No End in Sight

I wanted May 14′s blog to be my last post, ending with the thought of precious life. But I realized, I left myself on the brink, far past the climax, but not quite to the resolution of this adventure.

As an experienced Forensicating interper, I know about story lines. The way dialogue or poetry weaves together the conflict rising dramatically to a breaking point that starts to simmer down until finally, finally, somebody understands. I think my last post left me simmering.

But now I understand that tomorrow, ironically the anniversary of my very first Atlantic-crossing, I leave Sevilla to begin my journey home.

And I couldn’t have asked for a better final day.

After finally finishing my very last paper last night, we women (and Dan) went out to celebrate at one of our favorite tapa places. Even though I went to bed late, I still woke up around 9 this morning to eat breakfast with my host parents and enjoy my last morning with them. One weekend every month they have to go to Córdoba to take care of my mom’s 98-year-old-and-still-feisty mom, and though they tried to change weekends because of my departure, they couldn’t get out of going this morning. So, we ate our toast and sipped our coffee, and my host dad recounted the days back when he was an Intellectual and wore a green vest everywhere. And then, before I knew it, he was squeezing me good-bye and out the door, and my mom was kissing me good-bye and out the door. And the words slipped from my lips for the first time ever: te quiero.

Our hasta luego was short and sweet, and afterwards, when I had the house to myself, I still felt numb. I showered and departed for my morning adventure. I spent time in the centro and then discovered the beautiful Museo de Bellas Artes before making one last stop at one of our favorite food places, Cien Montaditos. I got the olives I love and then went home to eat lunch with my sisters.

After lunch, I attempted to meet my friends at Isla Mágica, the amusement park here where our end-of-the-year-party for all the study abroad students at UPO was, but I had a little mishap. After all, what’s a full day in Sevilla without getting completely lost in the complexities of public transportation for an hour and 15 minutes? Not full at all.

I rode the first bus round-trip after missing my stop, which was actually a wonderful way to get in one last free tour of the city. However, when we arrived back to where we’d started, and I was *still* on the bus, I was a little frustrated, to say the least. I tried asking the bus driver which stop to use, but our communication was lacking, and he sent me to a different bus of the same route, where I paid another euro and 30 cents to take the same free tour of the city. This time, with the help of some friendly people on the bus, I got off at the right place and had time to ride a roller coaster before meeting our group.

For the next 2-3 hours, we students milled around, eating, drinking, laughing, taking pictures, and saying our hasta luego’s (it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later in Spain). It hasn’t fully hit me yet how much I’m going to miss my classmates here, but truly, they have helped make this experience incredible, and anytime I think of my life in Spain, I will think of them.

I got home a little after 10 and then around 11, I went out with my intercambio and dear friend Ana to eat a little and catch up, since we hadn’t talked in weeks. All the bars’ kitchens had closed, so we were forced into McDonald’s, and we enjoyed a good conversation. She even gave me a bag of Kit-Kat bars for my trip home! Walking back, the sky was clear, the air was refreshing, and the night, perfect. We finally got a few pictures together, and then it was time to part with her.

I sat in the garden for a little while tonight (until the sprinklers shot me out of my bench), praying and reflecting on this semester. This blog holds a record of all my challenges, struggles, lessons, joys, and successes, so I won’t repeat myself. To my readers, thank you SOOO much for following me this semester and supporting me through prayers and encouragement. I’ve not only loved writing as much as I could, but also I’ve needed this outlet for all of my questions and thoughts and reflections. For this reason, I’ve decided to continue blogging once I return to the States, although I will leave this one as it is and start a new one. I’ll publish details on Facebook:)

After all, just because the plane lands doesn’t mean my journey has to end. The part of my life where I lived in Spain is now coming to a close, but the part of my life where I lived continues with every beat my heart has to offer. And it’s a heart that’s whole, regardless of where it’s been and where I’ve left it. It’s whole because it’s God’s, and He is always with me.

Looking back upon my 2012 Resolutions…

1) Don’t care so much about what others think of me.
2) Become fluent in Spanish.
3) Stop texting in the presence of other people.
4) Break out of my comfort zone.
5) Remain faithful in the little things.
6) Be more concise……….(alright, that lasted a second).
7) Be aware of God’s presence in my life, even and especially in Spain, and strive to maintain a never-ending conversation with my best
Friend.

