two years later

Today is my Liberian two-year anniversary. It was a mere 730 days ago that this crazy, wonderful whirlwind of a journey began.

Two years ago, I had just gone through a messy, painful, drawn-out divorce. I was on the verge of losing my job and, consequently, my apartment. I was over my head in debt and bills I couldn’t pay, some of my (seemingly) most meaningful relationships had fallen apart, and I was honestly pretty close to falling apart myself. I had absolutely no clue what came next or how I would get there even if I knew what to expect.

I arrived in Liberia for the first time on November 21, 2008, shell-shocked and exhausted, still having trouble believing it was actually happening. I had clearly heard God tell me to go to Liberia, and I truly believed that it—whatever it was—was the culmination of a dream He put in me almost two decades ago. I was finally on African soil, and I knew deep down in my core that it was going to change me forever.

Liberia both captivated and tore my heart apart. I saw things I didn’t want to see, things I didn’t know how to process or explain. Poverty became real. It had a face—the face of a beautiful people that deserved so much more. For the first time in a long time, I wept for someone besides myself. Walking away from Liberia almost broke me, yet something inside knew that I’d be coming back.

One year ago, I was packing up the remains of a life I once lived, preparing to return to Liberia at last. I’d just gone through a season of intense prayer, of confirmation and later doubt, of waiting, of loss of hope and then hope renewed, of trying to come to terms with the fact that my entire life had become something not my own. Everything was changing…
I had finally come to a place where I could laugh again, where I felt a lightness of heart, where my life was filled with good people that I loved and who loved me. And I was saying goodbye to it all. I was going back to Liberia. I remember feeling excited. Happy. Unsure. Scared. Hopeful.

During my second stay in Liberia, I laughed, cried, learned, taught, wrote, questioned, prayed. God used that time to grow me in a way I had never thought possible. He used Liberia (and all the experiences that came along with it) to completely turn my world upside down. Each day was more challenging than the last—yet also more rewarding. And when the time came for me to go home, I was once again torn. I knew that I was supposed to come back; I knew I wasn’t done in Liberia. Yet I also ached for home, for the way things were. A part of me wanted to just…go back.

Even so, today I sit here, back in Liberia once more. Looking back, I am simply awestruck that this is where I am, that this is who I am. I see things with fresh eyes these days; even so, I know I’m only getting a mere glimpse of how all the puzzle pieces from the last two years fit together. Somehow, though, I have peace. I feel stronger…

I’m amazed every day as I feel Him working through me. What’s even more amazing to me, though, is how I feel Him working in me. He has promised me newness, beauty from ashes, and I believe this season is the beginning of it. He is taking all my broken pieces and shaping them into something glorious, soon to be revealed. He’s rescued my raw and wounded heart and is anointing it with His oil. He’s seen my emptiness and whispers to me that soon I will be full. He brought me all the way here, to the “land of liberty” in order that He may set me free.

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