This will be my first blog post of 2015.
The more time that passes I realize how hard it is to carve out time to write. To stay awake late at night. To sacrifice sleep. To push my brain to put together thoughtful words and ideas. But each time I log in and look back on my posts I am so thankful that I have written. I only posted twice last year, but I am so glad that I captured those moments. I can re-read my words and be taken back to the exact time and place in which they were written– memories that would have been lost had I not written them down. I can see where God was present when I only felt His absence, and how my faith was being built as He pulled me through each hard place.
Reading through past posts reminds me I am not the same. I am not the same girl who started this blog five years ago. I am not the same girl who was trying to find my place in college. Not the same girl who came back from Africa with a heavy heart and questions. Not the same girl who has fumbled through relationships with attachment issues and fear. Not the same girl who only found time to sit down and write twice last year, and amazingly, not even the same girl who stepped on a plane to South America two weeks ago.
This time last week I was in Quito, Ecuador. My first time traveling to South America and I couldn’t have planned a better trip if I had tried. Ever since I committed to this trip over the summer, life has been barreling ahead. Busy schedules, trying to make my life look a certain way on the outside, life changes, losses and grief. The week leading up to the trip continued to draw my focus further inward to all that was changing before me that I couldn’t stop. All that I didn’t have. All that I wanted to hold onto but somehow was just out of reach.
I boarded the plane with neutral expectations and was mostly grateful for some time to breathe. I momentarily wondered if the trip might overwhelm me, leaving me emptier than before? I had hoped to be more prepared. To pray, to think, to list expectations and check off my list as God showed up.
Thankfully God is not at all held to my schedule, plans, or expectations.
I had anticipated the feeling of the last few months to continue with me to Ecuador, but somewhere halfway between Atlanta and Quito the last few months dissipated. Quickly laughter started to sneak in. Everywhere. Excitement. Joy. So much Joy! Everything felt lighter. Friendship. Service. Anticipation. The good stuff. The stuff that makes you come alive inside. Seeing more of God’s beautiful creation. Watching His spirit move just as powerfully across a living room as it did inside the church walls.
Too quickly I found myself boarding a plane home wondering how I could feasibly stay a little longer. Ecuador was moving past me too quickly to be able to reach out and hold onto it. It was gone in the night just like our flight out of Quito. Soon everything around me was in English and I could no longer pretend I wasn’t heading home.
A few days back and home felt foreign, while foreign felt home. Where am I? I tried to fight comparison with there and here and I lost. Everything seemed more beautiful there. The skies, the people, the worship, the culture. Consequently I was short tempered here with those that love me and only want the best for me. They didn’t understand what I had been through. I wasn’t able to put into words what I was feeling or why. Why would God send me to Ecuador only to bring me home feeling like a part of me was missing? I couldn’t speed up the process of processing. Team members from the trip and friends from home have continued to remind me that I’m not the same. That I have been changed because of this trip. I was struggling to see it for myself because I felt less alive than I had while I was away.
Last night I opened up to the final chapter of the book I had been reading on the trip. The closing paragraph said, “The good news is that when we care for our proximal part in the world, the God of heaven knits these small pieces together into something beautiful. But we are not called to change the world. We are called to love the world. And to love the world, we are the ones who must change.”
Today I remembered words from the trip, “The hope isn’t that you would come and do some good work. It’s that you would come and fall in love with a city and its people and your heart would be forever changed.”
The change wasn’t left behind in Quito. It sat quietly inside of me as I flew home on the plane. It was eagerly with me the next day as I jumped back into my normal routine, and it is here buzzing inside of me as my Saturday morning rolls into late afternoon, complete with writing in a quiet corner of a new restaurant, a mimosa, and eating my second breakfast for the day.
The change that happened over the last 10 days has taken up residence inside of me. I carry it with me at work and at church. I carry it with me when I interact with my family and friends. I carry it with me whether I want to or not because my life is not my own. The change is evident when my heart is hurting because I am now capable of missing people and a city I had no mental image for a few weeks ago. The change is evident because my heart has taken on a new shape and capacity to wrap around the people and places of Ecuador.
Even though my routine and surroundings might shout that nothing has changed and God’s work in my life isn’t visible, I can hold to the truth that He is in the business of transforming hearts. I can look back on my writings and see evidence that He who has started a good work in me will bring it to completion. Experience after season after year I will look back and not be the same. The beauty is that we get to choose to live in the change which ultimately propels us closer to Christ.