…I can say with certainty that I have realized #7. I can say with equal certainty that I have failed #6. #5 is and will always be a work in progress, especially when it comes to “doing the little things” like the homework I never feel like doing. I’ve learned a lot about time-management, at least. I would say that the minute I stepped on the plane to come here, I completed #4, and have only continued following it since. After all, I wore bright pink jeggings today. I have become Ashley with a confidence I’ve never known before. #3 has been fairly irrelevant to my life so far. #1 is related to #4 and improves every time I defeat another insecurity.

And as for #2, my primary goal and reason for coming to Spain, I do believe I have quite achieved it. I’m not saying I’m an expert or speak Spanish like a native. Far from it. But I have come to a level of fluency that is only just beginning to fling open the doors of communication for me. I can’t wait to see what’s behind them!

There’s really not much more to say. God has blessed me with one of the most tremendously surreal and unforgettable experiences of my life, y ya está. This group below has overcome and undergone and changed and grown so close, and I know we will always share a unique bond, wherever we may go. In this moment, I can do nothing but praise my wonderful God and Friend who has led me through and will do so for the rest of my life.

So, Sevilla, gracias a tí por todo. In the words of that famous Californian actor and governor whom my host brother loves to imitate, “I’ll be back.” This is not the end.

Our group, and our friend Zach:)

C’est la Vie

Though it lengthens my trip home by about 10 minutes, I’ve lately taken to returning by way of la Plaza España, just to soak in its grandeur one day more. This afternoon as I strolled by, eyes wide like a tourist, I thought, “Hombre. Qué pena que no puedo vivir aquí y sentar en la Plaza cada día” (which roughly translates to: WHY THE HECK AM I LEAVING THIS AWESOME PLACE??!?!?!?!?).

La Plaza really is my special place. I’m so fortunate as to have lived 5 minutes away for these past 4 months, and to have walked past it practically every day. Pictures do it no justice–one must see it in the round. Or, semi-round. Must see the velvet pink blossoms livening up the cobblestone, the sun setting fire to the gold-yellow bricks, the couples milling and taking turns with the camera. Must hear the horses-drawn carriages clomping along the ground, the boats sloshing the moat as they are rowed beneath the bridges, the birds calling down to us from on high. Must feel the hot sun turning your skin Spanish-brown, the fountain spraying every passer-by with a rising-falling-bouncing mist, the smooth surface of the porcelain gates and lamp posts.

It smells like horse crap, so we won’t even go there.

As I lamented over not being able to see my favorite place every day for the rest of my life, I was suddenly struck with this thought: if I could see it it every day for the rest of my life, I think it would cease to be special. Now, it inspires me and fills me wonder and calls to me any time I’m just a minute away, and I must go, must soak it in because I can’t forever.

It worked that way with my hometown, too. In the last few weeks before my departure, my under-sized, over-windy, cornfield-surrounded town I call home suddenly became a quaint little village, full of a charming culture all its own. Sevilla has never been anything but incredible to me, but as I prepare to depart, it seems to glow brighter and brighter like a fireworks finale, exploding with sparkles and sound, and I’m afraid my plane won’t leave fast enough before it all fizzles and the empty sky remains jaggedly smoke-scarred. Quick, get out while you can!

So, this is life. Comings and goings and saying good-byes. And it’s heart-breaking, when the colors stop. But it’s in these moments, you finally realize what you’ve always held dear. When you’re on the brink between where you’re comfortable and where you need to go. It’s in that second before the cord is cut, you understand how precious was your mother’s womb, but you know, too, as you breathe in your first air and breathe out your first cry of pain, it’s worth it all just to know what was. And what can be again. Life is beautiful.

¡Pa’delante!

Right this very second, it is 10:10 on a hot rainy Sunday evening, and I am currently situated in my darkened room, surrounded by air-conditioning, Bon Iver, and denial.

Check it out:
http://smashleyinspain.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/today-i-feel-________/ I wrote that post on January 7, approximately 5 days before my departure, and my emotions were strong in every which way. Now, I stand on the other side, approximately 6 days before my return, and I feel nothing. My feelings, confused by the ambiguity of joy and pain stemming from the same sources, have decided the best course of action is to do nothing. They are frozen, waiting for life’s cues, numb.

I said goodbye to one of my intercambios and dear friend on Tuesday. My host mom began to cry during lunch yesterday thinking of my departure. And this morning saw us leaving our precious church family for the last time. So where are my tears?

They are not masked with jittery excitement, I can assure you. Though I have muchas ganas of returning home, my eagerness isn’t dominant, either.

I’m basically just so entirely content with where life has me that I don’t want to think about the abrupt and impending change. So, I won’t. I will pretend it’s not happening.

That strategy works wonders with my homework. I am currently willing 3 papers and 4 finals out of existence. If they’re not real until I think about them…why think about them?

(Obviously, the above is sarcasm, but so often people don’t understand my humor, especially through social media, so I’m taking a ridiculously long time to clarify this point.)

As it is Mother’s Day, let me take a moment to showcase my wonderful mommy. About a week ago, I was complaining–yet again–about all the work I have to do that’s preventing me from living a difficulty-free life, and in order to motivate me, this is what she wrote:

“GET TO WORK! (Do direct orders work better than cheers? If so, there you have it!) NOW!

Ok. That felt too mean. So, please go do some work. Get focused. Pretend you’re nowhere special (certainly not Spain!) and all you have to do is work, work, work in order to survive because if you don’t, this big, evil dragon is going to spew fire all over you and your family (ME!) and yet if you work really, really, hard and accomplish some very necessary work (i.e., papers, presentations), then the dragon will stay in his lair and leave you alone.

But you have to work.

Or I’m dead meat.

Wow.

How’s that for motivation?!”

Need I say more? She’s really the best. And in order to repay her for all she’s done for me my entire life, I suppose I should get to slaying this dragon. Which I guess starts with admitting its existence. Forward! Carpe diem! ¡Pa’delante!

But first, a brief recap of my life during the past few weeks. After my parents left, I had to go back to school for an entire 2 weeks before our second Spring Break (a.k.a. the Feria, a huge week-long Spanish festival most popular in Andalucía where the women don Flamenco dresses, the men sport their best traditional suits, and everybody dances, eats, and drinks).

The weekend of April 13, we took an overnight trip to Granada, which was BEAUTIFUL! The weather tried to make our trip as miserable as possible by simultaneously soaking and freezing us, but we spited it and enjoyed exploring the city, going tapa-hopping (drinks in Granada come with a free tapa, a.k.a. cheap dinner), and touring La Alhambra, the impressive palace there.

The following week, we survived our classes, and Whitney, Eadie, and I spent time planning our upcoming trip to Italy! On Friday, April 20, we also went to a bull fight, which was actually pretty fun. Not nearly as violent as I’d imagined, and it was neat to partake in such an important aspect of Spanish culture. Sevilla’s bull fights are unique because the whole plaza goes silent when the bulls come out and when the torero is in the final stages of killing the bull, swishing his red cloth back and forth, daring the bull to get closer…closer…and each time the bull passes, the people breathe, “Anda,” a little louder each time until it breaks into a loud and approving, “¡Olé!” We saw one of the best fights of the year, as one of the toreros performed so as to attain some sort of special award (sorry, my cultural ignorance now shows through). The crowd carried him off on their shoulders after the fight, a rare honor!

All of a sudden, April 23 hit, and we were off to Italy! I could fill pages with our Tuscany adventures, but I’ll be brief here: we landed in Bologna Monday night, explored the city the next morning, then took a train to Florence, where we stayed 2 nights. On Thursday, we took a train to Rome, spending over 2 days there before flying to Madrid, Spain, Saturday night. We spent 2 days in Madrid before returning to Sevilla by bus on Monday, April 30.

Our trip was incredible–fun, relaxing, inspiring, and easy. Traveling with 3 flexible people means quickly made decisions and time enough to take it easy in each city. Bologna was charming, Rome was…Rome, but I think I liked Florence and its artistic ambiance the best. The river, the old bridges, the painters and sketchers filling every corner, the cheap gelato store we found right next to our hostel–it was the perfect city. Our trip’s theme was art: we saw Michelangelo’s David and other sculptures in Florence, his paintings in the Sistine Chapel and so many other famous pieces of artwork (including Rafael’s School of Athens) in the Vatican Museums, Guernica in Madrid, and countless others. By the time we returned, I just wanted to study art and learn how to paint and sculpt.

