The Big Questions

Wow…it’s been a long while since I have written something. To be honest, life has been a whirlwind. It’s been hard to catch my breath with everything that has taken place over the coarse of a few months. Plus, I just wasn’t sure how to write. I wanted to write but then wasn’t sure if the real, honest-to-goodness truth of it all would be accepted or even understood. I now remember that I started writing with the intent of being real with people. I wrote what came out of my heart, the questions I faced, the hard truths I learned and so forth. It is with this in mind again, that I once again stared at my computer screen with the intent of capturing all that my heart contains.

Bare with me.

I don’t know where this will find you, but I suspect that not one person has or will be exempt from asking some really big questions. So here goes.

I am a single woman and until recently (as in 4 short months ago) I found out I was embarking on the journey to motherhood. I was raised that you save yourself completely for your husband. I still believe this to be the best option. However, while living across the ocean, a man persuaded me to give him everything. I wish I could say that I had the strength of an iron ox but alas, I did not. There was a war raging and I fell to the arrows of my deepest longing–to be loved, to be held, to feel safe, to feel treasured, to feel pursued. All of these things and more, I hoped would one day find me. I didn’t expect to find any of that while living over there. I wasn’t even looking. When everything else about my life over there was chaotic (to put it mildly), when I should have been strong–I gave in.

Now? The things that haunt my brain are thoughts I wish I could erase. Maybe I was just an American girl who was someone to be conquered. Maybe he really didn’t love me at all. Maybe I gave up this priceless treasure to someone who had no idea the value he took from me. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

But these thoughts are not why I write today. Nope. They don’t even come close. Instead, I write out of the past two week’s journey. You see, January 31st, 2016 I gave birth to two beautiful little boys who have since rocked my world in so many ways it isn’t even funny. My two precious little men. One of these little men is doing really well for being a preemie baby. The other seems to have a long road ahead of him.

Long before he was born, I knew this little man could potentially have lung problems but I prayed for a miracle. That miracle didn’t happen. Now, as I stand by his little bed in the NICU I find my heart pleading with God for another miracle. This is the place that I write from today.

Luke 18:1-5 says, ” And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.””

My one son needs a miracle. Because of this, I have felt challenged in my faith to pray specifically for a miracle for my son, one of complete healing for his tiny 2 lb almost 3 lb body. What it feels like is this: the harder I pray, the worse things get. How is this possible? I’ve noticed moments of deep faith in myself, where I believe God is just waiting to shine His glory. BUT, I have also noticed that I have more moments, deeper moments where my faith crashes into reality. So I struggle. AND I ask some big, hard questions.

God, haven’t I suffered enough through all of this? Have I not paid the price for my weakness already? Do you not see my son? Do you not see his tiny body? Why did you give me a name for him that means “great fighter” if he will die? How can he fight if he has some handicaps? Why do you not hear my cries? Why do you withhold your healing? Am I not praying hard enough, long enough, strong enough? Do I lack even a mustard seed of faith? Where are you in all of this?

I am met with silence. Well maybe not complete silence as I know that God is carrying me through all of this. I just want to say that it isn’t enough to know this right now. I NEED SOMETHING MORE! Better said? I WANT something more than this knowledge.

I have cried so many tears that I should probably invest in the tissue market.

The simplest truth is that I just want life to be easy…not all the time but just maybe right now for a short time. Give me a break. Give me some time to rest. To recoup. To rejuvenate. To find balance. I haven’t had these luxurious things for over a year now. I don’t ask for much, do I?

I really don’t know where all this finds you. I don’t know the path you are walking, the struggles you are facing, the big questions you are asking. Yesterday, I reached a small breaking point. It was a moment where I was about to hang up the towel to dry and succumb to a faith that didn’t ask such hard things. I was ready to just accept that this is my lot in life. It was there that my spirit was quiet enough to hear God speak into my heart not with answers, mind you.

Job 38 starting at verse 2: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limist for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?’ Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?

