A Frozen Picture of Thankfulness

There is something powerful about surviving a challenge together.  Not alone.

I was only 17 years old when I moved into my dorm room and began my university career.  My parents filled my room with clothing, bedding, a computer of the '90s that consumed my entire scratched desk top, and a wood-paneled mini-fridge that sat in the corner of my wood-paneled room.  I watched my parents drive out of view as they returned to the only home I had ever truly known - a long seven hour drive away.

The first months of female dorm life on 5 South floor were a challenge.  We had to learn how to live with each other's hormonal roller coasters.  Late into the night, our hallway would echo with conversations.  Girls could be found huddled in a dark corner, pulling their telephone cord just outside the door, giggling with their newfound loves.

One early morning at 5 a.m., the freezing Minneapolis cold awaited us as a beloved sister on our floor set off the entire building's fire alarm with her burnt toast (in a toaster which, once again, was always kept on the floor in the hallway).  There were the cumulating clumps of hair that no one dared to touch or clean out of the communal shower drains.  Alarm clocks would ring at every hour of the morning waking everyone up EXCEPT the person whom it was intended for.

When I was taken to the nearest hospital's emergency room, in the middle of the night, due to intense internal pain, those girls were there for me.

There were hallway dance parties. Sometimes we would avoid homework and just sit on each other's musty, ripped, savaged-from-the-dump sofas and just talk.  Our bunk beds would echo with some tears and a lot of laughter.  We became a team; a family.

At the end of that first year of communal living, we gathered to say goodbye. I can still visualize my floor's ladies sitting in a circle (on the floor IN the hallway again). Their faces were make-up free.  We each wore our favorite PJs or sweatpants, cozy but hole-filled socks, and every guard was down.  We had survived our first year of university together.

I felt overwhelmingly thankful.  Thankful for my smart, wise and lively room mates (Amy + Katja).  Thankful for how we had helped each other take the first, scary step into true adulthood.  In a world when we were suddenly left all alone, we had found each other.  We were 5 South.

Today, nearly twenty years later, I sat around a Thanksgiving table in Estonia.  Our table was surrounded by our American team - people who have moved across the world to help us accomplish a dream-establish Focus Church/ Fookus Kogudus.  Once again, we've left everything behind and we've entered into a world we could never imagine or prepare for.

We've endured huge stress and challenges.  We've cried together.  We've laughed together.  We've experienced victories. We've danced.

As we sat in that circle, we may not have been make-up free or in our PJs, but I couldn't help but notice that my heart was memorizing a picture for me to forever hold on to.  These are the people that have become my Tallinn family; my team.  They are Americans and brave Estonians who have taken a step into the uncomfortable. Some are children who have given up holidays with grandma and cousins to be a vital part of this mission.  But today, they were found together, sitting in awe of the snow falling in a country that will forever be a part of them.

I have no doubt that some day, maybe even twenty years from now, I will replay these pictures in my memory and realize that each one of our team members- their faces still frozen in my mind as young, loving and energetic - have a part of my heart; a part of me.  No one will ever be able to take their place or to substitute the memories we have together.

We came here to love people.  We came here to illuminate grace.  As we came, we have also been challenged, molded and changed.  We are no longer one.  We are a team.

I am so thankful.