God was in both

The summer I turned 16, I spent two full months in rural Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa. I was this city girl from Long Island who usually opted to pass a gorgeous day reading or watching TV. I had never been camping, and, quite honestly, I avoided the outdoors as much as possible. But there I was, spending eight weeks living in a tent, cooking over a campfire, and dealing with unimaginable amounts of dirt and insects—and I loved it. I remember sitting on the dirt floor of a hut constructed with mud, dung, and thatch, having a conversation with the Motswana woman who lived there.

The lines on her weathered face and hands told stories of a long and hard life.

Her clothes were tattered, her shoes peppered with holes, and her simple home bare except for a few essentials. She welcomed us in warmly and apologized for not having chairs to offer us. After she served us tea, I watched her make her own using one of our already-used tea bags.

She joined us on the floor and, with the aid of a translator, we talked about following Christ. As she spoke, her smile lit up the dark, windowless home. Her face radiated joy and hope from a source deep within her, far below the surface of her outward circumstances.

This beautiful Motswana woman’s steadfast faith challenged and inspired me. I wanted my life to be marked with that same kind of unswerving trust.

I had gone to Africa with the hope of making a difference, and yet God was using Africa to make a difference in me.

So I kept going back, returning two more summers in a row. I knew that missions world be more than a short-term endeavor for me and felt God drawing me back long-term. Not because I thought I had something to offer, or wanted to do something courageous, but simply because I was convinced it was where I belonged. It felt like home. So at 19, I decided to just go and see what would happen. Because more clearly than I’d known anything in my entire life, I knew that God was calling me to live in Africa.

And regardless of how things ended 13 years later, with marriage and ministry dissolved, I still know that I followed God to Africa. Just as I know I followed Him through the painful choices to close and move back to the States.

I may be unable to reconcile God leading me to life and ministry in Africa with Him taking it all away, but—even if it's with tear-filled eyes and trembling hands—I can't deny that He was in both.

Unlike me, God was not surprised or caught off guard by the circumstances of my life. He didn't have to scramble to come up with a new plan and purpose for me. What feels to me like a “Plan B” is still the original story God is writing with my life.

While some days it’s easier to believe than others, I know that the Author and Finisher is still writing. He never needs an eraser or a backspace. He needs no editor, no second draft. He writes it perfectly the first time. And He finishes what He starts. No abandoned stories. No half-hearted attempts. He is writing my story completely. Thoroughly.

All the way to the end.

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This post is part of a group blogging project celebrating the release of Inciting Incidents, a book featuring my beautiful friend Tracee Persiko along with five other creatives. Buy your copy right now! Read posts from other contributors and link up your own post here >