On and on it goes. Keep reading for yourself. It continues until chapter 40 and after a small response from Job, continues yet again until Job again responds in chapter 42. It is after this, that I come to the spot of bowing my head to God above. As Job says:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

So hear my prayer O God:

I do not claim to understand your ways. Neither will I claim to grasp your will but I desire to be found as one who finds her place solely in You. Teach me how to come before you boldly but humbly. Teach me to pray as a persistent woman who refuses to give up until her heart’s cry is answered. Yet, teach me to do this with the humility of knowing that You are good and Your will is perfect. These two things do not make sense to me but Your thoughts are and will always be higher than mine. As I grapple with my big questions and many others, I can only pray that You take them and make them into ways to propel me into a deeper faith in You. You are my God. I hold out to You my son who needs healing. I stand before you boldly but humbly asking for your touch on his life. On top of that, I ask a special anointing on both of my sons’ lives to become the men of faith you have created them to be. May I be poured out, spent fully on display of your grace, your mercy, your unbelievable love. I fix my eyes on You, awaiting with expectancy, believing in your Sovereignty, and delighting in Your presence. 

Where do you find yourself today? What questions are you asking? How can we both encourage each other, spur each other on in our journeys?

P.s…sorry. I’m not even going to proofread this. If there are typos, if there are things not said correctly, the wrong English word usage and so on, forgive me please. I needed this out. I need to spill all these thoughts before I pushed the notion aside to press the publish button.

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The Inevitables of Life

The Inevitables of Life                  7/6/15

There is a sadness that is permeating my life. It’s like a smoke filled room that cannot be aired out. It oozes into all my thoughts, consuming my mind almost all the time. I want to cry only because it feels like it is the only way to release the poison from my blood. Yet, I find that I want to seal the tomb to this sadness as if it was never alive; like I just don’t want to feel this emotion any longer.

It is a battle.

It is heaviness.

I knew that this kind of day would come. It’s inevitable. There is no one exempt from saying good bye at any level. We all face it—whether by death, by a move, by change. We all experience the moment where we are required to say goodbye. Everyone.

But quite honestly and brutally, I feel as though I’ve said enough goodbyes in the past months then I care to number. Goodbyes aren’t reserved just for people. It is for things. It is for dreams. It certainly is for people. Goodbyes come in different shapes and sizes.

Eight months ago, I said goodbye to America and everything I had known to be concrete in life—my job, my family, my friends, my car. I flew half-way across the world to a world of great unknowns. Very quickly, I found myself stripped of everything familiar to me, reduced to what felt like a mandatory baby stage. Even the basic thing as communication was limited as I struggled to learn the language. People here had no idea who I was or what kind of capabilities I had. Instead, I was just some girl from America who couldn’t speak or understand the language besides hand gestures.

If that wasn’t enough of goodbyes, then came the crazy problems which led to not being able to do the accounting and marketing work I had planned to do. On top of that, helping with the worship team came to an abrupt halt as people were shaken up by the appearance of the police at random points. The very word of “deportation” was a reality check to my already shaken world. There were moments where it was questioned whether I should appear at a gathering or not because the police showed up and I was there, it could potentially cause problems for all involved.

There were many days when I sat in my apartment wondering what in the world is going on and how do I process any of this. Slowly but surely, I’ve felt in my heart this sadness increase as I continued to say goodbye to my expectations of living here in this new country. Then as time rolled around, my friends started to leave to go back to their respective countries. As the circle became smaller and the friends closer to me are approaching departure as well, the sadness is increasingly getting stronger.

I’ve been told in the past, that weeping for expectations and dreams unfulfilled is a healthy thing to do. It’s weeping over the inevitable, the unchangeable, the interruptions.

It just doesn’t feel right to weep now. There are more goodbyes in the near future. In a sense, I find myself hanging on, willing my heart to hold on and process it all at one time. But today I said goodbye to a friend. As I prayed for him, I almost lost my composure. I almost gave in to the tears. I almost left myself crack. Outwardly, I did fine but inwardly there are bits and pieces of me that are breaking down under this pressure. I never planned on it being this difficult. I never planned on it being this emotional. I never planned on being impacted in monumental ways in this place. Wasn’t it Ernest from like Ernest Goes to Camp or something that said, “I came. I saw. I conquered.” Or something along those lines. I would never have admitted to that mindset but I see it clearly now. I wanted to come. I wanted to see. AND I wanted to conquer, add one more “good” thing to my growing list of good deeds. That’s all.

It’s turning out to be much more than that. Much, much more.

It’s the inevitables of life.

Goodbyes.

While many from the States, don’t quite understand this roller coaster; nor do they understand my desire to make sure all doors are closed, I’m ready for life to become “expected” again. Yet from the recess of my mind, I half wonder if this is really what adventure with God really looks like. If living out in faith, means allowing myself to be in chaos holding on with a death grip to the only thing I know to be stable: God.

