Monday, January 3, 2011

4 Days until Zimbabwe...and other things.

So...count down is officially at 4 days!!!

I am kinda going into a bit of a shock at the moment. It's been a CRAZY and somewhat overwhelming past couple of weeks. First, was the most wonderful day of my life so far...I got engaged on December 9th. It was everything I've ever dreamed of...but then 2 days later my grandfather passed away. That whole entire week following was one of the longest weeks ever. TONS of family events, dinners, planning the funeral, helping my mom through her loss as well as trying to swallow the fact that both my grandparents on my mom's side of the family are gone. That week was intense. Then, the week after that, was full of planning and preparing for Christmas. Christmas lasted from Friday Dec. 24th-until last night, Jan 2, 2011 since I spent the entire week meeting all sorts of people and going all over the state of NJ to various Christmas celebrations including an authentic 7 Fishes dinner with Frank's father's family, Christmas at home, being snowed in at my house when we had originally planned to have Christmas with the O'Neal family at our house, a 2 hour trip to visit Frank's friends from Rowan, NJ, another 2 hour trip the next day to have dinner with his father's parents, then another 2 hour trip up to Wayne, NJ to have a Christmas celebration with his mother's family. THEN, for new year's eve, we drove 4.5 hours up to Vermont with friends from work to snowboard only to drive another 5.5 hours home the following evening, ending with the O'Neal family Christmas (luckily at my house) last night. I. Am. Exhausted.

But last night as I was laying in my bed (exhausted, but somehow unable to sleep) my mind started racing. I thought that my engagement had already set in a couple weeks ago, but I think with all of the craziness of the past few weeks it is just starting to sink in. I cannot believe that I am only a year and a half away from marrying my best friend and love of my life. I have been through a ton and waited a long time to find him...and honestly I never really had to look. God definitely answered my prayers and brought him right to me. I could never have asked for anything more. But at the same time--it's HUGE. It's a tad bit scary, but mostly sooo exciting :)

On top of all this excitement and this huge step I have taken in my life--my mind was racing, speeding through all my concerns, fears, and anxiety for this upcoming trip to Zimbabwe. I've been so crazy busy and overwhelmed with all that has happened in the past month, I am beginning to feel extremely unprepared for this trip. I have been absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the amount of support and encouragement I have gotten from friends and especially my family, not only financially but wonderful moral support and I feel 100% backed up by everyone I love and care about.  I couldn't ever ask for a more wonderful family...and that includes my future family too!!

Last week I went out and got some of the essential traveling things and began packing. I started to get nervous about the most ridiculous things. And to be quite honest, some of the things I was stressing over are entirely superficial and embarrassing, like: what if I can't shower?, what if I break out from the medicine or the food or the heat?, what if I hate the food?, what if I have to eat that ant paste stuff I've heard about or mystery meat??
And then I started wondering about my weaknesses and more scary things like, what if I hate it and realize I'm far to scared or weak to be in a place so far away and so culturally different?, what if I mess up and end up hurting someone there? say the wrong things? offend someone or realize there's nothing I can possibly do to help or support them?, and what if I'm not ready to go? or if God really doesn't intend for me to be involved there?

I think this week I really need to focus on preparing my heart for this trip. I can't stress this enough:
This trip is SO not about me.
And I have to keep reminding myself that. If I hate the food and starve most days, well, then I am only catching a very small glimpse of the hunger pains many children have faced all their lives.
If I can't shower, at the very least we'll all be in the same boat, more realistically I'll be forced to put aside my own self-absorbed philosophy of beauty and purity and realize a more profound experience of purity and beauty in the people and culture around me.
When these challenges arise I'll need to lean more on God and on these people I don't even know for help and support and I'll be humbled and probably learn way more than if I went to visit them but stayed in a resort hotel with clean water and american food. This experience is supposed to stretch me, challenge me, and put my own selfish concerns into check. I can deal with gross food or no food for a week. I can deal with being dirty and smelly. I can deal with anything really for 10 days when many people all over the world don't even have a concept of what clean water is or satiated bellies. And if through these challenges I can at the very least learn something from people who appreciate the more important things in would be worth it. This trip is about learning. Growing. Challenging myself. It's not about saving these people. Because to be perfectly honest, sometimes I am absolutely positive that most people in America need just as much saving as they do. Just for different reasons.

For the next 4 days I am going to do my best to reflect on these things to prepare myself and clear my mind of all the drama and excitement of this past month. For a month it was about me and Frank being engaged and expressing our love to eachother and meeting all kinds of people, but in a couple days it will be VERY far from being about me.

Thanks again for everyone's support. I don't even know how to express my gratitude.


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