Honestly though, the best part for me was our time we spent in the Word. We read the whole Gospel of John in pairs together, out in the woods (it got really cold!). Reading the whole thing in context was so powerful for me; I feel closer to Jesus now, like we caught up after being apart for awhile. The thing that hit me the most was how incredibly honest Jesus always was to everyone. I've been praised for my honesty, and I do think that I'm a pretty honest person, but I was so challenged by his blunt truth and love in every situation that I feel like... well, I have an eternity to go before I could begin to call myself Christ-like even in that one aspect.
Singing was also really good. I've only sang devotional songs like that a handful of times since being in Mexico, and it really made me miss my teammates, my coordinators, and my Mexican church family. But the cool part was that I was really aware of the open communication that happens in worship between us and God and was reminded of his omnipresence. Sometimes all I feel like I have to offer God is a "Please, help." And it's nice to know that he hears and responds.
I got really sad on my way home because Daniel is gone now. I'm excited for his new phase of life, but I'm going to miss him a LOT. Not that missing people is new for me, but I do get really tired of it sometimes...
I work tomorrow, then Tuesday and Wednesday I'm off. Besides errands I need to run, I'm planning on spending some good alone time. For now, I'm here with Felicia, and her friendship is wonderful. Tonight I'm hoping to celebrate Halloween with some friends - we'll see if anything happens.
Until next time!
-I had my first guitar lesson today with my friend Jeffrey, and next week I'll start giving him Spanish lessons in return. He's a great teacher, hopefully I can be too.
-Leland is coming home tonight!
-I'm going to read a couple of poems for an event at the bistro on the evening of November 12th, which just happens to be my half birthday. :)
-We got the heat turned on at our house.
-I'm going on the youth retreat this weekend, looking forward to getting to know them better, hanging out with the Hoopers, and brainstorming for ministry ideas.
-I've had a great time hanging out with Daniel Lee, even though I'm NOT excited for him to go back to Tulsa, I'm excited to hang out for these last few moments, this time around.
-Halloween is coming...
-...as is el Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and I'm hoping to meet some people and get invovled in the Hispanic community here.
And so on and so forth. God is good! Love you guys!
One of the things I learned while I was on the field is how to suffer.
I know, I know, that’s so dramatic. But it’s true. There are so many different kinds of trials that it’s hard to talk about them in generalities, so right now I’m going to focus on compassion, otherwise known as suffering with others.
When I was in Mexico, I learned something about three different friends in the youth group there: one who was 15 and pregnant, one struggling with homosexual feelings, and one who was abusing drugs. I was totally overwhelmed by each of these situations, knowing full well that I had never dealt with any of those specific things, and I had no idea how to help. These were obviously not the only overwhelming or painful situations I encountered in my ministry, but these were the ones that hurt me most. I remember one night in particular, going into the bathroom in our apartment and just sobbing as silently as I could. I didn’t even know what to pray to God, much less what to say to them. I felt helpless as a missionary, and even more importantly, as a friend.
But the story isn't over. A favorite verse of mine is Psalm 56:8 – “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” I love the thought that God knows our every tear. One of the shortest verses in the Bible, “Jesus wept,” demonstrates one of Jesus’ defining attributes: his compassion on humanity, manifested by his coming to our world and suffering with us to show us that he cares and to save us from the worst of fates. Paul says to the Colossians that he rejoices in his sufferings for them, that he is “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the church”.
These words convince me that there is something inherently and yet intangibly valuable in our sufferings here on earth. I wish I could calculate it right away, but I guess that’s where trust comes in; it’s not an exact equation. In these situations with my friends that I described, I cried for them and let my tears be a prayer for healing and redemption. My suffering isn’t like Jesus’ in the sense that his washed away our sins, but my suffering can, like Paul’s, make a difference in my own soul as well as others, by the grace of God. Sometimes there are happy endings, and other times we just have to wait and watch, remembering that God really does care. I’ll end with this poem I wrote after that night of crying in the bathroom:
in a cup, just
like you promised.
If you can walk on water,
you can build my tears into
something beautiful. I trust
you, more than ever tonight.
This pain must be used for
healing, like yours.
Until Sunday, I was working a whole lot as usual and on top of that spending as much time as possible with my friends, two of whom are only hear temporarily, which always motivates me to sacrifice as much time as possible. We've had a lot of fun, singing, dancing, watching movies, late-night conversations, and so on. I realized I was off of work from Sunday through Tuesday, three days in a row, and decided even though it would be cool to take a trip somewhere, I should do a personal retreat to finally get back on track - reading, writing, praying, sleeping, things like that.
Sunday was wonderful. I've loved hearing what Eli has to say these days about helping others. The hymns we sang were particularly touching to me as well, especially "What a friend we have in Jesus." After church, Tyler and I joined the Hughes family over at the Sikorski's for lunch. We had a delicious meal thanks to Pam and great conversation. We also had some exquisite coffee. :) They were all really curious about Tyler's and my AIM experiences, so we got to share some too. It was rainy out, which always makes me nostalgic, but it was a good nostalgia, something to be shared and celebrated with good friends. I really felt like I was at home with family that day.
Then I started to feel sick. I had many aspirations for these couple of days, but mostly all I could do was sleep. I think I'm being really slow in learning this, but my being sick this time may have drilled it in for good - I need to take things a day at a time, and I must slow down. There are certain things I should cut out entirely, but mostly I just need balance. I can't spend every waking moment with friends, but I can do fun things and even connect deeply with people once in awhile. I'm not going to read the whole Bible in a day, but I want to take time to read a little. It's a lot easier to wash dishes when there aren't already a hundred dirty ones overflowing the sink. I just need to take it easy and be content to live life fully in every moment, whether I'm out or in, alone or surrounded by a crowd, doing chores or hanging out, eating a cookie or exercising, and so on.
Tyler was kind to take my shift today so I could have one more day to try to get well. I'm still coughing a lot, which isn't so compatible with a food job, but since I'm feeling well, hopefully with some medicine I can make it by tomorrow.
So, here's to balance. Mmhmm.
I also sometimes can second-guess things or doubt things or wish things were different or think of what ifs, but I know that none of that is healthy for me. I have a million things to be grateful for, so I need to learn to stop spending so much time on the relatively very few things that are wrong. My friend Sarah posted this passage on her facebook this morning and it really encouraged me:
"Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14
Also, my sister Lindsay has recently been coming out of a hard time and said one thing that helped her immensely was just taking care of herself - sleeping enough, taking vitamins, things like that. I started exercising which is good, but I'm definitely lacking sleep and not really eating well. On top of that, I had a sinus infection last week. So that's one thing I could do better is just get some rest and take care of my body.
Anyway, thanks for reading and for those of you who are praying for me. I know I'll have more to write soon - I just need to get out of this funk first. Love you everyone!