Monday, August 26, 2013

that same old roller coaster

Over the years I have learned that my relationship with the struggle of singleness is something of a roller coaster. I have seasons where I really deeply struggle and seasons where I am genuinely content with where I am. The seasons can last anywhere from a week to months. I don't think I've stayed in either of the seasons for more than a year. And while it can be exhausting at times, the back and forth, I am actually quite grateful that the Lord has given me this ride.
I've been in the content season now for more than six months. In fact, except for a short period of a week or two, it's almost been a year. I was commenting to Ale, my friend who has faithfully loved and discipled me for two years, that while I have enjoyed this season, and it would be easy to pray that God leaves me here, I know that I am still on the roller coaster. I will struggle again. And I am glad for it.
Strange. Glad to be struggling? Yes.
You see, while the struggle itself is painful, it has taught me to cling to God's goodness in a way that I would not have learned otherwise. The fact that there is a desire in me to be married that may never be realized. The fact that I can't control the whens and hows in this incredibly important part of my life. All of this has forced me to rely on God, put all my trust in Him, and cry out that He be my good and perfect heavenly Father.
That's not a lesson I would easily give up.
I have met women who are older and single and seem not to struggle with it. And good for them. But I have tasted the bittersweet cocktail of good desires left unmet. I have seen what ugliness comes out of my heart. And I have met a God who loves me enough to make all good and perfect gifts from heaven mean that I am still single. I don't buy into the lies that I'm single because I'm not ready yet to be married. Bull. I don't buy into the lies that as soon as I give up the desire, God will give me a husband. Even deeper bull.
God doesn't work like that. But I will tell you how He does work. He purchased my life on the cross and is in the process of making me into His image. He is fully committed to dealing with my sinful heart as a good and perfect Father. And for whatever reason, that means keeping me single for right now. And someday, if I get married, it will be because God is using marriage to deal with my sinful heart. And that is a promise I can count on (unlike the "promise" that He will give me a husband. Show me that verse!)
Why am I writing all this? Well, tonight I felt my heart begin to slip. I use the analogy of a roller coaster  to describe my swings in the struggle and I think I am getting to the top of a big hill. It's been quite a while since I plunged into the depths of struggle. I've been enjoying the ride up the hill, watching the scenery, remembering all those past plunges. And suddenly I realize that I am at the precipice looking down, waiting for gravity to pull me down into what can only be described as despair.
As I prepare my heart for the plunge, I want to remember everything I know is true about God and this roller coaster. God is my good and perfect Father. And His purpose for the roller coaster is a good one: to teach me to depend on Him. And just as I knew that this season of being content wouldn't last forever, I know that the season of struggle will come to an end.
Maybe I'm wrong and my heart will remain firm in it's place of being content. But if I'm not, and the roller coaster is coming to a steep decline, all I can say is, hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Iglesia Santiago Apostol (assorted photos)

One more blog post before I head to bed.

As I just wrote in the previous post, I am working with a church plant here in Santiago. If you have been following the blog for a while (or you just know me!) you know that I love my church. I had no idea when I showed up in Chile over two and a half years ago that I would be a part of this beautiful and messy community of christians. It has been a huge blessing to serve on the pastoral team for the last year and a half. This year in particular has been one of learning dependence on God. Last year our pastoral team had 6 people. And then, in one big hit, we lost 4 of them! Not that anything scandalous happened, but that for good and healthy reasons, they all went back to their home churches (or countries!). Even Max, who is a long termer in ISA had to leave for a year to serve in another church as part of his seminary training. So in the end, Cristobal, the head pastor and church planter, and I were left looking at each other and me nervously giggling. What in the world were we going to do? God provided another seminary student, Camilo, to help with the crazy task. But it was still too big for us to do alone. It's a good thing that God enjoys getting glory for His work. And it's a good thing that God is big enough and powerful enough to do all things. It's just too bad that I have a memory problem and tend to forget all that!

Anyways, here you go. Some pictures of ISA in action. 

The men of ISA setting up for Sunday morning service

Cristobal giving announcements during Sunday morning service

Our worship team rehearsing before service

Joe, the random gringo who plays piano for the church

My dear Ale, Cristobal's wife. She has become nothing less than my family here. Beyond grateful!

Amanda and Jacinta (Cristobal and Ale's daughters)

Hosting a debate about education
(if you haven't noticed, we tend to have crazy protests in the streets for the educational system here)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

It's Complicated

I get the question all the time: what do you do here? I get it. I must be either a missionary here or an English teacher. Those are the only two boxes to place someone like me into. Sadly, my answer is much more complicated.
No, I am not a missionary here. At least I don't think of myself as one. I don't have a sending church, nor am I supported financially by people overseas. I didn't come with a contract from an agency. Not even with a mission really. Except I do have a mission. But I think every christian has a mission, right?
And no, I'm not an English teacher. I have taught English on and off for the last 8 years. But, except for one private class, I gave that all up for my current jobs.
So the answer? I have three contracts.
One is working half time for Fundacion Generacion, a church planting foundation.
Another is working two days a week on the pastoral staff at Iglesia Santiago Apostol (ISA), a church plant in downtown Santiago.
And the third is as the national coordinator for an apprenticeship program for the Chilean Anglican Church.

