#100daysinSpain

in between places

I think it’s the middle places and the in between times that I think are the hardest in any situation. You know, like the middle of a roadtrip, or the middle of a long line, or the middle of a class, or the middle of a difficult season in life (even though you probably don’t actually know that you’re in the middle). And I think that’s because there’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with being in the middles of things. You’re not really sure how much longer you have to go. You’re not sure how long it’ll take to get there. And you’re not quite sure if it’s worth it to keep going (or if it’s worth it to quit, considering that you’ve already gotten that far). That middle and in between place is where I think a lot of us on Spain Term are at right now. When we go to bed tonight, we’ll be finishing up our 41st day out of 105 in this amazingly beautiful country. And at the same time, I know that many of us are thinking that means we have 64 days left, in the dragging-your-voice, get-me-to-the-end kind of way. And it feels even more like an in between place because they told us about this. We knew it would happen. We tried to prepare for it, but nonetheless (like a lot of things), we still got to this point.

Middles are hard because we’ve been here long enough now that it doesn’t feel new and exciting anymore. I mean, I just discovered this morning that I can make it to school in 12 minutes if I speed walk really fast from my house and half-run up the aqueduct steps (which only means that I can probably get there even faster if I’m actually running, but that’s probably not going to happen). We’ve sort of settled into a routine, but it’s a routine that still feels sort of foreign (lunch at 3pm and dinner at 10pm, anyone?), and we don’t quite feel exactly at home here. In addition, we just got back from fall break, which, while it was wonderful, exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating, and breathtaking all at the same time, I know that it was difficult for many of us to come back to Spain because it definitely felt like we should’ve been arriving “home” in the Minneapolis airport instead of the Madrid airport.

And aside from that, I just know that being away from home this long has definitely taken its toll on me as well as on others. I mean, it’s hard being gone for so long. You’re away from everything that’s familiar and that’s something that’s a lot harder than a lot of us might have expected. It’s tough when your host family doesn’t get you the way that your stateside one does, even if they might be really great. It’s tough when you can’t fully express yourself in Spanish the way that you’d want to in English. It’s tough when every subject that you’re studying is completely foreign to you. It’s tough not having the same access to some of the American things that you’re used to (meaning I definitely bought face scrub or 8 euros #yolo). And I think especially when you’re away from home and your family, it’s tough when you don’t have your group of friends that know you and get you to help you get through whatever may come, because, again, you’re in an in between place. You get along well with the people that you’re with, and you love being with them, but it’s just not quite the same as having your friends and family that know your whole story and get why certain things affect you in a certain way. And to top it all off, you’re trying to do everything that you normally do in a second language, so there’s also that.

So, here we are, in an in between place during our #100daysinSpain. It’s a tough place to be, but as my friend Elise told me earlier this week, we need to try and power through this middle place and soak up every sight, every smell, every sound, and every moment that we have in this place, because before we know it, it’ll be over. And when it’s over, we’ll have days and moments where we’d give anything to come back to this place that we desperately want out of right now, and I think that’s something incredibly powerful for us to remember when these hard times and these hard days and these hard moments come: our time and our days here are limited and this is a once (maybe twice, who knows…?) in a lifetime opportunity and we can’t waste it missing the things from home that we don’t have right now, especially because we’ll be back home in a little over two months.

So here we are, in Segovia, in Spain, in Europe, 3000 miles away from home, and here’s to making the next 64 days some of the best of our lives.

finding rest in the desert (literally)

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Sometimes I think about the way that God works things out and wonder why keep insisting on worrying and not trusting Him. But then I also remember that we’re human and that’s what we tend to do. We tend to get all nervous about things that God already told us would be just fine. Funny how that happens so often. This is something that I’ve been thinking about the past week and a half or so, because I was definitely worrying about a lot of little things before I left to come to Spain. I was worried that I would forget to pack things. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to understand when people spoke to me in Spanish. I was worried that people wouldn’t understand when I tried to speak to them in Spanish. I was worried that I wouldn’t like or wouldn’t get along with my host family.  I was worried that this semester would be too hectic for me coming off of a period in life where I just burned myself out on school. I was worried that fall break would be stressful and difficult to plan. I was worried about this. I was worried about that. I was worried about a lot of things that I ended up not needing to worry about that much.

