"So then as long as thanks is possible- I think this through- as long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible.
Whenever, meaning- "now"; wherever, meaning- "here."
The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be- unbelievably- possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now."
- One Thousand Gifts, Anne Voskamp
When it was finally set in stone that I was moving to France for a year, I immediately began imagining what this year would look like. I envisioned the lady I would be living with and the home she lived in. I envisioned the friends I would make and the exotic places I would visit. I envisioned a year of being whoever I wanted to be, a fresh start. A new me. And it all looked perfect. Like a perfect escape from a not-so-perfect last couple of years.
It only took 1 day in France to realize how immature my expectations had been. I adore the friends I've made, and I'm genuinely having a great time, but my expectation of arriving in France as someone else- someone better- that could not have been farther from reality. The reality is that, no matter where you go, there is no leaving your sinful heart behind. I'm thousands of miles from home and I'm still struggling with the same sins.. the same feelings of inadequacy, of needing to "do" something to prove my worth..the same feelings of constant worry and stress, always always convincing myself that I am in control of my grades, relationships, etc. Everyday I find myself feeling jealous, angry, envious, doubtful.. I am living in the most beautiful place in the world, and yet all this ugliness in my heart is more present than ever.
However, as each day passes, I'm feeling more and more that God has intended this year to be one of change for me. Just not in the way I had envisioned. Due to the time difference, and difficulties of having a French phone, I can rarely (rarely!) call my friends or family when I have something to tell them, or merely just want someone to talk to. In these lonely moments (and they are often!), I find myself praying to God. I have prayed more in the last month and a half than I have in the last year. I was so naive to think that I was going to France 100% alone. It's so beautiful, God has been with me every second of my time here. I don't know why it took going all the way to France for me to not only understand, but to feel that he really is there every second of every day, and that he knows me better than anyone. I've heard those words my whole life, and now I finally believe them. And it's so comforting.
Last February, my sister gave me a devotional called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Despite all the goods things I had heard about it, I didn't start it until this summer. And even then, I would just pick it up every now and then. I brought it with me to France, and have been reading it consistently and by the grace of God, my life is being radically changed. Everyday I write a list of things I'm thankful for. At first it felt trivial, but as the days go by, the act of physically writing down the things God has blessed me with, is bringing joy to the everyday. Everyday I have new things to write down, and everyday I'm realizing thankfulness is crucial in seeing the wonder of God. Not traveling, not visiting every place on my bucket list, and definitely not in some "mountain peak experience." Because in all those things, if there is no thankfulness, there is no joy. It seems ironic that God is bringing all of this to light while I am in "some exotic location."
But I'm thankful he is. And I'm so thankful that his plans are greater than any I could ever imagine.