The Nasty Unnecessaries

Cambodia has its fair share of challenges. On any given day things could be amazing, or awful. There isn’t always one reason why things go wrong. It could be the heat, or something cultural, or second hand emotional trauma. It could be something serious, like the people i’m fighting for ended up not getting justice this time, or something silly… like that I just realized I don’t have enough money in the month to splurge on a box of cereal (sort of kidding, but really…it is a splurge here- usually almost $6/box). I know my emotions can be fickle, and I don’t pretend to understand them every single time I feel down, overly exhausted, or just in a rut. There could be so many things that lead to those moments, but I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything. And since facing these struggles, I’ve gotten a lot better at getting out of ruts.

Being here has taught me that nothing is as bad as it seems. I don’t mean this in the way it is sometimes said, “be thankful for what you have, because you could ________ (insert something usually related to poverty here).” If that helps you to remember to be thankful for what you have, then by all means find what works for you. I have found people who are very wealthy to be quite poor, and people with no money to be very rich in what life has to offer. Life is so much more than the items we possess, or the places we live in. I say this to mean that you don’t always have to look at what you might see as less (or what some people see as just enough) to appreciate what you have. When you look at the bigger picture of life, all of the unnecessary things fade away.

Unnecessary things have a funny way of consuming our lives. They take too much of our energy, and have carried away a thought too many. I could write a long list of what I find unnecessary, but that would be subjective, so I will just leave a short list about things not worth caring a lot about. If they get your drink order wrong, if you chip off your newly painted nails. If your neighbor got a nicer car than you, if this person that you aren’t close with told that person that you don’t even really know that you are something. If you put too much stock in anything like that, you might find your energy dwindling away on things that in the big scope of things don’t really matter. Everyone has their own list of things they know are the “unnecessaries”. Some of the examples I gave might make people chuckle, but I know many people (including me) who have gotten bent out of shape from the examples above.

Beyond not putting much stock in the unnecessaries, I have also found you can’t judge a book by its cover. An age old phrase i’ve heard time and time again, but now I actively try to live it out. You never know what journey everyone has been on. More often than not their actions are a reaction to something in their past, or a way they have been treated. When I find myself frustrated with someone, I often see that their actions that are causing frustration to me are effects of a cause that happened long ago. Realizing this reminds me to approach issues with grace. If I have a problem, I approach it head on, and remember that there are two sides to everything. Gossiping is useless, and grace is essential.

My time here has been invaluable for so many reasons, but I am especially thankful for how I am not the same person I was when I first stepped foot on this soil. The beauty of life is that there are so many variables, and many of those variables are within us. We react and respond to life around us, and it shapes us into different people. Cambodia has molded and re-shaped me time and time again. It has shown me what really matters, through the times where I have seen true darkness, and the times I have seen true light. I have seen brokenness and hopefulness in its purest forms. Through all of that, I have experienced that any struggle I face shall pass. Any obstacle that presents itself in my path, I shall overcome. When life seems hopeless, I will keep fighting, fighting for those who can’t always fight themselves. My energy won’t be spent on the unnecessaries, but on the only necessary thing I see in my path: love. Love for each other, and all the things that come along with love.

I hope that as the world continues to shape you, you will let is shape you into something full of love. Because from love comes compassion. From love comes care. And from love comes hope. Even on the darkest days, all one needs is hope. Focus on the necessary, the rest will follow.

On a completely unrelated note…I took a segway for a spin for the first time at my neighbors the other day. I wouldn’t say I am ‘Paul Blart mall cop’ level, but I probably could now talk, and balance at the same time. Little victories people.

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Hugs for days,

Chyanne

The Quest Towards Thoughtfulness

L O V E. I get it, and yet I don’t always feel it. I don’t always give it. And I don’t always understand why people don’t care more about love through action. In this context, when I say ‘love through action’, I mean thoughtfulness. Being thoughtful has never been particularly hard for me. It has never been particularly easy either.  My good intentions get construed by my desire for validation in my giving, or my basic distraction with other things in life. Deep down in my heart I just want to love others well. I want each and every person I encounter to feel like they are valued, and are truly irreplaceable. I attribute this to the small (and huge) acts of great love that God and my parents and family have poured into me in my almost 22 years of existence. I also attribute it to Mr.Rogers sunny optimism on his tv show that I soaked in as a child.

