Wednesday, March 2, 2011

puntos y pancake mix

february was kind of rough.

i welcomed it into my life, to be sure. i would understand if i'd cursed it before it even began, if i had already begun to spite its existence before january had breathed its last breath. but, the thing is, i was glad when february arrived. to me, it would come bearing promises of new fruits and new adventures, beckoning to me with its forecasts of abundant sunshine, a week at the beach and mornings full of new mercies and undeserved grace.

i'm trying to be fair here, february, but you never really stood a chance. where do i start?

one week in particular really stands out to me. on a monday, three of the girls and i got really, profoundly lost in a very dangerous part of the city and probably should have died, but a stern, fatherly bus driver saw fit to save us from such a fate and rescued us from the horrors that surely awaited us. we all woke up the next day, feeling a little stupid but alive, and ventured on with our lives, sure that that was enough horror for the week and every day from there on out would be filled with lollipops and flowers in bloom.

wrong. that night, i accidentally set one of my favorite shirts on fire and probably almost burned down the five story church in which we live. mortified, i went to bed crying that night and wished for a swift death. as luck would have it, the final destination gods seemed to have heard me, and the week of terrors continued.

wednesday, we started our last week of VBS, this time in arguably one of the most dangerous barrios in which we work. all was going pretty swimmingly until snack time rolled around. i consider myself to be a relatively good authority figure, despite my small stature, so i was content to play the part of the giver of the cheese puffs. i happily handed them out, kid by kid, but some came to me again and again and just begged for more cheesy goodness. i gave in for the third and fourth and fifth rounds, but one of the kids was just being a brat, pushing down the smaller children as they stood in line and causing general mayhem.

i don't love kids. really, i don't. and when this chico started to push my buttons, i decided i'd had enough of it and told him he needed to leave me alone and stop being a brat (well, not quite, but that's what i REALLY wanted to say, and probably would have said, if i'd known the appropriate spanish equivalent). a few seconds later, homeboy comes back WITH A PIECE OF BROKEN GLASS and takes a stab at my hand in an effort to split open the plastic bag of goodies, and, i don't know, make cheese puffs rain from the sky.

it wasn't exactly a day ruiner, but it surely didn't make me love kids much more than i had at the beginning of this entire venture, and i felt sure that it was a sign from God that he'd abandoned our VBS project and we should probably do the same.

which brings me to thursday.

caty and i don't have doorknobs (even to this day), and we began to lock ourselves in quite frequently until we hatched a new plan and just (quite unintelligently) stuck a hair of haircutting scissors through the hole instead. we nicked ourselves quite a bit, but these little cuts were a small price to pay to be able to open and close our door as we pleased. and so, thursday morning, a few of the girls and i were goofing off in the hallway, pretending to stretch before we started our new workout routine on our five flights of stairs, and i literally ran STRAIGHT into the door and jabbed my forearm riiiiiiight into the scissors.

one cut-up pair of clown pants (don't worry about it), a half hour in the E.R. and three stitches later, all was well again. well, my arm hurt, and it was covered in gauze and our team leader made me wear a makeshift sling and i felt slightly nauseous from the pain meds, but i gladly took the opportunity to miss an afternoon of VBS and put on my horse dress and headed to the local cafe to sit and enjoy the afternoon. it had been a rough week so far, but how could it get worse? things would surely look up soon.

friday passed without major consequence, and saturday was pretty swell, too. sunday, my pastor from home (the wonderful chris seay) came into town and surprised us, taking us to a tango show that night. and it was just beautiful! the talent was unbelievable, the steak delectable, and the wine and champagne gladly welcomed after a stressful week.

the next day (valentine's day...again, don't worry about it) arrived and we felt hopeful and ready for the new week. then, chris called. bad news. a sweet, sweet girl from our home church, ecclesia, was losing her battle with cancer, and quickly. chris decided to catch a flight home that night and told us to meet him at his hotel for one last quick meeting before he jetted out.

and then, our worlds got turned upside down. significant changes were made to the program, no questions asked, and our team was told to just trust in this time of uncertainty that everything would be okay, that the men who made these decisions knew what they were doing. all of a sudden everything was crazy again. we felt startled, unsure of our futures, divided and torn and confused and sad and oh, just about every emotion you can imagine.

the next morning felt how surely the morning after an earthquake or significant natural disaster must feel to its survivors. we woke up, feeling dazed and sad, and it took a split second before we all remembered where the bad feeling was coming from. oh, yes. yes, i remember now, i understand why my spirit feels broken and my hopes lost.

later that day we remembered that chris had come bearing treats sent by my gracious and dear brother-in-law. really though, i could hardly be bothered by them at that point in time. i was too depressed to be thankful for peanut butter, too melancholy for pancake mix, so i pushed both back into the cabinet and tried to forget about the previous eight days, or really, about the last five months.

here's the thing about wallowing, though. it LOVES company, and sometimes, that company happens to be sustenance. and so, i didn't end up ignoring the food for long. and, as it turned out, the pancake mix ended up really being a small little blessing. it didn't really fix anything...i still had one less tank top, three stitches in my arm, and plenty of newly broken relationships to be mended, but we also had food to make when our grocery money ran out, and i got to practice my spanish with three sweet teenagers while they hung out in the kitchen where i was making breakfast for my team, asking me all about pancakes and american foods and my native country in general. i got to have a little taste of home when i needed it the most, when i felt the most lonely and isolated and separated from everything that was once just within my fingertips.

i have realized that God does this a lot. sometimes, i feel like he turns our worlds upside down, takes us right out of our comfort zones, gives us bad news after bad news after bad news and then hops back on his plane and flies away again. he really doesn't ever leave us, though, and he never forgets to leave us with little reminders of his love. a good conversation with a new friend, bouts of laughter that break spells of sadness, or even a box of pancake mix.

hidden under all of our junk, our pain, our sorrow, our failures, and loneliness, there is always a silver lining, a small bit of solace, a tiny taste of comfort. and sometimes, sometimes, it has a faint scent of buttermilk.

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