thankful is the new black

There really is no normal way to transition from there to here. I’m living in the between today, and I’m seeing life through strangers eyes. Oh, it’s summertime now. Oh, I have a dog. Look, I can drink the water. Where did we get all this stuff, anyway? And what’s my name again?

I unpack my suitcase and find leftover pesos in the pocket of my dirtiest pair of pants. At first, I’m bummed that I forgot to exchange it back to US dollars before I left. Then, I realize this money that I hold in my hand could pay the rent and feed a family of four for a month. I close my fist around this pile of useless-to-me money. I’m glad to have it, as it reminds me of … well, it just reminds me. The hydrangeas bloomed while we were gone. So did the gardenias. I breathe in deep standing in our backyard. It smells like thankful.

I think of you as I stand there, of my sister’s words as I called her finally from the airport the first chance I got. I feel like I went with you on this trip, she told me. I feel like we were all there, too. Those words of hers are the best gift, I realize now, standing in the middle of provision and enough. As much as I learned and saw and experienced while in the Philippines, I did not go to simply see it for myself. I went to see it for you, too. 

It seems too small to say thank you, but I have to say it anyway. Thank you for reading our stories last week. Thank you for keeping your eyes open with us. Thank you for sharing our links on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Thank you for praying that I wouldn’t have a panic attack on the airplane. I mostly didn’t.

I’m standing precariously on the fence between thankful and despair. I can’t go back to not knowing and I can’t change the world tonight. So I’m settling on thankful, because that must be where it starts. Until we know what we’ve been given, perhaps we will be unable to give. And there it is again, compassion births compassion. Love begets love. Gifts move us to give. And so we begin with thankful, with breathing in the sweet air of our backyard, with embracing our safe home, with eating the bounty of food that is provided. We eat, we laugh, and then we dig around in the hidden places of our hearts and our budgets and look for ways to give with new eyes. Oh Lord, continue to give us new eyes.


  1. says

    Thanks for the images and stories, Emily, and for keeping your eyes open. In doing so, I think you’ve opened a lot of eyes in return. At least you did mine. I was changed. I will act. Thank you for that.

  2. Tay says

    I very much loved reading along your journey on Twitter and on your blog! It was a real blessing to me to get to follow what was going on in your heart and in the hearts of those around you during this trip. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us. It was a privilege to get to “come along” with you!

  3. says

    Dear Emily,

    I also feel as though I was there with you. I’ve had dreams because of what you’ve written, and they’re of hope.

    I’ve also though about how we can tend to think we have to do it all, and that we aren’t required to. We’re asked to bloom where we’re planted and make a difference because of what we see, and to simply love. God is bigger than we think we need to be. And so, our tendency to think there’s much more we need to do, needs to be matched with what He asks of us each specifically.

    You need to know that who I am today – who I’ve become in the past year – is in large part because of you. God led me to you and used you to lead me to others, and remains me close to your words today, for such purpose.

    You’re being used. Hugely. And I’m so glad to be one of those who sees Him from your humble heart.

    Rich blessings as you savor what you’ve drank in, Emily…

  4. says

    What a lovely expression of a difficult clashing of realities. Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. We all benefited from your “leap of faith” in this experience.

  5. says

    Thank you Emily, for sharing your raw emotions with us. Following you and the other bloggers last week has given me new urgency as an advocate, to step out of my comfort zone, to reach one person, who can change the world for one child. I spent my morning watching Then and Now videos from Compassion, now I will go to work and spread the word :) Bless you Emily, for blessing us all, and most especially blessing the children!

  6. Meredith Uber says

    I did feel like I was right there! After one of your posts, I went to the compassion site to figure out how to write my compassion child online. (I have not been very faithful in sending letters through the mail) I had tried before and it wouldn’t work. Called compassion and they immediately answered…a live person! They got me right on there site and now I can write Diana in about 2 minutes. So thank you for the encouragement to get involved. “When we are unified, God is glorified”!

  7. says

    Welcome home, friend! Hug your babies. Stay in your jammies. Breathe in and out.

    He loves you.
    He loves you.
    He is with you.
    He is still there.

    Be still.

  8. says

    Thank you Emily for making room in your suitcase for all of us. It has been an unforgettable journey. Thankful IS where it all begins and I’m continuing on to find how I can give and serve.