Maybe that is it. Maybe it is a matter of letting go of my own expectations and becoming okay with the inevitables of life whatever they look like just as long as I have God leading me. Maybe that is exactly what this is all about. If so, then I can only pray for my own heart as I process all these inevitables.

Poppa, you have searched me and you have known me.

You know when I sit and raise, when I sleep and when I’m awake.

You know me better than I know myself.

You are the one who has brought me to this place.

You are the one who has ordained all that has happened and all that will happen in the future.

And you know about all these inevitables, these goodbyes.

So I pray today, that my heart be restored, renewed but changed.

I pray that I learn to become willing to let go of my need for the expected parts of life.

Teach me to lean on you.

Teach me to fix my eyes on you.

Teach me how to say goodbye well.

Teach me how to weep when weeping is appropriate.

Teach me to see you as my Rock, my Salvation, my Hope.

Teach me Poppa.

My heart is weary. My heart hurts. My heart feels wounded.

BUT, I will put my trust in you.

For you are my Poppa.

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Packing an Emergency Bag

The other day I packed an emergency bag. It wasn’t like a bag you pack because you might get stranded in your car during a snowstorm. No, this was a bag that was like in case there is a major disturbance and I cannot leave the house or worst case scenario, I have to flee the city for safety reasons. I’ve never had to do that before. Quite frankly, how in the world do you pack? I’m told to pack only the essentials—what you cannot live without—plus necessities.

Brush, comb, waterless shampoo, deodorant, lotion, 2 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of undies, another set of clothes, Bible, water bottle with a filtering system, a flashlight, first-aid kit, light weight shoes, phone charger, journal, camera—now that I’m running through the list of what I put in my bag, I think I might need to add some things to this bag. I didn’t even think about soap or a towel. What else am I missing? Anyhow…

Who thinks about packing an emergency bag like this? I know that before I came to this far away city that this could happen and quite honestly, I didn’t sweat it. By all rights, I saw it as adventure and secretly I still (kind of) hope to at least see some kind of disturbance but only from a quick point of view. Like I want to take pictures but then get out of there! Consequently, when the idea became more real than ever before, it was more disconcerting then anything. I packed my bag and left my apartment for my friends’ house that is farther away from the center.

Later today, I was to meet with fellow coworkers to deal with our new lawyer. We needed to sign POA papers so that she could represent us as needed to anyone official. While sitting in the lawyer’s office, a friend recounted a traumatic situation that took place the night before. I can’t go into those details but just hearing the story recounted, I again felt a kind of shock seep into my core being. How does one live successfully in this kind of an atmosphere? How does one process event after event of instability? There have been hints to high stress creeping into my heart and the reality is this: I have no idea how to process this. I don’t even know how to put it into words. What I know is that my heart is taking a beating that I didn’t prepare for.

The sentence from the book titled Walking with God by John Eldredge once again strikes. “I felt prepared, but I think I underestimated all that was at stake.” Truly, I did underestimate all that is at stake here.

That’s the thing though. It isn’t just the physical things happening around me that cause me to feel trauma to the heart. No, it’s a whole lot more. For the longest time, stretching into years actually, I felt like I have been on this journey for a live, active faith—a faith that isn’t dependent on what I’ve been taught or what others things/say about faith. Looking back, I can see and sense this gentle stripping away of layers. But here, now, in this place, I see it and feel it even more. Big time more. As each thing happens, as each foot falls, as I’m caused to look in the mirror of who I am, I feel a layer of who I am revealed. The picture isn’t pretty.

In fact, I feel like Eustice like in Narnia when he turns into a dragon. Through everything happening around me, I see myself staring into a crystal clear, smooth pond only to see this horrendous dragon staring back at me. And I don’t like what I see, obviously. I know that the scales and layers have to be peeled off. I know this. I know this is when and where I need to plunk my butt in the ground and allow God to begin to peel. I know this. Call me a coward but really I would not like to face all this ugliness, at least now here and not know. I really don’t like to admit that I have become a dragon or have been a dragon. I mean, I’m a good person. {cough, cough}

A few months ago, when talking with a friend about life here, I said that I feel like God was “Crystal-izing” my faith. We both laughed because of the play on words and then we both sobered because it almost seemed like a prophetic word that popped out of my mouth. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Like a chick hatching out of its shell. We tend to glaze over the transformation phases. You see the caterpillar and then the next picture that pops into the brain is the beautiful butterfly fluttering from flower to flower. We never picture the struggle and pain and turmoil of the metamorphosis stage. Why do we do that? Why do I do that? Why do I want this phase to just be done? Why don’t I want to suffer through this transformational period of my life? Why can’t this be so yesterday? Why is this process spanning years for me? When will I be the butterfly? Will I ever make it to the butterfly stage?

