I cannot seem to think of a proper beginning to this blog post seeing as it most likely marks another end. A couple weekends ago I climbed to the top of Misti, a 19, 393 foot volcano with sixteen other Calvin students. It was physically the hardest thing I have ever accomplished, but also the most beautiful. Though I would love to pour out thoughts from this experience, I will save the stories for later. I would like to dedicate this last post to a few strong women.
The strong women I encountered in Arequipa altered my life in more ways than one.
My mamá Lupe: Lupe has a rare faith. She displays a life of one fully devoted to God. She helped me to develop a profound respect and desire for God in all circumstances. She taught me how God provides the peace, joy, and grace to complete the day in his work. She has loved me and cared for me. She calls me daughter.
My sister Carmen: Carmen has a depth of wisdom, but also deep joy. She shares with me wisdom from her many life experiences, but she brings abundant laughter to my days. She takes me out dancing and she is the most animated, delightful storyteller I have ever met. Each day we eat lunch together and she recounts the adventures of the day, tells stories of faith, or we simply “be” together.
Gabi: Since the beginning Gabi has affectionately steered me in the right direction when she notices me veer off course. She generously gives hugs and genuinely takes time to get to know my deepest self. Gabi shows maturity beyond her years and because we have spent the most time together, she knows many of my quirks and flaws yet shamelessly loves me anyways. She knows my knack for getting into sticky situations, my incapability to eat a meal (or snack) without spilling on myself, my bubbly excitement each day when I first see her, or my sleepiness after a long night of studies. One particularly difficult week, she remarked, “Emi, let’s go shopping” and she bought me a caramel latte and loved on me extra.
Marina: Marina works for my family as a cook and a nanny for Joaquín. In one word, Marina is strength. Her life has been a constant struggle to stay afloat, yet the sound of her laugh rings through the house and her faith in the Lord is courageous. She narrated many of her life stories through our days together and cared for me as a friend.
I felt like someone had plastered a sign on me that read, “Who wants to sit with the foreigner?” Azucena did. She sat down next to me and commenced a stream of friendly chatter. I was struck by her evident kindness, genuine heart, and personality, though I wasn’t entirely sure if her company was a charity or real.
I soon found out, it was most definitely real. Five hours of class each week we chatted, painted, laughed and created. I watched in delight as our friendship effloresced over time and our trust in one another deepened. A few weeks ago, Azucena’s mamá passed away. I went to the hospital that day with tears and prayers. Azucena’s friendship and trust are unforgettable gifts. Even after her mom passed, she persisted in full joy. She continued to tell me stories of her incredible mamá and she loved me in patience and kindness.
These strong women have each transformed me in many ways. They audaciously face each day with a desire to fully live. With their guidance, I realized that I too, am a strong woman. I’ve learned weakness when I attempt control and watched as all the pieces I tried to hold quickly scattered to the wind. But I’ve learned strength in God.
Ordinarily, the future represents an abyss of unknown, but God is always known. He takes me by the hand and offers energy, joy and peace sufficient for the day. Though each step I take may bring me to unknown places, I am a strong woman with the Lord’s constant presence. The joy of the Lord is my strength and indeed it is well with my soul.
Monday I leave Arequipa to head to Lima. Goodbyes will hurt, but also remind me of the blessings. As my friend Jamie says, life is a game of catch with God in which we are the playful puppies. Sometimes, life tempts us to hold the ball in our mouth because the time has been so sweet, but it would be far more exciting if we let it go and let God throw it once again.
I’m letting the ball down. I’m seeking presence in the day whether presence means baking tres leches with Lupe, cuddling with Joaquín, gazing at the rosy volcanoes at dusk, or moving on to the next adventure. Where will you throw the ball next? Who will I encounter? In what ways will I be transformed?
Made no difference at all.
When you’re truly cared for,
There’s no purpose for walls.”
- Sleeping At Last