Posts Tagged ‘perspective’
October is kind of like June in Guatemala. Not the weather or the temperature outside, but the feeling that comes when a another school year has ended, final grades and projects are turned in, graduations, more commonly know as claursuras, have just about finished and students begin the glorious 10 weeks that are known as vaccaciones. And teachers do the same.
My schedule and job have changed quite a bit since leaving Santa Barbara in 2010, but at the end of a school year the feeling is still the same. My body and mind want to slow down, soak up quiet mornings and settle in.
A few weeks ago when Gerber asked me what I wanted for my 30th birthday I said, something relaxing. And it was just that. He invited a few friends to Earth Lodge, one of my favorite local get-a-ways, where lunch is eaten at picnic tables, and cornhole and Adirondack chairs line the grassy lawn and naps are taken in hammocks. It was splendid. After having spent the prior week camping and building water filters with 12 jr. highers this was just the kind of day I wanted.
We celebrated later, just the two of us at our favorite restaurant, Hector’s. Which is basically where we go for engagements (well, just one engagement), birthdays and whenever we have out of town guests visiting. The atmosphere is intimate, with no more than 8 tables and you have to step through the kitchen to get to the single stall bathroom. But the food is superb. A limited menu ensures that you can’t go wrong. My favorites: The roasted tomatoes and Gouda cheese. Hands-down, best margarita in Antigua. Tender duck with roasted grapes and the orange chocolate fondant is pure delight. Seriously, if you’re ever in Antigua this is a must go to.
We talked about this next season and what we want to get done before we head to the states in December. We dreamed about our next possible travel destination and how to add a 2nd level to our house. (Yes, you read that correctly…In Guatemala, you just build up. So, we’re hoping to add a 2nd story to our 2 bedroom, 1 bath casita.) While we finished the last of our desserts, he asked me what I’m most looking forward to in my 30s?
My response was contentment. For the first time in a number of years, I breathe a little easier. My heart feels a little more settled. I am content with who I am, my body, where I live, and our life together. By no means does it mean I don’t get stressed or have horribly frustrating days, but somehow this birthday I celebrated something new. Maybe it’s something that comes from taking a risk, leaving everything, starting over and trusting that God has a better plan than I do. During my 20s I felt like I was working hard to be content, wrestling with myself and who I thought I should be and questioning God often. But maybe that’s the funny thing about contentment, you can’t work on it. It washes over you when you finally surrender and say here I am.
Here I am, and I am quite content with 30 thus far.
A week from today I will 30. And I couldn’t be more excited. For so long the idea of thirty sounded, well… old. So grown-up if you know what I mean. But I don’t feel old or really grown-up. I feel healthy and strong and content. For the first time in years I am thankful for who I am, how I look and where I am in life.
My twenties were characterized by questions, moving and lots of change. Internally and externally. If you’re in your 20′s- hold on. I don’t think it always feels so unknown, so turbulent, so exciting, and confusing all at once. I’ve spent a lot of time this past month thinking about my twenties.
In no particular order, here is what I’ve learned:
- Comparison never helps you make friends or feel better about yourself. Don’t believe it. Don’t listen to it.
- And that break-ups suck. no way around it.
- Some point after college I learned to view food as a source of nourishment and pleasure, not something to be counted and kept track of.
- Know how you like your eggs* (Figure out what YOU love, before you find the Love of your Life.)
- How to have an adult relationship with my parents. This is an ongoing process for me and probably for them.
- That whole business about rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn, is really, really hard. I think I need to keep practicing.
- I’ve learned to be thankful for what my body can do, not what my measurement are.
- Counseling is worth the investment. Seriously. Counseling has helped me know myself better and learn how to ask for help. I would easily spend an hour with a physical therapist to become physically healthy, so why not spend an hour with a counselor to become emotionally healthy? One of the best decisions of my twenties. hands down.
- Be the kind of friend you want to have.
- Ladies, HEIGHT is not everything. It took me 27 years to realize this. Stop waiting for some dreamy, Mr. 6’5 to walk by. You could miss out on the LOVE of your life. Give the short men a chance : )
- What it means to be surrounded by people and yet feel alone.
