I was given the opportunity to go to Kosovo! When I first heard about it from my friend Nathan at church, I immediately thought it wasn't possible for me. I talked to another friend Mike, the team leader who just told everyone they were going as if we no longer had a choice. So I raised the money through church, family, friends and co-workers. We flew from St. Louis to D.C., to Austria and then to Prishtine. There was a lot of culture shock and I had to remind myself that this country is 97% muslim. The people in Kosovo were very friendly and curious. Everyone immediately knows you are from America a mile away. We lived with two saints that were husband and wife, the most Christ like people I have ever met. I slept outside every night under the stars, some people thought I was nuts. I figured if I'm in Kosovo I might as well sleep outside and smile at the night sky. One night I did hear a fully automatic AK-47, but fell asleep soon after. My team leader assured me it was a night of weddings and birthdays... We worked in schools in the community holding classes of English, Physical Education, Crafts/Art and more. We drank a lot of tea and bonded with many people.
My most memorable night was in Vushtrri, a small village of people. We went to a bible study, carrying our bibles in a Muslim country was an odd feeling. I never felt in direct danger, it was actually invigorating. When the night started they took prayer requests and I stayed quiet. After the study I raised my hand and mentioned my needs. I explained my deteriorating marriage and that I didn't know what I was going home to exactly. As I sat there openly crying my eyes out, I had many people pray over me. They prayed in Albanian and English, as we all cried together. Our friends from across the world also mentioned their struggles more openly after I made a scene. They explained the struggle of following Christ in their country, going against family, culture and more. One of my friends over there stopped me before the end of the night and said, "Thank you for your tears." I prayed for them and have never felt more close to God than that particular night. I felt like he was holding me in his arms saying, no matter the outcome I will love you. The trip was amazing and I could write 20 pages about it but since its 4:25am, I'll continue onward.
Before I left Kosovo someone told me that although we were all on this "high" from doing this awesome stuff across the world, Satan would soon try to tear down our hope and peace. This prophecy became true in my life. After returning home a series of tragic events took place and the result was my marriage ending. I will choose not to go into detail out of respect and for the fact that its over. I never thought I would be a divorced Christian, that's almost like being a Christian amongst your Muslim family. I had nothing but an outpouring of love from Rooftop Community Church. My pastor Matt even met me at Steak N' Shake from 10pm to 12:45am, even though he had a flight to catch around 5am to seek help for his son's neurological condition. I have pulled away from almost everyone at church and haven't been in a year. They all gave invitations of love and open arms. I spent many hours in my silent apartment wondering if God was hearing me or if it was all worth it. Some days I would come home from work and lay on the floor feeling nothing. I stopped praying for a while but that didn't last. I felt God's grace and knew he was holding me together. My view on divorce has changed a lot and it is incredibly humbling. If someone ever asks me advice on marriage problems all I say is, do everything you can to save it. Over the last year I am coming to terms with choices that we made and maybe this is part of my journey? Maybe God has different plans for my life. Not everything has been doom and gloom over the last year and four months.
I spent many hours in the wilderness, talking to God and being in his creation. The woods is where I find true peace and clarity. Healing took place in the woods, I was able to meditate and talk to God. I delved into bow hunting. After three years of never seeing a deer with a bow, I was determined. I moved my stand on a Saturday afternoon about 25 yards from a path I found in the woods. I found some deer sign but nothing promising. That night I saw a coyote and a bobcat up close and personal. I returned to the stand the following morning and got in place while it was still dark. One of my favorite times is listening and watching the wild come to life as the sun rises. I could barely make out my surrounding and heard something about 75 yards away. Scanning the trees and surrounding area, I caught a glimpse of movement! It looked like a doe which at that point I would have been happy taking with my bow. A minute later I realized this was a young buck walking right into my path. I was frozen, I could feel my heartbeat in my face from the adrenaline. I could now see the steam rising from his black nostrils. He stopped about 25 yards from me and looked as if he had spotted me. I was praying to stay calm and focused, "God give me a chance, all I need is a chance please." He was actually sniffing a leaf and never spotted me. I was chanting in my head, "Look away, look away, look away." Finally after all the torment of staying perfectly still and staring at this buck, he turned his head away and sniffed the ground for a second. I simultaneously pulled by bow back hitting my stand with the bow cam! The metal on metal clank made him aware that he wasn't alone. He swung his head around towards me and I released an arrow through both of his lungs. He did a typical jump/kick combo that is usually a good sign for the hunter. I was gasping for air and so happy I felt like crying, God was in the middle of the entire scene that took place. It was an incredible feeling. I found him about 50 yards away and was able to share the moment with my sister and brother in law. A 9 point buck as first bow kill, how blessed am I? I called my dad while still in the stand and he said, "I know you aren't calling me this early because you missed something."
