Day 17 of telling my truth: Hope grew from unanswered prayer

UnknownToday my truth is:

Breathe out. How in the world was I to process the fact that I had my first relationship, in my adult life and that, that relationship was layered with impossibility, faith and was mixed with issues highly uncomfortable, even controversial for most in my world. What would my parents say if they were to know that I had a boyfriend who identified gay? What about my mentors? Friends?

I laid in bed the night he told me his story and asked me to be his girlfriend and asked the Lord to reveal himself. What do you have to say Jesus? Why would you give me this story? Self-pity, angst, hopelessness, frustration, questions and very few answers whirled in my mind like the tornado that first brought Dorothy to Oz.

I had a boyfriend. Joy.

My boyfriend was gay. Confusion. Sadness. Frustration. Questions. Dependence.

To what would I hold?

I asked Jesus how I was to pray and where I was to find my hope. I felt Him say, “Cari you are not to place your hope in this relationship or in the dream of Matthew wanting you in the way you want a man to want you. You are to place your hope in me alone.” I remember sitting there and saying aloud, “God I trust you. You are the One in whom I place all of my hope. May I be obedient in this relationship.” Tears streamed down my face. The reality of my situation felt like too much and God felt incredibly close.

As the weeks and months unfolded I came to live into the reality of those words. Matthew and I wrestled with questions. He told his story of begging the Lord to rescue him. He told of the groups he had joined to “cure” him. He spoke to the isolation, loneliness, rejection and hatred he had experienced. He spoke of his wrestling with God because how could a God who loved him, not answer this prayer. I asked how could God not bring the healing I felt was that for which he most longed. (These questions were close and intimate for him. His wrestling and mine were and are different. I bring up these questions because these became my questions. We engaged these questions quite differently. Where and how these questions were answered, again led us to different places. I am only telling my side of the story, for his story is not mine to tell.)

I learned as I was invited deeper and deeper into the reality of his struggle with sexual identity and Jesus. I too wrestled with Jesus. How come you don’t just take it away? How come you simply don’t come down and deliver him and give him what he wanted? These questions became mine. I begged the Lord for a particular outcome and felt heart ache and confusion over the fact that God wouldn’t answer how I thought most beneficial. I eventually had to ask the Lord to show me how to pray for I did not know what was right or good. I felt short sighted and lost as to what was best. Where was God in this?

God would remind me, “Cari, your hope is to be in me and my character, not in the fulfillment of a wish.” I thought through the stories of others who have begged Jesus for various things and not had their prayers answered. I thought of Jesus, who he himself begged the Father, if there be another way please let this cup pass from me and then said, “but not my will but yours.” I wrestled with matters of belief. I questioned how I should pray. I begged, cried, wrestled and quite honestly yelled at Jesus.

Jesus became so real to me in those days. In my questioning, in the felt silence, in the moaning and weeping Jesus grew in me a great hope. He grew in me an understanding that hope and the fulfillment of wishes were actually quite different things. He used these months with Matthew to separate circumstance from hope. Hope became the lens through which I was to view each day. I clung to Jesus with great hope like the survivor of a boating accident clinging to her life preserver in the middle of the open seas.

March 20th came. We had had a series of very difficult conversations. There was a heaviness and though we had made it five months, to the day, the reality of our situation ended up weighing heavy upon Matthew (and me, though I didn’t want to recognize it). He decided it was time to end our relationship. In the midst of the conversation he said something to the effect of, “Cari, the one thing that is most difficult for me is that I have destroyed your hope.” He finished the thought with some other words, but I didn’t hear them. Matthew had ended a relationship, but my hope was in no way threatened. In fact, my hope was strong.

I remember that I smiled, maybe even laughed, I know I did internally, but don’t quite know if I did aloud or not. (You know how memories get cloudy around emotional situations.) I looked at him and said with confidence, “You have done nothing to my hope, for my hope was never in you. My hope has always remained in the Lord. In fact, the Lord told me I was to never put my hope in you, but place it only in Jesus and his character. I did just that and I continue to know great hope.”