Mostly sculpt. How do people do that? How do they make marble look like velvet, stone look soft, blocks look feminine? I admire and appreciate all artwork, but it is these, the sculptors, for whom I hold the highest respect and marvel. Please teach me your ways.

We also wanted to visit Toledo during our second day in Madrid, but the rain and poor directions prevented our getting there, so instead, we found a chocolate shop and spent a cozy afternoon chatting with out waiters and eating amazing dessert. I haven’t even sorted through my hundreds of pictures from this trip, but I hope to get them on Facebook once I return:)

Since returning, school and classes have been my primary social life. I’ve tried to make my schoolwork secondary to spending my last weeks with my family and friends, and I’ve succeeded in this goal so well that at this point, it’s built up so high, I doubt I will be sleeping this week.

So, tomorrow is my grammar final and the time I need to write a paper due Tuesday; Tuesday brings my history and literature finals; Wednesday will find me frantically writing 2 papers due Thursday; and Thursday will be my politics final and social work paper presentation. We have a going-away party at Isla Mágica, the amusement park here, on Friday, and Saturday night at around 9, Lani and I will be boarding our first of 3 flights home.

Vamos.

I missed the Feria for Italy, but we still got to dress up and do a photoshoot in my host sister’s Flamenco dresses:)

Lovely Granada

Rachel and me in front of la Alhambra

Touring inside the walls of la Alhambra, which is like a city in and of itself

Bull fight stare down

Bologna from one of its towers

Beautiful Florence

River and old bridge in Florence

In front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City!

Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. (Don’t tell anyone you saw this picture. It may or may not have been taken illicitly…)

The Colosseum in Rome

See You Again

On her new album (which I highly recommend), Carrie Underwood sings a song whose lyrics have been floating through my head since I first heard it. Regardless of her intention, I’ve found the words perfectly describe how I feel about leaving Sevilla:

See You Again
Said goodbye, turned around,
And you were gone, gone, gone
Faded into the setting sun,
Slipped away.

But I won’t cry ’cause I know
I’ll never be lonely,
For you are the stars to me,
You are the light I follow.

I will see you again.
This is not where it ends,

I will carry you with me,
‘Til I see you again. 

I can hear those echoes in the wind at night,
Calling me back in time,
Back to you.

In a place far away where the water meets the sky
The thought of it makes me smile,
You are mine tomorrow.

I will see you again.
This is not where it ends,
I will carry you with me,
‘Til I see you again.

Sometimes I feel my heart is breaking,
But I stay strong and I hold on,
‘Cause I know

I will see you again.
This is not where ends,
I will carry you with me, 
‘Til I see you again (x2) 

‘Til I see you again(x3)

Said goodbye, turned around, and you were gone, gone, gone

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39_9-yuanxc

With my departure looming ahead in a mere 7 days, the emotions are mixed. More and more, I’m becoming excited to return and see everyone, but I also know that the full realization of having to say good-bye here has not hit me…and probably won’t until after I’ve been home for a day or two. The never-ending mountain of homework and the unbearable heat that has recently descended upon Sevilla to suffocate all its inhabitants are also making it easier for me to look forward to coming home.

To say the least, leaving will be heart-breaking. However, I’m trying to remember that my heart does not belong to any person or place on Earth–it belongs to God, the one person and friend who will never forsake me, and whom I will never have to say good-bye to.

And besides, I am already planning my return to Spain. Sevilla, I will see you again.

gimmechoco137:

A beautifully written post from one of my dear friends here, describing perfectly what she terms the “meet-love-lose” difficulties of temporary relationships. Though I don’t have her military background, my thoughts and feelings echo hers nearly exactly. Enjoy:)

Originally posted on the scent of time:

This morning, the first coherent thought that rippled through my head snapped me to consciousness too quickly: A week from today, I will be leaving. Gone.

No. No, that’s not quite right. A week from tomorrow, I will be leaving.

Still,  that does not call for a mere menos mal.

