It’s February 4 again, and I let the memories wash over me. Five years ago I arrived in Geneva, Switzerland for the first time. There was no reason to land in this small, nondescript corner of Europe. I wanted to be in Italy, Greece or Spain, somewhere enchanting, romantic, adventurous. But I had prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed about February 2009, and for months the whisper in my spirit was, Geneva.
It was always Geneva.
I was traveling around the world for a year from September 2008 to 2009. Taking risks was the game. This play-it-safe-first born was going to get out there and do things she had never done before, jump before she could see where her feet would land, she was going for it.
I bought the EasyJet ticket to Geneva in November when I was in Canada (I traveled around the world for a year from September 2008-2009), warmed my skin in Cape Town, Grahamstown and Addis Ababa, and returned for a few weeks to London in January 2009. Two days before my flight was to leave for Geneva, London had one of its biggest snowstorms in decades, I was late for my flight and missed it.
It was the final test, I suppose. Would she go? Would she really do it? I sat in London’s Stansted Airport alone, with a fast-dwindling savings account, and asked. Do I really have to go to Geneva, can’t You see I have to buy another ticket?
Same voice. Same answer.
I bought the ticket, spent the night in the airport, and on February 4 I landed in cold, grey Geneva.
The year I spent traveling was the most alone I have ever been. Yes, I saw people I knew and loved, but there was a way I transited in and out of lives and relationships, resting here, hurrying there, and I had no one to talk to all the time except for Jesus. We talked. All the time. I have several journals full of my blue-inked cursive from that year, and the entries from the two weeks in Geneva are long, detailed, prayerful, desperate, joyful and (now, to me) entertaining.
For two hours after I got off the plane on that first February 4, I sat in the adjacent train station on a cold metal bench, watching people walk by, wondering what to do next. I had no idea where to go or what to do. I read my Bible, words of courage writing itself on my heart, and journaled before taking the train into the city centre and walking to a youth hostel where I wrote these words:
What I am Thankful For Today:
- this is probably as nice as hostels get anywhere
- just enough francs for a generous portion of pommes frites (french fries)
- understanding some French – NO IDEA how I would have made it this far without it
- amazing afternoon nap
I am waiting for God’s miracle and incredibly thankful (to him) for making today work at all.
Five years later, I read the pages, and see myself again. Young. Full of faith. Unstoppable. Fragile, vulnerable but in my weakness, there was total strength.
What happened in the two-and-a-half weeks I spent Geneva confound me today. I met so many women in my six-person hostel room who were on a journey, listened to them, prayed with some, I walked the streets of Geneva listening for where to go and what to do, and there were always answers. Six days after I landed I met the man who would eventually become my husband.
There is much more to tell, and the story is long. I write it down every February because I cannot forget where I came from, I cannot forget what He did, and I must keep connecting the dots between my past and my present.
Today I woke up early, made granola for breakfast, played ”membery” (memory) with my toddler, nursed our baby, cooked a giant pot of bolognese, asked my Little Boy for obedience many times, cuddled with the boys in our make-shift “ark,” had meaningful conversations with friends, ate dinner with Husband. This is my normal, every day life. The red suitcase and black boots are gone, Swedish replaces French, the grey “coat” doesn’t button across my midsection.
But I am still asking my questions. What’s next? Where do You want me to go? What do You want me to do? The answers rarely involve stamps in my passport – and with two small kids, thank God for that – and are usually along the lines of, Your son needs your kindness. Go play with Little Boy in the “ark.” Write that email. Be honest about how you are feeling with people. Ask your husband for forgiveness. Talk about me. Keep dreaming.
Love. Serve. Love. Serve. Love. Serve.
It’s my normal life, and it is unglamorous, ordinary and stained with banana fingerprints (we’re trying baby-led weaning right now with Baby). It took me all of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 to realize that my life post-travels, this non-adventure required all the love I had to give. I kept looking for another big adventure, for the Next Great Step of Faith, and God kept handing me diapers and people and breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Every single day. The faith-filled life of risk I thought I wanted was forever out of my reach. But the truth was right there in front of me, I was living it (and not living it) every day:
Five years ago I needed strong faith to get on the plane without knowing where my feet would land. Today I need strong faith to give my all in love. Loving and serving people is the riskiest, scariest, most-rewarding thing I’ve ever done.