AUTHOR: Heather Velvet Johnson
When I first started working at my current job, I would frequently get asked where I am from or the occasional bold statement saying, “You’re not from here.”
I would tell them that I was from Illinois or near Chicago, and they would respond with,
“No, where are you from?”
They didn’t believe that I was a born and raised American.
Even now, though I know almost everyone I serve, I’ll get an occasional visitor who asks me the same question.
They are somewhat satisfied after I tell them that one side of my family is of Scandinavian descent. However, I’m still left puzzled as to why they don’t think I’m American. My best guess was that it had to do with the hat I wear at work (a food service requirement), which gives off a European flare. I’m also in uniform, so I’m not able to show any distinctive style of dress.
I thought this was limited to my work setting until several weeks ago when I was driving to Chattanooga for a weekend class.
I stopped at a gas station and was in the aisle looking for something. It wasn’t yet 7AM, and a man came around the corner, spotted me, and said, “Don’t say anything, but I gotta know. Are you from America?” (He told me afterward that he didn’t want me to say anything because when I talked, he would know whether I had an accent or not.)
I smiled, amused, and told him that I was entirely American. He was slightly disappointed because, apparently, this man took pride in the fact that he could often recognize foreigners from afar. I reassured him that he shouldn’t feel too bad because apparently everyone else also thinks I’m foreign.
I drove away baffled.
Before Mongolia, I never had anyone question whether I was American.
As much as I have felt like I’ve adjusted and transitioned in the past year, apparently, I haven’t on the outside looking in and give off some “I’m new here” signal.
I was used to being a foreigner in a foreign country where I clearly looked different and clearly was different. So it’s bizarre to be seen as a foreigner in my own country.
I’ve been in Atlanta now a year and a few months. I feel settled, but it doesn’t feel like home yet. Truthfully I don’t think there is any place that feels like home anymore.
I don’t feel too sad about it, it just is what it is. I was traveling a lot over the summer, and whenever someone would ask me where I was from, I always hesitated. Yes, I was living in Georgia, but I’m not from Georgia. I’m from Illinois, but that’s not home anymore either. If I threw Mongolia into the mix, it would open up a whole series of questions and confusion.
Not only do I sometimes feel like I’m the new kid on the block, but sometimes it feels like God is the confusing foreigner with strange cultural norms.
I don’t understand Him, and why He does the things He does.
More and more, I realize I’m baffled by how He works. When things are going well or seemingly stable, it’s easy to rest in the mystery. It’s not so easy when things are falling apart in your life. It’s not easy to be baffled then.
Today I went on a drive through north Georgia to meet a friend for a hike, and I decided to listen to one of my favorite artist’s Christmas album. It's mid November, and usually, I wait until after Thanksgiving, and I’m very strict about this self-imposed rule.
But it’s been a week of feeling God’s foreignness, and I needed something with real hope that I could hold onto. I needed the reminder that God, too, was a foreigner when He came down as Emmanuel.
So when I feel like a foreigner, when everything in life seems like a mystery or an unwelcome plot twist, I have Him to cling to. And I have Him, who knows what it feels like to experience life in all its pain, mystery, and foreignness, even when it is bewildering.
WHAT'S MY QUARTER?
AUTHOR SHARI TVRDIK
"You're not going to believe the story behind this quarter! "
My sister Joanne stood in the grocery store isle holding up a quarter as if it were a piece of gold.
We had bumped into one another at the store, both in a mad holiday rush with no time to talk.
"Remind me to tell you all about it when we have a chance to catch up." she said.
Three days later we sat together, coffee in hand and sure enough, the quarter was the first thing I wanted to hear about.
"I believe the Lord has been stretching my giving and obeying abilities and He is using a quarter to do it!"
Joanne shared with me.
"It all started when I felt the Lord leading me to leave my quarter in the shopping cart at Aldi." She said.
She was referring to a local grocery where you had to insert a quarter into the cart in order to use it.
"I truly did not want to part ways with that quarter." She continued.
