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.

20 things I brought back with me from three months in Europe

1240212_10153273930545004_1372512634_nI came home with 20 take-a-ways from my time abroad. Here’s the list:

1. No matter where we find ourselves, our mission is always the same, to love well those in front of us, to encourage people in Jesus, to give selflessly, to be people of peace, to offer hospitality, and to be light. This is one of the take-a-ways from my time abroad. Location never changes our mission.

2. Learning and/or trying to speak someone else’s language is one of the fastest and deepest ways to show a person of another culture you value them.

3. When the desire is to be a blessing. There is never a lack of opportunity. Expecting the miraculous connection daily has become a habit in many ways.

4. There is much to celebrate about what good is being done around world through all kinds of people from all kinds of places. I’ve been thankful to hear stories of this good as I’ve been abroad. Expecting that God is working in every country, through all people groups causes me to want to learn from others… more than teach them. Being a listener and a learner is crucial and opens us up to experiences and stories we’d otherwise miss.

5. History informs the present. It’s important to learn the history of a place as a means to love others of various cultures. Ask questions about a place. Learn about the faith history and the story of the people. This will always help you to better understand the present.

6. The differences between cultures and peoples are beautiful expressions of human life that are to be celebrated. Allow differences to be a guide to understanding rather than division or judgement.

7. Perception and reality are often very different things. Asking questions and believing the best are always the best way to approach situations that seem off. Personality, culture, circumstance and more often affect others perception. As I’ve been abroad I continue to see the value as I assume the best and seek to understand.

8. Asking questions and really caring about the answers communicates that I value another’s story. Questions are a doorway to relationship.

9. Creatives hold a very important place in shaping cultures for good. Victor Hugo played a part in saving Notre Dame, which was to be torn down, by writing about it in a book, artists tell the stories of good, like Leprojet Imagine in Paris. Others, like Jonathan Boulet, use their creative influence to publish the story of Jesus in the New Testament, told with art and creativity. Yesterday I met George, who’s craft is pottery. He taught us of patience as he told the story of each piece’s creation. As I’ve been abroad I’ve seen, again, how creatives are using their gifts to bring about good and to speak of Jesus. The creative leader is needed in every culture.

10. True hospitality is not shown by entertaining a guest, but by offering your whole self and welcoming the whole self of those around you. Tonight I’m reminded that true hospitality is not culturally specific. Offer hospitality (I think Paul may have been on to something)

11. Being rooted and in community is hard and is important.

12. Two full days left. As I continue to reflect on lessons learned, experiences shared, people visited and places seen I am confident that love is the most powerful and life changing and unifying language. The way of Jesus always is a way of love. Love that is patient and kind, love that does not get jealous or boast in ones self, love that is not rude or self seeking, love that truly keeps no record of wrong, love that always assumes the best, always hopes and always perseveres is the kind of love that will never fail, in all cultures.

13. Our work does not define us. In fact while in Spain, I was only asked what I did for work one time in two months. This created space for others to know me and my heart, not just how I make a living. Not all cultures think of success, accomplishment and responsibility in the same terms as those of us in the US. There is much to learn from this way of thinking.

14. Freedom has as much to do with saying no as it does with being able to say yes.

15. Being outside and moving and walking and physically engaging with the world and our neighborhoods opens doors to relationship. For its pretty easy to drive by a person without engaging, much more difficult to walk by. Relationships gathered because of shared space are some of the best friendship surprises!

16. Every moment we have a choice to speak well of others, to treat people with kindness, to assume the best and to walk with humility. Today, as I traveled and had a few bumps along the way I am once again reminded that in all things I am to choose love and grace and kindness. These attitudes and actions are always ours to choose and are not dependent upon circumstance or the actions of others.

17. Never assume that mine is the only part of the world at play. My choices effect the lives of people all over the globe. When I choose to live in the way of Jesus, I choose to speak life and give life not only in my part of the world…. But in all of it. Our actions matter.

18. There are a lot of differences between cultures. But simply because something is different doesn’t mean it is wrong, weird, bad, rude or negative. Seeking first to understand is imperative as we seek to build relationships. (Oh yeah, this same practice works when your friends, spouse, co-workers, roommates and classmates do things differently than you.)

