This time last year, I hadn't even filled out my application to come to Togo yet. I was thinking actively about it, really meaning to do it every evening, preparing myself to come, but the first step in the process hadn't been officially started yet. I went home for Christmas, watched A LOT of Lost, ate a lot of food, and mentally prepared my heart for my last semester at Harding.
I went back to school and finished out my last semester, which I swear lasted two days total. I went to SpiritFest to represent Harding, hung out with Scott and Bonita on my way home, participated in Honors College wonderfulness, took my capstone course and put together a project to graduate with distinction, met weekly with my beautiful New Zealand team, and spent much time with my beautiful friends.
Then, I graduated. Four years went by in four blinks of an eye, I successfully walked across that stage (I didn't fall), shook Dr. Burks' hand, got an empty diploma cover, and walked out of the GAC where I frantically took pictures with everyone I could find and then... it was over. I went back to my dorm, finished my packing, and went to the Garner's house for the night. The next morning, I went to church, then drove Sean and I home until Wednesday when my beautiful mother drove us back to Searcy to leave for New Zealand.
New Zealand stole my heart for a second time. Nat, Sean, Kari, Sarah, Andi, Cyndi, Carissa, Terri, Ken, Carolyn, Mike and Sue, Kristen and Elijah, the Palmy crew, the Inver-truck-ell (hehe) crew, the Mataura crew, and the Auckland team (including the lovable AIMers!) are now a huge huge huge part of my life and thoughts and prayers.
After I returned to the States, I jumped in my car and drove to Minnesota to teach Bible classes for Junior camp at Flaming Pine Youth Camp, losing my Ireland ring on the way. I learned how to be an adult in a setting where I’d only been a counselor, kept Michael company while he sat guarding lives at the lake in a jacket (silly FL boy!), and loved that lovely place for only a week.
Rest of the summer:
After FPYC, I spent time in Searcy, Dallas, and Jefferson City. I got to hang out with Bethany, Angela, Paula, Michael and Sarah, Jordan and Sam (yay engagements!!), Mel, Aaron, MonaLee, Jennifer, Amanda, and many other beautiful friends who mean so so so much to me. I went home, took up residence at Panera bread (for internet access), and spent the remainder of the summer prepping for Togo.
I got on a plane in Atlanta, flew to Ghana via London, met April and Nicole, then drove to Kara (where I had my first African middle-of-nowhere bathroom experience, which is no longer a novelty), and collapsed into the Kennell’s guest bedroom. We spent time setting up for school during which time I had my first bout of sickness and my first negative malaria test. Then the Reeves and the Millers got back from furlough and school started!! Since school started, I’ve missed almost a week from being sick (second negative malaria test), lost a dear friend, learned about mourning, learned about community, learned some French, learned how to cook without a Wal-Mart, and learned to appreciate Skype.
Our last day of school for the first half of the year was last Saturday. We ended the semester with a great Christmas party, complete with a snowman building contest and snowball fight. Hot chocolate, popcorn, and chocolate mini-muffins made me smile. All day Monday, les trois filles (as Brett calls us) baked Christmas cookies for the ladies’ party yesterday evening. And today, we hung out at the Kennell’s house. Now, we’re about to head home for yet another day of sleeping in. Tomorrow, we will decorate cookies with the Reeves. Christmas Eve and Christmas will be spent at the Kennell’s house where we will eat pie and wear cute PJ pants. Then safari on the 27th with the Emerson family, and New Year’s festivities (which I think I’ve heard will include a disco).
I’m blessed. So are you.
I love you.