Fifteen years ago this May, I packed up my pick-up truck named Ralph with all of the possessions I thought I would need for the adventure of the rest of my life. I was 23 years-old, had just graduated from college, broke up with a long-term boyfriend, and took a job cleaning toilets on the other side of the country. Away from my family. Away from my friends. Away from everyone and everything I had ever known… because Colorado was pretty.
It was more than that, though. The first time I drove through Rocky Mountain National Park was four years prior when I went on a camping trip with my beloved Aunt Phyllis. I know it’s cliché, but it’s also true, I felt exactly like the words expressed in the song Rocky Mountain High when it says, “Comin’ home to a place he’d never been before.” It was. I looked around, breathed deeply and thought, “I’m home. I’m more home here than at home.”
On that trip, we hiked, we camped, we toured three of the most beautiful and wondrous National Parks our country has to offer. When Colorado got super rainy (weird, I know) we drove through Wyoming where tumbleweeds blew across the desolate highway, there was no speed limit, and we were the only car on that road for miles. We wandered up through the Tetons (quite possibly my most favorite place I have ever been) and up into Yellowstone where after we watched Old Faithful erupt, my aunt pointed to some dorm buildings. “That’s where the college kids live when they come out to work in the park for the summer.”
That’s when my dream emerged.
“You mean people live here in these beautiful places?! People LIVE here! I could live here! I could become a grown-up and live here!”
My aunt about died laughing at me while beaming with pride because I had immediately fallen in love with the West just as she had. I was 19, though, and I hadn’t really thought past that year’s summer break. Living a real adult life making my own choices in the most beautiful most “home” place I’d ever been seemed so… adventurous, exciting, fun… and doable.
So I dreamt of the mountains until that day in May when my long-time bestie hopped in my truck with me and we drove through Iowa and Nebraska for like a million hours. When the Rocky Mountains finally came into view, my eyes welled with relief. They’re still here! They’re still gorgeous! They still feel like home! I still want to live here!
And then, a few days later, I dropped my friend off at the airport to send her back to her life. Back to my life. Back to everyone I’d ever known and loved. Back to all of the things I knew were safe.
As I drove away, terrified feelings tore at the pit of my gut. What in the world did I just do? Why in the world am I here in this place alone and unloved and alone and unloved and alone? I literally just left everyone I have ever loved. I left because the mountains are pretty, and it seems like fun?! I have got to be the biggest idiot to have ever lived. What a dumb decision. I can’t do this…
My thoughts continued to spiral until I rounded the curve in Lyons, where the land starts to get interesting. Then I remembered that this was the dream God gave me, and I knew I could always go back, but if I had stayed in that life, I would’ve been haunted by a life of “what ifs”. And, while I have missed so many things by living in Colorado, I would’ve missed so much more by staying where I was. Moving to Colorado was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
So what’s your point, Em? Why are you telling me this story?
Because, friend, you might be stepping out into the unknown right now, and I wanted you to know that you’re not alone. And I wanted you to know that the bravest, most celebratory moments of your life might very well be the same exact ones where you’re terrified, sick to your stomach and feel utterly lost, hopeless and alone.
God’s got this. Whatever big crazy dream you have, God’s got this.
Whatever you’re trying to endure or overcome, God’s got this. Whatever hopeless situation you’re in, God knew it was coming and He knows what’s going to happen. He loves you and He wants what’s best for you.
I know you feel lost and alone and unsure of all the things. But you’re doing better than you think you are. Keep going. Keep trying. Keep running. Keep fighting. These battles you face, these dreams you dream won’t be conquered overnight.
WE aren’t God. We can’t say, “Water, become wine” and suddenly be drinking a fabulous Cabernet. (I’ve tried.) We’re human, so we’ve gotta do the work. As 1 Timothy 6:12 says, “Fight the good fight of faith.”
Whatever unknown you find yourself about to venture into, stay the course. Keep trying. God’s got your back. Keep going, girl.
Emily Donehoo is the only female in a family of five. She is a former High School English Teacher and National Trainer for the College Board. These days, when she isn’t scrubbing toilets, administering timeouts, working at book fairs, attempting to tackle dinner, laundry, homework help, dishes, and a preschooler’s incessant questions, she writes authentically about the hard stuff that really matters, hoping to uncover the truth that God has for us whether it makes us cry from laughter, pain or both at the same time.