Monday, May 21, 2012

Lessons learned on a nude beach in Romania

I kinda feel like I'm hitting my head against a wall. Over and over. Except I'm not. That would require effort and I feel like I'm not doing anything at all!
I have a belief that I can be gainfully employed in doing the work I care about. I felt great guidance and direction (despite fear) pull me back into film last fall--and almost immediately was hired to work on a project that pushed me and grew me and blessed me financially. Since it ended however I have been looking for work in my field and have gotten to a point of (what feels like) dire discouragement. I had the thought to share this story a week or so ago, and so even if I am late, I am hoping that it will provide a little hope or clarity for me as I write it out.
 In Leslie Householder's FTMP program she tells the story of finding her daughter in the pool. (You can read about it here: She wasn't breathing and Leslie kept trying different things to get her to breathe. The outcome--that her daughter survive--was crucial and without question in her mind. To Leslie, there was no other alternative. And so when she tried something that didn't work, there wasn't time to worry about the failure, or to feel badly and judgmental about herself for trying something dumb or ineffective. Nothing mattered but helping her daughter to breathe. And so there was no hesitation, only adrenaline and inspiration and immediate response to inspiration. And as a result, she was able to revive her daughter.
It is SO EASY to waste time giving up because it appears that that which we hope and work for has failed to come together. But we all have these experiences--often life and death experiences--where our instinct and natural humility kick in and we rely completely on the Lord and dedicate ourselves completely to only one outcome. Not having her daughter Bethany as part of the family was not a possible option for Leslie. It was not in her reality. So she did anything and everything, acted on every thought until she got the outcome she needed.
When I was 19 I backpacked Eastern Europe on my own. It was an amazing experience, one I had dreamed of for years. This was in the late 90's--before paperless tickets and debit cards and for me, common sense about certain things. I was reaching the end of my trip and had ended up at a beach on the Black Sea in Romania, about 4km from the Bulgarian border. It was a tiny town without accommodations and there was one daily train. By the time I realized it was a nude beach (not exactly my cup of tea), the train had left for the day. My only option was to camp out on the beach. So I headed as far north on the beach as I could to avoid the masses of naked humanity as much as possible.  I swam a bit (in my full one-piece, something I'm not sure if those folks had ever seen before ;) ) , and then fell into my sleeping bag in a stupor of slumber. For the first time in my month and a half trip I had failed to put my money belt back on before I fell asleep.
It was a cold and uncomfortable sleep. At around 5 in the morning I had a thought come into my mind that said "Check your bag". I was cold and didn't want to pull my head out from my sleeping bag and I grumpily told myself to stop worrying and just go back to sleep. I had the same thought, this time louder. I angrily ignored it again. Finally it was a shout in my head--CHECK YOUR BAG!!! Frustrated, I pulled my sleeping bag down from my face, and lo and behold, my bag was gone. Stunned, I looked around me. Could it somehow have been caught by the surf and dragged out? Of course not. I ran up to the ridge of the hill at the top of the beach but I saw no one stirring, no sign of the bag snatchers. My bag was gone and with it my money, my airline ticket, my clothes, my camera, my journal, my passport, even my shoes. I had only what I was wearing--a bathing suit, a sweatshirt, a pair of jeans with a hole in the bottom--and my sleeping bag.
I've told this story so many times before, and with so many different emphases. Usually it is for the humor of it all, or to mention the profound reality of knowing you have nothing, absolutely nothing and recognizing in that moment your utter dependence on the Lord and the goodness of strangers.
 But this time as I thought of this story from my life, I realized something crucial about my mindset, or my reality. Yes, I was in this situation because I had not listened to the Spirit warning me to check my bag. One could also argue that my lack of planning led to the inevitability of such a thing (although my spirit of adventure might dispute that…) I had made a mistake. I had gotten myself into a rough strait. But hanging out on a nude beach in nowhere, Romania for the rest of my life was not an option. There was only one option--that was to figure out how to get back home. Now, my parents at the time were in no financial situation to send me money and buy me a plane ticket home from Romania. Plus (which I didn't know at the time) I would need someone who knew me to identify me in person at the embassy in Bucharest before I could get a new passport to travel home. And those were all considerations to be dealt with once I even figured out how to even get all the way to Bucharest. Not to mention that I had no idea where I was going to get a pair of shoes…
But again, my apparent lack of resources in no way deterred me from what I knew to be true--I was a young American citizen who despite her wanderlust belonged back home and that is exactly where she was going to go. Failure to figure out how to get that to happen was not an option. And what opened up for me were amazing people both in Romania and at home who gave me the resources I needed to make my way home.
I guess what I am trying to figure out in my current circumstances, is how do I see the life I want to live in the same black and white surety as I did the fact that I had to find my way home and that I would? What was inherent in that recognition? I knew who I was and where I belonged. I trusted completely in the Lord because my own awareness of what to do and my physical resources were non-existent. That trust motivated me to move, and to do whatever I could figure out to make my way home (begging on a nude beach, anyone? Excuse me, do you have a leu or two on you? I mean, not on you obviously--I can see that…) I also knew that even though in my mind my parents did not have the money to help me, for them it was not an option to have me wandering shoeless the streets of Bucharest. I knew they loved and valued me and would do whatever it took to get me home. No question. And the experience ended up being one of the most beautiful and meaningful of my young life. I never even took time to fear. I was guided in peace and certainty.
 I want to know with surety what I am about now, just as I knew what I was about then. If I am so clear about my life path, I will not hesitate to throw my arms into the Lord's mercy--knowing that even with my seeming lack of resources I will be inspired and led to the ideas that will show me where to go. I will also be quicker to make connections with people, trusting that they want to help me. I will also trust in the reality that the people in my life want me to succeed and that I can ask them for help. And I will know I will be led to those who have the ability to help me get where I need to go. And I will do it all with the sense of adventure and peace that I had on my Romanian Beach Adventure. This is my hope.