All the Way He Leads Me

Follow Me…

“Follow Me,” He says, as beckons me forward.

“Praise my name wherever you go – mountain top or valley low.”

“Follow Me,” He says, in my darkest night.

“Even when you cannot see, I will be your guide.”

“Follow Me,” He says, in heartbreak or pain.

“I see when you are in mourning and I will comfort you again.”

“Follow Me,” He says, when it’s time to say goodbye.

“Sorrow may last for a day, but joy will soon abide.”

“Follow Me,” He says, even as I look back.

“Pick up your cross and leave your burdens, I’ll make up for what you lack.”

“Follow Me,” He says. Surrender is so sweet.

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Mornings

I’ve never been a morning person, but there is something so rewarding in waking up between 7 and 8: generator power. It’s satisfying knowing that I have some time to take a -generally warm- shower and have the opportunity to do my hair -in a warm room with my heater still powered on.

Life here is a bit different than America, but I love it.

In America many things can be important… But here, only one thing really stands out as vital: people.

I love having to go to the markets for fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, and breads. For each item, I have a specific store I like to visit. Shopping isn’t a mundane activity, but a relational one. Every time I visit the bazaar, I make my rounds with the shopkeepers I buy from… Even if I am not going to buy anything, it’s always good to check on new stock and to say hello.

During the day, I attempt to fill my time with friends and those I consider like family… Not because I need something or someone to entertain me, but because people are important. We can’t live without each other here.

At night, I teach up to 26 students. Each of whom I take into consideration when preparing a lesson, because they are all important to me.

Everything is relational.

I’m happy to be back and feel as if I am fitting in once more. It’s been wonderful seeing my old friends and I’ve even met a few new ones!

Classes started last week and I am enjoying level 1. Always a fan of teaching the lower levels, so I’m happy.

And… Well… That’s about it.

 

 

 

 

Home

The path is covered in leaves. Wet leaves. Their smell permeates the air. The way is steep, but I can see the ruins. The stones are beautifully layered, yet still so much is missing.

Home.

I watched as the rice stalks bowed and swayed with the wind. A sea of green. Each wave of wind that billowed over the plants, caused a different hue to be displayed. Each intricate movement important to the greater picture.

Home.

The path leads to the pier upon the lake, but I chose to walk beside the creek. It gets quieter the further I move up the lakeside, finally opening it’s mouth. The sounds of it’s babble are calming. So many memories. So many life changes here. So much life found.

Home.

I take the curves as fast as my little red car will allow. Young and slightly reckless. Finally the open stretch… Windows down, I breathe in the smell of Fall. Leaves crunch under my tires. Tobacco smoke leaking from the barns pours into my car… Arms stretched out, I catch the drag of the outside air.

Home.

Carefully I climb down the large stones. Grabbing on the small trees and their roots for support. At the bottom, I allow my open toed shoes to touch the edge… The water is always cold.  Swirls of clouds hang low into the mountains… Orange, yellow, pink, and hint of red streak across the sky. The water reflects His handiwork.

Home.

Long open stretches of highway, sometimes allowing me legally over 75mph. Muted greens and browns paint the landscape.  Cattle low along the sides of the road. The outside air is cool, but still not quite as cold as it should be for winter. This place is new and unfamiliar, but in the seat beside and behind me… Family.

Home.

I can taste the dust as I try to make it down the hill. Each time the wind blows past, it kicks up even more minuscule pieces of dirt. My eyes sting. My feet slip on the gravel, yet I do not fall. I look to my little house. A place so far away and different then anything I’ve known… Still. It’s now home.

Home.

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I’ve left my heart in many places. Home after home after home… It’s time for me to go back to the M.East. Always bittersweet with goodbyes, but I always try to strive forward, gaze fix ahead.

Here’s to the new year! ❤

**Hopefully an update will be soon to come in the upcoming week!**

Travels.

As I slowly cruise down my newfound country roads, my heart fills with wonder once more: another perfect sunset, more rolling green fields, deer mingling in the fields of cattle, and a cool and gentle breeze on a crisp Autumn night.

I pull into the driveway of the home I’m in and could spot our properties creek. The sounds of it’s babbles I enjoyed as I walked into the house and continue to hear with the open windows in my bedroom.

My computer sits on the rear screened porch… Now crickets and other night creatures fill the quiet of the night. And oh, the stars… So many stars.

Since October, I’ve been Stateside. Speaking and working in Georgia and the Carolinas. Soaking as much as I can in during my travels…

This little State of Georgia was home. Still is. It’s the first place I made my own… Thus my love for this place.

