It has been six months since I’ve returned to the US from living in China. Almost everyone has asked me the same question, “isn’t it great to be back in the US?!” You would think that I would have formulated a good answer by now or I would just say what people want to hear, “yeah it’s great”. But my answer is not that simple. My answer is no and yes and some days. My life looks drastically different than it did exactly 1 year ago from today. A year ago I was an English teacher at an extra curricular English school for Chinese students. A year ago I was still serving with a women’s organization. A year ago I walked everywhere I went, or took public transportation.
This year is completely different. In January I returned to China from Bangladesh. In February I returned to Arkansas from China. In March I moved to central Arkansas. In April I started a new job. In May I applied for graduate school for the 2016 semester. In June moved in with two of my sweet friends. In July I celebrated my birthday stateside for the first time in 2 years. In August I started graduate school (I was accepted and pushed up to Fall rather than Spring).
My life is a stark contrast to the one I was living before. Recently I was telling someone stories from China, Bangladesh, and my testimony. She looked at me and said, “you’ve really lived your years.” It made me feel wonderful and weird all at the same time. My stories don’t seem crazy or extraordinary. They seem normal. They are my normal.
Remembering the past two years of my life feels like I’m looking into someone else’s life. How was it just six months ago that I was living somewhere completely different. I can close my eyes and still see the mountains from my apartment. The smell of cilantro still makes me want to eat 牛肉面 (beef noodles). I try to find excuses to speak Chinese everyday because I’m afraid I’m going to lose my ability to converse. Last night I dreamed in Chinese, which hasn’t happened since living in China. It is the small things that take me back to grocery shopping at the market up the street from my house, going to work to see adorable little Chinese faces staring back at me, or even spending time with friends once a week regularly.
My life is still busy. It is still full. It is still great. Sometimes it just seems as if my life is that of different people. I’m a person who wants to spend the rest of my life in another country. Living anywhere doing anything under any conditions. I’m also a person who is going to graduate school, has a salary and benefits, who is studying a degree that could lead to amazing job opportunities in the future.
There are days when I wake up and hope to open my eyes to my room back in China. When I open them, I am in my house in Arkansas. I’m not mad, a little sad, but I know that the Father has brought me back for a reason. He asked me to follow Him to China. I went. He asked me to follow Him to Bangladesh. I went. He asked me to return to America and I cried. I fought. Then, I returned. Now that I am here I keep trying to leave (already, yes). My job allows me to work with individuals from all over the world. International education is incredibly important to me. It is at the core of my being.
Before returning to the US, I sat asking the Father why He wanted me to return. Why is it I’m coming back. I felt He gave me three words: Educate. Empower. Encourage. It applies to so many things, but specifically for me to women and children. Educating women in who the Father is and who He has said they are. Empowering them to live in light of His truths. Encouraging them to teach that to other women. It also applies to low-income populations (in the US and abroad). Educating those without quality education. Empowering them to learn, grow, and create a better (town, city, country). Encouraging them to use their education to make change in their cities and countries.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have it all figured out yet. I’m here because I was asked to follow. I’m here to live and to trust and to follow where He leads.