Thursday, June 20, 2013

Being Joyfully Lost

Most of the time I don’t mind getting lost; you see something that you hadn’t meant to see (good and bad) and generally speaking you can get back on track at some point. Granted when you are lost on a hiking trail in a downpour or lost on your way to an interview or appointment that is another problem… I named this blog “Joyfully Lost” because you could probably drop me anywhere in the world (sub-artic) and I would be pretty happy exploring. But I also titled my blog thusly because I am still working on becoming joyfully lost in life (because I am most definitely lost). I have no idea what I’m doing next, I have a plane ticket home but until I’m on the plane I have no idea whether I’ll go home or not and even then there is that stopover in Amsterdam that could provide a tempting exit point.

Generally speaking I have followed a prescribed path through high school and then university; even my year in Japan I was still moving towards my Bachelor’s degree. This has mostly been my perceived track in life but I have never seen the path ahead of me to know if it is correct or not. It is the path behind me that has served of a guideline of sorts to how I should proceed. I make judgments based off my environment, my past experiences (this worked and that didn’t), and what direction I feel God is pulling me in.

But while this is the area of life that I am constantly lost in it is also the area of life where I have the most problem reconciling the ideas of “joyful” and “lost”. I keep wanting to plan for the future; I want to know what I am going to do in my life and I want to know if I will have a conventional career and what that will look like and I want to know what I would enjoy doing the rest of my life. I want to know if I’ll ever graduate university, if I’ll get my master’s degree, if I’ll live abroad… The questions go on. And they aren’t bad questions in and of themselves, most people ask them.

I don’t want to live an aimless life; the kind of life where I drift through the easiest doors. And at the same time trying to plan for the future has been a trial that makes me think and aimless life might have its appeal. Through my life I have made some life decisions based on perceived futures that don’t exist anymore and I look back and wonder “what if….” I know that God has a purpose for each and every moment of my life but it is still easy to feel like time has been wasted or that I should have been more decisive in certain situations.

I honestly don’t know how to be joyfully lost in life. I don’t know how to balance planning for the future and living out every day and moment to the best of my ability. It always seems that I am sacrificing one for the other. If I am focusing on the moment and just living day to day then the big decisions catch me off guard and I miss opportunities for the future. At the same time if I make decisions based on my plans for the future I often sacrifice a lot in the present. I guess maybe the question is how much of the present is it healthy to sacrifice for the future? I don't want to sound like I'm complaining because my life has, for the most part, been incredible. I'm just confused about how to take what I have learned and am learning from this last year and how to apply it to the present and to the future. 

I wish I had answers, I really really like answers…. But I don’t so I guess I just have to get over it.

For now I am just going to practice being joyfully lost in Christ, trying to lose myself, my desires and my pain, so completely in him that it is His will being played out every day in my life. I think this means having a mixture of living out every day as a follower of Christ; living joyfully in the moment despite my disorientation, and praying constantly that my will is aligned with his and that he will show me enough of what He has planned for me that I can make the right choices for the future. Granted I am going to completely and utterly fail because I’m human and I sin; but at least it gives me a current present goal that doesn’t require me to sacrifice the present for the future.

(I feel like this should have been tied into some real life story about me getting physically lost in Africa but it doesn’t…. So far I’ve found my way everywhere I’ve gone….. but I am confident that there is a chance I could get lost before I leave.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Life in Transition

Being a student in university I am in an obvious stage of transition. I am transitioning from being a dependent to being independent. Throughout the year I am transitioning from life in British Columbia to life in Washington State; transitioning between churches, friend groups and jobs. Because I love to travel so much I voluntarily choose to transition between cultures for either a couple of weeks or a couple of months at a time. Since I graduated high school in 2010 I have lived in 3 different cities in 3 different countries and now I am living for a short period in my fourth city and fourth country. I have also made short trips in that time to 5 other countries that I haven’t lived in. I love the change; I love exploring different regions and meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. That is why I chose to major in International Studies and why I chose to intern abroad.

But at the same time I catch myself making plans for a time without transition. As much as I love variety I also very much prize a sense of stability. I like knowing that I can travel for ten weeks in Uganda and come back to my same school or same house; or that I can leave behind my high school friends at the end of the summer and know that I have friends up at college. Skype is genius as well because I always know that I can talk to anyone anywhere if I miss them. But when I find myself making plans for the long term I also find myself waiting to commit to friendships or to activities because I don’t want to do anything short term. I think that I have this idea in my head that once I am out of university I can find a job and have some sort of base, find that stability in creating a hometown and a central community. Until then I catch myself being unwilling to dive in deep in the areas of my life that I see as temporary.

