Vignettes

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I was cold today. This is a new sensation for me in Altea. In my previous experience I was hot every day, all day. Today the sea breeze was cool and chilled each of us. Some how, we each last minute threw in a sweater or jacket just to be safe. I remember packing a yellow sweater and thinking I was crazy, “I’ll never wear that!” Today, I wore just that.

I walked the stairs again for the first time. Though, they are many, part of me couldn’t wait to concur them and build them into the routine of my day. Walking, movement and exercise are part of the gift of this place to me. This past year the movement I experienced was in my heart and not in my body. In many ways, it felt my body became paralyzed as I began addressing my heart in a new way. I had enough energy to feel, but not to move. I’m glad to be in a place where movement is a necessity and not a privilege.

Today I walked to buy stamps, make copies, purchase some materials for the group who will soon be arriving, and say hi to friends with whom I wanted to commit. I didn’t have to ask where I was going, I love knowing how to maneuver the streets which two years ago felt more like a maze than a grid of any kind. As I showed Stephanie and Cate around I felt as though I was introducing them to my town. We wove in and out and up and down, my resting face is a smile as I walk.

As the errands were run I would walk into the stores and immediately approach the person behind the counter as though I was from a small town in the Midwest. I’d smile and start talking. I of course know very little Spanish, but like Cate and Steph observed and recanted to me later, I talk as a local, an expert and completely confident in my language skills. I do not allow a measly little fact like I don’t actually speak Spanish get in the way of me making friends and having a conversation. There are too many words to be spoken and heard to let such an insignificant fact get in the way. Truth be told, I do have conversations, but I so long to be fluent. I so badly want to hear the tiny details of one’s heart and the visions of the mind. My concentration is such that I weary myself by days end from language acquisition alone. I will one day be fluent. I don’t know when or how, but I will become fluent. This is a fact.

We had staff meetings on the Terraza this afternoon. Together we listened to the story of Edge and the story of Arianna, Edge’s founder. We then went over the calendar of logistics for the next month. The calendar is full. As soon as the students arrive our days will be filled with relationships, creating, teaching and walking alongside a group of up to 30 participants at one time. I am excited and after the logistical meeting, feel grateful we have one and ½ more days until the first person’s arrival. There is still much to be accomplished. Finishing up the details feels like squeezing the final clown in an overstuffed Volkswagen Bug. It will all get done, but the final push takes a little effort.

I moved into my home for the month tonight. It is perfect. The staff will all be staying together. It sits right in the middle of the oldest part of town and the most vibrant. We are surrounded by cafés and one of my favorites, which my friends Sara and David own, can be seen from my window. I sit in my bed as I type, hearing chatter below. It matters not that it is in Spanish, restaurant chatter, in whatever language, all sounds the same and holds the same relational energy. Forks and knives hit the plates, glasses clink as toasts are made, chairs are moved and laughter echoes. I love it all. When I look down I see those gathered at the outdoor cafes and when I look up I see the Old Church, for which Altea if famous. She is a beautiful building, which holds a story so rich in history it dates prior to the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades. I look at her and feel small. She has seen so very much, her story is grand and old and full of terror, grief, joy, sorrow, destruction and resurrection. I find comfort in her presence and remind myself that I too belong to a grand story.

A cat runs across the roof of a neighboring house. Birds fly to their nests tucked into the rounded terracotta tiles, roofing each home. Geckos scurry across building surfaces and pigeons with painted wings nest on near by roof tops. Everything has color. Every where I see life.

After we settled into our house we hosted our first meal. Seven of us sat on top of our roof sharing stories for hours. We laughed, cried, shared joys, difficulties and sorrows. We told our stories to remember good and to step into the stories of those with whom we’ll serve for the next four weeks. It is a beautiful thing to see strangers become friends through storytelling. Tonight was no different. Just over 24 hours ago, most everyone on staff was a name on a shared email list. And tonight, we are friends, brothers and sisters and coworkers living out of blessing to be blessing.

I no longer breathe out difficulty to breathe in good, but both breaths are filled with good.

We ended the night recalling the story of Joshua 4 and the Israelites crossing the Jordan and building an alter to remember all that God has done. I write this email with the same intent. I write to remember. I write to include you in my remembering. I write to invite you into the story of what is taking place here.

Thanks for remembering with me. What do you want to remember from this day? Take time to share it.

