I’m going to start off by reiterating something that struck me earlier this week. I find it so amazing when the arrow of life feels like it's dragging you further and further backwards to the point you feel like you’ll break from the pressure, when all of a sudden the taut string of the bow launches you forward into something you never dreamed could ever exist. I am calling this rediscovering ultimate joy. Joy: happiness, delight, pleasure, elation, exultation, rapture, heaven.
Those of you that know me well know that I haven’t exactly had the easiest road to travel by in my life. Don’t we all have our burdens? But they affect us all differently. To me, life has been one tragedy/heartbreak/death after another. Not that I have trouble finding happiness! I consider myself to be incredibly and deeply blessed by those around me and the experiences I’ve had. And I am thankful for these blessings. But I didn’t know until now, now that I’m in Africa doing exactly what my heart has wanted to do for as long as I can remember, that something was actually missing. A large hole in my heart had never really healed…that is, until now.
The biggest tragedy in my life was losing my grandfather during my freshman year of college. It was something that struck me to the core and refused to heal. My grandfather was one of those people who could see into you, he saw the real you. I don’t know if any of you have been blessed with someone in your life that loves you more than anything else in the world, would do anything for you, could see into your very soul, and change you, but that was what my grandfather was to me. He was many more things to me, but those memories are for me. He was the one person that I loved more than life itself, and I’ve never had such a connection with another person since his passing. Of course I love my mom, dad, siblings, grandparents etc. but the love I still have for Grandpa is in a league of its own. And I don’t expect to find it again.
So my grandfather has been a huge force in my life, even now. Every big decision I’ve ever made has been made with him in the forefront of my mind. I think if it’s something that he would be proud of, would he agree with the decision, you get my point. Grandpa has had his hand in my life every moment since his death. When I traveled to Scotland to follow his footsteps to his favorite place in all the world, he was there with me every step of the way. And it was in that moment when I stood staring over his little piece of heaven that I found I was finally healed. Healed from every other bad thing that had ever happened to me, but most importantly healed from the loss of Grandpa. Little did I know that he had something else planned for me.
Now as I’m on my own again, traveling on the other side of the world, I find Grandpa with me in a stronger force that I haven’t felt since Scotland almost three years ago. He knew it was a dream to travel to Africa as well as my passion for big cats. And now that I’m here, my goals have all culminated. I’ve made it. Everything I worked so hard for is now sitting happily in the palm of my hand. And Grandpa knew all along! But the thing is, what I have discovered here in the wide-open country, surrounded by lions, was so unexpected. I never even hoped to dream that it could be SO great here.
I’ve found my heaven. I’ve found my ultimate joy.
I think we all search for that sense of belonging. That need for acceptance. That home away from home. The thing is, the moment my foot touched solid ground here I was home. Everything from the smell of the rain, to the way the sun hits the mountains in the morning, to the incredible relationships I’ve been developing, to the cats roaring so loud it reverberates through my body, has brought me to the realization that I am exactly where I belong. I have become that lion-hearted girl. That hole in my heart was searching for this. For its ultimate joy. And I’ve found it. That arrow of life tends to catch us by surprise, doesn’t it? Thanks, God.