(Written on June 21st.)
One year ago today I rode an elephant.
We awoke at dawn, sleepily dressing in big headbands or hats to keep the spiders out of our hair, and donning our comfiest pants to avoid unnecessary chafing. After a quick ride in the van with our quirky driver, Krishna, we used wooden platforms to climb onto the backs of elephants, four girls per animal. A Nepali man guided our elephant for an hour and a half through the jungle, pointing out deer, boars, storks, peacocks, monkeys, mongooses, rhinos and even a tiger footprint! It was a magical and utterly unforgettable morning.
Fast forward one year.
I yet again awoke at dawn, routinely dressing in an old t-shirt and my zip-off pants. After a ten minute walk to the heart of campus with my housemate Kaylee, I spent eight hours vacuuming hallways, scrubbing toilets, and wiping out drawers. Our custodial team was lively per usual, joking and singing, but you could tell that, just beneath the surface, many of us were either stressed by life’s conundrums, or nauseous from the smell of the new carpets in the otherwise decrepit dorm. It was just another day in the life of a summer custodial worker.
When you put June 21, 2015 side-by-side with June 21, 2016, the contrast is startling. And I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t wake up this morning and wish that the 5:00am alarm meant it was time to ride an elephant.
I’d also be lying if I said there haven’t been days this summer when I have absolutely ached to go back to Nepal. As I watch six of my Nepal teammates travel internationally again this summer, the comparison bug bites hard.
However, in my moments of discontentment, God is always faithful to remind me what I most need to hear. A few days ago I was wrestling with not being back in Nepal, so I decided to look at my journal from last summer to see what I had been doing on this day one year ago. I flipped through the travel-worn pages to find the right entry, and when I did, this is what I read:
“Today was a hard day. I spent most of it in bed with a fever. I’m fighting to give myself grace, still feeling some numbness, not wanting to eat ever, and am so overwhelmed.”
Hmm, on the day when I’m feeling most discontent, God chooses to remind me that Nepal was not all roses and sunshine or peaches and cream. I tend to romanticize travel, I know I do. But in recalling that day in Nepal when I was so dehydrated that I couldn’t even get out of bed, I also remembered a fundamental lesson that I far too often overlook.
In the words of Ben Rector “life is not the mountaintops – it’s the walking in between.”
Every life has big days – the day you graduate from college, get married, run your first marathon, have a baby, or move across the country. However, in between these big days are hundreds of seemingly insignificant little days. Days when the most exciting event is receiving a letter from a faraway friend; days when you wake up running, and don’t stop until you fall into bed; and days when life feels like an endless cycle of go to work, do the laundry, prep food, take a shower, repeat.
And yet, in the midst of the mundane, life is bursting with purpose and beauty, if only we have eyes to see it. Learning to cook alongside my roommates, having vulnerable conversations with my custodial teammates, singing as I clean, helping a new housemate feel welcome in our home, praying for my missionary friends – all of these things feel so small in the moment, and yet, when I step back and view them together, these are the patches of fabric that piece together to make the beautifully rich tapestry that is my life.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Shauna Niequist, an author who has taught me so much about celebration in the midst of the nitty-gritty of everyday life.
“This is it. This is life in all its glory, swirling and unfolding around us, disguised as pedantic, pedestrian non-events. But pull of the mask and you will find your life, waiting to be made, chosen, woven, crafted.
Your life, right now, today, is exploding with energy and power and detail and dimension, better than the best movie you have ever seen. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages. Because they all are. Every life is.
You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural.
You are more than dust and bones.
You are spirit and power and image of God.
And you have been given today.”