Life Right Now {#22}


With these people, going to Africa I am.

~Natalia

Wherein I Talk about Africa Again

God, please show me what I’m supposed to be doing, and open my eyes to see you leading me.

It was mid-October, 2011, and Moody Bible Institute’s annual missions conference had just begun. All around me people were talking about missions opportunities, short and long term trip options, and the deep need of people the world over to hear about Jesus Christ. I wanted desperately for God to show me how I was to respond to the need and I trusted Him to show me.

Two days later, sitting in a sun-lit classroom, listening to a seasoned missionary discuss orphan care in Africa, God spoke to my heart. You can only discern so much of my will here at school, He said. He’s right, I thought. I can’t just sit and wait until God shows me exactly what He wants me to do. I need to go and do. Only when I go out and serve Him will I be able to discern what is right, what I am called to, where my heart finds peace and joy.

And God heard my prayer, and provided an opportunity to go and do in Kenya, Africa this March! From March 10th-March 22nd, fellow Moody students Anna, Delroy, and I will be partnering with Christ’s Hope International to work in Kisumu, Kenya. Christ’s Hope is an organization whose focus is to bring the hope of Christ to individuals affected by HIV/AIDS. Lord willing, we will have the opportunity to join national workers in visiting a children’s jail, spending one-on-one time with HIV/AIDS victims, and visiting one of Christ Hope’s orphan Care Points, among other ministry opportunities.

I would like to ask you to pray for my team and me as we prepare for our trip, as well as during our stay in Kenya. Please pray that God would prepare the hearts of the people we interact with, as well as prepare Anna, Delroy, and me for whatever He has for us while we’re in Kenya. Please pray also for safe travel for our team, both the four flights each way as well as travel in and around Kenya. On a more personal note, I am feeling rather apprehensive about the trip; please pray that I can trust in God’s sovereignty, and that I can be excited for our time in Kenya.

Thank you so much for your care and the part you play in my life, and for supporting me through your prayers! It means so much to me that you take the time to lift up the people of Kenya, our team, and our trip in your prayers!

~Natalia

Close to the Heart

I visited my old Spanish class this evening.

The NU class that I took with my father three years ago, when the whole Moving to Mexico for a Year thing was a vague concept.

I loved that class.

Loved the professor.

Still talk to her, catch up with her, visit her occasionally.

Stevy is in the class right now, which gave me a good excuse to visit.

It was fun.

Just like I remembered it.

And, for a moment, as I sat in exactly the same little desk that I sat in three years ago, I thought about Mexico.

Thought about the Casa Hogar, and about Kenia, and about Manuel and Tere.

And then I did a mental count down of the months until my next potential stint in Mexico, and it suddenly seemed very soon.

And a little bit of the sense of “rightness” that I feel while I’m there welled up inside me.

And my heart kind of squeezed and swelled at the same time. And I wanted to jump and hug someone very tightly.

But I didn’t, because I was sitting quietly in my old Spanish class.

And then we moved on to something else and my mind moved right along with the class, and Mexico faded from the forefront of my mind.

But it didn’t fade that far, because something so close to one’s heart can’t really get very far from one’s mind.

~Natalia

Moody Expected

Occasionally, people ask me how actually living at Moody compares to my expectations of living at Moody. This question tends to stump me. You would think that the eight years that elapsed between deciding to attend Moody and actually arriving on this campus would have resulted in at least one or two major expectations. Alas, every time I am faced with that fateful question, I shrug, hem and haw a bit, and then sidestep the whole issue with the conveniently elusive and noncommittal

“Well, I’m not sure if I had any expectations, really.”

Which, as you can probably imagine, is not entirely true. I did have a handful of preconceived notions regarding what it would be like to work, play, eat, sleep as a Moody student. These preconceptions are based almost completely on off-hand comments and remarks made by previous Moody students, and are as follows:

Preconception #1: Sickness passes rapidly amongst human beings living in dormitory settings, and if the girl across the hall seven doors down has a cough, you’re probably going to contract influenza.

Truth: This belief was based on a story my 5th grade AWANA leader (then a Moody student and my idol) related about her entire floor (which, coincidentally, is the same floor I currently live on) being struck with the stomach flu at the same time. I can still picture her recounting this tale nonchalantly as wide-eyed young girls surrounded her, hanging on her every gruesome word. And yes, by nature of the fact that people who live with each other do occasionally breathe the same air, it is true that illnesses can pass from one of us to others. But thus far in my Moody career, I have yet to witness an entire floor wiped out by the same bug at the same time.

