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The high places

The high places break me every time.

My hands crack open and bleed from the dry air and from the wind. My breath comes in gasps. When we sing hymns in the morning it comes in an unsteady line of rich notes, full yet breathless. The meaning is full. Eyes around the circle of faces are full. There is a pressure in my chest and I don't know if it is from the thin air or the emotion. Somehow the severity of the landscape breaks off my hardness.

Is it the people walking out of the empty painted hills, the way they call me Tia or doctorita, or is it the way that Venus actually shines like the star of Bethlehem illustrations from years of Christmas cards? Is it the intensity on Cathy's face as she stands in the main square in Choco reading the Bible to people who cannot read themselves? Or maybe it is the baby girl, born two months premature at home, because the hospital is 2 days away, who is now cooing at me from within the brightly colored blanket that wraps her to her mothers back? It's probably something else that I can't define or describe.

The wind blows a part of me away, the bitter discontented part. The mountains in their emptiness tell me that I have everything I need. And for two of the days, while we walk, I carry my stones and pray.

The first stone is a representation of everything that I want and do not have; to be loved that way, to give love, the curl of a baby's hand around my finger, a garden planted in the ground (not in pots) with flowers in full bloom. I know that none of these things equal my unrealistic expectations, yet they are my excuses for discontentment. They are the reason I squint upwards and mutter, "Why am I supposed to trust you?" I let that stone slip into the dirt outside of Ucuchachas and try to let my discontentment go in the same way. Dust to dust.

The second stone I carry and pray, "Make me soft," a whisper repeated throughout the day as we hike back and forth across the river. This stone has sharp edges, like my heart. "Make me soft." I want to be soft like the moss that grows in the highest places, soft like the stones that have been rolled and beaten by the water; "Whatever way you want, make me soft."
Will I be made soft back at home with my hand on the chest of a dying person, or here, listening to the musical voices of the old Quechua ladies? Or will it be in the loving and letting go? Really letting go, and then making space in your heart for new dreams. Either way, at the end of the day I keep this rock as a reminder that He will soften me anywhere and that I'm willing to let Him.

The high places. My whole body feels the beauty as we drive through the dusty roads. I flatten my hand against the glass window and feel the warmth of the sun. These places break me every time and I am thankful for it.


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