There are two people who I consistently describe as "the cooler version of me," and today's post tangentially references both of them. Back in September, I was in Bristol to celebrate Emily's wedding - she's the second person I call the cooler version of me. I mentioned in my post after that how her dad tried to get me to move to teach at a creative access country closer to where he lives, and the big carrot on that stick is Hans Fung. I laughed off the invitation to move a couple countries closer to the Orrs in order to work with the Fungs. I should be clear - the Orrs are some of the loveliest Canadians I know, and the Fungs are two of the greatest educators I've ever met - this was not an offer without appeal.
So as I have spent some serious time over the past few weeks in prayer over where I will end up in the coming years, my jaw dropped this past Tuesday as Hans Fung walked through the library where I was sitting. Hans was an admin my first year at BFA, and he was an influential encouragement during my first year teaching and first year as a missionary overseas. I'm incredibly grateful for the overlap I had with him on staff here. I mentioned to him as he was passing through that I was praying about where God wants me to be - and he said he would be happy to help find me a school if God was calling me away from Kandern.
I'M NOT MAKING PLANS TO LEAVE HERE. (Rumours get started fast.) I'M NOT PROMISING TO STAY FOREVER EITHER. (Rumours are hard to stop.)
Busy man that he is, Hans couldn't chat for long, but I was so excited when he said that he and Ruth would stop by my house on the way to the airport the next morning. What an absolute treat. Again, I have to reiterate these are two of the greatest educators, but also, they are incredibly kind Jesus loving people. We chatted a bit about how my physical recovery has been the past few years since their last visit and how I've developed new curriculum and what my research dreams for my PhD are. We also talked about being open to where God wants to use my gifts.
This leads me to the other "cooler version of me" named Q (or Lauren technically). I met Q when I was student teaching in Gaston - and she was teaching at the school where Hans and Ruth currently work. I texted Lauren after seeing Hans about some specific details of her school experience - partly disability related because that's practical and necessary, but also partly based on our conversation this summer when we shared some of the other spiritual and emotional needs of missionaries. She replied with some factual information about accessibility, and she also added some context about her experience in light of knowing me as an individual.
No decisions have been made (see all caps statements above), but I'm carrying on in my decision to serve Jesus with my whole life. Emily is a Canadian TCK who grew up in Poland and spent several years at BFA before moving to the UK. Lauren moved from Oregon to central Asia before spending some time in the UK and then returning to Oregon. Both of them are committed Jesus followers who have made wild moves across borders and comfort zones in obedience to Jesus. In that sense, we are very much the same. Under any circumstances, I would tell you that both of them are way cooler than I am as a person, but all of us would agree that we are more interested in loving Jesus than being cool.
In my interest in loving Jesus better, I am spending intentional time praying about where and how to serve him with my gifts. Because cross cultural living involves lots of visa and paperwork complications that cannot be completed at the drop of the hat, I've had to start praying with the purpose of making plans for my future. My current visa can only renew for one more year, so options need to be laid out and evaluated. What I do know is that I still feel called to cross cultural educational ministry and have a heart for discipleship of young people - that's still in a support based role in every scenario I'm looking at, so shout out to my support team keeping me out here able to have conversations with God about where not if I serve.
Lauren and Emily both have wild beautiful stories with crazy highs and lows, and one of the constants that I love watching is that Jesus matters most. I don't care about looking cool, but I'm going to have a blast following Jesus alongside people who might happen to be cool too.
Like Stacie. On Friday morning, I headed up to the library to moderate my students taking a test, and I saw Stacie looking cute behind the checkout desk. At almost the exact same time, we complimented each other's outfits and then tried to take a selfie to show off our cute coloured leggings and tops. I told Stacie some of the stuff I'd been praying through about how I love this place and what I do but also how I want to be open to where God is leading me to. She moved here just about a year ago with her family after a long, long time in another country where she and her husband planned to be for the majority of their ministry. She gets it. She gave me such grace as I talked through how I want to live well wherever God places me. It's a strange Christianese concept to think about how God moves you to new jobs, but there's a lot to consider in how you can thrive in any place you are living and working.
I am doing my very best to thrive where God has me right now though. I think these photos are pretty good evidence of thriving. I went over to have dinner with Stacie and her family that night, and she's currently training her youngest son to call me "Aunt Laura." It melts my heart. My heart is in this place fully and truly, as I learn how to live out my faith genuinely and practically. I take care in writing and teaching my lessons, and I will put my utmost into baking cookies for the TeachBeyond TCK homemade cookie day on Tuesday while also sharing them with the kids upstairs (half of whom are not TB TCKS, but all of whom I love).
When winter fully kicks in, my table won't be as hospitable for teaology chats, but I'll move inside and be more intentional to invite people across the threshold into my space. One of the coolest things about Lauren and Emily is that they welcomed me into their lives as friends. I'm entering into this next season hoping to become a cooler version of me by intentionally extending hospitality to those around me.