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Day 7 of Truth telling: beauty, space and Steam

photo-3Today my truth is:

I function better when I’m surrounded by beauty. Today I’m sitting in my new favorite spot in Denver, Steam. It is a little espresso shop on Pearl Street. This street holds a quaint feeling that reminds me of movies. In the summer a local farmer’s market closes down the street and people peruse the produce while wearing their patagonia gear, walk their dogs and talk about their latest outdoor adventure. In the fall, the trees that line the streets begin to loose their leaves, like confetti falling on the passers by. The crisp air kisses the faces of those walking in and out of one of a kind boutiques and people hold their coffee’s as hand warmers. The street itself invites inspiration. My mind creates scenes and I smile as I piece together stories of the characters who dawn the street. I love it here.

Steam is a beautiful corner of the world. It is small. The design is simple, understated, it settles me down as I breathe in and out. Windows from floor to ceiling dawn nearly every wall. The light pours in flooding the room with so much light that the only necessity for lighting is aesthetic. And, let me tell you, the light aesthetic is perfect. A simple blend of masculine and feminine, mixed metals and shapes. The walls are a mixture of brick, lightly stained wood in shades of grey and blue. The walls are a simple and muted background to the life and color brought in by those who find themselves around tables. There is always one pop of color and life against the neutral backdrop, a bunch of lilies placed on the long community table. This is where I sit today.

I absolutely delight in this little shop.

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay area I had several places where I would go to fill inspired. On Saturdays I’d go to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building. In the fall I loved going to 4th street in Berkeley. Chestnut street in San Francisco. Main street in Danville and down town Lafayette were places that also inspired me. Even now, as I type and remember I sit taller, smile and actually soak in the thought of the experience.

I think I am inspired by environments that hold aesthetic beauty, life and a complete sensory experience. Environments are important to me and they have a way of effecting my mood. When the environment inspires, I feel it and I too am inspired. When an environment is drab and colorless, I too fight feeling drab.

When I’m surrounded by beauty I connect with my Creator. I sense His presence. Environments such as these actually speak of life and beauty and such things are hints of God. I think, in some ways, this is why I function better when I’m in beautiful spaces. For it is in these places, where I easily see evidence of the beauty of God and feel inspired to co-create with Him.

What inspires you? What simple things cause you to function at a higher level? Where do you find God in a simple reality?

Today, look for this truth in your life and then visit a place that reminds you of your Creator.

The face of freedom

IMG_0766This morning I was doing my work out with the girls. Gracie, one of the college students has an incredible gift of leading workouts and motivating us beyond our norm. (We call her Denise when she leads us!) She is a ballerina and completely embodies her (given) name.

Today as we were doing a plie tears filled my eyes. Though no one noticed, I became very overwhelmed. I actually get teary now simply thinking about it. The overwhelmed feelings came on me, as I had no idea from where the tears came. I frantically searched through the rolodex of triggers and experiences in my mind to see if I could discover the source of the tears. Memories, words and pictures passed through my mind as if one were watching a reel to reel film of my life in fast motion. As each memory passed, they left no mark. Not one. I had no idea from where these tears originated.

Then I whispered to Jesus, “help me! why am I crying?” At that moment an emotion filled me. It was so profound that I had to breathe in deep so I could take it all in.

The tears were a result of grief.

As I worked out and witnessed this young woman so free and flexible and light, I knew a deep and profound grief. The grief was not brought on by Gracie, no, the grief was brought on by my own choice.

Years and years ago I made an agreement with a lie that formed me. I gave this lie a tremendous amount of power and the lie actually kept me from so much good. As a child I always wanted to be a dancer. But no, I wouldn’t allow myself to dance. I wanted to be an athlete. But no, I wouldn’t allow myself to compete, let alone try out. In high school I so badly wanted to be a cheerleader. But, I would not allow myself to audition.  There are countless other experiences I neglected to give myself, as I was held captive to a lie. A lie that truly formed me.

These lies tempted me as though they were true and just like Adam and Eve, I took the metaphorical apple and ate it. In doing so, I made an agreement with the lie that I was fat. I made an agreement that I was ugly. I made an agreement that I couldn’t do anything positive with my body. I made an agreement that my value came from those places and for years and years…… and years those lies were an over arching guiding force for me. And today, as I worked out, I felt the loss of good. I felt the loss of life. I felt the loss of skills I wish I’d had. I felt the loss of experience and freedom.  And that loss caused me, in a moment of experiencing the good I had missed out on for all those years, to cry.

