Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

I'm sitting in Room #2 of Casa ACU. It's empty. No clothes in the closet, no mate or dulce de leche (two delicious Uruguayan foods) on my desk, and no alpaca teddy bear on the bed. Seeing it empty is surreal.

Today has been hard for all of us. Saying goodbye is never fun, and we've all been walking around teary eyed. It's a little pathetic, but understandable too. In fact, I think the sadness we're experiencing is a good sign! It means that we have made the most of our semester here. It means we have fallen in love with a new culture. It means we've formed relationships. It means we've grown a little (and realize that we have a whole lot farther to go).

One chapter ends, another begins. I'm not sure what this next chapter back in the States will look like. What I do know, however, is that I will be taking the memories, lessons, and friendships from this past semester and use it in the next. In an hour, I'll be headed to the airport. And in a day, I'll be back in America. Seeing friends and family at home and being home for Christmas adds the "sweet" to this bittersweet transition. I am so looking forward to that part!

Thank you all for following me on this journey the past four months! I hope blogging has been an enjoyable way for you all to hear a little about this time! I am so grateful for this opportunity and that God has allowed me to have it! Praise Him for that :)

Chao amigos!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Changing Tides...

Hello friends!

This week is bittersweet. Bitter because it's my last week here in South America. My last week of living with my new 9 sisters and 1 brother, meals by Raquel (our amazing cook), beaches in the afternoon, 85 degree weather, Spanish, and exciting travels. Sweet because it means I am a week away from a precious reunion with family and friends, Christmas time in Albuquerque, my cell phone, being spoken to in English, Dr. Pepper (no DP here... It's a sad story I try not to think about haha), and ultimately being back at ACU! They may have to drag me to the airport this week, but with that said I will be excited to be home and will come back with so many incredible memories and experiences! This semester has been the time of my life.

This past weekend was our last beach trip. We visited Cabo Palonio, Punta Ballena, and La Paloma, three beaches in Uruguay. The beach in December? I'll take it! Our time included swimming, tanning, riding horses on the beach (an item on my bucketlist... check!), eating at a cute hippy hostel, taking a boat tour of a forest area, and getting stranded on the canal when our boat's engine died lol.

While on the beach, I noticed something. The ocean is always changing. It's taken me 19 years to realize this, but my time on beaches this semester has revealed it. The same beach looks and feels different day to day. Some days the waves are calm and organized, gently and steadily rolling in. Some days the waves are angry, ready to slap beach-goers in the face. Some days the beach is full of slimy sea weed or shiny shells. Some days the sand is completely spotless, not a shell in sight. And, of course, depending on the time of day, the tide is always changing. Same ocean, same water, different qualities each day.

I think that, in a way, this observation of the ocean can be used for an analogy for God. Let me explain. God is never changing and always made up of the same qualities (perfect Love, Righteousness, Mercy, and Omniscience, for example). The ocean, too, is always made up of the same qualities, two particles of hydrogen and one of oxygen. It's the same ocean and the same water. However, God may show different qualities of himself at different times. There is a time where God must exhibit his wrath or judgment in our lives; times where he must discipline us. Similarly, there are times where God exhibits his grace and comfort; times where we need his loving embrace. God is unchanging but may exhibit more wrath in one situation and more grace in the other. Just as the ocean's waves may be violent one day and calm the next.

Perhaps I haven't explained this as clearly as I would like to, but the comparison has helped me to understand a little better the nature of an unchanging God.
Malachi 3:6 "For I am the LORD, I change not..."

Sunday, November 21, 2010


"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

The past four months I have spent wandering. Wandering around the streets of Montevideo (lost most of the time, mind you... I'm horrible with directions!), wandering from country to country, wandering in an attempt to find my place in this big world. I am a wanderer.

The constant wandering that comes from traveling has revealed some spiritual truths. As Christians, we are ALL wanderers on this earth. Think about it, we all feel a discontent with our home here. There's pain, sorrow, confusion, and imperfection that we are unsatisfied with. Why does God allow for this discontent in our lives? And why does he allow us to wander? One reason, perhaps, is that God wants us to long for something better, our eternal and perfect lives in heaven. If earth were perfect, why would we desire heaven or need God?

Maybe it's a good thing that I am I cannot identify my "home" on earth, because I do not have one. Our home is in heaven, an eternal and glorious home better than our human brains can fathom. Praise be to God for the hope we have in this future, right?! It's going to be inconceivably beautiful. So until then we continue to wander, knowing our true home is yet to come.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Third Home, Third Family

Our ten-day free travel adventures are over and all ten of the students are back in Montevideo at Casa ACU. The ten of us had split into three groups (four students in Chile/Peru, two students in Chile/Bolivia/Peru, and four more in Brazil). It felt strange not being together for so long. After all, we live together and had seen each other every day for the past three months!

My time in Brazil was unbelievable, but I was also very excited to be back home in Uruguay. On the flight back, we kept saying "we're going home." That struck me as odd but very true. For the past four months, Uruguay has been my home. If "home is where the heart is," than a part of my heart is here now. Of course Albuquerque, NM will always be my hometown, but I believe I can have more than one "home" in my life. Sometimes it's the mountains of New Mexico, other times it's the flat plains of Abilene, and still other times it's the bustling city of Montevideo. What a blessing to call three places home!

And of course what is a home without a family. I have "families" in all three locations. My wonderful, loving, biological family in Albuquerque, my sweet friends and church community in Abilene, and my new family of ten students and three teachers here in Uruguay. We call ourselves a family here at Casa ACU often. These students have become my siblings over the past four months. We have lunches and dinners together, we share the same house, we have movie nights, and we will even be celebrating Thanksgiving together as a family next week. Last night, the two students who traveled to Bolivia/Chile/Peru came home. They had gotten stranded in Bolivia for three days (longggg, crazy story) and arrived back safe at last. When they got here, everyone was screaming in the house, hugging, laughing, and jumping around. They called themselves the "prodigal daughters," home at last. A beautiful picture of community, yes?

There are exactly 20 days left in the semester until my new family and I are on our flight back to the United States. Bittersweet is the only way to describe it. I will be sad to say goodbye to my new home and my new brother and sisters for a time. Still, I can hardly WAIT to be reunited with my old, familiar home and family/friends! What a sweet reunion!

So there you have it, my thoughts on my new home and family. God has blessed me entirely too much to have three homes and three families. He is a good God indeed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Exotic Fruit, Excellent People, and Exceptional Beaches... Welcome to Rio Everyone

These past ten days have been spent in the beautiful Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Study abroad allows us to have a ten day free travel period where we are allowed to travel anywhere we'd like. (Well in South America that is ha) I, along with three other friends from the group, chose to do a beach vacation to Rio de Janeiro! Beach days during our semester? Not sure how I was so blessed by that!

Our trip has been unforgettable. So many things fell into place despite potential challenges. For one, there's the language barrier. All four of us have been studying Spanish for the semester and we were thrown into a world of Portuguese for the week. We've gotten very good at hand motions and charades this week to communicate what we want and have learned to laugh at all of our mistakes and miscommunications. I never thought I would think that going back to a SPANISH speaking country would be considered "easy," but compared to Portuguese speaking Brazil, Uruguay will seem like a breeze.
It has also been a challenge to navigate the city on our own. Fortunately we got everywhere we wanted to go.

Lastly, there were the safety concerns. Rio really is not the theft-ridden, random gun-war incidents, crime-up-to-wazoo, scary place that people make it out to be. Yes, safety is very important. And yes, it does happen here. But what city doesn't?! This city has so much to offer, and it's a shame that many will not visit because of the supposed horrible crime. 99.9 percent of the locals are the sweetest people I have ever met, and it makes me sad to think that the other .1 percent that are out to get tourists ruin Rio's reputation. We experienced no problems nor witnessed any crime either. Thank you Jesus for smooth safe travels!

My favorite part of the trip was our tour of a favela. Favelas are Brazillian slums. How did I find myself in a Brazillian slum? Let me explain. We found an organization that allows you to spend a day in a favela in a safe and educational way. The organization isn't doing it as a business, they're doing it because they care about the people in the favelas and want to change people's thinking on the favelas and poverty in Brazil. I learned so much from my time in the favela. The people in the favelas are so kind and full of life. And, ironically enough, I felt safer in the favela than anywhere else in Rio. Sure, the favelas have problems. But don't we all? A day in the favela taught me many lessons, and unfortunately I don't know how to put them all in a blog right now. Also, I got to ride a motorcycle taxi! Dream come true lol.

