Friday, July 6, 2012


I returned from Cambodia on July 1st, 2008. I remember landing on the airstrip in Denver, seeing the lights of the city, and exhaling for the first time in ten months. In that moment, I recognized that somehow, something, somewhere brought me home safely with only a few traumatic events embedded in my psyche. I came back with scars, but I came back alive and that was enough.

That was four years ago. Since then, I wrote a book about my time in Cambodia. I recorded it in audio-form for Christian Record Services for the blind. I have told and re-told my story a few dozen times for a few thousand people. I still keep in touch with some of the kiddos I taught overseas. Fay and I still catch up on the phone once in awhile. I recovered from the eating disorder that long-plagued my health. I graduated from college. I married my best friend. I don't think about Cambodia every single day like I used to. Nightmares no longer assault my sleep. I'm healthier. I'm happier. I'm safer. I'm moving forward.

A few weeks ago, my friend Michael, text me:

"A few weeks before the fourth anniversary of you returning from Cambodia, I am finally finished reading about your time there. I've had the last ten chapters or so unfinished for a long, long time. I sat outside The Mill tonight and finally knocked them out. Wow, Heather. I remember seeing you at the Pizza Feed as that next semester started. I don't remember our exchange but I remember that moment for some reason. I had no idea such a big story was packed inside of you. Over the past few years it's been nothing short of an honor getting to know you. I'm kind of tearing up thinking how much you've meant to me in so many different ways. Thank you for being you. Thank you for sharing your life so openly and letting me be part of it. Your life's story will only grow bigger. I feel like I know that for sure. You're a beautiful person. I can't wait to see what the future holds for you and all of us. Miss you and hope you're having a good week. Take care : ) "

Friends like Michael remind me where I've been, because sometimes I forget. I forget that I'm worth being proud of. That I can feel confident in my strength to endure, to press on, and to overcome. That I have "such a big story" packed inside of me. Yes, I can be proud of that.

Last night, I was asked to share my testimony with the teens here at summer camp. It's a story that I know by heart, yet still keep a complete typed-out, word-for-word version in my hand at all times, because even though I've traveled around the country and shared my story many times, I still get wobbly. My voice still shakes sometimes. I'm still humbled by where I've been. I'm humbled at how God/The Universe has brought me through. I'm humbled by the story packed inside of me.

Every year, I write a blog like this. Every year I celebrate this anniversary in different ways.
The first year back in 2009, I was just grateful to have survived and to have found some peace.
The next year in 2010, I published my book Honestly, I'm Struggling about my time in Cambodia.
The next year in 2011, I let go of some remaining regrets.
And this year? This year, I'm celebrating this anniversary by being completely, unabashedly, and downright proud.

I'm going to confidently tackle these day-to-day annoyances knowing that I've tackled much worse.

I'm going to give myself grace as I figure out adulthood and marriage, because with time, I've figured out everything else that's come my way.

I think I'm going to skim my own book since I wrote it and whisper prayers of gratitude along the way.

I'm going to savor these moments I've been gifted.

I'm going to be proud.


Starfish said...

God's proud of us, we should have the decency to be the same. Thanks for everything you write, Heather, and for being one of the two student missionaries who I knew understood where I was after coming back to the States. You're a blessing!