In Pemba, I had to privilege to worship God and spend time with Him for 3 months without any other items on my Big Life To Do List. Just sit with Him and worship Him and love people. It was in the midst of His presence that I learned what He had made me for, and He gave me my next steps. I was undone by His goodness, His perfection, His love. I cried for days over what He had told me, each time I considered it. I told Him that I didn’t care about the cost, I would do it. It fit me perfectly, it fit me like a glove… errr, well, perhaps more like a Mitten. Because you see, His first steps for this are the ones that seemingly come with some great costs: 1) Go back to Michigan and 2) Go to Grad School. Well, as I had not taken the GRE prior to Africa (because if you know me, you realize the hilarity of me returning to school – not because I am not good at school, I am, but because, well, I had very clear stipulations for what would ever put me back in the role of a formal student), I could not apply for grad school by any deadlines…. That and I was working on African internet. So I returned to Greenville in January looking forward to attending grad school in the fall of 2015 and moving to Michigan at that time.
Since January 2010, Greenville has become my home. Although no family by blood lives down here, MY family does. The people who have loved me into healing, laughed with me, pursued and loved Jesus with me, celebrated the great parts of life with me, cried with me, done the mundane of day-to-day life with me, all live here, in Greenville. After returning from Africa, I had a sweet and costly request from Jesus to just sit with Him – no formal job, no over-extending through volunteering everywhere. For much of that time, about 6 months’ worth, it often felt like I was in a hole – an amazing and wonderful, but sometimes odd and lonely hole. I have always been one on the go and involved with a lot and surrounded by people. In this season, He told me to rest and to strategically invest. I did. There were a few relationships in my life that I set out to invest in most intentionally, others sporadically, and then there were many days where I saw nobody but my dog. It was challenging at times but well worth it. It opened up opportunities to travel and enjoy people with a freedom that is hard to come by. God faithfully provided for me and humbled me and loved me and rested with me.
At the 6 month mark, things began to shift and change. More people and relationships began to re-enter my life. I felt movement and began to search for a job and next steps. My roommate and really my best friend, Kathryn, and I began to search for an apartment together as our lease is coming to a close in August. At the beginning of July, I had about 3 days all by myself as I house sat for a family that is family to me. I had not yet found a job and knew that I needed to figure out life as the moving deadline approached. My mom over the previous couple of months had asked me a few questions that had tickled my ears, but I had put off on a shelf as I searched out my next steps. It was in those three days alone when I took her questions off of the shelf and laid it all out on the table next to my pursuit of a job here in Greenville and the details of getting a new apartment with Kathryn. At the end of those three days, I had come to yet another invitation from God, “You can stay here in Greenville for the next year if you want to, but I have things for you in Michigan if you will go.” It was sweet, undemanding, but also with only one true answer – to follow my King meant to move to Michigan. Over the past 2-3 weeks, I have shared individually this news, and now I wanted to share it more publicly. It comes in the most bittersweet packaging. It is a “yes” to another segment of my adventure, my walking with Jesus. I love adventure and new things and challenge and exploration. But my yes to Michigan means my saying farewell to Greenville, and doing so much sooner than I had thought. It also has cut down my time to process what the heck this move means and my time to prepare for the other side, as I will be moving 1 month after I accepted the invitation.
To those of you who I have gotten to know and love and live life with in the last 4-5 years of my life here in South Carolina, please know the great impact each one of you have made on my life. Know that you have helped to form me and sharpen me. It is not easy to say goodbye, but I also know that Greenville will always be one of my homes. It will not be goodbye with many, but a see you later, alligator. It will be an addition of family through the move and not a subtraction. It will be hard on some days and easier on others. But thanks be to God for the advancements in technology that have made people thousands of miles away a mere screen away, text away, phone call away. For that I am most grateful.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:3-11, ESV).