On love and Africa - Girl of Cardigan

Honest, albeit morbid, truth: I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to blog about, but I feel compelled to leave some sort of written legacy just in case I wind up stranded in the middle of the Atlantic. I’m only nervous about airplanes until I’m actually on them. It’s all Disneyland from boarding time on… 😉

So in two days I get my butt out of the country, out of my life… and out on an adventure that has been literally years in the making. I think I’m at the crisis stage of planning – that fuzzy space where it hasn’t quite sunk in that you’re actually going anywhere, and you are equal parts elated and terrified. I’ve spent the past 8 or 9 months of my life living every minute in preparation for this trip… every decision I’ve made, every struggle I’ve had, all of them have rotated around this now imminent core. I’m ready, but I’m a bit sad to let go of the waiting…

Oregon has been a Twilight Zone of sorts for me… a solitary bootcamp where instead of running laps I do exercises in independence. And this trip has been a part of every moment thus far. I guess I’m a bit worried that when I get back I’ll have to actually start planning for the rest of my life. Whoosh. (that was time… flying… it wooshes)

Here’s where I am, before leaving for Africa, before coming back undoubtedly different than I am now, before continuing to change. Here’s my heart as best I can present it to you:

I am blessed. So purely, richly, and undeniably blessed to have encountered and loved truly amazing, amazing people. All of you have molded me, taught me, broken me, and inspired me… I wear your influence like merit badges, so dang proud to say that I stole your jokes, your strategies, your brilliant ideas. I am blessed to have a family that I never get tired of… parents who continue to teach and inspire me, especially when I don’t expect them to, and a sister who consistently impresses me with her maturity and her grace. And I have these amazing friends, many of whom I hardly know, many others I have known for years… this insanely varied collection of oddballs who mean more to me than they’ll probably ever know, largely because I’m never very good at saying it. You guys amaze me. You truly, madly, deeply do. 😉

I am stronger than I know. I’ve been in a bit of self-inflicted solitude this year, completing a very private pact I made with the parts of me that I didn’t recognize a year ago. I have spent a year with myself, trying to be more of who I want to be and less of who I so often am, trying to avoid the things that make me selfish, or flighty, or scared. I think I’ve been afraid of myself for most of my life… those of you who know me best have witnessed this fear, probably as I was crying at you while trying to learn something new… so very afraid to fail.

My friend Jean, who is one of those people who takes other people and plugs them into all kinds of spaces that they didn’t know they could fill, challenged me this year. Funny, she snuck it up on me in just the right way… you’d think she’d known me long enough to know you have to catch me last minute. She invited me, nonathletic me, to participate with a team in a relay race of sorts. Then she lied to me. “No big deal..” says Jean, “No one’s really competitive… just a teensy weensy little race and it’s tomorrow and it’s free.” And here’s the thing: I did it. I went to a place I’d never been to be on a team with people I’d never met and paddle a canoe in a race. And I made friends, and I paddled my little heart out, and 1500 teams competed, and it was huge, and we had jerseys and a sponsor and I was pretty dang scurrd… but I did it. And I paddled the whole time without stopping, which is more than I thought I could do. And I realized something: I’m a grown up. I can handle me. I like me. And I’m not afraid. 😉

Except, of course, of letting go of Africa. Because I’ve been the girl who’s going to Africa for a good long while now. I’d thought that preparing for the trip was the test of faith… the saving and the sacrificing… but the test is going. The test is leaping, and allowing it to end, and believing that this, like everything, is only the beginning of the wonders that God has planned for my life. The leap of faith is coming home.

God is good, all the time. I worry that I’ll come across as cocky, what with liking me and all. But the thing is, everything about me that is worth anything , anything that is beautiful, or intelligent, or funny, or any of the things that I want to see in me, all of those are simple manifestations of the amazing grace that has been afforded me. My strengths were created for a purpose, and I want to be whole enough to let them work, to let God work in the fullness of his power. For what may be the first time, I want to be accountable, I want to be called out, and I want to be broken as much as it takes to refine me. I’ve been allowed to taste the freedom that comes from not having anything in this world that I value more than the gift of grace and the love of my God… and it manages to make me love everything more. Funny, that God dude and all his paradoxes… ok, what’s the plural of paradox? Dang. I was on a role, too. Not making a point, but rolling. Stupid girl. 😉

If you read this far I owe you a cookie. If I wind up in the atlantic, know that you were appreciated. If I’ve hurt you, hold me accountable. If I’ve loved you, thank you for everything it has taught me. If you’ve loved me, you get two cookies. And a sympathetic face. Also a hug. Possibly dollars. Definitely my gratitude.

*yippee ki-aye-yay*