“Lavavajillas.”  Or, as my brain sees it, “Lavavavavavajillas.”  I dare you to say it three times fast.  I dare you to say it one time moderately slowly. 

It means “dishwasher” and I can’t say it for the life of me.  It has way too many syllables for its own good, and every time I try I just get stuck on how many “va”s there are, and it quickly becomes a lost cause.  Nine times out of ten I either point or say it in English. 

The last week has been like one giant instance of me frustratedly pointing and trying to spit word out.  I have been moody, melancholy, and wholly and agitatedly frustrated.  Some of it may be blamed on hormones, and some of it may be blamed on a decided dearth of endorphins (I injured my foot and haven’t been running for over a week).  More of it can be blamed on everything else: the post office is holding my glasses hostage at the airport until I pay a $35 import tax (which I would do, except the process to do so is like navigating a corn maze where the corn has been replaced by chainsaws).  I have gone to buy a monthly transit pass three times now and each time have been told that I’m missing yet another piece of my application.  Establishing my schedule has not been quick to happen, which drives me nuts.  The girls had an especially loud and whiny week, and each day my patience was gone by the first ten minutes of them being awake.   And so on.

Thank the Lord, however, that this week has been so much better.  The girls and I have had mostly good days (though why I had to fight so hard to get Irene to put on her shirt this morning I’ll never know).  We have plenty of groceries, thanks to Nuria’s superintensive shopping trip yesterday.  My foot is mostly better (I’m about to go running and we shall see how healed it really is). 

On top of all of these blessings, however, I ran into this:
“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry.  In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food.  We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us,and by our sincere love.  We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed.  Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”– 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

I have not come close to these trials.  I do not live close to death, I have not been beaten within an inch of my life.  Though the girls sometimes seem like an angry mob, they really aren’t.  Obviously I needed to get over myself.

Though– I still can’t say “lavavajillas.”



Fence-jumping, church-shopping, and small moments

Some of you may have already heard this, because I got a little copy-and-paste happy on Facebook, and I’m about to do it again:
Miguel, Nuria (the parents), Irene, Ineva (the girls), and I went to the mall in town so I could get a phone and some groceries. The mall is really close to the house, so when the family ran into some people they knew and decided to hang out, I went back to the house because their niece and I had immutable plans to watch 500 Days of Summer. I realized, though, as soon as I left their table, that I don’t have my keys, and I remembered that I left them in my jacket pocket, but left my jacket at the house. As soon as I got to the house, I checked my purse again, but no dice, and the gate was locked.  All the houses in Valdemoro have this really tall locked gate in front, and then six or seven steps, and then the front door.  So I buzzed the doorbell over and over, because I knew Lidia was still home (the niece), but she never answered. So after awkwardly pretending to look in my bag while the girl next door walked out to her car, I put my groceries down, threw my bag with my passport over the gate (I didn’t want to leave it on the sidewalk), and scaled the fence, hoping none of the neighbors saw me. I hopped down, managed not to kill myself, and knocked ferociously on the door, which Lidia promptly answered.  I searched and searched for those keys in my pocket but…..they were in my purse.

We’ll call that Dumb Emily Moment #1.  DEMs #2-13 are much smaller, and not really worth mentioning, and mostly deal with me not understanding Spanish but pretending that I know what people are telling me (don’t do this, y’all), like turning on the hallway light when I was really asked to go shut off the stove, or going to the store and not printing a sticker with a bar code for my oranges, in turn holding up the line during grocery rush hour.

Then there are the Double-Take Moments.  Some of these are welcome (seeing a golden retriever [most dogs are tiny Yorkshire Terrier types]), some not so much (the guy who pulled out a camouflage rifle case on a Sunday morning [not a lot of deer in Madrid, señor]).  Most things are just different, even from just a year ago when I was in Sevilla.  People are much more likely to use debit and credit cards than they were last I was here, but when they do they always hand over their ID as well, which we rarely do.  The entire city seems to spend its Sunday at the park, though to be fair, it’s because the weather is gorgeous and little else is open.   

In all of these moments, the Lord has shown himself faithful.  I am not as homesick as I expected, though it does hit me like a migraine every so often.  Valdemoro is easy to get around, and I love the parks.  The family is sweet and the food is good.  But most significantly, I have found my church home. 

I did my Googling before I came; I’m sure very few of you are surprised.  I knew Oasis Madrid (an English-speaking church in the center of Madrid) was one I was seriously interested, and I visited Saturday with enormous success.  I met some fellow Texans, a British girl named Polly, and Carolina, a native Madrileña.  The service was contemporary and genuine, with solid leadership and teaching.  I’m hoping to become more involved, and have a meeting with one of their directors tomorrow.  We’ll see how it goes!


