Renewal and Reflection

I can’t believe that it has been a month since my last blog, and yet I simultaneously can utterly believe it. We had an action-packed trip back to the USA, with a couple of weeks to see our friends and family and a third week to attend GSV orientation in New Jersey before heading back to Thailand.

There was a lot that happened, and I’m still reviewing and savoring it all in my mind… More details from the trip home in future blogs.

As my title suggests, the ongoing themes of the last month have been of renewal and reflection. Our time stateside was a chance to hug close our family members. A time to squeeze in group interactions with friends - with a few pockets saved for 1on1 moments! A time to take a step back from Nongkhai and review our year - as we recounted the past year’s experience in both short and long ways with friends and family, and then eventually at ‘re-orientation’ with GSV. 

All of us GSVs (Good Shepherd Volunteers) who came back for a 2nd year in a row

On a honest side-note, I’m not entirely sure how much time John and I allotted for ‘renewal’. ‘Reflection’ might have been a larger chunk of the puzzle. I am constantly striving to set boundaries and build in time for myself, and in addition to personal reflection and discussions with others, I am currently reading a book on boundaries. That said, we planned for our trip home to be as busy as it was, because we wanted to feed our souls with time spent with friends and family... I think we thoroughly achieved that goal (a bit tongue-in-cheek, perhaps?).

It was also a time for me to acknowledge that I will become ‘1 of 4’. For those of you not in attendance at the GSV orientation a week ago (as most of you readers are not!), this is one way to describe and honor one’s role in an intentional community… In case you missed this bit of news, John and I are changing from a ‘community of two’ to a ‘community of four’. Two new volunteers, Lauren and Melissa, joined us at GSV orientation, so we got to know each other more, as well as the larger GSV community, which includes: domestic volunteers (a total of 10 in NY/NJ/CA), 3 other international volunteers (in Chile!), the GSV staff, and the larger support network of the Good Shepherd Sisters - some of whom attended our orientation.

We made it back in time for a little bit of rice-planting!

After a couple of gentler days to accommodate jet lag, after my first full day of work, and after our first full community meeting to discuss what groceries we would buy for the week, I saved a tiny bit of energy for my own self-care. One of my regular self-care practices is to save cards/letters that people have written me and re-read them to cheer myself up or to give myself some perspective.

Speaking of piles, here's a pile of SOME of the books that John and I brought back to Thailand - and by us, I mean mostly John!

This night, I took some time to re-read a medium-sized pile. Some resonated with me more strongly than others at the moment, as is usually the case. What struck me overall is that I can see myself and my character a little more clearly after our year in Nongkhai, and as I read through the pile of cards, I could see my character reflecting in the words the writer chose… The words reflected: who I am, who I was, how the writer sees me, the nature of our relationship… What always touches me when I re-read cards (especially handwritten ones!) is that someone took the time to physically write and share how I touched them - or how our relationship has a special connection. I also love how the writer’s personality seeps out of the card - her humor, his concise and direct yet warm tone, quotes or photos or memories shared…

Here’s a sampling of what I enjoyed re-reading this week:

  • Leonard Cohen says, ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in’. I think, sometimes, the cracks are easier to see in new surroundings…

  • Here is a transcontinental hug!

  • That’s the best thing about little sisters: They spend so much time wishing they were elder sisters that in the end, they’re far wiser than the elder one could ever be. - Gemma Burgess

  • We have been friends together. In sunshine and in shade.

  • Included in a card written to me and John with a reference to playing board games: Just don’t let Susan lose… we know how that goes! 

  • It’s summer, one of those perfect summer nights where the sky is pink & purple & blue & it feels like we are all young & can do anything. I guess the sky is the same everywhere, So maybe you are seeing something similar right now!

More news next week… Much love!