As I look back on my relationship with Matthew, this realization is one of the gifts I was given. I was given the gift of hope. I was given the reality of what happens when I place my hope not in the fulfillment of a wish, but in the character of the One who holds my wishes. I was and still am thankful. This is the kind of hope that breathes life in the the most impossible of circumstances. This kind of hope is what comes from belief in the midst of impossible. This kind of hope comes from persevering through darkness and felt suffering and growing in character. This kind of hope is the hope that is found in fairy tales, where ultimate good is known as one believes that his or her ultimate good is held by someone or something who only desires their good.

Today, I have hope. It is a hope that is strong and it is a hope that grew out of stepping into the color of the impossible and watching as God, who is good, developed in me a deep and intimate understanding of His desire for my good.

Day 16 of truth telling: An unexpected impossible boyfriend

IMG_0187Today my truth is:

I believe in impossible things.

In the story of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy lived in a black and white and grey world. It was a world of normal and mundane. It was a world of the possible. Dorothy longed for something more. She longed for a life over the rainbow. She wondered what lived there. She questioned why she couldn’t. Then, suddenly, in the middle of her mundane life in Kansas, tragedy struck. A tornado blew through her home and she was taken up in it. Tragedy.

When she came to, she opened her eyes and noticed a peculiar sight. There was color and light beaming through the windows of her home. Unfamiliar, sights and sounds filled her senses. She was awake. She was over the rainbow.

Life became other worldly. She made friends with lions and scarecrows. There were monkeys that flew and witches to conquer. There were wicked wizards and humble munchkins. She was over the rainbow and it was tragedy that brought her there.

I, like Dorothy, believe there is more to be had in life. There is more than the mundane of this present existence and there is more to the story that meets the eye. I believe, that I was created for more. Not because I’m so special, but because I believe we were all created with greater purpose and mission and possibility than most of us could truly ever imagine. I believe in a God, who invites me to live as though I were over the rainbow every day.

God invites me to life that is more than I could ever imagine, life in full color and full of mystery. This belief invites me to a life of great risk and even greater dependence. It is a life that is illogical to the world and humanly foolish. It is a life where the Kingdom of God is real and I get to live in it every day. It is a life where there is purpose beyond the seen and there is possible beyond the possible. I believe that Jesus is still capable of miracles. I believe that the blind can be given sight. I believe that God at times invites us to live risky, non-safe and seemingly foolish lives because He holds a greater and truer story. I believe that at times obedience to God is foolish to those who think in only the terms of humanly possible. This belief, is a belief that has written the most amazing, scary, heartbreaking and breathtaking stories. It is this belief that met me in 2006 when Matthew first asked me out.

I had met Matthew at an event and we hit it off immediately. We began to spend time together. He asked great questions, loved Jesus, was a part of a church plant and had this desire to see the world be a better place.  He was kind. I was drawn to his kindness. I found myself wondering if he was interested in me or if we were just friends. Then I got the call, “I think we need to talk.” We made plans to talk on a Tuesday evening. I chose my outfit carefully, spent an hour getting ready and calming my nerves and geared up for the D.T.R. (define the relationship talk)

He told me his story and I listened. My stomach churned, my hands shook. His words and story were not too surprising, but they were not the words a girl, who wanted a guy to be interested her wanted to hear. “Cari, I am gay.” (Tragedy) My heart sank and I stayed engaged in the conversation at the same time. “Cari, I’m gay and I am attracted to you and don’t know what to do about it. Would you be willing to try this with me?” What an invitation! Not quite the story I was going for, but it was the story I was in. My mind started racing. What was my answer going to be?

Logic would say, go, it won’t work out. But what was Jesus saying? We talked for another hour or so and in that time, we made a decision to date. (Life in color. Life of impossibility. Life over rainbows.) We decided we would allow ourselves to try this out as long as we were honest with each other along the way. We took a walk, held hands and hugged as we said good-bye. I had no idea what was to happen next but I knew I was to enter this journey with him and he with me.