The grief was different than shame. Shame overwhelms and keeps one hidden and stuck, but grief, grief acknowledges loss and actually is a feeling that indicates the end of something. So in the same breath, I grieved the loss of so much life and good, because of an agreement with a lie, AND I also rejoiced as I know that lie is now gone. It no longer has any hold over me. Freedom washed over me just as the sweat from my workout.

When I realized I was grieving, my tears turned from grief to joy in an instant. I shall weep no more! I shall grieve no more. For I am no longer managed by the power of this lie, no! I am new.  The old has truly gone! It’s gone!

When I decided to come to Spain to co-lead this program I felt deep within me that God was inviting me to come to Spain to experience and walk in freedom. I felt an invitation to live into the healing, restoration and truth that He has given me in the past few months. And today, at this very moment, I know that freedom. I know it deep within me and it causes tears to come even as I type.

Truth always sets us free.

Lies always bind us up.

For years and years I was owned. But I am owned no more. The reality of Christ and his good and his truth rests on my chest that was once so full of anxiety, shame and fear. I am free and my face and body show it! My face once heavy with shame, now shines with light and freedom and beauty.

Freedom is not an allusive idea or concept. It is real and it is for each of us.

Each of us, at one point or another, were given an invitation to believe a lie. Each of us were tempted to believe that this lie was truth for us. And many of us, stared the lie straight in the eye and shook hands with it. As our hands held the hands of deception, its lies filled our bones and  laid heavy upon us, sapping our life, as a leech in still water.

I don’t know what that lie is for you. For some it might be that they aren’t valued because they could never be enough. Others were abused and believe the only time they have value is when their bodies are being used. Others may not have measured up to their father’s standard of manhood or their mother’s concept of beauty. And still, others may feel their only source of value comes through external beauty. Maybe you were abandoned by a loved one. Maybe you were never chosen for a team. Maybe people mocked you in a certain area or constantly told you you would amount to no good.

Again, I don’t know what lie has formed you, but today, I ask that you take a moment and ask Jesus, the very author of truth, to reveal to you where you have made an agreement with a lie. As the lie surfaces, stare at the lie, look it up and down and remove your hand from the handshake of agreement, and turn your back it. Do not look back. Walk forward. Walk away from that which kills, steals and destroys and walk towards life. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” face him, listen to his words of invitation and run, don’t walk, don’t skip, don’t waste another moment of life!!! Run to Jesus and you will find life, life that is abundant and full.

I’d love to talk with or pray with any of you about this. Please feel free to email me or leave a comment and I will fight with you for truth.

Now take a moment and read words that are true. Allow them to wash over you like a hot shower on a cold day:

The Word Says in Jesus Christ…
I am faithful (Ephesians 1:1)
I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I am a member of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
I am assured all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
I am confident that God will perfect the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6)
I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
I am chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)
I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
I am given God’s glorious grace lavishly and without restriction (Ephesians 1:5,8)
I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
I have redemption (Ephesians 1:8)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)
I have purpose (Ephesians 1:9 & 3:11)
I have hope (Ephesians 1:12)
I am included (Ephesians 1:13)
I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
I am a saint (Ephesians 1:18)
I am salt and light of the earth (Matfthew 5:13-14)
I have been chosen and God desires me to bear fruit (John 15:1,5)
I am a personal witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8)
I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
I have been shown the incomparable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7)
God has expressed His kindness to me (Ephesians 2:7)
I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I have been brought near to God through Christ’s blood (Ephesians 2:13)
I have peace (Ephesians 2:14)
I have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)
I am a member of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)
I am secure (Ephesians 2:20)
I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)
I share in the promise of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)
God’s power works through me (Ephesians 3:7)
I can approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
I know there is a purpose for my sufferings (Ephesians 3:13)
I can grasp how wide, long, high and deep Christ’s love is (Ephesians 3:18)
I am completed by God (Ephesians 3:19)
I can bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21)
I have been called (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9)
I can be humble, gentle, patient and lovingly tolerant of others (Ephesians 4:2)
I can mature spiritually (Ephesians 4:15)
I can be certain of God’s truths and the lifestyle which He has called me to (Ephesians 4:17)
I can have a new attitude and a new lifestyle (Ephesians 4:21-32)
I can be kind and compassionate to others (Ephesians 4:32)
I can forgive others (Ephesians 4:32)
I am a light to others, and can exhibit goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9)
I can understand what God’s will is (Ephesians 5:17)
I can give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)
I don’t have to always have my own agenda (Ephesians 5:21)
I can honor God through marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)
I can parent my children with composure (Ephesians 6:4)
I can be strong (Ephesians 6:10)
I have God’s power (Ephesians 6:10)
I can stand firm in the day of evil (Ephesians 6:13)
I am dead to sin (Romans 1:12)
I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)
I am growing (Colossians 2:7)
I am His disciple (John 13:15)
I am prayed for by Jesus Christ (John 17:20-23)
I am united with other believers (John 17:20-23)
I am not in want (Philippians 4:19)
I possess the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16)
I am promised eternal life (John 6:47)
I am promised a full life (John 10:10)
I am victorious (I John 5:4)
My heart and mind is protected with God’s peace (Philippians 4:7)
I am chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
I am blameless (I Corinthians 1:8)
I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)
I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)
I am a light in the world (Matthew 5:14)
I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I am safe (I John 5:18)
I am part of God’s kingdom (Revelation 1:6)
I am healed from sin (I Peter 2:24)
I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1, 2)
I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13)
I am overcoming (I John 4:4)
I am persevering (Philippians 3:14)
I am protected (John 10:28)
I am born again (I Peter 1:23)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am delivered (Colossians 1:13)
I am redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13)
I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)
I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Now that is what I call truth! May these truths dwell in your hearts, may their reality fill you up and may they be the words that define you.

