A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog announcing that I was moving to Mexico. I had looked into the mirror at my life in Nashville and decided I was dissatisfied with the background. I wasn’t growing, I wasn’t being challenged, there was no adventure.
Today I am writing a blog announcing that I’m moving back to the States next year. I have a new mirror, a different background, and while I have embraced and enjoyed my vida Mexicana, I find myself also constantly trying to pick up the pieces of life here that keep breaking off.
This year’s highlight reel would have lots of laughing, fun trips to different parts of this beautiful country, new friends, and 13 nine-year-olds whose names will forever be carved into my heart. There has been adventure and discovery and new experiences and culture and language and everything I came here looking for. I have loved SO MUCH of my time in Mexico, and deciding to leave has been difficult, to say the least.
This year has also been full of more hard things than anyone could have expected or prevented. There have been unexpected losses and several too many “call as soon as you see this” texts. (For the record: never ever send me a text that says that. Just call. I’m developing PTSD about something-bad-has-happened-but-I-don’t-know-what text messages). There have been cultural frustrations and long distance friendships and I didn’t expect it to be so hard.
Last March when I set up my Mexican blog (which I have essentially stopped updating, sorry about that!), I wrote this quote in the about me section:
“Today, I realized that the question of where to live and what to do is really insignificant compare to the question of how to keep the eyes of my heart focused on the Lord. I can be teaching at Yale, working in the bakery at the Genesee Abbey, or walking around with poor children in Peru and feel totally useless, miserable, and depressed in all these situations. I am sure of it, because it has happened. There is not such a thing as the right place or the right job. I can be happy and unhappy in all situations. I am sure of it, because I have been. I have felt distraught and joyful in situations of abundance as well as poverty, in situations of popularity and anonymity, in situations of success and failure. The difference was never based on the situation itself, but always on my state of mind and heart. When I knew that I was walking with the Lord, I always felt happy and at peace. When I was entangled in my own complaints and emotional needs, I always felt restless and divided. It is a simple truth that comes to me in a time when I have to decide about my future. Coming to Lima or not for five, ten, or twenty years is no great decision. Turning fully, unconditionally, and without fear to the Lord is. I am sure this awareness sets me free to look around here without much worrying and binds me to the holy call to pray unceasingly.”
I don’t think I understood this quote when I first read it. Or, that is to say, I thought that moving to Mexico would make me happy and alive and fix anything and everything that I was unhappy about from my life in Nashville. A new background was all I needed to be happy. I saw the quote as it applied to my life in the US, I couldn’t imagine it applying to my vida Mexicana.
As I agonized over my decision these past few months, I tried to believe the words of Nouwen and follow the Lord and not my “complaints and emotional needs”. I stared into the mirror and tried to imagine my life without a background, tried to imagine worst case scenarios and who I would be if where I was didn’t matter at all.
But I don’t think that’s what Nouwen is saying here.
Ultimately, nothing I ever see in the mirror is going to satisfy me. Not my own reflection, not the space behind me, not the people or things that I surround myself with.
Perhaps I’m dissatisfied with the background because I’m looking in a mirror.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Am I 100% confident that God is calling me to leave Mexico and go back to the United States next year?
No, of course not.
Am I 100% confident that God is calling me to turn and look at him instead of looking in that damn mirror?
Yes. And right now, that means leaving behind this home too.
Many of you have supported me (either as Mexican family or as American family) this year as I have struggled and embraced and everything in between. Thank you all. For those of you who have told me that you’re excited about me coming back: thank you. I have lots of feelings about coming back to the USA so sometimes it’s hard to express well that I’m excited to come back to you too without telling you about all the other feelings :) If you have questions about my plans or anything else (or just want to say that you’re excited to live closer together again), please comment or email me. I would love to talk to you more about this. I love you all.