All God’s Done for Us in a Year
My first anniversary ever is coming up next week and I wanted to take the time to remember what God’s done for me in a year. Our Anniversary is April 15th. Just a little over one year ago I was living on the island of Malta and Joel was headed my direction after us not seeing each other for a month and half, after we had known each other for just one month prior to that. I was getting married in a week from now. Joel had brought wedding clothes and a ring and I had bought my dress online in one day for a hundred dollars, his ring that same day, and two $5 veils online from the U.S. depending on the color matching and length. I think it was this week that I picked up a pair of shoes for my dress for nine Euros in the Tuesday market outside our front door.
On a moment’s notice, wonderful people on the island helped make Joel and I’s wedding a reality. That day we went to high cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean in front of a chapel older than the U.S. and said our extemporaneous vows, shared communion, and were wed. The wind can be harsh on the cliff and although it was prior to the ceremony, afterwards it was light and playful and a Tasmanian man I had asked to play a song he had written at our wedding, took our camera and also happened to be a wonderful photographer, capturing our once in a lifetime moments.
Within the first month of our marriage, I participated in an art gathering in Morocco and Joel participated in a ministry event in England. After that first month, my mother and sister joined Joel and I on the island and met my husband for the first time in person, ever. They stayed a month and got to behold the breathtaking beauty of Malta and the surrounding waters. Soon after they left, a couple on the island gifted Joel and I their waterfront apartment while they were away traveling for our remaining forty days on the island before a visa ending initiated our departure.
During the time in that apartment was when a door opened to our next adventure: the Middle East. Flying through Turkey we arrived in Amman, Jordan, which would be our home in a desert land for the next three months. We were extended an invitation by a wonderful German young woman that had come to the Middle East from Mexico, where she had been serving a church the year prior. We stayed in the guest home of a church and got introduced to the Arab world, sharing our living space with young adults, and refugees, ministers, and all sorts of local people.
After getting to share life and visiting refugee communities and other churches, we made our departure at the end of November through the neighboring country of Israel. Staying in a hostel in the old city, I got to revisit some favorites in the area with Joel beholding the sites for the first time, which after living on an island with thousand year old fortresses and then living in the Arab world, no longer seemed that spectacular to him. But what was spectacular was meeting a new friend, who had already encouraged us along our way in taking risks.
Thanksgiving morning, we connected with a man named Andrew White from England who has been working in the Middle East for close to twenty years. He invited us to come join him as he was moving some of his base out of Iraq and into Jordan. We said yes. And then we were off to England and Wales again for the transition back into the western world. Fortunately our first host was Egyptian, understanding some of the cultural dynamics we were coming out of. Then off to Wales for wonderful times with friends and then back to South Carolina.
We were just in South Carolina for about a week, where we connected with family, and new and old friends, before heading to Florida for a few days to connect with more family and friends. Puerto Rico was wonderful in beauty and weather and surroundings. I walked down Joel’s memory lanes and connected with his friends that now have become mine. I experienced the holidays on this beautiful island place that truly has its own culture and with the wonderful people there.
After three weeks into the New Year we came back to South Carolina where Joel and I would depart across country, from coast to coast in a vehicle gifted to us by Joel’s amazing parents. We drove into the wintry tundra of Ohio and remained with friends there for a time before departing again across the southern half of the United States in a snowy weather pattern that did not lift until we arrived at the sunny coast of southern California.
After staying with friends, attending fun ministry gatherings, and traveling up the coast we arrived to our final destination for our first year: Redding, California, where I have since finished the first-draft of my rewrite of my novel.
In the midst of all of this movement were spontaneous paintings, costly lessons, character growth, seeing the miraculous, lots of affection, new horizons coming into view, new lifelong friends being made and old friends being appreciated. I forgot who I was and then remembered again. I’ve experienced and enjoyed the process of sharing my life with someone who made it all too easy to do. I’ve had to tolerate being celebrated and affirmed every day by my husband (note the sarcasm), who is tangible ministry of the holy spirit to my heart and mind.
Joel and I’s first year spanned seven countries, staying in thirty different homes, multiple hotels, visiting something like twenty different churches and connecting with so many amazing people. The most fun for me, in addition, to experiencing life with my husband Joel is being around those courageous people who are redefining reality and breaking down boxes they’ve found their identity too confining to remain in; whether it’s church structures, business ideas, educational positions, or just people remaining faithful to be their authentic selves despite demands the world sometimes tries to put on them that would damper their passion or creativity or dreams.
I’ve felt so privileged to watch people turn great corners in their lives that require faith and risk great failure; where if God doesn’t show up, this is not going to be good. But I’ve found when, it’s him that has placed that desire in people’s hearts, he always shows up. He’s waiting to reveal himself through the areas in people’s lives where they’ve risked trusting him.
Another thing I’ve loved is kitchen table church. Some of our most profound and encouraging conversations that feel like they are altering reality just because you’re having them—whether it’s that person’s life or country or culture—have happened over meals shared at a dining table. Whether in a restaurant, bar, pub, café, airport, kiddie table, or card table, you name it, I have felt the joy of life being exchanged there and have loved it.
God promised me years ago, that he would always take care of me and he always has, no matter where he’s invited me to go. This is also a thank you. Thank you to those wonderful people who shared their food, their homes, their guest beds or couches, but most of all shared their hearts with us. You are celebrated in the completion of our first year too.