Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sun Rise, Sun Rex, Sun Set, Sun Spent

It takes a while to travel to Portugal, as I decided to do last weekend with my friend Caroline. I was to meet her in Badajoz first, so I had plenty of time to think throughout the day.

I woke early to catch buses and was rewarded with seeing the sun rise, illuminating fog that had crept over and peacefully lay like a blanket on the low mountains of Castilla-La Mancha.

The afternoon I spent waiting on a train in Madrid. I walked through the expansive parks while the sky was overcast, covered only by a thin mask of cloud through which the sun dimly shone. It was a bright white perfect circle without detail, like a hole punched out of heaven. I looked directly into it, as if confidently meeting another's gaze.

As the sun fell that evening I watched, from the train, herds of deer running between the rocky hills of Extremadura. Storks preened in their nests high atop old smokestacks and sheep mated, apparently feeling no shame in the numbers painted blue on their backsides. Some interesting animals later got on the train as well, as wild Spaniards flock to Badajoz for Carnaval. All talked loudly and none was disheartened by the fading light.

In fact, evenings in winter are the sun failing and succumbing to the night, with a deep chill taking over in victory. But lately the evenings are the sun melting into a languid dark, in no hurry to leave behind dying embers of day and content that tomorrow will prove to be even more time to share warmth. The earth is ready for this change.

The sun dipped below the horizon causing the landscape in the window to give way to reflections of the inside of the cabin. My own face came into view, looking foreign. I saw blue blinking back at me and noted that it was the first time in a while that I looked directly in my own eyes, that I had confidence to do so. I saw myself clearly as the dark increased.

I'm ready for change.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I have seen many things change in the time I've been here. Trees have grown, vines have flowered and faded, construction has ended, buildings have been razed, stores have gone out of business and been replaced, Alberto and Cristina have a new baby, and the United States have a new president.

At the same time, many things have stayed the same. I am reading Genesis once more. My prayers have changed only slightly in wording, although slightly more in strength and in hope. I am still a foreigner. I am still alone. I am still wondering if God will ever get around to making me a good person. I am still hurting for being easy to forget.

It is simple and beautiful to stop hating, for me. An apology ends much bitterness and anger so fast that you do not even remember them, blushed with hope and eagerly expecting new, lovely memories to replace the wounds. What a lovely change.

But to stop loving? How can I? Even when I am the only one in the world who wanted that? (and what a lonely thought that is) Even when I see now that it was never as good as I imagined it?

Why can't I change this? When will this change?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

For the Love of God

One sad thing here that is in no way unique to Spain is beggars. Few things create such a continuous re-evaluation of my faith and how to practically show it as do beggars.

In a huge city like Madrid there are so many. It is a wonder they aren't trampled, as some sit in the middle of huge sidewalks with just a sign and a cup in front of them. Once I saw important people in expensive suits taking large steps over the prosthetic legs of a dour man in dirty clothes, seated in the Puerta del Sol. And others hold in front of them a picture of family to whom they wish to be rejoined but cannot afford to. Others sit in the entryways of cathedrals with their whole body wrapped up in blankets yet shivering furiously nonetheless.

You see no flesh. You only see a cup.

In the bus station I am asked for money by teens covered in piercings or by Romanian men, their nationality recognizable by their characteristic grammatical errors and sadly by the alcohol on their breath. Regardless of if I give them money or not, they ask the next person, too.

I hate the feeling I fet then. The same feeling as when I see the same beggar with the prosthetic legs talking uproariously on his cell phone the next time I pass. The same feeling as when I see one beggar dump her cup of coins into a larger, hidden on almost full of money.

It is insulting to be taken advantage of, but did that ever stop Jesus? He healed and loved people that never confessed him as Lord and God. When did he pass the needy by?

When did he look at a man and see no flesh? When did he see only a cup?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Great is Thy Faithfulness," and Someone Please Let Me Out of Here

Here is a song I recorded the other day. I didn't write it.

I have been missing church a lot lately. So I'm singing hymns. This song is very hard to sing some days, but other days it gives me great hope. I sincerely hope this doesn't offend anyone.

Also, two quickies:
1) I shaved my beard last night.

2) I am currently locked inside of my school. I was talking to a friend on Skype and thinking about the test she had to get to instead of the fact that my school was about to close for the night. There are two doors and they are locked. The gate is locked outside, too.

I don't have money on my cell phone to call my roommate, so I am going to climb out of a window. But I might as well post this song before I go.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Unyielding as the Grave

Two years ago today, my grandfather was dying.

There at the house I sat on the love seat and stared at the hospital bed that had replaced Grandaddy's recliner. Grandaddy would fall asleep and wake back up, over and over to no particular rhythm, and I would try to do my homework for Advanced Intro to the New Testament. Mom and Mamaw talked on the couch, and we took turns getting things that he needed when he woke up. But there wasn't much for us to do. He hardly ate. I played my guitar for him and he fell asleep. When he was awake, he asked me to comb his hair for him.

There wasn't much for us to do.

One day Mamaw brought him a Valentine's Day dinner: a small steak and a baked potato from Tumbleweed, their favorite restaurant in town. He was pleased, ate all of it, and the family was encouraged. Our hopes had fallen with his weight, but this was different. My prayers changed in tone and I was grateful, even allowing myself a few guilty daydreams of a full recovery and a triumph over cancer.

