O Lord, Our Sovereign, How majestic is your name in all the earth!
Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
The moon and the stars that you have established;
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, Mortals that you care for them?
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
You have put all things under their feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
I am in a bus on my way to Seville, using the time to edit the hundreds of pictures that I’ve taken, and hopefully attempting to collect my thoughts into a coherent post. Warning: This is a word explosion post. I’m sorry it’s so long. But I hope that it’s worth it!
The past week has been B-U-S-Y. Like get up 15 minutes before breakfast, sit on your suitcase to make it zip, eat breakfast, and then walk around for miles, get back to the room around 10, study for vocab tests, and fall into bed around 12:45 to get up the next day by 7. So this would explain my empty journal, unedited and yet-to-be-shared pictures, and lack of blog posts. At the moment, I’m feeling a little traveled-out!
BUT- let me tell you about the other part of my week. I have now been in Spain for a full 7 days. It feels like a month. I really like our group of 20. We’ve hiked around Spain, and had awesome conversations together. I have seen so many things that I can’t even believe it.
I’d say the theme of this week has been awe. Awe of Spain? Well, yes it’s amazing. But really- awe of God. I have been knocked over by a complete, utter, and humbling awe of God. I have been amazed over and over and over again. That first day in Madrid I didn’t think I was going to make it through this trip (and it’s not over yet, folks, so keep those prayers comin’!). But as we began touring that city, I was overcome by the busyness, the beauty, the history. The thought of walking down the same grand staircase as the kings and queens of Spain did centuries ago. Then we moved on to Benalmádena and I stepped foot in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. I sat on the beach with a friend for hours and talked about life, God, and His goodness. I made new friends as we all went on walks on the beach and talked. I ran my hands through the sand and marveled at how God knows about every grain. Each itty-bitty grain He has counted. I looked out on the ocean and was reminded that as far as the east is from the west, so He has taken my sin. And that as deep and wide as the ocean is, His love surpasses even that. In the midst of frustration at the lack of Spanish in this touristy beach town, I listened to Russian, Polish, German, English (with a sweet British accent), being spoken all around me. And I knew that God is God of each of those people, and He created every aspect of their language and culture.
On Monday, a small group of us went to Mijas, a quaint little town in the mountains . It cost .86 Euro to hop on the bus and experience one of the most beautiful things in my entire life so far. I would have paid 20. The picturesque white buildings with flower pots everywhere reflected humans’ love of beauty. The group of laughing school kids, the woman sweeping her front porch gave me a picture of real life in Spain. A frozen yogurt place made for my first dessert here, and I could honestly tell my friends that I have felt GREAT since coming here. Hallelujah. The Great Provider is doing just that for my health here. And as though that wasn’t enough, God gave us the view. Oh the view from Mijas was incredible. There was a ½ mile of fencing with beautiful flowers, benches, pathways. We sat for 45 minutes. Just sitting. Gazing, pondering, looking at the vastness. I felt so small in that moment, and God felt so very big. The view from my eyes was merely a dot on the map. The people that were living on that land are merely a handful. And His name? His power? His love? Is even bigger. The songs God of Wonders and Beautiful were running through my head and it was all I could do to keep my hands from lifting to the Heavens in praise of our glorious God. And yet my heart was breaking that there were those sitting right next to me who did not praise His name. The city I overlooked? Thousands of people who are lost. It was a mixture of aching and pure joy and awe in the presence of God.
Tuesday brought an early morning departure to Granada. The bus ride suddenly turned into a majestic view of the snow-covered Sierra Nevada. My first time seeing mountains, and I again felt the huge-ness of God. Granada is another bustling city full of rich culture and history. I have found that every city we’ve gone to makes me feel as though we’ve gone to a different country. Our first stop was La Capilla Real, the Royal Chapel. This Chapel has the tomb of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel along with breathtaking works of art. The Catholic influence here has definitely been unexpected, and at times challenging. We then went to an Artisan Market and were “transported” into the Arabic world. The Moorish influence in Granada is still very strong, and I was amazed yet again of a different culture. La Alhambra took up the rest of our day, and I can’t even sum it up into words. The gardens were stunning. The beauty was overwhelming. My first step into the palace took my breath away, and I could hardly believe the masterpieces of man. The creativity and talent that the Lord put into His creation is truly astounding. Each inch of the building had been carved out with tiny tools, hundreds of years ago. Carefully painted and decorated to perfection, it was like something out of a movie.
Today was an exhausting and very hot day in Cordóva, touring the mosque that later had an elaborate cathedral built inside of it. The Moors, Catholics, and jews lived together in that city for several centuries. The original buildings from the Jewish community and the synagogue are still standing. The mosque was bigger than I had ever imagined, and my heart broke to imagine the thousands of faithful worshipers on their mats praying to ala, their god who doesn’t exist. Yet their faith was so strong, so devoted, that they put the equivalent of millions of dollars, and millions of hours of man power in order to build a place of worship that they felt would be worthy. But our God is bigger and HE deserves that glory! Why oh why can’t the people of this world turn their faces to Him and stop seeking after other gods?
So here I am, in awe. Humbled. Amazed that He brought me across the ocean. It has been strange being a foreign country and not doing missions. I’m accustomed to traveling to Guatemala and speaking Spanish, yet having my full focus be on the orphan and the poor. My mind is consumed with that while I’m there, and my heart is always broken and moved. This trip though, I have been almost entirely removed from poverty. We’ve stayed in lovely hotels, gone to touristy towns, and eaten in nice restaurants. We’re instructed to watch out for the pickpockets, and stay far away from the beggars. Amidst my awe of God, I want Him to be breaking me. And He is, but in other ways that I’m used to or that I expected.
My devotional time summed up this week very well. I read a devotional entitled “The Highest Form of Prayer” by Julian of Norwich. She talked about how God creates, loves, and protects. When she ponders these 3 things, she is reminded of the goodness of God. He made us, He is our perfect lover, and He protects/provides for us. She says of man, “It is thinking upon God’s goodness that pleases Him most.” I believe that this is true. Focusing on the supremacy of Christ, of the eternal gift of life that we’ve been given, of His love, and of His provision, we are reminded of His goodness. And that goodness brings joy. And through God’s grace, this joy is able to withstand all of life’s trials. Our feelings of loneliness, weakness, frustration, incompetency, illness. All of these things are overshadowed by God’s goodness. So in the midst of my worship of our God while adventuring across Spain, I sit here humbled. We serve a God who created this Earth, who made each person unique, who has been faithful throughout the generations, who protected those who lived in castles, who lived through wars, who kept their faith in times of oppression. I feel so blessed to be seeing some of these things with my own eyes. I feel so blessed to be seeing parts of nature that I never thought I would see. I am in awe of His goodness.