Sure, I definitely forgot to bring some things that I wish I had remembered. And yeah, sometimes communicating in another language is a struggle, but we’re at the beginning of our fourth week here in Segovia and God has literally worked out literally every little thing that I had worried about prior to coming here. Unlike us humans, He tends to be kinda amazing like that.

So along those lines, I want to talk a little about how God has been providing rest for me in a time where I really need it. As I’ve already talked about a lot before, I came into this fall semester abroad off of a crazy summer in every respect, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, all of it. I hated the summer linguistics program I was at, and while I absolutely loved getting to go back to Welcome Week at Bethel before leaving, especially because of all the people that pour into you there, it was still another thing that completely drained me up until literally less than 12 hours before I left (holla at getting 20 hours of sleep over 4 days; that was fun). So, needless to say, I was rolling into Segovia on empty and I really didn’t have the energy in any capacity for really much of anything.

With that as the backdrop, it’s been completely insane to see how God has just provided, rest and everything else, in the past three weeks. Our small (and sassy) group is wonderful, and I’m so glad that I get to do Spain Term with these crazy people. Not only that, but all of the little problems that have come up over the course of the past three weeks have all been resolved quickly as well, which I’m infinitely thankful for (ugh transcripts, travel plans, etc.).

I’ve had time to be with people, and I’ve had time to be by myself. I’ve had time to hang out with my host mom, and I’ve had time to hang out with God. I’ve had time to do homework, and I’ve had time to shop and wander around Segovia trying to get lost (I failed, which is awesome in and of itself). I’ve had time to think about things that I want to write, and I’ve had time to take a lot of really fun photos. Basically, I’ve had enough time to do almost everything, which is such a new and freeing sensation that I’m loving about being here.

In addition, I think that any trace of homesickness has finally passed (at least for right now). Every morning I wake up excited about what the day holds. I’m excited to walk through the Segovian streets and find new bakeries and cafes to try (or return to the same ones that I already love), and this feeling that I’m not going to have enough time to do everything I want to do is already creeping up on me, which I definitely didn’t expect. I almost expected to be longing for home at this point, but I just feel ready for everything that Spain and Europe are going to throw at me. And I think I’ve definitely reached a point where if I had to go home right now, I don’t think I’d be quite ready yet!

So here’s to starting to feel at home in Segovia, to feeling rested (even if I might’ve stayed up until 2am doing homework last night and gotten up at 8:30am today), to having wonderful friends, to having lots of artsy photos, to improving Spanish, but most of all to the One who is able to provide rest in unexpected places like the literal desert of Segovia (the official climate IS arid btw).

9.22.15.

the fingerprints of God on a "secular" society

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Tonight when I go to bed, we will have already spent 12 amazing days in the beautiful country of España, meaning that we’re already more than 10% done with our 105 total days on Spain Term (I know it’s not exactly 100 days like the hashtag, but hey)! Isn’t that crazy? It feels like there’s no way that we’ve been here this long, but at the same time, it feels like we’ve already been here for a month. And that makes absolutely no sense, but I’m sure everyone has experienced that sensation at one point in life or another. Recap:

Anyway, for this update, I want to talk a little about finding Jesus in the little things around you and appreciating the fact everyone single one of the 7 billion people on this planet was made in the image of God. It’s just something that I’ve been thinking about for a day or two. But first! Update!

So like I said, we’ll have been here for 12 days tonight, and that’s absolutely insane. We haven’t even had a real full week of classes yet, because we didn’t start until Wednesday last week, and we don’t have class tomorrow because our group is traveling to Madrid for the weekend! (Classes canceled for excursions? Count me in.)

