Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Moving Forward

Hi all,
Who knows if and when anyone will continue reading this blog since we have concluded our journey in Barcelona...but if you are following, I, Beth, want to personally thank you for walking with us as we lived, learned and returned from Barcelona. The journey was an amazing one and I am sure you will be hearing stories for weeks and months to come as we process the way God provided for us.

As for me, I have learned that writing is something I enjoy doing, and apparently other people enjoy reading. So, if you happen to be one of them, I will make a shameless plug for my new addition...my own personal blog. I highlight personal simply because it doesn't center around missions...it's merely, just me...living. If you're interested, you can go here:


So, thats me. And it looks like that's the end...

Thanks again for walking with us, praying for us, and being here to receive us in the end.

For all of you HDC'rs who are still out there...we are with you...and will be there to receive you when you return from your adventures...

Until then,

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A different kind of Easter

It’s hard to believe that it’s half way through April already. There are things that we are used to, familiar with, that help us judge the passing of time. While we are here, we are missing some of those things that are happening back in the States without us. At the same time, we are getting to experience a different culture’s passing of time, and learning to understand how time goes for them. This said, we found it hard to believe that this past Sunday was Easter. There were a few signs, such as the coming of spring, and a few chocolate bunnies in the store, but other than that, there wasn’t much.

Church on Easter was only slightly different than a “normal” Sunday here (but then again, there really never truly is a “normal” Sunday). We sang a few Easter songs, had communion, and the message was about Easter. It was a good service, just different than what we’re used to on a “normal” Easter Sunday. All four of us wore skirts, but most other people didn’t dress up more than usual.

There was one very special thing about the service, though. Easter Sunday was the debut of the worship team. We were all very, very excited! The Amor Viviente Church here in Barcelona is fairly new, so until now, they haven’t had a live worship team. Worship would always be one or two people singing along to songs played from a CD. So, it was a real treat to have all the music be live, and we were glad we were able to be here for the debut.

The woman in charge of the worship team, Karla, played the piano. Another guy played the guitar. Then there were about 10 people singing, passing 2 microphones around so everyone got a chance to be heard. Karla is an amazing piano player, and somehow added a touch of gospel to a bunch of songs in which we didn’t even know that was possible. At the end of the service, all the chairs were pushed toward the back of the church, and everyone was invited to stand together at the front of the church, and Karla led us in some songs.

Easter to me has always seemed like a bit of a somber holiday. After all, this was the date that Jesus’ life was ended in an unjust, horrific crucifixion, despite his perfect and innocent character. However, through these people, I was able to truly see the joy in the holiday. At the end of the service when we were all standing together at the front of the church, not only was everyone singing, but most people were also clapping, and some were even dancing. The atmosphere in the church was like that of a party, or a concert. Looking around, I noticed that everyone just couldn’t help but smile and laugh. The joy in that room was contagious.

So what if it didn’t “feel” like church? It was – there was a group of us there singing, praising, worshiping, and thanking Jesus for what He did on the cross. They didn’t ignore the sadness of the holiday, but instead chose to embrace the joy in it. It was different, yes, but I loved it, and I know it will be an Easter that I will never forget!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

We´ve offically moved

We are now in the new apartment. The move went very well, and everything is now in its place – although sometimes we can’t remember where that place is. We had packed a few things prior to moving day, which was March 31st, but most of it was actually packed on that day. Bringing the clothing over was probably the most interesting thing for me – we put it in suitcases, and then walked the 5 or 10 minutes from the old apartment to the new one. We would open the suitcase to see whose stuff it was, and then dump it on the appropriate person’s bed. Then we would take the suitcases back to be filled again, and we repeated this process numerous times. Besides walking things over, which we did a lot, there were also a few men that came to help. One of them had a big van, and another, Alex, had a car.

Audrey and I made many trips with Alex. It was really cool – he had picked us up at the airport when we first arrived back in December, and we couldn’t talk with him at all. It was really neat to see how much we’ve learned during the past four months – the three of us were able to have entire conversations in Spanish.