It is strange and difficult, coming to a new place and being told “integrate.” You try. Consciously and not, you allow the place to take on the layers of home, and you welcome the familiarity with this and comfortability with that as measures of success in that objective.

Meanwhile, roots grow.

How easily they grow, too! They are tricky things, the roots that grow without being seen, the ones you only notice are spread deep into the earth when you try to pull them out so you can fly again. But how can you yank them out when…

View original 321 more words

Life Lists

Things I Miss from Home:
*playing the piano and singing with my brother
*waffles and Bob Evan’s sausage
*driving
*milk that’s real and needs to be refrigerated
*Barnes & Noble dates
*talking with God at the lake at night
*running
*my Forensics team
*slobbery kisses from my puppy
*late night walks
*my road
*some English worship songs
*getting to eat when I want, what I want, and the quantity of my choosing
*our latte machine
*family dinner
*movie parties
*bonfires
*recognizing nearly every passing car
*Spotify, Pandora, Hulu
*spending time with every single one of my friends and family members

 Things I Will Miss from Here:
*living within walking distance from e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g
*my wonderful church family in Sevilla Este
*la Plaza de España y el Parque María Luisa
*the Spanish sun
*my deep conversations with my host dad
*paella
*all of el Centro
*our cute, one-line metro
*praising God in Spanish
*Cien Montaditos
*my bright yellow apartment and the garden behind
*Coca-Cola from a glass bottle
*also, Coca-Cola Light, as opposed to Diet
*speaking, hearing, reading, writing Spanish every hour of every day
*my marvelous host family
*a world with virtually no spiders
*the pathway along the river
*Flamenco
*tapas
*practicing languages with my intercambios
*photographing Sevilla
*cheap travel
*pitted green garlicky olives
*coins worth more than $.25
*nearly complete independence
*our close-knit CU group

Things to Look Forward to:
*my brother’s high school graduation
*weddings and related activities:)
*LOST marathon with Elizabeth and Jenn
*Emily’s visit
*Becca’s visit
*Supreme Court decisions on health care and immigration laws
*seeing Venus on June 5-6
*random side trips to see Rachel in MI
*learning how to work with computers…
*living with Becca and next to Marissa next year!!!
*seeing all my friends again:)
*Writing Center conference in San Diego in October
*my future return to Sevilla

To conclude, a friend shared a hilarious website with us the other day: http://thetimeistudiedabroad.tumblr.com/page/3 For those who’ve studied abroad, or even just traveled, you will appreciate these:) I should warn you that some on the site are inappropriate, but here are a few of my (clean) favorites:

WHEN I BUY A FRESH LOAF OF BREAD AT THE MARKET EVERY DAY 

My friend is all:
And I’m just like:WHEN I TRY TO BLEND IN 

But I actually look like:

WHEN THE SHAMPOO EXPLODES IN MY SUITCASE

WHEN MY MOM SENDS ME AMERICAN PEANUT BUTTER

WHEN MY FRIEND ASKS ME IF I AM REALLY GOING TO EAT GELATO EVERY SINGLE DAY

 I’m just like:

WHEN I REALIZE I ACTUALLY HAVE TO ATTEND CLASSES THIS SEMESTER

WHEN I SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FOR THE FIRST TIME

WHEN I GET TO MY HOMESTAY

I’m just like:

And my host mother is like:

But when I have to leave at the end of the semester I’m all:

 

Crazy Little Thing Called Time

My fingers have been itching to release everything within my heart and mind because I am just so full. But I don’t even know where to start.

I said those exact same words last night, as I sat on a plush cushion, cross-legged, attempting to summarize in Spanish all that God’s taught me this semester to a group of fellow Americans and our youth pastor, Marcos. How has He worked in my life? What have I learned? How have I changed? As our time here draws to a close, these are the questions on which we most reflect. I wrote over four pages Friday night for my Spanish professor, detailing these same themes.

