To start off, I will tell you the story of Michael and I, since that's the main question I have been asked over and over again since the afternoon of November 23.
Every summer, I work at camp for individuals affected by various neuromuscular diseases. It's the love of my life, the passion of my heart, and if you haven't heard me blabber about these camps before, then get out of my blog cause you literally don't even know who I am (I'm just kidding, please stay and make yourself at home, friend-to-be). We never have enough volunteers for camp, so in the summer of 2012, I posted in the KU Navigators Facebook group to ask for willing and able volunteers. This kid named Michael Just added me as a friend and messaged me saying that he wanted to volunteer for both camps I was advertising. My first thought was that he was clearly insane, since only a crazy person would volunteer for 2 weeks of camp without having heard about camp or knowing anything about muscular dystrophy. But I told him as much as I could about camp, and he showed up in Oklahoma for camp. I was late to counselor orientation because I was at the wedding of some high school friends, but when I showed up this Michael kid introduced himself as the guy I had invited to camp. I had actually invited several of the counselors for that year so I was just like "oh, hi, thanks for coming to camp, I'm gonna go sit with my Rainbow family now". I mean, I didn't totally ignore him that first week of camp, but I didn't talk to him beyond what my senior counselor duties required for checking in with volunteers to make sure everyone was happy and healthy. At the end of the week, Michael stayed at my parents' house for the night between that camp and the next, during which time he and I both slept in our respective areas for most of the time we were there (camp is pretty much the most exhausting thing ever). The next morning we caravaned to camp #2, and as we were driving off, my mom called me and was like "hey I really liked that boy I think you two are going to end up together". (Umm....mom.....he was literally asleep the whole time........) The next week of camp, though, I kept thinking about what my mom said, and started to get a camp crush on Michael. To clarify here, though, camp crushes are a very real and yet not-so-serious thing. When you are volunteering with other nice people in a high-emotional and low-sleep environment, you fall in love with everyone and everything. For example, there was one particular camp prior to this one with Michael in which there was this one guy volunteer who was awkward and didn't say a word, but because of camp emotions, I spent the week thinking he was beyond beautiful and perfect. As soon as I left camp, the attraction was absolutely gone and I had to laugh at myself for falling for the camp hormones. Anyways, I started camp crushing on Michael and really thought nothing of it, but after camp was over, we started talking and I realized that we actually had a ton in common and that my crush wasn't just within the camp grounds. Once we were back in Kansas, we began hanging out a lot and talking more and realizing that we mutually liked each other. Before we even started dating, we realized that, barring some bizarre act of God, we weren't going to stop dating, but that this next-step of dating would end with us getting married (no, seriously, I have screenshots of text messages from 2012 seriously predicting marriage). We started dating in August of that year, and it's been beyond lovely ever since. On November 23 of this year, I ran my third marathon, and Michael surprised me at the finish line with his presence and with a ring. You can see the video on Facebook, and we are planning to marry on March 14, 2015 (and for those haters who keep telling me that's too soon, well, it's not really a surprise that we are getting married, and extravagant, 2-years-to-plan weddings make no sense to me).
Ok, so now that we've gotten the big story out of the way, here comes the part about blooming. About accepting and loving where you are planted and allowing yourself to grow and bloom and be all that God wants you to be. About singing at the top of your lungs every time you are in your car because you are just so blissfully happy with the story that is being written with your life. That's pretty much where I am right now. Obviously I'm really excited to be marrying my best friend in 2015, and I'm super blessed to also love his family and to get to be one of them soon. But one of the greatest blessings in my life right now also comes from the fact that I have literally been surrounded by people almost every day since August. I can't even say I'm an introvert in this season, because my life is being colored and blessed by the fact that I am surrounded by others. Whether it's family dinners with Libby or Bethany, tea time with Gretchen, time spent with Michael and his family, or even being around the chaos of the family I nanny, I am seldom alone. Even yesterday at church, I was helping with the kids Christmas play, and on my way home I just kept thinking "Holy goodness, the people at CBC are genuinely good and beautiful humans". Last year in Iowa, my whole thought process was "I'm only here for 6 months, so I'm gonna fend for myself and take care of me". As a result, I struggled to emotionally survive, much less thrive. Now, I have 3ish months left here in Lawrence with this continual community that I've been given. But this time around, my mindset is "I'm only here for 3 months, so I'm gonna do everything I can to make this time count". I'm trying to surrender to service and trying to focus on loving others rather than myself. As I focus on others, I find that Jesus keeps filling me up with more joy than I thought my heart could ever contain. This is a biblical concept and nothing new, but hey, I don't always learn lessons until I live them. Even though I know that I only have 3 more months in this soil, I am choosing to bloom where I am planted. And simply living every day intentionally desiring to shine and grow and thrive is making all the difference in my life and love and joy and peace. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but for today, I am content watching as my story unfolds over the last chapter in my Lawrence life and content to be resting calmly in His love.