Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Please hear me out...

 A month from today, I will be across the country, gathering with others preparing to ship out across the globe. I have butterflies. So many emotions, so much confusion I am choosing not to give into, fears I am ashamed to admit, and joy and peace that makes it all worth it.

Thank you for patience with me as I took a break from blogging this last fall. It was a much needed hiatus, and I am really looking forward to getting back into it. 

Never before have I found myself being forced to defend a life decision the way I have been these last couple of months. My decision to move to Iraq is not one being fully supported by many around me. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot make people understand. However, I hope they can trust that they know me well enough to see that I am doing what I believe is right in this situation, and that is to go.

I don't question the way God worked in me this year, bringing all this together. I sometimes question His allowance of certain things, but I accept His hand in everything bringing me to this place. All close relationships struggle at one time or another, and 2012 has been a messy, stressful part of my relationship with Christ. The chaos of my faith this year was on the brink of disaster, and I see now that we are always on that terrifying edge... but welcome to sanctification. I have not always remained faithful in clinging to His sovereignty, wanting to do things my way, on my terms, allowing my human mind to guide. Yuck. That only gets us in trouble. Our minds are often the war zone. Our hearts are fragile. But, our God is gentle. When I get embarrassed at our humanity, I remember He knows what He "signed up for" in redeeming sinners, and walking us through our time in earth. But oh the joy...Oh the hope...

Knowing that His will alone is what I yearn for, that my way is never better, that my sin is dangerous, and that His glory is the single, most crucial part of my existence, I rest. Resting in all that I know to be true,  I cannot delay or deny His call...even when it means things aren't happening on my ideal terms.

So here I am, saying yes to something that many disagree with, but here's my response:

I don't see anywhere in Scripture telling me to follow God only where it is safe and trouble free. In fact, when I look at His word, I see example after example of the exact opposite. 

God is faithful in His call. God is faithful in death and God is faithful in allowing life. I only bring up death, because for whatever reason, this seems to be our biggest fear...but why? Heaven is where we are finally free, isn't it? It surprises me that so many people want to discuss "safety"  or  "comfort" as a reason to make excuses for ignoring the call. This is not Biblical. He asks us to concede to the talents He gave us in how they can bring Him glory and it is up to Him with how He uses those gifts. This is required of us even when we find ourselves alone on the journey...husbandless, childless, friendless, and famliless...or not.

The fact that my safety is a great fear of my loved ones is something I am sensitive to,  but it's not a reason for me to say no to this...nor is it where I struggle trusting right now. My fears are different, because yes, I am terrified. But it's the loneliness that makes me tremble in fear.  However, not going because of loneliness is just as wrong as staying put, due to the fear of danger and the desire to be "safe". Neither are honorable, neither are right.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not choosing this position hoping to find myself in any sort of danger, but danger is not a reason to walk away. And it certainly is not a reason to leave the lost drowning in darkness. What happens when we place our personal safety and/or happiness as a higher priority than the eternity of those that are lost?

I still believe God took me to Egypt not for what I could do for them, but for how He wanted to use that country as part of my sanctification process. And OH BOY did He use it.  I expect the same out of my time in Kurdistan, Iraq.

I don't blame people for being concerned for my safety, and I understand the fears that go with that. But I ask that they try and see my side, knowing that it goes against the heart of the Christy they are trying to protect, to say "no" when asked to be part of something like this.

Please pray for me, for the fears of my loved ones, for the aches and fears of my own heart, and for the glory of God, which ultimately is what all this is for anyway.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Big News...

Captions of Christy is going to change again as life is shifting...altering drastically. Although, I still am in shock of what I am about to share. It's still undeniably surreal. 

You may have noticed that I took a small hiatus from blogging. Well, there were a few factors involved in that decision,...one of which I am about to share with you.  I have been on a bit of a roller coaster in regards to a possible future employment opportunity. Well, after two months of emails, interviews, waiting, and more waiting, I found myself signing on the dotted line :). 

Yes, I officially accepted a new job. 

Of course it is the first of many steps of paperwork, but assuming all else proceeds as expected, I will be getting a on a plane very soon, and life will be taking another drastic turn.

I have agreed to work for an NGO in 
Kurdistan, Iraq. My position will be Academic Coordinator: Women's Literacy.

After leaving Egypt, I had many questions and thoughts about my future. Certain I would not return to the Middle East unmarried, I was unsure what was to come. And although I still do not prefer this, I am even more uncomfortable turning down an opportunity like this one. My heart for this part of the world grew intensely after my return to the USA, especially through my current job which allows me to work with Saudis every day. I began praying about what all this could mean. Then I got news from this organization that they wanted me to interview for this position. After initially saying NO, I questioned my motives. I questioned God's role, my desires, and my family's feelings. After my first interview, I realized how much I actually wanted this job...and although my situation in Iraq will differ severely in regards to my life in Egypt, I am willing to go. 

