Goodbye, Spain.

It seems like yesterday (kind of) that I was writing this post as I sat in a hotel in Alcalá de Henares, tired and nearly ready for bed at 8:30PM after our flight to Madrid. 

And yet so much has happened in the 13 months between then and now...

...we worked in a Spanish public school for 9 months, and got completely new insight on life in a foreign culture. We both loved seeing Spanish culture from this perspective. It was enlightening in so many ways!

...we lived in a fish bowl on the ground floor of our building. Nothing like waking up to your doorman right outside your window for months on end.

...we traveled. Like, (as our Australian friends say) HEAPS. We don't take for granted that we were able to visit Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, England, as well as many cities in Spain (Córdoba, Barcelona, Valencia, Cuenca, Tortosa, León, Toledo, Peñiscola). We are grateful.

...we met cool people. It was a blessing to have friends like Lina, Leah, and Joe, and Al and Elizabeth and their daughter Katie, to share life with outside of our teaching responsibilities. We hope our paths will cross again. And of course, it's been fun to spend time and worship with our friends John and Jodi and their girls here in Valencia.

...we worked on our Spanish. Well, John really worked on his Spanish, and I worked with what I had and got by. :) (Let me brag on my husband a little bit: he took an upper-intermediate Spanish exam and passed this summer, AND he took a beginning level German class taught in Spanish and passed with an excellent grade. So proud.) While my Spanish isn't where I'd love for it to be, I love that I know Spanish well enough to hold conversations, worship in a second language, and understand a lot more than I usually give myself credit for. (I especially realize how much I do know as I'm beginning to study German!)

...we dodged lots of dog poo. There is an absurd amount of this brown substance on the sidewalks here. And no, really, I didn't slip in it once. Impressive, no?

...we saw time and time again that God provides. God was so gracious to us this year in countless ways. And we saw Him provide over and over again. Just having this past year to step away from the rush of American work culture and be together, work at the same type of job, and work on our marriage was a huge gift.

Spain is a really special place for both of us. I visited Spain twice in college as I prepared to go on the mission field, and then spent a year and a half in Madrid, a time that was wonderful and challenging and very disappointing all at the same time. All the while, John and I were getting to know each other from afar after meeting at a missions conference when I was preparing to go to Spain. And then, God gave us the opportunity to return to this country where we'd both studied and spent time...this time together. It's hard to say goodbye in many ways, and yet through the tears that I know will probably fall as the plane taxis to the runway in Valencia today, I can see God's hand without a doubt in this next step of our lives. And so I remind myself that God's presence is constant, His promises are sure, and His gifts are abundant. I leave Spain thinking of this song that a dear friend sang at our wedding that I absolutely love:

Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God's hand in mine
Season by season I watch Him, amazed
In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He's always been faithful to me

I can't remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain
I can't remember one single regret
In serving God only, and trusting His hand
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He's always been faithful to me

This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I've heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He's always been faithful, He's always been faithful
He's always been faithful to me

~Sara Groves, "He's Always Been Faithful"

Goodbye, Spain. I hope we'll meet again.

Peñiscola: One last over-night.

Last week we took a quick hour and a half trip up the coast to Peñiscola, a beach town just north of Valencia. We've been spoiled this year, with all of Spain and Europe at our back door! With my aunt visiting from Kentucky, we decided to make the most of our location, the end of summer, and easy train access and went away for an evening. We stayed at a nice hotel that included an enormous lunch and breakfast buffet in the cost of the room, and we enjoyed sitting out by the pool (which was freezing--I didn't even get in!) to read and relax. 

The small town was a short walk away (at the top of the hill in the photo below), and while it was very touristy (lots of t-shirt/souvenir shops), it had unbeatable views of the bright blue Mediterranean Sea. The best view, though, was watching the sky turn from bright blue into varying shades of pinks and reds at sunset. 

Minimal, minimal photo editing--the sky was just that beautiful!

Minimal, minimal photo editing--the sky was just that beautiful!