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no pocket full of sunshine...

Asian food,
an obscure language,
bundling for -35 degree weather,
talking without words,
having relationships purely through Skype,
including meat in every dish,
singing in another language,
cooking and making things from scratch: bagels, tortillas, pretzels, etc.,
learning to be at home on the other side of the world...

These are just a few of the things that I have learned this past year. It is unbelievable to even think about the fact that I've been away from every thing I have ever known for a year [I realize a year is a tiny amount of time], much less that where I am now is familiar--also my home.

There are some things I wish weren't so familiar, though. I wish seeing dead frozen puppies as I walk to work weren't familiar. I wish the constant awareness of the difficulties of everyone's home life, whether it be because of money problems or relational problems, weren't so familiar. I wish it weren't so familiar that the lack of jobs causes people to have difficulty feeding and providing for their families. I wish it weren't so familiar that somedays people don't even have enough money to take the bus. I wish it weren't familiar that it is so expensive to provide heat for their homes.

Despite that and through all of the things that are gravely familiar, I also have gotten to see what's underneath.

Underneath the calloused exteriors I have found a deep sense of being in the Mongolian's hearts. I believe that they realize and know that at the root of who they are--they are just like their neighbor. Each person's life is burdensome and complicated, so, they treat each other's problems with respect and delicacy.

Everyone is just another person. We are all people.

People that struggle.
People that laugh.
People that cry.
People that are grateful.

Because of their acute awareness of everyone's person-ness, their sense of hospitality is contagious. Their sense of humility is humbling. Their loyalty is binding. Their love is deep.

Because of their awareness of their person-ness, I too, have become overwhelmingly aware of that. That's precisely why Mongolia has become like home. Not because I feel like I have changed anything, other than myself. Not because I feel like I can handle all things Mongolian or even understand all things Mongolians. I feel at home because this is a home, with people, problems, joys, struggles. Just like the home I knew for 22 years. I don't have the same experience with Mongolia as I do Alabama, but people are what make experiences are made of anyway.

As I learn more and more what it means to advocate for Mongolians, I see the need to become more vulnerable, sharing parts of my life that can sympathize and relate to theirs. Vulnerability is our common ground. It's how we realize or similarities and differences. It's how we communicate beyond words and get down to the heart.

In being vulnerable with them and sharing in life with them, I have become so connected to them. I long to be Mongolian. I long for a knowledge of every person's person-ness. I long for a true nature of hospitality, to be taught to be humble, to be loyal and to love deeply.

I wrote about this story before but I'm reminded of it today. In one of the first few months that Erin and I were here we met 2 women who had been living here for a while. They told us that Mongolia had a way of getting under your skin--that it would soon get there and stay, leaving you without words to describe it.

Today I can confidently say that Mongolia is under my skin. It is pleasant, sometimes difficult, challenging, heartbreaking, gravely familiar and joyful. It's impossible to describe and more impossible not to fall in love with.

It's no pocket full of sunshine, but it is rooted in person-ness and all that comes with that--a pocket full of life.


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October 26, 2011.

That is the day I last wrote a blog. That's not the day when my life changed but it is a day that I can recognize as one of the last ones when I knew who I was and what my purpose was.

I'm not generally a quitter. Sure, sometimes I quit on books or I quit on small projects but in life, nope. I  try hard at most things, usually right until the end. I won't say that quitting is not a thought that meanders through my being when something gets tough but I have come to learn that when I stick things out I come out having learned a thing or two.

But I did quit. I quit a big commitment. I said I would live in Washington, DC and I would do my best.

I tried. I also had my very first panic attack, too.

It was too much. I couldn't think or breathe. I couldn't cope with the devastation I felt for leaving Mongolia early that March morning. I couldn't cope with no one understanding what Mongolia had meant to me and how it had changed me right down to my bo…

The Prayer of the Empty Water Jar

Jesus, I come into the warmth of your presence
knowing that you are
the very emptiness of God.

I come before you
holding the water jar of my life.

Your eyes meet mine
and I know what I'd rather not know.

I came to be filled
but I am already full.

I am too full
This is my sickness

I am full of things
that crowd out
your healing presence.

A holy knowing steals inside my heart
and I see a painful truth.

I don't need more
I need less
I am too full.

I am full of things that block out
your golden grace.

I am smothered by gods of my own creation
I am lost in the forest of my false self
I am full of my own opinions and narrow attitudes
full of fear, resentments, control
full of self-pity, and arrogance.

Slowly this terrible truth
pierces my heart
I am so full there is no room for you.

Contemplatively, and with compassion
you ask me to reach into my water jar.

One by one, Jesus, you enable me
to lift out the things
that are a hindrance to my wholeness.

I take each one to my heart and