See? it wasn't so hard to explain. Right?

My three bosses. the "trinity"
Cristobal, Juan Esteban, and Francisco
So as I mentioned, I am working as the executive assistant for Fundacion Generacion. It's a dream job in many ways. I get to organize conferences. I get to deal with a wide database of pastors and church planters all over Chile. I get to promote church planting, a mission a deeply believe in. I get to add my own (sometimes but not always wanted) input on various projects around the country. It's a fun combination of my gifts, passions, and hopes, all mixed together in a context that is full of challenges. I think the job would be challenging for anyone, but add in the fact that I am not actually chilena (shhhh.. it's a secret!) and you've got an extra layer of difficulty.
It is interesting to see how God is teaching me, training me, and challenging me through these jobs. I've realized that I am not as calm, cool, and collected as I would like to think. I realized that I am a perfectionist. And I realized that sometimes, against my will, my emotions are stronger than my logic. All lessons well learned and who knows what God has up His sleeve for me and this crazy adventure He has me on.

Top Moments from "Home"

My family somehow finds the excuse every year for me to go "home" to visit them. I have to put home in quotations because I'm not quite sure that where home is. When I am here in Chile I might refer to going home as going to California, but when I am in California, it is quite obvious that my home is in Chile. Just call me confused. 

The three weeks I got to be home were nothing short of amazing. I want to share with you my top favorite parts of the trip. These are in chronological order:

1. My grandma. This very special 89 year old birthday girl was my excuse to visit home. My grandma is someone INCREDIBLY special to me. She has been one of my biggest supporters in life and I love her dearly. I flew out to Washington to spend a few days alone with her before we headed out to California together. I treasure her greatly. 

2. My birthday breakfast with my mom, Nigel, Aviva and Jeremy. It's not every day that a girl turns 30. I met up with my family in Berkeley for breakfast on the morning of my birthday. It's not often that we get to spend time just the 5 of us. And it was so nice to see that as time goes on, I think my siblings and I get closer. I realize this may seem weird to say. But I know that some of my friends feel like they lose touch with their siblings as they get older. Granted I stopped living with my siblings when I was 12 and they were 9. So we haven't really lived as siblings for almost two decades, but I think that might be part of my surprise to find that the older we get, the more I really enjoy spending time with them. My sister is really unique, artistic, and smart. And she wants to make the world a better place. My brother is one of the sweetest and kindest men you can find.  I feel really blessed that my brother and sister are so incredibly cool. Someday maybe I'll live up to the challenge of being their big sister.

3. Daddy dates. Yep. What 30th birthday isn't complete without dates with your dad? This trip was sprinkled with special moments with my dad. I have to confess that my relationship with my dad is probably one of the biggest blessings I have experienced so far in life. Really. I have experienced a lot of crazy awesome cool things in life, traveling around the world and all. But they don't really compare to getting to have the relationship I get with my dad. Our relationship really bloomed in the last 8 years and most of that time I have spent living abroad. So when I get to go home, it's a huge treat. 

On one of our dates, to a street fair in San Francisco, we ran into some of his friends. I stood there and heard my dad share with his friends how much he enjoys spending time with me. How it's a blessing to have adult children who you can spend time with and just enjoy life together. Amen. What a blessing to see God's faithfulness in our lives. 

4. Meeting Anderson! One of my favorite people in the world Annalisa has been my faithful friend since the days of jr. high. A visit with her is a MUST for any trip home. This visit was especially sweet since I got to meet her little son, Anderson. He is one of the happiest babies out there. No surprise since his parents rock. But still, great to see that he inherited it from them!

5. Ashlee and Andrew. Enough said. Oh, wait, maybe I should explain. You know those friends in life that you just know will always be part of your life? Those friendships that change your life? With too many stories to tell? And too many late night talks to remember? That my friends, is Ashlee. Out of all my friends, I think I have shared the most memories with her. She knows the university me, the Chile me, the happy me, the sad me, and probably the most scary, the crazy me. 
Now, there comes a time in every single girls' friendship when one gets married and you wonder how the friendship will handle such a game changer. But I am happy to report that Ashlee's husband, Andrew is not only an incredible husband, but is one of my favorite people to visit anyways! He is honest and good. And my 48 hours with them was my special birthday treat. We packed in so many good conversations and fun moments that it feels like I was there for a week! Ashlee, Lord knows where our friendship has taken us (literally, New York? Chicago? Bariloche Argentina?!?). Now that we are both settling into "grown-up" lives, all I can say is that your friendship means the world to me. And I'll never forget our talks on the beach while eating Trader Joes. Nope, never!

So all in all, it was a wonderful time visiting "home". Until next year when my family uses my grandma's 90th birthday as an excuse to get me out there again... 

Some posts to catch up

Are you ready for it?

Are you ready for the wave?

The wave of blog posts!!!

It's been WAY too long and although I have found myself thinking time and time again about various things that I want to share with you my dear blogreaders, I haven't sat down to do such. So here we go... the last few months made up in various posts!

(A special thanks to Diana for reminding me to write.)