Friday, October 28, 2011

new adventures await!

So tomorrow morning we leave for Oaxaca at 8am... I'm SO excited to explore and learn all about the history of this extremely indigenous state that I feel I've heard SO much about. Also, we are going to be there for los Dias de los Muertos, which is one of the hugest celebration/festivals/fiestas in México! SO stoked to be apart of it and experience first hand what I've learned about since 5th grade in Spanish classes! We had a halloween party at our directors house tonight. It was super funny because everyone got super creative and came up with comstumes based on the clothes that they had in their closets. So funny! Whelp, I better pack, but I just wanted to let you faithful followers know what awaits me this coming week! We get back on Thursday the 3rd, late that night, and from that day 33 days until we come home. That is INSANITY! 3 and a half weeks of school left after this trip. 5 weeks and 3 days as of right now. It's unreal to me. I adore this place and absolutely have fallen in love with the life style. Although I have become so comfortable and at home here, I know that when the morning of December 6th rolls around, I will be so ready to come home and see all of you beautiful people! Continue praying that I will BE where God has me right now, and that I will continue to seek him and his plan for me in these next 5 weeks. Love you all!
 Mrs. Peacock, Elastagirl, cutest panda ever, rey misterio and a lion... Nicely done ladies
Mr. Pumpkin piñata got destroyed soon after this was taken, as did the broom we used to beat him

Sunday, October 23, 2011

for our culture class we had to write an essay about our faith and how we feel we've grown these past two months... I thought it was only appropriate to share it with my faithful crew of readers, to share with you guys where I'm at in this stage of the game. So here it goes. I hope it gives you an insight into my heart and what God is doing in me and hopefully through me!

