Dec 22, 2011

Home Sweet Home

A big thank you to my dear sister Amber for so kindly (& bluntly) pointing out that I have been back in the States for almost TWO weeks & still have not bad. It's been a crazy month!

 A lot of mixed emotions during my last week in Peru. We started out with a trip to the nearby city of Arequipa. It was a crazy 7 hour bus ride up into the mountains, & it was an absolutely beautiful city! And guess what? They had a Starbucks!!! I never realized how heavenly the aroma of Starbucks coffee was until I went without it for 3 months. Haha!

 One of the things that impacted me the most about the trip to Arequipa was our trip to the Santa Catalina Monastery. This picture is actually of a different Cathedral; I couldn't get a good pic of the outside of Santa Catalina because it was so massive! The Monastery covered about 5 was crazy. I have a ton to say about that, so I'll save it. Hopefully I'll actually crank out a post about it, but I don't have a great track record for writing what I intend to, so if you feel like it, just ask me about it sometime & I'll share. =)

 I flew out of Tacna the 10th at around 8 am, & I got to my sister's house in Wisconsin at about 4 am the next day. That afternoon my mom & I drove up to school, & that's where the next phase of craziness began. Helloooooo reverse culture shock, climate shock, health issues, FINALS, friends, PIANO, was a bit overwhelming the first few days! This sounds really strange, but on Monday one of the most overwhelming things for me was just how many white people were all around me speaking English! For the past 3 months I had the same 10-12 people around me that I could speak English to, otherwise I was immersed in Spanish. Now suddenly there were a TON of people all speaking a language I could comprehend without having to concentrate on translation. It felt like my brain was trying to take in every word that every person around me was saying all at once...headache!

Besides the initial feeling of being overwhelmed with all the English, It was SO wonderful to catch up with my family (for half a day), and some of my close friends at school that I was able to sit down with & catch up a bit even in the busyness of finals week =)

There were some difficult things though that came along with all of the catching up. Outside of the circle of about 10-15 people that emailed with me & kept up, there were a lot of people who I hadn't seen in 3 months that had no idea what I had been doing all semester! Suddenly I found myself in conversations that went a little something like this: "Hey! You were in....Spain?, wow you're tan! You had a great time, huh?" I hate to say it, but I found myself getting do you sum up the incredible experiences, friendships, trials, growth, pain, & joys of three months abroad? It was one of the best semesters I've had, but it was also some of the most trying 3 months of my life, and I've found that when I try to explain that paradigm I get some blank stares...I need to learn how to communicate! Haha!

I have roughly 200 journal pages from this past semester; some with big, bold, happy letters expressing the joy of new experiences, new friends, glad days.  Others are filled with my "comfort" verses, & stained with tears. There are pages with prayer requests for my new Peruvian friends who live in ViƱani; who every day struggle just to get meals on the table. And next to those prayers, I have requests for friends & family who are on the other side of the world, going through trials that are on a different level, but still weigh heavily on my heart. Prayer has never been so "real" to me...whether it's because I finally had no other choice but to pray for the impossible when I was burdened with needs of those around me...needs I could never possibly meet. Needs that only God can meet. Or because I couldn't be there to hug my friends when they were on the other side of the phone in tears because of the pain they were facing...I could not be physically with them, so prayer became a tangible way I could express my love for them even when I was so far away.

The first journal pages after I returned to school expressed my mixed emotions; frustration with feeling like an outsider, but also the encouragement that came after catching up with friends. The busyness of finals is a difficult time to be dropped back into another culture. God has changed me a lot in the past three months, but His work has not been isolated to Peru. All of my friends have changed a lot too! And it's all happened in ways I can't understand because I wasn't there. But it was very encouraging to be able to sit down with 2-3 of my closest friends & hear about the tools God used in their lives this semester to change them to be more like Christ.

My most recent journal pages are covered in "Rock" verses...Verses that affirm God's stability in the midst of never-ending change. I'm still adjusting to some "American" things that I have been around for years, but suddenly view in a new way. And now that I've had some time to sit & really consider what took place over the past three months, how God has worked, and what He has revealed about me, I'm seeing myself in a different way. Finally surrendering to the fact that I have been bought with a price; I am not my own, & my life needs to be a constant pursuit to give God the glory. Even if it means giving up some of my own rights for the sake of serving others.

I want to thank all of you who have kept up with me, & prayed for me. I cannot express how much it means & how thankful I am for that support! It has been the hardest/most incredibly challenging/best 3 months and I can hardly believe it's over, but I am thankful to be home with my family for Christmas =)

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you[...]For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-18