No, I’m not pregnant at 40.
No, we’re not moving back to America.
No, we didn’t get a pony.
But, first, some backstory. (Not the loooooong version of the backstory, just enough for this all to make sense and for God to get all the glory he deserves.)
So, y’all know we took a 5-week trip to Cambodia in December 2011 (six weeks after Gabe’s heart attack). And that, three weeks into our trip, Gabe felt God telling him we were supposed to move here.
And then. The anxiety. Job loss. Awfulness. Big, no-fun, yuck. (buy the e-book here)
Then, in December 2013, before the anxiety was gone, before we knew how our hospital bills would ever get paid, before we had any idea if/when we’d get back to Cambodia, we moved to this really cool place called Abbey Lane where most of our neighbors were refugees from around the globe.
Best year of our lives. (ebook sequel coming soon)
And, when God gave us the go-ahead to get ourselves back to Cambodia, I freaked a little. Because Abbey Lane. How could we leave it?
But we did. And it was hard. And it’s still hard.
Here’s the thing. We are not noble missionaries who have made huge sacrifices to live across the globe and tell people about Jesus.
This is our dream-come-true life. This is awesomeness. This is where we want to be.
In coming here, we made one sacrifice and one sacrifice only. We left family and friends and neighbors behind. And, if you know anything about our friends and family and neighbors, you know that was a pretty big sacrifice indeed. Because they are AWESOME.
And while we love our family & friends to pieces (and miss them like nuts), one of the hardest things for us (and the girls especially) was going from the beautiful “village” of Abbey Lane with built-in live-right-beside-you friends and lots and lots of what-felt-like-purpose to the 3rd floor of a house that’s isolated and gated with no yard to run in, no neighbors to play with, no village feel, no nothing.
Yes, we live in Cambodia. And we are so, so grateful. (I pinch myself every single day.)
And yes, we’ve made lots of friends. And, yes, we meet people in the market and at church and at school and on the streets and in villages, etc.
But we don’t LIVE with them. At the end of the day, they go to their home/neighborhood, and we go to ours.
And something just feels… off.
Because once you live in a village (even if it’s a concrete one), it kind of spoils you for all the other kinds of living.
Many, many times (before we moved here and since we’ve been here), I’ve questioned what we’ve done. Should we have stayed at Abbey Lane?? Is it too late to go back??
And every single time, God softly whispers, “You’re supposed to be here. Just trust me.”
When one of my daughters cries because she’s bored and another cries because she feels like she’s wasting away in this apartment and one asks me, “Why does God always make us wait soooooo long to give us the things we want?” it feels hard to trust.
But I have to.
1.) because God has proven himself faithful over and over and over and over. And 2.) what choice do I have?
I said to Livi a few weeks ago (during a particularly low moment), “What if God calls us back to America?”
She looked me straight in the eye (she’s taller than me now), and said, “Well, then you’ll have to go back without me. Because I am NEVER leaving.”
I smiled to myself and felt God say, “See? This is where you’re supposed to be.”
A few months ago I started praying specifically, “God, will you give us an Abbey Lane here in Cambodia?”
Abbey Lane in Cambodia. Abbey Lane in Cambodia. Abbey Lane in Cambodia. I didn’t know how else to say it, pray it. I had NO idea what it would look like, if such a thing even existed. I just knew in my heart that our year at Abbey Lane had something to do with our lives in Cambodia, and God had given us a glimpse of what community could look like, and he must have something like that in mind for us here.
But what?? How??
No. Stinking. Idea.
At some point awhile back, Gabe started throwing out the idea of moving to a province (a rural area of Cambodia–a village maybe). He loves the people he meets out there and loves the beauty and the quiet and the photography opportunities.
But how would we know where to move? And what would be our purpose? What would we even do there? And would we be welcomed by the locals?
And would we have running water? And would there be rats? (there are rats here in the city, but not in our house)
Then we got the idea of moving to a different neighborhood (a few minutes’ tuk-tuk ride from our house now) where some of our friends live (some American, some Khmer). They told us there are lots of kids who live there and play outside on the dead-end street. Maybe this was our answer.
A house was available for rent, and we were so excited. Then, as soon as we called, we found out the landlord had rented the first floor, but we could look at the 2nd/3rd floors. It just didn’t feel right. (and the only access to our apartment was a tiny, metal, very tall spiral staircase that terrified Nina and could barely hold Gabe)
But we told the girls, hey, our lease isn’t up here until January 16. Maybe we’re not supposed to break our lease. Maybe God will provide something just in the nick of time. If we found it now, it would be too soon. His timing will be perfect. We just have to trust.
Easier said than done.
Lots of sadness, boredom, tears, frustration, fear, anger. Hard stuff. Not fun. Up and down. Super roller-coastery. Trusting trusting trusting. (or trying our hardest to, at least)
Livi is busy with school (and loving it). Gabe is busy with his photography and working with guys/boys on Tuesdays/Thursdays. I’m busting my tail on my next ebook and writing/editing to supplement our support (we’ve raised about 55% of what we need to live on).
I try to find things for Nina and Ava to do. I check into some ministry opportunities, but nothing is panning out.
Then two weeks ago, we make a lunch date with our friend, Alli, after church. Alli is the Director of The Hard Places Community. You know how much we love this ministry. We’ve been involved with HPC in some kind of capacity for over five years now.
I tell the girls that I’ll ask Alli if there’s anything we can do to help HPC. Something that would be fun for us and helpful for them. A need they already have, not something they’d invent to placate the white people who want to feel more like missionaries.
We eat delicious Indian food with Alli. Ava and Nina play with her adorable kiddos. Gabe, Livi, Alli, and I sit on the floor and chat.
I ask her if there’s any way we could volunteer at HPC.
Her answer throws me completely off guard.