19. Though I’ve been gone for 3 months it feels like my time was just a split second. Thankful for the relationships formed and deepened during this time. Relationships are the most precious memento!

20. Vulnerability is found alongside freedom. For freedom greets us when we are truly honest with self and others.

Just the beginning: 25 lessons from my time in Spain

IMG_7001My time in Spain is rapidly coming to an end. I can already feel the shift in my spirit as I look to what is next. I’ve settled into a good pattern here in Altea. I’ve established good friendships. I’ve lived a very healthy life as I’ve eaten well and worked out daily. I’ve made it without being stung by stingrays or jellyfish in the Sea. I’ve spent good time with Jesus and I’ve planned ahead for my fall back in the States. I want to be able to leave Altea having completed the work I came to accomplish and to be prepared for life back in the States so I can enjoy my travels without anything left lingering in my mind.

As I reflect on my time in Altea I’m thankful for that which I’ve been reminded of, lived into or learned. Here’s a brief look:

1. Mission is not something we go off to do, it is a way of living. This can not be said enough. When mission is something we travel to participate in we actually miss mission. Mission is a way, not an event! There are times when we must travel to experience mission in other parts of the world, but on a whole mission is not something one has to travel to participate in!

2. Significance in impact or work is not determined numerically or by recognition. Significance is a matter of the Kingdom. When we pursue Him and His way and our work flows out of this pursuit our work is always significant.  Loving is always significant.

3. Speaking is only a small part of communication: Smiles, a generous heart, a kind spirit and love go far beyond words and communicate the truths one believes.

4. Making life change for the approval of others will ultimately fail. Making life change as a result of being self controlled, driven by the Spirit and out of love, will remain and will transform the whole person.

5. Friends are easily made when every person we come in contact with is seen as the image barer of God that they are.

6. Being led is a gift, when being led by a good person. Being led is a part of the feminine journey. (It is also a part of the masculine journey, but I am learning things from my perspective and I had to learn how being led was a part of being feminine.)

7. Dancing really is freeing

8. Truth really truly sets a person free. And when truth invades one part of a person’s life, all parts begin to submit themselves to truth, freeing the total person.

9. Striving is useless. Submitting is powerful.

10. There is much to the feminine journey and I’ve embraced much of mine.

11. I like tomatoes

12. Being divided in heart will always effect ones contentment.

13. One does not put on or wear beauty or femininity, one’s beauty and femininity are a result of an internal belief.

14. The sea is always beautiful until jellyfish come to town.

15. Laughter is healing and is a beautiful counselor

16 . Generosity is contagious

17. Seeing people, really seeing people will often result in loving them

18. The sun is good for the soul

19. There is a small difference between complementing one’s purse in Spanish and actually calling them a nice purse.

20. There is a small difference between complementing one’s outfit in Spanish and actually calling them a nice outfit.

21. There is a small difference between complementing one’s hair in Spanish and actually calling them nice hair.

22. You get the point

23. Being honest about one’s life will open the door for others to be honest about their own.

24. The table is redemptive

25. God is jealous for us. He has a deep deep desire for all people, everywhere to know him. God is good and God wants us! He wants us! All of us! All of the time.

There are many more lessons learned, both serious and silly. I’d love for you to ask. I’d love to share them with you. I look forward to seeing how these two months of my life will shape the many years to come.

Thanks for going on this adventure with me.

Call, Mission, and Missing the Point

imagesIn life there is much talk about the word call. Well, I should qualify that statement, in the United States of America, in certain Christian circles there is a lot of talk about call.

Where am I called?

To what am I called?

To whom am I called?

What if I’m not living out my call?

This is what I’m called to!

This is where I’m called!

I can’t do that because I’m not called to those people.

I can’t serve there, it’s just not an issue I’m called to.

I have been known to throw these phrases around with the best of them. I have sought long and hard after call and location and work. I know the seemingly ever present strive to be obedient to the “call” placed within me.

While I’ve been in Spain something unexpected has happened for me. I have so incredibly easily adapted to the culture that many around me have said that it’s like I was born Spanish. Some have wondered if there is call on my life to Spain because of how easily I’ve been able to connect with people. Just yesterday I was having a conversation with someone who alluded to me fitting in Spain so easily and wondered what God was going to do with that. Though it was not asked, I felt a question, do you think it’s God calling you here?

