I am sitting here looking at a picture frame my friend Mandy sent me for my birthday. She is one of the craftiest people I know (among having a ton of other fabulous qualities). It's a picture of me and her and the other two girls who all student taught together in Switzerland for 3 months. It's kind of rare that I really "study" something like a picture, piece of artwork, building, etc, but when I do, I'm always surprised by my reaction. In this picture, I really think the backdrop looks painted or drawn on. The buildings are so old, medieval, and rustic looking, that they just stand out amidst four normal looking girls who take on the main focus of the picture. The picture sort of reminds me of how much we stood out in every way on that trip.
Going overseas was probably one of the first direct ways I saw God making a significant change in who I was. I think He was planting a seed that started to grow then and has really sprouted up since moving to Raleigh. I was definitely put out of my comfort zone in Switzerland. Even though it was a magical, beautiful, and wonderful place and experience, everything was not always hunky-dory. That's true to life here, too, and although Raleigh is not the same as a foreign country, there's still plenty of ups and downs that pull me out of my comfort zone on a routine basis. I continuously feel God showing me I need to let go of my need to control my situations and circumstances, and learn to rely on only him. It's been a process, but I'm realizing how much better my life and relationship with Him is when I stop trying to be self-sufficient.
Will it really be 3 years ago in November that we returned from the trip? It was one of the most bitter-sweet experiences I've ever had. I'm so glad for it and can still feel myself there when I close my eyes and remember it. There's so much that can be said about this time, and I'm glad I allow myself to revisit it in my thoughts and dreams sometimes, but I also think there's a reality in that what I gained from the experience is still present with me. One of those things is the true friendship I ended up with through getting closer to the girls on that trip. I feel a bit like Mandy is the friend I was looking for all of childhood. We can talk about anything, and much of what we talk about probably could or should have been digested earlier in our lives, at least on my end, but better late than never. She helps me stand firm in what I believe in, is an ever-lasting cheerleader for me, and is my side-kick dreamer and soul-searcher. And my roommate Abby, who I was fortunate enough to see get married recently, is very sincere, has shown me how to mesh dreams with reality, and is a rock of a friend, not changing her tune with you despite any major changes happening in her own life.
I'm thankful for these girls, who are among those I'm close with who I feel God has placed in my life to show me a part of His character that I sometimes I overlook. God loves us unconditionally, and although it's much harder for us as troubled humans to portray this to each other, I feel that I am able to understand God's constancy more because of these people who do seem to love me no matter what. Whether right or wrong to connect the two, God, I hope will get the glory, and that's what matters!