The Greatest Of These

His words caught me off guard. I love you, Elizabeth. Maybe because he didn’t speak English. Maybe because I’d just met him. Or perhaps because we just don’t say those three words enough. Regardless, the moment when my Mexico amigo said I love you is a memory that I won’t soon forget.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In our human imperfection, we often forget how much we are loved. I know that I need to be reminded and re-convinced of it every so often. Sure, we can hear the words a million times, but sometimes it takes much more to truly believe it. This week, I learned that I shut myself off from relationships without evening thinking about it. In doing so, I ostracize friendship, love, and God; I lose the freedom to live in love.

Today I learned how to find that freedom again. Suddenly, the world became unmasked and I began to see the love all around me. I remembered that I am not alone and that brokenness is real but not what we were created for. I recalled that the greatest of all is love.

The most important commandment… to love the Lord your God.

And the second…to love your neighbour as yourself.

And we love because He first loved us.

This is one of the days where I’d say that God does have the perfect timing — its Valentines Day and I feel extremely blessed for the love in my life.

Happy 14th of February! Remember, always, that you are loved.

Unending Affair

Dear Mexico,

Yes, I’m writing another post in the Missions Work Category with the tag of Mexico. Even though I’ve written so many that my sister thinks it must be the theme of my blog. Although it’s been two years since I saw beautiful you. Yes, two years. Two years today since I got my last glimpse of the country that changed my almost-sixteen-year-old life.

This letter is going to be brief. After all, I’ve written about you countless times. Seriously. My English, Writing, Spanish, and Socials teachers as well as my test markers all got to read about you. My friends and family do everything they can from rolling their eyes as I recall both the funny and heartfelt memories for the umpteenth time. Even though it’s been two years and my life has been filled with other experiences since, I still can’t stop thinking about you, Mexico.

You just taught me so, so much. Everyday, I think about you. There’s your beauty and the way it made me more beautiful. The landscape, the people, the art. There was the poverty and how it enriched me. I saw houses tinier than any house in Canada–but they were yellow and happy. There was the love that welcomed me with open arms. Your people who just plain and simple cared for me. The way Besenta bandaged my knee, the children who didn’t want me to leave, and Jorje with his smile. I learned about beauty, wealth, and love from you.

And now, well, I’m left to ponder it all. Almost from the first day I met you, I was in love. I said back then that I knew I’d come back. But now it’s been two years and I’m still at home. I was supposed to be back with you right now, but I’m not. And from what I can see of my future, I won’t be with you again for a long time, if ever. I miss you. It’s not what I imagined.

But I won’t give up on you. I never could. I will pray and write and dream. If I never see you again, I know that my first and only trip was exactly what I needed. No matter what, I’ll always love you. It’s an unending affair of amor. You are my first love for foreign countries and missions work. You are the one I will tell my children and grandchildren about one day. I love you, Mexico.

Love,

Elizabeth

Say Hello Not Good-Bye

A couple of months ago, church was just hard. I had to say good-bye to dreams and learn how to welcome reality.

I walked to church that morning because we had car troubles. The sun shone brightly for the first time in weeks and it felt good to stretch my legs. My family had gone other ways since the car broke down so I was alone. I contemplated the morning ahead of me: helping out in Sunday school and running away from the question that was sure to come. The question that I would have to say no to. The question that hurt me so much. Are you going to Mexico?

~~~

Before I turned into the parking lot, I saw a little girl dash out of her door dressed in pajamas. She began to unravel the Christmas lights from a little tree in the yard. I don’t know why, but this caught my eye.

~~~

For some reason, I stuck around after church. I don’t know why I did it. I’d already made my decision not to go to Mexico so there was really no point.

“Are you coming to the meeting today?” my youth pastor asked as I finally went to the foyer to leave.

“No,” I replied. “I-I’m not going to Mexico.”

He looked disappointed. “Why not?”

“I just don’t really feel called to go. I don’t think God wants me to go this year. I’m not needed and I don’t need it, as much as I want to go.” I said. “And believe me — I want to go to Mexico more than anything. But I really just don’t think He wants me to go.”

“Well, that sounds like a good reason. We’ll miss you though,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said through tears. I watched the others enter the activity room where the meeting was to be held. Some of them had gone before, some of them were new. I envied my friends and asked God why. “Why can’t I go back? I’ve dreamed of it for so long? Why can’t you call me back? Please God! Why do I have to say good-bye again?”

But the Good defeated the bad and I heard His voice loudly and clearly…

“Don’t say good-bye. This is not the end. New things are coming. Good things. Say hello, not good-bye.”

I smiled. It was true. Yes, He was right. I put on my coat with a happy heart. Just because I wasn’t going to Mexico didn’t mean that God had forgotten about me. He was calling me somewhere else. Somewhere better for me. And who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to Mexico someday. It doesn’t matter though. Saying good-bye is irrelevant. Hello is the word to use for the future He has planned out.

~~~

As I walked back, I saw the girl who had been unfastening Christmas lights earlier. Now she was drawing a chalk house in the drive way. I was reminded of my younger days of chalk castles and neighbour friends and I felt the nostalgia and sadness come back. But only for a moment.

“Hello,” I said, smiling at the girl as I went.

“Hi,” she replied, looking up from her chalk.

I grinned. I’d said hello not good-bye. I can do this. I really can.

