27 September 2008

Reflections on Antigua, part one

Sometimes in the aftermath of a trip like this one, I struggle to find the words to articulate what I experienced. I thought about putting pictures to music to share with you, but I couldn't find a song that said exactly what I wanted to say. So I'm going to do my best. Bear with me over the next few weeks as I continue to process what God is doing through this experience.

Where do I begin?

For about a week and a half prior to leaving, Pete had been out of town. Most of you know that I have an anxiety disorder, and I cope best by processing verbally with the people I love. Being here in Paducah without my boyfriend and without my immediate family was exceptionally difficult. Days would go by where I was excited to leave and just fine - and then the night would set in and I would be filled with fear.

And then I got sick. I felt absolutely miserable. The virus I had lodged itself in my joints and in my muscles and everything on me felt like I had been in a fight. Couple that with a fever and an atrocious headache and I ended up missing a few days of work that week. It just added to the stress.

So the day I was to leave was a hard one. As I stood at the security gate, it took everything I had to walk through that door. I fought the tears, wondering what in the world I was doing heading off to a foreign country by myself with an undiagnosed illness. This is insanity! Surely God isn't calling me here. This has to be all wrong. But I did what I had to do - I took just one step. I stepped through the gate and into the security line, tears streaming down my face. For 12 years I had dreamed of this moment, the chance to return to Antigua, and now it was here and it was the last place I wanted to be.

When the plane took off, a deep deep peace settled over my soul. Usually take off scares me a little bit, and I look out the window and count to 90 to keep myself calm. By that point, I'm usually ok. This time I had none of that fear. As I watched Nashville get smaller and smaller, I heard the voice of God whisper to me, "Good girl, Erin. This is where I need you today." I rested deeply on that flight, waking just in time for landing in Atlanta. It was the best 45 minutes of sleep I had gotten in a week.

When I arrived in Guatemala and connected with the rest of my team, I again felt that deep peace. It took only minutes to remember the beauty of this place, even in Guatemala City, which I don't love. And I was with friends - instant new friends and one good "old" friend.

It wasn't long until we were laughing together and enjoying getting to know one another.

When we came down the hill into Antigua, I saw the city laid out before my eyes. I can't explain what I felt in that moment. It was a sense of a dream realized; it was anxiety over the reality of where we were; it was excitement; it was home; it was the furthest place from home. That moment was a strange sense of mixed emotions like I haven't encountered in a very long time. But there was an overriding sense that this was what I needed to be doing - a sense that I had arrived. As I looked over the city, I thought, "I'm glad I am doing this."

It amazes me that in the midst of chaos, there can be peace. Battling an illness, loneliness, and anxiety, I stepped onto a plane and found myself in Antigua, Guatemala. I was 1,100 miles away from anyone who knew my heart with no way to communicate with them. My heart was heavy as it wrestled with the countless thoughts and emotions I was experiencing. And there was peace.

I don't know how to explain it, but as I looked at this volcano for the first time in nearly 12 years, I prayed, "God, work on my heart this week. Show me why you've brought me here."


Greta Jo said...

What a beautiful post Erin.
I just got home- and could not wait to read your blog. You are amazing. I can not wait to see you again, my new friend.

Becca said...

Erin - I am so glad you're starting this "series" - I'm looking forward to part II.

Much Love,