Antonio was telling us recently how much of a miracle it really is that we have this apartment. First of all, they had to make a very large down payment on the apartment. They prayed for the amount, and they got it. Then, when Antonio was talking with the landlord, he told Antonio that he needed to bring a document proving that he earned a certain amount each month. Antonio said okay, but he knew he couldn’t bring that document because he didn’t earn that much. But he trusted God, and knew that God would provide if they really were supposed to have this apartment. The day came when Antonio was making the final negotiations with the landlord, and Antonio was just waiting for when he would ask for that document. But they went through the negotiations, and he didn’t ask. The time came for Antonio to sign, and as he told us, he did it quickly. Irma signed too, and then the landlord did as well. Everything was fine, and he showed them the apartment. He never did ask for that document. Had the landlord asked for it, we wouldn’t be here today. He has told us stories of how well God provides for him and his family, and it's amazing - all because he has faith that things will work out.

Moving day was Tuesday, and Sarah’s family and Jan arrived on Thursday, so the past little while has been quite busy. It was good to see people we know (and they’re native, fluent English speakers!) and we had a great time with them all. They got the chance to see a bit of what we do here, and we were also able to show them around the city a little bit.

The past little while has been quite busy, and the coming weeks will also be busy, but we’re looking forward to see what God is going to do through us in the time that we have left here!

Melanie for the team

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Our New Address

So, praise the Lord, The Montes' family has finally received the contract and keys to their new apartment and Melanie and Beth will officially be moving to their new house on Tuesday, April 1st. Please pray for safety and a swift move during this time of transition. With only a few weeks remaining here in Spain, time is of the essence and this move is one that needs to occur quickly and safely!

Below is the new address for anyone who desires to continue sending letters and/or care packages. Please remember that we have only 6 weeks remaining and since letters/packages normally take 3 weeks to reach Spain, there is a small window of time in which you can continue to send letters. Just a note to keep in mind ;-) Thank you all for the packages and letters we have all received. Your love and support has been overwhelming! We will talk to you all soon!

Beth for the Spain Team

C/O Pastores D. Antonio Montes y Da. Irma montes
Calle Mossen Jacinto Verdaguer No.67, ático 1º.
Cornellá de Llobregat,Código Postal 08940, Barcelona, España

The phone number will be: (34) 934 800 652

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Run...

Loyal Blog Readers,
I know for the longest time you have all been waiting in anticipation for Part 2, 3 and 4 of my "revelations" and I would so love to give them to you, but I feel as though it is not quite yet time for those particular stories to be shared. In other words, I hesitate to post something on the internet that I am not completely and entirely convinced of. And in this case, I cannot say quite yet that I feel that God is done teaching me the lessons in the coming parts. So, instead I will impart upon you what God has been doing in my life over the last while. He has been busy, even if I haven't seen it. And for that I am so grateful.

As I write this, I am on day 4 of being stuck in the house with one of the worst bronchial cough's I have had in my life. For the first little while I was unable to sleep more than 2 or 3 hours at night because I would wake up coughing and would be unable to either A) stop coughing long enough to go back to sleep or B) become comfortable enough to fall back asleep due to the muscular pain the cough was causing me. (I never knew how much strain coughing put on your body until now...which gives me a greater respect for the body alltogether!)

In anycase, this problem seems like a paradox because my body is and has literally exhausted itself from coughing, and yet I could not sleep. I tried to keep going, to push through, because that is what I do - I run and run and run and then only when I physically cannot run anymore do I think about stopping. However, this time, my body decided for me that I was going to take a break, and it just, shut off. Thursday, Friday and Saturday I did not have the energy to move myself from off of my top bunk, and when I did find the energy, it was spent completely in short trips to and from the bathroom or the kitchen. I am so blessed to have a wonderful team of girls who have surrounded me in love and have taken care of me since minute one, researching various medications and their uses, discussing ways to take over my responsibilities within the church, sitting with me for hours on end as I cough and then sleep for 4 hours, setting alarms every 4 hours for my medication reminders and calling me while evangelising to make certain that although they aren't with me, I have remembered to take my medication. Melanie, my dear dear roommate has set her alarm for 12:00am, 4:00am, and 8:00am in order to wake me up and give me my medication. I am so absolutely blessed to be with these three wonderful girls who I consider my family here in Spain. To those parents who are reading this - please know that you have done well raising these girls, and I applaud you all!! :-)

Their acts of love have caused me to contemplate one thing in particular - what happens when I am not only physically exhausted but become spiritually exhausted? Is this even allowed?!