Preconception #2: Classes are ridiculously hard and your little brain is going to be working overtime trying to keep track of everything you’re learning.

Truth: I am unsure where I collected this little gem of a foreboding expectation, but I arrived on campus last fall literally ready to suffer brain cramps from the overload of learning that was sure to be heaped upon me. Now, please keep in mind that I am two semesters into an eight-semester-long Moody career. I have yet to experience much. I am a mere padawan. However, I have been most pleasantly surprised with the academics here at Moody. Yes, classes can be hard. Yes, I do occasionally struggle to wrap my mind around this or that concept. But professors are kind, wise, and intelligent. Classes are teaching me invaluable lessons that will help me immensely as I seek to further God’s Kingdom. And the things I am learning, both inside and out of the classroom, are shaping and growing my mind and heart to be more like Christ.

Preconception/ Question #3: Ever since I was quite young, the whole idea of sitting in class has had a huge question mark over it. From a young age, I would occasionally ponder such life changing queries as Will I take notes in a notebook? A three-ring binder? What do college classrooms look like? And they big? Small? Do you wear a backpack in college? Do I have to take my textbooks to class? Wouldn’t that be a lot of books? How do you know where to go for every class? And the notes: taken in pen? Or pencil?

Truth: I suppose these questions were understandable for a homeschooler to be asking, seeing as most of them find their root in the simple fact that I did not experience a public school setting until my senior year of high school. At that point, at the ripe old age of 17, I was enrolled as a part-time student in the tiny Christian school at our church in Mexico. This was an invaluable experience for me in many ways, not the least of which being that it helped me begin to answer the above questions.

Preconception #4: It is socially acceptable to walk around your floor without pants on.

Truth: Yes.

Preconception #5: College is such a growing experience and will be so good for you.

Truth: First, allow me to say that the above sentence can easily be construed to mean anything and is, for the most part highly uninformative. However, it is by far the strongest message I received from people when they found out I was planning on attending THE Moody Bible Institute.

And, as ambiguous as they were, they could not have been more right. I am learning and growing; immensely so. So much that sometimes, Thursday night hits and the spilled makeup on the blue dorm carpet is a painfully accurate picture of how I feel on the inside: poured out, empty, splattered all over. Done.

So much that I’m sitting on the red couch in the lounge, listening to conversation bounce back and forth across the room, echoing slightly off the walls, and my heart kind of hurts because I can physically see how blessed I am. Relationships with my family, with the women on my floor; deep, complex, sometimes challenging. But also filled with joy and fun and patience and grace and love. The love of God that pours out of us, splashing on those around us, soaking all of us in a blanket of His mercy and sovereignty.

Is Moody like I had expected? Maybe a little bit. But it’s also so much harder, so much more fun, so much more challenging, and so much better than I ever expected.

~Natalia

Unaffected

The train was making its way rather laboriously through the city. Elevated above and over the street by way of decaying cement underpasses, I could see into second and third story windows from where I stood.

I leaned back against the clear plastic window that separates the standing area from the sitting area. My hands were shoved into my coat pockets, more because I didn’t know what else to do with them than because of the cold.

I stood where I was and watched the world go by.

The train swayed back and forth as we rounded a bend, and I had to put my foot out to steady myself. I had regained my balance, leaning once more against the dingy window, when the train gently ground to a halt.

Three beeps from the overhead speakers were followed by a clear-voiced recording informing us that we were “standing momentarily, waiting for signal clearance”. I silently recited the message along with the recording, absently repeating the oft-heard public transportation announcement.

I turned once again to the window and gazed out at the scene before me, all around me. The train was on a wide sort of natural platform, raised a level or two above street level. Three or four other sets of tracks lay neatly across the platform, gray gravel filling the spaces between the tracks. Beyond the last pair of parallel metal lines, the ground dropped away, leading neatly and steeply to a city street.

Buildings and offices, apartments and stores rose up from the cement walkway, and behind them, a gray sky poured pale white light rather weakly onto the world below.

On the platform right in front of me, little white puffs of untouched snow lined each wooden slat that lay between the train tracks. Each piece of wood sported its own column of perfect white snow, and I studied the wooden slats for a moment or two as I waited for the train to begin rolling again.

