Overdue

So uh, it’s been a while.

Last time I posted a “Thoughts” blog, I was sitting comfortably on a couch in Jenks library, on a college campus nestled in a nook of New England.  Now, I am sitting quite uncomfortably in a squeaky chair, on a college campus spread out over 40 acres in Austin, Texas.

So let me update.

After losing my Mexico, I spent over a year soul-searching, trying to figure out what the hell I was doing with my life.  I had planned a future around an orphanage in Mexico, and that future is no longer a possibility.  During my year back in Houston, I was able to focus on doing something that I had never done before – staying.  I embraced a new adventure.  And boy, did I learn from it.

Thus far, staying has been the hardest thing I have ever attempted.  Settling, building relationships, focusing on the people around me and the place under my feet.  I can’t even count how many times I have preached to others, and myself, about the importance of finding a place that is yours and allowing yourself to become entangled, but never could I ever take my own advice.  For me to be able to remain in my hometown, where I felt trapped, took a change of perspective.  I had to learn how to enjoy the common, how to find adventure in my everyday life.

Well I’m glad I was able to finally do that.

I found a home.  I found true friendships.  I found a greater sense of self and direction.

I worked my ass off, made mistakes, took chances, tried new things, ate way too many oysters, laughed and cried and laughed some more, and eventually, became entangled with the place I was at.

During that year, I fell in love, got my heartbroken, and walked away stronger than I have ever been.

During that year, I mended relationships with my family that I had once thought were beyond healing.  (And by this, I obviously mean I embraced my Swor-ness and finally gave in to the pole dancing-whiskey drinking-high class white trash way of life.)

During that year, I formed friendships that I will cherish forever, and lost some friends that I thought were life-long.

During that year, I wrote a novel and my heart fell in love with the catharsis that came with that literary therapy.

And, during that year, I grew restless and longed for a change.  But, for once in my life, I realized that that was okay.

Times before, when I would get the urge to pack up and embrace on a new adventure, I would oscillate between feeling ashamed of my wandering spirit, and thinking it was the best thing ever and anyone that thought I was a heartless person could go suck on a bag of dicks (embracement of the Swor).  The call of the new pulled me forward, but I always felt like a shitty person for being able to walk away so easily from the relationships I had formed.

The lightness that came with the epiphany that I could be both a galavanting gypsy and a fucking ray of sunshine was astonishing.

If anything, being able to simultaneously be invested in multiple places, people, and homes, shows how brave both my mind, and my heart, have become.

Even though I have a tendency to move towards the unknown, my heart remains in each and every place I have been.  I have friends up North, and friends way down south, that continue to be the roots that keep me entangled with each of these homes that I have had.

Currently, I am busy carving out a place to leave my heart in my new home, Austin, as I move forward towards a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) in Correctional Psychology (Prison Psychology).

I’ll be honest.  Initially, my intentions for moving to Austin were less than pure.  I’m not going to say I let history repeat itself but….yet again I found myself packing up my life and moving to a new place, unknown, anonymous, all in the name of “education.”

The good news is, “education” is an asshole and now I can be selfish and do this for me.  I can get a freaking PsyD FOR ME.  I can enjoy a new place FOR ME.  I can make a new home FOR ME.

Making Austin mine hasn’t been easy, and I still don’t feel like it is mine quite yet.  But that mine-ness is coming along.  Slowly but surely.

The year after Mexico was focused on staying, and learning how to be happy and content in the present place, instead of constantly yearning for wherever’s next.

In fact, I wanted to learn that lesson so much I got it tattooed on my body.

At the beginning of this year, I got a new tattoo for a new lesson.  Two daisies.  One open, one closed. Representative of the fact that we all have ups and we all have downs.

This year, I get to focus on me.  On making myself better.  On learning to love my highs and my lows.  On embracing every little bit of the fucking ray of sunshine that I am (albeit a slightly crazy ray of sunshine).

So here’s to self-reflection and hopefully keeping up with this strange thing called writing.

Advertisements

13,000 Miles

Flying used to be a big deal for me. I used to make an event over it. I would start packing two weeks in advance, make a list of everything I put into my suitcase, wake up early to get myself dressed up – it was a showcase and I was the best dressed twelve year old strutting the jetway.

But nowadays, I can eat breakfast in one place and lunch in another, a thousand miles away. And it’s just another normal day. I pack the night (or morning) before my flight, wear sweatpants and a hoodie, and wake up at the last possible moment.   This also means I’ve become a sort of travel expert: I know the routines and the tricks and the ins and outs of the system. I can pack my suitcase to exactly 50 pounds, and make it through security in about 2.5 seconds. I know exactly where to place my phone so the scanner gets my electronic boarding pass, I have that one seat that I ALWAYS sit in, and I have even got a superstition that I do every single time I fly.

Travelling is no longer a special event – it’s an everyday normality. In the past month I’ve taken eleven flights, been in six different countries, four different states (7 if you count different states in different countries), and travelled 13,264 miles.

Flying and travelling used to be something I looked forward to, something that excited me, and now it’s just…well, normal.

There’s a special sparkle to the life of a nomad, but there’s also something to be said about not having a place that is yours. A place to stay. Eventually, everything becomes a vacation, a short-stop on the road to…well, wherever it is you’re heading.

