Tonight, I flew

The week began with the bus radio blaring, “I want to get away; I want to fly away.”

That day, I got away over café coffee and the chilly breeze sailing through the hollow bus station. But tonight, I flew. 

After two months in lockdown, was I ready to function in normal life? In another language? Another culture? I had my doubts. 

Ready or not, an Eid invitation came late last night. Even though I hadn’t fasted for the month of Ramadan, I was still invited to celebrate the end of it.

I had already eaten lunch when I arrived at five. That didn’t stop friends from heaving a giant platter of couscous onto the table. “Eat!”

I had missed their sense of humor and practicality–pieces of shared life that feels second-hand over whatsapp. There was too much to catch up on to waste time fussing about cultural propriety; I ended up just being me, fumbling language and all. 

We changed houses partway through the evening and ate again, a snack consisting mostly of sugar, white flour, caffeine, and grease. I did little piggies up and down little girl toes and taught the nose-rubbing “Eskimo kiss.” We dressed up, took pictures, laughed, talked, spilled juice, and cleaned up. The conversation that teased the deep part of our hearts was worth this sugar mania that is lasting past midnight. 

Snack was finished by 10, just in time for a phone call from North Africa that caught me broom in hand. Friends just checking in. 

I walked 45 minutes home with a burr in my sock, sticky but happy. So happy, in fact, that after waving good night to the neighbor watching TV in his garage, I bounded up the two flights of stairs to our apartment. 

Why is it that some days take the breath out of you and leave you with a stunning piece of life instead? It’s not the moments themselves that are stunning, but the steady tick-tock of a day held in God’s hand. 

And, yes, I brushed my teeth and took a melatonin. Good night!

A different world: another quick update

Besides deliveries, the doorbell has rung only once or twice since March 15. Last night, it rang.

I answered the door. The neighbor girl beamed up at me, her fuzzy pigtails sticking straight out from her head: a North African Pippi Longstocking. Adorable. 

“This is for you. My mom made it.” She thrust out a plate with two orange wedges of dessert, probably on the menu for the night’s breaking of the fast. 

She continued to beam while we chatted. Last week, when I took chocolate cupcakes to her door, she gasped and did a little dance. Now she was delighting my day as I had delighted hers. That’s why she was beaming.

Indeed, it was delightful to chat with her before she marched across the hall with a cheerful “¡Adiós!”

This morning, the world feels different than it has in months. There was abundant life.  And cars everywhere. I was hesitant to make them stop for me at the crosswalks… or, if I’m honest, maybe partially afraid that they were out of practice stopping for pedestrians.

Many businesses are back, not to full capacity, but back. I grinned as I passed a café. Andalusians are loud when they’re in a pile. Now imagine them sitting several meters apart in the cafés. 

But the throbbing of their voices is the heartbeat of a town that’s beginning to live again.

Stop and wonder

Psalm 23 is one of those familiar Psalms that I tend to glaze over because I know it by heart. I don’t stop and see or wonder at the depths. However, recently, I got stuck on verse 6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”

I pictured myself following God and goodness and mercy trailing along behind like an obedient but somewhat distracted dog. (Note: “mercy” as it appears here actually means “steadfast, unfailing, and unconditional love.”)

But “follow” is a much stronger word than “trailing.” It connotes pursuing relentlessly, running after, or tracking. In short, God’s goodness and steadfast love aren’t going to let us go. Not today or any day.

“All the days of my life,” David writes with unwavering confidence in God’s attributes. He had his days in lockdown too, hiding in caves, fearing for his life. Outside of lockdown, he had marriage problems, disobedient children, years of war, etc. Yet, he says that he knows God’s goodness and steadfast love are in those days too.

My roommate and I recently read Unseen by Sara Hagerty. Chapter 6 is titled, “Invitation to Wonder: Training Our Eyes to See God’s Beauty.”

“… [I]t’s harder… to see God’s beauty,” Hagerty writes. “… in the thousands of minutes in the middle of my days that don’t seem worthy of photographing or scrapbooking or sharing with others. He tells us in His Word that His glory is ever available, and it’s tucked inside every day. Every single one” (p. 107).

All the days of my life.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.

“Aurora Leigh” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (as quoted in Unseen p. 112)

God’s wonder–His goodness and steadfast love–are in each of our days. “Our flitting eyes… need to be trained to see them. They need to be trained to see the face of Jesus” (p. 118).

Stop and see.

Stop and wonder.


Photo by David McLenachan on Unsplash

Together and separate: a quick update

It was almost 11 p.m. on Saturday evening. 

