We wake up at 3:45 in the morning.
My mom shuffles into my room to already find the lights on as I wander aimlessly and shovel last minute items into my bag: razor, toothbrush, comb, nail file, glasses case.
“Ready?” She smiles, softly and sadly—a smile specifically reserved for the big faith leaps her children choose against all odds and circumstance. I nod and start to haul my luggage out from my room to the living room. My mother returns to her room to get ready, and I go back to check for anymore forgotten items.
I stand there for a moment and sigh, trying to stall. Nothing seems to be missing.
I stare at the walls, the bookshelves, the curtains. This room has always been there to catch me upon my many returns home: around the block, around the country, around the world. I’m sure it will be here when I come back, but somehow still everything about this time feels different.
I shut off the light and close the door.
My brother quietly pops out of his room and gives me a hug with closed eyes.
“Don’t have too much fun,” he says, grabbing me into a hug. He laughs sheepishly, but I hear his voice choke. His words taste like salt.
“I’ll do what I can, buddy. I love you.”
My once tiny nugget of a brother is now approaching the man-boy years. His appetite is like the seventh wonder of the world: a bottomless pit that bewilders all. I see the shadow of a mustache that dances on his upper lip. Sometimes, when he asks, I explain to him some of the mysteries of the female mind. He always shrugs and reminds me how weird I am. Bite your tongue, I always say with a laugh.
On this morning, I bite my tongue–hugging him hard, holding his heart close to mine.
My stepfather places my bags inside the trunk of the car. The four of us stand around the kitchen taking in quiet breaths between bitten lips. This is it. That moment we’ve never been able to discuss at dinner is finally here.
I stand there dumbfounded, in my street sign yellow sweatshirt, scruffy hair, and soft gray sweatpants, and for the first time this whole packing-up-and-moving-to-Guatemala thing finally feels real. For months it’s been some starry-eyed dream. Even in the middle of all the to-do lists and the support-raising, it’s felt surreal. But today it feels weighty. My feelings are muddled.
If given the chance, would I change my mind? I don’t let myself answer that question.
We begin the terrible exchange of hugs, long and lingering, with watery words and silent seconds.
My mother is uncharacteristically steady, which only means one thing: she has already wrestled with God, and He has told her what I suppose He says to her every single time. I am curious, but I never ask. Some words are meant to stay whispers.
When she hugs me, I fall apart. Our history is particular—filled with its own twists and turns throughout our journey but with more than enough love to see us through. Even for as many ways as we are different, there are just as many that show we are alike.
She rests her head in between my shoulder and ear, and tells me the same thing she tells me every single time I make a leap, repeats the words that somehow never grow old, that have almost become a holy thing; a sacred ritual sung over me in a house now grieving underneath stars.
I breathe in, counting each moment that has led me to this one. It has been one step, and then another, and then another. Suddenly every part of this reality, the heavy and the light, feels both His and mine. For what is living if not for the risks and the wonder? And what is life if not a beautifully woven story of God bringing us back to Himself?
We drive through the early morning fog—our car cutting through the kiss of clouds that touches the ground—and something deep settles, a wordless love that soaks into the most uncertain parts of my heart and reminds me that yes-yes-yes, this is still the right thing.
We reach the airport just before sunrise. I trade more hugs and good-byes, and I think of new chapters.
When the plane finally lands, I find myself in the middle of an amusing conversation about cultural slang with an older Guatemalan woman. I watch us skillfully sink down in between mountains and valleys of Guatemala City, catching my breath as the hum of the wheels on the tarmac sings back to me.
Immanuel, Immanuel. The words echo in my spirit. The great mystery of the ages. The only answer to our desperate hopes.
God with us. And around us. And before us. And in us.
I remember, and sigh with release.
As we stand up to leave, I grab my backpack. I take one step, and then another, and another—taking measured breaths because of the drastic shift in elevation—until I am off the plane. A puff of warm air pecks my cheeks and I scrunch my nose in delight. I’m here. And somehow all of those old worries seem foolish.
Maybe this leap has a cost, but what doesn’t? Maybe I can’t see the whole staircase, but who can? Maybe I don’t know quite where we’re going to end up, but why should that interrupt the view?
God is more than faithful. There’s just enough light to see this step.
So I’ll make the leap and keep moving, one foot in front of the other, all the way home.
Photo of Lake Atitlán, edited using the VSCO app. For more information on what I’m up to in Guatemala, check out the Support tab on menu at the top of this page. Check out my first newsletter here. Subscribe and stay tuned for more updates! Much love.