There's No Place Like Home

Maybe it's because my team has started to feel like family, or maybe it's simply the charm or character of the city that's drawn my little heart in, but Cusco has started to feel like home. And for this Kansas girl, there's no place like home. With less than three weeks left, I want to capture my favorite things about this city and share them. Perhaps some of you will get the chance to visit some day and feel the same. 

As I'm writing this, our taxi driver who drove my friend Ben and I around to look at apartments four months ago sat down next to me, remembered my name, and asked me about our team and our time here. These people are so trusting, so generous, so family

I think that's the word I'd use to describe this culture compared to others I've interacted with before. From our landlords across the street, to the ministry partners we're working with in the city, our team has felt so included (almost to a fault), valued, and welcomed. Our landlords come over nearly every day - sometimes with good news, sometimes with bad, or sometimes just to say hello. Last week they even invited me to join their family vacation! 

After experiencing this culture (and weighing lots of options), I am so excited to start my Master's at Fuller Seminary in Intercultural Studies with a concentration in Race, Culture, and Reconciliation this Fall. I've always wanted to go back to school, and for the little explorer inside of me, this seems like the perfect fit. 

Traveling for me isn't simply about enjoying new places or adding to my bucket list; it's much more than that. It's about learning new things, challenging myself and ways of thinking, appreciating things about people I am different from, and developing a more holistic picture of our world and how we were made to function in it. 

Cusco has been no exception. I've learned to embrace people quickly (and quite literally through their familial greetings) and let my walls down. I've learned to allow more time for people and for tasks. I've learned a little Spanish and explored so many local gems. Though I will be sad to leave, I'm excited to step into what's next. 

Cusco feels like home, but soon, so will Pasadena, California. Next I'll be stepping into another culture, similar to my own, yet much different than my little Midwest hometown or my six years in the South. For me, experiencing new cultures is a way to keep learning, growing, and challenging myself as I step outside the box, explore, take new ground, and become who I was created to be. 

My Deepest Insecurity & Greatest Strength

Ya'll want to hear one of my deepest insecurities? Well, here goes. I've always been a mover, shaker, gotta keep going kind of girl. Oftentimes it's really hard for me to stay in the same place because I'm constantly dreaming of going or doing something new. So when someone says "you're all over the place", it cuts deep.

My life looks different than a lot of other people my age - I'm not married. I don't have a house. I haven't stayed in a job for more than two years at a time. I don't have kids. On the surface my life may seem "all over the place" or even irresponsible. But then I think to myself, my life is grounded in something unseen and in Someone much bigger than me. 

I signed up for a life of adventure and risk and I'd much rather keep moving than stay put and wake up one morning to find myself stuck. Don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with being married, having kids, working a steady job. All of those things are admirable in my opinion! But for some reason, my life has taken a different sort of turn and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

A friend told me recently that she wished she had the courage to take big risks like I did and I honestly didn't think much of it. But now I'm learning to embrace the risk-taker and dreamer inside of me as a strength. It's made me more acquainted with failure, that's for sure. I think we all need a dose of reality and must learn to persevere in the midst of failure. To get back up again and keep risking - that requires a hell of a lot of courage. 

I may be "all over the place", but I'm also courageous and willing to take risks. One such risk was my decision to spend the summer in Cusco, Peru this summer. Though I could have been working, saving money for my next transition (among a million other things), I decided to spend the summer giving my life away, surrendering my rights, adventuring into unknown places, and coming ALIVE in the process. 

The photos above were taken at Lake Titicaca last week. The lake sits on the border of Peru and Bolivia at over 12,500 feet, making it the highest lake in the world. If you're ever in Peru, I'd highly recommend making the trip. 

Further Up & Further In: Cusco, Peru

Well, I live in Cusco. And though it's been harder to breathe at over 12,000 feet, I'm confident this is where I'm supposed to be this summer. The risk feels great, but the reward greater. As I sit here in a little coffee shop in San Blas, I'm reminded of how much of me comes alive in the context of new cultures. My little explorer heart feels as though I can truly exhale and pioneer like I was made to do. 

To me life often mirrors the ascent up a mountain, as if I'm constantly climbing toward the next season, the next stage or next step. I've read and re-read Hinds Feet on High Places so many times my copy is torn in several places, but this allegory resonates so deeply with me. 

I heard a friend once speak of this same allegory. She said the higher you climb, the thinner the air and the fewer the companions. And as I've nestled into my little home in the Andes for the summer, her words have been ringing in my ears as I realize how right she really was. 

As I climb higher, step forward, going further up and further in, the air certainly gets thinner. It's as if my body is responding to the next level and I must learn to compensate for the new altitude. The companions grow fewer as well. The crew that started at the bottom is no longer together and yet I find myself thankful for the unlikely ones beside me.

This summer I have the privilege of climbing with a team of 35 interns and co-leading with some of my dear friends. We've already trekked into remote villages in the Andes (and interacted with some of the most precious people who had never seen foreigners before), served an orphanage outside of Cusco, picked avocados, walked all over Cusco, and even attended a Peruvian salsa dance class. See below for some pictures and highlights from my time so far and keep up with me on Instagram

Surrender & My Next Adventure

During my personal retreat last month I sensed three words or themes for my upcoming year - to explore, belong and create. Little did I know I'd have the opportunity to do all three in the last few weeks! Shortly after that short but sweet weekend in East Texas, I signed up for an exploratory trip to Peru with two of my dear friends. And it was wild, to say the least. 

Oftentimes when we surrender our own plans and ideas and open ourselves up to listen and wait, we find doors opening that we never could have opened or even identified on our own. So when I was invited to join a team in Peru this summer, I jumped and wholeheartedly said yes to another adventure of a lifetime. To me, this trip represents a convergence of my interests, future plans, passions, and current projects. 

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During our trip we traveled to three cities: Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa, all of which were beautiful in their own way. We listened (oftentimes through blurred eyes) to story after story of people who have chosen to lay their lives down in hopes of reaching and loving others, especially those who do not yet have a voice of their own. If you're interested in hearing more about this trip and ways you can be a part of bringing Light to a region desperately in need of Hope, sign up for my newsletter below. 

To reference one of my lessons learned in year 25, I'm more confident than ever that although I may pursue my own options and plans, surrender is the best choice. This is much easier said than done to a motivated dreamer meets go-getter, but striving in my own strength typically doesn't create the results I want (not to mention leaves me tired, anxious and confused). 

What you may not know, is this invitation came shortly after several other doors closed and I was left wondering why I was doing what I was doing and where I was going next. I had no choice but to surrender or give way to bitterness, refusing to let go of my tight grip on my own plans. 

I'm thankful I serve a creative and generous God who seeks to open doors and lead me on adventures better than any I could have dreamed up myself. During the month of February I challenged myself to begin each morning with five minutes of thankfulness and it changed something in me. When we begin our days with thankfulness, it shifts the atmosphere, attitude and heart. Through thankfulness, my little heart surrendered, my hands loosened their tight grip, and I began looking forward with hope and expectation as I watched God start to bring clarity and open doors. 

If you've found yourself standing at series of doors knocking till your hands hurt or discouragement starts to set in, step back for a moment, wait and listen. Offer up your own plans, desires, dreams, ect with open hands and proceed with a gentle openness. You may find another door was just waiting around the corner.