As I am sure you have noticed (or maybe you haven't because you have either forgotten that my blog ever existed or you're new), Another Paradise has been through a few major changes. All the posts remain and most content has stayed the same, but this ol' girl got herself some beauty sleep. A really, really long one. Guys, it's been nine months. Again. I want to be better, but that darned little thing called life gets in the way.
I hope to catch you up in what has been happening very soon (note the "very". I'm shooting for less than 9 here). But I felt as though something else was in order first. A little birdy (and then all of Facebook) told me that Ukarumpa's annual Junior/Senior Banquet happened last night. Congratulations, by the way, for all you 11th and 12th graders reading this. You made it and you all looked stunning. Soak in those memories and write them down if you can. Anyways, I was scrolling through the pictures of all your fabulousness and it was the weirdest thing. It was like I had almost forgot that that part of my life was real. I am pretty sure I have mentioned that my time overseas has felt a bit like a dream whenever I look back, but whenever a big event, like Banquet, Carnival or graduation creeps into the various forms of social media, I am reminded that that beloved paradise didn't die or cease to exist when I was taken away; it is still alive and breathing, and its inhabitants are preparing for the biggest transition of their lives.
Last year, I wrote a letter to the 2015 graduates of UIS, and perhaps, it was well received. But a little blog post titled Leaving Narnia... My MK World made my stomach fall a little too hard. 2 years removed, and I still sympathize with the feelings of those just now entering this stage of crazy. This young woman’s heart is on her sleeve in this article, and I remember. I remember that hurt. I remember that uncertainty and fear. I remember not really getting it until it was all over and I was all alone. I remember. This girl's blog is an excellent read and it is chalk full of encouragement, and I absolutely recommend it (like read it right now-- click the purple above or right here) but it reminded me that yet another group of beautiful, strong and ambitious young people are graduating, and moving from the place many will always consider home. Soon, your lives will be flipped upside down, and the scary part of it all is that you don't even know how it's going to happen. No person, no blog post, not even one of those crazy RAFT lectures can prepare you for what life's got in store. You hear story after story from alumnus, trusted teachers and speakers all in an effort to prepare for the inevitable, triple-threat departure date. In one day, by one plane ride, many will have their home, family and country ripped away. Some of believe you are prepared, some know you are not. There is no amount of preparedness that can protect you from this kind of growing up.
Graduating high school for missionary kids is more than moving to the community college down the road. It's more than trekking a few states away to attend a tech school. It's more than leaving home for the first time. Goodbyes are rough, and everyone has them, but to a missionary kid, they are often what divides up their lives. Goodbye bookends stand on either side of their compelling-yet-equally-complicated lives and when it comes time to set another pair, it can become all they see. At least this is the way it was for me. I wasn’t an MK for long, but I had my share of goodbyes before the mission field, and I am wondering if it would be too much too suggest that the airstrip-after-graduation ones are the toughest. Approaching a date like this is overwhelming – they are literally graduating from one life to another, country and all. And it’s pretty much safe to say that sometimes, real, genuine hope is sparse.
Now that I got you all sad and stuff, I’m going to take you to a marvelous, happy place.
(Yes, I know. This is a joke. Laugh.)
Do you remember those bildungsroman (coming of age) stories you read a few times? Maybe snored over or drooled on? Yeah, those. These novels focus on a character's transition from adolescence to adulthood. The protagonist's moral and psychological growth is key here as the character begins a demanding journey that is oftentimes a battle against himself and the accepted, though corrupted, standards or behaviors of society. Sometimes triggered by a specific event, the main character's life changes forever and he is forced to "grow up". Maturity is inevitable, but it’s slow, and many mistakes are made.
See the connection I'm making here?
Through these tests of character, the protagonist must deeply consider his core values. What he believes, what he has been taught to believe and really doesn’t. The way he will choose to act when no one is watching. This process is never perfect and many sacrifices are made, but in the end, the once insecure, aimless child is face with a choice. To become a man of strength, integrity and wisdom or to become a man of cowardice, emptiness and hate, just as those around him .
I do not mean to say that America (or wherever it is you are going) is a damned place that is without hope, happy people or anything good (well, if we keep Trump out of office, that is). It may sound like I’m fibbing, but I am meaning just the opposite. This next step belongs to you and God. No one else. It’s you. And God. It’s daunting and scary, but once you know that there is light at the end of this dark and scary tunnel, you can take a deep breath. God’s got you, and you have the opportunity of a lifetime. Who do you want to be? What do you believe in? How will you become that man or woman you have dreamed of becoming? Who will you let into your life? How will you let God change the world through you? For the first time, you have a lot of freedom, and honestly, you can make the very worst of it and make your mother regret every sending you to college. But for the first time in your adult life, you can truly make the very best of it on your own accord. Given I will write my next blog before you're juniors in college, you will see that with opportunities come some pretty daunting realities, but also given I write this before you go all white and wrinkly, you will also see that it is completely, totally worth it.
I have been away from Ukarumpa for two years, and I have never gone through a time frame of so much change. I have struggled in my faith and I have done things I have regretted. I have wished to go back home more times than I could have ever imagined, but to really look back into who I was before, and then into who I am today, I realize that God is molding me, shaping me every step of the way, and He refuses to look back. He sees me and He calls me beautiful, enough and worth it.
Your life is about to get real crazy, real fast, but lean so hard into God you have no room to shake. I am not perfect, and I am preaching to the choir here, but trust me. There are people in my life who I see do this on a daily basis, and there is an absolute, complete difference in them that I envy greatly. Be one of those people. Lean. Hard.
God will hold on tight, and He will not let go.
He died for this moment, right now. He died for the moment you will step onto that Kodiak. He died for the moment you hate everything and want to run back home. He died for the moment you realize that you wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for everything that has happened. And he died for the moment you can finally say, “thank you”.
This post is way long, and I'm sorry, but really, what can you expect from a girl who can’t even shut up in her sleep. I mean really. But in all seriousness, thanks for pulling through and I hope that this helps someone out there. Even if you’re someone other than those I have mentioned, God bless you. And from the mouth of a very specific, hungry yellow bear, “You must always remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. ~ Isaiah 26:3