- Be able to laugh at yourself. One day I’ll write about how I ended up in the ER with a broken nose, on a “first” date.
- Invite the new person. If you see someone by them-self at church or a birthday party or in the corner at an awkward work function, invite them to sit by you or come join your table. Because if you’ve ever moved or been the “new-girl” you know how much you appreciate those people.
- “Everything happens for a reason” is a load of crap. I’m sorry, but at some point in my twenties I realized there are a number of things that I had heard about or had witnessed and there is no good reason or explanation. Best perspective on pain and loss is Rob Bell’s here
- I’ve learned the world is a better place if we just give people the benefit of the doubt. Oh, that man who just flipped you off on the free-way, you ask? Don’t worry he just had a bad day. It’s not personal.
- I learned how to make room for doubts and difference, and be ok with it. My faith is strong enough to not have it all figured out.
- Expectations can be hanging on too tightly to your own idea of the future. But I’ve learned that unlike expectations, HOPE gives freedom to dream, change and be flexible. I’ve found this even more true in marriage.
- If he doesn’t call, and doesn’t respond to your text…Then he is probably not that into you. I am not the exception, I am the rule.** Repeat.
- Feeling lonely is a universal emotion. Somehow I never knew this. I was shocked in college when I learned that married women feel lonely. And when a friend who is a mom of three told me she sometimes feels lonely, too I was floored. I thought only single people felt lonely. I was wrong.
- Jesus is not a white middle-class American.
- Loving someone doesn’t mean making them more like you.
- Some people will be your friends because you just click and it’s easy. Other people will be your friends because you chose to work at it. And I think we need both kinds in our lives.
- Having roommates is one of the best preparations for marriage.
- Pay attention to the kinds of questions people ask you or the kinds of things they invite you to, these are probably the things they want to you do for them.
- You don’t have to change the world or be anyone extraordinary. Sometimes I think the most radical thing I can do is acknowledge the stranger on the street, pay attention to the men who pick up my trash and leave my husband a smoothie in the fridge without expecting anything in return. Those ordinary things become extraordinary.
What do you remember learning in your 20s? or What was the best part of your 30s? Do share.
*Run Away Bride…in case you missed it.
** He’s Just Not That Into You (wished I had seen this when I was 21, not 27. )
I would call myself a Christian. But there have been seasons of my life where those words have felt weighted by the need for a disclaimer.
I’ve wanted to stamp a SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING on my backpack: I’m not like those Christians. I do not always vote republican, I deeply care about our environment and I don’t think your sexuality defines who you are or what rights you have.
I don’t get think that Jesus would be too happy with my need to qualify what it means to be a Christian. He seemed to be above all of that stuff.
A New Church
G and I have been attending a new church near Guatemala City. Being in someone’s home, with a community of people who are willing to be challenged and committed to keep asking good questions, makes the 45-minute drive on a rainy, Sunday afternoon worth it. The messages are video-casted in from a church in Atlanta, called North Point. And this week Andy Stanley’s message was not only challenging, but also a bit controversial. Maybe that’s why I respect him and the church community we’re part of.
He called it what it is.
Christians- we, myself, people in the church- are sometimes the biggest hypocrites.
Crowded together on wooden benches and white plastic chairs last night we sat and listened.
Andy talked about how Christians have used the bible to justify horrible things in our history- the enslavement of fellow human beings, the persecution and genocide of Jews, the abuse and subordination of women, the right to wealth and power, and I could go on and on. The thing is we can use theology to justify anything. People have done it for years and it’s quite scary, really because we still do it.
The Danger of The One Verse
Every side of every issue has a verse. Just ask them. It’s easy to pull a single verse out of the bible to prove your point.
I realized in some ways we all do this.
The truth is if you call yourself a follower of Christ or a Christian, you too have chosen parts of the bible to ignore. We do this pick-and-chose-dance based on context, and theology or what your church tradition and current culture tells us is acceptable. Last time I checked I didn’t know any women in modern evangelical churches who have their heads covered or any men walking around with their right eye gouged out from lusting after a woman. And as far as I know, most us have not sold all of our possessions and given them to the poor.