That night I laid in bed and prayed. I asked the Lord what I was to do. Am I foolish for thinking You’re inviting me into this story? Am I foolish for allowing my heart to grow attached to a man who has a story layered with questions in his own sexual identity? Am I foolish to you Lord?

I felt the Lord say, “Cari, I am in this. It is for your good. Do not be afraid.” Over the next 5 months Matthew and I dated I learned more about the love of God, hope in the Lord and believing in the impossible. God had invited me into life over the rainbow. He invited me into the impossible and the foolish and it was for my good. It was for Matthew’s good. It was for a communal good.

I will write about this more in the days to come. I’ve only spoken publicly about this relationship once and I have felt nudged to share this part of my story in these days of honesty and truth telling.

Every day there are impossibilities that surround us. Every day we touch lives with those whose have only their belief to keep them going and God, at times, seems silent in the midst of struggles and questions. Every day there are cliffs to jump off of with Jesus. It is part of living in the impossible, being made possible with God. I learned many things in my relationship with Matthew. He and I remain good friends and I asked him if it’d be okay for me to start writing about my experience dating him. He kindly gave me permission.

So the next few posts will hold questions, heart ache, beauty and both answered and unanswered prayer. I am not sharing these stories to say anything other than the truth of my own experience. I hope that you will be encouraged as I share about obedience and trust, even in the most seemingly foolish of circumstances.

A day of rest

968839_10152975071055004_1090486230_nI woke up to the shine beating in the window. It was hot and the morning had just begun. I made my way down the terra-cotta stairs to four students curled up, still in dream land. They are tired. They have explored and soaked in so much culture and experience that though they want to be awake for hours can not help but fall asleep the instant their heads hit their pillows and slumber until they are forced to wake up by an outside source. Soon noises filled the downstairs. Their voices went from  being slurred and half awake to loud and boisterous as they laughed about the previous days events. We laugh a lot in our house. (They have not yet fallen in love with my jokes, but I’m working on it!)

One by one they left to go experience Spanish church culture for the first time. All of the students were divided into three groups, each going to a different church. Three of the students from my house had to take a train nearly an hour away to go to their church. As each group left the house became quiet and I got some much needed fully alone time. I breathed in deep, taking a look around my room and once again being struck by my view. The water never ceases to amaze me. It is as though the sea were made to be a patchwork quilt with all shades of blue. There are patches of blue, turquoise, aqua-marine, sky blue and a deep sea blue. They move in a continuous and rhythmic motion as though they look up to a sovereign conductor, who directs the sea as though it were a choir singing in 8 part harmony all in the rhyme. I love it. I’m moved by it. My soul sings to it.

I decided to do laundry, a simple task that at home is one of my least favorite things to do. But here, for some reason, the simplicity of the laundry is one of my favorite things. I love the smell of the fabric softener as I hang each item on the line. I smiled once again as if I were a character in a play. I then made a breakfast of caramelized onions and eggs and savored the flavor as I enjoyed the silence of my home.

I could not wait to spend some time with Jesus. Though I’m here on a trip to walk with college students in their own spiritual formation, I have felt a strange distance between me and Jesus. It feels like the kind of distance one experiences when they live in a different place from their best friend. Though they know their friend is there and close and the relationship is in tact and secure, there is just a missing from being separate from their loved one.

I needed to be with Him.

I took time to write, to listen, to pray, to cry. My heart is much like the sea, a patchwork of colors of experiences, thoughts, new ideas, old habits, memories, hopes, dreams and questions. And they all flow in motion as they look to their conductor. But let me tell you, if even just one of the patches doesn’t submit to the direction of the great conductor, the rhythm is off for each part. Today, I wanted to once again submit to the direction of my conductor. One by one I laid my thoughts, experiences, memories and the like to His care and peace swept over me.