In the most simple terms, God has affirmed my faith with three great truths this semester: He exists. He is here. And He is big. Looking back, I wouldn’t say that this semester has been a spiritually-life-changing experience. Yes, my shoes are worn from the walks I’ve taken to talk to God, seek Him, question Him, and ascertain His existence. Yes, my blog posts are full of the epiphanies and deeper thoughts God’s sparked within me. Yes, for the first time of my life, I’ve lived outside of Cedarville’s bubble and sphere of Christian influence and have had to stand firm in what I believe and defend those convictions on several occasions. And yes, God’s made more evident some of the uglier sins inside my heart that I always knew were there but never wanted to deal with. However, this semester hasn’t necessarily been a time of learning radical truths everyday or deciding to alter the entire course of my life; rather, through everything, God has strengthened, affirmed, and solidified my faith in Him.

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege to yet again discuss religion with my agnostic host father and try to share my beliefs. I walked away from that discussion utterly frustrated and wondering why I believed what I believed when I couldn’t even defend it very well. I went for a walk to my favorite park and sat there for nearly an hour, agonizing over the existence of God, telling Him I couldn’t be sure He was there while simultaneously knowing He was listening. I thought of all the science, all the history, all my life experiences, and at the end of it all, when I’d stopped thinking and just begun looking around me, I came to the simplest conclusion. Why do I believe in God? Because I can hear the birds singing.

They sing, and every note cries out to God in praise and adoration. And were it not for my powerful God, they would not exist. They and all of creation steals my breath, from a burst of petaled weeds to the way the mist obscures the distant mountains to the unceasing rolling of a foamy blue ocean to the brilliant colors that characterize my rural hometown to the magnificent clarity of a winter night sky, my stolen breath rising with my eyes to add the wonder of life–”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).

know my Redeemer lives, that my God is alive, that His Holy Spirit never leaves me. I know what I know, but on those days when it’s harder to be sure, I always go back to creation. I believe because the birds never stop singing. He exists.

I’ve blogged before about those words from T.C. that have stuck with me all semester–”The answer to all human suffering is God’s very presence.” My posts also attest to many of the difficult days I’ve experienced in Spain. Through it all, even when it’s seemed there’s nobody else here to understand me, God has always been here. This lesson is one that I knew even before I left that I’d learn–I remember writing about the need I would have to depend on God more than ever and truly consider Him my Best Friend, talking to Him all the time. I couldn’t have foreseen all the challenges I’d face, but as I thought, my greatest comfort in any time of loneliness or frustration or stress or righteous anger has been the presence of my Savior and greatest Friend who sticks closer than a brother. There are some very dark and nasty places in this world, and always people suffer. Always people hurt. Always Satan tries to attack us and enjoin us to abandon the faith. But God is here, and what’s more, He holds the world in His hands.

One day a few weeks ago, I arrived at my apartment, only to discover I’d forgotten my keys, and nobody was home. Adopting a no pasa nada mentality, I decided to let go of any annoyance I felt at myself and the panic at not being able to do my work, and I went for a walk. Sitting on a bench in the beautiful park, I spent a long time being still. I didn’t let myself feel guilt for doing nothing. Instead, I enjoyed the quiet and the chance to talk with my Best Friend. I prayed specifically for my host family and thanked God for what a huge blessing they’ve been to me. Burdened by my host dad’s unbelief, I also asked that God would give me “at least one more chance sometime before the end of the semester” to share my faith with him.

That evening, my host parents’ nephews came to dinner. Out of the blue while we were eating, my host mom turned to me and said, “Ashley, explain to [is it bad I don't remember his name? I really want to say David] that thing where you guys can talk directly to God without a priest.” (I’d explained this concept to her before, that we don’t have to have a human intercessor when we pray because Jesus’ death broke those barriers.) I began trying to explain this concept to the devoutly Catholic David, and we got into a discussion about the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. At some point I grabbed both my Spanish and English Bibles and shared passages such as Hebrews 7 (which details Jesus as being our high priest) and different verses in the Gospels about Mary, but the most interesting part of this conversation was that my host dad was there for all of it.

At some point, the discussion shifted from being between David, my host mom, and me to including my host dad, and it suddenly become a conversation between those who believed in God and he who didn’t. The conversation lasted 2 or 3 hours, and as is typical of most Spanish discussions, it was loud and full of people interrupting each other. Definitely not the way I prefer to treat such a sensitive topic as faith and religion. I was so afraid that the three of us were just ganging up on my host dad, and he would just become angry and defensive. I used what Scripture I could, and I also prayed throughout the whole conversation, that I would have words, that something would just click in my host dad’s brain, that he would see what was so obviously true, that God would remove the blinders, that God would use even what I was failing to say correctly, and mostly, I just kept thanking Him for presenting this opportunity I’d prayed for just 8 hours ago!