Be blessed!

So I went dancing

profile-imageI stared at my closet, the choices were slim as one can only have so many clothes with them as they travel. The moment seemed rather important. I chose the bright yellow sundress as it was the best dress to twirl in and I was told that I should choose a dress I like to twirl in. The dress fell on me as if I were wearing someone else’s clothes who was much larger than me, but it’s what I had.

I walked into the bathroom, put up my hair, put on a little make-up and found the right jewelry to complete the outfit. I was ready!

There was knock on the door and I grabbed my last things and headed out the door. Tonight I was going to live into freedom, I thought to myself.

For on this night, I was going to dance.

For me, dancing has been something that I’ve kept myself from, because I’ve had so much brokenness around my body and dancing… well dancing is all about the body.

As I came to Spain I knew that I would dance. I knew that I would at some point put on the dress, wear the hair up and ready myself to go step into something new and this was the night.

I got in the car with my friend and three of her friends from Altea. The five of us headed off to Benidorm where I would dance salsa for the first time. I was ready, excited, nervous and momentarily tempted with thoughts of nervousness and timidity.

The club was not that full as the clubs here don’t really become active until well after 2 in the morning. The music played and I watched as women and men would take the floor and dance with such grace, confidence and sensuality it was as though they were all talking, but no words were spoken.

Salsa, itself is quite sensual. It is a dance that is felt deep within.

As I began dancing I was in my head too much. I wouldn’t feel the music, I’d try to think it. I would do my best to move to the rhythm, make the right steps, keep eye contact and try really hard not to bump into any of the people around me. I was all in my head and I had no heart at all. I couldn’t tell you what music was playing. It was all in my head.

I found that I would take on the qualities of the person with whom I was dancing. If the person led with confidence I too would be confident. If that person was clumsy I too was clumsy. I danced with a sense of anticipation for something good to happen. I danced as though I knew in just a few moments I would soon catch on. The catching on seemed slow and seemed to be more or less like my Spanish skills. I have a lot of desire but not a lot of skill.

I stood near our table watching the men and women fill the floor with movement and grace and story. They were beautiful. Then, it happened. A very handsome spaniard came over to me and asked if I’d dance with him. He was strong and had a smile that went on for miles. He led me to the floor and I straightened my posture and warned him that I was very new to salsa and that I was going to need a lot of help. He went on to say with a smile, “It’s okay I will be your teacher.”

He then led the dance. It was an amazing experience. It was as though I’d been dancing all of my life. With each movement he led me with strength and confidence. He led me as though I was a part of him. He led as though I was actually an extension of his body. It amazed me. With his every move I somehow, without words, knew where to go and how to respond. It amazed me. I actually wondered if I had danced before because it was seemingly so easy for me.

Let’s back up. For years and years I have wanted to dance and I’d only dance with other girls and I’d always lead. There was an apparent lack of men in my dancing life. And so I picked up the slack. So being led was a new and scary concept for me. He might make me look like a fool. If I lead I could be in control. With the man leading it was vulnerable. I was vulnerable.

