A Collective Journey

 

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Today begins my final internship visit and evaluation, one of the last big moments before walking across the stage in May. It may not be graduation yet, but I can’t help but think back on the last five years and my journey to this tiny apartment in Honolulu County.

A couple weeks ago, I travelled to Phoenix alongside 1,800 other church workers for a conference. In one of the seminars I attended, the following quote by Richard Goodrich was shared:

“The spiritual journey is not supposed to be a solitary walk but a community pilgrimage.”

In high school, community supported and helped me to recognize my calling and place in Chicago. A community journeyed with me these last five years filling me with a sense of purpose driven adventure.

When I stepped onto CUC’s campus in 2011, I could not of begun to comprehend the collective journey I was embarking on, the places I would go, and the people who’s paths would intersect my own for us to walk in concord for a time.

Then, I was more of a solitary walker with a plan for how I wanted these 5 years to turn out. Sophomore year those plans crumbled, and I found myself in Thailand with a new perspective on the world throwing the story I’d written for myself in the ocean.

Family listened. Friends rallied around me. Professors prayed with me. A congregation welcomed me as one of their own. A group of fellow young adult volunteers in San Antonio got me to laugh and laugh some more.

Junior year, my fellow “teacher candidates” and I conquered methods and discovered the joys of learning with a room full of children.

Senior year, 30 hours of travel brought me to a beautiful four months of learning and adventure in Vietnam. 14 forth graders (now almost 6th graders) captured my heart. Visionary leaders and educators inspired me. Whether sitting around a table or going on a crazy adventure through the bustling streets of Hanoi, new faces quickly became family.

A year ago, I had no inkling of where I’d be in this moment, but somehow I’ve been in Hawaii almost 9 months continuing on this collective journey with new people to join alongside.

I attended  Hillsong United’s concert with some of them here in Honolulu last Saturday. With thousands of fellow pilgrims, we sang the words of one of my favorite songs:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.” 

His lead is the best. Every step, He is walking beside. In the moments when the journey feels more like a solitary walk, He is there. When two or more are gathered, His power is at work.

 

 

 

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Come and go, go and come

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In a sea of sunburnt tourists. “We hope you’ve enjoyed your stay on the islands.” Go.

Windy City. Winter clothes waiting. Warm heart. Come.

The Sears Tower shrinks behind me. 55 extends for miles. Go.

The Arch glows. The gateway to homemade meals and familiar faces. Come.

3 quirky safety videos, a sprint through Houston, a sandwich in LAX. Go.

Lights twinkling in the middle of the Pacific. Come.

The coming and the going doesn’t feel so patterned, rhythmic, and simplistic though. The heart gets involved both beautifully and painfully, and time never seems like enough. The going comes to soon and the coming not soon enough. I wrestle with time like I can control it. The best moments though are the ones I allow myself just to be, phone put away, watch-face ignored, talking story, whether I’m in the midst of coming, going, or simply staying.

All the coming and going doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it becomes a part of life that’s better embraced than resented. It’s a part of all our lives. People come. People go. What was once anticipated becomes memory.

Through it all an Anchor remains. “Come to me,” He says. “Go,” He commands. In all my coming, may I come to Him first. In all my going, may I go, because He has sent me. When it’s time to stay, may I stay as He sees fit.

 

An End and a Beginning Part 3/3

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Time is a funny thing, full of ends and beginnings. Somehow 2015 is over and 2016 is in full swing.

To ring in 2016, I stood barefoot on a sidewalk watching fireworks in every direction and marveling at how when I rang in 2015 I could have never imagined the place or people I was standing with in that moment.

2015 was quite the year.

I said goodbyes. To college life as I boxed up dorm room dishes amidst stacks of books (some read and some skimmed) and watched friends walk across the stage receiving well-earned diplomas. At the security gate of Lambert International Airport trying not to completely loose before hopping on a plane to cross the ocean. Over the phone singing “Amazing Grace”.

