Thursday, Sept. 8, 10:43 p.m.
It's been two-and-a-half weeks since we returned to the States, which means that I've had a little bit of time to process the World Youth Day experience in my mind.
"Reality" began to hit me hard before the plane even landed. As we were flying over Lake Michigan, I had a sinking feeling as I began to realize just how far away Spain really is - as in, on the other side of the world. And I could feel myself already desperately missing the warmth, the culture and the love that I'd seen and felt in so many people, friends and strangers alike. The pressures of work, school and relationships began to weigh in on my heart once more as the plane began to descend.
World Youth Day has been a life-altering experience that has only highlighted every other aspect of my life, but not in the way I imagined it would. It's changed my perspective on things. When we were in Spain, the worst of our "worries" were outsmarting the heat, making it through the Metro without getting squashed, and facing bathrooms with no toilet paper or soap. And yet, all I had was joy because all I wanted to see was joy. I chose not to see those (other) things. Life the past two weeks hasn't been exactly a cakewalk. I've been getting my butt slightly kicked by classes and work, plus I'm running really low on sleep, but so what? Why can't I be joyful now? Difficulties will be present wherever you go. Even though we're no longer physically going somewhere, life is a spiritual journey at least. Which can only mean one thing: the pilgrimage still continues!
I'd like to share this beautiful prayer written by my good friend, Pablo Lasala Ordovas, a strong young man from Zaragoza with a good heart and quite a gift for music. He wrote this during our time in Roquetas while we were with the immigrants, and he gave me permission to share it. It truly speaks of the desire to see God's grace even when life gets hard:
A Prayer for an Immigrant
Oh Lord, You are my guide.
Oh Lord, You are also their guide.
Why does it happen to me?
Why does it happen to them?
Sometimes we are blind,
Sometimes we manage to see something else.
It is then, when we notice your presence in our lives, in their lives...
...so, it is the moment to intervene...
Thanks God, for allowing me to perceive little things
and so seeing the love you feel for us every day.
Make of us elements to open the world's eyes
and to work for men and women's fulfillment,
in relation to their minds,
in connection with their hearts,
understanding what our soul is telling us.
I've been in such awe of my Spain experience because I couldn't believe that I'd found so much love there and seen God so clearly. But the thing is, nothing is stopping me from finding these things here now. I found those things because I kept an open mind to what came our way on our trip, even though it wasn't always easy. Now that I'm realizing that the pilgrimage never really ends, I'm doing my best to keep an open heart to all that presents itself. I'm choosing to see God and all the good here in my normal life, even when things do get tough, and this understanding has made all the difference. Every day will have its struggles, but with this new perspective, it's easier to face these difficulties. The joy is still here. I'm becoming a happier person. And I can still find God in the man on the bus or the child walking down the street.
I'm writing this from the balcony of my house here in Milwaukee. I feel at total peace. The moon is shining, the breeze is gorgeous, my next door neighbors are getting a kick out of the current status of the Packers' game, and my chocolate chip cookies are delicious. I still miss Spain, but hey – Life is good.
Thank you for allowing me to share a piece of World Youth Day with you. I hope you've enjoyed reading these stories that are near and dear to my heart, for it's been a true honor to be able to share my Spanish experiences with all of you here at home.
May God bless you :)
With peace and love,