Joann Collage

Most days here in Mexico come and go naturally. I’m in my groove. I’m fulfilled by the places and people around me. I assure you, most days are like this. Most of my time here is filled with joy, love, a lot of delicious food, laughs, incredible amounts of learning, and rolling with the punches. I promise I will write more about this soon– unfortunately, writing about challenges comes much easier to me. Nevertheless, Mexico is winning me over.

But undoubtedly there are hard days here in Mexico, as I’m sure goes for anyone living abroad. Of course there are days I don’t know what to say and simply focus on the fact that tomorrow will be and feel different. This too shall pass. There are days where I miss home, family, and familiarity.

It was on one of these days that my aunt Joann, on the quick downward slope in her health, sent me an email. My aunt, like many members of my family, was a Lutheran missionary. She grew up as a missionary kid in Madagascar and married my mom’s brother John (also missionary kids in Madagascar). They have lived in Minnesota, Madagascar and Tanzania where they served at hospitals and medical centers.

In her email she wrote

Thank you so much…Ryana, I just read all your Blogs, starting at the most recent and working backwards! Am thanking God to hear that He has supplied for your own financial needs, with extra to spare for others. Isn’t that just like Him? Protection. A wonderful , welcoming, helpful, patient, and fun loving host family! Surprises every day.

Every day something to be thankful for. God’s life, bubbling up in and through you, you will do well, Ryana!
Love and hugs,

Knowing I was in the thoughts of my aunt during this incredibly hard time, when she had so little energy, and when she was toward her last days moves me to tears. She spent her precious time and energy to lift me up. But I shouldn’t be surprised. In one blog I mentioned my cloud of witnesses. My aunt Joann most definitely is one. I’m surrounded by deeply faithful people in my family and Joann was a faith warrior. One of the most positive people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Despite years of health issues, she was always a delight to visit. Sunshine to those around her. My aunt died on November 5th, 2015.

November 5th was a hard day, but I had some comfort.

She also sent Tia, her daughter/my cousin, and me a song by Lauren Diagle called Trust in You. I’ve posted some of the lyrics below. (Especially you, dear YAGMs, take a listen.) On hard days I listen to this, on easy days sometimes too. When she died, I listened to it many times. It’s a reminder of the incredible strength my aunt Joann had, her courageous faith, and the strength that I can build and rely on no matter where I am in the world, no matter what kind of day I’m having. Still, it’s difficult feeling far away from family in the wake of death but I know the only adequate response I can have is to trust. Trust in the mighty force of the Spirit and give my all to this place, this community, this country and eventually back to all things at home.

While I celebrated a marriage in a little pueblito with my host family, my family gathered yesterday to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of my aunt Joann Toso.  I listen to this song, mourn, and wish I was in Minnesota, just for today. But I keep going, I keep trusting, I keep giving. That’s what Joann did as a Lutheran missionary anyway.

Enjoy the view from heaven, auntie. You remain a role model and an example of faithful, positive, generous living. I thank God for you.

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand