All the Way He Leads Me

Glorious

This weekend was my last opportunity to attend our international congregations’ meeting place. Being my last week, I asked if I could join in worship. In the midst of the the emotions of goodbyes and transition, worship seems rather fitting. Casting my eyes onto Him and not my circumstances or… Well, anything else. Just Him.

“Glorious! My eyes have seen the beauty of the Lord!

Glorious! He stands above the rulers of the Earth!

Glorious! Glorious! Lord, You are glorious!”

We’ve sang this song quite a few times recently and honestly I love it because it reminds me of Moses and the glory of the Lord passing before Him (Exodus 33:19-23). He says that He shows kindness and mercy to who He chooses… Yet we are not worthy of Him! One look, one glace… He says to Moses “no one may see Me and live.” But still… He gives mercy and kindness to us?

Gives us new life -an abundant life! Forgives us and removes our scarlet stains… Makes them white as snow… Clothing us in His righteousness…

Then. One of my favorite acts in the New Testament… The veil was torn! The glory of God…. Living among us. Within us…

“Glorious. My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord! Glorious!”

As I sang the lyrics to this song, I heard Him speak tenderly to my heart: “Child, have your eyes seen my glory here?”

Mercies new every morning that I have experienced…

Days where I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good…

Long lonely nights where I have been comforted…

Strength in moments and days of weakness…

He’s provided me with courage and hope on hard, challenging days …

His loving-kindness providing for my every need…

Oh! How He’s been so faithful to me in this place!

And that’s just me. Not the wonderful and marvelous works I have seen Him do here in this place! In those around me!

“Glorious! My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord!”


My heart aches as I consider the fact that I have less than a week in this country… My home. Of course I wish I could stay… I want to come back… But I rejoice. I rejoice that He will lead me and go before me… But will also, at the same time, remain here in this place.

With joy, I can declare: “My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord here!”

What a wonderful testimony I get to carry within me and share.

“Glorious! My Eyes have seen the glory of the Lord! He’s there! He’s there!”

And Stateside too: “He’s here! He’s here.”

So in my grief and the heartache of leaving… He’s been glorious. As I ponder my time here may I be reminded… Over and over at the works of His hands and the fingerprints He leaves in this place…

“Glorious! Lord you are glorious!”

Military Coup

For the fourth time, the ground rattles and the glass shakes. Explosions and one bout of gunfire have been heard from outside. This is the life I am currently living…. And in Turkey of all places.

Women weep, strangers shout, and stampedes begin to form.

It’s chaos.


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1 PM Sunday:

Yesterday in the early hours of the morning, there was a military coup. My housemate and I were both sitting in a private lounge of Ataturk International Airport watching the television as the cameras focused on two bridges. After hearing about Nice, France, I suspected it was additional coverage from that terrorist attack, but everything was in Turkish. Maybe people were gathering in support or in protest of what had happened? I wasn’t too concerned. BBC didn’t have anything new on their front page, so we figured it was old news.

When the staff began to gather in front of the television and make calls, that’s when we started doing some additional internet searches. “Military Coup” google’s search screen read.

There happened to be three additional families we knew of in the airport area. One outside of passport control, one inside the airport, and the two others we suspected had already boarded their flight. Our friends inside called us and asked us to meet at our gate.

From there we learned that tanks had surrounded the airport and that all flights were canceled… Knowing it would be a long night, we decided to return to the lounge.

In all the craziness, I must say I am so thankful. Not only did the lounge staff allow me and my housemate into a nicer area and settle into the only private room, but in the end they allowed three additional families with me as well for free (the two families that boarded were allowed off the plane and after a few stampedes made their way down to us). We had water, food, and free wi-fi provided for all of us. Huge, huge blessing!

In that little glass inclosed room, we made phone calls and tried to figure out, security wise, how we were doing. As I was checking out the airport plane schedule outside our room, gunfire could be heard from outside the lounge. A wave of people ran down the stairs and poured into the basement area. I personally couldn’t tell if the shots were from outside the airport or inside… But with people running, I decided it was best to prepare for the worst.

