The Raw Diet Life

My life right now is like living on a raw diet. And by that, I definitely do not mean it’s boring! I mean that sometimes the food is hard to take and it is certainly not comfort food, but you end up feeling a lot better and healthier in the end. And no, if you are wondering, I have never actually been on a raw diet, so I am just going off of reports. Maybe the people who do those kinds of diets just make up the benefits to get other people to suffer with them? No, probably not. The benefits are real.

I came to Mexico because I wanted to challenge myself, wanted to learn new things (teaching, Spanish, how to support myself, cooking, salsa dancing, etc.), and wanted to trust God more. All of those things are in process as I type. I think most of you know that I am always thinking ahead. This is sometimes good because I am rarely caught unprepared. However, I can think through endless future scenarios before making a decision about something. So basically, I just do all of my worrying ahead of time. With the help of my future-oriented mindset, I was very mentally prepared for the challenges of this kind of trip (or move). I have read, talked, and thought a lot about culture shock. I prepared myself for dealing with inconveniences and differences of lifestyle by setting low expectations, which for the most part have been far surpassed in the beautiful city of Guadalajara. I practiced my Spanish as much as I could before coming and did many other things to help ease my transition.

So far, I have been adjusting really well. I really do like it here and am trying to understand and relate to Mexican culture. There have been some frustrating or confusing moments, but nothing awful or totally disheartening has happened up to this point. Teaching has been hard. It might surprise you that I am struggling a lot more with that than I am with Mexican culture. Many days I leave school feeling inadequate and unprepared (unprepared as far as not being a teacher’s ed major or having student teaching or that kind of thing). It seems like a lot of the other teachers are way more creative and productive with the time in the week than I am with the same amount of time. It is very humbling to feel like I have so many major things I need to work on to improve my teaching. Flexibility in schedule is also really important here. Sometimes the internet goes out just when I sat down to spend an hour or so researching strategies or entering grades online. I also have to flexible in order to get places. To get around, I’m dependent on other people with cars, public transportation, or my own feet. People don’t always arrive on time or the bus arrives late and you can’t make very concrete plans.

I am also trying to budget for myself and cook for myself for the first time. I am actually teaching myself to cook, because I’ve never actually cooked until coming here. If you are totally confused because I might have made dinner for you or something like that before, I am awesome at following directions. I have always followed recipes exactly unless a cooking authority (like my mom, Nana, or Carrie) told me to change or substitute something. Following a recipe doesn’t count as cooking because, before, if I had all of the ingredients I could hope for and no recipes, I would probably have gone hungry. So now I am changing recipes and even trying simple things on my own from an idea in my head without any recipe. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but it has been fun to play around with food.

I have also been reading a book called 7 by Jen Hatmaker. It has been a really good book to read at this point because it about fasting in more areas of your life than food. As I am about a month and a half into this experience, I have already started a mental tally of things I “need” to bring back with me at Christmas since I cannot find them here or couldn’t fit them into my suitcases this trip. Reading this book has made me pause and think, “Wait, I just essentially got rid of all of the excess when I moved here. I reduced my possessions (practically speaking, since I technically still possess them in Virginia) to… still a lot more than most people around the world have. And I already am trying to add to them again because it feels normal to have everything I might want or possibly be able to use around me?” I kind of got frustrated at myself, especially as I remember my truly poor Mexican brothers and sisters in Baja. It has been good to have fewer things to turn to. I even have fewer people to turn to and fewer activities to turn to because I am still settling in so I have more time open for reflection and for fellowshipping with God. Oh, on the possession  note, I’m pretty sure my camera is broken so I may not be able to post any more pictures. I’m so sorry. Feel free to look through the ones I am tagged in on facebook if you want some visuals.

And in all of this learning, and struggling, and messing up in multiple areas, I feel so blessed and my times with the Lord have been so sweet recently. You can thank Him for that! He is generously rewarding me for my faith and sacrifices (again, quite small compared to many dedicated Christians around the world) and giving me joy and a deeper trust in Him. So even with the hard parts, I am so glad that I am here. The growing is hard, but it feels so good to be out of my comfort zone and actively having to trust Him and lay things down for His sake. I am going to keep on looking for the areas I need to grow in so that even this does not become so comfortable that I lose my dependence on the One who deserves my life and my everything.

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Miss!

Recently, I have again been reminded of my need for humility. I have so much to learn; especially when it comes to classroom teaching. I want to take criticism graciously so that I can continually be improving. Classroom management has been different here when it is necessary to cover material that the child will be tested on, rather than simply keeping most kids quiet and engaged during a Sunday School lesson.

Last night, a Bible Study I have been participating in was reading through James 1. Several of us kept coming back to verse 5, which says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  I know that I could definitely use wisdom right now as I am learning to teach. This verse clearly points out that the first step to obtaining wisdom is to openly admit you lack it and to humbly ask for it from God. Upon reading this verse, a picture came to me of a very familiar scenario from the past couple of weeks. Multiple times I have finished a lesson and given a corresponding assignment, after repeating myself several times and giving the opportunity for clarifying questions. Just when I think I have actually explained myself well and all my kids are busily working through their assignment, one child will raise their hand. I call on them, thinking they have a specific question about their worksheet, and as I notice their page is blank they say, “Miss! What are we supposed to be doing? I don’t understand.” Nothing could be more frustrating in teaching than that moment. By the way, “Miss” is a cultural thing here in Mexico. Even the Spanish teachers are called “Miss” (of course you should say this with a cute Spanish accent). It is more like a title for teacher. For example, I have several times heard someone say, “Go ask the Miss.”