The timing is hard. I have become very comfortable with being here...living daily life with my family, enjoying my job, exploring personal options, etc...but all that is to say I believe without any doubt I am to put those things aside, and go.

Kurdistan is not like the rest of Iraq. Kurds are not Arabs, and Arabic is their second language with Kurdish being their first. Kurdistan was broken into four sections and currently exists in four countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. They do not have their own country, but the Iraqi Kurds do have their own borders and government. It is very different in their view of Americans from that of Baghdad. If you are curious as to more information, please see the link attached by clicking here.

My date of departure from the USA will be in January, following an intense pre-field training the week prior. I look forward to keeping you posted and being prayed for...this is a lot...and although I am thrilled, I am also working through many emotions and feelings about all this.





Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Egypt or America...Which is Safer?


"Aren't you so relieved to be back in America, and out of that crazy, dangerous Egypt?"
For the record. NO.

I have heard that question repeatedly over the last 9 months, especially the past week with the Middle East breaking into severe chaos, yet again.

If there is one misconception I would like to clear up about my personal opinion in regard to Egypt's safety, it's this:  Egypt is a lot safer than America.

Remember...what many see is foreign media. What is heard is an often confused and misled interpretation. What is read, is someone quoting someone who is at times wrong. And what the news programs so confidently allude to as fact, is often a load of bologna. There's actually a lot they don't understand. 

It was during the Egyptian Revolution that I began to really see the nasty effects of the media, as I was living out reality in Egypt, but hearing fairy tales through the media. Things just weren't lining up. 

I don't normally feel educated about much when it comes to politics, and that is my fault. BUT, listening to the American media discuss Middle Eastern politics has made me cringe one time too many ...especially when they try to talk about Egypt like they know something.  They really don't know much at all, then again, neither do I. But I have lived there, so I know a little. 

I know that I keep finding myself sitting there, listening to the politicians and news programs discuss the problems in the Middle East from a purely western perspective, shaking my head. We can't understand their worldview...and honestly, at some point we just need to admit that. We can't westernize them, or their politics.

Now do I agree with Egypt? Absolutely not. In fact, I have never been so disappointed by a country that I think has so much potential...but just can't seem to get their emotions under control. Often I would describe living there like this: Living in Egypt is like living in a society overrun and dictated by twelve year old boys. And seeing my beloved Cairo on the news this week, I would stand by that statement. I am still hoping that the Egyptian society will evolve into somewhat of a more mature nature. But I am not holding my breath.

And I know for certain that what's being fed to the majority of Americans here, is often inaccurate and destructive.  All I can do is offer a bit of my own perspective. It's just that, my own set of beliefs based on my experiences.

I am narrowing in on one topic: My Safety...Egypt vs America.

 So, in order to put to rest all the confusion about whether my life was at risk in Egypt, I wrote out some questions:

1) Would I ever go walking around my American city alone at night? NO.

Would I ever go walking around Cairo, Egypt alone at night? I did all the time. Everyone does. There are so many people out and about, that it's difficult for you to be unsafe. You become so public,  just by being out.

2) Do you hear about rapes and murders of women in Egypt by intruders in their homes or cars? No

Do you hear about rapes and murders of women in the States by intruders in their homes or cars? YES

3) Do you hear about murdered, dead bodies waiting to be identified by forensic specialists in the USA? YES

Do you ever hear about the discovery of random murdered bodies in the Egypt? NO.

4) Do you let your children walk to the store or run errands in Egypt? YES.

Do we send out kids out to run errands in the USA? I don't about you, but I was never allowed to.

5) Do they have posters of missing children posted all over Egypt? No.

Do we have missing children ads all over America? YES

6) Did I ever fear that someone strung out on some drug will violently approach me in the streets  of Cairo? Never.

Do I fear drug addicts in the States? Everyday, when I see crazies and high people walking through downtown Portland.

7) Does America have visible police presence in the streets? No. If you need them, you have to call them.

Does Egypt have visible police presence? On every corner. And my Egyptian friends could not believe it when I told them we don't have security quite like this.

8) Do I fear being kidnapped, drug off somewhere, and raped in the USA? Absolutely, because it happens here.

Did I fear this in Egypt? Only once did this ever cross my mind.

9) Do people look out for one another (strangers) in America? Not generally, we are too busy minding our own business, giving everyone their desired personal space.

Do Egyptians look out for one another? Almost to a fault. :) Everyone is watching everything...it's hard to have any secrets there, especially from your neighbors.

10)  Do people in America notice if you are in trouble? According to statistics, and situations of individuals I have talked to, NO. People often don't notice others around them, and usually are too terrified to jump in and help, when they do.