However, after being here and talking to the people around me I have realized that the transitions aren't going to stop after I leave university (should this have been obvious? Probably). I am going to be constantly transitioning through life changes. Chances of me finding one job I want to do for the rest of my life are slim; I’ll probably transition through several jobs. With the job changes are probably going to come living changes as well, whether they be in geographical location or just housing arrangements. And that is just me in life as a single. I am fairly sure that one day I will want to get married and have children which means a transition from a single life into a couples life and then into family life. And as my kids grow older I will be transitioning through each of their life stages as well until I transition into that empty nest stage and then possibly become a grandparent.

I have no idea if any of that is even in God’s plan for me but my point is that I am coming to realize that life is all about transition. There is very little about life that remains the same from day to day, in fact there is nothing besides Christ that will remain unchanged in this life. For me that translates into the fact that I need to stop waiting for any sense of permanency to make commitments or to dive into life head first. Because that is never going to happen; I don’t want to live the rest of my life compiling lists for a “someday.” I’d much rather live out each day in each environment without thinking about the inevitable expiry date. This change in mindset isn't going to be easy but I want to try living without putting things aside for a tomorrow that has no promise of coming.*

I want that change in mindset to define my time in Uganda. I want to make this a period where I live everyday taking advantage of the opportunities that come my way. And maybe if I can learn to do that here I can learn to do this everywhere else. And maybe the hardest thing will just be learning how to say goodbye and hello over and over again.

Maybe this blog is just an instance of me thinking out loud but I know I it has been over a week since my last blog so this is what you get for right now!

*School work is definitely the exception to this; procrastination within the school environs is an issue to tackle on another day

**On a side note update everything here has been really great. Now that I am feeling better I finally have the time and energy to hang out with people and having a social life can definitely make all the difference when you live in a foreign country!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Short Update

I'm sorry it has been so long in between posts. A lot has happened but at the same time I don't have a lot to write personally. Last week I got to travel to Burundi to participate in the YPI Burundi conference. We were in a smaller city called Gitega up in the mountains of Burundi and it was absolutely gorgeous. My impression was that the conference went really well but I actually got sick during the conference and so my memories of it are only so-so. On the way back we had an 8 hour layover in Rwanda so we left the airport and got to sit in a coffee shop for a bit and attend another short meeting with some people there.

Last week I somehow managed to catch  a stomach bug and a cold all at the same time and while my stomach bug only lasted about 3 days my cold is still lingering. Mostly I just have a pretty bad cough that keeps me up till the wee hours of the morning; which is unfortunate but not the end of the world. However I have deep-rooted and abiding hatred of coughing that probably comes from my extra long bought with it last year; so this really isn't my favorite form of being sick. I would appreciate prayer to get over this quickly so I can get some sleep at night and enjoy running around the city during the day.

Hopefully soon I'll have something a little more fun to post, and maybe eventually I'll take out my camera and actually take some pictures.But until then I will at least try to keep my promise of posting once a week!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Giving Thanks

I have been in Uganda for about 3 and a half days now and I am flying out this evening to Burundi. Today I just wanted to write a short blog about some things that God put on my heart to be thankful for.

I am thankful for the people all over the world who are passionate about the Lord's work and His plan for the global community. I am thankful that we are all given different talents and gifts with which to serve His kingdom. I am thankful that the Lord does not discriminate by racial, social, or cultural differences. I am thankful that the Lord has given every single person a part to play in His kingdom. I am thankful that the Lord holds a plan for the world  that is for His glory. I am thankful for the determination that comes from knowing that we serve a just and merciful God who loves the world and seeks to use us to do His work in it. And lastly for today I am thankful that the Lord has given me the peace that comes from knowing that the Lord uses weaknesses and strengths so that His glory will shine despite me.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Safe and more than a little bit jet-lagged....

                For some reason I had in my head that I had two 8 hour legs to my journey and a stopover in Amsterdam…. So discovering that both legs were actually 10 hours was a bit of a mental shock and the fact that I only slept that weird airplane sleep for 3 hours overall which didn't really help. But nothing uneventful happened. I got to watch one movie on my flight to Amsterdam before my video system crashed (and the rest of that flight was a bit painful….) and on my second flight I had a seat mate with whom I could actually converse so we just chatted for at least half of the flight.  I would never claim that I was organized…. But I made it on and off all of my planes without losing anything and that is all that matters. While I was traveling (and incredibly bored) I recorded a couple of thoughts that ran through my mind that might share some of those airplane events; if you are really bored I’ll include them below.