Want to hear another quote from the previously mentioned book? “But it’s disrupting to walk with God. And inviting too.”

So here are my confessions. My confessions of someone such as me, the dragon of a girl who desperately wants to be a butterfly.

I confess that I am terrified of where God is taking me. I confess that the pain and agony of this metamorphosis stage feels like too much to take on. I confess that there is stubbornness in my heart, an unwillingness to move forward because quite frankly, I don’t know that I want to make all the changes I think God might ask of me. I confess that my heart wants the easy road. I confess that there is so much pride in my heart that I can barely look at my dragon reflection. I confess that God is requiring too much of me right now; at least that is what I think. I confess that I don’t want to cry; I won’t want to feel all these raw emotions. I confess the need to be seen as someone who has it all together, as someone who has great faith, as someone to look up to. I confess that I foolishly thought that I would and could change lives while living in another culture. I confess a level of shock that God would choose to work on me instead of allowing me to add another good deed in my “good deeds book.” I confess all this and more.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything that I know that I will post in such a public way. Honestly, I wonder if perhaps I will confirm the idea that I am losing my mind. Maybe I am! I guess, I’m just tired of holding this in. I’m tired of this running around in my brain. I’m tired of holding up the appearances that all is well. It’s not just life in another country. It is so much more than that. There is so much going on below the surface; the things in the physical world only heighten what is happening in the spiritual world, at least in my life. I forget which friend told me this but they reminded me that God isn’t just interested in changing lives here in this land. No, He is also very interested in changing my life as well. So many things keep pointing this out to me. Truly the war between disrupting and inviting is great when walking with God!

The bottom line is this: I want to be the butterfly, the beautiful crystal, the whatever-you-want-to-call-it but I just don’t really want the struggle of the metamorphosis stage. Yes, I know. I’m a walking contradiction. I’m left to ponder the insane question: how do I pack an emergency bag for this kind of disturbance?

What about you? Have you experienced a metamorphosis stage in life? What survival things would you recommend I put in my bag for this? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Can I Do This?

There are many things that I find about my life now which cause me to consider myself, that that I would have never though were a part of me. What I mean by this is that at some point in the previous months and years, I would never have said that I was so much of an introvert that I would so close to tears at the idea of going somewhere new with people I don’t know. Yet, I will honestly say that is exactly how I have felt on multiple occasions as I begin to adapt to a different culture. Some of you will disagree with this only because you know me from previous moments.

I can feel myself being pulled out of my comfort zone at random moments. My tendency is to fight it, to draw back feigning security and knowledge in my comfort zone. It feels like a huge magnet—the new experience being the positive charge and I the negative charge. Did you as a kid ever play with those magnet dogs? When turned the correct way, one couldn’t go anywhere else except be drawn to its magnetizing partner. If you turned one the wrong way, you could chase the other magnet around forcing it to repel its partner.

That’s a good picture of me. I find myself drawn to this new culture, this new life. It is different. Yet, part of me wants to repel so much, to run away. I want to learn to adapt, to understand and enjoy but I wouldn’t mind going back to all things that are familiar. I’m a walking contradiction. All this was brought on by the simple knowledge that I needed to try my hand at riding a МАШРУТКА (said ma-shrew-t-ka) or bus taxi. With no language and a minimal idea of the city, I was expected to find my way to my language lesson on the other side of the river. With one of three bridges being unavailable for use, the routes of the buses changed. My handy map with bus #’s for the different streets had the possibility of leading me wrong.

