Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When Africa Comes to Mind

Sometimes I get visions of Africa stuck in my brain. Tonight I saw a movie, The Last Three Days. A woman gets her face smashed with a fire extinguisher. It isn’t as gruesome as it sounds, at least it didn’t seem that way. As we drove home from the theatre, however, I couldn’t get pictures of Rwanda out of my head, specifically the church we visited where 10,000 people were slaughtered over three days. Our guide through that afternoon was a survivor of that event and he walked us through exactly what had happened those three days. My brain made pictures out of his words and I could see the church floor flooded with blood and bodies; broken, scattered bodies. That vision is stuck in my brain tonight.

All day I have been thinking about Africa. When I returned from my semester I thought I would never return, that I would never want to return. I left knowing living in Africa was not something I was made to do. I left knowing I was made for a quiet life back in the states: get married, raise kids, live on a farm in peace and quiet.

I seem to be made for bigger things, however. Not that being a wife and mother and running a farm is small, not by a long shot. What I mean is that I have an insatiable desire for adventure and risk. When I talk with God about where my life is going and what we are doing I tend to ask him where the next adventure is that he wants to take me on.

When I look at the pattern on my life I also see an astounding ability to step out in faith even when the risk great. In 4th grade I shared the gospel with my friend on a school bus; we prayed the prayer hastily, just before the bus got to her stop. In 7th grade I felt God calling me go to public school. My parents said no, but in 8th grade I felt the calling again. I was scared out of my mind cause I was such a shy kid, or I thought I was. I still did it, and I managed to make good friends and take even more risks in attempting to share the love of God with them. I messed up so many times doing it and hurt some of the deeply. I see, though, that I was doing what I felt God asking me to do.

I am bold in relationships with friends, perhaps too bold at times. If I feel strongly they need to hear something I will say it. Sometimes I don’t realize the risk of what I said until afterwards, when they are upset or shaken. I dropped out of school because I felt God give me the freedom to do it, and then I moved to San Diego because I heard God tell me that’s where he wanted me to go. Then, I didn’t plan a thing, or tried not to, because I felt like God didn’t want me to. All of these are bold moves, risky moves, foolish moves. All of these took a great deal of faith and trust and that same insatiable need for adventure. I fell hard when it didn’t work out as I thought it would and I didn’t want to ever follow God on an adventure again.

Today I thought about Africa; I thought about going there again, living there, even. I couldn’t help but desire another chance at something dangerous, risky, full of adventure and requiring of great faith and trust and hope. Yes, all of these require hope. I laughed at myself, wondering if I have a learning disability or something. Didn’t I just tell God last week I was done following him on these crazy adventures? Africa nearly killed me and San Diego broke my heart, yet I am already dreaming of the next big thing I get to do.

Friends, I don’t know if I am made for a quiet life on a farm in the country. I wish I were. I wish I could be content with a life of quiet, settled into a place and people, content to stay and allow people to find adventure at my house with goats and chickens and flowers. I wish I could avoid a life that took so much risk and so much trust I feel I may break at the strain. Look at what my life has been so far, though. Have I ever sought a quiet life? Have I ever been content to stay in one place for more than a couple months? Have I ever been able to tell God no when he opens a door or pulls my heartstrings towards an adventure?

In the movie Little Women the character Marmee tells her daughter, Jo, “You have so many extraordinary talents. How could you expect to lead a normal life?” How can I expect to lead a quiet, settled life when I rather crave unsettledness?

That life feels so scary, though. I fear loneliness and never having a place to belong. I fear if I surrendered to that life I would always be a wanderer and I would never know where I lived or whom I belonged with. I also desire deep roots and community I can count on. Would I be giving up on ever finding that by allowing my desire, and my talent, for going on risky adventures to take more of a lead?

I have found, however, that I grow deep roots so fast. It only took four months in Uganda to develop deep roots with those friends. I have friends all over the country from so many experiences that I somehow maintain contact with. Does one have to remain in one place in order to grow deep roots?

I still don’t know. I don’t know where I am going or what I am doing, except I leave next week to drive back to Seattle and to finish my college degree, the one I made up. Today my mom told me to stop planning, cause I was trying to plan my next summer already (including a possible trip to Uganda). She said I need to just give it a rest and let myself be settled for a moment before taking off again! I’m really bad at that. A few hours after talking with her I was looking at the Peace Corp website. Will I ever learn?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Happened: Bring Joy Home

Hello Friends,

Those who make a habit of stalking me on Facebook already know, but for those who don’t, and those who do, I thought I would actually explain what happened as best as I can.

It has been a long week. It’s been a long 6 weeks, actually. Last week I had to face the hard question of what to do if nothing worked out down here. This week I answered that question.