When I met with my sweet friend Sally before leaving for this trip, she spoke incredible wisdom into my life and inspired me with this scripture.  Hosea 2:14,19 say, “Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.  I will betroth you to me forever, I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.  I will betroth you in faithfulness and you will acknowledge the Lord.”  She said that she really felt like these four months away were going to be the beginning of my love story with Jesus.  Another friend sent me this scripture, “Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear; forget your people and your father’s house.  The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your Lord” (Psalm 45:10-11). 
August 12, 2011… Hasta la vista bebe!  “Well Lord, here we go! I cannot believe this semester is already here! I feel like I’ve been preparing for this adventure forever, and now that it’s here I am in awe.  As of right now my heart is so anxious and excited about what this is going to look like. I pray Lord that you will mold my heart to love you more and to every day spend time in your word.  I desire to grow in you in these next four months! Open my heart!”  I wrote this on the first leg of our flight to Houston, and I remember bawling tears of joy and excitement, anxiousness and expectancy.  Knowing that God had amazing things in store for me in these four months in Mexico, I was so anxious to see how his plan played out in my life here.  On the plane I started reading the book “Passion & Purity” by Elizabeth Elliot.  She writes, “Lord, I have said the eternal YES.  Let me never, having put my hand to the plough, look back.  Make straight the way of the cross before me.  Give me love, that there may be no room for a wayward thought or step”.  This passage, obviously, jumped off of the page for me.  At that point sitting on the plane, this is exactly how my heart was feeling.  “I said yes to you Lord, make straight the way of the cross before me here in Mexico!  Give me love overflowing and help me to follow your plan for me.” 
One thing that God has reveled to me is the importance of time in his word.  Because of the spaced out schedule that we are so blessed to have here, I have a tremendous amount of time to spend in the word.  At home previously, I tended to see that spiritual discipline as something that was great for me when I had time, but I had a struggled to make time for it.  Since the very first week, the Lord has placed on my heart a burning desire to spend time diving into his word, and discovering new truths that I have never had time to truly ponder.  As I look back on my beginning diary entries, I realize how many of the pages are full of scripture.  In the beginning of the semester I read Romans.  I always knew that this book was full of incredible encouragement, but never before had I taken the time to really submerge myself in it.  Through reading this book God fueled me with a great number of new truths to cling to about his character.  In turn, these truths about his character confirmed and encouraged me in my identity in him, especially amidst the hard times.  “Yet she did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in her faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21).  In reading this verse I found immense comfort in the truth that God did not call me out to Mexico, and send me alone.  In fact he came with me, and promised to complete the work in me that he started in August.  Another verse that encouraged me is Romans 8:18 that says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Sara Barr and I were both having a super hard time at this point in the semester (September 7) with being content and joyful here.  We both missed our men painfully and wrestled with questions like, “why are we here for so long??”, “this semester is never going to end”, and “I just wish I was back at Westmont”.  However, God met us both there and used each other to remind us that he has us here for a specific reason, which he is going to reveal to us through experiences and different conversations here.    
With that being said, another major theme of this semester for me is learning to trust God’s plan for my next five semesters at Westmont and beyond into my future.  I have the strange obsession with checking webadvisor and the course catalog and trying to plan out my life.  This is the way that I love to procrastinate and avoid doing other work that is clearly more important and pressing.  I found myself with an entire screen full of sticky notes with possible life plans, semester plans and class selections.  Knowing that I want to major in Spanish, I set up a date with Mary when she was here to plan out my Spanish life at Westmont.  Literally the next week when we were talking in Engaging Cultures class about the idea of spirituality and religion here in Mexico and I popped off with the random thought “maybe I should be an Religious Studies major??”.  On my way home I talked with Jennifer, who is a Religious Studies major, and we talked about how amazing of an opportunity we have to study under the wise RS professors at Westmont.  I told her that God has the funniest sense of humor with me.  Right when I think “my plan” is all set, he throws a curve ball in there, and reminds me of another passion I have.  Now I just laugh, because even though he keeps bringing other things into the mix, they are things that I could completely see myself doing.  I feel that being away has really allowed me to assess my values and the passions that I have and come to a place of, “Ok Lord, literally whatever you have for me, I am one hundred percent in”, which has been the coolest process ever.  I feel so incredibly certain that God’s plan is going to be one thousand times better than anything that I could ever plan up myself, and so I’m learning to rest in that truth and completely trust him in whatever he has for my life.
Relationships are another aspect of my life that are growing and being developed and strengthen as I am away.  As I am out of the Westmont bubble, and away from the close friends that I made freshman year, God has revealed to me those relationships that are truly encouraging and edifying.  Not only has he shown me the people who I truly value back at school, but also he has brought new and incredible friends into my life here among the team.  We have the most incredible conversations about how God is showing himself faithful to us in all circumstances, and also encourage each other with scripture!  He is so amazingly sovereign that he knows exactly what we need!  I need to be surrounded by fun friends who I can laugh with and who can appreciate who I am, but also who can challenge me in my faith and walk with our Lord.  At Westmont he was faithful in providing those people for me, in my close section mates and my boyfriend.  Saying goodbye to Wesley was so incredibly hard.  However, he is so supportive of my following God’s plan, so I knew that I had his blessing in leaving.  God has allowed us to grow in a deeper and has knit our hearts together over, even through our limited communication with Skype and texting.  September 21, 2011… “AHH!  Wesley sent me a letter and it just came!!! I praise you that we inspire each other to love you more.  Would you allow us to maintain that in the forefront of our relationship.”  As hard as it was to leave, I would not trade this time away from him for the world.  I feel that God knew that he needed to take me away from what was comfortable and known to really reveal to me how sufficient he is for me, and that a solid relationship with him is more fulfilling than any other relationship in this world.  Being an incredibly relational person, the time away from the people that I love so dearly has allowed me to redefine my identity in the Lord and to be rejuvenated in the truth of his word. 
Also, he has placed on my heart an immense desire and passion for lifting my friends up in prayer.  Twenty day after I get home from this trip, I leave for a mission’s trip to India with a group from my church including my family and Wes.  In this time away, God has allowed me to pray for the team and to realize that the trip we are about to take off on should not for a second be about us.  It is easy for short-term missions teams to focus too much on themselves as a group, and in doing so, neglect to keep Jesus at the forefront.  Missing the team meetings has been tough, but has forced me to fully rely on God’s ability to unite us together from far away, and really unite us when we are on the ground in India.  Also, I am joining the Vespers team at Westmont in the spring when I get back.  It has been so neat to be away from the team this semester and pray that God would use them in humility to lead people into a place of worship.  We as Christians frequently use the term, “I am praying for you”, but fail to actually pray for the person.  This is something that I have felt convicted of lately, and am learning to become disciplined in.  I have an incredible ability to pray for my needs, but I forget to lift up the needs of those who are close to me.  In this way God is developing my heart and causing me to focus more on others.
With regards to the Mexican community, I am amazed by their devout spirituality.  In class a few times we have discussed the issue of religion and spirituality, both in the time of the conquests and today.  A few questions have been raised for me, which I am not sure I will ever find answers to.  I would love to know what God thinks of the rituals held in the Catholic Church, of the veneration of the Virgin and their method of verbal confession.  I am not saying that these things are wrong, nor do I hold the typical stereotype of the Catholic religion that they worship saints and Mary.  I simply desire to understand if their view of sanctification and justification align with Gods view of us, and our need for the grace of a savior.  My dad was raised catholic and struggled that his relationship with Jesus did not feel personal.  I am coming to believe that salvation is dependent on one’s relationship with the Lord and faith in his sovereignty as Lord.                         
Before I left I invited family and friends over to pray and send me off with a blessing.  I felt so encouraged by the support of those near to me as I took off on this adventure.  My prayer requests were: to be fully present here and really enjoy the time that God has divinely appointed for me here, to rely on God’s power and that he would be sufficient for me, to develop my linguistic abilities and to listen as God revealed new things to me about his character.  I can honestly say at week ten, God has come through with every one of these requests.  Not only has he given me peace in being here, but also he has caused me to absolutely fall in love with who he is.  The time that I spend in the word fuels me to live every day joyfully, the friends surrounding me inspire me to love him more and the language provides another lens through which I see his love for all of his children on display.  In my life thus far this is the most formative time that I have ever encountered and I feel so blessed that I have forty-four days left to learn and grow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

