Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stories worth knowing.

Larry King said once: I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening.

There is a shredder in the student work room in the history department; it's not something we think much about. Sometimes teachers give us old tests to shred with a gleam in their eye, because shredding is no ones favorite job. A few weeks ago, the teacher I work for dropped a large box next to me and declared, "Today you get to do one of my favorite jobs, shredding!" I thought he was being sarcastic, so I replied, "Oh my goodness, THIS is why I love working for the Chair of the department." But after a few more sentiments of care for shredding, I began to think he was being serious.
After a few minutes of noisy shredding, the bag was full and in need of a change. In the lull between shredding storms Monty came in to get water and told me, 'When I started here the department didn't have a shredder. So as Chair, the first thing I purchased was this shredder.'
All of a sudden, this wasn't just a box which provided a less than fun job. It is a box of firsts, of new beginnings. You wouldn't know by looking at it, but the shredder has a story.

I work as a tutor at Walla Walla High School during the week. It's a job I thoroughly enjoy. The kids are easy to joke around with, easy to have fun with; but often it's hard to break into their deeper parts. They, like many I know including me, have a hard time opening up about their brokenness. But if you listen carefully they might just give something away.
Last week the kids were practicing being in front of people and were responsible for reading something to the class. Some chose poems, or stories from a book; others read stories they had written for an English class. Stephanie is a freshman, she is loud, outgoing, and seemingly very self-confident. She got up to read, and her story broke my heart. Her dad had left her and her mom for another family out of the blue; and she had spent the last few years struggling to feel like she matters to him when he continues to make excuses and not show up. You may not know by looking at her, but Stephanie has a story.

The balcony outside of the history department is one of my favorite places. On the balcony is a table and chairs out there and some of us spend a lot of time there reading; there is also a rubber mat that spans the length and width of the balcony. I've never really thought anything of this mat until last week.  Dr Aamodt crawled out the window to sit with us for a few minutes and told this story: When the new Ad Building first opened, the history department was told, don't go out on the balcony. The paper put down on the balcony to drain the rain would break through if walked on. Dodds and Buell were not happy about this- they wanted a place for students and themselves. So they went out and bought rubber mats to make being on the balcony an approved activity.
You might not know by looking at them, but the mats have a story.

I'm learning to ask. I'm learning to listen. Because everyone has a story worth knowing.

Monday, April 2, 2012


In Portland, my home is not located very conveniently. It is a ten minute drive from my house to the nearest store, fifteen to church and nearly thirty to my high school. There is pretty much one way in and one way out.
While I was home during spring break, they closed our way in and out to do construction and make the highway flow better. And I'm sure in the long run this will make the normally congested highway move more smoothly, but for now it just looks like an inconvenient, giant waste of money. Detours take drivers to an exit to the north or south, but the extra time it would take was enough to deter me from leaving the house too much during break.

I am the first to admit I don't like change. I don't like the unknown. Not in the way that changing classes quarter to quarter gets me down- but those larger, LIFE changes. Those I don't like so much.

One big thing I learned in Cambodia was trust. Trust God, it's OK to not have everything figured out yet. It's OK to not feel ready. But letting that empty space stop you is not an option, because as someone before me said, life happens between the trapeze bars. I came back from Cambodia confident in that knowledge. But everyday that graduation draws closer, I find myself trying to slow down time, avoiding topics of the future, and my inner monologue keeps chanting: I'm not ready yet!

But no matter how many dances I do to slow the rotation of the earth, or how much I procrastinate on my senior paper, the end of my college career is coming. This big lesson I learned in Cambodia needs to be applied and reapplied day in and day out.

I'm not sure where I will be after I graduate. I still have some time to figure it out and I know that God's "no" is not a rejection, but a redirection. No matter how inconvenient and time consuming the detour, as long as I keep moving, keep laughing, and keep dreaming, I will end up where I am supposed to . Because nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

Thomas Edison said: Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

That scene from the original Alice in Wonderland has spent some some time running through my head lately.

I had a hard time this summer at camp. I went a little crazy. I wasn't in control. I couldn't talk about it. Instead of investing in my job, I walked about, unaware of basically everything.

While I was home for the last month I spent some time at PAA helping out and subbing. I was talking to a class full of seniors one day, and they asked me what I wanted to do after I graduate. I laughed, listed four options and told them but really I have no idea, I'm unplanned, unprepared. The teacher in the room said "That's not unprepared, that's options."

It's taken me a while, but I'm coming around. I'd still rather not be in a large group of people. I'd rather be at home in my bed. I'd rather be done with school. I'd rather be in Cambodia... But I have dreams, I have plans. I can get out of bed in the morning. I can smile and laugh. I can move forward.

I may be a little lost, and a little crazy, but I'm ready to move forward.
Lets do this, Walla Walla.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sunset Lake!

There are a few places that I consider my home, and this summer I get to spend two months at one of my favorite places, Sunset Lake.

A year ago I left this place to go to Cambodia. It was hard to leave and the only place I ever truly missed while I was in Cambodia was Sunset Lake. And now it's here. I'm here!
This place is good for the soul.

There is that exhausted feeling that I know will come, that stressed out, over-worked, ahhhhh!!, feeling. But it's worth it. This job is worth it.

I can't wait for campers to get here. I can't wait for adventure and bonding, growth and joy.

It's like coming home, it's like a little piece of heaven.

It's a place where you belong.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Cambodian version.

I could see the lights of the city as we made our final approach, and I tried to make out anything familiar, it was difficult in the dark, but I could feel the feeling of HOME start to sink in. As the wheels touched down in Portland, and the women next to me leaned over and said, "welcome home" I smiled and held back the tears that wanted to fall.