“What if’s” flooded my mind… I’ve seen enough un-blurred videos from ISIS and plenty of news coverage recently to know there are evil things people are willing to do and all of those disgusting images popped up in my mind.

“What if this is it?” A question I never have considered before. In the midst of the chaos and the questions, I am amazed to say there was this incredible peace that settled on me. My hands still shook, but my heart didn’t quiver. I thought to myself, “I have absolutely assurance of where I’m going.” I wondered how many others in the room could feel the same?

Another new thing for me to experience was having to walk back to my friends and wave my hands down. I’ve never had to tell people to get down and take cover. I re-entered the space and together we huddled the children, while hiding under our conference table. Whispering assurances and verses that were memorized that had to do with fear. Realizing our room was all glass, I decided to hop up and see if there was a more secure location in the kitchen or staff areas.

Looking for places to hide in case of a shootout? The worst “what if” my mind could think of… Another thing I haven’t ever had to do or thought I would have to do.

Thankfully I received word that the shots fired were from outside of the building. We were going to be okay…

After a bit more paranoia and random strangers running and diving for cover, I decided to stand by the doors and watch for anything true to be concerned about. That’s when our building shook and the first large explosion could be heard. Another bout of hiding under that conference table…

The last three that went off were more distant and less concerning, but overall it was a tense night.

The female staff members left us, in tears, and the men were attempting crowd control. I can’t imagine how difficult that night must had been for them, as they had recently had a few bombings in that airport…

To pass the time, I stood watch at the doors and ended up welcoming those who came into the lounge that night… Passing out internet codes too for fun. That was actually an enjoyable way to pass the time, not think about the craziness, and I ended up meeting a lot of interesting people.

Later that day as we left the airport, I had a few of those same people come up and talk to me. I found that a bit entertaining.

My favorite was an old Qatari man wearing a traditional thoub (dishdasha) and a white and red checkered head covering. I think before living in the Middle East I would have been afraid of him because of stereotypes I had previously formed; but he was just a jolly old man who kept peace, led a call to prayer for our Muslim friends, and loved to joke around with perfect English. He wanted everyone to laugh.

In the end, we rebooked our flight through some awesome friends back home and left the airport. It wasn’t a safe environment, as passport control was left open for people to pour in and out of, and with everyone on edge, we decided it was best to stay away. We booked a hotel room and taxied into the city… Finally we were out!

Now I’m enjoying a view from the ninth floor and sitting on a very soft bed. Thank you, Jesus!

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All is well though and we’ll be flying out in the next couple of days… We are not in a rush, as we figure it would be better to let the airport settle back into a routine and tighten up on security.

Thank you all who have been praying and for your words of support and encouragement. I have felt peace through this entire mess and accredit it to many, many answered prayers. The peace of Jesus is real and something I found refuge in.

Please continue to pray as we journey home and especially pray for the small children that were with us. I know it was a bit traumatic for me, I can’t imagine how the poor children are feeling! Thanks again and I’ll update y’all again later.


 

My current favorite song. It kept playing through my head all night…

 

Pray for Iraq

While living here in this region, I have had the privilege of seeing what other organizations are doing in the area. There is one in particular that I have come to have great respect for: Preemptive Love. Four years ago, I would hear about the heart surgeries they would do for children, but over the past few years they have expanded their organization. Now I also hear stories of relief work in the hardest of places and see them creating opportunities for employment with local refugee women.

While they operate in my city, they aren’t afraid to leave it. They go past check points, beyond our “safe” boarders, and reach the places few will travel to. They fall in love with the people and come back, spurring us on to love them too and encouraging others not to fear.

Today they posted a picture of Baghdad and the opening line to their caption was one I had to ponder:

“It’s tempting to think Iraqis must be used to all the violence by now.

But no, people here never get used to it.” 

Another bombing in Iraq… 

Honestly before coming to this city and region, that’s exactly how I felt.

I’m so ashamed…

How can anyone get used to living in fear? For themselves? For their loved ones? 

How can anyone get used to seeing shopping malls, bazaar stalls, homes, and various other buildings reduced to rubble and streaks of blood? 

How can anyone, myself included, hear of death and think “Oh, just another…”

Men who were husbands, grandfathers, fathers, brothers, uncles…

Women who were wives, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and aunts…

Children. Little boys and girls. Daughters. Sons.

