God has been really challenging me to look at my life as a story.
It all started this summer when I read A Million Miles in Thousand Years by Donald Miller. If you want to have a renewed passion for life, and feel the power you have in living an exciting, beautiful, and meaningful life, I highly suggest this book.
From there, I had a friend lend me a series of Donald Miller’s lectures on life as a story where Miller unpacked lessons he learned and things he discovered while examining the plot of his own life.
Now, the YAV program has been using Donald Miller and curriculum from Volunteers Exploring Vocation for me and my community to examine all the elements of our lives through the lens of setting, character, conflict, climax, and resolution.
So naturally with this repetitive thumping over the head with the idea of life as a story, I felt like God was trying to tell me something..
Alright God… I get it. There’s obviously something here that I need to explore…
This led me to think about how I got in New Orleans… in other words.. the plot and storyline that brought me here…
Back in 2005 hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I remember I was driving home from Knoxville after seeing Jack Johnson during my senior year of high school, when I pulled into a gas station to get a snack. As I wandered the isles, I was sucked into a tv that depicted images of people standing on their roofs waving for some kind of help… some kind of salvation. I thought to myself:
This couldn’t be the United States… this couldn’t be New Orleans…..
It’s sad for me to think about now, but I honestly hadn’t really thought about New Orleans until that point. These images scarred me. They left a mark on my heart that I would revisit later. This tragedy got my attention, and planted a seed that I would sow later. If this hurricane had not occurred, there probably wouldn’t be a Young Adult Volunteer site in New Orleans. One of the organizations I work with, Project Homecoming, would definitely not exist without hurricane Katrina.
A hurricane led me to New Orleans.
When I was in college, I spent a lot of time at my campus ministry, Presbyterian Student Fellowship, or PSF. One particular night of worship at PSF, I believe during my sophomore year of college, some Young Adult Volunteers visited and told their stories. I talked to one YAV in particular who had spent a year in Northern Ireland. I don’t know what it is.. but I have a love and attraction to Ireland that I cannot explain. I had been to Dublin and Killarney in my Junior year of high school, and had fallen in love. The thought of spending a year in mission… especially in Ireland sounded like a dream to me. From that point on, the option of YAV was in the back of my mind.
My love for green, clovers, and Irish accents led me to the YAV program.
When I was applying to the YAV program some of the main components I wanted out of my year were a strong community life and the ability to use graphic design in my service. I had narrowed my site choices down to Hollywood and New Orleans. I interviewed with the two sites and left it up to fate (I would be lying if I said I gave it up to God). I figured that the program would get back to me, offering me a placement at one of the sites. They would make the decision for me. I got an email from New Orleans, read it and accepted their offer. I was so pumped that the YAV office had decided to place me in New Orleans.
I later talked to the site coordinator in Hollywood, and found out his disappointment that I had decided to not come to Hollywood… what? Apparently he was about to send me an offer via email, but realized I had already accepted the position in New Orleans. The decision was really in my hands all along. It was my misunderstanding of the YAV acceptance process that sent me on this path to New Orleans.
A misunderstanding led me to New Orleans.
It’s so true that these little, seemingly insignificant situations can really change the course of our lives. If I had waited a few days to accept a position, I could be living in Hollywood right now, with a completely different group of people.. and a different job. This is such a crazy thing to realize.
I’m sure if you really take a minute to look back on your life you’ll see these little instances, little turns in the road you’ve made that seemed like little decisions.. or not even decisions at all.. but they’ve all led you to exactly where you are today.
Donald Miller makes sure to point out the power we have in our own lives, in our own stories. We have the freedom of choice, the freedom to make these small or huge decisions in our day to day that can send us on crazy awesome adventures.
This realization is exciting and terrifying.
As I begin to discern what my next step is.. I am reminded of how much God has blessed me. I’m realizing how faithful he’s been in my decisions.. and my mistakes. Honestly, I could’ve never seen that news broadcast of Hurricane Katrina… I could’ve decided to miss PSF that night and never spoken to the Northern Ireland YAV. I also could’ve decided to be a little more responsible and cognizant of the YAV application process. The truth is, in changing any one of those events, I could be in a very different place than I am today.
Instead of sitting at a coffee shop in New Orleans blogging about my story..
I could be sitting in a coffee shop in Hollywood blogging about seeing some celebrity walking down the street. I could be sitting at JoZoara in Murfreesboro doing some freelance design work. I could be abroad serving two years in the Peace Corp. I could’ve never met my amazing, awesome, awe inspiring life long friends that I’ve made here in New Orleans.
It’s scary to think about, yeah? But what is proportionately as comforting is the fact that God would’ve been there with me on any one of those paths. He was there all along in all my decisions and my prayers for what to do with this year I find myself in.
What a beautiful, exciting, adventure of a life this is!
Where will your next step take you? Where will my next step/mistake/decision take me?
I have no idea. I guess we’ll see : )