Just Around the River Bend

If there’s one thing most people know about me, it’s that I’m not an “outdoorsy” person.  Now that doesn’t mean that I hate nature.  I just prefer to enjoy it while I’m sitting on a beach or from the backseat of the car as my family drives through the Smoky Mountains.  You see growing up in my family, our idea of fun didn’t consist of hiking or camping or canoeing.  We would go to places like Gatlinburg not for the mountains, but for the miniature golfing, shopping, and dining.  So this is why at the age of 29, I just went canoeing for the very first time in my life.

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I assumed that maneuvering a canoe down the river would be a fairly simple task.  I mean it’s not white water rafting.  You just have to paddle the canoe in the right direction.  After all Pocahontas makes it looks so easy while she’s singing “Just Around the Riverbend”.   How hard could this be?

It took about thirty seconds before I realized how hard canoeing was actually going to be.  My friend and I had barely pushed off from the bank of the river before I had us turned around and going backwards.  As if keeping the canoe in the right direction wasn’t hard enough, we also managed to unsuccessfully avoid several tree branches that were dangling over the river bank.  (It was about this time as I was being whacked in the face with tree branches that I remembered why I’m not an outdoorsy person.)

Surprise, surprise.  Canoeing turned out to be a lot harder than a cartoon character made it look in the movies.  One thing was for sure, you didn’t know what was waiting just around the riverbend.  Sometimes there was an easy stretch of water where we didn’t have to paddle as hard, and we could enjoy the scenery.  Then the next thing you knew, you were trying to keep the canoe from tipping over in the wake of a passing jet ski.

Looking back on that day, I realize how much life is like trying to maneuver a canoe down the river.  There are times when life is easy and you can just enjoy the ride.  However, there are also the days when something you weren’t expecting rocks your boat, and you find yourself just trying to stay afloat.  In those moments, I was thankful that I wasn’t the only one in the canoe.  Even though there were times when my friend may have wanted to push me out of the canoe (something about not paddling hard enough), I was thankful to have her experience to guide us out of those rougher waters.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life over the last few years, it’s the importance of having a community to support and guide you through those rougher waters.  When I graduated from college seven years ago, I expected my future would be smooth sailing down a straight path.  What I didn’t expect was seven summers of job searching, multiple temporary teaching positions, and being turned down too many times to count for various positions.  It was a rough ride with many twists and turns, but throughout it all I had the support of family, friends, and coworkers.  They listened when I needed to vent my frustrations, encouraged me to keep going when I wanted to quit, and prayed that God would lead me to the right job.  Just like my canoe trip down the river, my path to finding a teaching job wasn’t an easy journey, but I never felt like I was navigating through it alone and that made all the difference.

So maybe canoeing wasn’t quite as easy as Pocahontas made it look in the movie, but she was knew what she was talking about when she said that the water’s always changing, always flowing.  Life is the same way; always changing, always flowing.  So when life has you turned around paddling up stream or smacks you in the face with another unexpected obstacle, lean in to those around you for the guidance and support you need to keep going.   It’s so much easier to navigate those rough waters when you know that you have someone who will see you through whatever is waiting just around the river bend.

Memories and Tears

This is a guest post from Brittany. She is an elementary teacher in the Indianapolis area who has a HUGE heart for Kenya.

I close my eyes tonight and I let the memories wash over me. I haven’t allowed myself to do this in so long. I’ve locked the memories up and tucked them away in a safe place. They try to creep out from time to time. It usually hits me when I least expect it. Something will trigger my memories. Tonight it was something as simple as the song “Ring Around the Rosie.” Suddenly I am there again. Holding the hands of little children, hearing their voices sing the song, and seeing the joy and laughter on their faces. It brings a smile to my face and a pain to my heart. I long to be there again. To hold those little hands. To hear their joyful voices. To see the laughter in their eyes. 
So tonight, instead of pushing this memory back into the recesses of my mind, I let it come forward and I let the rest of the memories come. The faces, the sights, the smells, the noises, they all come flooding back. For a moment I feel like I’m there again, until I open my eyes again and reality welcomes me back like a cold splash of water in the face. I’m not there anymore. It’s six months since we returned and those memories seem as far away as the distance from Indiana to Kenya.

BrittanyKenya

 

In six months, I haven’t allowed myself to dwell on the memories of my trip too often. I haven’t allowed myself the time to sit and process and write about my trip. Case in point, I wrote that first paragraph for this blog weeks ago and have avoided finishing it ever since.

Continue reading “Memories and Tears”

Kenya Teaches Brittany

One of my absolute best friends wrote an incredible blog the other day and has agreed to share it… here is what Brittany has to say…



Dear High School Self….

You’re not going to believe this.  I’m going to Africa this summer and it won’t be for the first time.  This will actually be my third trip to Africa.  Did I just make your heart start racing with panic and fear?  Don’t worry, you have about seven years to prepare yourself (although you’ll never be fully prepared for that first trip).  

Right now, I know you have the rest of your life planned out after graduation.  Your plan starts with going to college to become a teacher.  After you graduate you’ll find a full time teaching job in Avon, move out of your parents’ house, meet an amazing guy, get married, have two kids (a girl and a boy), get a dog, a cat, and be a stay at home mom in your house with a big front porch and a pool in the backyard.  
Well high school self, I have some advice for you and it’s only five words:
“Let go of your plan.”
I know how much you like to be in control, and I know you’ve had your plan set in stone since you were a little girl.  I know how stubborn you are and how much you are going to fight with God over keeping your plan.  I hate to tell you, but God is going to take your world and flip it upside down.  Then He’s going to send you to the other side of the world and rip you right out of your comfort zone.  You will find yourself thousands of miles from home walking through some of the worst slums in Africa.  As terrifying as that sounds right now, I can tell you that Africa was a part of God’s plan all along.  From the moment you step foot in the slums, you will forever be changed.     
Letting go of your plan won’t be easy, but I can tell you that God’s plan is SO much better!  You won’t even recognize yourself in ten years!  God is going to challenge and strengthen your faith in the years to come.  He’s going to take your passion for teaching and call you to teach in the last place you ever expected to be.  He’s going to call you to lead instead of just follow.  He’s going to show you that life is so much more than just the American dream.  
So high school self, I leave you with this verse to remember in the years to come.  Cling to these words, let go of your plan, and let God do an amazing work in you.  
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
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