For as long as I can remember, I thought my life was all going to come together by the time I turned 23. I thought I'd have the job I want, be married, never have acne again... you name it. For some strange reason I had this idea that 23 years old was the real start of adulthood. I still have no idea where the age 23 came into play or what made me think adulthood meant marriage and a lack of pimples, but I was still pretty set on all of it until I was about 20. There's that cliche saying: "if you want to see God laugh tell him your plans" blah blah. I didn't even think that; I seriously thought God and I were on the same page about this.
I moved to the LA Dream Center and joined their leadership program (click here to find out what the heck that is) at 19, planning on only being there for one year. I decided to come back for one more year and then stayed for another year, then another year, and before I knew it I was in the middle of being 23 wondering what had happened. It was at that time that I looked up and said, "God, we need to talk." In that conversation I was reminded that I had spent the majority of four years creating a life for myself founded on pursuing God and getting poured into and being able to pour out into others. I was reminded that living a fulfilled life has nothing to do with a timeline. I was reminded that God doesn't work in age.
Sidenote: looking back through my childhood, I now know what happened: I watched way too much Boy Meets World at a way-too-young an age and had very unrealistic expectations for what life was suppose to look like (FYI, still looking for my Cory Matthews if anyone has seen him).
So here I am at the tail end of 25, not married and still breaking out, knowing now more than ever that I know absolutely nothing.
I met Holly while I was working at the Dream Center. She was a 1st year student while I was in my last year as a staff member/ leader there. Sidenote 2: I made it a bit of my personal mission to infiltrate the lives of a majority of the foreign students we would get in our program. I liked to yell obnoxiously about how great America is whether or not I believed what I was saying. That's part of how Hols and I became close: she was from England, so I obviously had to infiltrate her life. What I loved about having Holly as a student is that she wanted to grow and wanted to be transformed--because why travel that far just to leave as the same person?
As leaders in this leadership program, it was always our job to point the students back to Jesus and to see their God-given potential in a way that they never have before. Then, after nine months, the students leave and say goodbye and it breaks your heart and a lot of the time you just hope and pray that anything they learned stuck with them.
Holly told me about her engagement before she posted it on any social media sites, so we obviously stayed close. She wanted to make sure I had enough time to be able to save and fly out to be there. In all honesty, I don't know how much she really believed I would actually get there, but to be fair there were many obstacles I had to overcome to be able to go. International travel is no easy feat. However, I knew that there wasn't anything that was going to keep me from getting across that pond. And eventually, I found a way.
So it's been two years since we had seen each other, and here she is 22 years old and marrying her boyfriend of 5 years. She is living out what I thought my ideal life would have been. And for the little over a week that I was there, I was able to fully see and experience her life and her friends and her world. As I watched the love and the loyalty the people in her life poured out to her, I was a bit overwhelmed. She took all the potential I saw in her and exceeded it 10-fold. She took everything she learned and transformed the community around her. Her impact was obvious in how she spoke, in how the people around her spoke about her, in her relationship and friendships, and in all the things in her life that I won't continue to list off. I had a hard time not just sitting back and watching like a parent whose child just won the Nobel Peace Prize. I can imagine that by the end of my trip she was probably annoyed with how many times I told her how proud of her I was and how apparent God's hand was on her life. However, I live in another country, so she can't stay annoyed for too long.
I say all of this to say that God doesn't work in age. I left England thinking that I would shatter my unrealistic expectations for my life a hundred times over knowing I was a small part in the life of someone making a huge impact.
Here are a few other things I learned on my trip:
1) English weddings are 12 hours long. It's literally a full day of partying. It's been two months and I still don't think I've fully recovered.
2) Refillable drinks are not a thing there. Not even at McDonalds. It's just one and done.
3) No one can explain what a cheeky Nandos is. Go find an English person and ask them what a cheeky Nandos is! All they'll do is smile and say "you know, it's just a cheeky Nandos!" I did not know and still do not know.
4) I am a big big fan of the people there. Shout out to all my English friends, new and old. Take care of the part of my heart I left there.