25 to be exact from this last bombing.

250 Men, women, and children… All made in the image of God.

250. Each known, loved, and desired by our Creator.

How can anyone, especially Christians, hear of death and think “Oh, just another…”

People here never get used to it…. How could we!?


I pray for you, dear reader, and for myself…

That we would never hear of death or destruction and respond silently within ourselves “Oh, just another…” 

That we would never become callused to the evil of this world. 

That we would learn to mourn and weep with those who experience deep grief and sorrow. 

And lastly… That we would never shrink back from proclaiming truth and lasting peace. 

There is a dying world DESPERATELY in need. May He open our eyes to the urgency of this reality. 


In closing, I thought I would add one of my favorite songs by Audrey Assad: Death, Be Not Proud. It gives me hope, because one day “death will be no more.”

 

Summertime

When I walk out of my home, I am immediately greeted by the color green. A small park, my personal reminder of life in this dry and otherwise lifeless colored environment.

The mountains that surround the city have dulled and now have massive scorch marks from random fires that have started on the hillsides. Only on clear days can I see them. Sometimes it gets so dusty they are hidden from my view.

When I open my gate, I am also greeted with silence. My, usually, busy city is subdued during the day, as it is currently Ramadan. It’s 108 degrees outside, yet Men and women are fasting from not only food, but water. Seeking Allah.

My neighbors avoid the outdoors, their schedules tend to flip, and the culture comes alive at night.

At 7:00 pm, the roads are nearly empty. Only a few cars are rushing home -literally racing the sunset. Once the sun is down, everyone can eat and drink again. Fast is broken. Iftar.

Once the meals are finished, my city springs to life. Traffic clogs all the major roads, parking is scarce, and the malls are full of families. It’s quite the experience watching everyone come and go.

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As a unmarried lady in this region, my freedoms are limited -especially at night. I too feel as if I race against the sun… I can’t be out past dusk alone. Two years ago, before I made the trip back here, I wrestled with giving up that freedom. I love being out after dark. The coolness of the evening is refreshing and I’m just more of a night person anyways… These Ramadan June nights remind me of the limits I have in this culture -especially as I would love to be out there in the midst of all this life! But something I worried about giving up now has become my normal. This is just one of the many things I’ve been pondering…

Lately with my days being so quiet, there is so much time to think. Almost too much time. I consider how to best fill my upcoming days, accumulate more questions about my return home, and try to process the time I’ve spent here. It can be a bit overwhelming.

But it’s also been a reminder, over-and-over again, of His faithfulness to me. In bringing me back, seeing me through, and now leading me onward. It’s been such a time of abundance here.

I don’t really have too much to write at the moment… Honestly though, I think the heat here gives me writers block. I just wanted to share a little bit of what a summer day looks like here and share a couple of thoughts… To share He’s been faithful. One day I’ll write more details on what that’s looked like over the years, but for now I’ll just leave that snippet.

 

The Road Home

I hate decision making -which I may have already told y’all once or twice.

I prayed.

I sat and thought things out.

I asked my co-workers for counsel.

But in the end, I decided to turn to Proverbs and I ended on chapter 4 -the wisdom chapter.

As I was reading there were three common themes that just kept sticking out to me: listen to wise, godly counsel, our Father is -obviously- sovereign, and just commit to the path He is leading.

Counsel says “Be blessed and go.”

Leading wise, I know Stateside is the obvious next steps and I’m at peace with that…

And so I decided I’m just going to commit this August to Him and I’ll be back home the very beginning of September.

Thank you all for praying with me and supporting me through this… I’m so grateful! ❤

 

 

 

Decisions, Decisions.

“… You need to decide if you are going to stay till December or leave after courses in August… We’ll need an answer by the end of the week too, since we need to figure out the housing situation.”

I don’t know about you, but I personally love to be indecisive and drag my feet when it comes to making life decisions. Right now there’s the looming question: When do I leave?

I love this place. It absolutely has my heart. But if I am wanting to pursue the long-term… If I see a future working internationally… I need to return home and complete the requirements I need to.

