Growing up in Connecticut, far away from my relatives, one of the highlights of my year was getting to spend a week or two in Greensboro, North Carolina each summer with my mom’s side of the family. With lots of crazy cousins always filling up my grandparents’ house with laughter, it was loads of wholesome hick fun.
But when the cousins left for the day, and it was just Gracie and I, I couldn’t help but let my imagination run wild.
My grandparents both loved to tell stories. My grandpa could scare us silly with his off-brand monster stories about the Abdominal Snowman. And if you really asked the right questions, all of a sudden you were on board one the ships that he manned during “the war.” For years, I didn’t know which war that was as he never said. The mystery only added to the suspense.
My grandma was more of the fairy and talking furry creatures brand of tale. She really knew how to weave together stories we loved, like Peter Pan, into the woods surrounding her house. She had commissioned my grandpa to create little areas throughout her gardens and wooded areas that surely held fairy kingdoms in my mind. He had even built a tree mansion out in the forest away from the house. It was so, so quiet up among the trees next to the pond. I was beyond enchanted.
Just across the pond were these massive boulders that had captured my imagination. Covered in moss, standing one atop the other, you could look out over the water once you climbed to the top. Clearly, this fortress was meant to be called Mossrock. It was my kingdom. And with my BB gun to fend off the snakes and “predators,” Fly, my grandma’s faithful border collie at my side, and a paddle boat to ferry me back and forth when it was time for lunch, I was more than set. I spent hours walking through the woods with Gracie who, for lack of magical motivation, always seemed to be lagging behind. But we sang, we whittled sticks because that’s just what you did, we wore my grandpa’s old cowboy hats, and we searched high and low for adventure.
As I was talking with my grandma on the phone the other day, she reminded me of the many, many afternoons I spent out wandering the woods with my sister. She pointed out that for a string of summers, I would consistently wake up each morning and ask her to take me on an adventure. “You were dead set on finding one,” she laughed.
I remember those summers. While it was wonderful to spend all day running around, doing whatever you liked, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat dissatisfied. I wanted to do something. I wanted to experience something that I’d never been a part of before. And I wanted something huge to sweep me up into a story like Peter Pan. I couldn’t even name what I wanted out of this unreachable adventure that tantalized me, much to my dismay. And my grandma, ever the whimsical soul, seemed to understand. And much to her credit, she whipped up some pretty fantastic adventures in those days. She still does. And yet the next day, after the adrenaline had left my pint-sized body, I was roaming again. As much as I’d like to “blame” my grandmother for the overactive imagination that haunts me to this day, she wasn’t the one who truly placed that within me. In a way, I feel like I was being shaped even then for what lies ahead of me now.
A month from today, I’ll be boarding a plane to Atlanta, Georgia to start training before I leave on the greatest adventure of my life thus far. I’ll be living in a foreign land, ministering and being ministered to in return by people I’ve yet to meet, and waking up each morning in the midst of something so much greater than I’m even capable of crediting to it. As my grandmother pointed out, that desire for the unimaginable that remained ever constant in my heart is finally coming to fruition in the midst of the Lord’s perfect timing. Whoa. I’m being handed the adventure that I wanted for so long as a gift from Almighty God. Maybe that’s why it still feels so surreal to me.
As I head out to live in Guatemala this semester, I expect adventure. I don’t think that’s asking too much of such a creative, uncontrollable God. When I think about it, it actually makes me a bit nervous. I’m giving God complete control to create the ultimate adventure? What am I thinking! He’ll probably do it, darn it! At least in the woods I had my sister… and a BB gun. But now I’m stepping out into the unknown without those that love me best so that I can embrace people who don’t know me from Adam. Wow, Lord, you’ve got one crazy definition of adventure.
The language will be difficult, the food will be spicy (?), the bugs will be giant, the weather will be unpredictable, the land will be unforgiving, and the beds will be hard. The people will be hurting, the darkness will be overwhelming, the brokenness will be heartbreaking, and the circumstances will be bleak… But the reward will be unimaginable, the scenery will be beautiful, the joy will be a wellspring, the light will be heaven-sent. The battle has been won, the Lord will be ever near, this semester will be life-altering, the adventure will be real, the Gospel will go out, and it will not return empty. Hallelujah!
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands. – Isaiah 55:10-12 (ESV)