Now that I’ve been home for almost a month, I decided that my blog needed some kind of conclusion. Not because my journey is over, but because I have turned the page to a very different chapter in my life. I can’t put into words all the things I have learned, or the ways I have grown, but I will try to give you a glimpse of my experience, and you can take it as you please.
Maybe I should start with my journey home. I rode a bus to Manchester one morning, hoping to fly straight into Atlanta. Standby is not always that easy though, and I didn’t get on the flight, so I decided to take a train to London. Three trains actually, including the tube through the city. So I finally made it to Heathrow, and somehow decided to take a flight to New York City. By that time it was about 9:00 at night, so I got a hotel for the night, slept for about 4 hours, and was back at it. I got the sunrise flight to Charlotte, NC, which was actually worth it because I literally watched the sunrise over the NYC skyline from an airplane. From there, I finally got on a flight to Atlanta and was home at last. Quite a journey, that was.
Leaving Teesside was immeasurably more difficult than leaving home to go there. When I left home, I knew it would be challenging, and of course I missed my family and friends, but I also knew that I was following God’s call, and I would be back soon enough. When I left Teesside, I was leaving a place that will always keep a part of my heart. Its so much different than leaving after a week or two of a mission trip. This has been my life for the past year. Those are the people that I saw every single day, that I celebrated, laughed, and cried with. I am so incredibly thankful for the group of people I was surrounded with this year. From my fellow gap-year workers and our leaders, to my wonderful youth group and the kids I mentored in school, all these people have stamped my heart in such a wonderful way. Oceans can separate us, but I will never forget the people that I have spent the past year with.
My last week in the motherland was a great one. I got to help lead a team from Southcrest Church! It was so great to see some familiar faces and be able to share this experience with them. While they were here, Mike took them up Roseberry Topping and shared Ezekiel 37 and the vision for this valley to rise up as an army for the Lord. The memories came flooding back of when I was there that time last year, when my heart was broken for this place, when I first heard God’s call for me to come and serve here. And I cried, a lot. I cried tears of joy because of all the works and wonders that God has done this year. I cried tears of sadness because I knew that my time there had come to an end for now. And I cried hoping that I had done everything I possibly could to change that valley. I was once again reminded that we cannot change hearts or save souls. We can only proclaim His name and know that He has everything planned to a tee.
I know I have said this before, but God has stretched me in ways that I could have never imagined. He has brought me to a point of leadership that I would have never before been comfortable with. He has given me a passion for the nations like never before. I have always liked to stay home and be comfortable, but now I feel like there are so many places to go, and so many people that need to encounter Jesus, how am I supposed to stay in one place? Most importantly, He has taught me to rest in His Presence. This year has been by no means easy, and in the times that I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I found my strength in His Spirit. Simply sitting in the presence of God is now such a beautiful part of my life.
Since I’ve been home, my mind often wanders back to Stockton. I think about all the people that I miss, and what they are doing now. I think about Stockton Parish Church, and how much I learned from being a part of that family, and I wonder why I can’t still be there. Why does God want me at UGA? I was in a service for one of the campus ministries last night, and the speaker was saying that we are all starting new chapters in our lives right now. If you just ended a bad time, then you get to start fresh. But then he said, if you just ended a really great chapter of your life, God has set you up for something even greater. I don’t know how this year is going to be better than the previous one, but when we are intentional and expectant, we can glorify God in any situation. I’m so excited for this chapter. I get to really define myself, branch out, and meet new people, but wherever I go, I will carry Teesside in my heart, because it will always be a part of me.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
I’ll let you know when I discover my next adventure.