when i was young and bored in school, i’d take an index card and work it back and forth between my fingers until it was worn down to the texture of a course kleenex.

after 13+ months abroad, i’m that kleenex.

i started out fresh, crisp, colorful, and excited. just like that stack of multi-colored index cards you plan on transforming into a pile of brilliant flashcards, yet somehow wind up as scattered to-do lists and scratch pads.

because i miss my homeland and culture in a weirdly clingy, almost-nationalistic kind of way.

i miss the comradery of my brothers.

i miss the wheel and the open road, alone with the silence or the dramatic sing-alongs.

i want to be hugged till my ribs crack and my breath is gone by friends who’ve been there since forever.

i want to sit on the floor with my nephew and together demolish a carton of ben & jerry’s.

i want to sit in coffee shops and wander through stores eavesdropping on english conversations just because i can. to sit and people watch, knowing i’m finally invisible; no longer the only sore-thumbed grey-eyed blonde getting stared through a sea of non-blondes.

and i’m worn. worn away like the edge of a river, and it’s not because i haven’t loved and lived every minute of the expat/missionary-teacher’s life. it’s because i have. and had i come prepared to stay forever, perhaps the wearing away wouldn’t have happened so quickly. but i didn’t, and it has.

but to be worn is not a complaint. not negative. not bad. because to be unworn is to be unused—and probably frightfully bored. i want to live ‘worn’, to die ‘worn’.

but looking into the future, i’m scared. knowing i’ll never fit again into the old life, knowing every prism of that life will look a little different. the colors will have shifted; months of imperceptible change will have piled up. i’ll be different; my own colors will have shifted; my own months of imperceptible change have molded and reworked the girl that left.

and too, i want to stay. because i’ll go back, and realize life wears no matter where the wear takes place. (playin’ them homophones and homonyms like a boss, yo.)

i want to stay, because there is a life worth living and an adopted family worth having here. there’s 60 some-odd teens i love beyond reason, passionately and impetuously, teens to live for and grow for and advise for and love.

but soon it’ll be time, once again, to change lanes, maybe even highways. knowing i was led here, knowing i’m led away, knowing i’ve learned and gained and been given what can never be bought. knowing that it’s not the homesickness bringing me back, not the yearning for familiarity. it’s the thread here and the cord there that pull and call me home, back to the new, forward to the next step on a broken road.

i could write an age on what i’ve learned, how i’ve grown, what i’ve come to understand. i should; i’ll try. but this post isn’t about the growth. this is about the byproduct of growth: growing pains.

or simply the raw honesty that comes with the re-evaluation of transition, or the tired candor of a sore heart, or the straightforwardness of haywire sentiment.


here goes…

Like every new years, I’ve been wrestling with what ideas I should be taking from 2015 and what ambitions to choose for 2016. I’ve wondered what I learned last year, I’m wondering what I want most to learn this year.

But finally, the ‘eureka’ moment came.

Maybe new years shouldn’t be such a giant thing. Us humans, we’re always clamoring after the idea of a new beginning. Honestly, what’s more exciting than starting fresh? What thrills us more than conceiving the project to end all world problems and mustering everything in the world to begin? What sets our blood pumping more than coloring in the first lines of a masterpiece, taking that first martial arts lesson, buying the equipment to go climb Mt McKinley, writing the first lines of the world’s next bestseller, or breaking ground on the world’s first t-rex-shaped coffee house?

[I feel like I’m digressing.]

But my point, ah right. The fact is, it’s the “middles” that change us, change others, change the world. Anyone can begin. Everyone loves to finish. But so few can “middle”.

January is full of new diets, fresh resolutions, big ideas. December is cozy with family and cookies and patting ourselves on the backs for making it through another year and in short, everything we repent of in January. But the truth is, the year is made of what we do with that spare hour in June. What we’re working on that late September afternoon. Whether we watch TV or add another stroke to the next Mona Lisa during that long February evening.

So maybe that’s all I want from 2016. I want to start strong and finish well, sure. But mostly, I want to take the middle by the throat, conquer it, master it, give it all the energy of beginning.

Ha! you thought I was done. Nope, now I’m going to contradict everything I talked about and let my words meander through the unknown portals of 2016. Here at the end of the year, I’ve been coughed up onto the shores of probability with my head spinning. Last year, I knew exactly what I wanted from 2015. But today, 2016 is merely a mess of lines and shapes awaiting the hand that colors.

But I feel my desires are simple.

If at the end of 2016 I have taught well, influenced my students towards something better than mere academics, given my best to learning the mountain of things awaiting me…

it will still not be quite enough.

In 2016, I want to rediscover my God. I want to know truth, to know Him.

I want 2016 to be intense, passionate, immeasurable.

I want it to beat the breath out of me, leave me burned up and washed up, catching my breath and panting for 2017.

Bring it.

Take a breath, take a step
What comes next
God only knows
But here goes…

And what good is chance not taken?
And what good is life not living?
And what good is love not given?

Here goes nothing
Here goes everything…

Now duh, everyone loves a good recap. With pictures, obviously, because these lines upon lines of black are boring me to death. So stay tuned for my warmed-over, hashed-out, worn-out look back at one of the longest yet shortest, most exciting, most strenuous years of my life.

So far.