Among other highlights from my time here: the exotic, incredible fruits and juices. the warmth of the people (Brazillians are my new favorite group of people!). seeing Rio de Janeiro's city lights from the top of Sugarloaf mountain. Christ the Redeemer statue. running up the steps of Lapa- steps made from thousands of unique tiles by an artist. drinking coconut water straight from the coconut on the beach. experiencing the beauty of the botanical gardens and Tijuca National Forest. Santa Teressa, the historical neighborhood with great architecture. Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. staying in a hostel with people from sooo many different countries, gotta love meeting international friends. art museums and local art as well. the bright colors and delicious tastes of Brazil.

Well, I guess that sums up my trip. Until next time!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dad Daughter Week

Time for an update from Montevideo! I realize that often my blogging gets so caught up in my random ponderings that I don't explain the daily things I have been up to! So here's a brief update on my life the past couple weeks :)

Two weeks ago: We returned from our trip to Iguazu Falls in Brazil and hit the books for a week. (A whole week of class? Heaven forbid we study here! lol) We also had a visiting faculty from the education department at ACU, Mitzi Adams. It was wonderful having another American here for a while and getting to show here around!

This past week: MY DAD CAME TO URUGUAY! This was one of the highlights of my time here. We went to a beach called Punta del Este for the weekend- a great daddy daughter weekend! We saw wind surfers (I'm inspired to learn now! lol), seals, a live fish market, the harbor, beautiful beaches, and an art museum. My dad also got to try all the amazing Uruguay foods. The most challenging part of the weekend was having me for a translator! But I suppose it was good Spanish practice. After Punta del Este, he spent two days here in Montevideo. I was able to show him all of my favorite spots- the beach, the Plaza, the historic district, the rose gardens, the cemetery, churches, etc. Overall it was a great time with him here! I definitely enjoyed myself and I hope he did too. Call me biased, but I think it would be quite hard to not fall in love with this beautiful country ;)

The week to come: Tomorrow I'll be leaving for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for 10 days. I'm going with 3 other girls and we're planning beach hopping, taking the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain, seeing the Christ the Redeemer statue, the National Park, art museums, and drinking a wholeeeee lot of Brazilian coffee and Guarana, the most wonderful soft drink known to mankind and native to Brazil. To say I'm ecstatic is an understatement :)

Until next time, besos y abrazos!

Dirt Versus Real Food

Bratty kids, we've all seen them. They scream in the supermarket line, cry in movie theaters, and whine in restaurants. Believe it or not, these kids exist worldwide, meaning they are just as present in South America as they are in the USA.

The other day, I witnessed a scene that (strangely enough) reminded me of our relationship with God. A toddler was playing in the dirt while his mother watched from a distance. The toddler picked up a big clod of dirt to put in his mouth. The mother, horrified, took the dirt away from the kid. The toddler bawled and screamed in protest. From what he could see, his mother was depriving him of something he wanted, the dirt. How could she take that away from him?! How dare she! The mother, of course, had a different, wiser view of the situation. She wasn't depriving her child, she was simply saving his taste buds and appetite for something much better- real food. She had better to offer him than that disgusting dirt clod.

This idea is so applicable to our own spiritual lives, isn't it? We're the bratty kid. We're sticking dirt in our mouths thinking we're going to enjoy it. God comes along and "deprives" us of that dirt because he has better in store.

So many times I question why God takes away. How could He deprive me of that relationship? How could he close the door on that job offer? Why would he take "fill-in-the-blank" away from me? But the truth is God takes away because he wants to offer us "real food." He's protecting us and giving us what is best for us. He "deprives" us of adultery to offer us monogamous, Biblical marriages. He "deprives" us of 10 percent of our income from tithing to offer us an opportunity to bless others and hold our possessions with an open hand. He may chose to replace one relationship for another, one job for another, or one opportunity with another. He's giving us "real food" through His will and plan for our lives. God takes away to give us something better.

How often do I miss this? How often do I react in frustration or anger, rather than seeing His taking away as a blessing? Now those are some humbling questions right there.