In short, I need to decide either this December or late August. With that being said, I would greatly appreciate your prayers. I am leaning towards one, but still have a few days to make my final decision. So would you pray alongside me?

Thank you all! ❤

Reconcile

I scroll down on my Facebook feed to see photos of friends in pretty dresses, news on the latest Apple products, and various photos of meals… Articles from various pastors and writers that I respect… Dating couples, engagements, wedding photos, and statuses about family…

Life. Love. Faith. 

Scroll down some more on the same Facebook feed and another article on a bombing. Pakistan.

A jet averted over hijacking…

And… Another suicide bombing. This time, outside of my region. Yet only a few short hours away…

Photos emerge from a recent beheading in my country… The murders hands and clothing, drenched in blood. A photo before of the victim, neck outstretched… Bared. The knife biting into his throat.

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“How am I supposed to reconcile my life?” 

When the silence is deafening, I whisper to the only one who will hear me tonight. I take comfort in the fact HE hears my every word.

Oh how I want to go back… To escape this mess. This evil. To cover my eyes and ears from these awful, horrid things…

But oh… How much more I want to stay! To wade into this mess. To see peace and hope cover this land… To outstretch my arms and open my hands to the needy. To remain here and live my life among these people…

I say a tearful plea to the Father… For the family of the man who was murdered… For the men beside, sitting in blood of their friend.

I struggle to “lift up” the man… The man holding the knife.

Close Facebook.

Refocus.

I hope my heart never hardens to the stories of these bombings and attacks. I hope it wrenches every time. I ask Him to continue to allow me to weep at injustice… At evil… And may the Father continually remind me that He is our hope and peace… No other source.

I ask this same request to the Father be made for you, my reader. 

Tonight, I’m thankful for my friends and family at home. Grateful for their homes… For their security. Hopeful as they begin relationships, marriages, start families… Have precious children -children I wish could remain innocent to the horrors of this world.

Joyful in their life, love, and faith. 

Then… “I lie down and sleep… For HE sustains me.”

(Psalm 3:5) 

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I’m safe and doing okay, so no worries for me!

But please do lift up this nation… These people… The good ones, but also the evil ones. That they might know the truth!

Little Delights

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number- living things both large and small. All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.

-Psalm 104 : 24-25, 27-28

This past month has been the beginning of Spring here in our region. The mountains have changed from dull brown to vibrant greens. Our local refugee children have been selling bunches of wild flowers from the country side… And rain is consistently in our weekly forecast.

Grass. Flowers. Rain.

Things I no longer take for granted.

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Yesterday was our traditional New Year’s celebration. We got dressed in our finest traditional dresses and the whole city went out to the hills or many mountains in the area. Our bus drove us out to a nearby valley and we unpacked 10 hours worth of food. I ate breakfast with my local family and then set off in exploration.

I waded through the shallow river (stream for yall American folk) and attempted to frolic through the grass on the other side of our picnic site –there were tons of rocks though that made the frolicking a little difficult.

I remember standing at the top of one of the hills, looking out… Seeing the beauty. Hearing the rushing of water and the chirps of the birds… This is what brings me to my knees in awe. This is what calls my soul to worship.

We live in such rich color and texture. Our senses are constantly filled with smells and sounds… How can I not sing His praise when standing witness to His glory?

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I love the ending of Psalm 104:28

“… when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”

We are satisfied with such good things.

Recently a friend (shoutout to Quinn) wrote a post about the Father giving her the desires of her heart. So often I tend think of the desires of my heart as the 2 or 3 main things I “want.” But there are so many other “little” things that I desire, such as a beautiful day out in the countryside or a local family to feel apart of. Things that are too, truly the desires of my heart.

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I wandered back to our campsite and after having my fill of people time (I’m such an introvert), I meandered off again to that little river and found a smooth rock to sit upon. I couldn’t help but think back to my friend’s facebook post… The desires of my heart.

Sunshine. Green grass. Peaceful flowing water. Blue skies. Gray clouds (a few hours later). Herd of cows. Birds. Mountains… Nature.

My beautiful friend celebrating her 23rd birthday. Family. Friends. Community.

