Checking Off the Bucket List (and a lot of other lists)

I am definitely a list maker. I am the kind of person who puts even mundane things on a list so that I can have more things crossed off at the end of the day. I also admit to occasionally adding something to a list after I have already done it because it is so satisfying to cross it off. Yes, I am Type A.

I have a few lists going right now; a list for fun things I still want to do here, a list of people I want to spend time with, a list of things I have to do in preparation for moving home, a list for things I need to give away, etc. This week, I have made some progress on all the lists. My organizational side is happy and so is my extroverted side as I got in good time with dear friends. Here are some of the things I have gotten to enjoy recently.

About two weeks ago, one of my friends wanted to hang out. Since we work in the same area, we met after work and walked a couple blocks in the blistering heat to the food truck park for lunch… or dinner (it’s kind of complicated). I’d wanted to eat there for a while, but hadn’t had the opportunity. I got some great Indian food and we had a good talk. He was in a difficult situation and we were able to talk about it, pray about it, and encourage each other.

Last week, the English speaking ladies from Lincoln got together and went up to Bugambilias, a posh neighborhood up on a hill at the edge of the city. There is a large plaza at the very top with a great view of the city. We went to one of the cafes with a balcony and talked about everyone’s plans for the summer, things we still want to do during our time here, etc. We not only got to watch the sunset, but also a storm pass over the city. It was a little chilly, but beautiful.

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Today, I cleaned up some things left by a certain lovely, artistic roommate who left some lovely, artistic clutter. I actually found a really cool way to recycle some of the things she left for my despedida (good-bye party)…more on that later. The book/craft shelf is much better organized now and I’m happy to be able to leave some great craft/art supplies for the future tenants of our unique and beautiful house.

I have one of my two suitcases packed and have been cleaning out all of my drawers and closets. Oh, I also have a list of what I want to do as soon as I get back to the States. I can tell you that I am craving some outdoor adventure with family and friends. Looking forward to being home!

Photos of the city belong to April Reyes. Other photos are mine.

Good in Good-bye

I have one month left in Mexico, lindo y querido (beautiful and loved). Many people have asked me how I am feeling about the transition back to the U.S. At this point, I would say I am about 60% excited to go home, 40% sad about leaving. However, it fluctuates depending on the day and what is going on around me. As I have mentioned, it is a struggle for me to say “good-byes”. Today I have been thinking about the positives of leaving a place that has become home.

The Material Cleanse

It is so therapeutic for me to go through my stuff and consolidate, get rid of trash, re-gift things I do not really need but are in good shape, etc. Not everyone likes downsizing, but personally I find it really nice to declutter everything and limit my life to 100lbs in two suitcases. It is like pruning back excessive growth so that the plant can focus its energy.

Saved Treats

I now get to use up all the things I had saved for a special occasion. No need to skimp on the canned pumpkin or chocolate chips from the U.S., or the craft supplies that have been stashed. I am prone to saving things just in case there could be a better or more enjoyable time to use them. But now, the less I travel with the better and I can go ahead and enjoy the things that are treats for me.

Quality Time with Friends

In a strange way, it is actually nice having a deadline to make sure you get time in with friends. Sometimes in the monotony of living in the same place, people do not make the extra effort to cultivate a friendship. When someone leaves, it is a reminder of how the friendship is important and it gets some extra love and care. People often take the time to express themselves more clearly and this is extra special for me as a word person. I am thankful for the affirmation and time I have gotten from friends who want to spend extra time with me before I go.

Good-bye parties!

I love any excuse for a party and having all my friends together. I love playing games with friends, chatting together, dancing, and getting to enjoy something special. I also really like hosting and making people feel at home. Though there will probably be tears, I am looking forward to being able to see most of my friends in the same place one more time.

Travel Plans

Though it is hard to leave Guadalajara as my home, I know I have a place to stay when I get the chance to visit again. It is fun thinking about what I could do with friends if I came back for a fun trip. Good-byes are hard, but I hope that I will be able to come back soon.

Photo is my own.

Old Soul

“When I was little, we used go into the neighbor’s cornfield when the corn was high. It must have been in August or September right around when school started. We’d go early in the morning and then we’d pretend we were explorers in the jungle until it was too hot to be in the jungle anymore.” Sophia took a sip of the lemonade and brushed the bangs out of her eyes. They clung heavily to the side of her face, damp with perspiration.

Isaac smiled, “Yeah, we didn’t have any cornfields near where I grew up, but we’d climb trees a lot and pretend they were watch towers. Wow! I hadn’t thought about that in a while. I remember once I stayed up in a tree until dark because my brother bet he could find me no matter where I hid. I was in trouble at bed time though because I had forgotten to feed and walk the dog while I was up in the tree.” He chuckled at the memory. He set his empty glass down on the porch and the condensation began to make a wet ring on the peeling paint.

Sophia giggled, “That happened to Trevor once too.” She became pensive again, “Time goes so fast… Are you ever worried that you’ll pass something important by accident and you won’t be able to turn around and get it when you want to?”

His high school years had seemed as if they would never end. He remembered the frenzy and pressure of SATs, applying for colleges, looking for scholarships, and the social pressures of senior year. However, the years afterwards seemed to go faster. He and many of his friends had graduated from the same university. He had been to several weddings over the last few years, and he was now in the stage of musing over if a master’s was worth the time and money or if he should look into a better job right away. He felt very old all of a sudden. Had he missed something in all this? Maybe that was why he had been so restless recently, wanting to do something important, but not being able to decide between grad school and investing in work. As he watched Sophia finish her lemonade and rest the glass of half melted ice cubes against her cheek, he couldn’t help the slight twitch in the corner of his mouth. “If it isn’t rude, how old are you anyway?”