I sat down for breakfast and read the words: When I said that without faith it was impossible to please Me, consider My reasoning. First of all, faith is being sure of what is hoped for and being certain that I will bring it to pass—regardless of what you can or cannot see. It is by faith that you accepted Me into your heart and by faith you are saved. It is by grace, not by works. Learn to cast all your cares upon Me, for I care for you. I am interested in everything that pertains to you. I created you, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. I would not have settled for anything less. Let Me ask you this: Would you trust a perfect stranger? Certainly not. Trust and faith are the same. You cannot have one without the other. How can you have faith in someone you do not know and trust? You must learn to hear My voice and seek My face. All the faith you need is the size of a mustard seed. Consider the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds; yet, when grown to its full maturity, it becomes the largest of all. – Your Father (Taken from the book titled Hear His Voice by Michael J. Lusardi)

Yes, I know He cares even about a bus ride. Yes, I know it can’t be that complicated. Yes, I know that it is only a bus ride. Yes, I know I have the potential of sounding like a complete silly girl. What can I say? It’s all so new and strange and different!

As it turned out, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought. It just felt like I was jumping out into something new. I was terrified but I didn’t have reason to be terrified. The story goes like this: I found a taxi with the number I thought would take me to my desired drop off spot. We headed in the right direction and then promptly made a right turn I knew we shouldn’t have. The bus stopped and everyone started getting off and I was confused. Everyone was almost off the bus and I was still sitting there. An elderly lady started speaking to me and all I could do was look at her and shake my head. “I don’t know what you are saying.” I thought. I got off and found another bus with the same number so assuming it would take me to where I needed to go, I got on there to await the bus driver’s departure. Instead, we went back the direction I came from and continued on in the opposite direction that I needed to go. Again in indecision, I wasn’t sure if I should just stay on to see where I ended up or get off with no idea how to go where I needed to go. My stress mounted as the time crept closer to my 9am class. As we came to a stop out in what felt like the middle of nowhere, I spied some taxi drivers. Without much thought, I jumped from my seat. Because I had no idea how to say I wanted off, the driver began to inch back to the road. I made it to poking his shoulder while someone yelled for me to stop (or I’m assuming that’s what they said) and paid my fee without looking back.

I wish I could have taken a few steps back to take a photo of what took place next but obviously I could not. I grabbed my map from my purse and walked directly to the four older men smoking and talking. In perfect English I asked them by pointing to the map. “I want to go here. Can someone take me there?” What I didn’t know was that no one in this land looks at maps so this isn’t a typical thing for them. The four men talked among themselves until one indicated that he knew where I wanted to go and would take me. Off I went. He took me exactly where I needed to go and I was only 5 minutes late to class.

At the end of the day, I heard that voice inside me remind me of the words I read that morning. Learn to cast all your cares upon Me, for I care for you. Have faith in me. Listen to My voice. I can smile at these gentle reminders but it isn’t easy. I can sit here and look back to days not long ago. I knew that I needed to become a student, willing to learn from Father. I thought I had done so. Instead I found myself in a place where who I am and what I can do really has no value at this point. It really doesn’t matter how good at accounting or marketing or worship leading or any of the other things I could put behind my name. It makes no difference at all. Instead, I find myself at my most basic point in life—back to the days of a baby—except, as an adult, it is more difficult to be willing to be in baby stages.

Another story to prove my point. Today in one of my language classes I sat and read extremely simple Bible stories. Simple as in: Adam and Eve were created by God. He made the trees and the flowers and the sun. Nothing complex. I read them in a different language. If you had been there, you would have heard me sounding out my words just like a little kid learning to read. We can all remember those days as a child and back then, we were fine with the gentle prodding to keep going, keep sounding out the words. As an adult, I have been reduced to something so small. It’s hard to remind myself that someday this will begin to make sense, to be a little easier.

After leaving her home, I fell in a small dip in the road. One knee and both palms of my hands connected well with the street. It was enough of a jar to send me almost into fits of obsessive tears of weeping. In the cold and mist, I found myself struggling between the need to just let out the tears and holding it in so the people I walked by wouldn’t think I’m strange. I evaluated the reason I needed to cry. Was I longing for home? Am I homesick? Is this stress talking? Or was there something deeper here that I’m not seeing? Once again I found myself in conversation and found that I could not pin point my feelings to one thing. I just wanted/needed to cry it out. I do want to learn but why did He have to choose such a difficult and simple road for me? Sigh…

It is so humbling to be in language learning. I have much to be thankful about indeed—I didn’t sprain or break anything; I have great teachers and helpers who are patient and willing to help me understand both language and culture; I am making progress in the small things. If I feel this way, how much more difficult it must have been to take on a human form and be limited as we are by time and energy?

