“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

C.S. Lewis – The Four Loves

I am looking into a pair of warm, smiling brown eyes. “I am a man of pure emotion,” he says, while he takes another sip of his cold beer.

The old me wants to laugh at myself. That little dark voice we all have in ourselves is trying to convince me that I am not wired that way. I am the steady one. Nothing to do with crazy emotions. Put my heart in a casket, safely locked away.

But as I am looking into those smiling, kind eyes, I can’t help but smile back. I feel safe. I feel connected. I feel belonging. Vulnerable. I feel I am changing. And it’s freaking scary.

Earlier this week I wrote about slowly falling in love with this country and its people. I definitely surprised myself there a little. Cause I usually take much longer to develop some sort of tingly, happy feeling for someone or someplace. Yet the feeling is real. I felt it when I was struggling to catch my breath near the top of Mount Kadam. I felt it when I saw the smiles of all the kids with their grade cards on the last day of school. I feel it every morning when I wake up and walk into the office with a cup of tea or coffee. In Kampala, or at another part of Uganda.

With all the doubts about if I can do this and whether I really belong here, there are moments when it’s just crystal clear.

Yesterday was such a moment again when I was told that I am probably here for a bigger reason. It was just a simple sentence: “I don’t know you that well yet, but I see your heart, your personality and I feel that you are now part of the ZOA family with a bigger task than just this digital M&E stuff.”

I’ve been here now for a bit over a month. It feels so short, and also incredibly long. I have travelled around the country. I have seen a little bit of each programme area. I have met the local staff and seen them in action. I am slowly settling into my job. I am getting a clearer picture of where I can contribute. I knew beforehand that this experience would be a life changing one. I knew it already after the first five minutes at the office in the Netherlands somewhere in January.

I didn’t expect the impact of all these feelings though. I thought I would just do this job, learn a lot and have another fun year abroad. But I am getting this sense, that there might be more tot the story of this part of my life than I initially thought. I started this blog with admitting that I find it scary. To just let the feelings be there. To allow myself to be a broken, vulnerable heart, so I can grow in loving, caring and living with abundance and joy. Writing this all down feels scary too. Because there is nothing much more than this to tell about the real me.

I am taking you back to Easter weekend. Remember, I wrote a post about allowing myself to feel. Simply feel. My survival strategy is usually thinking rather than feeling. I am more comfortable trusting my rational thinking, rather than my gut feeling. It gives me a certain strength and confidence. I will never deny my feelings. My baseline happiness gives me energy, power and motivation. If I feel lonely, broken and down, that’s okay. But I tend to immediately want to make it better rather than just simply feeling it. Instead of going through big ups and downs, I build myself on my baseline happiness. Steady as a rock. Not be shaken.

Same goes for my relationships with others. I’ve had this crazy social life over the past few years. A bit too much sometimes, if I look back now. One of my strengths is to listen well to people and I connect easily. Empathy comes naturally to me. But even though you might never notice, there will always be some level of self-preservation. Some level of protecting my heart. Preventing it from getting hurt. I don’t go through major ups and downs in my relationships, there will usually be this level of baseline happiness. I would usually be the steady one. Not easily shaken, hurt of disappointed.

But this rocky side of me is melting. It’s going up and down. It’s learning to live out my own words from a council speech last summer. About vulnerability and being real. So I post a picture on Instagram about my itchy mosquito bites, bruised legs and feeling slightly hangover from an 11-hour car ride (no alcohol involved, I promise!) and the truckload of laundry that needs be tackled. Yet it’s different. This time it’s not just my head telling me to accept the feeling of tiredness. My heart has already embraced it and learned to love it. It’s accepting both the winning and the losing.

As I contemplate all these thoughts and feelings in the car ride back to Kampala and on my yoga mat in the garden, words from my new favourite, resonate strongly within me:

“You don’t judge your feelings.

Feelings are meant to be fully felt and then fully surrended to God. The word emotion comes from the Latin for “movement” – and all feelings are meant to move you toward God.

And I will fall in love and fail at love and fall in my love, but I will never stop the practicing, practicing, practicing, the givenness and the receiving. For what is faith, what is love, if it is not practiced?

We in this vulnerable communion of brokenness and givenness, we will simply keep surrendering again to love because God is love and this is all that wins.”

Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

Deep down I feel I am changing. It’s like I am melting. Like snow before the sun. On top of a mountain, higher than the clouds, with endless clear views. The core of me, with my steady baseline happiness, won’t disappear. I don’t want it to go. But my heart is slowly winning it from my head. There is space developing for more loving and new emotion. Not just the rock, steady me, but ready to embrace brokenness. I feel my ring on my finger. Engraved are a couple simple letters and numbers, representing the following message:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

John 15:16

And as I am writing all of this down, I feel the scared part in me slowly die down. I feel real. I feel belonging. I see how the words about me being here for a reason make sense. I already carried them along with me. To love it all is to be vulnerable. More and more movement toward God. I am becoming a woman a pure emotion.