But we knew.

Through it all I watched my grandmother take care of her husband and marveled at her strength. I didn't understand how she wasn't a complete emotional wreck, angry at God and lamenting the ruin that her once-vibrant love had become. She asked no questions about the existence of cancer, or how it could be visited on and take host in a man so beautiful. Rather she humbly, quietly, and lovingly served. Rather she stayed by his side and waited until he left.

I have never seen true "until death do us part" before, and I am only beginning to understand it. This was a love stronger than death. This was true love.

I can't believe it's been two years already

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Subject Matter Not Objective Matter

I am not going to write about her anymore on here.

I woke up this morning from a simple dream, recounting the time she came to see me in Colorado. We watched shooting stars, and she stepped on a cactus. I was stuck and slightly hurt by the needles I pulled from her razor-thin flip-flop, but I was very glad to be there.

Returning to the present: In fairness, the goal in describing my feelings on this blog was never libel. I hoped that she could read my thoughts here when convenient instead of me having to wait for it to be convenient to be listened to. And then she would see how very, very deeply she hurt me. And then she would do something about it. And then it would be healed. And then it all would be over.

But either she doesn't care, or she cares but doesn't want to do anything about it because it would be difficult. In my mind (and in that dream) it is worth being stuck and slightly hurt to fix the injury of another, and how much more so when responsible for it.

This wasn't just a normal break-up. I loved her more strongly than I have ever before, and she was more hurtful than anyone before. But we had made promises and pledges that went beyond words. Union and communions, made and shared. But now there is only sin and guilt to regret, and insults and contempt to forget. And it seems like it means nothing to her. And so it seems like I meant nothing to her. I wish she wanted to correct that assumption, if it is false.

But I suppose I wish a great many things.

I will keep praying for her. Most likely I will keep writing songs about this. But I won't write about her on here anymore.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Te Amas?

Last night I had another class with the second-year students (14-ish in age) and despite my plans we just talked. They asked later to hear one of the songs I wrote and to see some photos I've taken, so I showed them a bit of what Colorado looks like. We marveled together at Hanging Lake and Mt. Redcloud and jokingly made plans for a class trip there.

A picture of my ex-girlfriend came on the screen and I immediately closed the program. I became quiet and let the students talk for a while before Amaya asked me an incredibly insightful question: "Te amas?"

"Do you love yourself?"

I paused for a second because I had never heard the verb "amar" with agreeing subject and object. It is always "I love her" or "she loves him," never "you love you." I realized what she meant, and then took pause at the question itself. I changed the subject, then thought about it the rest of the night and into the morning.

Yes, is the answer. But it is hard to feel like much of anything these days after being treated like I'm nothing for quite some time. There are echoes of Things She Said that follow me, but these are not true besides being wrong. And there is guilt that she and I share that could have dealt with, but it only went ignored and denied. And there is the simple fact that now it is only too easy to pretend that the entire relationship never existed, just like all those mistakes.

Is this what it takes for some people to say "me amo"?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

May One Day

The other day was a warm one unlike any I have seen since I first arrived years ago in October. Naturally I rode my bike out of the city before my traditional trip to Toledo and soon found myself on the side of the road, watching a construction crew work on a skeleton of a building.

As a child I was never much taken by Tonka Trucks or other facsimiles of heavy machinery, but now I rubberneck at cement mixers like normal people do flipped semis.

A dear friend once told me that she saw in me the gift of dreaming, to see things not as they are but rather as they could be. We were speaking of my youth group in Colorado at the time, and of all the wonderful things I expect of them and how I can't wait to see it.

And so I marvel at pylons and concrete that may one day be apartments full of families and furnishings and will be home to many.

And so many prayers rise that my father's good heart may one day know God's.

And so even a (seemingly) God forsaken relationship was worth waiting on, as it might one day have been a thing of beauty.

And so beauty may one day be in my heart.

And so my heart may one day be as warm as Friday.

Right now it is hard to hope, to dream of what could be. But maybe one day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Big News

I am exhausted. (that is not the big news)

My last class was six 14-year-old girls that talk over each other and take pictures of me on their cell phones. One of them comes to class with a surprising amount of makeup that she doesn't wear to school in the mornings. Tonight's lesson began with one girl bringing me socks as a present (the Spaniards are dumbfounded that I have worn sandals throughout this winter) which amused me greatly, continued with them singing Ace of Base which amused me greatly, but ended with the girls telling me what type of whiskey they like to drink. (that is not big news, but it is depressing)

I don't understand why we choose the things we do for our lives. I don't understand the things we allow. I don't understand why we let things get so dark and evil. I don't understand why we choose hate over love. I don't understand why we turn a blind eye to sin. I don't understand how we turn grace into enabling. I don't understand why we treat each other the way we do, and a great many other things. (that is not big news)

This is the news: I am coming home a bit early. I bought the tickets a bit ago, but I fly into Louisville on March 7. There are many reasons for this, but this is the right decision (I am almost sure). The decision was made out of optimism and not out of despair, and for this I am glad.

For what it's worth.