  9. Lori says

    Thanks Emily, for going on this trip and sharing with us. You and the other bloggers really wrote from the heart and shared with such kindness and truth. My husband and I signed up over the weekend to sponsor a child from the Philippines. We’ve considered sponsoring before but never acted. I think partly because it seemed like such a big decision that I didn’t want to make it and it be the wrong one. But I know God is in this and so many more decisions that sometimes just acting, taking a step of committment, is enough and He’ll fill in the gaps.

  10. says

    welcome home, emily. thanks for sharing your experience. i hope it continues to bless and astound you into action and gratitude. i know i could use a daily dose of perspective to keep me focused on all the graces that abound.

  11. says

    LOVE this post. We drove through Tuscaloosa, AL this past weekend on the way back from our vacation to Disney World, and after viewing the tornado damage there, I feel that I’m in the same place you are right now. I want to help, yet I can’t change the world overnight. So I, too, am choosing to be thankful. Thanks for such an inspirational post!

  12. Izabela says

    Your sharing was beautiful, and inspiring. I am now sponsoring two children! I am excited, and grateful, and happy. I

  13. says

    We can’t ever go back to the way it was. Never. I really love that, because this is God’s Business and there’s no business I’d rather be a part of. There’s no game more exciting than this one, as he turns our heads to face the things we need to see to believe then muddies up our hearts and walks right with us as we make brand new sense of it all. This is a High calling, I think, for every last one of us. And that’s pretty dang exciting, if you ask me.

    So happy you’re back. I honestly and truly thought of you back in your home last night and I fell asleep happy for it.

  14. says

    Beautiful homecoming post.
    So much to think about…especially thanksgiving and gratitude…then how to use what we’ve been given for the glory of God.
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us.

    p.s. As a woman that has struggled with panic and anxiety over the past four years, it strengthens me to know that you flew all the way to the Philippines and back…and survived. Women like us need to hear that. We need to hear about God’s provision in the midst of the storm that is our body and mind’s betrayal towards us. I’ll be sure to share when I get on a plane again. 😉

  15. says

    Thank you for going! I have loved reading your posts each day. The other night I tried sharing with hubby what you have written and just couldn’t put it into words. I guess I need to get him to read them for himself. I asked him to please consider and pray about sponsoring a child. I already have my eye on a little girl. 😉

  16. says

    Thank YOU, Emily, for going where so many of us can’t. For bearing the unbearable. For seeing the unseemly. For touching the untouchable. You have given us new eyes, new hearts, and new prayers.

    I always keep a little money from the places I travel because, like you said, it reminds me. For the longest time I kept a British pound note in my wallet just waiting for the day I could go back and spend it. I did. And I’m so thankful.

  17. says

    yes, look for ways to give with new eyes.

    Those words are blessing me this morning, as I have struggled and do struggle with feeling the limits on my ability to financially give more, to sponsor another, to take another into my home, but with the gift of new eyes from the Father, I can look for new ways to give.

  18. says

    Thank you for reminding me what it is like to come back home after a trip like that. That is such a gift and I think I’m due for another trip.

  19. says

    The Nester was so right…you took us with you. You certainly dim and our eyes were opened, once again. Praying my family’s eyes will be opened as we head to Guatemala in July. I am going to have your posts be “Assigned reading.”

  20. says

    Thank you for going and sharing. And thank you for giving me a glimpse into your experience and opening my eyes to seeing God’s hand in whole new way.

  21. says

    I am thankful, Emily, for YOU. It was a joy to travel with you last week. Call me anytime you need to process or vent or blabber or cry or whatever.

    Are your kids as loud as mine? I forgot about that.

    But I am thankful for them. And for Denise, and for that whole experience we walked and wrote through. Goodness.

  22. Hope says

    My son gets back from a six month stay on the island of Palawan, Philippines in one month. He has been staying with some missionary friends of ours.

    It will be interesting to see how his trip has changed him.

    I have enjoyed reading about your trip, thanks for taking us with you.

  23. says

    “The fence between thankful and despair” – oh Emily. Yes, it’s a hard hard place to live.

    Your words with a gift to us. We are so thankful for you. And somehow, just knowing you’re back stateside makes you feel so so so much closer!

  24. says

    Thankful you are all home safe and sound. It was a long journey in so many ways. Thank you for taking us along Emily – for you did that so well. I think the Father carried your words from your heart, and His, to ours.

