I just turned down a promotion.
And now, I’m filling out a coffee shop barista application. My 2005 self is perched on my shoulder, yelling into my right ear, “Really, Rebecca? Really?!?”
Let me backtrack here. I just spent four months filling in for a reporter on maternity leave at a small-town, afternoon daily newspaper in Montana. I walked out of my last daily newsroom more than seven years ago.
That first day back, I felt like a deer in the headlights — but I need not have worried. Apparently, daily reporting is like riding a bike.
But as the days of the temporary assignment drew to a close, I faced an odd conundrum. They wanted me to take a job editing a small weekly newspaper between Bozeman and Billings.
I wrestled with the decision. I even drove to the town where the paper is based and looked around. I prayed.
And I kept coming back to this: As tempting as the offer was — and let’s face it, flattering too, considering I’d only worked with them for a few months — the timing was, well, it was just wrong.
That’s when I realized that somewhere along the way, my priorities had shuffled.
2005 self, meet 2014 self
Just out of college, I was raring to go. I landed a reporting job right away and over the next two years or so, rode the ups and downs of a daily reporter starting from the bottom of the food chain. Then, I took a job in higher education, because there were skills I wanted to acquire that I wasn’t getting as a daily-deadline driven writer.
But, then, Africa — and I find myself a very different person.
If my 2005 self were offered the editing job, I don’t doubt I would have taken it. Heck, it would have meant I could stay out West and do what I loved to do, all while building up my resume. Win-win-win.
My 2014 self? Well, apparently, my 2014 self is so set on returning to Africa that it isn’t even tempted by what would have been the ultimate carrot and stick a number of years ago.
Is this what faith looks like? ‘Cause sometimes, it stinks.
Life is serious business. But it’s funny and meaningful, too.
The two 20-something, college guys laughed as they walked down the Bozeman Main Street sidewalk in front of me one sunny afternoon. My eyes narrowed as they veered toward my car. One of them reached for my windshield wiper and stuck a blue envelop under it.
“Yeah, man,” the other one said. “Pass it on.”
For a brief instant, I thought about rolling my eyes at yet another Bozeman sprouts-and-granola antic and then putting them in their place. But I didn’t.
They continued on. I took the blue envelope. It was labeled in looping handwriting: “A thought for you…”
Ooooooh boy, I thought.
Inside was a small piece of paper, with these seemingly typewritten words:
the most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. these persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.
beautiful people do not just happen.
I just had to smile and shake my head. After a week feeling like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, I couldn’t help but see God’s sense of humor. Via some upstart college students.
“Beautiful people do not just happen.”
OK, God. What are you trying to say here? Hmmm?
I try not to read too much into such things. Which is good, because that evening, I brewed myself a cup of Good Earth herbal tea — and found these words printed on the label:
The best story ever told
Someone asked me recently, not for the first time, “Why do you want to go back to Africa?”
I’ve shared a lot about returning. But in that moment, I had a moment of clarity.
God is the Master Storyteller, and He is in the middle of the best story ever told.
Why do I do what I do? Because every time I share a story — whether it’s a city commission news brief, breaking crime news or a profile of a South Sudanese woman learning to read — it fills in more of His Story’s details. Journalism is the first draft of history, and how.
That’s why I want to return to Africa. Remember those “beautiful people” mentioned above? Some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known are in Africa — and I want to see how their stories fit, how He’s going to work in their lives.
I find myself in yet another transition. No full-time job for the time being. Not exactly a predictable course of action. If I’ve ever stepped out on faith, this is it … Is there a guarantee I’ll get there exactly when I plan to? Certainly not. But I am ready to push forward, believing that God is in control.
He has provided for me through so many twists and turns. Really, why would I start saying “no” now?