I’ve adapted (and am still adapting). To street names and towns with more vowels and combinations of h’s and w’s than I new possible. To calculating time zones when making phone calls and adjusting travel time to the ever finicky Honolulu traffic. To calling flip-flops slippers and snow cones shave ice. To life and ministry on this beautiful island tourists call paradise, but where we do life with all its ups and downs.

I wonder what I’ll say about 2016. I’ve already been on some amazing hikes. A trip home is approaching. God willing, graduation comes in May (finally). The call process is looming (prayers please). There’ll be more adapting and more changes. There’ll be joys and sorrows. There’ll be adventure. It may be unknown now, but that’s what I love about the journey, because it’s taking me to glory I can’t even imagine.

The 6th Day of Christmas Part 2/3

One of the first questions asked of me at internship orientation was, “How do you feel about not being home for Christmas?” The thought scared me and shot a small pang in my heart.

Today is the 6th day of Christmas, and until this year, my immediate family and our Christmas traditions are all I’ve known during these 12 days of celebration. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments I wish I were in St. Louis or that I haven’t felt a sense of disappointment and sadness as I see photos from home and friends reunited with their own families on Facebook. In three weeks though, I’ll be heading home via Chicago, and my parents have promised they’ll keep the decorations up until I get there.

In my family, Christmas is the one time a year everyone comes together, and my heart overflows with love and joy. This year, my heart has been filled in a different way.

Surprise packages have shown up in mailbox reminding me of love that stretches across the miles. Kind texts, Facebook messages, and emails have provided daily encouragement. I’ve been surrounded by a beautiful ohana here and able to experience Christmas in a whole new way.

I watched beautiful hula dancing as the sanctuary filled with candlelight and the sounds of “Silent Night.” I cheered with children about the most fantastic birthday of all time. I rang handbells and sang about a special king born in a manger throne. I was adopted and enjoyed normal traditions like Christmas dinner and opening presents just wearing shorts instead of a warm sweater. I sat on a beach admiring the sunset as I wrote “Mele Kalikimaka” in the sand considering all that Christmas means.

Whether in St. Louis or in Aiea, the Reason why we celebrate is the same. That little baby, Savior of the world, fills our hearts with hope, peace, love, and joy for all time. He is all we need.

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Christmas Sunset

Busily Beautiful Part 1/3

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Since Thanksgiving, life has been kind of a whirlwind, and I’m finally taking the time to stop and reflect on it all. The week after Thanksgiving I wasn’t quite sure how it would all work out and how I would make it to this point. As with any month there have been highs and lows, but overall the past weeks have been busily beautiful.

I’ve feasted on pancakes with the children of Our Savior before they presented their Advent program as sheep, shepherds, cows, angels, innkeepers, Joseph, and Mary.

I’ve washed car after car with awesome youth by my side thankful that car washes can be a yearlong Youth Gathering fundraiser in Hawaii.

I’ve survived a bird flying into my car as I drove down the highway after a day of island touring.

I’ve sung Christmas carols atop a double decker bus admiring twinkling lights and the “Shaka Santa” with my Our Savior ohana.

I’ve eaten delicious Japanese food and circled around the Aloha Stadium searching for treasures at the Swap Meet with newfound friends.

I’ve hosted youth Christmas parties with goofy games, plenty of cookies, and the AC turned on instead of the heat like at Christmas parties on the mainland.

I’ve had my sister by my side walking on beaches, baking Christmas cookies, sitting in traffic, exploring, flying along a zipline, laughing, and loving every moment of sharing Hawaii life together.

Each snapshot of these busily beautiful moments makes me realize how important it is to stop and take it all in. Too easily, each can go by in blur with their significance forgotten and potential for learning disregarded. The stopping makes it all the more beautiful though, and I pray “teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

 

Thanksgiving Away

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Thursday marked my second Thanksgiving away from home and my immediate family.

Up until these two years, Thanksgiving and family were synonymous. I don’t know right now where I’ll be next Thanksgiving or if I’ll be with my family. For now, that’s ok, because I know I’m where I need to be on this journey.

