LOOKING FORWARD THROUGH REFLECTION

For my last minute personality, it is too early to be thinking about what’s next. But there’s no escaping it. Funny how the mention of a plane ticket back to the States sends your mind hurling into the unplanned future. For those of you who may be wondering or are bound to ask me (if you haven’t already), I have no clue what’s next. I have some ideas, but no I don’t really know what I’ll do once I leave Rwanda, and I haven’t made plans past spending much needed time with my family this summer. Maybe I’m being irresponsible; maybe I’m too old to be living my life on the fly just playing things by ear. But I don’t think I’ll ever stop figuring things out as I go, and I’m okay with that.

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See that photo (the one of me in an obnoxious orange t-shirt –ayo waves!-standing in front of a white board)? Just before I started thinking about, “what’s next,” I was going through old photos as I tried to clear space on my always full disk drive and I came across this picture. A simple yet powerful reminder of God’s guiding hand in my life. I always joke that I don’t need to figure out what to do next, because I know God already has something in mind. Anytime I doubt that, I look back. I look at times (like in this photo) when I wasn’t so calm about what was next, and I didn’t even know where I would be the following month. Yet looking back, I can see how God not only had a plan for what I would be doing that next month, but for where I would be three years from then and how it was all connected. Talk about planning ahead.

Okay, back to the photo. The summer after I graduated from Pepperdine, I was still living in Malibu, not wanting to leave, but not sure how to stay. Working part time doing advertising was not going to be enough reason to keep me there, and I didn’t want to take that particular job to a full-time level.

Earlier that year I had committed to going on a short-term mission trip to Honduras the end of that summer. I was excited to get out of the country again and determined not to let this become another case of “voluntourism.” After our initial plans of roughing it in the mountains while helping with a project there fell through, we ended up spending a few days at a school hanging out with the kids while the more qualified members of our team carried out a medical clinic there. As the only Spanish speaker in my group, someone there at the school had the bright idea to have me teach while I was there.   Yes, teach. Looking back, it makes me laugh, picturing my International degree, working in advertising, never liked school much anyways -self, going from class to class standing in front of a class full of students waiting for me to offer them something their own teacher couldn’t. English. At the time I thought nothing of it. “You want me to teach? Okay.” We laughed about how I was almost left at the school one day because nobody knew I was inside the school teaching, and then I’m sure everyone forgot all about it (as I myself had, until about 3 years later).

After returning to the States, I made my way back to California, not knowing if I would even be there another week. A couple of days after reaching the sunny, salty coast, I had secured a job as a teacher’s aide at a private Christian school not far from my house. It was a great opportunity and I could have been content staying there a long time. As much as I loved my job working with some awesome kindergarteners and co-workers, and loved living life with some amazing community that I had come to consider family (not to mention living ON the beach: A lifelong dream of mine), I knew when it was time for me to leave. I didn’t know why I should even consider leaving a place and people, even a job that I loved, but God was calling, so I followed.

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My backyard (in CA). Literally.

After finishing up the school year I made my way back to Colorado. Despite the long drive through nothing but desert, my destination came all too soon. I wanted to just stay on the road and keep driving until I figured out what I was going to do next. I trusted God enough to act when I felt him pulling me to leave CA, but I had no idea where he was calling me to, or when. All I knew, is I wouldn’t be in my home country much longer.

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Some of my preschoolers working on an art project.

After spending time with family and getting in some good hiking on my mountains, I finally started making progress with figuring out what was next. So I thought. After turning down an opportunity to teach English in Thailand, and another one to tutor in Italy, I began to doubt. Had God really called me to leave my second home? Did I make a mistake? Did I give up an awesome job and amazing community for nothing? What am I doing back at home? Why did I think this was ever a good idea? I became very antsy and somewhat remorseful. About a week or so after having a serious talk with God and revisiting my reasons for leaving California, I had committed to go teach some missionary kids in Rwanda.

Turns out, he wanted me to stay more than just the planned 4.5 months, so…. here I am (over a year later), still teaching in Rwanda at what is now a new American International School. If you told me this time last year that I would still be here, I probably would have laughed. But 3 years ago, that day I stood up in front of a class full of students for the first time? I would have raised my eyebrows and written you off as crazy.

Would I like to know what’s next so that I could plan accordingly and have an answer for every time someone asks me about my future? Yeah, that would be nice. But am I worried? No. I am absolutely confident that God is still working and doing a lot more planning for my life than I am. Is it tempting to doubt, when I feel like I should have things figured out by now? Of course it is. But God has given me too many reasons to not have complete faith in him. I can’t wait to look back on this time 3 years from now and see how everything was coming together despite my seeming lack of direction.

In case this novel didn’t make my point clear… no, I don’t know what’s next and no, I’m not worried. It doesn’t really matter what I do, what’s important is how I do it.

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2 comments

  1. Mary, thank you for your precious words! Even when you are my age, God still points you in a direction that you really can’t explain other than – I believe God wants this. I have been trying to verbalize this to people who because of emotions or inconvenience to them don’t get it. But my spiritual friends do. (Your mama is one of them.) Thank you for your insight and your wonderful way of expressing God truths.

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