The peace was rich and good and it rocked me to sleep. I woke up to the sound of people coming home from their church excursions. We talked a bit, did our separate work and eventually the last group came home. The three of them; Claire, Brianne and Donald came upstairs and we chatted about our days and made a plan to go to the sea shore.

We walked down the street to the shore and laughed and listened and played. Once on the shore, we made a plan to swim out to the rock bar which rests a little over 100 yards away. We laid down our towels on the rocks. (Yes, rocks, not sand. The beaches in Altea have rock that is much like river rock covering their banks. Not the most comfortable, but for today it did its job.) I laid and cared for our belongings as they swam out to the bar and back, then I made the swim myself. It was good to be in the water.

Once I got to the bar, I stood on a rock and listened. I felt as though I were connecting with the mystery of God as I looked down at the water. The sea is vast and full and beyond understanding. It is powerful and full of life. As I breathed in the air and the smells of the sea I breathed in the life of Jesus. He too is vast and full and beyond understanding. He too is powerful and full of life.

I felt alive.

I swam back to shore. It was a more difficult swim than the swim out. The tide kept pulling me back and I kept pressing forward against its pull. Soon on the shore I laid covered by the sun, until shadows washed over us.

We headed back up the hundreds of stairs to our home. Donald had discovered a new way that he wanted to take us. It was beautiful. Maybe it was beautiful because of the geraniums. Maybe it was beautiful because it was different. Maybe, it was beautiful because I was with these two students whose hearts amaze me.

We stepped in our home and each have rested from a long walk and long swim.

I once again sit in my room, looking out at the sea, which is now a very light grey blue color, and am calm. I know my Jesus is with me. There is still much to say and hear from Him, but I am thankful for a day to be. A day to be with my Jesus and to be with these students who remind me of him.

(Tonight I’m going dancing!)

A place where everybody knows your name

DSC01009Saturday suddenly was here without a warning. The week has gone by so quickly I can hardly keep my days straight. Ariana and Xara had a wedding and a few other appointments on this day so I knew I’d have the day to myself. Instead of loneliness I was overcome with a sense of adventure, curiosity and playfulness. I got up, dressed and decided I would scout out the town and see what I could see.

Armed with my camera and my wallet I set out to explore Altea. I walked down the stairs to our beachside home and opened the door onto the main street. I turned left, crossed the street and stepped on the the olive grove. I took a few pictures, as I like to pretend I’m a photo journalist any time I get a camera in my hands. The world becomes art and it is mine to capture it. It’s funny there are things I see when I hold a camera that I would not see if I were simply walking around. (I like having a camera on my phone as it gives me this incentive to see the world as art with a desire to capture every moment of beauty.)

I had met a local artist whose sister owned a shop right off the olive grove. I stepped into the shop and was fascinated by everything I saw. She had very good taste and her store was filled with delicate beauty. Necklaces, earrings, purses, and the like filled the shop with colors and shapes that were unique and not over stated. I was able to speak just a bit with her. I knew just enough to tell her I thought her inventory was beautiful.

My curiosity kept me moving on. I passed by a bakery, the widows were filled with the most delectable of treats. Croissants, chocolate, and many unfamiliar delights beckoned on lookers. I watched as small children and adults alike closed their eyes, breathed in and took their first bite of their morning treats. I kept walking.

Next I walked down a main street filled with every kind of store imaginable. The stores are small and particular. One wouldn’t find a Target type store here. But the entire street felt much like a Target divided into small stores. So much life at every turn. Old and young alike filled the streets. Some were bustling along as though their agenda for the morning was quite full. Others sat and lingered enjoying being in the company of friends and family. It was a perfect picture of Saturday life; errands, fun, relationship, food, tears of small children as their mothers dragged them from store to store. Nothing was unfamiliar but everything was new. I smiled as I walked and watched.

Just about half way down the street I looked ahead and to my surprise I saw three people I knew walking towards me. Gloria, whose birthday I had celebrated the night before and the two youngest boys at the party were walking towards me. My Spanish teacher, smiled when he saw me. He pointed to his hair, I very quickly said, “pelo”. He nodded with satisfaction. We kept walking and he lifted his leg and made a burst of a sound from his mouth, I laughed out loud and said, “pedo!” We smiled and waved goodbye. I had passed my test. And I felt like a local. I had friends in this place  I had only been for four days.

