The Joy of a Life Lived Simply

“Live simply so that others can simply live.” – Mahatma Ghandi

**I wrote this update over a week ago and just now got around to posting it here. Sorry for the delay!*

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We saw this sign upon entrance into Honduras!

Hello from Honduras!!!!!

It has been a long while since I provided you with a decent update, and for that I apologize. I do hope to write some wrap up posts on my time in Guatemala, but now is not the time to regale you with stories of adventures in Antigua.  It is time to reflect on the here and now – the transition from my time of preparation in Guatemala to the life of a missionary in rural Honduras.

As I prepared to leave Guatemala, a former missionary shared with me a piece of wisdom: once you enter the Finca’s gates, your life will never be without the Finca. I have found that to be true from my first moment here.  It has now 2-and-a-half weeks since I arrived at the Finca – and I can hardly believe it!  Though the pace of life is significantly slower in Central America, the days have practically flown by.  There’s just so much to learn and so much to do – and that appears to be a constant state of affairs.   I don’t have the words to adequately describe life here.   It is at once incredibly simple,  filled with moments of learning and growth, busy and exhausting, fun, tranquil, filled with challenges and struggles, and – above all – beautiful!

Sprinkled in among the joyful moments have been moments where I struggled, moments where the tears came, moments of frustration, etc. Nothing here is easy – absolutely nothing! And sometimes that weighs me down.  Because even cooking brunch or doing a little laundry can quickly turn into an hour-long ordeal.  The slow pace of life here frustrates me so, and I know that is part of the beauty of this lifestyle – that I don’t have to always be in a hurry.  But there is still so much that I need to learn and I want to know it all and be able to do it all now.  I get impatient – because after 2-and-a-half weeks here, I still feel like a newbie who doesn’t know what’s going on a fair share of the time.  And that’s hard.  I want to feel like I belong here – and that’s coming.  But transitions take time and I don’t like to wait.

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Dancing with “Y” and “Y” both incoming kinders 🙂

God has been using this time to teach me about humility and simplicity – because I am finding that it is in the simple, humble moments (which exist here in abundance) that God’s presence is the most visible.   I saw God so clearly when we first arrived to find the entire Finca community gathered just inside the gate ready to welcome us with posters and a beautiful song. God is present whenever I receive a hug from one of these beautiful children. God filled me with joy as I danced with “Y” our youngest girl (age 5) and one of my incoming kinders (!), at a fiesta.  He was laughing with us when the boys in Casa 4 (six 13-year-old boys) tricked Marie (my fellow missionary) into believing that the hot sauce was really a slightly spicy version of Ketchup (you can guess the result).

God is present in the beautiful singing of the children at morning laudes.  I see Him in the way little “Y” (age 5 – another incoming kinder!) looks at his house dad with such admiration and love in his eyes.  God was shining in the eyes of 12-year-old “G” when I told her that she would be my future piano student. God must have smiled when the girls from Casa 1 (youngest girls, ages 10-12) taught me to jump rope and when they teased me on the playground about peeing my pants because the swing under me was dripping from the rain.  He was present in the simple joy-filled look on 11-year-old “S’s” face as she saw me entering the water on the beach and came toward me only to start a splash war which continued until I was totally soaked.

I see God in my fellow missionaries – when we are sharing our struggles, when we are laughing and joking, and when we spend the evening playing games.  He is there in Kevin and Bobby (the “oldies”) as they patiently explain how everything works – from burning the trash to washing our clothes by hand to starting a fire.  God loves our community when one of my fellow missionaries surprises us with a clean bathroom or kitchen or whenever someone cooks an especially delicious meal.   He looked down and smiled when the sores (nuns) cooked a delicious lunch (including ice cream and Coca-Cola) and invited us over for food and fellowship. God was present in our house one afternoon as Marie and I baked banana bread with 2 of the house moms and one of the tías and as we all chatted afterward over coffee.

Puff painting and stuffing stockings on our first night at the Finca – nothing like being put to work immediately upon arrival.  But we loved every minute of it 🙂

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Puff painting and stuffing stockings on our first night at the Finca – nothing like being put to work right away.  But we all loved it!!

He was there in Curtis and Noelle, a former missionary couple who were visiting, as they joyfully led us in our work Santa’s elves. God showed Himself when the oldest girls (ages 15-24) in Casa 6 left donas (cinnamon doughnuts) out with milk for “Santa” on Christmas Eve, fully knowing that we are Santa.

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My fellow missionary had the presence of mind to take a picture of her candle.

God’s was present on New Year’s Eve when each individual took a turn lighting a small candle from a big candle in the center of our circle and stating aloud one grace/virtue that they were asking God to give them this year.  I felt Him with us at the bonfire a couple weeks back when the visiting youth leaders shared their stories and all of the teens (ages 14+) sang praises to God.