However, at the same time, I definitely feel like I’m starting to get into a rhythm here. I’m over jetlag. I don’t get lost walking to and from class anymore. I think I’m understanding and speaking Spanish a little better after a week and a half. I finally figured out how to get the temperamental key to my house to work so my host mom doesn’t have to let me in every day, and I can even make my way to a couple of shops and a couple of the panaderías (bakeries) by myself! So I’d say that it’s been a pretty good learning experience so far, and sometimes it even feels like I’m adulting (but let’s be real, who am I kidding?).

Finally, my small group finally got everything figured out for fall break!! At least concerning flights & lodging, so that’s really exciting!! More updates to come about that! So stay tuned.

Thoughts:

So, anyway, my thoughts this week have been revolving around balance, and specifically how to continue connecting with God over the course of this semester in a secular society (which is what so many people kept saying to describe the spiritual atmosphere in Spain, not my own words, haha). But after having been here for a little over a week, I think that a lot of people possibly misunderstand what secular really means, because that word has a lot of strong negative connotations for American Christians. I think that oftentimes, people imagine “secular societies” to be Bible burning, religion hating societies where everyone is an atheist and you’ll be persecuted if you subscribe to any sort of religion (at least in my most horrible extrapolations of what that word means). But in reality, it just means that most people don’t really care for religion. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be warm, hospitable people who can still bring light even if they don’t necessarily believe.

And the reason that I want to talk about this is that I think that, much too often, Christians get way too caught up in labels and what their preconceived notions tell them that certain descriptors mean. After all, what kind of things come to mind when you hear or see the words ‘democrat,’ ‘republican,’ ‘secular,’ ‘religious,’ ‘gay,’ ‘straight,’ ‘communism,’ ‘laissez-faire,’ and other things like that? I’m sure that depending on your upbringing, you would lump some of those words into the ‘good’ category and others into the ‘bad’ category, just because of the connotations they hold, and I for one, think that’s the wrong way to approach things. I think that we need to start really understanding people and things before we make rash judgments about them.

As my classical literature professor told our class earlier this week, “fascism, communism, and socialism aren’t bad in and of themselves. True, they might not necessarily work out in a given society, but we only attribute negative labels to these things because of the bad people that advocated for them.” I think that’s a really important thing to remember in general. Yeah, some people in the past may have taken secularism to the extreme by outlawing religion and hunting down Christians and others and stuff like that, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything inherently evil about secularism in and of itself. After all, countries like Iran are theocratic nations where the government and laws abide by a specific religion, and we don’t think that’s good either. Sometimes, a secular state is the best incubator for religious liberty, because it ensures that no specific one is elevated above the others.

So, I got a little off topic, but basically, I want those of you reading to start to think about why we have certain connotations associated with certain words and certain labels and whether or not those connotations and labels are correct or not. Does secular have to equate to evil? Does democrat and liberal have to equate to bad? What about gay and straight? Do those by nature have to be good or bad?

Let me leave you with this.

For our semester here in Spain, all of us are staying with different host families, one student per family. When we arrived, all of our host families came to greet us and take us back to our homes for the rest of the semester. As the stereotype suggested, many of these host moms and dads aren’t religious. They don’t believe in God, or they do, but don’t really do anything about it. They don’t go to church. They might not even have a single Bible in their houses.

But they were excited to see us when we arrived, and I daresay that they loved us even before we got there or as soon as they saw us. And a lot of these people may or may not be Christians.

My one friend’s host mom grabbed her hand as soon as she saw her and had joy on her face as she talked with the onsite director of our program, asking about my friend in third person as she stood there, seeing if she had any allergies, seeing if she needed anything special, and saying how excited she was to have her staying with her.

This woman was so joyful and excited about a random American college student who she didn’t know, who didn’t speak the same native language, and who was different in so many ways. But the thing was that none of that mattered, and it was beautiful. There aren’t a lot of words to describe that.