                My first day in Kampala was fun but it has been a little hard to process. I got about 6 hours of sleep last night and that wasn't nearly enough to properly realize that one is living in a foreign country….. This morning Don and Trina, friends of my parents who are living here, showed me around the city. I got a cellphone, exchanged some money and took a driving tour past all of the major landmarks. They pointed out a couple of good restaurants here and there but if I remember a third of what I saw I will have impressed myself. We at lunch at a restaurant that overlooks Lake Victoria and the view was lovely. It has been a little warm here but over all really pleasant. I’m sorry if this blog doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I’m hitting my wall for the day and I can only hope that I am actually communicating something here! I’m excited to be here and see what the days will continue to bring!

Airplane thoughts:

After Security
                “They didn't take my knitting needles!!!!! I don’t have to start over!!!”
                “Oops. I didn't screw the water bottle lid on right…. Only like 23 more hours, the wet spot on my jeans isn't that awkward….”

Seattle to Amsterdam
                “Seriously?  You wouldn't think screwing on a water bottle lid would be that difficult. I’ll just use my jacket to mop up my seat, it’ll dry soon. Nope that didn’t work as well as it should have, I’ll just fold up my blanket a couple of times and sit on that for the entire flight…”
                “I forgot how much air conditioning there is on an airplane, I should put on my jacket…. Oh wait it is still wet. But I have a blanket!!! That is even wetter….”
                “I”ve watched on movie and read a book!!! Only 7 hours till Amsterdam!!”
                “I really forgot to lock the airplane bathroom doors? That could have been way more awkward. Maybe I messed up my med this morning.”
                “My video screen broke a half an hour ago…. Only 5 and a half more hours till I land in Amsterdam…”

Amsterdam to Entebbe
                “Finally! A seat mate I can talk to!”
                “I hate these immigration forms…. I don’t even always know what I will be doing in Uganda, what do I tell them?”
                “My seat mate and I just pounded out the basic logistics for an intercontinental monkey battle… I think I need sleep…”
                “This is the flight that never ends, never ends, never ends, this is the flight that never ends only three more hours to go!”
                “Okay I lied, I forgot the Kigali stopover. Five and a half hours to go…”

After that I was so incoherent I can’t even translate my notes now, but the important bit is that I still made it through the airport and I found a bed to crash in :)

Thanks so much for all of your prayers!!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Heading Out

It was just a month ago that I found out I could have the opportunity to intern in Uganda this summer and it was still about a week later that I finalized the general plan. Since then I have been finishing final papers and exams at school and I have been tackling all of the little things that come with a trip like this! It would be so unfortunate for me to run out of contacts halfway through my trip!

I am writing this post on a Monday and it is more than a little bit surreal to think that I am flying out on Thursday! I have a million to-do lists that are partially crossed off, random piles of stuff to pack and a couple of logistics that are still falling into line.I have been praying for an opportunity to work overseas since last fall and I feel so blessed that God opened up this project for me.

I'll be in Africa for two and a half months which seems like the perfect amount of time to me and maybe a bit too long for my parents. While I am in Uganda I will be working with Breakthrough Partners on their Young Peacebuilders Initiative. In their words this is "[...] a ministry of Breakthrough Partners that is devoted to better equipping children and youth as peace builders in Majority World nations impacted by or at high risk of armed conflict."

For anyone who knows me you can safely assume that I am beyond excited for a chance to be working abroad this summer and I am also really excited about this project. Part of what specifically appeals to me is the fact that this is such a universal project; the ideas and research surrounding young peace builders can be adapted in different global contexts. I know that God is going to use this experience to teach and grow me in knowledge both surrounding this project and in Him.

I would appreciate prayer from anyone who is willing as I set out on this project. I am very excited about this opportunity but there are lots of challenges that come from living in a different culture. I would appreciate prayer for the program, that everyone involved with it would be blessed with insight and creativity to lay the foundations for continuing efforts. I will also need prayer for my contribution; that God might grant me the wisdom and the skills needed for this job and that He will use my shortcomings to display His glory more brightly than I ever could in my strengths.

This last year at school wasn't the easiest year from me and while I was able to learn more about myself and about who God is I am incredibly happy to be moving forward and engaging in something this summer that is life-giving!

I promise to try and keep this blog regularly updated, even if it is just a couple of lines. I don't have a great track record for that but all I can do is keep trying! Hopefully the next time that I write I will be in Uganda!

So farewell North America!! I might even miss you a bit!