Heavy Hearts

Today I cried. My heart is heavy, thumping inside of me.

Yesterday I put my boots on and took them walking to try and process everything: Spain’s lockdown that now seems like a dream (a bit of a bad dream), thousands of Spanish families grieving simultaneously, my friends in the US arguing about coronavirus, a man who was killed and the other man who had a hand in it, protests that highlight the hurt, people who riot, and my own selfish heart that I see more clearly every day.

All of these things (and so much more) wrapped into this moment of our existence. I am heartbroken and bothered by all of it.

Silly me! As if all of that can be predictably processed with a pen and paper in one afternoon. As if I could arrive at some sort of clarity after pounding out several miles.

I’ve felt so heavy and so confused the past few days thinking about George Floyd. I’ve prayed formless prayers with long silences. I’m having a hard time sorting through my own thoughts and certainly haven’t had words to say. I don’t know how to be or what to do.

This morning, I woke up to hear that one of the cities I‘ve come to care for was trashed last night. I caught up on news and have watched the riots with disbelief and the protests with my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Finally, I cried.

When talking and words seem like too much and not enough all at the same time, it seems like the only thing to do is grieve along with everyone who is grieving — most of all the Lord who is, no doubt, more brokenhearted than any of us as He looks at what we have done with this world and His images. “I’m sorry” is appropriate, because I know I have disrespected the humans in my circle who He loves dearly.

I must take a long, awkward look into my own heart and ask God to “search me and see if there is any hurtful way in me” (Psalm 139:23).

I do that knowing that I am not perfect,

knowing that there are “hurtful ways” in me,

knowing that I need to see what needs to be fixed,

knowing that Christ will clean me and change my heart as I also work to change.

And finally, I have the ability to look inside the dark places of my heart without despairing because I know I am loved by Him in the middle of the whole process.

May I follow Jesus and sacrifice myself, my comfort, and my pride for the good of every person around me.

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep

Today begins phase one of reopening here in Spain. The first step toward the new normal. And of course every country is doing it differently and everyone has something to say about it.

Is Spain doing it right? Are various states in the USA doing it right? As much as we like to think we know, no one does, and we all have a different perspective.

There’s the idea that we don’t really react to the weight of something until it affects our personal life. An issue doesn’t really take up space in our brains or hearts until it comes knocking at our door or in our neighborhood, affects us or our friends or family. To an extent, it’s true.

Our experience inevitably changes how we approach, see, and handle an issue or situation.

Here in Spain, corona (that’s my favorite name for it) is not far from any of us — both physically and emotionally. I’ve had friends who have been hospitalized with corona, others who have held the hands of those dying alone in nursing homes, one who has worked long long hours in the hospital, another whose mother passed away. And of course the physical health aspect is just one part.

It’s knocking on my friends’ door and affecting their lives.

Feeling certain effects of something doesn’t necessarily mean we know what the right, best, or good course of action is. Likewise, being removed from a situation doesn’t automatically mean we see it more clearly and can make the right call.

Both simply mean we understand different things, feel weight in places other people don’t.

Does anyone know the perfect way to handle shutting down or reopening in any country? No. Is everyone’s opinion influenced by the people they know, where they live, and how they’re affected? Yes.

None of us have the wisdom to know what to do or what is best. But, we can know a few important things to do and I think one of those things is this:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” -Romans 12:15-16

Right now some are weeping and some are rejoicing. And some are trying to rejoice over events that should be commemorated with a celebration but are not.

While I can (and should) think critically and share opinions and look at the big-scale picture, I’m not sure that’s what really matters right now. Humbly supporting and loving — through the good and the bad — the individuals I know and “not being wise in my own eyes” is what I want to focus on.

Smile Lines

Who knew that I would come to love smile lines?

On Monday I stepped out of my apartment for the second time in 15 days. I slipped on the face mask that was given to us before we started stacking boxes at the food pantry. Four other pairs of gloved hands lifted boxes, handed them to me as we made a human chain. Four other pairs of eyes, smiling at me with their smile lines. I got to know them by their eyes and knew they were grinning when the beautiful wrinkles showed up.

Wearing that same mask, I went to the fruit and veggie store. The sign on the window reads: “Please, only one person inside.” After waiting my turn outside, I backed away as an elderly man, also wearing a face mask, exited. As I let him pass, I lifted my eyes and showed him my best smile lines. His crinkled up, too.

Inside, Julian the fruit man had his own mask. His muffled voice asked how many peppers I wanted and if I was going to eat both of my avocados today or wanted a less-ripe one for later this week.

I can’t wait to see the smiles behind these smile lines, but I also won’t forget to love these wrinkles — every single part of these beautiful faces.

learn a language, they say

“Learn a foreign language,” they say. “It’ll be great,” they say.

What they don’t tell you is that it’s all well and cool until your foreign language becomes a bully and starts doing a number on your native tongue. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll question your sanity and your intelligence when you start forgetting words in your native language. Or that in acquiring a new language you’ll feel like you’re un-acquiring the only language you actually know (knew?) how to speak with 100% fluency.

Can’t put together a coherent sentence thanks to the lio of languages in your head? You’re not alone. There are at least two of us. And then there are the other super-humans who have mastered another language (or multiple!!) and somehow still manage to speak well.

But not to worry, learning a language really is worth the pena and if all else fails, there are always gestures.

Gym Culture

Living in a foreign culture leaves you no option but to laugh at yourself and your small but significant daily adventures. Just when you think you’re really understanding and living well in the rhythm and rhyme of another culture, it throws you a curveball. An unsuspected and sneaky curveball like joining a gym. Or maybe I’m the only one who thinks about these things, but think about them I do, and it makes me feel like I’m the awkward two-year-old toddling through learning a new aspect of culture.

Last Monday I joined the gym near my house. Great idea, right? Yes, yes it is. But as soon as I walked in I realized the act of going to a gym to workout carries its own set of cultural norms and I had no idea if I could apply my American gym-norms to Spanish gyms. I quickly realized I cannot when I found out that my gym in Spain OPENS at 8:00am. Forget 5:30am workouts (good thing i wasn’t looking for that anyway). One cannot make the assumption that a gym is a gym is a gym. I rushed in for my first gym class and wondered if it’s chill if people show up late or leave early. I listened hard for the cue to lunge or to squat because goodness knows the loud music combined with feet pounding the floor made the spanish a bit harder to catch. My foreignness was made more apparent to me when I played 20-questions-from-the-newbie with the staff and as they looked me up on the computer they asked “What’s your second last name?” Yeah, I don’t actually have one of those. Then when I needed a towel for my sticky skin, I wondered if they’d look at me like a freak when I asked where they are. Maybe gyms having towels isn’t a thing here. When I used weight equipment for the first time I peeked around at everyone else to see how sharing weight machines is done here. And then when I hopped on the treadmill, I put my music on and ran my heart out, assuming treadmill rules are the same around the world, and if they aren’t, let the #peopleofthegym stare.