I walked up the stairs to Old Town. It was not as busy here. The plaza was full of trucks and people setting up for the first night of the summer artist market. People were working hard to get ready for the evening. I felt a little in the way as people were very focused with their tasks. I then saw another friend I had made in my short first days. He is a local artist, he is bald, a little scruffy, has many tattoos, gauged ears and very distinct features. I find him intriguing and slightly curious. We greeted each other. I think we both were excited to see someone that we knew. (Ok, maybe I was just excited because I knew someone.) Our greeting was quick as he had much work to do to set up for the evening.

The artists make nearly all of their money in the short months of the summer market. During the months of July, August, September and October the upper plaza by the old church is filled with artisans on weekend evenings. At the peak of tourist season this is a good move and it adds to the unique artist flare I’ve come to love here.

I kept walking. I stepped into the church, a nun greeted me with a smile and pointed to a small box to place donations. She was very persuasive, even without my understanding, so I placed a euro in the box. The church was ornate and there was a sadness there. I was struck by that feeling as I stood in wonder at the gold trim and detailed paintings covering the canvas of the walls and ceilings. The stations of the cross were found on the pillars of the large room. I was struck by how cartoon like Jesus looked. He did not look like the Jesus presented in the grand cathedrals of Italy, but he didn’t capture me. He was pasty and almost lifeless. I think Jesus had life in his eyes even when he was suffering. These paintings did not do him any justice.

Up and down narrow cobblestone streets I made my way like a mouse in a maze. I looked around as a child at Disneyland for the first time. Every sight was new and yet familiar. I made up my mind to get back home before it was too late to enjoy the sun, so I traveled back down the stairs to my home on the beach. I am confident here. I am confident in my ability to get around, to enjoy the new and familiar.

I spent the next few hours in the sun interspersed with moments of cleaning and hanging the laundry out to dry. (Confession: I become a little giddy every time I hang something on the line to dry. It is as though I’m playing a role in a movie and am truly entering into my character.) I read, did some writing and breathed in the air of another lovely day on the Mediterranean.

It was now 8pm and I knew I wanted to go out. I showered and did my hair and put on a dress (I’ve worn a dress every day I’ve been here. I feel feminine and free. Many of the women here live in dresses. I’ll be writing more about my observations on uniquenesses of women and men in blogs to come.)

1001495_10152950892500004_2144905665_nNow dressed and ready I stepped out once again on my own. Unlike Wednesday where being alone brought up feelings of loneliness, today my being alone conjured up feelings of adventure. I headed back up the steps into Old Town. I got up the main steps and turned to the right as the road divides in two directions. I was going to head straight but saw a young toe headed child had dropped his yoyo from the plaza above. His sister was laughing and pointing and his eyes were filled with sadness. I walked over and picked up his yoyo. I showed him that I had it and he looked at me inquisitively. Was I going to keep it? Was I going to bring it to him? What was to come of his toy? I imagine these questions swirled in him mind. I walked out of sight and eventually turned the corner and entered the plaza where the young boy was trying to wiggle his way out of a family picture. When he saw me he smiled and hesitantly approached me. I reached out my hand and opened it unveiling his beloved toy. He squealed with delight. His father made sure he thanked me and he did.

Once our greetings were finished I continued to walk up the second set of steps onto the plaza where artisans had now filled the outlining spaces. I saw my friend again, this time he was accompanied by his girlfriend whom I also had met. I was happy to see her. They showed me their work and I was in awe. The jewelry I had seen earlier at the shop and loved, was his! His work was fine and detailed and feminine and lovely and beautiful. I touched it all and wanted to buy everything! Tonight I resisted. But I know I will purchase something before I leave.

