(See my summer picture gallery here!)
Here I am back in jolly olde England safe and sound looking out over the same stunning garden from the same antique bedroom window that I've looked out of for the past two years... and, as usual, I love it here! There were a few familiar faces when I arrived and so many warm, welcoming hugs-- My pastor Steve and his wife/my friend Debs were there to pick me up at the bus station! I cannot tell you how much to means to have loved ones there to greet me at the end of the line.
It was harder to leave this time than it has ever been-- even harder than the first year when I came over as a nineteen year old just graduating high school having never seen the place before and knowing not a soul! This will be the final year in my quest after my BA in Applied Theology! For many reasons I wasn't able to purchase a roundtrip ticket back to the States this year and I think the one-way ticket makes my family nervous :) Not that they have ever WANTED me to leave the country (thankfully :)), but in the years past they have never been quite so insistent that I reconsider! I found it torture to say goodbye to each of them-- but especially my nieces. Abby and Emily are so precious to this Auntie heart I can't even begin to describe.
My fondest answer to the "Are you crazy? Why don't you just stay?" remarks has been quite simply, "Take it up with God." (He doesn't seem to mind when I blame it on Him). But this time when someone came back with, "Yeah, but sometimes I don't know how much of it is God and how much of it is Leah" it cut me to the quick. At first I felt hurt. After all this time, that's what you think? I thought. But that night, my heart heavy with goodbyes and cloudy with new doubts, I tore into His Word and begged Him for clarity.
I do not want to do this if it is Leah and not God. It's too hard. Yes, I am living in Europe and befriending people from every nationality, I'm loving on orphans and writing about experiences I've only ever dreamed of-- and it's still not become normal to me. But it has not come without cost. And sometimes even now the cost seems too high to pay (and then I think of the expense of some of the others I've met here who leave behind wives and children on another continent in order to train for ministry, or the young families leaving every possible security to head out for the unknown chasing after a God who is anything but safe, yet o-so-good). Sometimes it all seems quite impossible, but then He keeps on opening the doors on impossible, as well as providing the grace to accomplish whatever it is laid out before me that I would never assume I could do. How do I know this is not a Leah thing? Well... if you know me, you might understand. Leah can't do this. Leah is too close to her family, too shy, too small, too young. But here's the thing, I serve a God who is deeper and wider and higher and bigger than I can even imagine. And that's what He reminded me of that night.
The verses that shone out at me that night before I left the States were in 2 Timothy. Read them and be encouraged as I am!!
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord... but join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life-- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
(2 Timothy 1:7-9)
I believe in a God who works His desires into ours, who gives us the desires of our hearts when we delight ourselves in Him. Sometimes I don't even know what those are (I am so torn between this draw to Europe and the ones I love back home...) but He does. The Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim 2:19).
As I flew over the Atlantic Tuesday night, aching from the seperation from having just left the ones I love so much and who so do not want me to leave, God seemed near in a way I haven't known for a while. As if holding my hand to reassure me (I find, being alone like this, I need alot of that) and show me that He is as much in this this year as He has been in the first two. He's not going to move on without letting me know-- and when He does, I'm going with Him!
So, there remains a draw on my heart to Europe that I still cannot explain, and I am in love with my college and am rather horrified at the thought of it all being over at the end of this school year! I'm praying about what's next for me, knowing I'll need to work for awhile to pay off tuition but thinking the work ought to take place in Europe. But I have a new-found confidence in Who He is and How He is and I know I am His to care for and as such, He'll show the way step-by-step and provide the means to make it happen!
I leave you at that for now. Rest assured more will come as classes start up and things pick up around here. These two days I've just been settling in, helping in the college nursery for the babies of the new students who are in orientation these days, and getting acclimated to the time zone again!
I cannot thank you enough for caring enough to read this. Knowing you're following this silly girl following her extraordinary God is pretty humbling and incredible :) You are blessings and I hold you up before the King as I send this. Be His.
p.s. A link to the Photo Gallery of my lovely summer at home!! The first few you've already been sent but I added on to it all summer so you'll find pics from our family trip to the Rockies, a reunion in Nebraska, the 3 outrageous kids I spent my summer with, some times with friends, another family reunion of sorts, and some of my last few days with the two most beautiful little girls God has ever crafted, a.k.a my nieces :)