Hello, Africa. Farewell, Football.

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Well there’s a blog title I never thought I’d write.

But don’t panic! It’s different than it sounds. Kind of.

Let’s just go ahead and talk about Africa and football and all the things, really. Starting with football.

(I mean, is there any other way?)

When I think about what football means to me, I don’t think about banner-moments of fandom: watching Brett Favre run around the field as a kid, going through multiple packets of tissues while visiting Lambeau for a day, experiencing the 2010 Super Bowl season in the most amazing way.

The first thing that comes to mind, surprisingly, is sitting in the Patriots parking lot for hours after training camp, just to be there. I was one of the only people left in the parking lot at Gillette, so I turned off the car and turned on some music, sat cross-legged on the pavement, and watched the sky grow more and more golden behind the stadium on a gorgeous summer night.

I felt so content, so at home. Just being around football makes me feel like all is right in the world.

At that point I was all about making Football for Normal Girls happen. I was all about making a freelance writing career happen in general. There was no option in my mind for a career that did not involve equal parts football and freedom. I may not have known exactly what I wanted to do in life, but I knew without a doubt it included football and freedom.

I think it’s usually somewhere between “no option in my mind” and “without a doubt” that God likes to swing by and shake things up.

Because if you had told me while I was sitting in that parking lot that less than a year later I would be working full-time in an office for a non-profit, I would have called you crazy. If you had mentioned that I’d miss the 2014 NFL Draft because I’d be in Africa documenting stories of healing in photos, videos, and writing, I would have called you crazier. And if you had gone so far as to say that I’d be so invested in this new set of circumstances that I would willingly give up writing about football, the thing I’ve fought for tooth and nail like it was my own child, I would have straight up called you a blasphemer.

Well, blaspheme away! Because it’s all happening.

This quote from Shauna Niequist does a great job of summarizing the plot line of my life right now:

“Everything is interim. Everything is a path or a preparation for the next thing, and we never know what the next thing is. Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially. We can dig in, make plans, write in stone, pretend we’re not listening, but the voice of God has a way of being heard. It seeps in like smoke or vapor even when we’ve barred the door against any last-minute changes, and it moves us to different countries and different emotional territories and different ways of living. It keeps us moving and dancing and watching, and never lets us drop down into a life set on cruise control or a life ruled by remote control. Life with God is a dancing dream, full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we’ve said we’ll never do. And with the surprises comes great hope.”

When I realized I’d be in Africa during the draft, I realized that things were changing. A span of days usually spent following rows of Twitter feeds will instead be spent following stories of kids who have been healed from curable disabilities. When I am usually parked in front of a screen watching lives change as teams select players, I will be behind a camera lens documenting stories of lives changed by surgeries.

And I am truly happy to make the trade.

(Bad draft humor.)

(But seriously.)

It’s not because I think one is more meaningful than the other. I think God’s sovereignty extends from football to photography and back again. It’s because I think He is giving me something different to steward in this season of life, and that thing is not football.

When we are walking with God and allowing Him to lead the way, He promises to give us the desires of our heart. That is a built-in contract. But rarely, rarely, do the things we are given take the shape of what we think our hearts desireMore often than not, they tend to look like the things we said we’d never do. God has a way of knowing what we actually desire long before we catch up and realize it ourselves.

That my life is exploding with goodness right now isn’t a testament to my own ability to determine and capitalize on all the things I thought would make me happy. It’s pretty much the opposite, and a case study in God’s kindness. How He has been gracious enough to continue leading me to immeasurably more even when I continue to be the annoying backseat driver who won’t quit asking anxious questions about the status of the drive, I’ll never know.

P.S. I am leaving for Africa on Monday. For real.

Also, apparently blogging about smaller things was the catalyst to blogging about bigger things. Who knew?

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