Do Egyptians help one another when in trouble? Because it is common in Egyptian culture to be snoopy and nosy, especially about the foreigners living amongst them, they are the first to jump in and help, because they know stuff. I remember multiple occasions of the men in my area taking care of me when I encountered harassment on the street. It was their duty and they got it done, especially if the police wouldn't budge. 

I am not saying that Egypt is stable politically. It's not. Nor am I saying women don't get raped. They do. BUT, those scenarios of rape are generally from people they know, not crimes related to attacks by strangers. And in regards to political or social unrest causing deaths? Look at our school shootings, etc. We have it too. 

In Egypt, I knew the areas to avoid during protests. While under the headship of Mubarak, Egypt played hard ball against terrorism...they had zero tolerance for it.  In my mind, this put them a step ahead of the majority of the Middle East.

Now, I know what you are thinking, "But Christy, the sexual harassment of women in Egypt is OUT OF CONTROL! Remember, you told us yourself about this.  YES. Egypt has a nasty problem of allowing its men to act inappropriately and irrationally, behaving strictly by the influence of their hormones and egos...and mistreating women. It's simply "acceptable" there. UGH. Take this from me, someone who was sexually assaulted on multiple occasions, and verbally harassed every single day I was there. BUT, it's not every Egyptian man that does this. I knew some really good men while I was there and they detest the problem with sexual harassment associated with their society.

BUT...it doesn't go beyond the groping. Now, that does not make it okay. I am not excusing it. It's sick. Egypt has a lot of growing up to do, and is waaaaay behind the West in many areas. But when it comes to this girl feeling secure and safe, Egypt has America beat...by a long shot.


Friday, September 14, 2012

                         "After the Last Tear Falls" by Andrew Peterson, rocked it today.


After the last tear falls 

After the last secrets told 

After the last bullet tears through flesh and bone

After the last child starves

And the last girl walks the boulevard 

After the last year that's just too hard 


There is love 
Love, love, love 
There is love 

 After the last disgrace 

After the last lie to save some face 

After the last brutal jab from a poison tongue 

After the last dirty politician 

After the last meal down at the mission 

After the last lonely night in prison 


There is love 

 And in the end, the end is 
Oceans and oceans 

Of love and love again 

We'll see how the tears that have fallen 

were caught in the palms 
of the Giver of love
and the Lover of all 

And we'll look back on these tears as old tales 

'
Cause after the last plan fails 

After the last siren wails 

After the last young husband sails off to join the war 

After the last "this marriage is over" 

After the last young girl's innocence is stolen 

After the last years of silence that won't let a heart open 


There is love 


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Never say never...

Never say never.

I will never go to college. 
(King College in Bristol, TN 2002-2006)

I will never teach elementary school in the United States. (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2006-2009)

I will never teach at a private Christian school.
(SouthLake Christian Academy 2006-2009)

I will never teach 2nd grade. (I actually said in my interview, "anything but 2nd")
(2007-2009)

I will never teach expats, I want local kids. 
 (CCS, my school in Egypt, served primarily expat kids)

I will never be in school administration. 
(assistant principal at CCS)

I will never understand people's preference to home school.    
(I trained and advocated for moms to home school in Egypt, Fall 2011)

I will never move back to Washington state. 
(Dec 15, 2012)

I will never live with my parents again, cause I am an independent adult. 
(Dec 2011-2012)

I will never prefer teaching adults over kids. 
(now I can't imagine not teaching adults)

I especially will not move back to the Middle East unmarried.  
(umm...more on this later as things continue to unfold)

I will never...well, some aren't blog post appropriate ;)

Oh dear...

:) 





Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Marwa


Something I have never been good at, is goodbyes. And having my life split between a number of significant places across the globe, one would assume this has gotten easier. It hasn’t. Many places hold severe significance to my story…all have been “home” in some sense. None are rated higher than the other. Each hold a part of me, have formed my heart into what it is today, have worked me over, tugging at my heart, and whispering for me to return. I couldn’t choose one of these places if I had to, so I am thankful this is not a task before me at this time.

Coping, however I can do. I have learned to look forward, to gauge the future with a speck of joy in the mystery, focusing on what is to come, not allowing myself to live too much in my mind, where I can’t be physically in the present. But honestly, it makes me wonder how “natural” goodbyes are supposed to be. My coping mechanism is to block the emotion from taking root for too long, dismissing the reality of separating. I tend to do this quickly. I am certain it’s unhealthy. But I don’t really know what else to do. I mean, separation is one of the most difficult things to conquer. The breaking of ties, the changing of relationships…and feels unnatural to me. But is has to be done.

Despite the pain I know is coming in goodbyes, I have remained firm in allowing myself to still go deep with people.  I am thankful to have not lost this ability, or been frightened away. One could put up intense walls by thinking “what’s the point?”…but not me. The point is to make the most of my time with those I am surrounded with. Allow them to be used as tools, and soak up the joy that comes with their presence in my life. My motto is “Everyone has an interesting story to tell, you just gotta know the right questions to ask to get them talking.” Hearing people’s stories inspires me.

