When I turned 9, my family and I were visiting my Aunt Mary and Uncle Randy in Alaska. They had given my sister and I disposable cameras to take pictures of the trip, and I was SO excited to be able to capture the beauty of everything around me. (Seriously. Visit Alaska in July.)
One day we were driving and I saw a moose in a field. It was the first moose I had EVER seen and I was STOKED. I shouted about it and fumbled for my camera, but by the time I grabbed it, the moose was out of sight. I was devastated.
But then, my aunt gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received – take mental pictures! They last in your mind forever!
I mentally snapped one of that moose in that field, and I’ve never forgotten it.
The drive down from Omaha, Nebraska to Ave Maria, Florida was a similar experience, and being in Ave has been the same so far.
God’s creative hand is so visible in this gorgeous country I’ve been blessed to be born into. From the flat plains of Nebraska to the rolling hills in Tennessee to the quaint small downs that dot the interstate, there were SO many things to see.
As we rolled into Chattanooga, Tennessee, I was taking a shift at the wheel. The sun had just begun to set over the rocky hills we had been driving through. We rounded a bend and had the most gorgeous view of the sunset over the Tennessee River. We all ooh-ed and ahh-ed, and I desperately wished to take a picture, but #safedriver, so I snapped one in my mind.
Praise God once again for my human memory and the gift He gave me to hold on to those beautiful moments!
And how many beautiful moments He’s given me!
Arriving in Ave Maria was overwhelming but amazing to say the least. There are around 400 amazing people here, the small town is precious, and the church is incredible. There are alligators and massive grasshoppers and giant storm clouds. There are smiles and laughter and friendships being formed. And, if I so choose, I get to remember all of this forever.
I wish I could capture the beauty of 400 young adults singing the Salve Regina at the end of Mass. I wish I could snap a shot of the authentic joy and friendship being developed in my small group here. I would LOVE to show you the meals we’ve shared, the welcome carnival we enjoyed, or the prayers offered in adoration, but I haven’t taken any pictures.
[That’s a small lie. I took a picture of the first alligator I saw. #sorrynotsorry]
I’m working on being present. I want to take all of this in. I want to snap mental pictures that are going to last me a lifetime, no matter what may eventually happen to my iPhone or the pictures on it.
I only get 5 weeks here in Ave Maria this summer, and I want to live each one of them as fully as I can!
I hope to be able to chronicle this time as much as possible for myself, for my friends and family, and for future missionaries that are someday in the same boat as I have been for the last few months [read: freaking out and wanting to DEVOUR any information I could have coming into New Staff Training]. I want to keep you all updated, and I would love to be praying for you in any way, so please let me know however I can!
Please keep me, my small group (the college of St. Joan of Arc), and my future teammates in your prayers as well!
P.S. Next time, I promise I’ll include a few pictures :)