Over the past few months I have been mentally preparing myself for one of the greatest life changes I will have yet;
No longer calling Amsterdam my home.
For a while I was in denial because how could my life be moved so greatly by one city? Why am I having such a difficult time saying goodbye to the people, culture and architecture that I have only lived in for a short season?
I realized a lot of this had to do with the mental planning of coming here. Just about all my adult life has been focused on moving to Amsterdam. So although I have only lived in Amsterdam for a few years it seems more like 8.
God spoke very clearly that I was to come to Amsterdam when I was 19 years old. He then spoke again saying that I would come back to [help] pioneer a ministry [The Lighthouse]. What I had interpreted through this was I would come to Amsterdam for the rest of my life. It didn't occur to me that the word "pioneer" usually refers to beginning, yet not always remaining. Shortly before I made the official move to this city God spoke again.
"My time in Amsterdam would be shorter than I expected."
That took me off guard.
However, throughout my time here this is the reoccurring set of words that people have received from God and spoken to me.
I know I have to trust God, even if it threw my organized-planning brain for a loop.
Earlier this year I prayed about my next steps. If I should continue in Amsterdam for another couple of years or end my commitment in December. His words were clear: it was time to start phasing out.
It's quite interesting how many people have stated that The Lighthouse seems to finally be out of "that pioneering stage." The timing really does seem right.
It's a unwise when you "overstay your welcome" and I feel like I would be doing that if I continued here. It's not like it would be the worst thing to do, but it just, for reasons I can't fully explain, wouldn't be the best.
Beyond saying goodbye to my season in Amsterdam I know there is a new and beautiful season beginning to bloom back in America.
The second part of what God has been saying not only to myself but to many others [even to people I hardly know] is that my work will not end once I leave Amsterdam. But it will continue, and multiply.
Many people ask me what my next steps are, and to be honest I haven't the faintest idea. I think God is doing that on purpose. Right now all I can foresee doing is taking some time of rest and reflecting on what I have learned here. This season has definitely been a time of growing and learning and I believe I need to mull over the last few years first before moving into my next direction. Once I feel ready, I will start seeking the next steps God has for me. I have a few desires, however I am not sure which to begin with.
To end my time here well, I have been thinking of what I will miss the most. And to welcome myself back to San Diego I've been remembering all the comforts that await me. So here is a little list I have compiled:
1. Biking everywhere
Whether you are the one pedaling or on the back on someone else's you really won't get this sort of atmosphere anywhere else. Although I have a few scars from some accidents, I got right back up and kept going. I am quite proud that I have biked in extreme wind, hail, snow, rain and of course beautiful sunshine. I'm also pleased that I can move a great deal of stuff on my bike, seriously like things that would take up your entire trunk. These last few weeks I have been biking slowly through the city to take it all in. The architecture and surroundings are truly breathtaking. I am so glad that I got a bike tattoo to help me remember my beautiful time in Amsterdam.
This is kind of a given. But truly I am so blessed to have gained some incredible friends here. Ones that challenge me, encourage me and teach me. In Dutch culture it takes a while to really become true friends with someone, but once you are, they are loyal friends for life. I gained the beauty of learning how to invest in people and seeing the results. I plan to forever carry these friendships with me.
Although my brain was half dead most weekends I love my church family here. They showed me what it was like to be in a community, even when my broken self couldn't give back that much. They were a small family and not only had a love for theology but also for humor. I don't think I have laughed as much with any other group than them.
4. Shine Seminar
I am so grateful for YWAM for entrusting my young self to lead a 6 week seminar on the global sex trade and how we as Christians can respond. It was a lot of hard work, but I am very pleased with the outcome. And want to see more in the future.
I can walk 2 minutes and be in at least 4 nice cafes [note: coffee shops are places you smoke weed, cafes are places to get coffee in Holland] so to get coffee I go to cafes. Most are so "gezellig" as we say, which is more than cozy, they are warm and inviting. And the coffee is small, simple and usually pretty good [depending on where you go]. Literally though, its about half the proportion of Starbuck's Short or Tall sizes and thats all you need.
6. The Lindy Hop Scene
My favorite part of the dancers here is they are always taking classes and practicing. You see their love and passion all the time. The scene may be a little smaller but it's made up of excellent, energetic dancers. It's a great group and community. I will definitely plan my trips back to Amsterdam around Smokey Feet or Lindy Swop.
7. Intellectual Conversations with Different Perspectives
Especially with Saskia. But with a few others as well. I have a lot of friends from all over the world, but never have I been in one place for a given amount of time with so many different surrounding cultures and views. I've heard perspectives of human trafficking, prostitution, the Church, ministry, family life, politics and more from many different points of view. It has been quite challenging as you realize your world and everything you knew and grew up with is being shaken. But when you take a step back and realize just how vast our world is, and how artistic and philosophical the people are, you begin to see the beauty. A lot of times, when Americans come to visit I hear "why do they do that, it's so weird!" But in fact they are looking at us as being the strange ones. You learn quickly, with so many different cultures around, that you really can't agree on everything, and that's ok! I used to think of myself as one who saw different sides of situations but my ability to do that has strengthened greatly because of the wonderful people I have been surrounded by and their beautiful different mindsets.
1. Mexican Food and Cheap Sushi
Yes. These are my priorities. But seriously, you get deprived of spicy food here and sushi is so expensive it's a rare treat. But I did learn to make it myself which will also come in handy!
2. Driving Howard [My first Car; a 72 Dodge Dart Swinger]
Some days you just need to go for a drive with the windows down, and depending on the weather, heat up. Although I can do much on a bike, I have a lot more freedom with a car and calming drives are converting to me.
3. Thrift Stores
And with my car I can drive to awesome thrift shops with 20 dollars in my pocket and find so many hidden treasures. This is somewhat therapeutic. I love going alone with even 5 or 10 dollars and spending hours just going through second hand items to find the ones that you love. I cannot justify spending a lot of money on clothes, so this is my happy balance.
4. Friends and Family
Although a lot of my friends live all over, my two best friends live in San Diego or at least on the outskirts. Still it's much closer than Amsterdam is and I look forward to spending time with them and their families. Also pretty much all my family lives in San Diego or California so it will be nice to be around them again. And I can give thousands of kisses to my nieces and nephew who are growing up way too fast.
5. My Family's Cabin in Idyllwild
I have never been in such a beautiful and peaceful place. It is so calm with pine trees everywhere, I almost forget how much I love the forest and nature until I'm surrounded by it all. I expect to spend a lot more time there, just resting, praying and enjoying life.
I realize how friendly I am to strangers, but here I feel almost like it's a slap in the face if I speak only in English, even though Amsterdam is quite diverse and the majority of people don't mind it. But when I can, I try to speak in Netherlands while out. My Dutch is not great but I like to practice when I can, and that leaves me only being able to say a few small statements. Back home I can freely ask how the grocery clerk's day is going or where people are going on the train and I miss that side me. It comes out occasionally here but not enough.
Need I say more? I grew up loving cold rainy days because we always got clear sunny ones. But when you have the wet cold days more than the sunny, and have to bike in them, you start to miss the perfect San Diego weather. So yes, I will bask in the sun with a much more joyful heart from now on.