Being thoughtful has been acted out in different ways throughout my life. It is only now that I feel like i’m beginning to grasp what living an intentional and thoughtful life looks like. When I was a kid, I tried to be thoughtful. That meant back-rubs for a tired mommy. When I was a teenager thoughtful took on a new meaning. I was thinking of others, but still a bit self absorbed (sometimes ALOT self absorbed…thank the Lord for my patient family). I gave hoping to receive something in return. Little misguided 16 year old Chyanne, if only I could talk some sense into her. Although, I wouldn’t have a plethora of wisdom to share with her when it comes to this… I still fail constantly at pure thoughtfulness. At least now I feel like I am really trying to grasp at the act of being thoughtful.

This has meant realizing that I do treat people the way I want to be treated, but I’ve learned that I don’t give to receive something in return. I don’t buy someone a piece of cake because I expect them to buy me a pastry the next day. I don’t ask about someone’s day just because I want them to ask about mine. Sometimes the person you are asking isn’t in a good place to ask, or give, or love. You just have to keep loving them, even when you don’t get anything in return. People need love, and love can be acted out in so many different ways. Small acts of love have the greatest impact, whether that is an intentional conversation, a small gesture, or a little gift. Little bits of love can go a long way.

I have often found myself on the other side of that. This past year has been the hardest year of my life thus far, emotionally speaking. I have not always been in a place to love others, but those around me have loved me through it. People have come through in little ways, and done things to make me smile. One friend bought me a camel puzzle, because she knows I love bactrian camels. Another friend came and hung out with me for hours, just so that I wouldn’t have to close a store up alone. My parents have bought me tickets home for Christmas, and other people have given me money so that I can be here. People’s love, their thoughtfulness, is OVERWHELMING. The love I have received pushes me even further to do my best to extend that love to everyone.

It can be easy to not put effort into a relationship if you feel like there is not a lot you are getting out of it. It is easy to feel bitter when you give and give, and don’t feel like you are getting anything in return. However, if you are only focusing on what you aren’t receiving, you will never fully understand how much you are being given! And if you do your best to be intentional, you can transform the lives of people. The littlest things make the biggest difference.

Why live an ordinary life, when you are called to something greater? You are called to love. There are no exceptions to that. You can’t just love when it’s easy, or when you have energy. You can’t be intentional and thoughtful only when it works best for you. You can’t decide to love those five people, and not those other five people. It takes patience, and work, and energy and love from God above. Just remember how you felt when someone did something that made you feel like you mattered to them. Now go and do that to as many people as you can, and make this world a better place to live in. 🙂

And a special thanks to all the people who ever made me feel special, you truly are superstars!

CC

Simple act of love– buying donuts for the school staff I’m saying goodbye to. I have never seen a group of people eat donuts so fast in my life! And my friend on the back also performed a simple act of love by helping me transport these bad boys all the way out to Svay Pak! IMG_1294-1

Dear Jax; An open letter about the world to my nephew.

Today I hopped on my motorcycle to meet a friend for coffee. I don’t own a car because I don’t have enough money and also because sometimes I like to pretend i’m in mission impossible and zoom around. I was stared at by nearly everyone I passed. I don’t look like the people around me. By the time you reach my age, there might not be many places like that in the world.

I passed a lady who carted around eggs to sell for a living. Not too far from her was a couple on an old beat up moto, the woman was cradling a new born baby, not too much older than you. As my little moto sped forward I dodged a car, a very expensive one. There are a lot of those in Phnom Penh. I continued down the street, seeing out of the corner of my eye two monks rhythmically chanting their prayers over two other men bent forward, accepting the prayer and giving the monks some pieces of bread in return. I was almost to the coffee place, but had to go further down the road. This part of the road didn’t have the hustle and bustle of the other streets. The shops on this street were quiet in the morning, because their transaction of goods happened mainly at night. They don’t sell eggs or coffee, they sell bodies in the guise of a karaoke bar. I say a little prayer every time I go on this street. My tires kept rolling, I passed a few other shops and restaurants and turned right into the coffee shop. During that ride I thought of you many times. I’ve been thinking about you since I heard you existed. I’ve thought about what kind of Auntie I want to be to you, and what I would want to share with you about this big world we live in. You are too young to understand any of this now, but thinking about the man you may become gives me great hope.