Even with my current job at the language center, I am back at it. I was surprised how quickly I connect with my adult students, and get attached, the same as with kiddos I have had in my past classrooms. We spend hours together, engaging in each others lives, learning about one another, our different societies, family structures, etc. Then one day, they tell me their time is up, and they are off….whether to a new school, or back to their home country. It always ruins my day. I hate when this happens. “Thank you teacher for teaching us….” then off they go…

 It’s unsettling to me how often this is the case…and I have started pondering how damaging this is for me on a mental and emotional level, to always feel like I am going to have to say goodbye.

Leaving Egypt was particularly tough. I was greeted with immediate community the moment my feet hit Egyptian soil. Our group of expat girls from both the UK as well as the States, was one of my sweetest parts of living in Cairo. I was shocked at our immediate chemistry, and how we leaned on one another for survival. When one would leave, it tore us all up. But we all knew this was part of the life we had been called to, but we hated it. It rocked us, every time. Thankfully we all still talk, send group emails to one another, conference Skype, and plan reunions here in the States. Oh the joy it brings. These relationships were sweet beyond words.

Of course, the families I worked with at the school in Cairo were undeniably a huge gift as well…and the church community, and my home school moms, my Arabic teacher, and my co-workers…aah! So many close relationships…so much tenderness. I did not lack community in any sense when I lived in Egypt. This was a rich area of my life during my days in that crazy land.

But there is one relationship that stands out in a different way. Below are some shots of my closest Egyptian peer companion. The first night that she came over to my place for pizza, I knew and thought, “This is something sweet that we have”…and it was…and still is. Within the year, I will be returning to Cairo, to attend her wedding. I am on pins and needles waiting for the exact date of the ceremony to be set so I can book my ticket.

Although we live on opposite sides of the world, this face, is one that is never far from my memory…a laugh I can still hear in my mind whenever I want. Our opposing world views, upbringings, culture, family set up, beliefs, views of God, and religious practices did not cause rift between us. Rather, were used as tools sharpening how we relate to those different than us. She taught me loads about Islam, and we were able to engage in some tough, but real conversations. Her desire to love those around her, honor God, and learn about the world, made her one of my favorites. I respect her more than she knows. I miss her everyday.
She was an unexpected burst of a blessing in a hard place…my sweet gift. Those that know her, adore her. And rightly so…







Sunday, August 12, 2012

Conditional "Grace", Dreams, and the Call...

Good news...and bad news. That pretty much sums up life, right? Well, I can assure you that I am just thankful to finally be getting what I can consider some "good news". For those of you that have been keeping up with this blog, which initially began as me processing through crazy life in Egypt, but suddenly became more of my struggle with my faith, you have observed me going through quite a wild ride. 

So what's the bad news? Well, where my sin is, there will always be bad news. 

I realized something about myself recently...and no, it was not anything anyone pointed out, a conversation or anything like that. It was more of a trend I noticed in my thought processes, my journal entries, and a recent blog post I wrote, but then soon after, removed. A string of some negativity jumped out...and I am surprised that I am only now noticing it.

I often have found myself writing about or thinking through the process of GRACE...grace with others, grace with myself, and God's grace. BUT, there has been a nasty twist in my extension of grace, that I only recently picked up on. And honestly, it's gross. I am truly embarrassed. But it's something worth sharing, because maybe God can use this sin area of mine. He can use anything.

I realized I have been viewing my extension of grace to others as a "gift"...something they should be thankful for, appreciative of...almost like I am rewarding them, and they should realize what a privilege it is for them to be getting my grace. It was as if I was saying, "you don't really deserve my grace, but I will choose to take the higher road and give it to you...but you better appreciate it, because I don't have to give it to you." 
HA! Awful right?! yikes.

Upon my arrival home to the States, I faced a few situations involving different people that I care a lot about, but disagree with in regards to some of their life choices. Some of these choices have had an effect on me directly (family, good friends, etc). Some do not. No matter the influence in my life, my role in grace should be the same. My response to them shouldn't be altered. I should give grace freely, with no strings attached. That is how God shows grace to me. But that is most certainly NOT how I have been using it. :/

We extend grace because of the gospel. We love others because He loves us. We hurt others, and they hurt us, but grace is part of that process...not something to hold over the heads of others...not something to dangle as if we can snatch it back at any time...not something to use as a bribe. And most certainly, not something to be proud of, like I have been. If my grace is authentic, then I only have the ability to extend it because of the grace the Lord has extended to me first. If my grace is "conditional grace"...then it's not truly grace.

I am thankful to those that have bestowed upon me true, Biblical grace, even though mine has not always been pure, or humbly extended. This has been a big "ouch" to work through. But thus is the road of sanctification.

And that's all I have to say on that topic for now. 

