It’s not often that I have the chance to sift through change and it makes me uncomfortable. I like change, I thrive on it, I enjoy the new adventures in life and if I don’t have an adventure either just past, in the planning stages or about to happen I find myself seeking it. I remember when I lost a temp. job back in my younger days and I could sense change on the horizon. The excitement alleviated the stress of not having a job. I knew that there was nothing holding me back from leaving the city I was in, a city that offered no family and no jobs that could hold me back. A city that I was more than ready to leave in my rear view mirror, a place that held dark memories and a painful past. I was rediscovering my relationship with God at the time, and as I prayed for change I began to feel the excitement brewing.
One night I was sitting at my desk, and a pamphlet fell into my lap, I looked it over and my whole being started to plot and plan. This had to be of God… The pamphlet in my lap? An ad someone had given me a long time before about an orphanage in Africa, they were asking for money, but I decided that while I had none to give, there was nothing stopping me from going in person and giving my time, my skill, my sweat and tears. I emailed the contact person that night and for three days my excitement grew. I began to imagine life in Africa, working with these precious kids who had lost their families to Aids.
It was three days later that I got a phone call from the director of this organization, he wanted to meet me. I nearly cried I was so happy, here it was. My future was at hand, God was giving me a chance to change my life and turn it upside down and inside out! I met the man and what he proposed to me was my dream job. There was a project in the works, they were sending a team over who would be photographing, and writing stories about the work going on in the orphanages, the kids, who they were, who they lost and how they are doing now, the workers, where they were from and what they were doing, and how these kids were changing their lives. In my heart I knew that there would never be another opportunity like this for me. I wanted it so badly I could taste it. We decided to proceed.
As I began the process I quickly became discouraged. There was no positive feedback form anyone I knew. I was told I would be supported but there was none of the excitement that I had expected, and as the planning began I started to notice that there was no peace. I prayed and prayed but every door was quickly slammed in my face. Finally a pastor I have known my entire life said to me ‘make a decision, pray about it, and see if there is peace’. So after weeks of no peace with going I finally got the courage to change my decision. I decided not to go… and peace settled in my heart finally. To say that I was discourage just didn’t cover it. I was devastated. Not only was my dream job off the table but I didn’t have ANY job! I was broke, had only rice and broth in my cupboards, my fridge was empty, my rent was due and every day the temp. agency would sadly tell me that they had nothing for me. It was a dark time, an I questioned 1) who God was, did he really have a plan? and 2) Did he think I was no ‘good enough’ to be a missionary.
To back up just a moment… when I was 19 I spent a year in Austria, working at a Christian Study/Conference centre. It was a place that I have often reffered to as a hosptial for the soul… I met people there that I still hold dear to my heart today. I loved that place, I loved that time in my life. So, for Christmas that year (before my almost trip to Africa). My parents (at great sacrifice to themselves, knowing I needed to get away) gave me a trip to Austria. I was there for a week over the Christmas holidays and I was reminded of my love for that old castle and the people who walked those halls. Before I left, my one time boss said to me ‘you always have a home here Laurie’. I remember smiling at the thought, but it seemed so out of reach at the time. In fact, it seemed absurd.
One night, I was out for a coffee with a friend and we were talking about what I was going to do. I still wanted to move but I knew that it wouldn’t be an option any time soon. We got to talking about my time in Austria and I heard a whisper in my soul ‘you always have a home here Laurie’. It was such a soft whisper, a quiet knowing in my heart that it was a ‘home’ I needed. A home far from the home I had always known, I place I could call my own, a place that I could start fresh and find some answers among a group of Christians who loved me. I needed a community. I felt an urge so strong to write that very night that I called off coffee and got home as quickly as possible. When I got home I wrote to this man and asked him if there was any opportunities to work there. His reply was quick. They had need for me, and they needed me soon. It was late march. I was to leave in June.
My time in Austria was filled with ups and downs, I was taught about community, friends, love and more than anything I was brought into God’s embrace and shown how much I truly love him.
I don’t know what Africa would have brought me, but I know this. Austria brought me peace, it brought me change, not just physical, it brought a life change. It brought healing.
Why am I talking about this today? I have been thinking a lot about God’s plan. I remember walking home one night during my time in Austria, things were not going well in life but never have I felt closer to God than I did in those weeks of struggles. I felt and understood ‘joy’ for the first time in my life and I knew that if God was with me I could do anything. As I stared at the endless stars that night I whispered to God ‘I can do this with you, bring it on!’
He brought it… I am living it. All the pain, all the suffering, all the joy and all the blessings and he still has more in store for me. So as I have been thinking about the decisions we make in life, the ones that change the course of our lives I am reminded about the trip to Africa that never was, and how I had to let go of what I wanted to discover what I really needed.