Eight days.

I can’t even wrap my mind around it.

In eight days, I will be gone for half a year. I know it will fly by, just like the last six months. Regardless, time does move faster in retrospect than anticipation.

A lot of people have been asking me how I’m feeling about the trip. How am I feeling? Well, that’s a simple question that I’ll be able to answer immediately and succinctly. Or not.

How am I feeling?

Well, let’s start with the obvious. I’m scared.

I’m scared to get to Guatemala and figure out (because I know it will happen) that I forgot something I really need. I didn’t pack any pants. I forgot all of my Dramamine. I will get lost in the wilderness without my Edible Plants of Central America tome. I should have brought more protein bars for those times when all the food is breaded, fried, and dripping with gluten. I should have allocated suitcase space for my stuffed bunny, Fuzzbutt, to come along.

I’m scared of some things that don’t involve forgetfulness, too. Maybe I’ll get to Guatemala and my clothes will be entirely wrong – I’ll be the grandmotherly frump hobbling along in a knee-length skirt and cardigan as the rest of the female population breezes past me in shorts and tanktops. My shoes won’t fit right, and walking back and forth and forth and back will become torture in no short order as my feet rapidly atrophy into one massive blister. The elevation change will have me red-faced and gasping for air like a marathon runner as soon as I step off of the plane. My linguistic and cultural skills will be so far below sub-par that not only will a conversation be laughably embarrassing until I learn the local lingo, but I will actually be offensive to everyone with whom I come in contact. My work with the microfinance site will prove to be far too difficult and theoretical for my concrete, musical brain to handle. I will not have any introvert time. I’m scared for that moment when the whole rest of the Guatemala Term group gets on their plane bound for home and I get on a plane bound for Honduras.

So. That was a fairly good sample of scared. What else am I feeling?

I am hopeful.

I hope that I manage to connect with a ton of different people, from my roommate to my partners at the microfinance site to the trip leaders to the random people selling newspapers in El Parque Central. I hope that I live with host families who really want to get to know me, because I am so ready to love on my host families. I hope that I get placed with a host family in Antigua who lives a long ways away from the school, so that every morning and afternoon as I’m walking back and forth, I will have many faces along the way to learn and many names to remember and talk to and pray for. I hope that there are a ton of gluten-free options, and that wheat is a minimal, or at least avoidable, part of the Guatemalan diet. I hope that I get to gorge myself with avocados and mangos and I guess I don’t even know what grows in Guatemala. I will know soon, though, and I’m sure you’ll get lots of juicy details. (See what I did there?)

I am excited.

I am so ridiculously excited to get to know the Bethel group (along with the few students traveling with us who are not from Bethel) and to coalesce into a tribe while we’re there. I am excited to be effectively liberated from having a cell phone. I am excited to sit at a cafecito and do homework while listening to the radio drift by on the lazy, warm air. Speaking of that, I’m excited to hear in context the Guatemalan radio stations that I’ve been listening to streamed online for the last month or two. I’m excited to build relationships with the people I will interact with while at my microfinance internship. I’m excited to make a difference in peoples’ lives for real, and not feel just like a Standard Replacement American Missionary, Good For Five Days To One Week Of Generic Labor And Well-Meant Cultural Missteps. (Okay, that might have been a little harsh. Or a lot harsh. Take it as the light-hearted but entirely serious statement that it was.) I’m excited to not be working four or five jobs at one time, and to be able to use my time instead to focus on academics and the culture around me. I’m excited to see what God does with my CD project, whether it sells many more copies or slowly peters out. Either is fine with me; obviously, I’d like to sell many more CDs, but if I don’t, that’s no valley in my emotional life. I’m so excited to go to Manuelito and play with the kids, getting to know them and the staff there.

So that’s the basic emotional spectrum I am attempting to fit into my soul right now. That doesn’t take into account the facts that it is currently finals week of J-term, that I am beginning the dreaded process of saying goodbyes, that I desperately need to clean my apartment, that I made amazing chicken chili avocado coconut curry for supper, or that I am wearing Star Wars pajama pants right now.

My heart is overflowing right now with clouds and rainbows and thunder in the distance.

And as much as I may speculate about what is to come, the only thing I can say with certainty is that my heart will remain in overflow mode for a very long time.

It’s easy to get caught up in the future at this point. It’s easy to eschew the current moment for plans and daydreams and worries. But as much as planning is good, I can’t let myself forget to live right now. Jesus is so big and so powerful and is so familiar with every place I will visit and every person I will encounter. In the words of the ever-excellent Jon Foreman, “Why should I worry? Why should I freak out? God knows what I need; You know what I need. Your love is strong.”

I have eight days left before I hug Mom and Dad and Teya for the last time in six months. Eight days to figure out what I’m bringing, find and try on and buy all the clothes I need, coordinate CD sales and production, research and write a final paper, move out of my apartment, and pack my suitcase. If I was trying to do this on my own, there’s no way I could make it, or at least to do it gracefully. But with God’s help, I am committed to embracing the overflow and living radiantly in the middle of my hectic mess.

I pray that God blesses you with strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. I pray that he will make you just a little bit uncomfortable, because it’s hard to think you need someone when you have everything under control. I pray that no matter what your own personal countdown may look like, whether it’s financial or relational or anything else, that he would be there with open arms, ready to take your burden, and that you will make the decision to let him carry your heavy mind and aching heart.

May peace and grace be yours in abundance.


One response »

  1. Hi Erica – your CD is terrific. I have been listening to it in my car all week. Your voice is beautiful and the lyrics (in my language at least!) are clear with great backup all around. You are a very skillful writer and musician. Very impressive! Best wishes for safe travel and all of the adventures God has in store for you. You will be a blessing to those you meet.
    Sandy (and Dale ) Breed

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