As I was lying on my sleeping bag perusing Encyclopaedia Brittanica articles regarding such topics as St. Anselm of Canterbury, Charlemagne, William Wilberforce, and Christian mysticism, I was struck by the strange way that God has of doing things. Generally, to start with, He doesn't do them my way. In my head, my way is quite logical and sensible and probably very boring. True, His order of events is rather more difficult, since I have historically chosen the gentler incline when selecting onward and upward paths, but I will definitely say that it is more interesting this way, and the scenery is considerably more varied and awe-inspiring.
How else do I explain my life?
While we were at Harvard and MIT, I happened to pray for a graduate student who is from Malaysia. The most overwhelming impression I had was the hand of God on his life that had brought him, out of all the people in the world, to that place at that time. The likelihood that the two of us would ever meet over the course of our lives was minute at best, and yet there we were, both of us hundreds of miles from home, connected by this God who is more amazing than we could ever conceive. That impression has come back time and again with each place we've been here in England and with each person whom I have had the delight of meeting.
My ridiculous life...
It began a long time ago, but just for inspirational events, let's start with the Spanish class trip to Guatemala at the end of my sophomore year of high school. First international trip, my passport arrived the day before we left, and I got to spend a week in an out of the way city called Xela learning Spanish with Cuqui and eating a lot of pan from the panaderia that was just down the street from the escuela. We got trapped in our terminal with my conspiracy theorist teacher (who is still one of my favorite characters in the entire world, so I mean no disrespect), went to a natural mountain sauna, and ate ice cream every day.
The next year got a little more epic. Katrina moved to the Caribbean for the winter with Cape Air, so I went to Puerto Rico for spring break. Nothing will ever be able to erase the memory of that Ben & Jerry's shop in Old San Juan with the clerks dancing to "Mr. Brightside" while the already hot sun streamed in through the brightly painted windows and we ate Coffee Heath Bar Crunch from a pint container. Then there was kite flying, my first time eating Papa John's Pizza, sitting out on the balcony of Katrina's condo, and the day we drove to Rincon to eat at a place that was on a surfing beach with huge, beautiful waves washing in every other second as the sun went down. We listened to Dido as we drove back across the island, and the song "Sand in My Shoes" is forever stuck in my memory as my post-vacation come down.
Later that year, I travelled to Peru for my senior class missions trip. We stayed at the Mision Tecnological something or other, which were some fairly cushy digs for a place like Pucallpa which is on the eastern side of the Andes, set just off the Ucayali River. Sure, the showers were cold and you had to pour rubbing alcohol in your ears if you swam in the lake, but that same lake made for some stunning sunrises. The Shipibo Indians were hospitable and friendly, the days were full of sweaty but joyful labors, the rice was beyond delectable and into divine... Not to mention the opportunity to eat boa constrictor, maggots, and the rather more appealing paiche (a delicious local fish). Inca Kolas, King of Hearts drama presentations, tarantulas, Christina, Tia, Hayden, Alicia, my first trip with a new digital camera, and a panic attack during an incredibly long farewell celebration that ended with a stunning night sky in the Southern Hemisphere.
Then there was this place I started working at in the spring of my junior year, halfway through another season of managing girls' varsity soccer. Prince Street Cafe has been the setting for some of my biggest laughs and best times over the past couple of years. I've worked seven day weeks, drank more caffeine than my body should be capable of handling, charged through First Fridays, enjoyed the occasional night shift, laughed hysterically over nothing with Sara Martin on Saturday afternoons post-lunch rush, been surprised with a visit from dear friends from Georgia, and just generally lived in an incredible way through so many memories there. I hope that I may be so blessed as to have a workplace that I enjoy even half as much, but that's a pretty tough standard to live up to.
Can't forget about IMPACT 360, a Christian worldview and student leadership training program. One thing I appreciate about England is that they understand gap years. Nothing blows your paradigms about what life could be quite like eight months spent in community learning from some of the greatest Christian minds of our day. Glow stick parties, throwing pita bread, stomping on purple plastic bowls, listening to Bach, an open door all year round, Christmas lights, Aaron Ford lighting fires, the most amazing bomb of a potential relationship ever, John Basie who gets a whole segment of his own, backpacking, Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy trips, drinking tea, listening to Passion Pit while speeding down the mountain from volunteering, learning how to write concisely, giving nerve-wracking presentations, leaving home at 1AM to drive back, watching movies in the classroom, hall meetings, the Gospel of John at 737, Bill I-freaking-love-him-so-much Bain, Preview Days, Ultimate Frisbee, my dear Miss Renee, Sage's Ice Cream Parlor, Callaway, rain, that day they cut down the hedge, turning cartwheels in the front yard with David, destroying bottle caps with Mary Michael, and learning a little bit more about what it means to worship God in spirit and truth.
In the middle of that was a month long trip to Brasil. Who could forget the amazing Brazilians from Igreja San Juan Bautista or Igreja No Lago Sul? We didn't know what we were in for that first weekend at Agua Viva, meeting people like the Saatkamp family, Lycia and Andre Marra, or our translators Larissa and Little Andre. There was the night that I slept out on the porch in a hammock only to wake up to a thunderstorm at five in the morning, freezing from the breezes passing underneath me. Or the many hours spent out there during the day, reading Chesterton and growing closer and closer to God. Goofy hours of travel spent in the back seat of the van with Leah, laughing our way to near hysteria as each bounce jarred my swollen knee that I twisted while dancing with Grande Andre at the spiritist orphanage. There was the children's service in Aracaiba, when I gave my testimony to a hundred kids while relating my whole life story to bubbles and we did a dramatic interpretation of Noah's Ark. God cheekily isolated me multiple times in a coercive effort to make me a bolder street evangelist and forced me to assume leadership when I tried to step back. Pao de quejo started each day out right, and the candy-like Brazilian coffee was a great note to end on. And if I was tempted to forget Brazil, well, the fungus on my foot leading to a nasty allergic reaction in addition to a month long battle with lice did their bits to make sure it stuck in my head.
As I left IMPACT, I expected to spend eight months working, paying some money back to my dad, and making a final decision about which college to go to before starting in the spring semester. I got more connected with my church, got a tiny hankering to go do a YWAM dts since they're all former YWAMmers, and in the space of two weeks turned all my plans on their head when God dared me to dare Him to see what He would do. I found myself in another community, this one with a totally different focus and character. Where God had been whetting my appetite intellectually, He at last drew me in to a place of intimacy with Him and a time of learning more about who He is and what He is doing right now. Through that wild, unforeseen ride, I find myself going to Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, and Bradford, making friends for life in the form of the most fantastic outreach team that has ever existed and having my whole paradigm for what life can be like totally wrecked.
What did I do to get this life?! What am I doing in England?! Am I seriously moving to southern California to do a Great Books program (only one of the first and biggest dreams I ever had about college) with yet another rad community which might involve a summer exchange back to Cambridge? Am I going to the beach with the best sisters in the whole world then roadtripping across the country and stopping by Mexico with the best friend in the whole world? Am I psyched about all of this? Heck yes...
Life with God is NOT boring. Anyone who says differently hasn't tried it yet.