So what is my good news? Well...I will give a little bit, but not too much at this point.  

One of my struggles since my return to the States has been feeling clueless about what direction I am being pulled for my future. It's not for lack of opportunity, but rather lack of passion, clarification, and overall desire. My heart, which normally is very full,  has been numb, my world views were in serious question, and my confidence in hearing and understanding the voice of God was on the rocks...quite severely. I wasn't sure I really trusted Him, or my ability to know Him.

 I struggled. I processed. I journaled. I sought counsel. I prayed.

Earlier this summer, an idea popped in my mind. I stopped, fantasized about it for a few minutes, then swept it under the rug. It came back. But it sounded crazy...almost impossible. I felt weird sharing it aloud. I didn't want to seem like my head was in the clouds. So I didn't put too much stalk into it.  It came back. I sort of thought about it for a bit then again, more in depth, and tried to talk myself out of it, but found my mind kept going back to it.  "Hmm...maybe I should consider this" was finally the thought I came to about a month ago.

Is it ideal for me? No. Does it fit me well? It does, too well actually. 

This was a pivotal moment, mostly because I had an interest in something again, and I caught myself smiling when I would think about it. Being someone who thrives on learning, enjoying the company of people, and trying new things, it hit me hard that my zest for life had taken a vacation for several months. It's only been the last few months, that I have started feeling like myself again, and noticing my personality was finally breaking through and recovering from the some traumas. However, I do not expect I will ever be the same after this year. That's probably good though. Hopefully a stronger person, more in touch with reality, and able to engage with those around me in a more sincere manner, is inhabiting this body now. However, I am not sure the flighty side of this girl will ever disappear. ha. That's okay, I have gotten used to her too. 

I know that trauma is part of life, and part of God's faithfulness to me has been in His call for me to walk through it. Light at the end of the tunnel, it's flickering....and I can feel its heat. But please understand, this is huge...HUGE. For the longest time, I honestly could not picture myself getting back to this point. I thought it was done, that the joyful person I was used to being, was finished. Smiling has been refreshing to my soul. I love the way it feels to smile freely again.

I am not sure this vision I am sorting through will ever happen, and if it is indeed something for me to pursue, or not. But as of now, I am in the beginning stages of prayer about it, and holding it ever so loosely. That is something God pounded into me this year..."Hold all your desires lightly, Christy." So my good news is that I have a bit of a vision again. We'll see what happens. 

And no, my joy is not dependent upon these dreams. Rather, His peace is a gift and I thank Him for it. His grace flows like a river...and I drink of it with ever flowing gratitude.

Switching gears again...

I was asked recently, if I would talk through the process of how I determined God's call for my life when I moved to Egypt, and speak about it publicly. The moment I first read these words, my stomach knotted. I was like, "umm, that's probably not a good idea for me to talk about "call" with anyone."

First of all, I couldn't feel any more unqualified for a privilege like this one. Secondly, this has been a juicy topic of struggle in my own life recently. My initial response was that I didn't have anything to say about this, and did not want this responsibility hanging over my head.

But I settled on a way to approach it that I actually do feel comfortable with in regards to this topic. I cannot say with confidence that I know what "Biblical call" looks like, but I am pretty certain of what it doesn't look like, contrary to what the church has made it to be. So that is the direction I will take things. I look forward to being able to share some truths I believe I am learning about this concept and how careful we need to be with this, due to our emotions, and the role they can often play in leading us astray sometimes...but not always.

So in a nutshell, that's a Christy update. The good news, the bad news...and the process of what He is doing...still.  Maybe He will slam a  door, maybe He will push me into a new dream, maybe He will ask me to wait, maybe He will say "now."  If anything, I have learned to hold my desires loosely, to extend grace with a humble heart (no strings attached), to constantly reflect on my own sin, to love others even when I am hurting, to look for joy in pain, and to thank Him...thank Him...thank Him...for His mercies, and His pure grace. 

This is a pic of me washing in the Jordan River in Israel...
God is faithful. God is sweet to us. God is good.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Morning glory where are you? I seek that I may find, 
a patient leading hand, and gentle peace of mind. 
My fears of Your silence, and my prayers for Your will
challenge my faith to deepen, remaining firmly still

Morning glory I can't find You. 
Your face from me You hide
I struggle to feel Your presence, 
not trusting Thee by my side


 You ordained confusion to linger, 
calling faith to set the stage
Ignoring the start of anger?
beginning yet another page

Morning glory are You able? 
I fear that I might drown.
Without your arms around me
I fall to the ground. 

