Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Six days, scenic sunsets, and a starry night in Santa Barbara

North Carolina to California. Coast-to-coast. Nearly 3,000 miles.

My brothers Nathan and Taylor and I just had the adventure of a lifetime. In just six days, we explored our country from east to west. Our destination was Mill Valley, CA where I will be a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Our journey began in Garner, NC, with pit stops in Nashville, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Kingman, and Santa Barbara.

Before we left, the thought of spending 50 hours in a car in only 6 days sounded completely miserable to me, but as we went along, I seemed to have no sense of time. Our days began to blend together. We listened to lots of music, had good conversations (some deep, some ridiculous), and enjoyed seeing parts of our country that were foreign to us.

We even made up our own games. One game was to try to come up with a sentence that no one has EVER said before. I wasn’t too good at it.

Taylor’s best response was: “The universe told me to put down the toilet seat.”

I don’t know if it was because we were exhausted or because we had been traveling for 15 hours that day, but that comment sent all three of us into a hysterical fit of laughter. It was unstoppable. It got so bad that my eyes were watering and I thought I may have to pull over!

We drove through 8 states and got to stop and see friends along the way. I was able to visit with friends in Nashville, Arkansas, New Mexico, and California.

The Grand Canyon was definitely a highlight of the trip. I’d say it’s exactly what I expected it to be, a GRAND canyon! It was so HUGE. It stretches wider and goes deeper than you can see. As we walked around the southern rim, I was amazed at the enormity of this wonder of the world.

Just as beautiful as the Grand Canyon were the sunsets we saw in New Mexico and Arizona. Shades of blue and bright orange blurred together over the jagged rust colored mountains. We must have said “wow” 1,000 times on this trip. There just wasn’t a word to describe the beauty of the moment.

Tonight we are in Santa Barbara, which is our last stop before we arrive in Mill Valley tomorrow evening. Santa Barbara is the closest thing I’ve seen to Hawaii on the mainland. The mountains descend into the ocean and palm trees sway along the coastline. The difference is that the weather is crisp and cool, like an October day in North Carolina.

Tonight we watched the sun set from a pier and then came back to our hotel. The courtyard has a heated pool and a fireplace. It was the perfect setting for a night like tonight. The three of us dipped our feet in the pool and lay down, gazing at the stars in the dark sky, with palm trees surrounding us.

It was silent for a while. Then Taylor voiced the thing all three of us were thinking.

“I’m afraid this might be the end of the Brunson kids.”

None of us wanted to admit it, but I guess reality is beginning to sink in as we’re nearing the end of our trip. I’ll be in California for the next two years, Nathan will graduate from college this year and probably move somewhere else, and Taylor will be heading off to college soon. Before we know it, we will start getting married and having families of our own. All of us knew that moments like tonight will now be a rarity.

As a girl who enjoys change and independence, I was surprised to feel my eyes well up with tears. It wasn’t a completely sad moment. It was more a reflection on the great experiences we have had, not only on this trip, but throughout our whole lives. I am overwhelmingly grateful to have the family that I do. A family that truly enjoys being together, yet loves me enough to let me explore and follow God’s call, even when that means being away from them.

As we continued to look up at the stars with our feet dangling in the warm water, I put my head on Taylors shoulder and smiled.

“This isn’t the end of the Brunson kids,” I thought. This is simply the beginning of another phase of our lives. It may look a little different, but we’ll always be family.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Face on the floor. Heart beating fast. Tears flowing. Mind racing.

I often find myself in this position when I’m facing a task that is far too daunting to complete on my own.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve had an independent nature. When I was just six years old, I got on an airplane by myself and went to visit my grandparents for a week. Being on my own didn’t faze me, even as a child.

As I’ve grown and matured, that independent spirit has gone with me. I enjoy going places on my own and being put in situations where I don’t know anyone and have to find my own way.

Sometimes, though, I need a sharp reminder that I am completely incapable of doing anything on my own.

This tends to hit me right before something significant is about to take place. For example, the two summers that I worked as a counselor for Fuge camps, I had a breakdown the night before the first day of camp.

Just when I thought I was prepared and ready to lead a group of students, I was suddenly terrified at the thought. I vividly remember the night in 2008 when I was up late preparing my Bible study room for the campers that were to arrive the next day. I was shaking in fear that I would fail at my job. I kneeled down on the dirty tile floor and cried out to God to equip me for the task that was ahead of me. God truly humbled me that night and showed me that it is foolish to try to do anything apart from Him.

I’ve experienced this before I go on mission trips as well. I can be completely packed and ready to go, but if my heart is not prepared for service, I’m not prepared at all. Before I went to Sri Lanka this year, God really shook me. It was almost as if He was saying, “Just because you’ve been to Sri Lanka many times doesn’t mean that you can do this on your own. You need to trust in ME.” I needed that reminder.

Tomorrow I am embarking on another journey. I’ll be leaving my home, my family, and all that is familiar to me, and heading to Golden Gate Seminary. A few days ago, I had another “facedown” moment where I was completely humbled and cried out for God to strengthen me with His power.

As excited as I am, I definitely have some fears as well.

This is perhaps the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever had to take. At times, I second guess myself and wonder if it’s really necessary to go to the opposite end of the country where I don’t know many people. But then I’m reminded of the clear sense of direction I had when I chose which school to go to. I know that God is faithful and He will always, always provide. The key is to make sure that I’m dwelling in Him…not in myself.

So as I make this transition I want to be constantly aware of God’s greatness and my weaknesses. And when I start to think I can go through life on my own, I pray that I will once again fall facedown, desperate for God.