Most of you reading this know me personally on some level. That being the case, you're likely aware of the fact that I recently returned to the USA after being in Asia for a short six weeks. And if you've been around long enough, that probably confuses you because you remember that it seemed like I was going to live there indefinitely. And that's the truth!
Here's the thing about the word "indefinitely." It means for an unspecified amount of time. And in my mind, I thought that amount of time would be a minimum of five years or so. But as I sit in my hometown typing this, that clearly is not the case.
In the last year, there has been so much that has taken place. Once again, I was supposed to return to Asia back in May but due to border closures and passport renewals, that changed to December 1st. It did NOT meet my preferences, but that's alright because it DID meet God's!
A couple of weeks before I was due to fly out, God introduced me to this little group of people in Asheville who were planting a church. I was always looking at different churches in the area when I came home to visit because I really wanted to find a place where my mom and brothers could not only feel welcomed, but also grow and learn and truly THRIVE. My friend Herman recommended I check out this church and I'm SO glad that I did!!
For the last 10...maybe even closer to 15 years, I have been praying for a diverse community of people who love Jesus and actually live out being a Christian...and that is EXACTLY what I found this year! That entire story is one that needs to be written out, but it's still being written and I think I'll wait until I have some more chapters to add. But WOW! If you could read the prayers I wrote down and see what exists today...it's almost verbatim what I have been praying for! So that was really encouraging. And since joining that church, my mom, my brother, my dad, and my stepmom have all joined and are thriving! I LOVE seeing people I love thriving!!
As the year progressed and I knew I would be stuck in the USA for several months, I decided to take advantage of the time and began the process of starting my own nonprofit called Shared Vision. I'm still in the middle of that process but have also decided to go back to school and am in my second semester (although technically it's my junior year) at Western Carolina University where I am working towards a degree in business so that I can properly manage a nonprofit.
Also during the year 2021, two dear women in my family fought breast cancer (and won!!). I share a lot of DNA with these women (one of which is not much older than me) and in addition to their cancer stories, there is a lot of cancer history in my family on both sides. So even though I'm only 29 years old, I decided to get some standard testing done to set up a baseline for the future as I monitor my health so that IF cancer is ever in the cards I'm dealt, we can catch it early and hopefully it won't be too aggressive. Throughout this process, an order for an MRI was made and one week before flying to Asia (the day before Thanksgiving), I received a phone call from my doctor's office stating that they found something and they were slightly concerned and wanted me to do some further testing...but because of the holidays and because it was the end of the year, they had no availability for several weeks.
At that moment, I made a decision. IF the news was bad, that would mean that I would be stuck in the USA for a long time and who knows when I could get back to Asia? Alternatively, if I went to Asia for the initially planned amount of time (3 months minimum) and something was wrong, I could be endangering my health. So I made the difficult decision to still go on the trip, but to cut the trip short and to return sometime in January. So I called and booked the cheapest travel date they had available (the next cheapest flights were at least $200 more than this one particular day). My plan then was to return to the USA, focus on my health, and in the meantime, also focus on my schooling and getting my finances back up by maintaining a good job and in the midst of it all, hopefully, launch my nonprofit. Mentally, I'm preparing to spend 2022 here in the USA and at the end of the year, will re-evaluate and see if that still makes the most sense or see what God has up His sleeves! I think really, I need a break from all of the ups and downs and not knowing which country I will be living in next month or if my vaccine will be accepted or if my health is going to cause conflicts....etc.
And so, I went. I went to Asia and I spent time with the people who are SOOO very dear and close to my heart. And as much as I thoroughly enjoyed being there, I also acknowledge that they didn't get the best version of me because all of the question marks in my life led to a battle with mild depression that I can identify I was experiencing there. We had some WONDERFUL times and some of my favorite memories were made!! But I could have made MORE wonderful memories and that is my biggest regret. The goodbyes were the hardest. Mostly because we really don't know this time when we will next see each other. Let me tell you, I was a weeping emotional mess throughout most of my 2-day journey home!
