Thursday, June 19, 2014

Home sweet home

It's been a month since I first arrived in this beautiful country. This blows my mind. I can easily recall the first night I came here feeling really overwhelmed.
This year for me has been a crazy game of "how fast can you adapt to a new environment". It started with college, which was also overwhelming. College is a lot like being thrown into the hunger games, except instead of killing people as fast as possible you have to befriend them as fast as possible, and instead of being stuck in a dome for a week, your stuck on a campus you can't navigate and you can't go home until the next break. So it's not really like the hunger games at all, but the feeling of rushing through everything is the same. The rush to make friends, the rush to feel at home, the rush to adapt.
Once I finally felt at home in Chicago, we moved from my hometown in MA to a suburb of Houston, TX. Transition time again. Again, I felt rushed to make this foreign land feel like home before I felt homesick and wanted to go back to a place I knew I wouldn't return to for a long time. Lucky for me, Texas soon felt more homey in a few weeks than Massachusetts ever did in my 18 years living there, thus proving my theory that I was a southern belle in a past life.
Once school ended, my next and biggest transition came: moving to Guatemala for the summer. Getting back to my first night here, you can now understand why I was a little overwhelmed. After constantly transitioning to new environments for the past year, I was growing weary of the rush to adapt to new places. At that point I questioned if I even had a home anymore.
However, in just the past month this place has become more homey than I could ever wish for. In fact, I've perhaps become a little too comfortable here.
Little by little, I feel myself forgetting what it's like in the States. It's hard for me to conjure up a picture in my mind of what my hometown of Spring, TX looks like, feels like, smells like. The feeling of air so humid you could drink it has been replaced by the cool breeze from the rolling Guatemalan hills. The feel of the sharp, thick Texas grass under my feet has been replaced by cool tiles and rocky, uneven sidewalks. The chill of the frigid Chicago air that used to numb my face has been replaced by the feeling of the warm sun kissing my freckled skin like and old lover. The sound of busy city life- cars honking, ambulances wailing, footsteps on the sidewalk, have all been replaced by the sound of rain on tin roofs that lures me to sleep. The smell of city pollution has been replaced by the smell of fresh tortillas and black beans cooking in the kitchen. Little by little my memories of the states have been fading, and I find myself having to look at pictures to remember that there's more to this Earth than this beautiful country, and that in forty-something days I will have to go back.
I never planned on being this fond of a place, especially since I knew that this may be the one and only time I come to Guatemala. But at the same time I am so thankful that God has made a secure place in my heart for this country and all the people in it.
The question, "where are you from?" still stings a little, because at this point I honesty don't know. I grew up in Massachusetts but hated it and I've lived in Texas for a while and I feel Texan but now I'm spending my whole summer in Guatemala just to confuse myself even more... I don't know where I'm from. I don't know where home is. Is it where I can feel the sharp, thick grass under my feet? Is it where the air is so cold it numbs my face? Or is it where I fall asleep to the sound of rain falling on the tin roof above my head? When I ponder this, the verse John 15:19 comes to mind. I'm in this world, but not of it. My home isn't on Earth, it's in Heaven with my Father, the God who loves me so much He put on flesh to show me the way. With that in mind, I can't wait to go home.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Beautiful things

There are a lot of names for God, for example there is el shaddai, Yahweh, redeemer, savior, lord, king, and the list goes on. But there is one name that is simple and so accurate to describe God, and yet no one uses it. That word is beautiful.
God is beautiful. And I don't mean just Him, but everything about God is absolutely beautiful. Who He is, what He's done for us, His creation... It's all beautiful.
It's hard to describe how beautiful Guatemala is because it's so vastly gorgeous that even photos don't do it justice. Sometimes I feel like even my eyes don't even do it justice. It's incomprehensible.

The rolling hills get me the most. These hills/ mountains shrink in comparison to the Rockies and the Appalachians. Every mountain has gentle, rounded edges that kindly invite you towards them. They are all so luscious and green that it makes you wonder if you're in the Garden of Eden. Looking out into the valleys that these mountains create makes you want to spread wings and glide through the warm fresh air and admire the view from above. But my favorite part about the mountains is how the Guatemalans use them for farming. Despite how steep these mountains are, almost every inch is used for farming. With each section of different crops, the mountains look like patches on a quilt draped over the land. It is breathtakingly beautiful. You can't look at the scenery and not just gawk at the sheer magnificence right before your eyes.