Though I believe that God calls people. It is clear and it is something I’ve witnessed, but I think we’ve twisted it so that much of what our true call is has been lost along the way.

Call, in many ways, has become equal to career. I am doing that to which I am called, is a phrase often used when one describes their career of choice.

In Spain, I’ve only been asked one time what it is that I do for a living. Two months, many new friends and ONE TIME, I’ve been asked what I do. That is a far cry from the reality of life in the States. As a result, I myself have stopped wrestling significantly with call. Instead, I’ve taken time to do the good I know I’m to do. James talks about that in his letter in the later New Testament. He says, “To him who knows the good he is to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

Today I wonder if we miss the good we are to do because we are so busy chasing call?  I wonder if we miss the good we are to do, because we are chasing significance?

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend where we talked about how easy it is to be and to know that every conversation has significance when outside the borders of the US. In two months, my striving for the perfect living out of call has ceased. I am not chasing after significance. I am, instead, realizing the significance I’ve been living.

As a church culture in the states we strive so much. I wonder if we miss the point? Have we missed discipleship and mission because we’ve been searching for personal significance? Have we missed Jesus because we’ve been searching for his call on our lives? Have we missed people and moments because we’re looking for the largest impact possible?

I’m sure I have.

Last week I sat with a man who owns a restaurant that we frequent. We’ve become friends over my months here, though he speaks little english and I very little spanish. He had seen me meet with the students one on one and asked if we could do the same thing. So here I was, sitting in a coffee shop, having a conversation about life and our stories and I was able to ask questions prompting thoughts about his journey personally and spiritually. The conversation was powerful, even through a translator.

He left and I felt overwhelmed by the significance of the moment. I wasn’t standing before a crowd. I wasn’t training large numbers of people. I wasn’t rescuing a thousand people from horrific life situations. No one in the coffee shop would have even taken notice. But this moment, these two hours were incredibly signifiant.  These two hours actually have the potential of being a catalyst for life change in him and therefore life change for all with whom he comes in contact. Every [single] person who has a changed life, encouraged heart or new spirit alters eternity! Therefore, this moment, was incredibly significant to the world.  And, this moment was the significant I was to give my life to.

This significance, this moment, was not tied to a career. It was not tied to a people group, culture or country. But it was the good I knew I was to do. He was the person in front of me to love, not because I’m called to full time mission’s in Spain, but because as one who follows after the way of Jesus, I have no choice but to love, invest and listen to those around me.

Being a minister is not a call. Being a missionary is not a call.  Being a friend is not a call. NO! And, I believe we must stop using our words to describe them as such. Being a minister, sharing the story of the good news, and loving people are a part of the identity we’ve been given as children of a good King and as such they are a part of the good we know we are to do.

I did not go on a mission trip to Spain. I simply came to Spain to live, to learn, to teach and because I am now here and the people around me are all Spanish and it is mine to love them, to serve them, to give to them, to tell them the story of good news and to minister. Because I’m called to Spain? NO! But simply because I’m here and because I’m a child of a good King who has given us the incredible opportunity to love and give to those around us, no matter where we happen to be.

A day in the life

DSC01052The days are long here. Most days I feel as though I’ve lived two days in one. Today I woke up to a sore body from yesterday’s workout. Morning greeted me with sweltering heat. It was so hot that sweat was as common as oxygen.

The girls and I went to the outdoor market which is open every Tuesday. Every time I’ve gone I’ve thought to myself that I’d find something wonderful, but every time I’m greeted with fake leather purses, clothes from other countries and these tiny yippie dogs, which come in pink and blue and green. I swear at every turn there is another yippie dog seeking to get my attention, simply begging me to pick him out and take him home with me. I am more than confident, that will never happen.

We wandered around the market for a couple of hours as the girls looked for keepsakes and gifts for their friends. I found a pair of shoes suitable for dancing and also life back home, so I picked them up for a whopping 5 euro. I was quite pleased with my purchase, but I must tell you, as soon as it was made I was quite ready to make my way back home.