So when I read James 1:5, I get a mental picture of us as believers being in a classroom. God has just given us everything we need for life and godliness in the Bible, He has given us countless practical experiences of His faithfulness in our lives, and He has given us His Spirit within us as a guide. He has also given us our “assignment” in the Bible, primarily to bring Him glory and to make disciples of the nations, but He has also given us detailed instructions about how we can fulfill these things. But we are so quick to forget and to lose focus, like we are children. We forget what our task is or think we don’t know enough to complete it. Do you know what is even more frustrating than “Miss!”? When they do not ask, keep on doing their own thing, and turn in a blank page at the end of the period. When we realize that we lack the necessary knowledge or wisdom to do what He has called us to do, we need to ask for it, in humility. Yes, maybe we should have been paying better attention in the first place, but as soon as we realize our fault and have a desire to be complete and lacking nothing, we need to immediately go to our teacher about it.

The best part of this image is God. The verse describes Him as giving generously to all without reproach. Now as a teacher, when a child raises their hand half way through the assignment, and admits that they haven’t been paying attention at all and do not know what they are supposed to be doing, my human (and inexperienced teacher) side is not pleased (to put it mildly). I want to make them feel uncomfortable that they have missed information so that they will pay better attention next time. I usually remind them that the rest of the class will have to wait on them to finish, that they should be better focused in class, etc. etc. Fortunately, God is very different in His teaching. Instead of the deserved reproach, God deals generously with us. He says, “You asked for wisdom, here it is. I’m so glad you asked. Do you need any more? Because I’ve got more to give.”

Dear God, please give me the wisdom to know how to serve my students best. And please give me the humility to ask for help from you and from the wonderful people you have put around me. Thank you that you don’t reproach us for having to ask.

It’s Different, But It Feels Familiar

Even though this experience in Guadalajara is so different from any other experience I have had before, I keep on getting a sensation that I actually have experienced this before. It took me a little while to realize that I was not being reminded of other experiences I have had, but was being reminded of the feeling I got when I went through those situations. Remembering that feeling then reminds me of those old places and experiences.

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            I have thought of my dear alma mater so many times in the past month. CIU was the first time I left home and this is the second. There are definitely similarities between CIU and Lincoln. Both are multidenominational Christian schools. Both have a heart for making Christ known among the nations. Both have incredible people making up a very special community. It makes my heart happy. There are also differences. CIU is a university, while Lincoln is a K-12 school. CIU is set in the Bible belt of the American South. Lincoln is in the middle of a huge Hispanic city where there are heavy Catholic influences. CIU has all the passion of young people who want to change the world. Lincoln has the maturity of adults who are have already taken the step of faith (a small step for some and larger for others) to serve cross culturally.

            What are the common feelings these two periods of my life have created? Well, initially, a feeling of boredom and awkwardness. That might sound a little strange considering how highly I speak of both of these places, but let me explain myself. The extrovert in me gets really bored without an established routine full of people. As I am still getting to know people and developing friendships, my days are not yet full of friends. I remember feeling that way when I came to CIU as a freshman, only knowing a few people’s names. I knew that I could not force a deep friendship, but wished so much that it was possible to fast forward to the part when I could come over to their room at any time or hang out with them multiple times a day if I wanted to. I am once again in that place of sometimes feeling lonely and a little awkward around people I hope will become long time friends. Future forever-friends, I will try to be patient, but I cannot guarantee that I may not jump fences prematurely.

I also have been tasting the feeling of freedom. I have the freedom to choose a church, decide when I am going to go grocery shopping, what my schedule will be, and what I am going to do without having to check in with anybody. I have never minded living with my family and having to fit into their schedule, but it is also nice to feel like an adult. Oh, and since I am debt free, now I also have the freedom of deciding what my paycheck goes toward each month! Okay, some things are not a choice, but after tithing, rent, and food…I can do what I want with my pesos. I also remember that particular feeling that only comes on Saturday night when you realize that you have forgotten to arrange a ride to yet another new church to try on Sunday morning.  However, I think the church hunting may be drawing to a close soon!

 I am also recalling a feeling of anticipation. I know that my time here has only begun and I have will have so many opportunities to develop friendships, learn about teaching, and bring about the kingdom here in Guadalajara. Even though the first month is probably the month you learn the most at a time from constant exposure, it is really no time at all to actually get to know a place. I have so much time to enjoy and explore! And I know what I am going to do differently from last time around. I do not want to again sense regret that I never got to know the context outside of my community. I want to know and understand Guadalajara when I leave here, not just understand Lincoln or Las Fuentes. I want to have friends from outside of Lincoln as well so that I do not become too inward focused.

 Oh, and another feeling, thankfulness. This is (and is going to be) so good. I am glad that I am not the one who has to make it good. I know that He is working all of that out.

Photo is my own.