Morning glory I strive to know You
But see that I was wrong
In my perception of Your beauty
that to You it all belongs

Morning glory it was hidden, 
Your voice which once was sought
The purpose of Your plan,
was nothing more than my own thought

Morning glory I don't know You,
my heart and mind divided
But trust Thy ways in spite of
pain with fear collided

Now daily I fear Thy will
you stripped me bare to bone
Nothing do I long for
Nothing do I own

Not even my own purpose 
Is clear for me to grasp
You hold it from my fingers
so not to selfishly clasp

The story that you tell
The pages You are writing
Is not for me to mess with
or struggle with still fighting

Morning glory it's not about me
the pain, the curse, Thy will
I don't always accept Thy wisdom,
But squirm to trust Thee still

Morning glory You are able
in owning this messy life
Igniting a deep new passion 
restoring a heart of strife

Morning glory I can't see You
but hidden You are not
The power of Your glory 
Deters my eyes to stop

Don't you see what's happening?
His glory is the pain
So bright we keep from seeing,
but a purpose we will gain.

Morning glory You are shining
so clear, so white, so pure
But blinded you wish to keep us
with strength so we can endure

The puzzle slowly softens
As pieces match in line
Painting for us the picture
that mystery is Your design

Being blinded by Your glory
Our sight quite overrated 
As you seek to rescue,
the broken, dead and jaded.


Morning glory You remind me 
One thing I know for sure
That seeing is not believing
But a hindrance to the cure 
 ------------------------------------------------------------------------

I wrote this poem in representation of a lesson I am struggling with grasping. That His glory often comes in the form of pain. It is bright, and at times unable to be seen, but it doesn't mean it's not there...right where it is supposed to be the whole time...blinding us. When we can't see clearly, it forces us to trust. 

 
I know the context is quite different...but this verse is interesting in how it fits this blog post.


 Exodus 16:6b-7a
In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see 
the glory of the Lord...
















Saturday, July 7, 2012

Scattered thoughts of fear and faith on a sunny Saturday morning...

God demonstrates His goodness to us through the exercising of His will...in it's complete attire.  His will is not always fun, peaceful, exciting, carefree, or desirable. But who am I to argue? I saw an interesting quote yesterday: 


"I believe that there is a tapestry being woven and I only see the back side of it right now. " 
Nell Johnson

HA! Yes. I relate completely. 

With the negativity I have felt running through my veins the last six months, I am challenged daily with how to respond to the emotional and human side of pain and misfortune. Like I have stated repeatedly in many blogs recently, I am sensing a strong call from God right now to wait on His direction, before jumping into whatever is next. And many of you know how absurd that feels to me, since "doing" has always been where I felt most satisfied in who I was. He is using this time to strip me bare, and show me a better way...resting...waiting. The condition of my heart, is of more significance to Him, than my "fruitful labor." I often wonder how many times a day He roles His eyes at my pride.  My heart is learning new levels of faith, and how to process through gut wrenching moments of emotional trauma, and allowing my mind to practice new methods of thinking. Perspective is HUGE I am learning. Sometimes I struggle to smile. I never thought I would be that person.

Yesterday, I was having yet, another heart to heart with my sister Lindy. She mentioned how snappy I can be, without realizing it, and this was hard to hear. It's not all the time, but more than the old Christy, by far.  Later, my mom told me that I am not as patient as I once was. They are both right. I didn't argue, but it did make me sad. The negativity is oozing out, it's not hidden like I would like to think it is.

Later on, I said something aloud to Lindy that I was shocked to hear come out of my mouth as we were chatting, but at the same time, knew with certainty was pure truth in regards to where my mindset is. "I am not used to having things not go my way...my trials always end quickly, and there is always hope. This is not the case right now, and I don't know how to handle not getting my way." She laughed. I sat there, stunned at my spoiled self. Oh dear.

In moments where I find myself squirming with the "discomfort" that is life right now, I cringe, at myself for how ungrateful I am.  Do I regret my move back from Egypt? Not for a second. Do I often want to return? Yes. But, I don't question that I am right where I am supposed to be. Getting to be with my family is a huge blessing, and it frightens me that I am taking this for granted. Sometimes I do have to escape the chaos and hide out, but I am trying not to make this the habit. How many people don't have the luxury of parents are who are alive? married? and interactive. I have incredible parents...a close (but crazy) family, and I am so excited when we are all together. I am in a small category of being truly blessed with this one. This morning it hit me how many people I know of that have recently lost a parent, or received the news of a disease that will soon take a family member.  I need to soak up this time with them...this year is precious time, not to be rushed through, but lived.

Last week I began reading a book titled "The Gospel of Ruth." It somehow ended up in my book collection, yet I cannot seem to remember who gave it to me. Because of how much I have moved, I have become quite skilled at reading a book once, then passing it on. I never read a book twice, and rarely keep them for reference.  I Googled the book title and saw that it was rather controversial. So of course I had to dig right in and figure out why, as well as where I stood on the issue.  

So anyhow, at the beginning of the book, the author was comparing and contrasting Naomi and Job, and saying that actually she had it much worse than he did, but how we often skip right over her in order to get to Ruth and Boaz, the juicy stuff.  Anyhow, I have gotten completely off focus, so let me make a u-turn. She also mentioned how Christians will often brag of their faith through trial.

