It was about two years ago that we felt this sudden nudging to stop everything we were doing.
Nine years of work.
It was with heavy hearts that we told our staff and interns that we knew this season was over and that God had something different for us.
What was it?
We weren't fully sure. It seemed illogical to stop, but transition is always served best with a side order of crazy. Despite our doubts, we knew this is what we needed to do. It was with trembling hands that we sold nearly everything we owned in a few garage sales. It was with curiosity and amazement that we decided to follow the leading in our hearts and move to Ecuador.
We sold, packed, donated, and purged life down to what would fit into two 50LB suitcases each. I wish I could say that I felt light and untethered, but let's be real: I missed all my stuff. I would get these little pings of "stuff sickness" in my heart when I would think of my craft closet that didn't exist anymore or my white dishes and vintage chalkboard frames that I gave away and now graced the walls of my dear friends homes instead of mine.
I know they say that "less is more" but "less" honestly felt a lot like...less. I wish I could say that I barreled through these moments of change with grace and ease but there were plenty of moments I spent riddled with doubt and often wondered,"Am I crazy?"
The answer I quickly discovered was, yes. Yes, I was crazy.
Packing up life is one thing, but missing stuff is so minuscule compared to missing people. When you are blessed with so many amazing people in your life there are a TON of big things you miss in a year: The birth of my brother's twin girls, the adoption of my new niece, seeing first hand the sparkle of my sisters engagement ring, late night talks with my mom and dad on their bed, and domino games with my mother and father in law where I would laugh so hard tears would stream down my face. All those amazing, everyday moments that spread out into "life" now become extracted and condensed into a handful of visits for a few days out of the year.
In our "Eco friendly" world it sounds so hipster to sell everything and par life down to move overseas. But I know first hand that there are so many things you don't realize that you will have to give up until you arrive.
Like your language.
Today, one of our Go translators asked me what is the most different thing about Ecuador from the states. Without even thinking I answered,"Spanish."
No, I'm not fluent.
I've come a long way since we stepped off the plane. The first time I attempted to order a simple cheese burger on my own I wound up somehow with two massive double cheese burgers. Nine dollars and three tissues later, I sat looking at my husband, two giant all-beef-patties between us, as tears flowed down my cheeks and I asked him,"What am I doing here?" For someone who prides herself on having an extensive vocabulary, it was this pairing down that was the most frustrating for me. I felt like I was a three month old all over again. I couldn't communicate anything I wanted to say, and like a baby all I could do was cry about it.
Then, (thankfully) I got over myself and started really trying to learn. After a while you get used to listening very hard and memorization and practicing words over and over. Someday soon I'll be fluent and I will be so thankful for the days I spent struggling through this language. At least now I've learned to have a sense of humor about it all and I can laugh with others about my Spanish as I learn more and more everyday.
I told someone this the other day, "moving overseas is like pairing down from a 64 color crayon box to an 8 color box."
In my old life, I used to be able to use any color I wanted; now I find myself having to be more creative. If I'm honest about my old 64 color crayon box life; there's a lot of colors I never used. They just sat there cluttered, wasted, and untouched. The great thing about life with only eight colors is that it causes you to really see and experience every color. Each crayon becomes a necessity and is celebrated and used frequently every day.
In this new season of life I've found that a lot of what I thought I needed, I didn't really need. Somehow, that stripping away has done something beautiful to my soul. Life is indeed richer. Not in a monetary sense but in a wholistic living sense. Thankfully, I can honestly say that less has become more.
Everyday I am surrounded with reminders of how thankful I am for my eight crayon life. I see toddlers who learn to take their first steps in the median of the busy city streets while their moms sell fruit to the cars stopped at traffic lights. I know of children who are forced to work rather than go to school. I've seen the desperation in peoples eyes as they beg for food. My life may be simpler than it used to be, yet compared to so many it's very extravagant. I have learned to be thankful for what I have been given.
This eight crayon life has taught me the necessity of true friendship and community. I've come to know that strong bonds can form despite language barriers and cultural differences. I've also learned that the people who really love you will never allow distance to keep a friendship from growing. Text messages and skype sessions, although not always as warm as a hug from the one you love don't just tide you over until your next visit... They leave you smiling all day long.
I've watched young souls give up country and family to serve humanity here in Ecuador. Their boundless courage and unrelenting passion gives me hope for this next generation. They too have found the joy of living this eight crayon life.
I've learned that being where you are is powerful. Not wishing you were somewhere else is life transforming. Slowing down to experience life tethers you to this moment and there is something sacred about living in the moment. I can tell you from my own experience that embracing the wind of change, no matter how strong it's gusts may blow, is something you won't regret.
So, I invite you to par down and to find the "more" that comes from having "less". Life lived simple is beautiful. You don't have to sell everything and more overseas to participate in this eight crayon life. You can experience it by simply celebrating all that you do have and perhaps even looking at some things that you could do without. You find this life when you surrender your plans for His. It's a radical life that Jesus extends to us when he says, "Come. Follow me." I know all to well how scary it is to drop what you are doing to follow Him. All I know is that He has made some beautiful things out of my life when I finally handed the crayons to Him.