Do You Long to Connect the Puzzle Pieces of Your Story?

Twenty five years. Give or take.

That’s how long I’ve been waiting to see some key pieces in the puzzle of “my story” come together. Oh what fun it has been to lock a few into place!

Let me give you some context…

Summer 1991: Small town girl graduates high school and decides not to go straight to college or work like everyone else. She chooses instead, a “gap year.” I’m not even sure that phrase was a thing at that time, but as I understand it that’s what it was. I pack my bags (super-sized, I’m sure, unfortunately not much has changed) and head to the Basque country to spend a year as a foreign exchange student. (That’s in Northern Spain if you’re wondering. I had to look it up at the time, too.)

Man, describing and processing that year could not only be a whole other blog post, maybe I could even turn it into a YA novel!! Writing the subsequent screenplay in my head. Hmmmmm?? Let’s put a pin in that one.

Summer 1992: One year later, I am a completely different person. Broken. Remolded. Changed for the better to be sure.

God had SO MUCH work to do in me and I am forever grateful for the year of transformation. Not the least of which is the fact that I walked away knowing Spanish. ‘Castellano’ if you will. (I spent a lot of time ‘undoing’ that lisp because when I got back to the States and decided to major in Spanish, I felt pretty presumptuous saying things like ‘gra-th-ias’ and ‘por shupuesto’. That stuff definitely solicited eye rolls.)

Summer 1996: I am officially a married, college graduate with a BA in Romance Languages. (I know, right?! Beyond fun.) However, the $25,000 question on everyone’s lips was the same, “That’s a neat major, but what are you going to DO with it? Do you want to be a teacher?” 

The sad part is, I never conjured up a respectable answer. I didn’t want to be a foreign language teacher, or a translator, or an ex-pat missionary.  

Consequently, I bounced around from entry-level, low paying job to entry-level, low-paying job garnering low level vocational depression in the process. So, I ended up doing what most private, liberal arts school students do — I went to grad school.

Summer 2003: I land my ‘dream job’ as a high school guidance counselor.

I work in that field. I have babies. I stop working. I raise babies. I go back to work when they hit grade school. I quit that job. I feel the call to adopt and basically go back to ‘raising babies.’ 

All the while I am supporting my husband in his Young Life ministry. We have always been and continue to be a team in life and family and vocation and calling.

Twenty five years of having this love and knowledge of the Spanish language. Lying dormant.

Twenty years on Young Life staff.

Never the two should meet. 


Summer 2016: An opening surfaces for a volunteer to chaperone our church youth group’s annual summer trip to the Dominican Republic to work at — wait for it — a Young Life camp!! I mean, can you even?? My heart skipped a beat. I took one look at my amazing hubby and he said, “Go for it!”

So I did.

Honestly, the whole week, I just kept pinching myself! It was like long-lost lovers being reunited. (See — I bet I could rock the YA novel. Smile.)

I love teenagers. I love Latin America. I love speaking (or at least attempting to speak!) Spanish. And I LOVE Young Life or ‘Vida Joven’ as they call it. I just kept smiling at the God who sees. 

Of course there were other moments. Spiritual connections. Relationships built. Dances danced. Concrete mixed. Heatstroke threatening to take me down. A trip to the local ER after a sea urchin sting (not me but one of our sweet teenage girls). Yes. Lots of moments. And I will likely unpack a few of those in a future post, but for now, this is what sits at the top of the list. 

Do you have any funky, misshapen puzzle pieces that just don’t seem to fit? If so, what do you long to see? How might God be doing something even now to connect those parts and pieces of your story?

Holly’s Take:

You are not going to believe this, but I just finished up a few minutes of learning Spanish on Rosetta Stone. My kids are going to be going to a Spanish immersion school, so I figured I better learn a little something before they start speaking Spanish at home and I feel left out. I hope I really do this. I hope I get a chance to use it, too, like you just got to! Me gusta that you know Spanish. Me gusta that you love teenagers. Me gusta that you went on this trip even without any other Nilsens represented. And me gusta YOU! 

Christina’s Take: 

I’m emotional about this post for 2 reasons: 

1) You talk about the God who sees. It might take 25 years and the timing might never match our own preference but no puzzle piece lacks its’ home. This gives me more courage to hope for what he sees in my own funky puzzle.  

2) I’m so grateful for your diligence in pursuing this gifting of yours because my son was on this trip, too! Friends, I cannot overstate the value of having a trusted “mole” on your teenager’s international mission trip. It’s been so fun to process the “what” and the “why” of this trip with both my son and my amazing, bilingual, teenager-loving, servant-hearted pal!!

2 thoughts on “Do You Long to Connect the Puzzle Pieces of Your Story?

  1. 25 years…when I met you in Algorta. I read your blog some time ago, and today reading your post…I couldn’t stop leaving a comment. And you continued with the Spanish, great!!!
    Happy to see and read from you.Regards from Algorta!!!!Isabel


    1. Isabel!! Qué ilusión me da recibir noticias tuyas! Tú fuiste mi primera amiga (buena, además 😊) en Algorta aquel año. Tu amistad me ayudó muchísimo! Me alegra mucho que me encontraste. El milagro del internet, eh? Estás en Facebook?? Me encantaría seguir hablando contigo. Muchos besos….


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