catchin you up

Friends! I am sorry that it's been a while since I've written you to alert you to all of the exciting things that are happening here in Queretaro! Last weekend my sweet parents and sister came to visit me. When I walked into their room it was pretty much unreal. It seemed like I hadn't seen them in forever! The best part was that my mom was wearing muy sweater... and apparently in the airport she said, "aww man, now Sarah's gonna know that I've been raiding her closet!" So classic I love it.
We went out to dinner with a few of the friends from the group, and then I spent the night with them in their hotel. I actually stayed with them every night because it would feel so weird to have them there and not be with them! Friday we hung out and adventured around the centro. I took them to my favorite museum and a few of the awesome churches around. We ate at the most beautiful restaurant, and sat and talked forever. Then we went to my house so they could meet my sweet mama mexicana! She had coffee and cookies all set up outside and we sat around, and I translated. It was super strange, but I did it! She took us to a few historic places in the city that she felt they needed to see, and then we went over to our directors house so my fam could meet the rest of the group. It was super fun to introduce them to everyone, and we ended up playing fishbowl in spanish which was an excelent way for them to see the personalities of the group!!
My senora had work Saturday, so she couldn't entertain us that day, which was totally fine. So we went to a bullfight instead... naturally haha. As we were walking into the stadium my mom looks over and says, "ohh hey look, there's a pyramid!". It was the pyramid that we went to for our art class earlier in the month, but it was so hilarious how nonchalantly it popped out of nowhere. Only in mexico. So we watched to bullfight, that was incredibly different that the other one we went to. It was more of a smalltown thing. There was this group of guys who lined up facing the bull, and ran at it one at a time, trying to grab it by the horns and ride it. Okay, i almost had a heart attack, as did everyone else in the stadium. It was terrifying. Then we went to a super gorgeous dinner on the patio of a restaurant overlooking this plaza. Sitting with my family and my closest friends here, feasting and enjoying the slow pace of the Saturday night was so epic. I absolutely loved having my family here to meet the friends that God has blessed me with here! The funniest thing about our dinner was that we ordered Mexican pizza. When the waiter brought the tray to our table I was incredibly shocked to see a shot of tequila sitting on it. Where on earth is that going? Either Lindsay's pasta, or our pizza. The man proceeds to light the shot on fire and pour it on our pizza. Strangest thing of my life.
The next morning we walked to my house from their hotel, so they could see my school, our favorite panaderia (bread shop) and the surroundings that make up my walk. Also, they were going to take home some of the gift stuff that I have already bought so we needed to pack it all up! My senora was sick that day, which was a huge bummer, but we got to wander around the centro again and then sat down to the most relaxing lunch! My dad and I ordered Arrachera which is this super delicious cut of steak. After we had taken an hour to eat our entre's we ordered coffee and dessert and sat for another hour. Then we walked around somemore, and that night met up with the friends at our favorite crepe shop. Finding Nemo was playing in the little kid room, which was perfect, and we all sat feasting on our nutella and strawberry, chocolate and banana crepes, talking about the coolest most encouraging stuff.
I realized how much I admire my parents this past weekend. I love how wise they are, and how they are so incredibly fun. Not to mention the fact that they are hilarious! My sweet sister is so amazing. When we played fishbowl she described 6 random people, some of whom were lady gaga (which she described as inappropriate, yes, that's great parenting) snoop dog (thanks brian) and harriet beecher stowe (that one she wrote herself). Needless to say, the girl is amazing. I am so blessed by my family and adore them to pieces! However, I did miss my brother tremendously. But I will see him in 44 short days! Praise the Lord for homeschooling! If it wasn't for that, they wouldn't have been able to visit! Great call parents. Love you guys so much!

