“passage or progress from one stage to another”
I think we all know that I’m over here on a journey, living in another country with an intention to actually live the other country: meaning adaptation to culture, language, food, people, etc. But aren’t we all on our own journey? Wherever you are you are progressing from one stage to another, from one starting point to a finish line. Sometimes we don’t know when or where that finish line will be but we continue in faith and determination.
The journey I want to focus on specifically is my spiritual journey. Now if you’re anything like me, after reading that you might say ok… this girl has gotten “spiritual” and boom just like that I’ve lost your interest. I say “just like me” because that is exactly how I used to be. When someone I knew suddenly got a passion for God I would shrug them off, putting them in a special category and they would become “less cool” in my book. I don’t know how or why that started, especially because I’ve been claiming Christianity all my life. Yeah I believed in God and I went to church when I felt like it, put on a good image when necessary, but never lived a good example. When someone would ask me to share what I believed or why I believed what I did, I would become super uncomfortable and try to answer the questions as quickly as possible a lot of times diminishing the reality of it and even turning it into a joke! Coming from a Christian society I was never tested or questioned. It was normal not to eat pork. Everyone at my school either went to church or supported my going without a second thought.
Then I came to Spain. Before I left I had a book and a lot of my friends wrote to me in it with advice, love, words of wisdom, etc. One person in particular advised me saying, “always keep God on a first name basis.” He then shared a bit of his past and how when looking back, the moments he wasn’t “tight” with God were when he was on that road in the opposite direction. Reading his words I was like yeah, I’ve got this. And I really believed I had. I’d heard a lot about people becoming closer to God while oversees, their trials becoming a foundation for their new-found relationship. When I got here I googled a few churches, went to a couple, didn’t like them – mostly because I didn’t understand Spanish at that point, and then stopped. I decided that when I became more fluent, I’d try again. I still shot up a quick prayer before my meals and thought about God sometimes… usually when someone asked why I didn’t eat pork, but that was the extent of my spiritual “growth.” I can count on one hand the number of times I opened my bible last year. As expected, I started to play with temptations… of course always making them justifiable. I never felt that I was really doing anything wrong. The more you play, the easier it gets. Staying out on a Friday night until 6 – 7am made it impossible for me to want to attempt to go to church again. I was living the Spanish dream! And it was a blast! I met a lot of great people and did a lot of fun things. I do believe that everything happens for a reason and maybe if I hadn’t been in that mental state, I wouldn’t have met and become close to certain people – so for that I’m incredibly grateful because those people I met are incredible and have made a huge impact on my life. But my fault was that I didn’t stay true to my morals and values and the things that I believed made me who I was.
In all of that, God never left me. Randomly at the end of the year I started going to church again. It was nice and I always felt better afterwards but nothing really stuck with me. Of course when I was having problems with my visa or where I would be staying when I came back I would pray about it and I felt that God was leading me to come back. And that’s what happened. I went back to the states for a good portion of the summer, showed off that I was a new person – that Spain had changed me. And while it did, in certain aspects, at that moment, I don’t know that it was all for good. My view of the world did change though, and my eyes were opened to the drastic difference in mentality between a majority of Americans and most of the other world. I played that card a lot. I wanted people to truly believe that my year over here had made me a better person, that one of my favorite quotes was actually happening, “every day in every way I am getting better and better.”
I left to come back to Spain for the second round relying on that little faith I did have that everything would work itself out. It did, of course, but it was far from easy. I had decided that I would try going to church again even to a vespers on Friday! I met a few people and they were super friendly and open but I didn’t feel like I belonged. I was still shy about my level of Spanish and to talk about my relationship with God, even in English was a struggle! There was a period where I had no place to live. It was a very stressful week trying to get it all worked out. I ended up finding a place that would be temporary for a month before moving to the place where I am now. It was quite far from the city center so each trip in took up a large chunk of time. But out there in the boonies I started to feel lonely. I had moved out of my family’s house and was with two people who were really nice but I just didn’t know them well. It was there that I first allowed God to speak to me. I had been reading through Jane Austen’s novels like crazy and it got to the point that on Saturday I felt that I should take a break from novels and read something spiritual – my way of Sabbath keeping. I started with the Great Controversy. If you want to read my thoughts and comments on that let me know and I will share them with you, but long story short I went from a state of shock, to fear, to peace and love… all within three chapters. My hunger for God started to grow and turned into a craving. I had never read through the Bible before. A couple times I had started those yearly plans and I think one time made it to Exodus. I decided I needed something quick so I would have no excuse. Sometimes intensive therapy is necessary. I started looking at 90 day plans… 60 day plans… 30 day plans… a 26 day plan… Boom. That was it. The 26 day plan was to read 40 chapters of the OT and 10 of the NT daily…. So that’s 50 chapters a day. I spent enough time on the metro, I decided I would do it. And thus began my challenge. It got tough. There were lots of parts I didn’t understand and I couldn’t stop and explore them because I had so much to read. But there is something to be said when you finish that last word of Revelation and you hold your Bible thinking WOW…. I legitimately just read that whole book! To be fair, I did slow down near the end and ended up finishing in 30 days but with thanks to God, I did finish. That was just the beginning. I had been talking to one of my mentors back home and would ask her things as questions popped up. She offered to begin a bible study with me reading along side Ellen White. My fascination for EGW had increased after starting with the Great Controversy and I readily agreed, excited that I would begin to understand the Bible!