On the day I was leaving Asia, I got a message from my dad (who happened to also be on vacation that same day and would be returning home to NC the same day as me). My stepmom had a heart attack (she's only 46 years old) and they were taking her to the hospital. I literally got this information one hour before being dropped off at the airport. My ability to interpret what I was feeling at that moment was completely broken. Hey, I'm not sure I STILL have processed that information. They made the decision to keep their scheduled flight and to follow up with treatment at home.
Home. We all got back to NC on a Thursday and on Friday, my stepmom went to the ER to follow up. They confirmed the heart attack diagnosis and put a stent in. We are currently navigating what it looks like to prevent further episodes.
While in Asia, I was searching for employment in the USA and came across two wonderful jobs. One of them is with an insurance company that really helped me out last year and I just loved working with them. My friends joked that I should work for them because I promoted them so much and when I was looking for work, I decided to just call and see if they happened to have any job openings that would be fitting for me. They actually didn't...but they were ABOUT to start looking for someone who practically has all of my skills and it is a reasonable amount of pay for my lifestyle with an incredibly flexible schedule...which is perfect for me while I am back in school! Talk about God's provision!
We had a little snowstorm this past weekend that we have affectionately titled "Snowmageddon" and my stepmom made it home during the midst of the storm. I also happened to be home while I wait to get my things out of storage and into my new living situation, which meant I've been able to help around the house and to just be moral support in the midst of a very difficult season.
Today was the day I went in for further testing. I think maybe because my brain has just had to intake SO much information in the last several weeks, but it felt like someone else was actually going through the motions of today and I was simply an observer. My radiologist seemed noticeably concerned that I WASN'T more concerned throughout the whole process. Regardless of any of our feelings, we did the tests and the doctor said that he's pretty confident that there is nothing to be concerned about, but that they will be monitoring me closely throughout the year and I will have some more tests done in a few months just to make sure nothing is growing or moving. So THAT'S great news!
Because I'm an overachiever, I also started my first day of work today and already am loving it!! I just can't get over the sovereignty of it all! EVERY minute detail!!
NOT to mention, and I won't share names because it's their business to share, but in the last month, it looks like God will be moving not one, but TWO families I love to my city!! People I used to do ministry with! NOW we get to do it together in my hometown!!
I know this is probably way more personal information than most of you care to know and might not even be wise for me to share, but I felt like it was important. Important because throughout the chaos and uncertainty of this past year, there is SO much that God has done!!! And so as I continue to face unknowns, I hold onto what I have personally witnessed to be true!
Both times I left Asia, lockdowns were imposed shortly after. (This past one so far is just affecting the schools, but it could become more strict).
God arranged it so that I would be flying back to my hometown on the VERY DAY that my dad and stepmom also got back...after her having a heart attack!
All three of us got back to our home BEFORE the snowstorm hit, causing travel delays for several days due to ice and bad weather.
My appointment today happened to be the first appointment after a weekend of cancellations and bad weather...and it was always set to be that time. We just never knew.
My job opportunities are more than I even could have known to hope and pray for and God literally made doors open where there wasn't even supposed to be one! AND the primary job is very flexible and I could do the work from anywhere in the world.
Miraculously, I started classes during this week of travel and still managed to stay on top of things in my classes.
This semester, I have to do a LOT of printing and scanning for my classes which would have been extremely challenging when I was overseas, but God made it possible for me to be here.
I have had a free cruise that I won over 2 years ago that I've been waiting to utilize and FINALLY I get to go later this year during my Spring Break...with my "little sister" who happens to be on break from college during the same week as me!
I get to be home for my baby brother's 20th birthday this week
I got to be in Asia and be with my dear friend upon her first sighting of snow
I also got to be in North Carolina and witness my nephew's first time in the snow
The list really could be endless, but you get the point! There's so much to be thankful for! And it doesn't take much to go down the slippery slope of finding all of the negatives. My stepmom had a heart attack...but she is ALIVE! And God has given us the opportunity to spend more time together. I really think a lot of us could benefit just by changing our perspectives. The 21st century loves drama and loves to focus on the problems...but let's work towards focusing on the GOOD!!
I'm OVERWHELMED at the sovereignty and grace of God over my life. I literally stand around just speechless most days. How very fortunate I am to be able to live this uniquely strange and wonderful life God has given me! Tell me some of your unique stories too, OK?