“So old… I’m nearly nine.” She protested his incredulous look, “Pretty soon I’ll be in middle school! I won’t be able to be in the children’s play or have as much time for playing outside or with my dolls. I will have more homework and important things to do.”

He looked across the open lawn and beyond the fence to the neighbor’s cornfield, his tongue searching for little bits of lemon stuck between his teeth. He had agreed to spend the summer at his aunt and uncle’s so he could have some time to think without pressure. This coming from Sophia was almost too much. “You have three or four more years before you have to get ready for middle school, right? Just relax.”

“Yeah, only three more chances to be in the elementary poetry contest, three more summers at camp, three more Christmas days when everything is really a surprise. Three isn’t a very big number, you know?”

He had to admit it wasn’t. Three was the difference between thirteen and sixteen, between a freshman and a senior. It had been more than three years since he had last seen Sophia, just learning to read and refusing to look him in the eye for any reason. That was the last time he had visited the old farm house, getting to the point of needing repairs. This summer, Aunt Jillian and Uncle Matt had asked for him to stay with them a few weeks to help with the remodeling. He didn’t mind the work and figuring things out, but he had been nervous because they were so laid back. He hoped they would actually be able to accomplish something, as they were known to drop work for a craft project or pick-up game in the yard with the kids. So far, the work was going smoothly and he was grateful he had come. He smiled to himself thinking of how different Sophia was from them, already worrying about middle school.

“Well,” he decidedly slapped his thighs and turned to face Sophia, “since you only have three more June 5ths before the end of your childhood, we had better make the most of today. Why don’t you show me your club house in the woods? Your mom said it is pretty impressive.”

“That’s because Trevor and Josh helped me. We haven’t finished it yet though.” She reached between the rails on the porch steps to pick a rhododendron. She rolled the stem in her hands a little while and stuck her nose in the bloom. Then a surprisingly calloused little hand shyly reached across the porch step and took her cousin’s hand. “But I want you to see it anyway. Can you show me how to fix the pulley? It keeps getting stuck.”

The pair hurried across the yard and over the split rail fence, not wanting to lose another minute. They worked on the club house and imagined they were fortifying it for a battle. Then it occurred to him. Sophia hadn’t been worried about missing something important like a middle school reading list, or getting into a club, or finding the perfect job. She was worried about passing by something like… this; a miserably hot afternoon spent improving her club house. She hadn’t mentioned middle school because she was trying to prepare for it; she’d mentioned it as a deadline. She was focusing on enjoying as much as she could before she had to move on. The shadows were growing longer. Uncharacteristically, Isaac did not feel the need to return to the project in the house, which he had taken a break from several hours ago. Isaac worked just as hard on the club house as his cousin, still thin and childlike, yet already aware of the value of time. As they made calculated adjustments and tweaks, Isaac put in just as much effort as when he was working on wiring with Uncle Matt or completing an application. It seemed important somehow.

Photo from unsplash.com.

Maintenance Prayer

I have been especially reminded this week that the enemy does not want us to be fruitful and effective. Yes, I know I talked about spiritual warfare in my last post, but last month’s attacks were overt and this week, I am seeing more subtle but devastating work. God is able to triumph, but we ourselves often give the enemy a foothold. In our English Bible study (which is such a refreshment even though I love the Spanish Bible study and church service I go to), we have been reading the two letters by Peter. We are in the middle of the second one now and it is rather ominous. It gives warnings about false teachers and the destruction for which they are headed. The enemy can attack from the outside, but he also works from the inside, looking for the seeds of pride, greed, and lust to turn an effective servant into a self-serving, power hungry leader.

This past week, I found myself crying quite a bit about things not even related to leaving Mexico (things related to leaving Mexico have also been making me cry). I have cried for a family I love and am worried about.  I have cried for my university and spent a lot time thinking about its situation. I have a regular habit of prayer, but even with that, I realized I had neglected to pray for my alma mater like I had intended to when I graduated. I wrote in my prayer journal… “Continue to use CIU as a powerful place for training those serious about making disciples of the nations. Please bless them financially, guide their decision-making, and help the entire bodies of students, faculty, and staff keep their eyes on you and your work.”  I have prayed this often, but not with much urgency. I felt like my university was on track and I think that affected how I prayed. I think I viewed it as maintenance prayer, just keeping up the good momentum that was already going. I only graduated three years ago anyway. How much could go wrong? That was a mistake. The people and churches and organizations that are the most effective have the strongest attacks launched against them.

All that is human is fallible. All that is human is broken. Confidence cannot be put in friends, pastors, local churches, missions agencies, Christian schools, or godly marriages. By that, I am not saying not to trust them. I am saying that they are not our source of life. 2 Peter uses the analogy of waterless springs. What is more useless than a waterless spring? Christ is our source and we cannot live without Him, even though sometimes we might be deceived into thinking it is His blessing or other believers sustaining us, rather than Himself. The bride of Christ (The Church) perseveres by His Spirit, not by human will or past legacy. The most faithful would fall, but for his grace.

So, this week, I can say I was a little shaken and very saddened. However, it has been a reminder to turn to the Lord in prayer because I’m relying on Him after all, and not anything else.

Image from unsplash.com