while the emotions are fresh

I waffle back and forth between wanting to blog about stuff the minute it happens and waiting for things to simmer and stew a little before I tackle them. We just said good-bye to some dear friends less than fifteen minutes ago, and I would love to compile a beautiful tribute to them, complete with pictures from our amazing week together.

And I will.

But for now, I’m just going to let the raw emotions flow, and most probably through tears.

I can’t even remember right now the first time Keri and I connected online. I know that I loved her immediately. I loved her honesty and humility and her encouragement and sense of humor. I loved that she was living in Singapore and doing mini-missions trips with friends from church. I loved her excitement for our trip to Cambodia.

And somehow, somewhere in the midst of all our getting to know each other online, we decided to do something crazy.

Meet in Cambodia and spend Christmas together. With our husbands and all our children.

And somehow, some way, God worked out every last detail.

Keri and I chatted online quite a bit (mostly via Facebook) and then talked on the phone once. Then skyped twice right before our trip. We (the Tavianos) arrived in Phnom Penh on December 12, and spent a week+ getting acclimated to Cambodia, meeting awesome people, and getting involved in any way we could.

On Wednesday, December 21, we headed to the PP airport with two tuk-tuks (+ one we picked up while we were there) and waited a really, really long time for their plane to land. The girls were asking me all kinds of questions about them, and I had very few answers. Like, “I know Keri’s tall. I think she’s taller than me even. But that’s all I know.”

We met, we hugged, we climbed in tuk-tuks, then we had a little moment that kind of instantly bonded us together (a story for another day–I do promise to tell it). We stayed at the same guest house. Well, in adjoining guest houses. We got up each morning and met informally in the courtyard for blogging and chatting. We had a semi-agenda and went with the flow the rest of the time.

It was so, so good to have some other newbies there with us, seeing Cambodia through fresh eyes, sharing our love for the people in need, brainstorming ways God might use us to make a difference together.

On an un-missions-related note, we commiserated over parenting failures and shared in great detail about our families and history and how we met and all that. And it didn’t take long to figure out how/when to best poke fun at each other.

Keri and I loved each other from the get-go, since we had already communicated so much in every way but in person. And we were thrilled when our husbands seemed to hit it off pretty quickly and then kept finding more and more to talk (and laugh about). It was also fun to see Keri and Gabe bond over their love of photography. And I honestly didn’t expect to have so much fun with Scot. Not that I didn’t think he’d be great, but I really enjoyed our friendly banter (and insults) and getting to see his softer side.

And our kids. Oh my word. I can’t even tell you. Two boys ages 13 and 11. Three girls ages 11, 9, and 5 (or “almost 6” as Nina would say). What are the chances that they would get along AMAZINGLY? Seriously. I don’t even know what to say. Laughing, joking, playing, teasing. So much stinking fun together. And not a hint of boy/girl drama. Just innocent brotherly/sisterly fun. We all got to know each other’s strengths/weaknesses/issues, and yet it just made us all love each other more.

Garrett and Nathan are amazing. Such sweet, loving, awesome kids. We sure are going to miss them.

We had to say good-bye tonight, and it wasn’t really very much fun. The crazy part is that they’re just downstairs in their own hotel rooms, but it was time for bed, and we’re getting up early tomorrow to visit more temples, and they’re sleeping in a little before heading to the airport, so we won’t see them.

We all hugged and stayed pretty strong, but then I hugged Keri and just held her and cried. Whew. I don’t know what to do with this. We got back up to our room and Nina looked at me funny. “Are we leaving tomorrow?” No, I told her, but Scot and Keri are. She just burst into tears. And then I held her while she bawled.

“I don’t want to leave Cambodia!” she cried. I reminded her that Scot and Keri don’t even live in Cambodia. Then she just started wailing about leaving the kids at the orphanage and on and on.


I don’t know what God has in store for our future, but I know that anytime you open up your heart (especially to people on opposite sides of the globe), you’re setting yourself up for the pain of good-byes.

But our hearts are overflowing, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

We love you, Keri, Scot, Garrett, and Nathan! We don’t know when/where/how we’ll see you again, but we’re trusting God to make it happen.

4 thoughts on “while the emotions are fresh

  1. Sue Oda

    Marla, what an exceptional person you are. I am blessed to call you and Gabe friends. I believe God has even greater plans for your future.

  2. Nixie

    So glad you had such a wonderful time but sad you are sad saying goodbyes.

    Living across the globe from friends and family (even ones you haven’t yet met) is so hard. Goodbyes don’t really get easier, planning the next meeting helps ;).

    Love you and sending hugs on a plane, they shouldn’t take too long as you’re closer than usual 😉

  3. Keri

    Wow. I don’t know what else to say except that you summed it all up perfectly. I am going to miss you desperately! Thank you for being instrumental in changing our lives for the better.

    Love you!!

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