In that quick ride, I saw so much. So much that I never could have imagined would become my reality. My hope for you is that you go to places that you never thought you would. Don’t ever stop exploring, or adventuring. Go to places where you stick out, go to places that have different belief systems and languages and cultures than the one you have. Get lost in places you’ve never been, and experience life outside of your comfort zone. Make friends from different places, and receive the joy of having a global family. Don’t be afraid because places, or people are different. Embrace and accept the beauty in the differences.

I told you I saw another baby on a moto, not too far from your age. Because of where you were born you will have a completely different life. You were born into safety, certainty, and freedom. Because of where you were born you will never understand the level of poverty and hardship this child might face. Because of your nationality you can easily attend some of the best schools in the world, you never have to worry about healthcare, and with your passport, you have easy access to almost every country. That is not to say that you and this child will not be equally loved, I know nothing of this child’s future or family background. What I do know, is that at the surface level, you will have an easier life. What I also know is that at a deeper level you must understand that we are all human. You are not better than one person because of education, wealth, status, or because you do more “good things”- you can not place a value on their life in any superficial way. You never know someones story, and must do your best to understand everyones story. To not only place yourself in somebody else’s shoes, but to ask about their shoes, and the places they have been.

You will see many things through your sweet blue-green eyes, and wonder about many things. You might wonder why people drive $80,000 cars and have $20,000 worth of fish for fun and appearances, while other people are malnourished, and are having their lives decided for them as they are sold into brick factories to pay back a $500 loan. I hope you will wonder about these things, because that means you will want to do something about the injustices that happen everyday. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Never underestimate your potential, and the power you have to affect lives and change the world. Do not let anyone else define you, or place you in a box because of your age. You define who you are, and you define what you stand for. I pray you will grow into a compassionate man, and I pray the world is a better place 20 years from now because of steps you have taken to love others well. I also pray that you will remember to laugh during the hard times, and that you will seek joy in all situations.

This world is a beautiful, hard place with the most amazing people– I can hardly wait to watch as you grow, discover and change it.

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Love, Auntie CC

And for whoever else is reading this– it is never too late to take this advice to heart. You are a beautifully unique individual who can do amazing things!

The power of hope.

I didn’t know what to expect when I boarded the plane to come to Cambodia. My entire being was filled with a nervous excitement that is incomparable to anything i’ve ever experienced in my life. It was a surprisingly easy decision to move to Cambodia. There were many decisions and heartache that went with it as I began the journey, but the initial decision was easy to me. It was joy that consumed me, and I knew with the most certainty that I was meant to live this next part of my life in Cambodia. It has been joy, or the hope of joy that has sustained me this past year.

I never thought I would end up in one place. The towns I grew up in within California seemed to small to handle the weight of my dreams. Suddenly, all of California seemed too small, and then the entire United States. The older I got the more I knew I wouldn’t stay. In my heart I understood my desire to leave to see the rest of the world. I didn’t know what that would look like, or how God would change my heart. He set Cambodia on my vision, and a passion for social justice on my heart. He had been preparing my heart for years with this restlessness and this need to step outside of the borders. I didn’t realize it would be a third world country in SE Asia, but I was so on-board, I swung full force into the idea. I tried not to have expectations, but subconsciously I was inevitably going to have some. I didn’t understand what I was about to step in to. I don’t think there was anything I could’ve done to prepare myself for this, it really took immersing myself in my surroundings. The choice to move, the choice to experience everything around me has changed me forever.

You see, in retrospect the decision to move to Cambodia was relatively easy compared to the constant decision I make to stay. To stay despite the struggles, to stay despite the alternatives, to stay for the good and the bad. All the reasons I moved to Cambodia don’t have a whole lot to do with me, and the reasons I decide to stay are for the same reasons. The reason being there is something greater than my discomfort. There is a hunger here for love, a need for light. I play no big part in this, I just ask God everyday to help me to make people feel appreciated. Deep down, I just want to give love and help spread the light. I think human kindness, even simple acts, can change lives.

I couldn’t have imagined getting on that plane all the things that I would have experienced. One year later there have been many laughs, tons of tears, plenty of moments of frustration and asking “what the heck?”, and lots of growing moments. There are days where I love Cambodia, and days where I hate it. A year later I still don’t know what to expect in life, but I do know I am a completely different person than I was before. I have learned valuable insight about life and adulthood in this past year, and most importantly I have learned so many things about myself (whether good or bad) that have helped to bring me closer to God and closer to the understanding of who I am. I have also gained a lot of perspective, and know that in the big scheme of things, everything is going to be alright. I am just going to keep staying true to my own course, and will trust in the beauty of hope and the power of God’s love.