I don’t think the conversation made a huge impact on my host dad’s heart–he sticks by his intellectuals and scientists and is unable to see their human flaws. But I have no idea the ways in which God will move. Who knows what phrases that I or David have said might pop into Rafael’s brain in just the right context to melt his heart? Nobody knows. God is so big. I wrote an entire blog about that several weeks ago. He is so much bigger than any difficult situation in which I find myself in, so much more powerful than even the most stubborn human heart. He can change lives, break barriers, work miracles, and nothing and nobody has ever nor will ever stop Him. Amen and amen.

It was powerful, too, to hear the testimonies of the others last night. Within the lives of just 8 people, God has moved mountains, taught powerful lessons, shown overwhelming compassion, and revealed Himself in truly incredible ways. Even just listening to the life story of my youth pastor Marcos and the truly miraculous ways in which God has provided for him even more deeply affirmed my faith. What a blessing that man has been to me and so many others. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a human being with a purer heart, and last night we had the privilege to pray for him and his wife as they continue their ministry here in spiritually dark Spain. Those of you reading this, I know he would appreciate your prayers as well, and if you’re interested in hearing more about his ministry or receiving his prayer letter, send me a message.

Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been thrust into Plato’s famous allegory. 4 months ago, I left the cave in which I’d so contentedly lived my whole life and began the initially painful process of discovering the world beyond. Before long, my eyes adjusted to the sun, and I’ve seen and experienced and become accustomed to what is in many ways a much bigger way of life. God’s taught me so much, and He’s also changed me, using this experience to open my mind to new cultures, to help me become so much more flexible in my attitudes and plans, and overall, to instill in me the self-confidence I’d never quite had before. I’ve learned how to be discerning and judge for myself what glorifies God and what doesn’t. I’ve learned the responsibility that’s necessary when being on your own in a foreign country with virtually no accountability. I’ve learned another country’s history and political system and come to accept that some ideologies that before I would have thought were “wrong” actually work better in some cultures. I’ve seen the face of poverty, and it’s crushed my heart. I’m *still* learning the importance of time-management and prioritizing. Above all, I’ve discovered that my law career will most likely have far less to do with human trafficking and far more to do with immigration. I would really like to give legal counsel to Spanish-speaking immigrants for as close to free as I can.

In exactly 2 weeks, I will be re-entering my former existence. Plato’s hypothetical man returned and was ostracized because his real-world-vision didn’t work in the cave, and what’s more, the cave community’s conversations and games seemed ridiculous to him. I don’t think this will happen upon my return. At least I hope not. I am nervous to come back, however. In my last blog, I wrote strongly that I don’t want to come home. This isn’t exactly true–I do want to come home! I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and family again, and I’m excited for some events this summer and even more so for next school year. However, I am afraid that I will come back and find that the hole I left behind me is now too small for me and my changes. That I won’t be content. That I’ll miss too much my life abroad. That I just won’t fit.

However, one of my friends here wrote a note on Facebook talking about hiding her heart in Christ, and it made me realize–my heart is not in Ohio, and it’s not in Sevilla. My heart is in God, and He is with me wherever I go. He can use me wherever I am. My Sevilla life is not “bigger” or “better” than my life in a small town, regardless of how the world sees it. My life is the same wherever I am because my Maker and Sustainer is the same. Therefore, I’m going to strive to be consistent. My adventure here may be ending, but my journey through life is still just beginning. I would really appreciate your prayers, though, as I go through the process of coming home. I think it will be a harder adjustment than leaving in the first place, and it will prove to be the epitome of bittersweet. Also, pray that I will not adopt a cynical or judgmental attitude towards smalltown, “bubbled” life. I don’t think I need to elaborate this–I just don’t want to turn into a bitter, discontented person just because I’m not abroad anymore. And I don’t want to let people with little minds distract me from pursuing the enormity of God.

So. 2 weeks. After 4 months. A blur with distinct memories and a continual process towards Spanish fluidity and deepening my relationship with God. Forget love–time is the craziest little thing known to man.