Having them here was perfect timing. I was starting to feel kind of stagnant, like the next 8 weeks were a bother and weighing me down. I felt discouraged that I had so long to go. But my mom read her Jesus Calling, and of course it was perfectly applicable and encouraging. The verse was Hebrews 12:1-2 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE THE RACE MARKED OUT FOR US. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the trone of God." 
This was exactly what I needed to be encouraged in! God has me here for another 6 weeks. It is a part of his perfect design that I am here for another month and a half to learn all that he has for me. He is not done revealing his character to me, so I remain here until he sees fit for me to leave. I am so excited to see how I continue to grow! Continue praying that I'll be present and soak it all up!

 Best Chile Relleno of his life with his beautiful wife 
 Just doesn't look right without one Mr. Bman
 Girlie love
 Still doesn't look the same without b
 YES! I just noticed the girls in the back of this picture. Nicely done. Photo bomb=success
My mommy whom I adore

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sierra Gorda... Heaven on earth

This weekend we went on a four day trip to the Sierra Gorda. I had NO idea what to expect in going here, but what I found was better than I could have EVER imagined. We ended up in the middle of this JUNGLE forest where communities had landed and Junipero Serra founded 5 missions. Being from California, and doing an entire project on the California missions, this was SO awesome for me to see the origins! Although, the missions in themselves were 100% more decorated than the ones in California, because they were all in the barroc style! We adventured through the jungle, ended up at unbelievable waterfalls, hiked and swam in these little pools that were naturally flowing through the estate of Edward James, jumped off of high things (which I decided is one of my favorite things to do of all time), ate fish, had four scoops of ice cream for dinner (paid for by Laura!), cooked together and played banana grams, laughed while the boys found scorpions and GIGANTIC spiders in their room, watched the notebook on the bus, laughed, sang and marveled at the wonder of our Creator's hands. 
I realized this weekend that I'm not as much of a city girl as I once thought I was... Queretaro is a wonderful place and I am growing to love it with all of my heart. But I hadn't realized how deprived I was of wilderness exploring! I experience God's love and power in nature, and so this weekend was incredibly refreshing for me. Also, it marked our half way point here in the semester, which was PERFECT. After this weekend I feel refreshed and so encouraged that God has us here for a reason. He is in the process of revealing that to me, and the rest of the group aswell. You can be praying for our unity though. We are all finding that it is a fantastic benefit not all living together 24/7 because after this weekend I am convinced that we might kill each other. Love everyone, but I am realizing that I DEFINITELY need my alone time to escape and be refilled. My family comes thrusday, minus Bri which is a SUPER huge bummer, but I totally understand. College apps call, and I will support his work on them over coming here any day. I cannot WAIT to see them and to spend time with them, showing them around the place that has become my home for these four months. The rest of this month is going to fly, and I am well aware of that... SO with that being said, continue to pray that I will be present here and take EVERY opportunity that comes to speak Spanish and be in the culture. I can't believe that I've been here for more days than I have left (does that make sense, not sure, it did in my head). I have one month and 25 days. It's craziness. I CAN DO IT. 