I have two short weeks back and then I’ll make my way 16 hours South to Texas, where my family is.

After the new year, I’ll return to my other, other home… The Middle East (M.E.).

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Being back has been a mix of emotions. I don’t think even I realized just how much I missed this place. I remember driving along HWY 441 and seeing the mountain range I’m so familiar with… A blueish-purpleish hue as the sun began to set. I cried.

Every time I drive pass that range, I cry.

Well, let’s be honest. I cry a lot. In Clarkston, in Toccoa, those mountains…

All because there’s this big piece of my heart feeling the sense of loss.

I honestly don’t know if I would ever be content living in a small, mountainous town… Or retreating to my home in the woods after working… But for some reason, my heart refuses to believe it. Every time I drive by those mountains, that sense of loss overwhelms me…

“Father, this is what I thought I wanted…”

I drive through my little suburb of Atlanta: Clarkston. My heart flooded again with the sense of loss. I always have loved refugee people and I served two years there in the city -off and on while in college. Before graduation, I contemplated living my life there. In their apartments, serving and living alongside them…

“Father, this is what I wanted…”

Places so familiar. So secure… A place to call my own…

But, He’s called me away from that. To something new. To the unknown. To Him.

In less than two months, I’ll be headed back to a place I love and hold near to my heart. I read the news and hear the happenings of that country and weep.

“Father… I want to go back!”

__________________________

It’s been strange being back. Also wonderful. Bitter. But sweet. A sense of loss, but also of gaining something new, something better. And I’m okay with that.

Feel free to pray for me. Processing culture, hopes, dreams, and emotions has been a bit crazy… But also I praise Him for bringing me here, to see everything once more, to spend time with my family, and to return back home to the M.E.

Thanks! ❤

 

August

HE said, ‘Come!’ So Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came towards HIM. But when he saw the effects of the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out, ‘L-rd, save me!’ Immediately HE extended His hand and caught him, saying to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

-Matthew 14:22-23

This whole process of coming here and living in the region has been one full of highs and lows. Last month was a low… Mostly because I felt as if everything was out of my control (cue worry and anxiety). On top of that, I thought that I would have to return in August under short notice. Thankfully I was able to stay here in country…

After some additional thought and sound advice, I realized that if I am going to live here two additional years I need to return and make sure that my next two years are fully funded. With that being said, October through December I’ll be Stateside. January I’ll return here to my home. 

Like this story of Peter, I’ve been one to doubt. I’ve had faith and then wavered after the winds have blown.

Just like Peter, I feel in my heart “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

Why do I doubt when I see His hand over and over and over in my life? 

Why do I still lose heart when things aren’t clear? Has He not lead me all this way? 

It’s amazing though how HE reaches down when we are in need to save us -to stabilize us. He is always in control. He is always good to us -His children.

As I look forward to the next few months, every worry or care about returning Stateside have been silenced by Him. I’m left in awe of His provision…

So in response to Him, I’ll do the same thing the disciples and Peter did when He calmed the winds and returned to the boat… I’ll stand in awe and worship my Creator -who loves and delights in me. Even in my doubts and failures…

Remember… He is good. So, so good.

Little Messages

Lately I struggle to sleep. Between the heat, unanswered questions, and endless thoughts that run through my mind… It can be maddening lying on my left side and staring at the dark wall. We’ve also been having some early mornings lately for our Kid’s Camp, which -although I love- is difficult… Especially as I am more of a night owl.

Anyways..

Tonight I as I was lying in bed my phone “dinged,” for I had received a Facebook message…

I thought about ignoring it, but I couldn’t once I saw it was my IDP friend who recently moved.

“I feel like a fish out of water…” She wrote.

I read her writings and attempted to “online listen.”

In the middle of those messages, I received an e-mail asking about my plans for the upcoming months from my company…

While she paused, I hurriedly wrote out something to the extent of “I have no idea what the next six months hold and there are options I need to seriously consider, but all I know if that my heart is here.”

I sent my e-mail and my IDP friend returned to complete her original thought about “being a fish out of water…”

“Do you why did I feel like this? Because all people here are hopeless.” 

I don’t know what the next month or six months hold, but I know that He continues to fill my heart with a love and compassion for His people here. I know that in the middle of my muddled mess, I am reminded that these people need Hope. Him.

Right now, this is where He has me… So here I will be. 

Please keep me in mind as I sort through some options I can take… I need wisdom. Peace… And I just want His Will in all of this…

And please keep her in her family in mind. They are going through lots of transition, but we celebrate the fact the family is reunited and together under one roof!

Thanks!