But here I was, with a man who was strong enough to hurt me, and gentle enough to hold me and confident enough to lead me and I followed, becoming the prize that I’d seen other women live into all night. I was now that woman. I was the prize. And this man I’d never met was now going to show off his prize.

With each step he gave instruction, he spoke encouragement and he asked questions. At one point he spun me and I went the wrong direction, which for those of you who know me, you know that isn’t too much of a surprise. But his response was astounding. He apologized to me. I made a mistake and he apologized! What was this?! He then said, “If I was doing my job well, you would always know exactly what to do. So, it is my fault that you went the wrong direction.” I was floored.

Everything he did gave me confidence to be and dance with freedom, knowing he would take me where he wanted me to go. For the next few songs he and I danced together and with each dance I became more and more confident. His leadership brought out my confidence and I was so encouraged by it.

I didn’t really think about how powerful the experience was until I was later reflecting on it with one of the girls in the house. In my life I have been the leader more often than not. I have had to know how to do things and how to come up with solutions and I take the brunt of any wrong decision. And here I was, in one dance, being invited to follow. Not because I’m not capable, but because I was the prize.

There I was, in an uncomfortable situation, totally secure, because I was being led, truly being led. In one dance I felt peace. I felt cherished. I felt seen. I felt valued. I felt known. I felt feminine. I felt beautiful. I felt free. I was taught, held and led and I was free, in every way. The dance will not be forgotten. Nor will the metaphor it held. I will go again. I will dance again. I will become a better dancer and by becoming a better dancer I will actually become a better follower.

And being a follower it turns out, is pretty free.

Morning, stairs and sleeveless dresses

1000395_10152988074930004_898015445_nMorning breaks yet again. Mornings are bright and quiet and still. I feel grawgy in the morning. The brightness often collides with my face and instead of joy like a Disney character waking up to the sunshine, I grimace and turn away from it. “Stupid sunshine!” I say aloud, as if the morning were an older sibling awakening me early on a Saturday.

Morning.

The days here often greet me as if I were a child on his birthday or a woman as she prepares for her first date. Anticipation comes with my mornings in Altea.

This morning, to my surprise, I woke up with the sunlight. I half-way greeted the new day as though I were cinderella awakening to a room full of rodents and birds happily preparing my outfit. I was glad to wake up. I had fallen asleep at the second of our two homes here in Altea.  So, I woke up to the sound of the sea and the sweet voices of girls bustling preparing for their days.

I was glad to wake up. I was glad to wake up because I knew I’d get to spend another day living into a new freedom, in a new place, filled with my once unfamiliar, but now familiar home.

Wake up!

Words which once conjured feelings of anxiety, now greet me with anticipation.

Freedom is a new rhythm for me and with it come feelings of discomfort. I feel as though I’ve moved into a new house and though it’s a beautiful house, it is new.  Much like the big reveal on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, when the big bus pulls away and a whole new world is revealed, I look at my self, my understanding of self, my beliefs and ideas of identity with awe. And, at the very same time, there are also feelings of discomfort. Everything is new. Everything feels as if it could break or be taken. Everything feels like a dream. Everything feels like an invitation to trust that yes, this is from God and yes, this is good. Freedom is a new house. Freedom is my new house.

On this morning I knew freedom deep within me. I walked in it. It steadied me. It held my head high. It propelled me forward.

I walked the hundreds of stairs to my house, still wearing my yellow dress from the night before. The steps came easily to me. I walked tall. I walked free. I once again felt like a character on a movie set, as my dress flowed and my newly purchased basket purse accented my outfit with perfect Spanish style. I once wore freedom as an accessory, I now find myself living as though freedom were my backbone.  It causes me to stand tall. To dance. To laugh loudly. To wear shirts with no sleeves. To greet strangers in a language I barely know. To eat new foods. To try a new language. To jump into new without fear.

This is not the case every day. Some days the newness of my freedom overwhelms me and I want to run back to the old. I want to put on that old t-shirt, only to realize I’d thrown it away the week before. But, the old no longer feels permissible or completely desirable. New is not always comfortable.

Altea, a small Spanish town, resting on the shores of the Mediterranean, has been the land on which my new home has been revealed.  It’s been the place where I’ve been invited and challenged to live in this new way. It’s been filled to this point with joy and invitations to deeply trust in the one who gave me my new home. The one who has given me my freedom.

The sun invites me every morning to live in the new and today…. I chose to walk in it.

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!