Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"It's a Bitter Sweet Symphony..."

“It’s a bitter sweet symphony…

…that’s life”

These lyrics came to mind as I tried to summarize the thoughts that ran through my brain from about 8:15 to 8:30 this evening. 

I’ll do my best to summarize how it went. 

I landed on Sunday at my fourth and final Workaway experience of the journey.  I’m working at Hotel Vino Bello, a bed and breakfast in Santa Cruz, in the Colchagua Valley, the heart of the wine region of Chile.  I arrived just as the sun was setting over the Cordillera de la Costa, casting its light across a valley of vineyards and the mountains to the east, where the moon was rising.  It was a magical time of day.  Immediately, I felt like I had landed Sonoma, California – except they speak Spanish here.  Oh wait…

I’m definitely “easing” into the job as the hotel has been empty my first two days but there will be a full house this weekend (12 people in 6 rooms), just in time for Vendimia – the Wine Harvest Festival in the Colchagua Valley.  Another wine festival!  I sure no how to pick ‘em! 

So far, all events of my daily life in Santa Cruz happen within a distance of 45 minutes by walking.  At the center is the Workaway volunteer house.  There are 6 of us living here for now. My roommate for a few more days is Lis who will be heading back to Holland at the end of the week. Adam from Toronto will be moving out as he has found more permanent work in town and will no longer be a volunteer.  Alex from France, an aspiring sommelier has inspired what sounds like some enjoyable wine tastings in the house.  And then MaJo (Maria Jose) from Monterey, Mexico and Josh from New Jersey whom are a couple round out the house.  I hope to get to know each of them better but considering they are all working restaurant hours (at Vino Bello, the restaurant) – until 11:30/midnight and I could be working breakfast hours – we may be more like “two ships.”   

In the morning, I go to the center of town, about 15 minutes to the south from the Workaway house, where I have crashed Lis’ morning ritual of coffee at CafĂ© a la Mane.  We’ve had some great chats the last few days about hopes and dreams.  Then it seems to be about time for lunch.  The volunteers eat two meals a day at the restaurant, about 15 minutes to the north of the volunteer house.  A plate of food awaits us at the restaurant at 12:30 each day, to eat with the rest of the staff at the restaurant.  I have lots of names to learn but am especially motivated as I just finished the chapter on the importance of remembering people’s names in the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  Then I’ve spent the last few afternoons at the hotel doing a little training and reading up on the vineyards in the area so I can sound a little knowledgeable when guests inquire.  And then it’s back to the restaurant for a sandwich at 7:30. 

This brings me to what will easily become the best part of my day.

To get from the hotel to the restaurant, I have to take a 15 minute stroll through the vineyard, at dusk.  Today as I looked up at the glowing mountains, faintly in the distance I could make out the snow-capped Andes and what we call “alpenglow” on them.  I think I uttered something like “No stinking way!”  And then I noticed a tear forming at the corner of my eye.  Seriously?  Is this my life right now?  So grateful! 

And a second later everything changed as my thoughts turned to one of my dearest friends in life. 

I met Mindi at Freshman Orientation at Taylor University during the summer of 1999.  We were roommates for one night and that was the beginning of our friendship.  Both of us landed in Colorado in 2003.  After a year teaching at Eagle Valley with me, she moved her life to Colorado Springs to be near to her then boyfriend, now husband Jordan.  Since then, we’ve spent several of the past Memorial Day weekends together and moments in between.  Like several of my girl friends who are married to awesome guys, I never feel like a third wheel with them, but more like I have another brother who is looking out for me.  Mindi and Jordan have 3 beautiful boys.  The oldest two, Bear and Brody, I’ve been blessed to snuggle early in their lives.  But I’m anxiously awaiting meeting baby Blake who was born in December.

Last Wednesday I got a text from Mins to pray as Brody was having some strange symptoms with swelling on his neck and they were at the doctor’s getting tests done.  By Thursday evening I got another text.  “He has cancer – a bad one.  Anaplastic Lymphoma.” 

Brody is 2 ½ years old. 

From early on, Brody has been a super independent little man.  I know that Mindi and Jordan have faith that with his determination, along with the doctor’s expertise and the Lord’s provision, their little man is going to conquer this illness. 

I know that we all know too many Caring Bridge stories, as even one is too many.  But if you want to know more about “Brody the Brave” and his story, here is his site –

Mins has continually asked for prayers for healing of Brody as well as “the Father’s love comforting” Bear and Blake as Mindi and Jordan are spending most of their time with Brody. 

And so, my walk through the vineyard was both bitter and sweet.  That one tear gathering at the corner of my eye out of sheer joy turned the next instant into holding back of flood of tears out of utter sadness for my sweet friend and her little man.  It’s crazy how life can be that way.  

Why? I do not know.  But one thing I do know.  We have a God who knows and sometimes that is all we have to know.  I’m thankful for the faith that Mindi and Jordan and their families all have.  It’s a faith that sustains us and binds us together.  As one of Min’s friends reminded readers, it’s a faith that gives us strength for today and hope for tomorrow. 

Pray for Brody.