Monday, August 5, 2013

The Road Goes Ever On and On...

Boat ride!!!

For those who don’t know yet, I’m home. Which means this is your last blog post from me for this adventure.  Since this is my last hurrah, I thought I’d base it around Lord of the Rings quotes. (sorry, couldn’t resist):

 “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

For anyone that doesn’t know, I hate crying in front of other people. And I’ve done that a lot this week. In front of friends, in front of family, when the song “She Will Be Loved” started playing as we exited the plane in Miami (I have no explanation for that one. Maybe I was just happy to be through with an 8-hour flight. Yeah, we’ll go with that). I even cried in front of a random Paraguayan storekeeper after I got through security in the airport (She promptly convinced me to buy something).
                Is it strange that I cried when I left Paraguay and cried when I got back to the U.S.? I don’t think so. Despite my general dislike of crying, I think it’s good. Because it means I felt something deep and powerful and wonderful that affected me deep inside. And I sort of expect it by now, because I’ve left a little part of my heart everywhere I’ve lived. And so a little piece of me is somewhere in South Korea and now another little piece is in Paraguay and there are pieces in the U.S., too. It hurts to leave any part of you behind, and it brings you to tears when you get to have it again for a while. But that’s why I find the idea of the new Earth so exciting. All those pieces and people that you loved and that were in Christ will be perfected and put back together beautifully. That’s worth the pain and the tears and definitely worth waiting for.

“Don't adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.”

                I guess this quote reminded me of a few things. First, this adventure isn’t really over, at least not until life is over. And then it gets transformed into a whole new kind of adventure. All my experiences in Paraguay won’t just stay in a little box marked “Paraguay Trip” in my mind and heart. They’ll flow through and inform the rest of my life. They’ll change the way I view things and be used by God to continue to “renew my mind.” Which is exciting to think about.
                And second, this story wasn’t primarily about me. There are great things happening in Paraguay, and great things still to come there. And all the Christians there were part of that story long before I got there and will continue advancing it long after my memory has faded from their minds. Any seeds planted by God’s grace during my short time there will have to be watered and brought to harvest by them with the Lord’s help. I might not get to see any results before I die-but that doesn’t mean that my time there was meaningless. So my adventure isn’t over-a hundred others are carrying on the story.

“There was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It's a dangerous business, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.’”

                Now for the question everyone will probably ask: ‘Will you go back?’ The simple answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know where the path will lead. But deep inside I hope it will “sweep me off” and I’ll find myself in Paraguay again. Maybe for a little while, maybe for longer than a little while. One thing I’ve learned, both God and life can be a bit unpredictable. But I’m slowly learning to embrace what comes, although I’m not very skilled at it yet. Even if it’s not Paraguay again, I’d be good with stepping out on the road in faith, losing my footing, and joining the flow again. Scary? Yep. Uncomfortable? You’re not kidding. Worth it? Absolutely.

 “The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.”

                This last quote is for you, since I’ve spent the last page talking about myself and my experience with leaving. First, I want to say thanks to opening yourself to a part of the world called Paraguay and helping me to go there. Thanks for the prayers, cards, support, and those who went out of their way to help me get there (especially a shout out to you, Mum and Dad).
                And one final challenge to you. This experience really stretched me in a lot of ways, and cracked my little “fenced -in area” wide open. I highly recommend it. I’m not saying you have to go to another country as quickly as possible (although I would definitely recommend it if the option is open). Look for ways to let the “wide world” into yourself, and to impact it for Christ. I’m hoping and praying that I’ll remember to do that myself, even though I’m back. And I hope you will too.

Thanks for pursuing this adventure with me,


Thursday, August 1, 2013

For Life's Dream, Open Your Eyes

                So graffiti. There’s a lot of it in Paraguay. Everything from your typical “María + Juan” message to political commentary to perky, brightly-colored murals can be found on walls and buildings. Some of it is completely undecipherable to this girl, mostly because of the Guaraní place names that I can´t pronounce, much less remember. Some of it was obviously for fun, and other messages seared my soul with the pain that their creator put into them. I´ve found them everywhere: down the street, across the city, in a memorial for the victims of a terrible fire. Today, as we were driving through a small town a few hours from the city, I happened to catch a glimpse of another message spray-painted on a wall: Para soñar la vida, abre los ojos. Roughly translated to English, this means (according to the missionaries I was with): For life´s dream, open your eyes.
                Hmmm. For the record, I have absolutely no clue what exactly the artist meant to express. But I can tell you a bit of what it meant to me as a result of my experiences in Paraguay. I think we run around with our eyes “closed” a lot of the time. I do, at least. As a person for whom patience doesn´t come easily, I tend to want to rush along to the next thing. I need to stop. I need to open my eyes. I need to see that this moment could very literally be the last part of “life´s dream.”
                But what does that mean exactly?  It means being flexible and taking what your day throws at you, whether it goes exactly according to your plan or not. It means willingness to accept the truth, even when it shakes your world. It means recognizing your own weaknesses and failures and letting God pry you loose from what´s holding you back. It means loving people and wanting the best for them, even when it´s inconvenient or annoying or even infuriating. Today is what you get. Open your eyes.
                It means appreciating the world around you-sunshine and flowers and little children and rivers and mountains and puppies and forests. It means learning to love God as He´s expressed himself in these things. It means trying to seek out the beauty in the people that you meet, and actually spending time with them instead of rushing off to the next thing. It means gleaning the good out of the most intense inner pain you´ve ever experienced. Be intentional. Open your eyes.

Ypacaraí Lake

                It means a willingness to recognize and enter into another´s pain. It means recognizing problems with the world and doing something about them. It means living to have eternal impact. It means being firmly rooted in who you are and what you believe. It means trusting God to take care of the seeds that you´ve sown. It means striving to let go of attitudes and feelings that won´t help you or other people. Don´t daydream through life. Open your eyes.

Site of the Ycuá Bolaños supermarket fire

                What that graffiti message said to me was that the real substance of life is not in our dreams. Not that I´m discouraging dreaming, since I do my share of that, too. But don´t let that be the point of your life. Recognize that the opportunities and people in your life now are supposed to have your attention. Open your eyes and your heart and every other part of you to how you´re supposed to handle the events of the day. Not that you´ll do everything perfectly. I´m perfect in a grand total of...none of these areas. Just because I decided to spend my summer on a mission field doesn´t mean I didn´t struggle with every single one of those issues during my time here. So I´m still trying to take my own advice. And I know firsthand that it´s tough.
                But I´m asking you to think about your life today. Are you opening your eyes and your life to what you should be doing right now? Join with me in thinking and praying about it. Expect one more blog post at the end of my trip.

Until next time,