Thursday, August 4, 2016

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I love to write. It's something that usually comes pretty easily to me and it makes me happy. Since starting this blog, I have learned a lot of things about writing, and one of the biggest lessons I've learned is that when you share your thoughts and opinions publicly, anyone who reads them is entitled to have opinions about them. There have been lots of things going on this summer that I've hesitated to write about it, because they are so special to me that I don't even want to think about someone misunderstanding them or writing them off as unimportant or even wrong.
In October, I will go to Africa. I'm taking a semester off from school to do that, and I know that there are people who don't fully approve of that. I'm traveling alone, and I know that there are people who are alarmed by that. But there are people in Africa who might think God doesn't love them because of the things that make them different, and sharing my experiences in the hopes of showing them the truth is extremely important to me. Looking back on the past few years of my life, I can see how so many things were preparing me for this trip before I even knew it was a possibility, and it reminds me not to worry so much about what's happening in this moment, because if I am listening to what God is telling me, there's no way I will end up in the wrong place, even if I don't always understand the route we're taking.
When I look back at my time in Honduras, I don't remember all of the moments personalities clashed and feelings got hurt. I remember the children I met, and the friendships I discovered. They are strong friendships still, and just this week I've had the chance to spend time with lots of those friends and it was like we picked up right where we left off. 
When I look back on our youth retreat just a few months ago, the first thing I think of isn't all of those moments I was tired and cranky. The first thing I think of is that night on top of the mountain and the conversation it led to, and then I think of our walks to the dining hall, when we would take turns guessing what they would food they would serve, hoping we could somehow make them serve our favorites just by naming them. I think of how at the age of twenty one, I sat on top of a mountain with some people who have become great friends and realized that I truly have let go of my negative feelings about not fitting in during high school. That might not sound like much, but there have been times in the past when those thoughts consumed me and defined how I acted, and the fact that I barely even entertain them anymore is huge for me.
It's daunting to think about going to Africa by myself, but I like to describe it as "roller coaster scary", because the scary is part of what makes it fun. I get that not everyone understands my reasons for going, and that's fine. I've decided to keep writing about it because my desire to share is bigger than my desire for approval. Looking forward to this experience, it's easy to think about the parts that I don't understand or the things that could go wrong, but I think that years from now when I am looking back on my time in Africa, I won't even remember these insecurities I am feeling now about how public this decision feels. Life isn't all mountaintops, and maybe that's what faith is for, so we can believe in the valley what we can't quite see yet. But one day we will, and sometimes that day is sooner than we think. Sometimes that day happens at a lake in North Carolina with a few teenagers that don't even realize yet the things God is going to do with the faith they are still cultivating. But among those people was a person who had already been where they are now and knows that they will do great things with their faith, and I am so thankful to be that person. 

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