Bucket List

As the weeks go on here in Sevilla, my bucket list continues to diminish day by day. I thought I would have a lot of cool chances to experience the world, but I didn’t realize that I would have THIS many chances. This past weekend was a weekend of unforgettable chances to experience the world, more specifically Portugal. Yes, that’s right folks. Friday I packed up my backpack and hit the road to Portugal with a bunch of fun people. A good number of the people were from my program, but this excursion was being led by a handful of guys from a program called Outdoor Sevilla [check out their website here–>http://www.outdoorsevilla.com/ and if you are ever in Sevilla, check them out].

So Friday afternoon we boarded our coach bus and headed off to a different country! After about four hours, we got off the bus and hiked an amazing, very off the beaten path, incredible trail with breathtaking views.

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Kayla, Me, and Rebecca

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This was also my first time experiencing the OCEAN!!! When we got off the bus, I kept asking if we were really looking at the ocean. Check that off the bucket list!!

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Very excited about the ocean!

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Sadly, my first experience with the ocean was cut short because we needed to continue our hike, but I got to feel the full effects later on in the trip. Friday night we checked into our hotel where there were 6 people girls assigned to a room. Thankfully the rooms were apartment style, and we wouldn’t be spending much time in them anyways seeing as we had a weekend packed full of activities ahead of us. About an hour after we checked in, some people went out for dinner, and thanks to Blanca, la mejor Señora del mundo, Kayla and I had some sandwiches and fruit that we ate. 

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for breakfast and then wandered around the town for a while. When we got back, we “studied” for our exams the following Monday, which turned into going down to the pool for a cookout. Around 3:00 we left the hotel and headed out for our activities.

First on the list, rock climbing. This was no wimpy, easy course with all of the rocks nicely laid out for a leisurely climb; this was straight up hard work because we were literally climbing a wall of rocks. Check number 2 off the bucket list. This was so much harder than any rock wall that I have ever climbed, but it was a great experience!

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Check out those calf muscles!

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Just hanging around

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement, after rock climbing we went cliff jumping!! My main reason for going on this trip. The views were spectacular and once again, we were hiking off the beaten path. It was here when I got to experience the ocean up close and personal. And oh boy! What an experience it was! There are no words to describe the thrill of that first jump. Once i hit the water, there it was, the salt. By far, my least favorite aspect of the ocean :) After spending the day in the ocean, my mouth felt like I had eaten 13 bags of very salty potato chips. Not fun, but totally worth it. After my first jump, I was so pumped up that I decided I was going to jump again. To do this, I had to climb out on the rocks, which proved to be a harder task for some. The girl in front of me decided to leisurely make her way out of the water, leaving me waiting in the water while a large wave rolled in. This didn’t feel so good on my legs when I hit the rocks. Luckily I only got a couple of scrapes and bruises, and I was able to jump again, this time from a higher point. If I had to guess, I would guess the point that I jumped off the second time was roughly 40 feet tall, but I’m really no good at guessing distances. All I know is that it was AWESOME and I would do it again in a heartbeat!!! The most difficult part was swimming to the beach after jumping. It was a good distance to swim which equaled a lot of salt water in my mouth.

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CLIFF JUMPING INTO THE OCEAN!!!

After cliff jumping, we met up with the rest of our group at a beach and spent a couple of hours there, where I was able to take my I-just-experienced-the-ocean-for-the-first-time pictures :) So awesome. And after our day on the beach, we went to the “End of the World” to watch the sunset. That was just so beautiful, and I have never seen so many people gather in one place to see a sunset before. I still get goosebumps when I just think about the sights that I got to experience.

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Marvelous sun set at “The End of the World”

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No words..

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So that was a lot that happened Saturday, and Sunday we had one final activity planned.

SURFING! 

We checked out of the hotel Sunday morning and headed off to Praia de Amado to catch some waves. Check that off my bucket list! Okay, so surfing was never really on my bucket list because I never actually expected I would get the chance to do it, but I added it to my bucket list now, so check that one off! Surfing was beyond my wildest dreams! After arrive to the beach, we donned our oh so flattering wet suits, grabbed a surf board, and headed out to the ocean. Our surf instructor, Tito, was your typical long-haired beach blonde man with sunscreen not rubbed in on his face. He was a riot, and he made surfing sound so easy. Okay, actually it was a little confusing to understand him because our lessons were in Spanish!! That took a little while to get used to. Luckily for us, he demonstrated each step in the water after explaining it. We finally got into the water and did all of the steps he told us to, and to my surprise, I STOOD UP! I WAS SURFING!! I kind of expected to not be able to because a lot of people were telling me how hard it was and I was a little sore from the previous day, but I did it. I felt so accomplished and happy. So if you ever need surfing lessons in Spanish, I’m your girl :)

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Surfing lessons with Rebecca

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Surf’s Up!

For me, the most amazing part of this trip was not the new friendships that were created (although those people were really fun and awesome), it wasn’t the activities that we did (although they were thrilling and I would love to experience them all again), it wasn’t the food (although I did get to try some crazy things), but it was experiencing God’s creation. As I posted on my Facebook wall when we got home that night…”After being on the beach today, my mind is blown trying to grasp the concept that God knows how many grains of sand there are on that beach (and now in my backpack) and seeing all the cliffs and the waves and the sunset…what a wonderful Creator we serve!! God is so good!” THAT right there was the highlight of my trip.

When you end a night with this…

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or experience this…

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and when you are right next to this…

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I don’t know how one could not feel God’s presence and admire all of His work. It is purely amazing, and that is just the beginning of trying to explain the views that I got to experience. These pictures do not even do justice. Thank you God for all that you have created!