The answer is a resounding "YES", because today in my quiet time, I was drawn to Matthew 11:28 where it reads "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." It seems as though God actually understands that in this race that we call life, He knows we will become weary. We will become worn out and tired. The verse goes on to read: "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light." As I read this verse, I had to pause for a moment, to really take in all that it was saying. Jesus, the man who literally laid his life down, was nailed to a cross and left to die, is saying, He is going to carry my load. He wants to take on my troubles, my worries, my fears, my insecurities. All I have to do, is pause for a moment, recognize that I am not able to carry my load any more and then lay it at his feet and rest.

There it is - that 4 letter word that I seem to find so difficult. REST. I roll it around on my tongue, test it out...R-E-S-T. I question why it is, that I find this so difficult. Why is it that I can't just be calm and quiet and sit in silence with Him. Why I can't lay down my burdens for a few moments and take a break. Why is it so difficult to understand that God is so much more capable to carry my burdens for me than I am?

And then: BAM! I am hit with a realization. What on earth am I being forced to do right now, at this very moment but REST?! I physically cannot do it anymore. My body has decided that it is going to stop and take care of itself because I haven't been paying enough attention to the warning signs. (It seems to know me better than I know myself...) So maybe this is God's timing. I may not enjoy the fact that I have been bed ridden and house bound for 4 days, but it sure has given me time to pray and read my Bible a lot more than I probably would had I been following my every day schedule. I choose to think that maybe this was God's way of putting his hand on my shoulder and in His own "God sense of humor" way, pushing me into my bed and saying - "Take a break Beth - You are weary." Gee, thanks God! :-)

And so, I have rested. I have slept hours upon hours - the numbers are scary for how many hours I have slept. I have taken 4 various medications (and still am) and have inhaled ridiculous amounts of Vicks...but through it all, I have had my eyes opened. I have witnessed kindness and love and sacrifice. I have learned to lean and not always to stand. I have learned that it is okay to be weak, and it is also okay to not always have all the answers. And although there may come a time when I don't remember all of these lessons, God will be gracious enough to remind me.

I also have been reminded of the ways that God speaks to me - through songs. My life is a continual playlist - song upon song, layer upon layer, rhythm upon rhythm. My life flows to a constant soundtrack - sometimes it is choppy like Beethoven and other times it flows smoothly like Enya...either way I have learned that God speaks in song to me. And so I have chosen to listen more intently. I have posted below some of the lyrics that have spoken to me recently. I have not posted every lyric because this post would be 27.5 pages long (or longer) so I have just chosen the most prominent lines from 3 specific songs...I hope that in some way these songs can speak to you as well.

I thank God for His continual revelations in my life - I see that He is working in me, and teaching me. I just need to take the time to rest in it.

God Bless,

"I run from hate, I run from prejudice, I run from pessimists. But I run too late.
I run my life, or is it running me?
Run from my past, I run too fast or too slow it seems...

This world keeps spinning faster, into a new disaster so I run to You...
And when it all starts coming undone, You’re the only one I run to.

We run on fumes, your life and mine.
Like the sands of time slippin’ right on through.
And our love’s the only truth - that’s why I run to You."
~I Run To You, Lady Antebellum

"I've been marked, set apart. But I'm cut so deep and afraid of the dark.
One drop of blood from the hole in Your hand
Is enough to heal me and make me stand.

'Cause I'm clean, He is listening to me
I don't have to scream for Him to hear me
Don't have to bleed for Him to see me
'Cause I'm clean, He is listening to me"
~ Scream, ZOEGirl

"I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from?
My help comes from You
Maker of heaven, creator of the earth."
~I Lift My Eyes Up (Psalm 121), Kutless

"There's always gonna be another mountain, I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle that sometimes I'm gonna have to lose.
Ain't about how fast I get there,
Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side
Its the climb."

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Keeping in mind that we would be having a time of evanglism of this weekend, my prayer for this week has been that God would do something during our evangelism. Something big, something noticable, something that can only be described as one of those awesome God moments. I was excited to see what He would do.

