably wouldn’t be surprised because I never actually expect my prayers to make it up to God. Maybe that is the problem. I’ve never truly believed God hears me. I wonder if I am approaching an agnostic belief system because I feel like God only exists for super-Christians and prophets, ya know, the Ellen White type. Sure, I can speak the Adventist lingo, I’ve been practicing for 20 years. But what do I believe? You got me.
I’ve been in Malaysia for a week. It has been interesting. I flew here with Dina and her husband, Chheangley for Chinese New Year celebrations. It is the equivalent of Christmas for us. Everyone goes home to be with their families. We arrived last Friday and stayed with a friend of Dina’s, Lisa. She is a very friendly, mid-twenties girl with a big smile. She lives in a small apartment in Kuala Lampur or KL as everyone calls it. Sabbath we went to one of many Adventist churches in KL, but this is one that Lisa and a few friends planted recently and it was really nice. It reminded me a lot of my home church, the Adventure. It was small and simple, warm and purposeful. They made me feel welcome. We talked for awhile and they explained to me why the entire congregation is Chinese. There are three main groups of people in Malaysia: Malays, Chinese, and Indians. Scattered in there is a large African community and many Iraqis. But there is only one religion: Muslim. If you are a non-foreigner, born in Malaysia, you are Muslim, period. If you convert they will throw you in jail, or worse. I asked them if there is much opportunities for outreach. They all kinda laughed. Of course not, if they get caught witnessing to a Muslim, it is just as bad. We spent Sunday and Monday going to shopping malls and watching movies. Then, we flew to Koh Ching, the city on the island of Borneo, the state of Sarawak, country of Malaysia. Whew! I really like Dina’s family. She has a mom, dad, and 12-year old brother who live at home. Dina and her family are Chinese. Everything is done quickly, spoken quickly, and usually in very high decibels.
We spent the next 4 days enjoying the Chinese New Year traditions. All the family gets to together at the eldest family members home, Dina’s grandparents. They had 8 chidren and in turn, these children made more babies, completely the number to over 30. So in their small, humble home we crammed in for the festivities which mostly includes eating, watching TV, and playing Majong (like Chinese dominoes). It was basically chaos, but they were happy. I obviously knew no one, but they all quickly took to calling me, “Nicole Kidman”. They were obviously confused. New Years Eve included a large feast of mostly meat. They were embarrassed to find I am vegetarian to which they all were stunned and said, “So how do you survive?” Eating meat is a culture thing, especially pork, in the Chinese culture. So becoming a Chinese Adventist is like us burning the American flag. Well, maybe not quite so extreme, but either way, very important! The night was rounded out at midnight and beyond as fire crackers exploded all around. The sound was deafening.
The next morning there were splashes of red paper in front of everyone’s driveways from the firecrackers the night before. The next fifteen days of celebrations go like this: every morning visit the grandparents and eat. Then visit distant relatives they haven’t seen since last Chinese New Year, and eat. Then visit this uncle and that uncle, and eat some more. They all joke that the 15 days of celebrations should be followed by 15 days of fasting, because that literally sums up the holiday! I didn’t much understand the Chinese all around me, so I took to the kids. We practiced their English by playing, “guess what I am trying to describe”! You know like, “Ok, it is red on the outside and white on the inside and you eat it! What am I?”. “An apple”! Yeah, we played that game for hours. Jasmine a pleasantly plump 6-almost 7- year old got most excited. She would directly at my red bag sitting next to me and say, “Ok, guess this one. It is big and red and you carry things in it! What am I?” It got old after awhile, but Sudoku did too, so this game was a nice break.
Chinese New Year is about good, relaxing time together with family and it is a tradition that spans nearly 4000 years.
Well, the combination of different culture, not fitting in, way too much food, and some boredom, has kind of taken its toll. Yesterday I started getting sick, again! I suppose I am due for the once or twice a month sickness I tend to get in Asia. I have been feeling nauseas all week, but the cold and exhaustion is just the icing on the cake. I am sad to report I didn’t really see much of Malaysia at all. I wanted to see the beach or the zoo, or some local character. But I didn’t feel like I had room to object against the New Year traditions, they were already accepting me into.
I could sugar coat, but I won’t. This week has been draining. Being surrounded by this family has left me more homesick than ever for my own. The feelings of absolute loneliness remain as I struggle with being the constant attraction of Asian eyes. I haven’t blended in anywhere since I left the states nearly 6 months ago. I stick out everywhere. I am the subject of conversation, stares, pointing, and awkward whispers. I like to think they must think I really “am” Nicole Kidman and just can’t believe their eyes. But that passes and I remember I am a foreigner, in their land, very far from home.
So I started thinking, “What is it about loneliness that is just so painful for me?” As if that was a moronic question to ask as it is. Who enjoys being lonely? But I just figured I would be more comfortable with it by now. Loneliness has been my reality since I got here. But my ways of coping continue to be just as painful and destructive.
I am ready to leave here, but I don’t really want to return to Cambodia either. I don’t feel like I have a home. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. The more I search, the more frustrated I become. Hope? Yeah, I don’t feel that too often. I know this will all end eventually, I just wish I wasn’t actually craving it the way I have been since I got here. Because in chatting with my sister Ashley a few nights ago I realized I am in fear of returning home too. What if the “heaven” I’ve made home out to be, just isn’t? What if I don’t adjust there either? What if I get stuck in this depression I’ve acquired since being here? What if I don’t get rid of this darn eating disorder? What if, what if, what if?
I wish I was just a mindless person, who lived moment by moment, without a care in the world. Do people like that exist? I wish I didn’t think so much. I wish, I wish, I wish.