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CL

Two worlds, one family.

Please feel free to listen to this whilst reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJlyoDbm5YA

My title is based off of Tarzans struggle, because in a strange way I feel like I can relate. Not the whole raised by apes part, but the part of not knowing where to fit. Society naturally likes to put things into categories, it likes to have boxes to check, and parameters to adhere to. Even without those categories, we as humans like to feel like we belong to something. We enjoy taking ownership of whatever we are a part of. What do you do though when you feel like you are a part of two worlds, not completely belonging to either one? In Cambodia I live my day to day life, it is where I work, and keep a normal schedule. However, no matter how long I am there, I will always be a foreigner, never completely fitting in. Always being stared at. Back in the States I no longer fit in because I don’t have the same life I once had there. Returning to the States feels like a vacation as opposed to an overwhelming sense of being home. Both places are home, but in both places I don’t feel completely at home.

I’m writing this in case you are my friend, or maybe have another friend who lives abroad or does ministry work in a different place. It is hard to be in two places. I apologize already to my friends in the states, before I go into further details, about the moments I missed. The late birthday wishes, or the days late check-up on how that thing went that you did. Part of it is time difference, the other part is getting lost in the chaos of life and trying to juggle two worlds. Even if I don’t always get a chance to say it, I AM SO THANKFUL FOR YOU. I don’t live my day to day life in the states anymore, and I only get to see you once or twice a year, but knowing you are on the other side means the world to me.

I would be lying if I didn’t say a small piece of me is a little jealous of my friends who know exactly where they want to live for most of their lives. God has put such a wandering heart in me that I have no idea where I will end up (or the many places I will end up), and while that is beautiful, it is also confusing. You see, no matter where I am, I’m missing out on something. I’m not trying to be negative, but it is just the honest truth. When I’m in Cambodia I miss out on birthdays, milestones, and all the sweet little moments that encompass my amazing family and friends lives in the States. However, when I’m in the States I’m missing out on the same things in the lives of the friends that I have made in Cambodia. A small part of me always feels a little lost and guilty- like I am always missing an important part of the lives of the people I love…on both sides of the world. I think this realization hits me harder when I spend time in the States, because I stay long enough to just enter quickly into the lives my friends are living, and then get snapped back out. It is a little painful to come and go like that. I think it will get better with time, the more I come and go. I know that this is a part of the nomadic path that God has set me on.  Knowing that doesn’t always make it easier when I’m giving those goodbye airport hugs though. At least I know, with each hug, it is just an “I’ll see you (hopefully) soon” instead of a “permanent goodbye”.

If you know me, or someone like me, I just ask for grace as we try to balance and understand what it means to live in two worlds. I don’t think I will ever master the balance, but I really am trying my best. Even though it is hard, and can be painful, I love having one big family spread out across the world. I want to thank everyone who is a part of that family for me, and for your support- cause even if I don’t get the chance to say it, I couldn’t do it without the people on every side. I am so thankful for the chance to live in two worlds, and look forward to continuing to grow my big multiracial global family! Even though I don’t “fit in” perfectly anywhere, God has placed me exactly where I need to be.

With Love,

CL

Left: Eating American food with Cambodian family

Right: Eating Cambodian food with American family

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The trials and tribulations of soap making/ part one

Cambodia has dubbed itself the Kingdom of Wonder. I don’t think I would disagree with that. I’ve wondered many times since being here. There are parts of me that wonder… “What is that smell?” …”How does that man balance so many things/humans on one moto?”…”How did I end up here?”… and “Why is it culturally acceptable to continuously point out a person’s flaws?”. There are also parts of me that wonder…”How are the people here so precious and amazing?”… “How did God create such a beautiful country”…”Who knew rice, friends, and hanging out in a wooden stilt house was all I needed to be truly happy?”

I didn’t create this blog post to inform you on the many things I wonder about in the Kingdom of Wonder. Although i’m sure I could fill a book with the many thoughts I or my friends have had. Some good, some bad, some realistic, some overly exaggerated. In this place, this small country the size of Oklahoma, which contains around 14 million people, I am attempting to launch a bath and body line. The purpose of this line will ultimately be to provide employment for survivors of human trafficking and people who are at risk to the terror of trafficking. Its other purpose is to spread awareness about the issue of trafficking, and hopefully inform people who were previously unaware. It also serves to spread awareness about the importance of hygiene in-country.