Below me rang voices of a family celebrating the close of a day long fast. Day 2 of Ramadan. 

Beside them was the bouncing of a hollow ball against concrete walls and ceiling and the laughter from a family typically strained, but not tonight.

Beside me, just across the thin wall I heard the steady swish of a paint roller in time with thumping background music. 

This is Spain during lockdown where we all do life so close together and yet so separately. 

Spain is slightly smaller than the state of Texas, although much more populated. There have been 223,759 reported cases as I write this and 22,902 deaths. Are the news reports exaggerated? Possibly. It’s not my place to make uneducated calls. What I do know is that the level of news validity doesn’t ease the pain or fear of the sick and their families. For this, the nation mourns. 

Simultaneously, we are tired of our houses. Part of me loves the quiet aloneness, but the other part of me is starving for any kind of human interaction. I am tired of staring at screens; regardless, they are my main connection to the outside world. Sometimes, I think I’m going crazy, not from boredom but from being with myself and no one else for too long. 

Maybe that’s not such a strange place to be after 6 whole weeks at home and 2 more to go. 

As I write this on Sunday morning, I hear a few children pass by on the street below. Today is the first day that children are allowed to go outside for 1 whole hour. We’re grateful that the most deprived (and most energetic) demographic has a chance to get some outside air in their lungs. Their voices bring delicious life to our neighborhood. (A friend laughingly offered to loan me one of her daughters so I would have an excuse to get out too!)

And this evening, maybe I’ll see a few neighbors when the neighborhood steps out on their balconies and roofs to applaud healthcare workers and listen to our local violinist.

There is a lion in the streets: lockdown in Spain

Restrictions descended upon us one by one. I was always still adjusting to the previous restriction and was never pleased with the new one.

Immigrantville inhabitants grew more careful as time went on. On Wednesday evening last week, I marched into an odds and ends store to find a plastic wall protecting the workers behind the counter.

On Friday evening, I took the bus to visit a friend in Almería. With one sneeze, I could have claimed the front half of the bus for myself. Someone at the station was wearing a mask. And for the first time since arriving in Spain, I saw someone besides my germ-freak roommate use hand sanitizer in public.  I knew people were getting serious. I used my hand sanitizer too.

Saturday I basked in my day off, but by evening, freedom as my generation knows it ground to a halt. We all were in lockdown, only allowed to go out for necessities.

The old men were still sitting on a park bench on Sunday morning as if they weren’t the ones most vulnerable to the virus. “And what was I doing out?” you may ask. Well, I hadn’t joined the pre-lockdown supply panic and truly needed groceries. The streets were quiet but the store was packed with people who were NOT a meter away from each other. 

“Aren’t you afraid of corona?” the store owner asked me.

I hesitated before answering. “Hmm, not for me. But I don’t want to give it to others. What about you? Are you afraid of corona?”

“What can I do?” He pointed to the people packed in his store and to the money drawer full of disease-ridden bills and coins.

Was his family okay? I asked. They were. People in North Africa weren’t so different than the people in Spain. They were buying supplies to last for months whether or not the virus ever reached them. 

On the way home, I saw a patrol car. I must have appeared law-abiding, arms laden with a bursting bag of groceries and a flat of eggs. I wonder if they caught up with the old men on the park bench.

Yesterday (Wednesday), at the store, people nervously steered clear of each other, speaking only at a distance. We had to squirt hand sanitizer on our hands before we faced the almost-stocked, limit-of-6 shelves.

Our apartment is the size of a box (a slight exaggeration): great when it comes to cleaning, but not so great when it comes to being stuck indoors for a few weeks. We’re using our roof to go for walks, around and around and around, assuming the neighbors won’t get angry with us stomping on their ceiling. 

It’s hard to know how to reach out to people in our closed neighborhood where everyone looks at everyone else as a coronavirus bearer. I might have to get creative, but the truth is that I very well could be a coronavirus bearer. Should I or shouldn’t I offer to get someone else’s groceries?

My roommate and I made a to-do list: a little something each day to keep things less monotonous. It makes us feel like little old ladies, though, planning our day around one event like a book club, delivered pizza, or writing a newsletter. We even had a virtual St. Patrick’s Day contest with teammates. 

Lockdown is also a time to take a deep breath and stare unfinished projects in the face. It’s time for extra quiet time with the Lord and spiritual nourishment from teaching. And time to talk with family and friends both here in town and at home (Praise the Lord for our internet!). It’s time for a whole lot of things because time, for once, is our most abundant commodity.