They give me worth

My therapist this week told me that God’s timing wasn’t a coincidence. While it was about a specific thing/event we’d talked about, I can’t help but have it ring in my ears tonight as I’m reminded: God’s timing is not a coincidence. It’s perfectly planned.

Facebook memories are always a hit/miss, depending on how old they are (to the people  I was friends with in high school: I apologize for treating facebook like a diary.)

Memories in March are my favorite though, because they usually flood my facebook with pictures, posts, and memories from the 4 years  I’ve spent spring break in Cozumel.
Tonight particularly, the facebook memory machine hit me like a ton of bricks.
It led me to the first ever blog post I wrote about Ciudad. Posted 3 years ago. All of those memories coupled with the pictures and stories kept flooding back, while tears flooded my eyes. This year, I can’t seem to think or talk about Cozumel without getting choked up. So when I re-read that first year post? Oh man.
Reading my words from that first year finally helped me find the words to talk about this year. We’ve been back on the mainland for over a week now, and the processing this year has been hard. Words still aren’t coming easily, but I’m ready to try.

It’s crazy what 4 years has done to me. So much has changed. I’m not the same person from that first year.

But Ciudad has stayed the same.
While there have been changes– new directors,  new kids coming in and older kids leaving, new house parents, new houses and buildings and projects  every year since I’ve been there– my thoughts, feelings, and emotions about this place and its people have unwavered.
If anything, they’ve gotten stronger over the past 4 years.

I don’t think I knew that first year just how much Ciudad would be a part of my life
. I don’t think I realized that this place had changed me, until I look back at it now– how I interweave stories and memories from the trips into almost every conversation I have. How  I relive the days, the moments, playing the “what were you doing now?” game when I miss it.  How even despite the language barrier, I came to know these kids– and they me. How the pictures would be looked at (and the memories remembered) daily. How I would long for the trip year after year back to my kids. How I would spend time with the team after the trip, missing it together. (I could write a whole post on the team aspect of the trip this year).

This year in some ways was one of the most different in the trip itself, and yet I felt like I fell into my usual rhythms the minute my feet hit the ground outside of the airport. I could breathe easy. I knew life in Cozumel and at Ciudad: it was certain, steady, and life-giving. Everything about it made me feel like this is how life is supposed to be.
It’s become home.
It’s where my heart is.
It’s where I’m the most alive.
It’s where I’m most at peace.
I’m a different person when I’m there- a happier, livelier, calmer, bright-eyed version of myself. 

Every spring break leads me back to that place– and to that person. And every year, I come back leaving more of myself there, all the while trying to bring back life there to my life here.

Ciudad and the kids there have become such a huge part of my daily life and the way I see the world. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not reminded of how these kids change my life.

 I could tell so many stories throughout the years about how God has changed my life and my heart on this trip. Maybe someday I can share them without crying.

Looking back at this year’s trip has been harder for me that trips past. I know it’s partially because of the unknowns of next year (since I won’t be a student anymore), but I also feel like it’s because this year I felt different. I knew the ropes and the ins and outs of the home– and knew the kids decently well. I mostly stuck to the kids I already had a relationship with, instead of trying so hard to try to talk to/get to know everyone. (a hard feat with 40 kids plus 40 teammates vying for kids attention too!). I think when I did that, something shifted in me: by focusing on building the relationships I’d already made, I didn’t have to try so hard. There was already friendship there. There was a layer of love and trust already between us. That made the week so much more fun for me– spending time laughing and playing go fish with Wendy, or taking selfies with Carlos, or heart to hearts with Conny and chasing Cristi around the playground. I already knew them and loved them (and they loved me back), so I felt such at ease. It also feels harder to share those stories, for some reason.

While year after year, my connections with certain kids has changed and/or blossomed, one common theme has stayed the same:

God reveals himself when our eyes are open to see him working. He shows us what we need to see and what we need to hear if we quit trying to find it and just listen and watch.
When we’re paying attention to what He’s called us to, He shows up. And He changes us.
One specific way God revealed himself to me this trip was to remind me of my worth. There have been so many times the past year that I haven’t really felt worth much. Now that I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, nothing feels like it has a purpose– I have no end goal. I’ve felt like life and the hardships and frustrations I’ve dealt with just weren’t worth it– and that I wasn’t worth it. Life wasn’t worth the stress and the hopelessness  I was feeling. It’s a scary thing to feel these things. There have been many days I just wanted to give up.