That place, for me, was supposed to be Mexico.

But now I’m back, in America, in Texas, working a full-time job…the same job I had in high-school.*

I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m not exactly where I thought I’d be at this point. I was supposed to be in Mexico, at an orphanage, surrounded by screaming kids and livin’ la vida loca (but actually). That’s what this whole blog was initially focused around. But now I’m far from that little orphanage.

And the funny thing is, I’m okay with that.

Now, there was a time not so long ago where I would have defeated myself over the fact that I made these big plans and I wasn’t there doing those plans. A few months ago I would have looked in the mirror and seen someone who failed, someone who let people down because my life didn’t follow the blueprint that I had made. That somehow that curveball that life threw at me made me less of a missionary, less of a servant, less of a “Hannah.” That because Mexico didn’t work out, I might as well toss out all ideas of living abroad serving Jesus.

But I guess one thing that multiple plane rides give you is time – time to think and reflect. And I’ve found that who I am as a person, and where I’m going, isn’t undermined by the fact that life didn’t go my way.

Because sometimes you take chances, and do the things that both scare you and excite you. And sometimes you fail; sometimes you end up exactly where you started, but smarter than you were when you started (and maybe a bit more in debt…). The point is, just because things don’t go the way you plan them, doesn’t mean you failed. It means you lived. And as long as you learn from the things that fall apart, you’re winning.

I still plan on going to Bolivia at the beginning of next year. God has made it clear to me that that is the next move. Do I know what I’ll be doing there? Not really. Do I know how I’m going to support myself financially? Nope. Do I know that history won’t repeat itself? It might, but at least I’ll be more prepared.

I don’t know what’s coming, I can’t see the future, but I can tell you for certain that there will be things in the road ahead that won’t go according to plan.

And that’s okay.


*Disclaimer: I absolutely love this job, and the lovely ladies I get to work (and live) with.

Hello-Goodbye

I’ve been prolonging this one.  Putting it off.  Procrastinating.

(But actually, even that first line has been sitting there for a few days)

I can’t do it – I can’t write this one.  I can’t wrap up my experience in Bolivia in a short little blog post.  I can’t capture all the emotions, the laughs, the highs, or the lows in some words on a computer screen.  Maybe a lot of that is because I haven’t really been able to process it all yet.  I arrived back in the states and then was immediately ushered onto a cruise ship where I sailed around the Caribbean, and am now sitting at an orphanage in Mexico.  There’s been absolutely no time for my brain to grasp the fact that I left.

Maybe I’m putting it off because, if I don’t write about it, the leaving didn’t actually happen.

But it did.  I left.

And, instead of being sad, I’m going to make a list.  A list of all the things I will miss (and not miss) about Bolivia.

Things I won’t miss:

  • The cheese – it’s never too consistent.
  • Having to wear layers so I don’t freeze in the mornings or melt in the afternoons.
  • The fact that nachos, ACTUAL NACHOS, don’t seem to exist.
  • The fact that TACOS don’t seem to exist.
  • Hiking that freaking hill up to Sonia’s (although my calves miss it already).
  • Dogs following me everywhere…
  • Showers that flood a little too easily.
  • Time schedules.

Things I will miss:

  • Cuñape. And hojarascas and alfahores and pretty much all the delicious food.
  • Beer that actually tastes good.  Oh Huari, you will forever hold my heart (in beer terms).
  • Almost dying every time I took a drive.
  • Words like churro and vos and chapaco and cochino and Spanish that isn’t spoken at 200 mph.
  • Playing ping-pong with the kids at Candelero Kids (and always losing).
  • Feeling independent and cool on the micros.
  • Playing Rook and Phase 10, and winning  losing.
  • Late night chats with my fellow gringa.
  • Paying like $5 for a burger and fries and still having leftovers, because I mean, food that good and that cheap just doesn’t exist in the States.
  • The cheese, oddly enough.
  • Clases de ingles con Natalia (which let’s be honest were really just times for girl talk and chick flicks).
  • Attempting to cook things and bake things with Natty and Stacie.  You know, things like American style hojarascas, and dulce de leche. Oh, and then burning everything….
  • Basketball games and breaking into press boxes to get the good seats.
  • The stars and the moon and the sunrises and sunsets.
  • And of course, all of the people.  All of my Bolivian mothers, the kids at Candelero and San Andres, all of those crazy teenagers and the chicas, my cooking teachers and shopping buddies, people who make too many puns and dad jokes, the driver to my shotgun rider, and of course, my summer sisters (and their “amigos”).

Oh Bolivia, you will be deeply missed.  But I’m coming back for you, so don’t you worry.

In the mean time, it’ll be tortillas and sticky hands that fill my days.

The first few days here at La Casa have been…well…different.  It’s definitely a different aspect than I’m used to.  No longer am I here with a team (or even a wanderlust buddy).  The days are chill and the kids are crazy.  It’s strange because I have mixed feelings about being here.  But I know that my time here at La Casa will grow me in ways I can’t imagine, and being around these kids gives me so much joy.  Yes, at times being climbed on like a tree pushes me to my patience limit – but hey, they’re cute so..

I’ll be keeping y’all updated on life at La Casa, and life in general (although due to WiFi constraints, don’t be expecting these updates often).

