The last time I traveled to Europe, I suffered such culture shock, a deep yearning for home I never could have imagined, and a sense of feeling so small and lost that I promised myself I would never go back for work. (I left the door open for expensive vacations fit with fancy hotels and friendly tour guides. You know, someday, maybe.) That was almost twenty years ago. Last month, I broke the promise I made to myself.

When I found out the ladies of Love God Greatly were planning a trip to serve women in Germany, my biggest worry was what my husband and daughters would do without me. It wasn’t until the trip got closer and closer that I remembered my horrible experience and worried what I would do without them.

In January of 2000, I had just turned 18 and was living in Milan, Italy. My mom and I moved there in hopes of turning my hobby of modeling on runways at luncheons and galas in Dallas, Texas, into a powerhouse career on the catwalks of Milan, Paris, and New York. What sounded exciting turned out to be some of the bleakest months of my life. The cold of a Northern Italian winter bit straight through my pathetic excuse of a coat. My agency gave me a cell phone but no one could figure out how to change it to English. Every message left went unanswered. Every waiter kept asking me if I wanted gas or no gas (bubbles/carbonation or not) in my water, but I just wanted a plane ticket home.

I spent all day staring at signs, wondering how they could squeeze so many letters into street names. And I spent many early mornings standing in the courtyard of my apartment in a bathrobe with my hair in a towel, winter weather and all, just so I could talk to my boyfriend back in Texas for a few minutes. He never did learn the time difference. And my bosses at Dolce and Gabbana never tired of whispering between gritted teeth, “Smile, Amanda.” Misery loved my company because I made it look cheerful for once.

After another long day stifling my gloom with warm bowls of pasta in the cafeteria at work, I made it home from the Metro to hear my mom on the phone. Something happened to my sister back home. It was serious. We couldn’t wait for fashion week, mere weeks away. We needed to go home to Texas immediately. Miserable in Milan did not compare to the sadness that awaited us at home.

As my sister slowly recovered, I did too. It was all too much for me. I decided I would never chase my dream that far again. I felt like a failure. Of course, after I became a wife and a mother and found Christ years and years later, I could see that career was not the path God wanted me on.

When I was first learning about God, Proverbs 3:5-6 were the verses that changed everything for me.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.

Doing life my way only brought me to different places of brokenness. I knew that from experience. Once I started to trust God and love Him with my whole heart, He showed me a thousand times that His way is best.

I had been trusting the Lord the best I could for seven years when I was offered a job at Love God Greatly as a storyteller. It was an easy yes for my family and me. God is working in amazing ways through this ministry and it was time for someone to try and capture the stories and share them. Otherwise, we miss opportunities to praise God together. I hadn’t been at Love God Greatly a year when I found out I was needed to tell stories in Germany. Surprisingly, it was another easy yes for my family and me.

As the departure date inched closer, I was terrified. What if I get there and I can’t read the signs again and all I want to do is eat food and frown all day while these sweet ladies are depending on me to do my job? What if I shut down again like I did in Milan and miss all the wonderful things happening around me? What if I let everyone down? What if I fail? But my husband and family encouraged me every day and God made a way. So I threw my hands up, gave up control, and went. And God carried me the whole way.

I had a front row seat to some of the sweetest moments of fellowship between precious servants of God. Watching them lean into one another, learn even more and love the Lord together, and pivot in and out of multiple languages every day – all for God’s glory – changed me. I did not have to read the street signs because I had friends there to show me the way. I did not shut down and cower in fear because I was covered in love the whole time. I was useful, it was fun, and it was fulfilling. I felt found all over again.

Five nights without me were my husband and daughters own personal triumph. They did amazing. Crossing oceans for Christ without them and without crumbling was mine.

When things were still up to me, I spiraled and flailed and circled into pits. Still, God waited for me. Now, when I leave things up to Him, He guides me on a straight path with His promises. He carries me. I’m so glad I broke the promise I made to myself and followed God’s promises to Germany instead. I pray you allow Him to guide you too because our Creator’s path is far better than anything we could carve out for ourselves.

All for His glory,

Amanda loves everything Texas and everything Jesus. She squeezes in as much time reading and writing as possible in between raising two precious girls and adoring and respecting her firefighter husband. She knows how empty life was without God and is forever grateful for the handful of people who led her to the Lord. Amanda is one of those extroverted introverts and had to learn how to place God’s armor over the heart on her sleeve. Her desire is for women all over the world to know God adores them so they can return to, and remain in, their intended identity – His.

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