My only response is that I must bow my head. Who am I to complain about such a time in my life when I can see what it must have been like for Jesus to come to our world? Who am I to struggle with a different language when Jesus continually had to speak in terms we could understand? Who am I? Oh that I would learn how to be Mary! Oh that I would learn!

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Shelter Needed

Last night I was invited to a coworker’s house who is originally from a country close to where I’m headed. In the span of 2 hours, I received a small taste of how overwhelming, how fascinating, how difficult the first 3 months will be when I leave all that is familiar to me, all that I know, all the stuff I don’t have to think about here. I entered their house and entered into a world of things unfamiliar.

I was brought to their table to eat supper and was immediately thrown into complete observance and prayer that I did not offend by my lack of knowledge. Flexibility is key, right? So I observed. We prayed standing. I listened to a foreign language in prayer knowing that I stood among my brothers and sisters. I sat and looked at the food. I watched my plate being filled and had no idea if it would be offensive if I should speak up because they were putting too much food on my plate or I should just stay silent. I didn’t know if I should wait till everyone was served before starting to eat. I did not understand why I did not have water with my meal. As the meal progressed, the language was being taught to me, pictures were shown to me of beloved people back home, the lay of the land was painted for me, the way of the people was explained to me. Hot black tea arrived with a bowl of honey. I did not know I was supposed to dip my spoon in the bowl for something sweet to balance the bitterness of the black tea. Dessert was set before me – chocolates, two kinds of cakes. I had no idea if I was supposed to eat or not eat or take for myself or wait to be served. I was full but knowing the daughter made the dessert, I had no idea if I was offending by not trying each thing. I prayed that I didn’t offend her dear heart by not trying the delicious looking dessert. I learned to never fill a tea cup full because that is offensive. Always fill it half way which is inviting the person to stay and visit for a while.

An hour and a half into our time and I already felt my brain shutting down from an exhausting day and yet still the lessons kept coming my way. We moved to another room where I was asked to play the piano. Then I sat and listened to the family play and sing while their little girl tried to be sneaky and pull my phone off my lap. A few moments before I left, I was asked if I knew Psalm 121 to which I could not not recall the verses. So he, his wife, and oldest son sang and played a song with the words of the Psalm. Afterwards he said that this is their prayer as a family for me, that when things are hard and frustrating I remember these words:

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper…”.

I left their house with the stark realization that I am about to leave all that is familiar, all that I know, all the things I just do without thought of why I do them. And I will leave and place myself into all that is very unfamiliar, all that I do not understand with the hopes and prayers that I don’t offend in my ignorance. I realized that being a student is hard to do. Almost two years ago, I felt God asking me to become a Mary and become a student and I took it on with eagerness. Now I see that I will experience an even greater student experience. After saying all this, the only thing that quiets my soul are verses that I read a little bit ago which have been coming to mind a lot lately. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High God…”.

Oh that we find shelter in our God, people! Oh that we find our shelter in God!

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I’m not so free

It’s been awhile. Yeah, I know. It is not because I don’t have anything to say. It’s more like I just don’t make the time to sit and right out what is happening inside my heart. But alas, I’m about to. So what is going on inside me? Lots of things. Lots of random things. I’m not even sure this post will make sense, only that it breathes air into the lungs of random things happening deep inside me.

For instance,

Two odd things happened in my life during the same week. I was in training on the idea of Sabbath aka rest. Rest with God. Rest in my soul. Rest. Sabbath. What makes me feel joy and pleasure? Tis the question of two weeks ago. Anyhow we tried this new-for-me way of reading Scripture. We took a story from Scripture and read it four times each with a different perspective. The first time we read it just to read it. The next time we paid attention to words or phrases that jumped out to us. The third time we looked for where we found ourselves in the story. Fourthly, we just rested in the story.

One story found the disciples trying to keep children away from Jesus. As it turns out, Jesus slightly reprimands them for doing so. Instead, Jesus welcomes them, beckons them to come close, to touch and bless them. As I put myself in the story, I found that I was a child being hindered from coming to Jesus, discouraged for my desire to be known by Jesus, to experience His blessing in my life. I saw myself being ushered from Jesus, hearing the excuses on why this isn’t right–you are too dirty, your dress isn’t pretty enough, this doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know, it has to be blasphemy, etc. I found that my heart had this desperate cry to run from, be disobedient to my elders, to go against the grain just so that I could experience the joy of just being with Jesus.