Ciao mi Bolivia, y Bienvenidos a Mexico!

An Open Challenge

People who wear glasses: You know that moment of beautiful clarity that happens when someone rips your glasses off your face, hocs a loogie, spits on your lenses and then cleans them?  You were trying to see through dirt and smudges, but you didn’t even realize how dirty your glasses were until someone comes along and wipes all of it away (thanks, Mama Stacey).

It’s like you grow accustomed to seeing through the fingerprints and the grime, and you become blind to it (pun totally intended).

Well that beautiful moment of clarity just hit me. Total E U R E K A ! moment.

I find myself in a scary situation, created by my own self and gusto for rash and un-thought-out decisions.  Not that I am doubting my decision to go to Mexico, oh no no no. But, let’s be honest.  When I bought that ticket the last thing I had done was walk in the snow to get coffee… I certainly didn’t:

A. Pray about it

B. Read my Bible

C. Talk to God about it

D. All of the above

When the thought first occurred to me, I prayed.  Well, technically I jumped up and down with my friend Rachel and there were some squeals.  But after the excitement, I talked to God and read my Bible and prayed.

But then I started talking to people about it, and while friends can offer some good advice, no one challenged me.  Okay, mentira, there was one person who did – unfortunately, I was able to fool him just as I had fooled myself.

When I talked to people about going to Mexico and I got positive feedback, it fueled my excitement.

When I talked to people about going to Mexico and I got negative feedback, it fueled my stubbornness to prove people wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, talking with people about major life decisions such as this is good.  God calls us to fellowship with one another and encourage each other in Christ.  And there were a lot of people who did that for me.  But the thing is, people can’t be our go-to. We should only seek counsel from people after first seeking counsel from God, and while continuing to seek counsel from God.

That was my mistake.  That’s where I failed.  I started listening to what the world was saying, what the world thought about my going.  And the signals were so mixed and confusing that they consumed me.  And like cycles go, when I’d get confused or upset, I’d turn to friends.  Not God.  Unfortunately some of these friends had names like Jack and Jim and the oh-so-fun Fireball.

When people would laugh and joke about the “christian ministries major gone wild” I laughed and justified my actions with culture.  I said it was my culture to drink, that it was my way of life, that it’s how I was raised. Okay, while yes, my family is crazy and while yes, one of our family traditions happens to be taking a shot of Fireball Christmas morning before heading off to the Chinese buffet – My parents never raised me to try to numb confusion and worry and doubt with alcohol.  That world taught me that.  And I listened. I did it for fun.  I did it for friends.  I did it for the I don’t give a shit attitude that came with it.  But it brought more confusion than clarity, and more hurt than healing. I’m not going to say I was far from God, because I was chasing after him in my mind.  I was pursuing him logically, which meant going through the motions and being satisfied with a one-way ticket and a Christian Ministries degree. Still, I was missing that emotional piece.  And for the life I’ve chosen (and the life that we have all been called to), “there are no logical reasons for being a missionary, only faithful ones”*

My faith in God was weak, I trusted more in my savings account and my independence than on the sovereignty of my Heavenly Father. Here in Bolivia, things have been different.  I have that emotional connection with God back and I have been working hard to trust in him and to have faith in whatever his crazy plan is for me.

One thing though, I still had one ear turned to the world.  I found myself listening to what the world was saying, and the comforts and counsel I got from the people around me. I leave Bolivia in less than three weeks.  And then I go to Mexico.  And then, well, who knows.  I have plans and dreams, but one thing I have learned in my short 20 years here is that our plans our written in pencil, easily erased by God.

What I mean to say is – I have absolutely, 110% no idea what I am doing with my life.  I know I am here to serve God, and I will do that until the day I die.  But what about the little things?  The little details?

Even after reflecting and growing closer to Christ here in South America, he was one of the last people I went to about my future.  I talked to friends and mentors, and Mom of course.  I talked to God, yeah, but the time I spent chatting with others about my plans far out-measures the time I spent seeking guidance from God.

But I finally see how wrong that was.  I had someone come along who metaphorically cleaned the dust from my glasses so that I could see how faltering my faith was.

When you’re sole counselors are the ones here on Earth, that breeds worry and doubt.  When God is your true soul counselor, the one whom you turn to for direction and comfort in the good times and bad, that breeds peace.

The ticking-clock counting down the days until I leave Bolivia is haunting me.  But not knowing what comes next is worse.  Luckily, I’ve challenged myself (and I challenge anyone out there reading this, too). Talk to God before talking to people.

There’s a lovely quote I’ve seen many times online that says, “Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?”

Oh hi smack in the face there.  Big whopping NO to answer that one.

I talk.  I plan.  I over-think and over-analyze.  And I create for myself a suffocating space of worry and fear.

So this is my challenge to myself and to you.  And I’d like to ask friends and family to hold me to this.

In all things, from the big life decisions all the way to the little details, God is there, waiting for us to come and rest in Him.  So in all things, I will turn first to my Heavenly Father and find my peace in Him.


*Quote brought to you by Kendra Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, authors of the fabulous The Godbearing Life.

How Introverts Love

So I just read a post about how introverts love and I politely disagreed with it.  So I decided to write my own.


How Introverts Love

(Not just romantically, this goes for family, friends, strangers, and significant others.)