(See the pic at the end of this entry of a typo I found in the book, it's funny)

 Hmm. I stopped reading, and thought about how many of my recent blog posts have been on this very topic...my faith struggle. But I honestly can assure you my intentions were not to self promote my "faith." It's been the contrary actually. I write primarily to myself...challenging myself to remain faithful...talking myself through tough stuff. If anything, it's the struggle with my faith that has made me re-think so many elements of my relationship with God, and even my view of the gospel, scripture, and Christianity as a whole. I did feel badly that maybe I was communicating an arrogance in my writing. Oh well.

The truth is this. I look back at my journal entries from a year ago, and I read through the entries these days. I often wonder who that girl was. Did I have faith then? Yes. But I have grown leaps and bounds in the past six months in my understanding of how chosen faith is a vital responsibility of the believer. When I am angry at God; when I am angry at others; when my theology and my emotions disagree; when I question my dreams; when I feel totally unheard or alone. If I did not have the assurance of His hands guiding my life, and hearing my pleas, I would have crumbled beyond repair. It's the assurance of His power, and the faith He has given me to keep believing Him that has pulled me through, and is still pulling me out of this pit. Nothing else could do it. Do I feel like I am practicing faith?  NO. But, the power of the Holy Spirit reminds me of what I believe in the Truth of His promises, and His will. Blind faith is brand new to me. I feel like I am way behind others with this, so please excuse me for just now seeing what this means. 

The pain is still very rich. The uncertainty and anxiety seem to be Satan's favorite cards to play against me...mostly first thing in the morning, or late at night. And my confusion of His sovereignty knocks daily. I can't choose when things will turn around; when/if my questions will be answered; when/if natural peace will subside again.  But I won't allow myself to mediate solely on these struggles (cause trust me,  I would).  In a moment of anger and frustration last week, I picked up my Bible and just began reading the Psalms aloud. It shocked me how my heart rate slowed, my breathing returned to normal, and my head cleared. I have often returned to this practice throughout the week. "His word is alive." Yes indeed.

We can't help that we are human. But we can help if we choose to live this humanity purely under the influence of our flesh, or if we allow the gifts the Spirit desires to pour down upon us. I personally don't want to do this alone, and can't imagine how people do. So much has changed in what I desire, where I see my life, what type of work I see myself involved in, and it is a blessing that has grown from this hard chapter.


Can you find the typo in the pic of that book? Leave me a comment if you do... I am curious how noticeable it is.





Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friendship, Vortexes, and Drunk People...

 Just returning from a trip, I reflect. I met some interesting people, experienced new things, and watched God protect Beth and I from what could be some tough situations.

I had no idea that Europeans backpacked throughout the States. I guess it didn't occur to me that they would find our country worth their time... I was oh so wrong. After meeting people from all over Europe and hearing about their travels, I am more interested in seeing some of these places they speak so highly of in the USA.  There's  only 6 more states for me to visit to meet all 50 (New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Vermont, and Michigan). I'll get there someday.

My friend Beth is a British pal of mine, who I met during my time in Cairo. She was going to be in Arizona for a bit, so it only made sense for us to meet up, and explore. I have really missed her, so 4 days together was quite the treat. Meeting up in Phoenix and picking up our rental, is where I would have expected the craziness to begin. But my adventure really began in the San Francisco airport at the gate, waiting for my departure to Phoenix...

For some reason, strangers will often pick me out as someone to listen to them blab. In most cases, I don't mind enjoying a bit of small chat, hearing someone's story, joking around and passing time...especially in an airport. But twenty seconds into an awkward conversation with one particular woman, had me looking for an out. I bolted, and avoided her. Why? She was bragging about how smashed she was after spending the morning at the bar. She was loud, obnoxious, and totally unaware. I wasn't in the mood to deal with being her buddy.

As I got onto the plane, I forced a fake smile as she took her seat right next to me. Ugh. "Isn't this cool, we get to sit together?!!!!!" she asked. I responded, totally putting on a show, and trying to look positive.  "Just be nice. Christy," I kept saying to myself. "It's only two hours."

During take-off she couldn't stop whining of wanting to get even more wasted...wondering when she could buy the beer. Since we weren't at the proper altitude, I couldn't escape with the use of my i-pod yet. Although I did consider using it anyway...the flight attendant was way up front and wouldn't be able to see me. 

When it was finally time to serve drinks, my seat buddy ordered three beers. "There's no way they will serve her all three I thought." I was wrong. No questions asked, they happily accepted her credit card. "Wonderful" I thought..."Hopefully she'll be a sleepy drunk."  Wrong again.