But that's not the only beautiful thing about God that I saw this week. This week we had a group from a university in Ohio come and work in San Juan La Laguna, focusing on health issues and the needs of a school in the area. This group was crazy, wacky, wonderful, unique, and above all, beautiful. It was a privilege to watch God work in the lives of the kids and professors in the group, as well as in the lives of the people in the community. At first glance, the juxtaposition between the beautiful landscape of San Juan and the tragic poverty is striking. But when you look closer, you can see a community of strong Mayan people closely connected to their past, living life in a happier way than most Americans. They don't care that they don't have warm water, or that their house may need a paint job. They're happy as they are. They are beautiful.
And let me tell you, there is nothing more beautiful than helping people connect to others who may be completely different from themselves. I had some time this week to watch the group from ohio interact with the Guatemalan students. These are two groups of people who are different ages, different skin colors, different languages spoken, different worlds. But one thing united them, and that's God. This group wouldn't have come if they didn't want to spread God's love to the community. And I think that's beautiful.

One night we were invited over to the local school's English teacher's house. There, we met some kids who had rough pasts. Because of this the English teacher had taken some of them under his wing. One particular boy we met was eager to tell us his story. As it turned out, this boy had just come out of rehab, recovering from a long battle with alcoholism. This seems like it would be a hard, touchy subject for him. And maybe it was, but the way he described his redemption almost brought tears to my eyes. Here is this boy who has been to Hell and back, telling us about how his life has changed thanks to God. All I could think of was a song by Gungor called "Beautiful Things," and the chorus goes,
You make beautiful things You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.
God took this boy's broken spirit and turned him into something beautiful. God makes beautiful things out of us.
If this week has taught me one thing, it's that God's beauty is everywhere and in everyone. Sometimes God's beauty is as obvious and immediately evident as the scenery around us, and sometimes God's beauty takes a while to transform from a hard addiction to a second chance at life. Either way, one thing is for sure: God is beautiful.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Warning: God listens

So if you read my last post, you saw that in my prayer I asked for God to give me more than I could handle so that I can grow in my faith in Him.
And boy, did He listen.
The night before I came here I was tossing and turning so consumed in my fear for my time here. Little gremlins of doubt we're whispering not-so-nice things in my ears; doubts of myself, doubts of God's faithfulness, doubts of just about everything.
I'm going. No I'm not. I'm terrified. I'm not going. It's settled. No, I have to go. I bought the tickets and everything. I always follow through with everything I do, I should know that by now. I'm going. No I'm not. I'm scared.
On and on and on.
I took a leap of faith, and so I am here. But like everyone's first few days in a new country, it's had it's difficult moments. I feel like God has certainly given me more than I can handle.
And as much of a struggle as this is, I can also see the beauty in it. Like I said, this trip is a leap of faith, and faith I'm going to need to consistently have. But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.
Warning, my dear friends, God very much listens to your prayers. And sometimes He gives you exactly what you prayed for without realizing the sacrifice on your part that it would require. But that's okay because God's going to stretch your faith like a rubber band. And if your rubber band snaps, know that there's nothing God can't fix.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Hello friends!
So my hope is that I can post on here at least once a week while I'm in the great land of Guatemala. If not, then enjoy this single blog post and wait until I go to Ecuador in January.
The feels, oh the feels. It feels like I've been excited for months and then all of the sudden these past few weeks the excitement has been drained out of me and replaced with crippling dread and nerves. I'm stuck with a myriad of questions- what if I don't get picked up tomorrow? What if I screw up big time? What if I don't even make it through customs and I have to go home? What if I get seriously ill? All these questions have been swimming around my head at night keeping me up.
I've been so fortunate to have the supportive words of my family and my friends. They all have confidence in me, yet I don't have confidence in me. Why is that? Was I not fearfully and wonderfully made by the most awesome Creator? Was I not knit in my mother's womb, carefully made with all the right qualities to handle what will be thrown at me this summer?
On the last day at school I talked the North Park campus pastor, Pastor Judy, about my fears for the summer. She said that Mother Teresa was wrong when she said that God won't give us more than we can handle. In fact, He purposefully does give us more than we can handle to remind us that we are not in control and we can't do everything ourselves.
Luckily, there's this awesome guy I've met this year at North Park who I can count on to take care of me. You may know Him, His name is Jesus. I'm not working this summer for Merge because it would top all my other friends' summers or for bragging rights; quite the opposite. I'm doing this simply because I feel called by God to be there. Missions are a passion for me, and this was a great opportunity God provided for me.
With that being said, here is my prayer for this summer:
Lord, I pray that You be in front of me, leading me to clear waters and green pastures, and I pray You'll be behind me, ready to catch me when I fall. I pray You'll be beside me, and be my most intimate traveling companion. I pray that you will take me deeper than my feet could ever wander so that my faith will be made stronger. I pray that this step forward in my faith will bring me closer to You. I pray that You give me more than I can handle to stretch out my faith and remind me that I am not in control, not even one bit. I pray that I can be a beacon of light for others who may be lost at sea. Lord, if I am the only Bible someone reads, I pray that Your words of truth, life, and love will be written all over me. I pray that You use me to be Your arms so that I can extend them around those who are hungry for Your love. You have not failed me yet, and I put all my trust in You for safekeeping. Thank You for being You.