God is there every time I hear the waves crashing on the beach.  His face shines on the candlelit night when the storm knocks the power out.  I hear Him every morning when I awaken to the roosters’ song (even on those mornings when the roosters start to crow at 3 am and I want to strangle them all).  God is there in every smile, in every laugh, in every heart-to-heart.  He is present at each spiritual event, at every meal eaten with the children in their Casas, and even in the chill of a cold shower.  God’s presence is so prevalent here.  It permeates every minute but is most evident in the smallest of actions, the simplest of moments.

Yet if I were to be truly honest, I would tell you that despite these tangible signs of God’s presence, I’m not sure if my days here have been more joy-filled, overwhelming, or just plain hard.  But somehow it’s easier to write about the immense beauty I see here than to try to explain why I don’t always feel joy or why sometimes when I contemplate the idea of staying for a year, it scares me to the core and I wonder if I can really survive here that long.  I remember a conversation I had months ago with a Former Finca Missionary about how life here might not always be joyful or how interactions might not always be life-giving.  I don’t think I understood it then as I understand it now – how you can be somewhere so beautiful and still not be sure whether or not you are truly happy, how you could not feel more blessed to be right where you are and yet at the same time you catch yourself looking for ways to escape.

But I know in my heart that more than anything I want to be right here – because even in the difficult moments, I feel myself learning and growing and I know that this is what God is asking of me. He has confirmed for me so many times that amidst the difficult moments there is joy and beauty to be found.  Right here, right now, in this moment, in the simple.  And I believe this is the task that awaits me each day for the rest of my time here: to find the joy and let it fill me up so that I can pour myself out in service.

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I look at these beautiful children and my heart just melts.  They are just children, merely teenagers.  Yet they have horrors in their past that I can scarcely imagine.  I see their resilience, but I also know there is more behind the sparkle in their eyes, behind their quiet strength.  Beyond this facade lies mountains of pain I could never pretend to understand.  But I think I am beginning to recognize more profoundly the beauty that presents itself even in moments of suffering.  And I realize maybe I am here to help bring about redemption in the midst of that suffering, to be a source of hope for them as they begin to heal from the pain of their past.  I cannot do this but for the grace of God.

As I continue to enter more deeply into this mission through my formation meetings and through simply spending time with the children, house parents, and tías, please keep me in your prayers.  Pray that God would create in me a humble heart that is content to serve Him in the smallest of actions, a heart filled with His love that is always ready to love those around me.  Pray that God would give me the grace to face the challenges that come with living this lifestyle – because life here is far from easy.  Please pray that God would give me the courage to keep seeking His joy in the simple moments because despite the hardships, there is much beauty to be found here.

I know how important it is to be honest and I want to provide you with a reflection that does not paint a picture of life here as only roses – because even roses come with their thorns. So please do not let my honesty worry you!  I am just attempting to put my feelings into words – so many feelings and they all seem to be conflicting.  It’s difficult to sort out, impossible to explain.  But God’s grace is present in abundance and it is that grace which gives me the strength I need to persevere through the challenges.  Living here may be a work of heart and a test in trust, but even in the hard moments, there is nowhere I would rather be but right here – in this moment, experiencing this struggle, living the simple, seeking the joy.

Blessings, Melanie

NOTES:

*I am referring to the children by the first letters of their names because I am not sure if I am allowed to post names on this blog (especially not with in conjunction with ages). This is for the protection, privacy, and safety of our children and those living in the neighboring villages.

*Also, when it comes to photos, I am only allowed to post group photos (which means I am most likely not going to be in the photo) or photos taken at an angle where the children’s profiles are not clearly defined.

Spanish Words of the Day: bienvenidos = welcome, sencillo = simple, joy = gozo, correo = mail, sencillez = simplicity 🙂

 

6 Comments

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  1. You continue to be on St. Matthew’s prayer list. Each time I have word from ypu, I share with the congregatipn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Rebecca! And thank the parish for me! I definitely need the prayers! I miss you so so much!

    Like

  3. That was a beautiful reflection, Melanie. Your writing does indeed give us a sense of what it is like to serve on the Finca. While it wish it was easier for you, I also realize that this is your time to be on the potter’s wheel, your time to be molded into a Godly woman. I pray that you continue to feel God’s love and His touch in your life, now and always.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gosh Melanie, I so agree with your mom. This is a beautiful reflection! Every time I see your mom in church, I pray for both of you! One day at a time. Such a simple saying yet so profound. I’m sure the children LOVE you!
    xoxoxo, Karen Sepe

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much, Mommy! I believe that too! I love you so much!

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  6. Thanks Karen! I really appreciate the prayers! I sure hope the children like me – I do get hugs sometimes, from the little ones especially, (usually at morning prayer) and that always makes my morning!

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