I was still a bit jet lagged, sitting at my sister’s bridal shower party focused on rediscovering the sensation of flavorful food, when a friend of mine turned to me and said, “so what did you bring back from Kenya?”
“Ringworm,” my jet lagged brain replied. We both laughed and then went on to talk about her daughter’s current trip to Honduras and the joys and pains of living outside your home country. What did I bring back from Kenya?—memories of emotional highs and lows, stories that probably wouldn’t make much sense to someone who wasn’t there at the time. I brought back the burden of the hurt that I saw but couldn’t fix. But, I also brought back feelings of unexplainable joy from being a part of a community that loved God and sought Him constantly.
I think the question is more how have I changed as opposed to what did I bring back. Because I have changed—so much sometimes that I don’t know how to explain it. Travel does that to you mostly because of the incredible people that you meet along the way. There is some sort of desperate connection that can take place where two people who have never met suddenly find themselves thrown into circumstances so overwhelming and unfamiliar that fast, almost unexplainable friendships happen.
Maybe it’s the type of people that travel attracts, but I think it has more to do with the layers that are torn off when you leave everything that’s comfortable and enter somewhere where you can barely communicate, break cultural norms on a daily bases, and become completely dependant on people who yesterday were total strangers. It’s completely petrifying at times, and once you live through it you leave changed.
I think that’s why travel is so addicting. Once you find that yes you can survive outside the “safe” the “comfortable” of what you know, so many incredible doors are open to you, so many adventures, so many amazing new people that you never would have met if you’d stayed safely in your own home. Yes, sometimes you come back with ringworm, or other unwelcome side affects, but it’s worth it for the way that you are molded into someone new—someone who sees more then just the familiar.
I’m getting ready to get on a plane again. I’m trying not think too much as it’s a bit scary standing, once again, on the edge of the unknown. What’s it going to be like this time? Is it safe? Will I have enough resources to make it? What will the day to day look like? I have no idea. All I know is that this is where God wants me. He has given me that peace. He has given me this opportunity to travel, and it’s all in His capable hands. So here we go. One more page, one more chapter to a story that I never could have written for myself.
I read a story. I don’t remember where or when. I was quite young at the time. Just a short story about a little girl, but it stuck with me. The little girl had a face full of freckles and envied those with more clear complexions, so she went in search of a cure. I don’t remember all of the methods she tried. I believe lemon juice was on the list, but nothing worked especially her final attempt of a homemade mud mask that left her face bright red and rather sore. The girl’s grandpa tried to comfort her telling her that God made different types of beauty just like He made different types of flowers all uniquely special. Unconvinced, the young girl responded with a mumbled, “flowers don’t have freckles.” The next day she woke up to a beautiful bouquet of freckled lilies lying next to her pillow.
I’ve always liked my freckles, but the story still suck with me. In my mind lilies became a symbol of the beauty of variety and learning to see beauty where others might not. Tiger lilies are my favorite. Some would say they are a weed because they spring up along roadsides with wild ambition. But, I’ve always loved them and thought in the back of my mind that when I got married it would be fun to carry a bouquet of lilies.
I got engaged just over a month ago, and with a winter wedding in mind, I had given up the idea of having lilies in the wedding. I mean lilies aren’t exactly taking over the fields in December. The day my fiancé and I got engaged we stopped at a friend’s house. After hearing of our engagement my friend’s mom offered to let me use the flowers from her other daughter’s wedding which had just taken place. I knew my friend’s sister had had more of a rainbow of colors in her wedding. I was leaning toward more of a green rustic/winter theme, so I wasn’t sure if using her flowers would work well. But, we had a little time before we were scheduled to head down the road so my friend, and I swung by her mom’s house to take a look at the flowers. The first thing I saw when I walked in the door was a stunning bride’s bouquet. A beautiful arrangement of different colored speckled lilies mixed with other wild flowers. It was absolutely perfect.
I must admit, I’ve been a little nervous about planning a wedding while spending several months right before the wedding in Kenya. My sister recently got married, and it was a fresh reminder of just how much planning has to go into even a simple wedding. That bouquet of lilies gave me hope. I felt like it was God’s way of smiling down on me and saying. I know you—I know you better then you know yourself, and I’ve already got everything taken care of.
“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” –Luke 12:27