I'm rather embarrassed to say that when the opportunity to be stationed in Hawai'i arose, I was upset. Not just upset, but kinda sorta threw a mini tantrum. I know, right? I was a complete brat who, at the time, wanted nothing more to head to back to Europe and the military was sending those dreams a crashing down. Three months studying abroad was simply not enough of croissants and Kronenburg 1664 and I needed to be back galavanting through Germany. Or England. Or SWITZERLAND, DAMMIT! Naively I had also spent time in Hawai'i as a teenager (when, let me remind you I swore to myself I would be back, I even considered going to UH I loved it so) but in reverse like an old lover remembered the bad parts of O'ahu instead of the good and chimed on and on annoyingly about how "Hawai'i isn't the paradise people think it is" (granted I had stayed in hot + dry Makaha and never saw much further than that) and sulked in my white girl tears. I just wanted to pretend to be french, uh uhh oui oui. Feel free to SMACK ME NOW. My husband certainly doesn't but he will, on occasion, remind me of how much I didn't want to come to Hawai'i and how fabulous it has turned out to be. Usually he brings this up when the opportunity for change is around the corner and I am busting out my cement, ready to pour myself into it and not budge, which brings me to my love note to the islands...
I'm Grateful to Hawai'i For:
1. Showing me what may feel like the worst thing in the world often winds up being the best thing that could have happened. Great things can sometimes be veiled as devastating and it's not until we pull back and see the bigger picture that time shows us just how much of a blessing that speed bump was. I can't even tell you how many huge disagreements, missed opportunities or simply tough work days have turned into incredible rather pivotal moments in my life and faith. I have learned this time and time again and, just like ending up in Hawai'i instead of southern France, I find growth and great purpose in the challenge and change.
2. Taking the girl out of the city. I adore Charlotte, but years of living in the young and bustling city surrounded by southern belles and shiny new things hardened my heart and left me slightly superficial. Don't get me wrong, a girl still loves her nice things! Maybe it's the make-up free atmosphere or the fact that people wear aloha shirts and slippahs when they are dressing up but I've become a lot more laid-back and carefree in my style, owning cut-offs and a t-shirt and totally legit shooting attire, and ultimately relaxed my heart. I certainly still keep myself presentable, trust me, I can only schlep it for so many days, but there's something about beach showers and going barefoot that have increased my confidence and acceptance. You didn't wash your hair? No judgement here! It's hard to explain, but there's been a shift.
3. Surrounding me in nature. I don't know what I am going to do when kayaking, snorkeling, boating, or hitting up a morning hike AREN'T daily options. Not only the mix of activities, but having interesting and fresh local produce and single fern leaves the size of your head has inspired me to venture outside more, eat healthier, and encouraged ideas throughout my brand.
4. Reintroducing me to Jesus. This one. THIS is the one that matters the most, and as ridiculous as it sounds makes me want to burst from the inside out whenever I think about it. When we moved here I was in an odd in-between stage; I had quit my job, our long awaited wedding had gone off with many speed bumps, and as excited I was for an adventure I was leaving friends and heading into the unknown. Completely depressed, I packed on a ton of extra pounds in a matter of months and was starting all over again. It was a year of drastic change and I was vulnerable and (now I can thankfully see it for what it was worth) the devil was trying to pull me down, down, down. THANKFULLY I found courage to consult in a new friend (Alyssa!) and she got me going to church with her. Lots has happened between those days crying on the floor, unable to sleep because of crazy visions flashing before me to NOW, dancing around my living room in the joy of the Lord, planning my next mission trip with Inspire Church and feeling God LITERALLY peel back layer upon layer on my life for something much bigger I NEVER would have fathomed myself, and I owe it to Hawai'i. To the friends, the church, the warm beach and the quiet times.
I don't know where we are meant to be next (hopefully it's still here for several more years...but I can always still bank of Europe, right?) but I know beyond a doubt, that Hawai'i was and is exactly where we are supposed to be right here, right now. And dang am I thankful for it.
Photos taken from a Na Pali Coast Helicopter Tour on Kaua'i. Contax 645 + Fuji 400h