Growing Up and Growing Closer

I feel as though it has been a long time since I have written a blog. I last participated in the YAGM March Photo challenge to help you all get a little glimpse into my life here in Mexico through snapshots and little tidbits. It feels like I haven’t written much because I didn’t have much to write about. After about 8 months here in Mexico, everything feels like it finally has a sense of normality. Perhaps that is because I have been on-the-go lately (see the photos below for a peek at my vacation to Oaxaca!) and not had time to sit in my thoughts as I usually do. Usually when I write, I tend to do it with ease because something has struck a chord inside me. Yet with my life lately, I’ve been too busy moving from one thing to the next to listen to the tune God was playing for me. At least, until Sunday.

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. And also the 1-year anniversary of my weekend at the Discernment, Interview, and Placement (DIP) event for the YAGM program. And also the 6 month celebration of my niece’s birth here in Mexico.  All of these things have one thing in common: they’ve brought me closer to God.

Palm Sunday has stuck out to me since the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans, when Shane Claiborne spoke about the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem probably thinking he was high and mighty because people were laying down palms and shouting Hosanna. Yet the donkey would need to learn that Palm Sunday isn’t about him, but the one who he was carrying in. The Global Missions staff and Country Coordinators for YAGM know this lesson well. I thought a lot on Sunday about the exhaustive work they go through year-round to make YAGM what it is. Not for the glory of it all, but for the ones they’re carrying in. For the YAGMs and for God’s mission. They ask for nothing of us in return, but our willingness to serve. And it occurs to me that this is the meaning of accompaniment—not to be white saviors, not to convert our communities, not to hold our heads high when the crowds shout hosanna, but to humbly carry God in. I struggle sometimes here in Mexico with not feeling sufficient, not feeling like enough for my community. Palm Sunday is an excellent reminder that it’s not about how great I am because I am working on behalf of the Great I AM.

As for DIP—I was a nervous nerd during that weekend (as my DIP roommate/friend Courtney would call us). I feel like I knew going into DIP that I would accept either country placement I was offered, Mexico or the United Kingdom. My Country Coordinator Meghan and I have often talked about my sense of call to Global Mission. Despite being a naturally anxious person, I think I have a solid intuition for when God is calling to me because when I make the “right” choice, I feel a sense of peace that I know I could never conjure on my own. I think that feeling is God letting me know that everything will be okay. I felt it when I finished my phone interview for the YAGM program. I rushed out of my dorm to find the people I loved to tell them I really believed I might get accepted into YAGM and live abroad somewhere for a year to do mission work. I felt it at DIP when I attended the Mexico country presentation. I knew I belonged in Mexico in the deepest part of my core and then on Sunday morning they told me I was going to go to the United Kingdom and I was, truthfully, pretty crushed. Not because I didn’t want to go to the UK (trust me, I definitely did and I still hope to go one day) but because I felt like God had tricked me. God gave me a sense of peace about a place and then pulled it out from under me. What a jerk.

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DIP was also the first time I ever saw snow! 

Nevertheless, I was still excited about the prospects of living and serving in the UK for a year so I prepared myself for what was to come, hoping that God would help me see why I was called to serve there. And THEN, things changed again and I could no longer go to the UK and sure enough, I was reassigned to Mexico. I would like to be clear: I don’t think God caused the UK YAGM/Time for God collaboration to have issues with Visas so that I could come to Mexico. But I do think She knew that I would ultimately go to Mexico; I think God let me feel peace so I would know when the time came that I didn’t need to worry about things. DIP taught me to be open to the world of possibilities God has for me. I could have gotten a completely new call to serve in Madagascar or Cambodia or Senegal. I could have really ended up in the UK. But I had to learn to trust that regardless of how placements turned out, I would be “exactly where I am supposed to be with the ones I’m supposed to be with” (once again quoting the movie, Once I Was a Beehive).

Which leads me all the way here to Mexico. Specifically, to my friend Renee’s ranch where we held Isabella’s 6-month celebration. I have been often reminded that I will not be here for Isabella’s first birthday and baptism; not in a malicious way but in a “we love you and are so sad you won’t be here” way. I am also sad about this, but hope that maybe they will have a YAGM next year who can love my girl as much as I do. Anyways, my family had wanted to see the ranch for a while, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to make it a special day and celebrate the little girl who has brought so much light into my life this year. I have a lot of experience with kids growing up in my church (some of the girls I used to babysit as kids are on their way to learner’s permits and licenses now!) but I hadn’t had the opportunity to watch a baby grow up before my very eyes until this year. I was there when her mom was in labor. I held her at the hospital. And every day since then, I have cherished each of her squeals of delight, her heavy sighs, and even sometimes the crying. I cheered for her when she rolled over for the first time and when her first two teeth broke through. I laughed with her as I tried to feed her baby food without getting it all over the place. She’s growing up fast—a testament to how quickly my year in Mexico has gone. And as she grows, so do I. Not only growing closer to her, but to her mom and grandma, and especially to the One who knew her before she existed.

And that’s the beauty of April 14th, 2019. Three parts of my relationship with God colliding into one special day. Colliding with such force that I’m can’t help but be reminded to listen to the tune God’s playing for me over the next 2 and a half months. I have to listen for the chords striking, to feel for the moments of peace, and to embrace my community that has given me the opportunity to be the donkey God rides in.

Lastly, I want to thank you for sticking with me through this adventure and especially for supporting my blog. While I have grown closer to God and to my host community, it has been equally important for me to grow closer to my sending community as well. Writing these blogs has given me the opportunity to share myself, relatively unfiltered (a girl’s gotta edit!), with you. You’ve given me the chance to be courageous and I am extremely grateful for all of your support.

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Left to Right: My sister Ani, Renee, Me, Owen (another YAGM visiting us from Tepoztlan), and Baby Isa front and center. 
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2 thoughts on “Growing Up and Growing Closer

  1. Blessed Easter to you Courtney! Once again your reflections and sharing have touched my heart. I did not know that you were first assigned to Great Britain and then were changed to Mexico. Your faith and trust both the process and God’s plans for you are inspiring.

    I will be praying for you and Sean and Stephen (also from Florida) and the other YAGMs as you near the end of your time of service and begin the difficult process of “leave taking”. Sharing the Spirit – PJ May

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  2. Loved reading your blog and seeing the pictures. Great job. Before you know it you will be home with us and leaving your Mexico family.. I am sure you will be both happy and sad. Your family there has been good to you and you good for them. I know how much you love the baby. I am happy that I got to meet your family there thru the computer. Enjoy the rest of your time there. Love you.

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