It had been a long 46 hours. I had done two "overnight" flights, but felt far from rested.

When I walked off the plane in Korea there was a Khmer family walking in front of me that didn't speak any English and they were confused as to where they were going. I asked in my limited Khmer if I could help, and we all got a good laugh about the white girl speaking Khmer in Korea. After we all got through customs and security they told me they were moving to live with their family in Seattle, and that they wanted to cook for me if I was ever in Seattle so I could practice my Khmer. I said my final "chee-im rip lea", and fell asleep at a gate where the next flight was headed to Phnom Penh an hour after my flight to LA, and wished I was on this flight instead.

On the flight to LA I made friends with the girl next to me. She was a few months older than me and had spent the last two years in China. We bonded over our mixed feelings about returning home after such an extended time. She voiced what I was feeling, fear of forgetting the people we had become.

Landing in Portland marked 46 hours of traveling, and as the stewardess pointed out as we took off from LA, "you look terrible". The plane was small, 50 people total and when I told where I had come from, the business men and women around me became interested in the unshowered, exhausted looking girl in seat 2A. They asked questions and told me how lucky I was to have been able to do that, how they wished they had done something like that when they were young, and I was reminded how blessed I am.

As we taxied in, I wondered what it would be like to be home. In Cambodia I had become someone that I liked, someone that I respected. Someone who worked hard, and tried to care for those around her. Someone who wasn't desperate for the approval of others. Someone who was just fine by herself. Someone who had a sense of purpose.

While walking through the airport I thought about a blog Katelyn Campbell had written a while back that talked about her student missionary self being different from her home self, this is true of me as well. It didn't happen overnight, but Cambodian Annie was different. And I liked her. With my return I don't want to lose her.

On the flight from LA I finished a book I had been reading called "Reading Lolita in Tehran". It's about a woman in Tehran, she was a teacher, and she refused to compromise who she was and what she believed to appease the government. In the end she and her husband moved to the US where they currently live. On one of the last pages she said something that resonated with me as home grew closer and Cambodia farther away:

"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place, I told him, like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again."

My favorite red scarf smells like India, I've got a box full of notes from kids, scars on my legs from various accident, lonely planets stuffed with business cards and information from places I visited. I've been inspired, I've been renewed, I've been changed. I have stories of cows, motos, the sunrise, and the most wonderful children. And I hope in unpacking it all I will find I brought Cambodian Annie home with me as well.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I don't know how to write about being home again. It's been nearly two weeks since I returned and I can't seem to find the words. I lay in bed at night unable to fall asleep because I am consumed with thoughts of what I left behind, my kids, the mission, a life of simplicity and happiness.

I came home to the same life I left behind, same car, same phone, same house, same friends. I was handed the same role I left and I don't feel like I fit the way I should. I spent my first weekend home in Walla Walla seeing people I love dearly, but I couldn't help but feeling a little out of place.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be in the US, to see my friends, to eat foods I haven't had, to sleep in my own bed. And I am so grateful for the wonderful support I was given in Cambodia, I have wonderful people in my life and I am BLESSED.

But coming back,
I was overwhelmed by everyone speaking English.
I was shocked by how nice carpet felt under my bare feet.
I was excited to drive a car.
I was overjoyed by a worship service in English.
I'm still not handling the cold well, but I'll get used to it.

I was sad when I had to say goodbye to my kids. And I remember my heart hurting when we were leaving Siem Reap and my favorite senior behind. I wasn't constantly in tears though. But my last night as I sat in the home of our wonderful neighbors drinking chai for the last time. We talked about Neha and I felt the saddness well up in me as Alia told me that while Neha loved the others, it was always me she wanted to see, it was always me she came upstairs for. Saying goodbye to the Khan family was the hardest part of leaving.

I still feel the loss of Neha, and I feel a sense of loss for Cambodia as well. It feels so far away. Like this dream I had. There are no right answers, no easy answers. There is just a feeling of longing and a looking forward to heaven like I've never experienced before.

I was blessed to live my Cambodian life. I am lucky enough now to be missing it. I had wonderful kids. The long-term missionaries are inspiring people. God's leading wasn't wrong, I was supposed to go to Cambodia. I was supposed to go as a broken individual, to be open to the healing, and the change that was offered. And now I look forward to camp in a few weeks, I can't wait to see what God has in store next.

"In Christ, there are no goodbyes
And in Christ, there is no end
So I'll hold onto Jesus with all that I have"

Monday, May 16, 2011


On the first flight into Cambodia ten months ago, as I was filling out the immigration card I came to the part where they wanted to know my occupation. And I froze. Am I a student? Am I a teacher? I wasn't sure what to write. I wasn't sure who I was.

As the days and the months have gone by and I have grown into my roles here, I have become more sure about who I am, and what I want from this life.

Being an SM has pushed me to look closely at what and who are my priorities. At what I find important. Before I came here I was talking to a past SM who told me, go with a friend, you'll be glad you have someone. And while I can see value in that, coming not knowing anyone pushed me to rely on myself and my God more than I ever would have.

I don't need to find my value in other people.

In my roles here I have grown. My vision for my life and of myself has changed. I'm sure I'm in the right major, I'm sure I serve the right God.

On one of the last days of school during a break time, there was some sort of a game started between one of the 8th grade boys and I where we tried to get more ids cards from other students than the other one. At the end of it I had about 20 around my neck and when I walked up to the high school level some boys looked at me funny, I laughed and said, I don't know who I am!

But here at the end of ten months, I've never been more sure.

I am a teacher, a student, a baji, a friend, a daughter, and most importantly, I am a child of God.

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us- set us right with him, make us fit for him- we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. And we find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand- out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
Romans 5:1-2