Why I Drink Vanilla Lattes (Alternatively titled: Honduras, Heaven, and Home)

Vanilla lattes with a little bit of cinnamon sprinkled inside reminds me of Honduras, and I know it's an overpriced reminder, but it brings me right back to bright blue skies, the bustle of the streets, and the beauty of the mountains. And it's not because people bugged me about putting cinnamon in spaghetti (although that happened), and it's not because I drank copious amounts of coffee in Honduras (although that also happened). It's because the last day I was there, I had the opportunity to drink a bunch of cappuccinos as we road tripped to and from Honduran mountains. And they tasted so dang good, and I drank them outside, in a cafe's patio garden, and it was a perfect, perfect day. 

But when I came home, I tried a cappuccino and it didn't taste the same. And everything didn't feel the same. I didn't want to recreate a perfect day or a perfect trip, I didn't want to stay stuck in that perfect memory, but I still wanted a taste of it sometimes. If you could taste a memory, wouldn't you want to? Just to have a piece of what you love most in the world back? 

Then I discovered that vanilla lattes with cinnamon taste like those Honduran cappuccinos, which is why I'm sitting here, sipping one, writing about memories of a beautiful place and stories that changed my life. 

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I'm still not sure how I got to Honduras this March, but I'm pretty sure God was heavily involved. I knew I wanted to go back to Honduras, but I figured it would be years down the road. During the October 2013 long weekend, I visited a collection of my favourite people and they wanted to show me pictures they had run into of my time in Honduras. They displayed the photos, and I tried to fill in the blanks, telling stories about photos where I could. 

And then they explained to me that they were all chaperoning a youth trip to the same community I had previously gone to, with students who were like my brothers and sisters, and I joked about wanting to go with them. But they saw through my jokes and into my heart.

The visit was impromptu, they could have never showed me photos, I could have gone on months not knowing about their trip, and there could have not been space for me. But there was an extra spot, and they offered it to me.

A week after our visit, I said yes, and six months later, I was on a place. 

*     *     * 

This is the moment I keep replaying in my head: 

It's Sunday morning with sunlight streaming in everywhere it can, and we are closing the church service, but we are doing so at the front of the church, in a circle of international generations. The pastor prays over us, and I cannot understand his words, but I'm sure they are some of the most beautiful, most passionate words I've ever heard. And our hands are all tucked safely into one another's, with quiet prayers of affirmation and agreement escaping lips, an agreement so strong it can't be contained. 

Music plays softly in the background, and as the prayer ends, we hear familiar chords starting. Though the words are different, we're singing along: English and Spanish intermingling in beautiful praise. 

A thousand times I've failed, still your mercy remains; should I stumble again, I'm caught in your grace. 

Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades; neverending, your glory goes beyond all fame. 

Your will beyond all else, my purpose remains: it's the art of losing myself in bringing you praise.

And there, with sweaty palms clasped by two women whose names I didn't even know, with two languages following the worship and the cries of their hearts, I just know: "This is a holy place." 

I don't know a lot of things, but I do know this: that moment is what heaven is going to be like.

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There were a lot of standout moments on my March trip.

  • Running (ha ha, Hannah running) uphill (ha ha, Hannah running uphill) with little girls, and though we couldn't speak to each other all that well (Spanish 101 didn't make me fluent in Espanol, who saw that coming?!), we could giggle and laugh and smile - so I made faces and they poked me and we had the grandest times.
  • Sitting outside, overlooking an entire city, and having a friend come out and join me, chatting and encouraging me (as she's so good at doing)
  • The night one girl killed a gecko (and another girl slept through the whole ordeal)
  • Riding shotgun in moto taxis around Tigre Island

And then, standout moments that could have  been insignificant, but they mattered to me:  a card written in English (even when they didn't understand what they were writing), glittery name tags, the care that went into food preparation, the coffee, the quiet evenings with guitar strumming, the servant hearts of the students we went with, the boy that reminded me of my favourite 10 year old boy back home, a yellow balloon & its owner: the birthday boy in the sweater vest, hugs hugs hugs, more coffee, the promise of sons that could be married off to us, "Chocala!", bubbles, stories of strong female leaders, concrete floors, and mountain truck rides with almost 40 people in one truck. 

And these memories feel so familiar, and it's very hard to explain that a place thousands of miles away, with a culture very different than what I grew up in sometimes feels more like home. 

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The first time I went to Honduras, I thought I  knew why I was going, and then, God placed people on the trip that changed my life. I think God took me to Honduras that first time time because He knew there were pieces of my story I was hiding, and he needed me to stop that. But he knew my heart had to be softened, and I needed certain, specific people to speak that truth into my life. That trip almost felt selfish, because I did so much self-discovery and learned so many things about God - but I thought I was supposed to be there to be discovering another culture and to help people (update: they helped me more than I could ever help them). 

I'm still trying to discover why God placed me in Honduras in March 2014, because the trip really didn't need another chaperone (and I wasn't even a chaperone, I was a chapernot, and not a really good one at that). I learned more because I knew what I wanted to discover and experience this time around (and it exceeded all my expectations). It feels like a puzzle: I know exactly where some pieces fit, and I'm still trying to figure out the rest. 

When I said yes in October, I said yes because I knew I had to stop running from things and start running to things. I wanted to run to this. I wanted to run to God. I wanted to run through a crazy fundraising adventure. To Honduras. To a huge journey and adventure. And shoot, I hate physical activity with a passion, but running to things feels nicer (and less panicked) than running away. 

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So - I know it's a silly reason. But those vanilla lattes somehow call to mind why I love Honduras: 

because it reminds me of heaven, 

& it feels like home.