Giving Meaning to this Life

It has been far too long since I last wrote! Time to fill you in on the last two weeks of my life, which in Spanish/Study abroad time feels like months ago! I’ll try my best to summarize… if you know me well, you know that I love details so this might be a challenge:)

Starting from my most recent adventure, the ISA gang and I traveled to the British Territory of Gibraltar this past Friday. In my short time here I have had the privilege to travel to not one, but three countries! One of my favorite parts of this trip was looking out from the coast and being able to see the African continent in the background! It was so surreal to be that close to another body of countries with cultures so diverse to the one I’ve called home for the past month! Gibraltar was full of surprises that ranged from a Rave Cave:) all the way to an almost too close encounter with some local monos (monkeys).

Another highlight from these past couple weeks would have to be getting to know Sevillans here. It can be far too easy to only communicate and interact with other international students and therefore fall into the trap of speaking English way too regularly. Everything around you is foreign so you cling to the one normalcy nearby, your native language. Until these past couple weeks, I had given into convenience rather than determination far too many times when it came to my language learning with locals . This pattern of living ceased after some of my friends here decided to speak only in Spanish to one another and branch out and interact with some locals. After these two pivotal decisions, I’ve made some great friendships with some Spaniards and my colloquial spanish has increased exponentially!

Pictures of my Spanish friends (including the adorable grandson of my host mom) and a picture from our Día de no Ingles trip with my ISA friends.

Ending with my favorite experience thus far, Portugal met and succeeded any of my previous expectations! Our weekend excursion to Portugal was jam-packed with breathtaking view of the coast, spontaneous adventures to one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to, beyond delicious traditional Portuguese food, impromptu walks in the rain with locals, countless meaningful as well as hilarious conversations with great friends, and finally awe-inspiring revelations at the most unexpected moments. One of later happened on our last day of the trip in Évora, Portugal.

During my time here, I have been reading through the book of Ecclesiastes and as a result have been very convicted of what I put my importance on and the reality of eternity. So when our group toured the “Capela dos Ossos” (Chapel of Bones), I could not help but feel like I was touring the sacred words of Ecclesiastes rendered into a physical building. The entire chapel was built with the bones of thousands from the 17th century. At the time, Évora was a center of wealth and it’s cemeteries were overflowing and taking up precious land. Through this building, the monks of that time decided fix the cemetery overpopulation problem and construct a permanent reminder of the reality of eternity to their town, which has communicated that same message to multiple generations since and yet to come.

At first glance, it is easy to take this building at face value and be a little creeped out at the materials used to convey this important message, but after spending some time in reflection God truly spoke to me. This life is so fleeting and the bones that I was looking at were real people only a couple hundred years prior to me looking at them. These real people had to face the reality of eternity regardless of how much “fortune” they had stored up for themselves on Earth. Even the multitude of people who had toured this exhibit before me have faced the same truth Ecclesiastes preaches, “Everything (apart from Christ) is useless… like chasing the wind.” The reality of this life is that it will come to completion and at its end we will all face eternity, no matter how “great” our life on Earth may have seemed.

God has showed me and continues to remind me, through experiences like this, how awe-inspiring life is with Him at the center and how utterly meaningless it is apart from His presence. This stage of life God has me in is wonderful because He is in it orchestrating every experience, friendship, and revelation. We all need to be reminded of that truth from time to time! Excited to share the next perspective-changing, God-inspired experience with you all!

Hasta la próxima,

Katelina

“It gives you life, but you can’t hold on to it. You can’t breathe indefinitely. We need to surrender to the fact that all efforts at permanence are hopeless. No structure we can build will protect us from the contingencies of life. But in the midst of that impermanence is the incredible gift of life.” -Ecclesiastes