On Saturday, we evangelized at two different places. On the train between points of evangelism, I was thinking and trying to remember if there had been any big God moments. I was having trouble coming up with any. I wondered if I'd missed some that had happened, and thought that maybe something would happen during the next part of our evangelism. In all honesty, because I'd been praying that prayer all week, I was feeling a little disappointed not to have noticed anything.

Then a thought popped into my head as I realized something - the evanglism had been a lot different for me personally today. There was no fear of rejection. Evangelism here in Spain can be hard, because people are so closed - they often say no, or sometimes they completely ignore you. This can make it really hard to feel motivated to give people tracts. I was rejected today, but at today's location, people seemed a little more receptive to at least taking the tracts (and thinking back now, this in itself may have been a God moment, one that I didn't realize until right now as I'm typing this). I wasn't afraid to go up to people and give them the tract. I'm not the kind of person to really interact at all with people that I don't know, especially strangers. But somehow, I didn't mind today (the fact that I know I'll probably never see them again always adds a little something...).

There was something else I was thinking about, something I realized during one of our previous times of evangelism. Hypothetical situation: I pass a person on the street, but because of fear or some other factor, I choose not to give that person a tract. What happens if that exact moment in time was the only time in that person's life that they would be receptive to taking that tract and reading it? What if that was the one time in their life that they would have curiosity about religion, about Christianity, and that they would have the courage to follow up on it? Who am I to deny that person the opportunity that will only happen once, when they would never be receptive again, and would therefore never hear the wonderful truth that I am priveliged to know? That person would never be able to experience the joy and saving grace of having a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let me tell you...walking around with that weight on your shoulders when trying to evangelize isn't the best thing...I would feel guilty for every person that passed to whom I did not give a tract. So, I decided there was only one thing I could do to not feel guilty as we where evangelizing - give a tract to every person I see while evangelizing.

Something did happen today. It may not have been very big, at least in my eyes, but it was something. The evangelism has changed me. I am no longer afraid to go up to people and give them a tract. The worst thing that could happen? They don't take the tract. This just gives me the opportunity to pray for that person, that they will have another opportunity sometime in which they take the time to read or listen or learn. In the past, had you told me that I would be evangelizing now, I wouldn't have believed you.

But God is changing me. Me, the missionary. Me, the one who is supposed to be helping the people here. Me, the one who is supposed to be changing other people during times of evangelism. It seems so backwards.

But maybe my new-found openness to evangelism is preparing me for something that's going to happen during one of our next evangelism times. Something big, something noticeable, something that can only be described as a God moment. That's my new prayer for the coming weeks. And I'll also be looking for God moments, in unexpected places ... gotta love God's sense of humor!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Here's a few pictures ... enjoy ...

These pictures are from our vacation to North Africa. A big part of our vacation was a camel ride through the Sahara Desert. To get to the desert, we had an 8 hour car ride. In all honesty, I was not too terribly excited for the long ride, but in all honesty, I think it was the best long car ride I've ever had! I'd intended to sleep at least part of the way...but once I saw the scenery, my eyes were glued to the window for the remainder of the trip.

Seriously, what an awesome job it must have been, to be the Creator of the universe! The vast array of different landscapes, terrains, climates, and colors that we experienced in such a short time was simply amazing. When we left for our drive, it was raining. It then turned to snow, several feet deep. Within less than half an hour, we were completely out of the snow. We then drove through plains, plateaus, mountain ranges, hills, palm tree groves, flat nothing-ness, and then into the Sahara, with nothing but dune after dune for miles on end.

We got to see some brilliant sunsets with amazing colors on our trip. Then by day, the sky was breathtakingly blue, with puffy wisps of clouds.

We took pictures to try and capture all of this...

A sunset from the roof of our hotel one night. In this direction, the sky was orange and yellow as the sun was setting, but then behind us in the other direction, the clouds looked like pink cotton candy - it looked so unreal!

Changing landscapes: this is some of the snow from the beginning of the drive...

A view from the side of a mountain...

To flat plains, where you could see for miles...

