Monday, December 25, 2006

never alone

“God came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving toward the house of peace and joy. This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation: we are not alone on our journey. The God of love who gave us life sent us his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel alone in our struggles but always can trust that he walks with us…Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and let him—whose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehend—be our companion.” –Henri Nouwen

In my weaker moments this past week here in Nicaragua, I believed I was alone, unloved, and forgotten. I believed these lies—lies that originate from deeply rooted fears and insecurities in my life—until a refreshing shower of love washed them away. This love came in many forms, from many people and many places.

From the smiles and affection of the children of Mateare, who I visited Friday afternoon to be part of their end-of-the-year celebration (and give a small biblical reflection as part of the program.)

From my adopted parents in Nicaragua, Francisco and Alicia, who reached out and included me in family activities these past 2 days, including a trip to their children’s university in a nearby town, dinner at a local fritanga, worship Sunday morning, and a “intercultural exchange” Christmas Eve/birthday lunch yesterday. Their family tradition is for everyone to share words of affirmation with the cumpleanera (in this case, me), so they each (all 8 of them!) spoke a word of encouragement into my life before we ate. “We know you miss your friends and family”, Alicia said to me, “but we hope that we have filled a small part of your heart today.” (Indeed they did—until my heart was overflowing with joy and gratitude.)

From a group of my coworkers here in Managua, who (to my great surprise) arrived at my doorstep at 7am yesterday to sing me the traditional Nica birthday song and share café con leche, delicious chocolate cake, and Christmas carols with me (arranged by my sweet roommate of course, who though she was in Costa Rica until yesterday afternoon, had thoughtfully planned this surprise ahead of time).

From my Nica friend Peter, who invited me and Andrea to spend Christmas Eve with him and his extended family. Because of his kindness and the hospitality of his family, I got to see my first Nica Christmas drama at his church, and had not one, but 3 delicious Christmas dinners, including food typical of both Nicaragua and the United States, and the firsthand experience of the midnight fireworks tradition celebrating La Navidad.

And last but not least, from precious friends back home in San Antonio and around the States—you know who you are. Thank you for your calls, cards, packages, and emails over the last 2 days (and what is yet to come!).Your thoughtfulness is an expression of the tender care of our dear Savior Emmanuel whose birth, as Henri Nouwen says above, reminds us all that truly, we are never alone.

Indeed, far from being alone, my home here in Managua was filled with dear friends, much laughter, delicious food, meaningful conversation, and song over the last few days. Once again, God has blown me away with His extravagant goodness and grace in this emotional time far from home. May I trust more and more each day in His love above all things to be my most constant and life-giving companion wherever I am.

Feliz Navidad!

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