“For this is what the Lord says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
-Isaiah 45:18
¡Un fuerte abrazo!
Melissa

 

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Un Cambio

“Un cambio de tus pensamientos es un cambio de tu camina de tu vida.”

A good quote from our church service last week, but what does it mean? Literally in English it means “A change in your thoughts is a change in your walk of life.”

But what does that REALLY mean? Well that’s a great question that I don’t have all of the answers for, but I am going to share my thoughts thus far…

For me, if I am thinking about a certain task, and really focusing on it, I can complete that task well. For example, I have never really been an avid reader, but when I put my mind to it and focus on the task at hand, I gain more knowledge that I would have ever expected. And then comes multitasking…at times the killer of all progress. Try reading a story in Spanish while thinking of a million different other things and listening to music [in English] at the same time. Yea, no progress there. Whereas if I am solely focusing on reading in Spanish…..I can do a pretty good job :)

“Un cambio de tus pensamientos es un cambio de tu camina de tu vida.”

I truly believe that if you can focus on changing your thought from sinful to pure, you will see a change in your life. While the pastor of my church here in Spain didn’t preach on multitasking, I believe it is a huge piece to the puzzling statement above. If we are so focused on everything around us, how are we supposed to focus on changing our thoughts so that our lives will be changed? How do we put aside all of what society says to genuinely change our thoughts? If someone has the answer to that, please let me know, because I am still searching for that answer myself. How do we cope with the circumstances that we are in or the pain that we are going through in our lives? How do we put aside everything to change our thoughts in order to change our lives?

The twofold answer:
1) we can’t
2) but Jesus can!

It’s tough, I know that much. But what I also know is that it it worth it. To live with a changed life because of what Jesus has done is the best feeling in the world. Sure we still get sidetracked trying to keep up with the latest trends or fitting in to society, but the thing is, God is always right there waiting.

“Un cambio de tus pensamientos es un cambio de tu camina de tu vida.”

So when we do fix our eyes on Jesus and think on everything that he wants for our lives, that is when we start to see our lives change. It is fascinating how much less I have personally cared about what the word thinks of me and more of how God views me. Knowing that Jesus is going to love me no mater what, what is greater than that? The fact that he gave his life for me, what fashion trend is better than that? So I am going to remind myself daily,

“Un cambio de tus pensamientos es un cambio de tu camina de tu vida.”

Really, it’s a great phrase to live by. One of the best that I have heard thus far.
And the sermon today just added to the hope and promise, as if it was a continuation of last week’s message. The topic today was make your dreams and desires for your life the same as God’s dreams and desires for you. Live the life that he wants for you, because he wants the best. This doesn’t mean you will become rich and famous, and it doesn’t mean that you are going to live a pain free life. It means God is going to bless you in the ways that you need to be blessed according to His dream for you.  And we can find that same promise in the Bible too:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Ay! What a great promise we have in Jesus Christ!

Okay, now I want to tell you more about the church I am attending here in Spain because I am so excited about it!!! It is in all Spanish (obviously), and it is considered to be non-denominational. And a little background on religion in general in Spain…0.01% of the population of Spain consider themselves Evangelical Christians. There are many Catholic Christians here, both by association and by practice, but it is very rare to find an Evangelical Christian. Therefore, I am very happy to be attending this church! Anyways, so the congregation is made up of roughly 35 people, and there are not many young people. When the pastor preaches, a lot of the time he is yelling because he is so pumped up for Jesus. It’s sweet! The people there are very welcoming and remembered us from last weeks attendance (perks to the small churches!).

AND i made 2 Spanish friends today!! Victoria and Esther. They are the PKs of the church (Pastor’s Kids) and they weren’t in church last week because they were on a youth retreat, so I just got to meet them today. After the service I went up to Victoria and she introduced herself to me, and we talked for a while. She then introduced me to her sister. They are both younger than me, and were very willing to get to know me (a little bit rare for Spaniards). We ended up talking for roughly a half an hour after the service, and through small talk found out that my friend Sarah and I played the piano back in the day. They asked us to play a song on the keyboard, so we played the song that everyone knows but no one actually knows the name….yea great description. They loved it so much that they recorded it on their phone so they could learn it!! I am very excited to become better friends with these girls! And maybe some day I can lead songs with them at church!

Also towards the end of each church service everyone goes up to the front of church for the congregational prayer. Let me tell you, this prayer is NOTHING like the congregational prayer at my church back home. I was in for a treat! Everyone here prays at the same time, so there is a lot of talking and some yelling and singing going on. It’s a little bit chaotic, but the awesome thing is that God can hear what each individual person is saying! It’s so cool, my words can’t even describe it! So as we are all standing there praying, the pastor walks around and prays for some people, I don’t know how he chooses who he is going to pray for, but all of a sudden as I am standing there with my eyes closed, speaking my prayer in Spanish out loud, I felt a hand on my forehead. I was a little bit startled. The pastor had come over to pray for me. What. An. Experience. Obviously it was all in Spanish, but it was so cool that I could understand all of it! He thanked God that I had come to this church, and also prayed that when I return to the US, that I will be able to make a difference. WOW! Now that was so awesome. So many emotions too. With a big smile on my face and some tears running down my cheeks, I just thanked God for all that he has been doing in my life and for what he still has left to do!

Needless to say, I love my church here in Spain, and am blessed to call this my church home :) We were even invited to the dinner that the church is having on Saturday night and will be experiencing a baptism next Sunday! But more on that later, now I am going to sleep in the peace of God.

And I pray that this phrase will always be on your heart and mind, no matter where in the world or where in your Christian walk you are.

“Un cambio de tus pensamientos es un cambio de tu camina de tu vida.”

¡Con mucho emoción!

Melissa