Just over 12 years ago I was on a plane, flying home from being a missionary in Holland. I was 23 years old and had been gone from home for over 18 months, spoke fluent Dutch, knew how to navigate the country by bike, train, bus, and metro, and felt a bit like I wouldn't know what to do with myself once home on American soil! I remember looking out the window, thinking about the time I'd spent there, feeling a bit nostalgic about my experiences even though they were barely moments behind me. I didn't know if I'd ever be back or what my future really even looked like. I was excited to be going home and to see my family, but I felt that nagging sadness pulling me back to Holland. And, I have to admit, all these years later and I believe there is still a part of my heart back there. I've been able to visit a few times over the years, but never for a real substantial visit beyond a couple of weeks. I've taken Peter back, and I've poured my love of Holland into our family life here.
I strongly feel that my love for this place stems from the work I was doing there. I served the Dutch people (as well as many refugees and asylum seekers/immigrants) for 18 months as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church. I was raised in the church, but never had my sights set on being a missionary. When the time came for me to decide whether I would go or not, it became increasingly clear to me that I needed to go. I needed to put aside my college life for a while to show my gratitude for all God had done for me, all of His grace and mercy He had shown me. I felt I needed to share that joy with others! So, I went. When I found out I'd be serving in Holland and learning Dutch I was very excited. It just felt like it fit perfectly, and it did. I learned so much about myself while there, as well as about God's hand in our lives. It was a sacred time, one I will always treasure and reflect on.
Fast forward to 2006, and I started painting. The first images I was drawn to were from photographs I took of the Dutch countryside while there in my early twenties. Those themes have never been far from my heart, and they make their way back into my work from time to time. This is another interpretation of those memories I have of flying over Holland as I swept toward the Atlantic Ocean and toward home. My mother had sent me a letter to read for my flight home. I opened it as we were taking off, and I alternated between the letter and looking out the window while tears welled up in my eyes. I felt such love coming from all directions, and I felt like a whole new chapter was beginning in my life, never to be the same again.
So, I need to learn never to be afraid of the next chapter, because it's bound to be full of greater beauty and adventure than the one before! I couldn't write the story of my life if I tried.