At 22 years old, I’d be a fool to say I know a whole lot about this crazy adventure we call life. I have had my fair share of life lessons, growing pains, and learning experiences — I have been blessed by some extraordinary opportunities and gotten to do some amazing things in my short time but I am decades away from being anything close to a wealth of knowledge or an expert in the field of living.
By some strange yet absolutely serendipitous twist of fate, I have found myself, quite literally, across the world from my sunny and familiar California home. I always told myself despite the cost of living, the politics, and all the other nonsense that comes with the Golden State, I would never leave it. Heck, until now, I had only ventured outside of her dear state lines three times – Nevada, Arizona, and South Carolina. Yet here I sit, glowing amidst a light and love I could have never fathom existed, 8000 miles away from home, on a desert island in the Middle East.
Yes,the Middle East. The place where no American, especially a Christian woman, should dare travel to… especially, alone. But here I am. Feeling God in a way I never have. Loving in a way I never have. Being filled with joy in a way that I never have. Meeting people that radiate love and thrive off of human connection. There is this aura of human intimacy and a desire to be interconnected in the air that is tangible. Every single day I wake up thanking God for this completely unexpected, unbelievable blessing.
My mindset, my heart, and my soul have all been changed forever. My heart, completely set on fire. I have come to know God in unforeseeable ways and I have been completely uprooted from the black and white box I was confined to for so long. This place allowed me to realize something. It is not about me. It is not about what I can do here to make a difference. It has nothing to do with who I am or what I am doing. It is entirely, wholly, completely about Him. Being here is all about knowing and growing in and loving God. He has written one mission on my heart: LIVE A LIFE OF LOVE. Love God, love people – the rest is just extra.
I had prayed and prayed that God would use me as a vessel and as a light for His Kingdom. That I could touch others in a tangible way. So he did just that. He sent me out. And now I don’t think I can ever go back. I am a vessel and a ship for His love and my only anchor is my faith. The irony of that symbolism is the fact that I live and work on a Naval base. My most intimate relationships here are with sailors. With those who live a life on mission by serving their country. I truly cannot imagine being anywhere or doing anything else. I cannot imagine not being a light to the hundreds of people I come into contact with each week here on base, whether it be my kids, their parents, or my coworkers, be it the contracted workers at the NEX, or at the gym, or the housekeepers, be it the Irish diver in the Royal Navy that has stolen a larger chunk of my heart than should be acceptable, be it the Navy sailors and Marines I pass by each day at the P9/11 or the ones I share a smile with at the gym each day, be it the incredible inner circle of best friends I’ve made here – whoever it may be, whatever their story, whatever their role or lack thereof in my life, I know that my sole purpose here is to make their life better in any way that I can. A smile, a hello, an opened door, a curious conversation, a coffee bought, a friendship, whatever I can offer them, I want to try.
My heart has grown and grown and continues to grow each day. Not only do I have the humbling opportunity to touch others’lives, I have been inundated by the love others here show for me. Never in my life have I experienced so much genuine kindness, so many close knit bonds, so much unconditional love. My heart is overflowing with agape. Most of us spend our lives chasing the allure of romantic love. We meet someone and instantly we begin to romanticize the situation. But life is so much more than that.I want to spend my life not chasing love, but spreading love. Being a vessel of unconditional, agape love. I want to love on the least of these. I want to take the black and white bubble I have been encased in for so long and throw it right over board. I want to go to the Mosque, I want to talk to that meek cashier, I want to ask that guy if he would like to work in on the platform with me.I don’t mind looking like a fool, if it means looking like a fool for Jesus. If living a life of love means dancing around the gym and leaping into arms for bear hugs and making every single guy in there feel loved and special, then that is what I’ll do. If living a life of love means staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning on a work night because someone just found out a friend out on mission was killed or committed suicide, then that is what I’ll do. If living a life of love, means spending every single day that I am out here giving up my own time to share it with someone else, then that is what I’ll do.
I never imagined that I would look forward to spending 8 to 10 hours a day in a preschool, but I do. I never imagined that I’d be extremely good friends with and pray for a group of Muslims, but I do. I never imagined (maybe I did) befriending a fleet of British sailors and divers, but I have. I never imagined the best friends, the adventures, the family dinners, the laughs I’d share with so many extraordinary people, but I have, and I am so, so grateful.
This beautiful place is filled with so many beautiful people. My heart has never been so full of unconditional love. I know that God sent me here not just to change lives but to have mine changed forever. Whether I end up back here or on a ship or in the UK, wherever life’s great adventure takes me next, I am so thankful for this experience. The goodbyes I have already had to say have been some of the most difficult in my life. Just thinking about leaving this place is overwhelmingly emotional. A part of my heart will always be in this place, the place that I came to know real love in a way I never have. God is love and this place has brought me to know Him in such an unbelievable way. Be a vessel, be a light, and live on mission.Live a life of love.
Ephesians 5:2 -Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us