Well, it’s not quite New Year’s Eve (actually, after finishing this and going back to edit, it actually is NYE, but whatever…), but as I plan to spend tomorrow hanging out and playing games with my family, I thought I’d reminisce tonight, instead…
2014 was, on the whole, a really great year. One of the highlights of the first half was definitely celebrating the birth of twin girls born to one of my dearest friends after years of prayer and journeying through infertility. The girls arrived safe and healthy, and I was grateful to be able to help out a fair amount, too!
Another highlight was the opportunity to return to ICS as a supply teacher for a little while (my work schedule was flex/work-from-home while Sandra was away, which allowed me to arrange it this way). It was so nice to see familiar faces and return to the school that way; it bookended my time in Thailand quite nicely!
I can’t forget to mention ISM and my final term as School Administrator, of course, but that, while positive, was more bittersweet in nature. I have never had any doubts about my calling there or my peace about transitioning home at this time, but it was still one of those “sighs wistfully” moments every time I did the “last” of something… The last wait at the airport to pick a student up, the last Chatuchak Market day, the last Grand Palace trip (yes, even those things…) It was such an amazing experience to see so many young people taking such a big step of faith, and to be a part of their journey of discovering the role God has called them to play in the world.
The end of June brought me back to Canada, for the first time in years on a one-way ticket. There is something incredibly sobering about boarding a plane with a one-way ticket. I said goodbye to some really special people… I’m so grateful to know that regardless of the emotions of each or any individual moment, God’s underlying peace is a constant confirmation of His Will.
I had a 24 hour layover in London, and enjoyed revisiting some of the places we’d been as a family the year before on holiday. I even went to the same bakery and managed to bring home some treats for everyone! I also saw a wedding dress exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. That probably makes me sound a bit flighty, but I took a course in rites of passage at university, and the history of the white wedding (and how relatively new our “traditions” are) was just fascinating, so this exhibit was really interesting from a social history perspective.
Anyway, to be totally honest, maybe because it’s so late, or maybe because of some deeper reason I’ll think of later, I don’t remember much of the first several weeks home. I know I got to meet my other friend’s new baby, which was also so special! I can’t believe how quickly he’s grown just in the few months I’ve been home! I also so enjoyed seeing everyone at church again.
A highlight, though, was our family trip to Chicago to see my friend (who had the twins) who had just moved back, as well. Dear friends are hard to come by in life, and I count myself very blessed that even though she’s no longer a five minute walk away, she’s still within driving distance!
Shortly after that, I ended up going to Florida for awhile to stay with my grandparents as my grandma recovered from surgery. It was such a blessing to be able to help, and to get to know and appreciate them in yet another way. While I was there, I was also able to go and see the final Off Kilter show at Epcot; my uncle is the fiddler in the band, and it was a sad day to see their show replaced by another act, but I was so grateful to be there – it was definitely an amazing experience!
The fall and winter (if we can call it winter so far?) have been a time of settling back into routine life here at home with my parents and my sister (or trying to find routine, perhaps!). I’ve gotten involved at my church, and am taking two more Additional Qualification courses right now. One is Teaching Students with Behaviour Needs, and the other is Teaching and Learning Through eLearning. They are keeping me busy, and I’m enjoying both of them quite a lot, though perhaps because I already have two Spec Ed AQs, I find I am learning more practical new skills from the eLearning course.
In the five years I lived overseas, I was home for three Christmasses, the first because I was in between contracts and didn’t even know I’d be heading back in just a few weeks, and the other two every other year after that. However, this year is the first Christmas I’ve spent at home without the underlying sadness of an impending departure! Usually, by the 27th or 28th, I’d be on a plane heading back to Asia, but this time, I find myself secure in the knowledge that I will be in Waterloo for the “foreseeable future” (whatever that means to God, but at least a few years I think is safe to say!). I am grateful to not have to say goodbye again right now!
This has been a long post thus far, with predominantly factual updates, but I think that’s because it is far easier to explain the factual details of what happened than the emotional or spiritual undercurrents that swept you through those experiences and provided all the “drama” and learning opportunities… It’s hard to commit those feelings to writing when sometimes I’m still not sure exactly what they are. It’s been such a huge year of transition, and on the whole it’s been handled well, but it’s turned the world topsy-turvy and it takes time to reorient yourself…
I had a lot of people talk to me before I moved home about how missionaries can often feel a loss of significance when they return home because the work they were doing overseas felt so important and whatever they are doing now feels more trivial. I was keeping my eye out for that (which for me, personally, still to date, has not been an issue), when I got rather taken off guard by the fact that I haven’t just “lost” my job, but everything else, too… my friends, my church, my missions team, my cheap and healthy food, my local coffee shop, my easy transportation options, my daily walk down Srinakarin and back, my own apartment, … my independence. The realization that I hadn’t returned to life in Canada, but rather was (and still am) in the process of building a new life in Canada was unexpected, but has proved helpful in processing some of the changes I am growing accustomed to.
I am reminded as I type this of what I titled this blog so many years ago now, “A Journey of Becoming.” When I wrote On Becoming originally, it was in direct reference to personal character growth. As I followed God to Thailand, Nepal and back to Thailand, the things that stretched and shaped my character were linked so closely to the missionary/travel/cultural experiences I was having. I think without realizing it, some part of me got the idea that once I was back in Canada, I wouldn’t be stretched so much (seriously, where did that come from?). In reality, though, the last six months have stretched me far more than I could have imagined. I have never once doubted that I am where God wants me or that He has a plan for me, but I’ve shed many tears over my whole life being in boxes in the basement (a literal and figurative situation it seems at times), and have wondered dismally how I would ever achieve any kind of independence again…
But oh, what joy to be reminded once again that my “Journey of Becoming” is NOT the story of “Jessica Learns to Be Gentle” or even “Jessica Moves to Asia”, but IS the story of “God Nurturing and Investing in Jessica Because He Cares About Who She Becomes”! That story started before I could even appreciate it, and it continues today, and tomorrow, and for the rest of my life, regardless of how adventurous or “story-worthy” it may sound. That story doesn’t depend on me going on a physical journey to a far away land; it doesn’t even depend on me being on a figurative journey that I’ve clearly identified. It depends upon my remaining willing to seek God’s perspective on things, to sacrifice my pride or my comfort or whatever else the situation calls for to remain fully in His Will, and to continue following faithfully wherever He leads.
And so, as I head into 2015 and all that it brings, I walk with confidence knowing my Journey of Becoming is guided by none other than Jehovah Rohi. And for that, I am most grateful!
May your new year be one that brings you closer to Him,