Throughout the remainder of the flight, all the passengers sitting near us got the pleasure of listening to her music as well, (her head phones were on full blast), so we too could enjoy the mixture of sappy love songs. But the best part was when she decided to sing along. You know what I mean, when someone knows half the lyrics, and sorta does the hum thing to the words they don't know. Yep. Oh wait, then she decided to do MOTIONS to the song. I about died. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

At one point she insisted I too take part,  by jamming one of her earpieces into my ear. "It's my love song to my fiance'!" she shouted. After about 10 seconds, I took it out, telling her I knew the song, so I didn't need to listen to it.

She ordered another two beers, but was told we were almost landing so they would only bring her one. She then proceeded to go into detail with the flight attendant as to why she needed to get trashed, and her nerves of meeting her fiances kids for the first time. The flight attendant listened sweetly as she poured the beer. I sat there, eyes glued straight ahead...as I pondered whether or not to say something to the flight attendant.

During the last bit, as she fell deeper into a drunken state, I watched as she picked up her i-phone to call her fiance, thus having an argument... (yes we were still in the air). At one point, I put my head down, but suddenly felt her hands all over my back as she decided to give me a back rub. How sweet of her.

I will stop there...there's more, but you get the picture.

As I deplaned, other passengers commented  to me on her behavior. So, I made sure to politely inform the flight attendant responsible of my opinion of the ordeal as I walked out. I was ticked.

I should feel bad for the woman, but honestly, was just annoyed and excited to be reunited with sweet Beth in a few short moments.

Throughout the course of our trip, some interesting things caught our attention.  Prior to visiting the Grand Canyon, Beth and I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of exploring and hiking around Sedona, a beautiful area between Flagstaff and Phoenix. Funny thing was, the moment we arrived, both of us commented on the heaviness of our spirits. "Something in this place isn't quite right," we said. Yes it's beautiful, and the hiking was extraordinary. But something was off. We felt it.

We later discovered that Sedona is known as being one of the top New Age destinations in the world, primarily due its energy vortexes, which draw people from around the globe.

Well, that explains the sick feeling in our spirits.

We prayed for continued protection on our trip. God intervened. 

Upon our arrival to our hostel, we spent the first evening chatting away with the fun Danish girls who shared our room. The following evening, it appeared as though we would have the tiny room to ourselves. Hopeful that this would be the case, Beth asked the front desk if we were to be expecting any roommates later in the evening. They replied by saying the woman who was scheduled to room with us,  had been asked to leave the premises because she was clearly insane.

What? Yikes. Thank you Lord for sparing us that ordeal. I wondered what it would have been like sharing a room with a crazy woman. Would she have gone through our stuff? Or would I have awoken to her standing beside the bunk staring at me as I slept. Ha! Eery...

We did end up sharing our room with Belgians. They were fine. Not as much fun as the Danish, but at least not crazy. 

Everything everyone says about the Grand Canyon is true. It's vast. It's stunning. It brings a calm. I often think about the Native Tribes who lived near it, and wonder what they thought of it. 

 The tourists (like us) are a lot of fun to watch. Nothing beats people watching...no matter where you are.
After a long day of hiking, walking, and soaking up the sun, Beth and I chose to rest on the edge of the canyon. While we were sitting side by side admiring the spectacular view of the sun setting, a harsh wind gust came and picked up my backpack, dropping it right on the edge of the canyon.  We both gasped, as I reached to snag it. The most difficult result would have been losing the only set of keys to the rental car. Thank you Lord.

We enjoyed the simple things as well, like the giant elk which calmly weaved through traffic...freaking us out, but leaving us be; the sweet elderly people who worked in the shops; the kind foreign backpackers who love this country and appreciate its beauty; the families who excitedly tour the Grand Canyon, reminding me of Seifert family road trips in the summers; delicious Mexican food; ancient Native American ruins; and park rangers...haha. I just love park rangers. 

It was also special for me to be able to introduce Beth to Taco Bell and the Cracker Barrel! And did you know that Arizona has Chick-Fil-A?? So that was literally our first stop. We sat in the HERTZ garage at the airport,  Googling where the nearest Chick-Fil-A was located. HA! found one. And off we went.

 Prior to my trip, I emailed Chick-Fil-A to see of their plans to expand to the northwest. They kindly replied with a gentle "no".  :(










Actually, I am quite frightened of heights...

One fatal fall per year...aproximately



We couldn't escape Egypt even if we tried...haha. But sad news, we hate to see.


The trip landed right at the perfect time for both of us, due to tests and trials we are both working through. It's nice to have a block of time with a close friend to just talk as you drive through the beauty of His creation. The timing was right on. 

In moments of darkness, I was thankful for His presence, His guidance, His protection, and how He spoke to me during those few days. Amongst this period of life, I am reminded of blessings like wise friends, who know truth and claim it, listening ears, and prayerful companions. Thankful to God especially for the rich friendships He has placed in my life in many capacities.