“Today is a nice day!” That’s one of my son’s new favorite lines to say in English. Another variation is, “¡Éste es un nice day!” For him, it’s as simple as we went swimming or because of what he’s eating for dinner. I get excited about each day’s progress, too, but in other ways. I want dependence on God, I want to continue a life of love and follow Jesus. But maybe I should be more like Santiago. This other stuff I get excited about feels elusive at times.
I abandon myself into Your hands;
Do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You;
I am ready for all. I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me,
And in all Your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
For I love You, Lord, and so need to give
myself, to surrender myself into Your hands
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.
–Charles de Foucauld
Joyfully choosing Jesus’ life has been even harder than what I initially imagined. So much has changed: our plans for the future, our family life (in both concrete and hard to describe ways), and many littler things that will take some time to unpack. Just to recap on the details: I’ve been working part-time and volunteering for almost two years, while Julissa recently started working as “extra help” at the Public Library as well as giving private Spanish lessons to preschoolers. We’ve had housemates come and go; most recently we said goodbye to Lonnie as she took a job in Tennessee. I continue to grow food here at our community garden, but we now mainly give to our neighbors and guests rather than the Jesus Center kitchen. Also, I’ve increasingly focused more of my time on being with our children, Santiago and Gabriela, which has meant less involvement with some of the folks I used to see all the time at the Jesus Center. My work and ministry plans have shifted throughout all this, too, though the dream of starting a free clinic in Chapmantown for counseling and spiritual direction continues to be an important vision for me.
I recently read an old 2010 newsletter from Iris Ministries, which reminded me again how good it is to practice Jesus’ way of life. The Bakers wrote:
Heidi and I began our life of missions with the dream of living out the Sermon on the Mount, taking Jesus at His word that we did not have to worry about tomorrow. We imagined addressing extreme human need by example, living without anxiety, free to bless always with pure motives, looking to God alone for what our hearts and bodies need. We turn neither to the left nor to the right to gain support. At every obstacle our only confidence is in the Cross of Christ, and the conviction that God is thrilled to be trusted for miracles all along our way.
I am reminded of my own newsletter a few years ago (Working Out Our Salvation) and how Jesus’ example had become a living witness about those things for us. We wanted His experiences to become ours as well. I’m finding now that the truth of His Life often comes in waves of understanding and openness to the Spirit. We don’t seem to get it all at once. But I can’t imagine taking anything back.
Even through the sea-sick feelings I sometimes have when the actual steps seem to take too long or the prospects for our family bringing healing in our community seem pretty dim. I’m just trying to say “thank you” for everything, no matter what the “facts” might seem to say about us. Of course, we all seem to have some sticky moments of doubt. Sometimes the dreams we hear whispered from God seem barely more than our ordinary thoughts. Still, I can’t help but be excited about and wonder where this life of revolutionary Love and vulnerability will ultimately lead us.
Besides emphasizing our challenges amidst new directions, I would like to also share something new that we’re excited about. Julissa and I have been planning a trip to Peru for the last few years, but have not pulled the trigger due mostly to Gabriela’s age and the increasing costs of travel for our family. This trip would be a little different than prior ones. Instead of simply going to visit family, we would like to serve alongside a church (El Viñedo de Laderas de Chillón) for 2-3 months. We came to know this community during my first trip to Peru back in 2003. We stayed in touch with them over the years mainly through our friendship with Guillermo and Lisset Sifuentes (pastors at El Viñedo).
Their congregation is comprised of over 70% children nowadays, which the church has uniquely embraced. Their ministry has become more and more holistic as they respond to the need in their community: providing clothing, school supplies, nutrition/food, increased spiritual attention, etc. Our desire is to work alongside them. We see it as an opportunity to grow in our dependence on God and love for others. We hope to be there this December (2013) and stay until sometime in February (2014). We would love your prayers.
Some Final Thoughts
Coming home, I’m sure we will need some time to rest as we add up all the costs from planning this adventure, living abroad, and returning to Chico amidst all the other things we do. However, like Santiago reminds me, there is joy in seeing life for its simplest grace: “This is a nice day!”
Our kids also keep us feeling very alive and active. Each month with them is like seeing a new blossom open up. Gabriela will be two August 20th and Santiago will be five in December! Time goes by so fast when I consider how quickly they came and formed a place in our hearts, as if they had been there the whole time.