If any of you wanted to know what God's been doing with my heart while I've been in Africa, I don't know if I could tell you. I can say that it was full to the bursting point, nearly every day, with an ever-expanding definition of love; that I was learning so much but at the same time couldn't put my finger on any of it. It was only upon returning that I've started to see where the growth has been in my heart, and now it's only fitting that I testify to a big part of it. If you love me, you may want to read this. No guilt trips if you don't, but I feel that you'll understand me and this past year a little bit better.
I feel like this note is an explanation I owe to many of you. Please don't worry, but I need to get this out of my brain. In a good way. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, here goes.
Somewhere in this past month, this trip saved my life.
Honestly. I was heading nowhere good. I'm not the kind of person who would ever, EVER, do anything to harm myself (so please don't freak out, loved ones). But every day was a struggle to get out of bed, to put myself back into my routine and wait for everything to go wrong no matter how hard I tried. I didn't want to *be* anymore. I was literally and emotionally tired. Broken. And still breaking. I couldn't find much of me left. And when you feel bad enough to where you wish you didn't exist, but firmly stand against the idea of suicide, it can get pretty incapacitating at times when you're just sitting there, alone with your thoughts. Very alone.
I actually Didn't.Want.To.Be.Anymore.
It wasn't just for the days immediately preceding the trip that I felt this way, but weeks and months at a time. Sure, there were great, wonderful times last summer that were key to lifting me out of the deep depression from last winter, but somewhere around the time that the days were getting darker, I felt like I was losing the battle again.
I asked myself- what on EARTH happened to me this past year? A boy broke up with me. So what. That happens. My family was falling apart yet again, not to mention the individuals within, and as the only child I felt like it was my responsibility to clean up. But all of these things I've taken on before. More important than any of these things, I gave up. Subconsciously, then very consciously.
I let an enemy come in and steal nearly everything that was on the table. In fact, I said "Here, I'll help you," and piece by piece I fell apart. I no longer had the strength to resist anything. I had the ideas of strength, the remnants and memories of the strong young woman I had started to grow into, but no actual strength. And I was ashamed of myself for it.
I don't think things were immediately better the moment I stepped onto Ugandan soil, or even when the plane from Nashville took off... maybe it started with the decision just to go this year...maybe it didn't. I know by the end of 2008 I was desperate for change, and while I knew that Africa couldn't be my easy out, my fix-all, I also knew that I couldn't live in America any more. Because I was barely alive inside. So I prayed my heart would awaken while I was there, through forgetting about my situation and trying to be open to someone else's.
I don't know at what point things changed for me on this trip, but they leave me here, changed for certain. I know there were moments that had a big part in it, like talking to Betty at the top of the Adrift Bungee tower, and taking the very conscious plunge towards the Nile 150 feet below. I think that was the first time I truly trusted God would take care of me in exactly a year. And every time I got a crazy piki driver, or walked barefoot through filth somewhere, or had to go out by myself at nighttime, I could feel myself trusting him a little more. I was beginning to think my God could do anything again, and most importantly, that he could do this for me. To tell you the bits of strength and wisdom I witnessed from friends in Uganda (both locals and volunteers) would take another entry entirely.
As I sat in church the day after returning to Nashville, my heart overflowed with gratitude. For the past month, God met me. He said, "Here you are. This is you. And I am here, too. I wasn't really that far away."
In 2009, I've felt like myself again. I feel beautiful inside because I don't feel alone inside like I did last month... and I can't even fully explain why, because I never turned my back on God, but I just couldn't feel Him there like I wanted or needed to at the time.
to wrap up this mini-memoir, I've been thinking highly about this verse this week (something I read first thing when I got home in Katie Davis' blog):
"We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."- 2 Cor. 4:8-12
Good riddance, 2008. In 2009, I am a new creation. And life is at work in me.