My therapist this week told me that God’s timing wasn’t a coincidence. While it was about a specific thing/event we’d talked about, I can’t help but have it ring in my ears tonight as I’m reminded: God’s timing is not a coincidence. It’s perfectly planned.
Facebook memories are always a hit/miss, depending on how old they are (to the people I was friends with in high school: I apologize for treating facebook like a diary.)
But Ciudad has stayed the same.
I don’t think I knew that first year just how much Ciudad would be a part of my life. I don’t think I realized that this place had changed me, until I look back at it now– how I interweave stories and memories from the trips into almost every conversation I have. How I relive the days, the moments, playing the “what were you doing now?” game when I miss it. How even despite the language barrier, I came to know these kids– and they me. How the pictures would be looked at (and the memories remembered) daily. How I would long for the trip year after year back to my kids. How I would spend time with the team after the trip, missing it together. (I could write a whole post on the team aspect of the trip this year).
This year in some ways was one of the most different in the trip itself, and yet I felt like I fell into my usual rhythms the minute my feet hit the ground outside of the airport. I could breathe easy. I knew life in Cozumel and at Ciudad: it was certain, steady, and life-giving. Everything about it made me feel like this is how life is supposed to be.
Every spring break leads me back to that place– and to that person. And every year, I come back leaving more of myself there, all the while trying to bring back life there to my life here.
Ciudad and the kids there have become such a huge part of my daily life and the way I see the world. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not reminded of how these kids change my life.
Looking back at this year’s trip has been harder for me that trips past. I know it’s partially because of the unknowns of next year (since I won’t be a student anymore), but I also feel like it’s because this year I felt different. I knew the ropes and the ins and outs of the home– and knew the kids decently well. I mostly stuck to the kids I already had a relationship with, instead of trying so hard to try to talk to/get to know everyone. (a hard feat with 40 kids plus 40 teammates vying for kids attention too!). I think when I did that, something shifted in me: by focusing on building the relationships I’d already made, I didn’t have to try so hard. There was already friendship there. There was a layer of love and trust already between us. That made the week so much more fun for me– spending time laughing and playing go fish with Wendy, or taking selfies with Carlos, or heart to hearts with Conny and chasing Cristi around the playground. I already knew them and loved them (and they loved me back), so I felt such at ease. It also feels harder to share those stories, for some reason.
That all changed when I was at Ciudad. I knew if I could make it through to Cozumel, back to Ciudad, life would feel as it was supposed to. There more than anywhere else do I feel like I have value. I have a purpose again. I was worth something to these kids, not because I had my life figured out or because I was special. They found worth and value in me because of me. Because I was there, just being myself. Despite the language and cultural barriers, they spoke volumes of worth into my life– just for me being there. I was enough to them when I wasn’t enough to myself.
And that thought– that I was worth something to them– has changed my life.
God speaks through these kids every year, but this year, He spoke volumes into the dryest part of my soul: He reminded me that I had worth, because of who I am. Not for what I did or said. But simply because of who I am. It doesn’t matter that I don’t see it in myself– He gave me people like Conny to see it for me.
My friend, Lydia, said after my first trip in 2013 that God’s fingerprints were all over Ciudad. Ever since then, I’ve believed that, and never felt God’s touch quite as much anywhere else but in Cozumel. It’s not that He isn’t moving anywhere else; it’s just that for me, I find him there the most. Because it’s there that I feel like I’m known and loved for just being me. I don’t have to put on a show or a happy face. I come, baggage and all, and these kids don’t care– they just want to love us like we love them. I see His fingerprints here because it is where I’m most reminded of who I am: loved, valued, worthy. I’m reminded that I have purpose here, whether that looks like teaching ESL or playing go fish and painting nails; whether that’s letting kids play with my sunglasses or sitting on the sidelines to comfort someone. I have a purpose at Ciudad, and God’s fingerprints lead me to that purpose year after year.
My first year blog ended with this line: I don’t think I can go back to life without Ciudad; and I know, with all my heart, that I really don’t ever want to.