25th Birthday

This last Tuesday was my 25th birthday.  I can now rent a car; my car insurance rates have dropped, but I don’t drive anymore, so what’s the point.  Lately I’ve been thinking about how my life has been changing slowly and changing in some ways that are a bit more noticeable than the turning of an age from 24 to 25.  I think one change that is noticeable is the fact that I’m training for a half-marathon.  I remember stating very clearly to one of my friends that I would never run a half-marathon, but I guess I’m trying new things.

So last tuesday I also changed in age.  Some people think that a birthday is just another day.  I look at it as a celebration of life.  On the day I was born I nearly didn’t make it.  I was born way early and with highly underdeveloped lungs.  That may be why my mom remembered this is just the second time I’ve ever been away from my family on my birthday.
So each birthday is a true celebration of life for me.  God gave me this life and I’m very thankful for that.  Sometimes I think that I owe him just a little bit.  Maybe that’s why I’m here in Guatemala.
I hope that for whatever reason I’m here, God is pleased with all I’m doing.  I think he must be because he blessed me with a great birthday.  He typically does.  Like the year I went up to the mountains with the guys from my bible study or last year when I had a huge party at my Gradparent’s house.  For the last eight years I’ve had my birthday off from school or work, but this year I had to work, which wasn’t that bad.  It was fun being with my friends at work and all of my students.  I was sung to twice and one of my students gave me a box of toilet paper.  Two-ply!  After school I talked with my family on Skype.  They all looked older, no wait that was probably just me.  I now look like I’m at least 21.  
But like I said earlier I don’t think the big changes that God is making in me are numeral, but a little deeper.  A big change is how I am actively trusting God.  I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I’m going to stay here in Guatemala for another year and see what God has for me.  I trust that God will take care of me.  I trust that God has a plan for me here in Guatemala for at least another year.  I’m excited about that, just about as excited as I was for my birthday dinner.  For dinner that evening I went to a new restaurant here in Xela.  A good sized group of my friends came out to celebrate with me.  After the main meal I was still hungry, so it was fortunate for me that Kristin and Annie brought out the cake they’d made for me.  They designed it to look like a Denver Bronco Football helmet and I think it’s probably my favorite cake ever; I’m still eating it.  Over all it was a great birthday and even though I was away from all of my friends and family back in the states I still felt loved and blessed to see another year come to pass here in Guatemala.

Santa Maria!

Santa Maria is the Volcano that dominates the sky line here in Xela. Last night I dominated it. Or I guess you could say it graciously allowed me to make an ascent. Santa Maria towers above the skyline at 12,375 feet tall. It’s not the tallest volcano in Guatemala, but it is rather impressive. The ascent, 5,000 vertical feet from bottom to top, took us around four hours to accomplish. We started a little after midnight and got to the summit a little after five. You might notice that the time frame here doesn’t fit. The four hours is actual hiking time and does not count the 30 to 45 minutes we hid bellow the tree line to stay warm.

The hike takes you up through onion fields and burnt-out trees. All of this was hard to see at night even though we had a full moon. So with our head lamps on we reached the top and huddled together for warmth. Around 6 am the moon vanished beyond the horizon. Because we were up so high the moon looked as if it had several turquoise and orange rings circling it, so as it vanished it created a beautiful other worldly image. I have been reading A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and she talks about how ancient Europeans used to think that birds would migrate from the moon. So I had this picture on my mind as I stared at the moon. If birds really did fly to the moon and back I think I’d want to ride with them. How cool would that be. Once the moon slipped away it took the sun about 45 minutes to break the mountainous horizon. It was a cold 45 minutes and the instant the sun appeared the temperature jumped about 10 degrees. With the light of the sun I could see all of the other volcanoes lining the horizon. They looked like large ant hills poking through a sea of clouds.

Right below Santa Maria is Santiaguito, which is a small active volcano. It erupts about every twenty minutes and so we waited for nearly an hour just to see it erupt. You can see it by walking to what is called the look out point. Because it is an active volcano it is dangerous to get too close. This look out point is on the west side of Santa Maria and so in the morning it is still a very cold spot. I froze as I waited for an eruption. Nothing. Just a couple puffs of smoke. Frozen stiff I gave up and walked back into the sun leaving Santiaguito out of sight. It erupted a couple minutes later. I guess that’s my luck. After a couple more pictures, we hiked back down. It took 3 hours and the constant down hill hurt my knees. I’m glad God invented volcanoes and gave me strong legs to hike them, two good eyes to enjoy his creation, and friends to share the memories with. The pictures above are from my trip so I hope you enjoy.