I went around to various markets a few weeks ago in search of everything I needed. It required a lot of searching, fair amounts of frustration, and the ability to laugh. I spent hours in a Cambodian market, which smelled like a combination of hanging meat (because there was meat hanging from hooks) and sweat (definitely A LOT of that). At the market I used my limited Khmer to navigate and find different ingredients and tools…it helped that my Khmer teacher was there to provide some much needed translation. I ended up going to multiple markets on different days to search for other things. At one point I felt super Cambodian as I jimmy-rigged…see below… cardboard boxes filled with stainless steel pots on the back of my moto (with some string and the help of some Cambodians) and drove all over town. Ultimately I found everything I needed and started the process of whipping together different test soap bars. Through trial and error I was able to make three different test batch bars, and a few other test products. There are many more details I could go into, but the long and short of it is that it was an interesting, discouraging, encouraging, adventure filled time in the first part of my soap making endeavor. It helped that God provided me different resources for knowledge, and friends who provided encouragement.

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Soap making supplies!

I’m looking forward to wherever God takes this- and I love how something as simple as soap can make a difference! You really can use whatever talents, passions, and knowledge you have to change the world. So do not hesitate- use your special giftings to make this world a better place 🙂

Lookout for my next debrief on the soap making process where I will discuss how my bars turned out and what other products I am thinking of whipping up!

P.s. Check out 27bathandbody.com

With Love, CL

You can’t switch desks kid

Twenty one seems an awful lot different from what my ten year old self thought it would be. Naturally, I thought I would have my life wrapped in a pretty neat little package. I would be secure in who I was, and what I was doing.

I have to say adulthood doesn’t always feel like that. Then again, this is my first time doing this whole adult thing, so i’m not quite sure what its supposed to feel like. There are a million buzzfeed posts that talk about the trials and tribulations of entering into adulthood, and some of them capture it well. Adulthood encompasses a myriad of things, including: being more responsible about life decisions and fiscal decisions. Choices abound about possibly more schooling and jobs and… everything really. For me it was all the little choices that made it what it was, what type of transportation do I want? What about internet, and rent, and everything else that is included in flying far away from the nest? There is something freeing, and stressful about that. Another part of adulthood is realizing that you can no longer run from things (which you really shouldn’t anyways). In school if you didn’t appreciate someone’s company you could move to a different seat. Well you can’t move desks anymore kid, you have to face that in this world there a million different personalities.

My dad and I talked the other day about personality traits, and how I found some harder to handle than others. He told me that you can’t look at certain ones as right, and certain ones as wrong (besides things that are obvious character flaws, and people should work on to change) but that they are all important. You need big thinkers, and you need detailed people. You need people who are laid back, and people who push things. You need listeners, and good communicators. You need problem solvers, logical thinkers, happy-go-lucky’s, and creative doers. Even at a recent meeting with co-workers we talked about the different “colors” people are. Those colors signal different personality traits. Each of us for the most part were different colors, and we realized we needed each and every one of us.

 I think for too long I was looking at what I thought they lacked, because I was a certain way, I would get frustrated that they were not. I still think that I will never understand how to handle certain characteristics, and surely there are people who feel that way about some characteristics I possess. However, this whole not moving desks and embracing adulthood has shown me that I need to embrace people exactly as they are. I love that about people, what makes them the person they are. Sometimes however that is the very reason I get frustrated. I forget that every single person is valuable, and has a story. Every single person is more than just certain characteristics, they are a person who deserves love, grace, and encouragement. We all deserve to feel appreciated, it doesn’t matter if it is by someone just like us, or completely different.

Overall, my entrance into adulthood has been sloppy, and I have been impatient, but I know God is helping me learn ALOT. I sure have learned a lot about myself, and he has opened my eyes to much of the world, and so much more that I need to learn.

As I continue to navigate through all of this, I realize I am currently a master of not a lot of trades, I am confused about my future, and just want to be happy and spread happiness. Even though there are many things I am not, there are more things that I am and I am confident in what God has placed in my heart. Cheers to all the things that each of you are, and all the places you are going. After all, there is only forward in life, no other way. 

Peace from Cambo