And then, of course, there was the Sahara Desert ... miles upon miles of dune after dune.

Riding our camels, through the Sahara ... we still can't believe that we did that!

It was an amazing experience, which really cannot be captured through pictures or words. As hard as we may have tried, we all realized that it was impossible. The best thing we could do was to sit on our camels and just be, taking in our surroundings and making memories of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Our advice: if you ever have the chance, you should definitely do it - go ride a camel through the desert. It's truly amazing!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We're moving...

Just to let everyone know, the Pastors' family will be moving to a new apartment. It is quite close, about a five minute walk from the current apartment. This also means that Beth and Melanie will be moving with them.

As much as we appreciate receiving mail, now may not be the best time to be sending things - with the time it takes to get things here, we will be moved out, and therefore may never receive things that you are sending us. This applies to all mail, being sent to any of the 4 of us, not just Beth and Melanie.

We do not yet know the address of the new apartment, but will post it on here as soon as we do (we're expecting to get it sometime next week).

This move will give us yet another opportunity to serve our host family as we help them with the move, by first cleaning the new apartment (and probably the old as well), and packing and unpacking, and of course, the actual day of moving. We will be moving by April 1st.


Spain team

Monday, March 16, 2009


So, this will be a short post but we have some HUGE NEWS from the church here in Spain! As of 6:00 P.M on Wednesday evening Amor Viviente, Barcelona will officially be a legal church here in Spain! This does not mean that what they were doing before was ILLEGAL, it just means that they will have all the benefits of being a legal organization and not simply a group of people meeting on Sunday. This also means that they will have the opportunity to rent or purchase a building of their own in which to hold their own sunday services. We have been praying for this to happen for months now, and finally all of the negotiations have gone through, and we were granted permission this afternoon at 2:00pm! There will be a dinner held in honor of this exponential occasion this Wednesday evening with the church body! Please join us in celebration and praising the Lord for this unexpected blessing!

With God's Grace,
Team Spain & Amor Viviente

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Back from vacation...and full of stories

Sorry it's been so long since our last post! We've been super busy, so it's kind of hard to know where to start...so for now, I'll just tell you about our vacation, and what we've been up to for the last two weeks:

Two Thursdays ago, the North Africa team arrived here in Barcelona, for their vacation, to visit us, and to renew their visas. We were all very, very excited to see each other! There was time for lots of fun, laughter, talking, catching up, relaxing, and doing some touristy things.

The North Africa girls were here for a week. My wonderful host mom, who basically is the person here who coordinates what we do, gave us that whole week free. This was a real blessing, especially considering that the following week, we would also have off, as we would be on our vacation. This gave us a chance to show the girls some of the city. We took them to some tourist places that we know and have been to before.

We also had the chance to do 2 new things, that we've never done before. One of these was to go and visit a monastery that is still functioning, high in the mountains. We had to take a cable car to get to it. We walked around the monastery, and got to listen to a boys choir, who sang wonderfully. We also had the chance to do a little hiking on the mountain behind the monastery. The views were incredible, and it was nice to be out in the fresh air, away from city life. The other new thing that we did was to go to Parque Guell, which is full of architecture designed by Antonio Gaudi. It's pretty large, so we walked around for awhile. It was raining, so we didn't get to explore too much. However, it's free, so I'm sure we'll go back again.

After that week was over, we went back with the girls to North Africa for the Spain team's vacation. We flew in Thursday night. Friday morning, we left for our desert trip. We left in the morning, and it was about an 8 hour drive. It was raining when we left. I dozed a little, and woke up to a brilliant white all around us - it was the sun, shining off of several feet of snow. We got out to take pictures, and it was freezing - not quite the start that we had expected for a trip to the desert. However, the landscape changed very quickly, and before we knew it, we were in the hot sun again.

The drive, although long, was probably the best long car ride I've ever had. It was just the 9 of us girls, and we took a big bus-like van. The scenery was amazing. It was constantly changing. Somehow, the sky and the clouds seem so much better there and here in Spain than they do at home. Then again, there is the very distinct possibility that I just never take the time to look up when I'm at home.

