Year 2 | A Week in the United States #17: SEATTLE, PEORIA, and DALLAS

I’ve been all over the country this week!  Last Friday, my brother met me in Vancouver, and we had dinner with my Greek coworkers and Canadian trainers. Then we drove across the border, and I spent the weekend in Seattle with him and his partner. We did some touristy things on Saturday, like touring fancy houseboats, drinking bubble tea (my one request), and going to Vidiot, a bar with free video games. On Sunday we had a lazier day, culminating in Thai takeout and streaming Logan. I left Monday, but the short weekend didn’t feel too short because they will be in Peoria in a couple weeks. 

I spent two days in Peoria, one mostly at the library and the second ending  with a talk about HD at my church. 

On Thursday, I drove to Dallas! It’s a 12 hour drive plus stops, and I had been looking forward to this trip since I arrived in the US a month ago. I love long car trips, especially alone. It takes about four hours before my brain is willing to slow down and shut up, and then I got some serious mental vegging in. Lovely. 

I’m staying with the family I nannied for while getting my Master’s, and I’m reminded just how lucky I am to have employers who turned into family. We stayed up the first night talking about their vacation to New Zealand and then Hamilton, proving that even while apart our interests are the same. 

When I woke up on Friday, everyone was gone for work/school, but they had left breakfast and a key for me. I went out for lunch with my old counseling coworkers, then sold some books at Half Price, and got back to the house when the kids got off school. Sanjay, Anju, and Ketan and I got dinner together before meeting Chrisette at the movie theater to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Today, I’m being lazy. We all went out for lunch together, and then the kids and I played LEGO Star Wars. Tonight I’ll go out for dinner with my favorite professor and his wife. 

It’s all so great! Too great! I’m loving being back in the States, and it’s so comforting to know I have such a huge support system all around the country. It’s also so much fun to hang out with Anju and Ketan again, and to know that even when years pass between our hanging out, we can fall back into old rhythms immediately. And driving! It’s so intoxicating to have the freedom to go where I want, when I want, whether that means to a store or another state. And driving down Dallas roads does things to my heart. 

I do love this city – I’ve got a lot of good memories here!

Two of My Favorite Dallas Families

I’ve got to jump back to Sunday night in order to catch up.  Sheesh.  I’m having a hard time blogging every day lately.  I think part of that is because it’s felt more like real life instead of a vacation, and I haven’t blogged about real life in real time for a couple years.  But I’ve also been sick, so I’m going to ride both of those excuses for as long as possible!

On Sunday night,  I went over to Mike and Libby’s at 5:00 to hang out with Libby and her two sons Jonah and Graham before our connection group.  It was great to hang out with Libby while vaguely driving a toy car over a carpeted road map and calling it “playing.”  At 7:00 our connection group gathered, and it was SO GREAT to see everyone again.  This group is one of the things I miss most about Dallas, and I want every small group I ever participate in to be just like them.  I love that we are a group of old and young, male and female, conservative and liberal, married and single.  Our commonality is pretty much only in loving God and loving each other, and because it is always so encouraging to spend time with them.   Continue reading

Keeping Busy in Dallas

I was not prepared for Dallas to feel so much like home.  This stop has really messed with my ideas of My Ideal Future, and the role a certain Texan city might have in them.

On Thursday night, Sanjay said, “Take a deep breath.  Now…do you think you could take us to the airport tomorrow morning at 5:00?”  When I agreed, Chrisette said, “I can’t wait to see how you function before the sun comes up!”

I functioned well enough, driving them to DFW without accident.  We talked during the 20 drive, and at some point Sanjay said, “Blah blah blah–when we’re in Greece next year.”

“WHAT?” I said.

Chrisette laughed.  “I guess we thought it was so obvious we would visit you that we forgot to tell you we’ve already bought tickets.  We’re going to Athens during the kids’ spring break.”

How crazy that I found this amazing family by “chance” on  We’re going to hang out internationally, AND they let me stay at their house while they vacationed in Portland.  Continue reading

Back in Dallas: Reunited with Anju and Ketan

I did not expect how much being back in Dallas would feel like coming home.  Four months isn’t that long, but a lot has happened since I moved at the end of June!  I was unprepared for the massive nostalgia of being back.  I could drive on auto-pilot, I had my go-to bank to make some fundraising check deposits, and my library card still worked when I needed to waste a little extra time.  This is my home.  It’s going to be too short of a stay, I can already tell.

At 6:00 I pulled into the driveway behind Sanjay and followed him inside the house.  Ketan greeted me with a massive smile and a hug, and I said, “It’s weird how not-weird this feels!”  Anju and Chrisette came home, and my Dallas family/bosses was complete!  Once again, it felt like nothing had changed.   Continue reading

Goodbye Dallas

Today I leave Dallas.

The three years I lived here weren’t especially fancy.  I arrived a 24-year-old, and now I am 27.  I graduated from seminary with a Master’s in Biblical Counseling.  I traveled to three new states.  I got a tattoo.

But the most significant memories are subtler.  I lived with six women who taught me, laughed with me, and let me rant about gender roles in the church.  I nannied two children who adored my silliness.  I learned from professors who deepened my understanding of my identity as person made in the image of God.  I attended a church that taught me to depend upon weekly Communion and the grace of God.

I think, though, that the biggest change that has happened in Dallas has been my emotional growth due to my time spent in counseling.  I attended 20 individual sessions, and my primary goal was to learn to be vulnerable, especially when it came to showing sadness and anger.  I grew a lot during those sessions, but mostly I intellectualized myself away from really sharing how I felt.  I never cried in front of my counselor.

I attended 8 group counseling sessions, and my world broke open.  I opened up about some really hard feelings, cried (and apologized for crying) in front of my peers, and heard, “Before, I just thought you were ‘nice,’ but I didn’t really know you.  Now you’re a real person.  I like you more because you let yourself cry.”  That was the first time I cried in front of someone since high school, I think.

Yesterday, my church commissioned me for my time in Greece.  Our elders laid hands and prayed for me and several other men and women going on mission trips.  I hugged my church family goodbye, and immediately teared up.  “I didn’t want to cry!” I said.  The person I hugged happened to be a counselor.  “Why don’t you want to cry?” he asked.  “No, don’t do that!” Another friend came up and hugged me.  She’s tall, so I got to bury my face in her shoulder and sob a little.  And she’s emotionally healthy, so she cried with me.  When we made watery eye contact, she told me, “Your tears are precious.”

I cried a lot yesterday.  I said goodbye to dear friends that I consider family.  I ate, laughed, and hugged.  And now I’m leaving.  But my tears are precious, because they mean that Dallas mattered.  I had so much fun here.  I’ll miss this place, and my time here, deeply.  And I’ll be back.