March 17, 2014

Two Months to Live

Recently, I feel like I have been given that diagnosis.

I know I am being totally dramatic. But we have just over two months before we move back to the United States. Just over two months before our life here in Guatemala will come to an end.

I am often asked how I feel about moving back. And honestly, I am not ready. Not ready at all. I kind of feel like that stubborn toddler lying on the floor at Chuck E. Cheese, arching my back and screaming “I don’t wanna go!”

Over the past three years I have gotten used to the kind of goodbyes that only mean “see you later.” I don’t know if I’m ready for the goodbyes that mean “hopefully see you sometime but I don’t know when.” I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that we won’t be coming back here next August. That this place will not be “home” anymore.

Smushy mommy kisses.

I remember sitting at dinner with Collin right before we made our final decision. I looked at him and said with full confidence, “I know the right decision is to move back. I have a peace about it in my heart that I can’t deny. I have felt this peace many times before when making decisions. I have chosen to listen to it and I have chosen to ignore it. Things did not go well when I ignored it.”

And I wonder, where is that desire that was so strong before we made our decision? Where is that confidence? Where is that “peace that passes understanding?”

"Just two cool cats hangin' out" - Collin

But I know that these feelings are just part of the process of change. It may be a rollercoaster for awhile. I may have to go through the stages of loss and grief: denial, anger, depression, etc. Things and situations and people and places already get me a little teary. But it’s not about denying those feelings, compressing them or pretending they are not there. It’s about trusting where God is leading us despite the ups and downs I may feel along the way.

I appreciate this diagnosis, this “heads up” that life is soon to change. It’s not a sudden, unexpected death. Rather, it’s a gift of time to be more aware. To see life here more vividly. To live with my senses heightened. To better appreciate my immediate surroundings and current circumstances:

I enjoy the walk to breakfast on Saturday morning, because it seems like almost every Saturday here is bright blue skies and warm sunshine. And because it’s great to live in a place where you don’t have to own a car and can walk almost anywhere.

I wonder at the surrounding green mountains and volcanoes stretching up into the sky, because they are a natural beauty that I didn’t grow up with, and will not be moving back to.

Look familiar? The view from our kitchen window.

I relish both the deep and shallow conversations with our friends here, because they have helped me grow, have helped me laugh, and have helped me feel more at home.

I chuckle at the bumps and wiggles of riding in a chicken bus on cobblestone roads, squished with a hundred people and no car seats, because nowhere in the United States would this type of public transportation be legal.

Chicken bus.

I savor the smell of fried chicken on almost every street corner, because after making wickedly good breakfasts, fried chicken is what Guatemalans do second best.

I smile when I enter the church nursery and all the helpers rush over and want to take Jocelyn, because she won’t be the only special, big white baby for long.

I cherish hearing an excited "Hi, Mrs. Broekhuis!" from my former first grade students, because soon I will only be a memory to them.

I soak up the ugly and the beautiful – the concrete jungle and the tapestry of colors woven into women’s scarves and skirts, the razor wire fences and the bursts of flowering vines that cascade over them, the poverty and the people dedicating their lives to change it.

Shoeshine boy in the park.

I value how our lives here, although often filled with inconvenience, have embodied simplicity. A simplicity that I hope to bottle up, preserve, and take back with me when we move.

Of course there are things I will be happy to say goodbye to. I won’t say that I love playing “Little House on the Prairie” every time I have to boil water for Jocelyn’s bath. But again, a “convenient” life does not always mean “simple.” 

Thank you, United States, for sending your recalled toys here. 
We love them, along with their thrill of danger.

There is a lack of “noise” here. (Not literally, as every orifice of Guatemala seems to have some sort of noise drumming from it.) But there is a lack of distractions, a lack of rush. A thing that at times has bothered me, but has also taught me the value of not always rushing through life to get to the next event.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…

And of course, there are things I will definitely be happy to say hello to as well. Family, friends, summer Sunday nights, blueberries, just to name a few.

And when the time comes, we will embrace our new lives and circumstances.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

But what do I do now? How do I handle this time of transition and future planning?

I continue to live in the present.

Yes, behind the scenes we are discussing, planning, weighing options, working through what our future lives might look like. Because there is value in those things. (And we aren't completely irresponsible.)

But we also live in the “right here” and “right now.”

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We savor, soak up, enjoy our last few months of life in Guatemala with heightened senses.

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

We don’t neglect or abandon what’s right in front of us in the name of “our future.”

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Because we never know what the future will hold. And what’s right in front of us will only be there for a short time.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

But most importantly, we choose to trust.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Grace and Peace,