I crack open the lid of another card board box and almost jump back at the sight of what’s inside. There’s a yellow film of mold covering two beautifully hand carved bowls I brought home from Zambia five years ago. I want to cry. I’m sitting on the cold cement floor of my mother’s basement, surrounded by relics of a previous life. College diplomas and piles of red-penned papers sit to my right, a box of unwanted dishes marked “Donate” on my left.
I’m overwhelmed. The Beatles are playing “She’s Leaving Home” on a dusty record player in the next room and I’m having a hard time letting go.
In my heart I know this is a necessary part of the journey. I know that keeping my open palms turned towards the sky means letting go of the past and more importantly, my expectations for the future. I know that the physical act of moving and the requisite act of clearing out the emotional clutter is an important step of courage.
Periods of transition are always the hardest for me.
Essaouria, Morocco 2013
I look at my open hands and fight the urge to cling to something tangible. I want to hold on to some sort of an assurance, some sort of promise that everything will be okay.
Two months ago, my life took an unexpected turn and I haven’t quite recovered. I received an email alerting me to the fact that my plans to complete a TEFL course in Thailand had fallen through. Not only was I no longer going to be comped for advertising and writing about the course, but the round-trip airfare I purchased from Paris to Bangkok was never charged to my account. My ticket had disappeared into thin air, along with all of my plans and next steps.
A few days later, reeling from disappointment and scrambling to form some sort of back-up plan, I struggled to remain optimistic while talking to my youngest sister about the latest turn of events. During our conversation she casually mentioned she was looking for a new roommate to move in with her in Nashville. I had a sudden fleeting thought that I dismissed almost immediately, “Ask her if you can stay with her.”
I stumbled through the next few weeks traveling in France, trying to hide my fear and disappointment. My money and energy were running on empty and I had no idea what to do next. I felt like the Universe had stripped me bare, had soccer punched me in the gut and karate kicked my hopes and dreams. I felt completely defeated.
Paris is not the worst place to feel lost and uncertain.
Paris, France 2014
I wanted like crazy to form a new plan, to hold onto a scrap of my expectations, to re-route and control my unknown trajectory. During those weeks of quiet meditation in the beautiful French countryside, I heard one thing, and one thing only from the Universe: “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” (Ps. 37:7).
Stop doing. Stop planning. Rest.
When I spoke to my sister again in the midst of this waiting and struggling, I mentioned I was scared to make any moves without feeling specifically directed to do so. I had just fallen flat on my face and I wasn’t in a hurry to repeat that experience.
A quiet place to rest.
Moulins de Bousset, France 2014
“The “new” plan is to pray my heart out and hope that God tells me where to go and what to do next,” I told her. What she said next stunned me, “I’m going to pray my heart out that God directs you to stay with me!”
I hadn’t mentioned my fleeting thought to her, nor taken it very seriously. Yet, suddenly I knew. This was it. This was never my plan, but I was being asked to take a step in faith, trusting that the Universe had plans bigger and better than my own.
Two months ago, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I had no idea that Thailand’s military would declare martial law, or that there’d be a military coup during the weeks I was supposed to be there. I couldn’t see that my family would need me at home for reasons I never would’ve anticipated. I couldn’t see that letting go was for my benefit.
It’s easy to get lost in the details sometimes.
Missouri, USA 2012
Letting go of Thailand was incredibly painful. Having my own hopes and expectations wrenched from my hands through a variety of circumstances did not feel good. Waiting patiently for the Universe to direct me, instead of racing ahead did not come naturally.
I’m still practicing every. single. day.
Two years ago, I was facing another painful transition of letting go. I was packing boxes then, too, preparing to move out of my cozy one bedroom apartment with the wide porch and strawberry patch I’d planted. I was preparing to leave my professional job that I’d worked hard for, and struggled for, for almost eight years. I was saying goodbye to friends I knew I’d never see again. I was emptying my hands and clearing away the clutter to make room for something bigger and better.
To say that this last year of world travel has changed my life would be an understatement. It’s transformed my life. But it all started with a step of faith into the Unknown. It began with letting go and trusting that the Universe had something more in store for me.
Whatever’s beyond the horizon, I want to find out!
I look around at the boxes scattered on the basement floor in tears and hear an exhilarating whisper in my ear, “Here we go again.”Google+