It all declared His glory. It gave me such great delight. He was satisfying me with such good things.

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I enjoyed the holiday and listened to some amazing conversations I wish I could share with you through this blog. My friends welcomed me with the most gracious hospitality and made me feel like a daughter and a sister. It was such a sweet experience and an overall lovely time.

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Some pictures from this weekend…

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Our picnic site for the day!

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Such peaceful water!

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I came over to pet the cows, but realized the herd had a farmer watching over them. Turns out it was a woman, instead of the usual man. I went down and spoke to her for little while. She had such a precious smile and was so welcoming to me -inviting me to her home and village.

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So much grass!!! A rare thing in this country and it only lasts a few months out of the year.

 

Childlike Faith

Today I had twelve little eyes on me -well let me be honest, those eyes seemed to be everywhere but on me. I taught preschool Sunday school for the third week this month…

The first lesson was on how great God’s love is. Even in our sinfulness and mistakes. We discussed -rather quickly- Adam & Eve and how God sought them in the garden. Even after eating from the tree that He specially said not to eat from! Calling us to come out of hiding, because there is no place we can run.

Second lesson was on the lost sheep. How He searches for the lost and how great His love is for each of us!

Tonight I tried a run through of Ephesians 3:17-18. Be rooted in His love, so that we can love Him and love others around us… Be strengthened in faith… And to try and understand how deep, high, and wide His love is.

By the first point, they were fading quick. Little attention spans are difficult to work with, especially in a multi-cultural classroom. I ended up turning off the lights and letting them walk around “blind” to talk about faith. After bumping into a few walls, each other, and plenty of kiddy giggles; we linked hands and I lead them around the room.

“When we can’t see whats ahead or when everything seems so dark, He will lead us!”

Tugging them along I repeated this a few times, attempting to get them to grasp this concept that oftentimes I even forget -or painfully ignore.

In the middle of this little exercise, I felt overwhelmed. What a privilege it is to teach them, but also what a great responsibly! How in the world and I supposed to teach this!? Something I myself can’t seem to get!

I know the truth… It’s in my head, but sometimes I just don’t let it sink into my heart. Walk by faith? Great. Walk blindly by faith… That’s getting a little too uncomfortable for me. But deep down, my desire is Him. To know Him more and to serve Him with my life…

So maybe instead of confident strides, I shuffle forward.

One little bit at a time.

I think of tonight and me urging the little ones forward. Pulling them along… Trying to keep them in line and they moved -little by little.

That’s how I see Him with me. Urging me. Pulling and tugging along. Trying to keep me in line with Him. Not veering. Not looking back. Moving forward.

I love such sweet little lessons He reminds me of.  ❤

 

 

Pecans

In the center of the room were twenty brightly colored bags with several neon colored tissue papers shoved inside. We were told it was a game of “White Elephant” with American products-stealing and all! After watching others pick out their bags and seeing their goodies I decided I would be the first to steal.

I chose a  huge bag of pecans and chocolate. But soon after, my bag was stolen…

There were two other bags with pecans, but they too were stolen from me… Finally I relented and opened a new bag. Speciality Coffee Creamer, Junior Mints, and a CD. Appreciated, but not quite exactly what I was hoping for.

Afterwards a sweet lady named Joy came up to me holding a large bag of pecans. I had seen her trade out Twizzlers and Pepperment Patties in order to get the bag.

“Here you go!” She said. Cheerfully handing me her pecans.

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It might sound silly, but that was so sacrificial and selfless of her. Let me honest! I wouldn’t have traded out my peppermints (YORK brand too) and Twizzlers for someone else! Especially for someone I don’t know. How kind is that!?

I wrote her a thank you note and she found me the next morning. She said, “I thought about hoarding them. My husband and I love pecans, but I am so glad I gave them to you! Who knew it would be such a blessing!”

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How often do I “hoard” my time and resources from others, instead of giving freely to others? How often do I miss opportunities to bless and love those around me, all because of my selfishness?  Such a simple gift! Pecans. But literally when retelling the story today brought tears to my eyes. I hope I can learn to keep my hands and schedule open, to better serve those around me.

 

Even if it means giving up mints… Or pecans. ❤

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