The first night, we stayed in a nice hotel. The next day, we had a few hours to explore the surrounding area. Our driver took us to a fossil place, which is apparently a big industry for that area. Then we went to a little village, where we hired a guide to show us around. He took us to an ancient castle, and showed us around the area a little bit. The buildings were all made of mud. When they start to crumble, another layer of dirt is added. It was quite interesting. We also went into a carpet shop. It was a large room, and the walls were covered in carpets. The owner began to get some out to show to us, and before long, the entire floor was covered in carpet. It was amazing to look at all the hand-made carpets. The colors were brilliant, and no 2 carpets were the same. Each carpet was made by a different Berber tribe. The Berbers are the indigenous people in that area.

After that, we had the last part of our journey to the Sahara dunes, in 4x4 vehicles. We had about a 45 minute ride out to the start of the dunes. We rested at a hotel there for a few hours until it was time for us to get on the camels. We had about a 2 hour ride out to the camp of Berber tents where we would be staying the night.

The camel ride was amazing, and it was hard to believe that we were actually riding camels through the Sahara desert. We think that we made a very large half circle around a huge dune to get to the camp. Before long, all we could see in every direction was sand, and it was amazing. The desert seasons are just switching from winter to summer, so the weather was perfect, and the sun felt good.

Our camp consisted of a circle of Berber tents. In the middle and also on the inside of each tent, carpets covered the sand. We were served tea when we first arrived. We had a little time to relax, and later were served supper. It was the 9 of us girls, and then there was also a group of guys. Berbers served us, and later treated us to some drumming around a fire.

Most of us decided to climb the huge dune that was right behind our camp. It didn't look that big, until you began to climb it. It was quite steep, and we stopped to catch our breath often. We literally were on our hands and knees, crawling up the dune. We went straight up, although we realized too late that it would have been a lot easier to go up at an angle. I went up with 2 other girls, and we think it took about 45 minutes to get to the top. It was about 11 when we finally got up there - and it was absolutey amazing. The moon was almost full, and was providing so much light that we could actually see our shadows. It was really windy at the top (and from that and also climbing up, we later discovered tons of sand in our clothing). We could see lights from nearby towns or cities. We just sat there for awhile, amazed that we had climbed it (and seeing how far down and tiny our camp was). It then took less than 5 minutes to go down - and we could have run down a lot faster had we wanted too. They had made up beds for us in the tents, each with about 6 blankets. It gets pretty cold at night, but between the blankets and the fact that we were hot from the climb, we were quite warm.

We woke up the next morning in time to see the sun rise above the dunes. We were served breakfast, and before long, we were on our way again. Again, the 2 hour ride on the camels was amazing. Time seemed to almost stand still as we stared out over the miles and miles of dunes. At the same time, the ride flew by, and before we knew it, we were back at the hotel. Highlights from the ride would include 2 of the girls' camels coming untied (they were all tied together - and then the camel just stood there, until the guide came and retied its' rope), and one of the camels biting Sarah. It wasn't hard or too painful - the camel just wanted the rope out of its' mouth. Good times...

We had the same ride back - 45 minutes in the 4x4s, and another 8 hour drive - although this time, our eyes weren't glued to the window as much, and a lot of us napped.

For the rest of our vacation, we had some time to relax, and we were also able to see some of what the North Africa girls do. For me, and I'm sure for the other girls as well, it was awesome to get to see what another team is doing. It's very different from what we do, and of course, their culture, country, and language are also very different. We also had the chance to do a bunch of shopping. We haven't really bought a lot here in Spain, first of all because of the expensive exchange rate from dollars to euros, and secondly, because everything seems pretty much like it does back in the States - just with a European flair. So, we felt rich after going from dollars to euros to the money there. Another highlight from the trip was getting to try a camel burger. It was surprisingly very good, and I would eat it again.

Sorry this is so long, but I had so much I wanted to tell you from our recent adventures! We only have 8 weeks left from today, which is going to fly by. My host mom told us to relax this weekend - and she also said this may be the last chance we have to relax before we leave! We're going to be very busy ... and before we know it, we'll be on a plane again, this time headed back to the US!

