As I close in on my final weeks in France I can say that I have learned more than I thought possible to learn within just a few months. Has this trip been what I expected it to be? Not at all. But am I happy that it turned out the way it did? Yes. Am I a better person because of it? Absolutely.
Lesson #1: learning to deal with unmet expectations.
- from the minute I got here things were not going "as planned" with last minute housing switches and then me eventually spending most of my time in different cities.
- this was definitely stressful at first and I had my moment of initial panic, disappointment and frustration but because of it all, I have gained a deeper relationship with God and regained some of that trust and faith that you somehow lose along the path called "adulthood" when you start to rely more on yourself than God. He was the only person I had to talk to/vent to/cry to since I was an ocean away from from my family and friends.
- Just because things don't go as planned, doesn't mean that they are going "wrong". God knows exactly what He is doing and He will always accomplish His will, even if it means messing up your "plans".
Lesson #2: Living by faith
- I have always been the "fly by the seat of your pants" type of person. I do things last minute and don't tend to plan things out THAT well.... but I usually have a rough idea of what I will be doing tomorrow, or a week from today...
- I have learned the art of day to day living and taking things one step at a time. There have been so many unknowns and and last minute changes, and I have had to just learn to adapt to the situation, keep my eyes on the step I am currently taking and not worry about what the next step will be. I heard a fabulous message on this at BOTT in Copenhagen and have taken it to heart.
- When I got back from Copenhagen I was only going to be in Melun for a few nights so we weren't exactly sure how or where I was going to be housed and when one of the guys at church asked me where I was going to be staying I said "I'm not really sure..." and he said "you don't know where you're sleeping tonight?!" To which I replied "not really..." He then asked "you aren't worried or concerned about that?" and I could honestly say "Nope!" He just looked at me, shook his head and said "Now that's what I call faith!" I knew I would't end up sleeping outside, so what was the point in worrying about it? I am currently staying in my 6th different place... and that's been in 2 months worth of time. I have learned the art of taking it one day at a time and while I can't say that I've perfected the whole "not worrying" thing I am doing much better than I ever have!
Lesson #3: Standing up for myself
- Now most of you are probably thinking that I already had that lesson down pat.... which to an extent I do. But there are certain situations and times when I always roll over and play dead, so to speak. Well guess who has been put in those situations on this trip....?! Yep, you guessed it, me! So guess who was all by herself and had to decide if she was going to just let this happen or if she was going to say/do something?! Now I'm not talking dangerous or improper situations, so nobody freak out. For example.... I will go hungry if I think it's going to put someone out if I ask for food...ridiculous right?! No one should go hungry...who cares if it means that person has to go a little bit out of their way! You can't just not eat all day! Or if I am in a situation where I'm not completely comfortable, I used to always just kind of let it slide, say it will pass quickly, whatever... well not any more! This girl is tired of being uncomfortable and tired of trying to never make a wave.... I'm gonna start a tsunami!! Lol! Ok, not really, that's pretty extreme, but I think you get the point.
Lesson #4: Bravery
- Again, I have always been somewhat of a "brave" person, but there are different kinds of brave. I am learning the bravery of being solely independent, with nothing and no one to lean on or help you. The bravery of traveling the world all by yourself.
- Traveling all by myself in areas and places I didn't know used to make me a little anxious. There were always so many "what ifs" but if I had another person with me I wouldn't think twice and would jump right in. Well I have been traveling all by myself, all over the place these past 2 months and can honestly say that now when I go somewhere new, where I won't even know the people picking me up at the train station I am fine, confident and at peace. No more butterflies, no more thinking about all of the "what ifs"
- I know how to catch and take a taxi by myself, I can find my way around a brand new city after being there a day, I'm not afraid to wander and see the sights, sometimes the thought of getting lost in a new city actually appeals to me!
Lesson #5: Schedules are important
- With all of my coming and going everywhere I have realized how much I miss my regular, set schedule....that thing that I normally HATE when I'm at home....yeah, that thing. Every new place I'm in, there's a new schedule, a new regime to learn, new "policies and procedures".
- While I can't say that I enjoy super rigid, overly structured schedules, I can now say that I do like having some kind of a normal schedule that I can fall back and rely on...it's like having a little clock in the back of your mind just keeping you on track
Lesson #6: Seeing the good in everything
- Every time I am faced with a new frustrating, disappointing or confusing situation I have begun to ask myself, "Ok, so what am I suppose to be learning here?" Or "What is God trying to do right now?" instead of just complaining, hating my life and whining about it (although I sometimes still do a little bit of that) I have tried to find the positive in the situation, know that this too shall pass and learn/gain whatever it is that I'm suppose to be getting out of that situtation.
- I rest in the knowledge that everything happens for a reason and God sees and knows exactly what it going on and why. And that's all I need to know.
Lesson #7: Patience
- As aforementioned there have been a lot of unknowns on this trip. Therefore there has been a lot of waiting. Patience has never been my strongest point but it has been tested and tried on this trip! I feel like it has been a small part of every lesson learned. And trust me I'm trying my hardest to learn it so that I can stop with the "tests"!