  25. says

    This trip was life-changing for you. You will never look at your life the same way again. Thank you for helping us to have a taste of that too… I can’t wait to go back and re-read ALL the posts, except that they make me cry…

  26. susan says

    Thank you. I’m leaking again but not so bad I cant see to comment. I have read every post. Twitter doesnt like stoopidphone anymore so I only got in one tweet when I found out you survived the flight and sounded almost…happy. Relieved. My heart hurts. It hurt every day. My whole chest ached like it did at PineRidge.Still does when I think of it or see pix. When I see the spine of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”….your beautiful eyes saw it and shared it.Your heart allowed the words to come out plain and poetic&true.The corrugated tin roofs…tarpaper sides like PineRidge.Heat there, but malaria.The mosquito net project is needed everywhere. God is needed everywhere and *is* there.But the story must be told, and more importantly–*shown*.I ache that you went and are home.I thank Him that He held you in flight and in sewage.I thank Him for*all*of you and what you wrote, & photographed/video’d.I thank Him.For making me see more. For making my heart hurt. Love to u&all…s

  27. Sissy says

    I feel like I got a stamp in my passport for your trip. And I’m glad you were okay on the plane. I’m so happy you went and were able to share all that with us. You tell it so well. And look at all the people who signed up to sponsor children because of your blog.

  28. says

    just wanted to say “hey”! I love reading your blog – though I only found it a few days ago – however we signed up to sponsor a little girl. I had no intentions to because we have children from Ukraine and China so I thought a child we sponsored would be from there. but there she was and we just knew . . . .so thanks! for posting and using your gift of writing and continuing to share your heart . . . .

    welcome back. it’s a bit of vertigo huh?!

    xo ellie

  29. says

    Yes, yes, yes. I’d like to shout it and whisper it too. Gifts to compel us to give and compassion result in more compassion. I understand fully, and LOVE to read when someone else does too. I have no doubt that you have opened the eyes of many. I feel like I travelled with you as well.

    Blessings to you as you process and move through what God has done in you and through you.

  30. says

    Thank you Jesus for safe travels. Praying as you de-compress and unpack what you have lived the past few days; and, praying for the sweet filipino’s that you loved on.

  31. says

    This is where I am, too: “Mostly, though, praise is effective no matter what our feelings because it’s not about our feelings. It’s not about us at all. It is about giving to the Lord the respect and admiration due him because of who he is.” And I haven’t experienced all you have.

    Thank YOU for going, for writing, and for seeking.

  32. says

    Welcome home, and thank you for your words and images. Imagine what it will be like to stand in heaven one day and have your eyes opened to how God has multiplied your work and that of your team members to bless the lives of many.

  33. melissa c says

    Emily~ Thanks so much for sharing your experience. We sponsor two girls in South America and through your posts (and the other bloggers) I was able to show my daughters the realities of life for Compassion children. The size of the homes made such an impression on my 8 year old. She mentions it often as we pray at night. I am sure you know that your pebble dropped in the pond is producing multiple rings of change. Thank you for leaving your family and influencing ours. God bless <3

  34. says

    Oh sweet Emily. Read this yesterday on the way to work on my phone… kept it in my inbox at work all day with the picture front and center as a “mental recalibration” of what is important in my day and what is not.

    thank you for being a reminder, for making such a powerful impact through your lovely… no through your exquisite words. More than any other Compassion trip I’ve followed, your words have impacted me in ways I just cannot express. You, Emily, were SO the right person for THIS trip and I’m so glad you went :) I have been blesed because of your going :)

  35. says

    I am so glad you’re back, safe and sound and home. And I know we haven’t read the last of your story in the Philippines. I sense that in many ways, it’s just the beginning.

  36. says

    Thank YOU, Emily. I loved reading your posts, and I’m so looking forward to all God keeps doing in your heart and life. Coming back from Cambodia was crazy-hard. Still living in the tension of it 10 months later. Wouldn’t change it for the world though and CAN’T WAIT to go back!

  37. says

    Thank you for sharing your trip! I did not know about it until Amanda Jones asked on Twitter to follow the trip. I followed your blog mostly. Glad to have discovered it!! I am THANKFUL!!


  38. says

    Hi Emily! I loved this blog post. I am a Filipino living in Nashville. I am wondering if I can buy the digital file of your beautiful photograph of the Philippine Pesos. I’d love to put it in a frame here in my home — reminds me so much of my roots! Please let me know :-)

    Thank you!

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