Both Sides of the Ocean

9 Dec

How it ended up in my bag, three months later, I have no idea, but the instant coffee packet I emptied into a mug this morning was Cambodia condensed into a bitter roast scent. It smelled of sun beating down and street garbage and motobikes and bananas ripening in the sun and bakeries passed on the way to the slum. It reminded me of every morning after I’d had my hour on the balcony and Claude had hers in our room, and she would disappear downstairs into the kitchen and come up again, balancing white mugs on top of a plate full of freshly cut pineapple. “We’re missing more coffee this morning,” she’d say and we’d roll our eyes and laugh. One bag of fifty coffee packets should have lasted us more than two weeks. It would seem we were supplying the entire base with their morning caffeine.

It’s been three months now, how long we’ve been home. The same amount of time we spent in Cambodia. Sometimes I wake in the morning after a dream of my little girls speaking English and my heart will ache for the rest of the day. Sometimes I catch myself staring extra-long at her 4×6 face between my Bible pages. Sometimes I pray for them out loud while candles burn long in the darkness of my room. Sometimes I want nothing more than to go back. Today. Forever. I look longingly out the windows of my Lancaster home and see greener grass. I tell God I want that aliveness back, that joy, that full-blown purpose in every single moment. And that’s when He asks if I think my purpose has changed. “Of course it’s changed, God. A lot has changed. I’m in Lancaster now, not Phnom Penh. Those are pretty opposite places. Instead of kids whose language I don’t understand, I work with kids who speak English, and it’s not always pretty English. I don’t have to watch how much I eat anymore, because my mom’s pantry is fully stocked. I drive five minutes to the Post Office instead of walking forty. I get fifty percent less sleep a night here than I did there. I’m planning a wedding, not my next overseas trip. I no longer have every evening open to spend on a fifth story balcony with my Bible, not to mention every Friday off for spiritual refreshment. That’s pretty different.”

Then He takes me to Matthew 13. The story Jesus told about the sower throwing his seeds all over the stones and thorns and rich soil. In five verses, there’s my answer: just because the ground is different doesn’t mean the purpose changes. Cambodians may be easier to love sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I pour out one drop less to the people God surrounds me with right here. Sleep may be four hours a night instead of eight, but that doesn’t give me an excuse to invest less energy and joy into every day. Quiet time may be threatened by a crazy schedule, but that doesn’t mean I don’t set aside a daily time with the Lord and protect it fiercely.

Yes, I’ll still have my moments of intensely missing my brown-skinned kids. Yes, I still dream of going back. But instead of wish I was there, I need to remember why I am here. If God gets just as much glory out of me being here, I should have just as much joy. What was my purpose in Cambodia? To love Jesus and love people. What is my purpose in Lancaster? To love Jesus and love people.

The view from the window is still there. I can choose to stand at it on tiptoe and look out at brighter shades of green. Or I can choose to focus on this side and see colors bursting with new opportunities and a glorious purpose all its own.

Lord, show me which beginning of watches You are calling me to right in my hometown.

Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.
[ Amy Carmichael ]


9 Responses to “Both Sides of the Ocean”

  1. Sandra Ramos December 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    Thanks for sharing from your heart again, Ervina. I could especially relate to this last year when our family was up for a year’s sabbatical. Though I still have to remind myself of my purpose in life here, too, especially as I read about kids dying simply because of lack of food in other countries. We don’t have that extreme poverty here, but the purpose remains the same, as you said, to love Jesus and love [his] people. We have absolutely no excuse.

  2. Maria Beiler December 9, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    “If God gets just as much glory out of me being here, I should have just as much joy.”
    Love that.

  3. MsMills December 9, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    Ervina, this was for me. Exactly, precisely for me. Thank you 🙂

  4. Abby December 9, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    oh ervy (or shall i call you “andree”?). 🙂
    such a good reminder…because some days i just see the “greener grass”. love this post!

  5. Raquel December 9, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    I can identify with this and struggle to find that answer from Jesus at times. Thanks for the WORDS!

  6. Esta December 10, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    This was so good for me to take to heart.

  7. Leah December 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    I’ve been home from Zambia for less than a month now… I understand exactly what you mean. Exactly. Amazing how God’s words don’t change from one person to the next… because it’s truly what He spoke to me as well in this change of season. In honoring what He has spoken, and living here as fully for the Kingdom as I did in Zambia, already His glorious works are displayed. Everything our God does is glorious, no matter where we happen to presently reside. It’s just a matter of whether or not we will seek Him, and be willing for Him to work through us regardless of our circumstances. When we yield… He is so faithful. And we realize that having HIM is always enough. Always. Everywhere. HERE.

  8. Rebecca Rose December 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm #



    we need to hear that.

  9. Rebecca Rose February 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    This blog will always be a special place..

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