Giving Thanks

I can’t believe it, but Thanksgiving is already gone and Christmas is now just around the corner. I’m surprised that time has passed this quickly since I’ve come back from Guatemala, and I’m also surprised that this is the first blog post that I’ve written since my return in August. I’ve now been back home for over 3 ½ months, and can’t seem to track where the time has gone. Leaving Guatemala was extremely difficult, and the last week there was full of a rollercoaster of emotions that I hadn’t experienced in quite a long time. Not a day went by when I wasn’t both laughing and crying (and sometimes at the same time). Although it was painful to leave the place that I had called home for a year, it was also wonderful to know that my heart was hurting for people who I deeply love and who truly had become my family. Equally wonderful was seeing the 3 faces that I perhaps know and love best in all the world waiting for me at the airport and falling into an exhausted family hug, my newly acquired flu bug and my mom’s shoulder/arm brace and all.

By the grace of God, my transition into life back in los Estados Unidos has been pretty much as great as it could be. All of the circumstances that have come together up to this point have been touched by God’s hand, and it’s been humbling and wonderful to see the way that God is continuing to provide and pour grace, love and joy into this new period of my life. When I got back to Woodinville, my mom was in the first month of recovery from a shoulder surgery. She had very limited mobility in her right arm, and with my dad busy at work and school it was actually a blessing for me to be home during that time. I spent much of my first month helping out with things around the house and spending a lot of great quality time with my family.

Since I didn’t yet have a job I was also able to travel a bit and visit friends and family, including going to two weddings and the YAV re-entry retreat. These trips were also a huge blessing, allowing me to reconnect with family members and friends I hadn’t seen in over a year. Celebrating a cousin’s wedding and then the wedding of two of my college classmates were both wonderful times of joy. The reunion of many of my college friends at the wedding was absolutely awesome, since we all studied abroad together for 4 months in Central America and became a little family during that trip. Although I hadn’t seen almost all of them in close to a year and a half, we fell back into laughing and conversation as naturally as if we had been together for all of that time. It was also really great to share about some of my experiences in Guatemala with people who had already been there. Aside from my CASP friends, God also provided many people with whom I could share some of the most important and meaningful parts of my year, along with just goofy stories that would surface in my mind. Having a supportive community right from the start was a wonderful gift, and made me incredibly grateful for the wonderful friends and family that I have in the States, too.

The YAV retreat in Ghost Ranch, NM was also a great time to process, share, reflect, and think about how to integrate our experiences of the past year into our lives now. All of the volunteers who served a YAV year, whether nationally or internationally, came to the retreat, and we had 3 days to share, cry and laugh together. Before the retreat all four of us “Guat-girls” got together for a few days, which was a really nice way to go into the weekend since it was our first reunion in the US. The retreat itself was wonderful in many ways (especially the beautiful location and reunions with friends!), but also held a few unexpected challenges. During my time at Ghost Ranch I heard stories from people who had extremely challenging years and were still processing through a lot of hard stuff. This made me feel incredibly grateful for the richness of my year in Guatemala, but also made me mourn the brokenness that is so pervasive in our world (and sometimes even invisible or unnoticed in our own backyards). It also really made me admire some of my volunteer friends who stuck through situations where I might have been tempted to leave. Throughout all of our stories I saw different ways that God was at work in our lives and in the places where we were living and working. While this was extremely different for each person, and sometimes came through extremely hard circumstances, it was amazing to see the ways that God has and is continuing to shape us through those experiences. I left wanting to hold on tighter to the idea of God’s redemption, and also started to think more about how God might be using me for His purposes now that I’m back in Woodinville.

While I don’t know exactly what my next step will be, I do feel a strong sense of purpose in being home in Woodinville for this season. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been blessed with a job teaching Spanish to elementary school kids in schools in the area. The opportunity has certainly been challenging but has also been a huge blessing, especially during a time when I am trying to discern what is to come in terms of grad school / further studies. The kids are great (with a few rowdy ones thrown in, of course :p), but one of the things I love most is the opportunity to use Spanish and share my love and passion for this language to plant seeds in the students. If even just a few kids get excited about learning a new language or thinking about traveling to a new place and getting to know other people and other ways of life, I would consider it a job well-done.

The community here has also been a huge blessing and help in my transition. One of the things that I was worried about was that I couldn’t find outlets to use Spanish once I was back in Woodinville. However, God has once again proved himself extremely faithful and has provided me with various ways to use Spanish and get connected with people and form new friendships. It’s been amazing that one of my best friends from school, Jillian Abendroth, is also home in Issaquah now after her year in Guatemala. Since we’re both in really similar stages of life right now it’s been awesome to have her so close by, and we’ve started getting together about every week to talk in Spanish, read the Bible, share and pray together. I’ve also made a Spanish-speaking friend through my Zumba class, and have been able to plug into a few different volunteering opportunities at my church where I can use Spanish every week. I’m also getting to know other young adults at my church and starting to form friendships with them, which is great since many people I used to know in Woodinville now live in other places. On top of all of this, it also helps that I’ve been able to stay in touch with my Guatemalan host family through phone calls so that I don’t feel quite so far away 🙂

All of these things have come together beautifully, and it is such a blessing to be reminded of these tangible ways that God is showing his love and faithfulness. Of course, there are still challenges and difficulties that present themselves, and the occasional lingering doubt of “what’s next?” However, I still feel very much at peace about what is to come, and know that I can hold onto God’s faithfulness through all seasons. During this time of Advent, I hope that I can also hold onto this feeling of gratefulness for God’s blessings and for the person He revealed himself to be as Jesus over 2,000 years ago. Thank you again for all of your love, support and prayers. May God continue to bless you throughout this year and into the next. Muchas bendiciones, y feliz Navidad!

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2 thoughts on “Giving Thanks

  1. Steve Aeschbacher says:

    Wow, thanks Annie for these reflections! You are such a blessing to us and to others. It is so great to have you home! Here is looking forward to discovering “what’s next” for all of us!
    xoxoox

  2. Alice Aeschbacher says:

    It’s been such a blessing having you home. Wonderful post

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