In someway or another most of us ask ourselves what was the intent of the commander, not just what was the commandment.
One of the things I love about Jesus, is that he knew we would do this. The Pharisees did it back then. They asked things like, “Well, how close can I get to breaking the law, without actually breaking it?” Or they’d question Jesus like a bossy older sibling, “How come your disciples don’t follow the rules and wash their hands before they eat?” (Matthew 15)
A New Commandment
But Jesus responds. And not with rules and laws, but with a new commandment. A new commandment that encompasses all the rest of them. A commandment that Jesus lives out to the fullest, and I believe has so much potential for good when we can learn to do the same.
Love one another. In the same way I have loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples- when they see the LOVE you have for EACH OTHER
(John13:34, The message- italics added for emphasis)
Wouldn’t it be cool if one day someone said… hey, I know they’re Christians because of they love that they have for each other?
I don’t think this implies that we will all agree or come to some universal mutual understanding and vote for the same political party. I think being a follower of Christ leaves room for diversity and difference of opinion, but there is no question that if I chose to call myself a Christian than I have a responsibility to ask myself daily: What does love require of me?
What does love require of me?
What does love require of me each morning, each day, while I wash dishes or wait in line at the bank?
What does love require of me when I read facebook posts that I whole-heartily disagree with? Or when I see an old man with a beard and a bible clenched under his arm proselytizing in the park?
What does love require of me when I watch news broadcasts with Christians holding up hate posters against gays and lesbians? Or when Christians with very good intentions would rather hand out candies and t-shirts in the name of Jesus, instead of learning about development and empowerment?
What does love require of me when I want to control a situation in order to get my own way? Or when I want to be generous only when it benefits me? What does love require of me when I chose to ignore someone else’s needs because of my power or position?
What does love require of me?
I think I know the answer. But sometimes it’s a lot harder to live out, than it is to write about.
How do I chose to act differently? To speak differently? And to not do exactly what makes me so frustrated in the first place? Respond in anger, or disgust, or with excuses and judgement?
Whether you call yourself a Christian or not…
Will you join me in asking this question…What does love require of me? How do we live it out every day?
P.S. you can watch Andy Stanley message or the full series online at: http://www.northpoint.org/messages/christian
I introduced you to Yumbo and our first date here last August. And now 1,56k later I’ve fallen in love.
It was really a practical decision at first. A scooter is much cheaper than a car and since the home we bought is about 5K outside of Antigua I needed a way to get around town. But now I can’t imagine not having a scooter. I was surprised when I was back in Santa Barbara to see just how popular the little two wheelers have become. I realize it may not make sense for everyone to have a scooter; kids, winter weather, and Costco trips are all factors that do not lean in favor of scooting around.
However, here’s how having a scooter has changed my life and how I think about the privilege of transportation:
+ There are limits to what I can do. Having a car gives you the impression that you can go anywhere, anytime, whenever you want. A scooter changes that. I don’t drive it at night. And if it’s raining I can choose to stay at home and wait until it stops or put on rain boots and a huge tarp like thing. Usually I opt for option 1.
+ I find by by losing a little independence and control, I learn to ask others for help or just wait. Neither of which are my forte.
+ That being said, I do love that I can pass buses and scoot around long lines of cars #yessss
+ I spend 21 Queztales every week on gas – that’s about $3 – THREE dollars, people. That’s pretty good, huh?
+ I can only buy what I can carry* and let me tell you I have gotten very, very good at packing my little scooter full after a run to the grocery store.
(* to be totally honest, I should disclose that G does have a truck that we share and we use when it is raining, or when buying big things or making long trips.)
+ Most Guatemalans don’t own a car or a scooter, so their transportation is limited to when the bus system runs. I learned that rather quickly when trying to host a small group at my old apartment at 7:30pm- no one came unless they owned a car, because they didn’t have a way to get there. It reminds me that having transportation is a luxury, not a right.
