Botswana On My Mind

Disclaimer: Yes, I do have a new blog where I mostly post to now, but I like to copy any posts about Botswana over here for any remaining readers who followed my experience there and my transition home.

You know those times when the same topic keeps coming up in conversation after conversation and you realize that maybe God is trying to get your attention on something? That's been happening to me recently, and it's resulted in quite a bit of heart searching. In the last two days I've had multiple conversations with people about my time in Africa, and many questions have been asked that have caused me to dig up memories and experiences that I haven't thought about in quite a while. And that brought up all kinds of emotions...and inspired this post. Please forgive me while I do some psychologizing. :)

I don't know if everyone is like this, but I have found in my life when I make a painful transition out of a season that was very special to me, I seem to deal with the ache in my heart by pushing it aside and trying to quickly 'move on' to life's next chapter. It's so hard to dwell on what was, and it honestly just gets to a point where I'm tired of feeling sad. The unhealthy part of that process is attempting to remove something from my heart that God has used to help shape who I am. It's impossible to get rid of it, and I shouldn't try to push it to the side. I actually need to embrace it as being a forever part of me.

I'm so thankful for my two years living in Botswana, as well as the prep time leading up to it. I'm thankful for the many, many experiences I had while living in such a different culture, learning a new way of life, building relationships with such beautiful people, and pouring my heart out for the kids and teenagers the Lord allowed me to teach and minister to. Although I knew it was time to move home after my two years there, I still had such a huge hole in my heart for all that I was leaving left behind.

Because of not wanting to hurt anymore, and because of this unnecessary pressure on myself to move on, as soon as God revealed a new love for teaching middle school, I found it easy and safe to begin focusing on and pouring myself into this new calling and life chapter. This is not really a bad thing in itself, except that I was simultaneously pushing Botswana aside, figuring it was just time.

Having all of these conversations recently about my experience in Africa, along with shedding lots of tears while looking through a friend's pictures recently, has really caused me to consider how very much I still love the country of Botswana and the amazing people there. It is still so much a part of who I am. God used my time in Botswana to change me in many, many ways. I have to embrace that and realize that a part of me will always be "Botswana Andrea". And that's a very good and special thing.

God uses every experience in our lives to help mold us and grow us into who we are today. I am sure there are others out there who can relate on some level to this process of pushing things aside and trying to hurry on to life's next season. I just want to encourage you along with myself to just slow down, do some heart-searching, and appreciate every single thing about the experiences we've had, appreciating who they've helped us become. And let's give ourselves permission to feel the pain of loss, realizing it really is ok to miss those life seasons and special people, while also embracing and loving our current season of life.

I know it's cheesy, but this old song I learned in Girl Scouts has come to mind. "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold." My mom used to use this song to encourage me after moving to a new school that it was ok to make new friends and that it didn't diminish the value of the friends I already had. I believe this same truth can be applied to every special experience we have in life. We can have new experiences, but still appreciate the old ones, recognizing the incredible value they both have in our lives.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves..." Anatole France

Reunion with Sweet Friends = Full Heart

Have you ever had the experience of spending hours reconnecting with friends you haven't seen in a while, recalling old memories, laughing until your side hurts, and remembering tough times with a heart of gratitude to have made it through? I love those times! I find that as I get older, life seems to be passing by at a greater pace, and I often don't make time to stop and look at old pictures, read old journals, and just remember past life seasons. It's good for me to do this occasionally because it reminds me of where I've been, how I got to where I am now, and God's incredible faithfulness to me along the way. I love even more revisiting these memories with friends who were there with me.

Matt and Kelly lived in Botswana for much of the time I was there, serving as the youth and children's ministers, teachers at OIS, and quite a few other roles at the mission. We really connected my second year there, and ended up becoming huge supports to each other, both emotionally and spiritually. For seven months we met together twice a week to spend time in prayer, sometimes with other missionaries, and sometimes just the three of us praying our hearts out for the teenagers and kids God had called us to love on and minister to. During that time, He used us to encourage, strengthen, and sharpen each other, and blessed us with such a special friendship. Leaving them was one of the harder parts of leaving Botswana.

It's been over a year, but I was finally able to see my sweet friends and enjoy a short trip down memory lane as we recalled so many moments of our time of life and ministry together in Africa. Part of the time was spent in so much laughter that I thought we'd be politely asked to leave the quiet restaurant we were at. :) And part of our time was spent just shaking our heads, amazed at how God pulled us through some very difficult moments together. I left with a reflective heart, just absolutely amazed at all that God has done, both in my time in Botswana and my time in America since returning. He is so faithful. And He truly pushes us to our absolute limit sometimes, showing us that what we perceived to be impossible was actually quite possible with His help (and through the incredible people He sends our way).

My heart is full. I love being reminded of God's faithfulness. And I'm amazed at the people He keeps putting in my life.

Thanks Matt and Kelly for a wonderful evening, great memories, and a very special friendship. Love you guys!

*Reposted from