Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Worst and Best Summer of My Life

I could type a million pages and still not be able to explain this summer. But I'm going to try. We'll call this the cliffsnotes version, but still it's going to be a VERY long entry.

Month 1:
Africa. Oh Africa. It's still hard to believe that I spent a month in such a beautiful place. For the first two weeks I was in Maputo, Mozambique. It's the capital of Mozambique and one of the biggest cities. We were doing campus ministry. For me, that's a million miles outside of my comfort zone, which is exactly why God sent me there. I had to spend the majority of my day building relationships with college students. I could say, "It was so hard because of the language barrier." But in some ways, it was easier to talk to these students. I didn't have to worry if they were judging me, because they honestly just wanted to know me. They weren't critiquing my outfit or my personality, they were just excited to spend time talking to me about absolutely anything. And what did I learn? A lot. Mainly, they're just like me and you. For the most part they have the same troubles and the same worries as we do. Grades, boys, family. It's universal. They're just as jaded to religion as we are. The difference is, they aren't offended by God. They will listen to anything you have to say. As a team, with the leadership team already in place there, we were reaching out to the future leaders of the country, and telling them about Jesus. :) It was SUCH a blessing and an amazing opportunity and I'm humbled that God chose me to do such a thing in such a place. In the end, I cared about what is happening in Maputo (and still do), but my heart wasn't there.

For the next week we were in Roodewal, South Africa. I can't even describe the beauty, and desolation, that this place holds. My heart was definitely alive here. It was one of many things this summer that confirmed that I am called to work with children. I have no inkling of what that will look like, but there will be children. Roodewal is buzzing with childhood activity. From girls playing games that I played as a little girl, to boys climbing trees and wrestling each other to the ground, these children were joyous. Some were better off than others, but they all lived in rundown flats. They were also all deeply affected by the gang violence that consumes Roodewal. They've had to deal with a lot more in their short little lives than most of us ever will. I went into Roodewal having heard amazing stories about children who change your life. Children who, when you return next year, still remember your name and are very excited to see you. Children who are actually affected by my actions and words. Children who actually need ME to love them, just for a little while. So I set out to find some girls to pour into, but for the first few days I floated from one child to the next. I'm drawn to small children, but they don't speak English and couldn't benefit from anything I had to tell them about Jesus. About the middle of the week I walked out of the door of the dining hall and immediately this little girl grabbed my hand. I hadn't seen her before, and I was busy, so I let her hold my hand while I ran around doing what I needed to, not really thinking much about her. She was a sad looking girl, wearing a fleece jacket even though it was very warm because it was all she had to wear, never smiling, no shoes. She didn't ask for anything, she wasn't needy like some of the other children. She didn't climb up your arm or beg you to play with her...honestly she wouldn't play even when I asked her to. She was so sweet, and within hours I was in love with this girl. Her name is Semildine. She's maybe 6. After a few days, she opened up to show a truly beautiful child of God. Her smile captured my heart. Her playfulness made me want to do anything to make her smile. We giggled, we tickled, we made faces. We couldn't communicate at all, but we would sit for hours with each other. Her in my lap, or playing with my hair, or just laughing with me about absolutely nothing. When I think of Africa, I think of Semildine, and she's the one thing calling me back, even though there's no guarantee that she'll still be there.
The next week we were in Cape Town, South Africa, but the only significance Cape Town held for me leads directly into....

Month 2:
Oh month two. It was a good one. A great one. In month 2, I fell in love. It started in Africa, definitely. Or before even, but I didn't realize it. Jared was my friend, and even though I'd only known him since March, he was one of my closest friends. He helped my father move my stuff from my dorm to my car. That's just who Jared is, he helps whoever he can whenever he can. When my dad met him, he loved him, which is something that doesn't happen very often. Daddy does not like guys around his little girl, but he loved Jared. In the week leading up to Africa we talked nonstop about everything from packing to our hopes of being "plane buddies". Out of the 24 hours worth of flight time, we only spent 4 together, but they were hilarious and awesome. Here's the thing...what Jared and I have in common the most is our nerdiness. And it's a unique nerdiness. We did crosswords and played word games and just laughed nonstop. I had obviously noticed that things were different with us, but I hadn't considered that it would ever turn into anything. After that plane ride, I went to Maputo and he went to Lesotho, but the entire two weeks I was in Maputo...I thought about Jared. Long story short(er), I tried talking myself out of it and even considered the possibility that it was satan using him to distract me (which I believe is true, but satan most definitely didn't manufacture the feelings). When we reunited in Roodewal, it was obvious that I wasn't alone in this (even though he didn't realize it at the time). It was clear that Jared cared for me exactly like I cared for Jared, and that scared me. I was afraid of changing my mind and hurting him, I was afraid of being rejected and hurt, I was afraid of...everything. And all this time I can't say a word. Needless to say, it worked out. The month after Africa was spent getting to know each other (and falling in love more and more as we did). We spoke constantly and thought the summer would never end soon enough. In that month, we only saw each other twice, and the second time was to break up...which leads to...