I walked to each booth, looking at the result of each persons imagination and craft. The creativity amazes me. Art reminds me that we come from and were designed by a master Creator. The Creator Premier! I thought of my tattoo of a paintbrush and smiled as I too get to share in creation.

After perusing the booths I made my way down a side street where I entered a dress shop. The colors and patters were bold and bright. I found a dress that I thought was my kind of bold and I made the purchase. Again, feeling like a character in a movie I used my three year old Spanish with a little more confidence. The dress was exactly what I had been looking for.

(Women wear a lot of dresses here. They are feminine without being overdone and they are strong and confident and in touch with themselves. I’ve loved observing them. I feel as though we women from the states have so much to learn about true femininity. Its a beautifully powerful thing.)

After my purchase and my newly found confidence in my ability to speak Spanish I went back to a local cafe where I had met the owners with Ariana my first night out on the town. I easily found the location and as I turned the corner I met eyes with the owner whom I had met two days earlier. He greeted me as though I were a friend and we chatted a bit. I stepped inside of the cafe and sat down. I don’t normally go out to eat or drink alone, so this was a whole new experience. Sarah, who is co-owener of the cafe with her husband, assured me it is custom and very normal for people to eat or drink alone in Spain, as they will not be alone for very long. This was true. I was not alone very long.

I talked with a few locals, had the best mojito I’ve had, hands down and observed as people came and went. In the states we are enamored with the idea of the show “Cheers” a place where everybody knows your name. Her in Altea, it’s a normal part of life. People are genuinely interested in you and desire to be in relationship with you. This kind of warmth is inspiring and I pray that I will be the kind of person who treats others with this much investment from the get go.

I lingered at the counter for a few hours and then decided I wanted to head back home. I paid up, gathered my things and made the walk back to the Casa. I think I may have smiled the entire way. I had put on the character of a Spanish woman and I think I may have just pulled it off. I was free. I was confident. I was strong. I was vivacious.

The funny thing is, I didn’t need to be a character to play this role. I am these things. In the days leading up to this trip I have walked with a light step and a renewed spirit. Spain, it turns out, is a great place to put all of this new into practice.

What kind of character do you imagine yourself being? Who do you want to be? Tomorrow, goodness… today! choose to be the best version of you possible. Wear yourself well and be free. May you find your own Spain… that you can practice being you!

A trip to Alicante

IMG_6343Today I woke up at a normal hour. I was grateful. It is no fun missing half of my day simply because my body thinks 1pm is 5am. I think, now, my body and my location are in the same time zone.

Ariana and Xana wanted to take me to Alicante to meet a good friend of theirs. She is a young artist name Mariam. Ariana drove and I watched as the road twisted to places I’d only seen under the light of the moon. The dirt is white here. It is dry and hot. There are olive trees, bougainvillea, palm trees and windy fig trees.  The wind blows constantly along the coast line and as we drove, windows down, the wind blew our hair every which direction. We drove past Benidorm, the Manhattan of Europe (It has the tallest hotel in all of Europe and takes much pride in that fact. ). Then we drove past a large bull the size of 4 semi-trucks. He towered alongside the road, I laughed as he was well proportioned and seemed a bit over stated. We then came up over a hill and there rested a city that followed the shoreline and the crests and valleys of the coast.

Alicante is an old city. There is a rather large castle on it’s highest point and a wall that was built to protect it. The wall stretches farther than I could see. I find it so incredible that at some point, someone, well many someones built this huge wall and castle without any transportation. We have become so lazy with our technology.

We picked up Xana in a park filled with towering palm trees and made our way back through the traffic, like scurrying mice. We drove through the main district of Alicante and found parking below where we were to meet Mariam. The parking garage seemed a little more like a disco than a parking garage. Brightly light and overwhelmingly pink walls, with polished floors, shining as though they had just been waxed, met us at each turn. This garage was much cleaner than the streets above.