P.s. It’s really late… So I’m pretty sure there are lots of grammatical mistakes. Please overlook them. 😀

“Those Who Stand Before Death”

Tonight in conversation class we got on the topic of our regions fighters against ISIS (their name translates appropriately to “Those who stand before death”). A few members shared stories about their childhood, growing up with a father away at war during the time of Saddam Hussein. One of the young men in my class then raised his hand and tearfully shared that his father was an hour and a half a way fighting again ISIS and had been gone several weeks.

“It’s such a shame we are sitting here, while each of our families have members fighting.”

Please keep in mind our regions military and the families they have left behind. Many of these young and older men have gone without any salary for multiple months (up to four). It’s challenging on the family, but more-so the soldiers away. They have a lack of medical supplies, few resources, and haven’t had much training… So many have been wounded and killed.

We’re so thankful for those who keep our regions boarders safe and secure! Please lift them up with me? Also remember our enemies, as we know His hand is never too short to save.

A Dish of Custard

He was probably no more then seven years old, carrying a plate with homemade flatbread and a dish of custard for dessert. His mother genteelly held his shoulders as he made it out of their home’s gate. He precariously walked down the steps and walked a little too quickly across the street to another neighbor’s home.

This second little boy, around the same age, promptly told this other child that he wouldn’t eat “their food,” spoke in a rush of insults, and pushed the first boy away.

Almost dropping the plates, he recovered. Looked sadly back to his home and wandered back… Only to be sent out again, but this time to the house I was visiting.

Two children. Same age. Same height. Wearing similar clothing. Living across from one another.

One Arab and one local.

It was the local boy who shoved the little Arab boy away.

There is history between these two people groups. Painful history still fresh in their minds… There is no forgiveness. Only hate, distrust, and disgust. I won’t speak to this. Honestly if this had been my people and my family that suffered, I don’t know how I would react. I hope I could forgive… But I’ve never had to experience such tragedy and loss.

I can speak though about my beautiful friend who took the plates from the little boy and profusely thanked him for the delicious looking food and thanked his mother.

I can share with you her gentle words as she held the two boys hands and told them that G-d had made them both and that they are only children. Neighbors. Not to hate each other. But to be friends and to love one another.

_____________________________________________________________

This was just one little snippet out of my day… My dear friend had me break fast (it’s Ramadan) with her and her family. As always, they are gracious and hospitable hosts. Making me feel like family… I have such a love for them and am so thankful for G-d providing me with such a sweet family and a place to call home.

Contrast

Today she sat across from me, sharing her controversial views on local beliefs and culture. The power cut off right in the middle of one of her rants, causing her rushed speech to slow into low-hushed tones so others couldn’t hear. She is so feisty and always analyzing her beliefs. I appreciate her honesty and love the fact that she openly shares her heart and opinions with me.

Last night I sat beside another friend… Fully covered, not a strand of hair shows. She is devout and loves her god. She desires a relationship and is continually striving to love him more… And she too is opinionated, feisty, and analytical. I admire her generosity and wish I could learn to be kind and selfless as she is. She too has a heart which I love.

These girls, my best friends here, are similar in personality, but complete opposite in some of their beliefs. Still I am learning so much between the two of them… How thankful I am for them and how good G-d was to give me friendship here.

Communal

Today I waited for a friend before going to the bazaar.

Typical American, I showed up early. I aimed for 5 minutes before our scheduled time and it was an accidental 10.

Typical Middle Eastern, she was late. Only by 10 minutes, not a big deal.

For twenty minutes, I watched as cars, buses, and taxis made their way through one of the busiest intersections of our city.

About ten minutes into my observations, a taxi driver was having some car trouble. After trying his best to restart his little tan Toyota, he realized he needed to push it out of the intersection. The moment he got out and laid hands on his trunk, three other men -from different corners of the street- quickly joined him.

It was a beautiful picture of the community here.

I’m sure in America, that might happen. At least, I’m hopeful it would… But I’ve seen plenty of people back home pass by others in need, busy to head off to the next thing… the next task.

That person has also been me. 

Another culture moment today was when my friend and I were catching up about our day. I told her that my housemate wasn’t home today and that I had spent my time cleaning and doing laundry.

“Why didn’t you call me to help you!” she accused. Completely serious too.

She is sweet, with the biggest heart. Always giving. Wanting to share her time, home, and resources with me.

I truly love communal cultures. They take the time to see one another and look for opportunities to “be there” for each other. This culture is teaching me to see. Not only to see people, but also their needs. Sometimes it might be something as simple as cleaning a home with a friend and other times helping push a car… Regardless. We are the hands and feet. I think our Father desires for us to use them for good and for His glory.

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