In Silence – 

As introverts, we are comfortable with silence.  We don’t feel the need to fill every second with chatter.  We love simply by being around you.  We enjoy spending time with those we love, but just because that time isn’t spent talking doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy it.  Nor did it mean that we don’t love you.  Presence means more to us than words.  We just want to be near you, sharing time and life with you.

In the little things 

Introverts like to notice the little things about those we love and then act on them.  We do small acts of service.  This could be picking up something from the store we know you like or shooting you a text when we see or think of something that reminds us of you.  These aren’t grand displays of emotion (or affection in the case of a romantic relationship), but that’s how we show love.  We like to see the people we love happy, and when we can’t find the words to explain it, we show it through small gestures.

By leaving our comfort zone – 

Okay but actually, if an introvert is willing to go out of their comfort zone and extrovert with you for a bit, you’ve made it… We show love by doing things we know you want to do, and we know that sometimes this means extroverting.  It may only be for a night or two, and then we might withdraw and not talk to you for a bit while we recharge, but this is our little way of showing you we care.

By listening/watching

This kinda goes with the silence thing, but we don’t necessarily like to be the ones talking.  We’d much rather listen while you talk.  We want to learn about you, your wants, needs, dreams, things you love and things you hate.  Introverts have a natural curiosity, especially when it comes to people.  We don’t feed of their energy, but we love to love them by knowing them.  So we listen.  We watch.  We try to discern how you act and why you respond to certain things the way you do.  We want to understand you just as much as we want you to understand us.

By letting you into our own little world – 

Let’s be real, we introverts live in our own worlds.  Mine has streets made of turquoise and all the birds there speak Italian.  Okay, false, but even without talking birds, it’s weird.  But I love it, it’s my safe place, my home.  I (and, hopefully, all the other introverts) construct conversations and situations in my mind with all my imaginary friends.  They’re more fun and they tend to say exactly what I want them to…except when they don’t.  The point is, when we truly care about someone, we want them to be privy to this little world we keep for ourselves in our heads.  Sometimes it’s easy for others to feel like an outsider, but we never mean to make you feel that way.  We understand that this can make us seem distant, in both friendships and relationships, but when we love someone we are willing to let them share in the crazy worlds we live in within our own minds.  And that’s something huge.

Note though that at times, we want to let you in, but don’t quite know how.  So it helps to ask.  And if we respond by telling you that we just spent the last fifteen minutes making funny jokes in our mind to see if anyone laughed and could, therefore, read minds…well, you, my friend, are loved.

Logically – 

We’re logical folks, us introverts.  So when we love you, we do it with reason.  We tend not to jump in head first, taken over by emotion.  And if we do happen to be emotional about it, we stop and think and over-analyze.  Oh, yes, we over analyze everything you do.  Not because we’re insecure, but because we want to understand the deeper meanings behind things you do.  Don’t be freaked out, it just means we care.

Our logic also means we might move a little slower.  We want to think things through and consider all our options.  Then, when we are ready, we move forward.  This isn’t just in romantic relationships, although when it does come to a relationship like that, we’re cautious and guarded.

By Serving – 

I could pretty much just repeat almost everything I’ve already said here.  We want to love you by showing you that we see you, that we understand you, that we listen to you.  Our service could mean cooking you a meal, buying you something nice, or just a simple note of encouragement.  We can’t love you in big ways so we love you in the small ways we can, through service.

Through Encouragement – 

Speaking of encouragement, we love to love through encouragement.  We want to build you up and support you.  We want to hear about your dreams and then push you towards them.  We want to know you’re upset so that we can cheer you up.  We spend most of our time listening to you and watching you, so we want to point out the things we notice about you that rock.  A lot of times we can’t form words to completely say to you how we care about you, so we compliment you and encourage you and hope that says what we couldn’t.

Through Loyalty –

Introverts may not have a lot of friends, but you better believe they are loyal almost to a fault to those they do have.  When we love someone, we stick by them through everything.

From the background – 

We don’t like to be the center of attention.  We don’t like all eyes to be on us.  A lot of times, we don’t even want your eyes on us.  We want to love you in ways that you might not even notice.  Many times introverts will do something for you without you asking, and without you even knowing.

Through Profundity – 

We don’t do small talk.  It’s difficult for us and frankly, it bores us.  We think deep and therefore we prefer to have deep discussions with people – especially those we love.  We like to ask questions that get at who you really are, not just what you did today.  When we love someone we want that relationship to be meaningful, so we ask the hard questions.  We want to know what you think about God and the universe and the meaning of life.  We want to know what you would do with your life if money wasn’t an issue.  We might not respond to your answer, but we sit and chew on it and love you even more afterwards.  If an introvert constantly asks you questions like these, it means they want to know you more, and therefore care a big deal about you.

Through Writing – 

Most introverts are better writers than speakers.  We talk great in our heads, but we don’t do the whole make-sentences-with-words-out-loud thing good…So we write letters, notes, or in my case, songs and poems.  We might not feel like calling up an old friend we miss but we’ll sure as heck send them a well-written text.  We’re not distant, we just know how awkward we will be when we have to talk about how we feel out loud.  Writing our feelings and thoughts is just easier than speaking.