Last year, I enjoyed 3 turkey dinners in Hanoi and then hopped on a night train to stunning Sapa for a culminating weekend of adventure with Martha and Elizabeth.

This year, I descended on my pastor’s house with a group of other 2o-somethings for dinner, football (I’m not sure I’ll ever understand this American phenomenon.), and games.

Both weren’t typical but wonderful in their own ways. Both involved Skype calls home marked with tinges of joy and sadness. Both included wonderful conversation and laughter. Both were spent with people who’ve become family in a way, because they’re without family too.

“Give thanks in all circumstances” we’re told.

And so I give thanks, because no matter where I might celebrate or who I am with blessings abound.

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It’s been 146 days, 7 hours, 22 minutes, and coming up on 5 months since I first arrived in Hawaii. In some ways, it seems like ages ago, and in other ways, it seems like just yesterday. Time is a funny thing.

After a day off, spent mostly talking on the phone or chatting with friends over Google Hangout, I’m sitting at one of my local Starbucks thinking about the past 5 days and the past 5 months leading up to them.

In the past 5 months, I’ve moved, started a new life, hiked and seen places I never imagined I’d visit, and found a place in the Our Savior ohana.

In the past 5 days, I’ve camped with an awesome group of 5th graders, greeted trick ‘r treaters, watched the pieces of Fall Festival planning fall into place, and talked a lot about life.

When I arrived here in June, 5th Grade Camp and Fall Festival seemed like events far into the future of internship. Now, they’ve passed and are memories of ocean air, egg drop victory, campfire songs, youth dressed as security guards, bounce house joy, and root beer floats.

The coming weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas are certain to be filled with preparations and anticipation. I asked myself questions like “How will Christmas away from home and family be?” and “Where will I be in a year?”

I seem to say, “Time will tell,” “God only knows,” and “just pray,” on repeat. This I know: that no matter what I face is His hands.

On My Own

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One of the biggest adjustments of internship has been figuring out how to live on my own. There’s no family or roommates to come home to and despite the protests of the 6th graders at Our Savior that I must certainly have a husband “because Ms. Kayla, you’re so pretty and nice”  I don’t have one.

It’s the adjustment I was told about year after year when DCE interns came and visited campus each January and an adjustment I’ll certainly be talking about during my own visit this winter.

The first night was the hardest. I panicked finding my little studio apartment to be suffocating. My tears wouldn’t stop falling. I didn’t know how I was going to make it on a little island with insane traffic all on my own with familiarity thousands of miles away.

Now, as I look back on that first night, I can smile to myself, because I’m making it. I might even be blossoming. Hawaii definitely is not the Midwest, the traffic is still insane, and family and friends are still thousands of miles of away, but it doesn’t scare me so much anymore.

At placement, we were told to bloom where we’re planted, and I’ve found it’s pretty hard to bloom wallowing in self-pity. Blooming happens by making roots and reaching toward the Son, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do these months.

The unfamiliar has become familiar. My little studio is now a haven to recharge, play whatever music I’d like, workout to cheesy YouTube videos, and embrace solitude. I’ve mastered the art of one portion meals and experienced the beauty of one recipe lasting for days. I have my own little ohana here.

There are moments though I feel as if I’m being pelted by rain or just drooping. The Friday or Saturday nights when I’d love to have plans. The things I’d love to share with someone when I get home each night. The void I feel sometimes after a phone call that’s stretched thousands of miles and I just want the person on the other end of the line next to me.

The showers make the Son even sweeter though. Last week came with some unexpected challenges, but Saturday as I was hiking with some of my new Hawaii friends, I found myself laughing, scaling the side of a waterfall, and filled the euphoria of making it through another week.

In all moments, whether I feel as if I’m simply surviving, thriving, or growing somewhere in between, it’s not something I’m doing on my own. I’m really not on my own either. I’m being sustained, and my Sustenance doesn’t come from this world.