I thought I was following God. I still think I was following God, actually. For whatever reason God brought to San Diego for just a short time, and that time is over. However, my heart feels quite broken about it all. God kept telling me not to plan, yet I see now I cannot help but plan, and I had so many plans for my life in San Diego. One by one those dreams died before my eyes. Things I thought were meant for me, places I thought I was supposed to go, people I thought God had given me to be with… all have been taken from me, or never given in the first place. I guess I cannot help but believe God’s hand is still in all of this and that he is working for my good, it just hurts like hell to have dreamed and hoped so much only to have those dreams and hopes killed as I stood on them. Maybe my hope should not be in good things, but in God?

I had to make fast decisions. I wanted to stay here, but I cannot make it work; the way is shut. Even as that door was slammed in my face, however, the door to go back to school in Seattle was flung wide open, though I barely tapped on it. The only door to walk through now is SPU, a college degree, living in Seattle. All the things I desired to be free of I am walking back into. For whatever reason, I am sure I do not understand it, school is where I have to be, and Seattle is where I have to do that. It’s too late to get in anywhere else, plus my degree only exists at SPU (that’s what I get for making it up).

I know I am returning a little wiser and a lot more patient, also quite humbled that the place I was s determined to leave is now where I am willingly going; pride could not follow me down that path. What else will come of this change in direction? I don’t know, and I don’t understand any of what has just happened to me. Really, I just don’t understand the past year of my life.

On a more practical note: I cannot actually get myself home cause I am out of money. It’s only $200-ish to get home in Jose, my van, so if you feel so inclined to send me $5 to pay for 1.5 gallons of gas (that gets me almost 40 miles!) I would so appreciate it. If just 40 people send me $5 I can make it home! You have two options for ways to donate, too! You can mail some money to this address:

Joy McCracken
231 Tibbling Rd
Selah, WA 98942

My mom will get the money to me from there.


You can donate through Paypal!

Seriously doesn't get easier... and I am amazed at my technological abilities on that one.

Note: I am not sure if the donate button worked... you can also go to your own paypal account and select the send money option (or something like that) and simply enter my e-mail address (mccraj@spu.edu) and my name (Joy McCracken).

I’ll keep you all updated on the next phase of my life: SPU Round 2


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Month

I have been in San Diego a whole month now. When I was younger, like a month ago, one month seemed such a long time. So much can happen within a month. My whole life could be changed in one month. When first got here one month seemed like when I would finally find life settled again. I figured I would have a job, have some idea of their area I would live in and therefore be able to start building friendships and community, and that I would be able to support myself and not have to depend on other people for EVERYHING!

One month has passed. I am jobless, living even more on the graciousness of others, have no idea where to build community or friendships, and have no money. One month wasn’t a magical number. One month was just a series of weeks spent searching for jobs and aching for a place to call my own home.

I hit a wall yesterday. I know, I seem to hit a wall at least once a week. I guess this one looked much like the others, too. I asked God, again, what the Hell I am doing here, where the Hell he is, and if he really has any sort of plan for good things like he told me. I cried alone, cried to Deanna, cried to my mom, cried before I fell asleep. All day I was trying to figure out what plan B was. Then I realized, I didn’t have a plan B. I felt like God said don’t plan anything, so I didn’t, I just followed. Now I am realizing that I risked all I had, which wasn’t much compared to other people, for me it was all I had. I risked all the money I had and any sort of plan for myself I had had. I put everything on the line because my spirit heard God’s voice say, “San Diego.”

I don’t think I heard wrong. I don’t think God has left me here. I don’t think he forgot about me nor the good things he has for me. I just don’t know where he is or what he is doing. I don’t understand what the point is anymore.

Yesterday I had to ask myself the hard question. When do I have to call it quits, or at least time for a retreat? At some point I have to try something else, because I can’t continue like this for that much longer. I am not ready to call it quits today, though a part of me would love to be able to do that. Calling it quits doesn’t help much, though, because I no matter where I go I have the same problem.

Yesterday my mom told me she would pay for me to come home if I needed to. She also told me not to come home like a dog with my tail stuck between my legs. She said I have nothing to be ashamed of.

I feel ashamed though. I feel like everyone told me it wouldn’t work out, or that the job market was crappy and it would be really hard to find a job. This isn’t entirely true because I had lots of people encourage me and tell me to go for it. I think it is my own self telling me, “I told you so!” The ashamed part of me wants nothing to do with the brave and maybe foolish side, cause the ashamed part is super prideful.

I don’t need to feel ashamed about trying this, though. If I have to go home for a while and regroup that isn’t failing, right? I was being obedient to the Lord, giving him my whole life and doing my best to live it in surrender.

I have no neat conclusions, no fantastic revelations about the kind caring of God. I know he loves me, he cares deeply for me, he is kind and full of gentleness and that he loves my brave and willingly foolish spirit. I just don’t understand why it seems he has left me.