Monday, May 9, 2016

plot {twist}

Israel
Holland
Belgium
Luxembourg
France
Switzerland
Lichtenstein
Austria
Czech Republic
Germany
Holland
Turkey
China (x3 airports)
Australia
Georgia? 

This has been my itinerary for the past several months, with the last location being decided just this past week. For those of you that are just catching up, I spent three months studying abroad in Israel with Moody Bible Institute, three weeks backpacking/road-tripping with dear friends of mine from Moody all over Europe, a couple of days in Turkey with some new friends, and the past month in Australia with my friend, Pippa, and her sweet family. 

I'm a planner - the desire for control is engrained within my fibrous being. But following God means yielding that fleshy instinct of self-reliance and submitting to a God whose much better at planning than myself. It means trusting Him even when everything within me wants to give up and rely on my own poor abilities. 

Isn't it funny how silly we humans look usurping power that isn't ours to begin with?

Although I don't fully understand it, there is a balance, isn't there? To trusting God to work it all out while also taking steps forward? There are certain times in my life where I ask God for wisdom when making hard decisions, and it seems like both options are good, God-glorifying options, and they usually are. But then, when I don't have that sure-fire feeling of direction from Him, or no clear direction is given, at some point, I just have to choose. The decision I made last fall to spend these eight months abroad was one of those decisions. 

I felt the Lord leading me to study abroad in Israel from January until March, but I wasn't sure what to do after that. After Israel, I would have April - August free, as I would plan to return to Moody in Chicago in the fall for my next semester. So, I tried to find a way to spend that time working so that I would be able to afford going back to Chicago for the following semester. And every option given to me was good.

Five of us from our Israel group decided to travel together throughout Europe because it would only add about $300 USD to our trip to Israel, so why not? Also, this turned out to be a HUGE blessing because it meant that we got to spend three weeks in 10 countries visiting other believers and making new friends along the way. 

Therefore, the undecided bit was left trying to decide what to do between late April and August. These were the following options:

1. Return to live in DC with my family at the end of April until August where I would hopefully find a summer job as a nanny.
2. Spend April - August in Australia with Pippa's family and find a winter job as a nanny. 
3. Return to the States after Europe and spend a month with my family in DC and then go back to camp (Winshape) in GA until August. 

All seemed like viable options, and I spent several hours praying and praying and chatting with people I look up to. Tears from the stress of choosing, and that feeling in the pit of your stomach that says, "your life is crazy" seemed to consume me in those days. Pippa and I even spent a couple of days apart because we wanted to decide what to do separately instead of influencing each others' decisions. So after lots of prayer and countless conversations, I decided, and felt amazing peace, in spending the summer in Australia. 

Pippa and I even wrote our decisions on pieces of paper and exchanged them (because basically I'm into theatrics). And we both chose Australia. So the fall was spent preparing for Israel, applying for a Work & Holiday Visa for Australia, and planning our itineraries for the Europe trip. 

Although I felt peace in making this decision, I also had to go through a season of grieving not going back to camp. I spent days encouraging others to go to Winshape, and I spent nights in tears pleading with God to help me get over not going back. The grief led to increased trust. 

Rely on Me, not your plans.

With this new (and maybe not-so-new) lesson learned (or so I thought), I withdrew my application from Winshape and went all-in preparing for Israel/Europe/Australia. 

Then I went, and lived, and learned, and grew, and explored, and did, and saw, and found in the countries listed above. 

Then Australia hit me like a thunderstorm in a desert - unexpected and overwhelming. 

After 40+ hours of traveling from Istanbul (via three stops in China), misplacing (/getting stolen) two passports and having them returned, and lots of hilarious stories, we finally made it to Melbourne. That first week I had a mix of culture shock, lots of paperwork, proving my Australian residency, etc. Then came job applications - and lots of them. Combined, Pippa and I applied for over 100 nanny jobs within the city and each one came up short. In a strange fashion, each hopeful interview and response came back negatively - poor timing, need of a longer commitment, too long of a commute, too few hours, etc. 

For me, this became a process of unraveling. I had four months of different cultures and experiences to process and the layers of sinful self-reliance to be stripped of. 

So after about four weeks of applying and seeking, and being frustrated and anxious, I gave up. I spent time with the Lord and I yielded it to Him. And He was so gracious with me. 

After a couple of conversations with my parents and Pippa's family, I started praying about other options for the summer, including applying for nanny/summer jobs in DC and Chicago. And then, in an almost last-ditch, "it doesn't really matter what happens; no is the worst they can say" fashion, I emailed my camp director from last summer and asked if there was any need of a back-up position. 

I'm hesitant to even write the rest of this story, because I feel like it lacks the authenticity of how graciously and perfectly the Lord laid all of this out, but after several days of prayer, a dream, and the confirmation of a stranger (all which happened before my director's response), the Lord prepared my heart to go back to camp for the summer.

Then came an email from my director saying that she wanted to chat with me about some summer options, and a Skype call at 5 am that offered me the opportunity to go back and be a Cheyenne counsellor (year 7&8) with WinShape. 

So, that's what seems to be next. 

And it's a major mix of emotions - grief of leaving this new adopted family & Australia, excitement of returning to camp, sadness of missing my family this summer, nervousness of joining a new, huge tribe, joy of reuniting with campers and meetings new ones, etc. 

But I will hold onto truth in this season. He is in control. He is the God of details. Even when I can't see it or feel it, He is faithful. 

And that's what I'm learning. With every plot twist, every unexpected moment of life, I am learning to trust Him - now, in the midst of the crazy. 

That's what is to follow Him, to trust Him instead of our feeble plans. 

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