Lesson #8: The value of a true friend
- I have "friends" here but none that I was extremely close to or knew very well. Therefore when I was going through everything that I've gone through on this trip (which most of it can't even be described or explained as they were mostly personal battles) I had no one that I could easily talk to. While I could skype and text family and friends at home I often had to wait until they were awake, or off of work and it's still just not the same when it's not in person. I thank God that I went to Toulouse for the month that I did because while there I gained a dear, and true friend. Mikki was there for me to have "girl talk" with, serious talks, to answer pressing questions, to help speak into my life when I would get down or frustrated, she is always encouraging me and believes in me. You never realize how much good friends mean to you and how much just their presence can do for you until you are without. So thank goodness I found a good, solid friend here in France that I know I can always count on to tell it to me straight and then pick me back up off the ground and dust me off ;) lol!
Lesson #9: Life on the road is lonely
- I had never felt homesick or technically "missed" family or friends before this trip. But now I can say that I definitely know what it means to "miss" someone and to feel homesick. And when I return to the States in a few weeks I will very quickly feel homesick for France and miss all of the wonderful people and friends that are here. It's a bitter life that I live. Never quite happy wherever I am because half of the people I love are on the opposite side of the world from me.
- To tag on to lesson #8 I quickly came to realize that bouncing from place to place and never staying anywhere for very long was indeed a lonely life. You never quite get settled in, it's always new people, learning new towns, routines and lifestyles. You have no one with you to talk to, to help bear the stress and understand the different frustrations that you are facing and feeling.
- Everyone's automatic response was that I needed to find myself a French husband.... Which everyone was predicting and hoping for before I ever left. I am in the business of proving people wrong though ;) Therefore I will be coming home single!!! Which leads me to my next, and final, lesson learned:
Lesson #10: All I need is Jesus
- What is the best and most important lesson that I've learned on this trip?.... that I can make it through anything as long as I have Jesus. I think that is why I had all of my friends, family and comfort zone stripped away from me.... so that I could get to the place where I had nothing to distract me, nothing to occupy my free time and no one to talk to and therefore had to rely solely on God for my companion and time consumer.
- Of course as a 20 something that gets harassed about getting married and finding a French guy almost 24/7 my first thought during the lonely times was "ok, God, maybe a husband wouldn't be such a bad idea right about now!" But I have come to the conclusion that God won't (and shouldn't) give me (or hopefully anyone else) their significant other if they can't first be content with it just being them and Jesus. And I don't know that I truly was content with that until this trip...you always want that physical presence of another person with you.. But after experiencing the times of prayer and absolute peace that came during and after those times of prayer... the amazing, quiet mornings reading my Bible (and actually taking something away from it.... not just reading it to check it off my list and feel good about myself) while sipping coffee... knowing that He has been there with me through each and every step, knowing that GOD believes in me enough and trusts me enough to call me to this place, to go through these things, and that He isn't through with me yet.... there's still more to come, He still has a plan for my life. I can now truly say that all thoughts of finding that perfect French guy are out the window (not that I was really counting on it to begin with...) and I couldn't care less if he walked up to me tomorrow because right now I am blissfully walking through life, hand in hand with Jesus and He is all I need to make me happy and to make it through this crazy thing called life.
There have been other lessons, both hard and easy to learn. I have never been this "in the dark" before about my life and what was happening next (the next minute, day, week, etc)... but I am coming out a stronger person. As it nears the end of my time here I find myself ready to head back home, yet a little apprehensive because I feel like I am returning home a different person than that who left. When you learn and grow, you change; you no longer view things the same way, you no longer do things the same way. Your priorities change and that reflects in many different areas of your life.
After reading this you may think that this hasn't been that great of a trip for me, but let me assure you... it has been hard, but it has been amazing! I wouldn't trade it for the world! I was having a rather bad day a couple of days ago and while skyping with my parents I started to cry and said "Now that I know I'm coming home in August I'm just ready to come home, I'm just done!" (this was of course said in a moment of frustration ... I'm not really THAT ready to come home...) My mother began to explain a lesson she is going to be teaching in Kenya in a few weeks... and while I can't remember all of it, there are a few things she said that completely cemented themselves in my mind and they are:
1. God demands you to step out of your comfort zone.
2. As you move towards your dream things get worse and worse and worse. These hardships help us to remember who the dream is about. It's not about us.
3. God is more interested in developing the person than accomplishing the dream.
4. You have to learn to love the Dream Giver more than the dream.
5. God clarifies our calling in times of failure.
6. The dream will cost us our life and will appear to others as folly right before God does the impossible
7. There's no resurrection without death... death of your dream, death of your insecurities, your pride, your agenda.
And that my friends, has been the story of my life on this trip in a nutshell.... stepping out of my comfort zone, things seeming to get worse and worse and worse, God developing me, me deepening my relationship with God, God clarified things to me at BOTT, and dying...yeah there's been plenty of times when I've felt like I was dying the past couple months lol!!! But if the death of my dream means that it will be resurrected in an even bigger way, then so be it.
I can't wait to come back to France, whenever the Lord may allow that, as I know there is still much for me to do here and this IS where the Lord has called me to be... whether that is only for this season of my life or for good, I do not know yet, but I am up for either! Because of the Times conference in Copenhagen only strengthened my burden for the country of France. God is about to do some amazing things in Europe....so watch out Africa, Asia and South America because your revivals are about to be blown out of the water ;)