That all changed when I was at Ciudad.
  I knew if I could make it through to Cozumel, back to Ciudad, life would feel as it was supposed to. There more than anywhere else do I feel like I have value. I have a purpose again. I was worth something to these kids, not because I had my life figured out or because I was special. They found worth and value in me because of me. Because I was there, just being myself. Despite the language and cultural barriers, they spoke volumes of worth into my life– just for me being there. I was enough to them when I wasn’t enough to myself.

And that thought– that I was worth something to them– has changed my life.
These kids have dealt with more hardships than I’ll ever deal with. They come with their own baggage. Yet they see me, not knowing of my hardships and baggage I carry, and love me in spite of it. Not because I did something special or did anything really– they love me and accept me for me.  I can hardly believe that.
My first year, I got close to a little girl named Conny. She’s not-so little anymore (she turned 12 while we were there!), and has been one of those kids that has been a big part of my story every year I’ve gone on the trip. This year was no different. On the Sunday we were there, I sat with her and my Wendy girl  while at church. Wendy eventually had to leave to help with the children’s class, so it was just me and Conny. She quickly moved over and took residence by my side, head on my shoulder. During one part of the sermon, I was attempting to keep up with the scriptures when I just gave up and held my bible and listened (not knowing what on earth the pastor was saying). Conny looked at and pointed at my bible, as if to ask if she could look.  I nodded and watched her thumb through it, noticing my drawings and journal entries. I had a pink highlighter in my hand; she motioned at it and at a blank page in my bible, asking if she could write/draw. I smiled and nodded yes, and the girl went to town. I silently giggled watching her take so much joy from something so simple. She drew on a few pages, but eventually I looked over to find her writing multiple words in spanish on a page:
Besides it saying “I love Jordan,” I could only make out some of the words, but had my friend Adriana translate the rest for me.
Beautiful. Loving. Understood (not sure if that’s what she meant by conprendida, I couldn’t figure it out).  Tender. Love. A few more I can’t remember off the top of my head.
Words I don’t really see in myself.
Yet this girl, who I’ve spent a week with for 4 years (literally spent 4 weeks of my life with total), sees me as these things. And she believes it. No strings attached.
God used Conny to reveal the words and reminders I needed the most.

God speaks through these kids every year, but this year, He spoke volumes into the dryest part of my soul: He reminded me that I had worth, because of who I am.
Not for what I did or said. But simply because of who I am. It doesn’t matter that I don’t see it in myself– He gave me people like Conny to see it for me.

My friend, Lydia, said after my first trip in 2013 that God’s fingerprints were all over Ciudad. Ever since then, I’ve believed that, and never felt God’s touch quite as much anywhere else but in Cozumel.  It’s not that He isn’t moving anywhere else; it’s just that for me, I find him there the most. Because it’s there that I feel like I’m known and loved for just being me. I don’t have to put on a show or a happy face. I come, baggage and all, and these kids don’t care– they just want to love us like we love them. I see His fingerprints here because it is where I’m most reminded of who I am: loved, valued, worthy. I’m reminded that I have purpose here, whether that looks like teaching ESL or playing go fish and painting nails; whether that’s letting kids play with my sunglasses or sitting on the sidelines to comfort someone. I have a purpose at Ciudad, and God’s fingerprints lead me to that purpose year after year.

 My first year blog ended with this line: I don’t think I can go back to life without Ciudad; and I know, with all my heart, that I really don’t ever want to.

4 years later, and I know for sure:  I can never go back to life without Ciudad. And the love these kids give me, I know for sure I never want to. 
Thank you God, for your fingerprints on this place: they give me purpose and worth more than anything else this world has to offer me.
left to right: me and Conny, 2013; me and Conny, 2016 (with an Elsy photobomb)

3 thoughts on “They give me worth

  1. tears. JT, your way with words really does something to my heart and spirit. Thank you for being transparent here and as we always said “thanks for being my friend.” While it is obvious the kids at Ciudad are Angeles, you are also an angel to me. Thankful to have spent this year with you. You are something incredible.

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