Because so many Denverites are transplants from somewhere else, many people celebrate their “Denversary” every year on the anniversary of the day they moved to Denver. Denver is such an awesome city, it’s worth celebrating!
A year ago today, I left my beloved Denver in search of adventure, and to begin my career with the Department of State, so I thought I would celebrate my Stateversary with you. It’s a great chance to pause, reflect, and evaluate the last twelve months.
I won’t spend much time at this point explaining why I chose to leave a city I love, with people I treasured and valued, and a church and church family that was such an integral part of my life, but let’s just say I needed adventure and this was the adventure that worked out. I made no bones about the fact that I wanted to live in another country, preferably Africa, and that my first preference would have been to come as a missionary, but coming as a missionary didn’t work out and a career with the State Department did, so here I am.
A year ago today, I had just finished dealing with all this mess in the packing out process:
And I was off:
And what do I have to show for my past year? And what do I have to say about it?
Evaluating a time period has so many faucets. There’s the personal, introspective side of things; there’s the interpersonal involving relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers; there’s the professional side involving not only work, but career and professional development as well; there’s the spiritual dimension looking at our how we’re ‘working out our salvation with fear and trembling’; and oh, so much more.
Where do I begin to throw even a semblance of meaning over the past 365 days? It makes most sense to start with the simplest things and work my way deeper as I go.
The intellectual and informational mountain I’ve climbed: I can honestly say that I don’t think I can remember a 365 day period when I have learned as much as I have during this one, and in so many different categories.
My African geography skills, for example–you’d actually want me on your trivia team for that skill alone. I know almost every country and capital–not because I have studied them, but because I live them. I talk to and about people in all these countries; I know people who live there; my office walls sport multiple world and African maps. And not just geography, but history and culture and people as well. It’s a whole new world and I’ve reveled in exploring it. And the inevitable happened, as many predicted: Africa has crept into my heart.
Professionally, I’ve broadened my horizons and learned more than I ever thought possible. I dabble in tropical medicine (who’d ever heard of schistosomiasis? Now it’s a household word!), prenatal care (my first baby I took care of in utero just returned to post and oh what a cutie he is!), and bureaucracy like there’s no tomorrow. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed the latter, but at least I have loved the rest of it.
Adventure-wise, it leaves nothing wanting. Climbing Kilimanjaro, seeing gorillas up close and personal, safari-ing all over East Africa, chimpanzee trekking, staying at the famous Hotel des Mille Collines, hiking the hills upcountry. And we haven’t even been to the source of the Nile yet! We’ve only just begun!!
Interpersonally, it’s been so rich. In many ways, the embassy community, because it is so small, operates like a family (or a fishbowl, depending on your perspective). I’ve made friends with wonderfully interesting people who have lived all over the world, speak multiple languages, and have a wide variety of political and social beliefs and positions, some of which I share, some I don’t. Because we practically live and work together, we’ve gotten to know people much more quickly than one might in a different (more normal) setting. I’ve definitely left my bubble! And it’s been oh so fun for this people lover!
The other side of the interpersonal coin is missing family and friends back home. I thought this blog would help me stay in touch, but it’s very one-sided. And with our spotty internet, the time difference, and a busy life here, keeping up hasn’t been easy or convenient. Even with wonderful things like Skype, it isn’t like sitting next to someone on the porch swing, or at the kitchen table, or going for a hike together. Conversation tends to be awkward and superficial and infrequent. So if you’re back home reading this, please send me a long newsy letter updating me on all that’s going on with you. I miss you! 🙂
[This reminds me of a song my mother sang to me when I went off to summer camp as a child: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”]
As for the spiritual challenges, they’ve been monumental. We’ve been so abundantly blessed to find a church where we can worship and serve, but it ain’t no Fellowship Denver or Grace Bible. And God has amazingly blessed us with a couple to share this journey with, for which we are incredibly thankful. But with no small group, and no real community of believers surrounding us and meeting weekly, I have thirsted for fellowship. And thirsted for conversation on a deeper, more eternally significant, level. But God has shown himself sufficient and that, my friend, is all that is needed.
In closing, I can say that I’m loving the adventure as a whole: the new and exciting experiences, the learning and broadening of horizons, the challenges, and yes, even the bureaucratic frustrations. And despite missing home and being close to family and friends and Denver and winter and mountains and restaurants and sporting events and the ease of civilization, I have no regrets and wouldn’t change my decision to go.
It’s been a year to remember and the adventure’s not even half over yet!