I looked from the gray sky to the little snow piles to the buildings neatly lining the slick, wet street. My eyes wandered here and there across the scene in front of me, unconsciously seeking something that I could not find.

What am I looking for? I asked myself, trying ineffectively to drag my eyes away from the cold afternoon view and to focus on something inside the brightly lit train. But my eyes remained transfixed, moving slowly from tracks to sky to street to building to tracks once more.

And then, suddenly, I knew. It’s the beauty that I’m looking for. The beauty that I’m missing. I realized. And a certain kind of sad resign welled up inside me.

Because I know it’s there. I know the sky is beautiful. Know that the city skyline is beautiful, no matter how gloomy it looks. And I most certainly know that perfectly white puffs of snow on the train track slats are beauty almost indescribable.

I know that the beauty’s there. And maybe I even see it. But it doesn’t grab my heart and squeeze it, doesn’t cause me to suck in my breath and stare and stare and stare at the beauty until I think my eyes might pop out of my head.

I wasn’t affected by the beauty this afternoon.

But I want to be.

~Natalia

Peace

Because it’s Thursday night.

Because I had a couple of moments today where I doubted that I would make it to Friday.

Because, while I was folding laundry this afternoon, I suddenly felt calm.

Because life is full and deep and hard and rich.

Because, I suppose, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here is a picture, taken from the roof of our Little Pink House in Mexico, in October 2009.

Peace.

~Natalia

Laundry Pranked

It was 4pm on Monday afternoon, and I was on my way to work. Two of my floor-mates, women who I live with, eat with, watch movies with, talk with, were in my room. One lying on my bed, the other on The Roommate’s bed. The friend curled cozily on my bed happened to be perched on two week’s worth of freshly washed laundry.

We had been conversing rather animatedly as I prepared to leave for work, and as I shrugged my coat on and reached for my purse, the girl currently occupying The Roommate’s bed exclaimed, “Don’t go to work! Stay with us!”

We chuckled at her insistence, and I continued buttoning up my coat.

“But, I’ll miss you!” She exclaimed, smiling broadly and mischievously. I grinned back at her, “I’ll be back soon enough.” I said, then waved goodbye to the dear women and stepped out into the hallway.

“I already miss you!” She yelled again, and I could hear her companion giggling softly. “Then fold my laundry! It’ll be like I’m right there with you!” I yelled back as I stepped quickly down the hall towards the elevator.

Four hours later, I was done with work and back on the train, this time heading south towards the city. Towards school. Towards my room. As the train rolled out of the Red Line station, I pulled up Facebook on my phone and was mildly surprised and highly amused to see that the two little mischief makers that I had left lying in my room had taken the liberty of posting a couple harmless and hilarious posts under my name.

Haha.

“YOU ARE SO BUSTED!” I told the pair via the interwebs, still giggling as the train neared school. We exchanged texts and tweets back and forth for the next forty minutes, until I arrived back on campus. The two women were hinting at something, and couldn’t quite figure out what. They were amused and proud of themselves, and I didn’t know why. I practically skipped across the plaza, and hurried my way up to my room. I was excited for dinner. For being inside where it’s warm. For Monday night.

My general feeling of excitement turned to hilarity when I pushed open my door and stepped into my room. There, at the foot of my bed, lay a pile of neatly folded clothing. And strung in a beautiful chain across the ceiling were… five pairs of unmentionables.

Two more pairs hung neatly on the wall, lined up amidst my family pictures.

On my bed, my teddy bears each sported a pair, and my tiny little stuffed animals had each been neatly tucked into a sock.

On the back wall, more brightly colored unmentionables were affixed to the wall in the shape of a huge smiley face.

Pairs hung from the curtains. My hat hooks. The light fixture. One pair had been taped smack dab in the middle of the window.

I laughed quite a bit. I was impressed with the girls’ ingenuity and quick-thinking, as well as the tongue-in-cheek humor of folding the rest of the clothes, as I had (jokingly) demanded of them. They were smart, funny, and entertaining, and they were as proud of their prank as I was entertained by it.

There’s still panties all over my room. Hanging, taped, stuck. I think I’ll keep them there a while, too. Reminds me how much I enjoy living where I do, with the people that I do. Doing the crazy, silly, difficult, sad, fun things that we do. And loving it all.

~ Natalia

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