Monday, April 25, 2011

My Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Part III

Continued from last week....

I thought, Either they figured out where I’m supposed to be or…they are going to sell me on the black-market!

Since the mayor’s wife was dozing next to me in the backseat and the endless vista of dessert mountains and cactus after cactus speeding by the window was making me sleepy, I closed my eyes and thought about what had brought me to this day.

If you would have asked me on the day I graduated from high-school as I posed in my bright red cap and gown with friends, my mom snapping a million photos (back in the day of 35 mm film, that was a BIG deal!!), I would have never imagined I could be lost in Mexico just a year later.  I undoubtedly would have said, “I think I’d be starting my sophomore year of college in a year.” 

My post-high-school-life started out just as planned, I enrolled at the UW-Milwaukee and was thrilled to have the chance to run with the cross country team.  A busy schedule of classes (art and English major), practices and weekend parties made my college days fly by in a blur.  Even though I was raised as a P.K. (Pastor’s Kid) in a loving home and had embraced Jesus at the age of six I’d come a long way, baby (in the words of the famous ad).  I’d come a long way away from living for the Jesus of my childhood.  Life had thrown some hurts my way that left me in a wake of confusion but ultimately, I made a choice to be selfish and live for ME.  The result was leaving me empty and deep down, I knew the answer to a question that haunted me my freshman year, “What’s the meaning of my life?”

It had to be God.  Simple?  Yes.  I think it’s supposed to be simple, we are the ones that make it complicated.

It was a cold Friday night in January of 1999 when God totally knocked my socks off.  My roommates were blaring our favorite band as they got dolled up for a house party we had been looking forward to all week.  They gave me a double take when I informed them I was going to stay in that night instead. When my girlfriends left and the music stopped, I grabbed my Bible out of a pile of neglected books and started reading it and praying.  What I heard next changed my life forever.

“Where are you, God?”  I asked this question into my empty dorm room, feeling kind of silly until I heard a reply,

“I never left you, you left me.  I have promised to never leave you and never forsake you  (Hebrews 13:5).”  So began a conversation that night with the Friend sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)  I also heard this, “Daughter, get ready: I’m sending you to another country.”  Of course, this statement brought many more questions from me, but I didn’t hear anything else that night.  Was I meant to embark on a journey of faith?  Once I obeyed the first step, would only then God would show me the next step?

So, that’s what I did.  I finished out the year, picked up a job as a waitress, stashed the cash I made and got a passport.  In a word (or three): I got ready.  August rolled around and all my friends were going back to college and I was going…where was I going again?  

Then one day, a phone-call came…from Mexico!  It was the principle of a local school in a little village who had heard about me through a serious of “coincidences” and had a strange proposition, “The teacher we had lined up for our school here can’t come anymore, we need a teacher for the ELS (English as a Second Language) program and to teach art (right up this girl’s ally!)…here’s the catch: Is there any chance you would be READY to come here in a few days before school starts?”

She couldn’t see the grin on my face as I squeezed the phone, “As a matter of fact, yes, I can come...I’m ready!”

That had been just a few days before and I knew without a doubt His hand had led me here…so somehow I was sure I’d eventually get to where I needed to go.

Sure enough, within an hour, a small wooden sign with “El Carmen” painted on it came into view.  Behind it lay the village that was made up of a houses that looked like someone had painted rows of assorted wooden blocks in every shade of pastel and avocado and lime trees growing along the dirt roads.  It was love at first sight!  The mayor pointed the chauffeur down one road after another until we pulled in front of a little school building where a lady rushed out the doors with an excited expression.

“Are you Tara?”  I barely had time to step out of the car before she warmly embraced me and showered me with questions.  My first thought was, English!!  My next thought was, where was my ride at the airport?

After saying a somber goodbye to the Mayor and his sweet wife (she seemed disappointed that I wouldn’t be moving in with them after all), I found out that the person who was supposed to pick me up at the airport was there at 9...only she had been there at 9 a.m. instead of 9 p.m.  Ah, just a minor detail!

Next, the principle told me this story,

“Mrs. Beto cleans and cooks at our school and she had heard the APB about you.  She wasn’t sure that was you so she didn’t mention it until this afternoon. We called the police station in Monterrey and found out the had been receiving calls all morning from people saying they were coming to pick you up!  Only no one actually knew your name so they weren’t about to release you to some stranger.  Once I confirmed your name though they said you were already gone.  I got nervous about that until they said the man who took you was the Mayor and he had left his business card.  I called his office and gave him directions to deliver you to us!”

Wow, I thought, that is…loco!

“There is one other thing…you should call your parents.”  She smiled ruefully, “They called here earlier and I admitted we had no idea what happened to you.  They were pretty worried.”

Oh, wow.  That is probably the understatement of the year!

Once we got to her house, I picked up the phone and waited for a wonderfully familiar voice to answer.  

“Dad, I made it.  Everything is okay.”

“Sweetie,”  He sounded a little choked up, “You’re getting on a plane as soon as possible and coming home.  Were you in jail?!”

It took a little convincing to get my parents to let me stay five more minutes much less twelve more months!  Even though things did not go as I had planned, I had peace that my life was going according to God’s plan.

In his book, “Radical”, David Platt says “We say things such as, ‘The safest place to be is the center of God’s will.’  We think, If it’s dangerous, God must not be in it.  If it’s risky, if it’s unsafe, if it’s costly, it must not be God’s will.  But what if these factors are actually the criteria by which we determine something is God’s will?  What if we began to look at the design of God as the most dangerous option before us?”

I knew I had come a long way, baby…and I also knew there was no going back!


Maribel said...

WOW! Seriously Tara, this post encouraged and blew me away at how God is working through the most intricate details in our lives. The last paragraph you had quoted
“We say things such as, ‘The safest place to be is the center of God’s will.’ We think, If it’s dangerous, God must not be in it. If it’s risky, if it’s unsafe, if it’s costly, it must not be God’s will. But what if these factors are actually the criteria by which we determine something is God’s will? What if we began to look at the design of God as the most dangerous option before us?”
I would totally agree that God allows those situations to happen so we can FULLY depend & rely on Him.

Thanks so much for sharing your story :)

Tara Cole said...

Hey Maribel,

So I missed seeing this encouraging and awesome comment you left, thank you!! YOU inspire me as well, I love your pure passion for the Lord and your discipline and drive to do what's right. I can't wait to see all the great things God is/will do with your life of surrender to Him. Keep it up, girl.