Well, tomorrow is the big day: at 10:40am, i'll be boarding a plane in Grand Rapids, and a couple flights and layovers later, I'll land in Santiago at 8:15pm!! (Like Michigan, the Dominican Republic is on Eastern Time, fyi.)
I am so so excited. (Today a dear friend asked me to rate what percent I am excited and what percent I am terrified: I gave the ratio of 99 /1 %.) The nerves and stress were really only from all of the things I have needed to get done in these past weeks, and unfortunately, some of those didn't get done. But this, too, shall pass, and I am only learning more about grace through the process.
Some of my friends have asked me what I'm most excited about... I struggled to contain it to a few things, but I think two aspects stick out to me the most.
One thing I am so excited about is being a part of the amazing ministry of Dominican Young Life. I am deeply passionate about it, and I have been waiting three years to join back into the work that they are doing. I can't wait to meet the work teams, invest in their lives, share with them what I'm passionate about, and come alongside them in their journey. And also to learn from and serve the amazing Dominican people, too!
But really right now what I think excites me most is the change of pace (and place). Instead of balancing 18 bajillion different things at once, I'll be there. At Pico Escondido. Present. Investing my love (and therefore my life) into the people around me and into better knowing my creator and his creation. And this will all be taking place in the gorgeous mountains of the DR's top coffee-growing region (yum!). Nothing like getting to a mountaintop to slow down.
I have a tendency to over-commit and overwork myself, and 2010-2011 has been the apex of this destructive life pattern. I should clarify -- certainly, there are benefits to the busy life -- such as learning tons in and out of classes, trying to give of myself to the causes i'm passionate about, getting published, having adventures, "getting things done." But the schedule I run is also incredibly taxing, physically and mentally. This has been a season of growth in my life, but of great challenge, too: the lessons have been tough to learn. I've learned (better said.... I am learning) that by trying to do too much at once, I am actually able to give less of myself to those things, and I am less able to be fully present in the places of my life. I am hoping to take this time as a turning point on the path, a step into the type life that a mentor of mine of mine encouraged me to live into: to "live the spanish life," -- and now it can be said, the dominican life.
Its significance is two-fold: firstly, spaniards are generally more relaxed than americans and they sure know how to enjoy life (¡disfruta! - enjoy! - was the constant urging from my mamá) -- it's hard not to do so when you live on the mediterranean and take siestas every day, I suppose. (And have the best football team in the world! Yeah!) In this way, dominicans have much to teach me, too -- their open, slow-down-and-enjoy-life culture will be a breath of fresh air for this typical always-on-the-go americana. Furthermore, on my semester abroad, I did not have a job. I led no social justice student organization. I was doing no on-the-side research. I was a student, a host daughter, and a friend. Y ya está. I took walks along the mediterranean daily and spent time watching TV (especially Barça games!) with my host family. I slept a reasonable amount and used my free hours to peruse hostels in Morocco for my next trip or take dance classes at the local studio. And, surprise of surprises, I was still worth something! I tend to forget that even in my times of rest and in my failures I am loved and valuable.
And this summer, without stretching myself out over an amalgamation of every activity under the sun, I will be worth something, then, too. I will be a member of the summer staff at Pico Escondido: a sister to my fellow summer staffers, an eager learner, a servant to those around me, and (as always) a builder for God's kingdom. And hopefully, I will be very present, and very at peace.
So I'm hoping that this summer God grants me the strength and the grace to start moving my way into this new way of life... It's not that I'll never be busy again -- by no means! But rather, I want my life to revolve around people. Around worship, rest, and delight. Rhythms of sabbath that nourish and feed my body and soul so that I may better pour out my love to those around me, rather than turning my focus inward into my own preoccupations and my face down into my planner.
The last thing: the title of this post is "time for a new hoja." In spanish, hoja means both 'leaf' and 'page.' I'm turning over a new leaf... and stepping into treading about another page in my story that God is writing and unfolding before me.
I ask for and sincerely appreciate your prayers in my journey: both my flights tomorrow, and for this part of the journey in the story of my life. That God may be able to use this time in my life as a time to break me and restore me, constantly moving towards the best kind of life I can live, one lived in communion with my creator and all of my neighbors in his precious creation.
May God make you, too, attune to feel the beautiful rhythm that He is composing for you.
Next time I write... I"ll be there in the DR! Adios for now :)
gracia y paz,