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.