…Round two?

How did I end up here again?  I was sure (positive, definitive, absolute) that I would never come back to Spain for a period of more than a month.  I promised myself (announced, declared, swore) and the world that Spain was fine, but that once was enough, thank you, and that from now on I was going to stick to Germany, that beautiful, bread-laden efficient country, or somewhere else where yogurt was not considered a dessert.

And yet here I am.  Let me be clear– it’s not that I hated Spain last time (fall 2010); it’s just that I hated my time there. And, to be even clearer, I didn’t actually hate most of it.  I loved the host mom I stayed with, loved travelling constantly, loved passing a glorious cathedral every day on my way to class, loved marinating in European history, loved some of the friends and professors I got to meet.  It was just that Spain, in all its appreciation for family and the savored life, never does anything, a fact that deeply grates at the superproductive part of me that was undoubtedly cultured by a father with a military background.  On top of that, a city with no community of believers is a very difficult city indeed, and such a city was Sevilla. 

Which brings us back to the first question: Madrid, say what?  Let’s just say it’s all Rachel Moore’s fault (aren’t most things?).  A dear potluck friend, she goes to Poland for missions and friends every summer, and one night I asked her– Poland?  How on earth?  And she proceeded to describe the very situation that had been going on in me: that all of a sudden she knew she had to go somewhere, and all of a sudden Poland (Madrid) was everywhere she looked, in movies and conversations, and could not be avoided.  So she went.  As far as my story goes, add this constant prodding/poking/cattle-branding to a line from a song by Jillian Edwards (“Suitcase”), that may as well as have swung me across the face with a steel pole for all its effect on me: “You know I love this same old town, but there are places I need to be.”

Suffice it to say I was done in.  I get it, Lord.  Go.  And to be honest, this works out in terms of convenience as well: I finished my (worthless) graduate certificate in December and my master’s doesn’t start till August.  My gorgeous roommate got married last weekend, and there was no way I could adjust to a new roommate so quickly– how do you replace a friend you love?  Six months was too short to devote to a full-time job, but too long to keep occasionally nannying.  I love that the Lord knows my heart so well that he appeals first to the type A, planning side of me.  So, after some soul-searching, wrestling, and late nights spent trolling au pair websites, I found a family that needed a nanny to teach their two twin girls English, who would house and feed me and give me a stipend.  I fought with just about every Spanish consulate in the United States and discovered that there wasn’t a visa to fit my needs and I needed to just go– so I bought a ticket and started dreading my departure date.

It’s not that I’m not glad to be here (sitting in the attic on my bed [their bed?] very late at night), because I am.  It’s where I am supposed to be, and I know that.  I have an internship opportunity with a church here that I am excited about, and throughout this whole process the Lord has constantly reassured me.  It’s just that I, Emily Westerhof, hate change.  Hate it like I hate snow and Asian food, open cabinet doors and people who don’t call me back.  I hate it a lot, and I handle it poorly.  And what a season of change this is, with moving out, a simultaneously welcomed and dreaded wedding for the best roommate ever, and no potluck, Friday morning Bible study at Sweet’s, or the three kids I’ve grown to love more than I ever imagined.  It’s more than I care to handle.  But fear not friends, I will adjust, and not all blog posts will be so long.   The Lord is good.

In short: I’ve moved to Spain.  I’ll be back in a bit.  I miss everything/everyone, and will continue to do so.  Stay tuned for some crazy adventures, whining (the peanut M&Ms are no good here, and they don’t even sell peanut butter M&Ms), and sharing of growth.  It’s going to be good, y’all.


Home Again

I apologize for my long absence.  I am back in the States, as most of you can guess, and am so glad to be back!  The last couple weeks were agonizing slow and simultaneously way too fast.  How sad it was to leave my professors, my friends, the staff at ISA, and Maria Carmen, the sweet woman I lived with!  But finally I was on a bus to Madrid, and then a plane to Palma Mallorca, and then another to Berlin.

A good friend of mine is a seminary student in Berlin, and graciously allowed me to stay with her.  She gave me a tour of the city, and was patient with my continual complaints about the weather (apparently I’m not really made for snow).  A few days later, we traveled to Siegburg, her home town, and the town where I’d been almost two years ago with my church.  Germany’s public transportation doesn’t seem to do well in snow, so it was pretty much the longest day ever.  But finally we made it, and it was so great to see my old host family!

The rest of my time in Germany went by quickly.  We had an amazing breakfast and lunch (clearly I studied in the wrong country), and then went to a medieval Christmas market, and my host father gave me a great tour of the Siegburg police station.  The next day my host father and I hit the road bright and early at 4, to get to the Cologne airport, about 20 minutes from the house.  After what seemed like a million hours, I made it to Texas, without any sort of delays or issues. 

