When you grow up in the states and go from being a student right back to being a teacher June begins to hold a special meaning. For 25 years of my life June signified the end of another school year, and the start of summer. There was a natural rhythm to one thing ending and another beginning.
I love summer. Days get longer, nights warmer and kids and adults both seem to play more. There’s beach BBQs and slip-n-slides and the smell of sunscreen and watermelon. When we were growing up most summer days we lived in our swimsuits, running through sprinklers or in and out of our neighbor’s pool. We’d gather around our outdoor picnic table for dinner and ten minutes later, jump down with bbq chicken staining our cheeks and half eaten corn on our plates. Still wearing our swimsuits, we ran through the backyard sometimes until 9 at night, just as the California sun set behind the trees.
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But now June signifies something different. School doesn’t end in Guatemala until October and the months of June through August are characterized by rain. Summer feels different now. And sometimes to be quite honest I get a little sad in June. I can’t quite describe it or pinpoint why. Maybe that’s what change brings. A little grieving and loss.
I was in the states last week for a visa renewal trip and realized it was two years ago this June that I moved down to Guatemala. If you’re new here or don’t know the whole story you can read what my plan was in 2010 here. It’s funny to me now that I wrote :
“I believe in taking risks, being bold and listening to that still, small voice inside that says “go” even when you don’t know where you’re going.”
Little did I know how true that would be. I listened to that still, small voice and left Santa Barbara in 2010, not knowing that taking risks and being bold meant I wouldn’t be moving back.
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And then last year in June, I wrote this in the middle of emptying out my storage unit and selling all of the things that had made Santa Barbara home for 9 years. I was still getting used to an engagement ring on my left hand and shopping for wedding dresses in fancy stores, while also coming to grips that I was leaving and letting go of Santa Barbara for good. I was excited for a future in Guatemala with the man I loved, but I knew the next time I came to Santa Barbara I would be a visitor. It would no longer be home.
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And now June 2012, here I am, sitting inside on a rainy afternoon. (Quite prophetic as I write about missing summer, huh?) And I realize the moving to Guatemala may have been the single biggest change in my life, but also the most rewarding. Of course I still miss things from the U S of A- I always will. Things like carpet and chocolate covered soy nuts, free-Amazon shipping, Pandora and return policies. There is no Target here, nor Trader Joes, no runs by the beach and leaving your front door unlocked. And until someone invents a teleportation system I only get to see my closet friends and family a few weeks out of the year.
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Those are the losses. And I’ve learned I have to give myself permission to acknowledge them. And feel them.
But there is so much more that I have gained. (Besides my incredible husband)
Living in Guatemala makes me grateful- consistently grateful. • I have learned to live with less and be ok with it. • I have learned that for me what is sometimes an inconvenience (a rainy afternoon), is necessary for someone else’s livelihood (a farmers’ corn harvest). • Guatemala does a great job of reminding me that I am not in fact in control. • I cannot control the weather, the road closures and what food there will be in the market. • Living here as a visitor, or better yet a foreigner, has challenged all of my ideas about how we, in the U.S. treat our visitors and foreigners. • And living here as allowed me to learn a new language and culture, and see my own with a new perspective. • I have learned the joy of trying new things, making mistakes and having to ask for help. • I am often reminded how big God is and how small I am. • My credentials don’t matter here, but how you treat people does. And I love that.
Shauna Niequest, an author who I adore for her honesty and authenticity wrote this for a commencement speech recently:
“Pay attention to what moves you, what you love, what makes you angry, what makes you exhausted. There are no right answers to those kinds of questions, but if you don’t pay attention, you may find yourself several years down the road, living a life that looks good on paper, but doesn’t ring true to the deepest parts of you. That’s a terrible place to be. Become a student of what you love, because what you love flows out of the way God made you.”
I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I look back and realize that I was living a life that looked good on paper, but didn’t ring true to the deepest parts of who I was.
It feels good this June to be in a place where I am a student of what I love.
I am a student of Spanish and of new cultures, of my husband and new family, of teaching and seeing God in new ways.
Are you a student of what you love?