On Sunday, February 14, 2021, I was baptized at Kensington Church in Traverse City, Michigan. That morning, I shared the following words – my testimony – with my family, friends and members of the church.
I grew up going to First Presbyterian Church of Northville with my family. I was baptized as a baby and confirmed as a freshman in high school. In high school, I joined youth and adults from my church on two mission trips to Mexico. Those were transformative experiences for me, and looking back, I can see how they played a role in shaping who I am today and planted a seed for the life I’m living now.
Growing up, church was always something I did with my family. My faith and relationship with God didn’t come to feel like my own until I was 23 years old and living and working in Berkeley, California.
30. I’m supposed to have it all figured out, right? Husband, house, kids, stable job. That’s what society tells me, at least. I turned 30 at the start of February and check none of those boxes. In a lot of ways, I’m more confused than ever before. But I also know those boxes aren’t for me at this moment in my life. If I were in those shoes, so to speak, I would likely feel as though I’m selling myself short. I would likely yearn for this life I’m living now – with all its beauty, adventure, potential, freedom, fear, self-doubt, [occasional] loneliness, unknowns, challenges, etc.
As I start life in my 30s, I’m searching. And I’m quite sure anyone who’s spent time with me in recent days, weeks and months knows or can see this. I’m searching for who I am, what I’m doing and where I’m going. I’m searching for my purpose, my place and who I am in and with and through God.
And while I’m mostly living in the present and looking forward these days, as I started this new year in my life in February, I couldn’t help but look back on all that 29 was. Here’s where I landed.
On Sunday, March 8, I took off on a five-day road trip from San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, my home base, to Pucón, Chile with a family of four friends from Traverse City, Michigan, who are in their third month of a three-month sabbatical in Argentina. Now, a week later, I look back on photos and videos from our day crossing over to Chile—and also me launching a crowdfunding campaign for a short documentary I’m directing and producing—and feel as though that was a lifetime ago. It’s amazing how time altogether sped up and slowed down this week. The world is certainly different than it was a week ago.
My friends and I were all aware of Covid-19 and, more or less, how and where it was spreading, but the reality of what this strain of coronavirus is and how quickly and easily it has and can spread hadn’t hit home yet. Wednesday evening, our last night in Chile before crossing back to Argentina, that all changed.
This year has been a big one, so to speak, in countless ways — and it’s not over yet. It’s a year full of some of the most difficult days of my life, and those of my family, and simultaneously a year of abundance and blessings. I fully feel the second part of that statement. God has shown up time and again this year, and I’m encouraged by the challenges and the victories because I see how He is there in all of it. He is a good, good God. Every day, I’m learning more and more that so much of life truly is about our perspective, the way we choose to see and respond to what’s in front of us — no matter who or what we believe in.
Shortly after Christmas last year, my dad was hospitalized. On January 3, 2019, he was diagnosed with B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The doctor who broke the news to us, while kind, was vague in terms of my dad’s chances of beating this and how long he might have to live. We learned a week or so later that, were he to continue without treatment, the cancer would likely take his life in 4-6 weeks.
So once an abscess in my dad’s intestine was treated — another story altogether, one where I also 100 percent see God’s hands at work — he started a month of inpatient chemotherapy at University of Michigan Hospital. Another round of outpatient chemo followed in March. In April, we learned my dad had several strong matches for a bone marrow transplant, and at the end of April, he successfully received a bone marrow transplant from a 20-something-year-old man in Germany. While the transplant was successful, my dad was not in the clear, and I would argue that May and June — though still full of blessings — were his toughest months and the most challenging for all of us. I know they were for me.
“Home is not a place; it’s a feeling.” – Cecelia Ahern
I feel fortunate to have found and known—and continue to find and know—home, a sense of home, in places around the world and among people around the world. I often find the people are more important to that feeling than the place itself. Though the two in combination, when the feeling is right, are quite a powerful force.
Of the places I’ve lived and traveled, Michigan and Patagonia carry the greatest feelings of home for me.
There’s seemingly always been a pull between here and there. But when I was unexpectedly back in Michigan in January and February and then again in May and June, that pull on my heart was different. It felt stronger in that I could more clearly see the value I find and feel in each place, if that makes sense. I could more clearly see what each place holds for me.
It was also different in that I wouldn’t describe this pull as a tug of war. It’s a gentle pull. There’s a respect between these two places that occupy my heart. They each carry meaning and importance. They each carry a significant part of me.