I have gotten out of the habit of posting but feel a need to catch any of my readers up with life in the Petersen household. Since my Christmas update and day after Christmas meltdown life has been cruising along. Drew and I headed to Thailand to meet our squad for midpoint debrief
From the moment we were dropped off by our taxi at the end of an alley to what seemed like nowhere, our plans were tossed to and fro like waves. We arrived at our hostel at the end of the alley. We were greeted by a sign and ropes blocking off the entrance telling us it was closed. It was early (7am) and one sign said it was opening that day so we ignored the closure. It felt good to sit down to rest and read so we just made ourselves at home in the outer courtyard. Later we noticed a sign saying they would open 4 days later which did seem a little troublesome since we had over 40 people arriving in the next day or two. It all worked out as workers arrived back from their break and after a moment of panic managed to find space for all of us. It worked out great that most of the websites that booked for this particular hostel had got the memo that they were closed. This meant we had almost the whole place to ourselves for the first few days.
The debrief itself was encouraging in many ways – I love connecting with these young people. As a leadership team we found ourselves having to respond to needs that came up more often then follow the carefully scheduled plans that were made. There were important things to deal with like making sure everyone had the proper visa. It was disappointing to have to let go on topics we wanted to teach or fun that would bond us. In the end, the topics shared were ones that were needed. We did drop the ball on some important things. We also celebrated victories. It wasn’t perfect. Life rarely is. None of this was a surprise to God.
When we left Chiang Mai it felt heavy. We knew that many racers were struggling. It’s a little like watching a movie that is somewhat predictable with what the outcome will be, but you are in the middle of the tension that makes for good movies. We have been around the block a few times so we recognize that wrestling through things is what makes us stronger, compassionate human beings. My hardest seasons have made me who I am today and I wouldn’t omit them from my story. God is writing out the stories of each one of these precious young adults. It seems to me that those with the hardest stories are the same ones who are the most committed on the other side of the fight. Frankly, I get so excited as I pray for them because I can see what they can’t yet. The God who sent His Son to show us love, is right now pouring that love on each one of them.
From Thailand we interrupted our warm weather to head over to Qingdao China to visit our daughter Ellie. At this point the word was just starting to get out about the new Coronavirus and it wasn’t causing the fear that it is right now. We loved seeing Ellie’s city as we bundled back up in our winter coats. We met friends, hiked mountains, ate yummy food, visited her school and experienced a little of Ellie’s world for a short week. There were no set plans so there were no disappointments that expectations weren’t met. Our sole purpose was to see Ellie’s new home, to rest and celebrate this new chapter in our daughter’s life.
We ended our time just as the Chinese New Year celebrations were beginning. Ellie was on break and joined us for the most fabulous vacation week in the southern part of Thailand. We stayed at a simple Airbnb that was a vigorous walk to the beach. Being a first year teacher anywhere, let alone in a foreign land, is a lot of work with long hours. Our main goal for the week was to give Ellie a place to rest and process before returning to her job. We wanted her to be refreshed and encouraged. It was so much fun being together, although she did admit that she didn’t enjoy being an only child. One of our favorite days was spent on an adventure that included elephants, a zipline, river rafting (which we called “Bumper Boats”) and a hike to a pretty waterfall. There were very little instructions, nothing was safe, it may have bordered on foolish but it was exhilarating!!!
After a week in some of the most beautiful land I have ever been in, we said our goodbyes with tears in our eyes. The plan was to be gone for at least another year and a half. We would miss her. The thing was, we saw her wonderful community surrounding her so we felt nothing but joy for her journey. 38 hours later we landed in Minnesota, jumping back in right where we left off, in the middle of winter. Drew went winter camping with some friends and our son Levi. Friday morning I woke up to a call from Ellie asking me to pick her up from the airport Saturday! It all felt very surreal since we had just spent 2 weeks together. Of course I was thrilled to bring her home, especially since it would be a total surprise to her Daddy when he returned from camping.
Her time here is a surprise, one we are grateful for. I can’t help think of all those in Wuhan whose lives have been interrupted just as abruptly but instead of reunion they are facing loss. Life is constantly throwing us curve balls. What do we do when the call you get isn’t one of good news? Are our plans so concrete that when they start to fall apart we do too? Do we accept the joyful interruptions and feel like God has somehow failed us if the interruptions of life are not to our liking? Do we lose hope when it’s hard to see if the trial we are in will ever end? Do we try to find someone to blame when life doesn’t work out according to plan? Do we just give up because it’s just too hard to try anymore?
I want to say that I would respond well no matter what comes my way. The truth is that until we face a hardship we have no idea of knowing how we would really react or respond. People are having curve balls thrown at them every day – let’s show them compassion. Let’s love the people around us. Let’s resist the urge to criticize or judge people in their struggle. Find community so that when life gets hard you don’t have to do it alone. Make it a practice to not overreact to the small interruptions in life and then when those life changing interruptions come from nowhere you won’t be destroyed. Celebrate the victories, dance with joy that you have breath in your lungs. God will never leave you…but He might just interrupt you on your journey.
John 16:33 (Jesus) “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”