War and journey

Someone was telling me about his 100-year-old grandmother who has lived through myriad wars, including the Spanish Civil War when neighbors became traitors. This grandmother was identified as republican and the family was sent away. When they returned, neighbors were using the family possessions. She could hear their heirloom steel mortar and pestle next door and see their sheets waving on the neighbor’s lines. 

“If you’re not for me, you’re against me.” It’s no wonder they hid in their houses and trusted no one. And these were the lucky ones: the ones that survived.

Can this nation ever heal? An acquaintance thinks it will take only a few more generations, when those who lived through the Civil War and the Franco era are no longer around.

But sometimes, I look at the elderly and wonder: What were their lives like? What have they seen and experienced? And in what ways have these dear people passed the searing baton of their pain to the next generation? 

How can we expect a country to recover in only one or two generations? Healing takes time. When we try to rush it, it doesn’t happen at all. That’s true for my country where we still see the effects of slavery, if no longer in laws, then in hearts. Pain like that doesn’t heal just because we tell it to or because we ignore it. 

That’s true for me, someone who would like to be a perfect Christian, but finds herself wallowing in pain and besetting sins year after year. 

Although our Savior is the one who “knew no sin,” don’t forget that He became sin for our sake (2 Cor. 5:21). Yes, and He is delighted to travel the healing road with us, shaping us into His likeness and loving us even in the moments we least resemble Him.

Our lives will never be painless nor will we ever be perfect no matter how many years we live… that is, until years no longer count. So keep journeying, but have patience with yourself today, because He does.

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

Spanish healthcare chronicles: the optometrist

Now that you know I have bad teeth and a bad back, you might as well know that I have bad eyes too. That’s why I waited until very recently to update my contacts and glasses. I was panicky and Spanishless when I entered the office down the street just to make the appointment. I forced myself to ask a few logical questions and then raced home to dread the day of my appointment. 

Well, the optometrist had accidentally put me down on a holiday. I dutifully wore my outdated and headache-inducing glasses for a full 24 hours before traipsing to the appointment where I fully expected to be told I was careening toward unpreventable blindness. Instead, the office was closed. I called the number on the sign. Oops, he had indeed scheduled me on a day they were closed. Could I come on Monday instead?

Grumpy, I went home and put in my contacts. At least the news of my impending blindness would wait for one more weekend. 

On Monday, he didn’t even gasp at my prescription, but gave the standard line that I could see well for how bad my eyes are. No blurriness. No floaters. Etc. Maybe that line isn’t so standard, but it has been in my experience. 

After the first few letters of the chart, he noted that my hesitancy was not due to my inability to see but my inability to rattle off Spanish letter names. “Just say them in English,” he suggested. “I’m learning English.”

We talked about glasses and contacts and I realized that, for the first time in my eye doctor history, I wasn’t ashamed of my poor eyesight. Was it due to my book worminess? The failure to catch astigmatism early enough when I was a kid? A stray gene from a nearly-blind ancestor? Whatever the case, that’s the way it was. Feeling unashamed helped me gather my wits and ask the questions that mattered to me. He was patient. Spaniards aren’t so concerned with calling people an anomaly. They’re pretty good at accepting the “weird” as normal. 

When I got home, something broke inside of me. Something so deep that I’m not sure yet what it was. But my tears were tears of gratefulness for the gift of sight that I still have. 

A week later, I had my sample contacts. I went in the next day to get them tested. Apparently, this verification is standard procedure here, and quite thorough. My one eye wasn’t focusing as well as it should have been. After verifying the prescription was correct, he squirted a yellow dye into my eye, made me flutter my eyelashes, and kept saying, “Good. Good.” while he shone a light in.  I went home and blew neon yellow snot out of my nose. 

A couple of days later, I was back. I ordered contacts and glasses in one shot. Less than a week later, they were ready. I tried them on and they told me to come back in a day or so to have them adjusted. So, the next day I trotted back down the street for yet another appointment. 

The glasses I chose had bright pink sides. Note: “had.” It’s amazing what a bit of nail polish can do!

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Learning trust, one call at a time

The first time I got the call, I was woefully unprepared. “Your paperwork isn’t right. You have 10 days to straighten it out.”

“I will look into it. If I have questions, can I call you?”

“No, everything you need is on our website.”

I messaged my team in Spain with my sob story. Within a day, they had straightened out my paperwork on the Spanish side of things. Several agonizing days later, the documents had the proper signatures on them. All was well. Disaster averted.

A few days later, after a day of work, I noticed a missed call on my phone… from the consulate. The chances of this being a “we received your paperwork” phone call were not good. But I still prayed that way until they called again 2 days later.

This time the voice was female. “One of the documents is still not right. You have 10 days to straighten this out.”

Within a day, the team in Spain had amended yet another document and it was on its way to the consulate. But as soon as the document arrived, my phone rang and my heart sank.

“This is not right. How can you live and work in one province when your organization is in another province?”

“That’s how it is.” I tried to explain, but the man remained unconvinced.

“I need a correction on this document or an official letter of explanation or we will reject your application and you will need to start again. This has gone on too long.”

“I know.” I didn’t even try to keep the whine out of my voice. “Too long” was right. My application would be either accepted or denied and we might as well get on with it. This middle ground had stripped my nerves completely raw.

In short, each phone call presented a new opportunity to trust. After each call, I gave the entire ordeal to God… but it was never long before I stole it back from Him. When would I learn?

Just this week, I sent off the latest document. I am waiting to hear whether or not it arrived in time. Re-application is a looming possibility. But I suppose that if I apply enough times, I might actually learn complete trust in the One who is in control of every government and their consulates.