Through Space – 

Again, tag this along with silence and listening/watching.  We don’t need to be around you 24/7, nor do we need to be talking to you constantly.  In fact, we want you to have your own life while we have ours.  I have several friends who I only talk to maybe twice a month (distance man, sucks).  But those are some of deepest and most treasured friendships.  We understand that we don’t need to be talking constantly to care for each other.  So, we love you by giving you space.  A lot of times this means letting you come to us.  We may not reach out to you to make plans or text you just to talk, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t thinking about you, or even that we don’t want to talk/hang out.  We just prefer to let you come to us…most of the time we’re in our heads anyways so, it takes you to bring us down from the clouds.

One-on-one – 

Simply put, we love you by spending quality time with you: just the two of us.  Whether this is grabbing half-price apps at Applebee’s or catching up over Starbucks frappucinos.  Being alone with someone allows us to get to know them deeper, without the distractions of other people.  In fact, we’re more apt to actually talk if it’s just us and one other lovely person we care about.  So we love to love you by taking you out for fro-yo or a walk around the town and just spending some time in each other’s company.

By letting you shine –

Especially if the person we’re loving is an extrovert, we are more than satisfied to sit back and let you shine.  We enjoy watching you.  We respect extroverts, even envy them sometimes*.  So we love you by letting you take center stage as we step back and admire you, watch you, learn from you.  We give you that space to shine because that’s what you want, and that’s fine by us if we can give that to you.  In addition, we like to go along with you.  It’s nice to be able to soak in your energy while not having to do a ton of planning.  Even though introverts like to think and imagine and plan, those thoughts tend to stay in our heads.  So it’s quite lovely to ride the adventure track you got going on.  That’s how we love you – we let you do you, and just be yourself as we appreciate you for being yourself.

Little by little, step by step – 

This is the most important thing to remember.  Introverts love little by little, step by step.  We aren’t going to let everyone in, all at once, all the way.  When we care about someone, we love them by letting our guard down and letting them into our lives.  But by nature of who we are, we do that slowly.  We can’t give you everything all at once, it takes time, but when we genuinely care for and love someone, we are willing to take that risk.


*This was just about the only part of that post I agreed with.  Under the title “Introverts tend to love Extroverts” was the following: “We admire and envy you at the same time.  We are in awe of your ability to woo others, and charm the room. The ease at which you seem with strangers. It is part of why we are attracted to you. But it is also a little threatening to us. We see in you something we know we can’t be, and we worry you will grow bored of our quiet spirits.” So FREAKING true….

A Question from a Sleepless Mind

Hi, my name is Hannah and I have insomnia.  My mind does this stupid thing where it likes to be awake and pumping full force in the middle of the night.  What’s worse is that it chooses late-night hours to get all pensive and deep.

For example, last night I couldn’t sleep because I needed to answer the question: Can people really change at their inner-most, innate, natural, core of being?

Why might my mind be asking such a question?  Well, because earlier that day a friend and I got to talking about not conforming to the patterns of the world.  And for me, I have a natural defense against not conforming…unfortunately, it’s not the greatest of defenses and it’s a defense that I’ve been trying to change for quite some time now (but more on that later).

Romans 12:2 says : “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

So, my insomniac mind ponders this question.  How do you suppose we manage to not conform to the patterns of the world?  How do you suppose, in this day and age of mainstream culture and fashion magazines telling you what to wear and how to act – how do we keep ourselves from being overcome by the world?

And that leads to the next question, if we’re already conformed to the world – can we change?

I was still thinking about this question this morning while sipping my coffee, so I decided to write a blog post about it (porque no?).  Side note: I really shouldn’t be allowed to think deep questions before my morning cup of Joe.  Because then my mind gets full and I can’t concentrate on anything but the question and everything around me becomes white noise.  Open apology for anyone who’s been around early-morning thinking Hannah.

Anyways, I like to think of myself as different, but am I really?  I want what most people want – love, family, success (in one form or the other).  And as ironic as it seems, I want to be different, but so does everyone else.  So the actual desire to be different just gives me one more thing to add to the list of NOT DIFFERENT.

As Christians, we spend our whole lives trying to figure out how to stand apart from the crowd for Christ.  But man is it difficult! I’m right there with you.  We try to break our old habits, only to fall into new ones.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the world, in the schedules and the events, and the mundane routine of things.  We get stuck.  We want to change and get out, but the patterns around us lock us in.  Or worse, we start to think that we can’t change, that it’s impossible.

Personally speaking, when I start to feel stuck, I run.  To anyone who has been reading along with my blog these past few months, this isn’t anything new.  I don’t want to run, but it’s my way of protection.  Against ALOT of things.  One of those things is conforming.*  I am so scared that if I stay in one place for too long, I’ll get stuck in my ways, and conform to the world.  So I pack up my bags and move to a different place, where fresh and new await and change is inevitable.  Makes sense right?

Except, hi, hello, NO!!!!!  That’s not what God meant by giving us this command.  I can pretty confidently say that Jesus never told anybody “The best way to keep from conforming to the world is by strapping on your sneakers and running away from the world faster than Usain Bolt.”  Yeah no.  In fact, his advice was the complete opposite; he sent us out into the world.

We’re supposed to be here, in the world, in the midst of the culture and all of its pros and cons.

That’s hard for me.  I’d much rather take the easy way out and just run….

