Near, But Not Close

This past week, Lincoln teachers were supposed to notify the school if they were returning for the next year or not. All of the first year teachers are exempt from this decision because we signed a two year contract. Everyone else is on a yearly basis. I feel like I just got here and now I am already going to have to prepare myself to say some goodbyes (though I fortunately will not have to say them until July). On the other hand, I also felt a little envious of the teachers who did decide to return to the States because they will be able to be home sooner than I will.

I really like Guadalajara and I am gradually getting to the place where I enjoy teaching and going to work, but some days I wish life was a just a little bit more “normal” and things operated like they do in the American South. This will be the first time I am missing Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas will feel different because I will be getting in so late I’ll miss most of the parties and such. I probably feel it more because I am not very close to many people here yet. Some relationships are becoming close and important, but that is such a gradual process, most of my really meaningful relationships are still with people back in the states. Part of me just wants to get through this two year commitment with as little attachment here as possible so I can easily make the decision to go back at the end of two years and enjoy the comfort of the familiar and not have to worry about trying to maintain important relationships with my family and friends through e-mail and occasional Skype calls. Mentally, I am taking note not to date someone here because that will automatically sign me up for living here permanently. Obviously, that is not actually the case, but that is how it appears a lot of the time. And of course meaningful and important relationships can also be close friendships, bonds with people at church, with housemates, etc. I know it is not the right response to intentionally hold off relationships, but sometimes it seems like it is just not worth the effort to invest. Especially when my ideal level of closeness in a relationship is really high and it takes a long time (maybe the whole two years of my commitment here) to reach that level.

I am thankful to be going on a retreat with some of the ladies from my church this weekend. We are going to Lake Chapala. I am so excited! This is the first time I have spent the night away from my house or gone any significant distance from Guadalajara. I am so ready for a break from work, computer, and the usual routine. I also really do want to invest in my relationships with the ladies at church. I am so thankful for their Christ-like attitude in welcoming me and helping me to really feel like a part of the church, even when I cause complications because I do not understand things (like last week when I thought I was meeting them at 11:30 and they called me at 11:00 asking where I was).  I’m also thankful for friendship with the Lord and how He has been teaching me recently through personal study and prayer and through other people. What a friend we have in Jesus! Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

The Photo is my own, of Los Guachimontes.  It reminded me a lot of home.

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Faithfulness Springs Up from the Ground

Psalm 85 talks about the land of Israel as God had blessed it. Verses 10-11 say that, “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.” This week I have enjoyed a very sweet time of experiencing these attributes of God. One small thing was that I was finally able to decorate my room. I have always liked my room to be not only practical and neat, but also beautiful and inviting. Because I had so little space to pack decorations, and because I did not want to spend a lot of money on things I would only use for a short time, I kind of set aside that desire for awhile. Decorating seemed even less likely because my style is so different from what is popular here in Guadalajara that I did not think I could find things I wanted even if I was willing to spend money. Last night, I made one purchase, a decorative white birdcage for 30 pesos, and this morning I finally satisfied by desire for a pretty room. I was able to pull out the few things I had brought for decoration, as well as small gifts sent in the mail, and the smashed guitar that I found on the side of the road and now I smile every time I walk into my room. This was like a God hug. So thankful that He blessed me with something I enjoy after having to wait patiently for three months.

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Another way I have seen His faithfulness this week is in answered prayer. I prayed a lot this week for my first parent/teacher conferences and I know that many of you prayed also. Thank you! All of the meetings went smoothly, there were a few that I think were particularly constructive, and I was relaxed most of the day. I even enjoyed a few meetings where I was able to tell the parents that a situation or behavior problem with their child had been much improved in the past weeks. What really encouraged me about these meetings was not just that I had something positive to tell a parent, but when I shared this the parents responded that they had been praying with their child about the situation. It always makes me excited when children pray and see their prayers answered. It also encouraged me to know that at least some of my students have parents who are modeling the gospel for them.

This week I also specifically prayed for opportunities to talk with people outside of the church about God. I know that my Spanish is still limited and I do not have unlimited time to meet people and talk with them, but I wanted to be aware of the opportunities I did have. This was answered almost immediately on Monday night when I went salsa dancing with some friends. There is another dance people sometimes do there called bachata. It is much more sensual than salsa and my friends and I normally sit out for those dances. This past week, that opened up the opportunity to explain to a couple of men why we did not dance bachata. One of them talked to us later and we found out that he is also a Christian (here christiano means protestant, distinct from catolico). He asked us about what church we went to and told us about his church and how much he enjoys it and the kinds of ministries they do. Que padre! How cool!

And finally, this morning when I went down to the kitchen, my landlady stopped me and asked me out of the blue what my religion means to me and why I am always going to Bible studies and those kinds of things when it is so much simpler to just talk to God on your own and that be it. After doing my best to explain that clearly in Spanish, she asked me if I thought all people were God’s children. I was able to use the story of the narrow gate, which I talked about in my last blog post https://harpandsong2.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/entering-by-the-narrow-gate/, to explain my views on salvation through Christ alone. After our conversation, she told me she was going to go read Luke for herself. I am going to be meeting with her regularly to practice her English and hope she will be open to also using this time to study the Bible. God’s steadfast love is truly amazing and extends to the whole world. I cannot wait to have another experience to tell you about which demonstrates His faithfulness.

Photos are mine. The top one is the view from our balcony where I like to read.