How good it is to be back!  I feel like I’m the only one not suffering from reverse culture shock.  I did have to remind myself to tip at restaurants, and that room 111 is actually on the ground floor, and the not a flight of stairs up, but that’s been all.  I love getting back to American food, and seeing my friends, and driving again.  I certainly learned a lot during my time abroad, but there is nothing like being home, trying to steer your cart in Target, to really make you feel like you belong.

This will likely be my last post, at least until the last adventure.  Thanks to all who kept up with me; love you!

The Italian Job and the Passage of Time

Let me first just say that I’m terribly disappointed that the Italian Job is not uploaded to youtube in its entirety.  Believe me, I’ve checked, and after getting back from Venice, it’s exactly what I want to watch.  Italy was lovely, of course, but it didn’t blow my mind.  It definitely deserves a redo– the weather (cold, rainy, very wet) was awful and I think it made a huge impact on my enjoyment as a whole.  But I met this guy who attends a Philadelphia church plant of the Village, and I got to ride on the Grand Canal in Venice, and I saw Juliet’s balcony in Verona, and I saw the Pantheon and the and the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  I am excited to return sometime when it’s warm!

So there’s a week left till our overnight bus to Madrid.  I feel like the time has simulatneously crept and flown by.  It seems like yesterday that we were in that awful hotel in Toledo, having our meeting, or that I was getting off the bus and apprehensively meeting my host mom, or that I was sitting in the sun in La Plaza de Espana getting my purse stolen.  And yet, it also feels like years since I’ve driven a car, eaten a decent Oreo, lived with my roommate.  It’s been a great three months, and while I’m a smidge sorry to see it end (no more runs in the park, no more walking by the Cathedral, no more chestnuts being sold on the side of the street, no more Maria Carmen), the majority of me can’t wait to get back.  I’ve learned so much here, though.  I’m more flexible with my yogurt, for one thing, and may end up buying the store brand from now on instead of my expensive yet iconic Yoplait.  I can now tolerate apricot jam, and I’ve learned to make a tortilla.  I’m now the queen of navigating maps and metros.  I can now step into a foreign city and handle myself, provided of course that there are maps and signs in English (please don’t drop me in Baghdad and watch me flounder).  My Spanish has definitely improved, and my accent has also gotten better.  I’ve learned that I’m not as brave as I thought I was– going alone to some random country to fight international sex slavery sounds awful, and not because of the danger, but because of the loneliness– people are home.  But through it all, through the missed flights and the stolen purses and the exploding computers and the tricky weather and the language barrier and the days where I’ve felt so lonely I could crawl up and cry, the Lord has been there, and he is bigger than all of it.  That’s a good thing to learn, I think.

The Joy of the Lord is our Strength

I’ll get to Paris soon enough, but this first part of this post is going to be Serious Business.  This weekend hasn’t been the easiest, but it has been full of the Lord’s goodness, which I know I will take over “simple” any day.  As most of you know, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, from the cooking to the eating to the fighting over ads (Jonathan is an ad hog) to the planning of Black Friday–it’s my holiday.  And while obviously I knew I would be gone for it this year, it didn’t make it any easier when Thursday rolled around and I was sitting in culture class.  But the Lord is so faithful!  My professor made my day by changing his facebook status to a children’s handprint turkey and announcing that he was a turkey, and I was constantly reminded of the Lord’s goodness throughout the day, and that Thanksgiving is totally irrelevant apart from the love of Christ.  And Paris, how lovely of a city– more to come– but so great!  And then the last few days, I’ve had the best conversations with people that I am so blessed by, and I’ve had the most incredible amount of love showered on me.  So yes, what love from what an amazing Lord.

So, Paris!  I loved it so much more than I ever expected to do.  Granted, it’s easy to see why: lots of dessert, lots of free art, a river, super friendly people, Hillsong Paris (be jealous, friends).  I had some great tips from a good friend who had lived there before, and I had such an amazing time.  It was unbelievably cold (walking around in 30 degree weather all day…not a fan!) and the Eiffel Tower took years to get through, but I won’t complain too much.  It was inconvenient not to know any French, though on the plus side I now know what “egg” is, and can forever avoid them on food I order.  I can’t even explain it well, but for some reason the whole weekend just seemed right, including the two girls from Baylor I ended up sitting next to at church.  I am ready to come home (21 days), but am so blessed by my opportunities here.

Happy Thanksgiving

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all.

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way he loves us. html, body {background-color: transparent; border: 0; overflow: hidden; margin: 0; color: #656565; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; text-align: center; line-height: 23px; padding: 3px 0 0 0;} p {margin: 0; padding:0 0 20px;}@media print{body{display: none;}}