We found our parking and made our way to meet Mariam. She was a tiny, delightful young woman. She stood against a bus stop awaiting our arrival. Her tiny frame and pixie hair cut seemed to be so comfortable in the midst of the noise of the streets. When Ariana and Xana called out to her, she quickly put her book down and she and Xana ran towards one another as long lost friends often do. The reunion was sweet, we greeted with a kiss and began our walk.

My day of Spanish integration was upon me. We went to a very typical cafe and ordered drinks. We sat right along the streets and I was told, “This is not Altea any longer, hold on to your things.” I moved my wallet closer, but assumed someone would have to be very brazen to come through the maze of tables in which we sat, reach over four people and grab my brightly colored wallet from its resting place.

Ariana, Xana and Mariam chatted away and I listened intently, as though they were speaking in a secret code which I’d be able to decipher if I concentrated hard enough. The funny thing was, I was able to decipher the code! I sat understanding a good deal of their conversation. Which surprised everyone, though I’m sure it surprised me the most.

Mariam and Ariana and I headed out for a walk, while Xana met a friend. We walked around the city, it was full of life. As we made our way down one crowded street, I heard the voice of someone who sounded as though she was an American, sure enough, she was and she needed help finding her way. We were able to help her and then both continued on our travels.

We walked through a part of town that looked much like Disneyland. Lights everywhere, chandeliers up and down the street, lights outlining every building. I am sure it would have been quite the sight at night, but we were told it is not the part of town one wants to be in after dark. Just as those words hit my ears, I looked up and saw a sex shop and nodded with understanding.

IMG_6351Our walk took us to a large basilica, an open square, up and down narrow cobblestone roads and plazas filled with life. People were everywhere. And everywhere, people were enjoying relationship and life together. There is something different about life here. People gather to be, not to do. People gather to linger, not to quickly say hi and move on to the next thing. People gather to listen, laugh and live. In this way I feel as though I fit in. The picture of life painted by these Spaniards is one that I want painted of my life.

We weaved in and out of smaller streets looking for the best local and most typical Spanish restaurant we could find. We ended up in a small bar, where tapas and wine were on the menu. Tapas and wine are on every menu. A very handsome spaniard came to our table and asked what we wanted. I was once again able to order in my three year old spanish and within moments our wine came to the table as did our food. Custom is that you must wait to take the first drink of your drink until all are seated and the host invites us to drink together. We swirled our wine in our glasses, smelled its robust scent and toasted with a “Salud”.

We lingered here for some time, then went on to the next bar. This apparently is very normal in the Spanish culture. Tapas and wine in one place and then more at the next. We only had time for one more stop and chose to do so at a restaurant on an open plaza, with orange umbrellas. It was quaint and quite large compared to the last place we had been. This placed served Spanish cider, which for all purposes is fermented apple cider vinegar. It has a very particular way of being poured out. I don’t know why, but apparently all cider places do it the same.

 

We ate mushrooms in parsley, garlic and olive oil. We ate “jamone” or ham and manchengo. We ate potatoes and garlic aoli. Everything was fresh and perfect. photo copy

I continued to listen and learn. My head was about to burst with the amount of concentration I’d kept, simply trying to keep up with the conversation. But I did it and I’m learning. I’m far far far from reaching my goal of being able to speak the language, but I must give my self some grace as it’s only my third day here.

Every moment seems to hold some sort of history, culture, meaning and purpose. I want to see Jesus in it. I know he is here. I know he is working in me. I just wish I could pry open the process to allow me to see the growth before it happens.

I may be a bit impatient.

Shared Space: Elizabeth Hunnicutt

elizabeth

I’m excited again to share a friend with you!

A few years ago I was visiting a church where several friends attend and lead in Walnut Creek, CA, Open Door. (Open Door is a community of sojourners walking in the Way of Jesus for the good of the world. I am always so encouraged when I get to gather together with these friends.) I was prepared to enter into a time of musical worship, when a new lead worshipper took her place. She led with intension, purpose and wisdom. Each song spoke hope, healing, wisdom and identity over the people gathered. Each song magnified and gave glory to God. I was moved in a way that I’d not experienced for quite some time.