And the thing is, I think that a lot of American Christians (myself included) could learn a lot from that situation. Our host families and host parents hardly knew anything about us before we arrived. All they had was names, not even pictures, unless we had sent them beforehand. All they knew was that we were coming to spend three and a half months living in the country that they called home and to learn their language. That was all they needed to be joyful and excited about our arrival, the anticipation that they were going to get to know us and get to share some of their lives, their history, their culture, their language, and their country with us.

In my own opinion, I think that’s how Christians should approach the world. Instead of constantly trying to win political or theological debates, or trying to convince people that they’re sinners in need of repentance, I think that we would probably do a lot better by adopting the mentality of our Spanish host families. We might not know anything at all about the people that we’re going to meet over the course of our lives, but what we do know is that we have an incredible story of grace, redemption, and love to share with them. We have a history and a faith that stretches back thousands of years, and we have a God and a Friend who loves us so deeply that He sacrificed His own life in order to save ours. I think that warrants some joy and excitement on our part, don’t you? So shouldn’t we be excited and joyful to be able to share some of our lives, our history, our culture, our language (holla at Christianese), and our love with people?

To that end, I think this comparison is warranted. Part of the reason that we’re doing so well in Spain is that we see these people and we want to be a part of this country and a part of this language community from what we see in them.

In the same way, if people looked at us, would they want to be a part of this? Would they want to be Christians and involved in churches judging solely from what they saw of us? Or would they crunch up their faces and start walking the other way because they didn’t want to be associated with us?

I think it’s time that Christians started being more vibrant about their faith, overflowing with joy and loving with the abandon that draws people in, rather than pushing people away with debates and disputes.

Who knew that I’d be learning so much about Jesus, faith, and how to live authentically in such a “secular” country? It appears as if even “secular” countries can be covered in the fingerprints of God. They were all created by Him weren’t they?

Haha, well until next time! Hasta luego!

#100daysinSpain

image Well, it’s definitely been quite some time since I’ve posted anything, so I figured that arriving safely in Spain was a good excuse to hammer out a post detailing some of the crazy things that I’ve been doing over the past few weeks since my last post J Also, this post is also gonna be pretty scattered, so sorry for that in advance.

Anyway, if you hadn’t heard or hadn’t gathered, I’m studying abroad in Spain (specifically in Segovia, which is further north and toward the center of the country) for the next few months (3.5 to be precise), which is also where the title of this post comes from! It’s the hashtag that my group will be using on all sorts of social media in order to inform others of what we’re doing, and it also serves as a fun way for us to look back on all the things we’ve decided to share with the world!

The main reason that we chose this hashtag is that it subtly reminds us that even though it feels like we’re going to be gone for a long time, we really don’t have an infinite amount of time here. On the way here, a lot of us were caught up in a lot of emotions related to leaving home, leaving family, leaving familiar surroundings, and leaving friends. While we were all really excited, it’s still hard to leave all of that behind. Thus, we came up with this hashtag because it points us back toward positivity and away from homesickness or anything else that might taint our experiences here, reminding us to soak up every moment that we get in this beautiful country, because after 100 days it’ll be over (well…more like 105 starting when we got here a couple days ago, but that’s beside the point, really). So, hop that on if you feel like it. I’m sure lots of interesting things will happen in the coming weeks and they will all be shared with you right here!

As for the first two days, I don’t really have that much to report about Spain yet, except for that fact that literally everything here is beautiful, the weather, the school we’ll be attending, the city, the aqueduct, the cathedral, the castle that we’re going to see later today called the Alcázar, everything. It’s been so much fun and it’s still feels surreal to all of us on this trip that we get to live here for the next few months. I can’t reiterate enough how picturesque everything is and how unreal it all seems.

Finally, while we don’t have the usual access to our phones and such like that, seeing as we don’t get proper service in Spain, I’m still available through WhatsApp, Facebook, here, and mail once I eventually figure out what my address is…

Pues anyway (the Spain Termers will think that’s funny), I’m so excited for everything that’s to come. So, stay updated right here (because blogging is incredibly fun & it’s in English which gives me a brain break) with everything we do! Hasta la próxima vez!