I also got to go to Montauk State Park for opening day of trout fishing with my friend Ryan. It is an interesting thing to be fishing with 1900+ people, shoulder to shoulder. Not my typical choice for a fishing atmosphere but quite the experience. Ryan and his family have been doing this tradition for years. His brother Tim caught a big brown trout and made the "Lunker Board" at the lodge. I ended up shooting a doe during rifle season and was done with my deer slaying for the year.
I was also introduced to duck hunting by one of my first childhood friends Jessi. I bought a new Berretta shotgun. She was sponsored by Berretta while shooting in college and told me they have been around since the 1500s and is the oldest active firearms manufacturer in the world. So needless to day I bought the Berretta Outlander because of its reviews and affordability. Duck hunting is the opposite of deer hunting, it is....social. You can joke around, cook breakfast and relax until ducks come in. Watching Jessi's dad Shawn Battles work the ducks was incredible. He could turn a flock of duck's direction by calling them in. As they get closer and closer we just freeze and stay behind the camouflage in the blind on Wappapello Lake. Right before they land in the decoys or pass us Shawn yells, "GET EM"! Then me, Jessi, her dad and her friends unload our 12 gauge shotguns. It is pretty darn exciting and definitely a new adventure for me. They said I didn't even have a good day but when I do I will be truly addicted to duck hunting. It is a rush unlike deer hunting, unique in its own way and a social party. I was also invited to hunt my friend Joe's land. It is 80 acres that he tends to throughout the year and floods for duck season. I hunted with him and his son in the rain for two days, we did alright. I helped both duck clubs on work weekends this year and plan to slay some waterfowl soon.
Yet another new thing I started was horseback riding with Jessi. She grew up on horses and can do all of the tricks and not hold on. I on the other hand was getting yelled at by Jessi often, "quit holding the horn!" I thought that's what the horn was for? I am now working on loping and sometimes get into a gallop! I am learning many new thing about a horse and their behavior. I watched an emotional documentary called "Buck", about a horseman. He is amazing with horses and gains their trust and willingness attitude sooner than most. He relates to the fear in horses and talks about his personal wounds from his childhood. Jessi tells me that horses are prey animals and sometimes get injured or injure the rider because of irrational fear. I have to say, when I am on a horse I feel alive. Travelling through the woods and running is such an awesome feeling. My goal is to someday buy some acreage and live in a more rural area than south county St. Louis. I think the more rural life will suit me better as the city tends to exhaust me. Everyone is in a hurry and there is traffic everywhere. I prefer the slower life and towns if possible.
All in all I have had my ups and downs in the last year and a half. This is reality; if you find someone who has only had ups, please introduce me! I have read multiple books on Lincoln lately and found that against all the turmoil, odds and depression in his life, he was able to do amazing things that changed the world forever. I also visited Springfield, IL to see where a lot of this took place. I am not choosing to dwell on things but instead suck the marrow out of life. I get bogged down by work and bills but still continue to experience new things that make me feel alive and not programmed. I am now dating Jessi and am excited to see where life takes me. She is a country girl with incredible intelligence and an unwavering calmness. I am only known her for 26 years. I read something the other day that said "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and preserved body, but rather used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "what a ride". " I am going to choose to live without regrets because life is too short and God has a lot planned for us. I choose to look ahead and not behind. I want to feel more alive everyday and will continue the search of how. What choices will you make to feel alive today or this week? Leave comments below. Well since I slept three hours and now have to go to work, have a great day.