One Morning in Mexico

Written February, 2010

The one class that I had on Tuesday mornings (in addition to Bible, of course) was finished, and I hopped down three flights of stairs to the main floor. I paused when I reached the bottom of the wide, tile stairway to call my mother and notify her that I could now be collected. A group of third and fourth grade girls bounded past me as I listened to the phone ring, and I kissed one on the cheek and waved to the others as they skipped up the stairs to their classroom. The last of the bouncing girls disappeared around the corner, and my brief phone call ended, I tentatively jiggled the door knob of the big green door that led out of the church.

It was locked.

Gathering my backpack, I slipped quietly through the sanctuary, where assorted college students were studying, praying, or talking together in hushed tones. I gently let myself out the door on the other side.

The wide door clicked closed behind me, and I sat down on a cement bench to await the arrival of my mother. The sun was shining brightly and it felt wonderful after having spent two hours in a cold, sunless classroom. A little veterinarian building across the dirt road from the church, had three dogs in residence; I could see their paws in the space between the broken concrete ground and the bottom of the gate, and their barks rang out down the bumpy road.

I opened a packet of crackers and munched as I sat in the sun, my gaze wandering from the potholes in the road, to my own dusty knee socks, and then up at the huge church rising behind my back.

After a couple of moments, two girls appeared on the other side of the locked door to my left. They were in a lower grade, but I recognized both sweet girls. I watched them struggle with the door, and I wondered for a second if it really was open, and I had simply not tried hard enough to get it open. But no, it was really locked, and when the faint rattling on the handle stopped, and the pair stepped back, I motioned for them to go around and exit the way I had. They nodded and disappeared into the sanctuary. Soon, the door on my right clicked open and the two stumbled out into the February sunlight.

I remained seated, my book bag propped between my dusty black shoes, as I greeted them both. The taller and olders of the two was Alicia. She was Rubi’s younger sister, and I saw and exchanged greetings with her frequently throughout the week. Like her older sister, her round face was framed by short black hair, which she pinned back in a different way each time I saw her. While a little shy, she could not contain her joyful spirit, and she could ususally be found smiling. Her top teeth were short and protruded slightly, as they might if one sucked one’s thumb very much and her bottom lip had a tendency to pucker out slightly, though not in a pouty way. These features gave her mouth, and indeed, her whole face, happy, open look that invited those who interacted with her to open up as well.

I asked where they were going, and Alicia told me that they had been sent to get some food stuffs from the nearby Casa Hogar. I nodded my understanding and waved as they turned from me and began to make their way down the narrow steps to the gravel road. But before they got to the road, almost as soon as they turned from me, the smaller girl reached over and took Alicia’s hand. The act was natural and sweet and seemed to be very commonplace to the two of them. Alicia accepted the proffered hand and the two shuffled down the dusty road, hand in hand.

I was suddenly overwhelmed with affection for the two young girls walking down the road, their matching black skirts blowing in the wind as dust swirled around their scuffed school shoes. I smiled as my heart swelled with a kind of squeezing emotion… all because they held hands.

~Natalia

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Tonight

Tonight

because it’s right now

because it’s been awhile since I posted pictures

and because I’m a little too thought-out to detail out

my heart and mind

in a WordPress bubble.

Tonight

I give you

two little girls

playing football

with their Poppi

at the beach

in Santa Cruz

last month.

~Natalia

Not the Only One

This morning people kept asking me how my break was.

I told them different things; good, great, really fun.

And those are all true, but they’re not the whole truth.

Because really, my break was more than that.

It was so good that by comparison, coming back to school is pretty lame.

Really lame.

Add my current less-than-stellar opinion of school to the fact that I am one of six who came away from our family reunion with a stomach bug, and I was not loving life.

But then, as I sat in class earlier today, my stomach angrily making itself known, I realized that I’m not the only one.

There are other students who are less than thrilled to be back on campus.

There are other students whose bodies struggle with much more than stomach pain.

And, let’s be honest, the majority of the student population is stressed out.

It’s almost December, finals are approaching, life refuses to fly by at anything less than break-neck speed, and it’s rather stressful.

Yes, I secretly wish that I was still with the cousins in Michigan. Yes, I’m subsisting on water, toast, and SDR fruit today. Yes, I can list handfuls of things that stress me out a bit.

But that’s not an excuse to be grumpy, to moan and whine about my issues, or to sink into a black puddle of self-pity.

Because I’m not the only one, and I’m doing life alongside the students around me. We’re all people full of problems and illnesses and struggles. We all have good days and days that leave us reeling. But God cares for each of us individually and all of us as a group, and there is nothing we can do to escape His love.

So that’s encouraging.

~Natalia

Today, Tomorrow, Later

I’m at home this evening.
Sitting on our big, brown leather couches.
Tidying my room.
Taking the littlest sister to her piano lesson.

Tomorrow I’ll be in Michigan.
Lounging on the couch with my cousins.
Eating delicious food.
Playing Scrabble, and football and going Black Friday shopping.

Later, I’ll be back here to tell you all about it.
The fun I had.
The events I participated in and the laughs I shared.
The things I’m thankful for.

Today, tomorrow, later.

Be back in a bit.

Be thankful.

~Natalia

Here Tonight

My mom came to school tonight.

For approximately fifteen minutes.

I was happy that she came.