The sun beat down as though it were so angry with us and had every intention of beating us! The three of us met up and decided we should make our way back home. So, we sauntered the 1/2 mile back home in the heat of the day. By the time we got home, the three of us were so sweaty that it was as though we’d been in the sea. Gross!

We made a quick lunch and made our way to the sea. I love the sea. She greets me every day with an invitation to cool off, refresh and move. She has become a sort of friend. Her blue changes with the mood of the sky and the wind and I find myself wondering what mood she’s in each day and am excited to spend as much time with her as possible.

Today, the girls and I laid on the beach until the heat was too much, I of course did not last long at all! I was most definitely the first one to join my friend the sea for some play time. I swam a few hundred yards and eventually the others joined. The sea was cool, refreshing and was a bit rough on this particular day. We swam to where we could tread water and chat at the same time. The four of us felt free as we swam. It was as though no one was in the water with us. Our bodies moved with the rhythm of the water and our legs moved keeping our heads above the water.

Then, out of no where, one of the girls yelled, “JELLY FISH!” and the four of us swam as fast as we could to the shore! We hopped, well no one really hops out of the water, we more or less tiptoed our way out of the water, (I’m telling you the rocks are not exactly my idea of a good time. If I could redesign the sea shore I would definitely replace the rock with sand) and laid on our towels, where we rested the remainder of the day.

I find that I have moments of such complete abundance that I find it difficult to believe that my life is real. The most simple things fill me with a contentment and joy that is truly indescribable. Today, waking up on the beach after a long swim was one of those moments.

We walked the paseo home where we were greeted by our friends at Hot Home Pizza (If you’re ever in Altea, you must go to Hot Home Pizza! Seriously the best place to eat in town and the people amaze me with their friendship, kindness and generosity!) We invited them over for dinner on Sunday. We are going to fix a typical American meal for them. I’m excited. I believe I’m baking a pie. (Any other ideas of typical American food would be much appreciated!)

We walked in the house, greeted by a waft of hot, humid air. Each of us took cold showers and then one of the girls and I went out for a drink and to do some coaching. It was so good to sit with her as she discovered things about herself and made a list of goals for the fall. I then asked her if she would talk to me in Spanish for a bit and we ended up talking for a good while all in spanish. I’m learning… it’s slow for sure, but I’m doing much better than I thought. Though my sentence structure is terrible in every way!

Tonight we had a few friends over for dinner, we talked and laughed for hours and hours. I love the lingering conversations and simple meals. We planned future events with our friends here as the girls’ time here is winding down. Friday evening we are going salsa dancing again, Saturday we are watching fireworks (there is a famous firework display here on Saturday. Apparently the show lasts for 45 minutes! There are posters everywhere about it.) Then Sunday we will have our friends over for lunch and also a salsa lesson. Gracie leaves Sunday night and Claire leaves on Tuesday. The time is slipping away!

Life is full and simple here. I don’t try to figure out how to make a bigger difference. I don’t seek to be a part of big things. I don’t strive and try to do great things, I simply love the people I’m with and seek to make friends and love well. I don’t hurry. I don’t have any anxiety. I don’t fill my time wondering if I’m doing enough significant things. I simply know each person in front of me is significant and that they are the significant to which I am called. It’s humbling and revealing really.

I strive so much back in the States. I seek to become something. Here I simply am okay with being. I’m remarkably thankful.

The most simple seems to be the most profound and today, I’m reveling in the simplicity.

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.

Rabbit trails and leap frogs

Tonight I’m pensive. I’m reflective and I’m watchful.

There is a slight breeze blowing, yet the air feels thick and still. The sea is rough and yet there is little sound. Sunday nights are quiet here.

I am tired today. My siestas seem to last longer and are much deeper than in my first days in Altea. Today I took two. And, I seemingly sat most of this day, rather than my usual running around up and down the hundreds of stairs going from one part of town to the other. Stopping allowed my body to feel its true self, and its true self is tired.

In a few days I will have been here for one month. This fact is seemingly hard to believe. I have a life here. I have friends. I have those I look forward to seeing and with whom I look forward to spending time. The characters who fill the shops, cafes, streets and restaurants have become a sort of community for me. I love these people. I long for them to know good and be blessed with every spiritual blessing. I long for them to know life and walk in it. I want that for the students too.