+ It’s fun! What could be better than scooting along a cobblestone road under the Antigua sun, with views of coffee plantations and volcanoes in the distance.
+ Makes me very aware of other drivers on the road. I read the manual: Always assume cars can’t see you.
+ Parking is free and if you live in Antigua…or really any city… that is a major bonus! #ilovefreethings
+ I have learned to master road conditions that would never be permitted in the states. Mud puddles, dirt roads and small boulders are no problem. #makesmestronger
Now on the wardrobe front:
+Dresses and skirts are not scooter friendly. Most days I opt for jeans or yoga pants.
+I have quite a few pairs of flip flops and sandals that are collecting dust on the bottom of my closet floor. #thisisntsantabarbara
+I have traded in any kind of fashionable purse for my trusty, Northface backpack. 0 points on the style front, but a perfect 10 when it comes to carrying my computer, groceries and a rain jacket.
+Now, if I could just figure out how to not have helmet hair like I would be a happy camper:
Besides the helmet hair, have I convinced you to become a scooter owner?
I often miss Santa Barbara on Saturdays. However, I know if we lived there then I would miss Guatemala Monday through Friday.
Maybe this is what it means to live between two cultures. two countries. two places. When I am here, part of me will miss and long for there. And when I am there, my heart will ache for here.
• • •
When I’m feeling this way the sure-fire way to give me perspective and healthy dose of contentment is to head to the b.e.a.c.h.
The crashing waves and the warm breeze, the expanse of the ocean and oh, THE sun. Seriously, it does wonders for my soul. Just the feeling of the sand between my toes is like medicine for this California girl. Not to mention, that I think it may be the only place in Guatemala where walking around in your swimsuit is entirely appropriate.
Being the wonderful husband that he is, Gerber agreed to go this weekend. (Mind you he is not a fan of being in the sun, sweating and having – in his words – “sand stuck between his toes.” )
Now I should clarify that the beaches in Guatemala are not exactly like the beaches in Santa Barbara.
Rewind to my first trip to the beach with G about a year and a half ago. I was having one of those I-miss-Santa-Barbara-and-the-beach-and-everything-else kinda of moments. So he suggested we drive to beach for the day. I was so excited as soon as the ocean waves appeared in front of the windshield that I ran – literally toward the water’s edge. Except I only got half way there. My feet were burning, I was sweating, and I remember thinking this is not what I had expected (those damn, expectations, huh?).
Apparently I didn’t know that that the beaches en el sur de Guatemala are black-sand beaches. And they’re hot. Really, really hot and humid. No one lays on the beach with their towel and a book because it’s just uncomfortable. Your feet would be burnt and you’d be dehydrated in about 10 minutes from the amount of perspiration dripping from your body. (Do you see why G is not a huge fan of the beaches in Guatemala?)
But this weekend we found this place:
And we brought this guy:
So Gerber could have someone to play with:
And I could relax here:
We ate and slept and threw the frisbee back and forth. We watched the sunset and talked and had one of those much needed restful kind of weekends. The kind where there are no plans, no phone calls, no talk about work, no figuring out how we’re going to keep a budget, etc. The kind where there is not much of anything- and that is perfectly ok. We haven’t had a weekend like this in– months, I think. Sometime around October our lives got slightly busy and hectic and all the excitement (and stress) that comes with celebrations and visitors and traveling and change and the holidays has taken it’s toll.
Sometimes I think when I start “missing” something or someplace it’s my bodies way of saying- slow down. enjoy what you have. appreciate what is here. be content. go to the beach….in Guatemala.
And those are all things I could use more of.
Side note: This place had the coolest bathrooms I have ever seen. I mean what’s better than open air bathrooms with outdoor showers? (see below)
It’s a good question really. A matter of language and identity. What is your nationality if you are from the United States of America? Most of us from the good ‘ol u s of a would say, “I’m an American.” From young ages we are socialized to sing, “I’m proud to be an American” and we are indoctrinated with the idea of the “American Dream.” However, what happens when you live in another country, another country in the Americas?
What happens when you begin to realize that actually “America” is a continent divided into three parts: North, Central and South. Then, what do you say?