At first, just because she was taking three bags of superfluous stuff back to my house.

But, when she came upstairs and began greeting girls that she had met previously.

Hug, hi. Hug, how are you. Hug, good to see you again.

Girls that I share food with, share laughs with, share life with.

And before I knew it, my room was full, and we were all talking and swapping stories and I was introducing my mom and someone yelled, “Mama Shull!”.

Then it was hurry scurry, gather the bags, say goodbye, back to the car; 15 minute parking is 15 minute parking.

We hefted my bags back down to the car and hug kiss, kiss hug, bye mom.

See you on Wednesday.

And back upstairs to my college life.

Back to friends, sisters, floormates sitting on The Roommate’s bed, laughing about nothing.

Back to pretending to be productive while girls slip in and out of the room, up and down the hall.

Back to school.

But my mom was here tonight.

And I liked it.

~Natalia

How Thankful I Am

I had something of an epiphany today. I was sitting once again in the same little Mexican church that I visited in August. The service was completely in Spanish and as the offertory basket made its way slowly up and down the rows, my mind drifted back to Mexico. Something reminded me of the cook at the Casa Hogar, with whom I spent many hours this past winter; standing side by side on the slippery white kitchen tile, cooking, talking, laughing, and occasionally crying.

As memories of the time I spent with Hermana Dina flew through my mind, I felt the corners of my mouth turning up in a slight smile. Then, suddenly, lessons from Intro to Disciplemaking class came to mind.

Discipling someone is not about making them a better Christian, it’s about together becoming more like Christ.

It is sacrifice. Honesty. Compassion.

Living life is a discipleship process; take advantage of the opportunities that God gives you to disciple individuals in the different spheres of your life.

As lessons from class swirled together with memories of times with Hermana Dina, I realized that she had done exactly that. As we worked together to make meals for forty people every day, she showed me love and patience, both as I floundered my way through making tortillas for the first time, and as I careened haphazardly through this thing called life.

As we pulled the skin off of chiles rellenos, or diced mounds of onions, she answered my questions about life and God and boys and then turned right around and asked me questions. She remembered the things I told her, tucking my words and anecdotes, concerns and joys in the back of her mind for future reference. She asked about my family and made sure to meet my dad when he came to Mexico at the end of my stay.

Hermana Dina is wise, kind, patient, honest, funny, and an amazing cook. She never went out of her way or took special pains to treat me with love, but rather, it came to her naturally and seamlessly. She welcomed me into the kitchen and took advantage of the time we had together to help me delve deeper into what was in my own heart, as well as grow more like Jesus.

And I never realized how thankful I am for her until this morning, sitting in a little Mexican church in Chicago.

~Natalia

Do I Tell You?

Part of the reason to write a blog is to share one’s life. When I write here, I’m sharing my life with you. I’m telling you what I think, how I feel, what happens in my life. I’m telling you about me. But I can’t tell you everything. Nor do I want to. Writing a blog is not an excuse to spread every tiny detail about my life across the internet. Rather, it’s a challenge to pick and chose which thoughts, which happenings, which emotions are to be shared.

Every time I sit down to write a new post, I must discern what begs to be shared, what should be shared, and what no amount of words could ever communicate. Yes, I share much with you. But for every post that appears here on Leadmewhere, there is another thought, another event, another memory that I don’t share. There isn’t time. There isn’t space. And I must decide what to put into words, and what to keep inside me.

But sometimes, it’s a hard decision. What do I tell you? What do I keep in my heart, or scribble in colored pen in the notebook that contains the conversations between me and God?

Do I tell you about floor retreat last night? Twelve girls from my floor spent the night in Lake Geneva. Mary’s grandma welcomed us into her home with hugs and food. We jumped around the pool. Sat in the steaming hot tub. Ate delicious pasta and sauce, a plethora of snacks, rich desserts, and then woke up to a pancake breakfast. We sat in the basement and played Hot Seat. I fell asleep on the floor of the family room, surrounded by girls who I room with, talk with, do life with. Even as I dozed, I could hear them laughed and talking; a running, giggling commentary on life itself.

Do I tell you about going to the Michigan Avenue Christmas Light Parade today after dinner? Two girls and five guys headed out after dinner to brave the hordes of people and see what this parade was all about. We scurried down Chicago Ave, the crowd growing denser with every passing block. On Michigan Ave, we snaked through stand-still crowds, inching between shoulders, clinging to the coat of the person in front of us, one single-file line of bundled Moody students. One our way, we managed to pick up three middle-aged women who joined our little train, pressing through the crowd along with us, calling out our names when we became momentarily separated. We ended up along the Chicago River, in prime position for the firework show at the end of the parade.

Do I tell you about Thanksgiving, approaching more rapidly than I can fathom? I’m excited for the drive up to Michigan. For laughs and inside jokes with cousins. For talks with grandparents, aunt and uncle. For Black Friday shopping with the cousins. For Saturday football. For food. For Christmas at Thanksgiving. For family.

There’s more, too. More in my heart and more in my mind. But I’ve been going, going. Walking, running, sitting, talking, being, interacting for a rather long time and I’m tired. I’ve seen and done quite a bit in recent days and hours, and I’m looking forward to quite a bit more in the upcoming weeks.

But now is not time to share anymore. Now is time to sit, to be still, to process, and to sleep.

~Natalia

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