"Have you thought about becoming a teacher?"
Those words were a question it seemed I was asked almost weekly by my boss, a good friend of my family. My reply was always "No. I don't think I want to." But the unvoiced reply was more like "Are you insane? Me? A teacher? Just ask my mother, I don't do so good with patience that a teacher needs, nor do I even want to teach!" But, you see, from my experiences (which isn't a lot, but still something), it is not such a good thing to say "I'll never do _______." That's almost like putting a dare on God, and usually God wins.
I said I would never ever ever (ever!) go to Africa. I did not want to go to Africa. I wanted to go to China or Peru or Scotland, but not Africa. My first travels outside of the US, and before I was 18 was six months spent in Africa. And ya know what? I loved it. The good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty...I loved it all. Boy am I glad God didn't listen to pouty me when I said, "But God, I didn't want to go there!" I never in a million years dreamed I'd spend six months in Haiti less than a year after returning. I was actually afraid to come the first time (I came for a week last March) becuase I had my heart set on returning to Africa ASAP, and I was afraid (Well, I knew) that God would tell me to go back to Haiti (this was all before I even went at all! Crazy how God works.). That's a whole grand story in itself, but also another one of those "I'll never _______."
But in my last two years filled with travels, I have discovered so much more about who I am. I have found more of who God wants me to be. I've found gifts that God has put in me from the start of my life that I might have never found had I stayed in my sweet Kentucky home all my days.
1. Cooking. This may surprise some people who know me now to think that I didn't always love to cook. I've always enjoyed cooking, but never loved it until I went to Africa. There I took on the job of planning and cooking most meals for my family. I found it a fun challenge to cook on our charcoal stove on the pantry floor, and soon it became a passion. Now cooking is almost a stress reliever for me. I love to discover and create in the kitchen - whether that be a kitchen with tons of crazy gadgets or a lean-to with a dirt floor and fire. (In fact, the more challenge you give me in the kitchen, the more fun! Gluten free? Sure. Gluten and dairy free? Yay! Vegetarian? Of course [But I feel for you...]) I've been told "You have a gift in the kitchen. You love and it and can create anything." It's a gift God has given me, and maybe I would have discovered this one without traveling, but who knows.
2. Compassion. I always had a heart for hurting people, but it was never so vivid to me as when I went to Tanzania. There I spent many hours being a friend to orphaned children who knew no love. Even the orphange didn't know how to love these kids. My sisters and I learned how to bring joy into their lives, and I learned so much from them too. There were days I hated being there. I don't like to mention this part of the story, but the first time I visited the orphanage I'd soon be spending each day at, I swore I'd never go back to that filthy place. (See? Another "I'll never...") God had so much of a bigger plan (Doesn't He always?) and I learned how to love in that place. I learned that my heart goes out to the hurting.
3. Teaching. This was the big one. "I will never be a teacher." And yet I've always wanted to homeschool my children someday, and I am now interning at a Christian school in Haiti. Explain that one to me. I even came here saying "I really would prefer to not teach, but would rather work in the office." "I can make no promises," was always the reply from Mary Jane. Oh great! I attempted working in classrooms for English classes, but was not finding my groove in there. Then one day I walked in the office and Mary Jane had a little girl on her lap, she looks up and said "Oh good! I have a kid for you! She has been having trouble learning to write, so you can help her." "Uhhhh....." Before I could get a word in, the sweetest little girl was sitting on my lap and within two days she was writing her name beautifully. All she needed was a little encouragement and love. Before I knew it I'd found my groove...in tutoring the "trouble kids." It's a delight and joy to my days, and I have plans to help with tutoring at local elementary schools when I return to the sates.
I never dreamed I'd live in Haiti or Tanzania, but had I not I'd be missing out on these wonderful things in my life. There are other gifts God has given me and many other things the Lord has taught me in my journeys, but those are for another post. I'm incredibly thankful He doesn't listen to my selfish, narrow-minded heart somedays! So much I would have missed out on. How has God brought to mind the gifts He has given you? What lessons are you learning in your everyday life in the corner of the globe God has placed you at?
(Linking up at The Grove this week.)