Hawaii Life Lingo

I’ve been trying to figure out all day what to write for this blog. I went to a botanical garden and state park hoping to have some deep blogging inspiration. Instead, I’ve compiled a list of words, phrases, and other random cultural things I’ve grown accustomed to since moving here. This is only a start, because I most definitely am still figuring things out.

  • Aloha: hello and goodbye, spirits together
  • Aloha ke akua: God is love
  • Aloha shirts: the classic Hawaiian shirt worn by many instead of a dress shirt
  • Cost of living: high, the grapes I purchased today cost $8, gas is down to $2.73
  • Geckos: surprising friends; the gecko who chills outside of my apartment I’ve named Charlie. The other night one clung to my windshield as I drove home. One day in my office one came flying out of my air conditioning vent.
  • Hawaii: pronounced with a v, the former nation, state, or the Big Island
  • H1, H2, H3: the three major interstates, though there are no other states to connect with
  • Kama`aina: local
  • Kemehameha: a great Hawaiian king, name of a major highway
  • Kokua: help; “We need your kokua, put carts in stalls.” “Please kokua, remove laundry promptly from machines”
  • Lanai: a patio or balcony
  • Lei: fresh flowers, shells, or nuts strung together and worn around the neck, found almost anywhere, and given on special occasions
  • Loco moco: a bed of rice, a hamburger patty, fried egg, and gravy; it tastes better than it might sound
  • Mahalo: thank you
  • Mainland: the contiguous 48 states
  • Military: a way of life in itself on the island, which makes me incredibly thankful for the servicemen, women, and families who sacrifice for our country
  • Mongoose: the Hawaiian equivalent of a squirrel
  • Ohana: family
  • Pina colada: the classic drink and flavor; when I got my teeth cleaned today the toothpaste was pina colada flavored
  • Plumeria: a classic Hawaiian flower often tucked behind the ear
  • Puka: an opening, shelf, or enclave
  • Pupus: appetizers, pronounced poo poo
  • Shaka: a friendly gesture also known the hang-loose sign, a way to show connection, say thank you, or that I would do the same for you, especially used when driving or when leaving
  • Shi-shi: what a child might say if he or she needs to go potty
  • Spam musubi: white rice and cooked Spam wrapped in seaweed, consider it Hawaii’s version of a hot dog
  • Town: downtown Honolulu, “I’m going into town.” “She lives in town.”
  • Traffic: a reason not to move to Hawaii
  • Waimea, Waikiki, Wahiawa, Waianae, Waimanalo: various towns, which sound similar, but are all in completely different places on the island

And I think my list is all pau (done) for now.

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And a glimpse into my day.

The Laundry Basket

A few weeks ago now, I walked onto the elevator carrying my overflowing laundry basket holding clothes long overdue to be washed, a couple books, and my laptop. An older gentleman riding with me commented, “You’ve got quite the load. Can I carry it for you?” I politely declined. As I continued the rest of the way to my car, I was struck by the weight of his question–his willingness to carry the load for me.

We all have loads we carry. Loads we hold onto unwilling to let anyone else carry them, because we don’t want to be a burden or admit weakness in being unable to carry the load ourselves. Like I continued to carry my laundry basket, I’m often guilty of trying to carry loads myself. One of the loads I sinfully carry is fear.

When I left for Vietnam and then again for Hawaii, one of my biggest fears was two-fold. First, that someone I loved from home would die. Second, that I would miss the funeral. A little over 2 weeks ago now that first fear became reality.

I booked a plane ticket, jetted across the ocean, and spent last weekend surrounded by family celebrating my uncle’s life. We laughed, and we cried holding onto each other. By the time we reached Sunday evening, we were all exhausted. I wasn’t sure I’d have the energy to make my journey back to this beautiful little island I live on, but through the exhaustion of it all, I was carried.

“Cast your cares…He will sustain you.”

“He cares for you.”

“Come to me…take my yoke upon you…you will find rest.”

He takes our fears. He takes our burdens. There’s no laundry basket too heavy, and He doesn’t stop at the laundry basket either. He carries us too.