Tuesday, March 24, 2015

four years ago...

Centro NOE, today marks my fourth year of knowing you. On March 23, 2011, I boarded a plane in tears and from take-off to touchdown, I questioned my sanity and my God for taking me somewhere where I didn't know a single soul. The overused question fell from my mind and into my heart and I kept asking, "What on Earth are you doing?”

But that night is as clear as if it were yesterday, I pulled back the covers of my unfamiliar bed and before I closed my eyes...I sent a text to my best friend and I told her that I knew Morelia was home, that it wouldn't just be a place on a map to me, nor would it solely be a name of a city that I couldn't pronounce.

Since that March day four years ago, I have found my voice.  It is a voice that doesn't just reply with a yes or no, the shake of a head or bow out of conversations due to fear. It’s a voice that no longer cowers in the shadows or stays behind closed doors. I have found a voice that speaks truth with tears and even tends to sing in front of a crowd.

F o u r Y e a r s

I never would have imagined that a few, succinct words would bring me to my heart’s home. I never would have pictured the outcome of my heart’s cry at the Bible Study retreat; I would have never expected that asking God for more that day would eventually mean that He would bring me to MORElia.

I fought life with bitter tears and a broken heart for years. I fought for my quaint idea of perfection and for some time, it meant life would be lived in Baja, no questions asked. But when you tell your feeble, quaking knees to rise and when you walk forward in the unknown, your shaky voice is unknowingly declaring that God can have His way in you.

And He had His way in me.

I told every single passerby that I was ready for the mission field when graduation came. I knew that my hundreds of papers researching missionary life would be all I needed to settle into the unfamiliar.

But I was just a little girl. A little girl still set on saving the world and still convinced that life was hers to fix and that the burdens of others needed to be welcomed with open arms. I was just a little girl that though she knew how to speak didn’t revel in being heard. A girl that trembled in corners and hid from the fear of being heartbroken and was convinced that the past was what defined her and that stuck there is where she would always be.

However, that October day in 2010, God had other ideas.

Years had been spent with Baja on my heart and mind, and to this day I will honestly tell you that my love for Baja hasn’t been forgotten, nor does it go ignored. But I was adamantly decrying that God’s plan for me could be anything different; I was quietly demanding that my perfectly planned perfection would be the only way my heart would be content.

Perfection wasn’t coming.
The move to Baja wasn’t happening.

I was at a standstill and my heart was becoming paralyzed by the wait. I stopped dreaming and I lost my time in racks of clothes. I found myself falling into that misconception: that if God isn’t clearing an obvious path for you, then you just need to stop dead in your tracks for a while. I welcomed lies and I found that they were my only company.

That October Day, I visited my Mom at work and she had bookmarked her latest read, “Outlive Your Life” and told me that while she finished up I needed to read one particular paragraph of words.

I obliged. Chapter 12. Breaking down walls. Morelia, Mexico. Morelia couldn’t fall from my tongue without my gringa accent, but that didn’t diminish my curiosity.

Because you see, I had started to exhaust my options after my mom nudged my heart forward. She had started speaking truth over my heart for a few months, telling me that maybe this wasn’t time to be completely still, but time to take that cliché leap of faith and start moving.

I read those words a few times and then I found myself stumbling onto the website. I realized that Mexico wasn’t just Baja and that there were other crazy people called to love the sing-song sounds of the Spanish language, called to love the unfamiliar and the foreign, called to love the precious, beautiful children of Mexico, without trepidation.  I wasn’t the only one.

I printed the application.
I sent it off.

And weeks later, FELICIDADES showed up in the subject line, I was set to be Mexico bound on March 23, 2011. I heard my director’s voice the night before my departure and his friendly laughter assured me that all would be well. My bags were packed and my dear Mom held me for a while and gave me her blessing. I don’t think at the time we realized how monumental that blessing was.

My two cheerleaders, my darling parents, saw me off and left me alone with my crazed questions and serious reconsideration. And while I say that, I kept declaring that God was with me, and that He had chosen me for such a time as this, but it’s easy to not question when you are certain about where you are going. And for one of the first times in my life, I had no idea what was ahead. All I knew was that Morelia wasn’t just a place on a map anymore, and that for the next three months I would be attempting to make it a home.

However, God was in it. The faulty attempt sure could be seen in those first few months trying to figure out how to speak up and the dear ones that I now know as family will tell you, I didn’t say much those few months. Some shrugged it off as gringa-mannerisms and didn’t believe that this trip would result in a return and some found a way into my heart and spent all of their time with me. And those are the ones, those precious souls and the family that opened the doors of their home and their hearts are what convinced me that maybe, just maybe this wasn’t a little detour.

Goodbyes made that pretty obvious on that stormy day in June. The Heavens were releasing torrents of tears and the pink walls of my home were surrounding my little band of friends…as we flustered at having to say goodbye, while not knowing if there would ever be another hello.

I moved to Baja two weeks later. I fell back into step with the need for perfection, but Morelia couldn’t be forgotten. It couldn’t be ignored. The pull was too strong.

