|Photo taken by me at a recent flower market :)|
I've been pausing for awhile because I don't even know how to process that. It feels like I just left yesterday, while also feeling like I've been here for a very long time.
As I've been thinking about this anniversary over the last few weeks, I've realized that this is the longest I've ever "been" anywhere, as an adult. Sure, I went to university for four years (2006-2010), and then on to grad school (2010-2011) for a year and a half. After that, I moved back home and worked two different social work jobs (starting in 2012) until leaving for Romania in March 2015. But this, these five years in Romania, is the longest I've ever been somewhere.
Like I said when I wrote about my fourth anniversary in Romania, I honestly didn't know that this would become my place, my life, my home. It's not that I thought it was going to be a short-term thing, but I guess I never really thought this far down the road. I knew I was supposed to go...so I went...and here we are, five years later.
As you probably know by now, I like lists. So, here are five things I've learned (or been constantly reminded of) in the last five years...
1. God can use anyone. Let me tell you, if God can use me to love His people and share His light, He can use anyone. He can use you in your stubbornness, brokenness, insecurity...or whatever it is that you think is too big and too messy. Follow that still, small voice to obedience and let Him use you to share His love and light with those around you.
2. I can do hard things. I'm a quitter. I quit dance classes when I was 6 years old. I quit drum lessons in high school. I dropped a few classes in college. I quit when things are hard. Here's what I haven't quit since being in Romania. I haven't quit learning the Romanian language. I haven't quit trying to better understand the people and the culture. I haven't quit investing in people even when, at times, it's felt hopeless. I haven't quit...and I won't quit because the result of me quitting those hard things is way worse than the difficulty of the hard things.
3. Relationships are so incredibly important. Here's the thing...I'm a hardcore introvert. I gain energy from being alone. A full day alone at home to do whatever I want is like my dream. I'd also consider myself to be somewhat socially awkward. I don't overly enjoy a lot of social settings. I'm pretty shy upon meeting new people. BUT...I love people, like I really love people. When I first came to Romania, it was hard to feel like I'd ever have deep friendships or impactful relationships with the people I was serving. Well, jokes on me, because in the last five years, I've gained some of my deepest friendships, while also deepening some of the ones I had before. I've also been able to deepen relationships with the people I serve because I've stuck around for five years to see them through many ups and downs. It's been a journey, but I'm thankful for all of the relationships along the way.
4. Growth really does happen outside of one's comfort zone. It's true. The times I've grown the most, in the last five years, are when I've had to step outside of my comfort zone and figure things out. When I moved into my own apartment...when I supervised a student on my own for the first time...when I started a new program with a coworker...when I learned how to drive stick shift...you get the idea. I could list 100 other situations where I've had to go outside of my comfort zone, and the thing they all have in common is that I've grown because of them.
5. God is good. Man, oh man. This one could be it's own blog post, but I'll keep it short and sweet here. He has been so good to me over the last five years. He has stood next to me in moments of joy and in moments of frustration and sadness. He has put other people next to me who have encouraged and supported me...both here and from afar. He has taught me the importance of focusing on being with Him instead of doing things for Him. He has been kept me here for five years and He is good. Side note: I can totally hear my home church saying "all the time" right now. Love you Freeport First Church :)
And while it's not part of the list, I cannot possible publish this blog post without saying THANK YOU. While it's absolutely true that God brought me here and has kept me here, it's also true that so many of you have played a huge part in this story as well. You, my people, have encouraged me, prayed for me, bought me travel pillows, supported me financially, arranged for me to speak at your churches, FaceTime'd me regularly, asked me what I need, came to visit me, messaged me on Facebook, cried with me, taken me out for dinner when I'm in the States, sent me mail, prayed for me, prayed for me, prayed for me.
You are a huge reason that I am still here in Romania, sharing God's big love in small, every day moments. And I am beyond grateful for you.
|The first Instagram post of the journey|