If all goes according to plan, Michelle and I are going to Africa (country TBD) in July to start a 27 month commitment to serve as Peace Corps volunteers. It will be the biggest and most life-changing decision each of us has ever made (since getting married). We know that there is a lot that could happen from now till then but for now, the decision and commitment to this journey has been made. We have given a heads up to our places of work. We have already started to plan how we want to sell most of our possessions. We have already started to plan how we want to spend the last couple of months in-country before leaving. We are both excited, a bit nervous, and easily overwhelmed thinking about how much life will change for us in the upcoming months and years.
It has been 28 years in the making (thus the blog title) but I’ll just share my perspective on how the last three years has led to this point in our lives.
Three years ago I had a life plan (well sort of). I was looking to find a career field that matched my values and passions, buy my first car, own my first pet (a dog), and settle in my own place in a new city I had come to love.
When I moved to Portland to start a new job, I was also trying to start a new life. I was trying to break free from the way that people had come to know me and I was trying to break free from the way I had come to know myself. Portland offered a chance to redefine myself, to redefine my life. It was also the first time I had truly accepted the fact that I might not ever get married and that would actually be ok, but of course, God had other plans for me and introduced the most beautiful plot twist to my life: Michelle.
Michelle and I recently finished reading (She doesn’t think it’s reading because we listened to an audio book. I still think its reading) “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life” by Donald Miller. Michelle and I like Donald Miller. He’s down to earth, real, transparent, writes well, and his personal stories about faith and life is encouraging and inspiring (he also happens to live and write about Portland which makes reading/listening to his stories even better because we can visualize what he talks about). I wouldn’t mind having a beer with him and talking about faith and life.
“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years…” is Donald Miller’s explanation of what “story” is, the necessary elements and its importance, and how these elements started showing up in his own life. He shared that in life many people do not recognize that everyday we are living a story, and more importantly, that we have a lot of creative authorship of our own lives/stories. It is with this understanding that we have been able to make sense of all that is going on in our lives today; we are trying to write what we hope will be a better story.
Since Michelle has entered my story, a lot of the things that I wanted for my life are still there but look very different. I like to tell people that since meeting her I am healthier, fiscally more responsible, more social justice minded, more willing to engage in difficult issues, more willing to travel, more willing to change (which makes me sound like I was pretty miserable without her, lol). She would probably say that I support the lifestyle that she has always lived and also challenge her to grow as well.
I recently told my arch-nemesis and best friend Justin, our big plans, and his reaction surprised me. “Jedd, is going to Africa something you really want to do, or something Michelle wants to do?” I could see that he was still thinking of the old Jedd (and I can’t blame him). Yes, Michelle has been a huge influence in many of the changes in my life, but the real difference has been the belief in myself and the trust in God to really live. To take all of the lessons and things that I believe to be true and important in my life, and to make choices that support who I know God has called me (and Michelle) to be.
While in many ways living away from our family and friends, leaving our jobs and current lives may not make any sense at all, and yet it makes perfect sense. The beauty of it all is the way in which our individual stories have been woven together and that instead of following a life plan that seemed generic to me, we are now embarking on a path where there is so much uncertainty, and though scary, seems much more interesting.
“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He’s a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just a condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another. ”
— Donald Miller
I can only imagine the ways in which our lives will be transformed in the coming months and years…
Update 1/16/11 From Michelle:
For those who may be wondering about more details, we have been “Nominated” for Peace Corps which gives us a region (Africa), departure month (July), and job categories (Michelle- secondary school ESL, Jedd- Community Development). We have submitted our extensive medical reviews and are currently waiting for those to be reviewed by Peace Corps before we can receive our official Invitation, which reveals the rest of the details of our assignment like the country and exact departure date. This process can take several months so we’re hoping to hear back sometime between February (if we’re lucky) and April. We promise to update everyone as soon as we know more!