Here are some pictures from our awesome adventure this weekend.
Caution: the pictures you are about to see will make you extremely envious of me and my expierence here in Mexico. Also, they absolutely do not do justice to the things that I saw this past weekend, but hopefully you will enjoy them and get a glimpse into the wonder of creation that is the Sierra Gorda.

 View from the pyramid

 shannon, me, emily and jennifer
 Naturally we're riding in the back of a truck in the jungle to a waterfall!!! 
 Las chicas tan bonitas

 This one's for you linds... these are the first missions that junipero serra started in the Sierra Gorda, then he went to California and founded all of the other ones!!!
 The surrealist art/house of edward james
 coolest tree house ever
 jumping spot... top ledge please (go big or go home right dad&mr root??)
 Spiral staircase 50 feet in the air, this would never fly in the states! No hand rails! Safety hazard. 
 Sotano... This massive cave that is 500 meters deep. These sparrows fly from Alcupulco to here in the Sierra Gorda every day to sleep in this gigantic cavern. They all gather around overhead and circle around for about 10 minutes, and then the leader DIVE BOMBS into the cave and they all follow suit. It sounded like a heavy rainstorm. The most amazing exposition of God's power I think I've ever seen.
 Our hostel, on the side of the jungle mountains. This was our breakfast table. Yes please.
 Lanchas (canoes) that we paddled up this gorgeous river in.
 Dream team.
 Our final destination. We jumped off of the rock on the right. The top part that's cut off in the picture. It was epic.
Cool tree roots!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

BEST WEEKEND EVER! that's for you P family :)

So, we went on our first adventure this weekend, and just got home a little bit ago. I wanted to write all of the things that came to mind about the places we went before they escape my brain or get overridden by our next trip which is thursday! But, I will take time to write stories about each place when my brain is more alert and I don't have homework to finish :)
in the meantime... here ya go!

Dolores Hidalgo
-pan dulce
-beautiful church
-the place where Hidalgo delivered the first grito in Mexico

San Miguel de Allende
-beautiful streets
-mexican buffet... 100% better than any buffet in the states. I ate chile relleno for you daddio!
-artesian market. Hey mom and dad, remember when I asked you to bring an extra suitcase when you come in two weeks? Ya, that is definitely going to be necessary. What can I say, CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!

-500 year old mine
-the most incredibly hotel ever (dad, all I could think about was how much you would LOVE IT!)
-hugest staircase of all time infront of the university, where we naturally took group model shots :)
-delicious four course meal serenaded by violin and piano
-callejón del beso (to be explained in detail when I'm not falling asleep)
-more christmas presents
-underground streets
-colorful houses on the hillsides
-Jesus bamboozle ALL UP IN MY FACE last night/this morning on the rooftop of our hotel

We had the MOST UNBELIEVABLE group bonding this weekend! When you stick 15 people in a yellow bus with stadium seating, personal space evaporates! We absolutely DIED laughing pretty much the whole way from San Miguel to Guanajuato last night. We were listening to classic rock and a hilarious mix of songs from junior high, singing to the top of our lungs, and seeing who knew all of the words to Vanilla Ice and Baby Got Back. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable weekend!

I'll elaborate more later! Love you all!