"I never carry cash, and especially not coins. I have one quarter that I continually use for the Aldi carts. I know exactly where it goes when I leave the store and I always have it on hand."
And then she added, for drama sake,
"There is nothing worse than arriving to Aldi WITHOUT YOUR QUARTER."
I laughed because I knew from personal experience, exactly what my sister was talking about.
Without my quarter I've had to either wait near the cart rack and awkwardly beg a stranger to give me their cart as they are returning it, or drive to an ATM, collect my cash then drive back to the store and ask for change. A lot of hassle in order to begin my shopping.
Joanne went on to tell me about her struggle to obey the Lord's gentle command to her. She explained her main fear was she would forget to replace the quarter and wind up quarterless at the store the following week.
"Then I believe the Lord spoke to my heart again saying,
"Do you not believe I could provide a quarter for you next time you need one?'"
In the end, Joanne reluctantly left the quarter inside the coin slot of the cart.
"Now, why was this such a big deal for me?
"How could I not willingly obey such a harmless instruction from my Heavenly Father?
The following week as Joanne approached the grocery store she realized she had forgotten to replace that quarter. Annoyed with the whole situation she proceeded to go through the hassle of driving to find change at a fast food place.
"I was feeling frustrated when I arrived back AGAIN to Aldi. As I walked up to the cart rack with my quarter from the fast food place in had, I noticed the first cart in line had a quarter sticking out of the slot! I stood there in shock, remembering the Lord asking me if I believed HE could provide a quarter. It was as if He was right there smiling as I discovered His provision."
Her excitement in the story was contagious. I could sense she had truly experienced a precious lesson from the Lord. "And it didn't stop there!" Joanne said.
"Since then, quarters continue to surprise me, showing up in the most unlikely places. I've never had so many quarters. It's almost funny! "
A joyful grin splashed across her face.
"God continues to provide quarters to remind me that obedience is the very best way to show that I believe! "
Her final words struck my heart.
She was right.
It is the very best way.
My sister's quarter story has been on my mind this week. It has agitated my heart in a good and growing kind of way.
What is my quarter? I wonder.
Do I believe that He provides for me?
Am I willing to find out?
packing and weighing.
This was the main job that I had to do in the last 3 weeks.
It seemed ok since summer is a time of traveling and camping for most Mongolians.
Then came the meetings,
and many goodbyes followed.
I did so well until the last couple days.
Everything at my home, community and my whole country seemed extra precious and beautiful.
Everyone I know became so hard to part with.
My heart started to ache.
My tears were easily flowing and I needed to hide and cry in my bed.
Why am I leaving my family?
Why am I leaving my job?
Why am I leaving my beautiful country Mongolia?
Why do I need to leave them when I love this place so much?
We usually don’t know how precious the people and life around us are until we are separated. It is in our human nature to not notice the significance of our loved ones until they are gone from us.
Gratitude is something that we need to look for often.
My dear sister-friend Siew Ling gave me a bracelet on my birthday which says GRATITUDE on it. I’m thankful that she reminded me of this important part of life. I’m grateful for my life in Mongolia.
This chapter of my life is ended.
Thank you my Lord for all the blessings.
27th of July, 2017. I arrived in the United States, at O’hare International Airport.
Happily this place didn’t seem foreign to me since it is the 4th time coming here and my dear friends were waiting for me.
The only difference is a thought in my brain which says
“You know that you are not going back soon, right?”.
I heard this over and over again.
I have been to many places in the past 10 years, but all temporary.
I never left Mongolia with tears until this time.
Many are happy and also jealous of me.
They said, "You are going to AMERICA for 16 months!
And you have a scholarship!
You have friends!
You know English!
Oh I wish I was going instead of you!
I would live there forever.
Yes, they are right.
But I’m the one who is leaving
and I’m the one who doesn’t like to leave my home country for long.
Here I am today.
Among the corn fields.
Today felt like an empty page in between chapters.
It will pass soon and I will start my new chapter soon.
Don’t know what adventures are ahead of me, but I’m peaceful,
because God knows and He planned it.
God, please teach me and tell me WHY I AM HERE!
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