Once upon a time there was a girl named Mary who wanted to do everything and be anything. Her career aspirations growing up changed, I don't know, weekly? Sounds about right. If something interested her, it wasn't long before the interest waned when something else grabbed her attention. Frustrated with the lack of direction in her life, she was ready to give up and face a reality of life in retail. Then late one night, she turned the tv on and watched an episode of "Caught in the Moment" that would change everything....
In case you couldn't tell, the above story is about me. For many years I felt like I had no real sense of direction in my life. I wanted to be everything from a dolphin trainer, to a teacher, to being involved in music (from singing to managing), to a sports therapist, and even a flight attendant (what can I say, I love to fly). But ultimately I would lose interest and just become bored. I was so frustrated since I was watching friends and even my husband pursue their callings in life. What was my calling? Surely there had to be something I was truly passionate about. Many women I knew would say "all I wanted to be was a wife and mother." And while I did want to be both (though the "mother" part took awhile for me to warm up to when I was growing up), there was also part of me that ached to be a part of something in addition to that. Where was my calling? Then in September 2006, I was up very late (as is my custom) and turned on the tv to Animal Planet (is there any other channel?). Caught in the Moment was playing, and the episode focused on elephants, Asian elephants in particular. It was already around 2am, but I was so fascinated by what I saw that I could not turn off the tv. The episode took place in Thailand, and they showed a scene in Chiang Mai. At a busy street market, they discovered a baby elephant being led through the streets and being used to beg for money. After all, who could resist a baby elephant. But my heart broke for this elephant, who was only 3 months old. She swayed in fear and stress and one of the hosts explained that an elephant's foot is very sensitive to vibrations...and on a busy street, the vibrations are overwhelming which must be terrifying the elephant. I found myself weeping for this baby elephant, wanting so badly to reach through the tv and take her away from this horrible situation. I was almost to the point where I couldn't watch any longer when they turned their attention to an elephant sanctuary. Here these elephants have suffered through abuse such as the street walking and even the logging industry...and cases of physical abuse against them that would make you cringe. But these elephants had a new story to tell. They were living out the rest of their lives in peace, and they were being treated with love and respect. This was it. I found my calling.
It's been just over a year since I've seen that episode and thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes. I don't know that I can ever forget the sight of that baby elephant swaying in distress. Since then, I've been reading up on elephants as much as I can. I do personal studies on them since I'm not yet in school. Wes will call me into the room whenever he sees a program on elephants on tv. My dream is work with the elephants at Disney's Animal Kingdom. It was a real blessing to me when Wes came up to me one day and said "You have to get your degree, do the college program at Disney, and go the elephant school." He was helping me lay out a plan to live out my dream. For the record, the elephant school is a two week program at a sanctuary in Arkansas that gives hands on experience to those who are interested in working with elephants. It's a pricey program, set at $1800, but that includes your room, food, and all the resources for the school. Next fall, I begin school and take that first step to fulfilling this dream. I'll also be looking for a program to become a certified naturalist. One day you will see a picture of me with a huge smile on my face as I stand with a gorgeous elephant. There is something so amazing about them...so majestic...so emotional (and I mean that on my part and the elephants part...their emotional lives are amazing).
For the first time in my life, I have felt absolute content for what I want to do. And I have found that passion I was looking for. Yes, I have passion in other areas of my life, but I meant a passion for a career. I heard God's calling in my life. It's not a conventional calling. I can't imagine very many people sitting on a couch at 2am when all of a sudden a tv program makes them realize what God is leading them to. I love it. I love how God uses unexpected but simple moments like that.
I am a conservative conservationist. The term may seem like an oxymoron to some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. And it wouldn't surprise me if, at times, I was thought of as a tree hugger. So be it. I am proud of where God has led me and I get so excited about what I learn and where He continues to lead me. I sometimes laugh at how strange it seems that one day I'll be the elephant saving wife of a pastor. I was 25 years old when I saw that "fateful" episode. I will be 27 when I start school. By the time I'll get to (prayerfully) work with elephants regularly as their keeper, I'll be in my 30s. That's a long journey from where I first started as an aimless wanderer. But it will be worth it. It IS worth it. Whether it's the ministry, or it's being a doctor, or it's working with an elephant...the road to fulfilling the call in our lives is incredible. I can't see myself doing anything else. It's amazing the peace and contentment there is when you know, "this is what I should be doing!"