In Spanish there is a word for someone from the United States. They’re called an estadounidense (or sometimes more commonly referred to as a gringo). If you’re from Germany, you’re an aleman. If you’re from Mexico, you’re a mexicano. For someone who likes words and language and how these very two things are often a deep reflection of a culture, it’s interesting that we, too have names for someone from Germany (a German) and someone from Mexico is a Mexican. But yet we don’t have a name for someone who is from the United States?
Proud to be an America (sometimes)
There are many things that I am proud of about my country. It is a land where our founding fathers fought for the freedom of speech and the separation of church and state. A land where humble farmers and wealthy business, men and women, rich and poor have the right to vote, attend public school and own property. A land where “I can do anything” is embedded in the very fiber of our country and “the American Dream” runs deep through our veins. The United States has thrived because we have been encouraged to create, to change and to empower.
However, there are more times then I’d care to admit that I am embarrassed by my country. I often feel the need to apologize for the actions we have taken. I get angry that we strive for equality and a land of freedom, but we abuse and exploit our own workers. We consume absurd amounts of energy, gas and natural resources without acknowledging the effect on the rest of the world. We often use our power and force in unnecessary ways. It makes me ashamed that we claim to be united, but we still judge and divide people based on the color of their skin. I get frustrated when we, The United States of America, take advantage of others. We misuse our power, our influence and maybe our name, to do what we want to do.
Where Are You From?
So here I am. Living in a new pais. Where the most common question I get asked is, “De donde eres?” Where are you from? I usually respond, “de los estados.” From the States. Yes, I am from the States. And I am thankful and grateful for where I was born and how I grew up. Are there changes we can make, of course. Maybe the first one being… I ask you, Dear Citizen of the U S of A, What do we call someone from The United States of America? Do we have a name that is our own? A name besides an American? An United Statesian, perhaps?
If you have lived or traveled abroad where do you say you’re from?
When I came to Guatemala my first DIY project was this Pottery Barn inspired chalkboard. I made it 1) to fill up empty wall space in my apartment and 2) to write down my weekly schedule and things to-do.
Well, apparently my weekly schedule has not changed since March. If you look closely at the picture you’ll notice that I have written “Steph comes (sister)” and “Andrew comes (brother).” That was a good three months ago! It’s not that I haven’t done anything different since then, it’s just that the idea of planning out my week and writing some weekly schedule doesn’t happen as often. At least not in the same way I am used to.
A New Schedule*
The word schedule here is always accompanied by an asterick that signifies: *tentative, this may change. The school where I work, the relationships I have and the country where I live often operate within this assumption. So in my effort to live here and live well I have
adapted (well, I am still adapting- it’s an on-going process really). Of course, I still like to make plans and schedules, however I now know that on any given day things may change. I will always be a J (for those of you who speak Myers-Briggs) and I am convinced that type J people may get more done in life, but I am also learning that they (ok, I) can waste a lot of energy and stress planning, preparing, worrying and then re-doing when something doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes I envy type P people (i.e. my boyfriend) because they can respond to changes with an ease, flexibility and even a little excitement! (which I don’t think I will quite ever understand)
The Things That I Would Have Written on My Calendar During the Past 3 Months
We took our 7th-9th graders (Basico) to a three day Campamento about 2 hours from the school. And they loved it. The crazy games, sleeping with your best friends, the campfire, meals together, worship nights, prizes, dress-up night and probably just being away from home. I enjoyed most of it. Minus the 5:30 am wake-up calls with a trumpet. (not kidding, 5:30 in the MORNING!)
There is something special about taking kids away from their normal surroundings and putting them together for 36 hours. Good things happen. Funny stories. Hopefully some spiritual growth and learning. And powerful conversations. I kinda thought I had “finished” my years of camp when I left high school ministry in Santa Barbara. Guess I was wrong.
Teaching English continues 3 days a week at Vida y Esperanza with these lovely maestras and 1 day a week at Proximos Pasos with these precious girls (see below). I will always love teaching; however, it has been a challenge adjusting to a new system and a different way of teaching. Not to mention that I now teach in “Spanish,” even though I am teaching English.
