“Ann had lived her entire life based on what was right and had never once made a decision based on her desire.”
The line on page 62 haunted me long after I finished The Journey of Desire by John Eldredge, a book I found in the BTI library. I mulled over the phrase, its words gnawing me from the inside out. Imagine making a choice based on what I want! I shook my head. In my last year of university, I couldn’t fathom a life-decision disregarding duty, responsibility, and normalcy. Yet still, something stirred deep down… like the simmering of a pot on the edge of its boil. 
Had I ever made a decision based on my desire? 

However, I could protest with that. Bethlehem Tertiary Institute, my alma mater, was somewhere I desperately wanted to go. I always had wanted to move to New Zealand, I always wanted to call my parent’s country home, I always wanted green hills to be normal. Yet despite the desire, I could justify it to anyone quite simply. Financially, it made sense. Tuition per year at BTI was cheaper than my high school in Hawaii, not to mention compared to what many friends of mine paid for university in the USA. Add the government’s gift of student allowance to me as a low-income Kiwi citizen– and teacher-training was all pretty handy-dandy, without facing up to any desire to actually do it.
But what if a commitment doesn’t make sense financially? Or logically? Or educationally (is that even a word?)? That’s a very different story.
So, if God asked me to make a decision based on what I want, would I still go after it? I think BTI was one of the first big life decisions that, initially, I went after it because I really wanted to. However, no one disagreed with me, no one thought it was a bad idea, not even myself. (Well, a part of me mourned that fact that I didn’t go to an American university with old friends and study writing. But I hid that pretty quickly). So when it came down to it, I could explain my life-decision without even referring to my heart. “It’s a whole lot cheaper,” I stated to an acquaintance who I knew wouldn’t get if I explained, “Well, God called me to Tauranga and I wanted to come.”
Therefore, God continued to ask me the hot poker-stick question,
stoking the fire
underneath a simmering pot
that refused to boil. 
Kayla, what do you want? 
It’s a question that He asked me constantly for three years– forcing me to face my heart griefs and disappointments, which I had ignored under the guise of “following God’s will”. Surely if we’re in God’s will everything is perfect, right? I won’t feel homesickness or heartbreak, nor will I like a guy and still be single, yeah? God’s will protects us from all of that, right? But He never promised I wouldn’t feel or experience those things. Quite the opposite. When Jesus asked me what I want? He communicated that there were some things that I didn’t have right then and there– and He wanted to let me know that He cared about those things. Duty mutters “this is where God wants you to be, so get over it”. But that was not how He responded. Instead, He asked: what do you want? 
Enter Kayla into primary-teaching job-application season, September-November last year. (I want to shudder just thinking about it). Imagine growing up as a dolphin in the Pacific Ocean your whole life. Then you’re told you need to ask humans on land to take you to spend the rest of your days living on dry sand. You breathe air! You’ll do great! they tell you, appealing to your dual identity. But you still feel like you are dragging yourself into a place that will kill you slowly. I know this is a dramatic picture, but this is how I felt as a YWAM kid applying for jobs that I had never seen myself in. When you’ve been raised in a completely different, family-based education system– with world travel, DTS-speaking, YWAM-base-pioneering as normal? Why would you do anything else? 

Yet I knew, above all else, God had called me to BTI and applying for jobs was part of my equipping to teach. My student loan loomed overhead with a dark shadow– full-time teaching with a salary was a way to get rid of it, and to be equipped so I could go back well-prepared into the missions world again. That was my plan.
Yet? All through this process, Jesus still asked, What do you want?
 so I could never escape that my heart desperately cried out
for some things that I did not have at BTI (even though God had called me there).
I longed to live life with long-term YWAM family, to be in a community that understood Christian education and the glorious mess of cultures that I grew up with– in short, I wanted to be home. No, I don’t mean Kona (where I was born and raised), but somewhere that combines the many countries and towns that I have deep emotional connections to– all in glorious cup-a-tea, fluffy-blanket, movie-night unity.
He responded, this time saying,  I’m building you a home. And me, all-pleased-by-the-smallest-thing, thought, Aww, Hes building a house for me spiritually, and it’s in Tauranga, where I know He has called me to stay. Naturally, I started writing a blog post about it– and when I was in the middle of typing– I got a phone call from Cora Dawson, on behalf of her and Matt, long-term family friends in YWAM. She asked if I was interested in living in a YWAM community house starting this year. Quick story even quicker, I moved in at the end of last year. It is still being renovated around the outside– building in reality! Long term staff live in it as well as outreach teams in and out. Currently we have a School of Music in Missions from YWAM Newcastle, Australia (one of those long-term YWAM family places for me!) staying with us. It all feels so normal, like home. (However, I needed a house. That was easy to explain to people.)
Will I ever make a decision based on my desire? 
Turns out, with me barely realising what was happening, I did. 
When I arrived in New Zealand in January I fully expected to be living in this house, applying for jobs– babysitting, nannying, and well, tutoring. 
But that simmering water finally exploded into a boil. A teaching offer came up– one that I realised, if I said yes to it– would mean chucking out the home God had been making for me in this city. Financially and experientially, that part-time position sounded a lot better than potential unemployment, or the incessant “do you have you a job yet?”. Yet He was clear. “What do you want?”. On the surface, I wanted both, I didn’t want to choose. However, with the job offer I kept hearing myself say, I feel like I should– I’m supposed to accept it… rather than, This is what I have dreaming of. 
There was something else– something I had been dreaming of the past three years (if not far, far longer). About two weeks ago, I said yes what I wanted and God’s word to me– 
Stay in Tauranga, 
serve the families here, 
and be with Matt and Cora Dawson 
and what they are pioneering with close friends. 
Turns out they needed a tutor for their two girls (third-generation YWAM kids) and so now, three mornings a week I am teacher to these beauties. I also get to hang out often with three little boys who are close family friends (and my neighbours now!). I’m still looking into being partnered with local primary schools in a part-time position. This is to start paying back my student loan– but more so to build relationship and gain experience. (Because I certainly am praying for some miracles, financially). 
Nowadays? Life looks like my familiar unknown– the normal of YWAM family, combined with mysterious horizons that hold the best. Yet as I learned during life at BTI, this familiar unknown is not just in full-time missions or YWAM. Some of my best friends from university are now being absolute legends bringing Jesus’ light and love into primary schools across the country. He loves it. And talking to Michaela and Johannah on the phone today? It reminded me that a familiar unknown– and absolute joy– is found in simply following Jesus, wherever our paths may tread.
However, on my path, I never truly thought that obedience to God and my desire was possible. I lived in fear of doing the wrong thing with my life, of making a mistake, of choosing something God didn’t want. I figured my desire together with his would be possible in a few years or so– when I had done my duty and completed my responsibility to the things I thought I had to be connected to.
Yet now I find?
My dream is right in front of me. 
 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 
At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
-John 5:6-9 (NIV)
Photos: Gideon’s Valley camping trip (another dream come true), February 2015; photo of me by Katherine Stanley (#legend).