But God’s called us to be more than runners.  He’s called us to be fighters.  It takes a special kind of person to stand in the middle of the world, craziness surrounding, and fight back in order to be different.

Quick confession: I want to fight back, to change.  I don’t want to run.  I want to stand my ground, God by my side, and instead of fleeing to protect myself, have the courage to stay.

Running is easy, staying takes courage.

Staying and letting yourself become entangled with a place and with people is terrifying.  It’s easy to settle into the nature of the world around you when you stay.  But at the same time, those things can be the tools to help you rise above the world and be different.

I realize I still haven’t answered the question, “how do you suppose we keep from conforming to the world?”.

Well, my friends. That’s because I don’t know the answer.  The only answer I can provide doesn’t do much to help you out.  The answer I give can only encourage you to keep seeking for the answer from the one who made the command in the first place.  The short, incomplete answer I can offer is to fall in love.  Fall in love with Christ and the power, the mercy, and the grace he gives.  Let those things be your defense against the world. Search for the beauty of Christ in the mundane routines of the world and he will give you the spirit to live differently, to feel differently, to BE different in a world of patterns and overcrowded bandwagons.

And for the can we change? question — God wants to change you, so let him.  Yeah I know, easier said than done.  There’s a part of me that is terrified that at my core exists a runner who can’t be changed into anything different.  It’s a daily struggle not to activate that “flight” defense whenever I start to feel attached to a place.  So I look to the mountains, to the sky, and to the stars.  And I remind myself that there’s a God who created me and called me “very good.”  I have to hold to the fact that no matter how powerful that instinct to run is, God is more powerful.

He wants me to stay.  He wants me to be settled, to be still.  He wants me to stand still in the midst of the world and have the courage to fight to rise above it.

For a long time, not conforming meant not allowing myself to settle.  If I never let the routines hold me down, I’d never conform.  But by doing that, I was trying to live up to one command by breaking another.  Which is, plainly put, stupid.

God wants us to be above the world, but he still calls us to live in it.  He wants us to allow our hearts to become entangled in a place, because sometimes it’s that very place that helps us fall in love with him, and helps us keep our eyes on the only one not of this world, the only one who can answer that daunting question for us.

Important note: Entanglement doesn’t mean stuck.  When you get stuck in the world – it’s easy to let the world become who you are, to let the world define you.  You get trapped in the patterns of the world and you convince yourself there’s no way out.

Entanglement is different.  I’ve never experienced entanglement, so I can’t tell you exactly what it is.  But, you know that feeling when you fly?  During take-off, when gravity fights with all its might to hold you down?  And even though your climbing higher and higher, all of your insides are being held back?  That’s what I imagine it would feel like when your heart becomes so entangled with a place, that no matter how far you run, just like gravity fighting to keep your feet on the ground, that place fights to keep you there.  I call it the “this-is-the-place-God-wants-me” feeling.

So short answer turned long answer – find a place that your heart feels entangled with the Spirit of God, be still, and don’t run.  Instead, fight like hell to be different.  Fix your eyes on God, and let him be your defense.  Because when you love God and live in his will, you won’t be able to NOT be different.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33


*But actually though, I use to love mustaches.  Then everyone and their mother loved mustaches, so I stopped liking mustaches.  That’s also the reason I don’t have an iPhone….wow I have issues.

Yada Yada Yada

Well yesterday morning was a morning of love.

I learned that love is easier if you’re from Mars.  I mean, it is the RED planet after all.  Martians were practically made to love.

But most importantly, I learned about God’s love.

The morning started off with me attempting to do my morning devotions.  However the WiFi connection here had a different plan for me.  So instead of me getting to learn about Esther through SheReadsTruth, I had to improvise.  I decided to start by re-reading (for the millionth time) Psalm 139.  Why yes, yes I did just post about this Psalm.

And here’s why.

I decided to go verse by verse, line by line, and really take some time to meditate on what the words were saying.  GO DO IT NOW, I swear to you that you will find yourself completely, utterly, overwhelmed by the beautiful love of God.

With each new line I was reminded of how much he knows me.  Not like, knows who I am, or knows my name.  He knows me in the yada sense of the word.  For the non-Hebrew speaking folks out there (not that I speak Hebrew), yada’ means to know.  But not in just an average, every-day, I know you kind of way.  It represents an intimate knowledge, to be fully and completely known.

For instance, in Genesis it is used when Adam knows his wife.  It is a dedication of ourselves to another person so that we can engage with them in love and affection (not just in a carnal way).

In Proverbs it is used as a way of knowing and understanding the needs of those around you and taking care of them, or to show mercy.

And in Jeremiah it is used as a word to describe a lived out covenant relationship between the Lord and his people.

The Hebrew Lexicon gives several definitions for the word yada, including to perceive, to discern, to choose, and to know by experience.

Every letter, syllable, and sound of the 139th Psalm is dripping with evidence that God knows us in every sense of the word yada.

It begins with a simple declaration: You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.  But oh what a powerful statement that is.  He has searched every part of our heart.  Actively looking in the dark corners we try to keep away from everyone else.  He knows our thoughts and the desires of our hearts.  He knows our good and our bad.  He knows our selfish wants and our innocent wishes.  He knows every lie we have ever told and will tell, every time we will disobey him, and every time we will turn our backs on him.  He knows us, good and bad, all the way through.