After the service ended I went up and introduced myself. Something in me knew our stories were to be connected in some way. Elizabeth, as I came to know, and I headed out for coffee that following week. We instantly connected over our love for people, music, and our desire for others to know and be encouraged by Jesus. She is a deep soul, who’s love for Jesus oozes through her. She has a unique gifting, very pastoral and prophetic as she leads.

Since our first meeting Elizabeth and I have ended up leading retreats together or she had led worship in services where I’ve been speaking. Every time I am moved by her leadership and wisdom.

Her music is pastoral, prophetic and addresses with honesty a longing for God and a longing for justice. As you walk through deserts, valleys, or venture to mountain tops, Elizabeth’s music would be a good companion. Her latest album speaks raw truth as she enters into the pain and longings experienced in life. She painfully sings the story of young children trapped in the slave trade. Her lyrics speak prophetically as God strengthens us in our times of trial. Not only does she sing with conviction, her life mirrors what she sings. Elizabeth is involved in giving time to issues about which she is passionate!

Today I encourage you to check her out. Her latest album, Undone, is available for only $5. You can check it out here! Take some time to leave a comment to encourage her. Leave a comment to share a prayer for her. Take some time to speak life into one, who uses her life to speak into the lives of others!

Rocks and Remembering

image-2Sometimes we just need to remember. Today I was cleaning out a box of stuff pulled from my car. As I was sorting, I found myself laughing at much that was found. I mean who needs 100 bobby pins? Or perhaps 7 lip glosses? Oh yes and the receipts from failed attempts at organization or the random earrings, not always paired. How does one loose one earring in a car anyway? There were a few items that didn’t catch me off guard. I knew exactly why they were there.

Rocks.

Yep, you read that correctly. I had rocks in my car, not just small pebbles but the kind of rock you’d use to skip over a lake or pond. Each rock I pulled out I did so with a smile and a reminder that God is faithful.

You see, in Joshua 4, the Israelites were once again up against the humanly impossible. And you guessed it, God did the miraculous. He held the waters of a river at flood stage back and the Israelite’s passed on dry ground. After the nation crossed, the Lord commanded 12 priests to go to the middle of the river bed and choose 12 large stones and build an alter to the Lord, an ebenezer. This alter was built to help the nation remember what the Lord had done. It was built for the generations to come, so that when they asked their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents about the pile of rocks, those asked would get to respond with, “sit down, let me tell you a story.”

I love that story. I mean I REALLY love that story. It is the grace of God preparing a people for what is to come, with their lack of ability to remember in mind. God, knew the people would forget and would need a reminder. Each stone the priests carried to the river bank was a stone of remembrance. Each I’m sure held a story or the face of a loved one, perhaps it was filled with a release of fear and awe. Each stone held significance for every person watching the ebenezer come together.

I collect rocks. I do this to help me remember. I find them in random places. I find them in my purse, in moving boxes and I found them today with all the things removed from my car. My fingers would touch the smooth surface of the rock and I’d remember. I remembered when I met Kelli at a conference last year or when I sat on a beach in Cape Cod. There was a rock from a hike, where God invited me into the fear of the unknown. There was a rock Mt Hermon, where I was reminded who God created me to be and there was a rock from in front of my friends Tom and Tori’s home as I experience the faithfulness of God through their friendship. Each rock held for me a story, a picture of God’s faithfulness to me. Each rock reminded me that God sees. Each rock reminded me that today I serve the same God.

I am wishing I had a rock from Salina, Utah, for I experienced the faithfulness of God in majestic ways. Perhaps, next time I drive through I’ll stop and pick one up? Perhaps I’ll remember through pictures?

We all need rocks. We need things in our lives to help us remember.

Remembering….

It’s important.

Remembering is what we draw from to face uncertainty with courage, sadness with joy and difficulty with assurance. Remembering creates the story of our lives as each memory is stitched together, creating a masterpiece, an ebenezer for generations to come.

Take some time to remember with someone today.