Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Blank Pages of My Story


I can’t help but marvel at the absurdity of my life. I’m a young guy, and a year or so ago I thought I had it all figured out. How comical that thought is now. I entered university with a beautiful girlfriend, a goal of getting my degree in 4 years, and the plan of being a pastor the rest of my life.

I started feeling different my sophomore year of college. My friends were different, and I wasn’t enjoying school nearly as much as I had the previous year. Then my mind started churning with new ideas, my old, simple views crumbling to pieces. My girlfriend and I broke up. It was sad, and I decided I was done with emotions.

I needed something different so I signed up to teach English as a missionary in Kazakhstan from January to June. That’s where this blog begins and ends. I learned more on my own overseas that I ever will in a classroom. I didn’t know where Kazakhstan was or what it was like, but it sounded like a good chance to “get away from it all.” The real kicker to the whole story was when I went to Barnes and Noble before getting on the plane to fly half way around the world—after all, I needed some reading material for my 6 months abroad. I grabbed a few books that I had been leafing through for months, and then I grabbed this yellow book that one of my best friends recommended. She was a big Donald Miller fan, but to be honest, I didn’t quite trust him. I was scared he might just be another one of those hopeless liberals, so I wrote him off—that is, until this yellow book made it with me to the checkout counter. I exhausted my Christmas gift cards, loaded my suitcase full of books and went out on a new adventure. When I got to Kazakhstan the first book I pulled out was this yellow book—A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. My first thoughts were that the title was too long, but I dove in and got lost in this man’s ideas. At the beginning of the book he talks about how we don’t remember most of our lives. This freaked me out and I wanted to make sure my Kazakhstan trip was well documented. This blog and the 5,500+ pictures and videos on my computer wouldn’t exist had I not read this book. I can honestly say that this book changed my life. I make everyone close to me read it, because I feel they’ll understand me better. That same best friend also sent me off with another Donald Miller book and I appreciate his work more than any other author at this point, but enough with the flattery. I don’t want Don to get big head or think I’m trying to sucker my way into winning a contest or anything.

As my trip was nearing the end and I was hugging all of my students goodbye I began to be afraid—afraid of my unknown future, afraid that my story would become boring in going back to my regular life in America. But, Kazakhstan changed me. Reading Million Miles changed me. Now I’m a character and I want all the good stuff like rainbows, happiness, and true love, but I’m trying to take life one day at a time. Right now, I’m working towards completing my college degree, but not in theology as I had previously planned. I respect pastors to the utmost and think they have one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. I think I could be a pastor someday, but right now I just want to get some more experience before I start trying to relate to the general population. When I was in Kazakhstan I realized I was arrogant, and I hate arrogance. So now, I am pressing on trying to be humble. Freshly back on American soil, I am taking a break from my expensive, private, out-of-state university, and doing some time at a local community college. Instead of working in a rare job that nobody understands, I’ve applied at the local BestBuy and In-N-Out Burger. My goal is to meet new people, to really invest myself in building relationships and to see the beauty in God’s kids. The whole putting others first thing—I’d like to be more like Jesus, and Jesus put others first.

As for the next few pages in the story of my life, well, like I said, I’m looking to get this college degree so people think I’m legit. I want to travel and become more ‘international’ while making a difference in different individual’s lives. While I still don’t know exactly what I want to do when I grow up, I’m getting a better idea. Looking into publishing, business communications, and who knows—maybe even writing. I’m learning that I’m just as lost as all the other teenagers out there and I’m okay with that.

I’m almost done here, but I have to take a moment to talk about a specific part of my story. One of the best parts of my Kazakhstan experience was before I ever left America. I got stranded in Tennessee because of visa complications and ended up staying with this friend of mine who had recently adopted 6 kids. They were all brothers and sisters who would have been split up had my friend not stepped in. His wife and him also had one little girl of their own and one that will enter the world in about a month from now. So, for a little over a week I lived in this house where there was never a dull moment. I fell in love with these kids who called me “Uncle Kyle” and truly discovered the joy of children. I experienced pushing them all on the swings and running with them through the park. So if you ask me how I want to live a better story this is the first thing that comes to mind—I want to adopt kids! And lots of them! Who knows, maybe someday I could even work for/with an orphanage.

When I got home I told my parents (I made them read Million Miles) about this conference http://donmilleris.com/conference/. They told me to go, but I knew there was no way. (My Dad has been out of a job, and I had been volunteering for the past 6 months.) However, I had about 400 bucks left to my name, and my mom told me that if this is something I really want to do, then I should buy the ticket. She said that it was all part of living a better story; that if I spent the money on the ticket then I would be forced to find my way to Portland. (My parents are so awesome!) So, I decided to hop online and buy the ticket before the logical part of my brain turned on. I have my ticket to the conference, but still have no idea how I’m going to get to Portland or where I will stay when I get there, but the main thing is—I will get there! (I looked at it as a birthday present to myself—I’ll be turning 20 on September 28th!) Hopefully Don will have some compassion on me, and fly me out to his beautiful city! I am really hoping to get some clearer direction for my life and learn some amazing pointers on how to make the story of my life be the story I want, and a story worth reading.

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

When I view my life as a story, I get very excited, because I love movies and books. I can’t wait to fill up these blank pages with excitement. I’m on an adventure with the God of the universe—nothing could be more exciting!

I realize that I’ve been pretty vague and very wordy so let me sum this up:

Kyle Stiemsma is a well-known author and speaker who runs several orphanages around the world, but what he is most successful at is loving his ginormous family. At least that is his dream. In order to get there he is going to have to plow through this broken world filled with uncertainty, embrace his emotions, humble himself, and intimately connect with the God of the universe. He’s going to have to get through school and educate himself while making connections with the right people. He's going to need to practice and refine his skills, learn to take harsh criticism, and make a buttload of money. Winning the lottery certainly would help. As he travels the world and makes new friends, he'll see the value in each human being. The blank pages of his life intimidate him, but he is determined to fill them with tear-jerking victories of a world that is a better place because he lived.

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