I remember the feelings surging through my heart as the jet sailed over cold, crystal blue waters and into the Norwegian city's name I was still learning to pronounce. We were approaching the runway. The land quickly sped past my window seat as altitude dropped. There were feelings of excitement, feelings of uncertainty; feelings of home, feelings of a foreigner. Then, the wheels touched down. We landed. It was official. No turning back. I would be spending 9 months here immersed in a Discipleship Training School with YWAM (Youth With a Mission). I had expectations, I had things I had no idea of. Little did I know, 9 months would become 3 years. Little did I know that pressed, challenged, and grown in this place, my heart would change in some of the most significant ways, that I would give my heart to the nation of Norway, and that missions would become a lifestyle.
It's amazing to look back and see where God has brought you thus far, and in these past months, it seems to be a theme. Moments of memories bubble up in my heart, stirring joy and fondness, and most of them have had to do with my time spent on the missions field in Norway. Norway? Missions? Is that possible? Why yes, it is, and as I learned during my time there, first-world nations need Jesus just as much as any other does. In fact, sometimes it's a bit more challenging, because characteristic of these places is the idea "I just don't need Jesus, because I have everything." It's been amazing to me that now, after almost exactly two years, I am able to see my time there a bit more clearly, that a fresh wave of memories are resurfacing, and that I am met by a deep love for the nation, the time I spent there, and the community I lived in. It's been... amazing. I haven't always been able to see through this lens. Don't get me wrong, I've always cherished my time there, but now, the season is hitting me in a deeper, fuller, richer way. I think sometimes, we realize a moment's full impact on us when we've had some time away.
I've learned that it takes some time to muddle through the clouds of re-entry stress and reverse culture shock. In fact, in some areas of my life, I still feel like I am landing. The fast-paced, event-filled time in YWAM has been met by a characteristically different pace of life--much slower, with much more pockets of space in my weeks of no agenda, no schedule, just time to be. And I realize as the months go on, this has been God's intention, to slow me down so that my seasons begin to synthesize and not become compartmentalized. My time on the missions field wasn't just an event--it was a launching pad for a lifestyle. And though physically, now and then, I was in two different places, it's one cohesive timeline of my life. And that's how I desire my life to be lived--one fluid motion from what God is bringing me from and what He is bringing me into.
I thought this post was going to be about missions, but really, it's more about the heart, embracing life, and process. As I sit here reflecting, I am reminded that God has a plan. God is involved in every detail, from the adventure's He's planned for our lives, to the time it takes to readjust. He's in the faster-paced portions of life. He's in the slowing and resting. He's in ministry, He's in enjoying the simple moments of life. I believe what God has asked me to do is to give my whole heart to every moment He has me in, whether it's on the mission's field, or in the quiet of my home, whether it's in another nation or back in the United States of America. Every season is beautiful and has glorious moments and treasures He's had stored up all along and is eager to show us. And I've learned it's ok to allow the time and space for your heart to settle into these moments. The heart is a strong, yet delicate thing, and if there's one thing I've decided on it's that I desire to feel. Call it a "soft heart," (thanks 18-Inch Journey, this will always be a prayer for my life), a heart that is not hardened by transition, moments of uncertainty or misunderstanding, seasons of summer and seasons of winter. An invested heart means it can be harder when shifts come, because you allowed yourself to love, but I'd rather feel the pain of goodbyes, because I know I opened my heart and allowed myself to live and be present in every moment. I want the adventures God brings me on to change me, to shape me, not merely be things I did, places I saw... a check list of moments I had. And so, I embrace the feelings, the memories, the joy, the heartache. All are working together into God's giant redemptive plan.
Time, space, seasons, adventures, gratitude. These are the things I am reflecting on today. I am so glad God leads us into moments and adventures to shape us and reveal who He is. What an honor. He desires us to experience life with Him. I am realizing more and more that God mainly uses experience and not just knowledge to grow us. Knowledge is often reinforced or gained through experience. He's a God of relationship, and relationships cannot merely be lived out in the head, they must also be lived out with the heart.
Missions, YWAM, creativity, Norway... it's all awesome. Check out YWAM Aalesund if you're interested in doing a DTS and love the arts! www.ywamaalesund.org