I returned the next year in January spending January to June, with a painful year in between of sixty-hour work-weeks in the States, and then September to May of last year and now, here I have been since September. It’s been four years and with each passing day, I am confident that this is exactly where I was always meant to be.

My excitement for my anniversary never fades and so I found myself giddily telling those here. I didn’t really mention it with the hopes in receiving anything, because I’ll tell you for the rest of my life, these beautiful people here have given me more than I could ever give them in return.

But to my surprise, at midnight I was being celebrated and reminded of these four beautiful years by a steady, dear presence. My morning class was full of laughter and they left my heart brimming with absolute joy at their craziness and hilarious examples and we couldn’t stop laughing…much learning wasn’t accomplished, but then I was able to thank them for letting me be their teacher. I told them that I was so incredibly blessed to be able to go about my normal day with my favorites and that I wouldn’t have it any other way. They bid their farewell in hashtags and laughed their way out the door.

My heart was full.

We walked home with Parenthood on our minds, celebrating alongside the Bravermans and feeling for their pain. And then we were called to our meeting, a meeting I hadn’t planned for…

I walked into NOE and immediately asked about the strong smell of food, but Juan shrugged it off and opened the door. As he opened the door, people yelled “SORPRESA.” I was greeted by the ones that have held my hand and have fought for my stay and the dear couple that four years ago yesterday, were picking me up from the airport and reassuring me that I didn’t make an impulsive decision, that God was very much in this move.

And then I noticed the table was graced by my favorite, tacos ahogados, and I was overcome. I was overcome that this would be celebrated. I was overcome that I still find myself here in this city of a million hearts. I was overcome that after what most would assume a chance encounter with a few hundred words, wasn’t chance. I was overcome that the more I had prayed for years ago, has become Morelia.

And then letters, the way to my heart, were placed in my hands. Moments were passed in their sweet company and I left NOE awestruck and blessed, and overthinking like a writer tends to do, longing to put things to paper, but I just didn’t want to let words take me away from the present.

We laughed over the weird things that were done in order to keep things under the wraps of secrecy. And things began to make sense…

My doorbell rang at 4. I was told of a student’s past and I couldn’t help but feel the heaviness of gratitude for a couch, where hurting hearts can sit and attempt at facing the questions of life together. The gratitude that a student would have confidence in me left me speechless.

The next few hours I made sure to tell my students how much thankfulness rested upon my heart for four years here and for the blessing it is to be here. And then I found myself singing alongside their precious hearts and then listening to the Bible Study message. Before I knew it, Bible Study was being closed in prayer and my heart’s fullness still couldn’t really even be explained. When I opened my eyes, there was a little table with a cake and before I could realize what was happening,

Juan was telling my story. 
My story.

He was talking about my four years and asking me to come up front. I’m sure my face was a million shades of red, as I made my way to stand in front of the ones that stole my heart years ago, the ones that continue to steal my heart daily. He asked if I wanted to share anything, and well my first few months here I only shared when I felt like I had to, but these days sharing what’s on my heart comes easier and I find that people deserve to know the gratitude that rests upon my heart for them. If I don’t speak up, they might never realize how much they mean to me.

A prayer was prayed over me and then words were said over what I had done in the lives of three dear ones. The cake was cut and I was surrounded by the ones I love, jokingly arguing about who was going to stand beside me as we took a picture that will forever be stowed away in the depths of my heart.

And here I am. I don’t even think these 2000 words or the book that I will one day find myself writing will ever be enough to express how grateful I am that a few words brought me to my MORE, to my MORElia.

A book will never do it justice and this is just my heart’s feeble attempt to save these feelings before they flee from my heart and mind, due to the busyness that fights for my attention, the present that will soon ask for my acknowledgement and beckon me to keep clinging to the beauty of what it is when your heart feels completely certain, that it is right where it needs to be, for such a time as this. 

Jesus, You changed my life when my feet first stepped off the plane in Morelia on March 23, 2011.

And so it has been twelve years of loving Mexico, since my little girl braids leaped up and down at the chases of the dark chocolate-eyed beauties when we didn’t share but a few words in common.

And so it has been four years of loving Morelia and letting go of the pencil so God could have His way in me and whisper that this life isn’t about being perfect, that there’s more to this life than controlling clenched fists, that His plan for me exceeds my meager attempt at hiding the key to my heart and my desperate need to know what He has for my tomorrow.

So Jesus, may these four years be just a beginning. Thank you for being ever present and may your praise and your love be ever upon my lips as I go about my days, surrounded by the most love my heart has ever felt in one simple place.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Plenty in Need

"Faith isn't figuring out what we're able to do; 
it's deciding what we're going to do - 
even when we think we can't." 
Bob Goff

I had to say goodbye. 

Those words that sit heavy on your heart; the ones that you can't seem to understand. 


And yes, though I'm used to the goodbyes that tend to tear away a piece of your heart and keep it for safe-keeping, the ones that leave you up at 2 o'clock in the morning, the ones that leave you dreaming of your return. 