Melanie for the team

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How My God Sees Me

Part 1 of 4
Written by Bethany

“I stand in awe that You know my name. Just a glimpse of Your love for me and now I am changed. Because You showed me how to walk a different way. I have peace like I’ve never known. I am living.”
- Natalie Grant

I am currently sitting in a beautiful little café, surrounded by the scent of “pasteles” baking and café con leche brewing. It is currently the siesta hour – the hour when Spain seems to stop moving. People stop running in every different direction and take some time for themselves. The stores close, the streets become lonely walkways, and the sounds of life seem to have become distant memories – if only for a brief moment in time. And I have found this little haven, with soft Jazz playing in the background. I recognize the current tune as “New York, New York.” And I chuckle to myself as I wonder if people here appreciate the tune as much as I do.

And as I take my own form of siesta, I pause to ponder a few things. I pause, fill my lungs with a deep breath of life-giving air, let the exhaustion of the day roll off my shoulders, and allow my mind to process the things I have seen and experienced in the last few weeks. The thoughts are many, and they run through my mind as though they have no direction, but none the less… I write.

I am so thankful for the blessing God has given me in being able to be comfortable in my own skin. It has taken a few years to get here, but I have finally reached a point in my life where I am comfortable to just be me. It has been a journey of self discovery. But being here in Europe, it would be easy to lose sight of all the progress I’ve made – because here, how you look is first and foremost. If you don’t look the part – you’re not worth the time really. This is really hard to explain, unless you’ve experienced it first hand, and since those of you loyal blog-readers aren’t here in Spain with me, I invite you to join me in your mind and I will do my best to allow you the opportunity to see through my eyes.

Riding the subway is a part of the culture in and of itself. Here, as I ride, I feel about as fashionable as Indiana Jones at the Grammys. I sit, in my super comfy Crocs, my well worn pair of Old Navy Jeans, and a sweater I very well may have had since college. (The comfy one I can’t bear to part with.) The only part of me that feels even partially European is the white puffy jacket lined with fur (one I had to purchase here out of necessity) – but even that makes me feel small as I am slowly surrounded and swallowed by the fashionable perfection that enters the Metro car. I sit and take in the images…

My first reaction is shock, as I spot a 3 year old who looks more fashionable than I do…with the tiniest pair of Chucks I have ever seen, and I’m fairly certain a pint sized pair of skinny jeans. A girl the age of 10 or 11 with huge hoop earrings and a designer pair of corduroy jeans which compliment perfectly her boots – with a heel. A boy, 15 at most, clothed from head to toe in skater gear – his hair spiked in all the right places with at least ½ a bottle of Gel. A girl, 18, wearing a pair of heels so pointed I’m not certain even a supermodel would wear them on the runway. It’s freezing outside, but she is wearing a short skirt, a shirt that has hundreds of sequins and perfectly coiffed hair. And as I caught her eye, I just happened to notice the numerous piercings that graced her very make-up covered face. How it looked fashionable I do not know, but put her next to me and I looked like I just rolled out of bed – and I had been up for hours.

I’ve got jewelry, but not the bling that I see around me. I’ve got highlights in my hair, but they look shabby and poor compared to the brilliant colors I see here. And then all of a sudden, I am shot out of my daydream and into reality – where I realize that for me to look like them, I would a) have to sell everything I own to purchase those items, and b) I’d have to move to Europe, cuz in the states, I’d look like a monkey who’d escaped from the zoo.

It is incredible to me how blatantly I stick out here. I thought I might fit in because I speak at least some of the language, can order food at a restaurant, talk on the phone in Spanish, use the subway system and shop without much difficulty. However, as time has passed I’ve realized that the only way I will completely fit in is to become slightly obsessed with my looks, what I wear and how I present myself upon leaving the house.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I take pride in how I look. I enjoy wearing clothes that make me feel good about myself. It is always nice to have someone compliment me. But their kind words are not the reason I dress the way I do. The reason I get up in the morning, and the reason I live my life the way I do, is because I have a God who loves me, just as I am. I don’t have to look a certain way for Him to accept me. I can wear sweatpants, a ratty t-shirt, and slippers all day and He will still tell me in His Word that He loves me. With Him, I fit in… I belong. How absolutely comforting it is to know that, and to be reminded of that in His Word.