This journey I’ve been on has been such an amazing experience. God is truly working at every point of my life! There was one day I was sitting at home wearing my 49ers t-shirt, 49ers PJ bottoms, wrapped in my 49ers blanket, watching the 49ers play in the NFC championship game, all by myself in my bedroom in the middle of the night. And as we all know and are stoked about…. They won!!! I was literally jumping up and down in my room!! But they were soft jumps, you know, what you do when you don’t want to wake up anyone in your house… I couldn’t scream or shout or cheer out loud, and it was tough!!! I was texting people from home like crazy, trying to share in their excitement, posting facebooks statuses and liking all of them that mentioned the niners. Then my cousin said dude, you should totally fly out here for the Super Bowl, it’d be worth it! Jokingly I responded by saying yeah if you pay for it! He said how much… and I began to look. I found a ticket and told him I’d go halfsies on it with him. He said well that’s kind of a lot of money but if we can get a bunch of people to put down a little bit, we can make it work! He then put it as his facebook status and I followed suit. Needless to say, and I’m sure you’re all aware, we raised enough money to purchase the ticket without it being too expensive for him or I! It was incredible!!! (PS thank you to alllll of you that contributed!!!) I still needed to clear it with my boss and praying the whole way I knew that if my boss said yes, it was a done deal. And sure enough without even a second thought he gave me permission!!! When I went to buy the ticket, the price had dropped $100! I knew God was working. There was a reason He was sending me home. And while I thought it was for the Super Bowl, there was a part of me that knew it was bigger than that.
Less than two weeks later I was on a flight home, for three days packed with love. I didn’t plan on seeing a lot of people because my time would be so short but I spent one day camped out at the coffee shop so I would see as many people as I could that could come. Throughout the weekend I had some incredible conversations, some deep, some fun, some inspiring, some sad… but every single one was a blessing. I was able to surprise my 10am customer crew at the coffee shop! I can still picture the look on everyone’s face as I walked up to say hello. I’d be an idiot to ever doubt I was loved because right there in that moment I felt more love than I can express. I know you guys read this and I want you to know that surprising you guys was one of my highlights of the weekend. I miss serving you more than you know and I appreciate all the love you have shown me over the years. And here is a special shout out to Bill!! ( I promised it to ya 😉 )
I had heard that the new pastor at Elmshaven was pretty good. That he had inspiration, a passion for preaching, and that the church was growing. I couldn’t believe it… Elmshaven growing?? But I wanted to see it for myself so I made plans to go. Willingly go to Elmshaven… mom I know you can’t believe it. I went with three amazing friends and we sat there together, in community, truly blessed by the words we were hearing. I don’t think I had ever felt so many chills during a sermon. The entire day we discussed what he had said and applied it to our lives, reenacting different gestures he had used. It felt so amazing to be able to share it with my people. To share it… to share my thoughts on God, and the entire day. That was a feeling I had never experienced before! And just another shout out… if you guys haven’t heard of this guy or you’re looking for a spark, I encourage you to check him out. He brings the gospel to life!
Needless to say, God had refueled my fire. By the time the Super Bowl came around, I was already so blessed and had had such an incredible couple of days that I didn’t really care who won! As amazing as it would have been to leave in the 49ers victory, I was still glad I got to watch it with the people I was with. And it was such a good feeling waking up the next day to emails and texts from my friends, family, and students in Spain… telling me how sorry they were that my team lost! None of them care about American football, but they all paid a special interest on my behalf! I was leaving the love at home to come back to the love in Spain. And to sum up my weekend, yes, my cousin was right, it was definitely more than worth it to go home for the Super Bowl.
Since coming back, God has continued to work in my life. My hunger for His word continues daily, I’ve found an English speaking church on Saturday evenings that has helped my sense of community and belonging. I feel more at home at my Spanish church in the mornings. I went on a spiritual retreat last weekend and was overwhelmed with God and his presence. I sit here and ask myself why I’m sharing this with all of you. Why now, the first time in my life, have I publically opened up my spirituality? It’s because what I’m learning about God and what I’m feeling from Him is so powerful, I can’t help but share it! My old fear of losing friends because “I’ve gone off the deep end in spirituality” is gone. If this is who I am, why would I hesitate to share? I want you to know me for me. I want to share my passion with you! I’m not perfect – as you all know.. I’m far from it! But what I am is in love with God and on a spiritual journey. Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.