Happy Friday! I announced a couple weeks ago that in addition to my Tuesday travel posts of all the destinations I'm visiting, that I'd use Thursdays and Fridays to share more "heart updates" on here. Coincidentally, today marks exactly one month since I left the states to explore Europe for 3 months, and I can’t believe so much has already gone by so quickly! I’ve conquered a lot of places the last four weeks: Italy (Lake Como, Merano, Venice and Milan), Croatia (Hvar and Dubrovnik), France (Reims and Paris) and now London. (I'll share some pictures of the adventures so far to break up some of the long-winded text below!)
After so much non-stop travel, I’ve loved doing “normal life” again the past few days here in London. My friend Haley has the most idyllic flat in Kensington and has been so gracious to host me for a while. I’ve loved going on morning coffee runs, walking her dog at Hyde Park, working from various coffee shops… I even signed up for ClassPass to try to work off some of the excessive carbs I’ve indulged in the past several weeks.
But aside from enjoying some of these routine tasks that I haven’t for a while, I’ve also made a personal effort to reflect on the past month: what I’ve loved, what’s been hard, what has surprised me, etc. I've anticipated this trip for a long time--basically for the last year of my life. So now that it’s here… what do I think about it all?
For starters, I could easily spend the next week straight writing out my stories and experience I’ve encountered and it still wouldn’t suffice. Too much has happened already to even know where to start. But when I stop to take an even closer look, I realize that what I’ve learned from this trip started wayyyy longer than a month ago.
Simply put, this trip has taught me that experiencing the fullness of life requires us to dream crazy big and take risks that are out of our comfort zone, while simultaneously being completely content wherever we are- even the hard places.
This profound realization may sound simple, but I’ve found that most of us will always struggle with doing too much of one or the other. I’ve been guilty of overdoing both for most of my life.
Years ago, I clung to things in my life that were comfortable instead of leaning into my dreams. Even though I could feel them inside me all the way to my bones- screaming at me to please do something about them, for a long time I didn’t. I made excuses. I distracted myself with a "normal" steady job or social settings that were easy and mindless- grabbing drinks at the same bars with the same people. It was as if partaking in the monotony of it all allowed me to check my dreams at the door and forget that I honestly wanted a much bigger life than I was currently living out. Because let’s face it- comfortable is a lot more fun than uncomfortable in the immediate sense. And chasing big scary dreams or refusing to settle for what we really want ain’t anything close to comfortable.
More recently though, I’ve been guilty of the other extreme. For the last year of my life, I’ve given into my dreams of traveling and pulled the trigger on making this 3 month trip to Europe happen. It’s taken countless hours of dreaming and planning and organizing and coordinating to make this idea come to life. The process has been extremely uncomfortable. It’s been overwhelming, exhausting, intimidating, and at times- I’ve felt downright crazy or even irresponsible. So what do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We live for the future… dreaming about that glorious day when the problems go away and the hard work pays off. And while I definitely made sure that I sat in those uncomfortable places long and hard, I also let my brain run away to the thought of Europe when I was still very much at home.
The problem with either of these scenarios is that no matter which one you pick, you’re cutting yourself short of enjoying the fullness of life that God intends for you. When I reflect on the days when younger me was a prisoner to fear and ignored her dreams, I want to shake her violently until she wakes up and realizes all the life she’s missing. And when I think of all the planning I’ve done the last year, it pains me to think what beautiful moments I could have missed out on back home because my brain was already in Europe.
So what is the larger solution then? How do you boldly take risks in pursuit of your dreams without becoming a slave to the promise of the future? What does it really mean to live fully?
I know this is supposed to be the part where I tell you that I got to Europe but didn’t feel any different. That the chasing feeling inside of me still wasn’t satisfied-because that’s how the story usually goes. The grass is always greener, right? Well, that would be a giant lie.
The truth is, I have never felt more gladness in my entire life. This trip has been hands down the best thing that has ever happened to me: the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, the places I’ve seen, what I've learned about myself… every little sliver of it. I’m beyond thankful I didn’t stay put in my cozy little comfort zone that would often bore me to tears.
But before you go jumping to conclusions, let me finish. What’s made my time in Europe so wonderful is that after working through so many emotions in the lead up, while I've been here I’ve been right here. My mind hasn't been jumping ahead to the future, it's been an active participant in the present moment.
You see, I could very easily be appeasing the spastic planner somewhere inside of me and racing way ahead to worry about what will come next- because I’m still very uncomfortable. I have no idea what my life is going to look like in a few months when this trip is over. Literally- I have zero set plans. And normally? That would scare the $#!+ out of me.
But the good stuff in life, the fullness that God desires for us, it happens when we notice the fear but we don’t run away from it: we don’t run away from it by settling or ignoring the dream he’s given us. We don’t run away from it by trying to figure out the next part before it comes in attempt to control. We simply notice the fear, trust, and keep pressing on in faith.
I have no idea where God is going to take me, but for right now, I know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be- because I’m not running from the dreams he gave me anymore. I don’t have to distract myself from living in the present either, because I’m no longer bored or unimpressed by it. And there's no sense in fearing the future, because every day that I’m here I’m learning, I’m meeting new people, and I’m presented with new opportunities… and so I’m rolling with it. Until more of the story unfolds, I am content right where I am.
For the first time in maybe ever, I feel like I’m experiencing the fruit of full living. Not manufactured happiness that’s comes from distractions or quick fixes we haphazardly throw all over our lives to temporarily entertain ourselves-- but genuine joy that comes from walking with God through all the highs and lows (because he has lessons for you in all of them) in pursuit of the calling he has for your life.
Did you catch that last part? If not, hear me loud and clear: full living doesn't just mean happiness. Full living requires we feel it all. Hurt. Fear. Anger. Loneliness... the whole nine yards. But as James 1:2-4 says:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
When we live fully, we lack NOTHING. We know what it means to feel every single thing. And we've sat in all those places to let God teach us valuable lessons.
Again, before you go jumping to conclusions I’m well aware that I’m far from perfect and far from having “arrived". I will probably sit too long on the next dream God gives me before doing something about it. And when I finally do, I’ll probably want to rush through the uncomfortable parts all over again. But I’m encouraged that I can now remember that the fruit of full living FAR outweighs any alternative.
I hope reading this makes you feel uncomfortable. Not because I’m speaking with some sort of “holier than thou” complex or think I’m better by any means- because I'm definitely not. But I know now that God desires all of us to live with this fullness of life (Ephesians 3:19) and that it usually starts somewhere that's uncomfortable.
I have so many more thoughts and stories that I could ramble on and on (and on) about on here- but one at a time. Now I'm off to explore Notting Hill (and work off the croissant I just ate for breakfast). Thanks for reading (if you made it all the way to this, I'm impressed!) Have a great weekend, friends!