I’ve been in Altea, Spain for one week now and it hasn’t been anything like I imagined it would be. Since injuring my ankle 11 days ago, my world has been turned upside down. The trip I had been looking forward to for months has looked very different than I planned. I guess in some ways it’s a microcosm of life in general. You envision life going one way and oftentimes you get sideswiped by something you didn’t see coming. It’s not necessarily bad, and oftentimes you can see the positive in it, but it still is unexpected.
Now that a week has passed, my spirits are higher than my first couple days here. It’s still really hard to get around the cobblestone streets and steps on my crutches, I’m still in pain, and I’m missing out on several things that the larger group is participating in. During my first days in Altea I felt extremely overwhelmed and disappointed, and now I feel like I’m in a place of accepting what IS. No this isn’t ideal and I’m still struggling to see the good in my situation, but I’m beginning to see glimmers of hope. So much of me wants to write a blog post that ties everything up in a bow and says “Ta-da! Now I know the grand design behind why my ankle got sprained! Isn’t God good?” But I don’t have a neat and tidy explanation. Even still, I’m seeing good more and more and encouragement seems a little easier to find.
The street we live on is in the Old Town section of Altea. You can only walk through the cobblestone streets, as they are narrow. There are a variety of cafes, restaurants, shops, and just beneath my bedroom window is a lovely Italian restaurant. As i write this I can hear someone strumming beautifully on a classical guitar—it really feels like a scene from a movie. Here in Spain people often eat dinner and 10pm and it is not uncommon to see people out until 1:00 or 2:00. Most nights I fall asleep to the sound of glasses and silverware clinking, and Spaniards talking and laughing with one another 20 feet from me. These streets are extremely picturesque with flowers, terraces, and history around every corner. From the terrace on our roof we can see the Mediterranean as it meets the lower section of town. It all is truly stunning. In some ways it’s very strange to be in such a beautiful and romantic place, and yet be hobbling around on crutches. It’s become comedic for me to watch the stares, pointing, and comments from people as I slowly pass by. I can see the empathy on their faces as they wonder in confusion how in the world I am navigating these streets and this town on forearm crutches, and some of them stop to inquire about the accident as I walk by. One of the blessings I am experiencing is that my ankle truly has become a conversation piece. Just as you find with someone walking a dog or carrying a baby, they somehow seem more approachable. I have met several people in our little neighborhood for this very reason. So far I have become friends with 3 different restaurant owners on our block and I have my bum ankle to thank. These are people who I literally see everyday. I’m looking forward to seeing what friendships are forged from this injury.
The students we are working with arrived on Saturday. They are incredible and they are all very hungry for God. Many of them are in places of transition or brokenness in life, and they have come hoping to draw closer to God and receive what He has for them. I’ve begun to meet with a couple of them and I am blown away by how mature and open they are, desiring God’s best for their lives. I’m disappointed to have to skip out on several of the group activities because of accessibility, but I’m trusting that God will pave the way for the right relationships to still be formed.
My ankle and “missing out” on things has meant a lot of solitude and quiet for me. We don’t have internet at our apartment (except for a sketchy wifi signal from the Italian Restaurant below us), which means that it’s a lot harder to be “productive” or feel connected to the outside world. It has resulted in a lot of time alone. I’m calling this time “forced rest.” Often times even on my weekly Sabbath I will go on an adventure or a hike, and rarely am I truly still. During these last 10 days I’ve had a lot of being in one place and my options are limited: read, sleep, play guitar, pray, journal, or sit on the terrace in the sun. My natural tendency in settings like this trip is to want to “go go go,” get to know everyone, sleep very little, and not miss out on anything. None of those things are an option in my current scenario. This is a time of quiet, reflection, and solitude. These things are good. They’re not always what I naturally choose, but they are good.
So I continue to sit in a place of receiving — trying to soak in what God has for me during this season, and trying to accept help from others. I truly believe that our God is a God of redemption and He will redeem this. I’m thankful to be seeing bits of the redemption already, and I will sit with arms open ready to receive whatever is coming.