Saturday, June 11, 2016

One Year Anniversary

Thirty-eight thousand feet above the ground, traveling 530 mph and for the first time in a couple of weeks…everything is slowing down a bit as majority of the continual metal and physical checklists are complete. It has been a whirlwind getting prepared for our three summer teams, while prepping and finalizing things so that I can be in Uganda for two months.

This past week…well, it was a big week. A week that held a lot of emotion in my life. It was the anniversary of two things. One year since I left SeaWorld, and one year since I officially began serving fulltime with Villages of Hope Africa. That anniversary holds more emotion than I can even begin to express or help someone understand. The departure from SeaWorld seems to hold much more weight on that day as that was the biggest change that happened. I left SeaWorld, as I was and am so blessed to get to continue serving with VOHA. As THE day approached, I tried my best to not think about it, to not dwell on it, and to not be emotional about it because… well, to be completely honest…I just didn’t feel like I had time for it. Every time that the approaching day attempted to enter my mind, I tried to slam the door on it, in hopes of avoiding the settling of the thoughts that surround that anniversary. I could feel the emotion knocking at the door and I knew if I was willing to even crack it open, the emotions would invade…bursting through the door like an unwelcomed guest. With no time for that…I reached for distraction, preparation, and fun (temporary goodbyes) with people I love.

Sadness, although not the only emotion, seemed to linger over that day. A sadness I didn’t want to confront, accept, or admit to. I wanted to just let the day blow past as every other day when I miss my friends (both human and animal) at SeaWorld. But this day was a little different…I seemed so concrete. One year. One year of being away from SeaWorld. One year since I have slipped (okay, okay… squeezed) into a wetsuit. One year since I have scrubbed a bucket. One year since I rubbed Tuar’s back as I give him a huge killer whale hug. One year since fresh fish was the common smell of my workplace. One year since I worked with my co-workers that had become and continue to be so much more in my life than simply co-workers. One year since I danced in shows and had the opportunity to work side-by-side with whales that have forever changed me. One year since I worked my last day at a job that I dreamed and worked my whole childhood and youth to be able to one day do. One year since that was my life. One year since my last day. One year.

I struggle with the honesty of this emotion associated with missing SeaWorld. I am concerned with the perception of the continued heartbreak since being gone. I feel like I have to hide that fact under a rock, hoping no one will uncover it. Although I miss it more than I know how to express in words, I am also extremely confident in how God has called me. God does not call us to live in “emotion”, rather on truth, on his solid ground. The same way that I am at a loss for words about SeaWorld, I also cannot begin to explain the excitement and joy that resonates deep within my soul. I don’t want people to question if I made a mistake by leaving, or to question God and his incredible love for his children. I don’t question those things. As I sit on this plane, I’m realizing maybe that is exactly what people should see and know. I didn’t leave SeaWorld because I was “over it” or I didn’t love it anymore. I walked away because five years ago, I told God I would serve however he called me, and when he called me to serve more in Uganda… I opened my hands to let go of SeaWorld, took a step of faith with him at my side, and leaned into him seeking continued guidance and strength. That isn’t a testament to me…that is a testament to God and how he can work in our lives. Clearly, I alone never could have walked away from SeaWorld. It was one of the loves of my life. I don’t know that I will ever not miss it. Through God’s continued strength and love, I can walk joyfully with him, no matter what he asks of me. God tells us that there will be sacrifice as he calls us to follow him. Now this can and will come in all different packages. I would encourage you, if you have been prayerful and God has called you, don’t fear the sacrifice. When you open your hands and take that step, the joy will be like no other you have ever felt. A true joy of the Lord. It is so raw, so deep, so genuine and true. It is time we pick up our cross and follow our Leader, our Example, our Father, our Friend.

Now let’s talk about the joy. Although I have been serving with Villages of Hope Africa for about 5 years, it has been one whole year since I officially began serving full time with VOHA. One year. One year since I have been considered a fulltime missionary. One year since family, friends, and strangers have become part of this Body of Christ, part of this journey with me as they support me both prayerfully and financially. One year since I chose to take a life-changing step of faith. One year since I truly surrendered ALL that I am to Christ. One year since I undeniably felt the outpouring love from friends and family. One year since I felt God begin to work in my life in a way that is indescribable. Wow! I am so humbled. I am honored that God would choose and call me to serve in this capacity. My love for the Acholi people runs so deep, and I feel so blessed to be able to serve the Acholi people along side my brothers and sisters. It is often a joke that I am part Acholi, that it is in my blood… but I think it just might be true.

The blessings that God has covered me in throughout this last year are overwhelming. I am committed to being fully abandoned to him, no matter what that looks like. I will take one step at a time, following wherever he calls.

Lord, I look to you. Give me wisdom. You are where my help, my strength, my hope, and my joy come from. May my hands and feet begin to look more like yours. May my heart reflect yours. When people look at me and my life, may they see you alone.

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