This has probably been one of my favorite parts of work so far. Getting to coordinate and plan (“plan” is used loosely here) when teams from the States come to severe here for a week or two. I like being able to connect with them and be a bridge between the country where they and I come from and the country where I now live. I like listening to their ideas, questions, and observations. And I like being able to explain and share a little what I’ve learned about Guatemala and how God is a lot bigger than country lines and languages. This team of stunning college students is here for a month working with Gerber and another staff member building water filters and latrines in a community near Antigua. I get to join them for dinners, conversations and whenever translating or touring in Antigua is needed.
Back to My Schedule*
It’s Monday afternoon and I am going to attempt to write on my the calendar for this next week. Of course with an * next to everything that is planned.
What’s on your schedule this week?
The thing is I have them. Lots of them and sometimes I find they bring more disappointment and discouragement than I care to admit. If you’ve followed my blog you probably know that I’ve written about expectations before. For better or worse, it’s kind of been this recurring theme during this season of my life.
So, my friend and author, Paul let me guest post again on his blog All Groan Up. You can check it out here.
I met Dee-Anna 7 years ago at an unlikely event. We have never lived in the same city or attended the same church. Our friendship has spanned across boyfriends and breakups, job changes, roommate changes, weekend visits, road trips and LA traffic, intentional phone chats and skype dates and seasons where it was just plain difficult to keep in touch.
We have moved across town and states and now countries. And Last week she flew down to visit me!
For 5 days we lived together. Hung out. Walked around. Drank Coffee. Hablamos en español. She came with me to my classroom and met people who are important to me. She got to know Gerber and see why I love him. We dined in-style and ate avocado tomato toast not once, but twice. We traveled to the lake. Laughed and told jokes. We made time for naps. And tears. Played silly Spanish games in the car. We listened and encouraged and told stories that start with “Remember when…”
I am convinced friends like Dee-Anna are a rare and special gift. And it reminds me how worth it is to show up and be part of some one’s life even when miles and jobs and busyness can create distance.
“..because there are things you can’t know, and questions you can’t ask, and memories you can’t recover via email and voicemail [and skype]. It’s about being there, about being there to really see what’s exactly the same and what’s totally different about each of us.” (Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist)
Thank you, Dee-Anna. Thank you for coming. And bringing with you the best gift possible- your friendship.
“What if the only things you had today were what you gave thanks for yesterday?”
My friend Jen shared this quote with me last week because she and I both know it’s much easier to complain, than it is to give thanks. I am the kind of person who likes (and unfortunately is quite good at) pointing out the things that are not quite working. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram I am a classic One; The Reformer.
I like to make things better. I can walk into a room, a meeting or really, any situation and my immediate thought is, “Ok, how can I make this better?” Words like change, improve and fix are my manta, but I am finding that these words leave very little space for gratefulness and contentment. When you’re often focused on what’s not working it’s easy to lose sight of what is.
What if instead of trying to make everything better, I started trying to be thankful for how things are?
• I want to be a person who gives thanks for my health and the ability to move and run free from aches and pains. • I want to be a person who sees the opportunities I’ve had to travel, attend college, and own a car as a privilege that I have been given, not a right that I have earned. • I want to be a person who gives thanks that I have enough money to buy today’s meal and plenty to share tomorrow. • I want to be thankful for my country, but not abuse its power or support its’ abuse of others. • I want to be grateful for running water in my house, a soft bed to lay my head and a roof that protects me from rain—luxuries that almost 2 million people in the world don’t have. • I don’t want to take for granted the fact that I can read a book or breathe in clean air or walk without fear in the street. • I am thankful that I have the freedom to choose what I want to do, who I want to marry and what I believe. • I want to be person who gives thanks for the small things; a hand to hold, a friend who knows me, a gorgeous sunset. • I want to learn how to have a thankful heart, even in hardship and loss. • I want to be a person that can be thankful for the what, even when I don’t understand the why.
So, I ask you dear reader: “What if the only things you had today were what you gave thanks for yesterday?”
What would you give thanks for?