I'm not so used to the goodbyes that happen for the last time. 

And so as I sat in the airport and watched as hundreds of people turned into my three's company of strangers, all I could bring myself to do was quietly wait for 4 AM. 

4 AM would come and I would become sure that the perilous hours of traveling were almost, almost over. 

I spent the rest of my time watching the beautiful people stumble up to the gate with sleep still in their eyes, quietly telling myself that my feet would soon touch the ground that was foreign to me four years ago. 

My feet would soon touch the familiar ground, the home of my heart. 

Three dear ones showed up to greet me at the airport and talked to me about my week at home and my full day of traveling and then we slowly became graced with a comfortable silence, because that is what happens when you feel at home with people. You don't even really have to explain yourself. 

The only expectations that exist are the expectations you have for yourself. 

The ones you love will accept you in your grief, heartache, hopelessness, and sorrow. 

And they surely won't expect that you will be able to perfectly express your every last emotion with spoken word. 

I arrived to my house, unlocked the door and saw signs up all around the room with balloons and suddenly before I even had time to process things...twenty people came out behind closed doors. 

Twenty of the ones my heart has come to love with all that I am. 

I was surrounded with hugs and the kind of smiles that light up a room. 

I was surrounded by love. 

They took me to eat my favorite meal and more people kept showing up to welcome me back. I couldn't find the words. I couldn't even peg the emotions that were sweeping away my grief. 

We came back to the house and beautiful words were said and prayed over me, and then I found myself doing something that I never do. I found myself asking if it was okay for me to say something. So I stumbled through my half-hour of sleep Spanglish and made sure my loves knew that I have received much more than I could ever give here. 

Sunday was full of people. It was full of love. It was a full day and while my body wanted to shut down and find sleep; I was exactly where I needed to be, surrounded by people for hours. 

Monday would come quickly and I would find myself settling back into the familiar halls of NOE, the bustling busyness and the crazy delights, that are our students. At 5 o'clock I was making my way up to my elementary classroom and all of my students kept running around the halls and smiling. When I made it up to the door, I was locked out. They were yelling at me to give them just a few minutes. And so I stood there smiling. When I opened the door, I was greeted with notes tacked all over the walls, love written all over the board and hugs from all of my twelve. 

It just so happened to be another moment of God knowing exactly what I needed. 

Can I tell you something?

Morelia, Mexico was just another unknown city to me on the night of March 23rd, 2011, but by God's grace a mere hundred words were used to make an unknown city become all I know, and it's been four years of being home. The people, my people here nursed me back to health after weeks of sickness and welcomed me back home after a week surrounded by grief. 

My heart has been surrounded by love and kept together by the ones I love. And well, yesterday, was difficult. I'm honestly not sure what exactly happened, but I guess I'm guilty, just like the rest and that most of the time rather than acknowledging my emotions and my needs I shrug them off with my bony shoulders, I sweep them under the rug. But they end up catching up with us, don't they? 

Because grief is very real. Pain is real, too. 

I'm not telling you this to worry your faithful reading eyes; I'm telling you, because maybe you, too, need to be reminded that you don't always have to possess the perfect words, you don't always have to fix the broken things and people around you, you don't always have to be steady on your own two feet,  you don't always have to be strong and be put together. 

You'll have moments of brokenness and the verse I wrote on my hand yesterday will become something tangible to you, something seen with your very own swollen eyes. Because their plenty will indeed supply your need. That is what happened yesterday, over and over again. 

Their plenty supplied exactly what I needed. 

Their plenty will supply exactly what you need. 

Grief will come and sadness will strike without warning, but you sweet child, you let the tears come and be certain of one thing, you are not the fixer. You are not expected to put everyone else back together. You will have your moments of need, dear child, and your loves will be here to point you back to Jesus and they will be here to catch you. 

And even in your grief, He will use you. 

You'll find yourself somehow managing to pray with two of your dear daughters in between your torrents of tears. And the verse will become tangible, because you will see that it is by His grace that your never praying in Spanish will indeed happen. You will see that even you have something to give, among your grief. You will still have something to give on the days drenched with difficulty. 

Little notes and flowers will be placed in your hands and friends will whisk you away, after just glancing at your eyes. 

And you know what, Jesus will provide. 

He will use their plenty to meet your need, sweet child. 

And no one is expecting you to hold it all in; you will have to unclench your fists and resist the lie, the one that has told you for years that you are a burden. You aren't a burden for the ones you love. 

So let your loves hold you tighter, let them whisper gentle truths that you are finding hard to believe, let them sit with you in silence, let them be able to tell you that it is completely okay to cry. Please.

S t o p 

Stop trying to convince yourself that you can't have bad days and that you can't waver or be enshrouded with doubts. 

Stop expecting perfection and embrace your weakness, child. 

Embrace the difficulties and realize that His grace will ever be present in your life.

So today, I'm choosing to remind myself that Jesus has me. 

I'm also choosing to remind you, Jesus has you.