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Day by day

Ninety-six hours ago, I was gazing out my plane window, watching the city of Grand Rapids shrink to a cluster of lights in the distance.

I’m not usually very nostalgic, but I was going through a long list of goodbyes in my head: to friends and family, to the Grand Rapids coffee shops I’ve spent so much time in over these past four years, to Calvin College and my wonderful apartment and the music practice rooms.

I felt like I was flying between two lives. In Grand Rapids, I knew exactly who I was and where I fit. My four years at Calvin were at times easy and at others incredibly difficult, but I never had to question the fact that I belonged, that this was my culture and my community. In Guatemala, I can’t take any of that for granted anymore.

Transitions are strange things.

Ninety-six hours later, life in Guatemala isn’t the blank slate it was on that airplane ride. Over the past four days, Claire and I have moved into the home where we’ll be living with a host family for the next two months. We’ve met everyone who works at the World Renew office here in Quetzaltenango (or, as the locals call it, Xela—pronounced “She-la”). We’ve spent time getting to know the city, learning how to ride the “busitos” and practicing our Spanish and seeing taxidermy exhibits and clown conventions (life is always an adventure).

Any week filled with orientation by nature can be a bit overwhelming. So much is different—I can see volcanoes from my roof, and I have to do mathematical calculations in my head every time I want to buy something, and I don’t know the name of every single food I’m eating (though most of it is delicious).

But so much has been wonderful. Every single person we’ve met, from our host family to our fellow workers at World Renew to the professors at the Spanish school where we’re taking classes, has been incredibly welcoming. We went to a Spanish church on Wednesday night and were able to worship with a new community, in a different language, the God who makes and sustains us all.

I hope this post hasn’t buried you under a deluge of images, but honestly, that’s a bit what my life feels like right now. A stream of sights and sounds and smells that are new and exciting and overwhelming, in a place where now I feel like a tourist but I hope in a year will feel a bit like home.

Like I said, transitions are strange things. Strange and wonderful and beautiful.

Because in this transition, I am learning again that I don’t know everything. I don’t need to have my whole life planned out, or even this whole year, or this week.

I’ll make mistakes this year. I’ll be out of my depth. I’ll see beautiful and heartbreaking things I’ve never seen before. I’ll make new friends and struggle and weep and laugh.

But I don’t need to worry about any of that right now. I simply have to live as well as I can, day by day, and remember that I am in the hands of a Savior who will not let me go, wherever I am on the face of this beautiful and broken planet we call home.


Lord, You have always given

strength for the coming day;

and though I am weak,

   today I believe.


Lord, You have always marked

the road for the coming day;

and though it may be hidden,

   today I believe.


Lord, You have always lightened

this darkness of mine;

and though the night is here,

   today I believe.


Expression of faith, evening prayer, Celtic Daily Office