The birds are chirping, I’ve spent twenty minutes as a sleepy sixteen year old, and I already know that I don’t want this day to end.
Those were the first words I wrote on last Sunday morning, February the 8th. The house was being filled with only soft whispers and sunshine was just beginning to peek through the windows. Later that night I wrote…
It’s so hard writing about huge events such as today because I know that I will miss something. Because there is a depth in days like today that are unmatched….I don’t want to forget what today was. Everything that happened.
Ann Voskamp says that counting gifts stills time. I counted all weekend. Riding the hill of our humble little zoo, brown boots & black sneakers at the back door, a brisk wind chilling our noses and turning them red, exhaustion that leads to deep laughter, bittersweet, thankful, and hopeful tears, true worship in God’s presence, whip cream on my nose, my family taking time out of their day to have dessert and visit, falling asleep with the Spanish birthday song stuck in my head….
After spending time with these two friends of mine over my birthday weekend, I came away saying, “I wanna love Jesus like they do. Love people like they do.”
Meet Richard and Elizabeth Santana.
If you didn’t know already, my youth group (a total of 22 people) went on a short mission trip last July to Ecuador. Long story short, that’s how I met this beautiful couple. I introduced myself first to Elizabeth as we walked through a row of cocoa trees at Richard’s family’s farm. These two and I had most of our defining conversations while in the line for the bathroom or in Richard’s parents small kitchen while everyone was getting ready for bed after a long day’s activities. Over the past six months, I’ve kept in regular contact with them through letters and social media updates.
It was my wildest dream to spend my sixteenth birthday with the Santana’s. Over Christmas break, I sent Elizabeth a message inviting them and wondering what it would all look like in reality. It took some rearranging and hours of preparation, but they left their home in Minnesota Friday afternoon and arrived here early Saturday afternoon! Seeing them on an opposite continent was so different and worthwhile. Our schedule was simple, yet went by so quickly, and we made the most of every minute.
As we sat at my favorite Mexican restaurant the I’m-horrible-at-see-you-later tears began to start. The crying began to start because next Saturday night these two beautiful people won’t be here to go on a bike ride with me, or Richard won’t be there to give me a hug goodnight, or Elizabeth won’t be there to fix my hair and drink coffee with me before church. I don’t like that I’m not good saying goodbyes, but I praise the Lord because I have so many friends, in outrageous tiny corners in the world (big corners in the Kingdom), that make saying goodbye (for now) so incredibly hard. Thanks for knowing us so much, Lord, that You send us people, friends, familia…. that we need to gain comfort, strength, and conviction from.
I knew that when I met Richard and Elizabeth that we clicked. Not every friendship is immediate. But I believe that, at least for me, this one was. I knew that they both were kind, accepting, hilarious, and loved Jesus. But it was God that only knew at that point that we would find so much common ground. God knew that He was giving us a friendship where we could be passionate together about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, books, writing, messy buns (well, that’s just Elizabeth and I 😉 ), homeschooling, daily grace, missions, and dreamy house plans. But He also made us different enough in early childhood beginnings, ages, and fast accents to make us listen well, hard, and repeatedly to truly understand one another. He knew that when I went behind the curtain in South America. He knew that last July when I walked into the kitchen so nervous and feeling lonely, with only my journal and a Sharpie pen, to ask for new friends’ mailing address that it would lead to iron sharpening iron. He knew.
There are two things I vividly remember my Mom saying after we gave our final wave from the front porch. Hours after they had left and my birthday party was over, I opened up my birthday present. It immediately made me smile. When I showed Mom that they had gotten me a book by Henri J. M. Nouwen (among several others) and a special pen she said three words, reflecting on the gift and the entire weekend,
They know you.
The second thing my Mom said was,
OOoohhhh! Message them and tell them to turn around! We have so much more to talk about. So many more stories to tell.
So, mi amigos, there is so much more to talk about. Turn around soon. Or we’ll follow your generously carved path and follow you back home. Or maybe, and also hopefully, even Ecuador. God knows. Until then, I’ll leave you with these words Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1943.
Even if that should not be the case, we both know that we are bound together in our thoughts day by day.