Living here, it would be very easy for me to get caught up in the lifestyle – to spend so much time concerned about what I wear and how I look, that I would miss everyday blessings. The simple things that make life beautiful – a newborn child, children playing in the park, the sound of music in the air, the breeze that blows the smell of fresh baked bread my way, the sunset over a Barcelona skyline, and friends laughing. God has given me a chance to experience life without money to spend – and to avoid the temptation of squandering money on material possessions that won’t last 100 years, no less eternity. I’ve got eternity though – so why would I want anything less than what is eternal? I will not allow the “fashionistas” that I ride the subway with every morning to cause me to think less of myself. I will be grateful for the chance to be blessed by the beauty of their colorful and beautiful attire, but I will be blessed more by my God who allows me to live, and love and assures me eternity with Him. It truly doesn’t get much better than that.

A Hurricane? What?

Family and Friends,
Hello from the beautiful country of Spain. And by beautiful I mean wind-bashed, wet and reeling. I am posting this as I am certain that you have either read or heard about the storms that have been battering Eastern Europe, and more specifically Northern Spain and Southern France. I just wanted to write a quick post letting everyone know that everyone here is fine - we survived the ridiculously strong winds and crazy weather. We didn't know much about what was happening yesterday until this morning when I read the news and it turns out that we were in the middle of what they are calling a Level 2 Hurricane... There were winds of 99 mph and people began boarding up their windows and pulling in their clothing off the lines. The roof on our apartment building was damaged, and the roof on the apartment building where Sarah and Audrey are staying was completely broken. A brick was tossed by the wind through the glass covering on the courtyard. Sarah and Audrey watched the glass fall from the safety of their apartment with their host family. We watched as people struggled to walk from place to place and Sarah and audrey reported things flying past their window. Throughout some of yesterday we actually were doing errands through out it all, and we walked down to the church and could see the whitecaps on the water from there. There was a lot of damage to this area, and if you look up on CNN about the 4 boys who were killed by a stadium collapse, that stadium is in the town right next to ours. We are extremely grateful for God's protection over us - we didn't realize how dangerous it actually was because we don't get the newspaper, and we don't watch the news here b/c we are so busy. Maybe we should start! :-)
There are over 1.2 million homes in France without power at this moment, and much of the coast of Spain was battered by the high winds and water. In Barcelona, and in my town there is a lot of damage to buildings and the roads are continuing to be cleared of the fallen trees and trash from houses (tile roofing, rain gutters etc.)
So thank you so much for all of your continued support, love and prayers.

There will be more updates on here soon!

Blessings - Team Spain

Monday, January 12, 2009

The King has his own Holiday?

When I asked my host sister why exactly everything would be closed on the 6th she simply answered "Kings Day" I assumed that this meant the King of Spain had his own holiday and it was oddly close to Christmas. After viewing the parade I learned differently.

The first float was a glitering spinning star, followed closly by the first king. Through out the grandiose parade I was wondering why the theme seemed to be Arabian as opposed to Spanish. The dancing was amazing and the music tantalizing. Each and every float was unique and intricate. The amount of candy throw out from the floats was enough that each child left with pockets bulging. The second and third kings were mixed into the parade but were hard to miss with their floats that shot confetti into the air.

I realized that the three kings were the three kings - the ones from a far that came looking for Jesus, following a star. My realizaton was confirmed when my host father told me about the story of the three Maggi that accompanied the parade.

The next afternoon, we were asked if we would like to accompany our host family and our friends from the church to Port Adventura - to which we answered YES!! After a long train ride along the coast of the Sea, we arrived and found out that Port Adventura is a Universal Studios theme park. We rode rides, some more often than others, and we ate typical Spanish park food... churros and hot chocolate. As we were preparing to leave an announcement came on saying there would be a special water show. The name "water show" did no justice to what we witnessed. There were actors and boats adorned with kings and a star. There were fireworks and colored fountains. The most amazing thing of all though, was that the entire show was set to typical Christmas carols sung in English. I was moved to tears by the grandure of the show, and by the overwhelming presence of God that the people seemed to be unaware of. I knew then that we are needed here, if only to live as a Christian example.

May you be loved and blessed wherever you may be.