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.