~~~

I wrote this post back in February, but over these last few months, these feelings have become even truer as I prepare to graduate and start a new life at university in the fall. While I am very excited to begin this new life, I am also apprehensive. I don’t want to say good-bye to everything I’ve known and loved.

But God is showing me once more that life is about saying hello, not good bye. Today, I was officially accepted into university after months of second guessing and debating. With enthusiasm, I said Hello and Thank you, God!

God has a wonderful future planned out for you, too! Don’t ever forget that He has your very best in mind. He loves you. So say Hello and not Good-bye.

Espera, Por Favour

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been waiting for something.

I waited for the cake after dinner. To be in my first play. For my birthday to come so that I would be the same age as my friend, Kaleigh. I waited to jump on horse back and have my first solo in a play. At sixteen, I spent nights of desperation in wait for a special friend to call and the last days of this summer waiting for school to start. Once, I waited for my grandmother to die. I’ve waited for tests, celebrations, emails, and death. Ever since I was little, I’ve been waiting to grow up. Now, I’m seventeen and seemingly starting that life yet I still have to wait.

Today at Spanish, I helped the students with verbs. Tener. Ir. Ver. Hacer. Estar. We talked about meanings. To have. To go. To see. To make or to do. To be. And we conjugated them in different ways. Yo tengo. Tú vas. Él hace. Nosotros estamos. It all made foggy sense to them, I think. Learning a language takes practice and lots of waiting.

“Elizabeth,” one student called. “What does esperar mean?”

Her words struck my heart, yet I answered calmly. “Esperar means to wait.”

All of a sudden, I was in Mexico again. Dirt was on my face and clothing, my braids were wispy and cheeks rosy. Little children clamoured around me, begging with their eyes and foreign lips for piggy back rides. I was overwhelmed by a flock of several children. They swarmed me on all sides and I said in that moment, Espera, por favour.”

It was a beautiful memory and I yearned to go back to that place where it all began. I glanced at my textbook, wishing it could take me to the country where it’s bonito words are spoken. But then I remembered my decision from last weekend and the realization that God was not calling me back to Mexico this summer. My heart sank like a ship and I asked God why again. “Why can’t I go? Why must I wait? It’s been almost two years. Haven’t I waited long enough? I miss it so much and I promised I’d go back.”

And then I heard my fifteen-year-old, swarmed-with-children self say those words once more. “Espera, por favour.” And I remembered, esperar means to wait and that is just what God wants me to do right now.

Because promises made in the quicksands of life are easily dissolved. Since what we want isn’t always what is best. And as God knows just what I need. Sí, I will wait. Wait to go back to Mexico and see those shining faces and say “Espera, por favour.” Wait until January to go to university. Wait to have a boyfriend. Wait for God and His perfect plan and the things that I really need instead of the things that I don’t. Espera, Elizabeth. Espera, por favour.

But I dislike the word wait. It’s ugly and unromantic and far too overused. So, I’ll wait en Espanol. Sí, for it is a melody that way. To esperar is bonito and God’s plan is a song of amor. 

Yo espero porque Dios.

What about you? ¿Esperas tambien? What do you have to esperar for these days?

Because Love Is More

“When I was in Columbia…”

“On my trip to Cambodia…”

“In the Ukraine…”

I stared at all three of them in awe. It was my third night at the acting school and I had found, for the first time in the whole year that I had been back from Mexico, three people who felt exactly how I did about missions trips. Three people who had learned to love and be loved, give and receive, and had been humbled and changed on a trip just like mine. It was the answer to my prayers! My heart jumped and I listened intently to the people who also knew that love is more important than anything else.

Between each of us, we’d gone to four very different places. However, we could all identify with the same thoughts and feelings. We all knew that people are people wherever you go, and that the border you cross or the language you speak doesn’t change who you are in Christ. We understood that love is more relevent when you put differences aside and realize that you are quite similar to someone else.

There were stories of little children, beautiful children, who had taught us so much. Some of us shared stories of the power of the words, “I love you,” spoken by kids that we barely knew. We discussed cute, little children who clung to our knees and wouldn’t let us go because they loved us, too. Our hearts wept for the ones left behind, and inside each excited pair of eyes there was a tear for the loss that we had without them. We knew that love is more radiant and beautiful than anything else.

We each knew the interchangeable language that does not need to be translated and can never be misunderstood for we had spoken it on our trips. We spoke of times when there were no words needed because the other person knew. And, of course, there were the wonderful days when words were understood, because love just isn’t a foreign language. It was evident to us that the language of love is more understandable, true, and lovely than any other dialect in the world.

Most of all, we knew about the wealth of each country. We talked of the golden smiles and rich laughter, marvelous moments and wealthy words in Mexico, Cambodia, Columbia, and the Ukraine. We knew that money is not the most important thing, and that the true wealth of a person or country is not measured in coins or bills. The size of your house, the car that you have, or the clothes that you wear don’t define that either. Yes, we knew that love is more valuable and wealthy than any pot of gold.

Thank you God, for these friends and that the love that you sent us is indeed more than anything else in this world.