Well, we’re 30 days into December. 364 days into the year. And 5.5 hours into a 10-hour road trip to Miami, in the back seat of my parent’s truck. So, I’ve got a little bit of time on my hands…
Enough time for a 2014 recap, eh?
This year has been a year of growth for me. The first few months, I was mourning the loss of who I was in Uganda, and trying to figure out how that translated to life in America. All the while, attempting to fit back into culture, relationships, and expectations. I think it was May or June when I realized that I wasn’t going to fit into other people’s expectations, into culture’s expectations, or even my own.
In order for me to thrive here in America, the same way I did in Uganda, I needed to identify those things that truly brought me joy:
1 – taking chances
2 – being around like minded people
3 – serving
4 – finding ways to grow my relationship with God outside of the church
5 – reading
1 – Let’s all just agree that everything about Uganda was about taking a chance. A leap of faith. And everything about that risk was worth it. If I could, I would encourage everyone to do that thing that you’ve been thinking of that makes your palms sweat, and heartbeat with excitement. What’s the worst that could happen? You no longer have to worry about the “what if”? You will always come up with reasons not to do something, or find that the timing isn’t quite right, but, if you just commit to it, you’ll figure a way to work it out. I promise, you’re stronger than you think you are.
2 – One of the things I’d love to do is to hike the El Camino de Santiago, in Spain. Back in 2008 I traveled the southern coast of Spain with Kristen, and on that trip, became aware of this 500-mile hike. It’s always been in the back of my mind something to consider, but quite frankly, I’ve always been too afraid to commit to it. And coming after that last paragraph I just wrote, I kinda feel like I just need to pull the trigger. Anyways, after googling around a bit for information on the trail, I found that there was a local meeting of the Atlanta Cuban club, the Spanish Social club, and pilgrims of the Camino. It was a wine and cheese night, so I thought if nothing else, I could hang by the wine. I showed up to this room of beautifully dressed Cubans and Spaniards, dripping with baubles and not speaking English. I put my nametag on, sat at a table by myself, and wondered when the wine was going to be opened. Then, someone my age showed up! Eleanor. Same age. Both with stories of travels and a thirst for adventure and experiences. She had hiked the Camino last year by herself. And my heart swelled at being around someone who sees life and the world different than most, but sees it like I do. And although our paths haven’t crossed since then, I know they will again. Probably over Spanish wine and patatas bravas.
3 – I don’t need to spend any time on this. If you know me, you know the overwhelming joy I get from serving others. Whether it’s the refugee family, or those I invite into my home for a meal. I learned from the best…Nana.
4 – Okay. So, the thing is, I REALLY struggled with Americans when I came back here. And Christians. And Americans who were Christians. And while that could be an entire post, or book, or conversation, we’ll just skip right over and talk about how I couldn’t connect with church when I got back. Last year I had the immense pleasure of doing life with Rose. One of the routines we settled into was our daily bible reading. She with her Message Bible, and me with my NIV bible. It’s no secret that I question things. Cynic? Sometimes. Information gatherer? Always. And Rose had a similar approach. We wouldn’t just read and have serious conversations, we would ask the random questions. We’d ask the questions that have no answers. We’d measure out just how tall Goliath was and compare that to our height. It was the type of conversations that don’t happen in small groups. Or at least not the small groups I’ve been in. And since I couldn’t fathom being in a small group at this time, I needed other ways to nourish my relationship with God. It came from a weekly, one on one bible study with Carrie as we worked through Ephesians. It came from my own struggle to read through the bible chronologically – which I am STILL working on. It came through a weekend of discovery and conversation about Jesus and the Quran. And it came through continued conversations with Rose, although she is now in Colorado and I am here. We still can share those thoughts and verses that move us – she spurs me along. As we head into January, although I’m not quite ready to join a small group, I am excited to be starting Perspectives – a 13 week study on the World Christian Movement. And who knows, maybe I’ll find my way back into the church on Sundays. God knows I’ve missed it that weekly time of fellowship and growth.
And 5 – I sorta fell back in love with reading last year. And this year, become totally consumed by The Fault In Our Stars and The Husband’s Secret. So, after reaching out to the Facebook public and receiving quite a response, I now have on my table at home 7 books that are waiting for me to read. Well, 6. I brought one with me that Rachel Sugrue recommended – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I’m only a few chapters in, but I have burst out laughing so many times already. Cleverly written, and seemingly about nothing in particular. But, sometimes you need those books. Better way to spend my time than with all those Hallmark Christmas movies I’ve been watching the past couple of weeks, wouldn’t you say?
This has been a wonder filled year for me. Reconnecting with friends and family. Making new memories and retelling old stories. Falling back into comfortable routines and the normalcy that comes with lifelong relationships. It’s been the quiet and painful struggle of change. The ever present glimmer of hope that has taken up residency in my heart. And it’s been a year of standing in awe of God’s overwhelming love for me – and for giving me a life that is so much more than I deserve. Or would have ever imagine for myself.
If you’ve taken the time to read through impossibly long ramble, bless your heart. You’re too kind. And I thank you for your part in my life story.
May these last few days of 2014 be your most memorable yet. May you enter the new year with unwaivering hope for the things to come. And may your 2015 be truly wonder filled!