AND YET STILL, he loves us

I’m crazy.  I know I am.  I may not have papers to prove it but I know myself well enough to know that I can be a handful.  I can be moody and stubborn, manipulative and selfish.  (Not that I try to be these things, but hey, human nature).  Like Eric Church sang so beautifully, I’m hard to love. I don’t make it easy.

So when I feel the presence of the Lord searching within my heart, seeing everything I’ve tried to hide, AND YET STILL loving me relentlessly…I’m left speechless.

What kind of love is this?  That knows the darkness within me and still chooses to love me, to use me, to call me his?

Even after three years of bible classes and ministry training, I don’t know a whole lot about God.

But he knows me, in ways that I can’t even begin to comprehend.  So I guess it’s a good thing that my limited view of him does not limit his love for me.

One thing I do know about him though, is that his love is pure and nothing like any kind of earthly love.  His love is a love that seeks to build up, to strengthen, to edify.  God sees my crazy and all the little parts of me that need work, yet he never gives up on me.  He never stops trying to make me a better person.  And not in a way that calls out my faults and weaknesses, and all my mistakes.

A new friend of mine told me yesterday over cafe americanos and cuñapes fritos that love is weird.  Love can make you confused and can make you do stupid things.  Sometimes love makes you want to change for someone, or change someone.  The difference between this love and God’s love, is that God always wants you to be a better person.  But he wants you to change with him.  He loves you at your lowest point and constantly aids you and pushes you to be better, by pulling you closer to him. You become better as you fall more in love with him.

Earthly love can easily be used as a mechanism for criticism.  God’s love never seeks to criticize.  Instead, it says “come to me, and I will work within you to grow you, and strengthen you, and mold you to be the person I know you can be.”  His love seeks to strengthen us and build us up as we become more in love with him every day.

I’ve been stuck in some dark places, where even though I’m less than satisfied with where I am at, the comfortability lures me to stay.  I become convinced that it’s easier to stay here than try to move forward and risk failing.  I justify it by saying that I just simply can’t do what I want to do right now.  I sit in fear of failure, rejection, and not being good enough.

But that’s when God’s love becomes so incredible.

Even in these places, he is searching for me.  He is there.  He knows me.  AND YET STILL, he loves me.

He wants me to be better.  He wants me to see my dreams through.  He wants me to trust in him as he uses me in big ways.

But none of those things can happen unless I allow myself to be loved by him.  Until I open myself up to be completely and fully, yada’ known by Him.

“If I go up to the heavens, you are there.  And if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” High times and low times, he is there.  He knows our good times and our bad times, and yet still – he loves us.

Love on earth has a tendency of skipping out when things go bad.  It’s always going to fail us.  Not because that is the nature of love, but because that is the nature of man.  But luckily for us, God’s love is more than that.  It leaves us full and satisfied when other’s leave us empty and disappointed.

Maybe God is from Mars, and that’s why loving comes so perfectly to him.

Beauty through Photos

Figured it’s about time for some pictures yeah?

 IMAG0815My view on the way to work

IMAG0856

IMAG0862

The beautiful lagoons of Tajzara

IMAG0863

At Las Dunas       IMAG0872

Definitely wrote a song at this point…

IMAG0874IMAG0875  IMAG0871_20150621224138475IMAG0877_20150622183803899   IMAG0879

There’s something about standing at the foot of the mountain, that makes you feel so insignificant, yet so loved by the creator of said mountain.

  IMAG0889   IMAG0903   IMAG0905_20150622100210719

Little Miss Texas rockin’ it with the Texas shirt and hat

Screenshot_2015-06-22-23-44-44IMAG0911

The Bolivian crew.  We’re cool.

Screenshot_2015-06-22-23-43-47

Bob came to visit.  Best practicum evaluation ever, I’d say.  Hopefully he thinks so too and gives me a 4.0…

IMAG0915_1

#VoyParaAmar

IMAG0921_1

And I of course had to rep the blog :

IMG-20150621-WA0002

IMG-20150621-WA0004

IMAG0932

IMAG0939

IMAG0934

So long Tajzara, you’ve been lovely

IMAG0982

While Bob’s team was here we painted.  No one else wanted to climb up the two story scaffolding, so I did and found the best little office up there (:

IMAG0988

It had a pretty spectacular view

  IMAG1000

This was on the drive back from Santa Anna after an afternoon tea with the men at the Rehabilitation Center

Well, this is the beauty of Bolivia so far.

We’re heading to Solar de Uyuni soon, so go ahead and get excited for those photos.

Psalm 139 and The Path Ahead

I think it’s time to confess something.

Less than a month ago, while procrastinating packing up my apartment and spending a little too much time awake at 3 a.m., the only thing on my mind was Mexico.  Three months stood between me and Mexico, between me and my little kiddos.  Bolivia was nothing more than something I needed to do and get done so that I could officially get my diploma and then start my adventure in Mexico.

I’m not going to say I didn’t want to go to Bolivia.  I did.  It was a new place and a new great perhaps to be had.  But I wanted Mexico more.

Good news though, God’s kinda amazing.

He has this spectacular way of using things not even on our radar to get our attention.

