Almost here is my one year anniversary of living in Cairo. When I look back upon the past 12 months, my stomach immediately goes into flip flop mode, which is how my body reacts to emotional stress. Am I stressed? No. But life in the Middle East occurred, which in summary is a compilation of random challenges, mental and emotional fires...yet also the sanctification and transformation of my mind which have pointed me to the cross over and over. This is causing me to thank Him that I have not been in this alone. To put it simply is stating that this year has been the toughest year of my life, but yet I would not trade it..could not give it up...and I still remain thankful in my call.
Looking back at my journal entries from last year as I was preparing to come to Egypt seems like another world...another life. That person has changed...and my life in the states seems so distant to me, but I do miss it. I miss so many things about my life prior to being here... but I know so much more now, my interpretation of reality has broadened...my heart has shifted...my thoughts redirected.
Anyone who has moved to a new place understands the pain of starting over. The struggle to hear of family going on with their lives without you there...missing little ones as they grow up. Anyone who has lived cross culturally knows the frustrations of trying to normalize the people, customs, and language of your new home, making yourself comfortable with them as "daily life." When thrust into a new culture, you find yourself wanting to scream, a lot! Or in my case, the shocking discovery of a temper I didn't know I had. This place brings out the worst in me, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Seeing the gross inside, being forced to face my sins head on and out there for all to witness, feeling my strength being ripped away, and my weaknesses exposed, are all part of it. At least, it's been my struggle here in Cairo.
Am I living my dream? ... I am. But that does not mean I haven't been hurt in the process. Living here hurts, it drains, it tests, and it forces me to have to decide the answer to the question of "who will win the battle today?" Some days this country wins. This then forces me to my knees asking God to be in it...ALL of it, even the messy...pulling me out of myself...and asking Him to gently teach me how to give up self love, and choose to accept and serve these people around me. It is not the challenge I expected when I stepped onto the plane...it's harder...it cuts deeper...it's humbling...it's necessary.
As a teacher, I have had the privilege of sharing the lessons the Lord has been teaching me, with my students. Age 10 is my favorite age to teach. This is a time in a kid's life that the world starts to shift in form for them. They start asking intense questions...they start seeing people differently...they even question truth for themselves...which is a good thing. They all respond differently to what they see, in how the Lord reveals it to them as individuals. My students are thinkers, and I have been very convicted in how easily I can get distracted from the key purpose in how I am called to serve them.
It's been a challenging start to the year in teaching them appropriate behavior. Many days I have gone home thinking I failed that day as their "surrogate mom" between the hours of 8 and 3. Teachers hold immense power in their hands to build up their students. But this requires a lot of detailed strategies. Its hard. Not a day goes by that I don't find myself feeling totally inadequate to mold these minds. My flesh gets in the way and I get impatient...but even in that I have to call them out on how they should be acting...disciplining them...encouraging them...mediating between them...counseling them.
Actual classroom instruction is in reality, a very small part of the job, and it's the easy part. The rest of it is what makes teaching one the best as well as one of toughest professions in the world. You have to learn the personality strengths and weaknesses of your kids...you have to help them to recognize these within themselves. You have to challenge and be willing to be challenged in return. We have immense power and opportunity as the adult with these kids 7 hrs a day. What am I going to do with that power? How am I going to instruct them in a way that will be positive, placing my emotions aside, and not letting myself get angry? It's natural to make the day about me, how I am comfortable, what suits my schedule, what sorts of things I am in the mood for...but that is not why I am there. These children are my work...and every day they are teaching me how to listen...how to meet their needs...how to swallow my pride and serve them outside of myself. Daily, I battle with them for power of the classrom, because some want the ability to be in control, and the easy thing to do would be to just let them. Being consistent in consequences as well as positive affirmation is a struggle, but it's the balance that a good teacher is required to find. This job brings out the selfish in me, and when I first came to realize that, it was a sad day. But now that I see the areas God is wanting to transform in me through my students, I can rest...because this is His deal.
It's not just Egypt that hurts sometimes, it's the daily call...all it requires...all we can't do alone but try to. Whoever said pain was a bad thing? Because it hurts, it keeps us level headed and consistently in conversation with the Master of it all.