Month 3:
Month three was the hardest, worst, best and most amazing month of my life in a very long time, maybe ever. For reasons that had nothing to do with us as a couple, and reasons we had no knowledge of at the time, God told Jared to break up with me. Put bluntly, it sucked. I went through all the stages of grief in about an hour (after 2 days of denial) and then just resolved myself to the fact that it wouldn't get any better until I turned to God. So being the brat that I am, I stomped to my Bible, yelling at God the whole time about how "I do NOT want to read my Bible and this all sucks and I don't understand why, but FINE God...I'm reading my Bible..happy?" And yes..he was. He quickly allowed me to know that He had a purpose in this, and it was bigger than me and Jared. He showed me that the point was Him. I needed to be closer to Him. He wasn't going to allow me to be happy without Him. I later was given a quote (curtesy of my favorite person, Hannah) that said:
"God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't...He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize that fact was to knock it down."
And that is exactly what God did this summer. He showed me just how weak my foundation was. He showed me how alone I am without Him. He took away the things I depended on for happiness and comfort, and all that was left was Him, and I realized He was all that mattered. Oh, how He loves me. And no, I didn't realize this overnight. And even after I realized it, I had no clue how to put it into practice. I was distraught. I knew that the answer to ALL life's problems was to love God, and I wanted to love God, and I did love God, but I wasn't IN LOVE with God, and I didn't know how to change that. I cried and I panicked and I beat myself up, over and over and over. But in the end, there was peace. A peace that absolutely transcends all understanding. Nothing made anymore sense and nothing was any better, but it didn't matter. My focus was God, and that made all the difference. I started seeing God in every little thing, and I started seeing every conversation I had, every word I spoke, every single thing I did, as an opportunity to serve God and to bring glory to Him. I started seeking Him daily, even hourly, and He blessed that. Daily, even hourly, He gave me reasons to praise Him and He left me in awe of His love and His careful, detailed, precise, and complex timing and planning. I found myself craving the Bible. It stopped being a big boring book and became the LIVING Word of God. I began praying on my knees because I realized that God deserved that honor and respect. My heart swelled with love and admiration for my loving, gracious Father God. I saw how insignificant I was, and that I truly am here to serve God's purposes. Whether I ended up with Jared or not began to seem trivial. (It never felt trivial, mind you, and I always hoped.) We had to truly accept the possibility that we may never be together. We had to surrender. And it was very very hard. Seemingly impossible, but I trusted God. I knew that my light and momentary troubles were of no consequence, even when they felt like the biggest thing in the world. I knew God had BIG plans for me and in the end all of this would be a memory. Of course, none of these feeling were EVERY day. I am human, through and through. Some days I still don't want to read my Bible, and far too often my priorities get skewed and God gets neglected. The main thing I've learned this summer is to live day by day, one day at a time, walking with God. Seeking Him CONSTANTLY and praising Him just as often. I realize that sounds like "Sunday School advice", but it's true and God will reveal that to you in His time. This is the motto Jared and I have taken to heart and try earnestly to live by: one day at a time. And one day at a time has led us back together, and because of all we've been through together, and because we were the only two people on the planet who could understand what we were going through, we are all the more close because of it. God is beautiful like that. He loves us. He blesses us. He wants to make us smile. He places (and removes) people from our lives to grow us. Take for instance, Hannah. She was such a blessing this summer. Not only was she consistently there with unwavering advice and words straight from God, she was dealing with something completely different but somehow exactly the same. God gave us each other, and because of that I grew closer to Him. Because God gave me Jared, I am closer to God. Because God took Jared away, I am closer to God. Everything God does draws me closer to Him. He has an infinite number of "tricks" up His sleeve, and all of them, every last one, is to draw me to Him, so that in turn I can hear Him and trust Him and fulfill His divine and eternal purposes. I am absolutely in awe at how precise God is. How carefully orchestrated every event (or series of events) is. From a year ago to today, God has carefully orchestrated the people in my life, the events in my life. He convicted me in February and I prayed for Him to break me for dependence, and I quickly forgot but He did not, and He was faithful to answer my prayer...6 months later. I prayed at the beginning of month two that if Jared every become a hindrance to my relationship with God, that God would show me and give me the strength to do something about it, and I forgot, but God did not. He didn't give me the strength, but He gave it to Jared. In every little way, God is SO SO SO good to me.

I told you this would be a long blog. And still, it's only the cliffsnotes. I could never accurately describe all that has happened to and in me this summer. I am so excited about what God has planned for this next year. At this moment, today, I feel very certain that Jared will be a huge part of my life this year (and, God willing, many more). I'm excited to serve God in my daily life, and in my time with Jared. I'm excited to be back in XA and to meet the freshman and to worship and to serve and to study and to speak and to eat and to breathe for God's glory. :)


hannah said...

baaah! i love you so much and am so proud of you! and more than anything i know Daddy is smiling and rejoicing over your heart!