You see, for a few years now I’ve been living out my faith logically, but I’ve been missing the emotional aspect of it.  I remember exactly when that part left me, and I remember the feeling of emptiness that accompanied it.  Eventually I just learned to live without it.  I learned to live logically and have a logical faith.  I did what God wanted me to do, what I knew I should do, because I knew that connection existed….not because I felt that connection.  Make sense?

Thinking about it now, I believe that missing that emotional component of my faith is the reason I’ve been so fickle these past few years.  I mean, let’s be real.  I’ve been up and down and scared and bold and a little too quick to make decisions.

But once again, in the wise words of Justin the Bartender – T H A N K  G R A C I A S.  Thank gracias God can see the big picture of what we really need.

If I had it my way, I’d be in Mexico right now, watching a game of niño nugget futbol and wiping golden dust off my Sambas.  But what I could never have imagined is how much I needed Bolivia.

It’s not even the people…I mean, yeah the people are great.  But they could all be jerks and I’d still be sitting here saying how much I needed Bolivia.  It’s the landscape.  The way the trees cast shadows and lights through their canopies like lace.  The way the mountains trap the sky in the valley and etch their silhouettes across a star-blanketed night sky.  I re-fell in love with God here.  I’ve spent too much time surrounded by man-made creations, I had forgotten how beautiful and wonderful of an architect God is.

Last week, we traveled to Tajzara (Tax-hara), and I spent the entire day in silent tears.  I am perpetually in awe of the hand of God.  And let me tell you, standing on top of a mountain of sand, you start to get a little overwhelmed at the thought that “his thoughts outnumber the grains of sand.” (Psalm 139)

IMAG0927

Also, side note, Psalm 139 has continued to be the prayer of my heart.  A while ago I wrote in a post about this Psalm, and God has consistently been touching my heart with the words of this song.  “You hem me in, before and behind.” “You see me when I travel, and when I stay at rest.” “If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me and your strength will support me.”

So anyways, through the stunning beauty that was the mountains and desert of Tajzara, I saw God.  And he captivated my heart once more.

The following Saturday, during worship, my heart broke again for the Lord.  I got back that emotional piece I had been longing for.  And just as I remember the feeling of helpless emptiness when it left, I remember the sensation of freedom and liberating love when it returned.

Maybe it was because I reached a point where logic just wouldn’t cut it anymore.  I’m a planner, I am strong, and I am independent.  But I’ve come to realize that living my life that way brings loneliness, fear, and it sends me running down a path not meant for me.

So with this renewed spirit came surrender.  I have no clue what my life will look like.  I don’t even know what I WANT my life to look like.  All I know is that I want to follow God, to serve God, to love people and to point people to Christ.  But oh. my. goodness. that could look like a million different things, right?!  Trying to figure all that out by myself is too exhausting. There’s no way to plan for a million different courses of life.  So why try?!  Why not just trust in the marvelous hand of God that created the mountains?

When I stop to examine the beautiful world around me, it reminds me of all the tiniest little things that had to have happened to get me here.  God knew I needed to be here, to re-fall in love with him.  And that meant getting my heart broken, getting a little lost, making rash decisions, and running away a little.

Speaking of running – I’ve always tried to keep from looking back over my shoulder, so I looked ahead of me. The problem was, I was always looking too far off into the distance, to places and to people that didn’t exist…or at least, weren’t along the road that I was on.  Because of this, I missed a lot of what was happening right around me.  But thankfully, God was running right beside me, leading me along even when I wasn’t aware of his hand guiding me.  He was pulling me along down the road, making me rest when I needed to, and pushing me on when I started to falter.  He knew what turns to take and paths to avoid.  He knew where we were headed, and while I was busy admiring the landmarks in the distance, landmarks I was never meant to see, he was bringing me to see beauties and mercies I never even imagined I’d want to experience.  And maybe in some way, all the times I thought I was running away from some part of my life, were really just times when God was saying, “all aboard, vamanos, we’ve still got a lot more road to run before we’re there.” I like that image.  I thought I was running away, but all along, I was running forward, Christ beside me, to exactly where I was supposed to be.

With God, there are no accidents.  Every little thing has a purpose.  I have come to view a lot of my “accidents” in life in a new light.  Because without all of those little, seemingly incidental things, I wouldn’t be where I am now or who I am now.  And I like where I am, and who I am.

So adios Hannah, the runner.  And hello Hannah, the follower (of Christ, that is).  I have no idea what the road ahead of me has in store.  But God does.  And all I need to do is follow him and wait to see the untold marvels his path holds.

He has proved to me, time and time again, how his path is so much more than even the best path I could map out.

So I’ll say, for the umpteenth time, how amazing is the Lord of the Heavens, who’s goodness sees the bigger picture, and brings me to exactly where I need to be.

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;

you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

-Psalm 16:5-6

A little P.S.; being here surrounded by the mountains and trees and the beauty of God’s creation makes me miss my Memaw more than ever.  She didn’t have much inheritance to leave, so in her will she wrote, “I leave you my love of the mountains, and the rivers, and the trees, and all of God’s creation.”  Maybe she thought that was little, but oh what a beautiful inheritance that is.  She left me her love, and it’s that love for God’s beautiful creation that inspires me every day to be better for Christ and for her, to make her smile and proud as she looks down from Heaven, flashing that “I love you sign.”