I can see it now, my first morning, drinking in the new day, the beginning of my adventure. It was dark when I arrived. 11 hours of traveling, tired, cranky, an odd spectacle, I'm sure, coloring with my pencils as I sat in the airport shuttle. The driver chatted with fellow passengers about bear break-ins and moose; I didn't feel like talking, unusual for me. Denver faded into mountains, and I was only mildly impressed. Then. Then I saw it. The twinkling nighttime slumber of downtown Estes park. A vision from a storybook, bordered by glorious peaks, hidden in a valley, lit by a hundred lights.
How does one describe the most incredibly life-changing adventure of her life? I dread these sorts of posts, because in all honesty, words cannot paint the four weeks I spent on the Wind River Ranch. It was work, yes, but so, so much more. If you could only taste the beauty, the endless, flawless beauty of a place that will forever be etched into my soul. At the same time, I'm grateful to be home. It was tough, at first, and I rebelled a little inside. I wanted to stay so badly. But God has me here for a purpose, I see that now. Yet, I know I have to go back. The ranch is something too special, too important, to leave behind forever. Next year, Lord willing, I plan on being there the entire summer, maybe longer. Because the Wind River Ranch captured my heart. Captured me through the people I grew to love--my fellow staff members, a group of the most dedicated, hard working, genuine, soul-bonded, deep, amazing young people I've ever, ever met. I made my best friends on the ranch. And I miss them, more than words can say. They captured me with their heart for God, for His work. We were knit in a common goal: ministry. The greatest calling of all. Every day the ache
gets a little smaller. Not because I don't miss them, but because I know I'm going back. In the meantime, I need to focus on life here at home, my family, and building on that life. It's happening. For the first time in my 24 years, I see a future, and I'm satisfied with what I see.
I was captured by the mountains. The Rockies are breathtaking. Every day I looked out from staff housing at Longs Peak, struck by the power and might of our God. I remember distinctly one morning, sitting under an aspen tree and praying my heart out. Worrying about going home, not sure what I was going to do next, just looking up at that mountain. Its amazing, how easily we take God for granted. In that moment He reminded me. . .He is enough. He can MOVE mountains. The illustration was so clear, it hit something deep inside that I hope I never forget. Jesus captured me.
I won't try describing everything I did. I would take a book, and I really don't think I'm capable of summing it up. But I will say this--I learned a lot about myself. I learned about independence and being comfortable in my own skin. I learned about my dreams, but instead of just dreaming, I have the motivation to make them reality. I learned that I love Colorado enough to potentially move there. No joke. I learned what my personal convictions and preferences are, my limits. I learned that I really like to hike. Actually, I'm a little obsessed with it now. ;) I learned that I enjoy being a waitress, which has motivated me to look for server jobs, now that I'm home. I've learned that ministry is not just a dream--it's the calling of my life. I've learned that sometimes it takes years to fulfill, but God plants that restlessness in our hearts for a reason. Even though it might not be what we think, He brings about and shows us exactly what He wants, when He wants. I learned that there is a future for everyone, even me. And it's happening, friends. I'm finally living loud--living the plan He has. And it's a wild, radical, beautiful ride.
There is so much to say. Funny, I've talked with a few friends from the ranch about coming home. Trying to describe the experience, telling others about the adventure. And we all agree--it isn't something you can just tell. Have you ever met Jesus in a way so real, it can only be felt by you? That was the ranch, for me. God is so, so alive. And I love Him with my entire heart. Not that I didn't before, but wow do I love Him even more, now. I want the whole world to know Him in that way. Jesus is ALIVE.