It is now mid-afternoon. Last night, my tiredness took over and I did not finish writing.

The day began by me waking 7 minutes before I was to arrive at the first event of the day. This was not a good plan. I woke up to a hot room. Already by early morning the heat was stilling the room and making it heavy. I quickly prepared myself for the day and made the hike down the stairs to the home where we’d spend the next couple hours as a group.

Our time was good, but I can tell that most are tired, feeling the pressure of meeting with friends they’ve met while here and they are wanting to squeeze as much into their time as possible. I feel this pressure for them. I think it’s strange for everyone to have invested so deeply in new friends that now they have to leave.

I’m thankful for the fact that I have another month to stay and invest and learn. It frees me of the pressure of leaving and needing to balance all of the good-byes.

My mind wonders as I write.

I think back over the stories I’ve encountered over the last few weeks and I’m so thankful!

Here’s a snapshot:

1. I swam in the deep dark blue of the Mediterranean Sea at midnight. It was so remarkably peaceful to float and star-gaze at the same time. I could hear the water and the sound of my breath and I felt peace and I knew freedom.

2. I was given the most beautiful dress by my house as a thank you present. And by beautiful I mean… totally and incredibly beautiful. I feel loved, valued and treasured. They have been a gift to me in so many ways.

3. I sat with one of the guys from the trip for four hours talking about Jesus and spiritual warfare and our identities and the Kingdom and it was good. We were given free mojitos too, that was also good.

4. Wednesday night the guys from Hot Home Pizza, which is my favorite place to eat in Altea, invited Ariana and I for mojitos after they got off work. So she and I showed up and the four of us sat around, swapping stories and life until we were all yawning and needed to head home.

1003005_10153019561965004_198410538_n5. We hosted an artist named Miriam, whose work is incredibly wonderful last week. She also was the artist for our gallery on Friday evening. Her art created connection through whimsy and thought. She had small surprises set up all over the gallery for people. I LOVED watching the children. They were so filled with wonder over each element and they drew their parents into the wonder. (Oh that we would remain childlike in our wonder of God and His world! He is the God of whimsy and surprises! and it is good.)

6. My days and nights have been filled with deep conversation with students and locals a like. I do not share their stories, but each person with whom I’ve been able to be in relationship, has shared both heart and story with me and it feels good and heavy and redemptive and beautiful and painful and glorious. I think that is how life is. It is a mix of throwing off the old and putting on the new. I’ve seen a lot of people put on new these past few weeks.

7. Yesterday our friends from Hot Home Pizza told us they’d like to make paella for us. So they came over for several hours. We ate and laughed and heard their story as a business and hear their story as people. I’ve come to treasure these men and women. They are friends and I’m so thankful for the time that we’ve all shared. In the next few weeks, we are going to make dinner for them, with a traditional American meal. I’m excited for this.

8. I’ve continued to learn the language, soaking in as much as possible. This next month I will have Spanish lessons, one on one with a man from town. I’ll speak with him in English for an hour and then he’ll speak with me in Spanish. I’m so excited about this!

9. I miss my friend Sara from Altearte, another cafe in town. I look forward to seeing her and spending some more time with her. It is an amazing reminder to me, the power of invitation. And how friends can be made so easily, when we make the effort.

10. Each day I awake wondering what the day will hold and what I’ll observe and how God will use it in my life. I don’t yet know how this season will play into my future or how God will encourage me through it, but I look forward to learning.

I feel a bit like this blog is filled with rabbit trails and leap frogs; jumping from story and thought to story and thought. But I do know a few things. God is in the details. He reveals himself through whimsy. He desires us to be conduits of relationship to everyone… everywhere. One does not have to leave their country to live a life that pours into others. That can happen right in our own neighborhoods, stores, cafes and streets. We simply must look for relationship and love with action. (I am sure there will be much more said about this topic.)

I’m off for lunch now. Tonight I move to the other house by the beach as Ariana heads back to the States. I will have to make reasons to climb the stairs daily, as it’s very good for me.

Look today for whimsy. Look today for God. Look today for ways to love. Then maybe, take the time to tell someone the story of how you encountered God and people!