The back patio is a grand place to ponder things.
I pick the sopping wet t-shirt up, twist it fiercely to wring out the water, and hang it neatly on the wire clothesline. There are four wires, thick and crooked, that stretch across the back corner of the walled-in patio in back of the house we are renting. They accompany an ancient washer, which sits in the opposite corner of the patio. It is one of those old metal pieces, well made and still in great condition.
I am an old things person, so naturally the washer has me smitten.
All this month I have done the laundry this way and enjoyed it while simultaneously appreciating all the washers and dryers that I’ve ever owned in the states.
This is going to be a rambly post. A Mexican post.
Which reminds me.
I have never told you the story of how we found this house.
It was in a very Mexican way.
I think we should just go walk around and ask people if they know someone who is renting a furnished house. Derek said this to me and I thought he was crazy, but I was also intrigued.
So we did.
On a bright afternoon in the sultry heat, we combed the streets near the base and literally asked every single person we met if they knew of such a place.
For about an hour we had no luck.
We were hot and tired and hungry and decided to go back to the base. On the way back, Derek hesitated at the intersection of two streets. An old lady sat rocking in a chair on a porch, watching us. She smiled and nodded. He smiled. He started walking toward her.
In broken, crazy, ever-gutsy Spanish he asked if she knew of a house for rent, with two bedrooms and furniture. She calmly rocked and let him get all his jumbled words out. At one point he smiled charmingly, literally at a loss for words, unzipped his backpack and pulled out our massive Spanish/English dictionary and started flipping desperately through the pages.
She chuckled. He grinned right into her eyes, looked down and found his word and then said it.
And then she nodded. And pointed across the street at a normal looking creamy colored little house, connected to the other houses on either side of it (think strip mall), and with a large window with bars on the front, and a pretty, thick wooden door with a door-sized metal gate.
After a small wild goose chase about who the owner was, we walked over and talked with a man who was painting the inside, and made plans to come back and meet the owner, and voila!
We had a house.
Two bedrooms, a full kitchen, a cute back patio with a mango tree, a large living room, gas stove, washing machine, everything we needed.
It was so easy.
I’ve finished hanging all the shirts to dry. Squeezing the socks out one by one, I pile them up and start to hang them over the line. They hang barely, balancing with their small weights, wet working for them and keeping them steady.
Sort of like the lessons I’m learning.
One of them is to trust His voice in my heart. To know when He is speaking, to allow myself that confidence, and to also allow myself to have peace about what He is saying. I think I’ve realized that I can wallow in guilt sometimes, because of what someone has said or how I’ve fallen short in my own estimation, or because of old insecurities that show up in a hundred different ways.
Sometimes it is so easy to hear Him. To walk forward. Like the house.
Other times it isn’t.
Like the decisions we are making right now about the future. Some of them seem shrouded in mystery. We keep praying. Some things are clear. Other things still live far down in murk.
It is so easy to feel bad about ourselves when something isn’t coming easy. To spiral down from a tiny beginning, something harmless maybe, to a massive detour of the spirit.
But He doesn’t use anger to change us. Or shame. Guilt. Control.
But mercy. Goodness. Kindness. Love. Forgiveness. Grace.
Peace, be still.
Be still. Know that I am God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
I am learning this. It’s good.
I wish I could write more of my usual “travel memoir” style for you. It’s actually my favorite way to write. But right now we have been here for long enough to have some of the immediate culture shock wear off and I am lately navigating my soul and trying hard to listen.
Sometimes listening for God’s voice is like walking around after dark.
Done with socks and t-shirts, I hang the jeans, which are the hardest to wring out, and the sheets and towels. The sun is long down and sleeping. Maybe I will go for a walk in the dark.
I am strolling through the streets of Mazatlan ten minutes later. I am on my way to the base to get some emails and writing done. This city is captivating at night. Someone has turned their garage into a dance party. Loud music blares out and people wearing skinny jeans and interesting shoes spill out of the yawning, gated mouth that usually houses their cars, and mingle on the street.
In the states, someone would call the cops. In Mexico, the neighbors just join the party.
I look up into the sky as I walk between the square-cut ficus trees that grow everywhere along the streets.
The stars are there. Andromeda is the only constellation I can pick out.
Venus stares steadily back at me from her early, bright place.
I hear what sounds like muffled cannons going off. I pause, watching Venus. Aha! Fireworks!
At the base, I find a corner on the uppermost part of the roof and I sit, laptop open on my lap with a dark screen, looking out over the curve of the Malecon and the dark reflective shine of the Pacific, and I am moved to speak out my hope to the One who gave it to me.
You. You make oceans and islands and skies and planets and stars and sands. You are so big that I have no excuse not to believe that you hear me, you help me, you speak to me, you love me. You are so small that I cannot find something that You aren’t a part of. You know every detail. Every irritation. Every word of every prayer. You love all people. You see the injustices. You know. I know that you will keep me. I know that your ways are good and peaceful and better than my ways. I get it. I trust you.
Peace floods in. It’s good. Good things happening in the dark.
My kids are so confident now in Mazatlan that they run ahead of us on the morning walk to class at the base. They hang out and joke with the students. They’ve even been testing out Hola! and Buenos Dias! on perfect strangers. We spend our free time catching hermit crabs and watching Mexican television and reading the books we brought with us. We pray together as a family more than ever before. There is peace in having home intact. Derek talks shop in Spanish with the next door neighbor who owns a VW Beetle. We buy our food as locally as we can: tortillas and fresh cheese and eggs from the corner market, fruit and meat and veggies from the nearby bigger market, everything else from here and there. We talk to the people on our street in our limited phrases. We wake up each morning to sunshine and warmth. We are homesick for our Christmas traditions, a tree, the decorations, the meals I usually make. We miss Cub Scouts and fall. We are excited about the future. We enjoy doing the outreach every week, although we often feel helpless to communicate. Sometimes we are discouraged.
We have been here for 80 days.