Then the next story was the story of Lazarus. In this case we were to imagine ourselves as Lazarus. Put ourselves in the story. Imagine becoming sick and expecting my great friend who has the power to heal me to come to my side as soon as he finds out how deathly sick I am. Yet, Jesus doesn’t come and with that knowledge I die. I’m wrapped in cloth, prepared for burial and with the sound of stone against stone, my tomb is sealed. The realness of death strikes out at my friends and family. And then something completely exotic happens. Tingling, goose bumps, a tiny breeze-and in my mind I hear this crystal clear voice ringing out my name, “Crystal, come out!” So I stumble with difficulty, bound by “clothes”. I want to be free but I need help. Once again I’m bound but the crazy thing is that as I allowed this story to unfold in my brain, I found my first reaction to be one of laughter. As soon as someone ripped off the grave clothes from around my mouth all I wanted to do was laugh. I wanted to look at my family and friends and laugh. I wanted to say “I got you guys! Wasn’t that the greatest trick ever!!!!” I smile just thinking of those thoughts.

Even still, these days I’m in transition. I need to let go of the things that I love here and prepare for life in another culture very soon. It’s hard to care as deeply as I once did with the details of this life right now. It’s hard to experience things like the last company picnic. I’m not the only one recognizing these things. My church just had a church retreat, another “last” for me for awhile. Someone walked up to me and asked how it feels. Well, I don’t know. How would you feel if this was you? – is what I would love to ask back.

There are no words. I don’t like transition but even more I don’t like these hidden feelings of being bound either. I want to be free. I want to be me. Wait. I say that I want to be me but the reality is that I have no idea who me really is. Hm…now that I think about it, a great fear inside me is that if I discover who me is, will those around me be okay with the me that is me? And if not, then will I forever live in these grave clothes, will I always be hindered from knowing Jesus’ embrace, His delight, His blessing?

Indeed, I’m not so free after all. Oh the musings running through my brain…

P.s…I apologize now if there are typos and grammatical errors. I just didn’t have the energy to critique myself tonight. I just needed to let this come out. Sorry if my unedited self causes you to cringe. Hey! Maybe it’s a sign of freedom coming out in the smallest form! I’m free!!! Lol…

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Insight 101

I don’t really have insight like something from God that has been shown to me. It’s more like what I’m observing. I’m working through various subjects for pre-training. There is a lot of ground to cover, very in-depth thought processing going on here. Training starts in two weeks and I have a ton of ground to cover even before that. However, the thoughts swirling around my brain are some really big and lofty thoughts. All of them boil down to living a life that I tend to teach/preach/talk about. It’s about a joy for Jesus and the need to carry it out in the day-to-day life I live.

I’m reading a book as part of my pre-training titled When Helping Hurst by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. One of the lines that has been highlighted in the book is this: “If Christ is Lord of all, how do we do farming, business, government, family, art, etc., to the glory of God?” It’s an all-time question I have found myself contemplating over time. How do I do accounting to God’s glory? How do I market and advertise for God’s glory? How do I drive my car, buy groceries, take care of the kids, mow the grass, make supper, tend the garden for the glory of God? How does my day-to-day life reflect God’s glory?

Do you know? I remember reading back in the day of high school a story of a monk who learned to praise God while peeling potatoes, working in the garden and sitting down for prayer. I want to learn how to do that. I want to know how to reflect God’s glory in every aspect of my life, in real practical, down-to-earth style. That’s what I want. But how does one learn that? What are the steps to accomplishing this kind of lifestyle?

Mom asked me the other day, “So why do you have to go to Kyrgyzstan to learn any of this?” Good question and one I have no answer to. Why do I have to trade places? I don’t think I’m going to get the answer to that question and I’m not sure I really want an answer to it anyhow. I don’t know what God is going to do with all these thoughts swirling around my brain, all these questions, all these ponderings. I don’t know of what is lying in wait for me in the land of Kyrgyzstan. I do know that I’m headed that direction. I know it is the right move and I know it deep in my heart, however hard that is to comprehend at times.

Maybe you have experience or insight you can share on this subject. How do you live out God’s glory in your life, in your every moment, in your everyday life? What does it look like for you to farm, do business, work in the government, your family, your art projects?

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