Far Above Me

I have not fallen off the face of the earth somewhere around Guatemala. I have only fallen off the face of the wireless earth. 

It has been a very bumpy month. Highs and lows come in such rapid succession that sometimes it feels like I have been driving over a cattle guard that just won’t stop jostling my insides.

The mountains and sky here are so beautiful. Surrounding the city is a mountainous rim of deep green that calls my name every time I remember to notice it. The sky seems bigger than normal. More convex as though the paradoxes of this land bulge the heavens as they defy description. 

The stories we have learned through books, across the table, and through the speaker of watchfulness have been inspiring and Good. People struggling to find God in and out of churches steeped in different cultural strains that both sustain and stunt their divine identity. People who prefer to be with their family more than anyone else. People who consciously avoid dishonest parts of progress and people who feel alien to traditions that have lied to them. 

As for me, so small in this big and foreign place, I have noticed, sometimes with fear or pain, that here has reminded me to trust. That there, home, I can let that muscle atrophy, and that leaves me ill-prepared for community and crisis. We have had this beautiful and challenging time in which we have no choice but to exercise trust, camaraderie and grace with and to strangers. And we receive them too. This time is a reminder of our own limitations, size, and interconnectedness. 

Things here are allowed to be much more wild. Unkempt. Rested. Lenient. Even in more touristy places. More than any country I have been before. My sharp eye immediately sees the gaps, the overhang, the bumps and drips. 

And I wonder, can I acquire grace through osmosis?

Could I take that as my lasting souvenir? Would observations lend themselves to Kindness when I see the gaps, the overhang, the bumps and drips in others. In my self. 

Please, yes. Here is, here I am, hoping. Shaken. Trusting

 

“Yet God, my King, is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth…Yours is the day, yours also the night; You have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.” From Psalms 74.

Final Destinations

True discretion is impossible without true humility. – John Cassian

It is not my favorite time to leave the country for six weeks. And it turns out I’m not as awesome at international travel as I once thought.

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Sure I’ve flown to and fro “Africa” (isn’t that specific?) several times without a thought but there have been people at either of my final destinations meeting me at the airport. I actually cannot remember the last time I flew somewhere completely new, let alone with small children in tow. lt is humbling to be in this place. Where I am the one reading books, not knowing if the descriptions and characterizations are accurate. Where I am the one e-mailing a stranger, asking if diapers are available and tank tops are appropriate. Where I will probably be the one changing currency at the worst place possible. Somehow, subconsciously, I believed that living in a foreign country and having many European and Kenyan stamps in my passport would equip me for entering anywhere, including Central America, without hesitation or hiccup. As though bad Swahili would help us find our shuttle in Guatemala City. 🙂

We are going to learn a language. We are going to be tourists. We are going to stay with a family we don’t know.

It is going to be an adventure and I am sure that we will come through it better, stronger as a family, and much improved in Español. I am looking forward to actually being there. Historically, I have loved and embraced going to places less developed than I where live. It is just the actual going–the getting there–that is daunting. While traveling between worlds in high school and college used to be a nice transitional space of sleep and reflection, that flew out the window with the onset of Parenthood. Instead of wrestling with identity in the formerly beloved “transitional space,” I will be wrestling with a preschooler and Lap Child for a couple of plane rides, a lay over, a brief hotel stay, a couple shuttles, a bus ride, and a taxi ride. If we’re lucky.

Until then, I have been plodding away in preparations, not feeling very adventurous at all. Outwardly thinking through packing for a rainy climate and leaving our house. Inwardly feeling through how it would be to not have my friends nearby, whose proximity may deserve credit for my sanity on any given day. I’ve been feeling through what it means to miss some rituals and changes that are happening in our absence. Community events that mark time and grief and celebration. A wedding and birthdays, the birth day of our first nephew perhaps. The departure of our church planting leader and new organizational structures. For some, it would be a relief to miss most of these things. To me, it is disorienting.

Despite the revealing of many fears and insecurities, I am thankful for this Unknown. For the opportunity to study Spanish in a beautiful country that many of our friends here call Home. I am thankful for the adaptability and joy of our children, the blessing of our teammates, and the richness of the cultures of this city that all urge us “Go!” I am thankful that we will have one main task there instead of the five or so we juggle here and for the opportunity to take old friends called Travel and School off the shelf for a brief time again. I am thankful for the privilege and wealth that we enjoy that allows us to invest in Spanish in this intensive way and travel between countries with ease.  I am thankful that no matter how new the ground is, He promises to be there and give me sure footing.

We are not alone and though we are strangers, we are known. In, out, behind, before.  The mysteries and misgivings of this time are only upsetting because I too often deny and cap the uncertainties and wonder in my normal life. In going, I am forced to be conscious of subjecting myself to what may come, entrusting ourselves to His good care. In staying, I can easily convince myself of the myth of sequential, predictable safety and comfort.

I am thankful that this is all reminding me that I am not in pursuit of securing myths as padding around my life. That predictability is not my final aim and destination. I am glad for the reminder that no matter how involved and responsible I feel, time marches on and these are good times to become less entrenched. There is grace here, in the leaving, the packing, the learning. We move on.

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Believe it or not, here are a few things that just had to be done before we go. (I am convinced that if pretty garlands hung around the city, people would be happier.)

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