What I’m really thankful for…

Thanksgiving Weekend is still in full swing in Nairobi— at least for the Americans.  We don’t get Thanksgiving Day off, so we celebrate for a few days which is honestly the best.  We had one celebration on Thursday at my teammates’ house (basically my Nairobi family).  I am going to another Thanksgiving dinner tonight, and then we are hosting a Thanksgiving brunch on Sunday at our apartment.

On Thursday we went around the table and all said what we are thankful for. Because I think gratitude is powerful, and because I think people should talk more about mental health I am going to tell you what I said.

I announced to everyone at Thanksgiving that I am thankful for Zoloft.  My team all laughed and confirmed that they are also thankful for my Zoloft.

I feel a little “Stepford Wives” saying that I am thankful for SSRI medications, particularly with stereotypes of having been in a sorority.  But, honestly, being on medication for my anxiety has been LIFE CHANGING.  I feel like I have been set free from worrying what other people think about me all the time, and like I can be the best version of myself.  The past couple of years in Nairobi have been really, really difficult.  Being on medicine for my anxiety allows me to have enough emotional space to be able to deal with the different things that have happened.

More broadly, I could say that I am thankful for mental and emotional health.  I went to an intensive counseling retreat for two weeks in June that jumpstarted a lot of healing for me.  I spent hours in group and individual therapy working through the trauma I experienced in my first two years in Nairobi.  Among other things, I got to debrief the six months when I didn’t sleep, the deaths of many friends back home, being assaulted on the street, two of my friends being threatened to be killed, and my recent autoimmune disease diagnosis.  I learned lots of tips for how to reduce stress and anxiety and how to deal with really difficult things as they happen.

Most importantly, during the retreat I finally realized that the “friend” who treated me poorly for the past two years was actually abusive.*  This realization both made me feel incredibly vulnerable and gave me the strength to finally cut my abuser out of my life.  I am so much healthier now.  I am dancing around my kitchen.  I have wonderful friends who encourage me instead of picking on my insecurities.  I feel free to be myself again and not afraid of not being accepted for who I am.

Without a doubt, I have walked through some incredibly difficult things since moving to Nairobi.  Yet, somehow I can say I am okay.  I honestly think I am more full of joy and life than ever before.  So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for a God who changes our ashes for his beauty, who doesn’t leave us stuck in our messes but invites us into freedom, who is gentle, who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

When I was in Cape Town I had three different people speak encouragement from the Lord over me.  All of them said that they felt God confirming that he was taking me into a season of joy and dancing and play.  This was amazing to me because the second two women didn’t know the other person at all and they still all said the same things.  I am grateful to be moving from a season of sorrow and difficulty into one of happiness and dancing.

I am thankful that I feel like myself again.  I am thankful that I can take risks like applying to graduate school without fear of failure, or feeling like going to a particular school defines my worth.  I am thankful for the friends that have helped me put my life back together after it fell apart.  I am thankful for this season of being built up again.  I am thankful for emotional stability.  And yes, I am thankful for Zoloft.

xo,

HD

P.S. When titling this post I joked about calling it ”

#blessed to not be depressed”

*I realize that this might be a bombshell for many of my non-Nairobi readers.  For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I would write about the abuse or not, but my hope is that through sharing my story others can find freedom and healing.  Seeing that I was in an abusive friendship was a hard realization to come to for a variety of reasons that don’t fit into the scope of this post, but I have already started writing a dedicated post about the things that I learned from being in an emotionally abusive non-relationship/about what circumstances caused it.

 

Team Thanksgiving 2017
Thanksgiving 1, 2017

 

On Receiving

IMG_8267One of the great things about living in Kenya is that you meet people from all over the world.  They understand what it is like to be in a new place and not know anyone.  The expat community is really great about making introductions or hosting you if you ever find yourself in the same city.  Right now, I am staying with five of the most lovely South African women– friends of a friend I met in Nairobi.

I came to Cape Town for an intense week of work, but I am staying a bit longer for the hiking, coffee shops, vineyards, and contemporary African art.  I knew that after the 13+ hour days of our leadership summit I would need a break, and I wanted to explore Cape Town more since I was already going to be here anyway.

I am learning more about the power of hospitality this week.  I have been caught off-gaurd by how wonderful it can be to be welcomed into someone’s home and life.  Personally, I continually work toward living a life marked by hospitality.  It is something that I both have a natural gifting for and something that I am always trying to grow in.  Much of this desire is rooted in my faith, seeing the welcoming heart of God, and wanting others to experience that in practical ways.

This week, instead of offering hospitality, I have been receiving it.  The women I am staying with are truly amazing.  They have opened their home and their hearts in really extravagant ways.  I have been both blessed and inspired in my short time with them.  It can be hard for me to receive from others at times because I feel like I am burdening them, but these women have welcomed me with such joy and enthusiasm that I am able to receive and not worry.  Seeing the way that they have welcomed me in has also given me ideas about how to grow in giving hospitality.  I am excited for future guests and being able to love and serve them better.

Being cared for so well by strangers has encouraged me to continue opening my home and life to others.  It has refreshed me and renewed my vision for my own home to be a place of peace and rest and acceptance for anyone who visits. I hope that the people that come over to my house for dinner each week feel even a little bit of the warmth and love that I have received in the past few days.

If you are someone that loves to invite people in, keep doing what you’re doing.  It really does touch people.  If you are someone that has a super hospitable friend, freely receive and be blessed by them.  A lot of people tell me that they can’t believe I have people over for dinner every Tuesday, but I am often too happy to fall asleep on Tuesday night.  It really does fill my heart and bring me joy to cook for everyone and to have people filling my home with laughter and stories.

Freely give.  Freely receive.

xo,

HD