The exotic journey of the heart

These first golden weeks of the new year always uplift my spirit. I hope they’ve done the same for you. There’s nothing quite like the promise of a new year to tune into dreams and passions.

It’s been over a year and a half since I sold most of my stuff, stored the rest and went out into the world to discover the Lord’s will for my life. And I have a decision to make. End my walk in the world, or keep going?

This is one of the most unique and intimate moments in all of my travels.

It happened early one morning in September on the day I was going to return to São Paulo. So there was a specialness about it. A knowing. This was my last time to feel the energy of the cataratas (waterfalls). Oddly, I got the feeling that this wouldn’t be my last visit.

When I stepped out for my early morning walk to the cataratas, I had no idea I’d be the only one on the path.

The park wouldn’t be open to the public for another hour. I was fortunate enough to be staying at a hotel within the park, just across the street from the waterfalls. This granted hotel guests special access. Access I didn’t take advantage of until the last day. Still, there was no other hotel guest around in this moment and that surprised me.

 

Dad went home to be with the Lord a few months before, and since that time I’d felt God with me more closely than ever. This was one of those moments. The hotel would be one of the first places I’d work remotely in order to conduct and write an interview for a new online magazine. Iguaçu Falls blessed me in so many ways.

I walked deep into the gorge and took a minute to survey the stunning view of the largest waterfall system in the world––so large it spans the watery borders of Brazil and Argentina. A happy accident led me there––my friend planned the trip. A total surprise.

When I arrived at Iguaçu, I recognized the falls from a photo Dad had taken and mounted on his study wall most of my life. I hadn’t planed to see this wonder. God did.

I remembered the eulogy I gave at Dad’s memorial service about how Dad chased waterfalls all over the world as a hydroelectric engineer. Harnessing their power. Speaking the international language of energy.

And in this, the last moments of saying goodbye to the waterfall, a massive rainbow arched over the entire sight. 

“Hi, Dad,” I said, hitting my knees after snapping the photo, in the shadow of such beauty.

The Lord whispered, “This is just the beginning.”

In the hundreds of people whose lives I’ve been blessed to be a part of this year, I have noticed the need for people to have courage, including myself. But what does that look like? It’s a little bit different for each of us. Sometime courage looks like––

the bravery to forgive, 

to not believe lies society or other people are wanting us to believe, 

overcoming a bully, 

or heartache, 

to find the power to forgive ourselves, 

to walk in grace,

to believe that God is good even in the midst of tragedy, 

to heal, 

to make that decision, 

to show others how to treat you, 

to fight for justice, 

to hand your heart to a friend to hold to because your heart is too heavy to remember your hopes and dreams,

to laugh 

All along the way, it has been no coincidence that my obstacles have been dis-couragement. It begins with little or big disappointments that can turn into discouragement if I am not careful, mindful. Please be careful with disappointment. Don’t let it derail you or your dreams.

Please.

The journey of the heart is perhaps the most exotic. It says in the Bible to guard our hearts. This, I believe is one of our most important tasks.

I have made so many mistakes along the way. Learning much about how I fall short and how not to let fear rule the day.

When discouragement knocks I remember the rainbow over Iguaçu. I remember what the Lord whispered.

And I believe. 

Most of what I’ve learned this year has to do with the brevity of life. Too brief to be discouraged.

Each day is a new day. My prayer for you is that you wake up each day and face it honestly, with an open, courageous heart.

I hope you enjoy this story I wrote about my friend and I at Iguaçu Falls, Brazil called Brazillian Bikinis and Mango Shrimp 

Your little bag of hope

The first of many surprises in Brazil
The first of many surprises in Brazil

Only hours after touching down in Sao Paulo, I received this little bag of hope.

See, I had no underwear. 

It’s a long story, but I promised Dad, I’d keep it short (see below). On our drive into the remote mountains of Sao Paulo, my friend and I stopped at a mall for cash (no ATMS in the forest). This part of the journey felt all hazy, the way things do when you’ve flown a red-eye across the world.

We didn’t have much time because my friend wanted to take me for a hike up to the stone–part of a caminho de fe, walk of faith, by her home. Since life hadn’t given me much time for caminhos in the months before, I longed for the kind of caminho my soul and spirit needed. Desperate to walk, I wanted to hug nature and breathe the cool Brazilian mountain air.

In no time, I found a great lingerie store. I loved their fabrics and designs but had no clue when it came to speaking Portuguese, similar to Spanish which is a language I speak. The languages even share common words. Sadly, none of the Spanish words they shared were the ones I needed to ask for the right size and color of panties. My friend gave me lots of help.

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No, not the butt enhancers. Brazil loves to surprise. When the sales woman handed me my bag, I thanked her for speaking English with my first Portuguese word, obrigado.

I held up the bag and said, “I have a little bag of hope.”

My friend gave me a hug and pointed at the store’s marquee. The jet lag, pain from a health issue and the general sense of rushing combined to make me a little loopy. I hadn’t noticed the name of the store. HOPE.

“It’s great energy,” my friend said. Afterwards, we laughed and caught up over an incredible Brazilian coffee then tucked my little bag of hope into my friend’s car and hit the road for our journey into the mountains.

Defender of hope
Defender of hope

I love how The Holy Spirit gives us signs and messages. How God works through our desires and longings.

Sometimes, He’s found in the perfect song at the perfect time. Sometimes in the words of a friend. At other times, He arrives in the form of intuition. Through whispered messages on gentle breezes.

But I’d never in all my life received a red ribboned, gilded message of HOPE in English in a Portuguese-speaking country before. Hope had nearly run out for me by the time I arrived in Brazil. God felt the need to shout this time. He got my attention.

Here’s your little bag of hope. 

I’m handing it to you on a busy day. A day you aren’t feeling well and a little bit rushed. When you aren’t sure about life, maybe not feeling like yourself. A day when all that you believed and expected are in question. Here it is. Open it up. You don’t need much.

A thank you:

This is the first post Dad will not read. Last year, just before I set out to do my first mission work in Prague, right before I walked El Camino de Santiago, Dad told me that I’d have to be his eyes in the world now. Through Laurasmagicday over the last few years of Dad’s life I brought the world to him as he had done with me when I was a child.

I miss him every day and yet, it seems that he’s closer to me than ever before. The last time I spoke with Dad in the hospital, he asked what I’d written lately. I told him my job in Spain was very demanding and I’d barely had time to journal. He closed his eyes, shook his head and said, “write a short story.” This post is that short story.

Thank you for your support and encouragement. Your good wishes and prayers have been a comfort. I hope to keep Dad’s spirit of curiosity, peace, joy and excitement alive here and in all my future projects. Life is short. Make it fun.